Tag Archives: privacy

Facebook sells its users’ data!

The fact that web portals manage the data of their users without their awareness is known not from today, but the way in which Facebook does, it’s just beyond comprehension.

The New York Times is showing the truth.

In connection with recent reports from The New York Times, we read that Facebook sold access to various types of “sensitive data” about its users to such companies as: Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Netflix, Spotify. Netflix and Spotify had even access to private correspondence. In most cases, the data obtained by the companies were to help in the selection and positioning of advertisements for users of the said portals. It does not change the fact that through the sale of these data Facebook broke an agreement from 2011 with the American Federal Trade Commission, which clearly states that Facebook can share user data only if it is given accurate and explicit consent.

Companies answer the allegations!

All companies mentioned in the report of The New York Times issued a special statement. One of them is the statement of the Netflix press office regarding access to private correspondence of Facebook users. We read in it about:

“Over the years, we’ve tested various solutions to help Netflix understand the wider community, one of which was a feature introduced in 2014 that allowed site users to recommend their favourite series and movies to their Facebook friends via Messenger or a Netflix account. It has not been that popular as we assumed, which is why we decided to remove it in 2015. At no time did we have access to private messages of Facebook users, or we asked for the possibility of receiving them. “ – Netflix press office says.

The New York Times was really well prepared for this investigation.

It doesn’t change the fact, that The New York Times interviewed more than 60 people, including former employees of Facebook and its partners, former government officials and privacy advocates. Thanks to that we can be sure that Facebook did something illegal and now tries to bury the truth.

“The Times also reviewed more than 270 pages of Facebook’s internal documents and performed technical tests and analysis to monitor what information was being passed between Facebook and partner devices and websites.” – as The New York Times said.

What is my view about this situation?

In my opinion, companies that have access to sensitive data of their users should make every effort to ensure that this data does not leak. In this way, eg. Apple, which extremely highly appreciates the safety of data users of their products and whenever they commit some “mistakes at work”, they plead the guilty and try to repair the whole situation (eg. icloud leaks affair).

Facebook approaches similar situations in a different way, which tries to whitewash the truth and pass the buck on others. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a perfect example of frauds and deceptions, thanks to which we learned how Facebook can influence election results in one of the most powerful countries in the world, such as the USA is. That sort of stuff is not conducive to peace but exacerbates the conflict on the Facebook and Users relations.

Counter-argument to this whole situation is the fact that the majority of Facebook users do not care about privacy policy. They accept all consents without prior reading. They do not follow the basic security rules on the Internet. They share their private lives via Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc. For this reason, it can be assumed that such users agree to full surveillance, which is not said to be bad. If we have nothing to hide, why should we be disturbed by the fact that someone can earn from it. I believe that if there is already such a situation, it would be great if the company / person who earns money on their users, would inform them about everything and admit theirs guilt when they fails.

Sources:

https://cnn.it/2LJ9ZYd
https://cnn.it/2EUlpGY

Photos:

https://bit.ly/2SuobXh
https://bit.ly/2EZFLiM
https://bit.ly/2CH3Zfx

author: Michał Żelazo

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Just before Christmas, New York Times surprised us with a ‘wonderful’ gift. A report that clearly shows that Facebook has been sharing our private conversations with major companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, Yahoo and many more.

Discovered report included information of over 200 pages of leaked documents, which contained the data about secret partnerships with third-party companies, that enabled them to allegedly read, compose or even delete the messages. Regarding them as ‘partners’, allowed them to not be controlled with usual privacy regulations. The number of companies that was discovered, when it comes to that level of clearance was estimated to be over 150.

“The deals, the oldest of which date to 2010, were all active in 2017,” The Times reported. “Some were still in effect this year.”

Major companies that were included in the document started addressing the issue after the controversy bursted out. Moreover, all of the companies are trying to separate themselves from the scandal.

Let’s start with something ‘less dramatic’. I will give you a simple example of how it worked. In the report, New York Times stated that Facebook gave Apple access user’s contacts and calendar, even if the sharing option was switched off. This way they could access the useful data that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Apple publicly denied these allegations and declared that they had never requested that kind access and never used it.

