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Do you know where your personal information is?

It’s time to take charge of our digital identity

By Christopher Harris — School Library Journal, 01/01/2010

It’s 2010. Do you know where your personal information is? Unless you rang in the New Year from some off-the-grid cave, much of your digital identity is out there floating freely around the Net. Going online requires a careful balancing act, in which users must weigh both privacy and participation, caution and convenience. Luckily, there are tools to help you.

The first step is gaining some understanding of privacy issues in the digital age. Sure, there’s a lot of fearmongering, but at the same time, don’t be naive about the realities of living a connected lifestyle. Your mobile phone, for instance, has GPS location services that track your every move. Sprint received more than eight million requests for location information from law enforcement in a year, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF has joined a lawsuit against the government in an effort to gain more information about how social networking data is being used. One major concern is the different level of protection enjoyed by a physical diary one keeps in a bedroom versus an online journal maintained on a blog or social network profile.

To help inform the public about digital privacy, the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom has launched a new Web site,PrivacyRevolution.org. Proudly declaring “I am not an open book” on its front page, the new site offers privacy-related news, as well as related tips and tools for libraries and patrons. The site is still evolving, but, already has a great selection of videos and content from “privacy allies,” such as author and blogger Cory Doctorow and the Freedom to Read Foundation. Then there’s Choose Privacy Week (May 2–8, 2010)—take advantage of the planning tools on PrivacyRevolution and get involved.

You can also take responsibility for your digital identity on a more personal level. As online citizens begin to demand more control of their privacy, technology companies are responding. Google recently announced a new service called Dashboard. The tool displays all of your personal information that Google holds across its many applications. So from one site, I can easily manage my two Google calendars, 13 profile entries, 387 contacts, and 10,238 email conversations. While the new service is a solid step forward, even more important is Google’s assertion that when you delete something from its services, the content is, in fact, gone (to the extent that something can generally be considered deleted; forensic analysis of a hard drive will reveal traces of data).

So how do we make 2010 the year we take back our privacy? An essential step—and our biggest challenge—will be education. We have to find the right tone for discussing privacy with students. Lecture too severely and we risk alienating a population that we know is going to be online anyway. Engendering fear won’t work either; yet students must understand the consequences of poor digital choices.

From social network profiles that share too much information to the moe potential for harm posed by sexting, privacy is the next frontier of our explorations online.


Author Information

Christopher Harris (infomancy@gmail.com) is coordinator of the school library system of the Genesee Valley (NY) BOCES.

Courtesy: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com

Filed under: Online safety Tips,

Just face it

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How do you watch without being watched on social networking sites? Sriya Narayanan on overcoming problems relating to privacy in the tangled web.

The World Wide Web is an icky place. Unlike the physical universe (that has limited room for garbage), cyberspace keeps track of everything we say and do, simply because it can. The good news is we already know. The bad news is we sometimes forget.

Ever Googled yourself and felt mortified at the report card that showed up in a nanosecond? If yes, the lesson to be learnt is embarrassingly simple — don’t sign a petition addressed to Robert Pattinson titled “Puncture my neck and bless me with eternal romance”. And if you must, use a fake name. Despite the Internet’s supposed ‘watch without being watched’ quality, most websites, particularly the social networking variety, have diabolical ways to track our movements and display them to hundreds of chuckling strangers. Last year, Facebookers were distraught when a pair of binoculars showed up on their friends’ profiles. The tell-tale application (called Who’s Watching You) listed everyone who had visited their profiles in the recent past and displayed their faces in a giant collage. Even cautious Twitter users who opt for ‘protected updates’ can be re-tweeted by their followers to an audience they’ve never met.

Because of how fast technology evolves, it’s impossible to anticipate what virtual skeletons will tumble out of the computer screen. Privacy settings have mind-numbing jargon and when you’re trying to instal software in a hurry, the ten-page disclaimer is better left unread. The real problem is how easily the Internet can “pick up” information and store it elsewhere, rendering you powerless. While things can’t be unsaid in real life either, the online world files things away publicly under your name, with a time stamp to boot. Once the ‘post’ button has been pressed, it’s no use deleting the comment, deactivating your account and wiping off your fingerprints from the keyboard with a damp cloth. That random rant written in a fit of boredom is like the great undead that will come to life at every chance. And thanks to the trail of virtual breadcrumbs, anyone can find anyone else. This has mixed results. You might rediscover a childhood companion or find yourself staring at friend requests from the gang who made high school hell.

Internet-enabled reunions inevitably end with the formation or revival of an e-group. If the moderators are not careful, the group ends up with default settings that make emails publicly visible. A conversation thread with mobile numbers, meeting places and other personal details begins, and all it takes is one search for the string to unravel much to the delight of identity thieves and stalkers.

Fix-it technologies are hard to come by. There are dozens of tricks and strategies that need to be learnt, with no guaranteed results. Even an ancient blog post that was purged from the archives long ago could magically reappear in another listing, sprouting sentences that look only vaguely familiar. At times like this, there’s not much else to do except sit back and hope that the offending website that someone started in his mother’s basement runs out of funding and shuts down.  

DAMAGE CONTROL 101

1. Gmail goggles: Turn on Mail Goggles before heading out for drinks. The feature, which is a hit with party animals, prevents you from sending out reckless declarations of love or hatred. It makes you do some math before allowing you to hit ‘send’. Can’t do the math? You’ll need to log off and return tomorrow.

2. Message Recall: Some office mail applications have this option but it only works if the message hasn’t been read yet and if the recipient lets you recall it.

3. Facebook faux pas: Did your friend upload an unflattering photo of you and ignore requests to delete it? Click on ‘remove tag’. It will still be online but won’t show up in your list.

4. No comments: If you made a comment on a public forum and there’s no delete option, change your display name so it doesn’t show up in search results for your real name.

5, Confidential chat: On Google chat, select “Go off the record” to prevent chats from being saved and reproduced.

by

SRIYA NARAYANAN

Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/internet/article816336.ece

Filed under: Online safety Tips, , ,

The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets

By JULIA ANGWIN

Hidden inside Ashley Hayes-Beaty’s computer, a tiny file helps gather personal details about her, all to be put up for sale for a tenth of a penny.

The file consists of a single code— 4c812db292272995e5416a323e79bd37—that secretly identifies her as a 26-year-old female in Nashville, Tenn.

The code knows that her favorite movies include "The Princess Bride," "50 First Dates" and "10 Things I Hate About You." It knows she enjoys the "Sex and the City" series. It knows she browses entertainment news and likes to take quizzes.

"Well, I like to think I have some mystery left to me, but apparently not!" Ms. Hayes-Beaty said when told what that snippet of code reveals about her. "The profile is eerily correct."

Ms. Hayes-Beaty is being monitored by Lotame Solutions Inc., a New York company that uses sophisticated software called a "beacon" to capture what people are typing on a website—their comments on movies, say, or their interest in parenting and pregnancy. Lotame packages that data into profiles about individuals, without determining a person’s name, and sells the profiles to companies seeking customers. Ms. Hayes-Beaty’s tastes can be sold wholesale (a batch of movie lovers is $1 per thousand) or customized (26-year-old Southern fans of "50 First Dates").

"We can segment it all the way down to one person," says Eric Porres, Lotame’s chief marketing officer.

One of the fastest-growing businesses on the Internet, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found, is the business of spying on Internet users.

Ashley Hayes-Beaty’s taste in film is tracked by a New York firm—and offered for sale for a tenth of a cent.

Journal Community

The Journal conducted a comprehensive study that assesses and analyzes the broad array of cookies and other surveillance technology that companies are deploying on Internet users. It reveals that the tracking of consumers has grown both far more pervasive and far more intrusive than is realized by all but a handful of people in the vanguard of the industry.

• The study found that the nation’s 50 top websites on average installed 64 pieces of tracking technology onto the computers of visitors, usually with no warning. A dozen sites each installed more than a hundred. The nonprofit Wikipedia installed none.

• Tracking technology is getting smarter and more intrusive. Monitoring used to be limited mainly to "cookie" files that record websites people visit. But the Journal found new tools that scan in real time what people are doing on a Web page, then instantly assess location, income, shopping interests and even medical conditions. Some tools surreptitiously re-spawn themselves even after users try to delete them.

• These profiles of individuals, constantly refreshed, are bought and sold on stock-market-like exchanges that have sprung up in the past 18 months.

