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See and Block Who’s Tracking You Online

canstockphoto19683471Privacy on the Internet is a rare commodity. Currently 85 percent or more of black people are online. Most black people own a smartphone or other mobile device. And most black people have no idea how easy it is to track exactly who you are, where you are, who you call, text or email and pretty much everything else you do online. You are being watched like a prisoner.

Trying to stop this constant tracking is a tough task and the law is no help. Congress and industry have little or no incentive to stop this incessant invasion of privacy. Part of the problem is that consumers have yet to get really angry about this activity.

There are people fighting for your privacy online but its an uphill battle to say the least. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Disconnect, Internet privacy right groups and a group of web companies have lauched a new “Do Not Track” (DNT) standard meant to encourage website owners and advertisers to respect your online privacy. Unfortunately this is a voluntary standard and companies are free to agree, or not to agree, to adhere to the new standard.

Big players like Yahoo! and Microsoft have not come out in favor of the new standard. Microsoft announced in April that it was no longer enabling ‘Do Not Track’ as the default state in Windows Express settings.

A year ago Yahoo! said that ‘Do Not Track’ settings would no longer be enabled on its site saying; “we have yet to see a single standard emerge that is effective, easy to use and has been adopted by the broader tech industry.” But Yahoo! has agreed to honor the ‘Do Not Track’ setting on the Firefox browser as part of a search deal. So both companies are openly admitting they are tracking you.

Companies that have agreed to honor the new ‘DNT’ standard include publishing site Medium, analytics service Mixpanel, ad and tracker-blocking extension AdBlock, and privacy search engine DuckDuckGo.

Millions of black people are using social media. And the God of social media is Facebook. But did you know that Facebook is probably the biggest data collector in the history of civilization? Because people are giving it to them.

But who is using Facebook to track your Internet activity? How do you block them?

First of all keep in mind that advertisers may not not know your name and other personal information about you. But that is just a maybe. We don’t know what they know and they ain’t telling. Legally, they don’t have to.

But here are the steps to see and block advertisers that are tracking your Facebook profile from Businessinsider.com.

First go to the settings button on your Facebook page.

Facebook settingsFacebook

Scroll down and click “Settings.”

Facebook settingsFacebook

Inside the settings menu, click on Apps.

Facebook settingsFacebook

This looks like a list of apps that are signed into your account. But pay close attention to the “show all” option at the bottom of the list …

Facebook settingsFacebook

Voila! The list of apps tracking me is so long I have to make this super zoomed-out view to see them all:

Facebook settings

Facebook

On each app, there is an Edit function and a delete “x” mark. Let’s look at what QuizUp, the hot new trivia mobile game app, knows about me.

Facebook settingsSettings

QuizUp knows my email, birthday, and current location. Because it’s a mobile app on my phone, it also knows my phone number. But that’s not all …

Facebook settingsFacebook

Click this little “?” symbol on “basic info” and it turns out that QuizUp is getting a bunch more info about me, too, including a list of all my friends and my profile picture!

Facebook settings

(Source: Businessinsider.com)

You can control this information by clicking on the “x” symbol to delete the app’s access to your Facebook account. That might mean the app won’t work, however.

Review each app to either edit its permissions or delete its access to you on Facebook entirely. It’s a bit time-consuming — but otherwise you’re just giving these people free data.

Another thing black people need to be aware of is that companies are using your email to spy on you. Much of the email you recieve from an advertiser or even a company you do business with is loaded with spying technology.

To see who is tracking your email, or in this case Gmail, you can use a browser extension tool named UglyEmail to see what companies are tracking your Gmail email.

UglyEmail shows you if your email is being tracked. And email being tracked in Gmail will have a tiny eye attached to it. Your inbox will look something like this.

UglyEmail

One of the ways that your email is tracked is a technology known as pixel tracking. Pixel tracking is when a tiny image, about 1 pixel in size, is inserted in an email. The image is invisible to the email recipient but it has a code that tells the server to call the sender when the email is opened.

To block that you can use a browser extension known as PixelBlock. PixelBlock will block that pixel code from transmitting back to the sender. Email with a pixel tracking code have a red eye on them. PixelBlock will also tell you who sent the pixel and how many times they have attempted to track you.

We did mention that Facebook is the greatest collector of data in history didn’t we? Well did you know that Facebook follows you around the Internet even when you are not on the website? How do they do this?