What also probably will warm your heart is the fact, that one the biggest company in the world, Amazon, is also connected with this controversy. They retrieved user’s name’s and contact information from Facebook database. Organisation confirmed getting it all, but didn’t reveal why and what for they used the data.

The more frightening case is with SpotifyNetflix and The Royal Bank of Canada. They have been granted a full access to user’s information and even private conversations. Furthermore, these companies were allegedly able to read, compose and even delete messages. All of the organisations stated that they were not aware of this kind of ‘unique’ access and they were not involved in this matter.

“Over the years we have tried various ways to make Netflix more social,” a Netflix spokesperson told Business Insider. “One example of this was a feature we launched in 2014 that enabled members to recommend TV shows and movies to their Facebook friends via Messenger or Netflix. It was never that popular so we shut the feature down in 2015. At no time did we access people’s private messages on Facebook, or ask for the ability to do so.” —Netflix (@netflix ; Twitter)

“Spotify’s integration with Facebook has always been about sharing and discovering music and podcasts,” Spotify told Business Insider in an emailed statement. “Spotify cannot read users’ private Facebook inbox messages across any of our current integrations. Previously, when users shared music from Spotify, they could add on text that was visible to Spotify. This has since been discontinued. We have no evidence that Spotify ever accessed users’ private Facebook messages.” – Spotify (@Spotify ; Twitter)

The Royal Bank of Canada “disputed that the bank had any such access,” The Times wrote.

The problem lies in the law, because according to the 2011 Federal Trade Commission consent decree, Facebook isn’t violating any laws. Why you may ask? Well they do not need your permission to share your information to other companies, because they are partners, so they are sort of ‘cooperating’. This is a major issue and we can see that in many areas of law with many other cases. Countries and their regulations just can’t keep up with the growth of technological world. The whole process of creating new rules is just too slow. That’s something we should focus on looking forward.

As a result of this controversy, Facebook tried to defend themselves.

“Facebook’s partners don’t get to ignore people’s privacy settings, and it’s wrong to suggest that they do,” Steve Satterfield, Facebook’s director of privacy and public policy, said in their statement for Business Insider. “Over the years, we’ve partnered with other companies so people can use Facebook on devices and platforms that we don’t support ourselves. Unlike a game, streaming music service, or other third-party app, which offer experiences that are independent of Facebook, these partners can only offer specific Facebook features and are unable to use information for independent purposes.”

Facebook has encountered a lot of controversies lately, especially when it comes to the sensitive data they have been gathering from years from their users. They had many leaks, breaches, even the CEO, Mark Zuckerberg had to testify to USA Congress earlier this year.  Taking all of that into consideration, do you still want to use Facebook? 

Reference list:

  1. Gray, S. (2018, December 19). Bombshell report shows Facebook let companies like Spotify and Netflix read private messages. https://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-let-major-tech-companies-feast-on-user-data-2018-12?IR=T
  2. Keach, S. (2018, December 19). Facebook secretly let Netflix and Spotify read your PRIVATE messages – as tech giants rocked by bombshell report. https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/8013861/facebook-netflix-spotify-private-messages-data-scandal/
  3. Muskit, S. (2015, July 14). What Does Happiness Mean To Mark Zuckerberg?. https://lifebeyondnumbers.com/happiness-mark-zuckerberg/
  4. Zuver, J. (2018, July 26). Drew And Mike – July 26, 2018. https://drewandmikepodcast.com/drew-and-mike-july-26-2018/

Facebook shares our private conversations with other companies?

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We are one step closer to the Orwellian reality

 

Probably everyone has heard about 1984 by George Orwell, a grim dystopian novel about brain washing and surveillance at every step. Well, I have bad news for all of us, we just got a step closer to this reality. Recently, China has been developing their own AI program, and they are reaping the benefits.

The Chinese company Xloong has probably changed the history of police forever by developing glasses, but not so normal glasses, oh no! Smart glasses that recognize faces from a police database. In 100 miliseconds they compare your face with 10.000 others! Already during the testing phase it is clearly visible that this small gadget surpasses intelligent CCTV with the same features. In a short period of time, 26 people were identified as users of fake IDs, thus preventing them from traveling by train (Well, Chinese travel laws are so weird that I could make another article about them, so let’s not get into them right now). Also several other people were identified by their misdeeds, ranging from traffic infringements to human trafficking, but we don’t know the exact number, nonetheless it is a great achievement!

