privacy

More New Year’s resolutions for 2013 and sacrifices for Lent involve cutting down on Facebook.

More than a quarter of US Facebook users said they planned to spend less time on the social network in the coming year, according to new survey results released Tuesday. And almost two-thirds said they have taken a “Facebook Vacation” in the past, logging off the social network for several weeks at a time to get a break from their friends’ gossip and dinner reports.

Being “too busy” was the number one reason for taking the hiatus, while concerns about privacy and advertising ranked low in the explanations offered to surveyors from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Read more

US privacy advocates are urging US government officials not to “stand in the way” of European efforts to strengthen privacy laws in Europe.

On Monday, 18 American consumer and privacy NGOs sent a letter addressed to the US attorney general, secretary of state, and other top Obama administration officials, asking them to pull back on an intense lobbying campaign led by the US technology industry, and instead collaborate on the development of privacy laws in Europe and the US that give consumers more control over the collection and use of personal data over the internet. Read more

Facebook’s push for more frictionless sharing is now reaching into the depths of photo albums past and future.

The social network is promoting Photo Sync, a new feature for its mobile app that allows people to automatically upload every picture taken with their mobile phones to a private Facebook album. They then choose which photos to share on Facebook, but the automatic upload makes that process much faster and easier.

Turning Facebook into a catch-all photo repository also gives the company a new glut of information about its users from the geo-location data attached to the photos. The company can now tell where you are, when, and with whom, even if you don’t make the images public. Read more

In the 2002 film Minority Report, John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, walks through a shopping mall of the future, where a storefront camera equipped with facial recognition technology recognises him and delivers a real-time, hyper-personalised ad: “John Anderton! You could use a Guinness right now.”

That future is now, with digital billboards able to determine a passer-by’s age, gender, and racial background, and even in some instances, an individual’s exact identity.

US regulators are anticipating the spread of these technical capabilities, attempting to protect consumer privacy before it gets breached. The Federal Trade Commission issued a set of recommendations on Monday for the evolution of facial recognition technology, beseeching companies that use it, like Facebook and Kraft, to design such features with a privacy-first approach. Read more

The Federal Trade Commission finalised its settlement agreement with Facebook over charges that the social network deceived consumers by repeatedly making public information users believed would be kept private.

The settlement was first reached last November, and requires Facebook to take several steps to ensure it “lives up to its promises” on privacy, including: obtaining express permission from users before sharing information beyond their privacy settings; maintaining a comprehensive privacy programme; and undergoing independent privacy audits once every two years. Read more

Interesting commentary from around the Web on the tech story that made headlines this week.

How Twitter handled the suspension of a user who criticised NBC’s coverage of the Olympics drew plenty of attention from online commentators this week. For many, it offered a fresh reminder that when it comes to online services, just because users don’t pay a fee doesn’t mean it’s completely free. Read more

Richard Waters

How does the company that says it wants to be “deserving of great love” justify tapping into home WiFi networks and grabbing snippets of personal information by the truckload?

Simple: listening in to unsecured WiFi networks, according to Google’s lawyers, is perfectly legal. And regrettable as that may sound, US regulators have accepted the defence – though they still feel Google “deliberately impeded” their investigation and “willfully and repeatedly violated” orders to produce information. Read more

Google’s latest privacy breach? Late in the week, a researcher at Stanford University discovered that Google and several other advertising companies were bypassing privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser.

Although Google admitted it “now started removing these advertising cookies,” the news brought a fresh example of the risks of online browsing to Internet privacy. Read more

Last month the European Commission proposed adding a new “right to be forgotten” to privacy law. This deceptively simple idea is a ticking time-bomb in the booming internet economy. It is also essential – both for Europeans and Americans – to protect personal privacy in the age of pervasive social media and cloud computing, writes Richard Falkenrath, cybersecurity adviser and adjunct senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations.

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A list of hacked private data belonging to 537 customers, posted anonymously on the internet on Friday led Dutch telecoms company KPN to shut down email access for two million clients for two days while it reinforced security, writes Matt Steinglass in Amsterdam.
But it soon turned out that the hacked data didn’t come from KPN at all; it came from an online baby-products store called Baby-Dump (baby-dump.nl).

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