Privacy = Security

Do you use the Internet? Then you need to see “Stop Watching Us”

Stop Watching Us

is a website that allows American citizens to demand an end to mass suspicionless surveillance.

Citizens of other nations need to demand the same of our own governments, and that our governments withdraw from participation and/or complicity in mass suspicionless surveillance of its own citizens.

In Canada we can call on our MP to stand against costly online spying

You can read the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance in 30 languages (and people in other countries can find resources) at

Privacy: Facebook Lockout

When I was in another city today, I tried to log in to Facebook with my netbook.

But I couldn’t. Not because I don’t know the password or user name or email address. According to Facebook,

Facebook: Your account is temporarily locked.  We don't recognize the device you are using.  Please answer a few questions to keep your account safe."

Q: How can it not recognize this device? I’ve been using this computer a lot lately. I even logged into Facebook from it earlier today.

A: Facebook isn’t being strictly truthful here, because it isn’t really looking at the device (computer) I’m using. What it is actually doing is looking at the IP address my computer is using to log in. It isn’t my regular IP address.

Even so, I have logged into Facebook from this IP address, within the last month, in fact, but not often.

But what the hey, I wanted to check something, so I clicked “continue.”

But Facebook didn’t actually ask me to answer any security questions. There was a captcha which I answered correctly. But that wasn’t all. I was given two options:

  1. I could log in from my usual device. Well, as I said, I was using my usual device. But my usual IP address was in a different city, so that wasn’t an option at all.
  2. Or I could tag people. Facebook showed me several screens of photos, a few of people I know on Facebook, but most that I didn’t recognize. Some included minor children.

I declined to tag people, because that is something I never do. Well, almost never. I’ll tag someone who is promoting something I support.

When I got back today, Facebook allowed me to log in on this computer, because I am again connected via the usual IP address.

Q: Why does Facebook want us to tag people?

A: Before the Internet, marketing companies used to hire people to be focus groups, and to take surveys. Today they buy information about our socio-economic status, preferences, who we know, and what we do from websites like Facebook.

Our personal information is valuable, and not just to marketing departments who want to sell us things, but insurance companies, who might decide we are high risk, or potential schools or employers.

And we know, too, that this information is made available to government agencies, very often without even a search warrant.

Some people don’t think having the government looking over our shoulders is a problem. After all, we’ve done nothing wrong, we’ve nothing to hide, right?

Well. Thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know just how insidious NSA is. Funny thing, it isn’t just the emergence of Big Brother that is worrisome. Computer error is far more probable, and possibly even more devastating.

When the NSA sucks up everything on the Internet, it is far too much data for human beings to analyze. What happens is that automated processes will use face recognition software to identify bad guys, but instead of mug books, they use photos on the Internet. Photos on Facebook, for instance. And it is doubtful their robots are as clever as my bot friends @X11R5 and @question. Mistakes will be made.

Any science fiction fan can tell you just how insane it is to give machines dominion over human beings. The idea that machines get to decide whose door Homeland Security or GCHQ or CSIS decide to break down is pretty scary.

And if Facebook is going to lock me out because I won’t tag people, so be it. As a self publishing author, I give up lots of personal information online, but it is my choice, and my information. If I tag people I don’t know, or know only peripherally, it is their privacy I’m jeopardizing.

I don’t give out any more personal information than I absolutely have to. If this was really a security thing, my not tagging people should have proven my identity. I think what Facebook really wanted to find out was whether I knew the friends and families of my Facebook friends.

And that is none of Facebook’s business.

Post Script:
I’ve been asked to explain “tagging” for people who don’t use Facebook.

Tagging in Facebook is the act of identifying and naming the people in a photograph posted on Facebook. When tagging, you hover the cursor over a part of the photo, and then type in the name of the person. You used to be able to type any name, but they have changed it so that it has to be a name on a Facebook account. However, you can tag a photo with a wrong name.

When you tag a photo, the person whose name you use receives a notification. Because of this, a lot of people tag photos with the names of the people who they want to see the photo. If you’re an environmentalist, you might tag a photo of the Tar Sands with the name of your environmentalist Facebook friends. Or you might tag a photo of a rock star with the name of your friend who is a big fan. If you mis-identify someone, they know about it, and presumably can complain.

There are so many ways this information can be misinterpreted or abused.

Know Where The Links Go

The Internet exists to make sharing easy, and very often that is a good thing. But before you share, you should be aware of where you are sending your family and friends. If there are links to click on the thing you are sharing, you should click them first, so you know where they go.

A friend of mine just shared a security video montage showing all kinds of nice things that were accidentally caught on security camera footage.

Does that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

surveilance camera (cc by laurelrusswurm)

Not me.

