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Privacy Gap...

Google look to add offline retail data into advert targeting software

Link Here24th December 2012

Just when you thought Google couldn't target you with more specific advertising - based on your web surfing - it's going one step further. The company now intends to use data provided by retailers about consumers' offline purchases in order to refining ad targeting.

In a low-key announcement, Google has begun the new advertising project, Conversions API , that will merge offline consumer information with online intelligence.

Google explained in a post on its DoubleClick site:

We understand that online advertising also fuels offline conversions.

To capture these lost conversions and bring offline into your online world, we're announcing the open beta of our Conversions API for uploading offline conversion automatically.

As one example of how this new connection between online browsing and real world shopping will work, Jim Edwards imagines one scenario for Business Insider:

If you bought a T-shirt at the Gap in the mall with your credit card, you could start seeing a lot more Gap ads online later, suggesting jeans that go with that shirt.

With the new service in-store transactions, call-tracking and other online activities can be inputted into Google and combined with other information that will eventually optimize ad campaigns based on even more of your business data .



So what else will snoopers be looking for whilst they are at it?...

Credit reference agencies given the job of snooping into people's spending patterns

Link Here 14th December 2012

UK Credit reference agencies will implement data mining surveillance on people's spending patterns and then cross check with income declared on tax returns.

The agencies will identify high and medium risks of both illegal and legal tax avoidance and report those people to HM Revenue and Customs. Suspects will then be subject to more detailed tax scrutiny.

About two million people are expected to be investigated under the programme.

HMRC is already reporting successful results of a pilot programme involving about 20,000 people which will now be extended nationally. Treasury sources said that hundreds of millions are expected to be raised from the greater use of third-party data, such as that supplied by credit reference agencies.

Many of those who are expected to be identified are likely to be self-employed workers who are suspected of having under-declared their income to the authorities.



Offsite Article: Advertisers Busted in Browser Snooping Scandal...

Link Here 6th December 2012
The US Fedarl Trade Commission has announced a settlement with Epic Marketplace, an online advertising company that had abused a security flaw in popular web browsers in order to covertly sniff other websites visited by consumers.

See article from



Update: Searching for Privacy...

Big Brother Watch on EU investigation into Google privacy

Link Here2nd November 2012

European privacy regulators have reported on their investigation into Google's privacy policy, which was launched on March 1st. Their investigation found:

incomplete information and uncontrolled combination of data across services.

The privacy policy is a mix of particularly wide statements and of examples that mitigate these statements and mislead users on the exact extent of Google's actual practices.

Google's answers have not demonstrated that your company endorses the key data protection principles of purpose limitation, data quality, data minimization, proportionality and right to object. Indeed, the Privacy policy suggests the absence of any limit concerning the scope of the collection and the potential uses of the personal data. We challenge you to commit publicly to these principles.

The investigation showed that Google provides insufficient information to its users (including passive users), especially on the purposes and the categories of data being processed. As a result, a Google user is unable to determine which categories of data are processed in the service he uses, and for which purpose these data are processed.

The company's new privacy policy, which came into force on March 1 2012, was criticised by many at the time, including Big Brother Watch. We highlighted how most consumers had not read the policy, and warned that even if they did the opaque language made it difficult to understand exactly what data was being captured and what would happen to it.

The test now will be whether data protection regulators have the ability to hold the company to account, or if as before their powers are limited to a paltry fine that will barely trouble one of the world's largest corporations.



Offsite Article: Big Brother App...

Link Here17th October 2012
Apple Has Quietly Started Tracking iPhone Users Again, And It's Tricky To Opt Out

See article from



Offsite Article: Do Not Track...

Link Here5th October 2012
Microsoft's move for Internet Explorer to turn off website tracking by default winds up a large contingent of American companies

See article from



Update: The Bottom Line...

The PCC confirm that it will not be investigating Harry's bottom but the Danish public are taking a closer look at Kate's

Link Here29th September 2012

Kate Middleton's naked bum has hit the internet. Just a week after topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge were published. The Danish version of Se Og Hor Magazine has chosen to publish some new pictures, showing Kate without a top or bottom. On September 28, Showbiz Spy was just one outlet that chose to post the photos (without censorship) and now there aren't too many people in the world who haven't seen Kate's lady bits.

