Looking for a magic tool that can help you regain your online privacy? Well, you might have one. Abine, the leading provider of online privacy solutions recently announced that they are releasing a new product called Do Not Track Plus. This simple tool is designed to be straightforward yet effective so that online users can avoid being tracked. How the tool works is that it notifies the user when he or she is being tracked online so that the user can disallow the tracking.
We all know just how annoying those advertisements can be, too. We see them on social media sites, while browsing on the web or even shopping around on a particular website. While it’s nice to be linked to products or services that pertain to our lifestyle, how these advertisements are getting our information is not okay. Thanks to DNT+, users have more control over who’s tracking their online activity and when.
DNT+ is the first product that’s being launched in Abine’s collection, but there’s more to come. The company hopes to provide a range of practical tools for online privacy instead of waiting for Congress to come up with better laws. DNT+ works with all browsers, including Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. Best of all, it’s free.
That’s right, you can download DNT+ directly from Abine.com and it will block hundreds of trackers that collect, use and sell your information. Being a company that’s promoting better online privacy, Abine never collects or shares information, so you can rest assured that what you’re downloading is safe. How the company makes its money is by selling its products for money, as there are a variety of tools and resources for people to utilize.
One click will get you better privacy, plus you can expect your websites to load and run faster. And don’t worry about how strict DNT+ is; you can adjust the settings so that you can play your favorite social games and shop for your favorite products without having to give up your online freedom. This is what makes DNT+ so unique; it’s not an all-or-nothing program, but one that gives online users the control and flexibility they need to be safe while online.
Image Source: news.cnet.com
With iOS and Droid systems getting the entire spotlight, you may not have noticed a new phone peak up from the clouds: a Windows phone. Windows has been trying to branch into the market for quite some time and finally made their mark with the Windows Nokia phones, with 710 available in stores now, and the 810 and 900 models to be followed soon after. The phone has received positive praise for its seamless operation, user-friendly platform and colorful apps. But just like any new phone, how do we know that what we download is safe and adhering to the privacy policies?
Last fall, Microsoft was under scrutiny that they had unintended behavior on their location services. For example, when using certain parts of the phone, it asked you to set your location. Microsoft was accused of tracking Windows phone locations without collecting consent or giving a reason for using this information. Your options were Allow or Cancel, which obviously, cancelling would just exit you from the application. Users were frustrated that they had to give out their location and have their phones tracked without ever agreeing to the tracking in the first place.
Congress is working hard to have better online privacy for computer users, but when it comes to mobile phone apps, many of these privacy policies are overlooked or simply ignored by developers. So yes, most mobile phone users are tracked and information collected, providing they are using the apps and having their location set. Since accountability is unclear, it’s easy to overlook privacy policies and still continue collecting information for the benefit of third party companies.
Windows is not exempt from this issue, as all phones deal with privacy policies. Fortunately, Windows and Apple have the same approach of having strict privacy policies in place that apps must adhere to before they are approved, unlike Google that has some defined policies, but generally wait until a problem is reported before they pull the application.
Image Source: en.wikipedia.org
Who doesn’t like a free sample these days? And thanks to the internet, getting free samples has never been easier. You don’t have to fill out any forms or pay postage to mail them; instead you just fill out your information directly online, submit it to the giveaway company and your free samples arrive in the mail. But how safe is this process? The saying goes, “nothing in life is free”, so what is at the expense of signing up for free samples?
For starters, you’re giving away a slice of your online privacy in exchange for the samples. Giveaway companies collect such information as names, emails and addresses any time you fill out a form for a free sample. Most of the time, people don’t think much of this process, as the sample has to get to them somehow, so it doesn’t seem out of place to request this information.
What happens however, is that this information can be sold to third parties. And in the meantime, sites like Google will be watching you as you visit these free giveaway sites, which means you’ll be linked with more ads on your screen prompting you to take advantage of other offers.
While free samples can be worth it, it’s always important to evaluate the program you’re entering into and if the offering of your personal information is worth it. If you’re in dire need of baby samples for example, you may feel fine getting free diaper samples, wipes and baby products in exchange for your name and address. Just remember that as enticing as these free offers sound, they are often in the form of one diaper or a packet of baby lotion.
Another thing to keep in mind is that giveaway sites may also have third parties advertising on their site, and these companies will have separate privacy policies. In this case, one simple click can have you signing up with a completely different company without you even knowing it.
Also look to see if the site is in compliance with the appropriate safety measures such as COPPA and the regulations of your state. While nothing is ever foolproof, you can certainly enjoy your free samples if you know you are not continually putting your privacy on the line.
If you’re one of the millions of people who will be shopping online this holiday season, it’s important to take the necessary safety measures to protect your online identity and financial information. With more people shopping online, this time of the year is most attractive to frauders. Fortunately, there are a few helpful tips that you should keep in mind while shopping this holiday season – and beyond. After all, you don’t want to compromise your own privacy when trying to get the best deal.
