Author: EyeSpy

Ofcom bought £millions of useless 4G kit

The fiasco about Ofcom’s drawn-out 4G heel-dragging continues with another story eked out from the rumour mill. 

The government-backed UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), we have heard, advised Ofcom to purchase £20 million of various 4G spectrum kit. 

Having unpacked the boxes and had a closer look, on further inspection it seemed that there wasn’t much Ofcom can do with it.

A great deal of the equipment, acquired from a reseller, was out of date. Now Ofcom is allegedly looking for a buyer to take the redundant stuff off its hands – for about a quarter of what it paid.

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “The rumour you have reported is 100 percent false.” That means there must be some truth to it, because Ofcom refused to give TechEye any details. It also refused to comment on this story for two weeks of repeatedly asking, until we just went ahead and published it.

We have found this as a pattern with Ofcom, it is not particularly press friendly and is really quite press inimical. We wonder why…

The UK isn’t expected to get wide availability of 4G until 2015.

Dell: Apple needs to open up its secret proprietary garden

Those famous allies, Intel and Dell, are working on a research project which they both hope will provide them with some more insight about where and how the workplace is evolving. The world has already seen a lot of changes in the last ten years alone, so what’s next?

TechEye had a chat with Bryan Jones, executive director of marketing for public and large enterprise at Dell EMEA, and Ian Jones, enterprise sales director at Intel. We’re told there is no relation.

Dell and Intel have commissioned a survey of 8,000 workers in independent fields related to IT who will feed back their findings to a panel of experts.  The Dell blog, here, outlines exactly what the report aims to achieve. The report isn’t finished yet, but there are seven key points which have got Dintel curious. 

 

Choice and change

At first glance, they’re dressed up in corporate speak, but both companies make tacit arguments about how the workplace is changing. First, the two want to figure out how to make crowdsourcing work in business. “Businesses are fascinated with the concept of crowdsourcing,” Bryan Jones tells us. “But how do they then take that and apply that to their business? I think it’s a perspective of a lot of business, they know what it is and they should be interested, but they’re struggling with here it fits in.” A Mechanical Turk is not only found on the Kingsland Road.

There are questions about how crowdsourcing fits in with the core of an IT department. “How do you build the right IT infrastructure to take advantage of these colonies of experts, as you bring them in?” Dell’s Jones asks. Then there is crowdsourcing as a service. Or more specifically, he says, “how do you break up a concept, or development into  something that you can take advantage of that crowdsourcing capability? You spend a lot of money on your experts, your really smart people who are there for the innovation, but how can you free up their resources and time so they don’t have to do the mundane stuff?” And that is what Intel and Dell want to figure out. 

To us, it seems that what Dell is implying is a working world in which, perhaps, it’s not neccessary for the executives and the lab workers to file the paperwork and reports that bog down otherwise important research. For example, there is a Finnish company called Microtask which pays multiple people to fill in the smallest details of a form, cross checking the answers and using software to understand the correct response. In the end you have a complete document, in a similar way that Google’s captcha project is digitising books while also providing security for websites and services.

Intel and Dell say another concept which has found itself under the looking glass is measuring worker productivity by output rather than hours. Is the nine-to-five job, which the world is so set in its way with, really necessary? “Do you need to go to the office, or can you get it done at the coffee shop, do you have to do it nine to five?” Dell’s Jones asks. “How do you evaluate employees on a like for like basis from an HR perspective?” The landscape is changing and we don’t need to be set in our ways. The output is what matters, not the timesheet. 

 

Devices in the workplace

TechEye recently talked to Good Technology, which has a new suite of products that IT managers can integrate to look at security on the app level. Any company which holds sensitive information is a potential customer, according to Good. The reason software like this is so crucial is because of the ebb and flow of new devices entering a working environment.

