How to Make Your Social Media (Almost) Unhackable


It can be easy to put off social media security. Getting hacked is serious business though, and you could find your online identity stolen, your precious photos erased and your devices inaccessible. To prevent this problem, we've put together some simple but effective ways of keeping the hackers out.

Of course, no protection is ever 100% guaranteed effective, but you can certainly minimize your risk.

Two Step Verification

Most social networks now offer some form of two-step verification, which adds an extra step to the login process when you sign in on a new computer or device. Essentially, it means that potential bad guys need more than just your username and password to get at your accounts on a browser or phone that you have not used before. The extra code that is required is typically sent via text message, or generated through a mobile app.

Usually, you'll only need to go through the extra step once on each computer or device that you use. It's simple, effective, and should be your very first security upgrade.

On Facebook, head to the Login Approvals section under the Security page on the Settings screen; on Twitter, the option you're looking for is called Login verification under the Security and privacy page of your settings. It's also available for Gmail and Google (choose Security then 2-step Verification from your Google Account page), Tumblr (Account-->Security-->Two-factor authentication), Dropbox (Settings-->Security-->Two-step verification) and many other major services.

Whatever the name given to the feature, it's worth switching on wherever it's available. It's not foolproof, but it adds an extra layer of protection should your username and password fall into the hands of a thief.

Disconnect 3rd party Apps

Your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google accounts are probably linked to all kinds of third-party services and apps that you've signed up for through the years. These extra apps may well be legit and useful, but each one can be used as a backdoor into your social media accounts. With this in mind, it's worth running a regular audit of all of the services you have connected and removing the ones you no longer use or which are no longer updated. Even if the apps themselves are genuine, their databases might fall prey to someone who isn't, and the less exposed you are the better.

Again, the relevant screen will be in a different place and given a different label depending on the account in question, but you should be able to find it without too much digging around. On Instagram's Web interface, for example, click the Edit Profile link under your avatar and then choose Manage Applications. Select the Revoke Access option next to any service you don't recognize or no longer use. If you make a mistake, you can always add the app again in the future, and it's best to err on the side of caution.

Avoid Phishing

You'd be surprised at the number of large-scale hacks caused by people clicking on links that they shouldn't have. It's been said many times before but it apparently needs repeating: don't click on links that arrive in your inbox or over instant messenger programs unless you're absolutely sure they're genuine (if you've just created an account or just reset your password perhaps). If you have any doubt, go directly to the site and login rather than relying on a link that has popped up on screen.

Fortunately for the easily fooled, most modern email clients and Web browsers do a decent job of spotting these phishing attacks. You should always make sure you are running the very latest versions of your favorite email and browser programs to take advantage of the newest security and anti-phishing features. The green padlock symbol sported by most browsers when you're on a secure site is one of the signs you should look for whenever you're being asked to log in again.

Lock Your Devices

Once you've logged into Facebook or Twitter on your laptop, you'll want to set the machine as a trusted device so you don't need to keep repeating the process. The same goes for your phone, tablet and other computers you're using. This makes it easy to get a quick social media fix whenever you like, but it also leaves the door wide open to anyone who can gain access to your laptop or phone.

Make sure that each of your trusted devices is protected by at least a password or passcode, and that they are set to lock or hibernate after a short period of inactivity. Whether it's the fingerprint lock on the iPhone or the picture password on Windows, make sure a layer of security is in place. Otherwise, anyone wandering up to your laptop or picking up your phone on the subway can start posting as you.

This should be common sense, but some surveys say as many as 60 percent of us don't bother with a passcode. Even if you only have one user account on your computer and you're normally the only person who accesses it, you should always have a password in place—you'll be glad you did after someone swipes your laptop.

Rethink Your Passwords

We've all heard the mantra that passwords should be long and complex, but hack after hack shows that most of us are still using the likes of "123456" and "password" as the keys to our kingdom. Mix up your passwords with numbers, special characters and a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters and they are much more difficult to crack for human hackers and automated bots alike. If you can't remember all of the login details for all of your accounts, then use a password manager such as 1Password or LastPass for the job.

Tempting though it is, don't use the same password for all of the sites and services you use—the least well-protected of these can then be exploited to gain access to everything else.

It's like having the same master key for your car, safe, and house. Even just changing around a few letters in each password (adding FB! at the end for Facebook, perhaps, or TW! for Twitter) can make a big difference. While we're on the topic, review the password reset procedures for the social networks you're signed up for as well. This will usually be in the form of an email address you can send a reset link to; make sure this is a current email address and one that's well-protected.

