If you’re a cell phone owner (and who isn’t), you may be weighing whether getting a smartphone is a good idea or not. There’s no doubt that these devices are extremely convenient, useful, and downright fun to use. And it doesn’t hurt that they look so cool either. However, smartphone owners are among the most monitored people in the world, whether they realize it or not. As the extensive tentacles of cell phone providers, applications, and social media websites grow, more and more smartphone owners are trading privacy for technology.
One of the main ways that smartphone owners are tracked is within the phone itself. If you turn on the wi-fi option on your phone, you’re able to connect to other wireless networks in your area. This may make your web browsing and communications quicker, but you may also be broadcasting your location to mobile phone providers around the world. GPS tracking applications are another way that smartphone owners are monitored. These apps use your physical location to determine where you are and then make recommendations or suggestions as to what ads are relevant to you. You might think that these apps don’t affect you, but several of the extremely popular smartphone apps such as FourSquare, Facebook, and Yelp use GPS software to establish your location and allow you to “check in” or provide reviews of certain establishments.
As some technology writers believe, these programs are incredibly intrusive, but incredibly entertaining as well. And most smartphone owners are more than willing to give up some of their user privacy for the experience of using one of these devices As Gizmodo writer Sam Biddle put it, “That line of creepiness is there, but it’s eroding quickly because, frankly, we are just getting used to it.”
Image c/o: digitpedia
Are you on Facebook? If so, prepare to have your entire Facebook past broadcast over the wild World Wide Web. The massively popular social networking site is preparing to launch Facebook Timeline, a visual history of each user’s history on FB. That means that your previous pictures, posts, statuses, and links from as far back as 2004 will be available for viewing to all of the people in your friends list. If you have a profile that is open to the public, however, everyone who’s on the Internet can see your history, drunken wall posts and all.
According to the company, Timeline will allow you to “tell your life story with a new kind of profile”. But privacy experts and some FB users are worried about the possible effects of such a sweeping change. For example, if you have previously posted an explicit message or an ill-advised picture of yourself, this information may be available to anyone through Timeline. These changes could cause trouble for college students entering the workforce or for people in intimate relationships who have done things they regretted.
While the system will allow all users to decide who sees what parts of their history, those who have hundreds of friends may find it tedious to go through each aspect of their profile and choose who can see it. In the meantime, Facebook benefits from the increased brand exposure and the ability to target marketing ads directly to previous aspects of your profile. Posted a picture of yourself downing a Bud Light? Expect to see a Bud Light ad in your sidebar soon.
Overall, though, this shift demonstrates the need to exercise caution when posting anything online. Generally, users should be discreet about what they share, especially since they may be unable to remove it later. As one expert put it “If…you wouldn’t say something about yourself in a pub, you shouldn’t share it on Facebook.”
Image c/o: Sean MacEntee
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was established in 1998 and is a law that was passed by Congress to protect the online information of children from being shared with third parties. This law was well-intentioned and looks out for children under the age of 13, who may not have the best discretion and are often the biggest targets for marketing companies. Although privacy advocates and parents are continuously pushing for stricter laws on online privacy, it’s interesting to note that a recent study found that the majority of parents who had kids on Facebook knew it – and helped them get there.
The study was conducted by Harris Interactive and polled the parents of kids ages 10 to 14. Most were aware that their children had accounts on Facebook and actually helped them lie about their birth dates to create an account. Even though COPPA is designed to help protect kids, this law can’t carry out its full expectations when children and parents are outwardly going against its terms.
And for those who are on Facebook, you know that it’s not that hard to create an account, as a birth date is needed and just about anyone can tweak the year the child was born. Because of privacy issues, it’s difficult to check the birth date to ensure it’s legitimate, as there would need to be access to children’s birth records and other pertinent information.
As the internet grows to include more social media networking sites, COPPA rules have had to adjust their laws to protect children. However, the online privacy of children can never be truly protected when parents and kids are lying to get around them.
Most parents agree that they don’t find social networking sites like Facebook to be a threat to their child, which is why they allow them to overstep the boundaries. With the notion that ‘everyone’s on Facebook’, most parents feel that they can monitor their child just fine by watching over his or her account and being friends on Facebook.
The Federal Trade Commission doesn’t agree and warns that children under the age of 13 are not only targets of marketing companies, but also lack the awareness to watch over their information and protect themselves from predators. The best tactic – if the site isn’t designed for kids and pre-teens, let the rules speak for themselves. There’s no reason to lie to get around the hurdles, when your child will be 13 one day soon.
Source: CBS News
If you’re a Facebook user, you probably don’t pay much attention to the ads you see in the right pane of your profile page. But they’re there. And they’re the key way that Facebook makes money. Lately, though, those little ads have become a lot more specific – including information about your purchases, your city, and your preferences.
Like many other websites that use the https:// prefix (for secure transactions), Facebook installs Internet cookies on the computers of its users. While cookies are not malicious or harmful to your computer, they do track your other activity online as long as you’re logged into your Facebook account. Thanks to these cookies, Facebook can find out what you’re buying, where you’re buying it from, and then use this information to guess what kind of other ads you might be interested in. This tactic is similar to the method Amazon.com uses to suggest items you might like based on your previous purchases and searches.
