Monthly Archives: March 2012

Discrete vs. Discreet

Discrete is an adjective meaning individually separate and distinct.

Discreet is also an adjective but means to be careful and circumspect in one’s speech or actions, esp. to avoid causing offense or to gain an advantage or to be intentionally unobtrusive.

Leave a Comment

Filed under For Contractors - grammar

Affect vs. Effect

  • affect = verb meaning to influence:

Will lack of sleep affect your work?

  • effect = noun meaning result or consequence:

Will lack of sleep have an effect on your work?

  • effect = verb meaning to bring about, to accomplish:

Our efforts have effected a major change in policy.

Leave a Comment

Filed under For Contractors - grammar

We do not compromise your confidentiality by having a Like button.

Or a Google+ for that matter.

Protect your privacy.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

Ghostery, Mozilla add on

Protect your privacy. See who’s tracking your web browsing and block them with Ghostery.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles, Confidentiality - privacy applications

Collusion, Mozilla add on

Collusion is an experimental add-on for Firefox and allows you to see all the third parties that are tracking your movements across the Web. It will show, in real time, how that data creates a spider-web of interaction between companies and other trackers.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles, Confidentiality - privacy applications


BetterPrivacy is a Firefox add-on that deletes a type of tracking cookie known as local shared objects (LSOs). This type of cookie is particularly harmful as it stores a huge amount of information and, crucially, can’t be deleted like a normal cookie.

BetterPrivacy doesn’t actually have an effect on your browsing. Instead, it finds the folder on your hard disk where the LSOs are stored and when you finish a session, deletes any “super cookies” it finds there.

It’s easy to configure BetterPrivacy, but if you don’t want to change the settings, it works even without.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles, Confidentiality - privacy applications

Abine PrivacySuite

Publisher’s Description

From Abine:

Abine is a browser add-on that makes it easy to control your online privacy. Abine’s PrivacySuite lets you control the information you provide to websites, protect your email address when you register at new sites, and manage all your accounts and passwords securely. You can also easily fill checkout forms, all while securely controlling what personal information you want to share. It makes user the web easier, faster, and more private.

Read more: Abine PrivacySuite –

Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles, Confidentiality - privacy applications

Android photo-stealing loophole discovered amidst massive worm attack threats

All those photos on your Android device may be susceptible to app developers, in one of the biggest vulnerabilities to be discovered on Android OS. Shortly after it was reported that Apple iOS devices have access to a person’s entire photo library as long as that person allows the app to tap their location data, a similar weak spot was uncovered in Android’s mobile OS. The difference is, Android apps don’t need permission at all to gain access to a user’s photos, as long as the app has the right to access the Internet, it can copy device photos to a remote server without notice.



Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

Hulu and MSN Caught Using Supercookies to Track User Data

The WSJ says that Hulu and MSN, among others, have been found using supercookies to monitor the info of those who visit their sites. Extremely difficult to detect and erase, supercookies can provide significantly more information than standard cookies.

Supercookies can be used to steal a users entire browser history, which can provide highly valuable information on their financial and health status. Microsoft claims they don’t know why supercookies were being used. They say removed the code once informed, and that the data was for internal use only nonetheless. Hulu says they’re investigating the matter. WSJ says that a company called Kissmetrics was responsible for the supercookie code on hulu. When asked about the issue, Kissmetrics claimed they will no longer use supercookies for tracking user data.

The supercookie can infiltrate browsers in a few different ways. The most common deployment of a supercookie is through flash content, which stores its cookies in a separate folder, and therefore isn’t erased when you delete normal cookies through your browser. Another common way is to drop supercookies into people’s browser cache through HTML 5 code.

And there are ways to get rid of (and prevent) supercookies. If you use Firefox, the browser extension BetterPrivacy is a good way to block many supercookies. Windows users can use an app called CCleaner to eliminate most cookies, though some pesky ones may remain (or return). Mac users can use a program called



Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

In to vs. Into

In general, use into when movement, action or a transformation of state occur.

In indicates location or state that is generally more static and not transitional.

Leave a Comment

Filed under For Contractors - grammar

Issues of outsourcing research material

Communication problems, confidentiality of research, syntax and non-native-speaking issues occur anytime you send your work overseas for transcription. It is possible to find $.70/minute transcription from India but it is then a given that dozens of additional hours are needed to proof the integrity of the work. Money saved is time lost.