The new technologies are transforming the Internet economy. Advertisers once primarily bought ads on specific Web pages—a car ad on a car site. Now, advertisers are paying a premium to follow people around the Internet, wherever they go, with highly specific marketing messages.

It’s rarely a coincidence when you see Web ads for products that match your interests. WSJ’s Christina Tsuei explains how advertisers use cookies to track your online habits.

How to Protect Yourself

Almost every major website you visit is tracking your online activity. Here’s a step-by-step guide to fending off trackers.

 

Surfing the Internet kickstarts a process that passes information about you and your interests to tracking companies and advertisers. See how it works.

 

In between the Internet user and the advertiser, the Journal identified more than 100 middlemen—tracking companies, data brokers and advertising networks—competing to meet the growing demand for data on individual behavior and interests.

The data on Ms. Hayes-Beaty’s film-watching habits, for instance, is being offered to advertisers on BlueKai Inc., one of the new data exchanges.

"It is a sea change in the way the industry works," says Omar Tawakol, CEO of BlueKai. "Advertisers want to buy access to people, not Web pages."

The Journal examined the 50 most popular U.S. websites, which account for about 40% of the Web pages viewed by Americans. (The Journal also tested its own site, WSJ.com.) It then analyzed the tracking files and programs these sites downloaded onto a test computer.

As a group, the top 50 sites placed 3,180 tracking files in total on the Journal’s test computer. Nearly a third of these were innocuous, deployed to remember the password to a favorite site or tally most-popular articles.

But over two-thirds—2,224—were installed by 131 companies, many of which are in the business of tracking Web users to create rich databases of consumer profiles that can be sold.

The top venue for such technology, the Journal found, was IAC/InterActive Corp.’s Dictionary.com. A visit to the online dictionary site resulted in 234 files or programs being downloaded onto the Journal’s test computer, 223 of which were from companies that track Web users.

The information that companies gather is anonymous, in the sense that Internet users are identified by a number assigned to their computer, not by a specific person’s name. Lotame, for instance, says it doesn’t know the name of users such as Ms. Hayes-Beaty—only their behavior and attributes, identified by code number. People who don’t want to be tracked can remove themselves from Lotame’s system.

And the industry says the data are used harmlessly. David Moore, chairman of 24/7 RealMedia Inc., an ad network owned by WPP PLC, says tracking gives Internet users better advertising.

"When an ad is targeted properly, it ceases to be an ad, it becomes important information," he says.

Tracking isn’t new. But the technology is growing so powerful and ubiquitous that even some of America’s biggest sites say they were unaware, until informed by the Journal, that they were installing intrusive files on visitors’ computers.

The Journal found that Microsoft Corp.’s popular Web portal, MSN.com, planted a tracking file packed with data: It had a prediction of a surfer’s age, ZIP Code and gender, plus a code containing estimates of income, marital status, presence of children and home ownership, according to the tracking company that created the file, Targus Information Corp.

Both Targus and Microsoft said they didn’t know how the file got onto MSN.com, and added that the tool didn’t contain "personally identifiable" information.

Tracking is done by tiny files and programs known as "cookies," "Flash cookies" and "beacons." They are placed on a computer when a user visits a website. U.S. courts have ruled that it is legal to deploy the simplest type, cookies, just as someone using a telephone might allow a friend to listen in on a conversation. Courts haven’t ruled on the more complex trackers.

The most intrusive monitoring comes from what are known in the business as "third party" tracking files. They work like this: The first time a site is visited, it installs a tracking file, which assigns the computer a unique ID number. Later, when the user visits another site affiliated with the same tracking company, it can take note of where that user was before, and where he is now. This way, over time the company can build a robust profile.

One such ecosystem is Yahoo Inc.’s ad network, which collects fees by placing targeted advertisements on websites. Yahoo’s network knows many things about recent high-school graduate Cate Reid. One is that she is a 13- to 18-year-old female interested in weight loss. Ms. Reid was able to determine this when a reporter showed her a little-known feature on Yahoo’s website, the Ad Interest Manager, that displays some of the information Yahoo had collected about her.

Yahoo’s take on Ms. Reid, who was 17 years old at the time, hit the mark: She was, in fact, worried that she may be 15 pounds too heavy for her 5-foot, 6-inch frame. She says she often does online research about weight loss.

"Every time I go on the Internet," she says, she sees weight-loss ads. "I’m self-conscious about my weight," says Ms. Reid, whose father asked that her hometown not be given. "I try not to think about it…. Then [the ads] make me start thinking about it."

Yahoo spokeswoman Amber Allman says Yahoo doesn’t knowingly target weight-loss ads at people under 18, though it does target adults.

"It’s likely this user received an untargeted ad," Ms. Allman says. It’s also possible Ms. Reid saw ads targeted at her by other tracking companies.

Information about people’s moment-to-moment thoughts and actions, as revealed by their online activity, can change hands quickly. Within seconds of visiting eBay.com or Expedia.com, information detailing a Web surfer’s activity there is likely to be auctioned on the data exchange run by BlueKai, the Seattle startup.

Each day, BlueKai sells 50 million pieces of information like this about specific individuals’ browsing habits, for as little as a tenth of a cent apiece. The auctions can happen instantly, as a website is visited.

Spokespeople for eBay Inc. and Expedia Inc. both say the profiles BlueKai sells are anonymous and the people aren’t identified as visitors of their sites. BlueKai says its own website gives consumers an easy way to see what it monitors about them.

Tracking files get onto websites, and downloaded to a computer, in several ways. Often, companies simply pay sites to distribute their tracking files.

But tracking companies sometimes hide their files within free software offered to websites, or hide them within other tracking files or ads. When this happens, websites aren’t always aware that they’re installing the files on visitors’ computers.

Often staffed by "quants," or math gurus with expertise in quantitative analysis, some tracking companies use probability algorithms to try to pair what they know about a person’s online behavior with data from offline sources about household income, geography and education, among other things.

The goal is to make sophisticated assumptions in real time—plans for a summer vacation, the likelihood of repaying a loan—and sell those conclusions.

Some financial companies are starting to use this formula to show entirely different pages to visitors, based on assumptions about their income and education levels.

Life-insurance site AccuquoteLife.com, a unit of Byron Udell & Associates Inc., last month tested a system showing visitors it determined to be suburban, college-educated baby-boomers a default policy of $2 million to $3 million, says Accuquote executive Sean Cheyney. A rural, working-class senior citizen might see a default policy for $250,000, he says.

"We’re driving people down different lanes of the highway," Mr. Cheyney says.

Consumer tracking is the foundation of an online advertising economy that racked up $23 billion in ad spending last year. Tracking activity is exploding. Researchers at AT&T Labs and Worcester Polytechnic Institute last fall found tracking technology on 80% of 1,000 popular sites, up from 40% of those sites in 2005.

The Journal found tracking files that collect sensitive health and financial data. On Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc.’s dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com, one tracking file from Healthline Networks Inc., an ad network, scans the page a user is viewing and targets ads related to what it sees there. So, for example, a person looking up depression-related words could see Healthline ads for depression treatments on that page—and on subsequent pages viewed on other sites.

Healthline says it doesn’t let advertisers track users around the Internet who have viewed sensitive topics such as HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, eating disorders and impotence. The company does let advertisers track people with bipolar disorder, overactive bladder and anxiety, according to its marketing materials.

Targeted ads can get personal. Last year, Julia Preston, a 32-year-old education-software designer in Austin, Texas, researched uterine disorders online. Soon after, she started noticing fertility ads on sites she visited. She now knows she doesn’t have a disorder, but still gets the ads.

It’s "unnerving," she says.

Tracking became possible in 1994 when the tiny text files called cookies were introduced in an early browser, Netscape Navigator. Their purpose was user convenience: remembering contents of Web shopping carts.

Back then, online advertising barely existed. The first banner ad appeared the same year. When online ads got rolling during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, advertisers were buying ads based on proximity to content—shoe ads on fashion sites.

The dot-com bust triggered a power shift in online advertising, away from websites and toward advertisers. Advertisers began paying for ads only if someone clicked on them. Sites and ad networks began using cookies aggressively in hopes of showing ads to people most likely to click on them, thus getting paid.

Targeted ads command a premium. Last year, the average cost of a targeted ad was $4.12 per thousand viewers, compared with $1.98 per thousand viewers for an untargeted ad, according to an ad-industry-sponsored study in March.

The Journal examined three kinds of tracking technology—basic cookies as well as more powerful "Flash cookies" and bits of software code called "beacons."