As Intel says, there is a change in adoption. According to Ian Jones: “Increasingly, what we’re seeing is the choice of the device is situational – as a professional, I know you’ve got a laptop, and a smartphone, and a tablet, and you will choose those depending on your circumstance at the time.” The same goes for other industries where the choice of devices varies, like in construction where rugged smartphones and tablets can be appropriate. “These devices are becoming more pervasive around the world,” Jones says.

And with these pervasive devices comes the prospect of a global network, connected at all times.

Could that ready availability and constant connectivity lead to more work-related stress – and not less of it? It depends how a company plans to look at it.

Bryan Jones agrees there are questions to be asked. “That’s part of what we’re trying to understand. This whole concept of the adoption of the devices, measuring output, not hours. I think there is a cultural set of challenges with being always on and always connected. You need downtime to recharge your batteries and be at your best. We think there is a balance that has to be struck.”

Intel’s Ian Jones tows a similar line: “Giving individuals the freedom to choose is a massive benefit for an IT director to bring to a community. If you had to get something finished on the Friday evening, you had to stay late. Now you have the choice to do it in a different way.”

But there “are pros and cons,” according to Dell. “We’re trying to get to how IT helps enable and address the challenges rather than make them worse.”

Jones says as the generational change becomes more clear, the latest technology as part of the package is arguably as important as the company car once was 20 years ago. 

“We’re spending a lot of time ‘on’,” said Dell’s Bryan Jones. “The shift in responsibility is moving away from the domain of the employer to this shared responsibility of employer and employee. You have to help yourself, and be willing to be involved and accountable for yourself in a way that frankly wasn’t there ten years ago.”

With the changes in IT, it’s clear that there needs to be a worldwide attitude change for companies to keep their head above the water. 

Of course, Dell’s Bryan Jones says that, as a company involved in and familiar with the consumerisation of IT, you want to be able to open up and embrace it. “But you can’t do it without having some level of control,” he says. “Otherwise you have security concerns, accountability concerns, compliance issues.” With that, the role of the IT manager needs a re-think, they must face up to how the changing face of technology fits  in and connects to the rest of the organisation. 

That is where the jack-of-all-trades future CIO comes in. CIOs will need to know more, be flexible and highly adaptable. “The CIO of the future is going to be the manager that has the internal stuff, all the way out to other stuff that is exclusively in the cloud and everything in between,” Dell’s Jones said. While the concepts “may be uncomfortable for today’s IT executive to address, you’re going to have to, to remain relevant and attract the right worker.”   

Jones says that people pick their technology and then find appropriate uses for it, too. Good Technology told us about American soldiers on the battlefields in Iraq where soldiers were using iPhones to navigate and communicate. Jones agrees that when technology can be manipulated and used to an advantage, in certain security-critical situations it’s very, very important to have the right infrastructure protection there. 

The soldier using an iPhone is a good example, Jones says: “If you think about the choice of the device, we see that a lot. That burden of making structure secure is something the IT manager is faced with, it has to be security at the app level, and making sure someone using the device is who they say they are.” That’s a significant change. The control is out of the hands of the employer. 

People are increasingly savvy with their own devices at home, which often offer a level of technology and usability a that blows the office computer out of the water.

TechEye asked about the difficulties in educating end users and the IT managers. As the generational gap shifts, so does the understanding of IT in the workplace. No example is as perfect as the public sector and, specifically, the NHS. The NHS is a huge organisation which also has offices around all of the United Kingdom. 

Although it is frowned upon, workers do bring their own devices to their jobs at the NHS. That’s good, and bad, according to Intel. At the very least it suggests a shift in thinking. 

“The NHS is a tough customer that we [Intel] have had experience with,” Ian Jones says. “People are starting to bring their own devices in, and using them, and goodness knows if they’re secure. On the other hand, there are tablet projects which are secured through a smart card scheme, so they are clearly at a level of progression on both fronts. They are arguably the toughest customer to address because they’re regional, trust by trust, but they – both managed and unmanaged – prove the change is happening there, and it’s going to happen in other places as well.”

