Google privacy policy changes and how to protect your online privacy

Google’s new privacy changes take effect March 1 and if you haven’t read them yet you should.  You can find them online here.  Here is a little summary of what these policy changes mean for Google services users.

Google states:

  • If you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services.  (Sort of like how Facebook is now working with services like Yahoo to automatically post content to your timeline sharing what you have read).
  • We can make search better – but that means storing your private information and pulling from it for everything from calendars to search topics (have you noticed the Google auto find feature where you start to type a word or phrase and it finishes it for you for example)
  • We don’t sell your personal information, nor do we share it externally without your permission except in very limited circumstances like a valid court order.

Here is their simple explanation video . . .

I highly recommend reading their privacy policy in full which explains exactly what happens with communications, services, searches, user information and cookies.

If this concerns you there are some steps that you can take to protect your online privacy.  The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) offers these six steps for protecting your online privacy, and they are very good pieces of advice.  They also demonstrate how to take these steps.  These steps include:

  • Don’t include personal information in your search terms.  Have you “Googled” yourself?  That’s one way to create a “roadmap” right back to you.
  • Don’t use your ISP’s search engine.
  • Avoid logging in and using your search engine (whether it is Yahoo, Bing or Google)
  • Block cookies (and they will tell you how)
  • Vary your IP address (which is a lot simpler than it sounds)
  • And using anonymizing software.
What steps can you take right now to protect your online privacy as the new privacy policies take affect?
1)  Don’t log in to use the tools from Google.  You can always log in later to get to the other tools you want like docs, mail, calendar and blogger.
2) Next you can . . .
Sign into your Google account.
Select “remove all web history”
At the prompt select “OK”
This pauses your Google Web History. However, it does not stop Google from collecting your web history information  and using it for internal purposes or providing it to law enforcement officials.

Why is this important?
Your online privacy is important.  The majority of identity theft personas are created using bits and pieces of a real person’s information.  Also, your online actions should be, your actions, not the ads or actions that some one else wants to steer you towards.
Last but not least,  consider this . . . I write articles. Sometimes that means doing research on some pretty questionable topics like “Spice” or Bottle Bombs.”  These are not so I can indulge in these activities, but  to share with other parents this information.  How does the search engine know this?  How do law enforcement know this?
Why not take a few minutes to take those steps that can protect your online privacy as much as you can?  What have you got to lose?

Payday loan telephone collections could strike it rich: What to watch for

A recent press release issued by the FBI warns us of a “payday loan” collection scam that is gaining in popularity.

Here’s how the scam works:
You are contacted by telephone by someone claiming to be collecting on a payday loan or even from what may sound like a legitimate company, or agency, even the non-existent “Federal Legislative Department.”

The callers will continually call you demanding payment. They call your home, cell phone and even place of employment.

The calls become aggressively threatening in nature and even seem to contain private information, that no one really should have access too.

You may even be threatened with arrest, and advised that there are outstanding warrants for your arrest as they try to convince you to pay up on the so called debt and your legal troubles will disappear.

The phone is not the only way that this type of fraud can occur. The FBI also advises of instances where a phony process server appeared at home or work and then tried to obtain payment to make the “summons” disappear.

If you are contacted by someone who is trying to collect on a debt that you do not owe the FBI recommends that you:

  • Contact your local law enforcement agencies if you feel you are in immediate danger;
  • Contact your bank(s) and credit card companies;
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus and request an alert be put on your file;
  • If you have received a legitimate loan and want to verify that you do not have any outstanding obligation, contact the loan company directly;
  • File a complaint at

The Better Business Bureau has issued this report regarding telephone collection fraud. They also advise that you:

  • Do not respond to personal information stated during the call including your social security number or place of employment – do not confirm or deny – it just provides them with more opportunities to harass you.
  • Contact your local law enforcement, especially if you are physically threatened.

If you have any doubt about the validity of the debt request it in writing. Debt collectors are obligated by law to provide you with this information including what is owed and what payments are missing.

Better Business Bureau

Tips for avoiding your own phone hacking scandal

The Internet has gone viral with reports of a phone hacking scandal in the United Kingdom. Allegedly some reporters affiliated with “News of the World” and “The Sun” were involved in  a phone hacking scandal and/or attempts to bribe public officials and police for insider information so that they could get the “news” out before anyone else. Murdoch executive Rebekah Brooks, has been among the many recent arrests on suspicion of hacking into the cell phones of celebrities, politicians and others in the news and bribing police for information to fuel “scoops” for tabloid magazines including “News of the World.”

