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Posts Tagged ‘security’


Google tightens grip on some Android data over privacy fears, report says

August 19, 2019

The search giant ends a program that provided network coverage data to wireless carriers.

AUGUST 19, 2019 8:49 AM PDT

Google is apparently tightening its grip on some Android data. The search giant shut down its Mobile Network Insights service, which provided wireless carriers with data on signal strengths and connection speeds in their coverage areas, according to Reuters.

Google reportedly decided to shutter the program over concerns that sharing this Android data could draw further scrutiny from users and regulators.

Google on Monday confirmed that it shut down the program but didn’t provide further details.

“We worked on a program to help mobile partners improve their networks through aggregated and anonymized performance metrics. Due to changing product priorities, we decided to end it,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement Monday. “We remain committed to improving network performance across our apps and services for users.”

Google, and other big tech companies, have come under increased scrutiny over how they handle users’ data as well as potentially anticompetitive practices. Last year, Google faced a wave of backlash over its collection of location data even when users turned off location services. The company has since introduced an autodelete feature for location, app and web history.

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Why America Needs a Thoughtful Federal Privacy Law

June 26, 2019

More than a dozen privacy bills have been introduced in this Congress. Here’s what it needs to do.

By Peter M. Lefkowitz
Mr. Lefkowitz is the chief privacy and digital risk officer at Citrix Systems.
June 25, 2019
This is the year of privacy, a unique opportunity to protect Americans’ privacy rights while protecting technological innovation and civil discourse.

If this sounds lofty for a technology issue, consider: The Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed significant threats to consumers and to democracy posed by the misuse of consumer personal information; the General Data Protection Regulation, Europe’s year-old comprehensive privacy law, required companies globally to rework their privacy programs, at real expense and with the possibility of monumental fines; and the California Consumer Privacy Act, enacted quickly last year, gives consumers extensive new rights, including the ability to tell companies not to sell or retain their data.
Congress is working on a consumer privacy law, with the prospect that the United States will join 80 other countries with comprehensive national laws protecting personal information. At least 15 bills have been filed this year, and a group of six senators is expected to introduce its own bill in coming weeks, the most substantial undertaking to date.
There are many reasons to support federal privacy legislation. A federal law would set a consistent standard for how companies treat consumers’ personal information and would inspire greater confidence in how responsible companies behave. It could address the significant risks posed by the aggregation of consumer profiles, which include racial and economic discrimination and a lack of transparency
about how information is collected and used. And a federal law would allow the United States to harmonize its laws with those of other major economies, easing trade concerns and promoting American technology in Europe and beyond.

For all of this promise, there are serious deficiencies in the way privacy is being discussed in public and in Congress, particularly in the failure to consider how proposals designed to address social media would impact critical work elsewhere.

[If you’re online — and, well, you are — chances are someone is using your information. We’ll tell you what you can do about it. Sign up for our limited-run newsletter.]

First, “opt-in consent” — the model suggested in a number of federal proposals — does not protect consumers.

Website privacy policies average more than 2,500 words and are carefully drafted to maximize data use and minimize legal exposure. Few consumers read these policies before agreeing to give up information, and the practices of ad networks and social media are not clear to most of us when we click the “I agree” button.

Second, rigid rules about the “sale of data” and limits on the use of artificial intelligence
are not a productive way to prevent abuse and would impact activities essential to our safety and security.

Some behavior raises alarms and should be stopped, like secretly sharing minutely detailed personal profiles with political operatives to turn elections. However, essential activities — including advances in health care, cybersecurity, financial services and fundamental scientific research — depend upon large data sets and broad data sharing. Massachusetts has funded a public-private partnership called Mass Digital Health, and the American Medical Association has created the Integrated Health Model Initiative to promote data sharing across the medical and scientific communities to improve health care outcomes. Technology companies are deploying artificial intelligence across massive data sets to advance understanding of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
Detecting fraud and cybercrime relies upon compiling and analyzing large sets of metadata, as bad actors intentionally strike broadly and over time. And A.I. is being used to benefit underserved communities. There are innovative programs using a range of personal data to offer loans to disadvantaged consumers, and there is research on internet search data to predict and prevent infectious diseases. Requiring companies to remove individual pieces of data from large data sets on demand, and prohibiting analytics because some might use it improperly, would render many of these activities impractical.

