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 and 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 watching you 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 beautiful website, which is worth the trip even if you’re not at all 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 that may be changing. As the tech companies amass greater and greater power and wealth, a backlash among governments has appeared. After giving carte-blanche in their early days, regulators are becoming concerned about the huge numbers of users, unending flow of data, and massive influence these companies have come to 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 technology. But that does not seem to be the case yet. Some would say we’ve already become more dependent on modern tech than is healthy. Will people ever give up their phones and social media as we now know them in order to regain something of their privacy and perhaps autonomy? Or will society eventually find itself followed, categorized, directed, governed and judged by the companies that once seemed so cool?

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

The Religion of Tech

This is an article that takes us briefly outside the matrix of modern technology. As cool, useful and exciting as today’s tech can 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 the consumers who pay 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 not of concern at all. For others, this is the dawn of the ‘Big Brother’ society, which gives unprecedented power to elites in government and commerce. If the latter is the case, how then 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 of our screens for a moment to consider how far technology has come so quickly, and where it might be headed. As we become more dependent on our devices and connections, and as 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? Few read the legalese they’re required to agree to before they can use the software, service, or even the hardware they’ve purchased. That gives the companies that create these terms a tremendous advantage when creating them. And if the companies are monopolies, or near-monopolies with which the tech landscape has become populated, they have even more power since there’s often no or few competitors for consumers to turn to.

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 going on under the hood of these agreements. Even so, I don’t expect to take off time from life to begin reading future ToS statements any time soon.

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 — along with 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, street-side kiosks in this eye-opening article: http://bit.ly/29wt40n

Opting Out of Verizon Tracking

Many people don’t mind their online activity being monitored by other websites who use the data to present ads in context, using users’ habits to deliver ads 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 is doing this, 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, information without constraint, 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 while using a computer or device the mother ship (ships) is (are) watching. 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 that are connected to the Internet will soon begin to be embedded in the things around us, potentially everything around us, to gather data and send it to wherever the terms of service that we’ll have to agree to before turning on that washing machine or desk lamp, say it can be sent. 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’re already seeing 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 though, 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 it’s important to remember that information is flowing both ways.

There’s a lot more worth learning about with regard to the Internet of Things. The link below provides a good overview of this important 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. It appears that government officials are becoming interested in addressing some of the disparities that have arisen 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 might affect 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 is mega-business — the telecoms, ISPs, entertainment and publishing industries and electronics manufacturers, to name a few — that all have a huge interest in the growth and direction of Internet access.

“The blueprint reflects the government’s view that broadband Internet is becoming the common medium of 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. On the one hand 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 people being left 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 going to be completely “wired,” and therefore dependent upon the free flow of information over a government-sponsored Internet, a host of concerns comes with it, including reliability, security and privacy. Sure, it will be great to get our favorite TV shows and movies instantly, but can people afford the devices (and the steady stream of new devices) required to “keep up?” Will everyone possess the technical skills required to maintain their devices and connections, which will be increasingly necessary as more of our vital information exists online? What happens when critical systems go down? And perhaps most important, how does a government-wired world affect our 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