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Are you privacy literate?

September 11, 2018

Online privacy is a new literacy that educators and students need to learn and practice. But what should teachers consider before adopting a digital tool?

Below are the top five questions teachers should ask themselves when vetting new tools and platforms; these are the questions that tend to elicit the most red flags. You’ll find the answers to these questions in privacy policies and terms of use documents. As a rule, you won’t have to apply these questions to tools provided by your school for institution-wide use, such as Google Drive or your learning management system. These tools have already been vetted by the school and/or district.

Does the product collect Personally Identifiable Information? Personally identifiable information—or PII as it’s known—is data that’s tied to an student’s name or ID number. The relevant section in a privacy policy will be called something like “Information We Collect from You.” If the service collects your name and email address, that’s information needed to create an account, so that’s not alarming. Other commonly collected information include the following:

Usage information that includes interactions with a website’s or product’s services
Device information such as unique device identifiers
Operating system information
Internet service provider
IP address
Dates and times of your log-ins and requests
Does the vendor scrub PII from deleted accounts? Say you decide to stop using a service or if a family decides that they’re not comfortable with their child using that service. When students completely delete their accounts, the vendor is required by federal regulations to scrub all the PII. But if their documents do not explicitly state that they do, you’re taking the risk that they may not.

Does the vendor share information they collect? With whom? Vendors may share information with third-party service providers that help them help them with cloud storage, data management, or consult with them on improving their product. Someone needs to look through the privacy policies of each of those third-party services to make sure that they follow school-approved privacy conditions.

That can be a huge task and it’s why no district should require teachers to vet their own apps. This should be the responsibility of whoever is assigned to do vetting in your IT or legal department. But this helps you understand why sometimes it takes a while for an app to be vetted.

The privacy policy may also say that the company will disclose your personal information without notice if required to do so by law (this is standard). If they say something like “…or in the good faith belief that such action is necessary,” that’s a little looser and might be something you want to consider.

What are the age restrictions? This information is commonly in the terms of use. The service may state that it does not knowingly collect or use PII from children under the age of 13. This particular guideline is an indication that the service may not be compliant with Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which controls what information can be collected from children under 13.

If the service does say that users under 13 can use it, they are likely to be COPPA compliant in the way they collect and store and preserve information. When the terms say that users under 13 must get the consent of a parent or guardian, the school might be able to step in and give permission. But this would be something you’d have to review with the school officials who do the vetting.

Does the product display targeted ads? It’s against federal regulations to display targeted ads within web sites, games and apps that target children who are under 13. If an online service does this, they are no longer considered educational and they can no longer have that designation. A service with targeted ads collects PII so that it can select ads that will draw in each individual user, which is a distraction from educational work.

Teach students to be privacy savvy

Fear of data privacy laws has compelled many schools and teachers to say no to tools that students suggest. I recommend, instead, that we work with students and teach them digital data privacy literacy.

Start by expressing interest in the suggested tool. Then ask them some of the above questions to help them figure out whether the tool is collecting their PII. For instance, does it say anything about collecting information about location, contacts, IP address, operating system, and the like? Students are usually shocked by how much information that apps and companies are collecting about them.

Next, tell them, “Before I can give you permission to use this as part of our work, I have to run it through our IT department or our legal department. But I’m really excited that you’re excited, and I’m going to get back to you as soon as I can.”

Digital literacy is an essential life skill, so having conversations with students about the tools that they’re excited to use and how they can tell whether it will protect their data is extremely important. Just as we build character education into lessons, it’s important for us to build in these digital literacy conversations whenever appropriate.

Kerry is the assistant principal of teaching and learning at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass. She is also the director of K12 Education for ConnectSafely.org, an internet safety nonprofit based in Palo Alto, Calif. Kerry is an EdSurge columnist and also writes for her own blog, Start With a Question, which can be found at www.KerryHawk02.com. She is co-author of The Educator’s Guide to Student Data Privacy. She has been a middle and high school educator in public and private schools for 16 years and is also a keynote speaker, writer, and professional learning facilitator sought after by schools, districts, and conferences nationwide. Kerry can be found on social media at @KerryHawk02.

