Commercial and Industrial Threats to Privacy

One of the greatest of these threats to privacy is in the form of Supermarket Discount Cards.  But in the past, big companies have been known to toss privacy out the window when there is money to be made.  Historically:

  • A certain delivery company stated that it would never sell the database of digitized signatures collected when it started using electronic pads — and then, some years later, did exactly that.
  • Companies with very rigorous privacy policies, having collected significant amounts of personal customer data, have gone bankrupt, and the files have been offered for sale.
  • Intruders have broken into companies and stolen personal information from computerized files — or even planted backdoors and logging/reporting software in their systems.*

Note:  The material about RFID chips has been moved to another page.

The disturbing acceptance of Google's new 'smart' camera.  The pitch for the Google Clips is it's a camera that sits off to the side in a room and automatically captures the kinds of candid shots that one never really plans for — the most common examples cited being some random happening involving one's kids or pets.  Instead of mere serendipity, however, the camera uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to try and guess when to best take a shot.

Amazon drivers are now taking photos of your front door when delivering packages.  Drivers for Amazon have started taking pictures of people's front doors as part of a creepy new delivery service.  The service, which is quietly being rolled out in the UK and US, is designed to help people find packages left by Amazon employees.  But it also raises privacy concerns as many customers may be not be aware that pictures of their home are being stored on company servers.  The unnerving project extends Amazon's already substantial reach into customer homes.

The Car of the Future Will Sell Your Data.  Picture this:  You're driving home from work, contemplating what to make for dinner, and as you idle at a red light near your neighborhood pizzeria, an ad offering $5 off a pepperoni pie pops up on your dashboard screen.  Are you annoyed that your car's trying to sell you something, or pleasantly persuaded?  Telenav Inc., a company developing in-car advertising software, is betting you won't mind much.  Car companies — looking to earn some extra money — hope so, too.

Amazon Employee Wristband Patents Light Fire Under Privacy Advocates.  Amazon was granted two patents in January for the wristbands that are intended to show an employee how to use his hands most efficiently.  The company never mentioned any intention to use the wristbands to keep track of its workers on bathroom breaks, for instance, on or off the job.  But that didn't stop some privacy advocates and industry observers from warning of the creation of a dystopian time-management tool.  According to the Amazon patents, the idea is the wristbands would buzz and vibrate to nudge workers' arms into a better position or even stop the worker from, let's say, putting something in the wrong place or grabbing the wrong wrench.

Silicon Valley's surveillance capitalism has resulted in Big Tech killing off human privacy.  The case against Big Tech seems to be building by the week.  And interestingly, some of the most powerful evidence is being provided by those who really know what they're talking about:  tech insiders.  Full disclosure:  I am a tech insider myself.  I run a tech company in Silicon Valley.  My wife is a senior executive at Facebook and many of our closest friends have senior roles in companies like Google.  Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive responsible for growing the social network's user base, recently argued that Silicon Valley had "created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works."

Tucker Reveals How Google Spies On You Constantly Through Your Phone.  Fox News' Tucker Carlson revealed another exclusive report on Google's surveillance Wednesday [2/7/2018], and the new details are seriously creepy.  In the investigation, Fox News' Brett Larson travels around Washington, D.C., with two cellphones in his pocket, one of them on airplane mode.  Neither of the phones have SIM cards or Wifi connections.  The phones tracked Larson's locations as he traveled, getting such information as when he got out of the car thanks to a time log that records your movements down to the second.

Facebook's Expanding Insanity.  I am used to technically obtuse platforms.  However, Facebook's recent behavior has taken it from the merely difficult to the arena of totalitarian and irrational.  A few years ago, one could set up a Facebook account rather easily:  just provide an email.  Later on, Facebook wanted phone verification.  That was easily handled, and if one wanted to use a third-party phone number, to protect one's anonymity, there were ways to get around that phone requirement.  After that, Facebook sometimes asked for a photograph of the account-user's face.  The official explanation was that Facebook wanted to be sure that the user was really who he claimed to be.  Supposedly, the picture would be analyzed by a computer or a human inspector and then erased.  Yeah, right!

Facebook can track who you know using the DUST on your camera.  Facebook has designed a way to track you and your friends using the dust and scratches on your camera lens.  The social networking giant outlines how it would connect users by matching similarities in their uploaded photos in a newly found patent.  If two people have used the same digital camera, Facebook could link them by detecting similar dust or scratch marks in their uploaded photos.  The company says it has 'never implemented' the technology described in the patent, but has not ruled out using it in future.

