Archive for the 'privacy' Category

Even those who try to protect privacy disclose information


We all (in this class) know that Facebook applications allow developers to view your profile page, and while this is a feature of Facebook that we discussed weeks ago, it seems that the AP is just now starting to take it seriously. This CNN story touches upon the discomfort that users feel when they learn of their lack of privacy.

“People seem to have this idea that, when you put something on the Internet, there should be some privacy model out there — that there’s somebody out there that’s enforcing good manners. But that’s not true.”

Are these expectations of privacy reasonable? If so, how do we get the law to reflect these expectations?

A .pdf you should look at



Daniel Solove gives a really solid overview of current law regard Informational Privacy and how the current mish-mosh patchwork can’t cope with the societal ills which database aggregation represents.

Chatter, chatter, chatter


Facebook has introduced live chatting with your friends when you’re online and so are they. (See Facebook’s blog post about it here).

Some preliminary observations – I was glad to see that they allow for the ability to go “offline.” (Can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to avoid my friends!) I tested it out as well (I was intrigued) and out of the 10 or so lines of text I sent, about half didn’t go through (apparently there’s still some bugs to be worked out!). One thing I would comment that I don’t like, is that I can’t pick and choose who I have on my chat list. Why does Facebook automatically assume that since I’m Facebook friends with someone, I also want to talk to them?? Seems odd to me….

The idea of chat is nothing new, but I feel slightly annoyed by Facebook adding this feature. I already have Skype, msn Messenger, AIM, and gchat, not to mention my cell phone, my land line, my four e-mail accounts. I think people can reach me if they want to. (but what if I don’t want them to??)

Also interesting to note, seems Facebook has learned from the past. Right in the blog post announcing the chat feature is a paragraph on privacy. Facebook seems to understand that this issue is important to its users, and bringing in new features without consideration of privacy will create a bad-for-business backlash. (Who can forget the “newsfeed” debacle)

The web has definitely made a difference in how we communicate, and how much we communicate. But like we said in class, what about the quality of how we communicate?

I was talking to some of my friends (the live ones, not the Facebook ones) today about this new feature. A comment from one of them – “Facebook is about to implode because of its overwhelming usefulness”

Effective privacy disclosure on photo-sharing sites


On the heels of some discussion about whether disclosure notices can actually work, I encountered this example of what I view as effective “fine print”: while exploring Kodak Gallery’s new feature (which allows you to export slideshows from your Kodak Gallery albums to other photo and social networking sites on the Web — Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook, etc.), I saw this message:

Remember that any pictures you include in a slideshow can be viewed and used by visitors to and other websites where you publish your slideshow, according to those websites’ terms. Please use care when deciding what pictures you include and where you publish your slideshow.

I think one thing that makes it effective is its use of non-legalese — it reads like another person is gently warning you to proceed ahead with some caution. Good job,

Yahoo’s new site driven by desire to sell more targeted ads


I just saw this in the NYT and thought it was pretty timely. It suggests that Yahoo’s creation of this new site aimed at women was motivated by advertisers wanting to reach this demographic. It’s unclear whether the new site itself is the main form of “targeting” here — in the traditional sense, where ads are sent out based on the general audience of of the site/ TV show/ newspaper — or whether there will also be more specific targeting going on based on the web activity of the users of the new site. (I’m guessing the latter.)

I guess I see this as underscoring the importance of targeting to advertisers, and the importance of advertising to the business plans of big Web companies like Yahoo. Which makes the whole debate all the more salient! Companies really want to find better ways to reach consumers on the Web, and I think we need to come up with some reasonable means of making sure people’s privacy concerns aren’t stampeded in the process.

What’s the harm?


Relevant to the discussion we’re having at the moment in class, here’s a hypothetical: Your local supermarket chain uses software at the checkout line that compares the set of stuff you’ve just bought with the entire population of purchases by all shoppers, and from this derives a guess at what other stuff you might be interested in buying. It uses this guess to print a coupon on the back of your receipt. It then feeds your list of purchases into its general database of purchases but it records no identifying info about you – no credit card number, no discount card number, etc.  Let’s say the guesses it makes on this basis are good, so lots of shoppers are happy to find the discount coupon on the back of their receipt.

Does anyone think that this activity ought to require an opt in? That it ought to be regulated?

Google security concerns


There is an article on how a third party Google application has been used to steal gmail log-in ids. It also describes some of the security problems plaguing online web services such as Gmail and Yahoo mail. This reminds me of our earlier class on privacy issues on the web. Our personal information collected by third parties is never secure. More and more people are ceding their privacy rights to Google because of its popularity, yet simultaneously, Google is becoming an increasingly popular target for security breaches.

Social Networking on Cells


Many companies are competing to put social networking programs onto cellphones. This move has some interesting privacy implications since some companies will be using GPS to show your friends where you are located in real time. Not to sound paranoid, but I’m sure that it wouldn’t be difficult for government bodies to access this information without going through legal channels, by becoming your “friend” on your profile and being able to track you, just as employers gain access to Facebook profiles now. I am assuming there is a way to disable this feature and these companies are sure to respond to market demands.

It will also be interesting to see the impact this will have on sites like Facebook and Myspace. Just as, like Danah was saying while she was in class, IM is becoming obsolete for teens since texting is easier and more people are accessible, the same trend may be duplicated here.…

Ciolli of Autoadmit sues Reputation Defenders, Lawyers, Law Students…


Since we talked about Reputation Defender a few weeks back I thought that this might be interesting to some people.

Anthony Ciolli (an officer of autoadmit but apparently not a moderator?) has counter-sued Reputation Defender and a bunch of others in state court in Pennsylvania. Complaint available here.

Analysis and more after the jump.

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

Facebook page used as evidence in Irish tax audit


An Irish tax inspector conducted an audit using information from Facebook, Xing, and LinkedIn. A spokesperson for the Irish Revenue Commissioners commented that auditors will use any public sources of information available to them. Could the IRS do the same thing here in the States? Why does this seem more strange than using old media information like a newspaper article?