Risks to confidential data and personal data. The world may becoming a global village but laws that protect privacy and personal information are locally based. Once you outsource your data, you have very little control about what happens to that data.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

Scroogle Gets Screwgled For Good After Days Of DDoS Attacks


 scrooglegoogle 616Options to prevent Google’s gropey hands from gathering your browsing information have dwindled today due to the shuttering up of Scroogle. For those unawares, Scroogle was a search engine that acted as an “online condom” to enable users to practice safe searching while preventing companies like Google from tracking your habits. The main cause for the site’s shutdown is said to stem from a constant stream of recent DDoS attacks.In an email to BetaBeat, the site’s main operator, Daniel Brandt, said that the privacy-friendly search engine is “gone forever.”“Even if all my DDoS problems had never started in December, Scroogle was already getting squeezed from Google’s throttling, and was already dying. It might have lasted another six months if I hadn’t lost seven servers from DDoS, but that’s about all.

“I no longer have any domains online. I also took all my domains out of DNS because I want to signal to the criminal element that I have no more servers to trash. This hopefully will ward off further attacks on my previous providers.”

The other sites mentioned by Brandt that he maintained were,,, and

Since Google also offers an encrypted search option that enables protection from info-tracking bloodhounds, including companies like Google itself, that may explain why Google made it difficult for Scroogle to operate smoothly.

For those left longing for a way to search Google without the spectre of Google and others tracking their browsing history, Search Engine Land has compiled a list of offerings that users may find helpful. In my own experience, has served me the best although I haven’t experimented extensively with other privacy-first search engines because I was immediately satisfied with DuckDuckGo’s straight-forward policy.



Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

Google Alternatives: How To Pull Yourself Out Of That G-hole

While you don’t have to totally break free, a little less Google in your life might do you some good

Today’s the day, Googlers: that dreaded and disputed Privacy Policy goes into effect as of today. If you’re one of the Google users wary of what the new policy is going to do to you and your privacy, it might be worth considering de-Googling your life; maybe not a wholesale liquidation of Google from your life, but enough to ensure that all of your data eggs aren’t in Google’s basket.

Below are some alternatives I’ve compiled that should help you shake off that feeling that Google completely owns your life. Before continuing, though, let me offer this caveat: the reason so many of people almost exclusively use Google Apps for nearly every facet of online activity is because Google makes really good apps. That said, some of these alternatives might not be on par with, say, Gmail or Google+, so make a measured decision on what you need from these types of services and what features you can do without.

>>> Check out WebProNews’ special page covering Google Privacy updated live. Subscribe to the Google Privacy RSS feed too!

Search – Google Search results will likely be the well from which Google collects most of your information under the new Privacy Policy and then uses it for whatever arcane purposes Google uses your information. While you can turn off your Web History as well as use Google’s own encrypted search, you could still always do one better by simply not using Google search directly (especially until the full application of the new Privacy Policy is witnessed and understood).

With Scroogle down for the count, the two viable not-Google contenders to take its place are DuckDuckGo and Gibiru. Both sites are pro-privacy and ensure users’ searches are encrypted by concealing your IP address from your search query. With either of these two search tools, your results will be the same as the basic results you get from Google.

Web-based Email – “The undiscovered country makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.” While Hamlet didn’t have something as trifling as Gmail in mind when he said this, consider the sentiment’s application when considering ditching your email. Your best free online alternative is likely Hotmail, but that service is owned by Windows. Fleeing Google for the cold embrace of Windows seems to belie any intent to emancipate and protect yourself from the corporate Eye of Sauron that you’re trying to avoid.The other thing is: Gmail’s really nice.

Another alternative you may consider is ZoHo mail, but with that you’re going to have less storage with a free account (you’ll have to pay in order to get more than 5GB). If you really want to spend some time weighing your alternatives, Wikipedia has a table comparing all of the more sought-after features for webmail services that might hasten your task.

Social Networking – I can’t recommend Diaspora enough as far as privacy goes, but the average Google+ user will have a hard time getting through the door as its still in Alpha and therefore new accounts are invite-only. The obvious and immediate alternative is Facebook but, similar to how I explained with the free email hosting above, you’d basically be trading one poison for another. Given you’re probably already on Facebook, and how nobody really seems to be adopting to Google+ that enthusiastically, this is one case where, if you must belong to a social network right now, stay with Facebook. Until Diaspora goes public.

