New paragraph specifically advises of content scanning on Google services
Google has updated its terms of service, adding an explanation for its content scanning efforts. The new paragraph, one of relatively few changes to the document, specifically notes that Google scans e-mails in order to provide "personally relevant product features," including "customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection."
An Ontario, Canada class-action suit now underway alleges that Facebook has been scanning user's private messages without permission from users. Allegedly, the social network was using the data to grow advertising revenue, and was stopped in 2012 when an investigation found that the practice was widespread.
Data protection specialist, former Senate staffer picked for top jobs
A former Senate staffer will take on the role of Apple's new top US government lobbyist in Washington DC, while a certified privacy professional with a background in healthcare, national security and social network privacy issues has been named to a new "privacy counsel" position within the company. Amber Cottle served as a staff director for an influential congressional committee, while Sabrina Ross as already begun her job overseeing the protection of customer data.
Judge Lucy Koh, of Apple versus Samsung fame, denies suit combination
US District Judge Lucy Koh has handed a partial victory to Google in a privacy suit against the search engine. In a Tuesday decision, the judge rued that a handful of lawsuits the company is facing may not be combined into a class-action suit, as the suits lack sufficient commonality. Based on the ruling, the myriad of filers must be heard individually or in smaller groups, escalating costs to the complainants.
Cites 'expectation of privacy' in email, says warrant was 'overly broad'
While specifics of the case have not been made public, a federal magistrate judge has issued an unusual rebuke to the US government over its request for a warrant to search the records of an unnamed @mac.com user. The request was rejected by the judge for being "overly broad" and because it "makes no effort to balance the law enforcement interests against the obvious expectation of privacy email account holders have in their communications."
PA Consulting using data to generate interactive maps using patient info
Health Select Committee member Sarah Wollaston is looking into reports in Great Britain that the entire National Health Service patient database has been uploaded onto a series of Google servers. Aggravating the situation, the servers in question are located outside the UK. While the data is as secure as possible, the breach in procedure by PA Consulting raises questions of patient data security and confidentiality. The report comes in the wake of a NHS England revelation that it would delay its own data-mining service, among criticism of how it handles the data.
Memorialized profiles to be remembered as-is
After a recent public call for Facebook to allow a family access to a deceased family member's "Look Back" video, the company has decided to re-evaluate how it deals with profiles left behind after death. In a statement from the company, new policy changes are outlined on how profiles are handled in their memorializing process. Accounts will now be left as-is instead of being restricted to a friends-only status.
CNIL fine, 48-hour warning to users contested in court
Collection programs such as Prism is illegal according to review board
An independent federal watchdog has decided that the National Security Agency's (NSA) phone call logging and collection activity is illegal. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board advises that the call log collection provided "minimal" benefits to current counter-terrorism operations and should be stopped, in a 238-page report set to be released today.
Carrier receives over 1K national security letters
Amid increased scrutiny over privacy regulations, Verizon has released its first transparency report detailing the number and type of government requests for customer data. The carrier was asked to respond to over 320,000 requests from federal, state or local law-enforcement agencies in the US during 2013. Notably, nearly 1,500 of the requests resulted in wiretaps and between 1,000 and 2,000 National Security Letters were included in the numbers.
Android-based Blackphone promises secure calls, messaging
The creator of a secure e-mail service is teaming up with a Firefox OS smartphone producer in order to create a privacy-oriented mobile phone. The Blackphone from Silent Circle and Geeksphone will be an Android-based device that is said to offer users secure phone calls, text messages, file transfers and storage, and video chat, all without compromising on user privacy.
Judge rules Hulu must face privacy lawsuit
Hulu will have to face a class action lawsuit from users angered by the television streaming service's sharing of viewing histories with Facebook and business metrics company comScore. Reuters reported on Monday that U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler rejected Hulu's argument last week that the complainants in the case had suffered no actual wrong due to Hulu's actions. Instead of the case being dismissed, Hulu will now have to face the plaintiffs in court, with the case potentially resulting in damages of at least $2,500 per violation in addition to punitive damages.
Search giant argues for California venue
Google is reportedly calling for a UK privacy lawsuit to be dismissed, arguing that the case should be heard in its home state of California, according to a Guardian report. The company has been sued by a group of users who accuse the company of illegally monitoring their online habits by circumventing security settings on the desktop and mobile versions of Apple's Safari browser.
