Will 2013 be the Year of Privacy on Steroids?

Last week we saw how 2012 was ‘The Year of Privacy’.  As I was flying 30,000 feet above sea level after spending time at the International Consumer Electronics Show, it became quite clear that 2013 is going to be ‘the Year of Privacy on Steroids’.  With so many new sites, gadgets, and technology offerings integrating social media into their core functionalities, legislators will be hungry to regulate and legislate. The notion of privacy has become indelibly integrated into all aspects of our lives impacting what we do on a daily and hourly basis. We communicate, we entertain, we consume, we share, we travel – we live.  And as technology and the online world continue to advance, we are seeing the introduction of new legislation that impacts our private lives.

Read more on Huffington Post

 

Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS, HLNTV.com, and abcnews.com.  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.

Was 2012 the Year of Privacy?

As social technology continues to advance, privacy continues to get attention from the government, consumers and media. Privacy-based fears and concerns, whether legitimate or not, fueled many of the big privacy events in 2012. The following countdown gives you just a glimpse of online privacy from this past year.

Read more on Huffington Post

 

Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS, HLNTV.com, and abcnews.com.  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.


Making ‘Perfect the Enemy of the Good’ Kills Children

Over two hundred years ago, French philosopher Voltaire wrote, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” While it may have been enlightening then, today it can drive our collective call to action.

With so many responding with their opinions about gun control in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. massacre, I write not as a person who grew up taking Exit 9 for Sandy Hook on Route 84 to visit close family friends in Newtown or as a federal or county prosecutor who handled numerous crimes against children cases from murder to rape including those that involved guns, or as a corporate executive who had to find solutions to some of the most challenging online and offline safety issues facing us in the digital century. Nor do I write as a consultant who helps large corporations find solutions to safety and security concerns facing their teen and child customers, nor as the son of a professor who handed down all the great characteristics of a teacher, and nor as the son of a mother who instilled the notion that knowledge must never be withheld from others.

Read more on Huffington Post

 

Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS, HLNTV.com, and abcnews.com.  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.

Digital Troops on the Front Line

Imagine you felt passionate enough about a cause to place yourself in harm’s way to support the side you believed in.  Now imagine you could do this without leaving your living room and still step into the front lines of the battle.  That’s exactly what today’s social justice hackers are doing via the Internet – declaring digital warfare against their opponents centered on their vision of who’s right and who’s wrong.  Today’s hackers can easily accomplish their mission by digitally attacking governments, corporations, and other groups they oppose through social media harassment, website defacement, virus and malware distribution, and data theft, leakage, and destruction, just to name a few.

This is their idea of social justice.

 Read more 

 

Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS, HLNTV.com, and abcnews.com.  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.

Is Facebook Denying Democracy to a Billion People?

Did you vote? And no, I am not talking about for Romney or Obama. Or anything political for that matter. I am talking Facebook. A few years ago, Facebook was the first company of its kind to experiment with democracy when it provided its users with the right to vote on policy changes and updates. While news of this new social media democracy spread like wildfire, not even 1 percent of Facebook’s 1 billion users actually voted.

Facebook announced last week that it is taking back the right to vote, resulting in severe backlash from the general public and privacy advocacy groups around the world. Users took to their Facebook timelines to address their concerns and to attempt to protect their privacy and copyright rights by posting a long message with lots of legal mumbo jumbo. A bit of research can go along way as this ended up being a hoax fabricated to create a privacy scare amid Facebook’s recent privacy changes.

Facebook provided users with the right to vote back in 2009 in an attempt get feedback about updates to its policies. Since then, the company has tripled in size, gone public, and now has Wall Street stakeholders that it must answer to. Facebook pointed out that the voting process ended up emphasizing ‘quantity over quality’, and the experiment with democracy just didn’t work.

