Information is Today’s Commodity.

As a generation that grew up with the web, it should come as no surprise that security, safety, and privacy while surfing the web are never guaranteed–unless actively sought after. While going about your normal online activities you can bet that third-party websites are just as malicious in collecting and using your personal information as the websites you knowingly give information to.

Information is today’s commodity. Websites and companies alike are eagerly buying, trading, and selling your information. The collection and interpretation of copious amounts of user data is known as “Big Data” and it should be known that it is something that is becoming central to the business strategies of many corporations.

In order to understand  how far reaching my personal information extends I did a little experiment. Using Collusion, I browsed the internet for 20 minutes. Collusion is a browser plugin that tracks third-party websites that collect your information and visualizes it for you in a graph relative to the sites you visited.

Here is my Collusion graph taken from my Firefox Browser.

Collusion Graph

All orbs surrounded by blue are the actual sites I visited. In total I visited 9 websites:
http://www.google.cawww.my.ryerson.ca
http://www.linkedin.com
http://www.500px.com
http://www.youtube.com
http://www.facebook.com
http://www.thoughtcatalog.com
http://www.tumblr.com

All other orbs are sites I have not visited. The extending lines from the sites I visited to the ones I have not indicate that data about me has been sent to these third-party websites. The website that has the most third-party connections was thoughtcatalog.com. As you can see from the image below, the list is substantial and extensive.

Collusion_Graph

Personally, I was not too outraged when I saw this. When third-party websites are tracking my search habits or collecting information about my inherent characteristics such as my age or gender, I admit that I am not alarmed. I do not consider the dissemenation of this information to be harmful to me.  It is when someone, somewhere is able to extract much more personal information of more substance such as my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs without my consent or knowledge would I begin to consider taking action to block these third-party websites.

If you feel violated while browsing online you must make a conscious effort to protect yourself. Downloading a third-party website blocker, exploring your browser preferences to disable third- party cookies from certain sites and looking into “encryption software” are but of the few measures taken to stop the unauthorized dissemination of your personal information.

Improving Google Searches through Syntax

  1. How would you search for an exact word or phrase?
    “an exact word or phrase” 
  2. How would you search for something on a specific site?
    travel site:nationalgeographic.com 
  3. How would you correctly search for a definition?
    [define eclectic] 
  4. How would you search for a specific product available within a specific price range?
    iPad 300..600 
  5. How would you search for a specific filetype?
    Delphax annual report filetype:PDF 
  6. How would you include or ignore words in your search?
    marketing jobs+social media
    marketing jobs-design
     
  7. How would you find related pages?
    related:500px.com 
  8. How would you find a topic, searching all available synonyms of a word?
    Toronto~events 
  9. How would you find the time in another country?
    time Cairo 
  10. How would you find out how many Egyptian pounds you get for $20 Canadian dollars?
    [20 dollars] in [pounds]

Mind Your Manners

Dilbert-Netiquette

It is an undeniable reality—a good part of our lives have transcended their physical spaces and are now manifesting themselves in a different kind of space. A space with no windows or walls, this highly complex network of hubs and nodes is what we call cyberspace.

Hyper-connectivity, hyper-communication, and hyper-participation are but a few of the defining characteristics of cyberspace as we know it. The advent of Web 2.0 has been instrumental in encouraging the formation of the mosaic of virtual communities that exist today. It is within these diverse virtual communities that we begin to see an adaptation of many of our real-life behaviours and tendencies.

The concept of etiquette is something that can be dated back to the Ancient Egyptians. The code of conduct mandated by a group of people strongly influences what we do or don’t do, in fear of being ostracized. Taboo and stigma become the byproduct of etiquette and this is just as true in cyberspace as it is in our physical world. The evolution of real world etiquette into cyberspace netiquette demonstrates how naturally occurring and powerful social norms are to any community.  Whether they are implicit or explicit, netiquette is something that is expected to be respected when we participate in our digital activities.

The almost absolute power netiquette has in how we conduct ourselves begs one important question: In a virtual arena, are social norms better regulators of behaviour than laws?

The array of digital platforms and tools available to us today are vast and varied. Each network has its own unique set of conventions that users abide by. There is no cyber police who is going to go after those WHO SEND E-MAILS IN ALL CAPS. But there is the harsh scrutiny of those from your virtual community.

Perhaps we can think of this as the most simple form of self-governance.

– Hidie Shaheen