Meanwhile Prince Harry will not pursue a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) over the publication of photographs of him naked in Las Vegas, St James's Palace has said.

The Sun printed the photos, taken in a hotel room, despite warnings from the Royal Family's lawyers that it would be an invasion of his privacy.

The palace have now said:

It would not be prudent to pursue the matter further. Having considered the matter now for a number of weeks, we have decided not to pursue a complaint.

We remain of the opinion that a hotel room is a private space where its occupants would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Because the prince was focused entirely on his deployment in Afghanistan, pursuing a complaint relating to his private life would not be appropriate at this time and would prove to be a distraction.

Previously the PCC had said that it would not be appropriate to open an investigation into this matter in the absence of a formal complaint to the commission from Prince Harry .



Searching for Rumours...

Former German first lady asks Google to block search suggestions linking her to prostitution

Link Here10th September 2012

Germany's former first lady Bettina Wulff has taken legal action against Google to stop the words prostitute and escort from appearing as internet search suggestions next to her name.

Wulff has filed writs for defamation to stop rumours that she once worked in the red light world of prostitution.

She has been dogged by the claims, circulated by political rivals, since her husband, Christian Wulff, a leading Christian Democrat politician, was nominated to become Germany's president in 2010. Fuelling the controversy, he was then forced to resign last February as German president amid a corruption scandal dating from his time as regional leader of Lower Saxony.

The lawsuit against Google aims to stop terms such as red-light past, prostitute or escort appearing as search recommendations when her name is entered in the search window. She also filed legal papers against Gunter Jauch, a well-known German TV personality, who has refused to sign a cease-and-desist declaration after being requested to do so by her lawyer in May.

According to Suddeutsche Zeitung the legal onslaught has led to 34 bloggers and media organisations had signing commitments to stop repeating the allegations. The German newspaper also reported that several press groups had paid compensation to the tune of tens of thousands of euros in defamation damages.



Update: Cease and Desist...

German consumer protection group tells Facebook to stop handing over data

Link Here28th August 2012
Full story: Facebook Privacy...Facebook criticised for discouraging privacy

A German consumer protection group has sent Facebook a cease and desist letter that claims the website breaches German privacy law.

Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (Federation of German Consumer Organizations) says Facebook has one week to stop automatically giving third party applications information about its users without their explicit consent.

The group said in a statement Monday that if Facebook fails to comply by Sept. 4 it will sue the California company.

Germany has stricter laws than most countries on data protection. These give consumers significant rights to limit the way companies use their information.



Offsite Article: Facebook Beware...

Link Here20th July 2012
California's state attorney general will establish an office dedicated to digital privacy and prosecutions

See article from



Offsite Article: Why You Should be Very Scared of Snoopers' Charter...

Link Here 30th June 2012
Is the government admitting that it has a backdoor into https encryption?

See article from



Loyalty to Whom?...

British government asks supermarkets to do their dirty work for them and snoop on people's lifestyle

Link Here26th June 2012

Supermarkets may be asked to use loyalty card data to snoop on their customers and then offer government advice to their customers on improving their diets and lifestyle.

A Whitehall unit set up to find discreet ways to change behaviour has begun talks with supermarkets over using their vast databases to help improve the nation's heath. The head of the Behavioural Insights Team said that supermarkets had more information about their customers than doctors did and that this information should be harnessed.

Shoppers buying large amounts of fatty foods, alcohol and unhealthy products could be quickly identified and offered advice on changing their diet. Parents buying what appears to be an unbalanced diet for their children may also be targeted.

It is understood that supermarkets will be encouraged to offer advice to their customers but Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has ruled out Government the getting any stick for the reprehensible snooping. Ministers are thought to be wary of big brother accusations and have no wish to be seen to be studying people's shopping bills.

It was not clear whether supermarkets would want to to the government's dirty work for them. Supermarkets are also wary about being seen to be prying into their customers' lives.



Update: Searching Questions...

ICO re-opens investigation of Google Street View personal data grab

Link Here18th June 2012
Full story: Mapping Routers...Google correlates routers with street address

Google has been accused of misleading Britain's privacy watchdog over the scandal of personal data stolen from millions of home computers.

The Information Commissioner last night dramatically reopened its inquiry into how the internet giant's Street View cars harvested vast swathes of personal information from unsecured wi-fi networks.

