privacy

Can I be anonymous online?

Episode 1104

Louis from Hollywood, CA
Guy Fawkes Mask

Louis says that cookies or tokens are a violation of privacy. Leo says they're pretty benign, though. The cookie only exists to allow him to keep from logging in to a site every time he visits. It reads the token and knows who he is. He could turn them off or prevent third party cookies. The browser leaks enough information about him to identify him, though. He could surf privately and delete all of his cookies, but even with all that, his ISP knows everything he does online. So if he really wants to be anonymous, he'd have to pretty much give up being online.

Why am I getting warning messages on websites after having installed browser extensions?

Dan from Northridge, FL

Episode 1089

Dan recently began using Google Chrome, and when he tries to use some extensions, he gets a warning box that says it can access his data on all websites along with browsing activity. Leo says this is true of any browser anyway, and is probably a little overzealous. Leo says his browser and internet service provider knows everything he does. This means that if he installs an extension, it will also know everything. It's important to only get browser extensions from the browser's extension store. He should only get them from well known and credible companies.

Google's Sergey Brin Admits His Involvement in Google+ was "a Mistake"

Episode 1089

Violet Blue from ZDnet put out a very strongly worded opinion piece blaming Google's Sergey Brin about the woes of the world. She says that in 2011, Brin was telling all of us that Google+ was the future of Google. But just earlier this week, Brin confessed that his involvement in anything tangentially related to social media was a mistake to begin with. She goes on about how Google sees the users as a "little more than webs of flesh spun over packages of salable data."

Should I get a VPN for my Android phone?

Bob from Walnut Creek, CA

Episode 1087

Leo says that a security guru would say that under no circumstances should he use a public Wi-Fi network unless all traffic on that network is encrypted, and the best way to do that is with a VPN. It encrypts all the traffic coming from a phone or computer all the way to a VPN server, which could be something he runs in his home, or a provider runs for him. At some point, everything he does is on the public internet, but at least his traffic wouldn't be broadcast to the entire coffee shop.

'Whisper' and 'Secret' Apps Aren't So Private After All

Episode 1084

It's probably not a good idea to use Whisper or Secret to reveal secrets about your company, or as a platform for whistleblowing. An article in Wired this weekend says that if you read the privacy policies, all of these apps say they will reveal all identifying information if subpoenaed.

Whistleblowers Beware: Apps Like Whisper and Secret Will Rat You Out (Wired)…
http://www.wired.com/2014/05/whistleblowers-beware/

Woman Tries to Hide Pregnancy from "Big Data"

Episode 1080

After the story about Target discovering a woman was pregnant and made the information public, a college professor decided to try and hide her pregnancy from "big data" to keep it private. She did everything she could to be private, including routing her online traffic through Tor (an anonymity network), using an alternate Amazon account, and having items shipped to an alternate location. She also quit using Google in favor of the Duck Duck Go.

Google's Update to Its Gmail iOS App Raises Privacy Concerns

Episode 1072

Gmail iOS

The latest version of Gmail's iOS app will not only support background app refresh, but also will provide for sign in across all Google apps. This means that once a user signs into gmail, he or she is automatically signed into all Google apps. This also works for signing out. This is leaving users up in arms over the fact that Google is even more intrusive in their daily mobile lives. Users are also complaining that the app refresh will eat up more battery power. In Europe, countries are investigating Google over privacy issues as a result.

Microsoft Catches Fire for Reading Employee's Personal Email

Episode 1070

Spying

This week, privacy advocates were up in arms over the story that Microsoft had read the personal Hotmail of an employee they suspected was stealing company secrets. The argument was that that Hotmail is a free service that Microsoft owns and since the employee knows that, they had the right to read his email to see what he was up to. Microsoft has promised to go through more mainstream legal channels before doing it again.

Is Google Now violating my privacy?

Episode 1069

Neil from Sulfur, OK
Motorola Moto X

Neil got the Motorola Moto X and he loves it. Leo says that from a functional point of view, it's a great phone. The voice controls are great. Neil says that the Google Now's capability of always listening freaks him out, though. Leo says that there's no worry about that. It's very passive. It's not sending what he's saying up to the server, that would be crazy. It just listens for him to say "OK Google Now." When it gets that, it knows to wake up.