It’s All About Privacy

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This week it has been reported that Apple is not giving the federal government access to the iPhone information that one of the terrorists of the San Bernadino attack.  The company is standing firm that there is no back door to the phone’s encrypted information or any software to access it.

I really don’t believe that this is true because all software has ways to get to its data.  I believe that CEO Tim Cook just doesn’t want this door exposed as others may use it in ways not intended.   Of course, the government could just hand the phone over to Apple and have them decrypt the information and then give the government back the phone with unencrypted information.  They really don’t want to do that either as it would still violate the privacy of its customers.

So here we have the clash between national security and privacy.    This could spend a long time in the court system.

Then, there is me.

For those who are regular readers of this blog knows how much trouble I have had with my gmail account and how I have been receiving emails that have not belonged to me.

These emails include such things as names, addresses, telephone numbers, credit card numbers,  and other information that I would consider personal.

The problem with these emails is that all of them come from companies that I don’t do business with.  The worst thing about all this is the reluctance of these companies to delete my email address off many of these companies’ databases.

Unfortunately, for most of these companies they don’t realize the possible damage done to the intended customer by accidentally releasing personal information to me.  To make matters worse, is that some of these companies blame me for someone else using my email address.

Certainly these companies are clueless regarding how to protect customer information and show a complete disregard to protecting privacy.  In fact, I see no end to receiving emails that don’t belong to me. 

Overall, I feel that Apple should allow the government access to the information on the iPhone without question as in real life, privacy really doesn’t exist.

Just ask me about all the private information about other people that I have accumulated.

A Tale of 2 Cable Companies and 2 Email Accounts

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In the last couple of weeks, my gmail account has been once again receiving strange emails. 

Some of them have been easy to unsubscribe to, others have taken much more effort to handle.

Such is the case with my experience with Comcast.  I do not live in an area where they service, but I have been receiving email from them indicating that I was a customer of theirs and they started to send me bills by email.

Unfortunately, there was no unsubscribe link in their email so I had to reach them by Facebook by posting to their corporate page.  After a couple of days, they contacted me back and said my email was removed from their system.

Or at least that was what I thought. 

The next day I received yet another bill from them and contacted them again using the same thread expressing my anger over them not fixing the problem.

The response that I got back from them was a link to their “Privacy Policy”.  This is hardly the type of response that I wanted especially given that I was not even a customer of theirs. 

I wrote back a third time and they had me send them a copy of my email to their email customer service.  Since I have not heard back from them in about a week,  I can only assume that the problem has been completely resolved.

Under NO circumstances should anyone have to go through so much trouble to opt out of their email especially since I was not their customer.  I guess they are no better than Time Warner Cable.

At least that is what one might be led to believe.

Over the last week, Time Warner’s webmail service allegedly got hacked into.   According to reports, approximately 300,000 accounts were compromised and those customers were notified by email and postal mail.  However, I never received either so I have to assume that my account wasn’t part of the hacking.

I am not really surprised over this given how inferior their email system is compared to more modern email systems like gmail and outlook.  What makes the product inferior is that the interface is old and limits customers to 1gb of storage and the number of emails that can be blocked are limited and once you reach that limit, the spammers can send you all the email they want and you cannot block them.  Certainly not the way any system should ever operate.  To make matters worse, the email system does not have a mobile version. In this day and age, this is just about a requirement for any website.

Since I did not get a notification from the company, I decided not to change my password because it was strong enough already.  At least I think I am still fairly safe with this account for now. 

Overall, it appears that both cable companies have failed along with 2 email systems as well. 

If this type of crap continues, this is going to be a VERY long year.

Google Clueless Again

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Fake Warning:  The following contains content not suitable for most people.  It contains content that would make “50 Shades of Grey” look like a Mother Goose fairy tale.

 

I will discuss the above fake warning shortly, but first.

 

A couple of days ago, I received the following email from Google.  Here it is in its entirety:

 

Dear Blogger User,

We’re writing to tell you about an upcoming change to the Blogger Content
Policy that may affect your account.

