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Man Hunts and Beats Teen for Mocking Him Online

For anyone who's participated in forums, online games, or any other system where you can communicate with random strangers, you've probably encountered people who make you angry. Some are just people who you don't get along with legitimately, and some are "trolls"; people who toy with others for their amusement.

What makes people trolls is generally the anonymous nature of the Internet. Sadly, this is often a perceived anonymity only. Just yesterday, I found a post I didn't agree with and wanted to comment on it. Since the author had locked comments, I did a little web research and found her real name, school, e-mail address, and other sites she posted to. I was only looking for some means to contact her, but the information was fully filled out on these sites with no protection at all.

Imagine her shock to find out how easily she was found (and to be honest she called me quite a few names at first though we did have a good conversation after that).

Sadly, most people don't realize how difficult it is to be truly anonymous. The only things keeping you safe in many cases is that you've never given anyone enough reason to look you up. And now we get to the real story.

Online games can be tense and frustrating. For example, the first time I played an online competitive game, I was completely crushed in seconds and insulted repeatedly for my efforts. I chose to stick with offline gaming but others weather the storm and build their skills to the point they can keep up and even be good enough to win.

However, there are just going to be times that someone is better than you. That's frustrating enough, but when they're rude and insulting, it can be maddening. And for context, understand that the people who are the rudest are often younger males who believe they don't have to "pull any punches" since they don't have to face the consequences of their actions (an idea that was excellently portrayed in Disney's Pinocchio).

My point is, this kid was being an ass with abandon. What was his opponent going to do? Hunt him down and hurt him? Turns out the answer was yes.

And believe it or not, there's a lot of support for the attacker online. The sad fact is that there are still consequences for what we do, even if we're online. Similar to the adive every parent must give to their children of how posts last forever, we must also teach our kids not to draw undue agression. After all, how do you know whether the person you're "Teabagging" has the ability and desire to come after you in person?

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Facebook Tracks You Even When Logged Out

So yesterday, we learned that OnStar tracks you even if you're not a customer and today, we learn that Facebook will track and monitor your web usage without your knowledge or permission… even if you're not logged in.

The social network is quietly retracting a cookie that continued to report your Facebook user ID even after you "logged out" of the site. But it's not sorry about five other cookies that persist after you sign off. What, you didn't think Facebook would ever let you actually for real seriously 100 percent sign out, did you?

Remember, you're not Facebook's customer, you're cattle. These kinds of issues will never stop so if you aren't using special software to counter Facebook's nastier sides, you're at a disadvantage.

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FTC Suggests “Privacy by Design”

The Federal Trade Commission proposed a new standard of privacy in American Industry recently:

“Despite some good actors, self-regulation of privacy has not worked adequately and is not working adequately for American consumers,” Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the trade commission, said. “We’d like to see companies work a lot faster to make consumer choice easier.”

No kidding? Companies won't regulate themselves? Unbelievable!

Anyway, the article goes on to say:

The online advertising industry, Mr. Zaneis said, would suffer “significant economic harm” if the government controlled the do-not-track mechanism and there was “a high participation rate similar to that of do not call.” Mr. Zaneis said the industry would continue to build upon a self-regulatory framework and had recently put in place the use of icons on select online advertisements that allow users to opt out of customized advertising.

Oh boo hoo! Companies that have been tracking and tagging you like cattle would be upset if they had to stop. Waa.

Whether or not the FTC will get traction with this is uncertain, but it won't matter much if it's built into the browser AS IT SHOULD BE. Fortunately, Firefox at least is looking into this in an upcoming version.

(H/T to The Consumerist for the link) Tags: , , , ,

Debt Collectors Harrass Family And Friends Thanks to Facebook

I am constantly telling people to lock down their privacy settings because if you keep this stuff visible, this kind of story becomes possible. Apparently there was a debt collector that spammed friends and family of a debtor in order to pressure her to pay.

