Tag Archives: privacy

A Right to Online Privacy

With the recent House bill that would allow Internet Service Providers (ISP) to sell anyone’s private browsing history, it is a good time to discuss people’s right to online privacy, as well as the serious breach of net neutrality. Originally, ISP had to obtain your permission to sell your online history to anyone, but soon they will be able to sell it to whoever they want to, whenever they want to. Which, frankly, is a massive invasion of privacy.

cyber criminals
“ISP will be able to track your every move online as soon as you make it. They can, essentially, stalk you online.” Photo from: https://www.fbi.gov/image-repository/cyber-crime.jpg/@@images/image/high

What you do online is private information, unless you choose to make it public. But until you make that choice, it is a private matter. However that boundary is about to be crossed and soon it’ll be open season for every internet user. The least of it is that individual targeted ad campaigns will become the norm. Companies will analyze the data and try their best to get you to buy their product, likely at a higher rate. While that is annoying, it is not the most serious issue. ISP will be able to track your every move online as soon as you make it. They can, essentially, stalk you online. With this kind of information and power at their fingertips, the internet will no longer be a neutral entity and instead become just another method of exploitation.

There is also the fact that ISP will be taking advantage of you and making money off you, and you won’t see a dime of it. Think about it – the product they will be selling is your internet browsing history, something they wouldn’t have if you did not go online. You make the product, and they sell it off to the highest bidder. All you get are more ads to inconvenience you. Even if we ignore the invasion of privacy that is occurring here, this still isn’t a fair deal. This bill allows ISP to sell your private information and make money off something you create. All the while, you get harassed by a large amount of ads, and they profit off of you.

Spotify changes its privacy policy to be the next big thing in social media

If you have Spotify, you might’ve noticed a little pop-up that says you have a certain number of days to accept the new privacy policy or you won’t be able to use the service. If you’re a tech news junkie, you also know that this led to several days of fear mongering after WIRED published an article (which has since been edited) comparing Spotify to a crazy girlfriend who suddenly wants to know everything that goes on in your phone.

The backlash from the obscure changes led Spotify to come out with a clarified version of the new policy which details exactly what your shared information will be used for, and although it does seem to be asking for a lot, was the backlash really necessary?

Whose side are you on?
Whose side are you on? Graphic from Shake The Tech

It’s understandable just weeks after the Ashley Madison hack that people might be a little nervous about what information they let their services have. After all, what use would Spotify have with your contacts, location, and photos? It’s just a music app, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t. Spotify is and always was a social media app. It took the Internet radio idea of Pandora, and improved on it by giving you your own profile where you could make playlists and share them with your friends and the world. Though it hasn’t been used much this way, that’s the model Spotify wants, and the big reason these changes are being made.

Spotify wants you to be able to connect with people of similar music interests, thus making you and everyone else an influencer of your particular variety of music. That’s the unique appeal of Spotify’s social media component, and almost nobody uses it in that way. The hope is that in future updates, Spotify will be able to allow you to upload photos, connect with your contacts, and find suggestions for new music. Wouldn’t you want a social media network that actually brings you something of value like new music, rather than an endless supply of obscure music quotes that might vaguely suggest your friend had a bad day.

Both Pandora and Spotify have incredibly complex algorithms that are always working to figure you out. You might not even know that you like songs that have subtle harmonies in the chorus, or songs that start out with an acoustic intro but then transition into a heavy electric riff, but the services do. It might seem like an invasion of privacy to guess your most subconscious likes and dislikes, but, at the same time, you would never use an internet radio app that keeps giving you that one band you don’t like after you thumbs-down three of their songs. You’d like them to learn from your tastes and work towards building the perfect station for you.

I like my privacy as much as anyone else. That’s why there’s a whole playlist I hide from Facebook so no one knows what songs I’m not proud of liking. But social media does like to pry into your personal life, and it’s really up to you what you decide to share. Spotify, just like any other social media, can’t use any information you don’t give it, so be smart and enjoy the music.



Terrible passwords of 2011

A company called SplashData created a list of what is called the top 25 worst passwords of 2011. SplashData compiles this list yearly to highlight the dangers of using simple passwords that are easy to guess.

Photo from Creative Commons.

The most surprising result of this research was that “password” was still the number one worst and most commonly used password to date. Many users are still falling back on it as their means to access online accounts. This is startling because most security guidelines for websites actively attempt to discourage users from using “password” as their password.

The list, released by SplashData, was created by trolling through thousands of public passwords posted by hackers. The data collected from that list then led to the creation of the worst passwords of 2011. The following list is the top 25.

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123
  6. monkey
  7. 1234567
  8. letmein
  9. trustno1
  10. dragon
  11. baseball
  12. 111111
  13. iloveyou
  14. master
  15. sunshine
  16. ashley
  17. bailey
  18. passw0rd
  19. shadow
  20. 123123
  21. 654321
  22. superman
  23. qazwsx
  24. michael
  25. football

It’s sort of ironic that the password “trustno1″ ranks number nine on the list. Clearly people are not nearly as creative as they would like to think. While this list will hopefully show people to be more careful with their passwords, this list gives the public a glimpse into the lack of creativity in the process of password creation.

Think your password was clever? Try again! Photo from Creative Commons.

It’s easy to make a password that is difficult to guess and it only takes a few seconds to accomplish. The first and most important step is to never use a word as a password. Using a word or phrase as a password makes it easier for programs and hackers to guess what passwords are, even if they are cleverly disguised with switching numbers in for letters. Use all of the characters that the website allows you to when creating a password, many places now allow punctuation to be included in passwords. Never use the same password for multiple accounts; this is how many phishing scams gain access to multiple accounts from a single user.

There are many reasons why people don’t follow these steps. One is that it’s just too easy to think of one password and use it for everything, that way you don’t need to remember more than one. Words and phrases are also easier to remember than a random stream of letters, numbers and punctuation. However, there are things out there that are designed to help make secure Internet passwords easier to manage. Password managers are a good way to keep track of your passwords, but they can also be a good way for others to keep track. Many password managers allow users to put in a master pass-code locking it and preventing anyone who is not supposed to from accessing user’s accounts.

Simple steps are all it takes to keep online accounts safe. While it may be a pain initially using difficult passwords, in the long run it may end up saving users some major headaches.