Image sharing/hostingFlickr. Flickr, Flickr, Flickr. There’s not really anything that can be said about Flickr that hasn’t been said before. It’s a great service, offers content protection for users, and just recently launched a savvy new look to users’ contacts. It incorporates the social aspect of photo-sharing and has a great user interface. Even if you’re not looking to ditch Google Picasa with all of this privacy hullabaloo, I still recommend giving Flickr a look. You may find that you outright prefer that service to Picasa and the less Google in your life at this point, the better.

BloggingWordPress is likely to be your best alternative to Google’s Blogger. It offers up a comparable assortment of different themes for users to design their blogs, you can host your WordPress blog on your own server if you feel so inclined, and there are a host of add-ons you can apply to your blog. Tumblr might be a close second if you prefer a deeper social media aspect to your blogging, or if you lean towards brevity when it comes to composing your blog posts.

BrowserFirefox or Opera are going to be the two non-Google browsers that named as the preferred alternatives to Google’s Chrome. Depending on whether you’re a simple check-the-emails-and-maybe-Facebook user or a “power user,” the different resources offered by the two browsers should accomodate most people looking to unmoor themselves from Chrome. Firefox might be more familiar to casual users while Opera will likely make power users wild-eyed with excitement.

ReaderNetVibes is likely to be your best alternative but, unfortunately, you’re not going to have the complete array of features that Google Reader has. If you’re dependent on tagging articles you like or even being able to search your RSS feeds, that won’t be available to you with the free version. However, if those features aren’t all that necessary to your RSS experience then it might be worth your time to take a look at it.

Cloud storageDropbox is likely the service you’ve already heard of when it comes to cloud storage. Granted, Google’s GDrive was just announced recently so people have likely not begun migrating to Google’s cloud service yet, but Dropbox has worked great thus far . And you know what they say about things that ain’t broke.

If you’re a really dedicated anti-Google centurion, you could probably live an online life free of any of their apps if you don’t mind sacrificing some of the amenities offered from the Google World. However, keep in mind that you don’t have to be a tee totaler just to keep your information safe. Using Google apps isn’t completely bad – as mentioned above, some of their services really are probably the best you’re going to find for free – but lessening your dependency on the Google brand as a whole might serve you well.

And as always, if any readers out there have alternative suggestions for any of the services listed above or something not covered (Docs alternatives?), feel free to add your piece below in the comments.



Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

The transcripts made data analysis much easier and enhanced the overall quality of my results.

“Accurate Secretarial LLC provided accurate, timely, and very high-quality transcription work for dissertation thesis and post-doctoral research.  The transcripts made data analysis much easier and enhanced the overall quality of my results.”

Top qualities: Great Results, On Time, High Integrity


Leave a Comment

Filed under Recommendations

They were accurate, personable and delivered it on time, every time.

“Accurate Secretarial provided transcription services for a series of documentaries at WNED-TV.  They were accurate, personable and delivered it on time, every time.  I would recommend them to anyone!”

Top qualities: Personable, Expert, High Integrity


Leave a Comment

Filed under Recommendations

Accurate Secretarial was an essential component to our radio show, delivering interview transcriptions on time and always accurate.

“Accurate Secretarial was an essential component to our radio show, delivering interview transcriptions on time and always accurate. The work flowed seamlessly from audio upload to delivery. I would highly recommend the Accurate Secretarial LLC team.”

Top qualities: Personable, Good Value, On Time


Leave a Comment

Filed under Recommendations

The speed and accuracy at which they worked was unmatched.

“Accurate Secretarial provided transcription services for a documentary I produced in 2007.  The speed and accuracy at which they worked was unmatched.  They completed all the transcription tasks on time and the pricing was very reasonable. I hope to work with them again in the future!”

Top qualities: Great Results, Good Value, On Time


Leave a Comment

Filed under Recommendations

Accurate Secretarial LLC is the best solution for transcription services that I have encountered over 25+ years of producing corporate video.

“Accurate Secretarial is the best solution for transcription services that I have encountered over 25+ years of producing corporate video.  Aside from being incredibly pleasant to work with; they are also fairly priced, consistent in delivery, and extremely reliable for deadlines.”

Top qualities: Good Value, On Time, High Integrity


Leave a Comment

Filed under Recommendations

I very much enjoyed working with the staff at Accurate Secretarial LLC.

“I very much enjoyed working with the staff at Accurate Secretarial LLC.  They are very friendly, knowledgeable, fast and on-time. They handled several transcriptions for a documentary we are working on and I highly recommend their services. They always appreciate their clients.”

Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, On Time


Leave a Comment

Filed under Recommendations

I’ve greatly enjoyed working with Stephanie and Accurate Secretarial LLC for my transcriptionist needs.

“I’ve greatly enjoyed working with Stephanie and Accurate Secretarial LLC for my transcriptionist needs.  I perform research in healthcare and they do an excellent job with medical terminology.  They have a secure system that meets the needs of our confidentiality and security requirements for research data.  They are very reliable and do an awesome job.”

Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, Expert

Leave a Comment

Filed under Recommendations

I engaged Accurate Secretarial LLC for medical research-related transcription and had an excellent experience.

“I engaged Accurate Secretarial LLC for medical research-related transcription and had an excellent experience. The work was accurate and to exact specifications. It was done at reasonable cost and delivered on time and usually well ahead of time. Accurate Secretarial LLC also provides fast, professional, and friendly responses to requests and questions. Very highly recommended!”

Top qualities: Great Results, On Time, High Integrity

Leave a Comment

Filed under Recommendations

Document Security and Confidentiality

Information is power. In the wrong hands, the information stored in your files can damage your business, your personal life and the privacy of your employees and customers. Increased identity theft and other security breaches have emphasized the importance of maintaining control over access to your records. Beyond simply protecting information for confidentiality, many businesses also have privacy regulations imposed on them by government or industry groups.


At it’s simplest level, document security means physical protection of the records themselves. Many filing systems use supplies that offer inherent protection to documents. File folders with fasteners or built-in pockets hold papers safely inside and prevent documents from accidentally falling out. Expanding files and wallets with protective flaps offer protection during transportation. Self-adhesive pockets applied to folders hold small items such as business cards or digital media safely inside file folders.


Limiting the number of employees who can access records provides a high level of document security. Locked file cabinets or file rooms with security systems in place help prevent unauthorized personnel from using confidential records. Document tracking using bar code technology can restrict user access to entire filing systems or to specific folders. Usage histories reveal who has taken files from the filing system, and how long they have used them.

A balance must be achieved between making sure adequate protection is in place and hampering quick access to information by legitimate users. Cumbersome security procedures can lower productivity and encourage non-compliance.


Protecting the personal information of patients, customers and employees is a responsibility that no business should take lightly. Health care entities must comply with HIPAA regulations that prevent personal health information from being available to unauthorized persons. Numeric indexing systems avoid readable text on file labels that would identify patients. Human Resources departments must follow guidelines to ensure that medical and investment information is only available to authorized personnel.

When designing a filing system, be sure to address the appropriate level of protection for your records. Building in security measures can avoid big headaches by keeping your critical information away from those who would use it against you.



Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles combines Google + Bing + Ask without tracking your browsing searches Google, Bing and Ask simultaneously.

Features infinite scrolling, TAM instant answers, keyword suggest, news, private, no tracking.

Directly search YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Google/Bing maps, access weather from the search bar.


Accurate Secretarial LLC has no connection with other than we use it daily.  Google’s and MSN’s tracking cookies do not comply with our security policy for confidential research.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles, Confidentiality - privacy applications

TrackMeNot add-on for internet browsers

CNET Editors’ review

by: CNET Staff on February 27, 2009

This Firefox extension offers users an interesting approach to block data miners, but it requires a leap of faith that the program is actually living up to its promises.

TrackMeNot’s user interface consists of an icon on your status bar. A right-click displays a menu where you can choose to enable the program, along with your Options and Help menus. The Options menu lets you set the query frequency and how to handle cookies. The program supposedly hides your search history by running its own fake queries through popular search engines with the idea of fooling data miners. Random words appear in your status bar and give the appearance that the program is working; but beyond that, there’s no way to tell what TrackMeNot is doing. The program doesn’t include a feature for monitoring data mining activity.

TrackMeNot shouldn’t be your only line of defense, but it might help throw data miners off track.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles, Confidentiality - privacy applications

Use CCleaner to clean your cookies after each online browsing session.

Accurate Secretarial LLC has no connection to CCleaner other than we have used it for so long that we remember when it was called Crap Cleaner.

Download CCleaner here:

The free version works just fine.

CCleaner is our system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is that it’s fast (normally taking less than a second to run) and contains NO Spyware or Adware!

