“On this day”….

…I pruned my Facebook postings.

One of the things I do each day is I take a moment and pop over to the “On this day” page on Facebook.

I do it for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it is kind of fun to see what was going on in the past. So I take a look over it to see what’s there.

Second, after I look it over, I go through and delete nearly every posting I’ve made there. I delete nearly every posting someone has put on my timeline. And I remove nearly every tag that someone has made of me. I only keep a very, very few postings that are really fun or somehow meaningful to me.

I do this as an exercise in data retention hygiene. There no need to keep all old postings, so I delete them.

Yes, if Facebook or someone wanted to, they could go to backups/archives and restore the posts. But I don’t need to make getting to old posts any easier than it needs to be. If someone really wants to know that I said I was eating a cheese sandwich at 10 AM PDT on Friday September 7, 2007, I’m going to make them work for it.

This points to a best practice we all need to follow in the era of seemingly “always there social media”: pruning. It’s a form of social media decluttering. But it’s also our personal version of the best practice of only keeping essential data for as long as we need to.

It can be hard to do this with social media. In some ways, social media is more like a photo album. But the best photo albums keep the best, most meaningful pictures.

There’s a philosophical piece here too. It’s a daily exercise in not just remembering the past, but remembering to let go of it. It reminds me that everything is transitory. We don’t have forever: it’s important to remember that too.


Remembering the Old Ways

Or: Making sure you know what to do if technology fails.

The Daily Telegraph in London has a very interesting story today about how the US Navy is re instituting celestial navigation training as part of their training for recruits: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11931403/US-navy-returns-to-celestial-navigation-amid-fears-of-computer-hack.html.

The reason for this is simple and sound: they want to make sure that if computer-based navigation is crippled or compromised, navigators can still navigate.

In my mind this is a brilliant piece of realistic forethought. The fact is that we are becoming so reliant on the Internet and apps and have been for long enough now that people are growing up totally lacking some critical skills to survive if those go away.

Just two years ago we read about how many people under 25 can’t read maps.

Like many security people, my favorite SciFi TV show is Battlestar Galactica because it outlines a very realistic scenario that can come about with too much networking and technological reliance and too little back up and off-line capability.

It’s good to see the US Navy watched the series and got the memo.

Why Books, CDs, and DVDs are STILL Better

I get some grief from some friends about why I still prefer books and DVDs to subscription and streaming services.

In my inbox I got another reminder why this is the case.

I bought a movie through Target’s streaming service a couple of years ago, to try them out. And now I have a notification that they’re canceling the service.

They’re semi-helpfully providing the option of migrating your purchases to another service when they’re available. But it’s not guaranteed that they’ll have what you bought. In which case, you’ll get a credit (for the full amount you paid, I wonder?).

This highlights why I like books over e-books in particular. E-anything can go away for good. And unless you have your own copy (like I do my digital music library), you’re at the mercy of someone else who may, or may not be there tomorrow.

It’s why I have my own copies of all my digital pictures too.

This relates to security and privacy because this is really about trust and control if your information. And being a good security person I have low levels of trust.

Vint Cert recently highlighted another very real concern with e-everything. The real possibility of a dark age where all information and knowledge is lost in one fell swoop. Likely? Not necessarily. But not impossible. And security is always about thinking in worst case scenarios.

Someone put out what amounts to a handbook on how to rebuild civilization recently: The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch. Ironically, though, there’s a Kindle version of the book, which would seem to totally defeat the purpose.

A Trip to the Doctor

Or, more accurately, the local urgent care clinic.

I had to make a trip there today to get looked at for the latest crud that I’ve been battling for the last week.

My check-in was a good example of how you have to be assertive to protect your security and privacy these days. Sometimes, very uncomfortably so.

While I was doing the usual check-in paperwork, the admissions clerk asked me, “Can I get your driver’s license to scan please?”

I asked, “why do you need that?”

She replied, “Because the copy we have is expired.”

I looked puzzled and she rotated her monitor for me to see the black and white scanned copy of my old, expired license.

