Tag Archives: online tracking

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.

 

 

 

 

Internet Spying: Your Home is Full of Snitches

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Courtesy of Image go

A lot of African-Americans are going to be extremely surprised by what I am about to tell you. Your home is full of snitches. Everything in it is spying on you. And not just your home. Your car is a snitch as well.

Black people are extremely averse to having our business in the streets. We believe in minding our own business and reminding you to stay out of ours. But we live in the information age and things have become very open and complicated. Technology has gotten to the point where you can’t do much or anything or go anywhere without someone knowing exactly what you are doing. 

AACR Rule #11, Information is the currency and commodity of the digital age.

Let’s look at the devices in your home that are telling your business.

1) Televisions – Black men love a big screen television with all the tricks and features. You gotta have it to watch the game. But these new smart TVs can and do track what you watch. Electronics manufacturer LG makes televisions that not only spy on what channels you’re watching but sends the names of files on thumb drives connected to the set back to LG. Hackers can also hack some models of Samsung smart TVs and use them as instruments to steal data from your network and all the devices connected to it. And are you ready for this? Hackers can even watch you through the webcam built into the television.

2) Your DVR/Cable-Box/Satellite-TV ReceiverNow even if your television is not spying on you then your cable box may be doing the job. Those set top boxes do more than bring you cable television. They can also provide your Internet service. So everything you watch on television and do online is recorded somewhere. Cable providers can track what you are watching and recording. They use this information to target ads more efficiently. Did you read your service contract? You may have agreed to allow the cable company to sell this information and even turn it over to the government.

3) Kitchen Appliances – Yeah; the newest refrigerators and other high tech kitchen appliances are connected to your home network allowing for great convenience and energy savings. But there is a catch; spying and security risks. So what can a kitchen appliance tell someone about you? How about when you wake up in the morning. That connected coffee maker is a snitch. If you have a refrigerator with a barcode reader it will tell someone your shopping habits. Smart kitchen appliances have had known security vulnerabilities for some time now. Can you believe there is a documented instance where hackers were using a smart refrigerator in a malicious email attack. I’m not joking! Hackers successfully used a smart fridge to send out malicious emails.

4) Cell Phones – If this comes as a surprise to you then you clearly have not been paying attaention. Your cell provider may be following your everymove, call and text. This information includes whom you communicate with and your location. This also includes the various apps you load on to your phone. Haven’t you heard about Angry Birds That and other apps may track other more detailed activity. Some apps will sync your phone contact list with the app the providers’ servers by default.

5) Your Webcam or Home Security Cameras Malware on your computer can operate your computer webcam  and record you or your family. That’s right. That webcam may be busy taking photos or video and you think the camera is off. Some notable people have found themselves the target of blackmail from a hacker who captured compromising images. Miss Teen USA was blackmailed by a hacker who took control of her laptop’s webcam. The hacker photographed her naked and demanded more images. Your home security cameras are vulnerable as well. Malware on computers could intercept transmissions from your home security cameras. These cameras are attached to your network and allow you to watch your homes from anywhere. Once hacked a criminal can see you’re not home or, more frightening, who is at home.

6) Your Telephone – You got the bundle right? Phone, internet and television service all in one. All using your home network and router. Easy pickings especially if you have not changed your router default password. Look at your phone bill. Every call, every number you dialed and every incoming call is listed and how long you were on the call. Its all there. And the provider has it too. See #1 & 2.

7.)  Lighting, Home Entertainment System, Home Security System – Can you turn on the lights from your cell phone? Open the garage door? What about your home alarm system? All these things are controlled via the Internet. Very convenient.  But ask yourself if this information is available to outsiders?  Is your security company recording your coming and going? What about your home entertainment system? Do you have a DVD player that streams Netflix? Do you stream music over your home stereo? This information is  relayed to manufacturers of the equipment as well as the supplier of the music or programming. Remember that anything that connects to the Internet can be hacked.

8) The house thermostat (s) Internet connected thermostats are now on the market. These devices provide convenience and energy savings. And the energy companies learn your habits and preferences. Google’s recently purchased the Nest thermostat maker. And keep in mind that Google is a notorious information collector. Your utility company may offer comparable devices to help you save on your energy bills. But what else is that thermostat or better versions that are sure to come telling your utility company?

