Tag Archives: privacy

Linkspam now, ask me how (31 May 2013)

  • 6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism: “Here are six female researchers who did groundbreaking work—and whose names are likely unfamiliar for one reason: because they are women.”
  • Star Trek Musings: “Where are the women? The strong women? The women we’d like to see in 200 years? “
  • Star Trek Into Darkness: Where Did All The Strong Starfleet Women Go?: “Star Trek has always been about achieving your fullest potential no matter your race, gender, creed, or pointiness of ears. Which is why the utter lack of strong women in Star Trek Into Darkness is a slap in the face to all the outstanding female Star Trek characters we’ve met over the years.”
  • How to Be a ‘Woman Programmer’: “But the prejudice will follow you. What will save you is tacking into the love of the work, into the desire that brought you there in the first place. This creates a suspension of time, opens a spacious room of your own in which you can walk around and consider your response. Staring prejudice in the face imposes a cruel discipline: to structure your anger, to achieve a certain dignity, an angry dignity.”
  • The Truth Of Wolves, Or: The Alpha Problem: Contemporary urban fantasies would be more interesting if they based werewolf etc. fantasies on actual diverse animal social structures rather than old myth about alpha wolves.
  • Lost to History No More: “It is now clear that without Dr. Kober’s work, Mr. Ventris could never have deciphered Linear B when he did, if ever. Yet because history is always written by the victors — and the story of Linear B has long been a British masculine triumphal narrative — the contributions of this brilliant American woman have been all but lost to time.”
  • So This Is How It Begins: Guy Refuses to Stop Drone-Spying on Seattle Woman: “New technologies may present new ways of violating people’s privacy, but that doesn’t mean they’re legal.”
  • Code of conduct not enforced at the North American edition of Yet Another Perl Conference.
  • Why isn’t it hate speech if it’s about women? “We don’t often call open misogyny hate speech, but that’s what it is.”
  • California teen invents device that could charge a cell phone in 20 seconds: “Khare showed off her so-called super-capacitor last week at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz.”
  • Words Matter: “No one’s being hurt, it’s their fault if someone is offended – after all, it’s just words, right? Sadly, that’s grossly underestimating the power of language and interaction.”
  • We Can Do Better: “I want to be apologetic and say “I don’t think most people were being consciously sexist by treating these women as less than equals” but really, I’m growing tired of “I’m sure they didn’t mean to” as an excuse. Many of us have an internalized sexism.”
  • Are you ready for Ada Lovelace Day 2013? “If you belong to a STEM-related group, why not ask the organisers to devote one meeting during the autumn to editing Wikipedia? Or offer to help put on a special Ada Lovelace Day meet-up for your edit-a-thon? If you don’t belong to any official groups, why not gather your friends together at a pub with wifi and help each other research and create new entries, or expand existing stub articles on notable women?”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Linkspammers of Catan (first fortnight of April linkspam)

Enjoy!

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

g+-real-names

The status of pseudonymity and privacy on Google+

Here’s a separate thread for people most interested in keeping track of official, semi- and unofficial pronouncements about pseudonymity and/or privacy on Google+ in particular, in addition to the more general discussions taking place at Anti-pseudonym bingo and Social networking requirements. You can also discuss your feelings and reaction to various announcements here. warped-ellipsis, you can re-post your existing links in this thread if you like.

If you’re linking to a blog or Google+ discussion, please also include a summary or excerpt that explains why you’re linking to it. Is it a user test showing such-and-such a property of Google+? Is it a statement by Google or an employee? Is it a change or a clarification? That sort of thing. (No linking/quoting anything from G+ that isn’t marked “Public” please.)

Note: yes, Google+ is in beta/early launch/testing/something, and they’re actively seeking feedback. Please no nagging to people to send in their comments here as feedback, since they now know this for sure and presumably they have or will send it in if they want to, and if they haven’t they presumably have their reasons.

Does my linkspam look big in this? (14th November, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention (twitter uses can use #geekfeminism). Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Facebook’s new privacy discussion thread

We had a series of posts a few weeks ago about Facebook’s failings in the realm of user privacy.

