Fitbit is a Major Privacy Peeping Tom

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I ran the setup for my new fitbit Surge watch and during the Windows 10 fitbit app setup, it showed me this list of fitbit owners from MY PRIVATE CONTACTS!FitBit Contacts cleaned

In this list of fitbit owners:

  • Dude from High School I barely knew
  • Ex girlfriend from Jr. High.
  • Several people I don’t recognize.
  • Bunch of girls I knew from 1-12 grades.
  • A good friend’s cheating ex.
  • Little sister’s friend.
  • Brother in law.
  • Wife of brother in-law’s good friend (dont’ know why she’s in my contacts… probably through a facebook sync from years ago).

Also, everyone else in my contacts that do not have a fitbit account.

Some of these names are NOT in my contacts on my PC, which means they came from my phone.  And for the Windows 10 app to know that these 16 people have fitbits, my contacts had to have been uploaded to the fitbit servers so it could compare them to its database.  At no time was I asked permission to upload my private contacts (from either my phone nor my PC).  And I’m guessing these people didn’t explicitly grant it permission to let me know they have fitbits and they will likely be notified that I have one, even though I’ve given no such explicit permission to notify them nor any explicit permission to hijack my entire contacts list.

Fitbit spying

In addition to this, 100% of all health data that a fitbit collects is uploaded to the fitbit servers, viewable by fitbit employees… all done without notifying you and certainly without asking for explicit permission.  Turns out, the only way to use a fitbit without uploading all your private data is to not use the PC app or the mobile app, but, of course, the fitbit is mostly useless without them.  There’s no technical reason for uploading our data to the fitbit servers.  The PC and mobile software could easily have communicated with the watch without the involvement of the fitbit servers.

While on technical support today trying to resolve why my fitbit won’t charge, I discovered that they have access to all my health information collected by this watch, even though the employee I spoke with said it “only” uploads… then rattled off every thing the watch does… “for the purpose of knowing your fitbit is working”.  In addition to that, they know when we charge them, when we reboot them, and what devices we charge them from.  All this without permission from us.  Sure, some of this is somewhat inacuous data, but I did not give it permission and collected together, all this information can be used against you.  This is your HEALTH information.

Just about any kind of personal information online can be used against you and your _*personal health*_ information is especially vulnerable.  In this article, I list ways that seemingly innocent information can hurt you:

So, HOW do you stop it?

  1. Don’t run the mobile fitbit app.
  2. Don’t run the desktop fitbit software.

Of course, without the apps, the fitbit is pretty much useless.  Your only real option here is to stop using your fitbit.  There should be other smartwatches that can do similar or better things that DO NOT send all (or any) of your private data to remote servers.

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A Yankee’s Guide to drving in Southern Snow

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First of all… Welcome Y’all!

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We southerner’s love our northern friends and love to share stories of our different experiences.  One such difference is the way southern cities shut down at the first threat of snow and how people drive in the snow down here vs. up north.

Our friends from up North are usually flaberghasted at how “crazy” we react to snow, pile up at the local grocery stores, empty the shelves of milk, bread, and eggs, and how badly we drive in the snow, believing that there should be no excuse for any of it, because hey, “we have snow in the north ALL THE TIME and it’s no big deal!  What’s wrong with you people?”

We usually smile and nod, because we’re polite and pride ourselves on our Southern hospitality.

So, here’s the Yankee’s guide to dealing with snow in the south.  It’s actually more of a list of things you need to understand.

There are some differences between the north and the south that you need to understand.  I’ll try to list them in roughly the most obvious to the least.