More than half of the sites examined by the Journal installed 23 or more "third party" cookies. Dictionary.com installed the most, placing 159 third-party cookies.

Cookies are typically used by tracking companies to build lists of pages visited from a specific computer. A newer type of technology, beacons, can watch even more activity.

Beacons, also known as "Web bugs" and "pixels," are small pieces of software that run on a Web page. They can track what a user is doing on the page, including what is being typed or where the mouse is moving.

The majority of sites examined by the Journal placed at least seven beacons from outside companies. Dictionary.com had the most, 41, including several from companies that track health conditions and one that says it can target consumers by dozens of factors, including zip code and race.

Dictionary.com President Shravan Goli attributed the presence of so many tracking tools to the fact that the site was working with a large number of ad networks, each of which places its own cookies and beacons. After the Journal contacted the company, it cut the number of networks it uses and beefed up its privacy policy to more fully disclose its practices.

The widespread use of Adobe Systems Inc.’s Flash software to play videos online offers another opportunity to track people. Flash cookies originally were meant to remember users’ preferences, such as volume settings for online videos.

But Flash cookies can also be used by data collectors to re-install regular cookies that a user has deleted. This can circumvent a user’s attempt to avoid being tracked online. Adobe condemns the practice.

Most sites examined by the Journal installed no Flash cookies. Comcast.net installed 55.

That finding surprised the company, which said it was unaware of them. Comcast Corp. subsequently determined that it had used a piece of free software from a company called Clearspring Technologies Inc. to display a slideshow of celebrity photos on Comcast.net. The Flash cookies were installed on Comcast’s site by that slideshow, according to Comcast.

Clearspring, based in McLean, Va., says the 55 Flash cookies were a mistake. The company says it no longer uses Flash cookies for tracking.

CEO Hooman Radfar says Clearspring provides software and services to websites at no charge. In exchange, Clearspring collects data on consumers. It plans eventually to sell the data it collects to advertisers, he says, so that site users can be shown "ads that don’t suck." Comcast’s data won’t be used, Clearspring says.

Wittingly or not, people pay a price in reduced privacy for the information and services they receive online. Dictionary.com, the site with the most tracking files, is a case study.

The site’s annual revenue, about $9 million in 2009 according to an SEC filing, means the site is too small to support an extensive ad-sales team. So it needs to rely on the national ad-placing networks, whose business model is built on tracking.

Think about how these technologies and the associated analytics can be used in other industries and social settings (e.g. education) for real beneficial impacts. This is nothing new for the web, the now that it has matured, it can be a positive game-changer.

—Mitchell Weisberg

Dictionary.com executives say the trade-off is fair for their users, who get free access to its dictionary and thesaurus service.

"Whether it’s one or 10 cookies, it doesn’t have any impact on the customer experience, and we disclose we do it," says Dictionary.com spokesman Nicholas Graham. "So what’s the beef?"

The problem, say some industry veterans, is that so much consumer data is now up for sale, and there are no legal limits on how that data can be used.

Until recently, targeting consumers by health or financial status was considered off-limits by many large Internet ad companies. Now, some aim to take targeting to a new level by tapping online social networks.

Media6Degrees Inc., whose technology was found on three sites by the Journal, is pitching banks to use its data to size up consumers based on their social connections. The idea is that the creditworthy tend to hang out with the creditworthy, and deadbeats with deadbeats.

"There are applications of this technology that can be very powerful," says Tom Phillips, CEO of Media6Degrees. "Who knows how far we’d take it?"

—Emily Steel, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Tom McGinty contributed to this report.

Write to Julia Angwin at julia.angwin@wsj.com

Courtesy: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703940904575395073512989404.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories

Filed under: Online safety Tips

Network your own way

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From family and friends to Facebook and Twitter, social networking has taken on a whole new meaning. But what about those who are not networking online?

A nephew of mine, whom I always enjoy meeting and who was going away overseas, asked me, in what I hope was an earnest desire to stay in touch with me, whether I was on Facebook. I’m not. Orkut (since I was an ‘older’ person)? No again. Did I tweet? I’m not a bird. Or, at least buzz? Not a bee, either. He looked at me with the authentic mixture of bemusement, horror and disgust that teenagers and young adults do so well. “Get yourself a life, man,” was his conclusion. That I was on e-mail and sms, and could Skype till he was blue in the face, failed to impress him. Maybe the fact that I text in English and not smsese (which I can barely understand) had something to do with this. As far as he was concerned, I was simply not cool enough or connected enough. I could live with being ‘uncool’, but I always thought I was reasonably well connected. Or was I?

As extraordinarily socialised life forms, human beings have always had social networks. Sometimes small networks, but, usually in our fertile country, largish ones. For our networks comprised essentially family members and family members of family members, whom we usually met up with at weddings and other assorted religious and family functions (of which we have no dearth), and whose progress (or more gleefully, the lack of it) we kept up with through the family grapevine. However, those days are now behind us and our relationships are now more likely determined by the speed of our broadband connection (the 21st century’s grapevine). And therefore, maybe my nephew was right when he implied that I’d fallen off the grapevine. Happily this was not a viewpoint shared by some of the people I ‘network’ with, who believe that social networking websites offer only virtual comfort and virtual support, and that these can never replace the real thing. So, what’s the official word on social networking?

Underlying narcissism

One definition (maybe by a wag, for the source is not quite clear) has it that social networking is “the intersection of narcissism, attention deficit disorder and stalking”. This argument, even if offered tongue-in-cheek, is not entirely without merit. Most social networking pages concentrate as much, and sometimes more, on projecting one’s own image, as on keeping in touch with others. An element of underlying narcissism is certainly strongly in evidence. And when one’s social status is determined by the number of friends or followers one has, it’s hardly likely that one gets into too many deep equations online which indicates that one’s attention does flit a bit, whether or not this amounts to a deficit. Also, hostile activity does take place on social networking sites and it’s not unusual to see people peeking into other people’s activities, sometimes voyeuristically, sometimes jealously and sometimes with malafide intent, even if all this doesn’t add up to actual stalking.

The greatest criticism of social networking sites is that they facilitate only superficial relationships and give people a false sense of security about having large virtual social networks. However, this need not necessarily be a problem. Sociologists differentiate between ‘strong ties’ and ‘weak ties’ and have concluded that ‘weak ties’ too are an integral component of social well-being. They add to what is referred to as ‘social capital’. A recent study conducted at the University of Michigan in the U.S. convincingly demonstrated the benefits that social networking sites have on the social capital of American teenagers and young adults. The study also documented that such networking sites added to the self worth experienced by their users. From my experience with Indian teenagers and young adults who are active on such sites, I would imagine that our situation wouldn’t be too different. But before one concludes that social networking sites are the next best thing, there are a couple of caveats to remember.

Face to face

Weak ties alone are not enough to maintain one’s social capital. If one is anchored in face-to-face relationships and has built up a sufficient base of strong ties, then facebook-to-facebook relationships can enhance one’s well being. Also, the way we use networking sites is important. If our focus is only on having a larger network of friends than anyone we know, we’re in trouble. Or if you’re like some tweeple (people who tweet, for the uninitiated) who smirk that they have more followers than other tweeple, do remember that there are enough instances of one false tweet bringing even the mighty to their knees. But as long as we use social networking sites to strengthen our social capital and not let them take over our lives, then we can genuinely enhance our sense of well-being.

So does this mean I’m going to get on Facebook and become a tweeperson? I honestly can’t see that happening just yet, even if it means I have to forego the joys of ‘unfriending’. I’ve got myself a life that is full and rich, populated as it is, with real people, who I can touch, see and have coffee with. And even though I have nothing against online networking, I like my network the way it is. Maybe, it’s just me. But, know something? I don’t really think so!

 

By Vijay Nagaswami

The writer is the author of the just-launched Fifty-50 Marriage: Return to Intimacy and can be contacted at vijay.nagaswami@gmail.com

Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Vijay_Nagaswami/article509400.ece

Filed under: Online safety Tips

The Ultimate Plagiarism Resource: Detecting Plagiarism & Preventing It

Courtesy: http://www.guidetoonlineschools.com/


The Ultimate Plagiarism  Resource

Plagiarism is one of academia’s most common problems and a constant concern for teachers. While the Web may have made plagiarism as easy as a few simple clicks, it’s also made detecting plagiarism just as easy. If a student can find the essay in seconds, so can you—if you know where to look.

This comprehensive resource will tell you everything you need to know about plagiarism, from the basic facts to free detection tools to preventing it in both the physical and online classroom.