Tech Tips is a weekly column in SmartBrief on EdTech. Have a tech tip to share? Contact us at knamahoe@smartbrief.com

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Monero (XMR) The Privacy Oriented Coin Story And Latest: 10.00% Increase – Showcasing Predicted Success

September 5, 2018

Seaming like out of the blue, Monero (XMR) is taking center stage for the last couple of week constantly while pulling more investors and traders towards it. With so many options under the radar it should not be overlooked at all.

Monero XRM
This should not come as a surprise as it is one of the few coins that follows the original idea of cryptocurrencies to respect anonymity and safety. While the same in some way or shape is targeted by the leading coins too, there is a miss-lead taking place.

The nature to conform to present regulations set by officials can be felt from these coins which is in contrary to the above-mentioned original idea. Having main concentration set on privacy being almost untraceable and unlinkable makes Monero a choice to stand out.
Monero is headed by a group of 7 developers of which 5 have chosen to remain anonymous while two have come out openly in public. They are: David Latapie and Riccardo Spagni aka “Fluffypony”. The project is open source and crowdfunded.
Bitcoin (BTC), Monero (XMR)–According to a report by the initial coin offering (ICO) advisory and research firm Satis Group, both Monero and Bitcoin look to be the biggest winners in terms of price gain over the next decade. Satis, which publishes outlooks for both ICOs and current cryptocurrencies has released a new forecast for the next ten years that puts XMR as the greatest price gainer.

Just Recently, the team behind Monero declared that a third-party has just completed a technical audit for the ‘bulletproofs’ protocol. An official Monero blog post elaborates on what the improvement entails, noting that bulletproofs allow for cheaper, smaller and faster transactions, and will allow for Monero to scale in a much easier fashion

“Overall, bulletproofs represent a huge advancement in Monero transactions. We get massive space savings, better verification times, and lower fees.”

The 10th largest coin by market capitalization welcomed over 10.00% gain in the last 24-hours against the US Dollar. The pair XMR/USD is changing hands at $134.56 leading BTC’s market with 10.40%. This marks the highest for almost two months now.

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DuckDuckGo gets $10M from Omers for global privacy push

August 29, 2018

Pro-privacy search engine DuckDuckGo, which offers an alternative to surveillance engines like Google, has quietly picked up $10M in fresh funding from Canadian pension fund Omers’ VC arm. The Globe and Mail reported the news earlier this month.

It’s only the second funding round for the ten year old company — which last picked up $3M in VC all the way back in 2011, according to Crunchbase.

In a blog post announcing the investment, Omers Ventures argues that privacy and security concerns have “risen to the forefront of public consciousness” over the past five years — noting how governments are responding to public demand and data breaches and “starting to take real action”, citing the European Union’s updated privacy framework, GDPR, as one example.

With that conviction in mind, the fund actively pursued an investment in DDG, which has been profitable (via non-tracking advertising) since 2014 so was not in need of a cash injection. And, indeed, initially refused one. But Omers persisted and was able to persuade founder Gabriel Weinberg to take the money to help support growth objectives for DDG, “particularly internationally”, and including in Canada (where the fund is based).

Expanding its privacy and security offerings is another rational for DDG taking the funding.

At the start of this year the company branched out from its core product of private (non-tracking) search — adding a tracker blocker and other privacy and security tools to create a functional bundle to help web users keep their browsing private too.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Weinberg said the focus with Omers is “to figure out how to take that globally as they’re a global pension fund”.

Asked for more detail about the plans, he told TechCrunch: “While we are already global (and have been since launch in 2008), we are now trying to focus more on specific markets: In hiring, better tuning our search engine results for local markets, and expanding the channels we use to market DuckDuckGo to have more of a global focus.”

Hiring international staff will therefore be a big part of DDG’s growth push.

“We are focused on staffing up to continue to deliver the best all-in-one privacy solution (the one we launched at the beginning of the year) and marketing, with a more particular focus on outside of the US,” he also told us.

“Our top markets (in terms of search traffic) outside the US are: DE [Germany], UK, FR [France], CA [Canada], though we have significant growth and presence in most countries in terms of relative search market share.”

Weinberg added that Omers has “a deep personal interest and investment thesis in privacy, and do believe there is an inflection point now”.

