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Really Want To Go Private? Top Tools To Prevent Digital Tracking.

Now that we’ve all been online for a considerable number of years, concern about our digital footprints has surfaced and certainly, about being tracked – from our location, shopping patterns to email and cell chats, etc.

Below are several tools we recommend (and use) in an effort to minimize being digitally tracked:

Web browser: Tor Browser (and Mozilla’s Firefox is the best major browser on privacy)

Internet Service Provider (ISP)Sonic (the preferred browser of Silicon Valley geeks)

Wireless provider: Cricket

Encrypt an email account you already have: Thunderbird with Enigmail; Mac Mail with GPGTools; Outlook with GPG4Win

Private email clients: UnspyableCountermail, or Shazzle

Search engines: Ixquick and DuckDuckGo

Mobile calls: RedPhone, Silent Circle

Mobile photos: ObscuraCam

Text messaging: TextSecure

Web-based chatting: Adium with OTR, Cryptocat

Mobile chatting: ChatSecure (iOS)

Hard drive encryption: BitLocker

Mobile browser: Onion Browser (iOS), Orweb (Android)

From our friends at indepdentlivingnews.com:

6 Things You Can Do Today To Bolster Your Online Privacy

Absolute Internet privacy is impossible.  There are, however, these basic precautions that can help you and your loved ones achieve a lower profile than most people:

  1. Decentralize Your Internet Services
    Don’t log into Google unless you have to. Google records your online activity whenever you’re logged into your account, even from services that seem separate, like YouTube, maps, and anything you search for. Try to break up these services. Consider using another webmail provider, like Yahoo, Zoho.com, Hushmail.com, or one of the many dozens of others available online.
  2. Install the AdBlock Plus Extension
    Adblock Plus doesn’t just block pop-up advertising on the Internet, it also protects you from sites infested with malware, and from some third-party tracking ‘cookies.’ Most websites allow AdBlock Plus, but you may encounter a site that won’t allow you to visit without also viewing their ads. Don’t worry! Just right-click the red stop sign in the browser’s toolbar to disable the program temporarily. You can download AdBlock Plus by visiting www.adblockplus.org.
  3. Use Extensions to Stop Data Collectors and Advertisement Tracking
    Third-party tracking ‘cookies’ can be located and blocked with an extension called Disconnect. A similar extension called Ghostery works just as well, but it hasn’t been updated in awhile. Disconnect also works to shield you from social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Google, which all use your browsing activity even while you’re away from their site to collect data about you. Get Disconnect or Ghostery for your web browser by visiting either www.disconnect.me, or www.ghostery.com/download.
  4. Browse the Web Securely with SSL
    Any computer between you and the website you’re visiting can see your activity and all of the information that is transmitted. Simply using https:// (also known as SSL) instead of the standard http:// will encrypt the information transmitted on your machine and ensure that no one is spying on your connection. Many online retailers use SSL for transactions, but using it for casual browsing certainly can’t hurt, and it might even prevent your identity from being stolen. There’s even an extension to automatically browse securely via SSL. You can download that extension by visiting www.eff.org/https-everywhere.
  5. Always Read the Privacy Policy
    Consult the website or company’s Privacy Policy, and see what information they’re gathering on you and how they plan to use it. Note whether or not they sell the information they collect, and whether third parties have access to it. See whether they claim to keep your information secure, and how they do it. Consider how your information could be misused, and lastly, weigh the benefits of the product with the dangers of giving up your privacy.
  6. Make your IP Address Anonymous with the Tor Project
    Using Tor to browse the web anonymously can help prevent special types of IP analytics and statistics programs from analyzing your activity. This can work in conjunction with the Disconnect extension because each time you load a web page, your IP, which is your Internet Address, switches to the IP of a different Tor server. Imagine the privacy advantages of your identity changing each time you visit a store. You can download Tor here: www.torproject.org/download/download-easy.html.en.

