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    Archive for the ‘Anonymity’ Category

    When Targeted Advertising Can Add to an Emotional Burden

    Monday, 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.

    Friday, 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 »

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

    Monday, 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 »

    The Speed of Tech Advances Can Be a Hindrance to, But Also Can Help, Privacy Rights

    Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

    There has been an ongoing discussion about how privacy rights can be eroded because laws do not anticipate changing technology. The most prominent example is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was passed in 1986 and remains mired in the technology of that time, which did not include cloud computing, location tracking via always-on mobile devices and other current technology that can reveal our most personal information. (The World Wide Web was invented three years later, in 1989.)

    While ECPA includes protection for email and voicemail communications, the 180-day rule is archaic as applied to how the technology is used today. (The rule is: If the email or voicemail message is unopened and has been in storage for 180 days or less, the government must obtain a search warrant. If the message is opened or has been stored unopened for more than 180 days, the government can access your message via a special court order or subpoena.) Thirty-two years ago, people had to download their email to their computers; the download would trigger an automatic deletion of the content from the provider’s servers. The government could not subpoena an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for your email because it did not have them in 1986. Now, copies of your private email remain stored in the cloud for years by third-party service providers (Google, Facebook, Dropbox, etc.)

    Privacy and civil liberty advocates have been trying for years to update ECPA. Last year, the U.S. House passed the Email Privacy Act, which would codify the rule set out in 2008’s Sixth Circuit case Warshak v. United States: The government must obtain a warrant before they could seek to compel an ISP or other service providers to hand over a person’s private messages. This year, the Email Privacy Act is part of the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass bill. But the Senate has its own version of the NDAA and it’s unknown whether the privacy legislation will be part of it. Read more »

    Fitness Apps Can Be Fun, But Who Else Is Seeing Your Personal Data?

    Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

    Recently, an Australian student publicized that Strava, a fitness app, had published online a Global Heat Map that “uses satellite information to map the locations and movements of subscribers to the company’s fitness service over a two-year period, by illuminating areas of activity,” according to the Washington Post. Strava “allows millions of users to time and map their workouts and to post them online for friends to see, and it can track their movements at other times,” the New York Times reports.

    The data, culled from Strava’s 27 million users (who own Fitbits and other wearable fitness devices), is not updated in real-time. Yet the map still raised privacy and security questions for Strava’s users.

    A similar case in 2011 concerning wearable device Fitbit also raised privacy questions about searchable fitness data. There was an uproar over Fitbit’s privacy settings when people who were logging their sexual activity as a form of exercise learned that the data was showing up in Google searches. And in 2014, Jawbone faced criticism after it published data about how many people wearing its fitness tracker woke up during an earthquake in Northern California. People questioned whether Jawbone’s privacy and data-sharing policies had disclosed such use of their health data.

    Fitness devices, including smartwatches, and mobile health or wellness apps are used by tens of millions of people worldwide. There are many such apps available in Apple’s and Google’s app stores. The data gathered can reveal much personal information about individuals. In the case of Strava, you could track patterns of activity over the two years’ worth of data. Read more »

    Happy International Privacy Day 2018

    Monday, January 22nd, 2018

    International Data Privacy Day is Sunday. There are a variety of events occurring this week to celebrate. Visit the official site to find events near your area. Take the time to think about how privacy is important in your life and how you can protect your rights from being infringed upon. Please also donate to any number of organizations out there trying to protect your privacy rights.