Social Media Madness Roundup

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By Hector E. Cisneros

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...
 Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and
how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Having trouble keeping up with all the changes that constantly happen in the world of social media? Did you know that Facebook added a gender identification option or that Twitter added analytics to their network? Would you like to know what has been added, what's hot and what's not so hot in Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube?  Pinterest and Instagram are both changing and their growth requires your attention. In this episode, we will take you through the latest updates, changes and pitfalls that are occurring throughout the social media world. Our journey will start with Facebook, then move on to Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, as well as a pair of specialty social networks, MedMasters and LinktoEXPERT. Overall, this social media roundup will bring you the latest and greatest updates on everything social, including what’s shaking, what’s breaking and what's just plain cool.

Big Data Comes Wrapped in Big Danger

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Big business calls it Data Mining.  Consumers think of it as an invasion of privacy.  Cyber-criminals look at it as an opportunity to line their pockets.  What it boils down to is the fact that as you surf the web it leaves digital breadcrumbs that people will scoop up in an effort to make money.  If this bothers you, then you need to be aware of how your browsing habits can be used against you as well as what you need to do to minimize the electronic trail you leave every time you go online.

We have all heard about the hacking of big box retailer Target with the resulting loss of 40 million credit card numbers.  However, what you may not be aware of is the fact the FBI is warning companies that deal in terabytes of consumer data that 2014 is shaping up to be a year fraught with peril. Many large companies are expected to be systematically targeted by international hacker collectives.  In fact, a number of other companies and countries revealed that their data had been compromised to some degree in 2013, including such notables as Neiman Marcus, as well retailers in Germany and South Korea.

What makes these breaches particularly galling is not only the scopes of the penetration, but also the fact that hackers are able to blatantly offer sophisticated hacking tools for sale on the open market. Sources believe that the Target security breach was perpetrated by hackers who used malware purchased from a pair of Russian teens.

The real danger is the fact that not only is credit card information contained in these systems, but also is a tidal wave of other sensitive consumer information. Since data mining has become so endemic and identity theft has become such a problem for so many consumers, the question comes down to whether companies whom collect this information without your consent can be held liable if they are unable to protect it?

There’s Gold in Them There Data Mines

While the term “Data mining” was coined in the 1990s, the actual practice of digital data storage and manipulation has been around for more than 30 years.  An outgrowth of database management and machine learning systems that were developed in the 1980s, data mining was traditionally used to find patterns and relationships that are designed to predict buying habits.  In the early days of the internet, this was accomplished by getting the consumer to fill out online surveys that were designed to get them to divulge key buying and income information that could be used to deliver targeted advertisements. (If you ever entered a contest to win a prize online, you are familiar with this kind of tactic.)

Data mining
Data mining (Photo credit: moonhouse)
However, with the advent of social networks and with the rise of web browsers that were designed to report on every keystroke (such as Google Chrome), it is no longer necessary to offer an inducement to consumers to ascertain their buying and browsing habits.  This explains why you continue to see ads for products after you search for them on most search engines.  If that was where the trail ended, most people would just shrug it off as the cost of doing business online. 

Far from being the be-all or end-all of the equation, the gathering and initial use of this data is only the tip of a vast submerged iceberg.  Because once this data is accumulated it is then packaged and sold on a worldwide basis to anyone and everyone willing to pay for it. 

Your Data is for Sales, Who’s Buying ?

The NSA, FBI and other government entities pay for access to mountains of data.
An August 24, 2013 report by the "Wall Street Journal" stated,

Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Facebook all supply user data to the NSA based on secret ordered from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court under a program known as Prism. Although U.S. law mandates compliance, the government usually helps pay for it.
Your Data for Sale...
Your Data for Sale... (Photo credit: anitakhart)
While many of the companies that share data with the government, such as Microsoft, extol the fact that they only provide this information because they are legally ordered to, all of the major players not only accept compensation, they expect it.

A Yahoo spokeswoman referred questions to its Friday comment in the Guardian. “Federal law requires the US government to reimburse providers for costs incurred to respond to compulsory legal process imposed by the government,” the company told the newspaper. “We have requested reimbursement consistent with this law.”

We’re not talking chump change here either.  More importantly, who else do these internet edifices share or sell their data with?  Well, it all depends on who you ask.  Take Google, for instance.  While the world’s largest search engine is tight lipped when it comes to who they share or sell information to, in a 2008 article in the German magazine Stern, the magazine bought a list containing the names, addresses, dates of birth, occupations and phone numbers of hundreds of German citizens from the world’s most popular search engine. 

