Tag Archives: consumer privacy

Internet Service Providers Can Sell Your Data

 FBI Director James Comey said, “There is no longer absolute privacy in the United States.” In the age of information everything you say do, write or watch on television is recorded somewhere. And now Congress is letting your internet service provider sell your personal data including your internet activity.

On Friday, the Senate blocked the implementation Obama administration rules stopping internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from selling customers internet browsing history and other data. The rule itself was scheduled to go into effect next year. It would have been a significant wall to ISP’s efforts to sell your personal data and combine that data with your other services to target advertising at you.

Many people fail to realize, or have become accustomed, to the level of tracking that is done by major corporations. For example Facebook tracks everything users do on their website and beyond, everything! And so do many other social media sites. This move lets ISP ‘s do the same.

But ISP’s have a bit of an advantage over sites like Facebook. For example many ISP’s offer bundled services. You can get television, internet, telephone and even cell phone service and home security in one package and one price.   This basically allows them to create a profile of not only what you watch on television, but who you call or calls you, your emails, your web searches, online activity and your mobile activity on your smartphone.

If you use Verizon your profile just expanded significantly. The Senate vote cleared the way for Verizon to link up all its databases. These databases contain customer information from AOL which Verizon purchased in 2015 for $4 billion. Soon that database will get even bigger if the sale of Yahoo! to Verizon goes through. 

Since the election of Donald Trump Republicans have worked to undo regulations imposed under President Barack Obama. All 50 Republicans voted in favor of killing the rule while 46 Democrats and two independents voted against.

Fake Websites and Phony Trust

www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

If you follow the African-American Cyber Report you know there are certain rules that we preach constantly. You can find these rules on the homepage. But I need to point out two of those rules that come into play here. Rule #1 “The only rules on the Internet are the ones you impose and enforce.” And rule #10, “Everything on the Internet is real; just not always true.”

I encourage black people not to trust anything you see on the Internet simply because its all suspect until you verify it. That is the case with all those seals of approval you find on the Internet websites. They could be worthless because the are so easily copied and used by scammers and malicious actors online. Those badges or seals are known as “trust seals” but really they are just images, pixels, on your screens. Anyone could copy and paste these images on any webpage. Yeah it might look fancy and official but that means nothing. Check rule #10 again. Whenever you are about to buy something online or download some app or software you need to first verify that you are indeed dealing with a reputable party. You need to do your homework.

African-Americans are warned to impose their own standards on everything they do online and protect yourself from the bad actors you are bound to come across on the wild world web. Check rule #1.

You might be ready to buy software or a game or movie online or download an app and see this;  “CNET gave our software a 5-star editor’s choice rating,” or “We are a BBB accredited business with an A+ rating.” Suspicion of these statements would serve you well.

Any malware author or phisher could copy and paste a logo, seal or statement on a  malicious website in a few seconds. Someone that copies those seals or statement to mislead people would be violating copyright law but how many people are going to lose money before that person is caught and shut down?

 

And if you did not know there are literally thousands of phony, duplicate or replica websites on the Internet. You can easily get caught up in a scam or get stuck with malware, ramsomware or a virus if you are not careful. Do you home work and study how to spot phony websites.

When you see those seals or badges on a website you should be able to click on it and be taken directly to the website that provided the seal of approval. Once there the seal-provider’s website will verify whether the original website you were on is actually a recipient of the seal.

Ok, that’s how it is supposed to work. But does it really? In reality even if the site is legitimate clicking on that badge may not work. This where you have to do your homework. Take the time to go to the seal providers website and investigate to see if the software is really a “PCWorld editor’s choice” or accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Listen to me when I tell you that those seals, badges and quotes don’t mean a damn thing by themselves. You need to protect yourself. No one is going to do it for you.  Check rule #1 yet again!

In some cases doing the research may not be a easy task. Microsoft doesn’t offer an easy-to-find “certified partners” list but we found it here in case you need it. However, some seals you can click,  but again, you could be transferred to a phony replica website.  Investigate the web address closely look for misspellings that could look like the web address but is not.  This trick is called typosquatting or URL hijacking. Here is an example; www.google.com is the real website. the fake could look like this www.gooooogle.com or www.goggle.com. Look carefully at the differences.

Another problem you need to be aware of is that those seals and logos don’t always mean what you think they mean.  For example, that “Norton Secured” seal only means that the website is scanned daily for malware and other vulnerabilities. That is not considered the ultimate level of security or privacy. The BBB Accredited badge means the website’s company is registered with the Better Business Bureau. It is not an indication of the level of satisfaction of its customers. That 5-star rating from a software download site just means a reviewer at some point in the past gave that program a good rating, or the scammer gave themselves five stars. And that “Microsoft Certified Partner” badge has its own issues. It doesn’t seem to mean much at all except maybe the software works with Windows computers.

