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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posted by RealitySEO at 7:11 AM 0 comments

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Printer Companies Tracking Your Printed Documents

Your color laser printer is quietly encoding all your printed documents with it's own serial and model number so all documents printed on your personal private printer can be tracked back to you. If you registered for warranty protection on that printer when you bought it, the manufacturer can tell that a printer you purchased made printouts of specific web pages or photos or bank statements if they have the physical piece of paper from your printer.

This is very likely to have been requested by Treasury to track photocopied paper money or legal documents which shouldn't be copied (like birth certificates) from being used illegally to obtain fake ID's and track bad guys who use those types of nefarious techniques to do illegal stuff.

As mentioned in the light-hearted EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) video below, printer manufacturers probably did this at the request of the government and have agreed and complied in order to be allowed to make ever better copy machines and printers capable of printing pretty official looking copies of cash or legal documents so the dodo's using them for illegal activity can be caught and punished.

All well and good, but once again - what happens when errors, mistakes and misunderstandings lead to false accusations caused by malfunctioning equipment or incorrect warranty registrations? Maybe just some personal harm or embarrassment come from tracking documents to the wrong owner or a second owner of the printer.

The EFF is attemting to bring this to the attention of the public so we at least know we are being spied on by our own machines. Watch the video below for more.

As I mentioned in a post on this topic nearly four years ago, this seems justifiable, but as also mentioned then:

All that is required is NOTICE to the consumer or citizen in public places that they are being monitored and when that is not done, there appears to be more to the story. The fact that this laser printer technology has been kept quiet for over ten years it has been in use suggest that there is more to this story as well.
It's now almost 15 years this has been going on. EFF wants you to be aware of the practice of monitoring your laser printer documents. The issue has been discussed at Engadget and more recently by Cory Doctorow in BoingBoing, so geeks who follow tech news know about this - but the creepiness factor hasn't faded since the story broke and nothing has changed in the way of public notice from manufacturers.

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posted by RealitySEO at 8:14 AM 0 comments

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poverty is Topic for Blog Action Day 2008

"Remember the poor, it costs nothing" -- Josh Billings

... For 60 days I've been posting money quotations on Poverty and the Poor in preparation for this one day - Blog Action Day - Poverty - where over 9000 bloggers have agreed to discuss, explore and seek solutions to poverty. (Even the MySpace Impact Channel got into the Poverty conversation on their blog

My decision to support #BAD08, as it's come to be called on Twitter, was out of a desire to continue expanding my collection of Money Quotes on this blog. But, inevitably I got more interested in the topic and in learning something about Poverty - through words - but not just blather, these are some of the most powerful words ever uttered about the Poor and .

In the two months since I started collecting and posting quotations, I found over 150 Poverty Quotes in the larger collection of quotes on the poor, Here are a dozen to get you started.

  1. Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank said, "One day our grandchildren will go to museums to see what poverty was like" and truly believes we can cut global Poverty in HALF by 2015!
  2. Most powerful quote on poverty from a politician IMHO was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said in 1953, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed"
  3. Many politicians, as a matter of fact, had something to say of poverty - from Thomas Jefferson, "Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor"
  4. To Ronald Reagan, "Poverty is a career for lot's of well paid people"
  5. There are those who devote their lives to the poor, "There is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness, for thoughtfulness; and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much" -- Mother Teresa
  6. There are those who poke fun at poverty, "Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." -- Woody Allen
  7. Some believe it's sometimes better to be poor, "Satan is wiser now than before, and tempts by making rich instead of poor" -- Alexander Pope
  8. Some flatly state the obvious, "I've been rich and I've been poor: Rich is better." -- Sophie Tucker
  9. And even more obvious, "A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money." -- W.C. Fields
  10. Some point out misconceptions "Literary tradition is full of lies about poverty—the jolly beggar, the poor but happy milkmaid, the wholesome diet of porridge, etc." -- Mason Cooley
  11. There is the frightening commentary from Colin Powell, "Terrorism really flourishes in areas of poverty, despair and hopelessness, where people see no future"
  12. And in the end, it really doesn't matter whether we are rich or poor, "Pale death with an impartial foot knocks at the hovels of the poor and the palaces of king" -- Horace

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Join the discussion, but don't stop there, decide to take action to end poverty, consider donating your day's earnings to the poor.

