Tag Archives: facebook

Facebook’s Privacy Policy & Your Digital Rights

Facebook has already gained the ire of privacy advocates over their advertising policies and their consent to the NSA’s PRISM program, but recent changes in the language of their privacy policy have sparked up another wave of controversy. All the while, shares of Facebook continue to rise, as users neglect the company’s use of their data for advertising purposes. Still, privacy groups continue to fight a public awareness campaign while challenging the company through a letter to the Federal Trade Commission. For users concerned with privacy, be sure to take control of your privacy settings and never upload content you don’t want exploited. Any sensitive data should be exclusively uploaded to a secure cloud provider that offers data privacy and user anonymity.

Facebook Privacy

Six major consumer advocate groups have championed digital privacy rights in an open letter to the FTC. The groups include CDD, Consumer Watchdog, EPIC, and representatives from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Patient Privacy Rights, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The privacy groups allege that changes in Facebook’s language violate a FTC court order and settlement that was reached back in 2011. According to the letter, “Facebook users who reasonably believed that their images and content would not be used for commercial purposes without their consent will now find their pictures showing up on the pages of their friends endorsing the products of Facebook’s advertisers. Remarkably, their images could even be used by Facebook to endorse products that the user does not like or even use.” This “free” advertising through mining and selling user profile data has outraged users that care about their digital rights. Executive director of EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center), Marc Rotenberg, says, “Facebook is now claiming the default setting is they can use everyone’s name and image for advertising and commercial purposes, including those of minors, without their consent. Red lights are going off in the privacy world.”

Marc Rotenberg

Another issue is the fact that the new language indicates that simply by signing up, teens using the site imply parental consent to the use of teen data for advertising. But as the privacy advocate letter to the FTC points out, “Such ‘deemed consent’ eviscerates any meaningful limits over the commercial exploitation of the images and names of young Facebook users.” Marc Rotenberg offered privacy advocates his organization’s support saying, “The FTC needs to open an investigation and make a public determination as to whether the change in privacy policy complies with the 2011. Groups such as EPIC are prepared to litigate if the FTC fails to enforce its order that we all worked to put in place.” While groups like EPIC fight back against Facebook’s encroachment, some users are also up in arms. Facebook asked users to comment on the changes and received hordes of scathing criticism. One user wrote, “If, that proposal really is enacted, the first time ANY of my friends sees an ad with any of my information in it, I will be deleting my account, and encourage everyone else to do likewise. You need us. We don’t need you.” At the end of the day, each social media users should remain the sole owners of their data.

Who Has Access to Your Info?

Social Media & Security Through SpiderOak

Social media users should be aware of how their data is collected and used before using any social media site or platform. Don’t upload anything you don’t want shared and exploited for advertising purposes. And be sure to exclusively store anything sensitive to a secure cloud provider. For most users, finding a truly protected third party cloud service can be a challenge as many “secure” services on the market have security gaps that leave data and private info wide open to third party attacks, leaks, or hacking. One cloud storage and sync service that sets itself apart from the rest of the market is SpiderOak. This service provides users with fully private cloud storage and syncing, featuring all of the benefits of the cloud along with 100% data privacy. SpiderOak is available with onsite deployment and private servers or outsourced deployment through a private and secured public cloud server, so that users can tailor the service to fit their needs.

SpiderOak protects sensitive user data with 256-bit AES encryption so that photos, files, and passwords stay private. Authorized accounts and network devices can store and sync sensitive data with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of user passwords or data. And all plaintext encryption keys are exclusively stored on approved devices because SpiderOak never hosts any plaintext data. This way, even if programs like NSA’s PRISM continue to stand unchallenged, people can rest easy knowing that their data is truly protected. SpiderOak’s cross-platform private cloud services are available for users on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices, allowing for full flexibility and mobile access

How to Protect Your Kids From Cyber Bullying

Parents already have so much to contend with in the modern world when it comes to keeping their children safe. The Internet only complicates things with increased threats and the possibility of well-meaning kids unintentionally disclosing sensitive information like school names and personal addresses. As more and more kids plug in online to a wide range of social media, the rise of cyber bullying has only picked up steam. Parents and schools can proactively combat cyber bullying through strategic protocols, clearly articulated expectations, and strict penalties. And when it comes to protecting identities and photos, exclusive storage through a secure cloud service is essential.


Children of all ages have signed up for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, despite age restrictions. Through these forms of social media, kids can bypass parental knowledge and permission, while offering up their sensitive info to strangers online. A photo could reveal school sites, friends’ names, and home addresses to would-be predators, while cyber-bullies have used publically posted photos to harass, blackmail, and demean children. Geotags are particularly tricky in that they can reveal the exact location of children. Another problem posed by online social networking is the blanket of anonymity that cyber-bullies hide behind.

