Are smart meters (or as some call them “smartmeters”) the next great energy saver, or are they a privacy risk for someone hacking your wifi, Internet, or electricity usage data? Maybe both. Some are calling them a great way to save energy and money on our monthly energy bills, some are saying they are a sign that big brother is tightening his grasp, but either way, smart meters are stirring up some serious controversy. From public meetings in Vermont, to gun-toting homeowners chasing utility company workers who are aiming to install smart meters off their property, these tiny little devices have not arrived quietly.
While Dropbox file-sharing service is intended to be a mostly consumer-based product, many companies use it as a means to share files between employees. The problem with using cloud-based services, such as Dropbox, for business purposes is that businesses don’t have proper controls over the data stored in the cloud. This was driven home this week when Dropbox announced that an employee’s password was stolen and the hackers made off with some sensitive information, including user email addresses which led to the spamming of Dropbox’s European user-base.
Skype has found themselves in a privacy PR nightmare as reports are slowly coming out that the online voice and video chat company may be cooperating with governing authorities to make private conversations more accessible. As those with privacy concerns fear that yet another communications company is selling out user privacy, Skype is quick to deny that anything is changing. They do acknowledge that they have made technical upgrades to the Skype systems, but are quick to assert that these upgrades have nothing to do with helping police spy on those who are possibly using Skype to discuss illegal activity.
Every once in a while our U.S. Congress does something that renews one’s faith in our elected officials at the top. And this is one of those times. Following the damning expose last month in the New York Times, You for Sale: Mapping, and Sharing, the Consumer Genome, in which Times journalist Natasha Singer moved a rock and shed light on the fact that data broker Acxiom, and others like them, are amassing, collating, correlating and selling far more personal data about you – yes, you – than you can possibly imagine, Congress has with lightening speed (literally a few weeks) demanded that Axciom, and others like them, including Experian, Epsilon, Equifax, Harte-Hanks, Intelius, Fair Isaac, Merkle, and Meredith Corp., respond to a demand for information about just what information they are gathering on pretty much every American, and just where they are getting it from, among other questions. The letter was signed by Congressmen Edward J. Markey, Henry Waxman, G.K. Butterfield, Bobby Rush, Joe Barton, Steve Chabot, Austin Scott and Jan Schakowsky.
YouTube now strongly encourages real names before leaving a comment. As the subject of cyber-bullying continues to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, theories have been swirling that people are more emboldened to make inflammatory comments online because they can hide behind anonymity. Now YouTube is proposing to counteract that by encouraging users to use their real names when leaving comments on YouTube videos.
Facebook is certainly no stranger to defending its practices, especially when those practices threaten the privacy of their users. Now they are finding themselves, yet again, in a position to have to do so. Facebook employees had to defend the social media giant’s facial recognition technology, which is used to help users tag people in their online Facebook photos. While Facebook maintains that its purpose is to provide a better consumer experience, some feel that it raises privacy issues.
It’s one of those things that you never think will happen to you. You’re going along in life, hunky-dory, then boom! There are fraudulent charges on your credit card, or an unknown credit card shows up on your credit report, or you get a call from a collection agency demanding payment on an account that you never even knew existed. Unfortunately, credit fraud and identity theft protection are not one of those things that you think about until it is too late. And if the person who stole your identity is a family member, such as your mother, father, sibling or even your own child, you also have an additional set of special circumstances to deal with.
Google has found themselves in hot water over privacy issues yet again. As we previously reported, it was discovered that the Google Street View vehicles were collecting data illegally, while taking street pictures in the US, Australia and Europe. In fact, they were doing it for three years, between 2007 and 2010, by harvesting personal data through open wifi routers as the Street View car drove by. This data included entire emails, site visit history, passwords, and other private information that the average citizen probably does not want floating around.
In a move that is not unheard of, but completely reprehensible, defeated Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is selling off his campaign’s donor and activist email list as the campaign attempts to crawl out of their $4 million hole of debt. And perhaps “slithering” is a better word as Newt is slapping his donors right in the face by not just selling their email addresses to other political campaigns, but to any unscrupulous company with equally slippery ethics.
Myspace (yes, they are still around, believe it or not) has settle charges with the Federal Trade Commission over Myspace’s alleged misleading of their users as to how Myspace was handling user personal information. Put plainly, Myspace was sharing the personal information of their users with advertisers, but misleading users about how they were using their personal information.
The Lieberman Collins “Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act” (CIFA) – so designated because the proposed law is being sponsored by Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins of Maine and also Senator Tom Carper of Delaware (and perhaps, more strategically important, supported by the Obama administration), is intended to help tighten up cyber security and thwart cyber attacks. Ironically, however, say opponents, this ‘Internet freedom act’ means exactly the opposite for businesses, particularly businesses that are designated as “critical infrastructure” companies. That is because CIFA would mandate – require – businesses to meet a Federal standard of network security, and out of their own pocket. (The full text of the proposed legislation is below.)
Do you use Google Calendar? If you answered “no”, well, are you sure that you don’t use Google Calendar? Because even if you don’t use Google Calendar directly, if you use a calendar on the iPhone, or on an Android phone, you may well be using Google Calendar on the back end without even thinking about it. The same is true if you “share” your calendar from your Mac. And here’s the thing, your calendar on Google may be set to “public” view by default. Meaning that anyone can read your calendar. And it will turn up in public Google search results.