But before attacking Facebook for taking away the inalienable right to democracy, let’s take a minute to think about what Facebook is actually doing. Facebook’s recent changes are actually not new in the way businesses have defined the rules of the game with their customers for hundreds of years in society and now online.  In the online world, we call these rules of engagement Terms of Use and Privacy Policies.  These terms lay out clearly what consumers are allowed to do and not to do and also lay out what consumers can expect from the companies they are doing business with. This is no different to what has always happened in the ‘real’ world, where businesses like Target and Kmart won’t accept returns without receipts, don’t allow more than a few items in the dressing rooms at the same time, reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, use undercover cameras to look for shoplifters, and can search bags when a customer is exiting their store.   Or take movie theaters as another example, where moviegoers risk removal from the cinema for bringing in a drink purchased at another store or for talking while a movie is playing.

Terms of Use and Privacy Policies have existed before Facebook was born, and yet many are blaming Facebook for ending an experiment that just didn’t work for their business or their customers. Democracy is a concept inextricably intertwined with the way governments should govern while preserving certain freedoms.  One of the most quintessential rights in a democratic society is the right for a business to set the rules of how they want to interact with their customers.  Similarly, consumers have the right to choose which businesses they interact with.

Kudos to Facebook for exercising its rights in a free democracy!

 

Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS, HLNTV.com, and abcnews.com.  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.

The Facebook Revolt

We talk a lot about the impact of social media on commerce and human connections.  The social media platform has the ability to transfer news and ideas faster than news and ideas can even be generated.  Since the start of what the media is calling the ‘Arab Spring’, social media has literally become something quite revolutionary.

Last spring, the conflicts in Bahrain and Egypt showcased the true power of the Internet, particularly of Facebook.  Before the proliferation of the Internet, protestors spread the word of an upcoming rally or demonstration through posters on city center walls and word of mouth.  Sitting governments would try to quell these movements by forbidding posters, declaring curfews, and outright banning demonstrations.

And then, along came the Internet and along came social media sites like Facebook.  Against all odds, Facebook has become one of the most powerful tools for the promotion of freedom.  It has made spreading the word to organize for a cause easier to do, faster to execute, and more far-reaching.  And yet, the best solution to stopping such an upheaval in today’s times is the same as it has been for hundreds of years – silence the protestor’s ability to speak and organize.  For a government, this means removing the newest weapon from the hands of the people, and that weapon is the Internet.

For many of the protests we’ve seen in the last year, the ultimate goal has been to overthrow the oppressive policies and actions of a government through massive civilian uprisings.  Historically, anti-government citizens achieved their goal by various means – organizing peaceful protests, seeking help from international organizations, taking up arms, and sometimes engaging in violent attacks against the government and military.  All of this remains true today, with the added power of the Internet.  For the protestor, the Internet is a powerful tool for increasing strength, gaining greater and broader support, and reaching out to family and friends.

It’s shocking to a great number of people that Facebook would become instrumental in the overthrow of long standing dictatorships or brutal regimes. People of Egypt used it. People of Tunisia used it. People of Bahrain used it.  When the war ‘ended’ and the NATO participation in Libya finally came, it was announced on Facebook.  It seems as if there is no end to the reach of the Internet, social media, and the concomitant power of Facebook.

The importance of the Internet in a revolution goes beyond the individual.  Foreign nation-states play significant roles during an uprising, and the Internet is one of many tools at their disposal. In many cases, providing Internet support and continued access to the Internet has become much like providing artillery support.

At end of the day, the Internet has become one of the most powerful tools for promoting freedom.  Amazingly, a platform that started as a means by which people share photos has evolved to help topple brutal dictators. There’s no telling where all of this could lead civilization.

Congressman Weiner and Sexting Amongst Friends

We like to warn our children about many things and lately sexting has been on the top of the list.  We caution against it, put applications in place to prevent it, and even treat kids as criminals over it.  However, it is us adults who are getting far more press about it lately than kids ever have.

Congressman Anthony Weiner is just the latest in a string of scandals.  When this story broke, the media was tripping over itself asking: Did he do it? And now, with his admission of guilt, the new question is: Should he resign?

In the meantime, no one has offered the public a chance to look at what really matters:  When thinking of sexting, how does an adult answer the question – To do or not to do?