Quick FactsDefining PlagiarismFree Tools for Detecting PlagiarismExamples of Plagiarism Policies
Plagiarism Tutorials
Tips for Discouraging PlagiarismPlagiarism in the Online ClassroomAdditional Plagiarism Resources

Quick Facts

  • 80% of college students admit to cheating at least once. (Center for Academic Integrity)
  • 52% of 1,800 students at nine state universities had copied several sentences from a website without citation. (McCabe, D.L.)
  • More than two-thirds of 2,100 students from 21 campuses copied or plagiarized work done by another student (Center for Academic Integrity)
  • 15% of high school students admit to obtaining a paper from a term paper mill or website (Plagiarism.org)
  • 50% of high-school students surveyed by Rutgers University see nothing wrong with cheating (McCabe, D.L. )
  • 90% of students believe that cheaters are either never caught or have never been appropriately disciplined (US News and World Report)

Defining Plagiarism

Free Tools for Detecting Plagiarism

  • Google and Google Scholar: If a sentence strikes you as odd, put it in quotation marks and run a Google search on it. If the student cut and pasted the phrase, it will show up on Google. And as more books are uploaded onto Google Books, Google Scholar and Google Books will become increasingly powerful weapons against plagiarism.
  • The Plagiarism Checker: The Plagiarism Checker allows you to run a Google search on large blocks of text. This is easier than cutting and pasting sentence after sentence.
  • Articlechecker: Works the same as Plagiarism Checker, but gives you the option of checking against Yahoo as well as Google.
  • Plagium: Like The Plagiarism Checker, this site Googles text you submit. Unlike most other checkers, Plagium works in several languages.
  • PlagiarismDetect: A plagiarism detector that allows you to upload whole documents rather than cutting and pasting blocks of text. It’s free, but you have to register.
  • Duplichecker: Another checker that plugs submitted text into search engines. Duplichecker’s interface makes it easy to submit entire documents as well as excerpts.
  • SeeSources: Searches the Web for sources similar to the text you entered. You can scan both excerpts and whole documents.
  • DOC Cop: Doc Cop offers a few features more than the minimal Web-based detection services. For instance, you can check for collusion—that is, you can check the similarity between two papers. However, you do have to register.
  • WCopyFind: WCopyFind is a downloadable scanner that checks for similarities between two papers, but it can’t search the Web.
  • Viper: The Anti-Plagiarism Scanner. Although it’s free, Viper is software, so it’s a bit more of a commitment than Web-based tools. However, it has some neat features, such as side-by-side comparisons of the submitted text with the potentially plagiarized one. Viper touts itself as the free alternative to TurnItIn.
  • SafeAssign/MyDropBox: This is free if you’re already using a Blackboard Learning System. As students submit papers to Blackboard, SafeAssign checks their papers against its database of source material.
  • PAIRwise: PAIRwise (Paper Authorship Integrity Research) can compare documents to one another while searching the internet for similar documents. However, PAIRwise is intended for use on an institutional level—for departmental or college-wide servers.

Examples of Plagiarism Policies

Most universities encourage their professors to include a plagiarism policy in their syllabi. Including a policy is a great first step, but to be effective, professors must also pay attention to where they place that policy and exactly what kind of information they include.

Here are five examples of plagiarism policies in syllabi in universities across the country. We’ve listed them starting with the best and have highlighted the pros and the cons. We hope these examples will encourage you to include your own policy and will be helpful in helping you craft it.

  1. Bates College: Cultural Anthropology (Anth 101)

    Academic Integrity:
    All students are responsible for reading and understanding the Bates College Statement on Academic Honesty. (See http://abacus.bates.edu/pubs/Plagiarism/plagiarism.html). When you turn in an assignment to satisfy the requirements for this course, you are indicating it is your own work. The failure to properly acknowledge your use of another work is plagiarism. All references must be cited according to the AAA guidelines (see described in handouts and on Lyceum). I do not tolerate academic dishonesty. Plagiarism of any kind will result in a failing grade for the assignment and/or the class.

    • Pros: Clearly labeled, given own section, defined plagiarism, provides link to the college’s policy, includes penalties, includes important details, well written and easy-to-understand, placed before course schedule
    • Cons: None
  2. Boston University: Modern Irish Literature (CAS EN 392)

    Plagiarism:
    It is every student’s responsibility to read the Boston University statement on plagiarism, which is available in the Academic Conduct Code. Students are advised that the penalty against students on a Boston University program for cheating on examinations or for plagiarism may be “…expulsion from the program or the University or such other penalty as may be recommended by the Committee on Student Academic Conduct, subject to approval by the dean.”

    • Pros: Plagiarism is given its own section, penalities are discussed
    • Cons: No definition of plagiarism, no link to BU’s policy on plagiarism or more information, placed at the end of the syllabus
  3. Stanford University: Literature and Metamorphoses (CompLit 227)

    A Note on Written Papers:
    All papers must be typed, 11 or 12 pt font, in Times New Roman, double-spaced, with 1 inch margins. Please include page numbers in the upper right-hand corner as well as your name on each page. All papers must be handed in hard-copy and be stapled. Electronic submissions will not be accepted. Furthermore, you are responsible for adhering to Stanford University’s honor code. I do not tolerate any form of plagiarism. Please familiarize yourself with the Stanford honor code at http://www.stanford.edu/dept/vpsa/judicialaffairs/guiding/honorcode.htm .

    • Pros: link to an extensive plagiarism resource written by the Univerity, placed early in syllabus before course schedule
    • Cons: no definition of plagiarism in the syllabus, note on plagiarism tacked at the end of a paragraph about formatting, no penalties discussed
  4. Georgetown University: Intermediate Econometrics (Econ-422)

    Honor System:
    I would like to remind you that as signatories to the Georgetown University Honor Pledge, you are required to uphold academic honesty in all aspects of this course. As faculty, I too am obliged to uphold the Honor System, and will report all suspected cases for academic dishonesty.

    • Pros: Included in first page, includes professor’s responsibility
    • Cons: Doesn’t reference plagiarism specifically (or define it), doesn’t include penalties, doesn’t include link to the university’s honor code or more information
  5. UC Berkeley: Cultural Heritage (Anthroplogy 136e)

    Plagiarism:
    Plagiarism will not be tolerated, and will result in a failing grade for the course. See the University Student Code of Conduct for information about plagiarism.

    • Pros: Includes penalties
    • Cons: Does not include a description of plagiarism, does not include a link to the university’s policy or more information, and is completely buried: it comes at the end of the syllabus at the end of a 700-word Course Policies section

Great Plagiarism Tutorials

One of the best ways to make sure your students understand plagiarism is to have them complete online tutorials. Here are six excellent tutorials. Many of them require students to e-mail you the results of their quizzes or certificates of completion.

  1. The University of Southern Mississippi
  • provides quizzes before you review the materials, during your review, and post-review
  • results of your pre-test and post-test will be mailed to yourself and your professor
  1. The University Of Maryland University College
  • extremely comprehensive, includes lots of examples and style guidelines
  • includes a post-quiz that analyzes your results and tells you which section of the tutorial to go over
  1. Indiana University Bloomington
  • included links to real plagiarism cases
  • you can print out a confirmation certificate for you professor after taking the test
  1. California State University San Marcos
  • provides “checkpoints” after each section to test your knowledge before moving on
  • spells out the benefits for the student for using proper citation (beyond avoiding plagiarism)
  1. The University of Texas at Arlington
  • includes examples of plagiarism in real life, outside of the classroom (like the New York Times and government documents)
  • good use of charts and diagrams
  1. Acadia University
  • teaches important information in an entertaining manner
  • personalizes plagiarism by having students pick an avatar to use during the tutorial (like Dylan, a first-year English student working on a paper comparing fiction in movies and books)

