Online Privacy – Why is it important and how do I keep my information private?

Online Privacy – Why is it important and how do I keep my information private?

There has been a lot of buzz recently about online privacy, however; this is not a new issue by any means. Online privacy has been a concern for years. Go do a quick google search for online privacy and you will see articles from 2010, 2008, etc. discussing the issue. What is new is that thanks to our government your ISP (company you buy your internet from i.e. Verizon, charter, time warner, etc.) will be allowed to sell your browsing habits. So first, why does this matter?

For the most part, it doesn’t. A large percent of what we do online is harmless. For example, me searching for a new video game in google will tell amazon I want that game. And ads on Facebook will be for that game. Kind of cool in a sense that the internet knows what I want. This is also scary. Imagine that you think you are sick with a disease, and now amazon, google, health insurance companies, life insurance companies, future/current employers, know about it. The real question though is, should anyone be able to see what you are doing online? Is it their right? Should your ISP be able to spy on you? If you say OK, I would ask, would you allow your mortgage company to come in your house and go through your drawers? Because that is essentially what is happening. So yes, it is a concern and should be to anyone.

So, what can you do to prevent this from happening? There are a number of things and I am going to break this up so that it’s easier to understand. The important thing to remember is that you are never going to be 100% secure. But you can take steps to make it harder for anyone to spy on you. Think of it like an onion, the closer you are to the middle, the harder it is to get to you. The outer layers (i.e. no security) are easy to get to but several layers in takes more work. Also, keep in mind I am not discussing Malware, Viruses, etc here, I have other blog posts about that but I do always recommend antivirus software, malware software, and a good firewall.

For your computer/browser (for most home users):

Step 1 – get a VPN.

VPN – This is the first thing you need. I am not going to explain what a VPN is, just that it makes it so that your ISP (or job) cannot see what you are doing. They can only see that you are connected and using data. Now, the issue with VPN is that the VPN company can see what you are doing. So yes, they can sell your data just like your ISP. But I trust them more and most do not sell your data, just the shady bad ones do. However, keep in mind if you are doing something illegal, the VPN company will turn your information over to authorities if they are subpoenaed – no one is going to jail for you.

There are tons of options for paid and free ones. I personally like Hotspot shield, CyberGhost, and Windscribe because they have free versions. Here is a link to them:

https://www.hotspotshield.com/

https://www.cyberghostvpn.com

https://windscribe.com/

Step 2 – Start using Firefox.

Why? Because of the security and add-ons. Once you download Firefox, you need to install the following add-ons. They are: HTTPS Everywhere and 1 of the privacy/adblock addons I explained below. They will not affect your browsing experience, they will however make it much more secure. Additionally, use the private browsing mode of the browser.

And do these:

  1. Add NoScript, uBlock, Disconnect, or Privacy Badger to your Firefox add-ons. This prevents only scripts that you allow. I personally use uBlock and Privacy Badger together.
  2. Use DuckDuckGo search engine. This is a search engine that does not record/track your searches. You can very easily make this your default browser by going to your browser settings and its just as good as Google. https://duckduckgo.com/

For the most secure (for people who are more technically inclined):

Use Tor Browser. Tor browser with its default settings is going to be super secure. Its slower because of how it works to hide your identity but if you are searching things no one can know about, use this. https://www.torproject.org/

Download Tor Client. Tor is the best security that most home users can set up themselves. If you are a super high tech person and want something more secure you already know way more than what I am blogging about and shouldn’t even be reading this so this post is not for you.  https://www.torproject.org/

For your mobile device:

  1. Get a VPN. There are tons of free ones. You can use hotspot shield as I mentioned above. I use X-VPN on IOS. Keep it on always.
  2. For android, get Firefox browser and use the add-ons I mentioned above. Use private mode.
  3. For apple, use Firefox Focus browser. Apple does not allow Firefox add-ons, so use their focus browser. It’s actually much fast than any other mobile browser.
  4. Use DuckDuckGo search engine. This is a search engine that does not record/track your searches. https://duckduckgo.com/
  5. Use the web version of apps, not the apps themselves. For example, use facebook in the browser, rather than the app. Yea I know a big pain.

For those that want to be super secure, use a Tor browser. While there is no official mobile Tor browser there are tons that are free ones that use the Tor network. I personally have Onion browser for my iPhone.

Should you buy a smart watch?