RingMeMaybe app's disposable phone numbers ideal for dating, Craigslist
Mobile developers yourVirtualSIM has announced the release of its app RingMeMaybe, a program able to generate disposable US phone numbers for iOS devices. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, users can access unlimited numbers for anonymous communication, removing the need to publicly reveal primary phone numbers. Utilizing VoIP technology, anyone requiring temporary numbers -- such as those who may be casually dating, or buying and selling on Craigslist -- can do so for a flat rate of 99 cents per virtual number (the equivalent of '10 credits'). Each number can be generated within seconds, and remains attached to your primary number for one week, but can be extended with the addition of more credits. RingMeMaybe's VoIP feature also provides unlimited calling service for no additional fee. Users receive 20 free credits with their download, equating to two virtual phone numbers. RingMeMaybe is available from the App Store as a free download.
Government considers banning information sharing
Luxembourg's data-protection commissioner has reportedly opened an investigation into connections between Skype and the National Security Agency's PRISM surveillance program, according to a Guardian report. The commissioner is said to be looking into potential violations of the country's data-protection and privacy laws, which could lead to fines or other sanctions.
Companies could be forced to hand over data
The California State Assembly is set to consider a new bill, the "Right to Know Act of 2013," that may force companies to disclose personal data. Supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the proposal (PDF) would require companies to provide copies of all data collected on its customers, including a list of third parties with which the personal data has been shared.
Alma Whitten to be replaced by Lawrence You in coming months
Google's first Director of Privacy is stepping down from the role, after two and a half years in the job. Installed in the position after Google admitted to picking up Wi-Fi data through its Street View cars, Alma Whitten will continue as privacy director for a few more months until the transition to new team leader Lawrence You is complete, reports Forbes.
Survey reveals contradictory attitudes on privacy, trust
The Ponemon Institute has issued its annual report ranking the most trusted companies on the issue of consumer privacy, and for the first time in three years Apple is not in the top 20, reports AppleInsider. The company had gotten as high as eighth place in 2009, but has steadily fallen in the ranking since then, entering 21st place in the latest report. The survey also revealed that American consumers have contradictory views on the issue of privacy, saying it is important but admitting to giving out sensitive information very freely.
Proposal will come under full debate and vote in 2013 sessions
An amendment proposed in 2011 to require warrants for law enforcement to eavesdrop on email communications, modifying the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)from 1986 has been approved in a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee today. The unamended law allows law enforcement to swear an administrative subpoena after email had been read by the recipient to retrieve it from a server, declaring only that the information was relevant to an investigation, with no requirement to name the investigation. The amendment to the law will go before the House and Senate for debate and vote in 2013.
Search results transmitted to Amazon, Facebook, others by default
Web search settings in the latest Ubuntu 12.10 are to blame for what the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls a "data leak" and a privacy violation. Unless settings are altered, every time a search is performed for a document, application, or other file using the Dash feature, the search includes results from Amazon. Search results can also return advertisements sent unencrypted in the results, allowing for Wi-Fi or network sniffers to intercept and read the text.
French data regulators say Google policy needs to change
Political video led to Google exec arrest
Google's Brazilian unit announced today that the company would be complying with a court order calling for Google to take down a YouTube video critical of a Brazilian mayoral candidate. The video had been the source of some conflict between the Brazilian court and the world's largest search engine, with the court ordering the arrest of a Google executive yesterday. Now, though, Reuters reports that Google will remove the video, though the company lamented it would not be afforded the opportunity to debate the free speech and expression implications of the controversy surrounding the order.
User searches will be logged, but kept private, deletable
Facebook will be retaining and giving users access to a log of searches they make on the social network. The site announced today in a news post changes to its Activity Log, giving users the ability to review searches conducted on the site as well as their other activities on the site. The social network assures users that the data will remain private and that users will be able to remove searches at any time.
Turns over data, but asks it remain sealed pending appeal
On the last day before it would be assessed a fine, Twitter has agreed to hand over to authorities the data it had been withholding in a minor New York criminal case. According to The Washington Post, Twitter's capitulation is only partial, as the company is still appealing Judge Sciarrino's decision ruling that a Twitter user's tweets are public statements. The company has, though, turned over the subpoenaed information, even as it protests that the options facing the company were "unfair" and "unjust."
