A lawsuit alleges that the Lower Merion School District has been spying on students through webcams on school issued laptops. According to the complaint no indication was giving to the parents or students that this activity was possible. The spying program was only revealed when a student was informed by the school that they had witnessed improper behavior through the webcam and saved photographic evidence.
PleaseRobMe.com tells you when people on Twitter are advertising that they are not at home. [more inside]
'It's optional if you want to remain anonymous, but what's the point anymore?' A new generation doesn't mind sharing every detail of their lives online. So familiar online companies increasingly don't bother letting you control privacy options from the start, and make it difficult to detach. Are the privacy-concerned folks mostly older individuals who don't see the benefits of connectedness? Or are the people who share just about everything lined up with a pro-corporate culture pushed by marketers? [more inside]
Think your Facebook profile's private? A complaint brought to the Federal Trade Commission urges you to think again. While you think on it, here's a concise primer on how to make sure your Facebook profile (should you have one) is as private as you think it is.
"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." (SLYT) Because of this statement, made by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Mozilla's director of community development Asa Dotzler has informed readers of his personal blog how to change Firefox's default search engine from Google to Bing. This is a pretty interesting stance coming from someone who works for a company that not only directly competes with Microsoft (the owners of Bing), but also derives a huge amount of its revenue from support from Google. (via)
8 Million Reasons for Real Surveillance Oversight. "Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers' (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. This massive disclosure of sensitive customer information was made possible due to the roll-out by Sprint of a new, special web portal for law enforcement officers."
Wikipedia is being sued for publishing the names of two convicted killers. Wolfgang Werlé and Manfred Lauber killed well-known German actor Walter Sedlmayr in 1990. They were convicted of the crime in 1993 and sentenced to prison, and recently released. Under German law, publishing the name of a criminal after he has served his sentence is considered an undue infringement of privacy, and is illegal. Accordingly, the German Wiki removed the names of the killers off the page discussing the murder --- but the English language version of wiki, based in the US and operating under the First Ammendment, has not. Now the killers' lawyer has sued the Wikimedia foundation to get them to remove the names. [more inside]
This morning, Google launched a new feature called "Google Dashboard" that lets users view (and in some cases control,) what data is being stored on a range of more than 20 Google services, including Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Web History, Orkut, YouTube, Picasa, Talk, Reader, Alerts and Latitude. [more inside]
Google Street View is currently taking pictures in and around my home village. Google Japan has released a rather cute animated video explaining how the whole process works. Its main aim seems to be to respond to all the criticism regarding privacy issues. It's still cute, though.
What the Internet knows about you. "This project was started by a small group of Web developers and security researchers in order to highlight the problem of Web browser history detection -- a problem which can dramatically affect the Web and hurt many people, if not solved quickly. Our direct goal is to educate the mainstream public and show them the direct consequences of allowing this aspect of Web browser behavior, as well as provide some solutions which mitigate the problem. However, since there are no existing satisfactory solutions, our other objective is to point the attention of browser developers to this issue and strongly encourage them to implement the necessary and long-overdue fixes." [Via]
In response to a complaint by law students at the University of Ottawa in May of 2008, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has found that Facebook is operating contrary to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. In other words, Facebook is breaching Canadian privacy law. Facebook has pledged to work with the Canadian government on this issue, and has 30 days to comply; if the Commissioner remains unsatisfied with their progress, they may take the case to Federal Court to force compliance.
Voicemail-to-text firm Spinvox strenuously denied accusations that they infringed privacy standards by actually having the voicemails transcribed by human operators in low-wage countries. [more inside]
Everybody knows about the Google Van now, some love it, some hate it, but it has become an assumed condition now that, if you're near a street, Google Maps might have your picture (I'm at work!). Living further off the path might seem like a solution to avoid detection, but Google has stepped off the roadway and into more scenic routes with the Google Tricycle. Being unpowered and smaller allows Google to get their 360° photographs from vantage points other than the curb in front of your house. Google Street Views won't just include streets anymore: they plan to cover national parks, bicycle paths, college campuses, theme parks, any any other public place which isn't exactly van-friendly.
