It’s Not Just Facebook. Ways You Are Giving Up Your Privacy

facebook privacy
facebook privacy

It has been referred to as a “breach” and misuse of private information. It has been the buzz of social media and it may have long-lasting impact, particularly in the United States. We are talking about Cambridge Analytica’s use of information it retrieved from Facebook and Facebook users. This data was apparently used to target political ads to influence the American election.

Before we get too far into the weeds on the subject, it should be noted that the purpose of all political advertising is to influence voters. This should surprise no one. It should also be noted that this information was gathered within Facebook’s own guidelines. If there was a breach, it was, in fact, the “breach of trust” Mark Zuckerberg referred to in the interviews he gave following the news. People trusted Facebook with their information. That being said, Zuckerberg made his fortune gathering information from users and selling his “audience” to companies wanting to target certain groups and individuals. Internet privacy is to a great degree, an illusion. We’ve all had that startling experience of searching for a topic or service and all of a sudden we are seeing ads for that product on our social media. Where did we think this information was coming from?  We were, and are, providing this wealth of data ourselves, and doing so willingly.

The Evolution of “Mailing Lists”

In pre-internet days, magazine companies would sell their subscriber lists to companies who saw value in targeting people interested in the content of a particular magazine. Just by having your name and address, and knowing the types of magazines you subscribed to, marketers could do a surprisingly effective job of reaching target audiences for decades. As time progressed, people became a little more comfortable filling out paper surveys and polls,  giving their opinions and more private information. They were often rewarded with an entry to win a prize in a drawing or by getting a free sample.  Soon, digital loyalty cards began stockpiling data on consumers with the promise of saving 25 cents on a box of detergent or a package of frozen peas. The internet and social media then really opened the floodgates.

Privacy, the Internet, and Social Media

You have read every page of every term of use you have agreed to on the internet, correct? We didn’t think so.

Software companies, gaming sites, social media platforms, search engines, and others have become adept at concealing their intended use of your personal data in extensive terms of use forms. Some of the very websites that have been critical of Facebook are participating in the same consumer data gathering strategies Facebook uses. While they will often say these terms of use protect consumers from misuse, it actually protects them. It demonstrates users have granted them permission to use this personal data for their own purposes.

What social media added to data gathering is the ability to connect friends and family. In the case of the Cambridge Analytica situation, not only was information gathered about users who volunteered it, but additional data was gathered from those who were connected to those users. The very platforms promising to “connect us” are connecting us with those who want to influence our product and services choices and even our political opinions.  The more information gathered, the better we could be targeted and we’ve been freely giving it up in droves.

Smartphones, GPS, Apps, and Siri

There are those who believe that deleting their social media accounts will help protect them. While it may slow down the train, it has already left the station. Search engines know what you are looking at and the subjects of interest to you. GPS devices know where you are and can even predict where you are going. Smartphones know more about you than your spouse. Then we invite digital assistants like Siri and Alexa into our homes to gather information audibly. We do it so willingly, in the name of convenience, or to have access to discounts or “loyalty points”.

Why are so many apps free? Because the value of the data being gathered far exceeds any monetary gain these companies could otherwise realize. The real eye-opener is when these activities are combined from various vendors it creates an even more complete dossier of your searches, purchasing and travel habits, and relationships. We won’t even get into facial recognition and fingerprinting data that is a increasing part of our everyday activities.

Nobody is suggesting that going back to flip phones is the answer. At least not yet. But we can benefit from knowing how we are making our personal data so available. We can minimize access to our info by choosing providers who have no or little interest in acquiring personal data. You can make the move to an eco web hosting solution provider that is more interested in the providing superior customer service than gathering your information. We invite you to learn more about OrangeWebsite.com.

The Privacy Benefits of Using OrangeWebsite.com

Look, we’ll be honest. We have absolutely no interest in your private information. If you are looking for anonymous web hosting, we are your provider. We make our money from building a worldwide base of website hosting customers who want a 99.9% uptime, anonymous sign-up, and no government interference. Customers appreciate our willingness to accept payment by Bitcoin, cash by mail, PayPal, and wire transfer. We are based in Iceland, an Internet-friendly country with internet and freedom of speech regulations. We also happen to have a stable government and an excellent digital infrastructure. We offer 24/7 technical support.

We view ourselves as a landlord, offering our worldwide customers rental space on our servers. We want to make sure you are comfortable and if you have an issue, we are accessible. As long as we have a valid email address to contact you and a way to receive timely payments, the rest is up to you. If you are becoming more conscious of your personal data and how providers may be using it to compromise you, choose OrangeWebsite.com. Secure. anonymous, and guaranteed.

