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IMs from 19 Year Old Mark Zuckerberg Reveal Cavalier Attitude Toward Privacy

July 4, 2013

The article on Business Insider titled Well, These New Zuckerberg IMs Won’t Help Facebook’s Privacy Problems addresses an exchange Zuckerberg had in college recently after launching  Facebook. In sum, he offers his friend information on anyone at Harvard, and when asked how he got access to all of that information, he stated that people just posted it, because they trust him, followed by an expletive aimed at all the people dumb enough to trust him, which now includes over a billion people. The article explains,

“Since Facebook launched, the company has faced one privacy flap after another, usually following changes to the privacy policy or new product releases.  To its credit, the company has often modified its products based on such feedback.  As the pioneer in a huge new market, Facebook will take heat for everything it does.  It has also now grown into a $22 billion company run by adults who know that their future depends on Facebook users trusting the site’s privacy policy.”

Anyone who watched The Social Network might not be surprised to learn that young Mark Zuckerberg comes across as a bit of a jerk who happens to wield a tremendous amount of power. Facebook’s privacy policy has changed many times, and Zuckerberg’s attitude still seems to be that the dummies willing to trust him deserve what happens to them.

Chelsea Kerwin, July 04, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext.

Searching Mobile Phones

February 27, 2013

Short honk: I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I want to document the article “New Document Sheds Light on Government’s Ability to Search iPhones.” If you have an interest in alleged government methods, check out the write up. The links were valid when I checked, but going forward, who knows?

Stephen E Arnold, February 27, 2013

Facebook Changes Privacy Policy Again

January 30, 2013

In light of the Facebook’s aim to improve its search and make more money, the social network Web site changed its privacy policy yet again. Quartz has more info on the change in the article, “Ahead Of Graph Search Launch, Facebook Removed The Ability To Opt Out Of Search Results.” Facebook changed the privacy policy due to a new search tool called Graph Search that allows users to search their networks for queries about restaurants, friends’ locations, and likes. It is a big step up for Facebook as its search functions have been extremely limited. Facebook hopes that advertising and use more of its user data.

Users cannot opt out fully from search results, but they can still control who sees their content. The Federal Trade Commission has been keeping tabs on Facebook and its privacy policy and has issued a heavy fine if the social network refuses to follow rules:

“The FTC settlement mandates that Facebook submit to annual privacy audits for 20 years and pay $16,000 per day for any violations. It also requires Facebook to “obtain the user’s affirmative express consent” when adding a feature that “materially exceeds the restrictions imposed by a user’s privacy setting.” The changes to Facebook’s privacy policy in December may have given Facebook clearance to debut Graph Search, although for now, at least, the company is also asking users to sign up for the feature.”

Facebook makes it hard to keep your information private, so always remember to watch what you post. It will come up in search when you least expect it.

Whitney Grace, January 30, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Beyond Search

Google and Its Preserving the Lumber Room Contents

November 14, 2012

I don’t know if this write up is accurate. Navigate to “Privacy Issue: Google Docs Seems to Not Delete but Only Hide Documents When the Trash Is Emptied.” The main point of the write up is that content which a user may have wanted to make go away has not gone away. In database deletions, a similar issue exists until the database is spiffed up to make the space hogging deletions go the way of the dodo. Even then, it is possible to roll back a database or just restore it to a previous state. So what’s gone may not be gone.

Here’s a passage I noted:

The good thing is that Google Docs is still in Beta and things can change until it goes into release mode. But chances are higher that something will happen when we bring our privacy concerns to the attention of Google and also to the attention of all others that are offering to us either free or paid services on the Web. It is our responsibility. Let us choose wisely what and what not we are using as the the core of our personal information infrastructure.

I admire optimism. What surprises me is that someone finds this non deletion anything other than standard operating procedure. The original Norton’s Utilities removed those pesky “?”s so that deleted files were suddenly not deleted. Magic.

If I had the energy, I would ask questions about the deployment of link analysis and intercept tools across deleted data. But, I am 68 and it is late in the afternoon. I assume that nothing untoward will be done with deleted user data. The world is just getting better with each passing day. Oh, I have to limp to the TV. More information about the email buzz and consequences concerning a certain former government official, a writer who can do more pushups than I can, and a wild and crazy family in Florida. Now that’s a state I admire with or without email shenanigans.