Finally, the law must not be so burdensome that it cuts off innovation and economic opportunity.

The digital sector represented roughly 7 percent of the American economy as of 2017, and it is growing at nearly triple the average, according to the Bureau of Economic Affairs. Contrast that to Continental Europe, where a burdensome regulatory environment contributes to anemic tech sector growth.

At the same time, American companies are competing to develop more privacy-protective technologies and to wed their brands to how well they guard our data. Any new law must foster this commercial interest in the value of privacy without making it onerous for new businesses to emerge and compete. Notably, creating high barriers to new services only further entrenches the few social media and data companies with established services, large data sets and financial cushions.

Some ideas already employed widely outside the United States deserve consideration. Privacy laws in Canada, Japan and elsewhere rightfully require companies to consider the benefits and risks their data practices pose to consumers and society. Setting standards for data use and requiring more granular disclosures would take the pressure off consumers to consent to all possible uses at once.

Any new law must also recognize that data is important to all we do and that we cannot simply make it go away. Instead, a variety of tools — including reasonable data minimization, development of industry standards and Federal Trade Commission rule-making — can protect against misuse while allowing development of science and industry.
Time is running out for Congress to pass meaningful privacy legislation before the implementation of the California privacy law in 2020, the adoption of inconsistent laws in other states, and the distraction of the 2020 elections. Let’s use the coming months constructively to enact a privacy law that protects consumers and promotes technology innovation and a healthy digital environment.

Mr. Lefkowitz is the chief privacy and digital risk officer at Citrix Systems. He was the 2018 chairman of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

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9 Important Privacy Settings for Windows 10

June 3, 2019

Matt Powell On Jun 3, 2019

At first glance, the Digital Age may seem like a wonderful thing. And in many ways, it is. Advances in technology have provided humanity with many qualities of life changes in various aspects of our lives from optimization in commercial operations to an AI reminding you to take the lasagna out the oven because you’re occupied with your three kids.
However, unfortunately, the Digital Age is a double-edged sword. Just as technology has made life easier for us, it has also diminished personal privacy to an all-time low and made digital crimes easier to commit.

Hacking is becoming a more prominent problem with every passing year. Don’t believe me? Ask the Marriott hotel chain that had the personal information of up to 500 million customers compromised in a data breach last year. Or Equifax, a credit bureau that was the victim of a cyber attack that may have compromised the data of around 140 million Americans. Or ask any of the 12 countries that were the victim of cyber attacks by a Chinese hacker group. Cyber attacks that affected hundreds of companies and organizations, and went on for years. Scared yet?

Cybercriminals are getting smarter, and everyone needs to start taking measures to protect themselves online from malicious cyber attackers. It is 2019. VPNs were once highly recommended, but now they are all but mandatory for Internet use. Ad blockers are also a huge defense for consumers online. Amongst younger people, the use of ad blocks is typically to combat against the constant and annoying ads they see attached to YouTube videos. But that’s not all they do. You know how when you go to a website to read an article and your screen gets bombarded with a bunch of pop up ads? You try to exit out of them or go back to a previous page but keep getting redirected to the same ads? Ad blockers can help with that. Standard ad blockers don’t work on Hulu video ads, but hey, we can’t have everything right?

And don’t think for a second that it’s just the standard cybercriminal who is out to invade your privacy. The big tech companies who provide you with the technology you know and love have also gotten really nosy too. At the rate they are going, tech companies like Amazon will know your breathing and eating patterns. No one knows for sure what they do with our data (aside from selling it to third-parties for advertisement purposes), but they kind of want all our data and it’s really unnerving.

