Spying on shoppers?

Recently reported in the news is the UK supermarket Tesco and their plans to scan shoppers for advertising purposes. The Sydney Morning Herald explains:

British supermarket chain Tesco is installing hundreds of high-tech screens that scan the faces of shoppers as they queue at tills to detect their age and sex for advertisers.

The supermarket has signed a deal with Amscreen, a digital signage company owned by Lord Alan Sugar, in a move which drew concern from privacy campaigners about the growing use of ”invasive” technology in shops.

Cameras built into a digital advertising display above the tills identify whether a customer is male or female, estimate their age and judge how long they look at the advertisement displayed.

The ”real-time” data is fed through to advertisers to give them some idea of how effective their campaigns are and to enable them to tailor advertisements to certain times of the day

Not sure what this means for Australia and whether we can expect this soon. Read more here.

When a screen is their world

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that

Giving your child internet access isn’t damaging, but having no limits may be, writes Linda McSweeny.

Toddlers are navigating technology at a rapid pace, but left to their own devices, some of these tech-savvy kids could end up in a dark and possibly addicted head space by adolescence.

Psychologists say parents must pay attention to their children’s access to apps, online games and smartphones from a young age, to ensure they glean the benefits rather than the problems of our tech-heavy world.

Your children may have a problem if they:

  • Seem happy online but angry offline.
  • Focus on being online instead of doing homework or dining with family.
  • Spend more time online than with friends.
  • Refuse to admit how much time they are spending online.
  • Lose sleep to go online.

Although we know that technology is important to us all, the amount of time spent using it is one of the most important issues facing parents at the moment.. Read the article in its entirity here.

Public servant loses job over Twitter attack on the government

Last week The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a court has upheld the sacking of a public servant who criticised the government via social media, even though her name and job was not linked to her Twitter account.

Likely to shock all of those who openly criticise their places of work, this judgement means everyone who uses social media in Australia must be more aware of what they publish.

In a decision likely to curtail bureaucrats’ use of social media, Federal Circuit Court Warwick Neville rejected Michaela Banerji’s application for a stay on her dismissal.

Judge Neville found Australians had no ”unfettered implied right (or freedom) of political expression”.

Read the whole article here.

Most people unable to detect email phishing attacks: study

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported that many recipients of rogue emails – or phishing attacks – were unable to detect that emails were fraudulent. Phishing is defined by Wikipedia as

act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.[1][2] Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing emails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware.[3] Phishing is typically carried out by email spoofing[4] or instant messaging,[5] and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one.

A study carried out by North Carolina State University discovered that 92.5% of participants failed to detect fraudulent emails.

The findings are alarming given the growing personalisation of phishing attacks, in which scammers try to lure personal and proprietary information out of victims by posing as entities such as banks, airlines, stores and government agencies.


If you are unsure whether an email is legitimate or not, first check the email address the message was sent from and do not click on any links.

Read more the whole article here.

A student’s take on selfies

Last week The Age and Sydney Morning Herald published an article by a year 11 student Olympia Nelson on the practice of teenage girls uploading sexy self portraits to social media. She explains:

If social media only caused narcissism, it wouldn’t be the worst thing. Instagram and Facebook are social networks that not only breed narcissistic tendencies but transform relations into a sexual rat race.

On these ubiquitous portals, the popularity of girls is hotly contested over one big deal: how sexy can I appear and bring it off with everyone’s admiration?

A common adult reaction to social media is to restrict things, as if that could ever be possible. You can’t force kids to be nice. The real problem isn’t something tangible like sexting or bullying, which adults focus on in patronising and unimaginative ways. The real problem relates to conformity. Kids are compelled to act the stereotype, because those who opt out commit themselves to social leprosy. Social media doesn’t need adult control. What we need is some good taste.

Read the whole article here.

Facebook prank lands in court

Recently The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a Melbourne man who falsely advertised a rival’s party via Facebook will face stalking charges, even though the offence occurred two years ago:

A Frankston man in Victoria who narrowly avoided jail after an online party prank backfired has warned of the risks of misusing social media.

What the man thought would be a harmless Facebook hoax led to police intervention and the prospect of jail time and a criminal record when he was charged with stalking two years later.

Read the whole article here.

Child’s pictures being exploited on Instagram

Recently The Age and Sydney Morning Herald reported the worrying case of photos being posted to Instagram and then being repurposed:

Sarah (not her real name) learnt in April that fully clothed images of her daughter had been linked to role-playing accounts on the photo-sharing site, some of which contained sexual comments.

Yet her complaints to Instagram went unanswered for two days, until cyber safety consultant Susan McLean contacted the site on her behalf and the accounts were shut down.

Again, one of the issues is that once a photo is published online, it can be saved and/or manipulated by anyone who views it. Once the photo is out there in cyberspace, we no longer have control it. Read the whole the piece here.

How computers are doing our thinking for us

In a slightly scary article, the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that computers are doing are thinking for us. What we search for and what we like is being recorded by companies like Google and Facebook. In turn, our search results are being skewed to results that Google and Facebook thinks we want, based on our previous history.

But what are we missing out on when algorithms decide what we should consume? That’s a question author Eli Pariser tried to answer in his 2011 book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. In it he points out that the formation of filter bubbles on the web could be harmful, especially if internet users are not aware of their existence.

Read the whole article here.

Facebook Home for Android – more privacy questions

The Sydney Morning Herald has published an article questioning the way the new Facebook Home app works and collects your data:

Home — which will be available as a download from Google’s Play Store — is viewed as a Facebook takeover of Android and a significant threat to Google, as it puts Facebook’s updates, contacts, messaging service, photos and soon, more invasive advertising, directly on to your phone’s lock screen and home screen.

Almost as soon as Home was announced some users worried that their calls, text messages, location and data from other apps would all be hoovered up. A lot of this data — including location, contacts and calls — Facebook already has access to if you use its existing Android app, while Facebook Messenger asks for permission to read your SMS and MMS.

Read the whole article here.

Skype reveals your location

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald alerted Skype users to the hole in security where your IP address and location can be revealed to others:

Skype constantly exposes users’ internet addresses to the entire world, allowing criminals to better target cyber attacks and rivals to locate people.

The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets warned last year about research that showed it was possible to coax Skype into revealing the IP addresses of individual Skype users. Most users however, still have no clue about this basic privacy weakness.

“We are investigating reports of tools that capture a Skype user’s last known IP address,” a spokesperson for Skype said in an emailed statement. “This is an ongoing, industry-wide issue faced by all peer-to-peer software companies.”

Read the whole article here.