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  #1  
Old 02.09.2006, 14:41
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Google at your own peril..

Big Brother is watching.....but I guess we know that anyway.
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Every time you use an internet search engine, your inquiry is stored in a huge database. Would you like such personal information to become public knowledge? Yet for thousands of AOL customers, that nightmare has just become a reality. Andrew Brown reports on an incident that has exposed how much we divulge to Google & co
Read the whole story in the Guardian Unlimited

Last edited by litespeed; 03.09.2006 at 20:27. Reason: changed to comply with quoting format
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Old 03.09.2006, 10:11
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Re: Google at your own peril..

"personal information"?
frankly anything I type on the internerd has to be acknowledged as leaving my control.

Would, for example, a terrorist google for "how to make weapons of mass destruction?"

And cookies....can be cleaned. 3rd party cookies? No thanks
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Old 03.09.2006, 10:29
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Re: Google at your own peril..

I have noticed a very strange relationship between my google searches and the spam I receive (mostly in my gmail account) during the past few months. Aside from the really annoying spam about enlarging specific male parts (no I wasn't googling that), I have seen a correlation between the topics I search for and the spam I receive....fluke?...hmm...
jm
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Old 03.09.2006, 10:54
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Re: Google at your own peril..

Hi Jack, I've been doing on research on this today and you might be onto something.

I'm surprised that I am someone who is usually very suspicious, but somehow I seem to have missed to obvious. For example I knew that google kept copies of the search terms, but I had no idea that they have tied them all together with a cookie which expires in 2038!

The really scary part begins with all the additional google services - and I am in it up to the hilt there. The minute you sign up for anything which is personalised and requires a google ID (analytics, gmail, toolbar etc) then that "anonymous" cookie which has been tracking you for months/years is no longer anonymous.

With gmail it gets worse because nothing is ever deleted, and the text of your emails can be used to influence which google ads may appear to you (and god knows what else). There's no way to guarantee that all this information doesn't end up in a massive data mining operation by the US government. They've been trying like mad to get the search data from google (the other search engines gave it up without a whimper) for their bogus "porn study". The scary part is even if that data is safe today, will it be safe tomorrow, because it will never be deleted!

I did block the google cookie but found immediately that I couldn't access my analytics account - I had to switch it back on. I also realised that because I use the google toolbar it sends them not only my search terms, but also every page I visit! Whoops.

Here's something specifically about gmail that I found when googling:

http://www.gmail-is-too-creepy.com/ - a short quote:

Quote:
Google's relationships with government officials in all of the dozens of countries where they operate are a mystery, because Google never makes any statements about this. But here's a clue: Google uses the term "governmental request" three times on their terms-of-use page and once on their privacy page. Google's language means that all Gmail account holders have consented to allow Google to show any and all email in their Gmail accounts to any official from any government whatsoever, even when the request is informal or extralegal, at Google's sole discretion. Why should we send email to Gmail accounts under such draconian conditions?


An interesting read - people can google stuff for themselves to find out what some people are saying about the privacy concerns.

Should we care? Well of course no government would ever want to get their hands on that data, why would they care? Naturally no government would ever order the wholesale wiretapping of every US citizen's phone calls out of the country, or the wholesale aquisition of every Swift message since 2001, containing details of every international financial transaction made over their network. Wait a sec - that already happened.

I think it's just a matter of time before an excuse it found for governments to get their hands on google's ever expanding mountain of data - it will just be too tempting. Google is managing to do what governments could only dream of! If the US government starting offering us free email accounts with multi-gigabytes of storage would we take them? I doubt it very much. But somehow we trust google to give them to us, and trust uncle sam not to swipe the data. It's quite a leap of faith isn't it?
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Old 03.09.2006, 20:23
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Re: Google at your own peril..

... as long as you are not doing anything wrong or have anything to hide, then what's the big deal?

You know that DWE in the oval office and his zeros around him will find a way to monitor what they want to, when they want to.

I am not saying "join them". But to screw with them at the same time... search for terms that are way off in left field. For each serious search, one or two quick "baseball", "motorboat" or "internet" search words!

Big borther is watching... We know this and must act accordingly

They will not prevail, we will fight! Survival of the fittest, mentally fittest!

... oh, sorry... got carried away
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Old 03.09.2006, 21:55
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Re: Google at your own peril..

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The really scary part begins with all the additional google services - and I am in it up to the hilt there. The minute you sign up for anything which is personalised and requires a google ID (analytics, gmail, toolbar etc) then that "anonymous" cookie which has been tracking you for months/years is no longer anonymous.
Fortunately I don't have gmail, but I did sign up for Sketchup (I think that one is pretty harmless). I would be interested to know if/how Google Earth use is being logged. If it is, I am sure GWB would love to get his grubby paws on that data.