Luckily, the companies who try to invade your privacy also provide you with the means of maintaining your privacy, and it is important for you to know how to make your technology truly work for you.

Key privacy settings for Windows 10
Windows 10 was not well-received upon release for a number of reasons. One of those reasons that Windows 10 invades your privacy. By default. For this reason alone, people in the tech community put off upgrading to Windows 10 for years. But casual users likely have no idea how invasive Windows 10 is. That’s where we come in.

Windows 10 is (unfortunately) the best Microsoft operating system so far right now, so users are going to need to use it sooner or later. And if you don’t know how to keep yourself protected while using Windows 10, that’s where we come in.

Here’s how to keep your privacy intact and your data safe from cybercriminals and nosy tech companies.

1. Don’t choose the Express Settings Installation option when installing Windows 10
This point actually applies to all technology moving forward. Taking advantage of express options that take care of the process for you, strips you of your agency and can make you complacent. Tech companies cannot be trusted, and you have no idea what you’re agreeing to because you’re too busy enjoying not having to do anything. As stated earlier, Windows by default is looking to invade your privacy and harvest your data. When you install Windows 10, be sure to select Custom Settings and do everything yourself.

The next step is heading into your Privacy settings. You can do so by simultaneously pressing the Windows key and the I key. One thing to keep in mind here is that the following tips apply to general Windows 10 settings, but for apps, you will have to adjust a lot of the privacy settings individually. Keep that in mind before you download a bunch of apps or you’ll be in the settings more than the apps themselves!

2. Get rid of Cortana. Or at least restrict her.
Cortana from the Halo series of video games is pretty cool. Microsoft’s Cortana? Not so much. If you don’t want Cortana knowing all of your business, then you need to adjust her settings. If you want to shut Cortana out entirely, head into the Cortana Settings of your PC and select the ‘Clear Cortana Data’ option to leave Cortana completely in the dark.

If you’d like to have Cortana around in a limited capacity, simply uncheck the information that you don’t want her to know such as your contacts, location, communication history, and Internet history.

3. Turn off your location
Windows 10 automatically tracks your location at all times. They keep this information for up to 24 hours and can share this information with any third-party app that has location permission (Remember to adjust the privacy of your apps!) That’s a little too uncomfortable for my part, and for a lot of other people. You can prevent this by turning your location off in the privacy settings.
4. Get rid of ad tracking
By default, every Windows user has an advertising ID that tracks your browsing/shopping history. Windows sends this data over to their advertising partners and said partners use this data to personalize the ad campaigns directed towards you.

Sound kind of weird? You can turn off ad tracking by checking off for the option that says “Let apps use my advertising ID”.

5. Disable your camera access
For those of you who have played Grand Theft Auto 5, you remember the scene where Lester says he is going to reverse engineer a webcam and spy on those sorority girls again? That’s a real thing that can actually happen. It’s not hard to highjack a simple camera. Up until now, we have been discussing the invasion of your privacy online, but here, someone could actually see you personally if they wanted to. That’s terrifying.

Even Mark Zuckerberg tapes up his camera just as a safety precaution. You don’t need to go that far (Unless you want to), but you can at least turn camera access off for your device and apps in the privacy settings. A lot of people don’t even use their camera, so there’s no need to take on an unnecessary privacy risk. And if you ever need to turn it back on, that’s easy to do.

6. Disable microphone access
In case you were wondering, Mark Zuckerberg tapes up his microphone too. Now granted most people aside from politicians, secret agents, and business executives probably don’t need to go this far, more safety never hurt anyone right? If you don’t want to be an unintentional radio show host, turn off your microphone in your privacy settings to keep anyone from tuning in.

7. Manage your App Access
Head into the ‘Account Info’ tab of your privacy settings, and you’ll see that by default apps are allowed access to your name, picture, and other account info. Other account info being intentionally vague to keep users in the dark and as many exploitable loopholes open as possible. Do yourself a huge favor and close these holes up by turning this default setting off. As is standard, you can select individual apps to have access to your account info.