During its first investigation, Google told investigators that the downloading of data was a simple mistake . It escaped with no punishment. Taking more than pictures: A Google street-mapping car in Bristol

But an investigation by US regulators revealed a company software engineer explicitly designed the programme to collect the data and warned his bosses repeatedly about privacy implications.

The data collected includes user names, passwords, telephone numbers, records of internet chats, medical information and even data from dating sites.

In a letter, the Information Commissioner's Office said yesterday that it seems likely such information was deliberately captured during the Google Street View operations conducted in the UK.

It demanded a prompt reply to seven detailed questions about what went on. The scandal has raised uncomfortable questions for the Government over its close links with the search engine firm.

Tory MP Robert Halfon welcomed the fresh investigation but said the ICO had been asleep on the watch . They should have investigated this a year ago, he added. They clearly need to find out what Google knew and when they knew it.

Update: Searching for Answers

7th August 2012. Based on article from

This afternoon the ICO has confirmed that Google has not deleted all the data it collected without people's consent during its Street View project. Google committed to delete the data in December 2010.

However, this gives an opportunity to explore just how sensitive the information was.

Given that Google failed to respect people's privacy in the first place and subsequently failed to adhere to its agreement with the Information Commissioner, serious questions need to be asked to understand why Google seemingly sees itself as above the law.

The Information Commissioner is hampered by a woeful lack of powers and is forced to trust organisations to tell the truth. Given Google's behaviour has called into question if that really is a proper way to protect our personal data, it must be right to now demand a proper regulator with the powers and punishments to fully protect British people's privacy.



Creditworthy?... Ask a Facebook Friend...

German credit agency planned to mine Facebook for information to be used for credit checking

Link Here14th June 2012

Germany is up in arms after it was revealed that the country's largest credit agency was planning to mine data from social media websites to judge creditworthiness.

Schufa had launched a project called SCHUFALab@HPI that would have entailed studying Facebook relationships and associations on websites like LinkedIn and Twitter in order to help measure a person's financial status, according to confidential internal documents obtained by German TV broadcaster NDR.

But when news of SCHUFALab@HPI broke, Schufa was hit with a wave of opposition from across German society. Business newspaper the Handelsblatt called it an extreme abuse. Government consumer minister Ilse Aigner issued a sharp condemnation, saying, Schufa cannot become the Big Brother of the business world. The Social Democratic Party said it was a horror scenario, and the Greens accused it of being unconstitutional.

Despite initially defending the plan in a radio broadcast, Schufa now appears to be making a U-turn. German daily the Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten has reported that the Hasso Plattner Institute and Schufa have stopped their Facebook project.



Searching for Police Hackers...

Google will inform Gmail users of state sponsored hacking attempts

Link Here12th June 2012

Google has announced that it will warn its Gmail users when it believes they are under attack from state forces.

The move is significant as Google's web services are used by millions of journalists and human rights campaigners across the world.

Google's vice-president of security engineering, Eric Grosse, said in a blogpost:

We are constantly on the lookout for malicious activity on our systems, in particular attempts by third parties to log into users' accounts unauthorised.

When we have specific intelligence -- either directly from users or from our own monitoring efforts -- we show clear warning signs and put in place extra roadblocks to thwart these bad actors.

Today, we're taking that a step further for a subset of our users, who we believe may be the target of state-sponsored attacks.

We believe it is our duty to be proactive in notifying users about attacks or potential attacks so that they can take action to protect their information. And we will continue to update these notifications based on the latest information.



Advertisers Unimpressed...

Microsoft Internet Explorer 10 will default to 'do not track'

Link Here9th June 2012

Microsoft's decision to enable the Do not track feature by default in Internet Explorer 10 should please privacy advocates, but it has been condemned by the online advertising industry.

Brendon Lynch, chief privacy officer at Microsoft, wrote a lengthy blog post explaining the company's position. He said consumers should have more control of what happens to their data and should decide if they want more personalized advertising. He said:

We hope that many consumers will make a conscious choice to share information in order to receive more personalized ad content.

The Digital Advertising Alliance, the industry body representing almost all online advertisers, told the Wall Street Journal that the industry representatives and government had agreed that the advertising world would regulate itself and honor Do not track , so long as browser manufacturers didn't make it a default setting.

