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    Archive for the ‘Anonymity’ Category

    Uber Executives’ Comments, Actions Shine Spotlight on Privacy Risks for Consumers

    Monday, November 24th, 2014

    At a recent dinner, Uber Senior Vice President Emil Michael suggested that Uber could spend “a million dollars” to hire opposition researchers to dig up dirt on journalists who were critical of the company, a service for hailing taxis, private cars or ride-shares. According to BuzzFeed: ”That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into ‘your personal lives, your families,’ and give the media a taste of its own medicine.” He mentioned specifically focusing on the private details of the life of journalist Sarah Lacy. Lacy’s response is here. Michael has apologized for his comments, and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has said Michael’s comments “were terrible and do not represent the company.” 

    If Uber were to investigate journalists or other critics, it would not be the first company to do so. Two cases involved Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Hewlett-Packard. In 2009, Deutsche Bank fired two executives because of a scandal in which bank executives hired investigators who spied on board members and a shareholder. In early 2006, then-Hewlett-Packard Chair Patricia Dunn hired private investigators that used “pretexting” to acquire the personal phone records of board members and journalists in an effort to locate the source of leaks to the media. (“Pretexting” is a fancy word for “pretending to be someone else in order to get his or her personal information” — in this case, phone records.) There were various criminal and Congressional investigations. Dunn said she didn’t know that the investigators were pretexting, and the charges against her were eventually dismissed. The scandal prompted Congress to pass the Telephone and Records Privacy Act of 2006, which prohibits pretexting to gather phone record data (with exceptions for law enforcement).

    BuzzFeed also reported that another Uber executive, the general manager of Uber NYC, did something that also raises privacy questions. During an e-mail exchange with a journalist, the Uber executive “accessed the profile of a BuzzFeed News reporter, Johana Bhuiyan, to make points in the course of a discussion of Uber policies. At no point in the email exchanges did she give him permission to do so.” This raises the specter of an insider misusing or abusing his data-access privileges to invade the privacy of an individual. We’ve talked before about the problems that arise when insiders abuse or misuse their access to individuals’ data. There have been many such cases. Read more »

    Update: Senate Fails to Advance USA Freedom Act, a Bill to Reform NSA Surveillance

    Thursday, November 20th, 2014

    The Senate, by a vote of 58 to 42, failed to advance to debate on the USA Freedom Act, a bill to reform bulk data collection by the National Security Agency. The NSA has faced considerable criticism from the public and lawmakers since revelations by former contractor Edward Snowden concerning the agency’s broad surveillance programs. (He revealed several surveillance programs by the agency.) The USA Freedom Act, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and a host of Democratic and Republican co-sponsors. The legislation was backed by the Obama administration, which called for reforms in January. The Washington Post reports:

    Congress and the administration face a June 1 expiration of a key provision of the USA Patriot Act that enables the intelligence community to gather data for counterterrorism purposes. Section 215 allows the government to obtain specific records relevant to particular investigations. But, as Snowden disclosed, it also was the authority cited by the government to enable the NSA to collect data in bulk. Reform advocates want to end that bulk collection but in general maintain the government’s ability to issue targeted orders for data.

    The 58-to-42 vote exposed fissures in the GOP over the legislation, with national security-oriented members and a vocal privacy proponent, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), voting to block the bill — but for different reasons. Read more »

    Kojo Nnamdi Show: GPS Tracking And Law Enforcement

    Monday, November 17th, 2014

    The Kojo Nnamdi Show recently had a discussion with Chris Calabrese, Senior Policy Director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Mark Eckenwiler, Senior Counsel at Perkins Coie, about GPS tracking technology and its use by law enforcement officials. The discussion included privacy issues. Here’s the blurb:

    Last week, law enforcement officers used GPS tracking to locate a woman who had been abducted in Philadelphia. The vehicle of her alleged abductor had a GPS device installed by the dealer, which the police then used to find the suspect and the victim. We explore the legal issues around when and how police can use surveillance technology like GPS, and what a 2012 Supreme Court decision means for such cases.

    Update: AT&T stops using tracking ‘supercookies’ on cellphones — for now

    Monday, November 17th, 2014

    Recently, there were news reports that Verizon and AT&T were using tracking “supercookies” to keep tabs on their customers’ online activities. These supercookies were virtually impossible to get rid of. Now, ProPublica reports that AT&T has stopped using the supercookie tracking technology on mobile phones, but it may restart the use of the technology:

    AT&T says it has stopped its controversial practice of adding a hidden, undeletable tracking number to its mobile customers’ Internet activity. [...]

    The tracking numbers can be used by sites to build a dossier about a person’s behavior on mobile devices – including which apps they use, what sites they visit and for how long. Read more »

    Wall Street Journal: Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret U.S. Spy Program

    Friday, November 14th, 2014

    The Wall Street Journal reports on a surveillance program gathering the data of thousands of mobile phones:

    WASHINGTON—The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of mobile phones through devices deployed on airplanes that mimic cellphone towers, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations. [...]

    Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirtboxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.

    The technology in the two-foot-square device enables investigators to scoop data from tens of thousands of cellphones in a single flight, collecting their identifying information and general location, these people said. [...] Read more »

    SC Magazine: Automakers pen ‘privacy principles’ for in-car technology

    Friday, November 14th, 2014

    SC Magazine reports on a letter (pdf) that 19 automakers (part of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers) sent to the Federal Trade Commission concerning in-car technology and principle of privacy for protecting drivers and passengers. The companies signing on to the principles are Aston Martin, BMW, Chrysler, Ferrari, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. SC reports:

    Two automaker groups, with representation from major manufacturers, like Ford Motor Company, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota, have penned a benchmark privacy document for protecting data collected through in-car technologies.  [...]

    In a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, the groups’ CEOs Mitch Bainwol and John Bozzella said that the principles coincide with the associations’ existing commitments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In July, the groups agreed to establish an information sharing and analysis center (ISAC) for the auto industry, where information on “cyber-related threats and vulnerabilities in motor vehicle electronics or associated in-vehicle networks” could be communicated, the letter said. Read more »