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Facebook Secretly Adds Applications to Your Profile

(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

Wow. It seems like the last week or so, all I've talked about is Facebook! But it seems there's an awful lot to talk about! Check out what I found today:

If you visit certain sites while logged in to Facebook, an app for those sites will be quietly added to your Facebook profile. You don't have to have a Facebook window open, you don't need to signed in to these sites for the apps to appear, and there doesn't appear to be an option to opt-out anywhere in Facebook's byzantine privacy settings.

According to the source article, Facebook contacted them and told them it was a bug that has been fixed. That's the second such bug this week.

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Coalition Petitions DHS to Suspend Nudie Airport Scanner Technology

Looks like The Electronic Privacy Information Center - EPIC is hard at work blanketing the DHS with a variety of arguments why the porno scanners shouldn't be used. Religious freedom, privacy law, and even a simple argument that they're not effective enough for the money.

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Library of Congress to Archive all Tweets

(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

The Library of Congress is planning to create a lasting record of all Tweets. In case you hadn't figured this out already, you have to be extra careful about what you post BEFORE it gets to the 'net.

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Cyborgs In the Making

Robotic arm giving a hi-five

The creator of the Segway has been commissioned by DARPA to create a prosthetic arm that amputee soldiers can use to eat or perform daily tasks. Of particular use to double amputees, the arm is controlled (somehow) by synapses. In other words, by your thoughts.

Personally, I think the idea of being able to replace defective or damaged body parts is awesome. Restoring sight to the blind, sound to the deaf, etc. This kind of technology goes a long way towards great things… as long as they can't start controlling our minds… that would be bad.

Be sure to check out the article and video here.

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Airport Worker Nude Scanned Co-Worker, Commented on Her “Attributes”

No more invasive than a pat down. Really?

Privacy groups like The Electronic Privacy Information Center - EPIC have been warning us about these things for a long time and it seems like as much as the TSA would want us to believe otherwise, we were justified in raising the alarm.

In this case a male worker at Heathrow flipped the machine on as an attractive female co-worker walked near the machine. He apparently made some lewd comments and though I haven't been able to find any sources saying what those comments were, I think I can make some general guesses.

The British House of Commons said this of the machines when they were deployed:

"Having witnessed these full-body scanners working at first-hand, we are confident that the privacy concerns that have been expressed in relation to these devices are overstated and that full-body scanners are no more an invasion of privacy than manual "pat-downs" or searches of bags," the committee said.

Oh really? A pat down and a nudie scanner are the same thing? What do you think?

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Wireless Auto Repossession System Hacked – Cars Disabled

In Austin Texas, more than 100 customers of a local car dealership suddenly found their cars dead or their horns honking out of control when a vengeful former employee decided to take action using their computerized payment nagging system:

The dealership used a system called Webtech Plus as an alternative to repossessing vehicles that haven’t been paid for. Operated by Cleveland-based Pay Technologies, the system lets car dealers install a small black box under vehicle dashboards that responds to commands issued through a central website, and relayed over a wireless pager network. The dealer can disable a car’s ignition system, or trigger the horn to begin honking, as a reminder that a payment is due.

While there are questions of the ethics and legality of shutting down someone’s car due to failure to pay, the important lesson here is to avoid using wireless and web-based capabilities carelessly. Many such systems are designed without taking into account hacking or insider threat. In this case, customers who had the “black box” in their cars were at risk to both employees of the dealer and Pay Technologies as well as any random hacker who managed to get into either company’s systems.

The simplest and most effective solution is to avoid wireless and web technologies where there is no clear mission goal or benefit. Even then, they must be implemented with strong security measures designed by specialists.

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Blippy – Share Your Purchases In Real Time With The World

A completely horrifying service that some people have actually signed up for.

When you first hear about Blippy, the purchase-sharing website, you would think that no one in the whole world would be crazy enough to sign up. You’d be wrong.

Blippy is a service where you can share your purchases on most of the major web stores in real time (similar to Twitter). ALF just got a movie at Netflix (Full Metal Jacket… classic!). Jessestay just bought something at iTunes for 2.99 ( Epitaph One, by Dollhouse). On and on the purchases go. As they scroll by, I learn more about where the people live, what kinds of things they like, and what kinds of secrets they have. One user just purchased an iPhone app to find, let’s say, non-traditional bars in his city.

Believe it or not, the complete transparency of your purchasing habits is the least of your worries on Blippy. This site, supposedly run by four average sounding college graduates, promises good security and protection of your information, but history shows that even major banks and government agencies are hard pressed to keep data safe. Especially if they’re a big target!

So what makes Blippy a big target? Well, you may have heard my advice not too long ago to never give away your e-mail address password to these new sites like Facebook and Twitter that use your address book to add friends automatically. Blippy does the same thing, but for your web stores AND your bank accounts too!

In case you missed it, let me say it again more clearly: Blippy gets their information of your purchases by logging into your iTunes, Netflix, or eBay accounts and constantly monitoring them for new purchases. And not just web stores, but banks and credit cards too. Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Paypal, and American Express are just some of the ones they’re set up for currently. All you have to do is provide all your usernames and passwords for each service you want to share your purchases for with Blippy.

You don’t have to be a privacy nut like me to find that prospect completely horrifying.

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UK To Turn Anti-Terror Technology Against Citizens

We'll be watching you...

For whatever reason, the future proposed in the movie V for Vendetta seems to be approaching every day in the UK.

From the Guardian:

Police in the UK are planning to use unmanned spy drones, controversially deployed in Afghanistan, for the ­"routine" monitoring of antisocial motorists, ­protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance.

The UK is constantly in the news for gathering data on its citizens into databases so this comes as no surprise, but it's like watching your beloved sibling descending into drug addiction and homelessness. We can offer the people of the UK a safer place to live (for now anyway), but as far as the government's over-reaching dictatorship tendencies, all we can do is advise and hope for the best.

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TSA Nudie Scanners May Violate Child Porn Laws

EPIC has been fighting what they call Whole Body Imaging for a while now, but this is an interesting new twist. I never thought about this before, but taking a nude scan of a minor is a violation of child pornography laws.

So if this is really the case, and the TSA doesn't get some kind of exception they will be barred from scanning anyone under 18 at which point the terrorists get an advantage by sending through young recruits (or ones young enough to plausibly lie about it).

The really sad thing about all this is that the technology is very good. It's less invasive than a strip search or pat down and it's extremely fast and easy for the traveler. If it were possible to trust that the TSA could keep the images from being stored and distributed, maybe even I could support it.

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Wrapping Text in PowerPoint

A friend asked me today how to wrap text around an image in PowerPoint and it occurred to me that I had never done or even tried to do that. So I looked up the answer and found this from Microsoft's webpage:

We want to wrap this
There! That's better!

The trick is to use a built in Microsoft function called the tab key. That right… there is no function. First you put your graphic behind the text (and make sure the textbox doesn't have a background color). Then, Microsoft's own tutorial says you have to use tabs or the spacebar to create empty space over the image.

"Sure", you say, "but that's an irregular object. If I want to wrap around something square on the left or right, that should be much easier right?" Rest assured, it is.

In that case, all you have to do is create three different text boxes. One above the image, one to the side, and one below. Use the same font and size and be sure to place the boxes so they look like the text in the top flows to the one on the side then bottom when they're actually just three different boxes.

Seriously! Those are the instructions for wrapping text. What kills me is that sounds exactly like what I'd tell someone as a hack to make it work when no other way exists which must mean that it's an unsupported feature in PowerPoint. I can only assume that there's so little demand for this feature that they still haven't bothered to add it even to their 2007 version of office. Tags: , , , ,

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