Our posts (and your trackbacks and retweets) were but a few in a sea of outspoken discontent. It doesn’t matter how small our contribution was because you and I, dear reader, played a role in the protests. We protested, we stated our boundaries and guess what; they listened!

The result of this is that Facebook are currently rolling out new privacy settings. That means that you should review them to see that they are doing what you want them to be doing.

My account has not been updated yet so I really can’t discuss it much, however some of your accounts will have been reached by the rollout so far. Given that we discussed the badness so much, it’s only fair that we now give you a place to discuss the new changes and collaborate and discover the new settings.

The EFF has stayed true to form and they have already pulled together an article, complete with a video tour. Further links and discussion of the settings in  infinitesimal detail are most welcome.

Commenting note: I will not be allowing comments that try to persuade people to delete their Facebook accounts. People who still have them, have them because they want or in many cases need them. It is their decision, and it is theirs alone. Please respect that.

Followup: Locking down your Facebook

As Mary stated in response to my last post, flouncing on Facebook isn’t necessarily an ideal option for some of us as much as we may wish to.

If you choose to stay with Facebook (and it is entirely your choice), there are various things you can do to mitigate the effect of the privacy erosion. One of these things is locking down your profile. We all have different tolerances and needs, so do what you need to do to make yourself comfortable.

I’m throwing out this excellent guide for those who are confuzzled on the whole locking down process. It shows you in a series of screenshots a good number of the steps you can take.

Note, however, that due to the very nature of these posts, the abovementioned guide may cease to be accurate at some arbitrary point in time determined only by Zuckerberg’s whim. It is also worth checking regularly that your choices have not been overridden.

If you have comprehensive howto links that might add to this, explain it in a different way that others may understand better, or cater to a different social networking service altogether, please add them in the comments.

Note: Please take care not to be too ‘splainy here; howtos of your own should be posted to your own blog and linked instead. Any blamey comments (if it starts out akin to “well, I just don’t…” or “what do you expect…”, you’re being blamey) will be bitbucketed. With prejudice.

Facebook is a feminist issue

Or, more to the point, Facebook’s privacy instability is a feminist issue.

[Trigger Warning: Discussion of loss of privacy and its impact on survivors of violence.]

Social media is a gamble. Unless you’re using a service such as statusnet which allows you to run and federate your own server, social media involves the placement of information about yourself, your activity and possibly your location, on someone else’s server. And for organisations like the Library of Congress to archive forever.

Facebook is probably the most cryptic and misunderstood as far as privacy goes. The chances of any given Facebook user of any demographic actually knowing what they are now signed up for? Anyone’s guess, but I’m pretty sure it’s not good odds. Even the geekiest of us get confused.

No longer do you make a choice about your own information; you now sign away information about your friends to your other friends. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has chronicled the (really quite scary) changes over the past 5 years.

Facebook Privacy Policy circa 2005:

No personal information that you submit to Thefacebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.

[...]

Current Facebook Privacy Policy, as of April 2010:

When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. … The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.†… Because it takes two to connect, your privacy settings only control who can see the connection on your profile page. If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.

Matt Mckeon has drawn up another great visualization of the changes to Facebook’s privacy practices over the years as well.

The worst part is that the privileged complacency for privacy stems from on high. Zuckerberg is definitely not an ally. Why would he be? Eroding your privacy correlates with him getting richer.

Facebook is one of the most accessed websites on earth, and the demographics put women as the majority consumers. How can the privacy issues affect oppressed groups in our society that live in intimate association with their oppressors?

In a society where publishing any detail of her sexual activity online can have a woman declared to be “asking for it”, or where geo-ip can let an attacker find you, social media — especially facebook — becomes a feminist issue.

Some of us remember a few months ago when Google released its Buzz social networking thingamajig without really thinking the whole privacy aspect through properly. The outburst then led to a backflip from Google. I somehow doubt that the Big Blue Book is going to be quite as repentant as the Rainbow Borg.

Who you speak to and where you are: why it matters

Warning: this post discusses intimate partner violence and rape. Please place a trigger warning on links to this post.