Who has been a victim of phone hacking?
Milly Dowler, a missing teenager whose voice mail was allegedly hacked by News of The World before she was found murdered.
Hugh Grant
Heather Mills (former wife of Paul McCartney)
Former child singing star Charlotte Church
Conservative MP and former defence secretary, Liam Fox was informed that “His bank details and a number of financial transactions were found in the records they have been investigating as part of the Operating Weeting.” (Operation Weeting is the Scotland Yard name for the investigation into phone hacking.)
Comedian Steve Coogan

Just to name a few . . .

How much is your voicemail worth?
According to CNN, “The publisher of News of the World tabloid last week paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds to settle lawsuits over phone hacking.”

Charlotte Church has refused to settle, citing the damage that phone hacking did to her personal life.

Steve Coogan settled for $63,000 but says, “This has never been about money,” he said. “Like other people who have sued, I was determined to do my part to show the depths to which the press can sink in pursuit of private information.”

But phone hacking isn’t just something that journalist trying to get the inside “scoop” on, can do and you don’t have to be a celebrity or public official to be at risk. According to this report on CBS news AT&T and Sprint are among those cell phone customers who are at high risk of phone hacking, but just about any cell phone user can also run the risk of someone getting the inside “scoop” on their personal lives with a simple Internet website and 3 minutes of time.

How can your private voicemail stay private?
Protect your voice mail service bycreating a unique and private four digit password. Avoid birthdays, last four digits and other significant dates. Kristian Hammond, co-director of the Intelligent Information Laboratory at Northwestern University, advises “One of the main holes in peoples’ security is their password,” said Hammond. “People should be thinking about making sure their passwords are unique and not related to them.”

He warns, “What it really comes down to is your password. As with most password-protected devices, people do a mediocre job of making sure their passwords are un-guessable,” said Hammond. “A lot of people use things like the year they were born, the month or day they were born, their social security number—easy to remember but also easy for people to guess.”

Just as you frequently change the password on your online accounts like banking, Amazon or email, change your passwords on your cell phone voice mail on a regular basis. Check your voice mail frequently, getting and deleting your message as soon as possible to keep your private messages, private.

No, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t giving Facebook users a free iPhone and iPad

Let’s talk about the importance of a Spam mail box in your email.  Today I’m doing my weekly spam check, before I empty my spam mail folder and I find this wonderfully, well written email from WoW! the CEO of Facebook!  Did I really get an email from him?  No, but at first glance it’s actually a pretty good spam copy.

But let’s talk about how you can know it’s a fake.  First I hovered over the email name which said Mark Zuckerberg. But by hovering over it I found an email account that was  I’m sure that account has already been closed, but I’m definitely not letting them know they found someone by replying.

Next, this email actually is pretty well written, without many of the common “tells” that let you know it is a fake message, like small errors in spelling, syntax or punctuation.   But if you look closely you will see many errors, they just aren’t glaringly obvious. I’ve highlighted them for you.

Lastly, the email address that this message came to isn’t associated with my Facebook account, so how would they have gotten it and why not use my name if it’s a personalized invitation to claim my prize?

The hope is that you will see some keywords like Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, iPad and iPhone, that will really get your attention and Continue reading No, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t giving Facebook users a free iPhone and iPad

It’s time for the Facebook Timeline and security concerns

If you have been dragging your heels, I mean your fingers on accepting yet another change on Facebook; soon you will have no choice.  The Facebook Timeline is here to stay, at least until Facebook decides to make another not so bigger and better change.  Feb. 11, 2012, Facebook users all over the world may once again post their “I hate the new Facebook” on their status but more importantly they may be posting, “I hate the new Facebook timeline security, which isn’t so secure.”

According to Sophos Security  over 4000 people responded to a poll regarding the new Facebook Timeline.  Almost 52% stated that they were worried about security and another 32% said they don’t “know why they are still on Facebook” and only 7.96 reported they “liked it.”

One major concern is pointed out by Naked Security blog, “Facebook is encouraging users to enter even more personal details about themselves and their life experiences, and making it simpler for others to view the information,” Cluley writes on the Naked Security blog.

“But might this not also make it even easier for identity thieves to put together a profile about an individual, discover the name of their first pet, and so forth? That’s all information which could be put to a nefarious use.”

Cluley tested his out, and was “shocked” to find out how much information he had shared since he first started using Facebook.  I admit that with time running out, I’ve been spending a little “time” working on my Timeline to try to delete those things that I don’t want shared, since sharing seems to be the keyword on the new Facebook Timeline, but in this case sharing is definitely not “caring.”

Cluley has left Facebook saying, “In a nutshell, if I don’t think that I can get my head around how to protect my personal information and updates on Facebook then – as someone who advises others on how to best remain private – I should quit.”

 So what are some of the security concerns about the new Facebook Timeline? Continue reading It’s time for the Facebook Timeline and security concerns