Personal Privacy

A blog about personal privacy - tools, tips, and tech

The Washington Post recently ran a test on data flows from some popular iPhone apps. Even the ones that were not tracking you, in fact, were. Well, technically it wasn’t tracking, but “fingerprinting” – the process of obtaining enough infomrtion about your device that a the device (and presumable operator) could be easily identified. Although this is usually used by law enforcement against criminals,the techniques being used more and more against websites visitors.

On your iPhone, you can now tap a button that says, “Ask app not to track.” But behind the scenes, some apps keep snooping anyway.

You can find their investigation here.

After 9/11, the United States united in a way not seen in decades. In the rush to gets the terrorists who did this to us however, American citizens began to accept more government privacy invasions in the name of national security and public safety. It should not be a surprise that this is also when Big Tech rose to power and you became the product.

So you think you can trust the social media companies to do what you ask with your data . . . think again. In yet another “mistake” due to a “bug,” it turns out that those pictures you deleted from Instagram are not, in fact, deleted.


According to a recent Wired article, a user discovered that data he specifically asked Instagram to delete was still saved on their servers over a year later. He had requested a copy of his data and found that long deleted pictures where still stored on the site's servers. Instagram said that this was an “oversight” because usually they delete data within 90 days . . .

yeah right.

Remember, do not trust any social media company with your data. Your are the product. No company is going to give away their product for free. There is always a cost – in this case it is you – your information, your privacy, your control.

Instagram is also owned by Facebook; a notorious privacy violator. But don't worry, it is just a “bug” or an “oversight” – they clearly do not have any intent to violate your privacy and keep your information to sell to others . . forever. Not them.

Last month, users discovered some disturbing behavior in the Facebook App on the iPhone – it is secretly recording you.

Facebook called it a “bug” and vowed to fix . . . we will see.

See the article here.

Follow Up:. Facebook says it fixed the “bug”

Yeah . . . Right

Never forget that Facebook wants your data and does everything it can to maximize data collection from you. It makes millions from personal data, which means you if you are a Facebook user.

FaceBook Financial Results - Revenue Per User

Our advice - delete your Facebook phone app now.

What does the Federal Government, Local Law Enforcement, or even Congress need to obtain your phone records? They just need to ask for them. And you will never know that they did and they have your call records.

Here is a link to an excellent article by Leslie McAdoo Gordon, looking at the history at court cases and statutory authority for these searches.

Be aware. Be afraid. Protect your Privacy.

Earlier this month, PC Magazine ran a story about an BitDefender investigation of Amazon's Ring Doorbells. In sum, BitDefender discovered that they were transmitting user wifi passwords in the clear. BitDefender notified Amazon and they have supposedly fixed the problem. But it is just one more reason to be distrustful of Internet of Things products such as Alexa, Ring, Nest, etc . . .

You can read the full article in PC Magazine here  

This week another privacy controversy surfaced in the United States Marine Corps. The MarineTimes, which claims to be an “trusted, independent source for news and information” for Marines and their families, broke a story early in the week about a female Marine who's pictures were being distributed around her base. These are pictures that she took and had placed on the site The Marine, a single mother, claimed that she was trying to make a little extra money to help support her family. is a site used by social influencers to provide additional content to their fans for a subscription fee. The site has been used by many personal brands, including porn actresses and actors, to promote themselves and to provide additional content to subscribers. The Marine claimed in her twitter feed that she was using because it was “private” because people had to pay to use it. Well, of course, someone that knew her – most likely another Marine – tracked down her OnlyFans feed either through her public posts or by just happening upon it, and that was that. Her “private” content was soon spread to her fellow Marines and throughout her worksite.

Marine Times Publication of Personal Information

The original article Marine Times article included her name, a cropped picture of the Marine, and her Twitter handle. Thus, it would be easy for anyone to find her and subject her to personal harassment. In short, the Marine went from relative obscurity to instant notoriety after she overshared and her personal information was published in a national magazine.