Cleans the following:

ie 16Internet Explorer
Temporary files, history, cookies, super cookies, Autocomplete form history, index.dat files.
ff 16Firefox
Temporary files, history, cookies, super cookies, download history, form history.
chrome 16Google Chrome
Temporary files, history, cookies, super cookies, download history, form history.
op 16Opera
Temporary files, history, cookies, super cookies, download history.
safari 16Safari
Temporary files, history, cookies, super cookies, form history.
app 16Other Supported Browsers
K-Meleon, Rockmelt, Flock, Google Chrome Canary, Chromium, SeaMonkey, Chrome Plus, SRWare Iron, Pale Moon, Phoenix, Netscape Navigator, Avant and Maxthon.
desk 16Windows
Recycle Bin, Recent Documents, Temporary files, Log files, Clipboard, DNS Cache, Error Reporting, Memory Dumps, Jump Lists.
reg 16Registry Cleaner
Advanced features to remove unused and old entries, including File Extensions, ActiveX Controls, ClassIDs, ProgIDs, Uninstallers, Shared DLLs, Fonts, Help Files, Application Paths, Icons, Invalid Shortcuts and more…
app 16Third-party applications
Removes temp files and recent file lists (MRUs) from many apps including Windows Media Player, eMule, Google Toolbar, Microsoft Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip and many more…
tick 16100% Spyware FREE
This software does NOT contain any Spyware, Adware or Viruses.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles, Confidentiality - privacy applications

Mobile Apps Take Data Without Permission

The address book in smartphones — where some of the user’s most personal data is carried — is free for app developers to take at will, often without the phone owner’s knowledge.

Companies that make many of the most popular smartphone apps for Apple and Android devices — Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram among them — routinely gather the information in personal address books on the phone and in some cases store it on their own computers. The practice came under scrutiny Wednesday by members of Congress who saw news reports that taking such data was an “industry best practice.”

Apple, which approves all apps that appear in its iTunes store, addressed the controversy on Wednesday after lawmakers sent the company a letter asking how approved apps were allowed to take address book data without users’ permission. Apple’s published rules on apps expressly prohibit that practice.

But in its statement about the issue, Apple did not address why those apps that collect address book data had been approved.

In that statement, Tom Neumayr, an Apple spokesman, said: “Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines. We’re working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release.”

The Federal Trade Commission regulates the use of consumers’ data on the Internet, and in the past it has sanctioned big companies like Facebook and Google over privacy issues. It said Wednesday that it would make no comment about the app makers’ practices.

While Apple says it prohibits and rejects any app that collects or transmits users’ personal data without their permission, that has not stopped some of the most popular applications for the iPhone, iPad and iPod — like Yelp, Gowalla, Hipster and Foodspotting — from taking users’ contacts and transmitting it without their knowledge.

Google, which makes the Android operating system software, forces developers to ask users for permission to access any personal data up front.

The app makers collect the data to help quickly expand the network of people using their program. The practice of taking address book information without permission first came to light last week, when a developer noticed that Path, a mobile social network, was uploading entire address books to its servers without users’ knowledge. The company has since said it will stop the practice and destroy the data it has collected.

But Path is hardly the only mobile application that collects address books. Last February, Lookout, a mobile security company, found that 11 percent of free applications in Apple’s iTunes Store had the ability to access users’ contacts. And on Tuesday, VentureBeat, a technology blog, reported that dozens of applications for Apple devices were taking users’ address books without permission.

The findings shed more light on how technology companies sift through people’s personal and private information without their knowledge. Last year, users were shocked to find out that Color, a mobile application, could activate users’ microphones on their phones without their permission. And in December, Carrier IQ, a mobile intelligence company, was accused of privacy violations when a programmer discovered that its tracking software was recording keystrokes made, phone numbers dialed, text messages sent and even encrypted Internet searches, on some 140 million smartphones.

“It’s time for app developers to take responsibility for ensuring that users know what they’re doing, rather than leaving it to the platforms to play a game of Whac-A-Mole,” said Jules Polonetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum, in an interview Wednesday.

Some developers are following that advice and changing their apps before Apple and Congress step in. Path and Hipster updated their apps late last week so that they warn users about the information collected. The updates also give users the ability to stop sharing address book information. After Path and Hipster drew scrutiny, Instagram, another popular photo-sharing app that gathers users’ contacts, added a prompt asking users for permission to do so.

