The privacy debate post-Google verdict

It’s been a momentous week with the European Court of Justice handing down a verdict that will have far-reaching consequences. Who controls what data lives online about us?

Will it be companies that make billions from processing and controlling the data, or will it be citizens and consumers?

Internet companies such as Google decry the decision as a burdensome overreach by regulators, they will raise the fear of censorship. But we think it lays the groundwork for the long overdue debate what comes first: privacy and control over our digital identities, or profits?

I had the privilege to be a guest on Al Jazeera America’s Consider This last night to try to put the decision into perspective.
The gist is this: “Do we want to let commercial entities such as Google decide whether we have to live our lives under a giant magnifying glass?”
You can watch an excerpt of my interview with Antonio Mora here.


AJA Grab 1



How to Say "Fake It!" in Germany and Finland

We’re proud to announce that Fake It!  is now out in German and Finland (see Finnish press after the German section)121211_Mich kriegt ihr nicht.indd

Your guide to digital self-defense hits bookstores in Germany, Switzerland and Austria this week under the title Mich kriegt ihr nicht! (You won’t catch me), published by Murmann Verlag in Hamburg.

Patrick Beuth, author for ZEIT ONLINE, has been one of the first to speak with us about the German edition. And we’re excited to report he recommends the book.

And here is an interview with Steffan Heuer in Sächsische Zeitung 27th Feb 2013.

Here is a review at Spiegel Online actually recommending our book 28th Feb 2013 calling it Justified Alarmism, “Berechtigte Panikmache” and concluding: “Wenn Sie aber gern online sind, obwohl Sie der ganze technische Computerkram gar nicht so genau interessiert: Kaufen Sie dieses Buch. Denn selbst wenn man sich an die Tipps nicht halten mag, erklärt es allgemeinverständlich, was mit unseren Daten passiert, sobald wir online gehen.”

Dominik Allemann ‏@dominikallemann writes on Twitter: Kompliment an die autoren @sheuer @PernilleT! «Mich kriegt ihr nicht!». SEHR LESENSWERT! (very readable). You can see their review here. It is a Swiss blog.

Radio interview with Steffan Heuer at Bayerische Rundfunk Monday 11th March

A great blog review The German Internet-Angst - thanks.

Interview with Steffan Heuer in the largest daily in Switzerland: Tages Anzeiger saying that “Internet-users are all little brothers” and “Steffan Heuer says that our personal data are being collected systematically and he calls for digital selfdefense.”

WDR-interview 15.4.13 with Steffan Heuer about digital selfdefense. And at WDR5.

Deutche Welle, 30.4.13 interview on web-tv with Steffan Heuer about fighting back from the massive tracking of us online. Here in English. Here in German.

Mich Kriegt Ihr Nicht,, radio interview with Steffan Heuer.ORF.atScreen Shot 2013-06-14 at 11.01.16 AM

Ist Privatsphare im Netz Moglich? Steffan Heuer in






Concerning Finland:

Here are some of the many articles and television shows from around the launch.  We will update it, as it is still coming in. Unfortunately most of it cannot be understood. The talkshows and tv, if it is online, is however in English, as I dont speak Swedish well enough to explain such a complicated topic.

Kauppalehti (main commercial daily in Finland) => STT’s article
STT = FNB (Finlands News Bureau) article in swedish
Uusi Suomi article 6.3.2013
Teaser from Bettina’s show to be broadcasted on Monday 25.3
And here is the actual show.

 article 22.3.13
STT / Lehtikuva photos 21.3.13
Ilta-Sanomat 21.3.13  (biggest evening paper)
Tietoviikko 5.3. (based on Talouselämä article)
Satakunnan kansa 21.3.(local newspaper, Pori region)
ESS = Etelä-Suomen Sanomat 21.3.13 (local newspaper, Lahti region)
Turun Sanomat (local newspaper, Turku region)
Kaleva (local newspaper, Oulu region)
Talouselämä 3rd March 2013
Min Morgon, Swedish-speaking tv, 26th March 2013 – Finnish paper’s webversion 22nd March 2013 (on paper 23rd)
TV1 / Puoli Seitsemän, April 18, explaining about data brokers
Anders Innovation – Finnish English blog on our book

EU Report Helps Educators Tackle IT - Fake It Gave Counselling

Understanding privacy and that use of technology implies risks – not to forget that once information is published on the internet it will never vanish. Such are some of the challenges for educators in 8 different EU countries.

This is the focus of a new ENISA report. The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) is a centre of network and information security expertise for the EU, and the report explores ways in which educators can get full use out of information technologies while promoting and providing education on the importance of network information security.

In July 2012 the survey ‘Network Information Security in Education: Key findings from practice’ was conducted. One of the results are the  ‘Top 10 challenges in ICT for students’, which is summarized below:
– understanding what privacy means;
– understanding that use of technology implies risks and understanding that risks are not only personal, but can have an impact on other people as well (possibly very close to us);
– understanding that once information is published it is not likely to vanish from the Internet: a mistake today can impact the distant future;
– receiving adequate information and training from school, because new generations know and approach new technologies differently, and in some cases they have a better knowledge than their teachers;
– understanding technology, and not only using it;
– remapping real human relationships and behaviours on the internet: Netiquette;
– multidisciplinary expertise (legal, technical, organisational);
– filling the gaps between bytes, programming languages, and the role of ICT in modern society.

