Browser Add-Ons

Browser Add-OnsI love it when they quote me! 😉 Check out this fine article on browser add-ons that quotes you know who. Kelli Grant, the journalist who wrote this article, and I have talked a number of times over the past few years on a variety of technology topics. I always know it is her when I see that New York area code on my phone!

And if you don’t read the entire article, make sure you at least take away these points – 1) browser add-ons can slow down your web experience, and 2) make sure you know who is collecting your information, how much they are collection it, and what their privacy policies are. Sometimes installing an add-on is the same as inviting a vampire over the threshold.

Software Firm Faces Scrutiny

Parents who install a leading brand of software to monitor their kids’ online activities may be unwittingly allowing the company to read their children’s chat messages, and sell the marketing data gathered.

Software sold under the Sentry and FamilySafe brands can read private chats conducted through Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other services, and send back data on what kids are saying about such things as movies, music or video games.

The information is then offered to businesses seeking ways to tailor their marketing messages to kids. “This scares me more than anything I have seen using monitoring technology,” said Parry Aftab, a child-safety advocate. “You don’t put children’s personal information at risk.”

The company that sells the software insists it is not putting kids’ information at risk, since the program does not record children’s names or addresses. But the software knows how old the kids are because parents customize its features to be more or less permissive, depending on age.
Continue reading “Software Firm Faces Scrutiny”

Teach Kids Online Safety

The Internet is not as dangerous a place for children and teens as we previously thought, according to a recent law enforcement task force report. Real threats remain, however, and parents need to educate themselves and their children about online safety and privacy.Norton OnlineFamily

Be aware of Internet safety.
There are six major areas parents need to be concerned about:

  • Amount of overall Internet/computer use
  • Inappropriate websites—violence, pornography, hate groups
  • Internet predators, perhaps posing as children or teens
  • Online abuse and bullying
  • Divulging confidential family information or ID numbers
  • Downloading/installing malicious software

Create a family policy.
Your Internet policy will depend on how old your kids are and what level of individual responsibility you’re willing to grant them. The point is to have a policy.

  • Use parental controls (see below) to enforce the level of safety you’re comfortable with.
  • Ask the child to suggest a reasonable amount of daily computer usage. Reach agreement on this and then hold the child accountable. Renegotiate if necessary—again, the point is to have an agreed standard, not to expect that the limit will never be exceeded.

Continue reading “Teach Kids Online Safety”

The value of privacy

by Bruce Schneier

Last month, revelation of yet another NSA surveillance effort against the American people rekindled the privacy debate. Those in favor of these programs have trotted out the same rhetorical question we hear every time privacy advocates oppose ID checks, video cameras, massive databases, data mining, and other wholesale surveillance measures: “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?”

Some clever answers: “If I’m not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me.” “Because the government gets to define what’s wrong, and they keep changing the definition.” “Because you might do something wrong with my information.” My problem with quips like these

— as right as they are — is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It’s not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

Two proverbs say it best: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (“Who watches the watchers?”) and “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” Watch someone long enough, and you’ll find something to arrest

— or just blackmail — him with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers, and to spy on political enemies — whoever they happen to be at the time.

Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need.

A future in which privacy would face constant assault was so alien to the framers of the Constitution that it never occurred to them to call out privacy as an explicit right. Privacy was inherent to the nobility of their being and their cause. Of course being watched in your own home was unreasonable. Watching at all was an act so unseemly as to be inconceivable among gentlemen in their day. You watched convicted criminals, not free citizens. You ruled your own home. It’s intrinsic to the concept of liberty.

For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that — either now or in the uncertain future — patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.

How many of us have paused during conversations in the past four-and-a-half years, suddenly aware that we might be eavesdropped on?

Probably it was a phone conversation, although maybe it was an e-mail or instant message exchange or a conversation in a public place. Maybe the topic was terrorism, or politics, or Islam. We stop suddenly, momentarily afraid that our words might be taken out of context, then we laugh at our paranoia and go on. But our demeanor has changed, and our words are subtly altered.

This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us.

This was life in the former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. And it’s our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives.

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as “security versus privacy.”

The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that’s why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.

Bruce Schneier