For more in-depth and detailed guides, we suggest the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Surveillance Self Defense site and PRISM Break.

Head’s Up: Don’t want it viewed? Don’t post it.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Divorce, 2015 and Dating Strangers.

divorce rate global 2014

(Check out the global divorce stats on the above map.)

The divorce rate for the U.S. holds at 53% but, at least in this category, we are not No. 1.   And, while the divorce rate is still high in the U.S., it is surpassed by Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, all ranking higher than 60%.

The dubious honor of the highest divorce rate in the world goes to Belgium with married couples divorcing at a staggering 70%!  The lowest official rate is in Chile with 3%.

Returning to a domestic focus, marriages in the Untied States are actually stronger today than they have been in decades.  The divorce rate spiked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the past three decades since.

According to the recent New York Times article in its The Upshot section, The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist (who also contributes to The Upshot).

So it appears that marriages are going the distance in larger numbers as people have adjusted to the myriad of societal shifts, two-income households, the feminist movement (two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women as women have become increasingly economically empowered), technology, etc.,  that contributed to divorce in the past.

We’re now curious to see how the current trend of meeting prospective spouses online will ultimately impact on the divorce rate.  We already know technology’s effect on marriage. From USA Today:

Findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, put the percentage of married couples that now meet online at almost 35% — which gives what may be the first broad look at the overall percentage of new marriages that result from meeting online. About 45% of couples met on dating sites; the rest met on online social networks, chat rooms, instant messaging or other online forums.

We have seen the impact of social technology in our field as more and more single people looking for partners have retained our services in conducting background searches.  In traditional partnering, people have relied on meeting family and friends of their date to vouch for them.  That safety barrier has been turned on its head now as meeting family and friends is now usually one of the very last steps in online dating.

If you are considering or already involved in online dating, before you arrive at the stage where having a background check performed on your potential serious dating partner is prudent, we suggest that you up (rather than relax) your guard as, really, you are meeting pure strangers.   To that end:

  1. Meet in public places that are in your date’s area of residence and that s/he frequents often.  This may allow you to potentially meet people who know your date and provide an insight to your date’s character.
  2. Maintain the contact with “normal” hours of communication.  Because we can now communicate at all hours doesn’t mean we should.   When we are tired or distracted (work, child care, etc.), we miss many cues from others that may be helpful in identifying your online friend’s true personality.   And certainly don’t get into the habit of talking at midnight.  In real life, would you be chatting it up with people at that time?  Probably not unless it’s an emergency. Keep it real.
  3. Arrive to your date destination in separate cars – and leave that way, even if you are going to a mutually agreed upon after-date venue.  Remember,  you do not know the person sitting across from you at the dining table.  You should always have the option to leave of your own volition.
  4. Have a friend of family member on stand-by, regularly checking in with you.  You know why. Usually, we advise otherwise for privacy reasons but when dating people from online, TURN ON YOUR CELL PHONE’S LOCATION FUNCTION!
  5. Trust your instincts.  If your date is making you nervous or uncomfortable – for any reason – leave.  Remember, that is your choice.  You are with a stranger.  Remaining safe trumps being polite.

All in all, online dating is here to stay and will increase to the point of being the majority method for meeting potential spouses.  Social online interactions also already influence the divorce rate, so it will be interesting to monitor the nascent dating revolution.  We’ll keep you posted in future articles upon researching the newly developing data.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Your Online Pics Are Broadcasting Your Location; GeoTags.


When you post your pics online, you could be sharing more than you know.  Most pics taken via our cell phones contain embedded location info that is easily readable by would-be criminals who can then use that data to track you.

How Do Your Pics Get GeoTagged?

When you take a picture with your smartphone or digital camera, it’s typically saved as a JPEG to your device. That image file gets embedded with Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) data, which includes the time, date, and GPS location where your photo was taken. That photo’s GPS location is called a geotag.

