No means no, except when Google decides it doesn’t? This might be the case, according to Benjamin Edelman, who says that Google’s Toolbar not only tracks your every browsing move when you’ve authorized it to, but it also continues to track you when you tell it not to.
Edelman tells us that when enhanced features are enabled in the Google Toolbar, the URL for all websites visited are sent to Google. In return, Google adds some additional information, such as “PageRank”, “Related Sites”, and “Sidewiki” to the Toolbar. That’s to be expected.
But, when the “Disable Google Toolbar only for this window” option is selected, or if the Google Toolbar is disabled using the “Manage Add-Ons” option, URLs are still sent to Google for processing. Google acknowledges this, but says that URLs are no longer sent after the browser is reset. Edelman points out this requirement is meaningless for the first scenario, and that Google provides no warning of the necessity of a reset for the second.
Turning off the Toolbar’s enhanced features is an option, but Edelman says that Google designed the Toolbar like the “Hotel California”. Edelman writes, “disabling Enhanced Features seems to require uninstalling Google Toolbar altogether, and in any event disabling Enhanced Features certainly lacks any comparably-quick command.”
Lesson here: If you don’t want to be tracked, don’t let it happen in the first place. And if you disable it later, be sure to restart your browser before continuing.
Before you fill out that loan application, you may want to take a peek at your Facebook profile, because even if you don't, there's a pretty good chance your lender will, a new report suggests.
According to CreditCards.com, creditors are tapping into your social networking circle to help determine your creditworthiness. One reason they do this is to look for discrepancies in the info you provide on the credit app versus what your online profile says.
"We use social chatter as a way to bring risk down. It's a wealth of information about a person," says Rob Garcia, senior director of product strategy, The Lending Club. "If a person says he lives in a different area than the one on the application, it could be a flag. But if it matches, it greatly increases confidence."
But what's scary is that lenders aren't just using your social networking profiles to verify information, they're also making a credit decision based, in part, on what you're doing online and who you're doing it with.
"When people have large networks, they get funded two to three times faster than without," says Garcia. "We notice that good credit people invite good credit people, bad invite bad."
And advantage is an advantage, no matter how slight, and no matter how you come by it. Microsoft is using the ‘coerced’ limiting of its retention of search information by the European Union (EU), as a one-up against Google in the search-engine war.
Microsoft has agreed to a policy change for the retention of search requests on Bing, its newly launched search engine: six months rather than 18 months. The data retained by Microsoft consists of IP addresses (which can identify specific users on the Internet), and search terms. This data is used to improved the quality of Bing, as well as develop auxiliary services that enhance the search experience. Microsoft also claims this shorter retention period will better protect user privacy.
Google, on the other hand, just cut its data retention rate to nine months. While shorter than before, this is three months longer than the EU recommendation for data retention and Microsoft’s new data retention policy. Google defends its policy, stating: “Data from our search queries represents a crucial arm in our battle to protect the security of our services against hacks and fraud. It also represents a critical element allowing us to help users by innovating and improving the quality of our searches.”
While both Microsoft and Google claim they are motivated by user security, Microsoft says that Google's policy is not only riskier, but proves Google values less its users than does Microsoft. If you want your privacy protected, says Microsoft, you should be using Bing.
If privacy protection is your concern then your best bet is to avoid Google and Microsoft, and head over to Yahoo. Google doesn’t appear likely to budge on its policy anytime soon. Microsoft says it will take 12 to 18 months to figure out how to store data for six months rather than 18. Yahoo, on the other hand, says it will only keep your data for three months--a policy which its already implemented.
The Internet started it all off--the (theoretical) creation of a world without borders. There's a problem, however: borders still remain. And those borders are inhabited by sovereign entities that dictate the rules for their respective domains. This creates another problem, for both consumers and producers: what rules are in force over a technology that has no regard for arbitrary geographic boundaries? Microsoft, in a move that protects it and the consumers it serves, has asked that current federal technology laws be updated, new ones implemented, and that international standards be devised, so that border-oblivious technologies will be protected.
Microsoft’s push for change is motivated by the advent and expansion of cloud computing. Brad Smith, General Counsel for Microsoft, in a keynote address delivered at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., stated: “The PC revolution empowered individuals and democratized technology in new and profoundly important ways. As we move to embrace the cloud, we should build on that success and preserve the personalization of technology by making sure privacy rights are preserved, data security is strengthened and an international understanding is developed about the governance of data when it crosses national borders.”
The big concern for Microsoft is how clouds will be regulated and protected. Cloud computing won’t take-off unless consumers believe it secure, so consumer privacy is a must. To protect that privacy there needs to be rules that make punishing transgressors more certain. And all parties, including governments, need to be on board (as cloud computing transcends political boundaries). The benefits for providers and consumers are self-evident: consumers get the security they want, while producers have a stable environment within which to offer their product.
While it may seem odd to find Microsoft on the side of the angels, Smith makes a good point: there are no rules at present that govern cloud computing. Users have no protection from hackers, from providers, or from governments. Smith rightly notes: “The rise of cloud computing should not lead to the demise of the privacy safeguards in the Bill of Rights. The public needs prompt and thoughtful action to ensure that the rights of citizens and government are fairly balanced so that these rights remain protected.”
The U.S. government's practice of seizing laptops through random searches at border crossings is again coming under scrutiny, this time by a pair of civil rights groups who are on the hunt for potential plaintiffs.
The groups include the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, both of which have the support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
"This lawsuit will not seek monetary damages for individuals who have been searched; instead, it will focus exclusively on fixing the unconstitutional policy," wrote Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director and lawyer with the EFF.