Through private profiles or fake identities, bullies can make outrageous claims and attacks without having to worry about retribution or consequences of any kind. Such anonymous bullying has even led to suicides, as in the case of a 16-year-old that recently hung herself in response to the cruelty she experienced online from strangers. The teen had posted a simple medical question on eczema, a common skin condition, to Ask.fm. Instead of getting helpful answers, which is what the website is purportedly intended for, she received a barrage of harassment and shaming. Parents should be cautious about letting their children post to public forums, especially if bullying has been an issue in the past. And schools should establish strict guidelines for posting to forums, staying away from public sites that attract cyber-bullies in favor of protected educational sites that don’t allow students to hide behind anonymous avatars.

How Cyber-Bullying Victims Feel

Cyber-bullying has become somewhat of a buzzword as of late, but just what does this broadly applied term mean? Russ Warner of Net Nanny recently offered a description of cyber-bullying to The Huffington Post:

  • Post rumors, lies, or “dirt” about the victim in a public forum
  • Share embarrassing pictures of the victim in a public forum or through email
  • Use texts, instant messages, emails, or photos to send mean or threatening messages
  • Upload a video to YouTube that embarrasses the victim
  • Create a fake Facebook account and pretend to be the victim, but act in a negative way
  • Pretend to be the victim in a chat room, and act in embarrassing ways
  • Share the victim’s personal information in a public forum

Fundamentally, cyber-bullying is traditional bullying carried into the digital world. Much of it revolves around trying to embarrass, shame or imitate the victims.

Safe Facebook Practices

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 52% of students have been affected by cyber-bullying. Over 80% of youth admit that there are hardly any consequences for online bullying and about a third of children younger than 13 have experienced some sort of cyber-bullying. Kelly Sheridan at Information Week offers some suggestions for schools that parents can also implement at home.

1. Filter objectionable content and keywords.

HTTPS sites can help schools and parents catch cyber-bullies in the act.

2. Deploy URL categorization and filtering software.

Don’t let kids access sites that are notorious playgrounds for bullies and predators.

3. Application control.

Install strict privacy applications and security measures. SpiderOak is one great secure cloud service that offers private storage.

4. Stay current on trends.

Children’s taste change just as fast as the Internet so make sure you don’t fall behind the trends.

5. Implement awareness campaigns.

Some schools have shown success in eradicated unwanted bullying behavior by meeting the challenge directly through awareness campaigns.

Once kids know what your expectations are regarding online behavior and cyber-bullying, it’s appropriate to roll out consequences for failure to adhere to the policies you set forth. Successful consequences typically revolve around online use, such as the suspension of accounts or loss of Internet privileges. According to psychologist Roxana Rudzik-Shaw, “Bullying is no longer confined to the school playground, home or workplace. It is all around us in this digital age, which often feels inescapable.” One of the best ways to escape the encompassing sense of cyber-bullying is through a secure cloud service.

Parental Supervision and Protection in the Cloud

For many parents and guardians, finding a truly protected third party cloud service can be a challenge as many “secure” services on the market have security gaps that leave their children’s data and photos wide open to theft, leaks, or hacking. One cloud storage and sync service that sets itself apart from the rest of the market is SpiderOak. This service provides users with fully private cloud storage and syncing, featuring all of the benefits of the cloud along with 100% data privacy.

SpiderOak protects sensitive data with 256-bit AES encryption so that files and passwords stay private. Authorized accounts and network devices can store and sync sensitive data with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of user passwords or data. And all plaintext encryption keys are exclusively stored on approved devices because SpiderOak never hosts any plaintext data. SpiderOak’s cross-platform private cloud services are available for users on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices, allowing for full flexibility and mobile security.

Social Media and User Privacy

Social media has allowed businesses to tap into consumer data shared by users. In the past, businesses looking for marketing data had to rely on costly surveys. Today, consumers actively and freely share personal information on their favorite products and services across a wide range of social media. On Facebook, users provide advertisers with all sorts of information, from addresses and photos to employers and favorite brands. Users give away their exact location through apps like Foursquare and even share their latest exercise programs on apps like Runkeeper. But with the rampant practice of selling user data to advertisers, users that want to preserve elements of their privacy should be aware of how their data is being used while proactively protecting their sensitive information, photos, and files with a private cloud service.