In the coming weeks, we’ll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually
explicit or graphic nude images or video. We’ll still allow nudity
presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or
where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking
action on the content.

The new policy will go into effect on the 23rd of March 2015. After this
policy goes into effect, Google will restrict access to any blog identified
as being in violation of our revised policy. No content will be deleted,
but only blog authors and those with whom they have expressly shared the
blog will be able to see the content we’ve made private.

Our records indicate that your account may be affected by this policy
change. Please refrain from creating new content that would violate this
policy. Also, we ask that you make any necessary changes to your existing
blog to comply as soon as possible, so that you won’t experience any
interruptions in service. You may also choose to create an archive of your
content via Google Takeout.

 

Let me say that I have a couple of problems with the above message.  First and foremost is that I have not used Blogger in nearly 6 months for any of my blogs and 2 of the blogs have not been used for over 4 years.

 

Secondly, and most important is that I have NEVER EVER had any explicit images on ANY of my Blogger pages.  Nor would I ever have any either.

 

So why the notice was sent is a mystery?

I have 2 theories for this.

 

The first is that this was a mass warning to all Blogger authors so that they know what their new policy will be.  However, given that they flagged my account makes me think that this is not true.

 

My second thought is that Google used some sort of reader to check their accounts for possible content that may be deemed as offensive.  However, since a reader can’t “read” pictures, it can only read words and thinks that some pictures might be included with what is written.

 

I will admit that my “Staples” blog has contained references to adult content, but contained no images.  So apparently, the reader that Google uses can only anticipate what might be there in the blog, not what really is contained within it.

 

In other words, Google is parsing the blogs incorrectly.

 

Yes, I said PARSING.

 

In computer lingo, this means evaluating words while trying to interpret their intended meaning.  Word processors do this all the time as you type trying to anticipate what you mean and try to make sense of what could be improper grammar.

 

This is all well and good if it works the way it should.  However, there are times when parsing doesn’t work quite as planned.  A good example is of course the notice that I received.

 

But there is another which I have been battling for the last six years.

 

It is what I call the job application.

 

Back in the old days, if you wanted to apply for a job, you went to the location of the business and pick up an application.  You would then drop off the application and somebody would actually read it.  If they liked what they read, you would be called for an interview.

 

This is not the case today, however.

 

Today, a job application is filled out online usually at some corporate website.  From there, you enter all your personal information and in some cases, you take some sort of personality test or other type of test.

 

After you finish the application, the applicant is usually given an email response from the company they applied to, sometimes almost immediately.  The result is usually that you don’t meet their qualifications or some other lame excuse.  I really wonder how a computer can make a decision that really should be made by a human.

 

Welcome to another case of how a parser can create unnecessary havoc in a person’s life.  I always believe that a potential employer never gets to know a candidate unless they get a physical interview with them.

 

Over the past six years of applying for a job, I have been turned down every time and have never been selected for an interview despite having over 25 years of job experience.  Ironically, the only company that I heard from for a potential interview is the soon-to-be-late RadioShack.

 

Apparently, they must have parsed my application again and changed their mind.  Maybe that was the only time I felt lucky that I didn’t get a job due  to some non-human reading my job application.

 

Maybe parsing isn’t so bad after all…if only Google would know better.

 

But then again, if they did I would not have anything to write about.

 

Before I close this post, let me explain that fake warning at the beginning of this blog.  This is really a test to see if WordPress decides to implement a similar policy regarding adult content even though no pictures exist.  If I get any notice from them, then I will know that WordPress has a bad parser as well that doesn’t know words from pictures and doesn’t know the way things are put in context and can easily be taken the wrong way if not read by a human.

 

Here to hoping that WordPress can interpret their blogs properly and not the way that Google does with its Blogger service.  I am so glad I no longer use that service and if any of you readers out there still do, I recommend switching to something else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odds and Ends

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This week’s post will be fairly short but I want to talk about a few different topics this time around.