Advertisers rightfully fear that most users will leave the settings at their default selections, and very few users will turn on the option for targeted advertising


16th May

 Offsite Article: Put a Removable Sticker Over the Barcode...

Link Here
US retailers are taking the opportunity to swipe ID when supposedly just taking a look to verify age

See article from


15th May   

Password Protection Bill...

US considers a law to ban employers from demanding employee's social networking passwords
Link Here

US Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Martin Heinrich, and a number of cosponsors filed the Password Protection Act of 2012 in the Senate and House to prevent employers from strong-arming employers and job applicants into sharing information from their personal social networking accounts.

The PPA is sweeping in scope. It doesn't just apply to just Facebook or social networks, but rather to any situation when an employer coerces an employee into providing access to information held on any computer that isn't owned or controlled by the employer. For example, even if the employee is looking at a social network on his or her work computer, the employer still couldn't force that employee to disclose a password, because that would allow the employer to access another computer (that of the social network). This protection would extend to Gmail accounts, photo sharing sites and an employee's own iPhone or other smart phone.

However there is a glaring omission in that it does not afford the same protections to students. This ACLU case in Minnesota highlights how far school administrators will go to force students to divulge social network passwords. Student athletes are so frequently coerced into allowing access to their personal pages that there are at least three different companies marketing this service.

Another bill filed last week by Representative Eliot Engel, the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) does a better job in this regard, covering both employers and students.


21st April   

They've Got Your Number...

Google using users to decode hard to make out house numbers on Street View
Link Here
Full story: Mapping Routers...Google correlates routers with street address

Internet users are being asked to decypher hard to make out house numbers snapped by Google's Street View cameras, as part of new anti-bot checks.

The pictures of house numbers, which are taken from doors and fences on its Street View mapping service, appear on Google's websites when internet users are asked security questions in order to access their accounts. In order to gain access to the page, web users are asked to identify a blurry house number by typing it into a box. The same image is presented to other Google users around the world at the same time. If enough people submit the same number, Google accepts they have accurately read the photo and are therefore not bots.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties at Big Brother Watch, condemned the use of pictures of real house numbers as security questions: There is a serious privacy issue with identifying the individual number of people's homes . Pickles also accused Google of using the pictures to further its own interests.

However it probably unlikely that this latest exercise has much impact on privacy. The large majority of house numbers are probably easily read by Google's computers and have probably been databased ages ago.

A Google spokesman explained that when someone types the number in correctly, Google will then sharpen up the online Street view image: We often extract data such as street names and traffic signs from Street View imagery to improve Google Maps with useful information like business addresses and locations.

Perhaps interesting to recall that Google Street cars were also controversially listening out to detect wireless routers. Using this latest information they could now correlate a street address against the routers discovered when they did the rounds.


10th April   

Facing up to Employee Privacy...

Maryland is the first US state to legislate to refuse employers from demanding access to the employee's Facebook profiles
Link Here

The state of Maryland just passed the first bill in the US that bans employers from asking for the social media passwords of job applicants and employees.

Melissa Goemann, Legislative Director of ACLU of Maryland, said:

We are proud of Maryland for standing up for the online privacy of employees and the friends and family members they stay in touch with online. Our state has trail-blazed a new frontier in protecting freedom of expression in the digital age, and has created a model for other states to follow.

The ACLU of Maryland helped Robert Collins to make headlines after his employer, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, asked for his Facebook password during a reinstatement interview after a leave of absence following a death in his family. Feeling that he had no choice --- your privacy or your livelihood? Really? --- Collins turned over his password, but, in his words, I felt violated, I felt disrespected, I felt that my privacy was invaded. But not only my privacy, the privacy of my friends and that of my family that didn't ask for that. And, on his way out of the interview, he called the ACLU of Maryland.

It turns out that we weren't the only ones who were horrified by DOC's demands. The Maryland State Legislature took up the case, and with support from ACLU of Maryland, passed the nation's first-ever bill barring employers from asking for the social media passwords of job applicants and employees!

But this issue is far from resolved. In states across the country, employers are demanding applicants' and employers' social networking passwords or requiring them to friend, say, an HR manager with no privacy settings, and school officials, teachers, and coaches are demanding the same of their students and student-athletes.


10th April

 Offsite Article: Beware What you Like!...

Link Here
Facebook accused of wanton use of Canadian woman's pics in their own advertising without specific permission

See article from

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