Tech Execs To Liberals: Don’t Make Online Surveillance Even Worse

Many tech entrepreneurs were already concerned that Bill C-51 — the controversial piece of national security legislation passed by the Harper government — is turning Canada into “a horrible place” for tech companies to do business, as one put it.

Now, they are growing worried that the federal Liberals’ are apparently considering expanding online surveillance as part of their review of Bill C-51.

Public Safety Canada is considering warrantless access to Canadian Internet users’ identifying information, as well as a rule that would require Internet providers to keep track of all web surfers’ activities.

More than 60 entrepreneurs from Canadian tech and new media companies have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, expressing “serious economic and data security concerns with the direction of the federal government’s national security consultation.”

Among the signatories is Tim Bray, the founder of OpenText, Canada’s largest software company and one of the country’s overall largest businesses.

Although the Liberals voted in favour of Bill C-51 while in opposition, Trudeau has expressed some regrets on the matter, and Goodale vowed to remove the “problematic elements” of Bill C-51.

But the consultation launched this fall focuses its attention on ways to expand government powers online, and doesn’t ask the public if they would like to see any scaling back of the new powers given security agencies and police under Bill C-51.

One of the ideas being considered is an order that would force Internet providers to keep track of all their users’ Internet activities. A new law passed in the U.K. this fall does just that, requiring online data retention for a period of one year.

But the open letter from tech executives argues that Internet providers actually should delete their users’ data.

“Such practices actually strengthen data security and customer privacy,” the letter stated.

The Public Safety consultation appears to be looking at ways of reinstating “lawful access” — the principle that police should be able to access data about Internet subscribers without a warrant.

In a 2014 ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada severely restricted the ability of law enforcement to collect this information without a warrant, and police forces say that since then, Internet providers have been demanding warrants before they provide that data.

The Public Safety consultation at one point states that warrantless access to subscriber information is “like looking an address up in a phone book.”“This is an appalling and frankly incorrect analogy for a piece of data that can unlock the highly intimate details of the lives of law-abiding Canadians,” the open letter states.

UPDATE 12/13/2016: The Public Safety department is distancing itself from the “phone book” analogy, suggesting warrantless access to subscriber data, if it were to be introduced, would have safeguards in place. In an email to HuffPost Canada, the department said:

As the national security consultation discussion paper explains, accessing basic subscriber information (BSI) is NOT the same as looking up an address in the phone book. While both BSI and a phone book can be used to identify someone, BSI requires safeguards because some of it can reveal intimate details of a person’s activities when linked to other information. That principle has been affirmed by the courts. The government is committed to protecting both Canadians’ safety and their rights, including their privacy rights

The consultation also focuses heavily on the issue of encryption. Law enforcement officials say criminals use encryption to plan terrorist attacks or share child pornography.

That has led to speculation that Public Safety Canada is looking at the possibility of requiring “backdoors” into encrypted data, which would make it easier for police to crack but would make it more vulnerable to hackers.

The letter’s signatories note that “many of our businesses and workers rely on” encrypted data for the security of their operations.

However, Public Safety Canada has suggested that rules on encryption could be limited to requiring companies and individuals to decrypt files in specific investigations.

“The message to the technology industry is clear: Canada is a horrible place to build or store intellectual property.”
— Frederick Ghahramani, founder of airGames

​Many of those who signed the letter say Bill C-51 is already enough of a threat to Canada’s tech sector as it is, without further expansion.

“One year after Bill C-51 gave our national security apparatus ‘kinetic’ policing powers, we’ve seen an all-out assault on Canadians’ privacy rights,” said Frederick Ghahramani, a B.C.-based privacy rights advocate and founder of airGames.

He cited reports of Canadian police using mass-hacking techniques to break into people’s cellphones, as well as reports that Canadian intelligence has been sharing Canadians’ phone and Internet data with allies including the U.S.

“The message to the technology industry is clear: Canada is a horrible place to build or store intellectual property.”

This article was taken from an Open Media Newsletter and can be found on HuffPost Business in Canada.

Finally the end of credit card fraud

credit card fraud

We have probably all received the dreaded call from Visa or Mastercard Security Services at one time or another, “Madam (or Sir) did you make a purchase in ?” More often than not the reply is that we have never been to England, Russia, China or wherever the rogue purchase had been made. The pain that follows is a huge inconvenience and may mean being without a credit card for several days while a new one is en route. Not to mention all the payees and automatic payments that need to be notified of your latest credit card number. Well this may all soon be over thanks to a couple of new patents filed by a company called De Sonneville.