Within the Twitter app, when users choose to “Find Friends,” the company can store their address books for as long as 18 months. The company said Tuesday that it planned to update its app to change how it tells users what it collects. “In our next app updates, which are coming soon, we are making the language associated with Find Friends more explicit,” Carolyn Penner, a spokeswoman for Twitter, said in an e-mail. “We send and store data securely. Address book information is encrypted when we send it from the mobile phones to our servers. The data is secured within Twitter in the same way that we secure other account information.”

On Tuesday, a developer discovered that when a user signs up for a Foursquare account, the company transmits their address book without warning. In response, Foursquare said it was adding an update to its app that warned users that it accessed their contacts. In an e-mail, Erin Gleason, the company’s director of communications, said that the company did not store users’ contact information. “When a person searches for friends on Foursquare, we transmit the address book information over a secure connection and do not store it beyond that point,” she wrote.

VentureBeat reported that the worst offenders seemed to take shortcuts and did not properly protect the data they were collecting from smartphones. It reported that Foodspotting, a mobile app that allows users to share photos of their meals, transmitted users’ address books over an unencrypted connection where it could be easily intercepted. In an e-mail, Alexa Andrzejewski, the chief executive of Foodspotting, said the risk of not encrypting users’ contact information “has always seemed relatively low, especially for a site that doesn’t deal with credit card or other sensitive information.” Ms. Andrzejewski also said Foodspotting would be updating its app to include additional security features.

Google has tools built into the Android platform that forces developers to notify people what data, if any, they plan to access. Once they have users’ permission, Android developers can access everything from a phone owner’s call logs to their text messages. But users of many apps — including Hipster, Locale, Uber, Yelp, Taxi Magic, Picplz, Scrabble and Waze — are often not told how the information will be used or how the company plans to store it.

“What separates malicious use from legitimate use is the element of surprise. If a user is surprised, that’s a problem,” said Kevin Mahaffey, Lookout’s chief technology officer, who said that in many ways, standards and rules for data on smartphones were still being debated. “It’s a new industry and it’s still in many ways the Wild West out there. The iron is still hot.”


Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

Five ways Google’s unified privacy policy affects you

Google implemented a new privacy policy on March 1. Here’s the “So what?” and what the search giant’s changes mean for you.

YouTube is one of 60 services that will fall under Google’s unified privacy policy.

Today, Google’s unified privacy policy goes live, allowing the search giant to combine and manipulate data from its 60 free services, something it could not do under its previous policies.

Coverage of the policy change has been abundant during the last few weeks leading up to it, though Google has made no secret of its intentions–pop-ups alerting users of the transition can be seen on the home pages of all its services.

But despite the warnings, you might still be wondering how, exactly, the change will affect you. Is it really as scary as media are warning? Here’s what you need to know:

1. Google isn’t collecting more information, just using it differently.
The big misconception here is that Google will suddenly gain access to a host of information it didn’t have before. That’s incorrect. The reality is that the search giant has always collected your usage data for all of its services like Google+, Gmail, YouTube, and so on; however, until now, it has stored that data separately.

Today, Google is combining the data it has collected to create a more robust profile about you. The company is touting it as a positive change that will give you a better overall Google experience and make its privacy policy easier to understand.

For example, if you e-mail your mother to tell her about the new puppies you adopted, the suggested videos you see the next time you visit YouTube may be about cute puppies. Previously, Google could not manipulate data in this manner.

2. You’ll be tracked. No matter what.
Building up to today, we and many other tech experts have suggested you clear your Google Web History (here’s how). It’s clear now that although this is a good move (you should do it), it won’t stop Google from collecting your data. By clearing and stopping the official tracking of your Web activity, you only prevent Google from personalizing your experience.

But let’s be clear: this does not stop Google from tracking your Web activity. Meaning, your searches will still be followed and stored on Google’s servers for “internal use.” The information could still be used to build that profile about you and, ultimately, sell it to advertisers who will serve ads specifically tailored to your interests.

3. Is it really a big deal? Yes and no.
While privacy experts are concerned, others exclaim, “So what??” Both reactions are valid.

On the one hand, this isn’t a big deal–Google is collecting the same information it always has, but now it’s being used to improve the users’ experience. One of the more awesome examples is that, based your location and traffic in your area, Google could warn you that you’ll be late to the appointment you logged in Google Calendar. Pretty neat.

And, so what if the data will be used for advertisements? That’s nothing new. The only difference is that the advertisements will be more true to your interests. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, people. Google has to make money from advertisements so they might as well be accurate.

Enough with devil’s advocate.

