Are you encrypting your texts? You should be — now more than ever.
Before the 2016 election, writing for TechCrunch, Steven Renderos and Mark Tseng Putterman observed that "for activists and people of color, strong encryption is essential."
Here in New Orleans, in the interim between the election and the inauguration, local firebrand Jules Bentley published a treatise on strategies for strengthening the resistance. In passing, he mentioned "using Signal for texting" as an easy starting place, even for people who don't think they're in a targeted group.
Bentley wasn't alone in recommending Signal for sending encrypted texts at that time. Trump's ascendancy led to a surge of downloads for the Signal app, leading Recode magazine to opine that "encrypted messaging is the new regular messaging."
In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, I'm launching a series of posts on the subject of encryption in service of social justice.
I've long been fascinated with encryption. As a kid, I thought codes were cool. As an adult, I see the value encryption offers for keeping my personal data secure.
But what, if anything, does encryption have to do with social justice?
I got my first inkling in 2016, just after the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land. Under the prior administration, the apparatus of the surveillance state was developed to levels previously unimaginable. Obama handed that system to Trump.
Of course, if you're not concerned about our own government spying on us, perhaps you're concerned about foreign powers. There's no denying that international cyberwarfare is real. There are also hackers and straight-up cyber criminals. Not to mention those big corporations.
Whoever's doing the snooping, the harm is felt disproportionately by marginalized communities — as is typically the case when power relations are manifestly unequal.
Rights must be understood and exercised in order to afford us any protection. That holds as true for privacy rights in the digital realm as it did in the analog era of the civil rights movement.
Furthermore, scholars have a special interest in freedom of inquiry, germane to all those working in the field of education. Educating on these issues is aligned with Xavier's mission, and it's vitally important that our faculty and staff understand what's at stake.
Encryption and anonymity, today's leading vehicles for online security, provide individuals with a means to protect their privacy, empowering them to browse, read, develop and share opinions and information without interference and enabling journalists, civil society organizations, members of ethnic or religious groups, those persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, activists, scholars, artists and others to exercise the rights to freedom of opinion and expression.
Encryption is simply the practice of putting your data into a secret code so other people can't read it. It's an important tool for maintaining privacy and security online. Before the 2016 election, writing for TechCrunch, Steven Renderos and Mark Tseng Putterman observed that "for activists and people of color, strong encryption is essential."
In the days and weeks ahead, I'll be publishing a series of simple tips to help you get started using encryption more frequently. I'm far from expert myself, so I'll be learning as I go. If you have any questions or suggestions, don't hesitate to let me know.
If you've been using Google Drive (and who isn't?) you may have been notified that the Google Drive application is going away. To clarify, the Google Drive service will continue, but the Google Drive desktop app (that little piece of software that syncs your local files with the cloud) is being discontinued.
Xavier users have reported that Google is urging them to switch to a new app, Drive File Stream. However, there is another app, also made my Google, which fills much the same function: Backup & Sync.
What to do?
Google is pushing Drive Stream as the solution for organizations, while marketing Backup & Sync to individuals. However, both currently work on Xavier campus. Fortunately, there is a handy comparison of the features offered by these two products, so you can make your own decision.
I recently fielded a question that seemed so basic, so fundamental, that I thought it deserved a blog post.
Many faculty today are cognizant of licensing restrictions. They diligently hunt for content published under Creative Commons, or in the public domain, to use in their courses. That's a good thing: they don't want to infringe anyone's copyright.
Sometimes, though, that perfect piece of content is out there on the open internet, tantalizingly available, but published under plain old-fashioned copyright with all the encumbrances and restrictions that implies.
You don't want to embed a copyrighted video (for example) in your online course materials. But is there a workaround? Can you, perhaps, just share the link, send your students over to YouTube, let them watch the video over there, instead of on your course website or in your LMS?
In a word:
But don't take my word for it. Here's what the "boutique law firm" InfoLawGroup LLP has to say about it.
A recent federal court decision confirms that, without more, merely providing a link to copyrighted content is not direct infringement of the copyright in that content.
The distinction, as I understand it, is that embedding a video is like republishing it. You wouldn't republish a copyrighted book without permission, right? But sharing a link is like sending your students to the library to check the book out on their own.
Photo credit: "Link" by Aarthi Ramamurthy. Licensed under Creative Commons, of course!