Melanie Beacham says she fell behind on her car payment after getting sick and taking a medical leave from work. She contacted MarkOne Financial to explain the situation but says the harassing phone calls, as many as 20 per day, kept coming. Then one day she got a call from her sister saying the company contacted her in Georgia. "I was telling her, 'No way, because you're not even a reference,'" said Beacham, who later found out MarkOne contacted her sister and other relatives via Facebook.
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Yahoo Accounts Are Easy to Hijack

There have been some high profile hacks of Sarah Palin and Grady Sizemore, but the issue here is less about Yahoo security and more about what you do with it.

Just make a Privacy Alias and use it for places that want your personal information, but don't really need it. Of course, if you use an encrypted file to store passwords, you don't have to make an alias at all. You can just store completely new made up challenge answers for each site.

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Hijack A Facebook Account in One Click

Ok so maybe not ONE click. But someone has put together a simple tool that you can use to take over the active sessions of anyone within wireless range of you. Hang out at the Starbucks free wi-fi and you'll be able to control the Facebook or other accounts of people nearby. It's an attack that was always simple to do for those who know how, but now any idiot can do it with a simple new interface.

Hopefully with their newest black eye (it never ends for Facebook does it?) they'll patch up this glaring hole.

By the way, they mention a few protections from this at the bottom of the article, but here's one more.

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Farmville Spys on You

This is not surprising.

"Apps" are pieces of software that let Facebook's 500 million users play games or share common interests with one another. The Journal found that all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook were transmitting users' IDs to outside companies.

The apps, ranked by research company Inside Network Inc. (based on monthly users), include Zynga Game Network Inc.'s FarmVille, with 59 million users, and Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille. Three of the top 10 apps, including FarmVille, also have been transmitting personal information about a user's friends to outside companies.

Once you install a 3rd party application, you no longer have control. Think twice before touching any "app" about how much you care if your information remains private or is sold on the information black market.

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EU to Prevent Child Porn By Monitoring All Internet Searches

As depressing as the privacy and security landscape gets around here, sometimes our European friends come out with laws that make us seem so much better by comparison.

While everyone knows child porn is a very bad thing, some people will use that to push big brother agendas that are way worse than the crime they try to prevent! But won't you please think of the children!?

Remember folks, perfect society is easily obtained! Just remove all privacy and freedom from EVERYONE and we'll easily be able to weed out the bad guys at any time. Sweet!

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Yahoo! Makes Nasty Privacy Change

Apparently Yahoo! is set to publicize everything you do online to all your friends. If you're not excited about this thrilling change, you can opt out with a single button click (so they say), but it doesn't say where or how.

I logged in with an old account and here's what you're looking for:


Once you click that, here's what you'll see:

It will nag you to keep the setting or you won't be able to share everything you do... boo hoo. Click it and party.

Click the checkbox and you should be good until the next major settings change they hope you don't notice.

Note that I clicked around a bit and eventually I did get a screen that warned me about the change and let me opt out. Even if you see that screen, it's not a bad idea to follow the directions I listed above just in case. Anyway, here's what the alert looked like:

Make sure to uncheck each box here the click "Get Started"

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Google Goes HTTPS!

In a move that has most people saying "huh?", Google launches SSL search capability! By adding HTTPS to the front of your bookmark or homepage like so: https://www.google.com, you will be using Google's new service.

This is the same as Google's normal search engine with a few important differences:

  1. Searches are encrypted from your browser to Google. While Google still knows who you are and everything you search for, anyone between you and them no longer will (thus the magic of HTTPS). So now when you're on the road (cafe, hotel, airport etc), the people who run or are listening to that network traffic won't be able to see what you search for or what results Google sends back.
  2. Any results you click will not forward a "Referrer" value. Normally, when you click a link, the page you visit gets to see where you just came from (called the referrer value). Since the page you came from was a Google search and the search terms are part of the URL, every page you visit gets to see the terms you used to find them. Google SSL removes that keeping your search terms private from websites you visit.

Combine this with the "private" browsing functions of all major Internet browsers and you'll leave little to no record of anything you search on your computer or the networks in-between. It still doesn't solve the problem of Google recording your search history against your will, but it's a great start!

Note that only web search and not others (like image search) are secured at this time, but Google may be looking to add those in the future.

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