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Online Security: Truth or Fiction?
This article speaks to some extremely serious privacy violations at a super-popular site that nearly "everyone" uses to stay in touch.
They shall remain nameless, because I do not want any ads for them to show up. I'm not supporting what they do, and I don't care to give them any "props." You'll figure out who it is soon enough, but as I said, I'm not going to name them, so I'm going to use some tricks like extra wordiness or e x t r a s p a c i n g in the hopes that the ad-bots will not recognize those items as words or phrases to use as 'keywords.'
This is a test--I do not know whether it will work...
Have you ever read the George Orwell novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four? Published in 1949, it is responsible for the term "Big Brother," meaning governmental snoops. He was looking ahead into an imagined future, the title of the book being the supposed year when society would be transformed to this dark and restricted concept of life. The book's theme also gave rise to the use of the author's name to describe this type of society: "Orwellian."
As we've suffered ever more erosions to our liberties, I've been saying for many years, "George Orwell was right: he just got the year wrong."
If you sit up at your desks and pay attention, now, you can learn what is really going on out there in cyberspace. I did not make this up: it was published in a very detailed article in Consumer Reports, a very reputable magazine that offers objective analysis of consumer goods and services. Since they are subscription based and do not accept advertising, this maintains their objectivity. And since the world is changing, 'goods and services' now also include the virtual world of on-line interactions.
Where Are These Threats?
Actually, the privacy and security threats are all over on the internet, or World Wide Web. (That's what that www. means at the beginning of a web address.)
Despite many security programs and protocols, the truth is, anything you do online is pretty much wide open to anyone who cares to invest the time to break through said security. Various miscreants have hacked the security firewalls at banks, the Pentagon and NASA. No, I don't do my banking or bill-paying online. I still use "snail mail."
But the one type of location at which you should feel relatively safe and secure from such threats as identity theft and spying are the ones designed to let you maintain contact with people you know and are related to.
It's Just So You Can Have Fun
The online site I speak of has many things to do, both useful and recreational. Third-party applications abound, and all of it is free of charge to use. Well, you are not charged money, but the real charge is a tradeoff of your rights to privacy.
What have they signed away? For courts have ruled that typing in your name, clicking on an 'accept the terms' button is as legally valid as your signature on a piece of paper. You've just told them that they can do whatever they want with your information!
Cookies, No Candy
A virus protection program watches for malicious software intended to harm your computer. Cookies are a whole other matter. Every site you visit regularly places these little bits of code into your computer. Yes, Hub Pages does it too. A cookie remembers things like your IP address, your login information, and if you ask it to, your passwords.
If you have ever tried to get into something like your bank account or e-mail from someone else's computer, you've no doubt come across a security check asking to veryify yourself as the person you are claiming to be. That's because your cookies don't exist on that other computer, so the site needs to veryify your information. That much is for your own safety and protection.
However, there are also other types of software similar to cookies that have a much darker purpose. They are called spyware, and they "mine" the information on your computer. They snoop your e-mail contacts list; they monitor all the sites you visit, however briefly. So, suppose one of those annoying 'hover-over' ads pops up, and you accidentally find yourselves on a porn site--yep--it records that as well; or if you are researching information on a health issue; duly recorded. Ever wonder about some of those disgusting spammy e-mails? They probably originated from such spyware. They may take a look at your research for a 'very personal' type of health problem, and 'translate' it to its porn cousin, and bingo! You're slammed with spam!
Some of the really nasty types also log your every keystroke. These are especially dangerous, because they can easily steal your passwords to everything you use online.
Not Really Very S o c i a l of Them, Now, Is it?
Since this huge megalith of a corporation (begun by a snot-nosed 20-something college dropout) was started back in 2004, it has grown into a behemoth mowing down, partnering with, or taking over everything it has encountered. By now, you've probably guessed at the famous and well-used site I'm talking about. Virtually "everyone" uses it daily, and those who don't are almost considered oddities.
The availability is worldwide, but the largest problems are right here at home in the "good ol' U.S. of A." According to the Consumer Reporsts article, it seems the Europeans have better laws concerning privacy online than we do. Our laws for health and financial privacy are very good--even to the point of becoming an annoyance to those the laws are intended to protect. But our privacy online is virtually non-existent.
Every single photo you share and page you "like" is recorded, and dumped into a vast storage server. Just as with the difference between "impressions" and "clicks" on ads, these "likes" and "recommendations" buttons found on other pages and sites are reported back to this one monstrous site whenever you visit the page containing the button--whether or not you click the button, and whether or not you, yourself are logged into that major wesbite!
They are even able to snoop your computer to find photos you did not upload or wish to distribute publicly in any way.
Their famous "t a g g i n g" utility for pictures uses facial-recognition software like the government uses to ID suspected terrorists or other criminals.
Watch Your Back
It has become more-or-less common knowledge by now that you should be very careful about what you post on any of these kinds of sites, collectively known as "s o c i a l m e d i a" sites, for we've been told that employers are now looking into people's posts on such pages to determine whether or not the canididate is suitable for hiring.
Personally, I do not think that is a legitimate use of such websites--what people do in their "off" or personal time is really none of an employer's business, provided it does not affect that person's ability to perform the job for which they were hired.
What is really scary, though, is that this one mega-site is able to track the interests and movements across the internet of people who are not even site members! This is where things get "Big Brother-ish."
Like to chill with some games? Go on ahead. There are plenty of them! But before you play, pay attention to what that game is asking for in order to allow you to play! It want permission to make posts on your behalf; it wants to mine your friend list to see who those people are; it wants to access your e-mail as well, to mine those contacts. Is it worth it? There is really no good reason a game needs all that to work. Not one iota of that personal information is needed for the game to function. All it is, is spying, pure and simple.
You Don't Have to Believe Me...
No, you don't have to believe a word of what I've told you here...you can actually read the entire exposé for yourself.