Stephen E Arnold, November 14, 2012

Google Once Again in Hot Water Across the Pond

October 25, 2012

The European Union’s love affair with Google continues. The Guardian reports, “Google ‘to be Told by EU to Unravel Privacy Policy’.” Last March the company made some changes to its European privacy policy which seem to have rankled the EU’s “data protection chiefs.” The main bone of contention—Google failed to provide users with the chance to opt out of the changes. All this is going on, by the way, as Google has been meeting with the European Commission’s competition division about its (alleged) search results manipulations.

The article asserts that by handing the case to the French data protection commissioner, the EU has signaled that it means business. France’s CNIL is considered more aggressive than its counterparts in other countries, like the UK’s ICO. Writer Charles Arthur consulted privacy expert Chris Watson, who opined:

“By putting the CNIL in charge of this, the EU was going for blood. It was a declaration of intent. . . . The point is that Google is an international company which is leveraging its power in the browser and its other services in a way that affects national businesses all over the EU. There’s great political importance in the data protection commissioners doing something.”

Though Google was warned that its proposed privacy policy changes might violate EU law, the company proceeded anyway. (Surprised, surprise.) The article characterizes the changes:

“Google brought together separate ‘silos’ of data collected from services such as its search service, YouTube and Maps into a single datastore so that it could tailor adverts and content more closely. Google said then the new policy would simplify the user experience, and said it was confident it had obeyed ‘all European data protection laws and principles’.”

It is? Many seem to disagree with that assessment. I suppose whether Google has obeyed those laws will be up to the CNIL to decide.

Cynthia Murrell, October 25, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Poderopedias Technology Tracks Chilean Elite

August 30, 2012

A new technology tested in the Poderopedia project completely changes the meaning of “Big Brother is Watching.” The tools are first being run in Chile to promote transparency. Data storage and queries are being used to map out and visualize the different relationships between Chile’s most influential people. The article, The Semantics Behind Poderopedia tells us a little more:

“These technologies allow us to represent a diverse set of relations between entities (people, companies, organizations) in a flexible way. The goal is to identify and express relations of power and influence of people and organizations…we added many new classes and subclasses of connections. This may sound trivial, but it involved a lot of debate and the hard work of our entire team before we could show it to others — with the hope that it could be a small contribution to the open-source community.”

This is a very interesting way to implement the use of these semantic technologies – and if the logistics of Poderopedia are of interest there is a link on the article to more details, which is a recommended quick read. Of course, it is safe to assume that if it works in Chile it’s only a matter of time before it spreads to other countries, including the US. But, here in the states it appears that invasion of privacy could come to the forefront in the execution of this kind of technology.

Edie Marie, August 30, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Former Facebooker Airs Social Doubts

August 29, 2012

Ex-Facebook employee Katherine Losse has become a rebel, of sorts. The Washington Post declares, “Refugee from Facebook Questions The Social Media Life.” The former Zuckerberg ghostwriter found herself growing uncomfortable with the level of privacy invasion her employer, and other tech companies, were engaged in. So, she cashed in some of her valuable Facebook stock, moved to a tiny Texas town, and wrote a tell-all: “The Boy Kings: A Journey Into the Heart of the Social Network”. Oh, and she took down her own Facebook page. For a little while, at least.

Losse cites an encounter with a colleague, an engineer who was working on video-upload functionality. She tells us he made, and circulated on an internal Facebook page, a video of her napping in a car during a road trip. The article relates:

“‘The day before, I could just be in a car being in a car. Now my being in a car is a performance that is visible to everyone,’ Losse said, exasperation creeping into her voice. ‘It’s almost like there is no middle of nowhere anymore.’

Losse began comparing Facebook to the iconic 1976 Eagles song ‘Hotel California,’ with its haunting coda, ‘You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.’ She put a copy of the record jacket on prominent display in a house she and several other employees shared not far from the headquarters.”

Ah, the Eagles; it is a classic song. The article spends some time discussing Losse’s book, Facebook in general, and Losse’s new home in Marfa, NC. Not a bad read, even if it does have a bit of a conspiracy-theory feel to it. It wraps up with a description of Losses’ current search for balance in her own life between technology and the real world. Touching.