Dell says there will be healthcare specific data in the report. What it wants to do is understand, and help other businesses understand – including in sensitive areas like healthcare, insurance, banking and the legal community – exactly how to handle their data. “How much of this can you put in the cloud, or should you put in the cloud,” in Bryan Jones’ words. “We’re trying to get some more insight into this in the next round of research.”

 

Locked-in, proprietary systems doomed? Dell thinks so

The future of the workforce will not be with a single vendor. Dell tells us: “They will not be proprietary and they will not be closed architectures. They will have to support multi vendor capabilities.”

What, then, about the famously walled-garden that Apple has built around itself? “That should include Apple,” according to Dell. “We look at solutions from Apple, HP, IBM, Oracle, and there has been a trend lately for closed architecture. We don’t think long term that ever wins the race.

We believe you have to be able to support all of that. What you’re essentially betting is that one provider is going to out-innovate the entire industry – the innovation will win out in the end.”

“It can’t be ONLY Apple, devices, it can’t be ONLY Apple applications,” Jones says. “The iPhone is being outshipped by Android, especially in emerging economies. And if you’re going to deliver in a global sense, we believe long term, open and affordable absolutely delivers.”

Blackberry PR execs frequently get knickers in a twist

Blackberry’s internal communications team is just a little bit tetchy. 

According to a person very familiar with the matter, they will immediately blacklist a magazine, blog or website for offences as severe as being a little bit critical. 

When asked if it was really that bad, our source took a deep breath and simply nodded. 

For example, a story which did not fawn over the PlayBook was sent up the chain. Furious executives bayed for blood and punished the blog in question with a blacklisting. Like they do with others. The problem with that is when they realise no one is writing about them anymore.

No doubt the whingeing executives would have been busy as the device was not exactly well received in the tech press. 

Apparently, RIM monitors the press very, very closely.

Executives hold temper tantrums, we heard, and demand blacklisting all corners of the web which refuse to gush over its products.

Who is behind this? Is it the two-headed dragon of Lazaridis and The Other One which is slaying itself? Or do jobs at RIM require a personality disorder as part of the application process?

We’ll never know, probably, as this just might get us blacklisted (again).

Live in Europe? Force Facebook to give you back your data

Facebook isn’t known for respecting the privacy or rights of its users, this is nothing new, but it looks like Zuckerberg may have to anticipate a kick in the teeth.

That would be courtesy of European Data Protection, forcing Facebook to become a little more transparent over how much it holds on individuals.

Many people probably think that Facebook is immune from having to abide by the EU data laws. After all, isn’t it a company based in California – and therefore outside the scope of the EU?

At the very top of Facebook’s Terms: “Company Information: The website under www.facebook.com and the services on these pages are being offered to you by: 

Facebook Ireland Limited

Hanover Reach,

5-7 Hanover Quay,

Dublin 2

Ireland”

And from Section 18 of the Terms: “If you are a resident of or have your principal place of business in the US or Canada, this Statement is an agreement between you and Facebook, Inc. Otherwise, this Statement is an agreement between you and Facebook Ireland Limited. References to “us,” “we,” and “our” mean either Facebook, Inc. or Facebook Ireland Limited, as appropriate.”

According to this, take ‘Facebook’ as meaning ‘Facebook Ireland Limited’. If you’re outside of the US and Canada, you’re signed up with the company in Ireland instead of the US. Facebook has kindly made the language nice and clear so that you can be in no doubt about who you’re dealing with and where in the world.

Setting up shop in Ireland means that Facebook is an entity within the EU and, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have the option of picking and choosing which laws to abide by, European or US, or what rights it should grant the consumer.

Data protection in Ireland does some of that for it. Being based in Dublin means that Facebook is just as accountable as any other company there would be when it comes handling your information, even if your data is handed over to and used in the US. 

Just because it started in California it certainly doesn’t mean Zuckerberg’s immune from the laws in Europe. 