Facebook Ads

Image courtesy of ClixFuel.com

Recently, Facebook expanded its Like function throughout the web so that Likes across a variety of participating sites will be transferred instantly to user Facebook pages as well as to the pages of their friends. Personal user information is now shared with Facebook’s business partners including Microsoft, Yelp, and Pandora. In a statement by Facebook preparing users for the privacy policy changes that would usher in a new era of social media advertising, the company stated, “In the proposed privacy policy, we’ve also explained the possibility of working with some partner websites that we pre-approve to offer a more personalized experience at the moment you visit the site. In such instances, we would only introduce this feature with a small, select group of partners and we would also offer new controls.” However, like most changed with Facebook, users are automatically signed up for these “voluntary” sharing of user information and turning off the auto-share function while blocking data sharing with third-party sites is so complicated that most users don’t even bother.

Chris Messina of Factory City

Photo courtesy of FactoryJoe.com

As Factory City blogger Chris Messina says, “When all likes lead to Facebook, and liking requires a Facebook account, and Facebook gets to hoard all of the metadata and likes around the interactions between people and content, it depletes the ecosystem of potential and chaos — those attributes which make the technology industry so interesting and competitive. … It’s dishonest to think that the Facebook Open Graph Protocol benefits anyone more than Facebook — as it exists in its current incarnation, with Facebook accounts as the only valid participants. As I and others have said before, your identity is too important to be owned by any one company.” But that’s exactly the situation many users are finding themselves in today, with Facebook monopolizing and capitalizing on what most users think is private and personal information.

Social Media Ads

Image courtesy of Business2Community.com

For soldiers, sharing on social media sites poses an even greater danger than having user data exploited for profit. While users on sites like Facebook are accustomed to posting the occasional inappropriate picture, soldiers that post photos could inadvertently disclose sensitive information that could cost lives. Status updates on military missions are another way that classified information could be leaked. Even soldiers that are off duty must be wary of what they choose to share with social media, as Staff Sergeant Dale Sweetnam of the Online and Social Media Division of the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs stated. Sweetnam said, “Once it’s out there, it’s out there…You can delete it, but if the wrong person took a screen shot, that’s actionable intelligence and you can’t get that back.”

And Facebook isn’t the only social media site that seeks to profit from sharing personal user information. Recently launched, UberAds tracks any shared information from smartphone users across the web, offering customized ads tailored to a given user’s particular interests. The company searches sites and apps like Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest to determine which ads to send. Brands that have already signed on for UberAds include BMW, Pizza Hut, H&M, and Macy’s.

From Public to Private

Social media users can still take part in the networking opportunities social media provides while protecting their most private information from exploitation. The first step is making sure privacy settings are tailored for your comfort level. Then take down anything you don’t want shared with advertisers or any third parties. After that, find a private cloud service to backup your private photos and files you don’t want getting out. But choosing the right third party cloud service can be a challenge as many cloud services on the market have glaring security gaps that leave private user data vulnerable to third party attacks and even internal exploitation. One cloud service provider that sets itself apart from the market is SpiderOak. This private cloud offers the convenience of cloud storage along with 100% data privacy and user anonymity.

SpiderOak protects sensitive user information through two-factor password authentication and 256-bit AES encryption so that files and passwords stay private. Two-factor authentication is just like the process used by some banking services that require a PIN as an extra precaution along with a password in order to successfully log in. With SpiderOak, users that choose to use two-factor authentication must submit a private code through SMS along with their unique encrypted password. Users can store and sync personal information with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of passwords or data. Plaintext encryption keys are exclusively stored on the user’s chosen devices, so social media fans can rest easy knowing their data won’t be exploited by the latest ad scheme. SpiderOak’s private cloud services are available on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices.

Your reaction? The mining of your personal data

Last Monday, CEO Ethan Oberman spoke with Bloomberg West’s Jon Erlichman about companies like Facebook and Google “Mining Our Personal Data For Profit.” (If you missed it, check it out here.)

We want to hear from you.

  • Have you ever seen ads targeted at you based on a search you’ve performed on Google? Helpful or harmful?
  • Based on personal information you’ve given a company, have you been Targeted? Remember this story in the New York Times earlier this year? “How Companies Learn Your Secrets”.

Leave us a comment below and tell us your story.

And if you missed any of our media sweeps this month, check them out here:

SpiderOak in Media

Explaining The Cloud to my Grandparents

Granny and Papa

Pleasure to meet you! I’m new to the SpiderOak team. And I’m new to the cloud technologies space – I come from four years of work with an international nonprofit, Water.org.

I’m completely fascinated. Intrigued. Excited, even. I find myself not only spending time each day learning more about the world of backup, sync, share, and access (mobile), and all things related, but trying to adequately explain to someone else in my life what it all is. It’s good practice.

I recently visited my beloved, hospitable and humorous grandparents – Granny and Papa – in Memphis, Tennessee. As I told them about SpiderOak, they asked the question I have come to expect on a regular basis: “What is the cloud?”

