Internet Privacy Is The Wrong Conversation

On April 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is in hot water with government regulators in six European countries over its practice of tracking users’ movements across the web to sell targeted advertising. The kerfuffle illustrates the bind that the world finds itself in over tracking — the collection and sharing of data on users’ browsing habits to help sites offer personalized content such as ads or recommendations.

On one hand, tracking has become a backbone of the Internet’s advertising ecosystem and is understood by most Internet users to be a necessary evil in exchange for a richer, more convenient online experience. (Do people really want to fill out purchasing forms on Amazon.com every time they order a book?)

On the other hand, cookies and other tracking mechanisms continue to raise hot-button issues about privacy as companies get ever-more creative and aggressive in their tactics and find ways to defeat a growing raft of anti-tracking technologies.

(Via TechCrunch)

Advertisements

Twitter expands privacy on direct messages

Twitter is making it easier to take direct messages private, carving out a bigger space for targeted exchanges on the popular microblogging service. Previously, direct messaging could only occur between two

Twitter users “following” each other, which basically allowed both parties to see whatever they posted publicly. As of Monday, a user can change the settings on his accounts to allow receipt of a direct message from anyone, including those who do not follow the user.

In turn, the user can reply with a direct message to the sender, regardless of whether the sender follows the user, Twitter announced in a blog on its website. Users who opt in can still take steps to block unwanted direct messages from a specific sender.

(Via Jamaican Observer)

There’s Something (Profitable) About Your Privacy

Why do so many companies hanker after apps? Smartphone apps, tablet apps, iOS apps, Android apps, the list is endless.

Do apps need all the permissions they ask for? No. Would they work if they didn’t have all those permissions? 99% of the time, yes – they would work without a problem. For example, an app would need to access your camera if you wanted to scan a barcode to look up a product. The app would need access to your microphone if you wanted to speak out your query rather than type it in the app. What if you don’t particularly care about pointing your camera at the back of books to scan their barcodes, or speaking like Captain Kirk into your phone? Sorry, you are out of luck. You cannot selectively choose to not grant certain privileges to an app – at least on a device running the Android mobile operating system. In other words, it is a take-it-or-leave-it world, where the app developer is in control. Not you. And wanting to know your location? Even if you are a dating app, it’s still creepy.

(Via DNA)

New Google security chief looks for balance with privacy

Google has a new sheriff keeping watch over the wilds of the Internet. Austrian-born Gerhard Eschelbeck has ranged the British city of Oxford; cavorted at notorious Def Con hacker conclaves, wrangled a herd of startups, and camped out in Silicon Valley. He now holds the reins of security and privacy for all-things Google.

“The size of our computing infrastructure allows us to process, analyze, and research the changing threat landscape and look ahead to predict what is coming,” Eschelbeck said during his first one-on-one press interview in his new post. “Security is obviously a constant race; the key is how far can you look ahead.”

(Via On Manorama)

How Much Do You Know About Data Privacy?

Photo: Getty Images

Anxiety about data privacy has reached a fever pitch. According to the Pew Research Center, 91% of Americans feel they’ve lost control over their personal data. But do you really know what you’re nervous about? Do you know what happens to your data? Test your knowledge about digital privacy with the following quiz.

(Via The Wall Street Journal)

5 tips for improving online privacy

If you want to watch who’s watching you online, Brett Gaylor’s “Do Not Track” is the series to stream.

The seven-part “personalized documentary,” which premiered its first episodes on the National Film Board of Canada website Tuesday, focuses on the personal information Internet users are unwittingly sharing with companies as they surf the web.

If you follow the series to its end, “Do Not Track” automatically assembles a personalized portrait showing how and where your private data is being collected.

(Via Star Phoenix)

How Facebook knows your friends, better than you do

Image courtesy of Jennifer Daniel

How does Facebook know who your friends are? There’s still a lot of confusion and misinformation about what Facebook’s doing when it “finds” your friends. Alas, Facebook’s actual process isn’t actually that sneaky or malicious. In fact, it involves this pretty complex academic field called, network science.

In a nutshell, whenever you sign up for a Facebook account, Facebook asks permission to look at your e-mail contacts if you’re on a computer, or your phone contacts if you’re on a smartphone. When you grant the site permission, it searches your contacts for users already on the network, and it searches other users’ uploaded contacts for you. That gives it a very primitive outline of your social circles: who you know, but not how you know them or how well.

To refine that map, Facebook asks you more questions about yourself: where you went to school, when you were born, what city you live in. Each field in your Facebook profile and each interaction you make through that profile actually double as a source of data for Facebook’s mapping algorithms. What they’re trying to do is determine the structure of the network: where the cliques are, which people bridge them, who knows who.

Once Facebook knows the structure of your social network, it can analyze it to predict not only the people you’re most likely to know now, but the people you’re most likely to know in the future.

(Via Daily Times)

Bell’s been tracking its customers habits

Gloria Nieto for The Globe and Mail

The federal privacy watchdog says a Bell Canada targeted advertising program that tracks customers’ clicks, calls and television binges violated Canadians’ privacy rights.

Canada’s privacy commissioner says Bell should have asked for express consent from its customers before beginning a data collection program that involves tracking their internet searches, app usage and TV watching habits so they can be sent targeted advertising.

Bell Canada agreed to change its Relevant Advertising Program after Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien publicly recommended the program track only customers who explicitly opt-in to the program.

“Bell’s ad program involves the use of vast amounts of its customers’ personal information, some of it highly sensitive,” Therrien said in a news release. “Bell should not simply assume that, unless they proactively speak up to the contrary, customers are consenting to have their personal information used in this new way.”

Gloria Nieto for The Globe and Mail

The federal privacy watchdog says a Bell Canada targeted advertising program that tracks customers’ clicks, calls and television binges violated Canadians’ privacy rights.

Canada’s privacy commissioner says Bell should have asked for express consent from its customers before beginning a data collection program that involves tracking their internet searches, app usage and TV watching habits so they can be sent targeted advertising.

Bell Canada agreed to change its Relevant Advertising Program after Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien publicly recommended the program track only customers who explicitly opt-in to the program.

“Bell’s ad program involves the use of vast amounts of its customers’ personal information, some of it highly sensitive,” Therrien said in a news release. “Bell should not simply assume that, unless they proactively speak up to the contrary, customers are consenting to have their personal information used in this new way.”

John Oliver talks with Edward Snowden about Government Surveillance

On April 5th, John Oliver sat down with Edward Snowden to discuss the NSA and Section 215’s renewal on June 1, 2015 and the debate the needs to happen to reform it. To their surprise the average American citizen is not aware of the NSA’s activities or who Edward Snowden is or how his actions have transformed privacy and surveillance in America.

With Snowden’s help, Oliver went through the various NSA programs that have been leaked through his data dump, including Prism and Upstream, to see whether such pictures could be obtained and viewed by the NSA. In each case, Snowden explained how the programs could allow for such private pictures to be collected and viewed by NSA officials.

Oliver’s intention was clear: to make the impact of Snowden’s leaks easier for the average person to understand. Snowden agreed it takes real technical know-how to appreciate how the NSA collects information.

“When you send your junk through Gmail, that’s stored on Google’s servers,” Snowden said, explaining one way in which a “pic” could find its way to the NSA through the government’s Prism program. “Google moves data from data center to data center — invisibly to you without your knowledge — your data could be moved outside the borders of the United States, temporarily. When your junk was passed by Gmail, the NSA caught a copy of that.”

(Via CNET)