Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Texas A&M University for Internet Privacy & Security

Universities and colleges around the world house personal information for their students, faculty, and staff. It is their duty to protect their information from those wanting to harm them with intention of fruadulant activity. Texas A&M is a division one school in southern Texas who is taking a stand for internet privacy and security.

Texas A&M provides a privacy and security statement available to all 24/7. It lists its uses of their different websites available for their student and faculty use. The statement says: Texas A&M websites do not make use of 'cookies' or files containing unique personal information. They do collect and store technical information about students visits to their server logs. This helps technicians to evaluate popularity of specific features on their sites; which is used for statistics, technical design, and system information issues. Texas A&M does allow general information to be collected by Google Anayltics. They also give way for students to release their own personal information to departments to further answer questions, etc. Texas A&M can also release information when authorized, to help law enforcement investigations, legal proceedings, and internal investigations at the university when rule and regulation violations are pursued by a student.

In order to instore faithfulness in this system, the university lists each server log and Google Analytic used.
This information is given with regard to the Texas Public Information Act; which states that students and parents have the right to be informed about their personal/general information being collected on certain university websites and they have the ability to see their information collected by requesting the information through the TAMU Public Information Officer or TAMU Office of Open Records.

To instill even more trust in the privacy system and security measures, the university includes the statement of them undergoing an annual security risk assessment through the ISAAC, also known as Information Awareness Assessment and Compliance system.

I'm proud to be part of Texas A&M University and their fight against internet hackers and fraud. I respect the institution for their availability to see my information if needed and their security measures to ensure the safety of my personal information. I hope other universities have instilled the same security measures or will do so in the near future.


More information about the Texas A&M University Privacy & Security Statement, courtesy of Texas A&M Office of the Registrar.
Links are available to other sources used by the university on this web page.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stealth iPhone App vs. Invasion of Privacy

When interested in a topic, usually one 'googles' it, so that is exactly what I did. I googled tracking devices just to see what would emerge and interestingly enough, an application for the new iPhone 4 caught my eye. Two companies promoting their product of a hidden spy application to another's phone allows you to track their phone's content including:

GPS tracking and a link to a map to the phone's location, call logs (incoming and outgoing), text messages (incoming and outgoing), contacts (saved and deleted), read emails (read, replied, and deleted), browser logs, and photos (uploaded, taken, and deleted).

The company then goes on to elaborate on the pro's of buying their product, such as: being able to locate their kids if in an emergency, monitoring their children's behavior and use of their phone, used against theft or loss of the phone, can make your phone a spy gadget, and finally the reason I thought most humorous, catching a cheating spouse, which they promote is cheaper than hiring a private detective or installing a GPS tracking device on their spouses car.

These two companies promote invasion of privacy through which they record/upload information wanted by the customer to a server into the companies system which can be accessed at any time. They also add the consumer can conveniently chose which tracking they would like to be turned 'on' and 'off' by a press of their finger on their iPhone.

I found this increasingly disturbing as I kept reading their website/ sales pitch. Their entire business revolves around 'hidden' personal invasion. In my last few posts are rebuttals saying this kind of activity is breaking the law, or trying to emphasize voters to enact a law against these types of devices. How do you know this information is only being used for the consumers eyes only? Is this information being uploaded into the companies system able to be hijacked? These questions are should be answered by the company. If a small application business can hack into a smartphone and have it's contents uploaded onto another server, who else can hack with out authorization? The company did note that Apple was independent of their business and did not promote the application. I believe this to be a smart move for their major corporation against many civil suits that could be connected to these spy applications. How these companies are still in business is beyond me and violates the online Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights of 2011. I would love to know other's thoughts on pro's and con's of these types of businesses.


Stealth iPhone App Website
Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights 2011

Tracking Smartphones

To continue the talk about tracking devices, I've noticed that most are only interested on what's being tracked on their computer but completly neglect the capability of third parties tracking their smartphones and other devices such as the iPad.

I came across an article that emphasized this topic and thought it would be of interest to share the plot. The author explains in detail that this is the age of new technology, smartphones and all. Those with smartphones can contain too much personal data, even including the apps an owner decides to download can lead to digital footprints for strangers to gain access to personal information. Fortunately, there for smartphone owners there is an option to disengage the ability for companies to track their personal data.

Sharon Nissim says, "I'm glad ... consumers are ealking up to the tracking going on with  computer[s], but ... thtere's an extreme lack of knowledge about tracking on your iPhone or iPad." Sharon Nissim is part of the privacy counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

The author then goes on to inform the readers of a civil suit being processed against Apple and other companies like Pandora and Dictionary.com for violating the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act by accessing consumer information without authorization. There were even civil suits against major corporation Telecom for tracking a German Politician 35,000 in less than a year without authorization.

I believe then though companies and the government can use personal information for the public good, it does not give them the right to meddle through people's information. If they would like authorization, then contacting that individual is the best way without violating individual rights. The moral of the story is protect yourself and your information. Some can use the data for good, but most will not.

The link to the article: iPhone or iSpy? By: Brian X. Chen, April 12, 2011.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Visual Rhetoric Pertaining to Cyber Safety

I was scrolling through articles about cyber safety and I came across one with a picture that illustrated what most people may assume why we need digital safety down to a 't'. The article/ photo is located on the Teacher's Hub website. It's target audience are students, educators, and parents. The picture has a little girl with a shocked look on her face as she's gazing at a laptop screen. The article focuses on the need to make online usage for teens safe. This article and photo appeals to parents and educators. It can evoke fear and worry in parents for their child's safety. This type of ethos is used to emphasize action to be taken by parents and care givers to children.

A big safety issue isn't about using a computer but the use of online resources or social websites such as Facebook and MySpace. Internet predators are a huge and disturbing issue for parents. The photo and article emphasizes the need to educate online safety to students. A teen can think "oh this is just for fun" when talking to someone they don't know but it could end in a tragedy. This is a parents number one fear, kidnapping or death of their child.

The photo doesn't change my perception of safety on the internet. It just makes my choice more clear to others. Most parents where I live, Bryan/College Station are agree that cyber safety is an issue and should be implemented in schools and day cares with internet access. For more information about cyber safety go to: Cyber-Safety.com


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Do Not Track Devices

I was scrolling through different news articles dealing with new legislative laws and a particular story pertaining to privacy and safety on the internet emerged.

Senators John Kerry and John McCain are opting for a "Bill of Rights" for the internet. They are voting for internet users, internet businesses, etc, to increase their safety regulations by mandating a "Do Not Track" device. The big machines of the internet: eBay, Microsoft, Intel, and Firefox have already agreed and installed these devices for their customers. The senators, internet corporations, and users a like have all agreed it should be implimented for every user and business to install this device.

I am an internet user that believes this should be implimented. I do not like the idea that department stores, online stores, etc, ask me for information they do not need. I know it's for advertisement purposes and collected data for research purposes but there should be a line drawn. Businesses collect your debit card and credit card numbers, phone numbers, etc. This isn't information I want others to know. They can also ask for your drivers license numbers for checks. All of this information adds up into their internet databases. In this day and age, it could be easily stolen by hackers.

All in all, I think this new law should be enacted and under strict rule. I would not want my personal information out for all to know.

For reference of this new bill: Internet Privacy Bill by Washington Post