De Sonneville has filed two U.S patent applications that are the solution to end the systemic U.S. credit card fraud epidemic. According to Forbes the United States loses an estimated $190 billion per year to credit/ debit (“payment”) card fraud, which is more than the country spends on energy.

In recent years, certain technological advances have been introduced to combat the counterfeiting of payment cards. Such advances include the introduction of Chip and PIN, which is also known as EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa). It is apparent from works such as the University of Cambridge’s Chip and Pin is Broken, and the BBC’s Newsnight’s New flaws in chip and pin system revealed, that Chip and Pin is far from fool proof, let alone a firm security and defense against fraudsters. Such sophisticated fraudsters continue to find ways to circumvent the Chip and Pin protocol, and defraud people of billions of dollars every year.

In the case of SIM cards, the same is taking place. Sophisticated fraudsters have discovered ways to by-pass the security features and gain access to mobile networks to commit crimes under assumed identities and to use the network without payment. According to the Communications Fraud Control Association (CFCA), “Experts estimate 2013 fraud losses at $46.3 billion (USD), up 15% from 2011.” And, “The main reason for the relative increase in fraud is due to more fraudulent activity targeting the wireless industry.”

As recorded and filed in De Sonneville’s U.S. patent application on April 9th, 2014, its microchip self-authenticates before it can perform any subsequent action or function. Simply put, if the chip does not authenticate itself, through the authentication circuit, it does not allow the chip to proceed to process a payment at a point-of-sale (POS) or, in the case of a SIM card, to access the mobile network. This has obvious benefits in protecting against the counterfeiting of payment cards and SIM cards.

Also, conveniently, De Sonneville has developed its’ self-authenticating SIM card as an encrypted payment SIM card that can be accepted at any radio-frequency (RF) or near-field communication (NFC) (“contactless”) POS. The self-authenticating SIM cards contain the same payment data as a payment card (in an encrypted form), and are operable to a contactless POS. Currently, contactless transactions are limited to an average of approximately $50 per transaction. De Sonneville’s payment cards and payment SIM cards will be used for any amount that the user’s payment limit allows.

“Convenience does not have to be a choice over security”, said De Sonneville’s Chairman and technology co-inventor Dennis van Kerrebroeck .

He went on to say, “Companies have become accustomed to payment card fraud as a cost of doing business, which is wrong. In this day and age, merchants and consumers have the right to be assured by their payment network providers that their payment card purchases are conducted without compromise. According to the study conducted by Lexis Nexis, [The True Cost of Fraud – 2009], in the U.S., over the next 10 years, the payment card fraud losses will equate to more than $1.9 trillion, unadjusted, and that is simply not acceptable. Ultimately, these costs are passed on to the consumers and the merchants; we want to eliminate these costs by giving consumers and merchants a better option.”

The payment account information on De Sonneville’s chips cannot be intercepted. If the chip does not perform its’ patent pending self-authentication, the card does not allow itself to transmit the payment data through to the POS and then on to the network, and therefore would instead terminate the attempted transaction as counterfeit. This eliminates pre-play attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks , cloning and the like.

Before a De Sonneville SIM card can gain access to its mobile network, it must first perform its patent pending self-authentication, therefore ensuring the SIM, the subscriber, the communication or a mobile payment is authentic. This stops call and text message interception. Other applications include ID cards, passports, and access systems. De Sonneville’s payment SIM cards protect the payment data in the same manner as its’ traditional payment card. In the future, and as required, the Company would be able to seamlessly integrate digital currency transactions throughout its payment network, POS terminals, payment cards, and SIM cards.

It is the mission of De Sonneville and its potential partners in banking, wireless communications, networking and large retailers, to build a new global payment network that will include encrypted payment cards and encrypted point-of-sale terminals all the way through to bank settlements, thus working towards eliminating payment card and SIM card counterfeiting, as well as the subsequent fraud that accompanies it.

Current global payment networks process in excess of $6 trillion annually. The average merchant discount in the United States is 1.9%, and the average interchange fees break-down as 0.1% goes to the acquirer, 1.7% to the issuer, and 0.09% to the network.

There are currently approximately 6 billion SIM cards in use in the world.