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posted by RealitySEO at 12:25 AM 0 comments

Monday, August 11, 2008

AOL Uses Penguin for Behavioral Targeting Tutorial

AOL has launched an international campaign to teach users about behavioral targeting & online ad serving cookies by creating a brief flash animation showing a penguin surfing the web and viewing Anchovie ads.

Mr. Penguin

Mr. Penguin

Hmmm Mr Penguin is serving as AOL's silent voice on privacy. (no sound in that flash movie)

If you click on the end card of the video, you can then visit the opt-out page for those cookies it shows you links to privacy policies for no less than 7 ad servers used by AOL, plus and 8th link for the NAI (National Advertising Initiative) opt-out site. From the AOL opt-out pageg, you can visit the blog of AOL's Chief Privacy Officer, Jeff Polonetsky for some research done by AOL on how users treat their own private information, like their annual income figures.

It all comes down to the fact that we SAY one thing and DO another when it comes to protecting personal details. We trade private personal and financial information for convenience and minor perks and freebies.

Well, Google, Yahoo and now AOL have come out with very different responses to this issue. I haven't found a public statement yet from MSN, but here is the MSN Opt-Out page.

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posted by RealitySEO at 7:47 PM 1 comments

Friday, August 08, 2008

Yahoo Behavioral Advertising Cookies Opt-out

Yahoo has joined Google one day later to announce privacy practices and provides an opt-out option (although buried 3000 words into a 4500 word page.)

The Yahoo press release headline reads:

Yahoo! Announces New Privacy Choice for Consumers Will Expand Its Opt-Out Policy to Customized Advertising on
However, the privacy option here is very much hidden as nobody but privacy advocates, and maybe bloggers or a rare journalist here and there, are willing to dig as deep as required to find this information.

As a service to those not willing to scour Yahoo's privacy policy and its massive response to the House Energy and Commerce Committee attached below their puff piece press release. Wow.

In addition to the Yahoo! opt-out, Blue Lithium and Right Media each also maintain their own opt-out mechanisms. The Blue Lithium opt-out is available here: and the Right Media opt-out is available here: As members of NAI, Yahoo! and Blue Lithium each have opt-out links available from the NAI opt-out page found here: which is linked to from over 20,000 publisher sites.

Additionally, users have direct control over their Internet experience through their web browser settings. Users can delete their cookies or adjust their privacy setting in their browser today. Yahoo! helps users understand this under the special category "cookies" in our privacy policy


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posted by RealitySEO at 1:44 PM 0 comments

Thursday, August 07, 2008

DoubleClick & Google Content Network Opt-Out Cookie

Announcement from Google that they will enhance ad targeting through DoubleClick cookie comes with the ability to opt-out of that cookie across both networks. Follow the link to opt out of Google DoubleClick ad serving behavioral tracking. If you want to "See more relevant ads" I suggest paying attention to PPC ads in the Google search results. That is as relevant as I need, thank you.

Here is a basic video from Google about cookies.

There are more of these videos at the cookie opt-out page which do a credible job of explaining cookies, but make them seem a bit more innocuous than they are. As both a web enthusiast and a privacy advocate, I have accepted that cookies are a necessary evil - but don't agree with behavioral targeting when done across multiple sites.

I written multiple articles, most of them years ago about privacy issues, but things have evolved and become far more complex. I've accepted that few people care about privacy issues until they are personally affected in some way by some form of privacy invasion in financial, medical privacy or suffer some form of hacking, social engineering, job loss, embarrassment or suffer from some type of either real-world or cyber stalking incident.

Some privacy advocates go too far in agitating for change and that does the cause no good at all. But perhaps this small opt-out cookie to keep your web travels out of the hands of DoubleClick will contribute to a bit of digital privacy for those who do care.

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posted by RealitySEO at 7:38 AM 0 comments

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