Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors.
Airing date: 04/12/2017
What Congress Changing FCC Privacy Rules Means to you
Craig Peterson: Who knew that Congress changing the rules for the FCC and ISPs sharing your personal information could be such a big deal? I talked with Ken and Matt about that over on WGAN and other stations throughout Maine just this morning. Oh and P.S. it gets a little animated.
Matt Gagnon: And it is 7:38 on the WGAN morning news. And that’s the new intro music as we introduce Craig Peterson our tech guru who joins us every Wednesday at this time. How are you Craig?
Craig: Hey good morning, doing well.
Ken Altshuler: So tell me, my browser history, which I don’t even know how to get rid of or find, can somebody sell that Craig?
Craig: Well yeah, there’s a whole controversy right now Ken, because President Trump, one of the things he did is kind of pushed a little bit. Congress ended up passing a law that he just signed that removes the FCC’s rules that said hey ISPs out there, and ISPs internet service providers are companies like Comcast or Verizon etc. etc. ISPs you cannot sell the information about your customers online. You know, browsing habits etc., you can’t sell that to marketers. So that was in place. And you had kind of by default here a little bit of confidence that essentially your browser history was safe from prying eyes. That has now been repealed by Congress. And what it’s doing that is a couple different things. But is that kind of what you’re thinking Ken?
Ken: Yes exactly.
Craig: Yeah. So it’s doing a couple of different things. First of all, if the ISPs can sell the information about the website you’re going to, now they can make a little extra money and can, by default in fact, be able to charge a little bit less, right? Because they’re making some money off of your browser history. But what’s kind of interesting too is that Verizon, for instance, is one of those companies that you have to opt in to in order to have your browser history or your online history shared. Now there’s a lot of problems with this whole law as it stood, the regulations the FCC had as well, and that includes things like hey, I’m trying to run the Internet here, why are you tying my hand? I have to track what people are doing. I have to know what websites they’re going to. I have to know when they’re trying to go to those websites so that I can route the data. So that I can expand my network as I need to. You know there’s a lot of difference between people that are playing a videogame out of Vancouver, BC in Canada and people who are streaming on Netflix, which by the way is pretty much number one data hog right now is Netflix.
Matt: And Craig, you’re going to have and educate me a little bit. See, I remember some of the pushback on this law and why Republicans weren’t the most evil people in the world for appealing it, was that there was a special carve out for the Googles and Facebooks of the world. Was that true or am I reading that wrong or hearing that wrong?
Craig: No, there were a couple of exceptions in there for data collection that’s absolutely necessary in order to improve your online experience. And that’s a problem too, Matt with the so-called net neutrality. You remember that?
Matt: Oh I remember, I worked on that issue quite a bit actually. Yes, I know a lot about that.
Craig: Yeah, it was just crazy right? Let’s tie the hands of businesses so they have to go to the FCC on bended knee in order to come up with a new business model is kind of the bottom line. There’s a whole lot of arguments on that one. But you can expect, Ken, that this whole net neutrality thing is also on the chopping block coming up, where they’re trying to free up the hands of businesses to be able to innovate and to be able to do a lot of things they couldn’t do before. So if you’re concerned about your online history, your browsing history as an example, if you’re concerned about your online history being shared with marketers, check with your vendor. So your cable modem company. Maybe you have DSL coming in from your phone company. You’re using your smart phone. Check with them on their policies because they do vary from company to company. As I mentioned there are a few companies that you have to opt in to to have your information shared. And there’s others that you have to opt out of to not have your information shared. Personally, I would rather have marketers try and sell me a car when it’s time to buy a car than when I’m not trying to buy a car. Or, you know, if I ever get old enough to be an AARP member that’s when I want to hear about it right? It’s not when I’m a young kid. So the marketers having this information is actually considered by many to be a good thing.
Matt: Is there anybody left in America that doesn’t think that this was already happening? This is what was tricky about this for me is that I would assume that most people you’d stop on the street, if they said, if you asked them, hey is Verizon selling your information? Wouldn’t most people just kind of assume they were already?
Craig: Yeah, yeah. I think you’re absolutely right. I haven’t seen stats on that but, you know, people do nowadays
Matt: I mean if you don’t think that, you’re crazy. Because I mean that your privacy doesn’t exist on the internet.
