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Category Archives: Privacy

HBR – Uninformed Consent

Harvard Business Review – Companies want access to more and more of your personal data — from where you are to what’s in your DNA. Can they unlock its value without triggering a privacy backlash?

Leslie K. John – Marvin Bower associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School: “…Technology has advanced far beyond the browser cookies and retargeting that allow ads to follow us around the internet. Smartphones now track our physical location and proximity to other people — and, as researchers recently discovered, can even do so when we turn off location services. We can disable the tracking on our web browsers, but our digital fingerprints can still be connected across devices, enabling our identities to be sleuthed out. Home assistants like Alexa listen to our conversations and, when activated, record what we’re saying. A growing range of everyday things — from Barbie dolls to medical devices — connect to the internet and transmit information about our movements, our behavior, our preferences, and even our health. A dominant web business model today is to amass as much data on individuals as possible and then use it or sell it — to target or persuade, reward or penalize. The internet has become a surveillance economy. What’s more, the rise of data science has made the information collected much more powerful, allowing companies to build remarkably detailed profiles of individuals. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can make eerily accurate predictions about people using seemingly random data. Companies can use data analysis to deduce someone’s political affiliation or sexuality or even who has had a one-night stand. As new technologies such as facial recognition software and home DNA testing are added to the tool kit, the surveillance done by businesses may soon surpass that of the 20th century’s most invasive security states.

The obvious question is, How could consumers let this happen? As a behavioral scientist, I study how people sometimes act against their own interests. One issue is that “informed consent” — the principle companies use as permission to operate in this economy — is something of a charade. Most consumers are either unaware of the personal information they share online or, quite understandably, unable to determine the cost of sharing it — if not both…”

5 Facebook Alternatives That Don’t Steal Your Data

MakeUseof (MUD): “Facebook was once the poster child of the social media revolution. Today, it’s a shining example of how not to run a social network. Facebook’s ongoing security and privacy issues mean young people are leaving in their droves. According to Pew Research, 44 percent of users aged 18 to 29 said they deleted… Continue Reading

Google Says It Continues to Allow Apps to Scan Data From Gmail Accounts

WSJ [paywall] via MarketScreener [no paywall]: “Google Inc. told lawmakers it continues to allow other companies to scan and share data from Gmail accounts, responding to questions raised on Capitol Hill about privacy and potential misuse of the information contained in users’ emails.” “In a letter to senators, a top Google official said the company… Continue Reading

Imagining lost books in the age of Cambridge Analytica

Oxford University Press Blog: “Last spring, I—along with a substantial portion of my friends and acquaintances—followed some instructions I’d read online and successfully downloaded a copy of my Facebook data. Amongst other things, I was reminded of the fact that I had joined the social network on 21 February 2007 at 06:02 UTC and that… Continue Reading

John Hancock will include fitness tracking in all life insurance policies

Insurance Journal: “John Hancock, one of the oldest and largest North American life insurers, will stop underwriting traditional life insurance and instead sell only interactive policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones, the company said on Wednesday. The move by the 156-year-old insurer, owned by Canada’s Manulife Financial Corp., marks… Continue Reading

Google China Prototype Links Searches to Phone Numbers

The Intercept: “Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users’ searches to their personal phone numbers,thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s queries, The Intercept can reveal. The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China’s… Continue Reading

Artificial Intelligence and Policing: Hints in the Carpenter Decision

Joh, Elizabeth E., Artificial Intelligence and Policing: Hints in the Carpenter Decision (August 24, 2018). __ Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law __, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3238212 “In the 2018 Carpenter case, Chief Justice Roberts focuses on the quality of the information sought by the police as a means of deciding the case in… Continue Reading

What Consumers Should Know About Commercial DNA Testing

WSJ (paywall) – For starters, find out what happens to the sample you submit – “Less costly genetic testing has let millions of people unlock the information in their DNA. Yet there’s a lot about these tests they don’t know—but should…” Continue Reading

Report – Almost half of US cellphone calls will be scams by next year

Cision Newswire: “First Orion, a leading provider of phone call and data transparency solutions, today announced their inaugural 2018 Scam Call Trends and Projections Report, detailing the need for new, adaptive technologies to combat the exponential increase in scam calls. First Orion powers call protection solutions to tens of millions of mobile subscribers in the… Continue Reading

Google Knows Where You’ve Been, but Does It Know Who You Are?

Google Knows Where You’ve Been, but Does It Know Who You Are? (New York Times Magazine) “The overwhelming volume of this information demonstrates just how deep, and inescapable, our relationships with the company have become. And it can be sneakily transformative. To see months of your own search history repeated back to you in list… Continue Reading

50-state survey of social media privacy legislation

“Social media and related issues in the workplace can be a headache for employers. Seyfarth Shaw LLP’s Social Media Practice Group is pleased to provide you with an easy-to-use guide to social media privacy legislation and what employers need to know. The Social Media Privacy Legislation Desktop Reference 2017-2018: [h/t Joe] Describes the content and… Continue Reading

Your Social Security Number isn’t suspended. Ever.

FTC.gov: “A caller says that he’s from the government and your Social Security Number (SSN) has been suspended. He sounds very professional. So you should do exactly what he says to fix things…right? Wrong. The FTC has gotten reports about scammers trying to trick people out of their personal information by telling them that they… Continue Reading