On the other hand, privacy experts and lawmakers are up in arms about the policy. As New York Times Senior Editor Julia Angwin explains, the United States currently has very few laws governing the collection, use, and distribution of user data.

In the worst case scenario, your data could be sold to employers, who may examine your profile before making a hiring decision. They could deduce that your consistent search queries for “diabetes treatment,” or something of the like, means that you’d be a liability on their health insurance policy.

To combat privacy concerns like these, the Obama administration has proposed a consumer “privacy bill of rights” that would protect users by allowing them to decide what information is collected about them, and how it is used. However, no current laws will get in the way of Google’s unified privacy policy.

4. There are some workarounds.
I laughed out loud when a friend suggested to “just stop using Google services.” Yeah, right. We all depend on the Goog for everything, from driving directions to figuring out why my knee has been giving me issues. And, where would I get my laughs? I wouldn’t last very long without seeing Marcel The Shell With Shoes On.

Forget about going cold turkey. Instead, follow these tips to minimize how much data Google collects about you:

Perform Google searches without signing in.

  • Use these tools to avoid leaving any footprints when you use Google services.
  • “Confuse” Google by creating multiple accounts and using them for different activities. (If you are able to do this without going insane, high five.)
  • Add “do not track” to your browsers.

Check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s complete guide to protecting your privacy. But if all else fails, you can always back up your Google data, and close your account (here’s how).

5. Google Books, Chrome, and Wallet will not be affected. The privacy policies of 60 of Google’s services were collapsed into one today, but Wallet, Books, and Chrome will maintain independent policies.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

You can trust Google to spy on you

Google’s new privacy policy takes effect today, March 1. There are significant changes on how your data is handled across the Google family of sites, and that’s enough to raise the concern of privacy regulators in both the European Union and Japan.

Their concern should be yours, too. Who’s that looking over your shoulder online? Google.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding told BBC Radio Four Thursday that the new privacy policy violates EU law. In the interview, Reding says the policy breaks the law in “numerous respects” and accuses the company of making it easier to hand over user data to third parties.

Japan warns Google that the methods the company chooses to store and use consumer’s data likely runs afoul of that country’s own privacy laws. The Tokyo Times says the Japanese government is directing Google to “prepare clear explanations of the new rules and be ready to answer promptly user questions”.

They’re Not the Only Ones

These are only the latest in a string of governments and privacy advocates calling on Google to more clearly explain its position: last month, South Korea says the way Google combines user data to be used across all its services violates the country’s laws. Google has also found itself defending its moves to the US Congress.

We expect the EU to be the toughest nut to crack, but this time the pushback is coming from elsewhere. Is this reason to worry? I say yes, because I’m finding issues with Google’s new policy that should concern all of us. Here’s what you need to know.

Information is shared across Google’s network of sites. Google says:

We may use the name you provide for your Google Profile across all of the services we offer that require a Google Account. In addition, we may replace past names associated with your Google Account so that you are represented consistently across all our services. If other users already have your email, or other information that identifies you, we may show them your publicly visible Google Profile information, such as your name and photo.

What this means: This is different in that your information was kept separate across Google services previously. Here’s an example: you post as yourself on Google+, but prefer to post under a psuedonym on Blogger. These services acted separately before, but now that Google has linked your user information together, you’re forced by default to be associated with an account you deliberately kept separate.

That’s bound to piss off quite a few people, especially those who took issue with Google’s real names policy for Google+.

All your information belong to us. Google says:

We use the information we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones, and to protect Google and our users. We also use this information to offer you tailored content – like giving you more relevant search results and ads.

What this means: Now that the search giant is aggregating all of your personal information, expect the ads to get even more intrusive. Google will now know a lot more about you than it simply could peering into your Gmail inbox. Microsoft’s got to have the marketing crew at the ready here. There’s a treasure trove of information available, as many of us (myself included) use more than just one Google service.

Google attempts to step back and comfort you by saying it won’t tailor information based on “race, religion, sexual orientation or health” but still, that leaves a wide range of topics for them to bait you with.

Google is starting to sound like Facebook. Google says:

After you delete information from our services, we may not immediately delete residual copies from our active servers and may not remove information from our backup systems.

What this means: This is taken out of context, but let me explain. Google does say before this that it aims to protect your information from “accidental or malicious destruction”. At the same time it does not specify at all as to when your information is finally deleted. When Facebook got caught doing the same thing, it gave a similar answer — making it easy for you to reactivate your account and whatnot.

