Tag Archives: privacy Blog

Tech Gift Privacy Guide

Concerned about privacy and the connected gifts you may be giving this year? Mozilla, the organization behind Firefox, has published a rundown of several categories of e-gifts that includes a report on how they handle your data, audio/video recording, and several other privacy issues.

THE HOLIDAYS, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Unless you buy a gift that spies on your kid or gets your friend hacked. Wish lists this year will have more connected devices than ever. How do you know if that gift comes with privacy included? We did the research to help you decide. Because Santa should be the only one tracking your behavior this holiday season 🙂

Learn which gifts you may want to avoid and which you’re more comfortable giving. It’s all laid out in a functionally and aesthetically pleasing website. Worth the trip, even if you’re not concerned about who can spy on you and what they’re recording.

Check it out at https://mzl.la/2zSHnrU

Tech Backlash In the Wind?

People seem to have an unending, unquestioning love affair with technology. But this article indicates that this may be changing. As the tech companies amass significant wealth and power, a backlash among governments has appeared. After giving carte-blanche in their early days, regulators are becoming concerned about the vast numbers of users, unending data flow, and massive influence these companies now possess.

Tech companies have accrued a tremendous amount of power and influence. Amazon determines how people shop, Google how they acquire knowledge, Facebook how they communicate. All of them are making decisions about who gets a digital megaphone and who should be unplugged from the web. … Their amount of concentrated authority resembles the divine right of kings and is sparking a backlash that is still gathering force.

One would think that tech users would be the most concerned, having already been effectively transformed from consumers of technology to “the product” sold by tech companies. But that doesn’t seem to be the case yet. Some would say we’ve already become more dependent on modern tech than is healthy. And that’s without AI, which is still in its early stages. Will people ever give up their phones and social media as we know them to regain something of their privacy and perhaps autonomy? Or will society eventually find itself observed, categorized, judged, and directed by the companies that once seemed so cool?

Read full article: http://nyti.ms/2xFF5XK

The Religion of Tech

This article takes us briefly outside the matrix of modern technology. As cool, helpful, and exciting as today’s tech may be, the ideology behind it is, in this author’s view, founded on a body of beliefs that users readily accept but that serve creators and purveyors far more than consumers who end up paying for products they don’t truly own, and give away personal information over which they no longer have control.

The greatest of the United States’ homegrown religions – greater than Jehovah’s Witnesses, greater than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, greater even than Scientology – is the religion of technology … By spreading a utopian view of technology, a view that defines progress as essentially technological, they’ve encouraged people to switch off their critical faculties and give Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and financiers free rein in remaking culture to fit their commercial interests.

For many, especially younger consumers, notions of privacy and surveillance are no concern. For others, this is the dawn of the ‘Big Brother’ society, which gives unprecedented power to those who control technology, commerce, and information. If the latter is the case, how can a society founded on principles of individual freedom and liberty be led down such a path so easily?

John Kenneth Galbraith coined the term ‘innocent fraud.’ He used it to describe a lie or a half-truth that, because it suits the needs or views of those in power, is presented as fact. After much repetition the fiction becomes common wisdom. ‘It is innocent because most who employ it are without conscious guilt,’ Galbraith wrote in 1999. ‘It is fraud because it is quietly in the service of special interest.’ The idea of the computer network as an engine of liberation is an innocent fraud.

It might be a good time to take our eyes off our screens to consider how far technology has come and how quickly power is shifting. As we become more dependent on our devices and connections and the entities that provide and manage them become more consolidated and enriched, is unquestioning faith still justified?

Read full article: http://bit.ly/2cdWNN4

A Look At Instagram’s Terms of Service

Does anyone read the Terms of Service when installing software or creating an internet account? The lengthy legalese we must agree to before being “permitted” to use the software, service, or even the hardware we’ve purchased is unreadable by mere mortals. This puts consumers in a legal choke-hold, constrained by the companies that sell the tech we need since without a digital device of some sort, we’re more and more limited as to what we can do in today’s tech-focused world. And considering that these companies are virtual monopolies, consumers have even less power since alternatives are few or non-existent.

A user agreement is not a mere formality. It’s a binding legal contract, of the type lawyers call a “contract of adhesion.” Contracts of adhesion offer no room for negotiation — the user’s only options are to take it or leave it.

The following examination of Instagram’s ToS provides a glimpse at what’s under the hood of these agreements. So what should we expect for the future? Service agreements for purchases like gum, toothpaste, or shoes? “User agrees that we can use their name, address, and dental records in perpetuity for marketing purposes.”

Read full article: http://bit.ly/2hjqD1e

What’s Up With LinkNYC and Privacy?

The LinkNYC project, powered by Google, is bringing internet access throughout the five boroughs — and a host of privacy concerns as the city sells its citizens’ locations, movements, and various other data to third parties.

Targeted advertising of the sort that underwrites LinkNYC isn’t about getting consumers information about goods and services they want, says Rushkoff, the media theorist. Rather, data collection is about producing profiles of consumers likely to engage in a particular form of consumer behavior and then bombarding them with ads or search results or tailored Facebook feeds to tip them over into that behavior. “They are working hard to get you to behave true to your statistical profile,” Rushkoff says, “and in doing so, they reduce your spontaneity, your anomalous behavior, your human agency, as they try to get you to conform to the most marketable probable outcome.