So what does this mean for you? Section 4 of the Data Protection Act is a notable point to emerge from its move across the pond. It states that you have a right to access all of the data a company is holding on you. Irish regulations allow the company to charge a maximum fee of €6.35 and the request must be filled by them within 40 days in order to comply with the act. 

Ever wanted to know exactly what Facebook has on you? Here’s the link to the data request form hidden within the depths of the help centre. 

You will have to scan and upload a copy of your ID to prove you are who you say you are and it probably wouldn’t hurt to throw in a quote from the relevant Data Protection Act (section 4 of the DPA or Article 12 of EU Directive 95/46/EG) to get things moving along.

According to website ‘Europe vs Facebook’ expect to have to send a few requests, maybe a couple of emails and perhaps even throw a little complaint towards the data commissioner before it gets around to complying.

The information will be sent to you on a CD as a PDF. Normally over 1,000 pages long and containing information you probably believed you had long since deleted, and perhaps even forgot about completely, the data you are requesting by filling out the form really is everything, or at least should be everything. All information attached to photographs, all phone numbers including from where you’ve synced your phone and  tags. 

Even private messages, allegedly including those which have been deleted and potentially contain some very private information, likes, status updates, notifications, all of it. 

If you request it, they have to send it.

Qualcomm mulls Imagination buy

An industry insider has told TechEye that Qualcomm, though doing rather well, is struggling with certain graphics drivers in its next line of chip designs.

And that is the reason the rumour mill suggests it will buy at least some of British based Imagination Technologies, says a person familiar with the matter. Imagination is known for its work with graphics on system-on-chip designs.

Although we were not privy as to just what problem Qualcomm is having with its mobile graphics drivers, we’ve heard it’s serious enough for a shopping spree… 

Furious FC Sion fans DDoS Celtic website

Celtic FC’s website was under attack this week from distraught and furious FC Sion fans.

It faced serious, repeated DDoS attempts when FC Sion got kicked out of the UEFA Cup, because it was found to have fielded players against Celtic who weren’t registered.

Celtic is in the news about a rivalry against the Swiss team. The view in Switzerland is that UEFA is ignoring the wills of the Swiss courts, and fans are furious.

People the world over have realised it’s actually quite easy to bring a lot of websites to their knees, in what is turning into a kind of mob rule situation where if you get enough hacktivists – or angry Sion fans – you can attack companies or organisations, often with little consequence.

Celtic is usually busy rowing with Rangers, including the odd post bomb or two, but it was caught on the back foot this time by Sion fans who found the ruling unacceptable.

The Celtic website is back to normal, for now.

PaloAlto's Cubik speakers reviewed

Here we have PaloAlto’s new laptop speakers which are arguably aimed at the Apple crowd. Compatible with both PC and Mac, PaloAlto says the Cubik speakers are a high end system that offers sound which is unmatched by other speakers in its class. 

The first thing you’ll probably notice about Palo Alto’s speakers is the design – a cube but at a weird angle – which makes fitting them on your desk kind of a pain if you live among clutter. I do.

But once you’ve figured out how to screw the base on (not hard) and plugged the things in, they complement a stylish laptop but look very out of place with a desktop. That was the idea. PaloAlto says that the way they are designed means you can place them anywhere in a room and get the same quality of sound – which you do. 

Unfortunately they are not particularly portable, so one assumes they are intended for the user with a desktop replacement laptop. Fortunately for Palo Alto there are a lot of those out there, and they’re available to buy on the Apple store, which shouldn’t hurt revenues. Again, the portability is testing for someone who moves around a lot but doesn’t like the  generally tinny sounds that come out of, say, a netbook. Headphones are still the best bet on that front. Especially because you’re going to need a power supply – these aren’t some flouncey USB powered speakers, they need proper juice.

Impressively, they handled Skream’s dub island and you could still hear the beats over the top. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eWnp_RwKCU It struggled about half-way through, but a worn out or elderly sub can give you the kind of wobble you don’t want to hear. The Cubiks have long-vent advanced enclosure, which is the technology that enables the rich sound and bass from a small system. 

