Tag Archives: privacy

“This is him here”: Laura Kuenssberg and the ethics of social linking

This is him here

This week Twitter got angry.

Again.

It was angry because BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg identified the father of a sick baby who confronted the prime minister as a political activist, embedding one of his tweets in her own.

Then it was angry because people were attacking a journalist for doing her job.

Somewhere between the heated accusations and counter-accusations, however, there was an important lesson to be learned — and a reasonable discussion to be had.

It is a lesson about understanding very different online cultures, about new journalistic practices, and an emerging  dimension of journalistic ethics that few reporters have truly gotten to grips with. Continue reading

Got a new laptop? Here’s how to maintain your privacy from the start

When you get a new laptop – with no cookies on it! – it’s a great opportunity to start afresh and protect your privacy online by default. As I recently got a new laptop here’s what I did as I set it up…

Start from scratch – no importing of settings/applications

Many laptop setup wizards offer the option to import applications, documents or other elements from your existing laptop. I didn’t do this, partly because I didn’t want to bloat my new laptop with anything that wasn’t necessary (and if you use cloud storage then you can download from there anyway), but largely because I wanted to check the settings of each application as I went – this is much easier to do if you’re installing them.

Browsers – install them all

I use at least four different browsers: Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Opera. (You might also want to install Tor for particular use cases, although I’m not going to cover it here).

It’s useful to have different browsers partly because they offer different functionality, but also because it allows you to separate different activities. For example: Continue reading

Research on information security in local newspapers – the published version

Pie chart: 88% of respondents did not know what their employers were doing about information security

Previously on OJB I posted about some ongoing research I was conducting into whether security practices in local news organisations had changed in the wake of the Snowden and RIPA (UK surveillance powers) revelations.

Now the full research paper has been published in the academic journal Digital Journalism, as part of a special edition on Journalism, Citizenship and Surveillance Society. The abstract pretty much sums it up:

“Despite reports of widespread interception of communications by the UK government, and revelations that police were using surveillance powers to access journalists’ communications data to identify sources, regional newspaper journalists show few signs of adapting source protection and information security practices to reflect new legal and technological threats, and there is widespread ignorance of what their employers are doing to protect networked systems of production. This paper argues that the “reactive” approach to source protection that seeks to build a legal defence if required, is no longer adequate in the context of workforce monitoring, and that publishers need to update their policies and practice to address ongoing change in the environment for journalists and sources.”

Other highlights of the edition include:

Hello Allo: the first 12 things I learned about Google’s new chat app

very-true-indeed

Google’s new chat app Allo is out in the UK, and I’ve been playing around with it.

There are two key artificial intelligence (AI) features that stick out in the app: firstly, the ability to interact with bots (the Google Assistant, which I’ve written about in a second post here), and secondly the way the app suggests responses while you chat.

I took screenshots during my first conversations using the app to see how the AI algorithms were set up before it had begun to learn much from my behaviour. Here are the highlights… Continue reading

Google knows what you did last summer: how to use the My Activity page to make it forget

Google My Activity news

Google knows what I was reading last summer

If you use an Android phone, the Chrome browser, or even just YouTube, you may at some point have been surprised by how much Google knows about you. If you haven’t, take a look at Google’s new My Activity feature.

Rolled out this week, the feature allows you to see the videos Google knows you’ve watched; the searches you’ve typed in ( and ‘sound search‘ too); the images you’ve looked for – and which ones you viewed; video search. Continue reading

Welcome to journalism. Now delete your history.

Yesterday an 18-year-old journalism student told me he’d deleted his entire Twitter history using TweetDelete. The same day I noticed that another had changed his Twitter username to remove a reference to Newcastle United.

I was not an innocent bystander – I have to admit: I’d sort of advised them to do this…

Full circle in five years

Some history: I’ve been training journalists and student journalists to use Twitter for almost five years now, and have seen an enormous shift in that time.

In those early classes – between 2008 and 2010 – the difficulty was getting people to write more informally: almost no one had a Twitter account, so they approached it as a professional tool, with professionalism very much in mind.

By the third year, however, things were starting to change. By then around half would typically have pre-existing Twitter accounts, and many were using them in a personal capacity. The problem was not using Twitter in the first place, but how to combine the professional with the personal. “Should I have a different account for personal use?” Yes, I used to say.

Now I don’t.

There’s no such thing as a personal Twitter account

I no longer suggest having separate professional and personal accounts because, aside from the difficulty of running two accounts, frankly there is no such thing as a truly personal, even private, account if you are a journalist.

Some manage the balance: Joanna Geary, who maintains @guardianJoanna and @joannaGeary, springs to mind. But Joanna is able to do that because her ‘personal’ account is barely distinguishable from her ‘work’ account: she acts professionally; she talks about things that interest many of the same people who follow her ‘professionally’.

Joanna, in other words, is the exception.

In the movement from one audience (close friends) to another (strangers who may be judging our credibility as reporters) the harsh truth is that we will be judged unfairly against a standard we never anticipated.

And so I ended up showing TweetDelete to a class of 18-year-olds.

And I only had to mention SnapChat, and sexting for them to get it.

Welcome to the world of permanence. Please keep an eye on your past. For the sake of convenience, you may want to delete it (at least TweetDelete will give you an archived copy).

Note: Ross Hawkes has a fascinating exercise on the same subject: he will find tweets by members of the class and present them back to the class with the name removed. What would they think? “But it’s out of context!” Exactly.

Related: Why you might not ever get a job again… if you swear a lot on the internet