At the same time, Chinese government is building a system that will recognize any Chinese citizen in just 3 seconds, and (probably) will be compatible with glasses designed by Xloong, providing ability to identify anyone at any given moment. Recent use of this advanced gadget to prevent protesters from entering a designated area strongly suggests that this is a milestone of early 21st century in terms of surveillance and infringing on people’s privacy.

Sources:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-police-facial-recognition-sunglasses-security-smart-tech-travellers-criminals-a8206491.html

https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/12/17110636/china-police-facial-recognition-sunglasses-surveillance

https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Chinese-startup-makes-facial-recognition-glasses-for-police

Getty Images

 

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RIP wallets. Are implanted microchips here to stay?

As some of you have surely noticed, old breathtaking fantastic fiction films steadily become our reality today. But, should we wave goodbye to wallets and welcome implanted microchips with open arms?


Has anybody of you encountered with inconvenience when the wallet somehow got lost in the bag or because of your goldfish memory stayed at home? Hey, we’re living in the world of cutting-edge technologies, why do we still have to lug around the rarely-used discount cards with us all the time as well as fiddle with irritating keys at the front door? It shouldn’t be our concern since technology has far surpassed the demand for any of these things.

Картинки по запросу Thousands of people in Sweden get microchip implants

Originally, the idea came to the mind of Swedes back in 2015, who seem more willing to try the technology than most other nations. It is so mainstream there that, since June 2017, people have even been able to buy train tickets with their microchips. You must admit it’s more practical to have a surgically inserted microchip than such services like Apple Pay or smart locks on your phone, which can be lost and hacked. So an increasing number of people, including approximately 3,000 Swedes, are opting for implanted microchips.

Tiny little chip implants, via X-ray.

The chip itself is the size of a grain of rice despite it could hold the key to many aspects of our life, considerably simplifying it. The microchip implanted in the hand between a thumb and a forefinger and basically functions as a digital keychain. The subcutaneous chip intended to help people do things like hold entry codes, unlock and start their car, gain access to certain vending machines or printers, log on to computers, sign into the gym, make credit card payments.

“In the past year, the chip has turned into a kind of electronic handbag and has even replaced my gym card”– says Ulrika Celsing, one of 3,000 Swedes, who have injected a microchip into her hand to try out a new way of life.

Over time, as the technology doesn’t stand still, the implant will be able to do even more. However, the question arose whether are these chip implants a step toward future where employers track their subjects’ every movement? Or are they simply an easy way to log in to accounts and open doors with a wave of a hand?

Nick Anderson, an associate professor in public health sciences at the University of California, Davis, says the privacy and security of any information stored on the chips is a conspicuous concern. The implants use Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, also used in credit cards, and are “passive”, which means they hold data that can be read by other devices but cannot read information themselves. Actually, NFC chips right below the skin give corporations a fair amount of control over you — they could track where you are, how long you take for lunch every day, or how often you go to the restroom if the chip were scanned by a reader. Moreover, abandoning this kind of data collection is too much complicated when you’ve got a chip implanted in your body tissues.

Maybe we are really stuck with small keypads and overstuffed wallets. But is carrying a key or remembering a password so difficult or potentially risky? Without additional safeguards and guarantees of privacy, the microchipping quirk may quickly become a digital security nightmare.

Links:

https://futurism.com/sweden-microchip-trend

https://www.businessinsider.com/swedish-people-embed-microchips-under-skin-to-replace-id-cards-2018-5?IR=T

 

 

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Alexa, a witness of a murder?

Echo speaker

Since the release of Amazon Alexa in 2014 there have been many controversies regarding the amount of data that the speaker is collecting at all times. The way it works is that the Echo device is designed to detect “wake words” and only then start working. However, there were a lot of cases when Alexa actually recorded more than the user would expect. Echo can sometimes misinterpret the “wake words” or other commands and start listening and recording even when a user does not intend to record.

Court cases

Even though this is something that should not happen at all, the New Hampshire authorities investigating the murders of two women still want to check. A judge ruled that they can examine recordings from the Echo device because they believe that there might be evidence related to the crime. Investigators believe that Echo could have recorded the attack and the events that followed it.

