Privacy in technology

Even as we close in on 2 years of Windows 10, we still see so-called “journalists” [or bloggers] who continue to fan the flames when it comes to privacy/telemetry settings in Windows. zdnet.com had one this week.

Microsoft has tweaked the way the settings are over the 2 upgrades in Windows 10 plus they tweaked it again earlier this year [if you bought a new laptop and it had the update].

Even with the tweaking, there has been many third-party tools [such as Safer Networking] that can be used to disable some of this – aside from what Microsoft provides. Some inventive people even wrote scripts to remove some of it.

Note: Some tweaks can actually cause problems as well if you modify them.

And yet, these so-called “journalists” continue to write what is considered mostly a dead issue.

If you are still whining about this privacy/telemetry issue, then I’m not sure if you belong in IT [if you are in that field]. Whining does nothing.

Everything you touch has some privacy/telemetry issues. Your ISP tracks your Internet access. Your carrier tracks your cell usage. If you use a search engine, it’s tracked. You are using an operating system? No matter which one, they are all tracking you.

Question is that do you know how much tracking Google, Apple or others are doing?

Remember when Siri from Apple first came out? Apple stored what you asked [voice recording] plus all your metadata [Apple ID, date, time, IP, etc.] for at least 6 months. After 6 months, they still kept your voice sample [and probably a subset of the metadata] for another 2 years. Apple claimed it was because they needed sample voices to improve Siri’s understanding. You are still being tracked with Siri.

When you visit a web site [that you are registered on], ever get an Email following a visit asking you if you are still interest in what you were looking at or something similar?  Staples and Best Buy are among the numerous sites that do that.

So the first thing you do when buying something with an OS is to go into the setting thoroughly – every section – and disabled or modify what you don’t want. You then research to see what else can be disabled or modified.

The same goes for web sites that you visit. Go in and turn off or modify what you don’t need.

The other alternative is to dump anything that connects yourself to the internet, the Cloud, etc. [Not even a dumb cell phone.]

 

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Another set of Windows 10 tips

Tip #1: How to Enter Special Characters in Windows

  1. Right-click any empty space on the taskbar to open the taskbar customization menu.
  2. Click the Show touch keyboard button option. That action immediately adds a new button just to the left of the clock on the right side of the taskbar.

 

Tip #2: Privacy in File Explorer

The Quick Access shortcut appears by default at the top of the navigation pane. When you click that node, the contents pane shows pinned and frequently used folders on the right, with a list of recently opened files below that.

If you don’t want others to see what files you opened and where they are, right-click the Quick Access entry in the navigation pane and choose Options. That opens the dialog box, giving you three choices:

  • If you don’t want Quick Access to appear when you open File Explorer, change the Open File Explorer To option from Quick Access to This PC.
  • To stop displaying shortcuts of recently opened files, clear the top check box under the Privacy heading.
  • If you want to see only folders you’ve specifically pinned to Quick Access then clear the second check box under the Privacy heading.

 

Tip #3: Your IP Address

If you want to know what your IP address is [not the one that appears on the Internet from your router]:

  1. Open the Task Manager.
  2. Click the Performance tab.
  3. Choose a network adapter to see its details.

 

 

Now Microsoft privacy issues are aimed at Windows 7 and Windows 8.1

It seems Microsoft’s privacy invasion has now continued to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. Recently these “telemetry” updates are added to those versions of Windows.

The mandatory update KB3068708 (titled “Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry”) as well as the option updates KB3075249 (titled “Update that adds telemetry points to consent.exe in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7”) and KB3080149 (titled “Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry”) are the culprits.

Depending on your operating system you can silently uninstall them in an elevated command prompt:

  • wusa /uninstall /kb:3068708 /quiet /norestart
  • wusa /uninstall /kb:3022345 /quiet /norestart
  • wusa /uninstall /kb:3075249 /quiet /norestart
  • wusa /uninstall /kb:3080149 /quiet /norestart

Note that KB3022345 is replaced by KB3068708. So if you remove the latter, it will still be sending out information.

You can also add the following to your host file or firewall to block:

127.0.0.1                         settings-win.data.microsoft.com

127.0.0.1                        64.4.54.253 # settings-win.data.microsoft.com

127.0.0.1                        vortex-win.data.microsoft.com

127.0.0.1                       64.4.54.254 # vortex-win.data.microsoft.com

 

More privacy issues – this time from Apple

Seems Apple has opened another can of worms. This time it is a privacy issue. Apple’s latest operating systems, OS X Yosemite for laptops and iOS 8 for their gadgets, both transmit your search terms back to Apple [and Microsoft!] by default.

If you use the Safari browser [does anyone really use it?], Apple not only knows what you did search for, but they can also see what you were thinking before you ever submitted your request.

