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The Actrix Online Informer is published each month to help keep Actrix customers up-to-date with what's happening on the Internet, and to help ensure they have every opportunity to benefit from it.

Questions and comments about the Actrix Online Informer can be e-mailed to editor@actrix.co.nz
Other inquiries should be e-mailed to support@actrix.co.nz.

Actrix – New Zealand's first Internet Service Provider

Welcome to the April Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for April 2012.

This issue we feature an article about some of the lesser known aspects of Facebook's and Google's privacy policies, and give you some tips and pointers on how you can keep your information private.

Next month we'll feature an article on social media alternatives. Facebook has copped a bit of criticism recently for a number of reasons, so we'll talk about some options that will allow you to stay connected if you don't want to use Facebook, or if you'd just like to explore some alternatives.

And of course we're always open to your suggestions. If there's something you'd like us to discuss or talk about in the Actrix Online Informer, flick us an email and we'll see what we can do.

YouTube feature

Picking a single YouTube video to feature this month was just too hard, but we did manage to narrow the list down to just a few. Here are some of the funniest or most interesting car commercials out there:


Rob Zorn



by Rob Zorn

Online privacy is something everyone should be concerned about, but all too often is an issue approached too casually. The idea of giving a complete stranger our date of birth, relationship status and mobile number is a bit disquieting. So too is inviting a passer-by off the street to peruse the photo album from your wedding or view those family movies. Yet lots of this sort of information is already stored online, and yours may be readily accessible with a simple Google search and a few mouse clicks.

In this article we're going to look at some of the lesser-known aspects of the privacy policies of Facebook, Google and YouTube, and give you the information you need to protect your privacy online.


Facebook has come under some serious flack recently for its privacy policy, and here's why…

Facebook tracks you

Facebook's latest updates have included a small but significant feature which allows them to track your internet movements, even when you're logged out of your account. This is done through a technology called cookies, which are small packets of information that a website puts onto your computer when you visit. The cookie acts as an identification card, so that the website recognises you next time you visit that particular site. Well someone discovered that Facebook's cookies have the capacity to include information about other websites you visit. Then when you next log back into Facebook, they have access to all that information.

While Facebook denies using the cookies to glean your private information, this is still a scary prospect. Not only does it mean your private internet sessions have the potential to be plastered all over the internet's most popular website, it also means Facebook can sell your information to advertisers. If Facebook knows what you like to view online, they can sell space to advertisers to post ads that are specifically target to you. And that's too "Big Brother-ish" for most people's liking.

So here's what you can do. Your first option is to never use Facebook. Your second option is to delete all your cookies every time you log out of your Facebook account. Both of these options can be quite a hassle, but option three is a bit easier. A number of developers have created browser extensions to block Facebook services on third-party sites. These extensions are small, easy to install bits of software that attach themselves to your internet browser and prevent information about your browsing being passed on to Facebook. Some of the more popular extensions for Mozilla Firefox include NoScript, Ghostery and Cookie Monster. For Internet Explorer, the most popular extension is the Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on, which we talk about later in this article.

You can read more about browser extensions and how they work here.

Facebook keeps everything forever

A common misconception is that once you delete something from your Facebook profile, it's gone forever. Not true. Facebook keeps a record of everything you upload, every status update you post, and every change to your profile. What's more, in Facebook's fine-print is a small clause which states they own and have the rights to use any photo you upload to your profile, whether you make it public or not. That means they could, if they wanted to, take any picture from your profile and put it on billboards all over the country, and there'd be nothing you could do.

There's really not much you can do about this, except show discretion about which information you choose to share with Facebook. Resist the temptation to put up every photo you have, especially any that have caught you in an embarrassing situation. If in doubt, a good test to see whether you'll later regret letting Facebook get their hands on a particular photo is to imagine how you would feel if your child uploaded a similar photo (this may require imagining you have a child). If that thought horrifies you, don't upload it. Simple!