Needless to say, she was not pleased. The Marine complained in her Twitter feed that she had asked the Marine Times reporter for anonymity, but he refused. She was extremely frustrated by all the extra attention and mentioned in her feed that this is why people “kill themselves.” The Marine Times did revise and republish the article without her personal information, but only after her complaints and an email from Marine Corps Headquarters requesting that they take the article down.

Support from Marine Leadership

James LaPorta, a former marine and current reporter for Newsweek, wrote an article on Friday that reviewed the situation and discussed Marine Corps leadership's decision to support the female Marine by requesting that the article be removed. Marine Headquarters claimed that the Marine was inexperienced in dealing with the press and was not aware that her interactions with them may not be anonymous. Laporta claimed that the Marine Times article had made the situation worse, not better. The Marine has since deleted her Twitter account.

Losing Control

She also tried to cancel her account, but complained that you can't cancel the account as long as someone was subscribing to the account. Unsurprisingly, her newfound and unwanted notoriety brought in new subscribers. So she was going stop posting content and raise the subscription price to the maximum to encourage people not to subscribe. To put it simply, she had lost control of her images (and reputation).

Lessons Learned

This whole incident is full of lessons and difficult questions on personal privacy. It's a classic example of oversharing. The Marine who shared believed that this would all remain small and private to a few anonymous people. She had no idea this would go viral and impact her work and personal life.

She wanted some exposure but not too much exposure

Well. we all know that you can't always get what you want and things often don't turn out the way you think they should. Never forget that. Here are a few things to remember before you share.

1. You can go Viral in an Instant.

This Marine went from a “normal” person with less than 1000 twitter followers and making a little money on the side at to the subject of a story in not one, but two, national magazines in 3 days. The story broke on Tuesday and she basically had to go into hiding by Friday.

2. Control is Critical

This Marine lost control of her content by posting it on a third party site. She said that could not cancel her account while she still had subscribers. And her newfound fame only brought in more. I don't know if she has been able to cancel her account yet, but the fact that she tried right after the story broke and couldn't is a problem. You need to be very careful placing any content on a third party site, lest you lose control. You want to keep control of your content.

3. Don't Trust Anyone, especially Media.

The Marine Times reporter, Phillip Athey, punished her name, quotes, and twitter handle even after she asked him not to do so. Remember, the media is trying to sell advertising. They need eyeballs and clicks. Without either, they are out of business. So, no matter how nice they seem, reporters and the media don't care about you. While you are dealing with the fallout, they are already on to the next story. Media is not your privacy friend.

Personal privacy is important. We live in an increasingly interconnected world; one where social sharing is the norm. But too much sharing can be dangerous. Most people are respectful of your opinions or actions. But some are not. Some will use the information that you share to hurt you or to your disadvantage. Some will use your information to get revenge or “punish” you. That is a fact of life. Here are a few well known examples:

Every time you post or go online, you potentially provide your name and location. With that information, people can often find out all kinds of “private” information about you through public sources, including where you live, whether you own a home, your job, your salary, and other family and financial information.

So what can you do about it? Do we simply stop sharing private information? Do we pull a Unabomber and live in a cabin in the woods with no Internet? Well, those are options, but, as an alternative, I would suggest that we just be careful about what we share. You should know how the internet works and where your private information can “leak” out. You should know some of the the privacy protections that are available to you on the Internet. And, most importantly, you should share responsibly.

The purpose of this blog is to highlight how to share responsibly, to inform people about the privacy protections on the internet, and how to protect yourself from people that might want to hurt you. Is it possible to protect yourself absolutely? Probably not. If someone really wants to determine who you are, they most likely can. But realizing that we do live in a social world, there are things that you can do to minimize your sharing and protect yourself and your family.

If this is something you're interested in, I would encourage you to check back often or sign up for the RSS feed. I will be starting email newsletter shortly too. Most important, stay in touch. And let me know what issues interest you or questions you may have.

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