Tips for Discouraging Plagiarism in the Classroom

  • Define Plagiarism: The first step toward discouraging plagiarism in your classroom is to define plagiarism for your students. Especially in high school, many students may not realize that plagiarism encompasses paraphrasing and borrowing ideas without attribution.
  • Discuss Your Plagiarism Policy: Discuss the reasons for your school’s plagiarism policy. Explain that plagiarism cheats the writers of original material out of credit for their work, that it isn’t fair to other students, and that it cheats plagiarizers out of the skills they would develop in writing the paper—setting them up to fail later. A great way to bring up the topic of plagiarism in your classroom is with a quiz. Chris Anson of North Carolina State University put together a great plagiarism quiz for teachers to give students.
  • Spell Out the Penalities: Discuss the penalties for plagiarism. If the penalties are serious, students will be less likely to take the risk.
  • Put it in the Syllabus: Include your school’s plagiarism policy in the course syllabus. Putting the plagiarism policy in a prominent location will remind your students of the definition and consequences of plagiarism. Also, discussing plagiarism on the first day with the rest of the syllabus will show students that you’re serious about it.
  • Teach Citation: Teach proper citation methods. Knowing that there are proper methods for crediting the work of others may teach students to take plagiarism more seriously.
  • Require Citation: Require detailed citations, including page numbers.
  • Use Citations Yourself: There’s no better way to teach important concepts than by leading by example: use citations in all your own hand-outs.
  • Discuss Paper Mills: Let students know that you know about paper mills. Students sometimes think their teachers don’t understand the internet. Assure them that know about paper mills and other services for buying essays.
  • Require E-mailed Copies: Ask students to e-mail you their essay as well as hand in a hard copy. Having essays in document form will make it significantly easier for you to run a plagiarism check on them.
  • Encourage Planning: Plagiarism is usually the result of desperation. If you get students to start working early, they’ll be less likely to plagiarize.
  • Require Early Drafts: Request early drafts or outlines several weeks before the final paper. This will force students to start working early. And once students have to reverse-engineer drafts from a plagiarized paper, it becomes a lot easier just to write the paper themselves.
  • Talk to Your Students: Meet with your students about their paper ideas. This encourages planning, and allows you to see if a student submits a paper on a topic she hasn’t been working on.
  • Ban Last-Minute Changes: Don’t allow any last minute changes of topic. These last-ditch acts of desperation are more likely to involve plagiarism.
  • Be Unique: Pick unique topics and, when possible, use unique reading lists. Internet plagiarism is easy because there are standard essay topics on standard books. If you make unique essay prompts and change them every year, plagiarism will be almost impossible.
  • Reach Out: Encourage students to come to you with questions about citation methods.

Tips for Addressing Plagiarism in the Online Classroom

Though evidence suggests that there is no significant difference in the level of plagiarism in online classrooms and brick-and-mortar ones, teachers of online classes do face several unique challenges when it comes to preventing plagiarism. For example, it’s more difficult to observe the entire writing process in an online classroom—you can’t simply ask a student how her paper is going as she packs up her books. And when giving tests, it’s impossible to see whether students are copying one another’s work or consulting the Web. Below are some tips for dealing with the unique challenges of plagiarism in the online classroom.

  • Put it in the Syllabus: Include a copy of your school’s plagiarism policy in the syllabus. Define plagiarism, and explain the penalties.
  • Make a Quiz: Have a plagiarism quiz. It’s harder to teach a segment on plagiarism in an online classroom than it is in a physical one. If you merely attach a written explanation of the plagiarism policy to the syllabus, students may just skip to the end and hit, “OK.” It helps to have a short plagiarism quiz that students must pass in order to proceed to the class materials.
  • Use a Plagiarism Scanner: Run suspicious essays through online plagiarism scanners. Teachers at online schools have a big advantage over teachers in physical classrooms when it comes to using plagiarism detectors: because they get their papers already in digital form, they can run a plagiarism check in seconds.
  • Use a Message Board: Have message board discussions and short writing assignments. Message board posts and reading responses are too short to plagiarize, and if students have already written extensively on a topic, they’ll be less likely to plagiarize a paper on it.
  • Compare to Previous Work: Compare submitted papers with other writing samples. Teachers at online schools have a more extensive sample of their students’ writing style than teachers at brick-and-mortar schools do. Because class discussions are conducted on message boards, teachers will have a massive sample of writing to compare with any submitted papers. If the styles are different, run the paper through a plagiarism checker.
  • Time Quizzes: When giving a test, teachers can’t see whether students are cheating. However, teachers can put a time limit on the test such that students wouldn’t have time enough to discuss answers or consult the Web.
  • Be Original: Write original quiz questions. If your questions are unique enough that students can’t simply Google them for an answer, it will be almost impossible to cheat on a timed test.
  • Require Drafts: Make essay drafts part of the grade. This is even more important in an online classroom than it is in a physical one. Because teachers at online schools can’t ask students what they’re writing on when they bump into them in the hallway, they need a formal way to observe the entire writing process.
  • Encourage Back-And-Forth: Encourage students to ask you questions about their papers. Because it’s more difficult for teachers at online schools to get involved in the early stages of the writing process, it’s important to make an extra effort to do so. If students feel comfortable e-mailing you questions about their paper, you’ll decrease the chances someone will feel desperate enough to plagiarize.
  • Encourage Questions: Encourage students to ask you questions about citation procedures. Just as it’s important to encourage students to ask you questions about their papers, it’s important to make an extra effort to be available for questions about correct citation, paraphrasing, and quotation rules.

Additional Plagiarism Resources

Courtesy: http://www.guidetoonlineschools.com/online-teaching/plagiarism#q

Filed under: Online safety Tips,

When you use Mobile phones

Mobile phones are great for keeping in touch—you can call or text your family and friends, surf the net, take and send photos, record sound and track where you are.

While you can do all sorts of things with your mobile, there are some risks and points you should keep in mind.

Cyberbullying, people making inappropriate contact, access to unsuitable content or ‘free’ ring tones that lead to very high phone bills can be a problem. Privacy is also important. In the same way you protect your privacy online it’s important not to share private/ personal details or photos using your mobile phone. It’s easy to forward SMS messages and photos but you never know where they might end up.

Tips

  • Only give out your mobile number to people you know and trust. Respect your friends’ privacy by not giving away their details without permission.

  • Keep your personal information private. Don’t share personal details like your name, address or school with people you don’t already know in real life.

  • If you plan to send private information to anyone using your mobile phone, talk to a trusted adult before you send. Being cautious is the best plan.

  • Think before you send. The person who you send information, pictures or videos to may not be the only one who will see them—so if you don’t want them to go public, don’t send them.

  • When you’re looking to buy a phone, check details of service plans or contracts, the type of phone and what it offers. Buy the one that suits your needs and use—and won’t cost the earth.

  • Don’t accept offers that sound too good to be true. They probably are, and it could lead to really high bills. Check with your parents before accepting any offers.

  • If your phone is lost or is stolen, notify your network carrier and the police immediately. Tell them your IMEI number (generally found inside the battery compartment of your phone or by pressing *#06#) and any other identifying features of the phone. If you use Bluetooth, change the settings so that the phone is not ‘discoverable’. This means that it can’t be found or discovered by other Bluetooth-enabled devices searching for another one. Keeping your phone undiscoverable is a good protection against potential attack.

Tips for dealing with unwanted SMS and voice messages

  • Don’t respond.
  • Save the message and the date, time and number of the can.
  • Let a trusted adult know, like your parents or brother/sister.

Courtesy: http://www.cybersmart.gov.au

Mobile phones are banned in Kendriya Vidyalayas

Filed under: Online safety Tips, , ,

Passwords aplenty

Dec 18th 2009 | LOS ANGELES
From Economist.com

image

How to stay sane as well as safe while surfing the web

AT THIS time of the year, your correspondent crosses the Pacific to Japan for a month or so. He repeats the trip during the summer. He considers it crucial in order to keep abreast of all the ingenious technology which, once debugged by the world’s most acquisitive consumers, will wind up in American and European shops a year or two later.

Each time he packs his bags, though, he is embarrassed by having to include a dog-eared set of notes that really ought to be locked up in a safe. This is his list of logons and passwords for all the websites he uses for doing business and staying in touch with the rest of the world. At the last count, the inch-thick list accumulated over the past decade or so—your correspondent’s sole copy—includes access details for no fewer than 174 online services and computer networks.

He admits to flouting the advice of security experts: his failings include using essentially the same logon and password for many similar sites, relying on easily remembered words—and, heaven forbid, writing them down on scraps of paper. So his new year’s resolution is to set up a proper software vault for the various passwords and ditch the dog-eared list.

Your correspondent’s one consolation is that he is not alone in using easily crackable words for most of his passwords. Indeed, the majority of online users have an understandable aversion to strong, but hard-to-remember, passwords. The most popular passwords in Britain are “123” followed by “password”. At least people in America have learned to combine letters and numbers. Their most popular ones are “password1” followed by “abc123”.