A problem was the controls. They’re on the speaker itself, which is fine, but the way the individual speaker is designed and sits on your desk means you’ve got to reach around to turn the volume up or down. The buttons were not particularly clearly marked, so if you’re a forever alone basement dweller they will be no good for 2am bouts of Starcraft with the lights off. 

You can tell why when you switch them on. The design is incredibly clever. It manages to deliver a respectable amount of bass without totally muddying the music. Of course, it won’t compare to a real sub-woofer or high end gear, but in a touch, they’re an OK buy for what they can do. 

PaloAlto claims that the Cubiks are of a comparable quality to BOSE PC speakers and for half the price, at £179.49. Admittedly, there are similar options in the same class that cost a lot more – but we would still recommend a full set up for sound buffs regardless. Those are upgradeable. I have to say that my six year old Creative I-Trigue speakers, which have been used an awful, awful lot, still deliver clearer clarity and overall sound quality, with a fuller experience. Personally, the price tag seems a little high for the product you get. Although it is undoubtedly a smart design with impressive quality for what they are, music buffs will still probably prefer a more serious, fuller option.

We had a dubstep DJ and music producer give the speakers a run through. He was impressed with the punch they pack for the size and set-up, but ultimately, said in a pinch they wouldn’t do for basic sound engineering or, in his opinion, listening. But he still liked them, because they are a likeable product.

Google buys old Finnish paper mill

Google has opened a gigantic data centre in Finland and it’s getting the neighbour’s hopes up, with talk that other technology bigwigs will follow suit and set up shop in Scandanavia.

The problem for Finland is, outside the capital, Helsinki, the situation is grim. Although the national pride of the Finns will mean they won’t admit it – instead, many of them intent on clinging to success stories and going down with sinking ships – the jobs market is not promising. And data centres do not typically bring in a lot of work. The positive side of Finland in tech is a culture of start-ups that are as keen to fail and learn from mistakes as they are to snatch investment and earn millions.

Much of Finland used to rely on manufacturing. Indeed, Google’s new €200 million ($271.9 million) purchase used to be a paper mill in Hamina, but as companies have wised up to the benefits of outsourcing abroad over the last couple of decades, the mills and factories have closed down. Drive a couple of hours out from Helsinki to Tampere and the scenery is very different. Or even a couple of stops on the train to the daytime drinkers of Kallio.

The manual labour jobs for the everyman have slowed. The shiny new buildings of posh Espoo and Nokia’s HQ would have you think otherwise.

Data centres will feed it for a quick buck but long term will not bring the prosperity Finland is hoping for. It’s a different story in Norway and Sweden, but the word from the man on the street in Finland is, at least after a few drinks, there is a lot of pride about a nation secretly in decline. 

Still, the Wall Street Journal reports, Google has seen an opportunity and seized it. The naturally cooler climate makes parts of the country perfect for placing its electrical powerhouses, as do other small towns in, say, Sweden. An entrepreneur from Luleå, Sweden, spoke to the WSJ and said the infrastructure is pretty unique thanks to the location and hydroelectric power dams. Twice, he claimed, the capacity of Nevada’s Hoover Dam. 

But some of the more attractive reasons, the report says, is the advanced infrastructure in place and good access to fiber-optics, and political stability. Not to mention their close proximity to the booming Russian technology industry, an oft-overlooked part of the world which is making great bounds, but where Western tech firms are a little worried to set up shop. 

You can get a train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg in just three and a half hours. 

How to stop Facebook and Google trampling on your privacy rights

Companies like Facebook and Google keep infringing on our rights to privacy. Their secretive and menacing privacy policies are ever reaching into our data, handing over the details of your life to third parties when our contacts agree, giving us little choice over who has our information.