With the Apple smartwatch just around the corner I thought I would offer some advice to those seeking one. I have owned a sony smartwatch 2 since 2013 and have had a chance to really see what these devices can do. Here are my thoughts…

Overall they are really cool gadgets. For a few hundred dollars (some are only $100-$150) they are not expensive and in a pretty good price range. You definitely do not need one though. I tell my students that they are the perfect gift for the ‘techy’ that has everything. Otherwise they probably are not worth it for most people unless you really want a new watch. The cool thing about them is that you do not need to take your phone out of your pocket, you can just check your wrist when you get a text. Essentially they are an extension of your cell phone. Another neat feature is that you can remotely control your phone. So if I am taking a family video/photo I can set up my phone and then use the watch at a distance to get all of us in the picture. That is the most useful feature I have found for the watch thus far and it is pretty cool although a timer on my phone works just as well. However a major concern with these devices is that they do release radiation (microwave radiation) so in addition to your phone you now have more radiation from another device. That is just a point to consider. I personally do not wear my watch too often for that reason and the fact that I do not like wearing watches. But I will admit they are kinda cool devices and you will not be upset with your purchase if you think you want one. But they are not something you need. They do not do anything your cell phone doesn’t and they require your cell phone to even work.

* I did want to add a quick note. There are many other kinds of watches out there for sports like surfing, running, etc. I am not discussing those in this post. The watches I am referring to are the android/apple based watches. The sports watches look awesome but I have yet to try them. A watch that calculates my waves sounds really cool as does a fitbit with GPS/heart rate data on it.

Microsoft buy Minecraft

Yes the rumors have finally been confirmed. MS has bought Mojang for 2.5 billion. What are my thoughts on this? Well I think MS is doing a lot of cool things so I am excited. Actually not much in minecraft will really change. Skype hasn’t really changed much imo since MS acquired them several years ago.

 

Source: http://money.cnn.com/2014/09/15/technology/minecraft-microsoft/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

Net Neutrality

What is in simple terms:

“Net Neutrality is the Internet’s guiding principle: It preserves our right to communicate freely online.

Net Neutrality means that the cable/telecom companies must provide us with open networks — and should not block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company cannot decide who you could call and what you say on that call, your ISP should not be concerned with what content you view or post online.

Net Neutrality is what enables the Internet to be such a hotbed for innovation. If you bring a new service online, the cable/telecom companies should deliver it just like they’d deliver content from a corporate behemoth like Google or NBC.

Net Neutrality is what gives every startup the same chance to reach customers and users as any existing company. Simply, without Net Neutrality, startups and small business will be subject to discrimination based on a pay-to-play Internet, and the open Internet and the economic growth it has represented will be at risk.”

to support and learn more:

Source: https://www.battleforthenet.com/

Facebook buys Occulus Rift

Well this was unexpected. If anything I would have thought Amazon or MS would have acquired Occulus. Needless to say when I first heard facebook was buying this I felt a bit let down but after reading through the many articles on the deal I atually think this might be a good thing. Maybe facebook was the right company to buy it. Here is a good article which describes some of the good/bad things about the acquisition:

http://www.gamespot.com/articles/why-you-shouldn-t-worry-about-facebook-buying-oculus-rift/1100-6418545/

I am currently waiting for the next generation of Occulus to arrive this summer – I have it on pre-order!

Get certified to teach online!

The Watson College of Education at UNCW Introduces New Online Teaching & Learning Certificate Program

Beginning this summer, the Watson College of Education will offer a post-baccalaureate certificate in Online Teaching and Learning (OT&L).  The 18-credit hour program is designed to meet growing demand from K-12 schools, colleges and universities and businesses for professionals who are interested to gain knowledge and skills to design, develop, implement, manage and evaluate effective online and blended learning programs.

WCE’s Online Teaching and Learning certificate is the first program of its kind in the state.  Courses are offered in the evening and led by faculty with real-world experience in K-12, government and corporate settings.  Full time students and working professionals who enroll in the program can participate either face-to-face or online through synchronous conferencing technology.

The Watson College of Education is now accepting applications for summer and fall 2014. For more information please see the attached flyer, visit http://uncw.edu/ed/mit/otlcertification.html or contact Florence Martin, Instructional Technology Program Coordinator (martinf@uncw.edu or 910-962-7174).

See attached brochure:  MIT_OTLCertbrochure

Friendster founder in 2014

For those that remember friendster in the early 2000s, this is an interview with the founder. Pretty to read it. Friendster was the original social network before myspace and facebook. It had a lot of users and seemed promising when it was first released. If they would have pushed the marketing I think it would have been bigger.

“It was a really weird time. Friendster at the time was still a very small company,” he says. “We viewed ourselves as the David, not the Goliath. There were the Yahoos and the AOLs and we were this tiny, little startup. But the moment Friendster got the publicity, people started to copy it. Of course we were aware of all of them.” Even with all that competition, Abrams recognized early on that Facebook might pose a unique threat. On Friendster, users could set up profiles, connect with friends and family, search for new contacts (and, yes, potential dates) based on the people you were already connected to and interact with people on the social network through messages and groups. It was essentially a more pared down version of Facebook and the latter had the added benefit of quickly gaining popularity among college students.

Full article