The funny thing is, Google seemed to grow from something seemingly innocent - a search engine . The masses never think twice about throwing their inner most desires, secrets and opinions, conviently abbreviated to key words, into a 51 character long text field and not even contemplate where that info goes.
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Old 03.09.2006, 22:13
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Re: Google at your own peril..

Anyone use a customer rewards card? They know what you're buying! There must be an incredible amount of data which, if Walmarts database is anything to go by, they can use to predict the future! (Apparently the key item bought before a Hurricane is not MDF or batteries, but beer. So Walmart make sure they stock up on beer when the warnings come... and make a fortune!)

And as for the argument which says you've nothing to fear if you're innocent - that misses the point. It's a civil liberties issue, ie, a right to reasonable privacy, irrespective of searching 'naughty' subjects. I'm entitled to learn how to make a bomb/cake recipe/vodka martini without state interference. No Government has the right to impede my quest for information unless there is an absolute justification. But they try, so what can we do?

It's unjustified to have Echelon listening in to my calls when I phone Ireland from the UK. But hey, it's not about us irrelevent Googlers, it's industrial espionage in which they're interested. The enormous quantity of info is most likely our only defence: there's so much out there, unless we're very unlucky nothing untoward is likely to happen. Oder???
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Old 03.09.2006, 23:25
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Re: Google at your own peril..

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... as long as you are not doing anything wrong or have anything to hide, then what's the big deal?
So they say, until you end up on the wrong side of someone due to politics, race or religion and the ball game changes.... Everyone has something to hide.

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The enormous quantity of info is most likely our only defence: there's so much out there, unless we're very unlucky nothing untoward is likely to happen. Oder???
Well not really. Very easy to tie to together, and getting easier all the time. Remember that pile of data isn't going away any time soon, and data mining is a rapidly growing area. Forget supermarket cards, if someone (friend or foe) managed to put together a picture of almost everything you did on the internet they would know an awful lot about you. In the US you can dig up dirt on almost anyone for a modest fee, the thing which ties everything together is the ubiquitous social security number which people seem to demand for almost every transaction. Nobody every stopped to question what was happening and now they pay the price - identity theft is rife, privacy is just a pipe dream.

On the internet the thing to tie all the data together is like the SSN - I guess it's the gmail account - a way to bind all that anonymous data to a real person and track their habits even as they move between computers. It's actually really scary stuff. Enter google toolbar, google analytics, gmail and the picture starts to get more than a little worrying.

But google keeps making really nice candy for us and giving it to us for free. Who will ever stop to question when the candy tastes so good and uncle google is such a nice guy?
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Old 04.09.2006, 19:21
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Re: Google at your own peril..

It's very easy to make someone innocent a scapegoat. So internet privacy is worth fighting for. Yahoo, google toolbars type of stuff is poison.
The other thing that I am really pissed off about is the threat to "net neutrality". I don't want anyone to mess with our "internet tubes" :-)
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Old 07.09.2006, 13:50
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Re: Google at your own peril..

Switch to a Mac, I don't think I've ever recieved a spam mail.
I also delete my cookies once a week.
Nick.
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Old 08.09.2006, 11:42
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Re: Google at your own peril..

The reality is that much personal information is given volunatarily. And has been given voluntarily for years.

Store loyalty cards, for example, have been used for data mining for many years. Each purchase is recorded against your name and address and sent to Planet Mongo for analysis. All this information is used to detect patterns in how people shop, what they shop for, what combination of products sell to particular type of people etc.

Credit cards offer an excellent view of what your individual spending power and tastes in your purchases. Indeed, they provide excellent information on your movements - from where you go on holiday (you paid for your flights!) to where you eat lunch.

Store credit cards are able to combine this information. Which gives the amazing ability for Planet Mongo to know when you shopped at their competitors and how much you spent there (ie not with them!)

When a credit card is used, there may be several banks involved in processing the transaction. You may or may not be aware of this (depending how clued up you are) Much of this information will be retained for verification and audit trail purposes.

You can, of course, delete cookies and you know when they expire.

Other than by not using or only selectivly using credit/store/store credit/air miles/etc cards can you control what information is stored about you.

You have no further control over how it is used.

Jurisdictional limitations may or may not dictate how long the data is retained for or even if you can ask for it to be deleted. That's assuming you can find it. Or remember where you left it twenty years from now.

It is only because we deal with Google, Yahoo, M$N et al on a day to day basis, are consciously aware that data mining affects the product they offer that people are aware of privacy issues surrounding them.

