How to remove yourself from most background check sites and people search engines

I saw this post on reddit not too long ago and I’ve been meaning to share it here. Anyone who has read any of my stuff here knows that online privacy is a big interest of mine. A user on reddit, Paranoidsbible, has compiled a pretty comprehensive list of many people search engines and ways to remove yourself from their listings. ‘People search engines’ are sites like white pages, pipl, etc. which index peoples names, ages, addresses, and social media accounts. See the full list and explanations on reddit.

A while back I wrote a post for an old blog where I showed just how much information could be gathered about someone starting with nothing at all. To sum it up briefly, I decided I liked Scotties tissue box art so I typed in “scotties.com” and found it wasn’t owned by the company. Because I was curious, I used a WhoIS lookup to get the name of the person who owned the domain name. I was able to google that name and get the home address, age of the person, family members, Myspace & Facebook pages, car fan club memberships, posts on a forum over a 5 year span, and much more. A lot of this information was gained from these “people search engines”.

While this isn’t the original post, I cover some of this in a post here.

Some users on reddit have brought up the fact that it seems like you’re just providing more personal info to remove your info from these sites. That is true and I believe a legitimate concern. What reason do you have to trust them? However, that is not required for every website. It may be worth it to go through this and do it for at least a few sites. It’s not always about removing all your information, just making it more difficult to find.

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What I learned running a fake Facebook account for 8 years

Eight years ago I created a fake Facebook account for a completely fake person. I’m not sure why exactly I did it, but half the reason was probably just to use it to mess with my friends. But for some reason I never deleted it year after year. I kept it going, visiting it every couple months to see how “Jake” was doing. And I actually ended up learning something from it.

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Recommended Android Apps (Late 2014)

Here’s a list I generated for a friend that includes apps I often recommend to people. These apps are well-designed and very good at what they do. Most are free, and I’m sure many are available on iOS too. However, all links in this post go to the Google Play Store.google-play-store-4-5-10

BASICS
Device Manager – Keep track of & control your phone in case you lose it.

Google Keyboard – Google’s official stock keyboard, pretty solid keyboard.

Swiftkey – IMO the best keyboard app ever. My first choice.

Messenger – Google’s SMS app. There are a bunch of other great SMS apps like Hangouts, Hello, and QuickSMS.

ENTERTAINMENT
Auralux – Great game. One of the few apps I’ve paid for the full version of. Free version has plenty too.

Google Sky Map – If you love space and enjoy looking up at the stars, this is a great app.

My Boy! – Gameboy emulator. There’s also emulators for SNES, NES, and a bunch of others.

Reddit News – My current favorite reddit app. Baconreader is also great. Reddit Sync and Reddit is Fun are also popular.

Viral Popup – Play YouTube videos in a pop-out window over other apps, or minimize and play in background.

AUTOMATION
IFTTT – “If this then that” a straightforward automation app that links with many services like Facebook, Twitter, Google Drive, your phone’s settings, etc. Great UI, allows you to browse others’ automations. I use this for a bunch of things, but I’m most proud of one that I set up to automatically “clock me in/out” when I entered/exited a GPS radius where I work and log it to a Google Spreadsheet.

Llama – Worse UI than the other two, but still a great app for doing more complex things. I use this to enable screen rotation for specific apps, rather than leaving it on all the time.

Tasker – The most complex, yet comprehensive automation app. For advanced users only. This app can basically build other apps. “Amazing” is how I’d describe it.

Trigger – Nice UI, more about phone automation rather than syncing with other apps. I use this to automatically enable a “night mode” that changes the sound profile to ‘silent’, disables the notification light, and changes bluetooth/gps settings.

OTHER
Google Opinion Rewards – Get paid in Play Store credits to answer anonymous surveys. Free money.

Keedle – Basic drawing app, good for quickly drawing on pictures you take.

Moonshine Icon Pack – Nice set of icons you can use with Nova launcher.

Pocket – Save articles to read later.