As the world wide web grows and becomes more integrated into our everyday lives, it’s clear that the tide is turning away from individual control to corporate influence. While that shift may be beneficial for the bottom line of companies like Facebook, it may also signal the end of real privacy for Internet users.
Image c/o: marcopako
Facial recognition is a relatively new technology that has been used in relation to security. There have been various public and online services that started using facial recognition technology in order to grant access, or as in Facebook’s case, to suggest friends to “tag” in photographs.
More apps are relying on facial recognition technology, but now this newfound advancement is under scrutiny, as it’s raising concerns in regards to privacy issues. More specifically, Congress is addressing whether the user should give consent before having their images matched.
Before people get too concerned over whether or not facial recognition technology is safe, privacy advocates are more concerned over how this technology will be used in future applications. Since facial recognition is still in its infancy, it’s best to determine what benefits this science may offer in the future, as well as how information will be collected and stored.
Law enforcement plans to rely heavily on facial recognition software in the future, as they intend to upload a photograph and be able to match profiles of mug shots. Although this technology will most likely prove to be beneficial in the law enforcement field, it’s other areas that privacy advocates are concerned about.
For example, the new “tag suggestions” feature on Facebook relies on facial recognition technology. The more you use the tag features, the more information is stored and will recognize certain faces. Sure, it’s fun, but many people are concerned about having their face consistently recognized by Facebook tools.
Just like any type of new software that delves into the personal world, the information can be used in a good way or a bad way. It’s hard to balance the ways the information is used, especially as some users enjoy the technology and find it makes their online experience more personal, while others will be more damaging with the information.
Fortunately, there is more to be addressed in the coming months, as Congress evaluates how facial recognition technology information will be collected, stored and used in everyday applications.
A Mississippi woman has sued Facebook for violating her online privacy and tracking her browsing history without consent. This is not the first lawsuit of its kind, as others from Kansas, Kentucky and Louisiana have ongoing lawsuits as well. Facebook has made it clear that they intend to fight this lawsuit, stating to ABC News, “We believe this complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously.”
This court case comes just weeks after Facebook implemented their new “frictionless sharing” plan that includes a timeline and ticker at the right side of the page. Although these tools are designed to build a whole new platform on Facebook that allows users to see what types of movies, music and news articles their friends are into, many are hesitant about the embarrassment it could cause. After all, do you really want your Facebook friends knowing everything you do online?
It is this very concept that the Mississippi woman is fighting for, as she claims that Facebook tracked her activity through cookies even when she wasn’t logged into the site. Facebook denies these accusations, although they do admit to unintentionally tracking users in the past, but claim this was fixed prior to the suing. Furthermore, the tracking that was conducted was done so inadvertently, so none of the information was stored.
Indeed, the Mississippi woman, as well as others, is not so quick to accept this response. It should be assumed that a user is safe from being tracked when not logged into Facebook and that any tracking should be done with the user’s consent. But as we know in many other contexts like Google, it’s the very secretive tracking methods that have been most utilized by online advertising and websites.
It’s difficult to say how far the case will get in court, but up until September 23, 2011, Facebook did indeed track, collect and store their users’ wire or electronic communication. We can only hope that Facebook is listening to their users and affording more control over the collection and storage of personal information. In the meantime, Facebook encourages users to try the new open platform that allows friends to connect with each other based on hobbies and interests.
Source: ABC News
Image Source: Tesmec S.p.A
Facebook is at it again. Less than a week ago, Facebook announced their “frictionless sharing” plan that allows online sites and services to share users’ activity with the rest of the world. Like hitting that “like” button was just too difficult, now all you have to do is read an online article and your friends will be notified. Just like any new change made to Facebook, many people have concerns over their online activity being exploited. After all, how many of us indulge in articles that we wouldn’t want our friends to know about?
In order to take part in frictionless sharing, you’ll need to authorize a new Facebook application such as Yahoo News. Then any time you read an article on Yahoo News, it will show up on that cute little ticker box on the right hand of the screen. Facebook gurus say that frictionless sharing does not compromise a user’s online activity since you need to authorize the app in the first place in order to share this information. If you don’t want this news to spread to everyone, simply stick to the ordinary “like” buttons instead, and don’t read articles through the app.
As long as you don’t mind your activity being shared with your friends, these new apps are quite convenient. They allow you to read your favorite stories directly from the Facebook for fast gossip and news. And, these cool apps reach beyond news stories and include music and movies. Most users agree that this info sharing isn’t too invasive. When you watch a movie or listen to a song through the apps, your friends will know, which many like to share regardless.
If you’re still concerned about your privacy, Facebook has offered new options that give users more freedom over who they share their information with. If you click on the app settings on your Facebook page, you can monitor who can see your privacy such as the public or friends. But just because you limit your sharing with friends doesn’t mean they can’t turn around and post it on their own pages.
But just like everything else through Facebook, we will get used to the new changes. People won’t really care if you’re reading about the Casey Anthony case or filling up on the latest Lindsay Lohan news. So read away and enjoy some of the new apps that Facebook offers.