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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

    Wall Street Journal: Why Some Privacy Apps Get Blocked From the Android Play Store

    Monday, September 1st, 2014

    The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is removing privacy-protecting apps from its mobile apps store:

    Google Tuesday removed a smartphone app called “Disconnect Mobile” from its Android Play store because it violated a policy prohibiting software that interferes with other apps.

    Interference was precisely the point of Disconnect Mobile, a privacy tool aimed at stopping other apps from collecting data on users. In the six days it was available in Google’s store, it was downloaded more than 5,000 times.

    Disconnect, a San Francisco startup that spent a year and $300,000 to develop the app, says it was careful to build its product according to Google’s rules, but that the policies are so vague that Google could, in essence, ban any app in its store. [...]

    Google has banned similar ad-blocking apps before because they, too, could interfere with other apps.

    InformationWeek: When Big Data & Infants’ Privacy Collide

    Friday, August 29th, 2014

    InformationWeek reports on issues concerning children’s medical and genetic privacy:

    For decades, hospitals have conducted blood tests on newborns, checking babies for various conditions, treatable and not. Today’s less costly tests, genomic research, and technological advances, coupled with differing policies across states, worry some privacy and ethics advocates.

    Whereas some states allow parents to opt-in for testing, others have an opt-out approach. Critics argue parents have little to no say in whether this data is collected, where and how long it’s stored, and what organizations do with this information. Lower genome testing costs sparked debate about researchers’ right to use this information; who should learn of infants’ chronic conditions and when; and the type of data government, researchers, payers, or healthcare providers can cull. Other concerns surround the storage and transmission of data that’s not de-identified and its potential theft. [...]

    In May, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law allowing the state to indefinitely store blood spots for future research. Parents can opt out. In New York, parents can decline testing for religious reasons, said the Wadsworth Center, NY Department of Health, which screens the state’s newborns for more than 40 inherited metabolic conditions.

    News Tribune: Documents: Tacoma police using surveillance device to sweep up cellphone data

    Thursday, August 28th, 2014

    The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington, reports on the Tacoma police’s use of “Stingray” technology, which simulates a cellphone tower so that nearby mobile devices will connect to it and reveal its location and other information:

    The Tacoma Police Department apparently has bought — and quietly used for six years — controversial surveillance equipment that can sweep up records of every cellphone call, text message and data transfer up to a half a mile away.

    You don’t have to be a criminal to be caught in this law enforcement snare. You just have to be near one and use a cellphone. [...]

    News that the city was using the surveillance equipment surprised City Council members, who approved an update for a device last year, and prosecutors, defense attorneys and even judges, who in court deal with evidence gathered using the surveillance equipment.

    “If they use it wisely and within limits, that’s one thing,” said Ronald Culpepper, the presiding judge of Pierce County Superior Court, when informed of the device Tuesday. “I would certainly personally have some concerns about just sweeping up information from non-involved and innocent parties — and to do it with a whole neighborhood? That’s concerning.” [...] Read more »

    Column at Yahoo Tech: What Are Schools Doing with Your Kids’ Data?

    Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

    At Yahoo Tech, columnist Dan Tynan discusses children’s privacy and how their data is used by schools:

    Every student in every school district generates hundreds of data points each year — from their race and gender to their economic status, behavioral issues, biometric data, health status, and more. This tsunami of data is then absorbed and stored by school districts, state databases, educational service providers, websites, and app makers.

    Of course, schools have been collecting data on students since there have been schools. In the past, though, this information was squirreled away in filing cabinets or just on computers used in district offices. Now it lives in the cloud, and it’s being accessed by non-educators who want to apply the principles of big data analysis to it.

    What could go wrong? Plenty. Potentially damaging information about your child’s medical conditions or behavioral issues could accidentally leak or be exposed by hackers. Private companies could decide to use the information for commercial purposes. Potential employers, insurance companies, or other government agencies may someday lobby to get their hands on this data. [...] Read more »

    Opinion at Forbes: Why A Philosopher Teaches Privacy

    Monday, August 25th, 2014

    At Forbes, Evan Selinger (an associate professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology) has an opinion column about why privacy is important to philosophy and why he makes it part of his curriculum:

    Not too long ago, a privacy course in the humanities would be of limited interest. Many students were predisposed to believe that privacy issues mostly concerned bad things that happened to indiscreet blabbermouths or anxiety experienced by folks with skeletons in the closet—you know, people with something to hide.

    But since privacy became a headline-grabbing issue, things have changed. Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA activity, fast-moving developments in surveillance and online information and communication technology, potent advances in data storage and analysis, and the emergence of powerful data brokers have all played a part in making privacy a matter of great daily concern for everyone. Read more »

    Washington Post: For sale: Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users go around the globe

    Sunday, August 24th, 2014

    The Washington Post reports on technology that allows the global surveillance and secret tracking of cellphone users:

    Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

    The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

    The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision. [...] Read more »