 

First up, fake news makers have been making real news in the last 24 hours.

 

Brian Williams of NBC News has received a 6 month suspension without pay for embellishing stories of events that he was involved in.  Certainly he was catering to the late night entertainment audience by his fluffing up his stories.  Anybody who has ever watched any of those late night shows knows that everybody does this.  Of course, a person like David Letterman is a sucker for this sort of banter.

 

I don’t believe that Mr. Williams should have been suspended.  The reason is that over time we all forget details of what happens in our lives.  So it is only logical that he made up parts to make his story sound better than it really is.  Those who believe that Mr. Williams integrity has been ruined by this is delusional.

 

For those of you too young to remember, David Letterman used to have a morning talk show and one part of the show was NBC newsman Edwin Newman.  Since this show was done in front of a live audience, Mr. Newman would regularly laugh it up with Dave.  Certainly his professionalism was never called into question, but then again I bet it has something to do with the new management at NBC’s Comcast head, who probably just was not a fan of Mr. Williams to begin with.

 

The other startling fake news person is the announcement of Jon Stewart leaving his late night show on Comedy Central.  While I have never watched his show any more than I watched Brian Williams on his nightly news show,  it seems like an odd coincidence that these two events would happen on the same day.

 

Rumors have been quickly spreading that Stewart is in talks to become the new host of NBC’s “Meet the Press”.

 

Does anybody else see the irony here?  We have a fake newsperson wanting to take over a real news program and a real newscaster thrown off a real news show for having fake stories.  Honestly, I think there is something very wrong at NBC, which probably explains why I don’t watch any shows on that network anymore.  It seems that they are just a lost cause.

 

Secondly, those of you who are regular readers of this blog knows that last year I wrote about somebody or some bodies was using my Gmail account and setting up things like twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, and some dating websites.

 

Now it has gotten much worse.  One self-storage company in California claims that my email address is valid with them despite that I live in Maine and have never done business with them.  This has gone one for over a year now and I now am considering reporting them to the Better Business Bureau for fraudulent activity against me.

 

In the past week, I have also received bills emailed to me of past due statements from a U-Haul rental in Arkansas and a student loan bill in excess of $20,000, which is not mine either.  The latter has been resolved but I am still waiting on the U-Haul bill that isn’t mine to be resolved.

 

Overall, Google offers no help to prevent this type of fraudulent activity and it is up to each individual company to do the right thing by eliminating my email address from these activities.  However, some companies just seem to refuse to do so.  I consider this a continued warning to those who have a Gmail account that there is very little protection when compared to other email services.

 

Finally, I want to talk snow.  Here in Maine, we have way too much.  This more than I can ever remember.  However, back when I was little, I remember these type of severe snowstorms that had huge amounts of snow, but for many years, the snow has been nothing anywhere near what this year has been.  Anybody who thinks global warning exists, I invite them to come to New England and take some snow home with them.  We certainly won’t miss it.

 

So that is it for this week’s post as I and everyone else awaits the next snowstorm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google+ Not a Plus

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As I mentioned in the past, I have had much problem when using Gmail.

 

To refresh your memory, I keep getting email that doesn’t belong to me.

 

Not just an occasional email, but at least one or two per day.

 

It seems that I am always cancelling some Twitter account, a Facebook account, or some adult web site.  Sometimes I even get emails from persons exposing personal information not intended for me.

 

Certainly anybody should be bothered by this.

 

After all, in the wrong hands, identity theft could not only happen but run rampant.

 

The worse thing about this is that the companies that I have contacted stating this is identity theft seems not the least bit concerned that it is even an issue.

 

Have I pricked up your eyes yet to a very bad problem?

 

I should have and the worse thing about it when I contacted Google about it, all I got was an automated message pointing me to how email accounts are handled.

 

This was no help at all and I have been unable to get a REAL PERSON to answer my complaint.