G Suite for Education (formerly Google Apps for Education) is a suite of communication and collaboration apps that include Mail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms.
Are you taking advantage of Xavier’s adoption of G Suite for Education? If not, you should consider using G Suite apps. You may discover that some, if not all, of these apps can help to improve your productivity.
One of the most powerful aspects of using Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides is the ability to share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with others, so you can collaboratively edit those documents together in real-time from anywhere in the world.
Collaborators on a document can view, comment on, or even make changes to the document, depending on the permissions you give them. You no longer have to email document attachments or merge edits from multiple copies of a document ever again. Safely share the files instead!
Are you slow at typing? Try dictating using Google’s voice typing.
Voice typing is a feature that is available in Google Docs. Voice typing is available in more than 40 languages. Although the results of the voice dictation is not 100% accurate, it can be a quick and easy way to start a rough draft.
To get started with voice typing, you need Google Chrome web browser and a functioning microphone connected to your computer. Login to your Google account and open an existing Google Doc or start a new one. In the ‘Tools’ menu, select ‘Voice typing’. A small pop-up window will appear to the left of your document with a dark microphone icon inside it. Click on the microphone icon. Once the microphone icon turns red you can start speaking. When you are done dictating, click the microphone icon again to turn off the voice typing service.
If you would like to learn more about the commands you can use with voice typing, refer to this Type with your voice help document or simply say “Voice commands help” when you are voice typing.
In a big win for Xavier faculty, ITC recently "opened up" Google Drive for global collaboration.
What does this mean?
As you may know, Google Drive is a service for storing, syncing and sharing files. When Xavier adopted G Suite (formerly Google Apps), all Xavier users got an account allowing them store files in Google Drive. You can access your files at drive.google.com.
However, files stored in Google Drive could only be shared with other Xavier users — until now. Now you can share your files with colleagues at other institutions around the world. (Please note that the new policy applies only to faculty at this time.) We anticipate this will greatly aid in your efforts at scholarly collaboration.
What's the benefit?
Instead of emailing files back and forth, you can share a file in Google Drive. If you grant editing access to others, they can make changes; Google keeps the file in sync. You are less likely to run into the confusion that commonly arises when different versions of a document are edited by multiple contributors.
How to do it?
Sharing files with Google Drive is pretty easy, but not entirely goof-proof.
First, naturally enough, you have to have some files in Google Drive to share! I'm going to assume you already do; if that's not the case, a basic tutorial is available.
Second, navigate to the file you want to share in the Google Drive web interface. Remember, you can access your files at drive.google.com.
Finally, click the share icon for that file. (It looks like a little person with a plus sign next to their head.) You'll be prompted to enter the names or email addresses of the people you want to share with. (Names will generally only work for others in the Xavier system. For anyone outside Xavier, you'll need to use their email address.) You'll also want to specify the level of sharing. Do you want them to be able to view the file only, or to make comments, or to make edits? It's up to you.
But what about security?
Files uploaded to Google Drive are stored in the Cloud — on servers controlled by Google. You may have some concerns about what this means.
According to Google, your files are located in "secure data centers." There are some clear advantages. If your computer (or other device) is damaged or misplaced, you don't lose your data. You can get still get to your files once you get your hands on a new device.
Google also stipulates that "your files are private unless you share them."
When using Google Drive for collaboration, you'll want to observe the same common sense guidelines that you use when sharing information with anyone. If the data is sensitive, think twice before sharing it.
If you are using keyboard shortcuts, you already know keyboard shortcuts can give your productivity a boost.
Most people know the keyboard shortcuts to select all (Ctrl + A), copy (Ctrl + C), and paste (Ctrl + V). There are other helpful keyboard shortcuts you can use in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Being able to use the same keyboard shortcuts in all three programs can make them easier to remember. Here is a list of keyboard shortcuts that you can use in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to save time and effort.*
If you want to
Ctrl + A
Command + A
Ctrl + C
Command + C
Ctrl + V
Command + V
Ctrl + X
Command + X
Ctrl + B
Command + B
Ctrl + U
Command + U
Ctrl + I
Command + I
Ctrl + F
Command + F
Ctrl + H
Shift + Command + H
Ctrl + Z
Command + Z
Ctrl + Y
Command + Y
Ctrl + K
Command + K
Ctrl + S
Command + S
Ctrl + P
Command + P
Hopefully using these shortcuts will help you to increase your productivity.