Unfortunately, the easier a password is to remember, the easier it is for thieves to guess. Ironically, the opposite—the harder it is to remember, the harder it is to crack—is often far from true. That is because, not being able to remember long, jumbled sets of alphanumeric characters interspersed with symbols, people resort to writing them down on Post-it notes left lying around the office or home for all and sundry to see.

Apart from stealing passwords from Post-it notes and the like, intruders basically use one of two hacks to gain access to other people’s computers or networks. If time and money is no problem, they can use brute-force methods that simply try every combination of letters, numbers and symbols until a match is found. That takes a lot of patience and computing power, and tends to be the sort of thing only intelligence agencies indulge in.

A more popular, though less effective, way is to use commercial software tools such as “L0phtCrack” or “John the Ripper” that can be found on the internet. These use dictionaries, lists of popular passwords and rainbow tables (lookup tools that turn long numbers computed from alphanumeric characters back into their original plain text) to recover passwords.

According to Bruce Schneier, an independent security expert, today’s password crackers “can test tens—even hundreds—of millions of passwords per second.” In short, the vast majority of passwords used in the real world can be guessed in minutes. And do not think you are being smart by replacing the letters “l” or “i” in a password with the number “1”; or the letter “s” with the number “5” or the symbol “$”. Cracking programs check all such alternatives, and more, as a matter of course.

What should you do to protect yourself? Chose passwords that are strong enough to make cracking them too time consuming for thieves to bother.

The strength of a password depends on its length, complexity and randomness. A good length is at least eight symbols. The complexity depends on the character set. Using numbers alone limits the choice to just ten symbols. Add upper- and lower-case letters and the complexity rises to 62. Use all the symbols on a standard ASCII keyboard and you have 95 to choose from.

The third component, randomness, is measured by a concept borrowed from thermodynamics—the notion of entropy (the tendency for things to become disordered). In information theory, a tossed coin has an entropy of one “bit” (binary digit). That is because it can come down randomly in one of two equally possible binary states.

At the other extreme, when you set the encryption of a Wi-Fi link, you are usually given the choice of 64-bit or even 128-bit security. Those bit-numbers represent the entropy (or randomness) of the encryption used. A password with 64 bits of entropy is as strong as a string of data comprising 64 randomly selected binary digits. Put another way, a 64-bit password would require 2 raised to the power of 64 attempts to crack it by brute force—in short, 18 billion billion attempts. A 64-bit password was finally cracked in 2002 using brute-force methods. It took a network of volunteers nearly five years to do so.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, the American government’s standards-measuring laboratory in Gaithersburg, Maryland, recommends 80-bit passwords for state secrets and the like. Such security can be achieved using passwords with 12 symbols, drawn from the full set of 95 symbols on the standard American keyboard. For ordinary purposes, that would seem overkill. A 52-bit password based on eight symbols selected from the standard keyboard is generally adequate.

How to select the eight? Best to let a computer program generate them randomly for you. Unfortunately, the result will be something like 6sDt%k&3 that probably needs to be written down. One answer, only slightly less rigorous, is to use a mnemonic constructed from the first letters (plus contractions) of an easily remembered phrase like “Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts” (MCa1otFA) or “To be or not to be: that is the question” (2Bo-2b:?).

Given a robust 52-bit password, you can then use a password manager to take care of the dozens of easily guessable ones used to access various web services. There are a number of perfectly adequate products for doing this. In an early attempt to fulfil his new year’s pledge, your correspondent has been experimenting with LastPass, a free password manager that works as an add-on to the Firefox web browser for Windows, Linux or Macintosh. Versions also exist for Internet Explorer on Windows and Safari on the Mac.

Once installed and given a strong password of its own, plus an e-mail address, LastPass encrypts all the logons and passwords stored on your computer. So, be warned: forget your master password and you could be in trouble—especially if you have let the program delete (as it urges you to let it do) all the vulnerable logons and passwords on your own computer.

Thereafter, to visit various web services, all you have to do is log into LastPass and click the website you wish to check out. The tool then automatically logs you on securely to the selected site. It will even complete all the forms needed to buy goods online if you have stored your home address, telephone number and credit-card details in the vault as well.

Your correspondent looks forward to using the service while travelling around Japan over the next month or so. To be on the safe side, however, his dog-eared list of passwords will still go with him.

Courtesy: The Economist.com

Filed under: Online safety Tips, ,

5 Easy Steps to Stay Safe (and Private!) on Facebook

by Sarah Perez

September 16, 2009

Courtesy: http://www.readwriteweb.com/

 

When the President of the United States warns schoolchildren to watch what they say and do on Facebook, you know that we’ve got a problem…and it’s not one limited to the U.S.’s borders, either. People everywhere are mindlessly over-sharing on the world’s largest social network, without a second thought as to who’s reading their posts or what effect it could have on them further down the road. For example, did you know that 30% of today’s employers are using Facebook to vet potential employees prior to hiring? In today’s tough economy, the question of whether to post those embarrassing party pics could now cost you a paycheck in addition to a reputation. (Keep that in mind when tagging your friends’ photos, too, won’t you?)

But what can be done? It’s not like you can just quit Facebook, right? No – and you don’t have to either. You just need to take a few precautions.

Unbeknownst to most mainstream Facebook users, the social network actually offers a slew of privacy controls and security features which can help you batten down the hatches, so to speak. If used properly, you’ll never have to worry about whether you should friend the boss and your mom. You can friend anyone you want while comfortable in the knowledge that not everyone gets to see everything you post.

The problem in implementing these privacy options is that they’re just too confusing for most non-tech savvy people to handle. And often, folks don’t want to bother to take the time to learn. To simplify the process, we’re offering five easy steps you can take today to help make your Facebook experience safer, more secure, and more private.

Step 1: Make Friend Lists

Yes, it will take some time, especially if you’re connected to a couple hundred friends already. But this step, while not the quickest, is fairly simple. And it will be one of the most useful things you can do on Facebook.

Friend lists, like they sound, are lists for categorizing your friends into various groups. The nice thing about this feature is that once you set these lists up, you won’t have to do it again. We suggest that you put your work colleagues and professional acquaintances into a friend list designated "work," personal friends you’re not very close with into a list called "Acquaintances," and people you’re related to into a list called "Family." Those three main categories will separate out the groups of "friends" who you may want to hide some information from.

To create a friend list, click on "Friends" at the top of the Facebook homepage. In the left-hand column, click "Friends" again under the "Lists" section. Now you’ll see a button at the top that says "Create New List". Click it. In the pop-up that appears, you can name your list and pick members. If you’ve ever shared an application with your friends, the process of doing this will be very familiar.

When you’ve finished making lists, you’ll be able to use them when selecting who can see what (or who can’t!) when configuring the security settings described below.

Step 2: Who Can See What on Your Profile

At the top right of Facebook, there’s a menu that many people probably ignore: "Settings." But this menu is now going to become your best friend. To get started, hover your mouse over the Settings menu and click "Privacy Settings" from the list that appears. On the next page, click "Profile." This takes you to a page where you can configure who gets to see certain information on your profile.

Before making changes, think carefully about the sorts of things you want public and the things you want private. Should "everyone" get to see photos you’re tagged in? Or would you like to limit this only to those you’ve specifically chosen as Facebook friends?

Underneath each section on this page (basic info, personal info, status, etc.), you can designate who gets to see that particular bit of information. For anyone not using custom lists (see step 1), the best thing to enter here is "Only Friends." Anything else opens up your profile information to people you may or may not know. For example, choosing "Everyone" makes that info public, "Friends of Friends" lets your friends’ friends see it, "My Networks and Friends" opens up your info to anyone in your networks – that means anyone in your city, your high school, your college, a professional organization you listed, etc.

You can also block certain groups from seeing these sections, too. On any item that offers an "Edit Custom Settings" option, you can click that link to display a pop-up box where you can choose people or lists to block (see where it says "Except these people"). If you haven’t made custom lists as explained in step 1 above, you can enter individual names here instead. (Sorry, mom, dad, boss – this is where you get blocked.)

 

Step 3: Who Can See Your Address and Phone Number

Did you list your address and phone number on Facebook? While that’s a handy feature, you may not want everyone you friended to have this information. To access this configuration page, you follow the same steps as above in step 2 to display the Profile Privacy page. You’ll notice that the page has two tabs at the top – click on the one that reads "Contact information."

As previously described above, you can again use the drop-down lists provided to designate who gets to see what and/or block certain people or lists from viewing this information. The sections on this page include "IM Screen Name," "Mobile Phone," "Other Phone," "Current Address," "Website," and your email.