Neurosecurity: security and privacy for neural devices. "An increasing number of neural implantable devices will become available in the near future due to advances in neural engineering. This discipline holds the potential to improve many patients' lives dramatically by offering improved—and in some cases entirely new—forms of rehabilitation for conditions ranging from missing limbs to degenerative cognitive diseases. The use of standard engineering practices, medical trials, and neuroethical evaluations during the design process can create systems that are safe and that follow ethical guidelines; unfortunately, none of these disciplines currently ensure that neural devices are robust against adversarial entities trying to exploit these devices to alter, block, or eavesdrop on neural signals. The authors define 'neurosecurity'—a version of computer science security principles and methods applied to neural engineering—and discuss why neurosecurity should be a critical consideration in the design of future neural devices." [Via Mind Hacks]
In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that school officials violated an Arizona teenager's rights by strip-searching her for prescription-strength ibuprofen, declaring that U.S. educators cannot force children to remove their clothing unless student safety is at risk. Clarence Thomas demurred, suggesting that panties would become the new drug underground.
"Please list any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.," the City form states. There are then three lines where applicants can list the Web sites, their user names and log-in information and their passwords. The City of Bozeman takes their job application process too far?
NSA E-Mail Surveillance Renews Concerns in Congress. "Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency’s ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation." [Via]
The FCC investigated a pirate radio station in Boulder, Colorado earlier this month and left a copy of their official inspection policy asserting that they have the authority to perform warrantless searches of private property if there is any FCC-licensed equipment on the property, including cordless phones, cell phones, wireless routers, intercom systems, and baby monitors. [more inside]
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a search of your trash doesn't violate your privacy. This decision is in line with that of the United States. [more inside]
In 1996, sixteen children and one adult died in Dublane, Scotland after Thomas Hamilton walked into a school armed with four handguns. In 2009, journalist Paula Murray tracked down and befriended several of the survivors on Facebook, waited until they turned eighteen, and then wrote this article for the Sunday Express. [more inside]
The novlist Julie Myerson has written a book, The Lost Child, about her son's addiction to cannabis, the violent behaviour she says this caused and her tough love policy. Extract. Her son is angry that she's published it, and says his parents over-reacted: "I wasn't doing anything that most other teenagers do, but such was their naive terror of drugs they were acting like six-year-olds". It comes out through MumsNet that Julie Myerson was the anonymous author of a Guardian column, "Living with Teenagers," which described her children's behaviour candidly without their knowledge. Extract. Myerson first denied this. The Guardian discusses whether it was right to publish the columns. Myerson is interviewed about whether she was right to publish The Lost Child. Her partner, and son's father, Jonathan Myerson supports her: This is an emergency. Her son says she's addicted to writing. [more inside]
Bob Boorstin, Google's Director of Policy Communications, wrote a letter to the Rose Foundation, suggesting that the foundation stop funding Consumer Watchdog, an outspoken Google critic. [more inside]
A NEW FACEBOOK CONTROVERSY A NEW FACEBOOK CONTROVERSY has developed, this time over photos of women breastfeeding their babies. But Facebook is standing firm.. The protesters have also formed a Facebook group, of course, Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding Is Not Obscene. It's not the first controversy at the social networking site and this blog documents activities, rumors and news about Facebook. [more inside]
In a move applauded by some internet privacy advocates, Yahoo will retain personally identifiable search information for only 90 days. This places it above competitors Google and Microsoft in terms of protecting user privacy. Congressional representatives are taking notice, but others criticize Yahoo's method of preserving user anonymity as not enough, hearkening back to AOL's massive data leak in 2006.
Privacy and Social Networking: If I Poke you, it indicates that I’m online, and I’m thinking about you.
Facebook and the Social Dynamics of Privacy (coming soon to the Iowa Law Review), by James Grimmelmann (law professor, programmer, MeFi's own grimmelm, and Level 1 Ensign Zombie): just in time for Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect, Grimmelmann suggests we rethink what privacy means both in legal terms and how that impacts social networks and their users. (Previously) [more inside]
"Reality mining is just like data mining... except instead of being applied to text and web pages... we're trying to find patterns in real life." MIT students "swap their privacy for smartphones that generate digital trails." [more inside]
"Ever since President Bush confirmed the existence of a National Security Administration wiretapping program in late 2005, he has insisted it is aimed only at terrorists’ calls and protects Americans’ civil liberties ("This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America — and I repeat: limited.")....However, ABC News reports [text with embedded video] that the NSA frequently listened to and transcribed the private phone calls of Americans abroad....These conversations included those of American soldiers stationed in Iraq and American aid workers abroad, such as Doctors Without Borders."* [more inside]
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.