Adults have been “sexting” for ages – we just called it ‘dirty talk’ – dirty talk that used to land on a significant other’s ears and disintegrate…until now.  With the onslaught of real time apps and devices like iPhones and Twitter, messaging anywhere anytime has become the norm.  And yet, many adults fail to understand the permanent, far-reaching, and severe implications of these devices.  Simply put, many adults don’t understand that once you send/sext it, it’s never coming back or going away.   So, if you’re thinking about sexting, you might as well print it, sign it, and put your address, phone, and photo on it and then put it on a billboard in Times Square for the world to see.

Far too many adults are letting the heat of the moment control their actions –forgetting that once they send it, it lives forever on the Internet.  It is like the Library of Congress, a repository of history.  Your sext might never make it to Times Square, but you might want to think of it like it is.  Granted, you might want it there for the world to see you, but that’s a question only you can answer.

Congressman Weiner and Brett Favre are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come unless adults, famous or not, start practicing what they preach to kids – don’t do it – unless you want it to live forever on the Internet.

For more on the Internet’s memory, see also Charlie Sheen Reminds Us, The Internet Has a Memory and The Bachelorette and the Drunken Passed Out Bachelor.

What can you can do to make sure an E-impersonation Bill gets passed in your state?

As I stated in my blog, in order to protect yourself  and your loved ones in today’s digital age, while simultaneously giving law enforcement the power they need to prosecute E-Impersonation for cyber-bulling purposes, we all need to work together to get involved and ensure that each state has or passes a similar bill to California’s Penal Code Section 528.5.  There are a few steps that are needed to make this happen and we will keep you posted over the next few weeks as we make progress to make sure EVERY state can protect EVERY person in this country.

So far, only a few states have laws similar to this law in California.

The first step is letting your state legislator know that you have a right to be protected.  Find out who your legislator is by visiting this website and then write him/her a letter or an email (suggested copy is below):
***********************************************
Dear YOUR LEGISLATOR,

This letter is to respectfully request that you take a look immediately at a law recently passed in the state of California (Senate Bill 1411 reflected in California Penal Code Section 528.5) making “E-Impersonation” a crime.  Very few states have laws like this that protect politicians, celebrities, and victims of cyber-bullying.

There is a growing and concerning rise of individuals using the anonymity of the Internet to harass, threaten and severely annoy people by impersonating them online (E-Impersonation).  This type of behavior can have significant ramifications in the impersonated victim’s life including suicide, depression, helplessness – all of which are avoidable with the right laws and awareness in place.  Politicians and celebrities are not the only victims of such abuse…it can affect EVERYONE including the helpless child who is impersonated online for cyber-bullying purposes.  We are at a stage in our digital century when we critically need additional tools for law enforcement to have in their arsenal to fight this crime.

California’s Senate Bill 1411 makes it unlawful to knowingly and without consent credibly impersonate another person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means with the intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud another person. An impersonation is credible where another person would reasonably believe, or did reasonably believe, that the defendant was or is the person who was impersonated.

As our reliance on the Internet increases, many opportunities for abuse have and will present themselves. The victims of such harassment and threats as of impersonation perpetrated through the Internet are typically left without adequate legal protection to stop this abuse.  California and a handful of other states have rectified this problem by making it a crime to impersonate someone on an Internet Web site or through other electronic means such as email, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites.  Violators can not only be prosecuted criminally but the victim can also seek civil remedies.

Senate Bill 1411 received bipartisan unanimous support in both houses of the Legislature in California; and it’s important that we are protected here in our state as well.

There is no doubt that a similar bill here would have support from law enforcement, crime victims, and privacy advocates.

I respectfully request your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
YOUR NAME HERE

*********************************************

We can stop E-Impersonation.  Please join us and act now.

Thanks,
Hemu

E-Impersonation is a CRIME

There is a growing and concerning rise of individuals using the anonymity of the Internet to harass, threaten and severely annoy people by impersonating them online (“E-Impersonation”).  This type of behavior can have significant ramifications in the impersonated victim’s life including suicide, depression, helplessness – all of which are avoidable with the right law(s) and awareness in place.  Politicians and celebrities are not the only victims of such abuse…it can affect EVERYONE including the helpless child who is impersonated for cyber-bullying purposes.  We are at a stage in our digital century when we critically need additional tools for law enforcement to have in their arsenal to fight this crime.