In reality, we've been leaving personal trails in computer systems for years with minimal (if any) thought of the implications. Singling out any one firm for doing what many have been doing for years is somewhat ludicrous.

Big Brother is doing what he has been doing for years. Watching YOU!

Last edited by ming_the_merciless; 09.09.2006 at 12:48.
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Old 08.09.2006, 12:21
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Re: Google at your own peril..

I think one of the biggest issues with all this is that the majority of people have no idea what kind of trail they are leaving behind them. I know that many of my users are shocked when I have had to talk to them about violating accebtable use policies on email & internet surfing. They have no idea I can find out exactly where they have been, for how long, how often or more importantly I can do this in seconds in at least 3 different places on the network. They assume that everything they do is anonymous and are genuinley shocked when I explain it's not just me who can act like Big Brother; everything they do on the internet can be traced back to them.

As for store cards the only reason they exist is to track who buys what. That is the only reason that in the UK John Lewis and Marks & Spencer started to accept credit & debit cards. It was not for customer convenience but for their own use.
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Old 08.09.2006, 12:54
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Re: Google at your own peril..

On the one hand I find the idea of data-mining facinating: such an analysis lead to the well-known story of a supermarket siting the baby-nappies near the beer, so the poor babysitting Dad could stock up on bevvies when running the errand.

On the other hand the invasion of privacy and the ability to relate all this diserate silands of information is absolutely abhorent. Card-payment and identity card creep means that soon both will be required to go about our normals lives and control of the data will be in the hands of commercial interests.

I find the "I have nothing to fear, as I am doing nothing wrong " arguement completely naive.

CCTV
Shop payment analysis
internet log tracking
vehicle tracking

Anyone from a malicious stalker to government agency (CSA anyone?) could track the minutae of your life if they had access to this data.

There was a case recently in the UK where a list of government department wanting public-interest access to your bank records included the Ministry of Agriculture...

Technology is taking away many of our freedoms, and sometimes we don't even see it coming. They see us coming though...

dave





Quote:
I think one of the biggest issues with all this is that the majority of people have no idea what kind of trail they are leaving behind them. I know that many of my users are shocked when I have had to talk to them about violating accebtable use policies on email & internet surfing. They have no idea I can find out exactly where they have been, for how long, how often or more importantly I can do this in seconds in at least 3 different places on the network. They assume that everything they do is anonymous and are genuinley shocked when I explain it's not just me who can act like Big Brother; everything they do on the internet can be traced back to them.

As for store cards the only reason they exist is to track who buys what. That is the only reason that in the UK John Lewis and Marks & Spencer started to accept credit & debit cards. It was not for customer convenience but for their own use.
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Old 08.09.2006, 14:06
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Re: Google at your own peril..

Who Moderates the Moderators????
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Old 08.09.2006, 18:34
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Re: Google at your own peril..

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Switch to a Mac, I don't think I've ever recieved a spam mail.
I also delete my cookies once a week.
That's a little misleading to say something like that. Your choice of operating system may have some influence (today) on your chances of spyware and well-known vulnerabilities being exploited, but it's a bit much to suggest that switching to a mac results in less spam. It may have been your personal experience, so I don't dispute that, but the same advice won't apply to others.

Also deleting cookies might help, but also remember that many sites (such as this one) use cookies for tracking which messages you have read, as well as a host of other reasons which are legitimate and make your use of the site more convenient. Unforunately cookies can also be abused, so it's a problem.

There are also some people that think deleting their cookies somehow protects them - this is also a bit misleading. I met someone the other day that thought her internet banking was more secure because she "always deleted her cookies".

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Who Moderates the Moderators????
Good question - want to try swapping jobs?
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Old 08.09.2006, 18:35
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Re: Google at your own peril..

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I find the "I have nothing to fear, as I am doing nothing wrong " arguement completely naive.
I read a good counter to that the other day:

Fine, then I'm sure you'll have no problem with the tax folks coming on over anytime/place.
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Old 08.09.2006, 18:53
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Re: Google at your own peril..

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Good question - want to try swapping jobs?
Actually, yes, just for the opportunity to look into other peoples Private Messages. Not that I would, of course...

(Ring of Gyges, anyone??? http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_of_Gyges)

Last edited by mark; 08.09.2006 at 19:15. Reason: fixed a bad link
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Old 08.09.2006, 19:20
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Re: Google at your own peril..