We also have the government in the UK talking about shutting down social media in times of unrest and increasing monitoring of social networks, while the US has recently been trying to push through HR 1981, a far reaching data retention bill. Many other countries in Europe already do this, Denmark and Norway to name two, having adopted the EU data retention directive. Denmark goes further, imposing more monitoring than the directive requires.

We are also tracked online pretty much everywhere. Looked at something on Amazon recently?

Somewhere, sat on a data bank, there is a record of your purchases, planned purchases, and things you’ve looked at. Does your Amazon account send your confirmations and delivery reports about purchases to Gmail? Now Google know what you’ve bought, too. Then there’s e-tags and similar technology, which even if you delete cookies, they just reproduce them. Your IP is logged by law under the data retention act (UK).

Depending on the country, all of your activities may also be logged. Many countries have such strict censorship or such oppression of rights that you cannot be yourself online without facing privacy intrusions. Be sure to check the data retention that your country has in place to see how extreme the monitoring of your activities is. This may give you reason to follow these steps, if the rest isn’t enough to persuade you.

It’s time to fight back.

There are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself online, so here are a couple of basics.

Yes, it will take effort, maybe a little money, and a lot of reading up, but if you want to keep your privacy it’s worthwhile. It’s also a big ‘up yours’ to governments, Google and others who make a mockery of security around your data, and in some cases, profit from it.

This will not necessarily make you completely anonymous, these are just some basic steps, but it does prevent a lot of your footsteps being traced back to you, giving you some semblance of privacy on the internet.

These suggestions aren’t to be taken lightly, and please remember that abusing these things for ill gives the opportunity for governments to impose restrictions on them. Use them responsibly or don’t bother. Handle your own data. Yes, this one is really obvious, but many people seem to forget that using services online usually has a stipulation of ‘hey we can see what you’re doing!’.

Do you use a Gmail account when you sign up to services? What email address do you use for Facebook? For Amazon? For anything? Do you use webmail a lot? Stop. Get yourself a domain.

It’s cheap and most providers have a nice management system in place so that you can handle your email addresses and so on. Make yourself an email address, set it up in Evolution or whatever email software it is you use. Check that the privacy policy of the webmail service your domain provider has and see if the data stored there is used for anything, instead of just sitting there.

Hosting providers are less likely to be using it for marketing purposes than popular webmail providers like Google, keep in mind that you’re paying them to handle it. If you’re concerned about whether privacy will be available, or you can’t find anything about it, email the domain provider before you sign up and ask what your options are with regards to email privacy. Also ask whether you can permanently delete your content. Again, read their privacy policy. I cannot state enough how important reading the privacy policies of services is when it comes to controlling your data.

Be sure to opt out of showing your personal information in the website’s whois.

Start pretending to be from another country.

That doesn’t mean donning a kimono or wearing a string of garlic, it means getting a VPN. A virtual private network is a tunnelling service. You effectively, using lay terms here, connect to another computer somewhere else in the world and use that IP instead of your own. This makes it much harder for people to log your traffic online. There are plenty of public VPNs available if you believe your security may be at risk due to your habits online.

This is not a suggestion of ‘you can go and do illegal stuff because no one knows it’s you!’, people misusing it in this way risk the legality of the services for those who may actually need them for a number of reasons, or those who want to protect themselves from the prying eyes of companies and governments for their own peace of mind.

There are a lot of people around the world who may be at risk if they were found to be speaking out online, for example. So if you want anonymity to be a little shit, congratulations on making it harder for us who have legitimate reasons.

Private VPNs are available pretty cheap. They do keep information from when you sign up, and some will log your traffic online. Check the privacy policy before you sign up for any private VPN service to see exactly how much privacy you have when using their service. Some will state categorically that they do not log information, but they will still have your details from when you sign up for an account. Others may log absolutely everything you do, and then sell the data to a third party. They do not accept illegal use of their services, and rightly so, and they will hand over your information if you are found to be using it for ill.