Microblogging site faces contempt charge
The ongoing privacy battle between Twitter and New York's courts took another turn today, as New York State Supreme Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. ordered the microblogging site to turn over information on an Occupy Wall Street protestor's posts or suffer a fine. In announcing the ruling today, Sciarrino noted that a contempt charge was the only way the court had of bending Twitter to the court's ruling, noting that he could not "put Twitter or the little blue bird in jail." Bloomberg reports that Twitter has asked for more time, claiming that it has not had enough time to appeal the court's initial ruling -- from June 30 of this year -- that it must turn over the user's records.
Google to settle Safari privacy breach for $22.5 million
The FTC is set to hand Google a record $22.5 million fine for bypassing the privacy settings in Apple's Safari browser, reports the Wall Street Journal. The search and mobile giant is said to be close to settling the matter, although the deal still needs to be ratified by the full panel of FTC commissioners. If indeed Google agrees to settle the breach for the $22.5 million figure, it will represent the largest fine the FTC has handed to a single entity.
Report shows western democracies increasingly asking for censorship
Google has released the latest edition of its Transparency Report, which reveals those governments that have been asking the search giant to censor search results or to take down content from Google services. In a blog post on the Google Public Policy Blog, the company notes that the most recent figures point to a disturbing trend: a growing number of requests for content to be taken down come from Western democracies. In fact, the United States government was among the top entities approaching Google for such requests.
Spokeo fined for improperly collecting and marketing data
The Federal Trade Commission has fined data collector Spokeo $800,000 in the commission's first case relating Internet and social-media data sold for employment screening purposes. In its investigation, the Commission alleged that Spokeo had violated federal law in compiling and selling information gleaned from social networking sites. As The New York Times reports, the $800,000 fine represents a civil settlement Spokeo reached with the Commission, though the company was not required to admit wrongdoing.
Net giants comprise all of the top five trackers
Google and Facebook are watching Internet users' movements across the web more than any other companies, according to a new analysis out from the makers of the Ghostery browser-privacy plug-in. The study used traffic data from more than a million users. It found that all of the top five trackers on the Internet were either Google- or Facebook-affiliated, with Twitter also making the top ten.
New tool seeks to balance developer needs with privacy standards
Sources familiar with Apple's plans tell The Wall Street Journal that the company is preparing to release a new tracking tool for mobile app developers. The new tool, these sources claim, is aimed at striking a balance between developers' desire to gather targeting data on consumers and Apple's stated policy of protecting user privacy.
White House NSC speaks out against CISPA
An Obama administration official has voiced concerns over the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which is scheduled for a House of Representatives vote next week. In a statement to The Hill, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden noted that such legislation must protect privacy while providing security provisions for critical infrastructure systems.
Facebook offers more downloadable user data
Facebook on Thursday detailed changes to its Download Your Information option that has been available since 2010. It has expanded the kind and amount of information users can download of their account history. Users can now get previous names, friend requests they've made, and the IP addresses they've logged in from.
App may be revised to take criticism into account
The app that launched a firestorm of controversy because of its ability to aggregate publicly-available information about women into a profiling tool has been defunded after it was dropped from the App Store. The Russian company behind the application, i-Free, originally defended the program as a "dating aid," allowing users to learn about nearby women (or men) who have "checked in" using Foursquare or Facebook.
Senator believes they can fix problems themselves
New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer has reported that both Apple and Google have agreed to meet with him to discuss potential security risks posed by developer access to user data, and that his intention is to encourage the companies to "find a way on their own" to prevent iOS and Android apps from accessing private information without the users' knowledge. He told The New York Times that both companies were "open to the idea."
Says FTC not enforcing its own consent order
Facebook still grappling with user privacy
Facebook has said that it is getting nearer to releasing a newer system that will help to ensure that once a user deletes a photo, it is also deleted from its servers. Although the issue was first raised three years ago, Facebook user photos remain accessible, even after they have been deleted from a user’s profile, by way of the original URL. The company told Ars Technica last week that its older servers still "did not always delete images from content delivery networks in a reasonable period of time even though they were immediately removed from the site."
Tracks sites visited, apps used and location
Adobe cookies unaffected by standard controls
The FTC is taking an active interest in the way Adobe’s Flash installs its tracking cookies, according to a report. Privacy advocates have been arguing that the Adobe Flash Player, installed in up to 98 percent of PCs around the world, does not allow standard privacy controls to delete its Flash cookies. Critics argue that when users use privacy controls to stop cookies being set, or delete existing cookies, that this function works for all other apps and plug-ins except for Flash.