Step 4: Change Who Can Find You on Facebook via Search

Sick of getting friend requests from old high school pals? While for some the beauty of Facebook is that it lets you reconnect with everyone you ever knew throughout your life, others find this intrusive and annoying. You’re not friends with any of these people anymore for a reason, right?

As it turns out, you can still enjoy Facebook without some folks ever knowing or finding you thanks to the search privacy settings.

Click on the "Settings" menu on Facebook’s homepage and then click "Search" on the following page. You’ll be taken to a Search Privacy page where you can specify who gets to find you on Facebook. Want to be wide open? Change the "Search Visibility" drop-down box to "Everyone." Want to keep it a little more limited? Select "My Networks and Friends," "Friends of Friends," or "My Networks and Friends of Friends" instead. Don’t want anyone finding you on Facebook? Change it to "Only Friends." That means only the people who you’ve already friended can find you in a Facebook search.

On this page, you can also configure what information displays when your info is returned as a search result (e.g. your profile picture, your friend list, etc.). In addition, you can check and uncheck the boxes for network-based searches too. For example, if you don’t want anyone from high school to find you, uncheck the box next to "people in high school networks."

Step 5: Stop Sharing Personal Info with Unknown Applications

Remember when we told you about what Facebook quizzes know about you? Using Facebook’s default settings, you’re unknowingly sharing a plethora of personal information (and your friends’ info too!) with various Facebook applications and the developers who created them. The problem is so bad that the ACLU recently created their own Facebook Quiz to demonstrate how much information an app has access to.

It’s time to take back control! From the Facebook homepage, hover your mouse over the "Settings" menu and choose "Privacy Settings" from the drop-down list. On the next page, click "Applications" then click the tab that reads "Settings" which is next to the "Overview" tab. (Oh, and if you want to really be freaked out, read that overview!)

On this page, you can check and uncheck boxes next to your personal information (picture, education history, wall, religious views, etc.). This controls what the applications your friends are using can see about you. Yes, your friends’ apps can see your personal info if you don’t make this change! Believe it or not, you don’t have the same control over your own apps. The best you can do is head over to the Applications page and delete the apps you’re not using anymore. (Use the "X" to remove them.) You see, once you authorize an application, you’re telling it that it’s OK to access any information associated with your account that it requires to work. While some developers may only pull what’s actually required, many others just pull in everything they can. Scary, isn’t it?

Conclusion

While this is by no means a comprehensive guide to Facebook security and privacy, these five steps can help you get started in creating a safer, more secure, and more private environment on the social network.

However, if you choose not to take any precautions, then you’ll only have yourself to blame when an errant wall post or naughty photo makes its way online and straight into Grandma’s News Feed, or worse, your boss’s. These days, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so go ahead and delve into those settings!

Courtesy: http://www.readwriteweb.com/

Filed under: Online safety Tips, , , , ,

5 Easy Steps to Stay Safe (and Private!) on Facebook

by Sarah Perez

September 16, 2009

Courtesy: http://www.readwriteweb.com/

 

When the President of the United States warns schoolchildren to watch what they say and do on Facebook, you know that we’ve got a problem…and it’s not one limited to the U.S.’s borders, either. People everywhere are mindlessly over-sharing on the world’s largest social network, without a second thought as to who’s reading their posts or what effect it could have on them further down the road. For example, did you know that 30% of today’s employers are using Facebook to vet potential employees prior to hiring? In today’s tough economy, the question of whether to post those embarrassing party pics could now cost you a paycheck in addition to a reputation. (Keep that in mind when tagging your friends’ photos, too, won’t you?)

But what can be done? It’s not like you can just quit Facebook, right? No – and you don’t have to either. You just need to take a few precautions.

Unbeknownst to most mainstream Facebook users, the social network actually offers a slew of privacy controls and security features which can help you batten down the hatches, so to speak. If used properly, you’ll never have to worry about whether you should friend the boss and your mom. You can friend anyone you want while comfortable in the knowledge that not everyone gets to see everything you post.

The problem in implementing these privacy options is that they’re just too confusing for most non-tech savvy people to handle. And often, folks don’t want to bother to take the time to learn. To simplify the process, we’re offering five easy steps you can take today to help make your Facebook experience safer, more secure, and more private.

Step 1: Make Friend Lists

Yes, it will take some time, especially if you’re connected to a couple hundred friends already. But this step, while not the quickest, is fairly simple. And it will be one of the most useful things you can do on Facebook.

Friend lists, like they sound, are lists for categorizing your friends into various groups. The nice thing about this feature is that once you set these lists up, you won’t have to do it again. We suggest that you put your work colleagues and professional acquaintances into a friend list designated "work," personal friends you’re not very close with into a list called "Acquaintances," and people you’re related to into a list called "Family." Those three main categories will separate out the groups of "friends" who you may want to hide some information from.

To create a friend list, click on "Friends" at the top of the Facebook homepage. In the left-hand column, click "Friends" again under the "Lists" section. Now you’ll see a button at the top that says "Create New List". Click it. In the pop-up that appears, you can name your list and pick members. If you’ve ever shared an application with your friends, the process of doing this will be very familiar.

When you’ve finished making lists, you’ll be able to use them when selecting who can see what (or who can’t!) when configuring the security settings described below.

Step 2: Who Can See What on Your Profile

At the top right of Facebook, there’s a menu that many people probably ignore: "Settings." But this menu is now going to become your best friend. To get started, hover your mouse over the Settings menu and click "Privacy Settings" from the list that appears. On the next page, click "Profile." This takes you to a page where you can configure who gets to see certain information on your profile.

Before making changes, think carefully about the sorts of things you want public and the things you want private. Should "everyone" get to see photos you’re tagged in? Or would you like to limit this only to those you’ve specifically chosen as Facebook friends?

Underneath each section on this page (basic info, personal info, status, etc.), you can designate who gets to see that particular bit of information. For anyone not using custom lists (see step 1), the best thing to enter here is "Only Friends." Anything else opens up your profile information to people you may or may not know. For example, choosing "Everyone" makes that info public, "Friends of Friends" lets your friends’ friends see it, "My Networks and Friends" opens up your info to anyone in your networks – that means anyone in your city, your high school, your college, a professional organization you listed, etc.

You can also block certain groups from seeing these sections, too. On any item that offers an "Edit Custom Settings" option, you can click that link to display a pop-up box where you can choose people or lists to block (see where it says "Except these people"). If you haven’t made custom lists as explained in step 1 above, you can enter individual names here instead. (Sorry, mom, dad, boss – this is where you get blocked.)

 

Step 3: Who Can See Your Address and Phone Number

Did you list your address and phone number on Facebook? While that’s a handy feature, you may not want everyone you friended to have this information. To access this configuration page, you follow the same steps as above in step 2 to display the Profile Privacy page. You’ll notice that the page has two tabs at the top – click on the one that reads "Contact information."

As previously described above, you can again use the drop-down lists provided to designate who gets to see what and/or block certain people or lists from viewing this information. The sections on this page include "IM Screen Name," "Mobile Phone," "Other Phone," "Current Address," "Website," and your email.

Step 4: Change Who Can Find You on Facebook via Search

Sick of getting friend requests from old high school pals? While for some the beauty of Facebook is that it lets you reconnect with everyone you ever knew throughout your life, others find this intrusive and annoying. You’re not friends with any of these people anymore for a reason, right?

As it turns out, you can still enjoy Facebook without some folks ever knowing or finding you thanks to the search privacy settings.

Click on the "Settings" menu on Facebook’s homepage and then click "Search" on the following page. You’ll be taken to a Search Privacy page where you can specify who gets to find you on Facebook. Want to be wide open? Change the "Search Visibility" drop-down box to "Everyone." Want to keep it a little more limited? Select "My Networks and Friends," "Friends of Friends," or "My Networks and Friends of Friends" instead. Don’t want anyone finding you on Facebook? Change it to "Only Friends." That means only the people who you’ve already friended can find you in a Facebook search.

On this page, you can also configure what information displays when your info is returned as a search result (e.g. your profile picture, your friend list, etc.). In addition, you can check and uncheck the boxes for network-based searches too. For example, if you don’t want anyone from high school to find you, uncheck the box next to "people in high school networks."

Step 5: Stop Sharing Personal Info with Unknown Applications

Remember when we told you about what Facebook quizzes know about you? Using Facebook’s default settings, you’re unknowingly sharing a plethora of personal information (and your friends’ info too!) with various Facebook applications and the developers who created them. The problem is so bad that the ACLU recently created their own Facebook Quiz to demonstrate how much information an app has access to.

