Privacy

September 12th 2017

In a recent blog post I advised people to go to the website www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and input their name and part of their Social Security number to find out if their personal information was compromised. The current consensus is that the site itself is dysfunctional, returning conflicting reports to the same people at different times. In other words, Equifax itself is currently incapable of telling you if you've been put at risk.

So what can you do? First place a fraud alert... Read Post

September 7th 2017

The private information of as many as 143 million Americans (as well some Canadians and UK citizens) has been exposed in a cybertack on Equifax, a company that, ironically, sells protection against identity theft. To find out if you've been affected, go to  https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, click on "potential impact" at the bottom of the page and input your last name and Social Security number.

If the resulting message says your personal information  may have been compromised,... Read Post

July 25th 2017

Last week I posted about the filter bubble--the selective bias programmed into search engines via your search histories and the cookies web sites leave on your computer. This week I'm posting about how to break out of the filter bubble, so that the results of your web searches don't merely reflect your previous searches but have a better chance of bringing you new information.

Step 1: Delete the cookies in your web browser. A cookie is a small file stored in your computer's web... Read Post

July 19th 2017

...which sites you visit? If you think you do, you're right only up to a point. Sure, you decide which links to click on, but who decides which links appear on your screen when you keyword search in the first place? If you're searching with Google, Bing, or Yahoo, they use your previous searches, the websites you've visited and your IP address to tailor your search results. And if you're logged in to your gmail account while using Google, your Microsoft account while using Bing, or your... Read Post

November 29th 2016

Tomorrow night Sprout is hosting a digital privacy & security workshop that starts at 6 pm. In case you don't know about Sprout, it's a local collaborative devoted to scientific inquiry, and creating prototypes of tools to support scientific investigation.

If you don't know much about computers, don't worry: this workshop is meant to be accessible.  Come with a laptop (or not) and speak up about what you would like to learn.

Sprout is at 339 Summer St. You can get all the... Read Post

September 16th 2016

If you've been using AdBlock Plus as an adblocker I've got bad news: it now allows ads. But according to the people at Eyeo GmbH, the company that developed AdBlock Plus, users shouldn't worry: these ads are "acceptable." Supposedly AdBlock Plus will only ads that are smaller and less intrusive than the ads that companies would prefer to place on websites. The change is controversial, to say the least.

I suggest switching to uBlock, a well-reviewed adblocker that doesn't allow ads.... Read Post

July 7th 2016
To learn what Google knows about you, follow the instructions in this Business Insider article. And check out this discussion of search engines that respect your privacy.
July 6th 2016
There are so many different ways we're being watched, it's easy to think having any privacy is hopeless, but you shouldn't give up. On Saturday, July 16 at noon we're hosting an online privacy workshop here at SPL. It will be very hands on, so bring your smartphone, tablet or laptop (or all three)  so fix your settings, download apps, and add browser extensions to keep your online activities safe from prying eyes. In the meantime here are some easy steps you can take now to lay the... Read Post
April 7th 2016
I'm sure you've all been following the news about the conflict between the FBI and Apple, and how the FBI managed to break into the San Bernadino shooter's iPhone without Apple's help. Interestingly, the tool the FBI used appears to work only on iPhone 5cs or earlier models. In any case, the company WhatsApp changed the game entirely this week when it finished end-to-end encryption for its messaging app. You can read more about that and why it matters here. And there's good news for PC users... Read Post
February 16th 2016
I've posted a fair bit about protecting your online privacy, but most of it's only applicable to PC users. However, Mac users have an array of privacy self-defense tools at their disposal as well. First, go here and follow Lifehacker's instructions on configuring OS X to maximize your privacy (it's not at the top of the screen--you'll have to scroll down a bit to find the instructions. They're under the heading "Audit OS X's System Settings." For iPhone and iPad users: there's a free app... Read Post
January 28th 2016
Whenever you click on an online ad, the companies that track your  movements on the Internet take note and use that information to build a profile of you to decide which ads to send your way. Search engines also use the profile they've created to determine what links to retrieve when you do an online search. It's creepy and it's suffocating. Not only are we being tracked, but what appears in our virtual environment, what information we find online, becomes part of a self-reinforcing pattern.... Read Post
December 22nd 2015
Is online privacy important to you? Worried that someone will hack into your account, or worse steal all your credit card and personal information? If so, you should practice internet security. A very important, part of internet security is choosing the right password. So, how do you choose the right password? Well first off, 1. A password should be between 8-12 characters long. 2. Does not contain a solid word (especially not your name, username or company name!) 3. Must be different from... Read Post
August 12th 2015
Joseph Agilata, a student at MGhightech on Central street in Somerville, plans to speak at the Somerville Public Library on August 20th at 7PM about Online privacy. His main focus will be on why we should care about online security. Some people figure, oh well, who cares if someone else see's all my e-mails? The truth is, someone can hack your identity easily just by finding out info like your e-mail account. Joe is currently obtaining his CISCO certification, where he will graduate in the... Read Post
June 10th 2015
When you're in a cafe, hotel, library (or any other place besides home or work) access to a public wireless network is really convenient, but you need to take some basic precautions. This video from CNET shows you how to make sure you're using a secure connection and how to protect your laptop/tablet/smartphone:
May 27th 2015
...(or, more truthfully) the lack of it. Do Not Track is a short documentary series that demonstrates how Internet users give away information about themselves. Do a little experiment. Watch the first episode. It's only five minutes. Then ask a friend to watch it from a different computer. Then compare what each of you saw.  

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