If you find this disturbing and want to know what they've got on you, there is a way to download whatever information Facebook might have on you (but that doesn't mean it's erased from facebook). This includes every photo you've ever uploaded, every status update you've made, and every chat conversation you've had, so be careful not to let this information fall into the wrong hands after you've downloaded it!

To do this, log into your Facebook page and:

  1. Click the account menu at the top right of any Facebook page,
  2. Choose Account Settings,
  3. Click on "Download a copy" of your Facebook data,
  4. Click the Download button on the following page.

It may take a couple of minutes to download, depending on how much information there is.

These are the main issues that have people worried about Facebook at the moment, but they're not the only ones. You can read more about Facebook privacy issues here (10 Reasons to Quit Facebook).


Google is the internet's most popular online search engine; so popular, in fact, that "google" is now an accepted verb in the English language. Google's success as a search engine has seen it develop into an amalgamation of products and services aimed to make a user's internet experience easier. As well as the search engine, Google has Gmail (its free email service), Google Books (an extensive online database of print and publications), an online translator, blogging and website tools, and social-media network Google+, Google's answer to Facebook. Google also owns YouTube, the most popular video sharing site online.

Just like pretty much every other website or service online, Google collects and stores data from its users. Until recently (1 March 2012), the information Google collected about your search queries, your mail, and your YouTube viewing was kept separate. Now, however, Google has developed a new privacy policy which lets them combine all the information it records form your actions across all its services into one profile. This gives them a much more accurate picture of who you are, what your preferences are, and what you like to do. It also lets them bombard you with targeted advertisements that are tailored to your personal preferences.

A significant brouhaha arose when Google announced these plans to alter its privacy policy. Google was quick to point out that it's not collecting any more information on you than it normally does, it's just storing all that information in the same place. But the thought of having a company know your every move online is scary, and should certainly not be taken lightly. Here's what you can do to protect yourself and limit the information Google can collect.

  1. Don't use Google. There are a number of search engine alternatives, such as Yahoo or Bing, that are arguably just as good. Alternatively, there's Stealth, a search engine that collects absolutely no data about you or your searches.
  2. If you have a Google account, sign out. An account gives you access to more of Google's products and services, but means it can collect more data about you. The best thing to do, once you are finished using a particular service, is sign out. You don't have to be signed in to your Googler account to use the search engine.
  3. There is also a tool you can use called Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on, which is an extension you install onto your web browser that gives you some choice in how Google collects your information.

You can read more about Google's privacy issues here (6 things you need to know about Google's new privacy policy).

It appears inevitable for Facebook and Google to collect information about your internet browsing, but at least you have a wee bit of say as to what and how much. One last trick you can do is clean out your cookies, history, and all other browsing data. A great tool for doing this is Ccleaner, which is free to download and simple to use.

Most browsers will also delete all private data (cookies, history etc) before you shut down. In later version of Internet Explorer you can find this under Tools/Delete browsing history. In Firefox you can find it under Tools/Clear recent history.

And of course it might also pay to have a read of their privacy policies. You never know what you might find.

Read Facebook's privacy policy.

Read Google's privacy policy.

View this article on its own...

Interesting sites 

Please note: Actrix supplies links to these sites for your interest and possible use. We cannot endorse or take any responsibility for their contents.

Got a site you think would be neat to share with other readers? Click here to e-mail and let me know!

