Amicus briefs filed with NY Supreme Court decry overly broad warrants
Facebook is battling the New York courts over what it says are overly-broad warrants to examine user profiles and data. Supporting the social media giant, Dropbox, Foursquare, Google, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Meetup, Microsoft, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, and Yelp have all filed amicus curae ("friend of the court") briefs with courts in support of the Facebook effort, complaining that services like Facebook are multi-faceted and require more granular warrants, rather than a sweeping motion to collect all data about a targeted user.
Lawsuit launched in Austrian court, points to privacy issues, violation of EU law
Law student Max Schrems has turned from filing complaints against Facebook's Irish subsidiary to filing a European lawsuit against the social media company for privacy violations. Schrems filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, asking people from outside the United States and Canada to join in. At the heart of the matter are violations Schrems and his group, Europe vs. Facebook, believe are against European data privacy laws.
Company releases first chat application Bleep, currently only available for Windows
BitTorrent is making an attempt to diversify its offerings even more. While the company has said it was adding pay options to its Bundles early in the month, it has now launched a server-less chat client called Bleep. BitTorrent says that the app is created in a way that the experience is decentralized, only exposing messages and phone calls to people users choose to trust.
Dating site owns up to experiments, claims that's just 'how websites work'
Dating site OkCupid took to its blog today in a small defense of the outrage over Facebook's study involving manipulation of users' emotional states through data on its news feed for "psychological research." In a post titled "We Experiment on Human Beings," the dating company proceeded to make light of the data situations, while owning up to several of its own experiments.
Suit makes a third attempt at suing tech company over March 2012 policy change
Google's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit that dates back to 2012 failed today, after a California district judge ruled that the search company will have to fight the breach of contract and fraud claims. The first lawsuit was dismissed last December, with the stipulation that any further pursuit would require an amended complaint. The new complaint could have been dismissed "with prejudice" after two previous complaints were dismissed by the judge.
NSA whistleblower points to board member, companies should have no access to data
In an interview with UK newspaper The Guardian last week, fugitive American whistleblower Edward Snowden made it clear that he opposed cloud companies that had access to user data. He specifically pointed out Dropbox as being "hostile to privacy" for a number of reasons, including a board appointment of an ex-government official with ties to suspected privacy violations.
Four-part request form allows Internet users to remove listings from Bing
Microsoft is following after Google in complying with a decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union over the "right to be forgotten." Microsoft has created a four-part form for users to request the removal of European search listings from Bing relating to their name, in cases where information can be deemed "inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant."
Google legal chief outlines removal request difficulties following EU court ruling
Google is still being swamped with requests to remove website listings in Europe, following the Court of Justice of the European Union's ruling on the "right to be forgotten." Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond claims the search company has received more than 70,000 takedown requests since the ruling in May, with the requests covering 250,000 webpage listings in its search results.
Analysts believe it could take 20 years to solve data search and seizure issues
Last month, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that law enforcement agencies would need a warrant to access information on a cell phone in criminal cases. While the ruling was thought to be an outright win for privacy, it appears that the fight isn't over yet. Law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups are decrying the ruling, believing the need for a warrant to search held devices to be too strong a requirement. Analysts, on the other hand, believe that the fight could take 20 years to sort out.
Blackphone with privacy features will recommence sales next month
The Blackphone, the privacy-based smartphone joint venture between Geeksphone and cryptographic service provider Silent Circle, has started shipping. Launched at Mobile World Congress in February, the Android smartphone aims to provide secure phone calls, texts, file transfers, and other communication options without compromising on the user's privacy.
Psychological study in 2012 altered users' news feeds for positive or negative mental states
In a study to see if emotional states could be transferred to others online, Facebook conducted a psychological experiment in January 2012 with its users as guinea pigs. According a research paper published this month, feeds from over 689,000 English-language accounts were altered for either positive or negative states for one week to see if there was an impact on mental states.
Proposal would extend US Privacy Act rights to EU citizens
European citizens could receive some of the same rights to privacy as Americans in the future, if new proposals are adopted. US Attorney General Eric Holder advised to European leaders in Athens, Greece on Wednesday that the Obama administration is working on legislation that would provide EU residents similar protections under the US Privacy Act as US citizens already have.
Nest co-founder says it is about products 'that keep us connected to our homes'
Nest, now owned by Google, has revealed that it is buying Dropcam, a smart home-monitoring camera. The deal for the company cost Nest $555 million in cash, and will see the Dropcam team moving to Nest's Palo Alto headquarters. Despite the fact that it is now owned by Google, Nest co-founder Matt Rogers says that the team behind Dropcam will be "indoctrinated" to Nest privacy policies, which -- currently -- are far more strict than those of Google. Critics, however, are skeptical.
EU court ruling over privacy prompts form collecting removal requests
Google is complying with a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union over the "right to be forgotten." A form has been published on Google's support pages, collecting requests from individuals for Google to consider removing specific listings from its search services in Europe, though it does not state how long it will take for a URL to be hidden from view.
New design, functions bring smarter searches with more options for users
Privacy-centric search engine DuckDuckGo has undergone an overhaul of its design in an attempt to build smarter searches for users. The design changes the look of the site completely, to move away from the previous cluttered look of the service. Functionality has also been addressed, adding a number of community requests to improve the quality of searches. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the team's stance on privacy.
Reminders will show to new, existing users about audience of status updates
Facebook is changing the default target of status updates for new users, it has revealed, potentially helping users from posting publicly things that should be between friends. As well as helping prevent first-time posters from oversharing, Facebook is also preparing to release a new privacy checkup tool, which will aid existing users in reviewing their privacy preferences.
Search engine turns focus from privacy concerns to personalization
Last week, Yahoo announced that it would no longer be honoring Do Not Track requests from browsers accessing the search engine and associated services. The move comes as the company attempts to provide a more personal experience to users, bringing policies in line with other companies that ignore Do Not Track requests such as Facebook and Google. This comes as a reversal to previous statements made by the company, which claimed to be "the first major tech company to implement Do Not Track."
Goal is to force greater openness, courts to weigh in on secret collection
Apple and other tech companies are planning to adjust privacy policies to begin notifying customers when their information is requested by most law enforcement agencies, according to reports. Microsoft, Facebook and Google are also said to be planning to implement the same idea, as all four companies strongly support the right of users to know when their data is being requested by government officials in most cases. The move is widely seen as an attempt to force the process to become more lawful and transparent.
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.