Posts Tagged ‘Privacy’

Are Smart Phones a Privacy Threat?

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Smart phone technology has allowed us to become more reliant on these mobile devices than we have ever thought possible. While it may not seem that we store anything truly delicate on our iPhones and our HTC Desires, a closer look reveals that losing a smart phone is akin to showing off to the world a lot more important things than you ever thought possible. So if you think that losing a smart phone is not an issue, here’s a quick look at why such an event could be very, very bad.

First off, your contact list: this little bit of information is particularly tough to have in someone else’s hands. From the onset, the entire list could be sold to marketers and similar groups –often with the sad result of the people in the list receiving an avalanche of advertisements and spam. Thanks to the fact that contacts lists now have provisions for the name, phone number, email and even physical address, you might want to think twice about letting the entire world know where some of your most special friends live.

If you use the browser or a social networking app, then chances are, you have your own account names, emails and your passwords stored in the device as well. This could open up a lot of sensitive information and all your passwords may be opened by really skilled hackers.

GPS information may not seem like a big deal, but in reality, it exposes your everyday routes, favorite stores, where you live, where you work and even which pubs you prefer to relax in. Add in location based features such as Foursquare and any stalker will be happy to have an hour studying your phone’s vast wealth of information.

Media is another issue as well. Since most phones have cameras, it is not too uncommon that folks would have pictures of that wild drinking spree last Halloween in their mobile phones –and none would be too happy to see it made available to everyone online.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Stance on User Privacy Issues

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

FacebookAccording to the big man himself, the real issue that people should be concerned about is not the level of privacy that they get on the internet, but rather how much control they have over how their information is shared.

To quote what the man said at Times: “The way that people think about privacy is changing a bit. What people want isn’t complete privacy. It isn’t that they want secrecy. It’s that they want control over what they share and what they don’t.”

Well said, but the big problem is that his social networking site Facebook does not seem to reflect that the man actually cares. In fact, there is nothing in that statement that shows that the concept of privacy control even matters to him. He does follow up the statement by talking about trends and how things are starting to shape up, but the bottom line of it all is that despite the fact that Zuckerberg already knows that users want control he is still not willing to give it.

Indeed, the real problem that people have with Facebook is not the issue with the slowly growing lack of privacy, but rather with the way that Facebook forced the situation on all of its users. When the social networking site started out, most of the information on a user’s profile can only be accessed by direct friends. In the past few months, this access restriction has slowly expanded until large chunks of user information are viewable by people searching through Google.

Sure, Facebook’s privacy settings will allow users to set things back to the way they once were, but the fact that people have to manually change the settings is the problem. Nobody is aware that the settings have changed in the first place. Facebook did a bad job at informing users –which should have never been a problem if they did not change all the setting. People should have the right and opportunity to opt in for special offers, setting changes and what not, but these changes should never be forced upon users.

Google to Delete WiFi Data Gathered by Street View

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

GoogleIt appears that the Google street car did more than just street level images; it has also managed to gather data in regards to existing open WiFi networks in the areas that it has scanned. This means that the SSID of many personal WiFi networks has been logged by Google.

Many believe that the information gathered could possibly contain snippets of private email, and possibly other pieces of personal data. While the scanning has not been prolonged enough to be considered as an illegal act, it has many people concerned about what will be done with the data.

The scanning of WiFi networks was first noticed and brought to light in Germany, it did not take long before it was revealed that the Google street car that was used in all countries also had the same capabilities.

Google has decided to take an active role in assuring the public of their dedication to preserving privacy and in ensuring that the data would be removed from the servers. According to Alan Eustace, Google has not officially created the function to be present in the Street Car. The vehicle was supposed to take images of the streets and nothing more. The code that allowed for the scanning of WiFi networks was apparently written in by one of the engineers –it has yet to be announced what internal actions were taken in regards to the matter. In order to ensure that the data will be handled properly, Google has stated that it will be hiring a third party company in order to analyze the information in question.

The Google street car also had its own share of problems when the results appeared in the Street View web service. It appears that the unannounced arrival of the vehicle through public streets has led to some very candid and private images being taken of houses whose occupants were not too careful about leaving their windows open.