Saturday, November 20, 2010

Week 7 EOC: The Scary Internet

The internet can be a scary thing at times. Aside from the more obvious things like downloading viruses and protecting your children from online predators, there are other dangers out there that are far greater. The internet is watching you. These days, most everything you do on the internet can be recorded and stored somewhere other than your own personal computer. You are not safe by simply deleting your browsing history or cookies. The websites you know and trust are collecting information and personal data from you every day. Google is one of the leading companies in tricking its users to give up their personal information. They were one of the first companies to realize that information is power on the internet. Google's search engine is the biggest and most popular on the web. They have the ability to track every search on a personal level in order to figure out exactly what you are searching for, what times of day you are searching, and for how long. All of this data can tell the company a lot about you. They can figure out what time of day you are using your computer the most, even what time of day you are home altogether. They can figure out whether you are male or female, and even pinpoint your age. They can figure out what interests you have, what field of work you are in, whether you are married, have kids, etc. Aside from Google's search, there are a ton of other applications made by Google that we use daily to give Google even more information. Gmail is one of the most widely used email services on the internet. Both sent and received mail is parsed and analyzed by Google. Google Earth posts information about every single person's home address. When a person uses Google Earth they track their searches and collect data about the places they go, where they live, the times they travel, the times they search, etc. Google also has access to all tweets that pass through twitter. They can see exactly who is tweeting about what, when, where, and why. Google uses a ton of other applications and methods to collect data such as Web crawling, Website analytics, Ad serving, Google Public Profiles, YouTube, Feedburner, Google Reader, Google Translate, Google Public DNS. All of these collect your data and build personal profiles for each individual person.

The big question is, Why do companies like Google do this? There are many answers. Luckily Google is a pretty well trusted corporation and they are not looking to cause any harm to its users. That doesn't mean they don't have a questionable reason for doing all of this. Google's main reason for collecting data from its users is to make billions of dollars in advertising. The information they collect from their users is priceless when it comes to companies that want to reach these users and sell them their product. Because Google is able to collect so much invaluable information about their users, companies pay top dollar to be able to reach out to the right crowds at the right places at the right times. So technically Google has been exploiting our personal information For their own gain since the company began. The biggest question of all is whether this is ethical and legal. Does Google have the right to collect our information and sell it to the highest bidder? Their argument is "If you don't want people to know your personal business on the web, then don't use it" or more specifically, don't use their products.

Week 7 BOC: Privacy Issues on the Web - Companies that spy on you

Everyone is concerned with keeping their business private from third parties on the internet. Unfortunately, there are companies that you may know and trust that are collecting your personal information without you even knowing. Two companies that have been doing this lately are Google and Microsoft.

Google is obviously a company that is known to compile the world's information to allow it to be searched on the web. It has definitely been a helpful tool in the past 10 years. Lately however they have stirred up attention for taking things a little too far and making people uncomfortable. Google Earth is a Google Application that allows you to search addresses and other landmarks around the world. “Google Earth is a geobrowser that accesses satellite and aerial imagery, ocean bathymetry, and other geographic data over the internet to represent the Earth as a three-dimensional globe. Geobrowsers are alternatively known as virtual globes or Earth browsers. Google also refers to Google Earth as a "geographic browser.” ( They use street cars that drive around and take pictures of the world's streets allowing for people to have a real street view of any road in the world. Lately these street view cars have been found to be driving around neighborhoods not only taking pictures, but also tapping into unprotected home networks and collecting private data. "Last month, Google disclosed that its Street View cars collected passwords, e-mails and other personal information wirelessly from unsuspecting people across the country," Michele Ellison, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau chief, said in a prepared statement. "The Enforcement Bureau is looking into whether these actions violate the Communications Act." ( Google admitted to these acts and the FCC is deciding whether it violates internet protocol or not. We can only hope the FCC does not allow Google to tap any further into our personal lives.

Recently Microsoft released a new gaming experience called "Kinect". Upon its release, people immediately began to question Kinect's full capabilities. Claims were being made that Kinect is basically a window into your living room allowing Microsoft to see everything that goes on. Kinect can calculate exactly how many people are in the room. It can read your every movements and can even tell when someone leaves or enters the room. There are even claims that Microsoft can use this device to take images of your room to see what you own and what you do. Microsoft may be collecting this information to sell people out to advertisers. "In this particular instance, Dennis Durkin, chief operating officer of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment division, spoke at the BMO Capital Markets forum earlier in November and suggested that Kinect can feed back certain information about its users even if the device isn’t immediately active–for instance, it might take in the team colors of a user who’s watching the Xbox 360′s ESPN stream. That information can go back to advertisers." ( Microsoft claims Kinect won't invade your privacy saying "By default we don't listen or look at anything," MIcrosoft's director of the Kinect technology, Alex Kipman, told Kotaku in a recent interview. "No data is ever sent back to Microsoft. Period. Full stop." ( We can only hope that these companies are looking our for our better interests and not just trying to sell us out to earn an easy dollar. We should be able to trust major corporations like these and be able to purchase products and use applications from them without fear of giving up our rights as Americans.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Week 6 BOC: There's an app for that!

