Why Quitting the Big Five is Bad Privacy Advice

Why Quitting the Big Five is Bad Privacy Advice

The big five – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google & Microsoft – have got a stranglehold of our digital life. Not just our digital identities, but almost all of our web experiences are reliant or connected to the technologies of these five companies.

Recently, Daniel Oberhaus from Motherboard and then Kashmir Hill from Gizmodo both experimented by completely “quitting” the Big Five, for four and six weeks respectively. Both of their stories are very insightful and definitely recommended reading for anyone. However, quitting the Big Five is exactly the kind of take on privacy that turns many people off from becoming more privacy aware.

I’ve seen this happen time and time again in r/privacy, where people who have just tipped their toes in the world on online privacy and security are getting barraged with comments like “LOL IF YOU’RE NOT USING LINUX YOU’RE SCREWED” and “YOU NEED TO DELETE ALL SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS”. But if we as a privacy community would dial back our tone just a bit, I think we could do way more good than what we’re doing right now.

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The Inconvenient Truths about the Cambridge Analytica Files

The Inconvenient Truths about the Cambridge Analytica Files

I reluctantly joined Facebook back in December 2011. During the couple of years I had the account, I learned more and more about the shadowy monster that provided us with our daily hourly doses of dopamine in the forms of likes, shares and status updates.

This brings us to the first inconvenient – and most obvious – truth about the so-called Cambridge Analytica case: there’s absolutely nothing new in any of it.

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Perceived Privacy vs. Revealing Reality – Case Vero

Perceived Privacy vs. Revealing Reality – Case Vero

After my previous blog post got some unexpected publicity, there were some curious instances of Vero apologists defending the platform. Two main cases they presented were:

  1. No matter how shadily Vero might treat your privacy, it’s fine since it’s covered in their Privacy Policy
  2. Every other social media platform does the same thing anyway

I’ll give it to them, the second point is almost 100% accurate, but it simply doesn’t make it any more OK to invade users’ privacy. However, it’s the first point that really grinds my gears, especially when it comes to Vero.

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PSA: Vero App Stores Your Phone Contacts Even After You’ve Disabled Its Access to Them

PSA: Vero App Stores Your Phone Contacts Even After You’ve Disabled Its Access to Them

TL;DR: if you allow Vero to access your phone’s Contacts even for a brief moment, instead of one-time reading them, it quietly stores them all, links them to your account and uses to shape the user experience. It also gives users who have given access to their Contacts a way of connecting with users who have explicitly denied Vero’s access to their respective phone’s contact list. As an icing on the cake, there’s no way you can delete that info from the service afterwards. This blog post examines how this works.

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An Analysis of Finnish Police Parody Accounts on Twitter

An Analysis of Finnish Police Parody Accounts on Twitter

The Police of Finland has been noticeably increasing its presence on social media, especially on Twitter where there’s more than 60 official accounts already. Most of these accounts represent individual police officers, and therefore they’re supposed to represent the official police’s brand and communication, but of course there’s bound to be some personal nuances included in the tweets as well. This personal tone is perfectly normal and only human, but unfortunately it makes them (individuals and the police) a target for a backslash.

And oh boy, they’ve been targeted alright. As of this writing, there’s at least eight parody accounts made of Finnish Police, and most of them have been activated within the last two months. Although parody accounts are accepted in Twitter’s policy and often intended just as harmless fun, I wanted to take a closer look at these eight and see if I could find any interesting details on them.

There were definitely some similarities and other easily connectable dots between the eight that were apparent even after just a quick glance (e.g. multiple mentions of “vihapuhe” = “hate speech”). I realize that by doing this I’m just feeding the trolls, so to speak, but let’s just call this professional curiosity that prompted me to investigate further.

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Make Twitter Non-Personalized Again

Make Twitter Non-Personalized Again

Many of you have probably heard about Twitter’s new privacy policy which was sold to you the same way these things always are: “to bring you a more personalized experience”. Obviously, this meant that more of your data is getting analyzed and sold to the highest bidder. I immediately encouraged my followers to opt-out of it, and since then also the great folks at EFF have written a guide on how to do so.

But what many Twitter users don’t know is that there are other ways that Twitter is already (and by default) doing to “enhance” your timeline. This is how you can opt-out from the rest of those settings:

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