Today I tried out a new service by one of the smartest guys I know, Michael Geist. It’s called iOptOut and it’s a gateway for Canadians to voluntarily put themselves on do-not-call lists *before* the company contacts you, as well as giving you a legal recourse for when they call you anyways (those bastards). Within hours of signing up for the service I got 8 calls from 1-480-543-1171. Spooky coincidence.
Customer service representative indicated they worked for Fido. Trying to acquire different identification information, such as passport, drivers license, citizenship number, SIN number. Agent was rude the whole time and started asking if any of the information was fake.
They had the nerve to call us back again. Fido has confirmed they are not legitimate for selling Fido phone service. Ottawa Police (Canada) are now launching a fraud investigation. – Jeremy
(1-800 Notes is a great site for looking up the telemarketers before you give them any information — I’m glad I did)
Microsoft’s live.com is offering email addresses, and the usual land grab rush is on to “secure” your identity on the service. What most people don’t realize is that securing a “prime real estate” email address is probably the LAST thing you want to do.
An obvious email address suffers from an insidious kind of spam you’ll never be able to properly filter or get rid of: I’m talking about wrongly addressed email.
(photo by planeta)
As a gmail beta tester I was lucky enough to grab several email@example.com accounts and a couple of firstname.lastname@example.org accounts. It was fine for the first year, but it has rapidly gone downhill as Gmail has risen in popularity. Now when I check my primary email account I’m lucky if one in four emails were intended for me.
I’ll get university class mailing lists, church lists, hotel bookings, and account signups by the handful.  It’s the digital equivalent to rifling through the magazine rack for subscription cards to sign up your ex. Except there’s no malice behind it; only ignorance and carelessness.
Possible email address for John Q Public
What makes it doubly-worse is that with many email programs automatically collecting any correspondence to your address book means that telling someone they have the wrong address might be enough to get you added to their address book forever. If you choose an email address with your last name, chances are that the people emailing you might have the same last name — automatic address collection means that you’ll be on the receiving end of each other’s Christmas newsletters for who knows how long.
I know I sound ridiculous, but you really can’t appreciate the number of similar email accounts on services like @gmail, @hotmail, @yahoo and now @live until you get a popular email address and start seeing the effect of several people who give out the wrong account name — yours.
- Password Recovery — The Achilles Heel of Your Online Security
- Why Posting Your Email Address in Plain Text is Never a Good Idea
- How to access Gmail when it is blocked at work or school
 And out of all those wrongly addressed emails there was only one mis-sent dirty letter.
Have you ever wanted to send a gift certificate to someone anonymously? One of the problem with electronic transactions is that quite often they tell the recipient exactly who you are. This isn’t a problem when it comes to gifts for your family or friends, but it can be more tricky if you are running an online contest for your blog.
photo by lilit
There are several non-creepy reasons why you might want to send an anonymous gift certificate. Perhaps you are blogging pseudoanonymously? Or it could be that your PayPal / Amazon account is registered to an email address that you don’t want to share/publicize? There are many reasons why you might want to keep your Amazon or iTunes account information private but still send someone a gift certificate.
Use a Proxy
If you wanted to surf the web anonymously you would use a proxy that would act as a intermediate between your web browser and the web sites you are visiting. The same technique works for buying gift certificates. There is an online service called Prezzle that will let you send “wrapped” gift certificates to other people. If you use Prezzle to send someone a gift certificate, the recipient will see the sender as Prezzle instead of your real identity.
There is a small service fee for using Prezzle.
Hot Tip: Make sure the gift certificate matches the country of the person receiving it! Often companies like Amazon and iTunes won’t let them transfer the gift certificate to the store for their country.
One of my friends wanted to secure the profile for her 17 year old daughter and she was asking me what the heck all the application privacy settings mean on Facebook. I didn’t have a good answer for her. If I’m asking myself “wtf does that application setting mean?” I figure there’s more than one other person in the crowd with a dim light bulb over their head. Here’s what I could figure out to the best of my knowledge.
Now you too can become one of the 1% of the people on Facebook who understand how their Facebook apps (widgets) are configured.
Adding an Application
I was surprised that Facebook does not give more information on what these options mean when you’re installing an application. I know that designing “simple” user interfaces is hard, but you are doing something wrong when your users have to go to such great lengths to do something as simple as adjust your privacy settings.
