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    When Targeted Advertising Can Add to an Emotional Burden

    March 25th, 2019

    Increasingly, targeted behavioral advertising is in the news. Sometimes, the ads created and displayed to individuals are innocuous. But the targeted advertising also can add to a person’s emotional burden at difficult times, as detailed in a recent case below. 

    Targeted behavioral advertising is where a user’s online activity is tracked so that ads can be served based on the user’s behavior. What began as online data gathering has expanded — now there’s online and offline data collection and the tracking of consumers’ habits. Companies can also buy information on individuals from data brokers.

    Some people are uncomfortable with the tracking and targeting by companies and attempt to opt out; by declining to be tracked via e-mail address or by having your Web browser send an opt-out signal to a company as you conduct your online activity. Opt-out puts the burden on consumers to learn about what the privacy policies are, whether they protect consumer data, whom the data is shared with and for what purpose, and how to opt out of this data collection, use and sharing. Consumer advocates support opt-in policies, where companies have an incentive to create strong privacy protections and use limitations so consumers will choose to share their data. 

    People also have installed ad-blocker technology to avoid seeing ads. But there has been a battle. For example, Apple’s Safari browser and Mozilla’s Firefox browser have included anti-tracking technology for years. However, some companies choose not to respect Do Not Track signals sent by Web browsers.

    Read more »

    What’s the Weather? Using an App to Answer Could Mean Giving Up Privacy.

    February 1st, 2019

    Recently, there has been increasing scrutiny of weather apps and the data that they collect. There have been public outcries after investigations and research have revealed mobile apps are tracking the locations of their users even when they say no to sharing the location data. 

    In Los Angeles, City Attorney Mike Feuer filed suit in early January against TWC Product and Technology, the maker of the Weather Channel mobile app. He accused the app of “covertly mining the private data of users and selling the information to third parties, including advertisers.” 

    The complaint alleges that TWC used the geolocation tracking technology present in the app to monitor where users live, work, and visit, twenty-four hours a day, as well as how much time users spend at each location. The complaint further alleges that TWC led its users to believe that their location data would only be used to provide them with “personalized local weather data, alerts and forecasts.” Instead, TWC allegedly sends this information to affiliates of its parent company, IBM, and other third parties for advertising and other commercial purposes entirely unrelated to the weather.

    The lawsuit alleged that TWC buried the location-tracking information in its privacy policy. It seeks an injunction “prohibiting TWC from continuing to engage in allegedly unfair and fraudulent business activities, including deceptively collecting and selling personal data, as well as Civil Penalties up to $2,500 for each violation.”

    IBM’s initial response was to tell the New York Timesthat TWC “has always been transparent with use of location data; the disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously.”

    Read more »

    Happy International Privacy Day 2019

    January 16th, 2019

    International Data Privacy Day is Monday, January 28. There are a variety of events occurring to celebrate. Visit the official site to find events near your area, such as a symposium on data privacy at Rice University. Take the time to think about how privacy is important in your life and how you can protect your rights. Please also donate to any number of organizations out there trying to protect your privacy rights.

    Happy holidays

    December 19th, 2018

    I’m taking a break from posting till January. Until then, I will sporadically link to stories of interest on Twitter so follow me there @privacylives.

    Consider donating to advocacy organizations on Giving Tuesday

    November 27th, 2018

    Today is Giving Tuesday. Here are a few consumer, privacy, and civil liberty groups that could use donations to continue to fight for your rights: ACLU national (or give to your local chapter), Center for Digital Democracy, Consumers Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Privacy International, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the World Privacy Forum.

    As COPPA Turns 20, What’s Next for Children’s Privacy?

    October 29th, 2018

    The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act became law in October 1998, and the Federal Trade Commission promulgated its rule concerning the law in the next couple of years. It has been 20 years of ups and downs for privacy protection for children’s data. There continue to be numerous privacy challenges for parents seeking to safeguard their children’s personal information.

    As soon as they are born and are issued identification numbers, children face the risk of identity theft. Such thefts can be undetected for years, until a young adult has reason to use her Social Security Number for a loan or credit card. We have schools tracking children (and college students) with camera surveillance systems or RFID-enabled school uniforms or ID cards. Some schools started using biometric ID systems for students to pay for their lunches. There are concerns about tracking apps such as ClassDojo, which can be used by teachers and parents to monitor students’ progress.

    The FTC marked the 20th anniversary by noting it has made changes to its Rule over the years: “by amending the Rule to address innovations that affect children’s privacy – social networking, online access via smartphone, and the availability of geolocation information, to name just a few. After hosting a national workshop and considering public comments, we announced changes to the Rule in 2013 that expanded the types of COPPA-covered information to include photos, video, or audio files that contain a child’s image or voice.” Read more »