Pushbullet – Pushes your phone notifications to your computer. Allows you to easily send files back and forth. Now allows you to send/reply to SMS from your computer!

QuickPic – The best gallery app for your phone.

SeatGeek – For finding cheap tickets to games/concerts/shows etc.

Unified Remote – Universal remote for your computer. Control itunes, vlc, chrome, netflix, plex, monitors, power, etc. The full version allows you to build a custom widget for your homescreen.

Untappd – Track/rate yer beers!

[Guest Post] Why You Should See Interstellar Right Now

Guest Post! This post was written by Alex Schechter and edited by myself. I very much enjoyed Interstellar too, but I thought it would be cool to bring in someone else’s opinion. Check out Alex’s detailed thoughts below.

Before you begin reading what I’m sure will be a rambling and only sc28cfc439ce01f52d156da54729013a0lightly coherent post please be aware of the following things: First of all this post is titled “…Should See Interstellar…”. This isn’t an article about why it’s a good movie (which I think it is) or an amazing work of art (yep, I think that too). It’s a post about the film industry in general and about trends we have already seen begin to develop. And this trend will only take a more dramatic hold in the coming five to ten years.

Second of all I’m an unapologetically huge Christopher (and John) Nolan fanboy. I’ve loved all of his movies of the past several years, even the Dark Knight Rises. His stringent use of real, live effects and props instead of using CGI astounds me. His somber tone and larger than life approach to filmmaking gives his movies something special. When you watch a Nolan movie, whether he wrote, directed, or even produced it, you know that it’s a Nolan movie. Perhaps what set people off of the 2013 movie Man of Steel was the contrast of Nolan’s solemn tone with the action-packed, in-your-face style of director Zack Synder (whose vision I also enjoy). In that movie you could truly see, in a very clear fashion, Nolan’s perspective and filmmaking process at work. (more…)

Net Neutrality: An Explanation and Pros & Cons

I’ve had this blog for over a year now and somehow I’ve managed to keep it going. Looking back over my posts, one thing surprised me – I had yet to write one about Net Neutrality. As an avid internetter, this is an issue that really concerns me. So much so, that it was the subject of my very first blog post ever, over a decade ago. Unfortunately, it is still an issue that needs to be discussed today.

Because of it’s length, I’ve broken this post down into sections. Feel free to skip around.

Explanation

The term ‘net neutrality’ describes the concept that all internet traffic should be treated equally. Meaning whether you’re reading this blog or CNN, both will be accessible to you at equivalent speeds and ease of access. What we have right now is almost a neutral internet, but not quite.

Recent Events – Netflix

netflix-download-speeds-in-the-united-states-verizon-fios-comcast_chartbuilder-1Comcast customers who hold Netflix subscriptions may remember a few months ago when their streaming speeds and quality began to take a dive. Comcast claimed Netflix’s heavy traffic was putting too much of a strain on the middlemen internet companies that work to move these internet packets around. The middleman company in this case, Level 3, claimed that this was not their fault, but instead Comcasts’ for failing to upgrade their networks. Eventually Netflix agreed to pay Comcast, and later Verizon, to cut out the middle man and improve streaming quality.

“Title II”

Recently President Obama came out in support of net neutrality, asking Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler, whom he appointed a year ago, to reclassify internet service under something called “Title II”. “Title II” refers to the Communications Act of 1934. If reclassified under Title II, internet service providers like Comcast would become “common carriers”. This means they would be treated much like utlities, and the FCC would have more control in regulating them. The belief is that reclassification would protect net neutrality.

However, this was more of an empty gesture, as the FCC is a completely independent agency, meaning they don’t have to (and shouldn’t have to) do what the federal government dictates. Halfway through this week it appears as though FCC Chariman Tom Wheeler will stick to his original plan of trying to stand between both sides and give a little to each. Neither side seems to want this though. Many internet users will not be happy, as over 1 million of them submitted formal comments to the FCC regarding the issue, most in support. Verizon has threatened a lawsuit if things go the way of reclassification. Comcast surely won’t be happy as it would like mean no more deals akin to the Netflix situation.

