Saturday, November 22, 2008

Data Mining Moves from Big Brother to Baby Brother


In the past we only had reason to fear Big Brother tools from intrusive government spy agencies and monster telco's that invade your privacy by digging into your past and eavesdropping on your digital lifestream with hugely expensive tools and massive databases.

Now we all have reason to fear what might be called "Baby Brother" as more powerful tools are becoming available for free to any script kiddy hacker or truly junior bad guys and mischief makers. New open source snooping software is now available to anyone to easily mine your data and invade your personal, financial and medical privacy.

A Forbes Magazine article published Friday titled, "When Everyone Can Mine Your Data" profiles a former hacker, who is a South African electronic engineer by trade. Roelof Temmingh has created a company around new open source software he developed named "Maltego". He's built a $430 software tool which mines all publicly available databases for data on anyone.

Temmingh has begun selling his snoop software to government agencies for a 10% discount. Clearly he is going the route nobody needs to go with governments, which, rather than use a watered down open source version for free will choose the Gold Plated version that could easily cost a hundred times more.

The point here is that data mining software is becoming available as open source, meaning bad guys will bolt on suddenly available free open source plug-in tools for identity theft and Private Investigators will bolt on the open source PI plug-ins and governments will build their own versions based on the code base that anyone can use and keep those to themselves for whatever invasive purpose they can come up with.

Data mining is definitely here for the masses - but mostly for masses of troublemakers and bad guys.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Private Eye Says Privacy is Dead


This C-Net news article focuses on how simple it is - through social networks, cell phone tracking, security cameras, credit card records, etc. - to learn almost anything about someone being researched or investigated.

I'm actually quite surprised how few TV cop shows or movies about crime solving detectives go into using the web, even though they do quite often show bad guys using technology to hack into places they don't belong and either make their criminal activity easier or to research or commit actual crimes. I always cheer the good guys in their use of the web to solve crimes and stop criminal activity because I'm a technology enthusiast and love that it can be used for good.

Maybe there are just so many times you can show someone tapping away at keyboards and staring at slick user interfaces before television or movie viewers tire of the scene or those inevitably geeky characters doing the typing.

But the point here is not that good-guy/ bad-guy drama of crime-fighting - but how easy it is to access data once it is digitally stored and/or distributed. The ease of access issue is the concern.

We've repeatedly heard the line from data miners and law enforcement that goes something like, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." That is a truism that can't be denied.

The problem for all of us comes when erroneous data or erroneous conclusions are drawn from innocent or incorrect data. The problem comes when that ease of access to data lets bad guys use technology and the web to commit a multitude of crimes.

The problem comes when data is treated with less care than it deserves by those entrusted with it and is either stolen, lost, hacked or otherwise abused due to neglect or bad policy. The problem comes when the public fails to understand how widely distributed their private data can become when posted to the web or sent digitally to anyone, anywhere.

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posted by RealitySEO at 10:27 AM 0 comments

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Security Conscious Loose with Private Financial Data


The linked headline leads to a Silicon.com commentary on how careless we all are with personal financial information while comparing how cautious companies sometimes are with that same information it holds on millions of individual customers. The author discusses his own care with customer data, while marveling at how careless he is with his own financial information
I wonder how much I pay as a consumer for the privilege of using digital and electronics for purchases and to manage my life.
Whatever that cost, I'm certain that given the needs of online businesses and with the scale of the information flow there are major gaps in the handling of personal data.
In many cases these failings may not be created through ignorance but rather complexity. It is rapid growth and oversights that cause personal information to be exposed.

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posted by RealitySEO at 4:41 AM 0 comments

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What Will Make Privacy Important to Public & Business?


For several years now I've blogged about privacy laws, data mining, data breaches, search privacy, cookies, phishing, spyware, data theft and big brother.

What never fails to amaze me is the fact that few people care about privacy until it touches them personally through identity theft, harmed reputation, excessive spamming, loss of work or public embarrassment.

I've searched for ways to spur public discussion of the need for effective privacy laws and protections. There is the ocassional flare-up in public interest when AOL leaks the private searches of their users to the world. There are dumb moves by our government when they over-reach their authority and exceed reason as when the Department of Justice demanded 30 days of search data from the top tier search engines.

There are silly stumbles of companies when they expose users to spam by including ALL their customer database of emails in stupid slip-ups. There are major cases of careless greed when data mining companies continuously sell consumer data to criminals because they won't bother to check their own customers need for (or even the right to) private financial data. There is the proposal by the Bush Administration that we have a (poorly designed) defacto National ID required of us to travel anywhere, which becomes an even greater risk to security and privacy.

I could go on for days with this. But to get to the point of this post, I've searched for ways to engage the public in discussion of important privacy issues of the day, so far without effect.

So when I see ways that may help expose the privacy issues discussion to more people, I leap on it with gusto in the hopes that it will bring more attention to privacy laws and protections. I've discovered a tool that may help bring privacy to more bloggers and those involved in building the technologies of the web.

It's called BlogRush and works on the principle of the old banner exchange model - but this one operates with an embeddable widget. The more times you display the widget, the more "credits" you get for your posts being displayed within the widgets of other members of the BlogRush Network. The concept is extended beyond simple one-to-one numbers as those who get their widgets from you, then expose your widget to their own audience and you gain more credits for display of your post headlines across the network on all bloggers using the widget. It seems like the model will overextend itself at some point unless growth is phenomenal and sustained over time.

Nevertheless, I'm happy to try it out and see if the model works for exposing privacy concerns to the world of influential bloggers. Take the BlogRush widget you see to the right on this blog and see how it works for you to increase the visibility of your most important topic. If your topic involves the need to research privacy at all - try out our Privacy Search Engine which draws ONLY from authoritative privacy sources via the Google Custom Search Engine.

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posted by RealitySEO at 7:01 PM 1 comments