Online Privacy

Alberto Gonzales v. Google

Google has now been taken to court in California by Alberto Gonzales, the US Attorney-General. The lawsuit describes any privacy concerns as illusory, arguing that it does not want to see any additional information that would identify the person who entered the search.

The site's lawyer said: Google's acceding to the request would suggest that it is willing to reveal information about those who use its services. This is not a perception that Google can accept. This report is from Times Online UK, which also outlines how search engines in Great Britain must comply with the "Home Office Code," recommending that they seriously consider blocking weblinks that contain illegal child abuse images.

Mining Subversion Is Just a Wish(list) Away

Tom Owad over at presents an interesting look at privacy, data mining, and wish lists in an article entitled Data Mining 101: Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists.

The article, while technical, shows the frightening and fascinating results of a small-scale data mining operation. Using public domain tools and without violating the Amazon terms of service, Mr. Owad was able to collect and correlate the addresses and potential reading interests of hundreds of persons. This article is sobering and--without hyperbole--a must read.

Privacy? Why no I don't value privacy.

mdoneil writes "I had a nice sandwich from Subway this evening. They gave me a game piece for some promotion. I scratched the thing off and then went to the website as instructed to see if I won.
I never got around to entering the code number as I was offended by the data they wanted before I could find out if I won. Name and Address, well I guess that is OK, but birthdate... before I could even check to see if I won!
The privacy policy linked in tiny type at the bottom of the page is so full of holes it could be cheese for my sandwich. They can share the information I provide with affiliates... they note this after telling me how they will safeguard my informaiton... unless they don't.
The privacy policy even says it is less stringent than that required in companies in the EU member states. At least that is something that won't be offshored, crappy privacy policies. Then it ends with an arbitration clause so you can't sue them if they whore out your information.
The scary thing is the sheeple will fill this out hoping they win a free sandwich. We wonder why we have privacy anympre, because we freely give it away that's why.
I like Subway, but this stuff annoys me."

Tattling Library Elf

Mary Minow's LibraryLaw Blog reports that people using Library Elf to track their checkouts and overdues may have their records exposed like these 228 Bloglines users.

My impression is that this that circulation records wouldn't show if people used a pc-based newsreader instead of a public web-based one like Bloglines.

It's also important to let any outraged people know that this isn't the fault of the libraries because it is the patrons who sign up for Library Elf accounts.

Interlibrary Loan Monitoring Story Smelling Fishy

There is now another version of this story about a Dartmouth student who received a visit from Homeland Security after requesting an original version of Mao's Little Red Book. The latest version takes place at University of California/Santa Cruz and mentions History Professor Bruce Levine. I emailed Levine to see if he could verify the story, but my email was the first he'd heard about it. He was a bit amused, as his specialty is Civil War history, and curious about his name got tacked on to the story. ALA's Public Information Office is digging into the story as well. More details as they become available!

Update: 12/19 22:45 GMT by R :Jessamyn contacted the reporter of the original, Dartmouth story, and he's trying to confirm what he heard from the sources. What's clear is that the UCSC version of the story is a total rip-off of the Dartmouth story. Here's a cached page explaining that the UCSC story was bogus, and removed at the request of one of the professors mentioned in the story.

Privacy in Peril

Anonymous Patron writes " With identity thieves targeting big consumer databases, your data isn't just up for sale--it could be up for grabs.
Information brokers gather incredible amounts of personal data--not just credit details--from many different sources, including private companies and government agencies; then they sell it to businesses, to law enforcement, or to anyone who can demonstrate a need that the brokers consider legitimate. The laws limiting what information can be sold and who can receive it are weak and narrowly focused, so for the most part each broker is free to formulate its own standards."

Information Leaks Leave University Students Vulnerable

Anonymous Patron writes "Columbia Spectator: A harmless act of procrastination by a Queens College law student inadvertently uncovered what has become a massive headache for hundreds of City University of New York students, employees, and affiliates.
The university rushed to inform CUNY students last week that a security foul-up had compromised their confidential information."

Want to Look at the Internet? Your Passport, Please

Anonymous Patron writes "Italy recently passed a law that requires operators of Internet cafes to record and photocopy IDs and passports of anyone who logs on the net in an Internet Cafe. Can such a law be far behind in the US, and applied to libraries, in another future itertion of the Patriot Act? Read this USA Today story here:

Want to check your e-mail in Italy? Bring your passport

Privacy watchdogs say incidents are being disclosed more often

Anonymous Patron writes "One From The San Fransisco Chronicle says that contrary to appearances, there has probably not been an increase in security breaches.

Instead, there has been more disclosure, precipitated by the same California law that forced ChoicePoint to come clean, they said.

"I think there have always been as many security breaches as we've seen in the last few months," said Beth Givens, founder and director of the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Deigo. "The California security- breach notice law has increased the visibility of those breaches.""

In Digital World, Privacy Is Being Eroded For Commercial Gain

Anonymous Patron writes "Tampa Bay Online has a good report on our digital footprints. Companies track these trails for patterns and preferences. The digital footprints can be collected into profiles, or dossiers, so companies can pitch additional products or target advertising to customers.

As a result, government regulators, consumers and the companies offering the high- tech services are beginning to wrestle with how such digital histories will - or should be - stored and sold.
Of course, the government ain't much better, as The Palm Beach Post reports Federal agencies are using data brokers such as Seisint Inc. and ChoicePoint Inc. as a major investigative tool, despite concerns by some activists and lawmakers that the practice sidesteps a long-standing privacy law."


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