Pros

If we were to see reclassification under Title II, all traffic would be equal. We would avoid possible situations where a company like Netflix might refuse to pay ISPs extra for “equal treatment” and therefore customers would not be able to access certain websites and be forced to use competitors. Title II would maintain a level playing ground across the internet, ensuring consumers would be able to visit any website they’d like.

Cons

Reclassification under Title II would mean more regulation and oversight. It could put strains on internet service providers which would have to try to keep up with demand for websites like YouTube and Netflix that require a lot of bandwidth. It could result in slowing of networks if ISPs failed to upgrade. Title II may stifle competition and increase barriers to entry. A more capitalistic approach would encourage competition and improve the internet.

Summary

  • Net neutrality is a concept the describes the practice of treating all data on the internet equally
  • Title II is a proposal to reclassify ISPs as ‘common carriers’ and regulate them much like utlities to protect net neutrality
  • Barack Obama has come out in support of Title II, but the FCC is an independent agency and will make its own decision
  • For: Title II would maintain a level playing ground across the internet ensure consumers could visit all websites without issue
  • Against: Title II could strain ISPs and stifle competition, a more capitalistic approach could encourage competition and innovation
  • All of our laws and regulations are based on antiquated acts and idealogies. So much of our government needs an overhaul. We really need a complete reworking of things to better understand situations and make decisions.

Other sources not previously linked: Quartz, New York Times, Ars TechnicaGawker

LAST MINUTE: The ESA & NASA are landing on a comet RIGHT NOW!

The landing is taking place at about 11 am EST Wednesday. You can watch live here.

The European Space Agency is landing on a comet right now. An actual lander on a comet! 141106_NYT_ESA_Rosetta_NAVCAM_141106The Rosetta spacecraft was launched over a decade ago and reached the comet this past August.

The spacecraft was launched on March 2nd, 2004 by the ESA. It consists of Rosetta, the space probe and Philae, the lander piggybacking on Rosetta. Rosetta, named for the famous Rosetta Stone, features 12 instruments to gather data on the comet. Philae is named after Philae Island in the Nile River, where an obelist was found and used in conjunction with the Rosetta Stone to deciper hieroglyphics.

CaptureThe purpose of the mission is to gain a further understanding of comets and the origin and evolution of our solar system. It will be the first ever attempt at landing on a comet. The lander will operate for a continuous 64 hours before its batteries deplete. After that it will use its solar panels to recharge and then continue to operate for about an hour every other day. The engineers behind the project hope the lander to last through March 2015.

The comet, “67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko“, named for the scientists that first observed it in 1969, is 317 million miles away, way beyond Mars. It is 2.5 miles wide and moving over 34,000 miles per hour.

Rosetta captured many pictures of the comet when it first entered an orbit around the duck-shaped rock in August. They can be seen here.

For a timeline of the events happening now, you can check out the rosetta blog.

For more information on the comet and mission, you can head over to the NYTimes and read this article.

Here’s one of a few cute videos the ESA produced to explain the mission:

The landing is taking place at about 11 am EST Wednesday. You can watch live here.

6 Handy Websites

BugMeNot allows people to share login credentials for websites, eliminating the need to register and maintain your own accounts for websites you don’t often use.

RetailMeNot allows people to share coupons and promo codes for websites and stores. Always check a site like this before making an online purchase! Could save you a few bucks.

Mailinator is a disposable email client, no sign up required. logo

SeatGeek gathers ticket data from a bunch of different websites and shows you all the prices so you can find the cheapest tickets and best deals. Great for sporting events and concerts.

Filler Item Finder gives you a list of items on Amazon at whatever price you input so you can meet the $35 free shipping requirements.

No Phone Trees doesn’t even look like a real website, but it is. It helps you to skip automated phone trees you get put through while calling companies.

*Bonus!* Nick Reboot plays all the best classics from years ago on Nickelodeon, streaming 24/7.