Results tagged “Privacy”

One of my personal guidelines with computers and IT is that if I accidentally receive credentials or access possibilities to other people's accounts I do not take advantage of it without consent of the owner.

Usually I get access to such information because I'm fixing computer and software problems for friends, relatives and acquaintances. But from time to time I receive account information which I didn't subscribe or enter. In the past few years it started slowly but became more over time and shown a very specific pattern: it all involves one of my mail-accounts and it seems that there is somebody out there who has a very similar mail account with only a single letter difference. And this person seems to regularly create accounts and get its own mail-address wrong. Several attempts to notify this person or get into contact were unsuccessful. At one point I even got my hands on a phone number but I never reached anyone with it.

There are still too many services and websites out there which do not require a confirmation click via email but just create an account without checking if provided mail-addresses are correct. I wouldn't mind a single mail which I don't respond to and be through with it but life isn't that easy.

I'm now pretty much fed up with the constant notifications, reminders ("...please come back to XYZ...") and mails involving such erronous subscriptions to services and websites. Especially Facebook seems to be pretty stubborn and manages to escape my filters constantly but also a pile of gaming-accounts and logins to some other websites have accumulated.

In a short while I'm going to shut down all the accounts using my mail-address. For that I'm going to request a password-reset, log in to those accounts and deactivate them (if possible). I'll try to keep information sniffing at a minimum but if I see additional possible contact info maybe I'll do another contact try. Nevertheless all accounts which show no further activity (e.g. another credential reset by the "other" user) for some time then will be shut down permanently.

Gah, I hate to do this but you left me no choice...

Update 2014-03-01: Deleting a Facebook account is nothing short of complicated. All that Facebook offers (more or less) directly available is the possibility to deactivate your account. But this is in reality just snake oil as your account still exists and allows further logins and data profiling and just hides almost everything from others. To really and permanently delete your account one has to dig deep, and I mean really really deep, in Facebooks help and info pages to almost accidentially trip over this link:
With this link you can tell Facebook to really delete your account and all associated data which they at least promise to do after a 14 day cooldown period where you can still decide to change your mind. Which I won't do as I didn't even sign up myself in the first place...


I've just finished one of my postponed small projects and when I began preparing the posting of the results here I hit the issue that I'm not sure how to share photos into this blog.

In the past my solution was to upload all my photos I wanted to share to Flickr and cross-link the images in this blog. But the times have changed and I'm nowadays much more integrated with Google's services which also includes a photo hosting service. Furthermore also Flickr has changed its policies on photo reuse so that reusing images from that platform is not as easy anymore as it had been in the past. But that's also not really much easier with Google Photos as it involves some non-intuitive access to the images for sharing. But it would greatly ease up the uploading and processing stage for images and also allow much easier download of the collections in case I wanted to transfer it again to another platform.

Another point to consider is that up until now I have (more or less) successfully been able to seperate this "anonymous" blog from my real names and more personal social media interactions. Looking up my real name wouldn't reveal contents from this blog and vice versa. Using images from Google's platform would require to include a link back to my Google+ profile, making it easier for others (advertisers, stalkers, search engines?) to connect this blog to my real world presence. I'm not really sure if I'm ready to take this dent in the freedom of this blog or add the influence of the information contained in this blog to my professional life. But that's another issue I've been tinkering for some time already...

Well, for now I think there is no clear conclusion for me yet. I'll think a bit more on that and also the privacy-issue mentioned above. Maybe I'll post an update for the project in the meantime using Flickr even if I'm undecided but no guarantees on that.


This is a late post on the never-ending discussion about the data privacy inside large companies, especially such data-centric ones like Google and Facebook (see later in the post). In this posting I'm referring mostly to Google and Facebook but be aware that similar discussions and many related topics are not at all limited to these companies and I just take the most known ones as an example. I'm writing this because it gets more frequently in the recent weeks that I'm involved in talks and discussions about privacy issues on different internet services, so here I try to write down my own position. I'm trying to back most of my comments with references here (be sure to check them out if you want to understand my point of view) but of course I'm already biased so take this as my completely personal opinion as of the end of 2010!

