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    Recent Stories Concerning Location Tracking, Webcams, Children’s Privacy and Identification

    Here are stories published during my break concerning identification, children’s privacy, location tracking, webcams and cloud computing.

    Associated Press: Ohio Woman Settles Suit Over Laptop Sex Images

    An Ohio woman on Tuesday settled a lawsuit that alleged her privacy was violated when a company grabbed sexually explicit images of her and her boyfriend from a computer she didn’t know was stolen.

    Absolute Software Inc. of Bellevue, Wash., improperly lifted the webcam images along with instant messages and gave them to police as part of the company’s attempt to retrieve the laptop, Susan Clements-Jeffrey, a teacher in Springfield, said in her 2009 lawsuit that was scheduled for trial Sept. 12.

    A federal judge ruled late last month that because Clements-Jeffrey did not realize the laptop she bought for $60 was stolen, she could argue that she had an expectation of privacy.

    Clements-Jeffrey had also sued Springfield police, alleging they illegally disclosed the images and arrested her without a proper warrant. […]

    U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice refused to dismiss the lawsuit last month and sided with Clements-Jeffrey’s arguments about why the case should continue.

    Although the company “may have had a noble purpose, to assist the school district in recovering its stolen laptop, a reasonable jury could find that they crossed an impermissible boundary when they intercepted (the) plaintiffs’ instant messages and webcam communications,” the judge wrote.

    New York Times: Scanning 2.4 Billion Eyes, India Tries to Connect Poor to Growth

    Across this sprawling, chaotic nation, workers are creating what will be the world’s largest biometric database, a mind-bogglingly complex collection of 1.2 billion identities. But even more radical than its size is the scale of its ambition: to reduce the inequality corroding India’s economic rise by digitally linking every one of India’s people to the country’s growth juggernaut. […]

    For its proponents, the 12-digit ID is an ingenious solution to a particularly bedeviling problem. Most of India’s poorest citizens are trapped in a system of village-based identity proof that has had the perverse effect of making migration, which is essential to any growing economy, much harder.

    The ID project also has the potential to reduce the kind of corruption that has led millions of Indians to take to the streets in mass demonstrations in recent weeks, spurred on by the hunger strike of an anticorruption activist named Anna Hazare. By allowing electronic transmission and verification of many government services, the identity system would make it much harder for corrupt bureaucrats to steal citizens’ benefits. India’s prime minister has frequently cited the new system in response to Mr. Hazare’s demands.

    The new number-based system, known as Aadhaar, or foundation, would be used to verify the identity of any Indian anywhere in the country within eight seconds, using inexpensive hand-held devices linked to the mobile phone network. […]

    Unsurprisingly, some people see the idea of a centralized identity database as a dystopian nightmare. Privacy advocates contend that the government will use it to track citizens, a serious concern in a country where the government carries out extensive wiretapping and surveillance to track potential terrorists.

    India lacks robust laws to protect privacy, though [Nandan M. Nilekani, the billionaire software mogul whom the government has tapped to create India’s identity database,] and others have urged the passage of strict legislation to govern the use of information the government collects. The database has been designed to contain as little information as possible — only a name, date of birth, sex and address. When anyone tries to confirm a person’s identity using the number, the database will supply only a yes-or-no answer.

    Wall Street Journal: Apple Shuns Tracking Tool

    Apple Inc. is advising software developers to stop using a feature in software for its iPhones and iPads that has been linked to privacy concerns, a move that would also take away a widely used tool for tracking users and their behavior.

    Developers who write programs for Apple’s iOS operating system have been using a unique identifier specific to each device to gather personal data about users, in some cases creating detailed dossiers on how they use multiple apps. But Apple advised developers not to use that ID number, known as UDID or Unique Device Identifier, with a new version of the operating system that is expected to become available in coming weeks. […]

    But the change potentially has widespread repercussions for apps, advertising networks, social game networks, analytics firms and others because it removes a way for them to easily offer their services. […]

    Apps or networks of apps that require users to sign up for an account would still be able to track their users to a limited extent, but “you want to do a lot of things that don’t require users to sign up,” said Sam Altman, chief executive of location-based social network company Loopt Inc.

    Federal Trade Commission: Mobile Apps Developer Settles FTC Charges It Violated Children’s Privacy Rule

    A developer of mobile applications, including children’s games for the iPhone and iPod touch, will pay $50,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the FTC’s COPPA Rule by illegally collecting and disclosing personal information from tens of thousands of children under age 13 without their parents’ prior consent. This is the Commission’s first case involving mobile applications, known as apps. […]

    The FTC’s complaint charged that W3 Innovations, LLC, doing business as Broken Thumbs Apps, and company president and owner Justin Maples, develop and distribute mobile apps for the iPhone and iPod touch that allow users to play games and share information online. According to the FTC, several of the apps, including the Emily’s Girl World, Emily’s Dress Up, Emily’s Dress Up & Shop, and Emily’s Runway High Fashion, were directed to children and were listed in the Games-Kids section of Apple, Inc.’s App Store. […]

    The FTC alleges that the defendants collected and maintained thousands of email addresses from users of the Emily apps.

    In addition to collecting and maintaining children’s email addresses, the FTC alleges that the defendants also allowed children to publicly post information, including personal information, on message boards. These interactive apps send and receive information via the Internet, and are online services covered by the COPPA Rule, according to the FTC complaint.

    The FTC’s COPPA Rule requires that website operators notify parents and obtain their consent before they collect, use, or disclose children’s personal information. The Rule also requires that website operators post a privacy policy that is clear, understandable, and complete. […]

    In addition to imposing the $50,000 penalty, the settlement will bar the defendants from future violations of the COPPA Rule and require them to delete all personal information collected in violation of the Rule.

    Webmonkey: Flickr’s New ‘Geofence’ Settings Protect Your Geoprivacy

    The popular photo sharing website Flickr has introduced a new way to geotag your photos without revealing your location to the entire web. Flickr’s new “Geofence” settings give users more granular control over their geotagged photos.

    Perhaps the best part of the new Geofence features are how dead simple they are to use — simply draw a circle on a map, choose a geoprivacy setting for that area, and you’re done. Your new fence will apply to any future photo uploads and Flickr will offer to update the privacy settings on any existing images that fall within your new fence. […]

    “A few years ago, privacy controls like this would have been overkill. Geo data was new and underused, and the answer to privacy concerns was often, ‘you upload it, you deal with it,’” writes Flickr developer Trevor Hartsell on the code.flickr blog. “But today, physical places are important to how we use the web. Sometimes you want everyone to know exactly where you took a photo. And sometimes you don’t.”

    Previously, Flickr limited its geotagging options to a simple yes or no — either you shared location data with everyone or no one. Now you can share location data with only those people you trust. […]

    In those cases where there might be overlap between two geofences Flickr will default to the more restrictive of the two. For example, if you draw a circle around your house and limit it to the most restrictive group, “Family,” and then draw a circle around your whole neighborhood and limit that to “Friends,” any areas where the two overlap will still be limited to only the Family group.

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