 

We should all be concerned about this as anybody could be affected at any time by emails that don’t belong to them.

 

Now there is another app from Google that we should be worried about and that is Google+.

 

For those who don’t know what Google+ is, it is sort of like Facebook only on a much smaller scale.

 

However, it is on a much scarier scale.

 

While Facebook allows you to have approve friends or allow followers if you want (I don’t allow followers by the way), Google+ allows for friends and acquaintances.

 

The acquaintances better known as circles can be problematic.  These circles are Google’s version of followers.

 

While you can set up notifications to find out when somebody new puts you into their circle, you don’t have the option of deleting them from seeing your life on Google+.  It appears that the only option one has is to either add them to your circle or do nothing.

 

If you haven’t figured this out yet, this could be a MAJOR problem especially if someone puts you into circle that you don’t want to belong.  This is bothersome if someone from your past or currently is a stalker and could possible cause harm to someone.

 

Enter me.

 

Last week, I got an email notification that someone who I knew many years ago (I believe going back to early high school years) has entered me into their circle.  What is bad about this person is that this person is one who once was part of a group back in high school whose only purpose was to perform physical harm to me.

 

Yes, consider this a former bully has returned.  They may not be a bully anymore (I hope), but the mere presence of their name makes me cringe.

 

This is especially true given that their profile is somewhat offensive to me in how they present themselves.

 

But now here is the problem.

 

How can I get rid of this person that I don’t want to see what I post?

 

As far as I can tell, there is absolutely NO way to get rid of somebody or to report the person to be removed for being offensive.

 

I have not contacted Google about this because I know that I will probably get some automated message that has nothing to do with problem and would not offer a solution.

 

So for now, I try not to use Google+ very much as I don’t want this person to know much about me.  Even many years later, this person still scares me especially given that this person still lives less than 20 miles from me.

 

I hope that others take caution from this and be aware that Google+ is not a safe social site and can invite stalkers and bullies into your life.

 

Maybe at some point, Google may change their setup and allow for blocking of inappropriate people or at least the reporting of them.

 

My hope is that Google+ doesn’t become a site for bullying as the other social sites have become especially that this could be avoided there if Google changed their site.

 

For now, take caution if using Google+.

 

As for me, I have more Gmail emails to respond to.

 

Will Google ever get anything right ever?

 

Oh yeah, they do have that search thing that nobody ever uses.

Microsoft’s Latest 2 Mistakes

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Imagine going into your local hardware store.  You want to buy a new hammer and the salesclerk tells you that the hammer has a lifetime warranty.  All you need is just bring it back for an exchange if anything ever happens to it.  Simple, right?  Not if Microsoft ran the store.

The first product that Microsoft gives to you for your broken hammer is a wooden pencil.  Their claim is that they are both made of wood, but the store no longer carries hammers so they can’t give you a new one.  Unfortunately, you are forced to take the pencil in exchange and try using it like a hammer with very little success. 

Welcome to the disappearance of the long-lasting Windows/MSN Messenger.  Last week, Microsoft forced everybody running their Messenger program to suck up to their inferior product of Skype.  Unfortunately, Skype is NO Messenger.  Here is a list of items missing that I use that SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN Skype:

  • Hotmail email notification. 
  • MSN Today (their newsfeed in a startup area)
  • Microsoft group contacts — these just disappeared with no way of recovering these connections/people.
  • Connections to multiple services – only Messenger and Facebook are accepted, forget all the others.

I really wonder why Microsoft released this product to the masses with so many missing features.  Apparently I am not alone with these missing features as many people have commented on Microsoft’s forums on these omissions.  Their response is that they may show up in a future release.  For now I am stuck with an unusable program with no features I can use.