Know who I am and access my information
This option has to be checked in order to install ANY application. This is Facebook’s way of covering their ass.
(photo by ambergris)
Put a box in my profile
If this is unchecked then the application won’t show up on your profile at all, but may still spam your mini-feed and news feed.
(photo by ugandan giant)
Place a link in my left-hand navigation
On your left hand menu under Search there is a list of your application that only you can see. Clicking on these links usually shows you cool stuff like recent updates from your friends who use the same apps. This setting controls whether or not this app shows up in that list.
This setting only affects how you see your applications.
Publish stories in my News Feed and Mini-Feed
This is the “spam the crap out of your friends” feature. TURN THIS OFF FOR MOST OF YOUR APPLICATIONS! The mini-feed is that list of things you’ve been doing on your profile page. The news feed is the list of things you’ve been doing that shows up to all of your friends when they log into Facebook. Do you really want to spam them with every single thing you Digg, Stumble or save to Del.icio.us?
You can adjust the mini-feed and the news feed individually by editing your application settings later.
Place a link below the profile picture on any profile
Underneath your profile picture there is a text list of your applications. These links can display additional information like the number of songs you have added, pages you have bookmarked, etc. If you have a lot of applications this list can become unwieldy, so try to limit it to your five favorite applications.
Adjusting the Privacy Settings
Some applications (particularly the ones created by Facebook) have application specific privacy settings that you can adjust from within your “application privacy options” or by editing your application settings. I don’t know why they didn’t make it consistent for all applications.
Editing the settings of an application will give you the following extra option that weren’t available when you first added it.
Control who can see the application on your profile
This is a standard drop down choice between everyone, all your networks, some of your networks, your friends, yourself, or no one. If you chose not to have a box in your profile when you added the application then this will be set to “no one”.
Individual control of mini-feed and news feed setting
When you are adding a new application there is only one setting for mini-feed and news feed. If you edit the application later you will be able to have different settings for your mini-feed and news feed (which is a good thing — have lots of updates on the mini-feed but not as many on your news feed so you don’t spam your friends).
Applications and Limited Profile
You can control which of the official Facebook apps are shown on your limited profile under Privacy Options >> Limited Profile. As far as I can tell unofficial apps never show on your limited profile (or maybe they always show and there is no way to turn them off).
Control the Information Given to Third Party Applications
Under Privacy Options >> Applications >> Other Applications you can control what other applications can find out about you when you don’t have them installed (IE: if your friends have them installed). I highly recommend leaving most of the boxes unchecked. The only way you can disable ANY information from leaking out to your friends’ applications is by removing all of your applications first.
Did you know that you can block specific applications from contacting you or showing up in the news feed? You have to go to the application page and then chose Block Application. You do not need to install the application to do this. Yes, this means you can stop people from trying to bug you with those zombie/vampire apps.
Removing Applications and the Information Inside of Them
If you remove an application it does NOT delete any of the information inside that application. If you uploaded photos, videos or posted a note then all of that information will still be there unless you delete it inside of the application before removing an application. Good news: you can remove an app and then re-add it later on and be right back where you started. Bad news: it’s harder to get rid of embarrassing/incriminating info than just “removing the application”.
5 Things to Remember
- Don’t spam your friends — turn off the news feed for applications that update frequently
- Too many links — turn off profile links for applications other than your favorites
- Control who can see it — there’s no good reason to share apps with your networks instead of just your friends
- Delete THEN remove — you have to delete the information inside an app before removing it
- Stop being annoyed — block the applications you don’t like
The Facebook applications privacy settings are pretty danged complicated, and in usual Facebook style the controls to access them are all over the place. But now you know what the different settings do and have an idea of how you can use them. Blocking annoying applications can make the site a lot less annoying, and you can control your own settings to keep from spamming the crap out of your friends. The only real gotcha is that you need to delete embarrassing information from an application before you remove the application.
“Be sure to customize your privacy settings on the Privacy page if you are uncomfortable being found in searches or having your profile viewed by people from your school, workplace or regional network. Remember, unless you’re prepared to attach something in your profile to a resume or scholarship application, don’t post it.” — Official Facebook Safety page
Did you find this page useful? Then help spread the word by sharing it on Facebook, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon or other sites.
