Room of a pleinolijf

Ask yourself this: how do I want to be remembered ?


Protect your online privacy (updated)

If you haven’t yet heard of PRISM, here’s the gist.  The NSA (National Security Agency) of the United States of America has been watching everyone on the Internet in the USA, and asking (and getting!) collaboration from national governments all over the world in disclosing private information about your person.  Those are clear violations of our basic rights to freedom and privacy.

In light of the recent PRISM reveal, there are several things you can do to help safeguard a free and open Internet.  First off, go and sign this petition:

Next up, a good idea is to have an overview of what information you publish on the big, bad interwebz. Personally, I use MyPermissions, which gives you an overview of which services see which information about you.  Very helpful if you, like me, try out many new services and sites on the web, which you may stop using after a while.

Finally, there is this web site that offers a list of privacy-safe alternatives to all sorts of popular online services and applications. 

How brilliant is that name ? PRETTY FF-ING BRILLIANT, THAT’S HOW.

Now go and protect yourself !   Go !  Shoo !



Update 20 Aug. 2013: Now this is unexpected.  Some two weeks after this post was published, I received an e-mail from a certain Mr. Sheldon Whitehouse, a US Senator.  After verifying it wasn’t a spam message, it appears to be in response to this post.  I wouldn’t know why else he (or his secretary) would send me the following message.


What’s a bit annoying, is the part where I put the second marking.  It contains my street address.  The most recent one, even, since we moved house last year.  To my knowledge, the only place I put my home address is on Facebook, where I mark it private to everyone except my close friends.  That is it.  I don’t think you will find it online if you are not connected to me directly.  It is not listed in the national phone book directory, nor do I provide it to any website, except online shops, for obvious reasons.

It’s funny then, that I receive this e-mail from a political figure, in the USA, unsollicited, talking about respect for people’s (online) privacy, while at the same time my private home address is disclosed in it.

I sent a reply today asking for an explanation.  Let’s see if it’s the typical, patronizing political communication, or if Mr. Whitehouse is a sincere man working for and close to the people like he should.

To be continued ?



Switching Search Engine from Google to DuckDuckGo

Today I read about a new search engine on Lifehacker [ link ], and I have switched since then. Partly because of the fact that Google is indeed watching you, but mostly because it has some nifty features that Google hasn’t or hasn’t implemented as well.

The name is DuckDuckGo. Like any modern online entity, you can find them at multiple spots: on their site, on Twitter, on the founder’s blog, on Facebook.

Things I like most:

  • Absence of clutter, much like how Google first started out. There is literally no advertising to be found.
  • Less spam results. Searching for very general keywords typically results in pages that exist solely to redirect you to other link sites. Not the case here !
  • Disambiguation, like we know it from searching Wikipedia for example, but this time ’round with search keywords. So it goes further than the obligatory and simple “Did you mean?”-functionality.
  • Zero-click info: automatic recognition of keyword subject. Other search engines do this as well in some form, but DuckDuckGo takes it up a notch.
  • !bang-searching: handy stuff. Read more.
  • Keyboard ninja features: navigate the results etc. by keyboard.


Things I would like:

  • Better recognition of (international) addresses: searching for my home address in Google works as expected (showing a map result), this does not (yet?) work in Duck Duck Go for my Belgian style address.


Take a look for yourself or compare with the common search engines.


Read my other posts about my online services switch away from Google:

Moving webmail from Gmail to
Moving address book from Google Contacts to Microsoft People
Switching personal cloud service from Google Drive to SkyDrive
Moving file hosting service from Dropbox to SkyDrive
How Google is slowly losing me as a client to Microsoft
Switching search engines from Google to DuckDuckGo


Facebook: How To Avoid Photos Tagged Of You Showing Up Where You Don’t Want Them To. And Test It Out Yourself !

How’s that for a post title !

Seriously though, this might be one of my more important posts, as it concerns privacy in Facebook. I wanted to do a separate post, as the inspiration for it – chapter 4 of quoted source below – was a bit low on clear instructions and screenshots, and might be too advanced for basic Facebook users.

As the article describes, it is a classic Facebook problem. It is the reason why many people stop using FB, or don’t use it like it’s meant to be, just because the user doesn’t understand it or doesn’t want to spend time trying to. Although one might argue that the default settings of FB are too ‘loose’.
So anyway, one of the biggest problems is that people suddenly see themselves appear on a photo uploaded by someone else. Not only that, it got tagged, so depending on your privacy settings, the whole world can see it. And that might be a bad thing if the photo depicts something you would rather have kept hidden, aside from a select group of friends.

People have been fired over stuff like that, and the option is hard to find, so here’s how you do it.

1) Go to your profile privacy page.

2) Click the option “Photos Tagged of You” and select “Customize…”. This box will show.

3) Here is where the magic happens. Depending on what situation you wish to create, you combine the options in this box. For me, I would like all photos tagged of me to be visible to all my friends, but not the friends that are related to me professionally. To do that, I select “Only Friends”, “None of My Networks”, and I exclude the friends list I created in the past to which I added all my professional contacts.

That’s it. You can even check this (and other settings) by viewing your profile as one of your friends ! To do this, follow these simple steps:
1) Go to your profile privacy page (which might still be open from previous action).
2) Click on the “Contact Information” tab.

3) In the text box at the top, type the name of a friend to test it out. For the example above, I can type the name of one of my professional contacts, and I can instantly verify that this friend can no longer see any photos ‘tagged of me’. Only my private albums in which I had photos not tagged of me were visible to this person.

It goes to show that friends lists are a great way of managing privacy in Facebook. It also makes it more practical to keep up to date of your friends of you have a lot of them. Make sure you read the mentioned article below for tips on public visibility (not just inside of Facebook).

Inspired by this great article.