Why I have trust in Google

Google had to take a heavy hit when it publicly announced that it had found out that there was payload data from unencrypted WLANs stored during their StreetView programme and recently because people sent email and passwords over unencrypted WLAN.

For me, contrary to aparently most other opinions, this causes Google to rise in my trust because I'm very sure that any other company which had a similar incident would do everything to prevent public knowledge of this. Not so Google. They proactively stepped forward, disclosed the data acquisition accident and invited public authorities to come in to review and check the collected data before they are deleting it without further processing.

The company must have known very well that these actions would impact its image but this didn't stop it from further cooperation in almost any aspect of this incident. For example an evaluation of official british privacy groups found no evidence of personal data in the StreetView logs although this was again stated as a disappointment (german) by other data protection groups later on. Google also let an external company review the whole process of the data acuisition and processing for the StreetView programme which came to the conclusion that the whole process did at no point analyze or process recorded data from connections in the WLAN. It really did only enough processing of the WLAN headers to be able to locate the WLAN, which was the whole point of this programme.

Collecting WLAN data and positions is common practice and many companies have specialized in the area of geolocation via WLAN IDs (eg. SkyHook and even Apple itself), yet only Google is ranked high in the news for data breach while almost nobody criticises these other companies or thinks of real attackers who are surfing the streets and scanning unencrypted WLANs for importand data. For software developers and engineers it's almost clear that the data breach of Google was really just an oversight (german) during the software development and I certainly salute Google to bite the bullet for a whole industry branch. It even takes complaints from its competitors who think that during this public criticism on Google is the right time to take the chance and join beating the rival.

In my opinion Google was (and still is) one of the most respectable companies if the topic is about data security. There were of course other minor accidents with data privacy but almost every time they reacted fast and closed the holes or changed the processes within a very short timespan. As of my knowledge there has only been one incident where an internal maintenance employee who, because of its maintenance activities had access to users' data, abused his rights and accessed users' data without their consent or internal maintenance reasons. Google did react on this but I think it could have done faster and with a more clear statement.

As a final hint, if someone is really interested what data Google collects for each person hop over to the Google Privacy Center and read the small and (in my opinion) quite clear (compared to any other) privacy statement. There you also have the possibility to access the Google Privacy Dashboard where you can yiew and manage almost all the data stored with your account, change the Google ads preferences or even opt-out of it and disable the statistics collection by Google Analytics. It even maintains a publicly availale list of requests from governments to Google for removing content or providing user information.

Why I have no trust in Facebook

Try to find such features on sites like Facebook. In fact Facebook already has a quite impressive list of similar privacy issues, ranging from simple data collection features for crawlers (which is still available to this date) to collecting data of users without accounts on Facebook (german). Although Facebook has often said to tighten up their privacy settings and make it easy for users to adjust them it's still a very complicated process to strip down your privacy options and requires constant review of your sharing settings when you don't want to keep the default settings and share your data with the whole world. There already have been privacy support applications created which assist you in checking and correcting Facebooks privacy settings via easier interfaces. How sick is this? Some people even think to the extend that Facebook should just give in and simply sell your data right away.

Of course Facebook serves its original purpose, connecting people and sharing information, quite well and it may be the ideal tool for many people to do so. But in fact, I doubt that most of the users on Facebook are really aware to which extend Facebook really collects and connects information which is provided in known and unknown means by its users.

My conclusion

In the end I'm always a bit confused and disappointed when people state that they don't trust a certain big company because of "privacy reasons" without having a real justification at hand to do so and then maybe even take this discussion to their Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. I personally still give Google a magnitude of trust in advance of sites like Facebook and from my current point of view there is not much possibility to change my opinion or see me creating an account on this site in the near future.