China Embraces Futuristic Facial Recognition Technology, Allowing People to Interact With More Machines and the Like

In the past, before social network revolution, people in the United States did treasure privacy more than now.  Since the Internet’s social network revolution, privacy is being demoting slowly, but many people are still treasuring privacy.  A lot people though, they rather upload just about anything including their most vivid framed candid moments onto their social networks.  Most social networks have ways to allow members to set limitation to prevent strangers from viewing certain private pictures and contents, but many people who use such social networks may not even restrict strangers from viewing their closely guarded pictures and contents.  So, privacy is slowly becoming an outdated concept as social network revolution continues to evolve.

In China, Chinese people view the government and the ruling party as the father figures of the family, and so they do not care much when the government and the ruling party inquire about their daily lives.  Nonetheless, since I’ve never been to China, and so I don’t know the level of the intrusiveness of the Chinese system.  Nonetheless, I surmise that the people in China would care less about their privacy than the people in the West.  So, it’s not a surprise for me to see that the Chinese people are embracing technologies that enhance data collection of individuals.  For an example, in the video right after the break, Chinese people are embracing facial recognition technology to the point that people can just take money out of their bank account through ATM machine by using just their face.

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How Paranoid Should You Be For Backing Up Your Data?

Backup Backup Backup - And Test Restores

Backup Backup Backup – And Test Restores (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you ask me what is the best way to backup your data, I will probably direct your concern to more than one way.  I like to think of not placing all of your eggs in one basket kind of scenario.  What’s the point of backing up data in the first place?  It’s to hope that when things go crazy such as a computer’s data corruption might occur, you can then access your most valuable backup data.  If you only rely on one preferable backup method, then what if in a critical moment that even the backup data isn’t accessible through your preferable only backup method, what will you do then?  Even a perfect storm is a possible scenario for spreading eggs in more than one basket, therefore I think being paranoid about safekeeping your data with more than one preferable backup method is the best way to go about doing the backups for your valuable data.

For us normal folks, the regular Joe(s), who have data that we want to safeguard, it’s a must for us to spread our data in more than one basket.  It must not be that you have to be a company to take this approach.  Furthermore, nowadays regular Joe(s) do have plenty of ways to go about doing backups for their data.  Let me list few of them:

  • Google Drive
  • Pogoplug
  • Dropbox
  • Amazon Simple Storage Service
  • CrashPlan
  • External hard drives
  • Network attach storage solution such as QNAP NAS servers
  • Do it yourself FreeNAS server solution
  • rsync to a renting server with affordable monthly fee

And the list can go on a lot longer as third party cloud services are now in amble supply.  I think the problem isn’t about finding a backup solution or solutions for the regular Joe(s), but it’s about the affordability, speed, security, and conveniency aspects.  Let say, if a regular Joe wants to spread his backup data in more than one basket, how affordable can this be?  So on and so on…

I think affordability should not be as big of an issue as before the time when there were no third party cloud service and competitive (affordable) computer hardware pricing.  If you don’t intend to harbor 100 of Gigabytes worth of data for streaming purpose or whatever extreme configuration, backing up few Gigabytes worth of data should not cost you much at all.  Perhaps, you can do it at no cost too.  One example, I think Google Drive gives you around 10 Gigabytes worth of free data space or a little bit more than this, and just with this service alone you know you don’t have to spend a dime to backup your data as long you are not going over the free space limitation that Google Drive allows.  Don’t like third party cloud services for whatever reasons?  Computer hardware such as external hard drives nowadays are no longer pricing at outrageous prices, therefore it’s easier for regular Joe(s) to go this route for doing their data backups.  How about coupling Linux with a spare, dusty computer to form a local backup storage server at zero cost in term of money, but you have to spend time on putting things together such as installing Linux and deploying Linux’s network attached storage services to have a more complete backup server solution.

I can see that the many third party cloud services as good solutions for doing backups.  How come?  Let say you’re paranoid about the safety of your data to a point that you consider the scenario where local backup data can all be corrupted at the same time for whatever reasons such as a virus/hack attack (or by even a more nefarious scenario), therefore you think third party cloud services are the additional safety reservoirs for your backup data.  If you are this paranoid, I think you’re doing it right.  Although third party cloud services are good measures against local data corruption, there are problems with this whole approach in general.  Let me list a few:

  • Broadband’s upload speed (Internet connection) isn’t fast enough to do a major backup (i.e., backing up huge amount of data in Gigabytes worth)
  • Security issue… how do we know our data can be securely safeguarded and stored on the remote servers?
  • Trust issue… such as how do we know our data privacy and our privacy won’t be breached on the remote servers?

