Tools to protect your online privacy

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An article published today on Amnesty International‘s site by Tanya O’Carroll and reposted by Stephane Koch outlines 6 simple tools that you can use to protect your online privacy (and help you fight back against mass surveillance). I thought it was a worthwhile article to repost given the importance of the topic. Read the full article here>>

Here are the 6 tools:

1. TextSecure – for text messages
An easy-to-use, free app for Android (iPhones have a compatible app called Signal). It looks a lot like WhatsApp and encrypts your texts, pictures, video and audio files. The app is open-source and provides end-to-end encryption. That means only you and the person you are sending to will be able to read the messages.

2. Redphone – for voice calls
Another free, open-source app for Android (for iPhones it’s the same Signal app, which combines voice calls and messaging) which encrypts your voice calls end-to-end. All calls are over the internet, so you only pay for wifi or data rather than using your phone’s credit.

3. – for video calls and instant messaging
A free and open-source service to secure your voice calls, video calls, video conferences, instant messages and file transfers. It runs directly in your browser with no need to download anything and allows you to invite multiple people to join a video call. It’s a bit like Google hangouts, but your calls and chats are encrypted end-to-end. There is also a desktop version called Jitsi which you can download for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and Android.

4. miniLock – for file sharing
For your web browser lets you encrypt files – including video, email attachments and photos – and share them with friends really easily. You can upload and send your file to selected contacts by using their unique miniLock id, meaning your file can only be downloaded by the person you share it with.

5. Mailvelope – for more secure email
free add-on for your web browser which provides end-to-end encryption for your emails. It can be configured to work with almost any web-based email provider, including Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook. It’s open source and uses OpenPGP encryption.

6. SpiderOak – for cloud sharing and storage
This service helps you back-up your files, sync between multiple devices and share files privately with people you trust. It fully encrypts your data end-to-end which means that, unlike other cloud sharing and storage services such as Dropbox, even the company itself cannot see your documents on its servers. SpiderOak charges $12 each month for a personal account. It’s not yet open-source.

A structured communication plan is the foundation of a sustainable social media strategy

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Recently I received several calls from organisations seeking advice about how to establish a presence on Facebook and other social media platforms. Most importantly they wanted to hear about the advantages of social media adoption. My first question to them is always: what is your communication objective? This is usually followed by a moment of silence. In fact, most of them do not have a communications strategy.  Yet jumping into social media without a proper communications strategy seems like building a house without a proper foundation.

Social media may produce immediate results but it also presents an opportunity for a long term communication management. You build relationships, gain knowledge, and participate in and shape conversations. But how do you combine the immediacy of posts, status updates, rss, etc. with longterm objectives and goals linked to a communications strategy? To answer that we should review the elements of a communications strategy. These include a proper stakeholder analyses, goals, objectives, and a proper method for evaluating results.

A stakeholder analysis is essential for any organisation. There are numerous methods that can be used which focus on the identification of stakeholders. The challenge is to decide which stakeholders should receive specific attention. One excellent model that can be used was developed by Brad L. Rawlins which prioritizes stakeholders through a four-step process: 1. Identifying all potential stakeholders according to their relationship to the organization; 2. Prioritizing stakeholders by attributes; 3. Prioritizing stakeholders by relationship to the situation; 4. Prioritizing the publics according to the communication strategy. This model helps an organisation decide how much attention each stakeholder group deserves or requires. If you know your publics you can select which platforms are most suited for your specific objectives more effectively. You might set shorter communications initiatives with some stakeholders while others would require a longterm investment. Social media could be used for both.

In communication we distinguish between goals and objectives, in that a goal is a statement rooted in the organization’s mission or vision and an objective is a statement emerging from the organization’s goals. For example, if your goal is to raise awareness about a certain issue or product, your objective might indicate how much awareness and it would specify a time frame. Once an organisation has set specific objectives and decided on which stakeholders to target, specific channels can be identified. These channels may include a more traditional approach such as print journalism or advertising or they may include social media. One advantage social media offers is that you are able to listen to your stakeholders. Effective communicators implement a two-way approach which requires longterm investment. Just posting a message blindly to reach a maximum number of people will not be effective in the long run.

The final step is then to decide on how to measure your results. Here again the most effective approach is a combined measurement, both on and offline. Some interesting references for measurement are Intelligent Measurement and the Metricsman. They talk extensively about the importance of evaluation and measurement but also about the combined approach implementing both online and offline techniques.

One reference which I think describes this point is from the film Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner’s character hears a voice which tells him to build a baseball stadium. He hears repeatedly “if you build it, they will come” referring to the spectators. And at the end of the film you see thousands of cars approaching the farmland on which he had built the field. But was he ready for all those people? We don’t know because the film ends. In social media it is comparable, you can build your profiles, start posting, commenting, linking and you might generate a great deal of traffic very quickly. But if you do not feed that traffic with quality material they will disappear and it will be counter productive in the long run. Therefore, think and plan ahead. Establish a proper communications strategy before building.

The Mass Amateurization of the Web

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I have been reading Clay Shirky’s book “Here Comes Everybody“, which inspired me to explore other articles by this author. I found a few interesting points about the ongoing discussions on the credibility of bloggers. Can anyone make a living through blogging? According to Shirky we can’t.

Weblogs are not a new kind of publishing that requires a new system of financial reward. Instead, weblogs mark a radical break. They are such an efficient tool for distributing the written word that they make publishing a financially worthless activity. It’s intuitively appealing to believe that by making the connection between writer and reader more direct, weblogs will improve the environment for direct payments as well, but the opposite is true. By removing the barriers to publishing, weblogs ensure that the few people who earn anything from their weblogs will make their money indirectly.

The search for direct fees is driven by the belief that, since weblogs make publishing easy, they should lower the barriers to becoming a professional writer. This assumption has it backwards, because mass professionalization is an oxymoron; a professional class implies a minority of members. The principal effect of weblogs is instead mass amateurization. Mass amateurization is the web’s normal pattern. Travelocity doesn’t make everyone a travel agent. It undermines the value of being travel agent at all, by fixing the inefficiencies travel agents are paid to overcome one booking at a time. Weblogs fix the inefficiencies traditional publishers are paid to overcome one book at a time, and in a world where publishing is that efficient, it is no longer an activity worth paying for.

communication – information or manipulation?

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Throughout history, communication has been used as a tool to manipulate both individuals and the masses. On an everyday basis we use it to convince people about our views, to persuade  them to either accept our ideas or to take some action. But can we use communication simply to inform, to clarify, to understand? Is listening part  of communication? If so, how many of us really consider all the steps of communication? How can we use communication in a positive way, to understand our audiences and inform accordingly?

This following documentary is about the work of Sigmund FreudAnna Freud, and Edward Bernays influenced the way corporations and governments  sought to control ‬people. Edward Bernays, is considered “the father of PR” and “the father of spin”. This series reveals a great deal about his approach, how he used PR to manipulate people into adopting the ideas of his clients.

He believed that propaganda and news were legitimate tools of his business, and he was able to offer philosophical justifications for these beliefs that ultimately embraced the whole democratic way of life.

An example of one of his most famous campaigns was in the 1920s, working for the American Tobacco Company. He sent a group of young models to march in the New York City parade  and told press that a group of women’s rights marchers would light “Torches of Freedom.” On his signal, the models lit Lucky Strike cigarettes in front of the  photographers. This ultimately helped to break the taboo against women smoking in public.