 “Be paranoid when you are online. It’s a great defense mechanism.” 

I understand all this can be confusing and even frustrating. You need to use that fear and frustration as fuel to protect yourself. But there are a few things you can trust when online. Look for the green bar on your URL window. That’s the window where you type the web address of the website you want to go to. When you see that green name next to your address bar that is a definite confirmation that the website has had its identity verified. Read more about these “Extended Validation” certificates and how they’re more trustworthy than typical SSL certificates.

The above image reveals the real PayPal website and a phony site. Notice the green in the address bar.

Lets be real about this. You will find legitimate websites displaying a fake seal. And eventually they will get caught and be forced to remove it. But how legitimate is a website that fakes its trustworthiness? What you should worry about are the pop up sites that are here today and gone today. These are the site that distribute malware, launch phishing scams and steal data. Its those websites that get the most benefit from stealing these seals. They are breaking the law anyway so faking a seal-provider’s logo or seal is really no big deal for them. Be most cautious when it come to financial websites like your bank. A fake website like www.wellsfago.com is waiting for you to log on thinking its www.wellsfargo.com.

Its the Internet; trust no one.

Now you know

 

 

 

Home Device Spying Law Gathers Dust

You-Are-Under-Surveillance-Sign-K-7664If black people don’t know by now then you need to wake up to this. Your home and mobile devices have been spying on you and delivering the details of your life to marketers, device manufacturers, utilities, insurance companies, possibly your employer and many others.

Currently there is a bill sitting somewhere in Congress that will address the use of spying technology in consumer devices. Sadly however H.R.2356, the “We Are Watching You Act of 2013” has been languishing in legislative purgatory since June of last year. The bill was introduced by Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.).  Neither the House nor the Senate has voted on the bill and it doesn’t look like it will happen this year either.

The bill is intended to stop or at least restrict the use of technology by television service providers who wish to monitor customers using cameras or microphones built in to set-top boxes or DVRs. Television service providers want to use this technology in order to analyze viewing behavior and serve up highly targeted advertising. You are probably asking how targeted this advertising can get? If the device detects a couple cuddling on the sofa then maybe the ads will promote romantic vacations, romantic comedy movies or possibly contraceptive products.

The bill addresses the use of home consumer technology devices such as televisions to spy on the consumer. It bans video service operators such as your cable company from watching or listening to you with built in cameras or microphones found on DVRs, set-top TV boxes, and smart televisions without the consumer’s express permission. The bill would also address other devices such as the Microsoft Xbox One which is also used to spy on users. Microsoft has built in to its Xbox special cameras and sensors known as Kinect.

Microsoft Xbox with Kinect

Microsoft Xbox with Kinect

You maybe interested in to know that Facebook is currently spying on you using technology that operates your phone’s microphone to listen to what is happening around you when you post to the website from the phone. In addition smart televisions are spying on users through the built in webcams. So you think you’re watching television when in actuality it is watching you right back.

In 2012 Verizon filed a patent for a monitoring technology  that uses infrared cameras and microphones capable of detecting if subscribers are eating, exercising, reading or sleeping near the monitoring device. Verizon was denied the patent. If Verizon’s subscribers agree to the monitoring the bill would mandate that the company display  a “we are watching you” message on the screen and  reveal what data is being collected. 

“This may sound preposterous but it’s neither a joke nor an exaggeration. These DVRs would essentially observe consumers as they watch television as a way to super-target ads. It is an incredible invasion of privacy.”Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.)

Capuano believes the recording and analyzing of viewer behavior by television cable providers and networks may threaten individual privacy rights. His legislation allows consumers to opt out of monitoring at any time. In addition television service providers would be required to tell consumers what information is being collected and how it would be used.

Capuano’s bill comes at a time when there is general outrage sparked by the revelations of NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden. Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency has collected the telephone records of millions of Americans and accesses the databases of the nation’s biggest Internet companies.

Some privacy experts believe public anger at the NSA and Capuano’s proposal is a clear indicator that the nation is fed up and that the technology is slowly eating away at the right to privacy.

Technology analyst Roger Kay of  Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. said, “Here we are again in this sort of Orwellian moment. The human institutions haven’t had time to catch up with the technology.”