Me, well, it makes me feel very uncomfortable. A little bit creepy. Knowing that the world is filled with security cameras recording our every move.  Big brother is watching you. (Now would be a very good time to read or re-read George Orwell’s classic novel, Nineteen Eight Four“)

Security cameras are deliberately placed as inconspicuously as possible.  The law requires signs posted telling us they are there, but they are usually pretty inconspicuous too.   The idea, of course, is to catch crooks in the act as they rob the store or paint the graffiti or break the window.  If the crook knows its there, they would very likely put the camera out of commission. And, naturally, security cameras only catch stupid crooks.

But security cameras also show ordinary people going about our ordinary lives.

Before a professional photographer can publish photos of models, or even ordinary people walking down the street they need to get permission from the people they are photographing. The model must sign a release form. Even newspapers get permission from their subjects. Without it they can face legal challenges. Because people are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy.

If I rob your store, it’s a different situation. I’ve broken the law, and my reasonable expectation of privacy doesn’t extend to the store’s security video. So the video can be used by law enforcement to identify me and bring me to justice.

But if my boyfriend kisses me on a park bench, what right does some guy with a security video have to put that moment of casual intimacy into a film?

Do you think any of the people in the video gave permission?

Do you know what a video camera looks like? There are many different kinds.

ceiling mounted survellance camera

Are you aware of the cameras pointed at you in so many places? Anonymous cameras we often don’t even see.  Cameras that secretly record us at work or play.  Walking down the street, buying gas, paying a untility bill.

And who is behind these cameras?

Who is recording you as you walk your toddler past the camera?  Who knows? I don’t.

If we don’t know who they are, how can we know what they do with the video? Who is watching the watchers? After the video is made, do they get rid of it if nothing untoward happened? Or is the footage being used in different ways… as the film in this video so clearly was. People had to pore over an awful lot of security video to discover the bits that have been edited together to make this film.

So is it okay if they make a nice “feel good” short film that shows all the nice things unsuspecting people were caught doing on “security video”?

The only credit at the end of the video is for a website called Love Everybody. So I looked there, and although it has a page of videos, this one is not displayed. Very probably because it was made without the permission of the subjects, and maybe even because using the song for the soundtrack is copyright infringement, which would result in a DMCA copyright takedown notice.

Why is this particular video floating around on Facebook?

Well, if you click one of the links, it takes you to the person who posted it, the person who is using this video. This person doesn’t have any problem with using a video made without the permission of the people in it. Or to copyright infringement. Because this person has no qualms at all about getting my friend to send her family and friends on Facebook to his real reason for posting the video. He is earning up to $237 Per Day because he’s getting her to work for him for free.

Every time this video is shared, it sends the unsuspecting to his ads: “FREE VIDEO! Discover How I Earn Up to $237 Per Day from Home Using Just My Facebook Account…”

facebook logoWhenever you share anything on the Internet, even on Facebook, you should consider whether you have been fooled into selling your friends eyeballs.

Update: I decided to check YouTube for “security video” and found the film there. Turns out that this is actually a Coke commercial (although the facebook user who is using it to drive customers into his lair seems to have done away with the advertising logos).

Presumably Coke did in fact shoot this video to make it appear to be security video. If they didn’t, and you happen to be the guy dancing in the aisle but have never signed a release, you can probably sue the company. If you’re Coke you can certainly squash the guy who is using your film to drive business his way on Facebook.

There are, alas, an awful lot of security videos making it to YouTube.

Coca-Cola Security Cameras

Facebook Permissions

Yes I am on Facebook. One of these days I’ll explain why. Meantime, I’ll share advice as needed :)

Facebook Apps ask for your permission to post in your name to your friends.

You may not realize this, but the app/games proceed to annoy your friends with requests to play the game.

As far as those being annoyed can tell, it is *you* sending them these annoying messages. Sometimes friends will complain, sometimes they just unfriend.

Just sayin’.


It occurs to me I should have mentioned how to block annoying Apps, especially since Facebook doesn’t make it easy to figure out how to do this, presumably because the corporation receives buckets of cash from the App companies.

When you are at “home” in Facebook, look to the left hand sidebar where you’ll see a heading called APPS, and under it you’ll see “APPs and Games”

Click it and the first heading will be “Invites from friends”

It lists all the “invites” you have received here, beside the avatar of the person who supposedly sent it to you.

Hover your mouse over it and a blue background will appear behind the entree as well as a small blue “x” in the top right hand corner. You don’t actually see the “x” unless you hover, and you don’t know what it gives you unless you click it. Sneaky, eh?

Click on that little blue “x” and you will be given the options to:

  • Hide the request
  • Block the person responsible for the invitation
  • Block the APP — this is the one that will block all future requests from *anyone* playing/using this app.
  • Ignore all requests from the person

TechDITZ Glossary Entry: APPS

— This is simply an abreviation of the word “Applications”which means software programs. Facebook and others make the distiction between “games” and “Apps” because the assumption is that apps are actually useful.