9) Your Medical Devices This should definitely shock you but its not anything new. Medical devices such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other medical devices can and have been hacked. But even if they have not been hacked these devices may still be spying on you. Some pacemakers can transmit patient status information over the Internet allowing the doctor to monitor the patient.  Could this information be intercepted? What if a hacker transmitted phony information to the doctor? Also known as a man-in-the-middle attack.  And please forgive me thinking like this, but what if a hacker took control of a pacemaker or insulin pump? Would that be the perfect murder?

10) Your car – You have GPS don’t you? What about Bluetooth? Pandora radio? What about EzPass or other toll taking devices? Wherever you drive you can be tracked. Cars are the latest target of hackers because more and more come with Internet connectivity and some even act a WiFi hot spots. But what about how you drive? Some insurance companies are now offering devices that track your driving habits in exchange for insurance discounts. Progressive insurance uses a device called a SnapShot. It tracks your driving habits for 30 days and then adjusts your rates accordingly.

11) Your gun! – America loves its guns and it seems everyone has one at home. Is this a privacy issue? As firearms technology advances we may see the day of the  “smartgun.” A weapon that is computerized with various safety features meant to prevent accidents and unauthorized use. Such as by a child or someone other than the owner. Look for these on the market soon.  But can these devices be used to spy on the owner? Can the gun be remotely disabled by a hacker or law enforcement? Would the government be interested in such a high tech measure? Could a citizen or criminal be tracked by following his gun? Could a stolen firearm be tracked or how about illegal gun sales. And what would the NRA say about it? Stay tuned!

Now You Know

 

 

 

Online Tracking of Children Legislation

canstockphoto5147385Senate bill s1700-113, “Safeguards Against Tracking Children Online” is currently being considered in the U.S. Senate. The bill is intended to ban online tracking of children. In the bill the definition of a child is between the ages of 12 and 16 years of age. But the legislation currently being debated is very similar to rules laid out by the FTC in 2013.

The bill is intended to prohibit corporations, marketers and other web entities from collecting personal information for marketing purposes from children and minors using web or mobile applications. The bill also establishes additional privacy protections against collecting personal or geographic location information from children and minors. The 2013 FTC rules also covered web and mobile apps.

According to a 201o Wall Street Journal report  websites that attract children and teens use cookies and other tracking instruments more than sites aimed at adults. The WSJ studied  50 popular U.S. websites for children and teens. It was discovered that these sites installed 4,123 cookies, beacons, and other tracking tools on the simulated child’s computer used for the test.  That is 30% higher than tools used to track adults. 

According to Common Sense Media and the Center for Digital Democracy over 90% of adults surveyed did not believe it was okay for advertisers to collect information about a child’s location from that child’s mobile phone.

Just a year ago the Federal Trade Commission released new and tougher rules designed to limit tracking of children online. The new rules stopped the collection of  personal information for children under 13.  The FTC rules also banned tracking a child’s physical location and the collection of  photos, videos and audio files. Also banned was behavioral advertising aimed at children without parental notice and re-targeting of ads based on the child’s browser history.

After the release of the new rules in 2013 Jeffrey Chester of the Centre for Digital Democracy said, “This is an important victory for privacy rights on the Internet.” The Centre for Digital Democracy spent four years lobbying for the new rules.

“There is no more secret tracking or behavioral tracking,” Chester says.

The 2013 rule changes were applauded by many public health and consumer and digital rights groups. Also endorsing the new rules were the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The current Senate bill was introduced in November of 2013

Breaking It Down

First of all let me say this to black parents; don’t let a computer or tablet babysit your child! What you just read was that companies have been collecting information about your child and, in a round about way, information about you. If a child answers a simple question such as what school they attend a marketer can quickly discern your income and other data. Did you read the part where  some marketers had collected pictures, location and audio recordings of children? We have to protect our children from the onslaught of marketers who will stop at nothing to advertise to children. Why are they advertising to children? Because the earlier in life a child begins to associate with a product the more likely they will become lifelong customers. Because advertising to children creates demand for products. Because advertising to children creates profiles in data bases in some company’s computers. And those profiles tell the marketer where to advertise to that child now, where as they get older and maybe for the rest of their life. Because children are not old enough to understand the connection between online games and entertainment and product affiliation and thus are being manipulated. Advertisers have no mercy and few scruples. For example, have you noticed how many new fruit flavored beers and liquors are being advertised? These people are advertising to teens! Get them associated with some new apple flavored ale early and they will be customers for life. Clothes, cars, fast food, alcohol, technology, whatever it is . The marketers job is to get into your child’s head early.