It’s been years since I’ve been here, but I don’t remember them ever telling me they were taking a scan of my driver’s license on check-in. Probably one time when I was sick I wasn’t paying enough attention to ask my usual “Why do you need it, what are you going to do with it” questions.

I explained to her that I wasn’t comfortable with her taking a scan. I was happy, I said, to show it to them, but not to retain a copy.

She then said that the point was to protect my identity. I said, I understand but holding that information is itself a threat to my identity. I said, when this clinic’s information is stolen like Anthem’s was it will be harder to steal my identity since they won’t have my drivers’ license.

She said she understood and we moved on in the check-in process.

Later, I was chatting about identity theft to try and lighten things after having to say “no”. While we were talking she told me how she was herself the victim of identity theft. Someone stole mail out of her mailbox and was able to steal her identity. She said it was finally cleared up but it took years and included a knock at the door at 3AM from a sheriff looking to serve a warrant on her meant for the identity thief.

It was a good exercise in real world security and privacy protection. It underscores how you have to be active and sometimes push back, even to the point of seeming like you’re being difficult. It underscores too how you have to always be paying attention since I can’t recall how they got my old driver’s license into the system in the first place. And it also shows that identity theft is very real, very prevalent, very hard to untangle, and has nasty consequences. Finally, it reminds me that we can’t just focus on the digital side of things. Physical mail theft and phone scams are old but still delivering; so they’re still active threats.

It really reinforces the fact that I think real-time identity theft monitoring and monthly checking of accounts and records are critical for all of us.

It really is dangerous out there. It really is hard to do the right thing, even when you know what it is.

At least some of us have job security.

Ten Years After Bill Gates’ Trustworthy Computing Memo

Ten years ago yesterday, Bill Gates sent out his Trustworthy Computing memo that marked a significant change in the culture at Microsoft and put security, privacy and reliability at the center of the company as ideals.

I was at Microsoft as part of the Microsoft Security Response Center when that came out. And until I left Microsoft in December 2010, I was involved in security and privacy. So I have a former insider’s long-term view of what that was all like.

As my former colleagues are marking the occasion I’m sharing my own thoughts on what it meant then and what it means for the future.

Here are my comments in Robert X. Cringly’s article “PC security: We’ve come a long way, baby“. And a longer write-up by me over at Betanews “10 years after Bill Gates’ Trustworthy Computing memo: What it meant for Microsoft and why every tech company needs one“.

It was something to be a part of, but the world is different today. Part of my take on it is how this is still relevant in this different world.

How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.

This is a much more personal post than most. But ultimately it relates to social media in a way that I think is appropriate for my work blog.

In the past ten months, I have learned about the deaths of three people that I know through Facebook. Two of them were “friends”, one was a “friend of a friend”, actually of several friends. One of them, a former co-worker, died after a bout with cancer. The other two were former high school classmates, both of whom died of suicide.

In all three cases, I learned about this through Facebook wall postings. Over time, the walls became a place where people exchanged information, memories, paid respects, expressed grief and loss, and in some cases supported one another.

Today, just now, I was on Facebook and the one person I wasn’t friends with was just presented to me as “Someone you may know”.

I’ve said that “social networking is truly social” meaning that it is a true extension of ourselves as social creatures: we have embraced it and extended our social behaviors, both good and bad, to that medium. And nothing drives home that point more than death on Facebook.

The suggestion that I “friend” someone who is now dead, and my other recent experiences around the deaths of people on Facebook led me today to realize that Facebook’s use and importance as part of our social interactions has outstripped some of its capabilities. Put simply, Facebook (or any other social networking site) lacks mechanisms to deal gracefully and thoughtfully with death. From the question of “how do you take control of the Facebook account of a loved one who has died” to keeping the profile alive (pun somewhat intended) but reflecting the fact that the person is deceased, there’s no graceful, easy way to deal with death on Facebook.

It’s not just a technology problem: there are questions around etiquette and customs as well that we as a society have to work out.

But at this point, it’s certainly clear to me that as social networking becomes ever more truly social, it needs to be able to handle not just the good of our social lives, but also the hard things.

Kirk asked in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: “[H]ow we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn’t you say?”

As regards social networking, I believe the answer is an unequivocal “Yes”.