Did Tech Companies Have Checkout & Delivery System For Gov’t Access To Their Data?

NSA PRISM Slide Tech companies named in reports to be part of the NSA's "PRISM" data gathering program have strongly denied participating in programs giving "direct access" to their servers. But the New York Times is now reporting this may be because they provided indirect ways for the system to at least selectively request and receive data, after legal review. The New York Times story, Tech Companies, Bristling, Concede to Federal Surveillance Program, may give the impression that all the named companies were part of the PRISM system, for those who have been following the story. But it never names PR [...]

Imaginary Letter: Google CEO Larry Page Writes Congress, Asks “What’s Up With PRISM?”

google-congress-featured Over the years, Google has received several letters from the US Congress worried that it is somehow invading people's privacy. Now Congress, along with the Obama Administration and the US judicial system, is accused of invading the privacy of people who use Google's services. I thought the turnabout would be fair play, a letter from Google back to Congress. The letter below isn't real, but the points and unanswered questions are. I've written in the style of the latest letter Google received from Congress, last month about Google Glass. As Google professes it is not part of any data g [...]

Google & Facebook CEOs To Users: We’re Not Part Of PRISM & Government Needs More Transparency

data-privacy-featured Both Google and Facebook gave the press statements yesterday denying involvement with the US National Security Agency's PRISM data gathering program. Today, both are making that statement more strongly and taking it directly to its users. Google To Users Writing today on the Google blog, Google CEO Larry Page and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said: We have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our d [...]

Scope of Alleged Spying On Americans’ Internet Activity Massive, “Beyond Orwellian”

privacy-security-online-computer It turns out that for the past roughly 6 years, the US government has been "collecting" or "mining" US citizens' personal data and communications from telcos and Internet companies -- effectively "spying" on US citizens. Those data, it has been alleged, come in large part from direct access to the servers of most of the Internet's biggest brands: Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL and others. (Dropbox was apparently cited in leaked documents as “coming soon.”) These bombshell disclosures follow yesterday's discovery that the US government was collecting Verizon telephon [...]

Google, Apple, Facebook & AOL Deny Participating In Alleged NSA “PRISM” Program

NSA PRISM Slide [caption id="attachment_47324" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Source: Washington Post, The Guardian[/caption] Both the Washington Post and The Guardian are out with stories saying that several major Internet companies gave the US National Security Agency direct access to user data on their servers by participating in what's been named as the PRISM program. But, Google, Apple & Facebook flat-out deny being in that program, while Yahoo and Microsoft have issued general denials. Google, it denied participation in PRISM to us, when asked specifically about the program, plus gave us the [...]

Google In Secret Legal Battle With Feds Over Consumer Data

In 2006, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo all complied with Bush Administration Justice Department (DOJ) subpoenas to turn over search records -- without a fight. The subpoenas were issued pursuant to the Child Online Protection Act of 1998, which the Supreme Court had previously ruled to be unconstitutional. The requests were made anyway, and Google was the only major search engine to resist. Whether the Bush Administration anti-child porn search subpoenas were a pretext for other types of inquiries we'll never know. But now, history is repeating itself. This time it's the Obama Administration see [...]

Congress Sends Google CEO Larry Page Letter Asking About Google Glass Privacy Concerns

google-glass In the midst of the 2013 Google I/O developer conference currently being held in San Francisco, Google CEO Larry Page received a formal letter from eight-members of congress addressing Google Glass privacy issues. The letter from Congress outlined eight specific areas of concern, asking specifically: Does Google have plans to prevent Google Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user/non-user without consent? (After referencing  Google's agreement to settle charges in 2010 for collecting information from encrypted wireless networks without permission.) What proactive st [...]

Twitter Gets Best “Privacy Score” In Useful But Flawed EFF Analysis

Digital privacy is a complex issue, little understood by the public. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), as part of its ongoing mission to educate the public, has released its third annual "Who's Got Your Back" privacy scorecard for Internet companies. Below is the 2013 scorecard. Compared with the previous two years (below), results appear to be improving overall. Twitter and ISP Sonic.net are the big winners with perfect scores. Dropbox, Google and LinkedIn also do well, while Apple, Amazon, AT&T, Verizon, MySpace (does it still exist?) and Yahoo essentially get failing grades [...]

Study: Millennials More Comfortable Sharing Personal Data For Targeted Ads & Relevant Offers

personal-data-privacy-featured A recent survey conducted by the USC Annenberg Center for Digital Future and Bovitz Inc., revealed "Millennials" (those 18-35)  have a different attitude than Internet users 35 years and older when it comes to sharing their personal data online with businesses. While 70 percent of Millennials agreed with the statement, "No one should ever be allowed to have access to my personal data," 56 percent said they would share their location with a nearby company in return for a relevant coupon or promotional deal. Only 42 percent of users 35 years and older agreed they would share their location. [...]

Battle Over Data: Disconnect 2 Lets Users Block Tracking On More Than 2,000 Websites

disconnect.me-logo It's an ongoing challenge for marketers: users say they don't like to be tracked, but they also say they prefer getting relevant ads and messages as they use the Web. This battle over data extends into several marketing areas -- search, social media, email and more. Part of this mix is third-party tools that get in the middle by letting users prevent websites from tracking their behavior. One such tool, Disconnect.me, just announced a substantial upgrade: The second version of its app -- an extension that works in Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers -- lets users see and block more than [...]

Why Are Banner Ads Showing Up On Popular Websites Like Apple.com & Bing.com?

