Beware of what you say on the Internet! by Bob Flores

Beware of what you say on the Internet!

Bob Flores, Former CTO of the CIA, XQ Advisor

Over the past year there has been a stream of news about social networks and messaging services listening into private conversations. The typical response from online services is that user monitoring is covered by the terms of service to support their advertising business. Yet some of the services have been caught selling identities to advertisers. More recently even VPN and ad blocking services have been caught selling data on their users.  

The lack of transparency by online services has resulted in Western governments, including the US, to consider stronger privacy laws. While online services are promising better privacy, it’s too early to tell how they will balance this with the needs of their ad business. For now, users must take a more proactive role to protect their own data. Here are some practical steps to consider:

Anything you say on the Internet can be used against you.

1/ Your first thought must be whether you want to publicly stand behind your statements. People have gone to jail and lost jobs for jokes made between friends. Unfortunately, humor is not legal defense.

2/ Consider the “old school” phone call for sensitive information. Given the bulk of messaging now takes place on mobile devices, it’s fairly easy just to call the other party (on their mobile device) when sharing sensitive information. There is no shame on using a phone to talk.

3/ If you must transmit sensitive data, encrypt it.There is a range of free encryption apps such as Wickr and Signal that create a dedicated secure channel between users. Additionally, there is a new service called XQ Message that creates a private channel inside apps such as iMessage, Gmail, and Slack. Use one of them for secure your sensitive messages.

Being aware of the dangers of Internet services is the first step to guarding your privacy.

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