TimeTable, Safari 4 Buddy
VideoFlash Converter 2.4 ($40) allows the conversion of QuickTime compatible video files to either the Adobe Flash SWF or FLV format. The most popular formats are supported, including AVI, MOV, MPG, DivX and more. Version 2.4 includes a new Preview Pane that is displayed while flash movies are loaded from the web and a new rangebar style. [Download - 16.2MB]
New anti-censorship group
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are among the founding members of a new anti-censorship group called the Global Network Initiative, reports indicate. The organization also has the backing of investor, human rights and press freedom groups, such as the Center for Democracy and Technology. The GNI is specifically aimed at forming a consistent approach to dealing with countries that block free speech on the Internet, such as China. Many governments around the world filter search results, or simply prevent citizens from accessing certain websites.
Bell Can. throttling suit
Bell Canada is facing a class-action lawsuit as a result of its Internet access policies, an announcement reveals. A Quebec group called L'Union des consommateurs, along with Bell customer Myrna Raphael, are accusing Bell of false advertising, as a result of its practice of throttling traffic at peak hours. Raphael is said to have signed a three-year ADSL contract in 2006, partly on the basis of Bell's claim of "constant speed" at all times; by enabling throttling last fall, says Raphael, Bell broke its agreement.
Internet Cleanup 5.0
The biggest danger to your computer is security; if you don’t protect your computer from malicious software or users, someone could steal important files and invade your privacy. To protect your privacy on your Macintosh, Smith Micro Software offers Internet Cleanup 5.0, which guards your personal data stored on your computer in three ways.
Internet Cleanup 5.0
Smith Micro Software today released Internet Cleanup 5.0 for Mac (site not updated), the latest revision of its privacy protection software. The update features 'Device Sentry,' a new option designed to stop 'pod-slurping' and other forms of data theft by preventing malicious users from mounting iPods or other external devices without authorization. Internet Cleanup 5.0 also offers a revised user interface, and full compatibility with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. The software is priced at $30, requiring Mac OS X 10.4.1 or later.
Protector Suite for Mac
UPEK today at Macworld Expo launched Protector Suite for Mac, an application that allows Mac users to increase security and convenience with the swipe of a finger. Protector Suite for Mac, in combination with Eikon Digital Privacy Manager -- a USB-based peripheral fingerprint reader -- enables Mac users to swipe their finger instead of typing passwords to log into as well access password-protected websites and secure preferences. The latest revision offers support for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, and is due to ship in several languages in the first half of 2008 (pricing was unavailable).
Targus unveils at CES 2008
Targus today unveiled a set of new laptop-centric products – the Velos Messenger bag, the Stow-N-Go mouse, the HeatDefense pad, Travel Power Outlets, and DEFCON privacy filters – as well as LCD mounting arms, and a mobile speaker system for MP3 players. The Velos Messenger bag comes in three color styles: chocolate with a chocolate-aqua strap, charcoal with black-lime green strap, and wheat with mushroom-orange strap. Laptops are fully cushioned from both sides, and are protected by a neoprene sleeve. Up to a 15.4-inch laptop can be used with the bag, and the extra removable strap can be exchanged with other Velos owners to make new color combinations. Targus will sell the Velos Messenger bag for $70, and it will be available in May.
Airline Internet filtering
As airlines begin resuming in-flight Internet services, some have already decided to filter what passengers can do, writes the Associated Press. American Airlines -- confirming plans -- will be joined by Alaska Airlines in soon blocking access to VoIP services such as Skype, while companies such as Virgin America are currently contemplating a ban. The problem is that VoIP not only consumes large amounts of bandwidth, but may generate tremendous noise in a cabin from numerous ongoing conversations. Wi-Fi-enabled handsets could help circumvent the bandwidth concern.
No Canadian DMCA in 2007
The Canadian government will not debate the creation of DMCA-like legislation until at least 2008, writes legal expert Michael Geist. Amendments to the country's Copyright Act were expected for discussion in the House of Commons this month, but this can no longer happen, according to the press secretary for Industry Minister Jim Prentice. The bill will not be introduced tomorrow, and as parliament is breaking for the Christmas holidays after Friday, the soonest the legislation can be reintroduced is late January.