ProctorU is dystopian spyware


To take this exam online you will need to borrow a friend or family member's laptop.

As part of my MSc, I have to take an online exam. Obviously, this means I am highly likely to cheat by looking up things on Wikipedia or by having a bit of paper with notes on it. EVIL! So, the exam body requires me to install ProctorU. It's a service which lets someone watch […]

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Alexa leaks your private wishlists


People who access your list will see your recipient name. If you have an Alexa-enabled device, Alexa may alert you when there is a deal for items in your list. Notification Preferences.

This morning, my wife noticed that Alexa was insistently flashing its little blue lights. "Alexa... Notifications?" "You have one notification. An item on your wishlist has dropped in price. The … is now only £…" And that's how my wife found out what I planned to get her for her birthday! What happened to cause […]

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I know how many microphones and cameras you have


Web browser asking for permission to access microphones. On the page, the number of microphones is displayed.

A curious little data leak, but one I struggle to care about. Perhaps useful for a bit of fingerprinting? Websites can access your system's camera and microphone. That's how modern video conferencing works in the browser. In an effort to retain user privacy, the browser asks the user for permission to use the camera and […]

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Book Review: Privacy is Power - Carissa Véliz


Book Cover.

Without your permission, or even your awareness, tech companies are harvesting your location, your likes, your habits, your relationships, your fears, your medical issues, and sharing it amongst themselves, as well as with governments and a multitude of data vultures. They're not just selling your data. They're selling the power to influence you and decide […]

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Open Data - but not *too* open


If this address is correct and relates to your enquiry, please confirm that you are entitled to view the gas supply details.

I'm an advocate for open data - both in my professional role and in a personal capacity. One of the hard things is succinctly explaining that "open data" means "non-personally identifiable data at a sufficient granularity to be useful without proving a risk to any individual's (or group's) reasonable expectations of privacy while still being […]

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GDPR and common sense


Some giant question marks standing in a field.

Every so often, I get a glimpse into the thought processes of someone who has a very different view of the world to me. I don't deal with people's personal information often. So I was surprised to receive an email with a multi-megabyte spreadsheet called "Pay and Bonuses 2020". The email contained this doozy of […]

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It's OK to lie to WiFi providers


Give social networks fake details, advises Whitehall web security official.

Another day, another data breach. The email addresses and travel details of about 10,000 people who used free wi-fi at UK railway stations have been exposed online. The database, found online by a security researcher, contained 146 million records, including personal contact details and dates of birth. It was not password protected. BBC News There's […]

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Who is Facebook's mysterious "Lan Tim 2"?


Facebook activity page saying they received data from "Lan Tim 2".

Facebook has an interesting feature. It will let you see which companies have associated your off-Facebook activity with your Facebook account. If you visit: https://www.facebook.com/off_facebook_activity/ you'll see what companies are snitching on you to Facebook. #AirBnB shares your activity with #Facebook ?! Delete that @Airbnb app, folks! Mine didn't even allow me to change its […]

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Bluetooth MAC, K-Anonymity, and Population Privacy


List of Bluetooth devices.

I recently went to a university hackathon, where students were trying to invent novel ways to help prevent pandemics. This was purely an academic exercise - they were not developing a fully-fledged app, nor were they creating official policies. I spent some time with one group discussing the privacy implications of what they had built. […]

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Bitly finally starts taking privacy seriously


I've been ranting about Bitly for years! The ubiquitous link shortener had an interesting "feature" - add a + to the end of the URl and you could see all the statistics for the link. How many clicks, referers, location of users. Here's a blog post I wrote about it way back in 2011. I […]

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