 

The second product that Microsoft can give you for your broken hammer is a giant inflatable hammer.  Their claim is that it is a hammer despite not being made of wood.  Good luck on using nails with that.  This is exactly the way Microsoft upgraded customers from Hotmail to the lamer and ad-ridden Outlook.  Previously I called it “promising” now I call it “cluttered with ads”.  Don’t get too close to the edge of the screen otherwise ads will pop up and invade screen space.  As far as speed is concerned, it is a little faster than Hotmail, but the ads definitely are a turnoff.  Of course I could spend $20/year to have these ads eliminated, but who wants to give Microsoft more money?

Neither of these products are great and unfortunately both are forced on customers whether they like it or not.  Both needs a lot of work to make them workable and being a useful hammer.

 

My score: 

  • Skype:  2  (Not recommended but forced upon those who used MSN/Windows Messenger)
  • Outlook.com:  3 (A drop from my previous beta grade because of the irritating ads that take precious screen space.)

In conclusion:  Maybe someday Microsoft will give us a REAL hammer for the wooden ones we lost recently.

 

 

Why Gmail is NOT my friend

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Imagine living on a long street and being the first house on that street.  Now consider the idea that your local mailman decides that he would place all the mail of the street in your mailbox whether it belongs to you or not.  Every day you take that mail and bring it to the post office and tell them that this mail is not yours and needs to be delivered to the right address.  However, every day the same thing keeps happening and you keep getting the same mail that doesn’t belong to you over and over again.  After a very short time, you would get sick of this very quickly and possibly the lazy mailman would get fired for not doing his job appropriately.

Well, welcome to the wonderful (or not so wonderful) world of Gmail, the Google email system.  I signed up with Gmail as a very early user and everything went fine up to about a year ago.  Then everything went downhill.

I started receiving bills for cellphone services such as Verizon, T-Mobile, and others.  One by one I had to email these companies to tell them that they had the wrong email address.  Some were easily accommodating; others took several attempts before eliminating me off their bills.  Along the way I also had requests for Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts, and even other Gmail accounts.  Each of these I had to either terminate or not accept at all.

However, the last straw came last week when one person who had been emailing bills for some weird items got way out of hand.  After contacting this person a couple of times that they had the wrong email address, they got angry at me and blocked me and made racial slurs against me even without ever meeting me or having anything to do with me whatsoever.  My thought was that at least this person was gone from life because of this, even though I was harassed in the process.

This brings me to my point:  Don’t use Gmail for your everyday usage as you could get emails that aren’t even yours.  Sadly, Google offers NO help with this problem and a generic email response I received from them a few months ago just got me madder.  (Sound familiar?  Think Newsweek.)  In fact the ability to receive help from Google is almost impossible as there is no easy way to a “Contact Us” link—it just doesn’t exist!

So what do I recommend?  Here is a list of some I have used and my feelings of them:

  • Yahoo MailIf you love spam, then this is the email system of choice.  I spend more time deleting emails from this service than any other.  The plus side is the groups, which is also their big minus as well.  Recommended only to the lonely and those who love to exercise the delete key.  If you do use this service, I would recommend going to the classic edition, which is non-Java based.  It provides faster deletion of emails.
  • Hotmail:  Soon to be merged into the newer Outlook.com site.  This is my preferred email service and tends to filer spam better than any other service.
  • Outlook:  A souped-up version of Hotmail.  I signed up as soon as this became available just to get the address I wanted.  Haven’t used it much, but looks promising.
  • Road Runner:  This is for Time Warner customers and associated services only.  Works well, but extremely dated look.  Filters spam pretty well, but not used much anymore because of its awkwardness.
  • NetZero/Juno:  These twin services I used when I first started online and haven’t used them much since.  Possibly worth having just to have a free email service.
  • Mail:  A lot of pop-ups make this a bother, but unlimited storage and putting everything in one place may be a plus to some.

Overall, I prefer the Hotmail account for being most efficient and one I use most often.  Gmail hits the bottom of the deck as if you really wanted to get everybody else’s mail.  Now if you excuse me I have more emails to get rid of from Gmail and many to delete from my Yahoo accounts.