Happy holidays
http://www.draftfcb.com/holiday2011/ – Type your address into this neat site and it'll show you a picture of your house. Magic? More like Google streetview.
Cut the Rope
http://www.cuttherope.ie/ You can now play Cut the Rope, one of the more popular iphone games, on your computer at home (or at work shhhhh). Your will need to be running the latest version of Internet Explorer to be able to play though.
Daily Pages
http://dailypag.es/ – Too busy to read a book? Have Daily Pages drop an occasional chapter in your inbox. Mix in some reading with your other daily tasks. Get smarter!
Frozen Food Information Bureau
http://www.frozenfoodinfo.com.au/html/s01_home/home.asp – The Frozen Food Information Bureau is dedicated to providing up-to-date information on frozen and refrigerated foods, including recipes of the week, competitions, and tips and tricks for freezing food.
Minute Physics
http://www.youtube.com/user/minutephysics – Minute Physics is a YouTube channel that presents videos that answer fun and quirky physics questions (yes, physics can be fun) in short entertaining bursts.
Obsolete Skills
http://obsoleteskills.com/ – This site has an exhaustive list of obsolete skills, things we used to need to know how to do but don't need to know anymore, such as cleaning a VCR and changing ribbons on a typewriter.
Foto Forensics
http://fotoforensics.com/ – Want to know if an image has been digitally altered? This site lets you submit your images and then tells you what to look for to see if it's been changed in anyway. Pretty cool eh?
Google: Good to Know
http://www.google.com/goodtoknow/– You may have heard about Google's plans to change its privacy policy. Well this site plainly presents what the changes mean to the average user (at least from Google's point of view.
The Virtual Museum of Japanese Arts
http://web-japan.org/museum/menu.html – This site showcases everything you need to know about Japanese art, from paintings and sculptures to ninja weapons and sumo-wrestling costumes. It's all here.

Body Language
http://www.aquiziam.com/body.html – Want to know if someone's attracted to you, angry with you, or lying to your face? This site tells you everything there is to know about reading body language.


Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

New website cuts wait for quake info: GeoNet's new earthquake measurement website is live, now publishing vital statistics within minutes of a shake. Click here for more.

Age of the geek as IT in recruiting mode: Geeks are in high demand, especially in Christchurch and Wellington, an information technology recruitment firm says. Click here for more.

Extradition request lodged for Kim Dotcom: The United States government has formally lodged a request to extradite alleged copyright pirate Kim Dotcom from New Zealand. Click here for more.

Kiwi takes on Google in defamation claim: A man's fight to have a defamatory post removed from an international website has been heard in the High Court in Auckland this morning. Click here for more.

Telecom customer billed $2000 for 70Mb of data: Wellingtonian Magnus O'Neill pulled out his iPhone while holidaying in the Cook Islands, checked Facebook and used Wikipedia to research his hotel and what tropical fish he might see. Click here for more.

Use a virtual shopping app, find a real deal: Smartphones are becoming the ultimate shopping tool. Browse a few apps to help you make the best buys. Click here for more.

NZ misses out on $2.5b project: New Zealand has failed to convince a scientific panel it is best suited to host the world's largest radio telescope, after the panel recommended the $2.5 billion project be awarded to a rival consortium led by South Africa. Click here for more.

How to spot internet banking scams: The New Zealand Bankers' Association is urging bank customers to take commonsense steps to combat online banking fraud as Fraud Awareness Week kicks off. Click here for more.

Spotify set to stream into NZ: Hyped music provider Spotify is gearing up for a New Zealand launch any day now, with one industry expert predicting it will change the way music is consumed in New Zealand. Click here for more.


Media watchdog names enemies of Internet: The Arab Spring is changing the face of Internet freedom, and has released its latest "Enemies of the Internet" list. The annual report classifies as "enemies" countries that severely curtail freedom of expression on and access to the Web. Click here for more.

App gives runners a boost with zombies: An app called Zombies, Run!, is a narrated game where real-world runners must out run zombies and collect supplies to keep themselves and their fellow humans alive - and the only way to do that, is to hit the pavement. Click here for more.

Heat turned up on Google's privacy blur: Privacy commissioners in Asia Pacific have clubbed together to put the heat on Google over its controversial new privacy policy Click here for more.

All work and no play thing of the past: Being at work is often like being in a computer game. You need to keep away from the beasts and monsters and build up your protective resources before you can start to get creative. Click here for more.