If there are any other security measures offered for recovering a hacked account, activate them. Facebook has a Trusted Contacts feature you might not have seen, for example, that lets you can list a few close friends who will verify your identity if you ever find yourself locked out.

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California AG issues guidance regarding "do not track"


Under California law, websites must tell the public if and how they track users’ movements around the Internet.

But the law, passed last year, doesn’t tell web companies exactly how they should report that information. It’s supposed to be part of each site’s privacy policy, but that’s it.

This week, California Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a set of guidelines for how websites should report their tracking practices to users. It’s a far cry from actually forcing web companies not to track users at all. It could bring a little clarity to the situation.

Most web browsers have a “do not track” function that lets consumers state clearly that they don’t want their information and movements to be followed. Most websites, however, ignore that request, since tracking customers’ preferences has become central to the way many Internet companies make money.

The new guidelines, which are strictly voluntary, recommend that websites tell their users, in plain language, what personally identifiable information they collect, how they use it and how long they keep it. If a site ignores “do not track requests,” it should say so. And if it gives third parties access to users’ data, it should say that, too.

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Facebook says it will no longer share your activity by default


Recently, Facebook made an important change to Instagram. Your Instagram likes will no longer be automatically shared back to Facebook. The same goes for photos posted to Instagram, unless a user taps the Facebook button in the app's sharing screen. The update effectively removes Instagram's ability to automatically share anything back to Facebook, and today, Facebook is announcing its plans to take the idea much further. Automatically posted stories from apps like Pinterest and popular Facebook games are going to show up less in the News Feed, and Facebook aid it will discourage developers from adding auto-posting to their apps at all.

Facebook's de-emphasis of "implicitly posted" stories, as the company calls them, follows Facebook's recent moves to upgrade the News Feed with higher-quality content. You might have already noticed fewer auto-posted stories in your News Feed. Facebook began automatically scrubbing out auto-posted stories in response to the aforementioned user feedback months ago, but today the company is making the act official.

Facebook has no plans to remove auto-posting from any apps, but the announcement is intended to serve as a warning to developers that implicit sharing isn't going to grow their app's user base like it once did. The social network wants to emphasize "explicitly posted" content going forward.

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A new revenue stream for songwriters: the marketplace for lyrics.


What do you do when you do not know the lyrics to a song? Google it. The results are full of lyric sites that give you access to the lyrics of almost any song, many sporting a boarder of advertisements.

David Lowery, frontman and songwriter for Cracker and Camper van Beethoven, is taking action against the sites he alleges profit from song lyrics but do not pay royalties. After evaluating is primary sources of revenue on the Internet, he came to an interesting conclusion. More people were searching his lyrics than searching to illegally download his music. And he was not receiving any of that revenue. Last year, Lowery released The Undesirable Lyric Website List.

The National Music Publishers Association took notice, and announced that it would send take-down notices to the names on the list. Rap Genius sat at the top of that list.

In an interview with NPR's Planet Money, Rap Genius' founder, Ilan Zechory, said the site should not be on Lowery's list. Zechory argues that the site is more than transcribed lyrics. He says it is a social network: a discussion board for musicians and music nerds. He says artists love the site. Some notable musicians, like Nas and Rick Ross, comment on their own lyrics on the site.

Rap Genius recently announced that, despite its opinion that the site is fair use, it is going to pay rights owners. Zechory noted that it was easier than fighting with music publishers, who have been very successful in suits against other lyric sites.

Source: NPR's Planet Money: Ep. 537 - Hold the Music; Just the Lyrics, Please

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Study confirms what you already knew: Terms of Service are confusing


You know that page with a check box you check without reading on the way to signing up for various online services? The one with the hundreds (or thousands) of words of legalese? Yeah, there is one on this site, too. It's okay. It's because the Terms of Service are boring, lengthy, and probably meaningless. Right?

Well, not necessarily. A new study from Georgia Tech of the "top 30 social and fan creation sites" (including sites from Facebook to Daily Motion) backs that up. Well, first things first: yes, Terms of Service agreements usually are difficult to read. Of the 30 sites surveyed, an average reading level of college sophomore was required for comprehension of them. That means around 60 percent of working age adults in the US (25 - 64) do not understand what they are agreeing to. "It is likely that users may not know what rights they are granting," the study says.