The Dangers of GeoTagging

Once a geotagged photo in uploaded online, or attached to an email, the geotag becomes available to anyone with access to your online pics or email messages.

How can this place you in danger from a stalker or other would-be criminal? Envision the below scenarios:

1. You are selling an item online.

You want to sell your TV so you take a picture with your iPhone 6 and upload it to your Craigslist posting.  A potential buyer contacts you and in the email exchange, in an effort to show more of the item, perhaps you even send along additional pics. If your pics were geotagged, the interested buyer can now identify the location from which you took the photo – usually your home.   The “buyer” may ask if you have additional home appliances, electronic devices, etc. to sell.  He could be digitally casing your home – with your active cooperation.

2. You are dating online.

1 out of every 4 marriages now originates from online dating sites such as Match, Our Time, Christian Singles, JDate, etc.   In your initial posts, to err on the side of safety, you hide your full name, contact information, and where you live. But all of these sites request a personal pic.  You take a selfie and post away.  Now, whether you like it or not, you have given a potential stalker your exact location.

Young Blonde Woman Takes Selfie On Vacation

3. You’re traveling.

It’s almost impossible to not upload and post those envy-evoking beautiful vacay pics of the Bahamas.   While you are Instagramming away your gorgeous sunset shots, bear in mind that you have just alerted one of your wacky followers that you are thousands of miles from home.

4.  Your valuables.

It’s natural to want to post pics of your new car, shiny Rolex and other bling.  Why not post a complete itemized list of your valuables since the criminal already have the address from your geo-tagged brag pics? Trolling social media for just such pics is the new work-from-home gig for today’s thieves.

Although Facebook strips geotags from your uploaded photos, it does show a map of photos you tag. (Just look under “Places” on your profile.)  Even the dumbest criminal can figure out that the 35 pics of your bling are probably taken from the same location and, you may even inadvertently let them know where you stash your family jewels.

5. You have a stalker.

If your online profiles are public, any stranger can figure out your routine. We are creatures of habit – a definite advantage for the online stalker who can track when and where you post, whether you are at work, where you live, where you hang out, and when you’re not home.  Imagine a stalker (or sex offender)  tracking your family pics of your kids in your backyard, at school, at a nearby park, etc.

How To Remove Geotags From New Photos

Now that you realize the very real danger of allowing geotags to remain in your pics, here’s how you remove the geotags before you take the photos:

For an iPhone 5 or 6:

  1. From your iPhone’s home screen, tap the “Settings” icon.
  2. Scroll down until you see the “Privacy” tab, and tap “Location Services.”
  3. Look for the “Camera” tab. Open it, and you’ll see ALLOW LOCATION ACCESS. Click “Never.”

For an iPhone 4:

  1. Hit the “Settings” icon from the home screen.
  2. Find the “Privacy” tab, and tap “Location Services.”
  3. After tapping the “Camera” setting, switch the tab from “ON” to “OFF.”

For an Android:

  1. Find the camera app.
  2. Tap the “Settings” icon on in the app.
  3. Find the Location or GPS tag, and turn it off.

How To Remove Geotags From Photos You’ve Already Taken

If you’ve never disabled location services on your phone’s camera, you have photos in your library that are still geotagged.

To remove geotags from stored pics: use these apps:  deGeo or ViewExif for an iPhone or iPad, Exif Eraser for an Android, or Pixelgarde for an Android or Apple device. Pixelgarde allows you to strip geotagged photos in bulk.


Do Social Sites Allow GeoTags?

Fortunately, no. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter,  Pinterest, eBay and IMgur automatically remove geotag data from your photos when you upload them.   Of the online dating sites, Match.com, PlentyofFish, and OKCupid also strip your pics’ location data.

However,  Tumblr, Picasa, Photobucket, Dropbox, and Google+ do not remove geotags from uploaded images. Flickr gives you the option to do it.

Craigslist doesn’t provide a definitive answer on its website. Neither does Tinder.