Where would we be today without our smart phones? Being someone who doesn't and has never owned a smart phone, I find this question rather pathetic. However, there are a surprisingly large number of people who actually feel as if the smart phone is a daily necessity. I will admit their capabilities are extraordinary and have brought so many technological conveniences to people's lives. My question is, is this a good thing? I believe smart phone applications are doing so many things for people that it is making people a little too dependent on their mobile phones. For some people the question earlier stated is taken a little too seriously. Where WOULD we be without our smart phones? In the case of the Carrr Matey, the answer is simple. We would be lost!

The Carrr Matey is a useful android app that helps you find your car. It doesn't just help you find your car, it does it in a cute pirate themed way. It talks to you in a pirate voice and uses your phone's GPS to mark where your car is parked. "So you don't park your car -- you drop anchor. Can't remember where your car, uh, ship is? Click on the Find Vessel button. Don't want the Navy -- i.e., the police -- to give you a ticket when the meter runs out? Set the timer. And if you want to make note of which part of the garage your vessel is in, click on the Harbor button and you can note (by drawing on your touch screen) the level, letter or space you're using -- on a treasure map." ( Although this smart phone app seems a little too unnecessary I will admit that i have found myself lost in a giant parking garage too many times to count. This app saves time and stress of searching for your car, and does it in a witty pirate themed way.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Week 5 Midterm: What is the origin of the word “Spam”?

Spam is a word referred to on the internet as a mass message sent out to multiple recipients from a source that is trying to get you to buy their goods, scam you, or collect email addresses. There are many speculations as to who came up with the word "spam" and what it means exactly. after researching on the internet I have found a few interesting claims about the origin of the word "spam". Some say it is an acronym meaning "Shit Posing As Mail or Stupid Boring Annoying Messages" ( Others say it has to do with downloading images. Often times people would try to download a picture of a naked woman and when they viewed the image it turned out to be only a picture of a can of spam. In our book, it explains a different story about the word's origin."The term spam comes from a Monty Python skit in which every item on a menu contained Spam Luncheon meat. It was originally used to refer to unsolicited postings for commercial products or services on Usenet, especially when they were cross-posted to several newsgroups." (How The Internet Works, pg. 103). "Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam! Wonderful spam!" (Monty Python's Flying Circus). In class we discussed the true origin of the word, which doesn't actually have anything to do with Monty Python. The actual origin derived from a group of web geeks. When one would receive a mass email from someone trying to sell them something or obtain their email address, they would call it spam. If you picture someone throwing a handful of spam into a fan, it would send chunks of it flying everywhere. This is what these early web geeks used to describe a mass email being sent out to numerous people at once.

Week 5 Midterm: What is IPv6?

The internet works by sending information from its source to its destination. When you send information from one computer to another computer, the data gets broken up into small pieces or packets. These packets are sent individually through a series of routers. Once each packet finally reaches the receiving computer, it is pieced back together to its original form. "That's the job of the two most important communications protocols on the Internet-The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the internet Protocol (IP). They are frequently referred to as TCP/IP. TCP breaksdown and reassembles the packets, whereas IP is responsible for ensuring the packets are sent to the right destination." (How The Internet Works, Pg. 19). IPv4 is the internet protocol used today. It was designed by the Internet Engineering Task Force in 1981 and has been in use ever since. The main problem with IPv4 is it's lack of memory. It uses a 32-bit address to send packets over the web. with this limited amount of data memory, the internet moves slowly and often times undergoes an effect call address exhaustion. IPv6 plans to fix this problem by upgrading the 32-bit address memory to 128-bit. This will allow a lot more packets to be sent and received all at once. IPv6 has also been changed to make routing more efficient. "IPv6 routers do not perform fragmentation. IPv6 hosts are required to either perform PMTU discovery, perform end-to-end fragmentation, or to send packets no larger than the IPv6 default minimum MTU size of 1280 octets." (wikipedia).The packet header in IPv6 is also much more simplified than that of IPv4. It uses less options in which to send packet data. Therefore, even though IPv6 addresses are four times as large as IPv4 addresses, they are only twice the size as IPv4 headers.