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Man Hunts and Beats Teen for Mocking Him Online

Stalking
(Image is in the Public Domain)

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

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

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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Yahoo Accounts Are Easy to Hijack

There have been some high profile hacks of Sarah Palin and Grady Sizemore and the best defense is to not use real information when answering challenge questions.

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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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!

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

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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Why You Shouldn’t Trust Facebook’s Apology

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

I don't want this page to descend into an "everything about Facebook" page, but the news has been coming fast and hard the last few weeks. The article I found today isn't news, but instead a plea to the public to not buy in to Facebook's apology for their recent nastiness.

Parents of young children can spot an insincere apology from miles away.

"Sorry," your tot mumbles, after you find the dog half-shaved and your Xbox full of jam.

"Sorry for what?" you'll say. "Sorry for shaving the dog and putting jam in your Xbox," he'll say, looking at the floor. But he's lying. He's only sorry that he didn't get away with it.

Facebook's much-reported apology in the Washington Post is a bit like that. "Sorry," says Mark Zuckerberg. "Sorry for what?" the internet asks.

"Sorry for invading your privacy and making things confusing and stuff," Zuckerberg says. "Can I have an ice cream now?"

Funny and blisteringly accurate; that's a good combination. Check out the rest of the article here

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DuckDuckGo – New Search Engine Choice or Dud?

DuckDuckGo.com
(Image is in the Public Domain)

Every now and then, there's a new search engine released that tries to play with the big boys, but they often fail. Usually its because of speed, maybe financial backing, sometimes user interface, but most often because they don't do the job well.

So here's one that may be worth some attention. Like Google, they focus on keeping very minimal and having a nice interface. But unlike Google, they make an effort to help you find what you are actually looking for:

They also include some summary information right in the search making it possible to skip visiting the site at all if you don't need to or at least getting a better feel for what the site is about before going. And according to their About page, they store NO personal information (which has long been a complaint of mine about Google).

So far, they're doing a lot right, but with Google having just released HTTPS for searches, the competition is even stiffer. I wish them luck.

Check them out yourself here.

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Map To Hidden Facebook Privacy Controls

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

Here's a nice consolidated list with screenshots to the hard-to-reach Facebook privacy controls.

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Facebook Secretly Adds Applications to Your Profile

Facebook
(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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