This Tool Creates a Heat Map of All the Places You've Visited

Screenshot of the Location History Visualizer tool
Screenshot of the Location History Visualizer tool

Can’t remember the address of that cafe you visited five years ago? Want to keep track of all the places you’ve visited around the world? Perhaps you just want to know how much Google knows about your whereabouts. (Hint: It’s a lot.)

A tool spotted by Lifehacker lets you download your entire Google location history and neatly present it in a “heat map,” with different colored blobs representing the places you’ve been. It’s called the Location History Visualizer, and although the company charges a one-time fee for premium features, the heat map tool is free.

“Everyone deserves to know what data is being collected about them, without having to fiddle with cryptic pieces of software,” according to the description on GitHub, where the data for the open-source project is being hosted. The steps are simple to follow, but it may take a while to download your location history, depending on how far and wide you’ve traveled.

You’ll want to keep two tabs open: the Google Takeout website and the Location History Visualizer site. On Google Takeout, choose “select none” at the top of the page, then toggle “location history” only. After hitting “next,” you’ll be prompted to choose the file type, archive size, and delivery method, but the default settings are suitable for most people’s needs. Finally, click “create archive” and download the file.

When it’s ready, you’ll click the Location History folder, then drag the LocationHistory.json file and drop it onto the Location History Visualizer page (alternately, you can upload it). Simply submit your email and your personalized heat map will be ready to view. You can drag and zoom in just like you would use Google Maps, but keep in mind that any places you visited in foreign countries will be presented in the local language.

As Lifehacker notes, you (and Google, of course) are the only ones that will be able to see your location data. According to an AP investigation, Google tracks the location of those with Android phones, as well as iPhone users who have Google Maps installed. Turning off Location History doesn’t stop you from being tracked, either. If you feel a little weirded out after seeing how much data Google has on you, you can put an end to it by changing the Web & App Activity settings in your Google Account. Check out this step-by-step guide from Wired for detailed instructions.

[h/t Lifehacker]

How to Read the George R.R. Martin Books That Launched Game of Thrones for Free

ktbuffy, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you’ve been meaning to read the A Song of Ice and Fire book series for some time, then you’re in luck. As Fortune reports, you can now read the George R.R. Martin books that inspired HBO's Game of Thrones for free on your preferred electronic device.

The first five books in the fantasy series are available in both e-book and audiobook format on Libby, a free mobile app that syncs up with your library memberships and lets you stream or download books. The app is available on smartphones and tablets, but not on Kindles, according to Fortune.

The books that are currently available on Libby include: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons. Of course, many libraries also let you rent e-books directly from their collection without ever having to leave your house, but there are some perks to using the Libby app. When a library book is due, it will automatically be returned, without you having to worry about late fees. Books can also be easily renewed within the app. (If you're determined to own the books yourself, a paperback set costs $30 on Amazon.)

As for those who are anxiously awaiting the next installment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, Martin promises it's coming. The noted author reportedly turned down a cameo appearance in the final season of Game of Thrones, which is loosely based on his books, in order to focus on writing The Winds of Winter, which will be the sixth book.

“It’s the end for a lot of people,” Martin said of the TV series, according to Entertainment Weekly. “It’s not the end for me. I’m still deeply in it. I better live a long time because I have a lot of work left to do.”

[h/t Fortune]

Facebook Stored Millions of Passwords in Plain Text. Here's How to Change Yours

iStock.com/courtneyk
iStock.com/courtneyk

If you're concerned about online security, you may have already reconsidered your relationship with Facebook. The social networking giant has earned a reputation for mishandling users' data and leaving them vulnerable to hacking. Now there's a new reason to reassess your profile: As KrebsOnSecurity reports, Facebook has been storing passwords in plain text since 2012, meaning they were easily readable and searchable for years for those with access to Facebook's internal workings. Any users should change their passwords as soon as possible.

Over the last seven years, between 200 million and 600 million users had their passwords made vulnerable by the security flaw. The passwords were saved in Facebook's internal password management system in plain text that required no decoding to read. According to Facebook, "hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite [its app for low-power-usage devices] users, tens of millions additional Facebook users, and tens of thousands of Instagram users" were affected.

Tech companies normally encrypt the user passwords they store in their databases. Without encryption, anyone who has access to those files can read that sensitive information without facing any barriers. Facebook's security issue left passwords open to up to 20,000 company employees, and according to KrebsOnSecurity, "access logs showed some 2000 engineers or developers made approximately 9 million internal queries for data elements that contained plain-text user passwords."

Facebook claims to have fixed the problem and plans to reach out to every user who was affected. Because there's no sign that the passwords were leaked or mishandled, the company won't require users to change their passwords. But given Facebook's reputation for security, all users should probably change their passwords as a precaution.

To change your Facebook password, go to Settings and then Security and Login. Go to the Change Password option under Login and select Edit. From there, you'll be able to set a new password after entering your current one. Here are some tips for developing a strong password.

[h/t KrebsOnSecurity]

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