Public VPNs are much more private, the whole point of them being anonymity. For most, there is no logging, there is no sign up and so they don’t have any contact details on you. There are many ‘proxy’ sites you can use too. You go to the site, you type in the address of the website you would like to surf anonymously, and voilà! There you go. Again, be sure to check any privacy policy attached to these sites. If you do not find one, do not use it.

Tor is a service which makes your web browsing anonymous. This has been a point of contention recently because of the activities of hacktivist groups who openly discuss the use of it. You download and install, make sure all your settings are right, and then you get surfing.

When you open it, it will tell you the IP address that you are surfing from, and it gives you the option of changing your address if you want to. It also features NoScript, another handy app.

Get NoScript here.  

This comes as standard with Tor, however you can still use it with Firefox without the use of Tor. It allows you control the scripts, cookies and other code websites try to load. You can blacklist certain things, whitelist certain things, and basically handle the amount of scripts that websites are allowed to load on your computer, hence ‘no script’.

From the website: “NoScript selectively, and non-intrusively, blocks all scripts, plug-ins, and other code on Web pages that could be used to attack your system during visits”.

Clear your browsing data.  

This one is probably obvious but you’d be amazed how many people leave their cookies, temp files, and everything else, just building up on their PC. This is not a clever thing to do.

Cookies and other seemingly harmless files are used to track what you do online. Companies leave a little unique ID in a cookie, which identifies that the person using the site is you. Every time you go to that site, if the cookie is there, they know. This is more data for them.

Regularly clear your browsing data. Not sure if it’s clear? Clear it again. Remove cookies, temp files, everything. Fine, you’ll be logged out of your favourite sites, but it’s a small price to pay and you can always just log back in each time.

Pseudonyms and aliases.  Google+ has introduced a ‘real names policy’. This means they want you to use your real name, and not a pseudonym on their services. The backlash from users has been immense.

The reason for the policy? Here’s what Google’sEric Schmidt had to say. “The only way to manage this is true transparency and no anonymity. In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a name service for people. Governments will demand it.”

Apparently it’s dangerous for you to be anonymous.

Your government will demand that you have no anonymity on the internet and this implies that it justifies the naming policy! This is a dangerous idea, and it’s dangerous for Google to impose. Are you in China, using the internet to get a message out about human rights? Good luck with not getting arrested.

There’s a system in place to suspend the accounts of people whose names do not fit their policy.

This can still be your name, but if Google says it’s not? Well, there goes your account.

A way around this, if you don’t want to use your real identity for whatever reason (and many, many people have very legitimate reasons) is to use one that fits their policy. Common or bland looking names such as Jonathon Smithson are unlikely to raise any red flags. So instead of using a handle or nickname (hotgirl928143 will flag, stupid) use a made up name.

A first name, and a last name. Try not to make it too obscure, or too bland. Use your imagination a little. The same goes for on just about any other site. If you really want to be anonymous, do not use your name. Especially if it’s uncommon. Make up an identity and use that. Perhaps even make a few.

Don’t be sentimental about your online content.  

Much like ‘clear your browsing data’, this one is really obvious too. Many people are incredibly sentimental about the data they have put online. How much information is on your Facebook wall? Guess what! Facebook gets to keep that as long as it’s there.

A lot of users only keep it because it’s a time line, almost a diary, of the events that have happened over so many years. Records of interactions with your friends. It’s like your life written out online. Facebook plays on this, a lot. When you try and either deactivate or delete you account, you get a nice line of your friend’s tagged photos with the message ‘x will miss you!’. So stay, and minimise the amount of information that is stored on your wall and profile.

You can download your Facebook profile from the account settings. This allows you to download and keep everything that is on your wall if you’re a little sentimental. Every documentation of events, every photo, every status update, all in one handy .zip file. It might take a lot of time, but clearing the old posts from your wall will take a lot of data out of Facebook’s hands.