Second, only enter financial information on secure sites. Most will very visibly say that you are checking out with a secure site, so look for this box somewhere on your checkout page. The URL address should also show “https”. It’s also a great idea to compare prices, as scammers often entice online shoppers with very low prices. Make sure you are buying a fair price for the product, as well as a fair price for shipping and handling, which is often hidden until the very end of your transaction. Some sellers will offer a low cost on a product, but make up for it with unfair shipping charges.
Next, never wire money to anyone or pay in cash. You always want a paper trail, so pay with a credit card and make sure you save confirmation emails and confirmation numbers. When checking out, also make sure that your total is what is actually being charged to your credit card. With a paper trail, it’s always easier to handle returns or damages.
Finally, be a smart shopper and look in depth at the seller’s profile and the product you are purchasing. Some sellers have very confusing websites and will have you inadvertently signing up for free offers or emails that you may not want. Not only can this violate your inbox, but also you may end up choosing a subscription or giving out more information than what is necessary. If you run into a seller that is offering “free” offers before you can check out, look for a box that allows you to go directly to checkout or cease the transaction and shop somewhere else.
Do you use the same password for all of your accounts? It may seem to be the easiest, most practical choice, but it carries a lot of risk. With email accounts getting hijacked daily, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to protect your accounts – and the best way to do this is by alternating your passwords and changing them frequently. If you have a short memory span, make sure to have your list of passwords written down somewhere and update them as needed.
So what’s the big deal with passwords anyway? Passwords are always targets and can easily be accessed by spammers and hijackers. If you have the same password across accounts, hijackers can then get a hold of your financial information and have access to your personal information. Even worse, the person can change your passwords and lock you out of your account, changing information and withdrawing money. It can happen fast, and usually people don’t find out their property is in jeopardy until it has been taken.
If you do use the same passwords, you’re not alone. In fact, a recent study done by Trusteer found that 73 percent of users use the same passwords for their email and other accounts. Many use the same password for everything, as well as the same username. And the longer you continue using these passwords, the easier they will be to steal.
Some browsers are more secure than others and will prompt you to change your password every so often. Others are designed for convenience and end up “remembering” your password so that you never have to enter it in again. Although a time-saver, this is a surefire way to leave your accounts vulnerable for unfavorable people.
So how do you go about changing everything? It’s best to start small and start changing some of your more important accounts such as your bank account, PayPal and email. You can then start branching off and changing passwords on shopping sites, coupon sites and more. Not only should you use different passwords, but usernames as well. You want to be creative and also change your passwords on a regular basis.
You also need to choose strong passwords, not just your favorite numbers, last name or a significant date. Spammers look for these weaknesses in passwords, and they’re not hard to come by. So choose something completely out-of-the-ordinary, non-specific and STRONG. Change passwords about every 45 to 60 days, and update them on in a notebook or address log to keep on track.
A young Connecticut couple is setting the stage for future divorce and custody hearings. The couple has been going through a rough divorce, and the judge ordered both parties to exchange their Facebook and dating site passwords.
Stephen Gallion, 24, noticed his wife, Courtney Gallion, 22, acing suspicious around him and their two children. When he spied some of her comments online, he discovered that she had been using the internet to set up dating accounts and post incriminating comments on Facebook. After looking at the comments, Stephen feared the worst: His wife’s social life was more important than her family. Even more disturbing is that she used pictures of the children on her dating site.
During the deposition, Stephen Gallion’s lawyers asked Courtney Gallion for her passwords, and although she said yes, she quickly texted her friends to change them immediately. When the lawyers went to access her accounts, the passwords had already been changed. The lawyers also didn’t want Courtney destroying her online information before they were able to see it.
In the end, both parties agreed to exchange their passwords, and Courtney wasn’t happy about giving up her personal records, stating, “My privacy was completely invaded. It’s embarrassing to have someone read messages that you thought were private and confidential.” This information could potentially hurt her in gaining full custody of her two children.
In lieu of this incident, more lawyers and judges feel that couples are going to have to give up their secret passwords in divorce and custody cases, especially when there are discriminating comments and photographs going around online. What’s more intimidating is that something you posted months or even years ago could be misinterpreted and perhaps even be damaging to the portrait of your character.
Privacy advocates always warn not to post too many photographs of your children online, tag locations or write full names and birth dates. But you also want to be careful not to post anything negative about your parenting or your child, even if it’s all in good humor. You just never know when your private records may be accessed and what could be found.
Source: NY Post
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was established in 1998 and is a law that was passed by Congress to protect the online information of children from being shared with third parties. This law was well-intentioned and looks out for children under the age of 13, who may not have the best discretion and are often the biggest targets for marketing companies. Although privacy advocates and parents are continuously pushing for stricter laws on online privacy, it’s interesting to note that a recent study found that the majority of parents who had kids on Facebook knew it – and helped them get there.
The study was conducted by Harris Interactive and polled the parents of kids ages 10 to 14. Most were aware that their children had accounts on Facebook and actually helped them lie about their birth dates to create an account. Even though COPPA is designed to help protect kids, this law can’t carry out its full expectations when children and parents are outwardly going against its terms.
