Sex, lies and instant messenger
If you don’t want your partner to catch you cheating don’t use the internet. This was Alec Muffett’s advice at Hack/Hackers London’s August gathering.
There was a serious message behind Alec’s advice on keeping your illicit affair and dodgy porn habit a secret. Anyone who needs to keep a secret, a dissident or whistle-blower, needs to consider how they communicate.
If you need to keep a secret don’t use Skype, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, smartphones, applications with pop ups, iTunes, massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), work hardware etc. All this can come back to bite you.
Skype shares everything with any machines you’ve installed it on. Even if you delete and re-install, messages they come back from the dead.
Facebook ends up everywhere, as does Google. These companies also comply with US law, which means if the National Security Agency (NSA) asks for your data, it’s handed over.
Smartphones also have comedy potential. Alec told a tale of a person whose boyfriend was sending saucy messages which their boss read when details popped up on their iPhone.
What can you do to protect yourself?
- Create a complex password only you know.
- Use a very boring pseudonym such as Edward Wilson or Carole Smith, because anything unique will come back to you.
- Avoid linking identities and never describe yourself.
- Use a different browser for day-to-day use and keep Firefox for your naughty secrets.
- Log out of Facebook.
- Clear cookies, don’t accept third-party cookies.
- Switch off everything.
- Don’t bookmark.
- Don’t save passwords
- Do not leave voicemail.
Illicit affairs and unusual kinks provide plenty of entertainment to geeks like Alec. It is amazing what is retrieved from hardware sold on eBay, he said.
His slides of advice are here: dropsafe.crypticide.com/article/5078
How digital destroyed the news cycle and what you can do about it
Demand for newspapers is falling but people still clamour for information. Tools from Twitter to Tumblr are quick ways to share information. As Martin Belam pointed out, there was one event he was following on Twitter when official sources had no details at all. (It was something about football I didn’t understand).
Digital has destroyed the traditional news cycle, but it has created a new one. Print newspapers are an enjoyable read but are always historical. Online is live and as up-to-date as possible, although social media sources can be unreliable.
Martin simplified the news cycle as write newspaper, print newspaper, wrap fish and chips in newspaper, before adding embellishments including sub-editing, layout, legal checks and loading everything online. The Guardian has a digital first policy and publishes across a multitude of platforms from iPhone to Kindle, with iPad, Windows phone and Android apps, due for released soon (nothing for Blackberry). The way the newspaper presents its product on different platforms is something Martin says needs to be addressed.
“Stop the shovels”, he said. Mobiles are not tablets, tablets are not desktops and we don’t read the stories as PDFs online. One of the frustrations facing user experience architects like Martin is making content work for a multitude of mediums. He highlighted problems with visualisations on the Telegraph and Guardian’s websites, which required a mouse, not helpful when you’re on an iPad, or copy is exported without the through for the medium with notes guiding readers to images from print which aren’t online.
Interactivity has changed the way the Guardian works. When there are mistakes “we are subbed by the comments very quickly”, Martin explained. Journalists are actively using Twitter as a news-gathering source. Paul Lewis was asking where trouble was flaring up during the recent riots, which resulted in his reports from the thick of the violence.
The Guardian is known for its liveblogging. It is a platform Martin described as a “native digital format”. Throughout the day there are political, sport and TV liveblogs generating a huge amount of traffic and an engaged readership interacting with the information.
Digital is part of storytelling now. Martin was critical of a report compiled by the NCTJ* where editors ranked web skills and social media below time management as key skills for journalists.
“It is unfair to be equipping young journalists for a job they would have been doing in the 80s and 90s.”
He pointed out the survey shows the entrenched attitude of people in control of newspapers. “They’re not interested in turning the tanker around,” Martin said.
When I teach online journalism, I tell the students I am providing them with the skills they will need to be employed in five years time. Martin has the same opinion and advised journalists to keep learning and developing as he knows digital is the future.
His summing up of the future of news raised a round of applause from the crowd:
“Let the digital people get on with saving this business properly.”
* Martin was critical of a different website that didn’t link to the report. I would like to point out the piece I sub-edited did have a link to the NCTJ page. However, this does not overcome the issue with the report page which advises people to click on the link to the right…