StumbleUpon and Tumblr are both interesting forms of micro-blogging, but I’ve been getting more into Twitter. Twitter lets me surf other people’s streams of thought (like a super micro-blog-lite with 140 characters or less per entry). You view all of the your friends/contacts “tweets” as a stream. What’s funny is when completely unrelated tweets can appear connected because of the random positioning of technology.
This is a post by a guest blogger.
Tim Nash is a reputation management consultant, co-founder and primary consultant for Venture Skills a “New media” IT company which specialises in search engine optimisation, reputation management, and technical side of online marketing. When not working at Venture Skills, posting site reviews on forums he can be found teaching at a local university where he lecturers in Search Engine Optimisation and Information Retrieval.
My name is Tim and I’m a reputation management consultant. I’m helping engtech out by doing a guest post for his blog.
But what is reputation management?
Let us start with a formal quote:
Reputation management is the process of tracking an entity’s actions and other entities’ opinions about those actions; reporting on those actions and opinions; and reacting to that report creating a feedback loop. All entities involved are generally people, but that need not always be the case. Other examples of entities include animals, businesses, or even locations or materials. The tracking and reporting may range from word-of-mouth to statistical analysis of thousands data points. — Source: Wikipedia
This is a very dusty but surprisingly accurate description of reputation management, be it in commercial business analysis or on a personal level. There a three basic areas to reputation management:
- Finding out what people are saying about you
- Creating a persona or brand image
- If needed defending this image
ComputerWorld has an article about how recruiters use web anonymity to find more information out about job applicants.
In a 2006 survey by executive search firm ExecuNet in Norwalk, Conn., 77 of 100 recruiters said they use search engines to check out job candidates. In a CareerBuilder.com survey of 1,150 hiring managers last year, one in four said they use Internet search engines to research potential employees. One in 10 said they also use social networking sites to screen candidates. In fact, according to Search Engine Watch, there are 25 million to 50 million proper-name searches performed each day.
They go on to list some tips like starting a blog, joining open source communities, building a web page, creating web profiles. Andy pads it out with some more helpful suggestions like getting a domain name, tips for getting the number one spot for your name and controlling what appears in search results for your name.
I’ve written about privacy, internet usage and real name searches a few times with my Facebook tips, guide to pseudonyms/identity hiding and tips on hiding your LinkedIn profile from searches outside of your LinkedIn network. When I started this blog a year ago it was with the idea that it could help with the job hunt, but then the slew of articles I read about people losing their jobs because of blogging convinced me otherwise.
I’ve followed my friends as they jump around from social network to social network, creating profiles on Friendster, Hi-5, Orkut, MySpace and now Facebook, even though I never use the sites.
Facebook is great networking tool that lets you keep in contact with former friends from high school, university and various jobs. It easily connects people together with tools like registering that you are the owner of a specific cell phone number, keeping track of every email address you’ve ever had, and logging into your email account to find out who you know.
As you can guess from my previous series on online pseudo-anonymity, something that collects as much personal information as Facebook scares the bejebus out of me. From the address book import I can clearly see that everyone I’ve ever even remotely known is already on Facebook, and the default settings mean they’re all sharing all kinds of personal information they may not be aware of.
(this is a follow-up to the Great Firewall of Canada)
spyblog.org.uk notes how “systems like British Telecom’s CleanFeed are inherently vulnerable to reverse engineering attacks, which can reveal the list of censored websites”. While I doubt the technique mentioned in the paper still works, it does give more technical information about CleanFeed than I’ve seen anywhere else.
Dr. Richard Clayton’s paper
Michael Geist has thrown in his support with Cybertip on the issue:
More importantly, while some may suggest that this opens the door to other blocking – hate content, defamatory content or copyright infringement to name three – there is a crucial difference with child pornography that should prevent a similar approach. While those forms of content may raise legal issues, in the case of child pornography, it is illegal to even access the content. That is a crucial difference since under current law there are no valid free speech arguments for either disseminating child pornography nor for seeking the right to access it. Given that difference, the right of appeal, and the active involvement of cybertip.ca, the arrival of Project Cleanfeed in Canada looks like a good news story that merits close monitoring.
The title of this article is, of course, a reference to the Internet censorship that is rampant in China.
