Online Privacy

Privacy: A Bigger Challenge Than Ever

Even for a place where personal information is under siege, the case of Brandy Combs is unusual.

University of Florida police allege Combs stole a university librarian’s personal information to fraudulently obtain more than $31,000 in student loans and took a student’s information to get a false student identification. He was arrested on May 20 on charges of fraud and passing false checks.

While the details of the case were unusual, having a breach of private information at UF was not. The university experienced more than 130 confirmed privacy breaches in 2008, compromising the information of about 358,000 individuals, according to the UF Privacy Office.

UF officials said they’re taking steps to improve security as new regulations increase reporting requirements and fines for breaches. But they say the nature of a university means keeping large amounts of information that is sought by hackers and others.

“Every university, because it’s a university, is a prime target,” said Chuck Frazier, UF’s interim chief information officer. “You can be attacked from anyplace and every place.” The Gainesville Sun.

EFF weighs in on Google Books Settlement

This just in from the Electronic Frontier Foundation with most of their call shown after the "read more" jump: -- Read More

We are putting together a group of authors (or their heirs or assigns)
who are concerned about the Google Book Search settlement and its effect
on the privacy and anonymity of readers.

An Expectation of Online Privacy

Bruce Schneier: "This isn't a technological problem; it's a legal problem. The courts need to recognize that in the information age, virtual privacy and physical privacy don't have the same boundaries. We should be able to control our own data, regardless of where it is stored. We should be able to make decisions about the security and privacy of that data, and have legal recourse should companies fail to honor those decisions."

Amazon using library cookies?

In the Technology section of the New York Times there is an article called An Icon That Says They’re Watching You that is about an idea to help companies target online ads and still protect your privacy: Mark ads with a special icon that, when clicked, displays what they know about you.

In the comments section there is a person claiming that Amazon used their library information to target products to them. Black helicopter time? Or possibility?

Excerpt of comment: the targeting wasn’t based on my prior purchasing patterns: Amazon pulled it from tracking my recent library borrowing requests.

Last time I looked, the government couldn’t get this info without a subpoena; but renewing my books online apparently allows Amazon to nibble my cookies indiscriminately. Moreover, there’s nothing to stop the govt from getting my library records the roundabout way, through Amazon. And had it not been for those come-ons, I would probably not have noticed or wondered what Amazon was up to.

A Matter of Ethics

From Randy Cohen's 'The Ethicist" column in the NYT:

Q. I’m a librarian. A regular patron, a man in his late 40s or early 50s and virtually technologically illiterate, asked me to print a few e-mail attachments for him — photos of a young and attractive Russian woman. Many of the messages were titled “I Love You” or the like and included explicit requests for money. I believe he is being scammed. May I intervene, or does that violate his privacy and my professional boundaries? N.P., LAWRENCE, KAN.

A. The professional — and delicate — response is to give your patron excellent service without criticizing or embarrassing him. A skilled reference librarian often goes beyond a patron’s specific request, suggesting resources he has not even considered. You can provide this fellow with the information that he needs to protect himself from (or at least become aware of) possible fraud — and without using the words “You love-drunk old fool.”

Ann Thornton, a director of reference and research services at the New York Public Library, concurs via e-mail: “If the librarian handles the matter in a confidential, courteous manner and offers appropriate resources, he/she is providing a higher level of service. Therefore, it is well within the scope of his/her professional responsibility.” -- Read More

Agency Skeptical of Internet Privacy Policies

Agency Skeptical of Internet Privacy Policies The Federal Trade Commission had some sharp words for Internet companies Thursday, saying that they are not explaining to their users clearly enough what information they collect about them and how they use it for advertising. For now, the commission is sticking to its view that the Internet industry can voluntarily regulate its own privacy practices.

Hiding My Candy: Give Me The Option To Share My Reading

Hiding My Candy: Give Me The Option To Share My Reading. The Free Range Librarian:

I expect librarians to protect my privacy by going to bat for me when the government or industry over-intrudes, not by designing systems that make it impossible to have an online presence in their systems. I want companies and organizations that gather this data to use it in ways that improve my experiences — making my life more efficient, fun, and interesting — and yes, they can use it to improve their experiences, as well.

Information...or...Nosiness?

Verizon Wireless has fired an undisclosed number of employees who couldn’t resist the chance to peek into Barack Obama’s cellphone records, CNN reports.

It was an old, flip-top phone, not his famous BlackBerry, and the account had been inactive for months. No text messages or voicemail contents could have been accessed. The employees were satisfying “idle curiosity,” a source told CNN, and the employees were not authorized to access customer records.

Microsoft adds privacy tools to IE8

Microsoft Corp. today spelled out new privacy tools in Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) that some have dubbed "porn mode" in a nod to the most obvious use of a browser privacy mode.

A privacy advocate applauded the move, calling it a "great step forward," while rival browser builder Mozilla Corp. said it is working to add similar features to a future Firefox.

The Eternal Value of Privacy

Bruce Schneier:

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.

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