To help bolster their chances in court, the groups are in search of lawyers whose laptops or other electronic gadgets were subject to search and/or seized at U.S. points of entry and exit.
It's been exactly a month since we last visited the topic of Google Chrome. With both Windows and OSX beta versions of the browser now supporting add-ons, and with nearly 1,500 possible extensions flooding the Chrome Extensions "marketplace" since December 8, 2009, it's about time to take another look at the overflowing mass of Chrome add-ons. Why? To build the perfect browser, of course. Allow me a moment to monologue:
I've been a Mozilla Firefox user for a long, long time. Simply put, I love extensions. Being able to build new elements into my browsing experience, from Cloud-based bookmark synchronization to Sudoku puzzles, has been one of the more awesome elements of using this piece of software. If only it was that easy to enhance or extend the usefulness of any program one installed!
I've been hesitant to switch to Chrome for this very reason--without add-on support, I'm missing out on 50- to 75-percent of the awesomeness I've build into my admittedly slower and more memory-hogging browser, Firefox. But that's an argument that's slowly dying away. A number of Firefox's best add-ons have made the conversion over to Google Chrome, and that's exactly what I'll be exploring in this Freeware Files roundup.
These extensions are the crème de la crème. The best. The add-ons you should rush to pack into any new installation of Google Chrome, period. But that's not all--I'm also going to take a look at some apps that interact with Google Chrome or, in some cases, replace Google Chrome entirely... you'll see what I mean when it comes to interesting alternatives!
If you don’t want others knowing what your reading, you should probably stick to paper. That’s the conclusion of an Electronic Frontier Foundation study that looked at how our e-book readers collect information, and what the device maker has access to during our daily use.
Not surprisingly always on connected devices such as the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook log everything from what you read, to how long you read it, while more limited devices without wireless such as the Sony Reader can’t track you quite so closely.The EFF suggests anyone concerned with their privacy stick with the open-source FBReader, but lets face it, we prefer having our e-books delivered in seconds over a high speed wireless network don’t we?
Anyone else concerned with the privacy of your e-reader? Or did you check all your expectations of privacy at the Ethernet jack when you first logged on to the net in the first place? Let us know what you think.
In case you missed it, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, in an interview on CNBC, seem to suggest that Google’s take on user privacy was pretty much open-ended. Schmidt said “If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.” Some thought this was Google blaming the victim rather than the victimizer. Not the sort of ‘got-your-back’ attitude many would like to see in their search-engine provider.
In addition, Google changed its search-engine privacy settings, to better personalize the experience. One of the changes made is the storing of 180-days of search history in a browser cookie, so Google has a database on which to draw for second-guessing what you want to look for.
In all the hubbub, Mozilla’s Director of Community Development, Asa Dotzler, said that users should drop Google in favor of Bing, which Dotzler said provides better privacy guarantees.
Hot on the heels of the controversy, Bing is touting both its privacy, and changes which enhance that privacy. Bing will now give you greater control over the history of your recent searches with “See all”, “Clear all”, and “Turn Off” options. (In “See all” you can delete individual search requests. “Turn off” lets you disable the history function all together.) In addition, Microsoft will store a maximum of four weeks of searches (up from 48-hours), in a browser cookie.
In the announcement of these changes, Microsoft said “...we've tried to build privacy and respect for your search history into the overall experience and not as an afterthought. Too many systems provide us with choice, but little control.”
In a legal back-and-forth between the Ontario Police Department in California and Sergeant Jeff Quon, the overarching privacy issues concerning technology have come into full view (once again).
Sgt. Jeff Quon sued the Ontario Police Department after his texting transcripts were read by his lieutenant. While the messages were sent to/from a department-issued pager (yep, pager), Sgt. Quon claims his fourth amendment rights were violated by the department.
A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Sgt. Quon saying that the lieutenant had made an informal policy change to view transcripts on accounts who didn’t pay their overage fees. In viewing Sgt. Quon’s transcripts, he violated his own policy and thus violated Sgt. Quon’s constitutional rights.
To take a step further, the Ontario Police Department petitioned the Supreme Court requesting the case to be overturned on the precedent that the lieutenant had no authority to overturn the department policy that all privacy is relinquished when using department equipment, including pagers.
Most companies force employees to sign IT Privacy restriction documents waiving all rights on company owned equipment. Do you think your privacy is violated if an IT guy snoops around your employer-issued computer?
The topic of privacy frequently comes up, but it really hits home when a major online portal draws up a detailed list of all the online activities it's able to keep tabs on. Of course, you were never meant to see the menu of spying services Yahoo provides to law enforcement agencies, but now that someone has provided a copy to whistleblower site Cryptome, anyone can take a look.
The document is 17 pages long and describes in detail both Yahoo's data retention policies and surveillance capabilities. It even includes a price list of sorts, listing out the average cost of reimbursement it would seek in responding to subpoena requests.
Yahoo isn't the only site to have its data retention policies show up on Cryptome. The site has also published similar documents from Cox Communications, SBC, Singular, Nextel, GTE, and several other telecoms and service providers. That bit comes as little consolation to Yahoo, who's team of lawyers have issued a DMCA takedown notice to Cryptome.
According to Yahoo's legal team, posting the portal's Compliance Guide for Law Enforcement at Cryptome engages in "business interference" and could help criminals evade surveillance.
As of right now, the document remains online (and probably always will thanks to mirrors), which you can read right here.