Mark Goldberg pointed me to the press release of “Project Cleanfeed Canada”. Canadian carriers Bell Aliant, Bell Canada, MTS Allstream, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, TELUS, and Videotron have all opted in to a blacklist provided by Cybertip.ca, the Canadian tip-line against child exploitation. Mark is an advocate of putting censorship in place against websites that would be deemed illegal by Canadian Law (such as those promoting hate speech or sexually exploiting children).
I first came across Mark’s website when he was filing an application requesting the CRTC to authorize Canadian carriers to block internet content. I morally support blocking hate speech and child porn (who wouldn’t?), but the idea of having a national blacklist sends shivers down my spine. I would always prefer that illegal websites be shutdown rather than putting into power national filters that have the potential to be abused. I’m a pessimist, I believe that any form of censorship will eventually be abused despite its good intentions.
Nart Villeneuve has an excellent article that sums up my fear of government sponsored filters:
For most people being anonymous on the Internet is not a life-or-death matter. You aren’t dissenting against a fascist police state, or trying to hide from the secret police or from a crazy ex-lover who means to do you harm. You are anonymous because you want to keep a modicum of privacy. It is an easy goal to achieve if you put some thought into it.
Unfortunately, people don’t put thought into their actions online. As an extreme example a teenage girl “anonymously” posts pictures of her breasts on message board. A friend accidentally reveals her first name and the name of a website she frequents. A shit-storm develops as the forum lurkers go on to post her full name, address, phone number as well as common handles.
Follow these steps to protect your online identity and don’t be that girl.
This is the highest profile case of a Canadian blogger getting fired because of his website. Garth Turner has been ejected from the Conservative Party. Like it or not, when you blog you The irony is that I’ve been a Conservative longer than most people who call themselves that these days, and my beliefs have not changed.”
This is a reminder that blogging does affect your career, your family and your friends.
Alex Saunders gives a good explaination of who Garth is for those of us who aren’t politically inclined.
For those of you who’ve never heard of him, the closest thing to Garth Turner in the world of Tech blogging might be Robert Scoble. Putting aside Turner’s views, which you might or might not agree with, he has relentlessly listened to his constituents, brought those views to Parliament and to his party, and published his thoughts and his constituents thoughts openly on his blog. Moreover, he started a vlog as well, called MP.TV, where he interviewed not just members of his own party, but members of all political parties.
In other words, he’s a blogger, and a darned good one at that.
I recommend reading Web Anonymity 101 – Digital Breadcrumbs as an introduction.
We are putting more of our lives online with the “social networking” Web 2.0 phenomenon. It is becoming easier to find information about a person. People are building extensive databases about themselves without thinking about the long-term consequences. The Internet is forever; once something is online it is cached and archived.
There is enough information available that it is nigh impossible to hide your identity from someone who is determined to find out more about you, especially if they already have an inkling of where to look.
We are living more of our lives online. In real life if someone followed you, listened in on your conversations and went through your photo album without your permission you would call the police (or maybe they are the police). Things are different online. That information is easy to find; easier than people think.
One friend posted reviews of local restaurants under a pseudonym. He mentioned two of the co-workers he went out eating with in a review. It got back to them within three months after someone recognized the combination of their names. It was “worlds colliding,” not a serious breach of privacy but still a reminder that digital life sometimes intersects with real life when you least expect it.
There’s a new search site called the Internet Address Book. Put in a person’s name and town and they’ll try to find them on all of the top social networks: MySpace, Friendster, LinkedIn, Flickr, ICQ, Xanga and Hi-5. This looks like a great resource for digging up dirt on blind dates and job interviewees.
Not only does it do social site search, it also allows you to register for free. You too can join/link your photos of getting drunk with friends and/or artistic nude shots (Flickr) to the web accounts you use for hitting on teenage girls (MySpace) and your job resume (LinkedIn). Why not throw in your high school reunion (Classmates) for good measure? I’m sure they’d love to find out you have a blog (Blogger) where you still talk about that time they pulled down your pants during recess.
(And before the accusations of Pot vs Kettle start being made, I’m aware that I have a blog and I just mentioned that time they pulled my pants down during recess. Let he who is still wearing his pants during recess cast the first stone.)
The news will be breaking shortly, so you might as well read about it here first. Late in the day on Tuesday afternoon, I helped in filing the first application requesting the CRTC to authorize Canadian carriers to block internet content.
This won’t work. You can get ISPs to block two website addresses, but they can’t block the content.