I Almost Fell For It!

If you fell for this, here’s what happened. Your Google password is owned. You’ve installed software that probably also controls your computer and owns your other passwords.

I don’t want to hurt myself patting my own back, but I’m pretty good at sniffing out scams. Today I came perilously close to falling for one. Bravo to the scammers. You’re getting better.

It started with an email from a friend I haven’t spoken to in a long time. Actually, the email said I had a message from her via Whats App. I have Whats App installed, but don’t use it.

So far, plausible.

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I clicked the green “Play” button and was asked to sign in to my Gmail account. Again, this is something that happens… but I don’t give up my password easily. I looked closely and noticed the password page didn’t have a green lock next to it.

Bad sign!

Gmail (and Facebook and Twitter) always have a green lock. The green lock assures you the connection is secure and from the company listed.

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I continued to log in but with a phony password. I wanted to see where this led.

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Next screen was an install page for Flash. If the flashing red lights weren’t already going off, this would do it!

If you fell for this, here’s what happened. Your Google password is owned. You’ve installed software that probably also controls your computer and owns your other passwords.

I opened up the web pages. They’re reasonably well written code. All the images are served from their rightful owners websites. In other words, Google, Twitter and Whats App (among others) are paying for the bandwidth to run this scam!

How the hell did this get past Gmail’s filters? At least it didn’t get past mine.

What Facebook Messenger Really Is

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Facebook messenger has been installed, then uninstalled, twice now. It is dispensable.

Facebook has removed message (email) functionality from its smartphone app. To regain that ability you must install a separate Facebook Messenger app. Its purpose is to elevate
Facebook messages to the level of phone calls, email and texts. No.

There is no way to lessen its grip on your phone. Some annoyances can be turned off, but only for a limited period.

They know how we’re reacting. They know what we’re saying. They can gauge how much we’ll take passively. This is all measured.

In 2014, this is what a price increase looks like. They do charge to use the service. We pay by entrusting our most personal thoughts to them. Now they want more.

The unspoken bargain is they never use it to hurt us… but who knows?

Facebook Goes After Click-bating

Whoa! Facebook is taking a positive step, or so it seems. They’re trying to diminish the influence of “click-baiting.”

I’ll let Facebook explain.

“Click-baiting” is when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see. Posts like these tend to get a lot of clicks, which means that these posts get shown to more people, and get shown higher up in News Feed.

You know the ones. Any head which includes, “You won’t believe,” “Unbelievable,” “Caught on camera,” or “The most…” gets on the list.

The trailblazer here was probably the Facebook scam with a suggestive photo and “You won’t believe what her father did after…”

Buzzfeed does this a lot. “21 Questions All Insanely Hot People Are Tired Of Answering.” Like I need them to tell me!

The first problem with click-bait is it’s unsatisfying to the person who clicks. That’s you!

Second, bad hyped content drives good content out. Is TLC still The Learning Channel? Does MTV play music? Did Larry the Cable Guy host a show on the History Channel? Schlock sells.

Google’s search algorithm changes have helped limit the reach of spammy content farms. Maybe Facebook’s change will seal-the-deal?

Your Privacy And The Free Internet

facebook-logoThis started as a comment on Facebook. I was asked about the new Facebook messenger. It’s been installed twice on my phone, uninstalled once, probably coming out again. Too invasive. Tentacles… Too… Tight…

We live in amazing times. The power of the world is at our fingertips. You have access to more information from more sources than any human before you. And the price of admission is cheap.

Google has never sent you a bill. Facebook doesn’t charge. Neither do Twitter, Instagram or Reddit.

All these companies and many more make their living selling access to you. The ads you see online are usually targeted. The better they define you, the more they charge.

If you aren’t paying, you’re not the customer, you’re the product. That is more true today than ever.

All these companies store vast tidbits of your life, connecting things you might not see as important. Using Boolean algebra (and other techniques too dweeby for me) data mining companies find markers that link similar persons. No piece is too small. Everything is evaluated. The details of your life have been graded and sorted. You have been objectified.

Google and others know your real friends, your passwords, the pet names spouses call each other, what you buy and where, even your taste in porn. Their computers have no trouble identifying my face in photos.

We all spend the day dropping breadcrumbs.

The power of these systems is you’re never an individual to them–but is that good for you? Don’t you see yourself as individual? We are already pushed into cubbyholes without a say in the process.

What do you or don’t you get in life because their incorrect classification is within an anticipated margin of error! A job? Better loan rate? Who knows?

Data miners live with little regulation. Their power is too strong to not politely police. At the very least we should be able to check what they know about us, the inferences drawn and to whom our data’s been sold.

Right now we’re entitled to nothing.

Facebook And Birthdays

Because of Facebook I’ve heard from lots of friends and viewers in Connecticut. Facebook’s great reminding you of upcoming events. It fails pretty badly when it comes to managing that influx!

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Let me back up for a moment. Most people assume their friends stream by on the Facebook timeline. Yes… but!

I stopped using my “Fox on Fox” page because Facebook was only showing my posts to 5-10% of the people who liked me. Some meteorologists and TV stations who steered viewers to Facebook pages now find Watches and Warnings are poorly distributed.

facebook-logoFacebook assigns values to your friendships. If Facebook thinks two people really don’t engage it lowers the frequency they see each other. Overall, it probably works fine. That doesn’t mean it’s great every time. And, since the users are not Facebook’s real customers (advertisers are), our problems aren’t that important.

For my birthday I’ve gotten hundreds of greetings. Counting private messages, wall posts and folks who weren’t allowed to post (Facebook rules), but wished me Happy Birthday in a reply to something else, the total will be north of 500 and south of 1,000 by Sunday. I want to acknowledge each one.

If you think they’d be displayed on my wall one-after-another you’d be wrong. Only the last half dozen or so appear. Beyond that you have to navigate to a page of links. Then you open a page for each in order to reply. Finally, you navigate back to the page of links.

It takes three times longer than it should!

So, I’m working on it. It might take a while. Worth it. I am very appreciative of each one of you who has taken the time to write.

I miss you too.

Skyping Is Like Being There… Sorta… Almost

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I got an email a few minutes ago. No text, just a subject.

You awake? Can you skype?

It’s from a long time friend. She and her husband are making their way through France.

I fired up the app. The cameras came on.

I was poorly lit in a dark t-shirt. They were in white cotton robes sitting in the sun on their patio. A carafe of coffee and two cups sat on the table.

Today’s coffee was good. Yesterday’s not so much.

They are absorbing France. And they’re sharing. Updates and photos come to friends and family in a daily mass mailing.

“Tell Geoff to check his email.” It was husband’s off-camera voice. The photo at the top of this entry was waiting. It’s early morning there, late evening here.

“You’re the only one we could think of who’s awake,” she said to me. We all laughed.

Their vacation sounds great. I love these conversations.

To me, Skype is transparent. That’s its power. Once your conversation gets going (not always easy), it disappears. A conversation on Skype is just like speaking to someone in the room with you.

I enjoyed my quick trip to France.