Users should be able to know when their data has been purged from Google. When we want out, we want out. This ownership of our online personal lives has really become a sticking point with a lot of companies. When will they finally learn it is just not appropriate to take the stance that since we’ve shared this data with you, we’re selling the rights to it?

It’s just too damn difficult to get around this policy. Google says:

If you don’t think information sharing will improve your experience, you can use our privacy tools to do things like edit or turn off your search history and YouTube history, control the way Google tailors ads to your interests and browse the web “incognito” using Chrome. You can use services like Search, Maps and YouTube if you are not signed in. You can even separate your information into different accounts, since we don’t combine personal information across them. And we’re committed to data liberation, so if you want to take your information elsewhere you can.

What this means: This excerpt came from Google’s blog post defending the new policy. What’s missing is an opt-out. There is no way to do so. Essentially, like in the Blogger psuedonym situation I listed above, the only way to prevent your identity from being linked here is to create a seperate account.

This is a chore. Yes, Google has made it easy now to switch between accounts, but trust me from somebody who has two Google Apps and one Google account, that’s a pain in the ass. Add the fact Google has made the account such a necessary part of the experience in some cases that using services “signed out” degrades the overall experience. These suggestions sound more to me like a cop-out.

Deflect and Defend, But Where’s the US?

It’s not surprising that Google is doing all it can to defend itself against the criticism. In a blog post Thursday announcing the changes taking effect, the search giant says there is a lot of misunderstanding over the changes.

“The new policy doesn’t change any existing privacy settings or how any personal information is shared outside of Google. We aren’t collecting any new or additional information about users. We won’t be selling your personal data”, it stresses. That’s kind of doublespeak though, they are collecting additional information in a way.

When you combine information across dozens of services, Google’s file on your online persona just got a whole lot bigger. Now its ad platform has a great deal of information to attempt to grab your attention. I know I keep hitting on the advertising portion here, but this is big business for Google, and stands to gain the most here.

Where’s the US Government in this? I expected the European Union to take on Google over its changes. The competition and privacy laws across the pond are way stricter. But to see Japan and South Korea join the chorus is surprising. I think there is more than enough to start an honest investigation of Google.

Could this be rolled into an antitrust investigation? I would think so. But why wait for that? In March 2011, Google agreed to 20 years of Federal Trade Commission oversight, regarding Buzz privacy problems. This is much worse. Where’s the FTC now?

Again, (beating a dead horse) the company’s advertising platform will be valuable to companies looking to get the word out. Targeted advertising works. The company gets a higher-click through, and Google is able to attract a higher fee because of the better success rate.

What other company will be able to provide a platform like this? The answer is nobody.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

Google keeps your search information on file for 18 months.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

Google to Combine All User Information Starting March 1st

Google’s new privacy policy may violate Korea’s data protection rules.

The rules, which are set to come into force Thursday, combine a person’s data from Google’s wide-range of services including the search engine, YouTube, and Gmail.

Korea’s communications regulators are investigating whether the new policy will infringe on personal privacy by allowing Google to create broader profiles of individual users and accurately target advertising based on that information.

The Korea Communications Commission has recommended that Google take appropriate precautions.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

Facebook faces nationwide class action tracking cookie lawsuit

Summary: Facebook is once again being sued for tracking its users even after they logged out of the service. This new nationwide class action lawsuit alleges the company violated federal wiretap laws.

Facebook users are suing the social networking giant over allegations that it violates federal wiretap laws. In addition to several lawsuits filed in multiple states, including Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi, the company is now facing a nationwide class action lawsuit. Law firms Murphy PA and Girard Gibbs have made their case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, accusing Facebook of continuing to ignore concerns over its tracking cookies. They argue the company violates its own privacy policy, which states post-log-out activity is not tracked by the social networking giant.

Facebook has been accused multiple times of using cookies to track users even after they log out of the service. Menlo Park has since twice denied the allegations, and has also twice fixed the issue.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles

Google’s iPhone Tracking

Web Giant, Others Bypassed Apple Browser Settings for Guarding Privacy

Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.’s Web browser on their iPhones and computers—tracking the Web-browsing habits of people who intended for that kind of monitoring to be blocked.

The companies used special computer code that tricks Apple’s Safari Web-browsing software into letting them monitor many users. Safari, the most widely used browser on mobile devices, is designed to block such tracking by default.



Leave a Comment

Filed under Confidentiality - articles