Craig: It doesn’t. And it doesn’t go away either, right? The information you put up online is going to be kept pretty much forever. We know Google. Everything you do with Google. If you use Google Docs. If you use any Google service they’re keeping that information. They’re analyzing it. They’re analyzing your email. They’re using it for marketing purposes like you had mentioned Matt. And that’s the default. Just assume that everything you’re doing is being monitored.
Matt: Because it probably is right?
Craig: It probably is.
Matt: Well the thing is about this though is with this sort of unleashed a little bit, I mean if you really are concerned about security and privacy, doesn’t this just give you a sort of incentive to have maybe a company that starts up that promises not to sell your data. And I mean as a sort of almost as a marketing bit. If this is a real concern of people, right? You know?
Craig: Yeah, exactly.
Matt: This is the capitalist in me. Sorry Craig.
Craig: It’s just like the whole United Airlines thing right? Hey, if you’d offered $10,000 I bet you somebody would have taken up on the offer. Right?
Ken: Even I would have done that, yeah.
Craig: Yeah, exactly. So in this case it say, hey listen. There are companies that guarantee they will not share your data unless you tell them they can. So yeah, Matt, this presents a great opportunity for ISPs. Now there’s one way around this. The ISPs come up with a new business model saying hey, listen. We never share anything. There are some search engines like that. DuckDuckGo, are you familiar with that one?
Matt: I am.
Craig: DuckDuckGo does not share your information. They don’t record what you’re searching for. Unlike Google, it tracks everything you do online.
Ken: I used to play a game called Duck Duck Go. Doing that when I was a kid.
Craig: Yeah. I did too as a kid.
Matt: You think they might be taken a little more seriously if their name wasn’t DuckDuckGo.
Craig: That’s just DuckDuckGo. It’s true.
Matt: Although again you say that but really it’s Google. First time you said Google did you think it was a little weird?
Craig: Well I knew what a google was but then I’ve been a geek forever, right?
Craig: And I thought it was such a cool number when I was a kid. But if you want to maintain some privacy, if you don’t want your ISP selling your information for marketing, you might consider some of the VPN services that are out there. And those VPNs allow you to connect to the service and your local ISP, whoever that is, Internet Service Provider. Doesn’t actually see what you’re doing. Nothing about what you’re doing online. Now, there are some ISPs that I think go a little too far. For instance, last week, I was out of the conference out west out in Phoenix. And I went online and I hadn’t hooked up to my VPN back in the office. And the ISP guys was inserting their own ads into my search results. And they were inserting their own ads into web pages that I was visiting which is going even further than just tracking what you’re doing. They’re trying to monetize your online experience by sticking ads into webpages and search results. So, this will shake out and it’s going to be consumer-driven because depending on where you are and I know a lot of places here in Maine, we don’t have options, right? You’ve got the phone company. They are the only ones who will provide you internet. Unless you want to go with the satellite service which is kind of slow and expensive. But as time goes on we’ll see more and more flexibility. We’ve got big companies right now like Facebook, that are trying to become internet service providers by flying planes and balloons and everything else. So there will be options in the future for you. Now, you just might want to consider using a VPN and paying attention to who you’re getting internet from over your smartphone because they definitely have different policies.
Ken: Craig Peterson joining us. Tech guru. You can go to http://CraigPeterson.com. Get his newsletter. Get his email. Get emails from him. Find out everything about technology. You mentioned airlines. And, United, I don’t know if you know this Craig.
Matt: This is what we call a topical question.
Ken: You might have heard this in the news about the bumping of some involuntary customers. So tell me why they overbook.
Matt: Although, not to spike your question, but apparently this wasn’t overbooked. The flight wasn’t overbooked.
Ken: Right, right right. They have poor…
Matt: They ended up having those staff members to go. Those pilots or whatever. But yes, it is a booking issue.
Craig: Exactly. And yeah. In that case by the way, why didn’t they fly them on Delta or something?
Ken: Exactly. Yeah. Or drive the lower…
Matt: Or drive the floor hours, yeah.