I sneakily snuck in the speed and security concerns about backing up data remotely through third party cloud services, but we should not take the security issue lightly since many people may not want their privately backup data to be made known to the whole world.  Security done right in term of backing up data locally and remotely, this will also address the privacy issue/concern too.  I think employing good network and computer security measures locally will enhance the security protection level for the backup data.  Such measures should be about employing hardware and software firewall, antivirus, and so on.  Don’t forget to update the software and firmware, because through updating these things that you can be assured of weeding out security bugs.  You can never be too sure about the security of your data when you’re backing up your data remotely, therefore you should employing encryption for your backup data before you upload your backup data to the remote servers.  One good encryption measure I know of is TrueCrypt software which can be downloaded and used freely.

I don’t think we should sacrifice our data security for conveniency, because data security is definitely more important than otherwise.  Still, conveniency should be considered in the calculation of our data backup challenge too.  It’s just that we have to make sure we don’t have to sacrifice data security for conveniency.  Let say, you want to backup your data to a third party cloud service, but you don’t like the idea of doing a local encryption for your data first… this means you are sacrificing your data security for conveniency and this is truly bad for you as the owner of the backup data (i.e., privacy concern).

In summary, I think if you’re paranoid enough about the health of your data, then you should devise many backup plans for your data.  You should try to backup your data both locally and remotely, but you should employ encryption for your data when you do backup your data remotely.  Backing up huge amount of data remotely can be very inconvenient at this point in time since so many regular Joe(s) do not have access to fast upload broadband speed.  Let hope this will change soon, and I know things will be moving in this direction since data streaming and data sharing and data backup are in much more demand than ever before.  One example would be Google fiber Internet service.  Google is driving the Internet Service Provider competition forward as Google deploys its Gigabit Internet connection service for many households in various lucky cities and towns.  With Google pushing for more competition in the area of broadband speed, I think the future — having great Internet connection for uploading our backups — is definitely bright.  As time is moving on, the costs of computer backup hardware and backup services can be even more competitive, we can expect the cost of deploying backup measures for our data can only get cheaper and easier.  I like the idea of having a NAS locally, and using one or two third party cloud services for my data backups.

(How paranoid should you be for backing up your data?  In my opinion, the answer should be, the more the merrier.)

When Facebook Forces Users To Use Timeline, Facebook Activities Might Be Shrunk

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Image via Wikipedia

PCWorld’s Facebook Timeline Privacy Tips: Lockdown Your Profile article points out the concerns for how easy it’s for Facebook users to be able to devour past Facebook comments, events, daily wall posts and more of any Facebook user through Facebook newest feature known as Timeline.  Indeed, it’s quite unnerving for how easy it’s for someone to look up your Facebook history by using Facebook Timeline feature, but then again a wise person should not have posted something so private on a very public medium such as Facebook!

In fact, Facebook Timeline feature might have a backlash effect against Facebook.  Facebook users might become ever more conscious about what they will do and post on Facebook, therefore the level of Facebook activities might be shrunk in time.  Then again, it’s only a speculation of mine, because I don’t have a crystal ball of how the future will look like!

For having said a wise person should not post something so private on a very public medium such as Facebook, I fear even myself sometimes might forget to practice what I had preached.  Nonetheless, it’s good to know Facebook does in fact allowing you to tightening up the privacy to certain extend so Timeline feature won’t expose the things that you’ve posted and wanted to be hidden away from the prying eyes of the public.  I guess one can always follow the tips in the article above and lessen the effect of Timeline, but to be wise one should always post something one care not for the world to see on Facebook and keep the rest to oneself.

Substitute Teacher Sues Software Company For Violating Her Privacy And Amendment Rights

Technology often is ahead of laws by gazillion miles.  This is why sometimes we often hear about cases go to trials without clear confidence that the judge, the jury, the defendants, and the accusers are in their right minds.  The laws often are outdated and needed to be updated to fit with time and technology, or else someone ought to be having a court battle of the wrong conviction.  Anyhow, a new case has caught my attention which is about a substitute teacher, 52 year-old Clements-Jeffrey, sues a software company for violating her privacy and fourth and fourteenth amendment rights.

The software company was successfully tracked down the stolen laptop which was stoled from Clark County School District’s public library by a student, but the laptop wasn’t in the vicinity of the thief, instead the police had arrested the substitute teacher for the stolen laptop.  It turned out the substitute teacher had bought the stolen laptop from the student without knowing it was stolen.  The police released the substitute teacher and dismissed all charges against her, and everything supposed to end there; unfortunately, the software company had downloaded the naked images/photos of Clements-Jeffrey and showed those images to the police officers.  The police officers were joked about those photos when they arrested her.  Those naked photos of Clements-Jeffrey were meant to be seen by her lover only.