Breaking It Down

My first question is; do black people even care about privacy? I have to answer yes. As much as any American. But are we aware of the incredible advancement in technology that allows corporations to take a seat on the sidelines of our lives and watch us like predatory birds? The answer to that is probably no. If you are reading this then you need to take an inventory of the devices in your home that are spying on you. You need to know what information is being broadcast via your television, game console, thermostat, cell phone and Internet connection. What is happening here is that the corporate world has decided that since there is nothing to say we can’t do it then we will do it. Rep. Capuano sees this. This is a clear failure of any ethical and moral restraint. All black people should be aroused if not outraged. How dare these corporations even consider using the technology they sell us against us. Yes, against us. They are watching everything we do and collecting information for their databases to use in the control of our lives and earnings. Black people are in danger, just as the rest of America is, of being brainwashed into thinking that our privacy is being protected. It is not! We are being fooled into believing that we are acting for our own good by reeling in the government while corporations run wild over our personal privacy. Are we going to remain that stupid? We are clamoring for Congress to do something about the NSA but not about private industry. Why? Are we already brainwashed?

Data Collection; What Do They Know About You?

about-the-datacom-logo-illustrationOk black folks wake up! We live in an age of relentless information collection. Everything you do has been recorded and digitized somewhere by somebody. This information is collected for one simple reason; to know who you are, what you do, and whats happening in your life. Big data is in your business. Nothing is private anymore.

Let me give you an example; like most people, African-Americans are creatures of habit. We do the same thing, go to the same places day after day. So lets use your local pharmacy as an example. Everything you purchased at that pharmacy in the last 10 years has probably been recorded. I mean everything. What you purchased, what time you purchased it, who was on duty,  what credit card you paid with. Did you use a coupon a store savings card? Did you need a prescription filled? Its all there. They probably had you on camera too.

So its all recorded. Now what does that mean? Well if you want to buy health insurance the insurance company will know if you are lying if you say you don’t smoke. They already know you do. They know where you bought your cigarettes and what brand you smoke. They know what prescription you had filled. They can check to see if you use any other over the counter remedies. They know a lot about you before they ask a single question.

Lets take it a step further; your credit or debit card or your store savings or loyalty card. How often do you use it ?A lot! So now the record tells all about what liquor you drink and how much. What beer or wine you like. What foods you eat and where you eat out. What gas you buy, where you get your car worked on and where you went and hotel you stayed in on your last vacation.

Let me get really intimate. Women, they know what feminine hygiene products you use and if you have difficult periods. They know if you’re on the pill. Men if you have a woman on the side the data will tell the story. Are you using  Viagra? That’s out there too.

Black folks! Are you getting the picture?

All that information is accumulated and stored and sold back and forth between companies. It used to be that you had no way of knowing what they knew about you, how they got the information or even to see what it is. That just changed.

Acxiom, the largest of the data brokers, is allowing the general public to get a glimpse of the information they are collecting. The company announced last year that they launched  a web portal to allow consumers to see what data they have collected on them.

African-American consumers can enroll  at aboutthedata.com and check out broad categories of data that Acxiom has collected about them from both offline and online sources. This includes shopping habits and money  spent,  interests such as a music aficionado or amateur chef, your Internet connection, your education and political party affiliation and marital status. Consumers can make any  changes they wish or just opt out completely.

Acxiom CEO Scott Howe said in a statement; “After 40 plus years of advocating for the responsible use of consumer data, we’re now taking our first step in establishing a direct relationship with consumers and plan to grow the site and its capabilities over time.”

Rachel Thomas, VP of Government Affairs for the Direct Marketing Association also spoke about the new portal; “Acxiom’s consumer portal will help consumers understand and demystify what data brokers are all about.” The Direct Marketing Association lobbyists have worked to educate lawmakers and take the mystery out of the data industry.

Acxiom and the DMA understand that the collection of information, consumer privacy, has become a serious and growing issue. Congress has begun to investigate the industry and may feel compelled to act by introducing legislation to control the information industry. This new portal is designed to keep new regulation at bay.

Breaking It Down

Black people are running around with those store savings cards and loyalty cards getting nice discounts on their purchases. What you’re really doing is selling information to data collectors. You sold them your grocery list for 10% off the price of the groceries. You sell them the right to get a look at what you bought any time you use that store card or your credit card.

Data collectors use numerous ways to get information about you. The watch your Facebook, page for example.  What black people need to understand is that there is no privacy so you need to limit what you share. Check out the aboutthedata.com website and see what they know. I’d advise you opt out. Just to annoy them.  And because it really is no use. You may be able to opt out of Acxiom’s data. But there is a lot more information and a lot more companies that are not telling you anything about what they know about you.

Now you know.