Craig: Yeah, exactly. There are solutions to these problems. But what they’re trying to do here is save money. They operate in many cases, on like a 1% margin, which is very, very low. And they do overbook. You know, on average, the number of people not turning up for a flight is about 5%. But they’ve got incredible data analytics where they’re looking at all of the travelers and trying to figure out which flights people are going to show up for. Which ones they aren’t. Last year, there are 46,000 travelers that were involuntarily bumped from flights. Now, 46,000 sounds like a lot. And by the way, that’s to about a half a million travelers that were bumped last year. 46,000 sounds like a lot until you start to put together this whole puzzle here. We’re talking about tens of millions of flights. So it’s very small. They’re using big data. They’re using analytics. The airlines look at an overbooking situation as an error in their analytics. But, you know, when you’re talking about the billion piece puzzle, the airlines are doing incredibly well. I know. I’ve once, I think taken the offer on an overbooked but most of the time I don’t because they want to give you like a 150 bucks and that isn’t worth me messing around for a 150 bucks. But the 800? I don’t know. I might have done it. Who knows?
Ken: You know I was on a flight on USAir that I got bumped in the middle of my flight because they thought I wasn’t going to make it on time. They actually offered a first class customer, 4 first class tickets to get off and I don’t mind sitting in first class, which is great.
Craig: Yeah. Well why not? You know here’s anywhere we fly first class tickets, right? Hell, I’d jump at that.
Craig: Yeah. You know it’s pretty simple. But it’s all about statistics. It’s all about trying to make money. You know now, I flew United yesterday coming back in one of these stupid all-nighter things and you know, you have the price of the ticket and then if you want to upgrade to economy, it depends on whatever they call it, they’d charge you. If you want to get a decent place in line they’d charge you. You know, they’re charging you for everything nowadays.
Craig: And people are getting pissed off and I don’t blame them. I am too. You know, come on people. And they’re making us walk through first class trying to carry our junk. And they’re sitting there sipping their wine, champagne.
Matt: Champagne. Caviar dreams and champagne in first class. So Craig Peterson, our tech guru, of course he’s joining us right now. I think, probably last question for you here, Craig. The fingerprint sensor in my phone, which I love because I’m so lazy. I don’t have to type a code anymore. I just put my thumb on my phone. May be not as safe as one might have thought. Is somebody going to take my fingerprint and steal my identity with it? What’s the problem with this thing?
Craig: This has been really interesting over the years. Personally, I do not use the fingerprint sensor to unlock my phone. I don’t. Because I’m concerned about it. One hand, I’m concerned that it could be faked. And a new study just came out on that. And on the other hand, the police can take your fingerprints. There have been court rulings that say they can’t force you to unlock your phone with your fingerprint but there have been others that said you could. So that’ll be interesting ultimately. But yeah. University here published. New York University, a study that they had done with Michigan State University. And they came up guys, they came up with 10 fake fingerprints that will potentially unlock here. Based on their study, these 10 fingerprints will unlock most cellphones. It’s incredible here. So if you have 30 different passwords and the attacker only has to match one, you know, it’s pretty darn easy to get in. And you don’t get the denial thing that you do by, you know, if your fingerprint doesn’t match. The sensor seems well maybe you didn’t have your finger on quite right. So you get to keep trying. But they figured that maybe with 30 or 50 of these fake fingerprints, they can get into a majority of phones out there. Which is kind of interesting. Now, they haven’t tried this in the real world. This was in laboratory conditions. I know Apple and Google both swear up and down and the manufacturers of some of that hardware that this can’t be done. But it’s something to be concerned about ultimately here. And I used a 12-digit passcode to unlock my iPhone, which takes a little bit. It’s really tough when you’re driving down the highway and you’re holding your cellphone out, you know, trying to… I’m being funny there guys.
Ken: We know that you text and drive. We know that.
Craig: But it would take a hundred years to crack a 12-digit phone passcode right now. I figured a hundred years from now I won’t care about what code is on my cellphone but that’s what I do. Just to be safe.
Ken: Craig Peterson, tech guru, joins us every Wednesdays at 7:38. This not being an exception. Thank you Craig. We’ll talk to you next Wednesday.
Craig: Hey, take care guys. Thanks.
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Joined Ken and Matt to discuss more about privacy. With Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) being recently replaced, will that mean that we will now be watched and continuously monitored?
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