The ACLU reports that the IRS claims in an internal document that it has the authority to access citizens' online communications without a warrant. The IRS claimed in a 2009 document that "the Fourth Amendment does not protect communications held in electronic storage, such as email messages stored on a server, because internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications." It still retains that position even after the 2010 case of US v Warshak which determined that citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications. [more inside]
Why Privacy Matters, Even If You Have Nothing To Hide, by Daniel J. Solove
The nothing-to-hide argument pervades discussions about privacy. The data-security expert Bruce Schneier calls it the "most common retort against privacy advocates." ... To evaluate the nothing-to-hide argument, we should begin by looking at how its adherents understand privacy. Nearly every law or policy involving privacy depends upon a particular understanding of what privacy is. The way problems are conceived has a tremendous impact on the legal and policy solutions used to solve them.[more inside]
Schools in Missouri, Maryland, and other states are using fingerprint scans and RFID chips to track students as a means to speed up service in the cafeteria and to track student whereabouts in and around school. [more inside]
The Justice Department, after a legal battle with the ACLU to avoid having to admit it, recently released documents showing that the federal government’s use of warrantless “pen register” and “tap and trace” surveillance has multiplied over the past decade. But the Justice Department is small potatoes. Every day, the NSA intercepts and stores 1.7 billion emails, phone calls, texts, and other electronic communications. [more inside]
In 2011 Malaysia Airlines introduced what is believed to be the world's first airline integration with Facebook. In February Air France KLM announced its Meet And Seat program, allowing customers to scan other passengers' social media profiles. to select or reject seatmates. (Previously). It prompted safety and privacy concerns, while others said it showed how a company "gets" social media. In June airBaltic announced it would trial SeatBuddy to make trips more pleasant by seating like-minded people next to each other. Now, British Airways has decided to use the Internet to create dossiers on its customers, including using Google images to find pictures of passengers so that staff can approach them as they arrive at the terminal or plane. The Know Me service will initially be limited to first class passengers and other 'captains of industry'. So-called 'social seating' is part of an emerging trend to marry data-mining with customer service.
"And with millions of chicks checking in daily, there's never been a better time to be on the hunt...."
A column by John Brownlee over at Cult of Mac yesterday highlighted his privacy concerns about the app Girls Around Me -- which used a mashup of FourSquare check-ins, Google Maps and Facebook public profile information to show the user women who were nearby. In response to the story, Foursquare cut off the app's API access to their data, effectively knocking it out of commission. CNET: How to prevent friends checking you into locations at Facebook Places. [more inside]
How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did (excerpt from How Companies Learn Your Secrets (single page))
The logical conclusion of our relationship to computers: expectantly to type “what is the meaning of my life” into Google.
It’s for your own good—that is Google’s cherished belief. If we want the best possible search results, and if we want advertisements suited to our needs and desires, we must let them into our souls. James Gleick writes about 'How Google Dominates Us' for the New York Review of Books. [more inside]
"The results were astounding. In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times. It traced him from a train on the way to Erlangen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin. Mr. Spitz has provided a rare glimpse — an unprecedented one, privacy experts say — of what is being collected as we walk around with our phones."
Worried about social-network data mining? Facebook hires Ted Ullyot, former right-hand man to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, as its general counsel. Tapping Ullyot, who worked on the infamous torture memo and other illustrious projects, is a sign that the burgeoning Scrabble platform "is a little more grown-up," says Facebook public-policy VP Elliot Schrage.
The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area. I've read this article twice now because I was laughing too hard the first time. If I were more paranoid I might actually seriously ask what sort of data mining the FBI is doing, but... falafel sales! via. [more inside]
AOL releases 3-months of queries from 500k users. AOL, either fairly or unfairly, is sometimes considered the internet with training wheels. So while parsing this data, keep that in mind. Some of these queries seem like spam email subjects, don't they? Don't forget, this is the same demographic that brought you the September that didn't end. AOL tried to retract the data, but it's of no use - it's out there, on the web.
Docusearch settles claim for 75K with family whose daughter was killed by a stalker who purchased her personal information from them -- a killer whose intentions were described on a Googleable website. The NH Supreme Court determined last year that Docusearch, the company who sold Amy Boyer's work address and SSN to her killer could be held liable for her death, even though some of that information was publicly available. An "Amy Boyer's Law" intended to increase privacy by restricting the display, sale or use of SSNs received negative reviews by privacy organizations and ultimately was removed from an appropriations bill. In a statement, Amy's parents encourage others to use the Internet to keep track of who may be keeping track of their kids. "If only we had typed our daughter's name into any search engine, the Amy Boyer Web site that was posted by her killer would have come up, and we could have called the police...This may never have happened."
The Patriots didn't win; Britney did. TiVo analyzed their viewers behavior during the Superbowl and they came up with some pretty interesting results. How soon till TV programming adapts to viewer behavior?