The Company is currently in the process of selecting an investment bank to represent its private capital needs for development of its technology, and in an anticipated subsequent initial public offering.

 

Reference:

[1] M. Bond, O. Choudary, S.J. Murdoch, S. Skorobogatov, R. Anderson. Chip and Skim: cloning EMV cards with the pre-play attack, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK. September 10, 2012. http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/Papers/unattack.pdf

[2] S.J. Murdoch, S. Drimer, R. Anderson, M. Bond. Chip and PIN is Broken, University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory, Cambridge, UK. 2010 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy. http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/research/security/banking/nopin/oakland10chipbroken.pdf

[3] Choudary, O. The smart card detective: a hand-held EMV interceptor. Master’s thesis, University of Cambridge, June 2010. http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~osc22/scd/

[4] S. Watts. New flaws in the chip and pin system revealed. Newsnight, BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/legacy/newsnight/susanwatts/2010/02/new_flaws_in_chip_and_pin_syst.html

 

SOURCE De Sonneville International Ltd.

Trend Micro releases Heartbleed scanners for computers and mobile devices

heartbleed detector

To help Internet users protect themselves from the Heartbleed bug that is eroding SSL security features on websites worldwide, Trend Micro Incorporated  today announced the release of two free Heartbleed scanners for computers and mobile devices designed to verify whether they are communicating with servers that have been compromised by the Heartbleed bug.

The solutions, Trend Micro™ Heartbleed Detector, a Chrome browser plug-in, and an Android mobile app, are accessible in the Chrome Web Store and Google Play app store, respectively.

heartbleed scannerAvailable for Mac and Windows-based computer users, the Trend Micro Heartbleed Detector is a multi-platform plug-in for Chrome that enables users to check for vulnerable URLs and installs with a single click. Trend Micro researchers have also discovered that mobile apps are just as vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug as websites are. To mitigate this threat, Trend Micro has developed the Heartbleed Detector to check apps on a user’s device and the servers they communicate with, to determine if installed apps are vulnerable to the OpenSSL bug. If vulnerable apps are, the detector then prompts the user with the option to uninstall the app.

“Trend Micro has responded to the Heartbleed threat by offering tools to all Internet users as a solution to protect their personal data,” said Raimund Genes, Chief Technology Officer, Trend Micro. “With in-app purchases and financial transactions on mobile devices becoming the norm, Trend Micro felt it was vital to offer users a solution designed to enable them to continue operating their devices without worry. Heartbleed is a problem that may never entirely go away, but we are committed to providing and updating our solutions to best protect the data of our customers, and provide essential security on each device they use.”

Effective today, users can download Trend Micro’s Heartbleed Scanners for their computers and mobile devices by visiting https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/trend-micro-openssl-heart/cmibjcgebllecchcmkiafonmflkeeffo or the mobile link.

About Trend Micro
Trend Micro Incorporated, a global leader in security software, strives to make the world safe for exchanging digital information. Built on 25 years of experience, our solutions for consumers, businesses and governments provide layered data security to protect information on mobile devices, endpoints, gateways, servers and the cloud. Trend Micro enables the smart protection of information, with innovative security technology that is simple to deploy and manage, and fits an evolving ecosystem. All of our solutions are powered by cloud-based global threat intelligence, the Trend Micro™ Smart Protection Network™ infrastructure, and are supported by over 1,200 threat experts around the globe. For more information, visit TrendMicro.com.

SOURCE Trend Micro Incorporated

Facebook Sued Over Interception of Private Messages

Facebook Icon

Last week a class action lawsuit commenced in the Ontario Superior Court alleges that Facebook illicitly intercepted and scanned its users’ private messages without their knowledge or consent.

The lawsuit alleges that the URLs (website addresses) in users’ private messages were harvested by Facebook in violation of users’ privacy. Facebook did this in order to inflate its web presence and attract increased advertising revenue.

Facebook Icon
Facebook Iconrevenue.

The practice was only stopped in October 2012, when an investigation by security researchers that was published in the Wall Street Journal exposed what Facebook was doing. Facebook did not acknowledge its actions nor apologize to users, but quietly shelved the practice.

“Facebook intercepted its users’ private messages for its own commercial gain and has never acknowledged or apologized for its behaviour,” said Joel Rochon, partner at Rochon Genova LLP, who is representing the class members. “Social networking sites such as this need to be held publicly accountable. Surreptitious surveillance of private communications cannot be tolerated in a democratic society.”