The Growth of Digital & Virtual Assistants

Virtual Assistants
Virtual Assistants

The Growth of Digital & Virtual Assistants

They are referred to by various names including digital assistants, virtual assistants, voice assistants, and most recently smart speakers. Odds are you or someone you know has or soon will have one in their home. You may already use one on your phone. It is another in a series of digital advances designed to either make your life more convenient, find out more about you or potentially both.

Rather than having to undergo pesky typing into a digital device, users can simply make their request by speaking out loud into or at least near enough to the device so it can “hear”. They are in smartphones, televisions, computers, and in our automobiles. While this article will begin with a general look at the technology involved, we will ultimately focus on in-home voice speakers and their amazing growth in popularity in recent years.

The History of Speech Recognition

Many don’t realize how long speech recognition technology has been around. It was first introduced by Bell laboratories with a simple device named “Audrey” in 1952. Audrey could recognize numbers spoken by one voice. In 1962, IBM introduced “Shoebox” that could recognize 16 English words. Slowly, speech recognition improved through the 1960’s where it included more and more vowels and consonants in a variety of languages.

In the early to mid-1970’s, the United States Defense Department got involved and the technology made great strides. “Harpy” resulted in a system that could mimic the vocabulary of the average three-year-old. Eventually, Bell Labs introduced a system that could recognize multiple voices.

The next advances in voice recognition were accomplished through predictive voice recognition, where words were recognized on patterns of speech. In 1987, a doll named Julie could mimic speech and was marketed as “…the doll that understands you.” If that sounds a bit creepy think about what we are placing in our homes today.

In the 1990’s, voice recognition became much more available for consumers as computer speeds advanced. It was often cumbersome, however, and software frequently had to be trained to the user’s voice. Systems were frustrating due to misunderstandings between the users and the software. Early phone editions were particularly aggravating as callers would have to repeat themselves incessantly to get the software to “understand” what they wanted.

With the growing popularity of the internet, Google helped the technology take a huge step with its Google Voice Search App for the iPhone in the 2000’s.

Other milestones in the development of voice assistants was in 2011 when IBM’s “Watson” appeared on Television’s “Jeopardy” program and Apple introduced Siri. Microsoft responded with Cortana in 2013 and in late 2014, Amazon introduced Alexa and The Echo. The Assistant from Google made its debut in 2016 as did the Echo Dot. Later that year, Google Home was launched.

Virtual Assistants

The Growth of Voice Speakers in the Home

So, here we are now, over 65 years after Audrey recognized spoken numbers and 55 years after Shoebox was demonstrated at the World’s Fair, Through that time, interest has been shown from everybody from doll makers to the US Department of Defense. It has been employed in our phones and our cars. Now, however, it is reaching a new level of convenience and/or voluntary intrusion, depending on your perspective.

Estimates are there are about 30 million Google Home and Amazon Echo voice speakers in American homes. Penetration is expected to reach 55% within the next four years. There are a growing number of companies like Lenovo, LG, Harmon Kardon, and even toy maker Mattel who have set out to grab a share of this rapidly growing market. What’s behind this growth, how is it impacting us, and what is next?

Convenience Trumps Privacy

Voice speakers or as some are now calling AI voice speakers are another example that people are not only willing to trade personal information and privacy for convenience but will actually pay for the privilege. Convenience is king and technology-based companies like Amazon and Google fully understand that. It also affords them something even more valuable than just the sales of these devices. The real value to these tech companies is the consumer data and insights they provide.

It is not unlike the sales of cheap printers in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Consumers were lured in by cheap printer prices and convenience, They may not have been aware of the expensive replacement cartridges that awaited them. Companies promoting voice speakers may, in fact, be making these devices more and more affordable to gain access and insight into consumer behavior and information.

What This Means for Marketers

So, if all of this history and growth in voice recognition and ultimately AI voice speakers is interesting, what are the practical aspects for those with websites who want to sell more of their products and services? It starts with understanding that much of these activities are search related. “Alexa, find me a local rock and roll radio station.”, “Siri, who has the best pizza near us?” or “Google, what is tomorrow’s weather going to be?” are basic searches, initiated by voice rather than typing. There are already over one billion searches conducted by voice every month. By 2020, just two years from now, it is predicted about a third of all searches will be conducted without a screen. More and more people are joining the voice search option and feeling more comfortable with it, including those using voice speakers. This may help you craft verbally friendly SEO efforts along with written keyword strategies.

