Welcome to The Blog Report

I'm so glad you stopped by and hope you find this blog an interesting read. I've been blogging since April of 2006, currently the author of six public and two private blogs. In the beginning I knew absolutely nothing about blogging. Over the years through trial and error, frustration and elation, and a few tears I've learned a lot. However, the learning process when it comes to blogging continues to evolve. Here you will find a hodge podge of my blogging experiences, useful codes and how-tos, sprinkled liberally with my opinions. Enjoy!

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Online Privacy

The whole concept of privacy is a myth, even in our own homes.  Telephone lines can be bugged and at one time it was possible to listen in on conversations on cell phones.  If your mail is delivered to your home, it is possible for some of it to go missing and while it is illegal to tamper with mail, it doesn't stop mail theft from happening.  If you have curbside waste collection and put anything of a personal nature (eg. empty prescription bottles, personal papers, etc) in the garbage.  Even items like clothing tags, food wrappers, magazines, and etc. provide information about your lifestyle.   Someone looking for information on you only needs to take your garbage.  If someone really wants information on you, they can gain a fair amount just from surveillance of your residence.  Taking garbage and house/property surveillance is most common if the person is being investigated for a crime or lawsuits usually involving injury.  In public, privacy is pretty much non-existent thanks to security, traffic, digital and cell phone cameras.  Now the biggest myth with respect to privacy is online privacy.

The nature of the internet is a connection does not go simply from your house to the site you are browsing (eg. point A to point B).  Rather it goes through a series of hops that in some cases can be quite long.  So to get to that particular site, the connection may go through 20 different points.  As the connection goes through a point it leaves a footprint that can be traced.  It is possible to use a traceroute to see all of these points using the full email headers or site IP.  Circumventing this is partially possible by using an anonymizing service (online or software) but there will still be a footprint from your IP to the anonymous service that routes you through various proxy servers.  So, if for some reason your IP log was checked it would show you connected to an anonymous server or connected directly to a proxy service.  Some proxy servers are more secure than others.  The most secure proxy servers dump their logs daily or more often.  Others keep the logs for a week or more and some only mask your IP keeping it from the site you are visiting but they maintain a log of your visit and what site you went to using their service.  That is only one way you are being tracked through your browsing history.

Cookies are little pieces of text put onto your computer by various sites.  They may or may not collect personal information that they may share with others specifically advertisers and/or their affiliates.  This allows advertisers to serve ads to you while you are browsing tailored to your interests but also based on your previous browsing history.  To circumvent this, you can turn cookies off completely but then some sites won't work.  A better solution is to clean out your cookies keeping only those necessary ones (eg. Blogger cookies for using your Blogger account).  Run a scan to show any tracking cookies and remove them as well.  Then in settings, toggle to keep local data only until the browser is closed (Google Chrome/advanced settings) or accept only cookies from the site visited (Safari) and in both block third party cookies and site data.  Next, in Google Chrome/advanced settings toggle off pop-ups and toggle location to disallow sites from tracking your physical location.  Save your settings and close your browser then re-open it.  If don't properly you should notice advertising that is not based on your interests.  Your generic location may still be shown but it is really the location of the closest hub of your ISP so not your physical location.  So if your ISP is in Ontario, you will still see ads targeted to Ontario but not those targeted to where you actually live.  Location services, on the other hand is quite different and in many respects if it points directly to your residence, an invasion of privacy.

Location services uses crowd-sourced WiFi hotspot locations to determine your approximate location BUT can actually pinpoint your current physical location.  That is rather scary!  I had the location service toggled on, on my iPad to see what it would do.  I went to Google Earth and within seconds there was a marker directly over our house on the map.  I immediately turned off location services.  Location services can be turned on for specific sites if you are using your mobile device or laptop as a GPS when traveling but be aware, it can give your current location which can be dangerous in the hands of someone wishing to do harm.

From a blogging perspective, the take-home message is persistent or obnoxious or threatening comment spammer can be traced a lot easier than they think even if they comment under Anonymous.  Go into your stats log and pinpoint the comment based on the time it was made combined with the title of the post.  Copy that information and forward it to your blog hosting site who will do the rest of the work for you.  This can be done even if you have comments set to moderation that were rejected for publication.  Only do this for the persistent, pain in the butt comment spam although you could if desired do it for almost all comment spam.


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