I’ve already blogged about the difficulty of getting your data deleted and how to shop safely online.

This article delves into some of the more esoteric techniques I’ve used to try and stay a step ahead of data breaches while using the web and apps, with an honest account of which ones work, the effort involved and some of the unintended consequences. Feel free to skim — and I hope you will try at least some of them!

This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to security — you should already be using strong, unique passwords and two…

In a hurry? Please skim the bold text and be ready to note some actions!

My first online purchase a little over 25 years ago was for a CD. I don’t remember which one (honestly!), only that it was from a company called CDconnection and that I provided my bank card details over an unsecured Internet link.

Fortunately that purchase went without a hitch. Soon after, a technology known as SSL (now TLS) was adopted by online shops to encrypt your credit card number between your computer and theirs. …

Finding myself stuck at home for most of the year, frustrated with companies inventing excuses to start pestering me again — not to mention the constant drip-drip of data breaches which is gradually turning into a steady flow — I decided it’s time for a clear-out of unused online accounts.

In case you think this would be easy, what with all that fuss about GDPR, prepare to reset your expectations. In this post I will share my learnings from trying to delete dozens of accounts. Offenders will be named and shamed.

Delete key symbols
Delete key symbols

Lesson 1: Your data gets everywhere

Imagine dropping a tub of marbles in the middle…

It usually starts with something like this:

“Can you give this form to Sam in HR please?”

Not an unreasonable request to most people, just a mundane part of a day in the office. As you pop over to Sam’s department, maybe you’ll make smalltalk or even flirt with them, or perhaps you’re in a hurry and will brusquely hand over the paperwork with a quick “here you go”. In any case it’s no big deal.

That’s unless, like me, you suffer from prosopagnosia. Commonly known as face blindness, it refers to the inability to recognise faces and it turns…

Two years on from the introduction of GDPR, most companies here in the UK seem to have got the message. After the initial flurry of privacy policy updates, the flow of unwanted communications slowed to the point where the remaining culprits stand out like a sore thumb.

My tolerance for misuse of my personal data has likewise decreased, not helped by me falling victim to an exceptionally large payment card fraud linked to a data breach earlier this year. I’ll reserve further comment as that case is subject to legal action.

For now let’s talk about a lesser but more…

Elaine Herzberg will go down in history as the first person killed by an autonomous vehicle. On 18th March 2018 she crossed a four-lane road into the path of an Uber taxi running in self-drive mode. Neither the autonomous driving systems nor the safety driver intervened to avert the fatal collision.

Elaine Herzberg crossing the path of a self-driving Uber (source: Tempe police)

This raises the obvious question: are self-driving cars safe? So far we don’t have enough information to answer that, but a second question arises: is the current regulation of this technology sufficient?

The Uber crash is still under investigation, but the company’s past behaviour doesn’t inspire much confidence. Towards…

As mentioned in my last post, given the recent revelations about Facebook’s, it seems there are many of us who have lost trust in the social network but would prefer not to disengage altogether, given that the network effect is so strong (“all my friends are on it!”)

Privacy matters to us, but we don’t want to live in an underground bunker. Apart from the leaking of phone and SMS data, there are few individual examples of data that you could point to and say “they shouldn’t know this”. …

Facebook is like those Krispy Kreme doughnuts that people bring into the office — instantly gratifying, addictive but nobody even tries to pretend they’re healthy. My first post on the subject explains why. So should you try to cut down?

Since the controversy I’ve talked to a dozen or more individuals, mostly in person (thankfully we still do that). I am surprised by how many are genuinely concerned. Less surprising, but understandable, is the dreaded fear of missing out (FOMO). Assuming it really is a “thing”, this Lifehacker article might help (warning: contains pop psychology).

One topic that came up…

To say Facebook is getting a lot of bad press in the last week or so would be an understatement. How about a 13% share price drop?

Here I’ll explain why I think so much criticism is deserved and expected. Deserved because of the way this corporation has behaved, and expected because of the natural monopoly position they have found themselves in.

What’s the controversy about?

The Guardian’s coverage explains it far better than I, and every time I refer back to double-check my facts a new, disturbing revelation is published. But in short:

  • Back in 2015, a shady political…

I suck at writing blogs. It’s a decade since my first one, about half a decade since the last. Normally I write a handeful of articles and then lose the momentum. So is this third time lucky?

No! Let’s not call it a blog. Medium is going to be different.

I’m planning to treat this, um, medium (lowercase ‘m’) as a place for me to write stuff whenever I want. It could be opinions, or it could be technical stuff. Perhaps I’ll post on here some of the longer rants and opinions that I would have posted on Facebook before…

Lars Janssen

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