The writer of the article actually picked up the phone and called the phone numbers informing each person who picked up how and where he had obtained the information.  Since Germany has strict laws regarding the protection of personal data, those who were contacted were outraged as was the German government, who subsequently sued Google.

Google wasn’t the only Internet company sued over privacy issues by Germany.  So was Facebook, which was dragged into a lawsuit by German authorities in 2011 over its use of face recognition software on its services.

Of course, in the United States there are no such legal speed bumps in the data-mining superhighway.  More to the point, not only is your personal information available, but what is amazing is the sheer volume that is being collected. And while search engines and social networks can be tight lipped when it comes who can use their data, there are other companies who are quite up front when it comes to selling the personal data of every man, woman and child in the US.

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2006 - Acxiom Digital
MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2006 - Acxiom Digital (Photo credit: MarketingSherpa)
Two companies, Acxiom and Epsilon, are a couple of the largest data mining operations in the world.  To quote Wikipedia, Acxiom has been described as "one of the biggest companies you've never heard of.  In addition to collecting information about people, the company helps marketers anticipate the needs of consumers, according to the documentary "The Persuaders." As the world's largest processor of consumer data, Acxiom has identified 70 types of consumers with its segmentation product PersonicX.”

Here’s some data on Acxiom: In the third quarter of 2012, Acxiom’s revenue was $281 million, which was down 2% from the same quarter a year before.  For the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2011, Acxiom’s revenue was up 5.5% to $1.16 billion.

“Most people know that basically everything that we do on the Internet is tracked, but data mining goes far beyond that.  When you use a customer rewards card at the supermarket, the data miners know about it.  When you pay for a purchase with a credit card or a debit card, the data miners know about it.  Every time you buy a prescription drug, that information is sold to someone.  Every time you apply for a loan, a whole host of organizations is notified.  Information has become an extremely valuable commodity, and thanks to computers and the Internet it is easier to gather information than ever before.” 

You Don’t Own Your Data, They Do

#etmooc @audreywatters asks 'Who Owns Your Edu...
#etmooc @audreywatters asks 'Who Owns Your Education Data (and Why Does It Matter?)' (Photo credit: giulia.forsythe)
The biggest problem for consumers is that for the most part, they do not own their data.  If you subscribe to the majority of social networks, blogs and portals you need to read the find point in their user agreements.  Because if you do, you will find out that while you are free to post information on yourself and your friends, you do not in fact own it.  The operators of the social networks, blogs and portals do. 

The only way to be sure, of who owns what, is to read the user agreements that are part of every browser, search engine, portal and social network.  But really ... how many of us ever do that?  This is important since the terms of use change from year to year.  Google has made a number of sweeping changes to its privacy issues over the years.  In the current iteration under the heading of “Information We Share” is the following:

We do not share personal information with companies, organizations and individuals outside of Google unless one of the following circumstances applies:
·         With your consent
We will share personal information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google when we have your consent to do so. We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information.
·         With domain administrators
If your Google Account is managed for you by a domain administrator (for example, for Google Apps users) then your domain administrator and resellers who provide user support to your organization will have access to your Google Account information (including your email and other data).

Have a Not-so Sweet Cookie

English: Cookies settings and view in Firefox ...
English: Cookies settings and view in Firefox 3.0 browser Русский: Просмотр и настройка cookies в браузере Firefox 3.0 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The real elephant in the room is the fact that for the most part, companies and/or individuals who want to track your every movement online don’t even have to ask your permission.  All they have to do is get you to accept their cookie.  These cookies are not as sweet as they sound.  All they are is a subroutine that is designed to collect information from your computer, tablet or Smartphone.  The way they get onto your system is simplicity itself.  You open the door and let them in.

Have you ever downloaded a “Free App?”  Have you ever signed up to play a “Free Game?”  Have you ever entered a “Free Contest?”  If the answer is yes to any of the above then you may have accepted a cookie onto your system that is now free to roam and collect as you point and click.  Some people have so many of these gizmos on the loose in their machine that it will slow to a crawl.  Sound familiar?