Are these documents meaningless? Like so many answers in the legal world, it really depends on how that law applies to you. What freedoms do you value in the content you create or host online?

Georgia Tech examined the freedoms we are giving up when agreeing to these documents. Most of that involves giving away whatever content is added to the service ("royalty-free use"), but also includes duplicating said content elsewhere ("non-exclusive use"). In plain terms, of course, those translate to "you will not get paid for the content you add here" and "you can also publish what you put here anywhere else you want."

A small fraction of the sites studied even granted the site advertising rights on user content.

Study co-author Casey Fiesler says that clear metrics do not exist to say which of the studied sites have the most or least restrictive TOS agreements, but he points to LinkedIn as an especially extreme example. "Among the more well-known sites that we analyzed, LinkedIn takes the most rights in your work - including the right to commercialize, and the license is irrevocable," she says.

A handful of more specific stats are in the chart below. For more detailed information, check out the full study.

Georgia Tech Study
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Aereo moves ahead with PR push before Supreme Court Trial


The US Department of Justice and almost every major broadcaster have accused Aereo of violating copyright laws. So far, courts have sided with Aereo. In five days, the Supreme Court will get the final word.

Today, Aereo launched its own lobbying effort in the form of a website named "Protect My Antenna." It makes arguments for Aereo's position and compiles various legal documents for the public to read. "We remain steadfast in our conviction that Aereo's cloud-based antenna and DVR technology falls squarely within the law," Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia said in an email to users announcing the site.

It's no suprise that broadcasters are upset with Aereo's live TV service. Here is how the service works: Customers pay a yearly fee to access a dedicated antenna at one of Aereo's locations and it includes DVR functionality. Users access the content online via streaming. So why are the broadcasters upset? The channels that Aereo carries show licensed content. The companies that broadcast that content want their licensing fees.

The US Department of Justice argues that Aereo is violating copyright law by re-broadcasting content from the big broadcasters and other OTA signals.

The case is scheduled for April 22nd.

Source: Protect My Antenna

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Google changes Terms of Service and there is little you can do about it


Most GMail users are now aware that Google has been scanning users' emails for advertising data. Some users are upset that Google has yet to inform users directly about this practice. Google currently faces several lawsuits due to this. The company may have just avoided trouble by updating its terms of service to clearly state what it is doing. If you read through the lengthy text, you'll see that Google now explicitly states that "automated systems analyze your content" for the sake of advertisements, customization and security.

Google tells Reuters that the move is based on feedback from the "last few months" and should provide "even greater clarity" to users. Although true, few people read the terms of service at all.

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Privacy on the Internet After Death


As you browse the web and shop online, you leave behind traces. What happens to all of this information when you are dead?

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UK Electronic label Ministry of Sound sues Spotify


UK electronic music label Ministry Of Sound has sued Spotify for copyright infringement based on Spotify Playlists that reproduce MoS compilations. It's at the heart of the electronic music remix culture and is likely to affect both free and Spotify Premium users, as well as streaming music apps who let users create playlists from within the app.

The fight may determine the future for user-generated capabilities in streaming music service mobile apps, since Spotify playlists are one of the main features of its service. If users have "rules" around what playlists can be made through Spotify playlists and the others, how is that handled? Do users take responsibility for copyright infringement or does Spotify pay some sort of blanket licensing to cover the cost?

"What we do is a lot more than putting playlists together: a lot of research goes into creating our compilation albums, and the intellectual property involved in that. It's not appropriate for someone to just cut and paste them," said Ministry of Sound chief executive Lohan Presencer when speaking to the Guardian.

The future of user-generated content on such services will depend on the outcome of this case and many like it.

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Google Makes Google News In Germany Opt-In Only To Avoid Paying Fees Under New German Copyright Law


Despite its "Defend Your Net" campaign last year, Google was unable to prevent changes to German copyright law that may mean it has to pay up for news excerpts it indexes. The company announced that unlike the other 60 countries where Google News operates by relying on sources to opt out of inclusion by request, robots.txt file or meta tags, it's requiring German publishers to opt-in.

According to Google, it's providing six billion visits per month to publishers worldwide as a free service, not something it should have to pay for. As TechCrunch points out, the issue comes as a result of the new German law that allows search engines to continue to publish snippets of news without paying, but isn't clear about just how much information that can include.

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