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    Archive for the ‘Civil liberties’ Category

    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 »

    Campus Technology: Carnegie Mellon Gives Privacy Grade to Android Apps

    Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

    Campus Technology reports that researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have launched PrivacyGrade, a Web site that reviews mobile apps and how they gather data and affect user privacy:

    Google Maps gets an A. The free version of Angry Birds gets a C. And My ABCs by BabyBus gets a D. The letters assigned to each of these Android apps are grades, and while A is great, D means failure — in privacy, that is.

    Those grades and a million others were assigned through a scanning application that combines automated techniques with crowdsourcing to capture the behavior of an app and measure the gap that exists between how people expect the app to behave and how it actually behaves. [...] Read more »

    Opinion at Slate: Big Data and the Underground Railroad

    Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

    In a column at Slate, Alvaro M. Bedoya, the founding executive director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, writes about “big data” and what widespread data collection on individuals can mean for civil liberties:

    Most of the questions, however, focus on how our data should be used. There’s been far less attention to a growing effort to change how our data is collected.

    For years, efforts to protect privacy have focused on giving people the ability to choose what data is collected about them. Now, industry—with the support of some leaders in government—wants to shift that focus. Businesses say that in our data-saturated world, giving consumers meaningful control over data collection is next to impossible. They argue that we should ramp down efforts to give individuals control over the initial collection of their data, and instead let industry collect as much personal information as possible. Read more »

    City of Seattle launches digital privacy initiative

    Monday, November 10th, 2014

    The City of Seattle has announced “a citywide privacy initiative, aimed at providing greater transparency into the City’s data collection and use practices.”

    “In the course of doing business with the public, the City is collecting and exchanging increasing amounts of data,” said [Mayor Ed Murray (D)]. “As we continue to make innovative technology investments, we need to implement practices that support public trust in the security and privacy of personal information.” [...] Read more »

    Associated Press: License plate data raises privacy concerns

    Thursday, November 6th, 2014

    The Associated Press reports on an issue that we’ve been hearing more about lately — privacy concerns with databases that track license-plate information.

    ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Privately owned license-plate imaging systems are popping up around Rochester and upstate New York – in parking lots, shopping malls and, soon, on at least a few parts of the New York state Thruway.

    Most surprisingly, the digital cameras are mounted on cars and trucks driven by a small army of repo men.

    Shadowing a practice of U.S. law enforcement that some find objectionable, records collected by the repo companies are added to an ever-growing database of license-plate records that is made available to government and commercial buyers. Read more »