Welcome to the first edition of 2021.
Most news these days are just noise. Purely written to get clicks without conveying any valuable info! A lot of articles read like...“Something happened today. We don’t know exactly what or how it affects you, but we will provide more details when possible.”
In my opinion, that is not news, it is click bait. An article should only be published when there are enough facts on the table to write a decent piece with some value to the reader.
Unfortunately, that is the attention economy at work. Every "thing" you do or see online competes for your attention. Valuable information easily gets lost between all the noise. In the coming year this newsletter's focus will be to decrease the amount of noise.
Every fortnight, I will share news, interesting articles and products & tools (if any) that is directly related to your online privacy and security.
With that said, this edition would be incomplete without briefly mentioning the SolarWinds attack. You might have seen something about it in the news, but it's exactly like the scenario described above: "something happened, nobody knows exactly what or how it influences you, but it happened".
SolarWinds hack in short:
The network and infrastructure monitoring software of SolarWinds, a US based SaaS company, was hacked by Russian hackers. Around 18 000 of SolarWinds' 330 000 customers were influenced by this hack. Among the 18 000 affected customers are US government organizations and Fortune 500 companies. The full extent of the hack is not known, but the worst is feared (because nobody knows exactly what, how and when it happened). If more details about this hack ever surface I will share it in upcoming editions.
Here is to a happy & less "noisy" new year!
In the news
86% of websites using Google Analytics are not anonymizing their users’ full IP addresses
Do you ever read The New York Times, The Atlantic, or Gizmodo online? Do you look up medical information on the Mayo Clinic's website, or shop on Home Depot's e-commerce site? If the answer to any of these is “yes”, then it is likely Google knows where you were physically sitting when you browsed these websites. All of these websites, plus several thousand others, use Google's 'free' web analytics service and have not configured IP anonymization. An easy fix for this is to install an ad-blocker that prevents the Google Analytics script from loading in your browser. Read the full article here with more detail about the investigation that was done.
Telegram to Start Putting Ads in Public Channels in 2021
Telegram has been known for its good user experience for users wishing to have a WhatsApp alternative. With its many user-friendly features and being ad-free, millions of users migrated to it away from Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. But, Telegram’s product manager and Co-founder Pavel Durov, announced recently that the platform is approaching 500 million active users, and that they no longer can keep it ad-free. Starting from 2021, they will serve ads that are “user-friendly, respects privacy and allows us to cover the costs of servers and traffic”. The nature of these “user-friendly” advertisements are still unknown and the Telegram team is expected to start revealing details in the next few months of 2021. Read the full article here.
When Big Brands Stopped Spending On Digital Ads, Nothing Happened. Why?
Much of the problem with digital advertising today stems from marketers’ obsession with big numbers. But big numbers of ads and clicks do not translate into more business activity and sales. They are just large numbers in dashboards and spreadsheets. Marketers could be spending far fewer dollars and getting the same levels of business outcomes. This article explains how big brands, such as P&G and Chase, reduced their digital ad spending dramatically and experienced virtually now decline in business outcomes.
Adobe Flash Player is officially dead. Here's how to uninstall it
Adobe has officially killed off Flash Player. Although Flash played a crucial role in the early days of the Internet - it used to be, for example, the standard way YouTube played its videos - it has become obsolete. Open web standards like HTML5 made it possible to embed content directly onto webpages. The software was a notorious target for hackers and resulted in numerous high-profile security breaches. Adobe is encouraging people to check that Flash Player is uninstalled on their devices immediately "to help protect their systems," because it will no longer be getting security updates. Check out this article to see how to uninstall it on Windows and Mac.
WhatsApp Will Delete Your Account If You Dont Agree Sharing Data With Facebook
Interesting tools & sites
JustGetMyData - A directory of direct links to obtain your data from web services
If you want to know what data Facebook or Google or Microsoft (or other companies) have of you, follow the instructions provided on this site. It provides direct links to retrieve your data from many different companies.
Blacklight - A real-time website privacy inspector
It's a well-known tool, but still worth sharing. Enter any URL on this site and see what trackers, third-party cookies and other invasive scripts are being loaded in your browser when you access the URL.
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