Shaking the Bugs Out of Your Browser

While the cleaning mechanism varies from browser to browser, there are ways to clean the digital carpet.  If you are using Chrome, click on the master control button on the far right of the browser.  (The one has three parallel black lines.)  By clicking on this button and then hitting history, you will be able to clear out both your browsing history and any cookies that you have picked up along the way. (You can also hit Control H.)  While this won’t prevent other cookies from attaching themselves to your device, it will shake out those already onboard.

Better still is to opt for a more proactive approach.  This entails being more careful about where you click and what you accept as free.  In terms of browsers, you can either find a browser (such as Comodo dragon) that does not collect user information.  On the other hand, if you are a dyed-in-the-wool Chrome user, you can hit the same master control button and opt to open a “New Incognito Window.”  While using this option will eliminate some of your browsing traces such as search history and cookies, according to Google, it still doesn’t protect you from:

Going incognito doesn't affect the behavior of other people, servers, or software. Be wary of:
  • Websites that collect or share information about you
  • Internet service providers or employers that track the pages you visit
  • Malicious software that tracks your keystrokes in exchange for free smileys
  • Surveillance by secret agents
  • People standing behind you
When you realize all the many ways that your personal information can be used by others, the last thing you want to do is dig a hole from which you cannot hope to escape. Here is a list of browser plus-in's that can help; Google Privacy, Ad blocker, Ad Block, Ad Remover, and WOT (Web of Trust). You can find many more by doing a search for privacy plug-in’s for your browser or going to that browsers store and searching for them there. You may also find that your antivirus/malware software also provides plug-in’s for your browsers.

In this article, I discussed how Big Data is changing the way government and big business track consumer behavior. I discuss how this can lead to huge security breaches since so much data is housed in one place. I also discuss how this can become a big problems for these businesses when consumers react negatively to these breaches. Monetary losses will be huge on both the consumer and business side and some businesses will not survive these monumental Big Data breaches. Finally, I have provided several ways that you can minimize browser data tracking, ways to protect yourself from all the players in the Big Data world. If you found this article useful, share it with friend and associates. If you have a comment, post it in the comment sections. Remember this, cookies are best eaten ... not added to your browser.

If you like this article, you can find more by typing “Internet security” in the search box at the top left of this blog.

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we'll email it to you. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

Since 1995, Carl Weiss has been helping clients succeed online.  He owns and operates several online marketing businesses, including Working the Web to Win and Jacksonville Video Production. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show, "Working the Web to Win," every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on

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Is The Internet of Everything Really, Everything They're Cracking it Up to Be?

By Carl Weiss

“Open the pod bay door, HAL.”

HAL Beta 0.66
HAL Beta 0.66 (Photo credit: jurvetson)
Everybody who has ever seen the sci-fi classic 2001 A Space Odyssey remembers the climactic faceoff between Astronaut Dave Poole and HAL, the artificially intelligent computer, which ran the spacecraft and ultimately tried to do in its crew. What made the scene so riveting was the fact that it was clearly the computer and not the astronaut who had the upper hand.  The reason that I bring up this bit of trivia is due to the fact that when I hear all the talk circulating in the media about the “Internet of Everything,” I am immediately reminded of this pivotal scene where a computer that was built and programmed specifically to assist human beings inevitably does just the opposite.

Who’s Watching Who In the Surveillance Society?

Find Additional Internet Podcasts with workingthewebtowin on BlogTalkRadio

By Carl Weiss

Smile You Are On Camera
Smile You Are On Camera (Photo credit: IntelFreePress)
Have you noticed that everywhere you look CCTV cameras are popping up?  You see them at intersections, on buildings, at intersections and even dangling beneath helicopters and UAVs. Casinos are chock full of them, as are banks, department stores and the corner 7-11.  Not only is it getting to the point where you can no longer venture outdoors without being watched, but the technology now exists where clothing, car doors and the walls become transparent.  If you want to know who could be watching you and how you can fight back, read on and learn the truth about our surveillance society.

Even the President Thinks Big Brother is a Good Thing

At least one world-renown author has written about a society beset by them and the current President of the United States recently spoke about them when he said, "In the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, then I think we've struck the right balance."  

The author I mentioned is George Orwell, who penned a novel about the very thing that President Obama was talking about.  "1984," was the novel that depicted a police state bent on tracking the movements and thoughts of its citizens. The novel’s rallying cry was one of, "Big Brother Is Watching You."  This is the very same Big Brother that the President called by name in one instance only to shrug it off at the next.  