It is time to ensure that every state in our country has a law that appropriately protects our citizens from E-Impersonation.  The state of California has recently shown us that it can be done and can be done now.  In California, State Senator Joe Simitian spearheaded California Senate Bill 1411 into what has become California Penal Code Section 528.5, which in part states:

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person who knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person is guilty of a public offense punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).

(b) For purposes of this section, an impersonation is credible if another person would reasonably believe, or did reasonably believe, that the defendant was or is the person who was impersonated.

(c) For purposes of this section, “electronic means” shall include opening an e-mail account or an account or profile on a social networking Internet Web site in another person’s name.

(d) A violation of subdivision (a) is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(e) In addition to any other civil remedy available, a person who suffers damage or loss by reason of a violation of subdivision (a) may bring a civil action against the violator for compensatory damages and injunctive relief or other equitable relief pursuant to paragraphs (1), (2), (4), and (5) of subdivision (e) and subdivision (g) of Section 502.

In other words, this California law can help stop cyber-bullying through E-Impersonation.  We hope there will be a Federal law soon.

Find out how how to protect yourself and your love ones and make an impact by bringing this matter to your legislature’s attention, click here.

Thanks,
-Hemu

More Resources for you to check out:
Here is a video from CNN where I explain further.

Please take a look at Senator Simitian’s website where you can read the entire law (it’s only ONE paragraph), read the letter he wrote to then Governor Schwarzenegger, and a very simple ‘fact sheet’ that explains all you need to know.

Killing the American Internet with Forced Voluntary Cooperation

When President Mubarak departed, Egypt’s Internet whirled back to life to the applause of millions around the world.  While this is an obvious triumph, the fact that it was shut down at all has caused a sense of alarm around the world, especially in America.  Can that happen here? Can we all be cut off from the Internet?

The short answer is ‘no’ and ‘yes’.

Why ‘no’?  Even though the American government does exercise some regulations over the Internet, it does not own the Internet or any means by which people get to the Internet.  And, under existing law, our government doesn’t have the right to turn it off as much as there is an effort to gain that right through newly introduced legislation.  But let’s assume our government did have the right, it actually doesn’t have the technical ability.  Our Internet is immense: thousands of providers, millions of miles of cables, countless portals.  There is no single “hub” someone can go to in order to flip the switch into the off position.

So then, why ‘yes’?  Our government can engage in what I call “forced voluntary cooperation.”  While there are no kill the Internet laws on the books yet giving our government total control over or ownership of our Internet, the government certainly has ways to “persuade” providers and carriers to shut off access “on their own.”  Simply put, voluntarily do what I say or the ramifications will be so drastic you will regret it.  That said, keep in mind that if our government has come to a point where it is engaging in forced voluntary cooperation, then as a nation-state we are no doubt facing the gravest threat to our safety and security.  As a citizens first and businesses second, it behooves all of us to voluntarily cooperate, forced or not.  We as Americans would want to stand together and stand behind our government to protect our country and our fellow Americans.

There would be tremendous side-effects, however.  The cost to shut down the American web would be severely high, not to mention the billions in lost revenue for businesses at home and abroad. Our Internet is, unlike China’s, is a truly international system, feeding and being fed by innumerable places all over the world.

Countries that have pre-built limitations into the foundations of their Internet have power over their citizens that Americans would not want our government to have – the power to unilaterally control freedom of speech.   Countries such as Iran and China have restrictive laws and filters in place already — imagine Net Nanny on steroids working for an entire country.  Bahrain making news with protests, is suspected of restricting site access as well. International content is intensely censored or, in some cases, not allowed all together.  In China, searches for information on Tibetan independence are completely blocked.  In Iran and Egypt, there are fewer than a dozen portals allowing information in.  Carriers number in the dozens, not the thousands, some of which are state owned.  Shutting down an operation that is mostly state owned and closed circuit is a much less daunting task than killing an Internet built on the fundamental notions of freedom.

So, rest assured fellow browsers, the likelihood that we’ll ever see our government kill the Internet is basically non-existent.