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Demystifying Online Privacy, Through the Story of the Man Who Took On Silicon Valley

August 20, 2018

By Nicholas Confessore
Aug. 18, 2018

Times Insider delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how news, features and opinion come together at The New York Times.

I usually think of myself as a politics reporter, the job I’ve had, on and off, for most of my career. But in the last year or so, I’ve had to add another title, one I never thought I’d have: tech reporter.

In the Trump era, those two topics are increasingly hard to separate. In the last year, I’ve written about the booming business of “bots” and fake accounts on Twitter and how Russian agents used fake Facebook pages to sow division and shape the 2016 presidential election. I also worked on a Times investigation, in partnership with The Guardian and The Observer of London, into Cambridge Analytica, the British-American political data firm that improperly exploited the personal Facebook data of tens of millions of American voters. To study political power today, you have to understand technology.

That’s what drew me to the story of Alastair Mactaggart, the central character in this Sunday’s magazine cover story about the war over privacy. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it has become clear that tech companies like Google and Facebook not only collect extraordinary amounts of information about everyone, but sometimes deceive or mislead their own users about what information is being collected and how it is used.
My colleagues and I have reported extensively over the last year on the enormous power wielded by tech companies over politics and commerce and on the ways in which that power can be abused. Our reporting has shed light on how poorly tech companies protect the integrity of their platforms and of the data you hand them for free, with profound consequences.

Yet both Facebook and Google, and the broader tech industry of which they are a part, have escaped any major regulation or seriously punitive government action in the United States. (In Europe, Google was recently hit with a $5 billion fine for antitrust violations.) Even after a cascade of scandals, Washington had done almost nothing. Why?

Mr. Mactaggart, who last year began organizing to pass a California ballot initiative restricting the abuse of personal data, turned out to be an ideal way to answer the question. For one thing, his campaign was happening in real time, and as a political neophyte, he was encountering Silicon Valley’s political machine for the first time, much as most readers would be. Mr. Mactaggart was not an expert on privacy when he started; he was a wealthy real estate developer from Oakland, whose main interaction with people in the tech world was at Bay Area birthday parties and his neighborhood dog run. He more or less fell into a rabbit hole and became a little obsessed. That journey allowed me to turn an arcane and often boring subject into a compelling yarn; his education — as a political campaigner and as a consumer — becomes the reader’s.

That was important for me, too, as a reporter. I often write about complex policy issues, and questions surrounding data collection, advertising and privacy can be challenging to unspool in a compelling, accessible way.

I used to write about campaign finance; that’s a complicated topic, too, and it was easy to lose readers’ attention. But writing about data and privacy is harder. Presidential campaigns lend a certain innate drama to stories about donors and fund-raising. Tech and social media, while in one sense nearer to people’s daily lives, can seem distant and abstract. For those who have no background in programming or data science, the industry they animate can seem impenetrable.
This is no accident. One reason Big Tech faces so little resistance from policymakers is that Silicon Valley’s business seems so daunting. I find that Big Tech’s lobbyists and “thought leaders” — and some journalists — implicitly and sometimes explicitly promote the idea that policymakers are too dumb, slow or unsophisticated to understand how it all works, let alone regulate something like data collection practices. This notion also helps insulate the industry from accountability.

The story of how Mr. Mactaggart forced California lawmakers to pass a landmark consumer privacy law is, in part, a story of the power of this idea — and also of its flimsiness. The law he helped pass is not a panacea, and won’t solve every problem raised by the encroaching powers of Big Tech. Some critics believe the law doesn’t go far enough. (And many in the industry believe it goes way too far.) But the fact of it — the political proof of concept — has already stirred intense debate and pressure to produce even more protections for consumers, not only in other states but in Washington.

That matters not only for consumers, but also for readers. Mr. Mactaggart is a smart guy, and he had time and resources most people don’t. But he’s not an expert on politics or technology. If he can figure it out, so can you.