The authors behind Fake It is also contributing to the report with an essay about Danish schools and municipalities who are – uncritically – using networks such as Facebook where citizens and pupils are sharing often sensitive personal data without any warnings or debate. Read the whole Fake It contribution in the blog section.

Fake It Talk at TEDxOxford

The TEDxOxford talk Sunday November 4th 2012 went very well. 600 participated in the PlayHouse in Oxford, and both the audience and the speakers had a great day.

If you are interested in getting the slides (Prezi) from the The Fake It talk, do mail, and she will mail you a link. As soon as the speech is edited and available at, we will let you know.

Meanwhile here is the drawing of the speech and some Twitter-reactions (more under #tedxoxford and #tedxoxford12)


Strand Consult: We Suspect that the Credibility of Facebook will Decline

“Operators need to be vigilant in their use of Facebook and ensure that they take a multichannel marketing approach, to minimize risk of any one platform.  Ideally operators should build their own communities on their own properties (website, email, SMS, customer support websites etc) with their customers.”

Such is the advice to the telecom industry from Strand Consult, a consulting company aimed at the telco, IT and media business. Strand Consult believes that Facebook will lose credibility and that companies need to be careful not to build their business solely on that one social network.

The newsletter from Strand Consult also mentions the new trend from the book Fake It:

And while we don’t support fraud on Facebook, we cannot ignore the other side of the equation, that of users.  One new method to protect individual identity has emerged, that is to “fake” profiles.

This not indefensible suggestion comes from journalists Pernille Tranberg and Steffan Heuer, who citing privacy and security concerns on Facebook and other digital platforms, instruct users to create fake online identities on purpose (when used for other purposes than purely professional). Their new book Fake It takes a critical view of online identity and how it can be violated by digital platforms.  They detail a number of unresolved risks and questions for users of Facebook and other social media and propose a menu of digital self-defense tactics so users protect their identity online. Their upcoming presentation at TEDxOxford suggests their ideas are gaining momentum.

Indeed the journalists raise important issues of uncertainty and unpredictability in the Facebook environment.  Facebook can change its terms of service for any time and for any reason.   Some changes can have material impacts to operators, for example the move to the Timeline format which essentially voided operators’ investment in designing their page in Facebook. Millions of dollars of development costs to create mini-websites in Facebook, tabs, apps and so on turned out to be a waste.  If Facebook can’t be straight, why should its users be?  It turns out that to “fake it” is a rational response.

Read the whole newsletter here and get the report “The good, the bad and the ugly side of Facebook – A report that describes how Facebook affects the mobile industry strategically, operationally and financially”.


Daily Dot does community outreach for "Fake It"

“…the best way to deal with sites that force you to tell them information is to feed them disinformation.” That’s how writer Kevin Collier sums up our book in his story for the Daily Dot, the self-declared “hometown newspaper for the world wide web.” He does a good job of laying out some of our key pieces of advice to shake off the trackers, miners and data grabbers:

  • Think before you post.
  • Fill in fake information.
  • Use pseudonyms and aliases.
  • Undershare, don’t overshare, since you never know who’s reading along (people and bots alike).
  • Use a VPN service such as TOR to hide your IP address.

The list for good digital self-defense is much longer of course, including being wary of mobile and social apps and installing blockers that keep the Googles, Facebooks and ad networks of the world at bay. It’s an arm race in which we need to take action, as Kevin quotes us:

“Otherwise we’re all the prey caught between outdated laws and fast-moving tech businesses.” looks at "fooling Facebook" to avoid being info-jacked

Kashmir Hill over at has written a thorough piece on why people ought to lie to Facebook & Co. in order to protect their private data and identities. She spoke with us about the arguments laid out in “Fake It.”

The bottom line deserves repeating: Be careful what you put online and don’t sign up for supposedly free services or apps. They are anything but free. And do lie to the providers that lie to you when it comes to how they use and abuse your data!

Or as the summary of Kashmir’s story sums it up:

Fake It points to the myriad ways in which people’s digital activity has come back to haunt them: divorce cases, criminal cases, many of which have been chronicled here.

“People are slowly waking up to the fact that what they’ve been doing with abandon can come back to bite them,” says Heuer. “People need to start taking matters into their own hands.”


"Fake It" Creates Lots of Interest

The book “Fake It” to protect your identity creates lots of interest. Press the Danish flag and see the coverage in Denmark. We will keep you posted about coverage elsewhere here.


Ellen - Keep Up The Good Work

Until yesterday I did not know Ellen. The brilliant designer of this website, Martin Schapiro, sent me a link to her shows on Youtube, and she certainly is worth knowing. She is looking up her fans on Facebook and then she broadcasts their most embarrassing Facebook photos on national television while the fans sit in the audience and watch. It works so well. I really hope it helps people realize that what they are doing on Facebook is NOT private and that every time they upload something on Facebook they should think: Do I want this on national television? Do I want to distribute this picture to all my friends at school or work? People would start thinking twice. Ellen, thank you. Keep up the good work.


You HAVE to see this.  It generates names and related personal data in the country of your choice (33 languages and 25 countries) such as address, your maiden name, your blood type, weight and even VISA card number. See our blog about it.