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Actually, yes, just for the opportunity to look into other peoples Private Messages. Not that I would, of course...
Well since we are here and this is offtopic I might as well do a small privacy policy Bottom line - the admin can read your private messages if he wants to. However since he also runs a mailserver which receives over 3,000 emails a day he would be rather silly to spend his time reading other people's private rubbish, especially when he spends all his day reading the public messages on this forum. I think sysadmins who read private email are in big trouble in Switzerland (I heard 5 years in jail). However, private messages on this forum are not email, so they could be checked.

Thankfully I haven't had reason to monitor PM's yet - but I do know that on some forums they have problems with people spamming via PM, or getting up to other unsavoury activities. Let's hope that doesn't happen here - but if it does then I know I have a candidate for that job
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Old 11.09.2006, 10:22
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Re: Google at your own peril..

Quote:
Well since we are here and this is offtopic I might as well do a small privacy policy Bottom line - the admin can read your private messages if he wants to. However since he also runs a mailserver which receives over 3,000 emails a day he would be rather silly to spend his time reading other people's private rubbish, especially when he spends all his day reading the public messages on this forum. I think sysadmins who read private email are in big trouble in Switzerland (I heard 5 years in jail). However, private messages on this forum are not email, so they could be checked.

Thankfully I haven't had reason to monitor PM's yet - but I do know that on some forums they have problems with people spamming via PM, or getting up to other unsavoury activities. Let's hope that doesn't happen here - but if it does then I know I have a candidate for that job
Actually, this site could well do with a privacy policy or statement. Especially with disclosures like this which many will not previously have been aware of.

What happens with other information logged on this site?

Random disclosures scattered around the forums is hardly ideal.
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Old 11.09.2006, 10:51
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Re: Google at your own peril..

when you say "other information" you mean posts or PM or what? Your registration data? Email address?

For your postings, they remain acknowledged as your content. You can of course still delete them - but this makes little sense in the community effort.

Postings are internet-facing and thus the onus is on you to post responsibly; you can't come complaining to the host if you post up details of a bank heist you did and the cops come a-knocking now

PMs...you have to consider that PMs have two elements - the sender and the recipient. You need to also understand that once sent, the control in absolute terms is no longer yours and that the other person could either forward or publicise that message. You also have to have faith in the admin team - who could access those messages either of their free will or, say, when ordered by the police or a court. Unlikely but could happen.

Would you, for example, store your PIN code for your bank cards in a PM? I doubt it - you've assessed the risks and understand them and thus mitigate those risks by not doing such a thing. PIN code and your deepest darkest secret are not that far from each other - certainly for risk analysis

Your limited personal data with regards to the account; an email address, a password encrypted in the database - the rest is largely optional and there is no onus on you to be honest. I don't think your name is ming_the_merciless, for example Many people operate a method of using a different address for "meaningless" web registrations as opposed to their "real" email address. Heck, some have a different email address for every site which needs an email address - tin_foil_hat@whatever.com, anyone?

Onto cookies, store loyalty cards, etc....if you have an understanding of what risk you're running of your personal information being [mis-]used and so on, you can opt-out. I personally block all THIRD PARTY cookies by default and have elected to block other cookies based on privacy policies, my gut feeling of the company and the direction of the wind at the time.

Hell, I'd love to use a decent proxy so you don't [as easily] have my IP address but my ISP has seen fit to decommission that part of the service.

Store loyalty cards - I actually see some benefits to these; I can use the points, the store can modify their offerings to me and they have not seemingly abused that position. Same can be said for airmiles. My credit card company knows I fuel my bike twice weekly at one of two garages and my cellphone provider knows somewhat of where I am (and the fact that I was in the UK last week sending lots of SMS messages). I accept the risks with what I get in return.

I block google cookies btw... For deep, deep underground privacy surfing, I use a VMWare "clean" machine that does not save changes after my session.

You also have tools such as www.ccleaner.com which is recommended for maintaining a level of privacy.

With regards to the Mac comment; certainly using a Mac cannot stop you getting spam but does help not being targetted by drive-by infections of malware. This can also be cured to an extent when running windows - it's one (or preferably more) of the following:
  • not running Windows as admin
  • probably not running internet explorer and outlook express
  • understanding the risks of certain sites (and types of sites)
  • not downloading every screensaver and demo that takes your fancy
  • not giving your personal details to each and every form asking for it
  • trusting no-one (Spooky Mulder style)
It's as much about habits and discipline as anything else. I don't, for example, run a spyware scanner because I know I don't have to. I have not run as an administrator for years and many years ago decided that most crapware I'd test would be in a VMWare virtual machine.

In return, I've been spam-free (not perfectly but my latest incarnation of email address gets very little in the last 4 years), virus-free and have a nice fast machine that never needs to be reformatted.
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