Could “Liking” A Brand On Facebook Waive Your Legal Rights?

social-media-dislike-thumb-down-featured There is a very disturbing trend in the world of corporate terms and conditions. Consumers (and small merchants) are increasingly being forced by fine-print clauses into binding arbitration to resolve disputes with companies. The very pro-business US Supreme Court not long ago ruled this was entirely legal. What it means as a practical matter is that individuals give up their right to sue in court as well as the right to join together in class action litigation against corporations. The problem is that consumers, even if they're permitted to sue individually, won't because they don't h [...]


Google Tells Users It Scans Their Email As Microsoft Puts “Scroogled” To Bed

gmail inbox tabs Google updated its terms of service (TOS) yesterday to make more explicit the fact that it scans Gmail for the purpose of matching email content with ads. The relevant part of the updated TOS reads: Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored. Google has been sued for the practice as an alleged violation of the Federal Wiretap Act. The case survived Google' [...]


Hacking, E-Theft Grow As 18 Percent Report Data Stolen

privacy-security-featured Major internet sites now seem to suffer routine data breaches. Over the past several months, we've learned that multiple major retailers had credit card numbers (by the millions) stolen as their databases were hacked from Eastern Europe. Last week, “Heartbleed” was discovered, prompting the recommendation to change all your passwords online. Welcome to the new normal -- or so it would seem. The Pew Research Center released January 2014 survey data this morning that found 18 percent of adults online have had personal information stolen ("Social Security Number, credit card, or ban [...]


Will “Mass Surveillance” Report Hasten The Cookiepocalypse?

Cookies The prevalence of cookie-free mobile devices and growing hostility to third-party cookies has marked the cookie for almost certain death. A new report will add to the chorus calling for the end of third-party cookies as an online tracking tool. The report (cited by TheVerge) from Princeton researchers details how relatively simple it is to connect browsing behavior across the internet and to real identity. The report (embedded below) is called "Cookies that give you away: Evaluating the surveillance implications of web tracking." The researchers undertook the study following, and in part [...]


Google Takes “SpyView” Wiretapping Appeal To SCOTUS

Google Street View car Google seeks US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) review of a US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which affirmed a lower court denial of Google's motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit brought after the 2010 Street View private "payload data" capture revelations. Plaintiffs argue that Google violated the federal "Wiretap Act" when it intercepted their private email and other communications during Street View data collection. The Wiretap Act makes it illegal to “intentionally intercept . . . any wire, oral, or electronic communication" and to "use or disclose information that is obtained [...]


UK Watchdog Clears Microsoft’s Scroogled-Style Radio Ad Against False Advertising Claims

msft-outlook-privacy The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has cleared a radio ad attacking Google's privacy practices against complaints that it amounted to false advertising. In the decision announced yesterday, the ASA rejected two complaints about an ad promoting Microsoft's Outlook email that said it -- unlike Google's Gmail service -- doesn't scan the contents of emails to sell ads. The radio ad begins with a voice speaking in Pig-latin, followed by a narrator who says "Pig Latin may be hard to understand, but you probably need it if you use Gmail, because Gmail scans every word of your e-mail [...]


How Microsoft Scroogled Itself As The Defender Of Email Privacy Over Google

scroogled-store-mug-featured For just over a year, Microsoft has been attacking Google over email privacy. Consumers are getting "Scroogled" by a Google that doesn't respect privacy, it has said. Microsoft can now retire that Scroogled campaign. After violating the privacy of a third-party's email account, Microsoft's not in a position to be taking the high-road, any longer. The Privacy Invasion This week, a case against a former Microsoft employee made the news. The employee is accused of passing trade secrets -- software code and other information about Windows -- to an unidentified blogger. Some argue he (we do know [...]


Google Seeking To Keep Depth Of Gmail Scanning Confidential

google-chrome-privacy-featured Google is currently fighting a federal consolidated class action lawsuit over Gmail scanning and data-mining. A main legal theory in the case argues Google's activity constitutes illegal "wiretapping." Google is reportedly trying to keep confidential many of the details of its internal processes and has asked US District Judge Lucy H. Koh "to redact 'confidential' information from the [public court] transcript," according to Bloomberg. The report adds, "The main revelation at the Feb. 27 hearing was the existence of 'Content Onebox,' used by Google to intercept e-mails for targeted adverti [...]


Survey: 87 Percent Want “Do Not Track” To Elude Marketers

data-privacy-featured There's a massive gap between marketers' increasingly aggressive use of data and consumers' desire not to be tracked and targeted. This is not a new issue. However a new survey from social marketing firm Communispace underscores the chasm. The firm conducted an online consumer survey last year (n=8,343), with respondents from multiple countries. Most however (87 percent) were from the US. The overwhelming conclusion is that consumers care very much about privacy and are concerned about data-mining and tracking.  The most striking survey finding is that 87 percent would enable or clic [...]


Google France Home Page Now Carries Privacy Violation Notice, As Ordered

Google France notice As expected, the home page of Google France now carries a notification to users that Google was fined for privacy violations relating to the "unified" privacy policy change it made in 2012. A required link to the ruling against it might also be slowing the site of the French privacy agency. Notice Required For 2 Days Google is appealing the ruling made against it in January, which also carried a 150,000 euro fine (about $200,000). Google had asked that the requirement to post a notice be put on hold pending the appeal, but that was denied. Hence the notice going up now. The notice say [...]