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Privacy Coins and Bitcoin Dominance Guide

August 7, 2018

The advent of Bitcoin has proved to be a key landmark in the way that money is thought about because it has demonstrated that it is possible to create an entirely decentralized incorruptible and spendable digital currency. However, while taking into account all the successes that Bitcoin has managed to achieve, the digital currency has shown itself to be weak in one area in particular: privacy. This has resulted in the emergence of privacy coins that threaten Bitcoin’s market dominance.

Privacy and fungibility
One attribute that is often credited to Bitcoin is being an anonymous digital currency, however, this is incorrect. Bitcoin, at best, is more pseudonymous than it is anonymous. It is pseudonymous because user identity on the Bitcoin blockchain is obscured, as users’ names are substituted for public addresses. This protection is not one that can be described as being truly anonymous, because if an individual can attach a Bitcoin address to a user, then it suddenly becomes possible to monitor the transactional activity of that user.

The privacy weaknesses found in Bitcoin also produce issues about fungibility. Fungibility is a concept that can be defined as the ability to exchange a unit of a commodity or good. For example, the U.S. dollar is a fungible fiat currency because one unit e.g. one dollar can be exchanged for another dollar bill. The problem of fungibility becomes more acute when one considers the below example:

Within the Bitcoin ecosystem, if it becomes known to network participants that a Bitcoin address is engaging in illegal activity, then the Bitcoin housed within that wallet address may be regarded as being “tainted” by the wider community. This might create a situation in which other participants i.e. merchants refuse to accept that tainted Bitcoin, so as not to fund further illegal activities.

Therefore, in this scenario, Bitcoin would effectively be less fungible, as it would become considerably harder to exchange one unit of Bitcoin. More robust privacy features would resolve this fungibility concern, because if an individual cannot determine the origins of received funds on the blockchain then they have no knowledge as to its history.

Privacy coins: Monero, PIVX, Zcash, and Dash
Bitcoin’s privacy weaknesses have encouraged the development of privacy-focused cryptocurrencies, with the popular privacy coins being: Monero, Zcash, and Dash.

Monero
Monero was launched in 2014 and utilizes three distinct technologies to achieve true user anonymity on the blockchain.

Ring Signatures – Monero ring signatures are intended to protect user privacy on the input side of a transaction. Ring signatures operate by fusing a group of possible signers to produce a distinctive digital signature that possesses the capability of executing a transaction. The result is a scenario in which it is extremely difficult for third-parties to determine the individual that actually initiated the transaction.

Ring Confidential Transactions (RingCT) – Monero RingCT functions by obfuscating the value of funds on the Monero blockchain. Monero achieves this by employing a cryptographic proof, which shows that the input of a transaction is equivalent to its output. It is important to note that this is accomplished without revealing the value of the actual transaction.

Stealth Addresses – This third privacy feature provides anonymity to user addresses on the Monero blockchain. Stealth addresses necessitate that a sender in a transaction creates one-time addresses for every transaction on the recipient’s behalf. This then makes it difficult for third-parties to link transactions to the recipient’s actual address.

PIVX
PIVX, which stands for Private Instant Verified Transaction(X), is another privacy coin that utilizes Zerocoin, a protocol that provides transactional privacy for users on the PIVX blockchain. PIVX’s implementation of Zerocoin makes viewable PIV coins anonymous, to preserve user privacy and fungibility of the native asset. This is achieved via the use of the second-tier PIVX masternode.

Zcash
Zcash is another privacy-centric cryptocurrency that was founded by Zooko Wilcox. The privacy feature that Zcash is known for is the cryptographic zero-knowledge proof that it employs, also known as zk-SNARKs. This privacy feature operates by encrypting transaction data on the blockchain. The feature can determine the accuracy of the encrypted transactional data without having to reveal it.

Dash
Dash is another popular privacy-focused digital currency that is intended to provide privacy functionalities to users on its blockchain. It does this primarily through the use of its PrivateSend function. This operates as a coin-mixing service that mixes a user’s funds with others on the network, which then makes it difficult to identify where mixed funds originated from.

Conclusion
It is undoubtedly the case that Bitcoin is the most dominant digital currency currently operating in the space. However, this dominance has seen erosion, as more digital currencies offer innovative features that cannot be found in Bitcoin. This is a scenario that has played out, with privacy coins such as Monero, PIVX, Zcash, and Dash achieving some levels of success.

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