Cynthia Murrell, August 29, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Informatica Study Reveals Attitudes on Personal Data

August 10, 2012

Informatica provides us with some interesting information on perceptions of the personal data issue in “UK Consumers Rank Top Contributors to Personal Data Deluge.” The data integration company commissioned a survey of over 2,000 consumers in the UK in May 2012 in order to discover their attitudes and behaviors when it comes to sharing personal data with businesses. Not surprisingly, young people were found to be the least reluctant to hand over personal information; they are also the group most ready to accept that supplying such data can result in better service.

Some highlights of the report include:

“*Only 35 per cent of UK adults trust businesses to use their personal data as directed by them. . . .

*59 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds and 48 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds agreed that if businesses provided clearer explanations of why they wanted their personal data, and what it will be used for, they would be more inclined to give it to them.

*Further to that, almost one in ten (9%) of the younger generation (those aged 18 to 34) felt that the more personal information they provide a business with, the better the service they receive as a result.”

Another interesting finding: sixty-one percent of respondents chose their family doctor as the least likely to share their information with a third party. Facebook’s score on that question was the lowest, at thirteen percent. That high?

See the press release for more findings from the survey. Informatica’s take-away is that companies must communicate better with users about the ways in which they will use their data. I wonder, though; if the issue is a matter of trust, how much help will clearer language really be?

Informatica boasts that it is the world’s foremost independent provider of data integration software, with nearly 5,000 organizations using their products. Though the company has offices around the world, its headquarters can be found in Redwood City, California.

Cynthia Murrell, August 10, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Facebook Scans for Criminals

July 20, 2012

It seems that Facebook is following a path already trodden by some other big outfits. Google is also fighting crime.  CNet News declares, “Facebook Scans Chats and Posts for Criminal Activity.” CNet’s Emil Protalinski cites a recent Reuters interview with Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan. The article explains:

“Facebook’s software focuses on conversations between members who have a loose relationship on the social network. . . . The scanning program looks for certain phrases found in previously obtained chat records from criminals, including sexual predators (because of the Reuters story, we know of at least one alleged child predator who is being brought before the courts as a direct result of Facebook’s chat scanning). The relationship analysis and phrase material have to add up before a Facebook employee actually looks at communications and makes the final decision of whether to ping the authorities.”

Sullivan emphasized that the technology’s low rate false-positives is crucial. Facebook wouldn’t want us non-criminals worrying about its employees poring through our communications for no good reason. The company also seems in no hurry to publicize this public service. Protalinski found no mention of the technology at either Facebook’s Law Enforcement and Third-Party Mattersor its Information for Law Enforcement Authorities.

Is Facebook just being modest about its role as a crime-stopper? More likely, they’re concerned users will get up in arms about those pesky “privacy issues.”

Cynthia Murrell, July XX, 2012

Sponsored by PolySpot

Corporate Secrets, Not So Secret

July 3, 2012

Corruption often lurks in the shadows of the corporate world, and even companies that start with the best of intentions often find traitors hidden within their midst. The Star Online recently published the article, ‘Ex-McKinsey CEO’s case highlights swapping of secrets in corporate world’ confirming that even the best kept secrets can be exposed when put in the right light.

What those on the outside seldom see is:

“It is easy for most people to dispense inside tips. After all, such information costs nothing and is a lifestyle where inside tips are the currency of friendships and elite business relationships. It sharply explains why corporate players are often willing to break the law to share confidential information.”

“In the clubby, high-powered corporate world, the ability to offer confidential information is definitely a way to stand out.”

Many companies include a non-disclosure agreement as part of the normal hiring process, but when nameless entities tell their tales in the shadows those legal agreements can become obsolete. It appears that executives are often unaware information has been leaked until it is too late.

The article provided a fascinating glimpse of the big time information exchange that takes place in today’s corporate world. The only true way to keep a company’s secrets intact is to keep them within the confines of the board room, and even then there are no guarantees. The old saying ‘loose lips sink ships’ rings true, especially in regards to the business world.

Jennifer Shockley, July 3, 2012

Sponsored by Polyspot

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