EU to be the most surveilled region in the world

Privacy these days is a myth. I rang for a taxi the other day, and before I could say hello, I was greeted with my name and my residential address. Why does a taxi company have to know where I live if I haven’t told them?

Also, telecom providers who I don’t have a contract with, often call me on my cell and address me by my name. How did they get my personal cell number and full name? Do they have my credit card details as well? Probably.

When we travel, we have to give all our personal details anyway, so the EU‘s latest agreement to share these details with national and international authorities (depending on the countries we are entering and exiting): names, passport numbers, addresses, credit card details, email addresses, and phone numbers — in the name of fighting terrorism and organized crime, is no surprise.

What’s surprising is that on analyzing this most elementary information in the UK recently, British authorities arrested 1200 suspects. How is that possible? I suppose it’s more important to know the accuracy of the findings, i.e. how many of those arrests were valid?

So the EU’s request to allow the sharing of passenger details is under debate, but if it is approved, the EU will beat the US to being the most surveilled place on the planet.

I find it both scary and amazing how the information we give out willingly when we travel can be used get gory details of our lives.

[Via Guardian]

Why You Should Stay Away From Hotels

I love staying in hotels, if for no other reason than I don’t have to clean up (much) after myself — I can leave the bed unmade, and fresh sheets and towels will magically appear without me having to make the trek to the laundry room. But sometimes a hotel isn’t the best option — renting an apartment or house is often the way to go, especially if you’re staying for a while. According to this article from MSNBC, there are lots of reasons to avoid hotels. Such as?

Space: Hotel rooms can be pretty limiting size-wise. Your own flat or house will come with lots of extra space, and maybe even your own yard.

Privacy: Hotels are public places; you can keep to yourself in your own apartment.

Price: It’s often a much better deal to rent your own place for a week than pay a nightly rate at a hotel — which can be really expensive! Plus, you can make your own meals in the kitchen, which saves a lot of money.

Cultural experience: Renting your own place allows you to avoid all the other tourists and get a feel for what it’s like to live like the locals. And, consider this: All name-brand hotels are basically the same, so why stay at one when you’re somewhere exotic? You might as well be staying in Poughkeepsie as far as the hotel decor goes.

Flexibility: There are rules at the hotel. In your own place? Not so much.

Don’t just look at rental apartments and houses either — keep your eyes open for unique accommodations. For instance, I stayed on a houseboat on the Seine River when I was last in Paris; it was an amazing experience.


Review: 3M Computer Privacy Filter

Not too long ago, I mentioned 3M Computer Privacy Filters. Remember? The filters are thin plastic sheets that attach to your computer monitor so the display is only visible to someone directly in front of the screen. (You can see the effect in the pictures above.) They’re perfect for business road warriors who want to keep their sensitive work away from those pesky corporate spies.

I picked one up the other day for my traveling laptop, and I’ve been quite pleased with the results. I took a few photos of the privacy filter in action, and you can check them out after the jump.

3M offers their privacy filters in sizes ranging from 12.1″ to 20.1″ with formats cut to fit both standard and widescreen displays. I picked up a 14.1″ standard aspect privacy filter from an office supply store for about $60.

My laptop display is only 10.6″, so I had to cut the filter down to size. It’s fairly easy to trim the soft plastic to the correct size, but I had some problems with my slide cutter. (You’ll be able to see my horrible cutting job in the close-ups.)

Installing a privacy filter is quite simple. Simply affix the included plastic clips (above) along the sides of the computer display. (The clips attach to the display with a weak adhesive that won’t leave a mark if removed.) Then, slide the privacy filter in front of your display using the clips to hold the plastic sheet in place.

The plastic sheet does not cling or adhere to your screen at all. It stays in place because of the clips. This makes it convenient to remove and install the privacy filter by sliding it in and out of the clips.

Here is the privacy filter in place over the display. The plastic clips hover over parts of the viewable image, but they’re not very intrusive. I rarely notice them when I look at my screen.

You will lose a bit of brightness when you place the privacy filter over your display. (Screen shown with the privacy filter over half of the monitor.) If you’re used to a radiant screen, you will probably want to turn your brightness settings up a step or two to match the old light level. Of course, turning up the backlight will reduce your average battery running time.

The privacy filter isn’t perfect. Here is a view of the display from 45 degrees to the left which is about the angle at which someone on an airplane would see your screen. Some of the image is still visible, but most of it is obscured. Click on the image to get a larger view.

The image completely disappears if the display is viewed at more than 45 degrees.


  • It works. Your display is obscured from view from a little over 45 degrees to the left and right.
  • Easy to install and remove. Just place the plastic clips around the display and slide the filter in or out.
  • Lots of standard sizes. Filters are available for both standard and widescreen formats for screens sized 12.1″ to 20.1″.


  • Partially viewable at about 45 degrees. The privacy filter would work great in a coffeehouse setting, but it’s not complete protection from nosy neighbors sitting right next to you.
  • Reduced brightness. A filter will capture a bit of the light from your display. This might lead to reduced battery time if you turn up your backlight brightness.
  • Cost. A 14.1″ filter cost me a hefty $60.
  • No odd sizes. There are privacy filters to fit most monitor sizes, but if you have a sub-notebook, you’ll have to do a bit of trimming.

Sure, I may have listed more cons than pros, but I still recommend the 3M Computer Privacy Filter. (Those cons are mostly nit-picks.) It gets the job done, and I never have to think about annoying people watching me work. You might have some picture leakage if someone is sitting very close to you, but that person will only see about 20% of the actual screen.

You can find these privacy filters online or in any fine office supply store.