Court Tells Google It Must Admit Privacy Penalty On Google France Home Page

google-privacy-200 Following the imposition of a fine by the French National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL) for violating consumer privacy, Google was ordered to post a statement on its French homepage that its privacy policy did not comply with French law: The Sanctions Committee ordered Google Inc. to publish a communiqué on this decision on the website https://www.google.fr, during 48 hours, within eight days as of the notification of the decision. This publicity measure is justified by the extent of Google’s data collection, as well as by the necessity to inform the persons conce [...]


Twitter Threatens Legal Action For More Transparency Around National Security Requests

Twitter logo In conjunction with the release of its latest transparency reports, Twitter announced today it was pressing the US Department of Justice for more transparency around national security requests, and is considering legal options to defend its First Amendment rights. Twitter applauded the agreement made last week between the Department of Justice and various communication providers allowing greater disclosure around national security requests in "very large" ranges, but said it wasn't enough: While this agreement is a step in the right direction, these ranges do not provide meaningful or suff [...]


Google Tries To Block Shaming Privacy Notification In France

google-privacy-200 Last month, Google was fined for violating French privacy rules with its “unified” privacy policy. The French National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL) had given Google and ultimatum to “fix” its privacy policy or be fined. Generally speaking, CNIL objects to the lack of specific notice to consumers about how their data are being used. However, Google takes the position that it's in full compliance with European privacy standards. It therefore declined to change anything to satisfy French regulators. Making good on its threat, CNIL imposed the maximum avail [...]


Consumer Watchdog Files FTC Complaint Over “Send To Anyone On Google+” Feature

consumerwatchdog Consumer Watchdog, the non-profit group that might more accurately be called "Google Watchdog," has filed a complaint with the FTC over Google's recent rollout of a feature that lets Gmail users contact Google+ users without knowing the recipient's email address. Google launched the "Send to Anyone on Google+" feature earlier this month, which lets anyone with a Gmail and Google+ account send messages to anyone else with Gmail and Google+ accounts. Google made the feature opt-out, meaning users that didn't want to potentially get messages from strangers via Gmail/Google+ had to turn it off [...]


Yahoo Makes Secure Search The Default

yahoo-new-logo-featured Yahoo has now joined Google in making all searches people do automatically go through a secure server, to help prevent eavesdropping by outsiders. Unlike Google, however, Yahoo has failed to make an important change to how "referrer" data is passed along, which will result in people thinking Yahoo Search has suddenly dropped in popularity. Yahoo.com Goes Secure The switch only seems to be happening on Yahoo.com, not on other Yahoo properties I've checked like Yahoo UK, Yahoo Germany, Yahoo France or Yahoo Japan. Yahoo did confirm to us that the switch happened but didn't clarify on exact [...]


Microsoft Calls For International Conference On Government Surveillance

online privacy Last week President Obama announced reforms to curb NSA domestic spying abuses. There was a range of reactions but many critics contend he didn't go far enough. The proposed reforms also probably don't help the tech industry very much. Perhaps feeling let down or skeptical that the US reforms will change much Microsoft's General Counsel Brad Smith is calling for an international conference on data privacy and government surveillance: While there is no substitute for American leadership and action on these issues, the time has come for a broader international discussion. We need an int [...]


Google Remarketing Ads Broke Canada Privacy Laws, Concedes To Revamp Ad Review System

Google legal Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner has found Google in violation of Canada’s privacy rights for the use of sensitive health history in remarketing campaigns. The finding comes after an investigation spurred by a Canadian man who complained that his private health information was being used by Google to retarget him with ads for sleeep apnea devices after he visited sites with information about those devices. In the process of the investigation, Canada's privacy watchdog also found Google's automated ad review system to have "demonstrable shortcomings". As a result, Google has a [...]


Facebook Faces More Legal Action From Sponsored Stories: This Time For False Endorsements

facebook Yesterday, Facebook announced it is scrapping parts of its Sponsored Stories ad product -- the ads that show what other users "Like."  It turns out, the same day a Colorado man filed a class action suit claiming the ads were used for false endorsement. The suit alleges Facebook began showing ads that said "Tony DiTirro likes USA Today." DiTirro claims he never "Liked" USA Today's Facebook page or visit the USA Today website. DiTirro was tipped off about the ad by a friend, according to the filing. The suit claims Facebook "knowingly used [DiTirro's] likeness and Facebook profile to adve [...]


Google Faces Maximum Privacy Fine, Public Shaming In France

Google Europe legal With the NSA spying scandal and a brewing transatlantic privacy dispute in the background, Google was given the maximum fine, 150,000 euros (roughly $203,000), for violating French privacy rules with its "unified" privacy policy. The French privacy authority, the National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL), previously gave Google three months to change and "fix" its privacy policy or face the fine. Google maintained that it was in compliance with European privacy standards and declined to make any changes. As expected the company was penalized. The financial penalty wil [...]


Tech Leaders Join To Demand “Global Surveillance Reform”

privacy-security-online-computer Major US tech companies have joined together to urge the US government and the governments of other countries to limit internet-based spying on individuals and to promote new legal frameworks to resolve related international issues. The group is demanding "global government surveillance reform." The companies are Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL and Twitter. Others will likely follow their lead and join the effort. The group drafted an open letter to President Obama and Congress and set forth principles that they would like to see guide policy development. Here's the bulk [...]


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