Internet/Social Media

These days it seems people think there is something odd about you if you are not on a lot of social media like Twitter and Facebook, Google Plus, etc. People have actually asked for my Facebook profile in order to confirm my identity. Such idiocy. It is so easy to put up false information or a fake profile on such sites.

What is really odd and scary is how little many of these people know about what they are putting "out there", what the consequences can be and how it can never be removed. People tell me they only put a little online on Facebook and often think they can remove what they say on a message board or blog, remove embarrassing pics, etc.  Sorry, not possible.

I am still not on Facebook although I have been online since before the Internet existed. Yes, this was possible... they were called BBS services (electronic Bulletin Board Services). I even wrote some code for one.

What you put on Facebook even though it might seem like "not much" links you to things you like, your job, friends and relatives and creates a trail that can expose a huge amount of personal data that can never be removed and you may not want it to get into the hands of someone wanting to steal your identity or do other harm. As careful as I am, I have had a credit card compromised and personally know others who had their ID stolen, it is an awful mess to fix.

Nobody should ever use their real name to sign up for anything if possible, that is the first mistake (although I admit I have been coerced to myself in order to get payment from content I provide to some sites).

Do you have online bank accounts? Assets online? Do you want to give out the information for these accounts? Did you ever sign up for an account and find they had security questions (usually multiple choice) such as  selecting a previous address, county you lived in, automobile you owned, etc. to prove your identity? You do realize they obtained this data from freely available public records don't you? So the only security here is that someone wanting to access your account would have to guess which questions they asked, the answers are freely available.

People who I tell I am not on Facebook due to privacy concerns often say "well the info is already out there anyway" ... dumb thinking, if someone has some of your info do you want to give them the rest? Maybe you have no assets online, but maybe you will and know it or not you can never erase what you put on the Internet. There are suggestions (although I cannot say true or not) that the FBI and CIA have funded sites like Facebook. Makes sense that they could get a lot of information that way (more than if they asked you) rather than having to do other kinds of inquiry. If they didn't fund these places I am sure they happily use them.

When I say anything you put "out there" can never be erased you probably think that if there was  a website online in 2004 and removed in 2007 by now everything would be gone. Sorry again. There is at least one place where pretty much the entire Internet is "copied" and retained. I have tested it in the mentioned scenario and even message board posts are still there from the early 2000's although the site was down years ago. www.archive.org (and there might be others).

If you know of an old URL that has been gone for years try looking it up in their "wayback machine" and you may find it intact. I had a website from 2004 to 2007, completely closed around 2008 but I can still find it there.

I assume most people are aware of website trackers. In case you aren't, it's a little code snippet that allows the webmaster to watch who visits, what they clicked to get there, how long there, which pages, what browser and O.S., where they are located, their I.P. number and a lot more info. I have used them a lot for marketing purposes but you should know they are there if you didn't already.

Also some email "anonymizing" things like the one Craigslist uses don't work so well. I have had ads on CL and people email me using their "anonymous" email and I receive an email with their first and last name if they used it to sign up for their email. I found this out because it freaked a couple people out when I knew their names. Not really such a big surprise to me.

Another ironic thing is many places like Google Plus, Yahoo, etc. are asking for your mobile number saying it's a good idea for them to have because of all the recent security breaches, etc.  Great idea! Add your phone number to the personal information that can be hacked or stolen from their insecure servers.
 
And now there is "the cloud". I don't know what people think this is but it is servers somewhere, run by someone you don't know anything about. Just because you may have to use a password to access your portion doesn't mean there is anything secure about it. Where are the servers? Who manages them? Duhhhh!

A lot of people (many unknowingly) have their computers automatically backed up to some "cloud" server on a regular basis. So what they are doing is streaming their personal data to someone anonymous somewhere unknown all the time with no control over it, and letting them save it on their servers. There is no "cloud" there are many, many servers in various places managed by lots of different people. The "cloud" you use is one of these hard drives somewhere but the name and concept masks the reality and makes it sound so nice and friendly.

I am not suggesting one live in fear or paranoia, but don't live in ignorance and stupidity either. I use the Internet a lot, buying/selling things, uploading videos, doing financial transactions etc. but know what you are doing and the risks.  If you had a wad of cash in your car and parked it to go into Walmart is it paranoia if you put the cash in the glove box instead of leaving it on the dash? If someone has your username do you want to also give them your password?

Another privacy issue that I expect will cause more problems is signing up at so many stores for their "VIP" card (or whatever they choose to call it).  I have had stores refuse to give me sale prices because I do not want to share my phone number/email with the whole world. So I do not shop there. They tell you they will not share it, which I wonder about but if they are hacked it will be shared with the unscrupulous. My phone number is private! Check this site about this issue www.fairness.com/ .

Now even getting worse, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple are offering to put a microphone in your home (Echo, Cortana, Siri, etc.) so you can broadcast every sound from  the privacy of your home to who-knows-where. Seems to me only a fool will keep adding hackable, easily reversible devices to their home simply for a tiny bit of possible convenience.

It's well known that your smart TV can also be made to watch and listen to you as well as your cellphone and other devices. If it's so safe why do the executives at Facebook, Microsoft nd others admit they put tape over the microphone and camera of their devices when not in use? What next?

I am amazed that now people are voluntarily sending DNA samples to websites such as ancestry.com in order to determine their ancestry. Do you know who these people are who now have your DNA? You want to give up every chance of privacy in order to see your family tree? Seems insane to me but apparently everyone born in the USA since the 60's has had their DNA taken and stored (usage varies by state) and no permission  or notification needed in order for hospitals to do so. Still, not volunteering mine.

BTW be careful flashing the 2-finger peace sign in selfies you upload. If they are detailed enough it's a known fact that your fingerprints can be taken from them and used for ulterior purposes. Also if you are using an Iphone or an Android phone you are being spied on 24/7. None are foolproof but consider switching to a dumbphone or a BlackBerry (Z10 and Z30 are great options)

Just sayin'... however this page was originally put up in Jan. 2015 and many of the things mentioned here have now become news issues.