Last year, when the similar case occurred in Arkansas, the suspect who owned the speaker agreed to release recording from the day of the suspected crime. In the end, a murder charge was dropped.

Is our privacy at stake?

Though these recordings might be beneficial in such cases, we have to think about the amount of information we are giving away to large corporations. Should we question our actual privacy, or should we believe that our recordings are in good, safe hands? Using Alexa you can do almost anything, from ordering food to your home address, to checking your bank account. While at a time it is very convenient, we need to keep in mind that such devices are always listening and gathering all kinds of personal data from the user.

It all comes to personal preferences and the ability to adapt to the actual changes. In the modern world the word “privacy” almost lost its meaning. Every device that you own collects information. About you, your data usage, your shopping preferences and so on. There is almost nothing you can do about it, since this is the life that we have now. This data can be used in many different ways, from personalized ads to such things like winning presidential campaigns. In most of the cases it won’t affect you that much, however, it is worth imagining what could be done with the information that is being collected about you. Who knows, maybe one day you say something that you would like to buy around Echo speaker and a couple of days you will see ads about this on Amazon.

Sources:

  1. CBS/AP. (2018, November 12). Judge orders Amazon to produce Echo recordings in double murder case. Retrieved November 25, 2018, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-echo-judge-orders-company-produce-alexa-recordings-double-murder-case-2018-11-12/
  2. Dastin, J. (2018, May 25). Oregon family finds Amazon’s Alexa has a mind of her own. Retrieved November 25, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-alexa/oregon-family-finds-amazons-alexa-has-a-mind-of-her-own-idUSKCN1IQ05B
  3. Tomaschek, A. (2018, November 23). Double murder case raises the question: Is Alexa listening to our ambient conversations? Retrieved November 25, 2018, from https://www.bestvpn.com/privacy-news/is-alexa-listening-to-you/
  4. McLaughlin, E. C. (2017, April 26). Suspect OKs Amazon to hand over Echo recordings in murder case. Retrieved November 25, 2018, from https://edition.cnn.com/2017/03/07/tech/amazon-echo-alexa-bentonville-arkansas-murder-case/index.html
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No More Privacy. Thank you.

 

Healthcare, like so many other sectors of the economy, is being transformed by technology. 

TechCrunch

 

All eyes on the transformation of healthcare to one of the most personalized products we are able to purchase. No questions asked, eHealth, along other similar term creations are among the top buzzwords this year and in the near future. Finally, Startups and VC firms seem to realize the huge potentially big data, mobile and other technologies can have on our health. Consumers realize that, there are vast possibilities to track your own health and life a healthier lifestyle. While customers, producers and investors seem to feel the changes in technology based healthcare solutions knocking on our door, it is often an outdated and inflexible legal system that prevents the revolution in healthcare to finally gain momentum. In many cases, governments do not seem to be ready for this change to happen. Furthermore, often the basic data infrastructure required for these technologies are not developed enough.

Data privacy is a big issue in healthcare, as data about our health is probably one of the most private and sensitive pieces of data each and every one of us has to offer. Nevertheless, applications like SkinAnalytics, which helps in early Melanoma detection, points out how valuable large amount of data can be in order to early detect and prevent diseases from spreading. Clinical research would be one of the first to benefit from a lift in healthcare data protection and thus everyone could be benefiting from better-adjusted healthcare solutions.

From a business point of view, companies that are early able to position themselves on the market, despite the strict regulatory framework, will have a good competitive advantage toward the new entrants, that join the industry as a result of lifts in the law. Cracking the legal code is key to success here, as the technology is already available and well used in all kinds of different sectors.

An eCommerce example of an organization struggling with a tight regulatory framework and constant pressure from organizations that rather hold on to what exist now, instead of aiming for a better development, is 1001Pharmacies.com. The French startup set out to revolutionize the French Online-pharmacy landscape had his fair share of battling with the legal environment and parties that would rather keep everything as it is, instead of working towards better and more efficient solutions.

What is the point of all of this? A call to the liberation of data privacy and legal aspects of pharmaceutical and medical laws. The creation of an environment that triggers creative solutions in this sector. Solutions that we all would be benefiting of one day.