Private messages on Facebook function in a similar way to email. Facebook’s Data Use Policy provides that private messages are just that – private. None of Facebook’s policies disclosed to users that their private messages would be systematically intercepted and scanned, and the contents of those messages treated as “Likes” for other sites via the social plug-in function.

By engaging in this behaviour, Facebook was able to gather more user data which it could then use to enhance the reach and accuracy of its targeted advertising – its chief source of revenue. Users were in fact more likely to share personal information by private message because they mistakenly believed the messages (unlike public postings) were truly private.

The class action lawsuit includes all Canadian resident Facebook users who sent or received private messages containing URLs up to October 2012. There are more than 18 million Facebook users in Canada – and around three-quarters of them log on to Facebook at least once a day.

The lawsuit alleges that Facebook’s actions were a violation of class members’ privacy rights and s. 184(1) of the Criminal Code. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

SOURCE: ROCHON GENOVA LLP

We’ve found a BYOD solution that companies can embrace

nubo software

Nubo, the Android-based cloud workspace, has released a new version of its bring-your-own-device (BYOD) solution that leaves zero data on employee devices. The updated version delivers a dramatic improvement in bandwidth consumption, seamless transitions between data networks and a new file browser to give Nubo users a faster and more consistent experience on-the-move.

Browse Android Tablets at Amazon

To achieve higher performance, the Nubo team made significant updates to Nubo’s UX Over IP technology, the patent-pending remote display protocol that allows users to control cloud-based applications as if they were on the user’s own mobile device.

Nubo workflow
image courtesy of http://www.nubosoftware.com

UX Over IP now uses less than a quarter of the bandwidth consumed by the original version. With peak bandwidth consumption now below 1000 kilobytes per second, Nubo is equipped to maintain high performance on weak or busy data networks.

Moreover, the UX Over IP now transitions seamlessly between wireless and cell networks. Whether users are switching between cellular zones or transitioning from a 3G connection to a home wireless network, Nubo will maintain a pristine connection.

“In the best conditions, Nubo users forget that they’re operating applications in a remote workspace that could be hundreds or thousands of miles away,” said Israel Lifshitz, CEO of Nubo. “So we improved Nubo to provide fast and consistent performance no matter where users are and no matter where they’re going. Testers who experienced delays or disruptions with the original version of Nubo will notice a significant difference.”

In addition to the performance boost, Nubo now features a file browser app that makes it easy to locate documents, presentations, photos and other files. When mapped to the organization’s file server, the browser allows Nubo users to view and edit all the same files they would access on their office workstation.

“From the beginning, Nubo eliminated the security concerns and management headaches that IT would normally face with BYOD solutions by keeping all data strictly in the cloud or in company datacenters,” said Lifshitz. “Now, we’ve taken steps to make sure that Nubo users still get all responsiveness, convenience and simplicity they expect on a mobile device.”

Browse Android Tablets at Amazon

To learn more about Nubo, visit www.nubosoftware.com

About Nubo
In a world fragmented by a diverse mix of mobile devices, operating systems and enterprise applications, Nubo creates one secure, virtual workspace to rule them all.

With Nubo, corporations own their data and applications, and employees own their devices. Founded in 2011 by Israel Lifshitz, founder of SysAid Technologies, Nubo is a remote virtual office that goes wherever mobile devices go. Nubo gives organizations and employees the freedom to choose their own applications.

* Android is a trademark of Google Inc.

SOURCE Nubo

How much do you care about Internet freedom?

internet freedom

Did you know there is a movement to create a “Declaration of Internet freedom?” The site, which is managed by Free Press has a mission to, “… [build] a powerful nationwide movement to change media and technology policies, promote the public interest and strengthen democracy. Free Press advocates for universal and affordable Internet access, diverse media ownership, vibrant public media and quality journalism.” Free Press also runs a site called Save the Internet which advocates for net neutrality, “the longstanding principle that preserves our right to communicate freely online.”

In Canada, we have OpenMedia.ca which, “empower[s] people to participate in Internet governance through fresh & engaging citizens’ campaigns.” Open Media has championed many successful campaigns to stop surveillance by the Canadian government such as Bill C-30, “a Bill that would have allowed unaccountable bureaucrats to invade your privacy, spy on your online activity, and access your private information at any time without a warrant.”