Move Over George, Here Comes "More Well"

Category:George Orwell Category:Nineteen Eight...
Category:George Orwell Category:Nineteen Eighty Four (Original text : George Orwell, 1984. This self-made image is based on a picture that appears in an old acreditation for the BNUJ.) Picture of George Orwell taken from File:GeoreOrwell.jpg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While the Commander-in-Chief was talking specifically about the exploits of the NSA, what most people do not understand is that the spy agency is only the tip of a vast surveillance iceberg that operates with impunity on a worldwide basis.  Sometimes it’s big government watching us, whether it be various federal, state or local government agencies.  Sometimes the surveillance is perpetrated by big business, (see our article, Is Google Watching You).  At other times, it can be under the control of everyone from snooping ex-spouses, to nosy neighbors, prying teenagers or a criminal element that intends on doing you harm.  What we have today is not George Orwell’s 1984, we “More Well 2014," where everybody and their brother is watching somebody!

Prepare for the Coming Hackathon

English: OpenBSD hackers at c2k++ at MIT. Phot...
English: OpenBSD hackers at c2k++ at MIT.
Photo by Dug Song. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The fact of the matter is that it’s almost too easy to spy on the public these days.   Not only are surveillance products  cheap to own and operate, but they are now built into every laptop, tablet and Smartphone on the market.  Many automobiles come from the factory with them already installed.  There are even industries built around installing them in and around homes and offices.  Since most of these devices are Internet-enabled, this means that off-the-shelf software is all it takes to hack into and take control of these cameras.

Watch Out for the RAT Hack Attack!

Think that sounds more than a little paranoid?  Tell that to Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf, who was blackmailed by a hacker who used her laptop’s webcam to take nude photos of her without her knowledge.  The hacker used what’s known in the industry as a remote administration tool (RAT) that is able to not only remotely operate a victim’s webcam, but is also capable of disabling the little light that lets someone know that their webcam is on. (And to think that not too long ago, celebrities had only to worry about pushy paparazzi trying to catch them in compromising situations.)

In September, the FBI arrested a 19-year-old man named Jared Abrahams from Temecula, California, on charges that he hacked into the social media accounts of several women, including Wolf, and took nude photographs of them by remotely controlling their webcams. He then allegedly contacted the victims and threatened to post the pictures on their social media profiles unless they sent him more nude photos and videos or did what he demanded for five minutes in Skype video chats.

Ancient Greeks Had a Trojan Horse, We Have to Contend with Trojan Emails

Trogen Horse
Trogen Horse (Photo credit: mnassal)
While ratting has gotten much of the notoriety when it comes to using a target’s own camera to spy on them, it is not the only way to break and enter digitally.  One of the easiest ways to break into a computer is via email.  Just before Christmas 2013, staffers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (Dedicated to Defending Your Rights in the Digital World) received an email purportedly inviting them to a conference in Asia hosted by Oxfam International.  The email directed EFF’s staff to click on a pair of links that purportedly contained information regarding the conference.  When they realized that the links were not hosted on Oxfam’s domain, but resided instead on Google drive, they smartly did not click on the link which in all likelihood contained malware.

Countries Spying Everywhere Without Remorse

EFF has written extensively about the worsening situation for bloggers in Vietnam, supporting campaigns to free high-profile bloggers such as Le Quoc Quan and Dieu Cay, and criticizing the Vietnam’s Internet censorship bill.  Vietnam’s Internet spying campaign dates back to at least March 2010, when engineers at Google discovered malware broadly targeting Vietnamese computer users. The infected machines were used to spy on their owners as well as participating in DDoS attacks against dissident websites. 

Spy vs. Spy (2005 video game)
Spy vs. Spy (2005 video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last year the Chinese made headlines for about two months with all there escapades. See our article Chinese Hack Attack for more details. In addition, Richard Snowden's security leaks shed a lot of light on just how much our government was spying on everyone, including US citizens.

Of course, the majority of the public are not on the blacklist of unfriendly governments.  So why should the average family worry about their privacy being invaded by hackers?  Because some hackers make a tidy living from this kind of activity, that’s why.  And I’m not talking about sextortion here.

If Only We Had a Digital Neighborhood Watch

As long as there have been homes and businesses there have been burglars.  In the past, thieves had to risk being detected while they cased a home or a neighborhood in search of targets of opportunity.  (This is why the neighborhood watch program was invented.)  The problem in the digital age is that thieves no longer have to prowl the neighborhood to determine a victim’s patterns.  That’s because your home or business may become their unwitting accomplice.