Why You Should Choose Orange Website

OrangeWebsite.com is an Icelandic-based web hosting solutions provider committed to the growth of our customers. We are in an internet-friendly country that respects the privacy of internet users. We provide a variety of hosting plans that can be paid through private secure and private payment options like Bitcoin and cash through the mail. Learn more by visiting OranageWebsite.com and get started today.

The Eleven Most Important Reasons to Choose a Web Hosting Company

Web Hosting Company
Web Hosting Company

The Eleven Most Important Reasons to Choose a Web Hosting Company

The factors surrounding your choice of a web hosting company will likely depend on your specific goals, needs, and budget. For most, however, there are certain qualities they seek in a web hosting solutions provider. Before you make a choice, consider these eleven important factors in your selection.

  1. Uptime – One of the biggest factors in the selection of a web hosting company is its reliability. A hosting services provider should not just boast of their uptime, they should be able to guarantee it. Server reliability and backup systems have improved tremendously through the years. Today, you should expect near 100% uptimes that are guaranteed.
  2. Customer and Technical Service – Costumer service and technical support often go hand in hand when considering a web hosting company. This is the “human” component of web hosting which is so important when you need to have a problem resolved. If you have an issue, you should be able to connect with someone in a timely manner. You should be treated as a valuable customer with every contact.
  3. Choice of Hosting Plans – Not every website is equal or has the same requirements and not every web hosting company offers the same services. You’ll want to make sure the hosting provider you choose can accommodate the traffic, software, and applications important for your website’s functionality. Finding out your hosting company is inadequate after you have made your choice can be problematic.
  4. Security – Today, more than ever, security should be a concern when selecting a web hosting company. Two factor authentication methods for client logins, server SSH logins, and other security features can help ensure the security of your websites. Not asking questions regarding security can be asking for problems.
  5. Location – Location can be a factor for several reasons. The location of a data center can not only affect how quickly users can access its servers, but you’ll want a hosting company in a country that is stable politically. It should be an Internet-friendly country that embraces freedom of expression and has regulations that protect web-related freedoms. Its location should have a solid technical infrastructure adding to reliability.
  6. Environmentally Friendly – As the world begins to have a greater understanding of how much energy is consumed by data centers and how they contribute to pollution,  finding “green” or organic web hosting solution providers has increased in importance. These eco web hosting companies take steps to use energy efficiently, often passing savings onto their clients. Using a “green” hosting company also provides marketing opportunities for companies who want to appeal to this market.
  7. Pricing – While pricing isn’t necessarily at the top of the list, it would be naive to think it isn’t a significant factor. You certainly don’t want to pay for more than you need and you want to get what you pay for.
  8. Testimonials – This shows how current and previous customers view a web hosting company matters. Look for a web hosting company who is willing to share testimonials from real customers about their services.
  9. Payment Options – More payment choices and payment flexibility can make working with a web hosting company more convenient. There are plenty more options available out there than credit cards.
  10. Anonymity – For many companies, anonymity can play an important role in a choice of a web hosting company. If this is important for you, make sure to inquire about the steps a web hosting solutions provider takes to keep you anonymous.
  11. A Satisfaction Guarantee – You’ll want to select a hosting company that has enough confidence in its products and services to guarantee them with a money back guarantee. If a service doesn’t back its services, consider your other options.

Not all web hosting companies are the same. When you consider all of the above, we think you’ll discover why more and more companies of all sizes from all parts of the world are are choosing OrangeWebsite.com as their hosting services solutions provider.

How OrangeWebsite Measures Up

OrangeWebsite meets and exceeds expectations. We have a 99.9% uptime guarantee that is backed with 24/7, knowledgeable technical support. We serve customers in over 100 countries in time-zones across the globe. We have a variety of hosting plans to suit almost every budget and every technological need. Plans can be paid for by using BitcoinPayPal, wire transfers, and even cash by mail. We are an ultra-secure hosting provider located in Iceland, considered one of the safest hosting countries in the world. We have quick load times to both Europe and North America. Iceland obtains almost all of its electricity from renewable energy sources like geothermal and hydroelectric, helping us achieve our status as an eco web hosting provider. Because of our climate, we use much less air conditioning to cool our data center servers, using less energy. OrangeWebsite provides our clients the ability to place a selection of “Green Seals” on the pages of their websites. These easy to install digital labels indicate that your organization cares enough about the environment to use an eco-friendly hosting provider. We take steps that protect your anonymity and offer a 30 day money back guarantee. View our testimonials online and learn more about getting started today.