Every month or so, download a new backup from the account settings tab, and wipe out the old again. This counts for other ‘services’ too. Twitter and Google+ statuses. Old forum posts (if you can’t delete the post, you can always edit out the content). You don’t necessarily have to delete all of it, but have a think about how much of it identifies you, or things about you.

If you have a webmail account, store all of your old emails locally.

You can download them to Outlook or Evolution, and then export them to a file for backup, if your webmail does not offer the chance for you to do this. Then purge the emails stored online. Don’t use the same username everywhere. This one is more about hiding in search results and preventing your information from being easily searchable. Although do remember, data being linked across the web is not good for your privacy on the whole.

Does your gaming nickname cross over with places where you speak to your family, or real life friends? I’m sure you can see how separating them can make a lot of sense. What about support groups? If you are signed up to a forum for help with mental health, physical illness, or anything else, does that use the same name as, say, your Facebook account? Is your username the same everywhere? If you search for your username, does it link to a lot of different websites? This means that if someone wants to find out what you’ve been up to online, it’s only a quick Google search away.

This can include potential employers, current employers, co-workers or just about anyone else.

Are you in a country where your rights are under threat? Could some of your information leave you open to discrimination? Think about how your information can be linked up across the internet by the username you use, and how people accessing that information could harm you.

Switch it up a little and use different usernames for different websites, if you don’t, you could be very easy to find. If you have ever posted anything personal on a website, forum, anything… it means someone who’s run into you on another site can potentially find it. It means employers could find it. If armchair internet detectives can find it, you can bet government can definitely find it.

If you are using a very common nickname, then it’s going to be a little harder to join the dots, but still be cautious, and do not think you are hidden from view because of it.

Don’t use the same information everywhere.

If you are using just one email address and you use it to sign up to every service you use, that’s another way the accounts can be linked and you can be identified. Is your email address searchable on those accounts? Can you be looked up on Facebook with it? What about other places? Much like the username, there are a lot of potential dangers to this.

Get a domain or two, create a bunch of forwarders to your main account, or mailboxes if you have the patience, and use different email addresses in different places on the web. Depending on how much privacy you want to keep, it may be worth getting a few domains. If you keep using the same one, it may start becoming a little obvious.

Don’t be an ass.

Just to throw this in again, this information is intended to help people keep their privacy and control of their data in an age where exactly that is at risk. Do not use it to be an idiot.

People appreciate the ability to keep their lives private. The ability to be anonymous. Some may not have the same rights to privacy as we do here in the UK, and it makes advice like this valuable.

Anonymity online is not an excuse to do whatever you want. Acting like a moron is partially why there are attempts to banish it. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us. 

Google says "Hello, Moto" to the tune of $12 billion

Completely turning the silly season on its head, Google has announced it’s buying Motorola’s smartphone division for $12.5 billion. This will be to “super charge” Android. Yes, Google has just become a true mobile hardware company.

This will add a heap of intellectual property to Google’s already-staggering patent portfolio and will serve as a sharp axe to grind on the necks of competitors if it needs to. 

In a blog post, CEO Larry Page waxes lyrical about how Motorola’s a market leader not just in phones but in home devices and video. He reassures the world and its dog that Android will remain open source, though some argue that it’s not really that open anyway.

Page also points to another recent post about the Department of Justice and all the patent drama happening with what is quickly turning into the big three, Microsoft, Apple, and Android.

Indeed, though the IP will be valuable, industry watchers are raising their eyebrows about some of the finer points.

Its main rivals will be able to sink their teeth in. Patent expert Florian Mueller tells us: “If the deal closes, Google will inherit ongoing patent disputes with Apple and Microsoft, which probably won’t be any easier to settle now than they were before.” 

Others are speculating about Microsoft, and if it plans to pick up a battered RIM or Nokia as a mobile hardware arm.

Google says it will operate Motorola as a separate business, and that it is still committed to delivering Android on other manufacturer’s devices. Of course it is. It wants the little green Android in every house and pocket.