8. Get rid of Timeline tracking
Timeline tracking is Windows recording all of the websites that you have visited. Turn off timeline tracking in your privacy settings to keep this from happening. You obviously won’t browse the internet once and then never do so again, so you will have to do this regularly. You also need to manually delete your browsing history, but I am sure this is something most people are used to doing.

9. Fix your privacy settings after every major update. You have no choice.
What if I told you that after all the work you did on customizing your privacy settings, that you will have to do it all over again from time to time? Well, I am telling you.

Whenever there is a major update, Microsoft resets all privacy settings to default and it’s back to data harvesting they go. Sounds very consumer friendly right? Despite constant complaints about this, Microsoft has not fixed this annoyance.

What’s worse, is you probably have automatic updates turned on, which means a major update could occur, your privacy settings have been reset, and you will have no idea. Microsoft keeps users in the dark about all of this because of course, they do.

So, unfortunately, this process will not be a one-time thing. You can, however, fight back a little. There is a way to prevent automatic updates from occurring which means you can decide when you want to start this rodeo all over again.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a huge pain. If you want to stay safe online, you will have to take a very active role in maintaining your privacy. It’s unfortunate that we cannot trust tech companies to behave themselves, but that’s just the way it is. It’s a nasty game, but now that you know the rules, you can beat them at it. Stay safe!

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Apple exec dismisses Google CEO’s criticism over turning privacy into a ‘luxury good’

May 29, 2019

By Jacob Kastrenakes@jake_k May 27, 2019, 12:18pm EDT

Apple’s software chief, Craig Federighi, says he doesn’t “buy into” the criticism that Apple is turning privacy into a luxury good, an accusation that was indirectly leveled at the company by Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

In an interview with The Independent, Federighi dismissed “the luxury good dig,” just a couple weeks after Pichai wrote an op-ed in The New York Times saying that “privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services.” While Pichai didn’t name Apple, which has recently advertised the privacy benefits of its $999 phone, there’s no mistaking which company he’s referring to.

Apple wants to sell products to “everyone we possibly could,” Federighi said, adding that Apple’s products are “certainly not just a luxury.” The argument stems over the difference in business models between the two companies: Apple sells generally high-priced hardware directly to customers, so it doesn’t need to collect much data on them; while Google offers a multitude of free services to users, primarily profiting off of ads displayed on those services that are often targeted based on user data. Pichai argued that it’s important to provide privacy-protective services that everyone has access to.

Federighi said it’s “gratifying” to see other companies discussing privacy, but that it’ll take more than “a couple of months and a couple of press releases” to change these companies’ business practices, which rely on data collection. Federighi didn’t name Google specifically, but likewise, it’s pretty clear which company he’s referring to.

In the interview, Federighi also addressed two other criticisms of Apple’s privacy stance: that it shouldn’t be storing Chinese’ users iCloud data in China, where the country could spy on it; and that its choice not to collect much user data has made it fall behind when it comes to develop AI features, like Siri.

On China, Federighi suggests that storing data within the country isn’t as big of a risk for Apple as it would be for other companies, because of “all of our data minimization techniques.” Between encrypting data and collecting a small amount of data in the first place, Federighi says there’s not much to access on its Chinese iCloud servers, and that anyone who does gain access wouldn’t be able to do much with that information.

Federighi also says he sees the choice between collecting data and building powerful new AI features as a “false trade off.” Building these features without collecting additional user data, “sometimes that’s extra work,” he says. “But that’s worth it.”

Apple does that in a handful of ways, according to the report. That includes buying a catalog of public photos it can use to train algorithms on, as well as analyzing publicly available voice data — like podcasts — instead of using voice recordings from users. Apple has also revealed in the past that it uses differential privacy techniques to anonymize user data and learn from the data in aggregate.