Facebook wants to look around your home.  Social media giant Facebook is making its first venture into consumer electronics with a device straight out of George Orwell's 1984.  The device, called Portal, will serve basically as a $500 self wiretap for millions of Americans, potentially providing corporate, government and hacking snoops a direct audio visual feed into their homes.

That Game on Your Phone May Be Tracking What You're Watching on TV.  At first glance, the gaming apps — with names like "Pool 3D," "Beer Pong: Trickshot" and "Real Bowling Strike 10 Pin" — seem innocuous.  One called "Honey Quest" features Jumbo, an animated bear.  Yet these apps, once downloaded onto a smartphone, have the ability to keep tabs on the viewing habits of their users — some of whom may be children — even when the games aren't being played.  It is yet another example of how companies, using devices that many people feel they can't do without, are documenting how audiences in a rapidly changing entertainment landscape are viewing television and commercials.

The Bright-Eyed Talking Doll That Just Might Be a Spy.  Cayla is a blond, bright-eyed doll that chatters about horses and hobbies.  She plays games and accurately answers questions about the world at large.  She could also be eavesdropping on your child.  That's the stark warning parents in Germany received on Friday from the country's telecommunications watchdog, the Federal Network Agency, which said hackers could use the doll to steal personal data by recording private conversations over an insecure Bluetooth connection.  The watchdog said it was pulling the doll off store shelves and banning them in Germany.

A Cute Toy Just Brought a Hacker Into Your Home.  As the holiday shopping season enters its frantic last days, many manufacturers are promoting "connected" toys to keep children engaged.  There's also a smart watch for kids, a droid from the recent "Star Wars" movies and a furry little Furby.  These gadgets can all connect with the internet to interact — a Cayla doll can whisper to children in several languages that she's great at keeping secrets, while a plush Furby Connect doll can smile back and laugh when tickled.  But once anything is online, it is potentially exposed to hackers, who look for weaknesses to gain access to digitally connected devices.  Then once hackers are in, they can use the toys' cameras and microphones to potentially see and hear whatever the toy sees and hears.  As a result, according to cybersecurity experts, the toys can be turned to spy on little ones or to track their location.

Watch What Happens When Amazon's 'Alexa' Is Asked Political Questions.  We are being tracked in everything we do now, from browsing the web, to your cellphone, to FitBit, to your tablet... your every move is being recorded.  Mostly to market to you, but there are always those other reasons that involve intelligence agencies and Big Brother.  And it will get ever more invasive.

No, you're not being paranoid.  Sites really are watching your every move.  If you have the uncomfortable sense someone is looking over your shoulder as you surf the Web, you're not being paranoid.  A new study finds hundreds of sites — including,, and — employ scripts that record visitors' keystrokes, mouse movements, and scrolling behavior in real time, even before the input is submitted or is later deleted.  Session replay scripts are provided by third-party analytics services that are designed to help site operators better understand how visitors interact with their Web properties and identify specific pages that are confusing or broken.  As their name implies, the scripts allow the operators to re-enact individual browsing sessions.  Each click, input, and scroll can be recorded and later played back.

Regulators question Google over location data.  Google is facing scrutiny for reportedly collecting data about the location of smartphone users without their knowledge.  Regulators in South Korea summoned Google representatives this week to question them about a report that claimed the company was collecting data from Android devices even when location services were disabled.

iPhone Apps Can Secretly Turn On Your Camera And Take Pictures At Any Time.  A new warning has been issued to iPhone users.  Apps downloaded to the smartphones can turn on the phone's camera and take pictures at any time, and it's doing it secretly.  Felix Krause, an Austrian developer who works for Google, built an app that was able to take pictures of its user every second and upload them, without the app or the phone ever notifying the user.

Amazon wants the keys to your front door.  Amazon has plans to drop off packages directly into shoppers' homes.  The world's largest online retailer on Wednesday [10/25/2017] announced Amazon Key, a lock and camera system that users control remotely to let delivery associates slip goods into their houses.  Customers can create temporary passcodes for friends and other service professionals to enter as well.  The move, in the works for more than a year, may help Amazon capture sales from shoppers who can't make it home to receive an order in person, and do not want the package stolen from their doorstep.  It also signals Amazon's ambitions in the growing market for home security devices, where Alphabet Inc.'s Nest Labs competes.

Alexa, what are you doing in my room?  Alexa is always there waiting to "help."  She's an unobtrusive addition to any setting, available in a variety of designer fabric coverings.  With a soothing, maternal voice, she is Big Brother reimagined as a benevolent family member. [...] These devices are a modern-day version of illegal search and seizure.  Combined with the leftist-driven breakdown of societal values, we face a future where we all become cattle to powerful elites.  The only question is how willingly we do so.