Find out what’s going on behind the scenes with these cool, but “stealthy,” street-side kiosks in this eye-opening article: http://bit.ly/29wt40n

Opting Out of Verizon Tracking

Many people don’t mind websites monitoring their online activity to present ads in context that are relevant to their interests. Some people, however, don’t care to be tracked, especially when it’s the device makers who are doing the tracking. Recently it’s been discovered that Verizon has adopted this practice, and enough people have spoken out against it that Verizon has announced a means to opt-out (opted-in is the device default).

Last year, Verizon and AT&T made headlines when researchers discovered they had been engaging in some unsavory customer tracking techniques, using unique identifier numbers or “perma-cookies” to track the websites that customers visited on their cellular devices to deliver targeted advertisements, a practice called “Relevant Advertising.”

The following article details how to opt-out for Verizon users that choose to do so. But it looks like having our every move online tracked is the new normal.

Read full article: http://bit.ly/2mqL7tS

The Internet of Things Is Coming

It’s great to be online. Connected, in touch, unlimited information, computers in our pockets. It’s the information age, after all.

Companies are happy that you’re online, too. So much so that efforts are ramping up to put almost every device, motor, gadget, and thing in our lives online. The purpose, of course, is to gather data. It’s not enough that the mother ship (ships) is (are) watching while we use a computer or device. Soon, every time we open a refrigerator, start a car, turn on some music, or presumably sit on the couch, a data stream will be generated.

It’s being called the Internet of Things (IoT). Tiny chips connected to the Internet will soon be embedded in almost everything around us to gather data and send it to whoever the terms of service (that we must agree to before turning on that washing machine or desk lamp) say it can be sent to. If you’re a company, you probably like the idea. You’ll learn much about your customers and the use of your product. If you’re a consumer and you’re concerned at all about privacy, you may begin to feel that this is big data running amuck.

The Internet of Things is made up of IP-enabled, totally embedded applications within devices that connect to the network. This includes sensors, machines, active positioning tags, radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers, and building automation equipment, to name but a few. Here there is the potential for trillions of nodes. Imagine every device in your home and workplace, every crucial component in an industrial machine, connected to the Internet. This layer of the Internet is only just emerging and will completely eclipse the Internet as we know it today in terms of scale.

We already see the IoT in items like household thermostats, electric meters, cable TV boxes, and especially wearables like the new watch computers from Samsung, Apple, and others. Maybe some of the data generated will help us save energy, combat diseases, better feed the world, and otherwise improve our lives. The tech companies love the idea, in no small part, because of the money to be made producing all these chips and devices. I’m not sure if it will work, however, at least if home networks remain under our control. But some of the largest tech companies are vigorously lobbying for free nationwide WiFi, which would certainly help make the data collection ubiquitous. It’s the information age, after all. But remember that the information is flowing both ways.

There’s a lot more worth learning about regarding the Internet of Things. The link below provides a good overview of this timely subject.

Read full article: http://linkd.in/X6YDlJ

US Gov’t Presents a Grand Scheme for the Internet

“The Federal Communications Commission is proposing an ambitious 10-year plan that will reimagine the nation’s media and technology priorities by establishing high-speed Internet as the country’s dominant communication network.”

So states the lead-in of a March 12, NY Times article that describes the government’s plans to advance the Internet and digital communication in our country. Government officials are interested in addressing disparities regarding how citizens access, use, and experience the Internet.

For several years, the US has trailed numerous countries in the quality and availability of Internet service. The question of how this affects our country, both competitively and economically, is becoming a concern, especially as more of life, including access to medical records, coordinating emergency services, education, and everyday business activity, becomes increasingly reliant on the ‘Net. And then there are the mega-interests — the telecoms, ISPs, entertainment and publishing industries, and electronics manufacturers, to name a few, that have important roles to play in the growth and direction of the Internet.

The blueprint reflects the government’s view that broadband Internet is becoming the common medium in the United States, gradually displacing the telephone and broadcast television industries.

Perhaps even more important is the so-called Digital Divide. “About a third of Americans have no access to high-speed Internet service, cannot afford it, or choose not to have it,” states the article. We have people who can’t afford access and/or devices, along with people who lack the skills or education to participate. On the other are people who choose not to participate. Will life in the US, especially economic life, require a connection? Will savvy users be favored? The possibility of leaving people out is a genuine concern.

Among several provisions, the plan calls for “a subsidy for Internet providers to wire rural parts of the country, an auction of some broadcast spectrum to free up space for wireless devices, and a new universal set-top box that connects to the Internet and cable service.”

This all sounds good, but if our society is to ultimately be “wired” and still depend on the free flow of information, many concerns come with it, including reliability, security, and privacy. We’d certainly enjoy having access to our favorite TV shows and movies whenever we want. But with so much vital information existing online, how safe is that information, how reliable are the systems that deliver it, and how does a government-wired world affect individuals’ freedom? Maybe China’s current Internet policies give us some clues? Hopefully, not.

Read full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/business/media/13fcc.html?hp