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Posts Tagged ‘#internet’

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Rhode Island considers broadband internet privacy

June 5, 2017

PROVIDENCE, R.I.
Rhode Island state legislators are considering protections for broadband privacy.

Legislation pending in the state’s General Assembly is designed to protect residents from disclosure of personally identifiable online information by commercial websites or internet service providers.

Rep. Evan Shanley, a Warwick Democrat who sponsored the bill, says it’s a response to the repeal earlier this year of Obama administration rules that would have imposed tight restrictions on what broadband companies such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast could do with their customers’ personal data.

Several states have started writing their own legislation to protect broadband privacy after Republicans in Congress voted to repeal regulations that would have required internet providers to obtain their customers’ consent about data use.

Shanley’s bill was held for further study after its first hearing in April.

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Is Congress encroaching on Americans’ Internet privacy?

April 10, 2017

At a time when American politics is perhaps more divided than ever, one issue has emerged that the vast majority of people, regardless of their political affiliation, can agree on: Internet privacy.

On March 23, Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted along party lines — 50 to 48 — to eliminate proposed broadband privacy rules that would have required ISPs to receive explicit consent from consumers before selling or sharing their web browsing data, and other private information, with advertisers and other companies.

The Senate also used its power under the Congressional Review Act to ensure that the FCC rulemaking “shall have no force or effect” and to prevent the FCC from issuing similar regulations in the future.

The public reaction has not been positive. According to a recent YouGov survey, 80 percent of Democrats favored a veto by President Trump, but so did 69 percent of independents and 75 percent of Republicans.

The eliminated FCC broadband privacy rules, which had not yet taken effect, were set to require providers to get opt-in consent from customers before selling or sharing metadata and personal information such as geo-location, browsing activity, IP addresses and more. Opt-out requirements would have been required for less sensitive information such as email addresses.

The timing of such a change comes at a critical point in history where innovators and technologists are pushing the boundaries of what is possible using digital identity, profiles based on someone or something’s online presence and activity. Digital identity attributes, such as a Facebook profiles, are increasingly being used at border crossings, for fraud prevention, and customer onboarding at financial institutions. Combined with traditional identity attributes, such as a driver’s license, the number of digital identity use cases is increasing daily, along with it, the value of metadata and personal information.

The metadata capturing your personal information can come from any connected device. Desktop computers, laptop, mobile devices, cloud video recorders, home assistants, etc. are connected devices and collect metadata.

“Your home broadband provider can know when you wake up each day, either by knowing the time each morning that you log on to the Internet to check the weather (or) news of the morning, or through a connected device in your home,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said during the Senate floor debate.

“This is a gold mine of data — the holy grail, so to speak,” Nelson said. “It’s no wonder that broadband providers want to be able to sell this information to the highest bidder, without consumers’ knowledge or consent. And they want to collect and use this information without providing transparency or being held accountable.”

Americans must now put blind faith in ISPs, such as Comcast and Verizon, to deny their shareholders and forego surefire profits in exchange for maintaining their customer’s personal privacy.

Few consumers have any choice of Internet provider. Thus, their only choice may be between “giving up their browsing history for an Internet provider to sell to the highest bidder, or having no Internet at all,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). According to the FCC’s latest Internet Access Services report, which contains data through June 30, 2015, 78 percent of Americans have only one or no provider at the FCC’s standard 25Mbps download/3Mbps upload broadband standards.

Proponents of the bill argue that checks and balances between state and federal authorities will curb the fears dominating many Americans regarding this matter. One such example is surrounding federal and state wiretapping laws, such as the Wiretap Act, which currently limits only the interception of the contents of communications, as opposed to metadata, which includes geo-location and personally identifiable information.

Proponents also recommend the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to enhance one’s privacy. At the average cost of $4 to $10 per month, a VPN is an excellent option for those Americans fortunate enough to have the discretionary spending. But should we require citizens to enforce the Fourth Amendment right of privacy for themselves?

Travis Jarae is the founder and CEO of One World Identity, an online platform that publishes events, publications, research and analysis, member services, and consumer news. Follow him on Twitter @TravisJarae.

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Internet Tracking Has Moved Beyond Cookies

September 6, 2016

Chances are you know you’re being tracked online. Most of us are at the point where we’re not surprised when an ad for something we searched for on one site appears on the next site we visit. We know that many pages (yes, this one you’re reading, too) drop cookies and other scripts into our browser to keep tabs on our activity and sell us stuff.
A new survey from a group of Princeton researchers of one million websites sheds some light on the cutting-edge tricks being used to follow your digital trail. Rather than placing a tracker on your browser, many sites are now “fingerprinting” — using information about your computer such as battery status or browser window size to identify your presence.
Arvind Narayanan, one of the authors of the Princeton study, discusses his research, the latest in online tracking and what you (and our lawmakers) can do to counter the trackers.
Read a partial transcript below. Here are a few of the tools and studies we mentioned in the show:
• Arvind Narayanan and Steven Englehardt’s full paper (PDF)
• Ghostery, an online tool that alerts you to the trackers on the website you’re visiting
• Panopticlick from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which analyzes how well your browser is protected from tracking
How fingerprinting works
Arvind Narayanan: In the ad tech industry, cookies are gradually being shunted in favor of fingerprinting. The reason that fingerprinting is so effective is that even if you have a device that you think is identical to the device of the person sitting next to you, there are going to be a number of differences in the behavior of your browser. The set of fonts installed on your browser could be different. The precise version number of the browser could be different. Your battery status could be different from that of the person next to you, or anybody else in the world. And it turns out that if you put all of these pieces of information together, a unique or nearly unique picture of the behavior of your device emerges that’s going to be relatively stable over time. And that enables your companies to recognize you when you come back.
Jody Avirgan: But how does it enable that? My actual finger’s fingerprint doesn’t change from today to tomorrow. But my computer’s battery status can change. So how do they know it’s still you?
Narayanan: The battery status is actually the only exception to that general principle. And that’s the reason why we’re still figuring out how that works. [Editor’s note: Earlier in the interview, Narayanan had mentioned that the rate at which your battery depletes might be an identifier.] But let’s say you’ve got 41 fonts installed on your browser today. You come back in a week, maybe you have 43 fonts installed. But 41 of those are going to be the same as what they saw a week ago. And it changes slowly enough that statistically you can have a high degree of confidence. In the industry they call these things statistical IDs. It’s not as certain as putting a cookie on your browser, but you can derive a very high degree of confidence.
Tracking’s chilling effect
Narayanan: The reason that this is really important, and perhaps the primary thing that motivates me to do this research, is this world of pervasive surveillance that we’re entering into — and I’m going to use that word surveillance very deliberately, because it is surveillance. Everything that we look at online and click on is getting stored in a database somewhere. And it’s being data-mined and various [decisions] are being based on that. Targeted advertising is a relatively innocuous example, but there are a variety of other things that can and do happen.
There is research that shows that when people know they are being tracked and surveilled, they change their behavior. We lose our intellectual freedom. A variety of things we consider important for our civil liberties — say, marriage equality — are things that would have been stigmatized just a few decades ago. And the reason we got to the point where it was possible to talk about it and try to change our norms and rules is because people had the freedom to talk to each other privately. To find out that there are like-minded people. As we move to a digital world, are we losing those abilities or freedoms? That is the thing to me that is the question. That’s the most worrisome thing about online tracking. It’s not so much the advertising.

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