Tag Archives | Data

How Smartphone Carriers Are Making Money By Tracking Your Behavior

smartphone carriers

A log of vast numbers of individuals’ movements and actions is a burgeoning goldmine for major wireless carriers, the MIT Technology Review writes:

Wireless operators have access to an unprecedented volume of information about users’ real-world activities, but for years these massive data troves were put to little use other than for internal planning and marketing.

This data is under lock and key no more. Under pressure to seek new revenue streams, a growing number of mobile carriers are now carefully mining, packaging, and repurposing their subscriber data to create powerful statistics about how people are moving about in the real world.

In late 2011, Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. carrier, changed its privacy policy so that it could share anonymous and aggregated subscriber data with outside parties. Verizon is working to sell demographics about the people who, for example, attend an event, how they got there or the kinds of apps they use once they arrive.

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A Guide To Protecting Your Privacy Online With Browser Extensions

browser extensionsLifehacker has a rundown of recommendations for simple browser add-ons (such as Disconnect, Do Not Track Me, and the adorably-mascotted Ghostery) for keeping your online browsing and communications safe from tracking:

Anti-tracking and anti-cookie extensions have exploded recently. Disconnect (Firefox/Chrome/IE/Safari) is our pick because it continues to add useful features and improve its database, and its secure Wi-Fi and bandwidth optimization features aren’t available in other tools. It blocks third party tracking cookies and gives you control over all site scripts and elements from a simple-to-use toolbar menu. It also protects you from tracking by social networks like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, which use your browsing even off-site to collect data about you.

HTTPS Everywhere (Firefox/Chrome) is a must-have regardless of what other security tools you opt to use. Once installed, the extension will shunt your connection to SSL whenever possible, and will try to find secure versions of the sites you visit.

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California “Right to Know” Act Would Reveal What Companies Have Your Personal Data

It’s time that Americans had data rights. The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains an initiative being introduced by Los Angeles-area Democratic representative Bonnie Lowenthal with support from the EFF and ACLU:

Let’s face it: most of us have no idea how companies are gathering and sharing our personal data. A new proposal in California, supported by a diverse coalition (including EFF, the ACLU of Northern California, civil liberties groups, domestic violence advocates, consumer protection groups, sexual health, and women’s rights groups) is fighting to bring transparency and access to the seedy underbelly of digital data exchanges.

The Right to Know Act (AB 1291) would require a company to give users access to the personal data the company has stored on them—as well as a list of all the other companies with whom that original company has shared the users’ personal data—when a user requests it.

Lots of people around the world already enjoy these rights.

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Gates Foundation And Rupert Murdoch Unveil New Database To Track K-12 Students’ Personal Information

Kids’ grades, behavior, medical issues, and more—with their names and social security numbers attached—will be tracked by their public schools, entered in a database, and sold to private companies, in the name of improving educational services, Reuters reports:

The most influential new product [at the SXSWedu conference this week in Austin] may be a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.

In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.

Local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.

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Ordering A Pizza In The Panopticon

How much of the ACLU's prescient 2004 short film Ordering Pizza, which envisions ordering a pizza online in a future dystopian electronic surveillance state, has is already starting to come true? Getting takeout has never been so traumatic:
We are facing a flood of powerful new technologies that expand the potential for centralized monitoring, an executive branch aggressively seeking new powers to spy on citizens, a docile Congress and courts, as well as a cadre of mega-corporations that are willing to become extensions of the surveillance state. We confront the possibility of a dark future where our every move, our every transaction, our every communication is recorded, compiled, and stored away, ready for access by the authorities whenever they want.
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Netflix Pushes For Privacy Law Change To Make Your Viewing History Available To Advertisers And Government

Coming soon–an algorithm to root out criminals and agitators in advance based on Netflix viewing history. Truthout writes:

You might want to think twice about streaming that “subversive” documentary about the Weather Underground on Netflix. If Republicans have their way, you just might end up on a watch list somewhere. This week, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the 1988 Video Protection Privacy Act, which forbids movie rental companies from sharing or selling their customers’ viewing history. The Senate is expected to take up the amendment soon.

If this passes, what you watch on Netflix may soon become public information that your friends, employers, and even the government will have access to. Netflix favors the law change because it will help them branch into social media…[with] enormous profit-potential in selling your viewing history to advertisers who can target specific demographics based on your preference in movies. Also unmentioned by Netflix is just who else might get this information once it’s taken out of the privacy lockbox.

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Americans Are The Most Spied On People In World History

 Washington’s Blog on life in an era of firsts:

The US surveillance regime has more data on the average American than the Stasi ever did on East Germans. The American government is collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email, text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information, employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American. Some also claim that the government is also using facial recognition software and surveillance cameras to track where everyone is going.

Moreover, cell towers track where your phone is at any moment, and the major cell carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, responded to at least 1.3 million law enforcement requests for cell phone locations and other data in 2011. And – given that your smartphone routinely sends your location information back to Apple or Google – it would be child’s play for the government to track your location that way.

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Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have Nothing to Hide

Via the Chronicle of Higher Education, law professor Daniel J. Solove reveals all:

The nothing-to-hide argument is everywhere. In Britain, for example, the government has installed millions of public-surveillance cameras in cities and towns, which are watched by officials via closed-circuit television. In a campaign slogan for the program, the government declares: “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.”

But the problem with the nothing-to-hide argument is the underlying assumption that privacy is about hiding bad things. By accepting this assumption, we concede far too much ground and invite an unproductive discussion about information that people would very likely want to hide. As the computer-security specialist Schneier aptly notes, the nothing-to-hide argument stems from a faulty “premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong.” Surveillance, for example, can inhibit such lawful activities as free speech, free association, and other First Amendment rights essential for democracy.

One such harm, for example, which I call aggregation, emerges from the fusion of small bits of seemingly innocuous data.

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Aaron Jacob Willman’s ‘Cloudbusting’

A fractured look at the purported paranormal practice of 'cloudbusting' from video artist :
"combination of real-time data moshing, conventional data moshing, data bending, and editing."
Cloudbusting from Aaron Jacob Willman on Vimeo. If you're interested in datamoshing (intentionally using digital glitches and compression artifacts as art), there are several video tutorials online.
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Confidential Police Documents Mistakenly Used For NYC Thanksgiving Parade Confetti

Somehow quite fittingly, highly-legible details on the War on Terror and police officers’ social security numbers served as the confetti poured onto revelers attending the nation’s largest parade, Gawker reports:

The magical specks of color that float down the city streets are normally just a mishmash of multicolored confetti, but this year, shredded confidential documents from the Nassau Police Department were also in the air.

The worst part is that the documents were shredded horizontally, so they were still highly readable. Some strips that stuck to parade attendees contained Social Security Numbers of officers and others detailed crimes like a pipe bombing in the Kings Grant area of Long Island.

Hypothetically, these pieces of paper could have very easily been collected and been put back together again using some simple “unshredding software.” It’s a very scary Thanksgiving weekend for some Nassau County cops who might get their identities stolen in the first few days of this holiday season.

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