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Privacy in the Age of Big Data

In this post you will find an outline of the advantages and disadvantages of Big Data concerning the individual’s privacy. The article stresses the contrast between the merits and risks of Big Data in a short compilation, thus allowing the reader to get a clear picture of the current issues.

 Does the consumer need his privacy? Shall we, as consumers, adjust to the loss of at least some part of our privacy and settle for more comfort and better commercialized offers instead?

Privacy issues have always been raised in discussions over human rights and freedoms, but with the appearance of the Internet these concepts have slightly changed their meaning, and with the emergence of the Big Data they need to be revised once again by society.

First of all, the question arises what should be classified as personal information and where is the boundary line between privacy and publicity. Every day we buy coffee at Starbucks, paying with a credit card, post new photos to Instagram and fleeting thoughts to Twitter, leaving behind a huge amount of information imprints. Their processing with the help of advanced analytical tools allows us to make new discoveries and explore previously unknown nature of things, however, just as the Internet had once united people, thus threatening their privacy, we should ask ourselves, whether the Big Data will exacerbate this problem, or will become a springboard to a better future.

 

Before answering the question about the possible repudiation of the privacy for the sake of comfort, I would like to consider positive aspects of using the Big Data and our personal information in everyday life. In my opinion, they are as follows:

 

  1. Increase of stability. Analysis of large amounts of information allows companies to rely on more accurate forecasts when doing business, affecting all aspects of it, from finance and marketing to recruitment. Ultimately, handling more precise information leads to increased stability of national economies. Perhaps global financial crisis could have been avoided if financial institutions had checked their customers’ backgrounds more carefully when issuing loans. For example, analyzing social networks of customers in Facebook, banks would be able to make a conclusion about their surroundings, and analysis of their phone bills would allow making judegments regarding the efficiency of borrowers.
  2. Disease and crime prevention. Access to medical records of patients would allow detecting disease outbreaks in advance by analyzing patients’ symptoms. Thus, Google Flu Trends works successfully in this direction by analyzing users’ requests about flu symptoms. As for the crimes, banks, using data of their customers’ transactions more carefully, can identify those suspected of money laundering and other financial frauds.
  3. Moving from general to specific. Processing large amounts of personal information allows obtaining concrete results on a number of parameters, avoiding prejudice to the rights of people who accidentally get into statistical sample. For instance, getting more information about the lifestyle of a client, an insurance company will be able to offer him/her a better deal, although before this customer would have to pay a standard price.

 

Apart from the benefits that the Big Data and privacy refusal can give us, their use is associated with enormous risks and the caused damage might be irreparable. These risks, in my mind, might be as follows:

 

  1. Obsession with data. I believe that the widespread reliance on the Big Data and private information poses a latent threat, because with the increasing accuracy of the data processing tools their popularity will grow as well that eventually may lead to their use in inappropriate situations.
  2. The world is replete with examples of how monopolization of the entire economic sectors ends, one of such is the story of Standard Oil Company, which monopolized the whole refinery. Since the data in the information society is the same as the fuel in the industrial one, governments need to be vigilant and facilitate the creation of competitive environment in the field of data processing, avoiding the appearance of monopolies.
  3. National Security. Recent revelations of Edward Snowden about US government spying on its citizens caused a storm of criticism around the world. Undoubtedly, this issue deserves discussion, but the potential leakage of personal data of citizens can do much more damage to national security than the national governments shadowing their subjects.
  4. Maintaining privacy. Such methods of preserving confidentiality as consent to the processing of data, refusal of users to participate in the data collection or removal of already processed information gradually lose their effectiveness and jeopardize privacy of many users. Prolonged lack of adequate mechanisms of confidentiality control only exacerbates the problem by allowing uncontrolled use of received information, avoiding consequences.

 

Having considered the pros and cons of the partial refusal of privacy, I can conclude that each of us, sooner or later, should give up a part of the personal information for the common good and comfort. The Big Data offers great opportunities to humanity provided their rational use; otherwise they become a tool of repression and coercion, causing irreparable damage to people, and therefore, like any other tool, created by man, require careful handling and control.

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