Is Facebook Listening to you? Can you stop or prevent it?

People commonly post stories about how they talked about some product or service, and then suddenly started seeing advertisements for it on Facebook. While there are lots of stories about this happening, they are always based on conjecture and are simply speculation.

In a conversation with some friends a few YEARS ago, I believe not only did I prove this was happening, but I figured out how to prevent it.

In 2016, I went on a camping trip. I bought some “Goldfish Crackers” to take with me. After returning from my camping trip, I stopped at my dad’s house, and talked about how I had bought some of these crackers I haven’t had in years. Less than 24 hours later, I began seeing ads for a product I’ve certainly never searched for or mentioned on Facebook.

So I did some digging into the settings in my phone. Android offers the ability to draw an overlay over the full screen. This is how the Facebook Messenger app uses “Chat Head” bubbles – which allow messenger to pop up over the top of other apps. When I dug in to permissions of the Facebook app, it asked for an overlay permission. I thought that was strange, since the messenger app with its “chat heads” is distinct from the Facebook app itself.

When I tried to disable this overlay, I was alerted that I had to disable permission to the Microphone before I could disable this overlay. Luckily, with Android 6.0 “Marshmallow” and above, users have more granular control over their individual permissions, rather than just granting an app whatever it wants. So I disabled the microphone permission, then disabled the overlay, and I’ve never again had an incident where I felt like Facebook is “listening” to me.

How Do I Stop This?

That conversation with my friends took place in 2016. So what can you do to see if maybe this applies to you? Well, first of all, you must have an Android 6.0 or higher device. I do not believe this privacy function can be tweaked in iOS, but I no longer have an iPad or an iPhone, so I’m not certain if you can stop this from happening. Leave a comment below if you’re an iPhone user who can offer feedback. But Android users can try the following (I currently use Android 7.1.1, so your steps may be slightly different):

  1. Go to your complete list of Apps, then open Settings.
  2. Scroll to Apps.
  3. Tap on Facebook in your list of apps.
  4. Scroll down until you see “Draw over other apps” and tap that.
  5. Disable option to “Draw over other Apps.”
  6. If prompted, you may have to go back out and adjust permissions to disable certain functions in order to disable the overlay feature.

If you really want to you can also go in to the Permissions section and disable certain features such as the Microphone itself, but remember if you use the Facebook app to record videos, or send voice messages, you may not want to disable that feature.

Let me know if that helps, I hope it does! If not, check back next week. Notice how the Goldfish Crackers advertisement above that was a screenshot from Facebook was actually an ad from Sam’s Club? Sam’s Club and Walmart are connected companies, and NEXT week, I plan to have an article discussing how Walmart Tracks you as a customer. See you next week!

Fixing PowerShell “cannot be loaded because running scripts is disabled on this system”

Like many people this week, I was trying to run some official Microsoft PowerShell scripts related to “Meltdown” and “Spectre” bugs. But when I tried this, I encountered an error message from PowerShell, telling me that “SpeculationControl.psm1
cannot be loaded because running scripts is disabled on this system. For more information, see
about_Execution_Policies at https:/”

This is perfectly normal, it is a security feature that is easy to adjust when needed, and will apply to many scripts beyond just this week’s “speculative execution side-channel vulnerabilities” checkers. First things first, make sure you ran PowerShell as an Administrator – right click the icon in your Start Menu and click “Run as Administrator.” If it still doesn’t work, you need to change your Execution Policy. Follow these simple steps:

  1. type get-executionpolicy and press enter. Jot down the output for later, so you can re-secure your system (mine was “Restricted”).
  2. type set-executionpolicy remotesigned and press enter.
  3. Press “Y” and hit Enter to tell it you’re sure you want to change this setting.
  4. Now, run your desired script. It should output normally.
  5. After the script runs, I suggest setting your policy back to what it was. Again, mine was “restricted” so I type: set-executionpolicy restricted.
  6. Type “Y” and hit Enter to once again tell it that you want to change the policy.

And you’re done! I certainly hope that helped someone out there!

How to setup and use Port Forwarding & NAT in your Sonicwall

When it comes to trying to configure something that should be simple like “PORT FORWARDING” in a more complicated corporate firewall, like Dell’s SonicWall, it can sometimes be a bit difficult. There are many guides online that are needlessly complex, and some that are confusing and not helpful at all. I ended up combining a few until I was able to work out a process of my own that seems to work best.
Continue reading “How to setup and use Port Forwarding & NAT in your Sonicwall”