  1. We get less snow than you do.
  2. We get a LOT LESS snow than you do.
  3. Snow is rare down here.  We actually look forward to it because it’s so rare and pretty when it falls and the kids love it because it means they get a day or two break from school and as adults, it frequently means a paid day or so off work and an excuse to relive our youth when we got to get out of school and play in the snow, and we do, even as adults.
  4. Because snow is rare down here, we don’t have many snow plows to deal with it, so our roads stay covered and dangerous.  This is why the cities shut down on those rare occassions we have snow.
  5. Because snow is rare, we will always be inexperienced drivers in the snow.  There’s no getting out of that.  It’s just a fact of life, and it’s not our fault.
  6. If we have to go out driving in the snow, we’re going to drive slowly because, quite frankly, we don’t know what the hell this white shit is that’s all over the roads.  We know it as crash causing slippery wet stuff that no one in their right mind would try to drive on.  We think that to ourselves as we’re driving on it, BTW.
  7. Most cars down here don’t have snow tires.
  8. Even fewer have chaines.
  9. Believe it or not, our snow is not the same as yours.  I was in Boston on a business trip recently and experienced what we in the south would consider a five hundred year blizzard.  It was 3 feet of snow that fell overnight.  Apparantly that’s normal up there and before the sun rose, the streets had been cleared… EVERYWHERE!  Unfreaking-believable for a Southener.  My northern friends hated it and were amazed at my amazement and beuty of it all.  Every house was photo postcard worthy.  Anyway, back to the snow… I noticed that the snow was dry and powdery and very easy to drive on… even I could drive on it.  That snow actually had some friction and was more like talcom powder than slipery, wet ice, like our snow is in the South.  I suddenly understood why Northerners drive on it… because they can!  Our snow is usually super slippery, wet, and frequently has black ice underneath that you can’t see and are unaware of until you’re on top of it and rotating out of control towards a ditch, mailbox, parked car, another spinning, out of control car, tree, or God forbid, a cliff or a child.
  10. When it snows down here, our power is almost certainly going to go out.  Trees down here are also unexperienced with snow, so weak limbs and trees are NOT constantly taken out with heavey snow.  They prosper and flourish down here, until it snows, then they like to fall, a LOT, and their favorite places to fall are on our power lines.
  11. Because we know we’re going to be without power or outside help for 1 to 3 days, and because we know that driving will be treacherous, we have to rush to the local stores to stock up on food and heating supplies NOW.  Why the food of choice is bread, milk, and eggs is still a mystery.
  12. Schools will be let out as soon as it’s known that snow is eminant.  It’s exceedingly important because every minute delayed, is another minute with more crazy ass slippery shit on the roads that our experienced school bus drivers with little to no experience of driving on that slippy stuff will be putting our kids’ lives in danger.  We need to get them home ASAP.  Last year, here in Knoxville, our new school superintendant (from the North, mind you), delayed letting the kids out until the “blizzard” was upon us.  Many buses crashed and children DIED!  He resigned last week, BTW.  This is a real issue and real threat.  Kids MUST be sent home ASAP.
  13. Perpetual inexperience (which will always be the case down here, due to lack of opportunities to become experienced) and always slippery, wet, black ice covered in wet snow, and lack of infrastructure (due to the rarity of the events) dictates that drivers will be scared, crashes will happen, supplies will be needed, and power will go out.

A surprising number of “our” crashes in the snow are actually caused by visiting or passing Northeners’ and their inexperiences with our type of snow, inexperience with our traffic patterns, and inexperience with how rightfully inexperienced drivers react.

So, next time you are down here in our rare snow, remember these major differences.  Yes, we are inexperienced in driving in the snow.  What would you expect in areas that rarely have it?  But, we love to have you down here, just be mindful of the fundamental and inescapable differences in snow, and we’ll get along just fine!

Y’all come back now, ya hear?  Winking smile

[UPDATE 2016-01-20] Since I wrote this. we in TN have had our first snow of 2016.  Here are some of the results:

Chattanooga

Knoxville

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[Update again 2016-01-21]  Here’s some dash cam video of me unable to go a certain route home.  Then some idiot comes up behind me in their 4 wheel drive, get stuck, block me, and nearly hit me.  (the dates are wrong in the videos… It’s actually today, 1/21/2016.)

Here’s the same event from the rear view camera.  Note that it is recorded in a mirror image.

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Encrypt Your Entire Non Boot Disk

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This is another entry in my list of articles on encrypting your entire digital life from end to end.  Click here for the lead article.  This article is about encrypting your entire NON boot disk on your server, desktop, or laptop computer.  These instructions are DIFFERENT from encrypting your boot disk, which you can find here.  I’ll be giving specific instructions for Windows, but Mac & Linux steps are similar.   These instructions are using free, open source software that’s NOT from Microsoft.

Short (VERY short version)
    1. Install encryption software.
    2. Backup the drive (no, seriously!  DO THIS!)
    3. Select an empty drive letter.
    4. Select device.
    5. Encrypt.

The rest of this shows you the details of those steps.

Let’s begin
  1. Download and Install VeraCrypt fromhttps://veracrypt.codeplex.com/releases/view/616110
  2. Select an available drive letter (your encrypted volume will have this drive letter, NOT the original drive letter).
  3. Click the “Select Device” button and choose your drive to be encrypted.  (3 lines for each drive show up.  Choose the line that contains your drive’s current drive letter).
  4. From the “System” menu, choose “Encrypt System Partition/Drive”.
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  5. Follow the directions in the software.

DO NOT FORGET YOUR PASSPHRASE!!!!!

After that, you’re all done.  Now, every time you reboot, if you want to open your encrypted drive, you’ll need to mount it with VeraCrypt.  SO DON’T YOU DARE FORGET YOUR PASSWORD!  Seriously!  If you forget your passphrase, there’s NO WAY to recover it.  That’s it.  It’s done.  The data on your non boot drive will be gone forever.  You’ll have to reformat your drive and start all over OR pull out the drive and set it aside, hoping you’ll remember your passphrase some day.  I cannot stress this enough.  You CANNOT forget your passphrase!  I recommend storing a HINT of your passphrase in an ENCRYPTED password management tool, like LastPass.  I use the “secure notes” feature to store mine.

Your drive is now much more secure.

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