XKeyscore
XKeyscore courtesy of The Guardian

So why do we need these organizations? Are we really at risk by having our governments watch our every move when we’re online?

Personally I think you have to be careful about how you word these things. Although your actions and data may be recorded and kept in databases for years to come it simply isn’t possible for someone to watch all the activity on the Internet in real time. However that being said, it is possible to zero in on an individual’s online activities. According to an article by The Guardian, “NSA analysts can use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.”

Once everybody’s information is stored in a giant government database, data analysts can use data mining processes to piece together the puzzle of people’s lives. Problems can arise from government personnel creating queries to find suspicious activity that may not have been necessarily created by yourself, perhaps one of your dormant online accounts was hacked and used to transmit information related to a crime. There is also the possibility that things you have posted online in the past could be taken out of context or used erroneously to prosecute you in cases related to criminal activity committed by third parties.

“XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.”

Some Internet users have resorted to anonymity platforms such as Tor which stands for “The Onion Router.” According to Wikipedia, “Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide volunteer network consisting of more than three thousand relays to conceal a user’s location or usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis.”

Now whether using an anonymity platform is something that anyone needs to do is up for debate. I’ve read comments on sites such as Gizmodo that suggest that, “with the very small pool of nodes out there, it’s probably safe to assume that a lot of these nodes are operated by governments.” So if that’s the case should you even pursue using something like Tor? Apparently some journalists and writers are willing to take the risk that Tor will protect them from prying eyes.

I would like to encourage you to take a look at the Declaration of Internet Freedom, visit the site and sign the petition if you think our governments have gone too far in their surveillance programs.

We stand for a free and open Internet. We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles:

  • Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.
  • Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
  • Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.
  • Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.
  • Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.

 

 

Keep your children safe with Leo Smart Watch

GPS Wristwatch

The Leo Smart watch is the latest technology used to keep your children safe. It sounds a little over the top at first but I can see that some parents may be interested in adopting this device to keep their children safe from predators. Overall the media may be hyping the problem up more than necessary but still this gadget warranted some space here on Vancouver Gadgets.

Personally I wonder about the coolness effect on this one and what age range would feel comfortable wearing this watch. My thoughts are that parents may ask the child to wear the watch but the child may think its uncool to wear it after some time, especially once it begins to look dated. The video is interesting and definitely over the top at some points but it is interesting nevertheless. According to the Guardian Lion Wireless website the Leo includes 7 critically life-saving features:

    • Panic Button Alerts: Instantly transmits the child’s real-time location to parents via text message and to 911 emergency response.
    • Tamper-Proof Lockable Wrist-Strap:  The LEO is equipped with a titanium wrist-strap with an optional locking mechanism to prevent unwanted removal. The LEO will also send a tamper-alert to parents and to 911 if there is an attempt to improperly remove the device.
    • Safety-Zone Alerts: Parents are able to easily set-up safety-zones around areas such as schools, school walking routes and even around neighbourhoods during specific hours. The LEO will instantly alert loved ones the moment a child leaves or is taken from pre-defined areas.
    • Exclusion-Zones: Parents can also set-up exclusion zones that will instantly alert them if their child enters into a predetermined zone. (Example: a close proximity of a registered sex offender’s home)
    • Speed-Alerts: Speed-alerts give parents instant notification the moment their child is traveling too fast. (Example: parents can set the limit at a low rate of speed and be instantly notified the moment their child is traveling in someone’s vehicle… when they’re not supposed to be)
    • 24/7 Location Services: 24-hour internet or smart phone access to locate your child or loved ones.
    • Two-Way Voice Communications: The LEO is a wrist-worn cell phone, so rest assure that your loved ones are always within reach.

Privacy dangers related to the NSA and PRISM programs

nsa prism

Ever since 29 year old Edward Snowden was revealed as the whistle-blower in the NSA and PRISM privacy disclosures the media has gone full tilt trying to understand this man and the privacy concerns.  Snowden disclosed that the National Security Agency or NSA in Fort Meade MD sifts through hundreds of millions of US phone records every day looking for key words that may compromise the security of the country. The PRISM program is operated jointly between the FBI and NSA and taps directly into nine US Internet companies to gather Internet usage data including emails, photographs, audio, video and searches.

Now at first glance you may be taken aback at this disclosure and for many it conjures up visions of “big brother” from the book 1984; sales of which have skyrocketed since this information leaked. But when you think about it from a practical perspective filtering keywords and phrases is one thing but actually looking at the data is another.