So, the question is the software company has done something wrong here?  We know the software company carried out its job/service for the school successfully by tracking down the stolen laptop, but the software company had also obtained naked images from Clements-Jeffrey without her permission.  With that in mind, it seemed the substitute teacher had the right to sue the software company since she wasn’t charged with any misdeed.  Nonetheless, should the software company acquire additional information such as images to identify the thieves without their permissions?  The software company had handed those naked images of Clements-Jeffrey over to the police officers, because witholding evidence, if the images considered to be evidence, would be wrong, right?  Then again, should the software company only had to point out the locations of the thieves and allowed the police officers/authorities to gather evidences?  If it was the police officers who had obtained the naked images of Clements-Jeffrey first, should she have the right to sue the police officers/department?  Obviously, Clements-Jeffrey was freed from all criminal charges and so she had the right to sue the oppositions to compensate her disposition, but will the laws allow the thieves to have the same opportunity as Clements-Jeffrey as well if indeed that they are in her situation?

Obviously, I don’t know jack about the laws, but I do know something about common sense.  Unfortunately, common sense does not dictate who is guilty and who isn’t so, because only the laws of the land can dictate such terms.  Furthermore, sometimes common sense does not have a clear approach to solving cases that won’t conform with time.  Sometimes, even new laws have to be written to complement the inadequate legal system.  In this case, my common sense tells me jack, because it’s obvious that Clements-Jeffrey’s privacy and her amendment rights were violated, but the software company wasn’t an outright evil-doer (i.e., their job is to track down the stolen laptop).  It’s interesting to see the outcome of this case, because it might be something worth to be dissected for future cases.

Meanwhile according to Digital Life, U.S. District Court Judge Walter H. Rice had allowed the case to proceed.  You can read the judge’s 49 page decision here.

Source:  http://digitallife.today.com/_news/2011/09/01/7554439-tracking-no-excuse-to-record-teachers-naked-chat-pics, http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2011/08/Clements-Jeffrey-v.-Springfield.pdf

A Facial Recognition Software Can Scan A Photo Of Yours And Reveal Your Most Sensitive Information

PCMag has a piece on a newly developed application which can reveal people’s personal and sensitive data such as a social security number by tapping into facial recognition technology.  According to PCMag, researchers at Carnegie Mellon confidently suggest that they can do this to a total stranger.  Perhaps, someday people who have access to this very application can just take a photo of a passerby and get to know such person intimately in term of identity.

What about people who just go onto Facebook and other social network websites and download strangers’ photos so they can use this facial recognition application to steal people’s identities?  Maybe even a simple photo of your face on the web can totally give up your identity to whoever has access to this very application.

Should people be very careful from now on of how they should post what on the Internet, especially their sensitive information which has now included photos of themselves?  So, a person should not think that they’re anonymous if they post fake profiles, because as long they have real photos of themselves on the web, their identities can be exposed to strangers?  I can go on, but I’m just going to scare everyone!!!  So, check out the source article “Social Security Numbers Revealed … With Facial-Recognition Software?” at PCMag to know more about this scary facial recognition application.

Source:  http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2389540,00.asp

Online Privacy Is Now A Darling Again? Maybe? Google and Mozilla Vow To Provide Tools To Protect Your Online Privacy!

I could be blowing on something with hot air here, but I think often times well known security suites may not really all that comprehensive when it comes down to protecting your privacy as you surf the web.  Many advertisers are able to track you and retain all types of information about you according to your web footprint.  Lately, according to an article on Yahoo/AP, even the government is complaining how advertisers are able to collect too much data of online users.  Google who’s developed and maintained of Chrome browser and Mozilla who’s developed and maintained Firefox and Microsoft who’s developed and maintained IE are promising that they will soon roll out tools to protect users’ privacy better.  Nonetheless, even though these tools will be standard feature on their browsers, I surmise you may have to turn them on manually.

Speaking of better privacy while surfing the web, when using Firefox you’ve a plethora of extensions that may already have done the things that Google and Mozilla and Microsoft are now trying to do.  For an example, you can add Ghostery, Noscript, WOT, and BrowserMasquerade extensions onto Firefox to pretty much thwart online advertisers.

Turning on Ghostery extension itself may not do much unless you go into its options and configure so it can block even more aggressive advertisers.  Using Ghostery, you can also manually adding individual well known or not so well known advertiser to the block list.  Noscript allows you to basically block many web scripts, and to the best of my knowledge many online advertisers use some types of scripts to track your online presence.  WOT is one of those unique extension that can prevent you from visiting malicious websites.  Browser Masquerade helps you confuse the website owners and web servers, because even online advertisers have to use some types of servers to store data about your online presence — this extension somewhat may help in this regard.