A few weeks ago, SpiderOak’s Jovan Washington wrote a blog post called “Living the CloudLife: Cloud Computing 101,” in which he rightfully called cloud computing a critical trend, and asked “How would you explain the cloud to your mother?”

I took on that challenge. But let me give you a little background: Papa gets on AOL every morning to check his email, the news, his stocks, and forwards the latest funny email, such as “Wal-Martians”. He also keeps tabs on some of the family via Facebook ( i.e. “lurking”). I helped my Granny get on Pinterest (although she loved it, I don’t think she’s active), and she has an e-reader. As far as grandparents go, I think they are doing pretty good with progressive technology.

So I told Granny and Papa:

“The past few years, I haven’t had my own personal laptop, just my work computer. And I obviously had to turn that back in when I left. Since I’d had it for years, it had all my personal music, photos, and documents on it too, besides work stuff.

So, I opened a SpiderOak account, and had it backup, or save, everything off my computer. Then, I completely erased everything on my computer, and turned it back into work, empty. Now, whenever I buy a new computer, I can login my SpiderOak account, and grab anything I want that I had saved off of my old computer. I can just access it, or save it to my new computer. But it’s all there – on the cloud. And no one can get to it but me. And if my computer burns in a fire, everything will still be there for me in the future.”

Even within these past few weeks, I’ve learned to tell most people – “Actually, you know what the cloud is, you just don’t know you do – all of our photos on Facebook, our email in gmail, anything in Google Docs, or if you have photos on Flickr – that is cloud storage, or cloud-based sharing.”

What do you think? How did I do? What did I miss? How do you explain the cloud to someone who doesn’t know?

I’m excited and honored to be a part of the SpiderOak team, getting to know you – the loyal SpiderOak user, and the ever-growing space. In fact, you probably recently heard that Google announced its contribution: Google Drive.

If you missed it, last week, our CEO Ethan Oberman was interviewed on InvestorPlace about the Facebook IPO. I also enjoyed the 6 Myths About Cloud Backup You Probably Thought Were True (as well as the Zero-Knowledge shout out that linked to our mention).

Cheers! Thank you for the warm welcome, and see you here again very soon…
Erin Swanson

P.S. Stay tuned for a SpiderOak announcement this week, particularly of interest to universities.

Do Not Track

I remember the chills that ran up my spine and the quickening of my heartbeat when I realized someone was following me in the grocery store. It was an initial exchange of smiles in the produce section that turned into multiple disturbing encounters throughout the store. I was deciding between various flavors of rice when I noticed he was standing by the pastas. I was reading the nutritional content on a container of yogurt and noticed he was peering over at me from the jugs of milk. This continued on.

It was broad daylight and there were plenty of people milling around so I didn’t feel terribly threatened, just totally creeped out. Did this person think he knew me? Was he working up the courage to ask me out? Or was he evaluating how a fit 34-year old mom kept her kitchen stocked? Whatever the motivation – innocent, vicious, or somewhere in between – this person was invading my space. I didn’t give him permission to accompany me. I wasn’t followed out of the store but I did leave feeling violated.

When I became aware of the online companies that have been tracking what I read, watch, and listen to – I was overcome with a similar feeling as I described above. One Sunday morning, I overheard a debate on a news show on this very subject. One gentleman was pointing to Facebook and how their users are volunteering their information; therefore, the personal data is fair game and the company has a right to it. But the last time I checked my account settings, the update I chose to share with my select circle of friends was intended for them, not for everyone who has a Facebook account, and not for the people who work at Facebook, and certainly not for the creepy guy in the grocery store.

A month or so ago, I received the announcement from Groupon, the deal-of-the-day discount site, regarding its new partnership with Expedia and its updated privacy policy which includes sharing my information between the companies such as my birth date, where I reside, where I’ve traveled – even my current location should I use it’s mobile application. Hmmm, all this in the spirit of more customized deals? I’m getting those chills again…

Had I found the manager of the grocery store that day and reported what I was experiencing, I’m 100% confident he would have personally escorted my stalker out the door. Perhaps a security guard or police officer would have gotten involved. I find it unsettling that companies are now helping themselves to this data without so much as asking – not dissimilar to those spying eyes. Is it necessary to better understand me as a customer? Would they send better deals my way?

Herein lies the real dilemma. It is easy enough to shop at a different market as there are plenty around the city. And if I can’t find the exact item I like then so be it. However, am I supposed to completely disengage from sites like Facebook and/or Groupon? Is that possible? Realistic? The larger companies like these get, the more complicated these privacy issues become. What do you think?