The amount of data collected every day is enormous; more data than any one person could take in in a lifetime, or perhaps thousands of lifetimes. Second the actual content of most of the data that you and I exchange is negligible and contains nothing that would warrant the interest of government authorities. That being said, the question to ask is whether or not this is morally right.

On one side you have to protect the country from terrorist activities but on the other side you have to protect freedom of speech. The next question to consider is how free should speech be? If your conversations are related to bombing cities or gunning down pedestrians perhaps your freedom should be limited so as to preserve the lives of those at risk. But what if the information gets used for the wrong reasons?

Protecting our citizens safety should be of the utmost concern however my thoughts lead to the improper use of the data. Let’s consider the scenario of World War 3 for example. Let’s just say that not only is this data being collected but far more than we are aware. What if data about the apps we have on our phones is collected (which may already be for all I know).

Let’s take the scenario a little farther and consider that the government is interested in detaining Muslims or Christians due to the nature of the war. Perhaps the war is religious in nature. It’s always interesting to speculate these scenarios because if the government could query exactly who has the text of the Muslim or Christian bibles downloaded to their smartphones then these people could possibly become suspects or compared to Nazi Germany be detained in camps due to their beliefs.

I know this probably sounds a little radical but as they say “all is fair in love and war”. The point is if the data falls into the wrong hands or if the wrong type of leader is at the helm of these government organizations at the time we could be setting ourselves up for disaster.

 

A Look at the New Integrated Comcast Home Security System

Home security systems have faced a number of significant advancements in the past 10 years. When you look at just a couple of simple technologies – such as wireless connectivity and digital imaging – you can begin to see how dramatic that change has been.

Today, home security systems are undergoing another significant revolution. More than just a way to detect or deter intruders, new home security systems like Xfinity Home from Comcast are forging ahead as full-blown home management systems.

Xfinity Home is spreading out to Comcast customers in a number of metropolitan areas, the most recent being the San Francisco Bay area in March of this year.  Billed as a home “lifestyle” system, Xfinity Home is the central hub of a home’s communications activity.

Home security and home automation

What makes these new systems different from traditional home security systems is that they integrate with other aspects of your home. For example, the Xfinity Home system not only checks door and window alarms, it also programs your thermostat and can be used to control lighting. In the case of cameras, the system captures either still time-lapsed photos or videos, which can be stored with Comcast for an additional fee.

The entire system can be controlled either through the in-home control panel, or via an app for your smartphone.

There are plenty of uses for this technology that come to mind, such as:

  • Disarming your alarm system when you’re at work and a house guest needs access to the home unexpectedly.
  • Turning up your furnace an hour or two out on your return trip home from vacation.
  • Turning lights on or off during the day, so as to simulate someone being home.
  • Remotely viewing your home security cameras to check up on children or caregivers.

Still plenty of security

Xfinity Home still includes all of the security features you’d want for a home alarm system. There are door and window monitors, cameras, and even a panic button that links right to fire or police. The system relies on a Wi-Fi and a 3G connection, making sure that you have connectivity no matter whether one of the systems fails. The system also includes window stickers and yard signs, which further serve to deter home invasions.

More to come

Comcast has announced that they’ll be adding even more features to the Xfinity Home system as time goes on. They will include things such as water sensors to detect home flooding or water leaks, and even remote controls for deadbolt locks or garage doors. Imagine being able to unlock your front door to let your child in after school, and then locking it behind them to keep them safe.

Currently, the service starts at just under $40 per month. Comcast isn’t the only company to offer this kind of system, either. There are a number of competitors out there that offer similar technologies, enabling you to manage your entire home from a single interface.

If you want more than just a security system, check out Xfinity Home today.

Jeremy Kushner is a home alarm systems enthusiast who blogs on topics related to crime and security. You can find more of his posts at HomeAlarmSystems.com.

Featured image courtesy of Comcast

Using Social Media to Monitor your Employees Work Activities

Our last two posts have focused on the benefits of how both people and companies can use social media to further their careers and improve their companies. Our third post in our series on social media focuses on whether or not companies should use social media to monitor their employees. In the workplace I have no issue with employers monitoring how I use social media or my online activities. While it’s reasonable and likely many employees use social media and the internet for research and for their daily work use of social media should have its limits.