And for those who are on Facebook, you know that it’s not that hard to create an account, as a birth date is needed and just about anyone can tweak the year the child was born. Because of privacy issues, it’s difficult to check the birth date to ensure it’s legitimate, as there would need to be access to children’s birth records and other pertinent information.
As the internet grows to include more social media networking sites, COPPA rules have had to adjust their laws to protect children. However, the online privacy of children can never be truly protected when parents and kids are lying to get around them.
Most parents agree that they don’t find social networking sites like Facebook to be a threat to their child, which is why they allow them to overstep the boundaries. With the notion that ‘everyone’s on Facebook’, most parents feel that they can monitor their child just fine by watching over his or her account and being friends on Facebook.
The Federal Trade Commission doesn’t agree and warns that children under the age of 13 are not only targets of marketing companies, but also lack the awareness to watch over their information and protect themselves from predators. The best tactic – if the site isn’t designed for kids and pre-teens, let the rules speak for themselves. There’s no reason to lie to get around the hurdles, when your child will be 13 one day soon.
Source: CBS News
If you’ve ever wondered how the ads on your Google screen seem to know the types of products you’re interested in, you’re about to find out why. Google is being more transparent about how they collect and use information in response to pressure from such privacy groups as Consumer Watchdog and Electronic Frontier Foundation. The way this new system works is called “Why these ads”, and users will be able to click on them to find out how their information is used to target particular advertisements. More specifically, Google tracks geographic locations, language and search results to link users with particular ads.
When searching for a new flat panel television for example, you may search through such terms as ‘flat panel tv’, ‘flat panel HD’ and ‘flat screen television’. Google will pull these search terms to link you with flat panel television advertisements being sold in your local area or from online companies you like to shop at. To manage these advertisements, Google is placing more power in the hands of users. Not only can you click on “Why these ads” to find out how the ads were drawn with your search results, but also you can click on “Ads preferences manager” and manage the ads to better serve you.
Google believes that these tools allow users to be more in control of their tracking history, but privacy advocates feel that the general public won’t use the ad management features. In most instances, online users are too busy or just don’t care enough to actually manage their advertisements. What worries privacy advocates is that Google is actually gaining off these new features, as it appears to be that they’re more user-friendly and honest about their tracking and data collection, while in fact, the setup allows Google to keep tracking data at their convenience.
2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the Electronics Communication Privacy Act (ECPA), one of the first digital protection laws enacted on behalf of consumers by the United States government. The ECPA was originally intended to keep users’ emails private and restricted from government searches or seizures. However, the original language of the law is becoming inadequate for our modern day and potentially leaving consumers’ online privacy out in the open.
Enacted during the Reagan Administration, the ECPA prevents the government from obtaining the emails of private individuals without a warrant, but this protection expires once the emails become six months old. In the early days of the World Wide Web, this provision was essentially unnecessary, since emails were not stored by email accounts or online servers. Generally, only abandoned email accounts held messages that were more than six months old, which meant that the law covered the vast majority of consumer emails.
With the advent of cloud storage, though, this law is quickly becoming obsolete. All of the major email clients – Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail – use cloud servers to store emails. (Cloud servers are vast networks of offline computers that are used to store and load data.) Since private emails are stored online by these cloud servers for months and years, the outdated language in the ECPA allows government officials and law enforcement to seize any email that is more than six months old without a judge’s order. Which means that any email you have in your Gmail account right now that is more than six months old is available to the government at any time.
Despite the ECPA’s lag behind technology, there is little interest in updating it. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) proposed a bill to update the law to protect consumers, but neither Republicans nor the White House are expected to support a new version of the law.
Image c/o: visual velocity pc
Facial recognition is a relatively new technology that has been used in relation to security. There have been various public and online services that started using facial recognition technology in order to grant access, or as in Facebook’s case, to suggest friends to “tag” in photographs.
More apps are relying on facial recognition technology, but now this newfound advancement is under scrutiny, as it’s raising concerns in regards to privacy issues. More specifically, Congress is addressing whether the user should give consent before having their images matched.
Before people get too concerned over whether or not facial recognition technology is safe, privacy advocates are more concerned over how this technology will be used in future applications. Since facial recognition is still in its infancy, it’s best to determine what benefits this science may offer in the future, as well as how information will be collected and stored.
Law enforcement plans to rely heavily on facial recognition software in the future, as they intend to upload a photograph and be able to match profiles of mug shots. Although this technology will most likely prove to be beneficial in the law enforcement field, it’s other areas that privacy advocates are concerned about.
For example, the new “tag suggestions” feature on Facebook relies on facial recognition technology. The more you use the tag features, the more information is stored and will recognize certain faces. Sure, it’s fun, but many people are concerned about having their face consistently recognized by Facebook tools.
Just like any type of new software that delves into the personal world, the information can be used in a good way or a bad way. It’s hard to balance the ways the information is used, especially as some users enjoy the technology and find it makes their online experience more personal, while others will be more damaging with the information.
Fortunately, there is more to be addressed in the coming months, as Congress evaluates how facial recognition technology information will be collected, stored and used in everyday applications.