If you are currently at risk of violence, here are some links for viewing when you’re on a safer computer: National Network to End Domestic Violence: Internet and Computer Safety [USA], Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Internet Safety [USA] and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria: Tip Sheet: Technology Safety Planning [Australia].

Cross-posted to Hoyden About Town.

Abusive relationship and spousal rape survivor and blogger “Harriet Jacobs” at Fugitivus is angry and scared today:

I use my private Gmail account to email my boyfriend and my mother.

There’s a BIG drop-off between them and my other “most frequent†contacts.

You know who my third most frequent contact is?

My abusive ex-husband.

Which is why it’s SO EXCITING, Google, that you AUTOMATICALLY allowed all my most frequent contacts access to my Reader, including all the comments I’ve made on Reader items, usually shared with my boyfriend, who I had NO REASON to hide my current location or workplace from, and never did.

My other most frequent contacts? Other friends of [my ex-husband]’s.

Oh, also, people who email my ANONYMOUS blog account, which gets forwarded to my personal account. They are frequent contacts as well. Most of them, they are nice people. Some of them are probably nice but a little unbalanced and scary. A minority of them — but the minority that emails me the most, thus becoming FREQUENT — are psychotic men who think I deserve to be raped because I keep a blog about how I do not deserve to be raped, and this apparently causes the Hulk rage.

There’s lots of other comment today on Google’s Buzz automatically assuming that your frequent email contacts should be your Buzz contacts, and making the connection with them public:

There will quite possibly be more by the time I’ve finished writing this post, let alone by the time you read it. But having to fight this battle on a site-by-site, service-by-service basis is disgusting. For a number of groups of people, including people who are the targets of a violent obsession among others, information about who they are in contact with, where they live and what they’re interested in has life-threatening implications. For a larger number of people it has non-life-threatening but potentially serious implications for their job, for example, or their continuing loving relationship with their family. Sometimes people are in frequent contact with people who have power over them, and/or who hate them. Why aren’t privacy policies centring that possibility, and working out the implications for the rest of us later?

Note: as I hope you anticipate, attempts to victim-blame along the lines of “people who are very vulnerable shouldn’t use technology unless they 100% understand the current and all possible future privacy implications” not welcome.

Update 13th February: Fugitivus has had a response from Google making it clear that protected items in Reader were not shared despite appearances, and stating some changes that are being made in Reader and Buzz in relation to issues she raised.

Interview with Indymedia sys admin Kristina Clair

Yesterday the EFF reported on a “secret” subpoena served by the U.S. government on Kristina Clair, the sysadmin for the independent news site indymedia.us. The subpoena demanded information on all IP traffic for the site. It also demanded that Clair keep the request secret.

With free legal help from the EFF, the subpoena was dropped and the secrecy order abandoned. Take a look at this long report by an EFF Senior Staff Attorney, which goes into fascinating detail.

Kristina Clair with handknitted scarf

Kristina Clair with handknitted scarf

Right on Kristina, for not keeping logs of IP addresses in the first place, and for standing up for First Amendment rights. It seems well in keeping with The System Administrators’ Code of Ethics as well as with the EFF’s Best Practices for Online Service Providers.

I thought geekfeminism readers might be interested in more of Kristina’s story, so I asked her a few questions over email.

Here’s the interview!

Liz: When you got the subpoena, how and when did you decide to contact the EFF? Did you talk it over first with others? What was it like to call the EFF and ask for their help?

Kristina: Actually, someone who helps admin the server asked a general question on an Indymedia mailing list, and they recommended the EFF for Indymedia-related legal questions.

I was definitely completely clueless about any legal processes, so it was a bit nerve-wracking to talk to them and say, ‘Hey I got this thing and I have no idea what to do about it’. But they were completely helpful from the beginning and made me feel comfortable right away.

Liz: As a sys admin, how did you decide *not* to keep IP logs?

Kristina: It’s standard imc policy. It’s standard policy for anyone that wants to keep their visitors’ information private.