Employees should also have enough common sense and know how to not visit sites that may make companies feel nervous or get themselves into trouble. Porn sites would be an automatic no as would gambling and file sharing and bit torrent sites.

The Workforce Management site has a great article on guidelines for how companies can treat and manage employees use of social media and online activities. The Workforce site notes that there are 10 commandments that employers can use in the development of a social media policy. While I won’t go into all of them here, there are a few important ones below.

Using your social media policy to set employee boundaries is a key point here “Every employer needs a simply worded social media policy to provide employees with practical guidelines to help prevent unthinking, harmful employee actions. Tell your employees, nicely but firmly, what you expect from them.” Even more important is that consent for monitoring is crucial, but “sell” it to employees. “The only actual question is how an employer can monitor with the least legal exposure so that employee privacy rights are not violated.”

The company you work for may or may not have something in place but it’s likely you’ve signed various employee waiver forms when you started. These will reinforce among employees that you shouldn’t perform certain actions that may violate company policy or may provide for protection against the release of confidential information to customers and competitors. Though companies and corporations can use these social media policies to help guide their employees and protect themselves, they still must follow the laws of the particular company they operate in.

In Canada, it is the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act or PIPEDA that determines how and when employees can be monitored. “The federal PIPEDA law limits the right of employers to collect, use and disclose personal information about their employees.” It applies in many parts of Canada, the privacy protections for employees apply only to employers who are federally regulated.” We are unique in BC though since we have our own personal privacy laws that apply to employees, one of three provinces that does so in Canada.

Our Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) monitors and enforces British Columbia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). These two acts allow for access to information held by public bodies (such as ministries, universities and hospitals) and determines how public bodies may collect, use and disclose personal information. PIPA sets out how private organizations (including businesses, charities, associations and labour organizations) may collect, use and disclose personal information.

In reviewing the PIPA website and searching for specific information related to employee usage monitoring, employee information can be collected for the purposes that are reasonable and need for establishing an employment relationship. In short, if an employer is hiring you for a job, then this is a reasonable use asking you to sign such a waiver or engage in the use of such legislation.

The use then of social media to monitor employees actions while at work seems reasonable as long as it’s done within the prescribed limits set out by the legislation above. Both employees and companies would do well to read and understand the legislation above before either entering into or creating an agreement for their company.

I wasn’t able to determine whether refusal by a potential employee to sign such a contract would result in denial of a position or if an employer has ever been taken to task by a former employee, it seems that with social media being a relatively new phenomena I couldn’t find any examples. I wonder too if studies have been done as to if the use of social media in the workplace has helped or hindered employee productivity. This may make for an interesting future articles. Stay tuned.

Featured image courtesy of Macleans

Hooking that Prize Fish: Using Social Media to Find a Job

Social Media has permeated just about every facet of our lives these days so it’s no surprise that its entered the workplace in many forms. Over the next few weeks or so I’ll be examining a few angles of how social media has changed not only how we do our work but how it can be used to help us find work when we are looking for it. Job searching is tough at the best of times. Sometimes it’s downright maddening. Applying for positions, interviewing, making contacts. It’s not easy nor is it fun. Often job seekers are looking for any bit of edge to get ahead and land the golden prize, a great job. Social media now offers job seekers another means by which to do so.

The internet as a whole is a great resource really for anyone looking for a job. At your fingertips and just a few clicks away is a tonne of resources. You may be using the internet job boards to help you find work and apply for positions you are interested. You may also have a job interview coming up so you’ve made your way over to the company’s website to find out more about what they do and how they do it. Or if you are really resourceful, you’ve started researching companies you may want to work for but don’t have a job posted.

A January 2009 article I pulled off Mashable by Dan Schawbel offers a number of great tips on how to maximize and use social media to enhance your job search. He is the author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, and owner of the award winning Personal Branding Blog. He notes you should conduct something called a 3 step people search. “Social media has broken down barriers, to a point where you can message someone you aren’t friends with and don’t have contact information for, without any hassles.”

A key part of any use of social media then is that it offers you the chance to build or at least start to build relationships with people who work for or might work for a company you want to work for. Be careful how you do it and be sure that you have researched the company. Tailor your message to that person and their company specifically. Don’t just spam them with general messages.

Some people may find it hard to cold call people directly or approach them at an event or in their place of work. Social media now gives them another route to go. Twitter and LinkedIn are two social media apps that are particularly effective in building relationships and networking with other professionals.