The privacy battle between these two companies is unlikely to slow down. Because Apple’s business model doesn’t involve selling ads, privacy is a key area that Apple can use to make its products stand out, which incentivizes the company to keep volleying back at Google.

Google, meanwhile, understands that the cultural tide is turning against massive data collection, largely thanks to Facebook’s constant scandals, and it’s been making small changes to limit some of those concerns. Just this month, that’s included a new easy-to-read privacy policy for Nest devices, limits to ad tracking in Chrome, and Incognito modes for more apps.

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Your Privacy Is Our Business

April 30, 2019

Let us reassure you: You’re worried only because you don’t understand anything about anything.

By Jessica Powell
Ms. Powell writes about the tech world.

April 27, 2019

Zak Tebbal
You look upset. You’ve been making a lot of noise lately about deleting our company’s app from your phone. But please, sit down. Let me explain. You just don’t understand how technology works.

I don’t mean that in a condescending way — it’s just that you clearly don’t have a Ph.D. in internet security, and I think you sometimes get a little confused when you talk about these matters.

You keep saying we don’t respect your privacy, but look — here’s your data, right here in front of you. Here’s your picture of Uncle Greg throwing his face into the Mai Tai Volcano Bowl at that tiki bar. There’s your post on President Trump (nice job! That one got a lot of likes!). It’s all there, safe and secure in the warm blue blanket we’ve placed around it. No one has hacked it. It’s totally safe. Private.

[As technology advances, will it continue to blur the lines between public and private? Sign up for Charlie Warzel’s limited-run newsletter to explore what’s at stake and what you can do about it.]

Maybe by “privacy,” what you really mean to say is “control” — that you don’t have any control over your data. Believe me, we are all about control. We have a ton of privacy settings on our app. Just click on the top right of your screen, and then the link on the pull-down menu, and then follow that one and the one after that and — there you go!

The reason we make it a bit hard to get to your settings is that people aren’t really that interested in messing with those things. We know this because we watch everything you do.

Having said that, we care deeply about privacy and security, and think it’s so empowering for you (for all of us, really) to have control over your data. So by all means, if it will make you feel better, go right ahead and change your ad settings so that we can’t target you as closely as before. But just so you know, this means we’re going to have to show you a lot of ads for colorful socks with elephants on them, because we really have no idea who wants to buy those things, and we’re paid to show them to someone.

(Also, don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel lonely when all of our precision targeting disappears and your favorite brands are no longer in touch with you. What are you going to do? Go outside? Call your friends on the phone? This is 2019. No one wants to talk to you as much as the advertisers on our app.)
You’re mumbling again and looking irritated. Something about us and a data breach. I can tell you’ve been reading the newspapers. Don’t you know those things are obsolete? And journalists are so ill informed on security matters. They don’t respect privacy — their whole job is to reveal private things! They are the last people you should listen to on this issue.

Trust me when I assure you that there hasn’t been any data breach. Your data is secure. I mean, we did give third parties access to your data and sat back and watched as a political party used an ethically dubious service to target people in one of the most fraught elections in modern history, but really, who doesn’t do that in this industry? Also, we want to be really clear on this point since you aren’t a very technical person: Your data was secure the whole time — it was just in someone else’s very secure hands.

You’re shaking your head. Look, I know this is hard for you to understand, but I’m basically Henry Ford here and you are the old carriage driver who’s really worried that I’m going to run over your horse with my new car. And well, yes, I am going to do that — but here’s the thing! We’re doing it together.

All right, I’m still working on that metaphor, but let’s talk about the printing press. You see, when the printing press was invented, people were very afraid of it. They tried to stop it. But the printing press democratized access to information. That’s what we want to do with your information — democratize it — and make it available to every person, everywhere. We want to set your data free!

And we intend to make a fortune doing it.

Jessica Powell (@themoko) is the former head of communications for Google and the author of “The Big Disruption: A Totally Fictional but Essentially True Silicon Valley Story.”

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