Liz: Is there any use of IPs of your sites’ visitors that the site owners or you might find useful? In other words, what factors might make you want to keep IPs?

Kristina: I can only speak for myself – I’ve found IP addresses to be useful for debugging. Sometimes the only way I’ve been able to track down an error in Apache’s error log and tie it to a page visit by the IP. I’ve also used IPs to track down hacker behavior on servers, but that’s not always reliable because hackers often connect from several places.

I think generally IP addresses are used for statistical data – the country, mainly. But I think if you really wanted that data but didn’t want to store IP addresses you could find a way to do it.

Liz: Is your work for Indymedia volunteer? Do you do similar work for other organizations? Personally, I tend to do a bunch of back end support work for nonprofits and organizations that I like. Do you have any advice for other volunteer sys admins and web hosts?

Kristina: Yes, Indymedia work is volunteer. I also do some volunteer work for riseup.

I tend to not do too much support for other organizations because my skillset is not desktop-oriented, and that’s generally what they need. I’m completely useless setting up a windows network or setting up a printer or things like that!

The common advice for volunteer work is to have good boundaries with it so that it doesn’t burn you out.

Liz: What are your thoughts in general about free speech, privacy, technology, activism and so on?

Kristina: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal information and privacy. There is one train of thought I’ve been interested in for the last several months which is more personal than activist: before computers and emails and blogs, people commonly wrote letters and kept written journals. These things were not things that are necessarily accessible to anyone except those who had physical access. They were private. when that person died,they would go to a family member, probably. Now, these types of things are often not even things that we own ourselves. Most people have email or blogs hosted on someone else’s server, and while they can still access that information, it’s not quite the same as having it physically on paper. That’s a huge history of personal communication that is sitting on a hard drive somewhere, connected to the Internet.

There is something to this that I haven’t quite been able to articulate,but that’s where my interest has been lately in regards to technology and privacy.

I guess where it starts to matter is that, at least in my mind, there is some degree to which all of this information is public, regardless of what information someone wants to be public — obviously people want their blogs public! Privacy is really hard to think about and protect when non-privacy is so convenient. It’s important to me to help provide alternatives for people who want to use the Internet but are concerned about privacy.

Finally, doing all of this in a way that supports freedom of information and open source keeps things really interesting.

In the past, in the activist realm I’ve done a lot more work having to do with accessibility, particularly in regards to gender in IT.I’ve done a lot of work with the genderchangers (genderchangers.org) and the eclectic tech carnival, which are both based in Europe. Both groups focus on technology education for women.there is also a project which I helped create called systerserver, which is a Linux server administered by women for the purposes of learning. Due to some hardware troubles, this project has been moving forward slowly lately.

Liz: It looks like you’re part of LinuxChix and other local Philadelphia computing organizations. Can you tell us a bit about your involvement with them and what the Linux/FLOSS scene is like in Philly?

I haven’t been actively involved in LinuxChix for quite some time, actually. I’ve been a bit of a lone wolf here – all of my collaborators and coworkers live elsewhere.

Liz: Have you experienced any particular sexism or solidarity in your field?

Yes, lots and lots of sexism. My favorite examples of this are when I’ve received emails that begin with “Dear Sir,” in reply to an email that I’ve sent and signed with my name.

I’ve been lucky to have a lot of positive experiences with men in the field, however. The person who taught me Perl is male, and I’m currently doing some work with the riseup collective whose members are extremely aware of gender issues in the field and take active steps to discourage it.

Liz: Can you tell me a bit about yourself, personal history or interests, what kind of work you do, and so on?

I’ve been working in web hosting for about 10 years, mostly programming Perl and administering linux servers. Recently I’ve been working with ruby and ruby on rails on the crabgrass project.

I’m protective of my time and spend as little time as possible in front of a computer, though! I have balanced it out by extremely physically-oriented activities like cooking, knitting, sewing, and yoga.

Liz: What are your favorite Linux distros?

I like CentOS and Debian for servers, and I use Ubuntu for a desktop (I really like Ubuntu 9.10).

Thanks to Kristina for the interview!