Super-human brain tech sparks debate: A British ethics group has launched a debate on the ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies that tap into the brain and could bring super-human strength, highly enhanced concentration or thought-controlled weaponry. Click here for more.

Wired world to be boon, bane for Gen Y: There is a good chance young people growing up in today's always-wired world will eventually become bright, nimble decision makers - if they don't wind up intellectual lightweights unable to concentrate long enough to chew over a good book. Click here for more.

Internet providers lose UK copyright battle: Britain's High Court has endorsed the country's new copyright rules, siding with the music industry over Internet providers in a battle over online filesharing. Click here for more.

Next iPad will be the iPad HD, not the iPad 3: A developer who's previously provided reliable information with respect to things Apple and otherwise tells us the next iPad uses the HD moniker instead of going with "iPad 3." Click here for more.

Just Call it the iPad: Apple clarified a lot of rumors about the new iPad at its launch event, except what to call it. Click here for more.

Wanted: censor for Pakistan's internet: Pakistan is advertising for companies to install an Internet filtering system that could block up to 50 million Web addresses, alarming free speech activists who fear current censorship could become much more widespread. Click here for more.

First impressions: iPad Generation 3: Apple's third generation iPad is now on shelves all over New Zealand, and PC World got hands-on time with the device. Click here for more.

Time to smarten up your televison: An announcement expected this week that Quickflix will launch a movie and television streaming service in New Zealand could make buying a smart TV a no-brainer. Click here for more.

Social Media

What to know about Twitter's data sales: Twitter users are about to become major marketing fodder, as two research companies get set to release information to clients who will pay for the privilege of mining the data. Click here for more.

Dating sites sued for using dead soldier pic: The picture of a soldier accompanying online ads that proclaim "Military Man Searching for Love" is an Army lieutenant who was killed in Iraq in 2007, according to a lawsuit filed by his parents. Click here for more.

Yahoo-Facebook patent war looms: Yahoo has demanded licensing fees from Facebook for use of its technology, potentially engulfing social media in the patent battles and lawsuits raging across much of the tech sector. Click here for more.

Social media a fad - Shadbolt: Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt, who is known for being a little bit reluctant to use new technology, has gone on the record saying social media might be a "fad". Click here for more.

Lady Gaga breaks Twitter record: Lady Gaga has reached the milestone of 20 million Twitter followers - the first person to do so. Click here for more.

Does your future boss have a right to see your Facebook page? A Maryland case in which job seekers were asked to share their Facebook profile highlights a broader trend of employers trying to keep abreast of what their workers are doing online. Click here for more.

Make Kony famous: Campaign to expose despot: A global social media campaign is underway to make a mass-murdering African military leader "famous" so he can be brought to justice. Click here for more.

Can sites rely on Facebook for user login? Facebook users in Europe were unable to access the site this morning, which lead to questions about what companies who rely on Facebook for user login to their own sites would do if there was a prolonged outage. Click here for more.

Red Cross launches social media disaster response center: The Red Cross and Dell have jointly launched a Digital Operations Center, the first social media-monitoring platform dedicated to humanitarian relief. Click here for more.

7 new Facebook changes impacting businesses: Facebook pages are changing. And that means your business strategy will need to change. Click here for more.

New Facebook pages: this week in social media: To help you stay up-to-date with social media, here are some of the news items that caught our attention. Click here for more.

Forget texting and driving – try checking Facebook: Forget texting at the wheel – car manufacturers want you to be able to check Facebook, listen to internet radio and book a table online. Click here for more.

Death and life in cyberspace: I was using Facebook this past week when an update popped up in my newsfeed from a friend. Nothing unusual. Except they were no longer alive. Click here for more.

A rather bad week for privacy: Twitter users post more than 250 million messages each day, and at the end of this month the company decided to capitalise on that by selling off the last two years' worth of tweets. Click here for more.