It’s time to take back control! From the Facebook homepage, hover your mouse over the "Settings" menu and choose "Privacy Settings" from the drop-down list. On the next page, click "Applications" then click the tab that reads "Settings" which is next to the "Overview" tab. (Oh, and if you want to really be freaked out, read that overview!)

On this page, you can check and uncheck boxes next to your personal information (picture, education history, wall, religious views, etc.). This controls what the applications your friends are using can see about you. Yes, your friends’ apps can see your personal info if you don’t make this change! Believe it or not, you don’t have the same control over your own apps. The best you can do is head over to the Applications page and delete the apps you’re not using anymore. (Use the "X" to remove them.) You see, once you authorize an application, you’re telling it that it’s OK to access any information associated with your account that it requires to work. While some developers may only pull what’s actually required, many others just pull in everything they can. Scary, isn’t it?

Conclusion

While this is by no means a comprehensive guide to Facebook security and privacy, these five steps can help you get started in creating a safer, more secure, and more private environment on the social network.

However, if you choose not to take any precautions, then you’ll only have yourself to blame when an errant wall post or naughty photo makes its way online and straight into Grandma’s News Feed, or worse, your boss’s. These days, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so go ahead and delve into those settings!

Courtesy: http://www.readwriteweb.com/

Filed under: Online safety Tips, , , , ,

Online safety tips for kids

Safety By Age

 

2 to about 4:

This is the age of "lapware," when children start interacting with the computer in the presence of a parent or sibling. There are numerous activities and sites that are likely to be appropriate for this age group but, in most cases, it makes sense for the parent and child to be exploring together. This is not just a safety issue, but also a way to assure that the child has a pleasant experience, and to help build bonds between the child and the older person who is surfing the Internet with them.

Starting at about age 3, some children can benefit by having a bit more independence so that they can explore, experience discoveries, and make mistakes on their own. That doesn’t mean that they should be given free access. It’s probably best for parents to choose the Web sites they visit and not let them leave those sites on their own. You don’t necessarily need to stand over them or sit with them the entire time that they’re in a known safe site.

4 to about 7:

Children begin to explore on their own, but it’s still important for parents to be in very close touch with their children as they explore the Net. When your child’s at this age you should consider restricting her access only to sites that you have visited and feel are appropriate. For help with this matter, you can consider using one of the pre-screened Web sites in GetNetWise, as well as child-safe search engines.

At this age it’s important that kids experience positive results from sites that can enhance their discovery. The issue here isn’t so much avoiding dangerous sites, but making sure they are visiting sites that don’t frustrate them or lead them down blind alleys.

7 to about 10:

During this period, children begin looking outside the family for social validation and information. This is when peer pressure begins to become an issue for many kids. It’s also a time when kids are looking for more independence from parents, according to psychologist Richard Toft. During these years, children should be encouraged to do a bit more exploring on their own, but that doesn’t mean that the parents shouldn’t be close at hand. Just as you wouldn’t send children at this age to a movie by themselves, it’s important to be with them — or at least nearby — when they explore the Net. For this age group, consider putting the computer in a kitchen area, family room, den, or other areas where the child has access to Mom or Dad while using the computer. That way, they can be "independent" but not alone.

Also, consider using a filtering program or restricting them to sites that you locate via a child-safe search engine. Another option for this age group is a child-friendly browser.

When your child is at this stage, you need to be concerned not so much about what he’s doing online and with the PC as how long he’s spending on the PC. Be sure that his time on the computer and the Internet doesn’t take away from all his other activities. Kids need variety, and it’s not a good idea for them to be spending all of their time on any single activity, even reading books. One way to deal with this might be through the use of a software time-limiting tool. It’s even important to be sure that they are varying what they do online. Encourage them to explore a variety of Web sites, not just one or two of their favorites.

10 to about 12:

During this pre-teen period, many kids want to experience even more independence. If children aren’t already doing so, this is a time when they should start using the Internet to help with schoolwork and, perhaps, discover resources for their hobbies, sports activities, and other interests. This is also an age when you have to be concerned not just about what kids see and do on the Internet, but how long they are online. Your job is to help them manage their independence. Set limits on how often and how long kids can be online, and be sure that they are engaged in other activities such as sports, music, and book-reading.

At about age 12 children begin to hone their abstract reasoning skills. With these enhanced skills, they begin to form more of their own values and begin to take on the values of their peers. Before that they’re more likely to reflect the values of their parents. It’s important at this age to begin to emphasize the concept of credibility. Kids need to understand that not everything they see on the Internet is true or valuable, just as not all advice they get from their peers is valuable. A good way to illustrate this is for them to do a search for sites on subjects they know a lot about — favorite athletes or musicians, subjects they love in school, etc.

12 to about 14:

This is the time when many kids become very social and when they are most likely to be interested in online chat. Go over the basic privacy rules with your kids to be sure they understand never to give out information about themselves or to get together with anyone they meet online without first checking with their parents. Also, emphasize the importance of never exchanging photographs with people they don’t know. At this age they need to understand clearly the fact that people on the Internet may not be who they appear to be.

This is also an age where many children start expressing interest in sexual matters. It is natural for them to be curious about the opposite (or even same) sex and not unheard of for them to want to look at photos and explore sexual subjects. During this early exploratory period, it is especially important for kids to know that their parents are around and aware of what they are doing. You may not need to be in the same room as your kids the entire time they’re on the Net, but they do need to know that you and other family members can walk in and out of the room at any time, and will ask them about what they are doing online.

Don’t be alarmed if they are interested in exploring sexual material. How you manage this, of course, depends on your own view of such material. It’s important, however, to be aware that some of the materials they might find on the Internet are different — and more explicit — than some of the magazines that may have been around when you were that age. If kids search hard enough, they can probably find Web sites and newsgroups that explore sexual fantasies that they — and even you — might find disturbing or even frightening. This is probably the strongest argument for Internet filters but it’s also an argument for close parental involvement, reinforcing your family’s values, and creating a climate of trust and openness between parents and children.

Children at this age are likely to be interested in games that they can download from the Internet to play either online or offline. Some of these games may have content that parents feel is inappropriate, so it’s important to be aware of what your kids are doing on the computer, even when they’re not connected to the Internet. Monitoring software may help you in this effort.

This is also a period when many parents choose to speak with their children about sexual matters. It may be a good idea to think about how you might react if you discover that your child has visited places on the Internet that you feel are inappropriate.

You can use filtering and monitoring software at this age, but you may start to run into some resistance. What’s important is that you are honest with your kids and that they know what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you use filtering software, for example, you need to explain to them that you are doing it to protect them from material that you consider to be harmful. Just as you might not let them go to certain places in your community, you are exercising your parental right to keep them from surfing to certain types of places in cyberspace.

14 to about 17:

This can be one of the most exciting and challenging periods of a child’s (and parent’s) life. Your teen is beginning to mature physically, emotionally, and intellectually and is anxious to experience increasing independence from parents. To some extent that means loosening up on the reins, but by no means does it mean abandoning your parenting role. Teens are complicated in that they demand both independence and guidance at the same time.

Teens are also more likely to engage in risky behavior both online and offline. While the likelihood of a teen being abducted by someone he meets in a chat room is extremely low, there is always the possibility that he will meet someone online who makes him feel good and makes him want to strike up an in-person relationship. It is extremely important that teens understand that people they meet online are not necessarily who they seem to be.

Although it’s sometimes difficult to indoctrinate teens with safety information, they can often understand the need to be on guard against those who might exploit them. Teens need to understand that to be in control of themselves means being vigilant, on the alert for people who might hurt them.

The greatest danger is that a teen will get together offline with someone she meets online. If she does meet someone she wants to get together with, it’s important that she not go alone and that she meet that person in a public place.

It’s important for parents to remember what it was like when they were teenagers. Set reasonable expectations and don’t overreact if and when you find out that your teen has done something online that you don’t approve of. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it seriously and exercise appropriate control and discipline, but pick your battles and try to look at the bigger picture.

If your teen confides in you about something scary or inappropriate that he encountered online, your first response shouldn’t be to take away his Internet privileges. Try to be supportive and work with your teen to help prevent this from happening in the future. And remember that your teen will soon be an adult and needs to know not just how to behave but how to exercise judgment, reaching her own conclusions on how to explore the Net and life in general in a safe and productive manner.

Courtesy: Getnetwise

Filed under: Online safety Tips, ,

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