Choosing a web hosting service provider is an important decision. Choose wisely. We invite you to discover the benefits of OrangeWebsite.com.

Net Neutrality Heading into 2018

Net Neutrality 2018
Net Neutrality 2018

Net Neutrality 2018

As the last six weeks of 2017 unfolded, many Americans were preoccupied with the raging fires in California, the approaching holidays, and federal tax reform. Meanwhile, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had his own agenda. He wanted to simply, as he put it “ Take the internet back to 2014”. Why 2014? That was before the February 2015 meeting of the FCC, led by then chairman Tom Wheeler, to enact provisions that were intended to preserve net neutrality in the United States.

At that time, Wheeler saw the changes occurring within the ISP, internet, and entertainment industries that would give these organizations far too much power to control the internet and how content could and would be accessed. He, in fact, was quoted as saying “(These) providers have both the economic incentive and the technological capability to abuse their gatekeeper position.” He saw the need for net neutrality rules that would prevent ISPs from either throttling back or even blocking content and from using their power to decide what services are prioritized to whom. Since 2015, net neutrality rules have prevented ISPs from exercising this potential power to control speed, access, and content. It could be argued net neutrality rules have forced them to be more creative and consumer friendly in competitively positioning their products and services.

Now as 2018 makes its debut, net neutrality regulations have been rolled back to 2014. The “new” rules require that ISPs disclose any blocking, throttling or prioritization that takes place from either them or their partners. Many are concerned, however, the control of the internet is in the hands of mega-content providers, entertainment giants, and ISPs with little to no restrictions. So what’s next? What is the effect on the American digital consumer likely to be and is any hope for net neutrality gone forever?

So What Will 2018 Bring for Consumers?
It is possible that immediate changes will be imperceptible. It is likely we will still see faster speeds, more inclusive packaging, and even attractive pricing as companies position themselves for the future by building access to content and their customer bases. There are still economic and public relation incentives in place to keep ISPs from immediately taking advantage of the rollback. What many fear, however, is not the short-term but long-term impact on the internet.

Some fear the internet will become more cable-like as time passes, with ever-increasing rates, limited consumer choices, and speeds controlled by providers. With large providers yielding so much power, consumer options to alternative entertainment choices may be limited by ISPs who are controlled by content providers. Smaller startups will find it more challenging to compete and creativity and choice may be stifled by “muscle”.

Again, most of these concerns perhaps won’t manifest themselves immediately but there are those who feel if net neutrality isn’t restored soon, it may irretrievably disappear.

Net Neutrality 2018

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Proponents of net neutrality have far from given up. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman apparently is seeking the help of other states. He hopes to challenge the overturning of the 2015 rules restoring net neutrality. At the same time, there is a movement within Congress to put the 2015 rules back in place.

One thing that has apparently changed forever is the Federal Communications Commissions’ role in controlling the internet and the actions of ISPs. The FCC is apparently taking a more hands-off approach and letting “the market” control the future of the internet in the United States. While some embrace the philosophy, many others are wary of it.

One should keep in mind, however, the net neutrality rules were set in 2015 in anticipation of preventing potential problems of throttling and controlling access. Even in 2014, these weren’t an issue. The landscape in the industry today is far different, however. Mergers and acquisitions have created ever larger and more powerful alliances. The potential of abuse in the quests for profits is a real concern.

Anonymity and Net Neutrality 

As we addressed in a blog from August of 2017,  when the discussions on net neutrality began to ramp up, one of greatest concerns of hosting in a country without net neutrality is being assured of anonymity. We’ve already seen steps taken in the U.S. where ISPs not only have access to consumer information and searches but have the ability to use that data to increase profits.

One of the reasons OrangeWebsite.com made Iceland our home, is the country’s aggressive posture on net neutrality, anonymity, and freedom of speech on the internet. Iceland maintains a politically moderate environment that is less prone to the political extremes of other countries. While there are many internet restrictive countries in the world, Iceland is constantly at or near the top of internet-friendly countries around the globe. For these reasons and our unwavering commitment to providing facilities that are planet and energy friendly, you can count on OranageWebsite.com as your hosting solutions provider now and into the future.

As this seemingly new era without net neutrality in the United States moves forward, we will keep an eye on its impact on consumers and how it is viewed worldwide. We will watch as these powerful ISPs move forward and how they handle this new responsibility. We will also keep you informed of where the issue stands politically and the success, or lack thereof, of returning the net neutrality through legislative actions. Is there reason to panic? Perhaps not. There does seem to be more reason to be diligent in making sure the internet remains a free and open environment for ideas, information, creativity, and commerce.