If you type in the Spotlight box OS X Yosemite or iOS 8, it will cause your search terms to go to Apple, Microsoft’s Bing, and whatever search engine you have selected. They request goes to Apple so that you can see results from Apple properties and then the request is sent to Bing as a way of getting you quick, relevant search results based on partial queries. Once you press the Enter key, whatever you have is sent to the search engine you choose.

If you have Location Services enabled, it will transmit your location along with your search terms.

To turn off Spotlight search queries:

  • OS X: Deselect the checkboxes for Spotlight Suggestions and the Bing Web Searches in the Search Results pane of Spotlight preferences in System Preferences. [With them disabled Spotlight will search the contents of only your Mac.] There is also a third one in Safari’s preferences where “Include Spotlight Suggestions” will also invoke this behavior.
  • iOS8: Similar preferences have to be checked: General, Spotlight Search, Spotlight Suggestions, and Bing Web Results needs to be unchecked. The third option is harder to get to – in Privacy, Location Services – scroll all the way to the end to System Services and turn off many options like Spotlight Suggestions.

Some are suggesting that while Apple seems to champion privacy issues, they don’t think that this is a major concern. But others do.

Google and more privacy issues

Seems that Google has opened up a can of worms. Google alerted the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) when they detected that possible evidence of alleged child pornography being sent using a user’s Gmail account.

The NCMEC contacted the Houston police department who arrested a man previously convicted of sexual assault on possessing child pornography.

Not surprised there are two camps.

One camp saying it was good of Google to do this to get rid of pedophiles.

A second camp says while they despise pedophilia, a question of violating everyone’s right to privacy comes up.

Google’s Terms of Services states that “You may use our Services only as permitted by law, including applicable export and re-export control laws and regulations. We may suspend or stop providing our Services to you if you do not comply with our terms or policies or if we are investigating suspected misconduct…. we may review content to determine whether it is illegal or violates our policies, and we may remove or refuse to display content that we reasonably believe violates our policies or the law.”

Google’s privacy policy informs users “We collect information to provide better services to all of our users — from figuring out basic stuff like which language you speak, to more complex things like which ads you’ll find most useful or the people who matter most to you online…. when you use our services or view content provided by Google, we may automatically collect and store certain information in server logs. This may include details of how you used our service, such as your search queries.”

As well, Google’s policies states that “we will share personal information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google if we have a good-faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of the information is reasonably necessary to meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.”

So by using Google’s services, you are giving them the right to notify authorities if there are any illegal usage.

Most people by now know that Google reads all Emails electronically. They use it primarily for advertising purposes. [For example, if you have many messages related to dentistry, expect to see dentistry related ads more often than others.] But was this to be used for anything other than advertising purposes? They are electronically reading your Email –which could be anything from legal issues to financial issues.

David Drummond, the Chief Legal Officer of Google, hinted at the possibility of certain scanning algorithms “that trawl other platforms for known images” that are then verified as illegal content by human inspection on a web site last year.

Will the police come barging down your door if you say the word bomb a few times in an Email.

I am not saying other services are better or wouldn’t do this but at what point does something trump privacy?

A privacy option to do

Here is a way to hide some of your personal information.

A [cookie] cookie is a file stored on your computer that keeps track of various information such as when was the last time you visit the site. That information in the cookie at one point will be sent to the host server when visited.

Google owns a major web tracking site called DoubleClick. This is where Google gets some of its information about you including where you have gone.

[Note: There are still other similar sites that do the same but DoubleClick is probably the biggest one.]

If you wish to stop DoubleClick from tracking what you do, go to the following page and follow the instructions:

http://www.google.com/settings/ads/plugin

This takes a minute of your time.
Notes:

  • If you are in Internet Explorer, the User Account Control in Windows Vista and later will need your approval.
  • You must use the same link for all the major web browsers Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome – if you have one or more of them. Each require a separate plugin.

Google does another privacy blunder

[If you don’t have a Gmail/Google account, nothing to worry about. Note that using Google’s search page doesn’t mean that you have an account!]

Here we go again with Google and their privacy issues. Google is further integrating its Google+ social network service with its Gmail service by allowing users to send each other messages even if they don’t know the other user’s email address.

Google should have by defaulted opt out of the feature and allow the user to opt in. But like previous times…. They didn’t. Remember Google Buzz in 2010? It integrated into Gmail that automatically followed your list of contacts and made that list public, even though it had been private information until that point. 9 governments complained.

As well, if you had a Gmail/Google account, you automatically had your Google+ account enabled when Google+ started up. You needed to opt out. See the pattern? [Possibly a way for Google to boast that they had millions of people joining Google+ when in fact the Google users didn’t even know they were on Google+ .]

Here’s what you need to do to opt-out of receiving e-mails from random strangers on Google+:

  • Login to your Gmail account.
  • Click on the gear icon in the top-right corner and then click on Settings.

google_plus

  •  Scroll down to Email via Google+ and select no one from the scroll bar. [You can optionally choose another option.]
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save for the setting to take effect.