Facebook employs over 200 different trackers that follow your online activity. These trackers come in the shape of cookies, Javascript, 1-pixel beacons, and Iframes. Tracking technologies are used to see what websites you visit, how often you visit them and other interactions with websites.

Not all cookies are used for tracking.  Many Facebook ‘Like’ buttons are used to collect and store information to be used later. Your browser communicates with a server to construct the website you wish to view. This called a request.

But keep in mind that the website you are viewing isn’t the only server your browser is talking to. Trackers from other data collectors, Facebook included, are on the site as well. You have no idea they are tracking you without privacy software. You don’t know they are there and you probably don’t wish to share your personal information with them.

To protect yorself and your information you need to use the do not track function on your browser. It may help but probably won’t competely stop the tracking. You can find a list of the five most secure browsers here.

Choose your privacy setting in the following browsers

Google Chrome

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Apple Safari

We used Facebook as an example of companies that track you online because they are the biggest offender. But undertand this, almost every website has some method of monitoring who visits it. The sometimes sell the information or just hold onto it to better serve you. Just remember AACR Internet rule #8 “There is no privacy on the Internet.”

Now you know.

 

 

 

 

Facebook Takes on Corporate Responsibility

facebook-logoThere is such a thing as corporate responsibility. When a company commands a position in society that makes it a communication resource and societal monitor reflecting the culture, it must accept corporate responsibility.

Accepting corporate responsibility means using the products for more than profit. It means using the product to improve society as a whole. It means using the product to alleviate suffering in some way. It means using the product for the good of the people in order to cultivate an appreciation for the company beyond the product. Corporate responsibility means giving something in return. That’s what Facebook has done.

Amber Alerts

Facebook has begun to use its incredible reach among the people of the world to help society deal with problems and issues. As a communication tool Facebook is helping to find our missing children. It announced a partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children . Facebook will begin placing Amber Alerts in user news feeds informing people about abducted children at risk of serious harm. The alerts will be area specific around the child’s general location pre-determined by law enforcement. According to Facebook some people will see a few alerts each year, while others may not see any at all.

The Amber Alerts on Facebook are not immediate but they will have more detail than other forms of an alert. Amber Alerts on Facebook include a photo of the child, a description of the situation, and a link to learn more. Facebook users will also have the ability to share the alerts.

Safety Check

Facebook has introduced a new feature for people who may find themselves in a natural disaster or other major emergency.   The new feature from Facebook known as Safety Check’ works via push notifications. The app sends a notification to your handset if you’re in an area identified as dangerous. The feature works off information like cities listed in your profiles, last locations on Nearby Friends and the city you’re connecting to the Internet from.

Once you receive the notice you are given the option to select either ‘I’m Safe’ or ‘I’m not in this area.’  This response will then post a news feed story to your friends informing them you are safe.  The Safety Check is available on Android and Apple phones and desktops to ensure that all devices in a disaster zone are reachable.

Suicide Prevention

Facebook announced on February 25th it is adding tools to its interface so users can easily report Facebook friends possibly considering suicide.

A Facebook community operations safety specialist, said,  “If someone on Facebook sees a direct threat of suicide, we ask that they contact their local emergency services immediately. We also ask them to report any troubling content to us. We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review any report that comes in.”

The tools work after someone reports a troubling post. Facebook safety specialists will review the post and if they believe the person is at risk, a message will pop up the next time he or she visits Facebook. It will say, “A friend thinks you might be going through something difficult and asked us to look at your recent post.” A second message says: “You matter to us, so we want to offer support if you need it. You’re not alone. We do this for many people every month. What would you like to do?”

Facebook then gives the user the option to “reach out to a friend or helpline worker” or “learn how to work through this using some simple tips.” Users also have the option to ignore the messages.

Facebook is not the most loved company in the world. It has come under scrutiny and suffered criticism even on this blog. Like many companies not everyone agrees with its business practices and they have a busy legal department to prove it. But like many major corporations they have a conscience and a desire to make a difference beyond making a profit. These features prove that Facebook understands its position and power in society. They clearly understand the responsibility of providing a means of communication beyond anything history has ever known. They understand the issues of a society that has seized the power called social media.  Facebook is not all fun and games and it is not all bad either.

Now you know.