The Serious Business of Guarding the Images Used on Your Website

How To Protect Your Images
How To Protect Your Images

How To Protect Your Images

For those of us who have lived through the early, “Wild West” days of the internet, we can recall the frequent lawlessness of the experience. It was not uncommon at all to come across “sharing” websites for the distribution of music, images, films, software, and other intellectual property without authorization of the rightful owners. This was, and continues to be, theft, pure and simple. It didn’t take long for lawyers to get involved. Courts quickly agreed that online intellectual theft is no different from stealing someone’s car. Companies from software producers to movie production houses began pursuing those they suspected were guilty of it.

While such dark places are still available online, more and more companies and individuals are taking steps to protect themselves. This includes those involved in the construction of websites. After all, if you’ve taken the time to make sure a website was designed and constructed using completely legal and authorized images, or more importantly, if you created the images or took the photography yourself, you don’t want someone else coming along and taking them. It’s not quite the “Wild West” it once was but it is still a significant problem and serious business. There are ways, however, of protecting yourself and your images.

Where to Start?

You can start by seeing if you have a problem with stolen images. This can simply be accomplished by typing the name of any images you use into the Google image search. Some who “borrow” images or graphics, however, know they can lessen their chances of being caught by changing the name of the image file. The Google image search may not turn up your photo or image. You can search for more generic names that may fit your image if you are inclined to investigate further.

In a Google image search, seeing the image as used on your site should be expected but if it is an original image you created or a photo you have taken and someone else is using it without your knowledge, it can be a problem. This is likely because you did not take the necessary steps to protect it.

Now, you may say to yourself “Hey, but isn’t that like blaming me for not locking my house and allowing someone to steal my property?” Perhaps. But let’s also just add that it is always better to make sure your house is locked, to begin with. In this case, let’s make sure your images are as safe as possible.

“How To Protect Your Images”

How To Protect Your Images

Better Protecting Your Images

You can take steps to protect your images, but just as locking the door on your house won’t prevent someone from entering your home, most steps just make it tougher for an image theft to occur. Here are some of the more common steps you can take in protecting your images online.

  • Disable the right-click copy option. One of the first skills we learn on a computer is that by right-clicking, we are given the option to “copy”. It didn’t take long for us to learn it works on website images as well if they are unprotected. WordPress has an easy to download and use plug-in that will accomplish this for you. The plug-in also has some other clever protective services.
  • Disable hotlinkingHotlinking is the nasty little practice of someone using both the benefits of your image and your bandwidth to share that image. For the most part, it is considered illegal but, of course, that doesn’t stop some from engaging in the practice. While disabling hotlinking may not totally prevent someone from using an image, at least it will prevent the indignity of having them use your bandwidth to do it. To disable hot linking in WordPress, use an FTP program and go to the main directory folder and open the .htaccess file. Cut and paste the following code into the .htaccess file:

/* hotlink blocking */

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$

RewriteCond %{HTTP REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?yourwebsite.com [NC]

RewriteCond %{HTTP REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.com [NC]

RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [F]

Of course, replace “yourwebsite.com” in the 4th line of the coding with the name of your website. This will prevent someone from hotlinking to your image while the 5th line still makes your image available to Google for search purposes.

  • Use a watermark. Watermarks on an image have been protecting photographs since long before the internet. A Watermark is a discrete but visible marking over the image that usually bears the name of the owner. Most photographers use them on proofs before clients purchase the non-watermarked prints. They are still an effective way to protect your images but can be distracting to your own viewers. Those skilled at photoshopping have also been known to be able to cover watermarks.
  • Place a DMCA badge on your website. DMCA is dedicated to stopping thieves from stealing content from websites. While they have a suite of products, you can get started by placing a DMCA badge on your page that will deter theft. With a registered badge, you have the resources behind you to take down any content that is used without your approval.
  • Place a copyright notice on your website or on images. You automatically have the right to any content created for your website. By placing a copyright notice on your website you are letting others know that you know this. You should also keep proof that you created the content. While this can sometimes be difficult to prove or enforce, it is another form of locking the doors on your house. It is very easy to do, so do it.

While sharing images without the permission of the owner can be problematic, sharing solid, helpful information about making your website secure can be very helpful. If you have found this article useful or if you know someone who might find it interesting then, please feel free to share it.