We know the NSA is watching. They have corporate buddies to help them out. But now they've found a true ideological soul mate - China [more inside]
Privacy is dead - get over it [part 2] is a talk by private investigator Steve Rambam. It's a talk he has been giving for a number of years where he shows how privacy is being taken away, not by sinister plots but because people are giving it away. With people putting up everything and nothing on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and so on, as well as a growing quantity of data held in private databases, he shows how easy it is to find out enormous amounts of data on just about anyone. [more inside]
Google has been ordered to turn over all of its electronic records of the videos watched by users on YouTube to Viacom. The 12 terabytes of data include records of every video watched by every user, including the user's login name (if any) and IP address. Google had complained that the disclosure would invade user's privacy, but this argument was blunted somewhat by Google's earlier statement that IP Addresses are not, in and of themselves, personally identifying information. Google was also ordered to turn over certain other information, including its video classification database schema, but was not ordered to turn over information regarding videos marked as private, its source code, or its advertising database schema.
The Government Is Trying to Wrap Its Mind Around Yours. Why the Next Civil Rights Battle Will Be Over the Mind.
With Comcast, your TV watches you. Comcast is developing cable boxes with cameras to watch the room. They will know who is there to provide shows in your profile, engage parental controls, and of course, deliver targeted advertising.
Ceiling Cat Comcast is watching you....
ACLU Watch List Counter: U.S. Terror List Now Exceeds 900,000 Names. That's an awful lot of terrorists. More Privacy and Surveillance Filter: Bruce Schneier on The Myth of the 'Transparent Society', Glenn Greenwald on The Banality of the Surveillance State, and Stephen Colbert on AT & Treason. [more inside]
Two Yale Law School graduates who allege they were subjected to a campaign of online harassment file suit against the site's owner and two dozen internet trolls for copyright infringement, defamation, and a variety of other tort and IP claims. In the latest developments, the website's owner was dropped from the lawsuit, and another defendant moved (seemingly pro se) to quash a subpoena served originally on their ISP to reveal their identity. [more inside]
The Anonymity Experiment. Is it possible to hide in plain sight? Privacy-minded people have long warned of a world in which an individual’s every action leaves a trace, in which corporations and governments can peer at will into your life with a few keystrokes on a computer. Now one of the people in charge of information-gathering for the U.S. government says, essentially, that such a world has arrived.
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has a blog. This is an "official" blog covering issues of privacy issues and legislation in Canada.
Up Against Big Brother: "For 18 years the Electronic Frontier Foundation has fought for the rights of ordinary Americans in cyberspace. Now it’s stepped into the limelight with a legal challenge to warrantless surveillance." [Via Boing Boing.]
A new medical bill payment reporting system called MedFICO is said to be going live this summer. This system is being developed by the health care industry in an effort to judge a patient's ability to pay. Healthcare Analytics, a healthcare actuarial company, is developing the score in conjunction with Tenet Healthcare, credit scoring company Fair Issac, and venture capitalists. [more inside]
Online communities to become more 'all-encompassing.' If you join the SHC community on Sears.com, all web traffic to and from your computer thereafter will be copied and sent to a third party marketing research firm - including, for example, your secure sessions with your bank! The Sears.com proxy will send your logins and passwords along with a cleartext copy of all the supposedly secure data. But wait, it gets better: you can only view the true TOS once the proxy has already been installed. [more inside]
A few weeks ago, Google Reader's team decided to show your private data to all your GMail contacts. This is now the default, no need to opt-in. Some people think it's not a big deal. Other's see it as a gross violation of privacy, a warning sign of more violations to come, as evidenced by the recent code updates to Gmail and other Google applications.
Local newsrag covers Tufts annual Naked Quad Run and posts video of event to YouTube. Outrage ensues. (privacy! ethics! wah!) See also: Local LJ community's take. (video embedded in body of article is NSFW) [more inside]