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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    Archive for the ‘Anonymity’ Category

    Reuters: Flaws could expose users of privacy-protecting software, researchers say

    Friday, July 25th, 2014

    Reuters reports that researchers have found a flaw in privacy-protective system Invisible Internet Project:

    Researchers have found a flaw that could expose the identities of people using a privacy-oriented operating system touted by Edward Snowden, just two days after widely used anonymity service Tor acknowledged a similar problem.

    The most recent finding concerns a complex, heavily encrypted networking program called the Invisible Internet Project, or I2P. Used to send messages and run websites anonymously, I2P ships along with the specialized operating system “Tails,” which former U.S. spy contractor Snowden used to communicate with journalists in secret.

    Though a core purpose of I2P is to obscure the Internet Protocol addresses of its roughly 30,000 users, anyone who visits a booby-trapped website could have their true address revealed, making it likely that their name could be exposed as well, according to researchers at Exodus Intelligence. [...] Read more »

    McClatchy: Microsoft Puts Data Privacy on Its Branding Agenda

    Thursday, July 24th, 2014

    McClatchy News Service reports that computing company Microsoft wants the public to know it’s working on data security and privacy:

    As some of its competitors have been battered over their policies for protecting student data, Microsoft Corp. has sought to make sure that the issue—and what it regards as its strong record on privacy—remain firmly in the public eye.

    But as the company moves aggressively to position itself as a protector of student-data privacy, some say it also runs the risk of a backlash if it doesn’t back up its talk with the kind of vigilance the technology giant promises to deliver.

    During the past year, Microsoft has supported academic research on privacy and guides for school officials on the subject. Its executives have also kept a steady presence at public forums urging school districts and policymakers, as well as parents and families, to pay attention to the issue. [...] Read more »

    Hartzog and Solove: The Scope and Potential of FTC Data Protection

    Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

    Law professors Woodrow Hartzog and Daniel Solove have released a research paper, “The Scope and Potential of FTC Data Protection,” discussing the Federal Trade Commission and its regulatory powers concerning privacy and data security. Here’s the abstract:

    For more than fifteen years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has regulated privacy and data security through its authority to police deceptive and unfair trade practices as well as through powers conferred by specific statutes and international agreements. Recently, the FTC’s powers for data protection have been challenged by Wyndham Worldwide Corporation and LabMD. These recent cases raise a fundamental issue, and one that has surprisingly not been well explored: How broad are the FTC’s privacy and data security regulatory powers? How broad should they be? Read more »

    ProPublica and Mashable: Meet the Online Tracking Device That is Virtually Impossible to Block

    Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

    ProPublica and Mashable report on “canvas fingerprinting,” which is a new kind of online tracking tool. The report discusses a paper documenting canvas fingerprinting, “The Web never forgets: Persistent tracking mechanisms in the wild,” from researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium. The researchers are: Gunes Acar, Christian Eubank, Steven Englehardt, Marc Juarez1, Arvind Narayanan and Claudia Diaz. ProPublica and Mashable report:

    [T]his type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user’s device a number that uniquely identifies it.

    Like other tracking tools, canvas fingerprints are used to build profiles of users based on the websites they visit — profiles that shape which ads, news articles, or other types of content are displayed to them.

    But fingerprints are unusually hard to block: They can’t be prevented by using standard Web browser privacy settings or using anti-tracking tools such as AdBlock Plus. Read more »

    MIT Researchers: openPDS: Protecting the Privacy of Metadata through SafeAnswers

    Monday, July 21st, 2014

    In the latest issue of PLOS One, MIT researchers Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye,
    Erez Shmueli, Samuel S. Wang, Alex Sandy Pentland announced a system that they say would give individuals more control over their privacy, allowing them to decide what data to share with Web sites and mobile apps. Here’s the abstract from the article, “openPDS: Protecting the Privacy of Metadata through SafeAnswers“:

    The rise of smartphones and web services made possible the large-scale collection of personal metadata. Information about individuals’ location, phone call logs, or web-searches, is collected and used intensively by organizations and big data researchers. Metadata has however yet to realize its full potential. Privacy and legal concerns, as well as the lack of technical solutions for personal metadata management is preventing metadata from being shared and reconciled under the control of the individual. This lack of access and control is furthermore fueling growing concerns, as it prevents individuals from understanding and managing the risks associated with the collection and use of their data. Read more »

    IT News (Australia): Academics get personal over big data

    Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

    We’ve discussed the pitfalls of various anonymization or “de-identification” techniques and how the information can be “deanonymized” or re-identified, leading to privacy problems for individuals. In 2009, University of Colorado law professor Paul Ohm discussed “the surprising failure of anonymization,” and said, “Data can either be useful or perfectly anonymous but never both.” He said anonymization’s failure “should trigger a sea change in the law, because nearly every information privacy law or regulation grants a get-out-of-jail-free card to those who anonymize their data.”

    Now, IT News reports on a research paper, “No silver bullet: De-identification still doesn’t work” (pdf), by Princeton’s Arvind Narayanan and Edward W. Felten concerning the continued privacy problems with de-identification of personal information. (Felten was chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission and has been a consultant for various federal agencies.) The new paper is a response to one recently published by ITIF researcher Daniel Castro and Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian, “Big Data and Innovation, Setting the Record Straight: De-identification Does Work” (pdf).

    IT News reports:

    Scholars at Princeton University have delivered a stinging rebuke to the ‘big data’ movement, insisting that today’s data de-identification tools are not sufficient to ensure privacy. [...] Read more »