Do Texts And Emails Show Geotags?

Yes. When you attach a photo to an email, that photo’s EXIF data is also included. SMS messages don’t typically retain this data, but iMessages can.

How can access your geotag info?

There are several ways, and some of them are more useful and prettier than others. It all depends on the computer you’re using. Just remember that a determined stalker will take all of the time in the world to break obtain and breakdown the geotag data in his desired target’s pics. But for the rest of us, here are a few ways to get the GPS information from your photos.

On a Mac

If you’re using a Mac, you can access your GPS information by simply right clicking on the photo file you want to view and then picking “get info.”

This will bring up a box showing all of the EXIF data attached to that particular image file.

On a PC

It’s a little different on a PC, but it’s pretty much the same thing. Right click on your image, and then pick “properties.” From there, a similar window should pop up showing all the EXIF data, including the location of the picture you just took.

Bottom line: Pay attention to what you are posting and don’t leave your security – and that of your family-  in the hands of a third party.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Peeple: The App That Lets People Rate Others, Coming November 2015.


Peeple is being touted as the Yelp for people, the app that lets you review other people without their consent.

How it works:

(from Mashable)

The app, founded by Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough, will be available only on iOS devices in November. It’s already had thousands sign up to be beta testers, according to a post on the Peeple Facebook page (link deactivated).

In order to post a review, users have to be 21 or older with an active Facebook account. Reviews must be made under a person’s own name, and a user must indicate how they know the person they will review in one of three categories: Personal, professional or romantic.

Anyone who has access to someone’s cellphone number can start a new profile for them on the site. The person will receive a text informing them who started their profile and “that they should check out what you said about them on our app.” The FAQ’s make no mention of how the site will check on the validity of the number provided.

Once someone is added, anyone on Peeple can weigh in on his or her merits as a person.

“People do so much research when they buy a car or make those kinds of decisions,” said Cordray told the Washington Post. “Why not do the same kind of research on other aspects of your life?”

Why it shouldn’t work.


Why not treat people as you would a used car, Ms. Cordray?  Glad you asked (although I’m surprised that anyone above majority age requires that clarification).  To an experienced investigator, one thing is absolutely certain and that is that the assessment of  human beings is always subjective.  We’re not products such as vehicles or homes or services provided by telecoms or restaurants with defined market values and traceable and trackable basic maintenance/service records.

I find the Peeple app kinda creepy based solely on this comparison to wholly inanimate objects or unique human interactions.  It sounds basically like a mean girls club in the formative phase.

But then we come to the actual purpose of the app – to dish about other people and rate them.  To the first, Ms. Cordray claims to have “integrity features” such as disallowing:  shaming and bullying, profanity, listing of private health issues and sexist comments.  (As to the last item, are the two female founders anticipating an overwhelming amount of bitchy verbal clawing among women?  Why single out that -ism?  Perhaps this really is  Yelp for and by Mean Girls.)   That aside, unless the task of discerning intent and meaning in language is relegated to English profs, the average “internet content assessor” is a woefully inadequate arbiter of phraseology.  E.g.,:  “In this age of overwhelming grooming options, I find Mark Jones’ raw appreciation for an au naturel existence incredibly eye-opening!”  Translation:  “This guy stinks to high hell and makes my eyes bleed!”  See? Seriously, ladies, as an English Second Languag’er even I can scoot past your language police.   As to the latter, rating people/assigning them numbers, Ugh.   Humanity doesn’t need a rating system; softer filters, perhaps.

What is wrong with this app.

  1. Personal safety.  Every prosecution involving this app will begin with, “Was the assault foreseeable?”  Yes.
  2. Legal.  Consent, bias, accuracy??
  3. Raison d’etre.  Not a one.  How can this not hurt thousands, if not millions, of people who are simply living their imperfect, human lives? Heck, I’ve already p.o.’s the two app founders and they haven’t even met me. Yet.

Safety first, Peeple people.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

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