The latest things to hit the market are smart appliances.  Everything from smart lighting and entertainment centers, to wireless security devices and the networks upon which they operate are subject to being hacked.  As a rule, if you can use your smartphone to set your home’s thermostat, open your garage door, or let you view your home when you are away, then so can a hacker bent on stealing your goods.  While “Smart Homes” are all the rage, a number of people in the know consider them to be a major chink in your home’s security armor.

Forget the Attack of The Clones, Watch Out For The Household Appliances

Samsung to Join International Smart Home•Build...
Samsung to Join International Smart Home•Building Show 2013 (Photo credit: samsungtomorrow)
Could hackers gather information from smart lighting, entertainment, or security devices – or the networks on which they communicate – to determine patterns of when you are home, when you are likely to have company over, and when your house is empty?

"Internet enabled appliances, which run operating systems like Windows or Android, can be co-opted by hackers’ malicious code in the same way your computer or phone can be hijacked. Once taken over by the hacker software, the appliance is used to send spam (containing virus links, for example) or to mount denial-of-service attacks. A hacker who had co-opted multiple Internet-equipped refrigerators and garage door openers could use their combined power to inundate an Internet target with email or other malicious activity."  Read more at

Now Your Car is Spying on You

English: 2008 Triple Black smart car 451
English: 2008 Triple Black smart car 451 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So does the prospect of your fridge spying on you freak give you the chills?  Then just wait until you hear what the government has in store for your car.  Called Vehicle-to-Vehicle Technology, or V2V, it is being touted as a way of making driving safer by enabling vehicles to communicate with one another in real time.  This means the addition of such things as motion detectors, radio beacons and, you guessed it, cameras that are designed to help drivers avoid collisions by warning them audibly or by forcibly taking control of the vehicle to avoid a crash.  (Didn’t we all see "Minority Report" to know what else this technology could be used to do?)

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the Obama administration decided to announce its intention to require the technology in new vehicles in order to "send a strong signal to the (automotive industry) that we believe the wave of the future is vehicle-to-vehicle technology."

Read more:

This is on top of all the automated surveillance being used in shopping malls and big box stores. Not only do shopping centers' eyes-in-the-sky watch for shoplifters and observe employees, but they can also be equipped with face recognition software, or be programmed to observe and track shoppers as they window shop and make purchases.  Coming to a mall near you is a new technology that will allow store owners to tailor ads displayed in strategically placed kiosks that match a shopper's demographics.

Shoppers at the new International Finance Center Mall in Seoul can find their way around the four-story complex by approaching one of 26 information kiosks. When they do, they also are being watched. Just above each kiosk's LCD touch screen sit two cameras and a motion detector. As a visitor is recorded, facial identity software estimates the person's gender and age.  The system's makers, two companies from South Korea's SK Holdings Co. conglomerate, plan to allow advertisers to tailor interactive ads on the kiosk by those attributes.

Kiosk (Photo credit: compujeramey)
So to sum it up, when it comes to who’s watching you in the digital age, know that it's “More Well” (everybody), not just Orwell. You can’t take a walk, you can’t go shopping, you can’t take a drive or stay home.  You can’t even spit outside of the tracking area of the surveillance society.  Or, to put it bluntly, when it comes to "Eye spy, with my little eye,"  I see George Orwell was an optimist.

In this article I covered a multitude of ways, (even levels) that the surveillance society employs to track our lives. I have covered aspects of how everyone is spying on someone, in some way or another, including: individuals spying on each other, businesses spying on employees and or customers, governments spying on other governments (and their own citizens), and last but not least, the criminal element spying to get our money and goods. If you found this article to be useful or entertaining -- or disturbing -- pass it along to your friends and co-workers.  If you have a comment relating to this article, leave it in the section below.  Thanks for sharing this journey with me. Until next time, watch out for the "Watcher of the Skies."

If you like this article, you can find more by typing “Internet Security” in the search box at the top left of this

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below. I hope you have found these questions and answers useful. Thanks for sharing your time with me.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we'll email it to you. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

Since 1995, Carl Weiss has been helping clients succeed online.  He owns and operates several online marketing businesses, including Working the Web to Win and Jacksonville Video Production. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show, "Working the Web to Win," every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on

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