It's Fair Time


Across America, crowds of curious individuals rush to state and county fairgrounds to get a glimpse into farm life, ride Ferris wheels and Tilt O' Whirls, and try their luck at the skill games in the midway. They wander the animal barns, try their hands at old-timey activities and fill their bellies with fried food on a stick. And we're right there with 'em. Even though my family also farms and is already intimately familiar with the lifestyle, we never miss the Iowa State Fair. There's always more to learn, and we're so grateful to the families who open their lives for us to discover more about our state.

Even as I'm indulging in fried cheese curds and Grater Tators, I can't quite shut down my privacy and security radar. All over the fairgrounds, we see purses and bags left unattended, the addresses of family farms plastered on homemade signs in the livestock barns and competition expos and smartphone cameras capturing the every move of friends and strangers alike.


It reminds me that summertime seems to relax people's inhibitions. With this Tips Message, I'm more inspired than ever to revive the instinctual spirit of self-protection that lives in each of us. Please read on.  


Keep Your Guard Up Online


Here are some disturbing trends. Silver lining: They remind us to use caution when connecting with strangers online.  

Thanks to my friend Allan (@Tips4Tech) for pointing out this online game  that teaches players how personal data is shared online. 



When to Turn Off Your Phone


Many of us have those times when we almost always turn off our phones - church, 
hospitals, airplanes. But what about the store?

As pointed out by my friend Ric, it may be increasingly important to add stores to your list of shut-down locations. That's because an increasing number of retailers are actively tracking your visits to their locations.


What information are they after? According to the New York Times, it's everything from the demographic (e.g. their shoppers' genders) to the behavioral (e.g. how long shoppers look at merchandise before buying it). Privacy risks are created when this data is combined with other data collected (e.g. credit card payments, surveillance cameras, etc.). Once compiled and analyzed, this data can lead to revelations about the specific buying habits, locations, etc. of specific individuals.


Turning off your phone when shopping may prevent much of this tracking. If powering down your phone completely is not something you want to do, disabling GPS will provide some privacy protection help, as well. Here is an article that describes how to do just that.


TIP: If you're concerned about being tracked online, as well, consider using Google Chrome. With this browser, you can hit Shift-CTRL-N to be placed in "incongnito mode." This will keep sites from surreptitiously collecting info on you while online. Other types of browsers also offer similar types of incognito capabilities.



Governments Wrestle with Privacy and Protection


As evidenced by the nearly split U.S. House of Representatives vote to continue funding controversial surveillance programs, leaders are unsure how to balance our privacy with our protection. In the wake of Edward Snowden's high-profile disclosure of classified NSA practices, more reports of government action to obtain access to private communication are hitting newsstands.


Of the many troubling components to the developing story is the manner in which companies are being forced to hand over user and/or customer information. Microsoft, for example, is reported to have been compelled to work with the NSA to help it collect Skype video calls. According to the Guardian, the NSA claimed to also have direct access to the systems of Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo.


Employers, too, must weigh the risks and benefits of looking too deeply into an employee's personal communications. The difference for these folks as compared to their government counterparts, however, is that regulations and laws help create at least some rules and guidelines. Politicians and government leaders, on the other hand, seem to be relying on their own judgment. 




A Face Only a Criminal Investigator Could Love


Technology may be enabling some crimes; in other cases, it's getting them solved. 

Just the other day, video surveillance helped police in my neck of the woods locate two individuals who stole a bag of money off the ground when it fell from an armored truck. In this particular case, the video grabbed a license plate number. It may just have easily been paired with facial recognition software, another crime-solving technology picking up speed in my home state and 25 others, to grab the identities of the opportunistic delinquents. 

Here in Iowa, if you have a driver's license, your face is in the database. You commit a crime on video, and finding you isn't too terribly difficult for our investigators.


Think you're committing a crime outside the view of a camera? Think again. Technology like smartphone cameras and Google Glass, are turning even average Joes and Jills into private I's


Losing Confidence in Encryption?


This summer, more individuals have begun to question the effectiveness of even the most robust encryption systems. After all, what good is a secret code if the developer is compelled to hand over instructions for decoding it? Certainly comments by a former FBI agent that "no digital communication is secure," don't help.


This lack of confidence has even caused the Russian government to, reportedly, go back to traditional communication methods. The FSO, Russia's intelligence service, is said to have "decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents" and to have bought 20 electric typewriters for around $14,800. I wonder what they'd pay for my super secure and encryption-free Underwood (pictured above). On second thought, it's not for sale. 


NOTE: I still encourage everyone to use the strongest encryption possible to encrypt and protect their data. (I've long liked PGP, an add-on encryption solution, as opposed to a built-in solution.)   

Old-School Fraud Still Making Money for Criminals


Just as a good spy can use the newest or the oldest methods to uncover secrets, sophisticated fraudsters have been known to go back to traditional methods when it suits them. After all, if it isn't broken, don't fix it. 


Below are two old-school scams that continue to plague consumers; ; keep an eye out for them!


Accolades for the Privacy Professor


I'm very excited to have been recently recognized by these great associations. Thank you for continuing to be a receptive audience for the tips, advice and consultation I'm so honored to provide.





You Have My Permission to Share


I receive a lot of requests to repurpose the information contained in these Tips messages, so I wanted to drop a quick note in here to say, "Yes, I approve!" Please use the following attribution so that others will know where to find me if they have additional questions about the material you pass along.


Source: Rebecca Herold (a.k.a. The Privacy Professor),


The sunflower fields on our farm are in full bloom!

If you haven't been to a state or county fair, add it to your bucket list. It's one of the best ways to explore your local community. Have a wonderful August, and I'll look forward to popping back into your inbox next month. 


Enjoy what's left of summer!



The Privacy Professor®
Rebecca Herold & Associates, LLC
Mobile: 515.491.1564, Business: 515.996.2199