Bigamist busted as Facebook friend finder connects wives: Facebook's automatic efforts to connect users through 'friends' they may know recently led two women in the US state of Washington to find out they were married to the same man, at the same time. Click here for more.

Facebook warns employers on passwords : Facebook is warning employers not to demand the passwords of job applicants, saying that it's an invasion of privacy that opens companies to legal liabilities. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Republicans introduce new cyber security bill: Eight top United States Republicans introduced a cybersecurity bill aimed at stopping an overarching, bipartisan measure proposed earlier this month said to better protect critical infrastructure. Click here for more.

Twenty-five Anonymous suspects arrested: Interpol said that 25 suspected members of the loose-knit Anonymous hacker movement have been arrested in a sweep across Europe and South America. Click here for more.

Anonymous claim they were infiltrated: People identifying themselves as activists in the Anonymous hacker movement said it wasn't technical prowess but police infiltration that yielded 25 arrests in a sweep in Europe and South America. Click here for more.

Revealed: US plans to charge Assange: United States prosecutors have drawn up secret charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, according to a confidential email obtained from the private US intelligence company Stratfor. Click here for more.

Arrests after hacker turns informant: A group of expert hackers who attacked governments and corporations around the globe has been busted after its ringleader one of the world's most-wanted and most-feared computer vandals turned against his comrades and secretly became an informant for the FBI months ago. Click here for more.

Hackers obtain unreleased Jackson songs: Two men have been charged in Britain with hacking into Sony Music's computers and stealing music, the company and British police said Monday. Click here for more.

Internet scammers show beer cheek: Scammers are now targeting the thirst of their victims with emails claiming to be from Heineken. Click here for more.

Mainly Microsoft

Microsoft opens Windows 8 for testing: Microsoft opened up an incomplete version of Windows 8 for the public to download and test today, looking to rev up excitement for its slick, new-look operating system which it hopes will restore its fading tech supremacy. Click here for more.

Time for Vista to vanish: Even though Windows 8 is peeking over the horizon, there's been a lot of internet chatter lately about the benefits of upgrading from Vista to Windows 7. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Man sues Google over Street View pee shot: A Frenchman is reportedly suing Google after he became the town joke when his village discovered a street view image of him urinating in his garden. Click here for more.

Digital pop star sells out concerts: Hatsune Miku has a following that would make most Japanese pop stars green with envy, with thousands of fans at every concert and a big international following. But she doesn't really exist. Click here for more.


It was five years ago today

Each month we dredge through our archives to pull out stories from the Actrix Newsletter of exactly five years ago. Sometimes these stories will show just how much the net has changed in such a short time, and sometimes they'll be included just because they're interesting.

Waking up to virtual funerals: Maureen Murray had only just arrived home from one funeral when she learned she had another - this time on the other side of the world and for her only brother. Click here for more.

Report highlights NZ's broadband woes: A report by the Ministry of Economic Development is critical of the state of telecommunications in New Zealand, in particular the prices paid by private consumers and businesses, and the lack of high-end broadband services. Click here for more.

Online addict dies after "marathon" session: An obese 26-year-old man in northeastern China died after a "marathon" online gaming session over the Lunar New Year holiday. Click here for more.

Fragrant future beckons for web: Within a decade the net will be able to deliver smells as fast as it does data, predicts a report. Click here for more.

Privacy bodies back Google step: Privacy bodies have welcomed Google's decision to anonymise personal data it receives from users' web searches. Click here for more.


Bringing it all back home

Thanks again for reading the Actrix Online Informer. Feedback can be sent to me via the e-mail address listed below. Please limit this to comments/suggestions regarding the newsletter. The best place to send requests for support is the Actrix Help Desk (support@actrix.co.nz) or to the Accounts Department (accounts@actrix.co.nz).

Take care through April!

Rob Zorn


Copyright © 2011 Actrix Networks Limited | Contact: editor@actrix.co.nz