Tracking Archives

The Feds Are Watching Social Media

So says an article on Chicagotribune.com in which they point out what should be obvious to anyone.  Now that social media such as facebook, myspace, twitter and dozens more are such a huge part of most people’s lives, the feds are spending more and more time watching them.

Not only that but they’re also creating false profiles and connecting with people, searching out events, reading tweets, status messages, friends lists and so on looking for giveaway clues in careless tweets, status messages and pictures that will give them the proof they need for an arrest.

So that pic of the time you covered yourself in wrinkle cream pretending to be a ghost is up there for federal scrutiny along with the dumb criminal that posts a pic of him with the really expensive car that he bought financed by his drug sales or whatever.

On the one hand I can see this as a necessary step in the growth of law enforcement’s tactics.  On the other, there are entirely too many opportunities for this stuff to be misused and abused.

Then there’s the fact that most social networking sites have strict policies against making false accounts or providing false information to create an account.  When does it reach the point where they need to get a warrant before creating the account?  Will the account be deleted once it has served it’s purpose or will it be maintained and re-used on more cases?

The moral of this story is: Never post something online that you wouldn’t want the entire world to know.

Technorati Tags: feds, undercover feds, social networking, criminal investigation, fbi

Obama In Favor Of DNA Sampling For All Arrested

If at any point you had the idea that Obama was some kind of a champion of human rights and civil liberties, you might want to check this piece on Wired and think again.

Not only does he come out in favor of requiring DNA testing for everybody that’s arrested for any reason.  He’s also proving to have the exact same Big Government / Big Brother attitudes as Bush.

I’ve said it before and I’m going to keep saying it.  Electing that man was a mistake and I knew it LONG before he won that rigged election.

One
Big
Ass
Mistake
America

Technorati Tags: big government, mistake, civil liberties, invasion of privacy, obama, dna testing, privacy

You Got A License For That Web Browser?

According to a story on ITnews there’s some people arguing that it’s time to require a kind of “internet drivers license” before allowing people to go online for the first time.

Australia’s leading criminologist thinks online scams have escalated to such a point that first-time users of computers should have to earn a licence to surf the web.

While I’m glad that this is brewing in Australia and not here in the US, I’ve no doubt that there is plenty of people that would like to see it happen here.

If nothing else, something like that would be a genuine nightmare to enforce.  For that matter, how would it be enforced?  Would unlicensed surfers suddenly face having their blogs yanked from every website directory and pulled off of the server that’s hosting it?

Then there’s the privacy issue because some of that was talking about using biometrics, chips and what have you to essentially require a user to validate their identity before connecting to the net.  Seems to me that this would only make it easier to track an individual’s activities and even block them from certain websites that the government has decided aren’t good for you.

Isn’t there enough of this kind of thing going on in places like China and Iran?  Don’t we have enough domestic spying going on as it is?

Technorati Tags: censorship, privacy, tracking, internet license

Deleting Cookies? Don’t Forget The SuperCookies!

By now I think that probably most people online these days knows about cookies.  That they’re little text files that allows a website to store up to 4k of information on your computer.  They allow websites to recognize you when you come back, remember your login information and preferences settings and so on.

Cookies are also infamous in allowing websites, advertising sites in particular, to set a cookie with a unique identifier and then use that to track your activities across the web.  This is where various cookie management programs and techniques were developed over the years to give web surfers a measure of privacy and control over which cookies they allow to be set and also giving them the ability to delete any and all cookies any time.

Modern browsers like Firefox or Opera even have the ability to delete all cookies either on demand or every time you close the browser.

This practice was starting to hurt the datamining crowd as suddenly more and more people were deleting cookies and they didn’t have nearly as much data to mine.

Then they discovered the flash cookie.  This is a “feature” of Adobe Flash that allows it to set LSOs (Local Shared Objects).  These LSO’s aren’t traditional cookies at all since there handled and created with flash.  This means that when you delete all of your cookies, absolutely nothing is done to the LSO files.  Another thing advertisers love about LSO’s is that they can store up to 100K of information instead of the 4K that traditional cookies can hold.

Finally, some genius worked out a way to use these flash cookies to restore the traditional cookies that you deleted!  Now Adobe does provide a way to control these flash cookies but it’s so obscure, hard to find and even harder to understand that most people don’t bother with it.

You CAN however, delete those LSO’s manually.  To find them, click Start and then Run.  Enter %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /n,/e,C:\ in the box and click OK

Then navigate to C:\Documents and Settings\{UserName}\Application Data\Macromedia\Flash Player\#SharedObjects

In the #SharedObjects folder will be another folder with a random looking name.  Open that folder.  Inside it you will find a folder for each site that has set flash cookies (LSO’s) on your machine.

I personally prefer to take a hard line approach and delete every folder I find here along with all of their contents.  You may decide that it’s ok for some of these sites to keep flash cookies and not delete them.

But wait, There’s more!

That’s right.  There’s another folder with information about these flash cookies.  You’ll find it here. C:\Documents and Settings\{YourUserName}\Application Data\Macromedia\Flash Player\macromedia.com\support\flashplayer\sys\

Once again in that folder you’ll find a directory bearing the name of every site you visit that uses flash cookies.  First I think this list is very educational because you’ll find that most sites don’t say a word about flash, flash cookies, or Local Shared Objects in their privacy policy at all.

My personal preference here is the same as the previous folder.  I delete everything, no exceptions.

Once these flash cookies are deleted, the next step is to start your browser, cookie manager if you use one, and nuke all of the cookies that you don’t want, secure in the knowledge that THIS time they won’t magically rise from the dead.  This is another place where I take the easy way out and nuke everything.

This is the procedure that I’ve been using for some time now to keep flash cookies under control.  Yes, It seems involved, but honestly, once you do it a few times it’s a less than one minute job, especially if you follow my example and nuke everything.

Up until recently I was not aware of any software tool outside of Adobe that even attempted to manage LSO’s at all.  Today I’ve found a tool called BetterPrivacy 1.29, which is a Firefox plugin that promises to make it easier to have LSO’s automatically deleted.  It can even keep track of which ones you don’t want deleted.

Technorati Tags: cookies, privacy, delete lso, firefox plugin, lso, restore cookies, flash cookies, undelete cookies, local shared object

Is Ubuntu’s New Firefox Watching You?

According to a recent Slashdot article it very well might be.  Ubuntu recently released a new extension to Firefox alpha 3 called “Multisearch”.

The first thing that I don’t like about it is that it installs automatically without any warning about potential privacy problems.  For me that’s a deal-breaker all by itself.

Another thing that gets it a thumbs down is that the article also mentioned that it has “other purposes” of collecting usage data and generating revenue.  Exactly how the “generating revenue” part works wasn’t explained that I saw but the simple fact that it’s part of the reason for the plugin is reason enough IMO to yank the sucker.

This means that the next time I start my Kubuntu (that’s Ubuntu with a KDE desktop for those who don’t know) machine, I’m going to start Firefox and go to “Tools” and “Add ons” and deactivate and / or remove that plugin.

Technorati Tags: search plugin, ubuntu, firefox, privacy, spyware, multisearch, plugin

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