Twitter

Schawbel notes that “by conducting Twitter searches, following recruiters on your account and using the “@” sign to communicate with them on occasion, you will start to learn a lot about them and their companies.” This is a great point since Twitter is all the rage these days, it’s free to sign up and a great way to keep with the latest news and gossip about a company. Since companies are using their twitter feed as an important way to launch tips and tricks about themselves, you’ll be right up to date with what they are up to. Many companies also ask that employees use social media as part of their daily jobs and its often a requirement now on job applications and you are quizzed on it when you go for an interview.

Learning to use Twitter for this purpose means that you’ll be one step ahead of the game when you land that job. You could also be asked to manage a company’s Twitter account or build an online profile and relationships with its customers.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is another social media application that can be used for networking purposes. Linked In is more of a professional network used by job searchers and really anyone who wants to connect with anyone online be it employers or contacts.

Recruiters are often using LinkedIn as a primary means to source candidates for roles they may be looking to fill. Schawbel notes that “many people don’t use LinkedIn to the best of their ability and fail to complete their entire profile, such that it says “100% complete.”

I don’t agree with this as there are certain aspects of my profile that I won’t complete online. I haven’t put birthday, marital status or address on such a site. This is a professional site for me and I don’t want to divulge such information. I have left my cell phone as a means by which to contact me for professional purposes or people can send me a message.

I’ve used the site to add past colleagues, friend and family as well people I’ve met via networking events. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use LinkedIn for this, quite the contrary. It just means you may have to work a little harder to get to that point.

We thank FreeFoto.com for the use of image used in this post.

Is Social Media “doubleplusgood” or Have We Created An Orwellian Society?

A few weeks back we wrote a post on the riots in Vancouver following the 7th game of the final. I was hoping that social media be used as a constructive means by which apprehend would be perpetrator and rioters and bring them to justice. Social Media has proved to be a powerful force in many ways in regards to the events of June 15th some good and some bad.

For myself I quickly lost interest in the riots not because I was not interested in what happened but the manner by which things were becoming reported and “spun”. Pointing fingers and assigning blame to certain parties wasn’t and isn’t going to solve the issue and more importantly prevent it from happening again. It was the Mayor of Vancouver’s fault, the Vancouver police’s fault, the City’s fault etc. Enough already!!

I felt I also wanted to give only so much energy to the events that had occurred. More attention would simply give the perpetrators what they wanted in the first place, attention. While tuning into a CBC radio program last weekend, the topic was on social media and how social media had been an influence on the riots.

Some callers worried if social media and the tactics used by police were creating a big brother like atmosphere surrounding the events. I couldn’t disagree more. I recently read Orwell’s book and watched the movie 1984 not that long ago. Indeed the ideology and methods devised by the so-called “Party” were nothing short of scary.

I haven’t seen the tactics employed by “the Party”  in the follow-up to these events though. Lies, surveillance, and manipulation of the past in the service of a totalitarian agenda are not in play here folks. We also don’t live a society ruled by an oligarchy. We are also not in a state of perpetual war, fictionalized by the government and designed to keep us as subordinates of the state. No one is committing any form of thought crime here. But they have committed real crimes. The destruction of property, the injury of people and the tarnishing of Vancouver’s image.

It seems the negative effects have created shaming of participants or said participants in the riots and social media is being used to do this. That again is not right. As someone who attended Northern Voice and the seminar on libel and slander in the media, people are going to have to be careful when using images or words that could damage the reputation of others online. It can and does come back to haunt you.

Social media when used properly though has allowed for people to express their anger, hurt and feelings of frustration as to how these events transpired. They have also assisted police in their efforts to bring these people to justice. Social media is an effective investigation tool for the police. I know I used to work with them. Social Media has done more to help police working on schools and other areas deal with crimes against kids related to bullying and harassment. Police are still also required to prove their case when gathering evidence via social media. It isn’t a question of an automatic conviction based on what appears on Facebook.

The assumption that a big brother atmosphere is being created here is a bit of a myth. Using the actual term in an Orwellian sense to describe these events is at best inaccurate given my recent reading of the book and watching of the movie again. I hope we are far away from creating a big brother like society.

Social media then too is like anything, when used too much and when in the wrong hands, could quickly spin out of control and become a scary force. We are not at that point yet. We are discovering its potential and are still perhaps in a honeymoon period. Whichever direction we choose to go should be interesting. I hope we use its potential for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.