According to a recent Ars Technica article, two CMA Communications customers have reported banner ads being injected directly into webpages on popular websites, and they are blaming the ISP. Earlier this year, Robert Silvie and Zachary Henkel noticed banner ads running along the bottom of pages belonging to companies like Apple, Walmart, Target, Bing and eBay. Both Silvie and Henkel were using Internet service provider CMA Communications when they spotted the suspicious banner ads. Knowing that Bing didn't run commodity banner ads at the bottom of its home page, Silvie first thought it w [...]

EU Regulators “Plan To Take Action” Against Google Privacy Policy

google-privacy-200 When it comes to the issue of privacy, it seems that Google and Europe are on opposite sides of an ocean, metaphorically speaking. Reuters reports this morning that frustrated European authorities "plan to take action" against Google for its failure to satisfy them regarding its consolidated privacy policy. Google has maintained that its privacy policy conforms to all European laws and regulations. Privacy regulators from France and across Europe have heavily criticized the "consolidated" Google privacy policy and say it overreaches. However, they've stopped short of declaring it "illegal." [...]

Facebook Wins (Temporary) Reprive From Fake Names In Germany

facebook-globe-world-200 The AP is reporting that a German court has invalidated a decision of the German privacy regulator, which opposes Facebook's real names/identities policy. Privacy regulators oppose the Facebook policy on the grounds that German and European privacy and free-speech rules prohibit a ban on fake names. However the court's decision is not based on German law. According to the AP report, "The administrative court in northern German Schleswig argued in its ruling Thursday that German privacy laws weren't applicable because Facebook has its European headquarters in Ireland - which has less far-rea [...]

Microsoft’s “Scroogled” Campaign Against Gmail Wins 0.002% Of Users

Scroogled It's been a week since Microsoft went on the attack against Gmail, launching its "Scroogled" campaign portraying Gmail as a privacy monster that reads your emails for ad targeting purposes. How's that been working out? To date, the Microsoft-backed petition against Gmail's practices has gained about over 6,000 signatures -- equal to about 0.002% of Gmail's user base. The Petition To Nowhere At the Scroogled site, Microsoft invites people to sign an online petition. In the week it has been up, it's gathered about 5,600 signatures: That's hardly an overwhelming response, especially consider [...]

Flickr Privacy Bug Set Some Private Photos To Public

flickr-featured A bug at Flickr caused some people to have their private photos opened to public view over the past three weeks. Flickr said the bug only impacted a small number of users and only photos uploaded from April to December 2012. Flickr Quietly Tells Users Flickr made no post about this on its blog. Instead, yesterday, as one of the impacted users, Flickr sent me an email to politely let me know that hundreds of my private photos were opened to the public for a 20-day period recently. The email said Flickr had: Identified a software bug that may have changed the view setting on some of your phot [...]

Microsoft Attacks Gmail Over Privacy In Latest “Scroogled” Campaign

msft-email-privacy-featured If at first you don't succeed, get negative once again, seems to be the game plan at Microsoft. Having attacked Google Shopping with a "Scroogled" campaign last November, Microsoft is back again. This time it goes after Gmail as an evil service that invades your email privacy, armed with polling data showing consumer concern -- and perhaps one valid point about an easier opt-out. The Microsoft Survey & Consumer Disapproval Microsoft commissioned a survey of over 1,006 adults in the US from Feb. 1-4, asking about email services that target ads based on the content of your email. You kno [...]

FTC Issues Mobile Privacy Guidelines, Encourages Development Of Platform-Level “Do Not Track” Capability

FTC mobile privacy Following its earlier report on privacy and mobile apps for kids, the FTC has released a sweeping report on mobile privacy in general. It's based on the Commission's work for several years, as well as a compilation of third party and stakeholder recommendations and proposed policies developed through FTC workshops. The report includes a host of detailed recommendations for each sector of the mobile ecosystem, including developers, ad networks and platform providers. The recommendations are framed as suggestions and aren't 'mandatory. However, the agency strongly implies that some of these [...]

Europe And US Do Battle Over Privacy Rules That Will Govern The Internet

google-chrome-privacy-featured Even as US lawmakers propose new digital privacy protections for consumers, the US looks like a libertarian fantasyland and regulation-free zone compared with Europe in the minds of tech companies. European regulators and governments are seeking to enact sweeping privacy rules that would place enormous compliance burdens on US-based Internet companies. As a result, the US government is standing beside Internet companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and eBay, lobbying European regulators to dilute or weaken the proposed rules. The New York Times sums up what could be required of Interne [...]

Twitter Expands Bi-Annual Transparency Report With More US Info

Coinciding with Data Privacy Day, Twitter has produced its second Twitter Transparency Report, and this version has expanded information about the various legal requests that come from the U.S. Twitter is also giving the report a new home at transparency.twitter.com. The statistics in this report are fairly consistent with Twitter's first transparency report last summer. The U.S. is still the biggest source of government information requests with 81 percent of all requests in the second half of 2012. (That figure was 80 percent for the first half of the year.) Overall, requests in the se [...]

EU Takes 10 Days To Question Google Privacy Change; After Two Months, Finally Looks At Microsoft’s

online privacy Two months after Microsoft introduced the same type privacy policy changes that Google did, and was attacked by the European Union over, the EU is finally getting around to questioning the Microsoft move. Microsoft's change happened on October 19. It was announced with little notice to consumers. Despite allowing for cross-platform sharing in the way privacy changes at Google allowed earlier this year, it attracted virtually no press attention nor that of regulators. In contrast, Google's change drew heavy attention the day it was announced and which continued on. Ten days after the anno [...]

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