We love privacy, data, and kittens, among other things. Here is a list and brief description of
books and articles we have been reading.
“Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and
Control Your World” by Bruce Schneier
We all know there is an unholy alliance between the corporate data collectors and governments
worldwide. What we did not know was the depth and insidiousness of the connection. Mr. Schneier,
who has briefed US congressional intelligence committees, goes through the arguments for allowing
unfettered data collection and promptly destroys them with evidence. My personal favorite, on the use
of metadata, goes something like this.
“I should not fear the government collecting metadata on me, without my permission, because it makes
For those that want to know what metadata is, a few examples are:
1. The USPS scans the front and back of every letter sent in the US. So they know who you are
corresponding with, even if they do not read the contents.
2. In the US, and most of the rest of the world, the National Security Agency (NSA) knows the
same information regarding your emails, Facebook / other social media connections,
location, calls, and text messages if you use a cell phone or connect to the internet. They
know who communicated but not (if you believe them) the contents.
The facts are, it does not make you safer, as the inability of the government to stop mass shooters
plainly shows. What is worse, the government uses this data to make decisions on who to kill. Listen for
yourself! It is about 27 second in.
“We kill people based on metadata.”
General Michael Hayden, Former Director of the NSA
While this is the clearest reason for people to understand why it is important to take steps to control
and delete your personal data, there are many more outlined in the book. The most profound thing to
come out of the book is the sense that when your crazy uncle goes on a tirade about government
surveillance, a lot of it is true.
Facebook Data Scandal
I think most people understood that when you receive something for nothing, you are generally considered the product, not the customer. The leak, and I think more are to come, should not be surprising, because that is how Facebook makes money: they sell access to your data. More surprising was the lack of control in that they allowed for the copying of databases instead of a question – answer type of system. The difference is outlined below:
You can ask a data provider two things:
a. Please provide me with all the data on moms that have kids enrolled in soccer programs around
b. Please provide me with aggregate data on moms that have kids enrolled in soccer programs
In the first request, names, identifiers, contact info, etc is sent to the requester. In the second, only the
number of moms, some broad demographic data that has been averaged, and non-specific information
are provided. If the requester wanted to market to group (a), they have all the info. If they want to
market to group (b), they have to pay the data provider to do it on their behalf.
In the (a) scenario, you pay the data provider once, as you have everything you need. In the (b)
scenario, you have to pay the provider every time you want to reach that group. It seems dumb that
Facebook used the (a) model and not the (b) model even for academic research purposes. Cambridge
Analytical showed that this was an easy loophole to take advantage of.
Once you have the info on 87 million users, why would you ever pay Facebook again?
Some of us at DeleteAllMyData deleted our Facebook accounts long ago, I suspect others will soon. We
do not recommend one way or the other, because Facebook does provide some value (versus
anonymous data brokers). If you continue to use Facebook, please update your
settings to provide for maximum security, see some articles below:
i. “Yes, Facebook is scanning your messages for abuse” by Alanna Petroff
ii. “Exclusive: Facebook CEO stops short of extending European privacy globally”
by David Ingram and Joseph Menn
iii. “Facebook is why we need a digital protection agency” by Paul Ford
iv. “Fed up with Facebook? Here’s how to protect your data” by Kaya Yurieff
Too Big for your Breaches
This is just a limited list of data breeches that may actually affect you.
i. “Forever 21 breach exposed credit card info for months” by Mallory Locklear
ii. “Florida phishing attack exposes data for 30,000 Medicaid recipients” by John
iii. “Saks, Lord & Taylor breach: Data stolen on 5 million cards” by Jackie Wattles
True Paranoid Uncle Files
In case you still had faith in humanity, please review the following articles.
i. “Ad targeters are pulling data from your browser’s password manager” by
The quick summary is that you need to stop using the default browser password managers and use a
third party one that blocks this sort of shenanigans.
ii. “Madison Square Garden Has Been Secretly Using Face Recognition Tech:
Report” by Sidney Fussell
“Sixty-four million Americans are in the database, with the overwhelming majority unaware they were
involved at all.”
“Civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have long rallied against face
recognition because they mean simply showing your face in public becomes an interaction with law
enforcement; you’re scanned and potentially checked against a criminal database.”
Why did we start Delete All My Data? Learn why here.