6 Dangerous Electronics & Apps Secretly Spying On You In Your Home.  [#2] Smart TVs:  While smart TVs allow you to connect to the Internet directly, they can also be used to collect your data.  For example, a new technology called TVision Insights allows companies to monitor TV watchers' viewing habits.  This means that they can literally watch you as you watch TV. They even record data on where your eyes are looking, when you're distracted, and what emotions you're conveying.  In early 2015, Samsung warned its customers:  "Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party."

To see your gestures, the TV will have to watch you continuously.  Do you really want that?
End of the TV remote could be nigh as scientists invent technology to change channel using gestures.  The television remote could become a thing of the past according to scientists who have developed a new technology that allows the device to be controlled through gestures instead.  Computer scientists at Lancaster University have come up with a system that makes it possible interact with screens simply by using body movements, or waving objects.  Requiring only a simple webcam, the "Matchpoint" works by displaying moving targets that orbit a small circular "widget" in the corner of the screen.

Facial recognition being used at conferences and events.  Zenus a startup company based in Texas, claims their facial recognition software can speed up check-ins at conferences and events. [...] Zenus CEO Panos Moutafis, claims people love their product and claims that they don't identify anyone.  "People loved the system," Moutafis says.  "The organizer told us that it was five times faster than typical scanning methods."  "There is no personal information transferred from the platform, just the 'face geometry' that distinguishes individuals Moutafis said."  But is he telling the truth?

Houston's Zenus Brings Facial Recognition Software to Event Check-Ins.  For all the technological innovation on display at the annual South By Southwest Interactive festival, registration and check-in is still largely done the old-fashioned way.  Similar to other large conventions, an attendee waits in line, hands over an ID to a registrar, gets a picture taken for a badge, and then receives the usual conference swag bag.  Now, a Houston startup called Zenus says it can use imaging technology to automate steps in the process, reducing the time and effort required to check in.  "The check-in process is the first thing attendees experience at the venue; it's very important to get it right," says Panos Moutafis, co-founder and CEO of Zenus.

Hackers can spy on you through Amazon Echo.  Smart home speakers equipped with microphones programmed to listen for everything you say may be turned into devices that would spy on everything you say.  Gadgets like Amazon Echo and Google Home are programmed to record your commands, but they're also programmed to ignore everything you say unless you use a hot word to activate the assistants.  But as it turns out, someone with physical access to an Amazon Echo device could hack it to send everything it hears to a remote server.

AT&T is reinstating their plan to spy on you unless you pay extra.  AT&T plans to reinstate their GigaPower pay-for-privacy scheme, as revealed by AT&T VP Robert Quinn in a recent interview with C-SPAN.  In 2014, AT&T started offering GigaPower 300 Mbps fiber internet in cities around the United States.  Users signing up had the option of paying $29 more per month to guarantee that AT&T doesn't snoop on your internet traffic and serve you advertisements and offers from their MITM position on your internet.

These Forms Collect Your Data Even If You Don't Hit "Submit".  If you fill in a web form and hit "submit," you expect your data to get whisked off into the great ether, and probably from there to be shared with third parties.  But you probably don't expect your keystrokes — and form auto-fill fields — to be captured and sent away as-entered, before you hit submit.  And yet, a new report claims, that may be exactly what's happening.  Gizmodo recently delved into a startup you've never heard of that may be sharing data — even sensitive medical data — that you never even knew you were giving up, just based on how you fill in fields on the web.

Facebook wants to spy on people through their smartphone camera and analyse the emotions on their face.  Facebook has been secretly developing creepy technology which spies on people and automatically analyses their facial expressions.  The social network applied for a patent to capture pictures of a user through their smartphone.

You Already Bugged Your Own House Years Ago.  Yesterday, Apple announced the HomePod, a smart speaker in the style of the Google Home and Amazon Echo.  Like those competing devices, it is voice-activated.  Shout out "Hey Siri" and it will respond.  This is a cool bit of modern convenience.  But, unavoidably, it also means that these machines are listening.  All the time.  Apple insists its device is not transmitting any data unless you've said those magic words.  Google and Amazon promise pre-wake-word privacy as well.  Even so, there's a certain reaction that bubbles up every time a new one of these listening machines appears — you'd have to be crazy to put one in your home.

Facial recognition tech makes it official:  There is no privacy anymore.  Recent weeks have brought controversy over electronic billboards in restaurants and shopping precincts that utilize advanced facial recognition techniques to not only provide personalized advertisements but also measure and record the consumer and their response, ostensibly to enable retailers to provide more targeted marketing and services.  In Oslo, the restaurant Peppe's Pizza had its usage of such billboards exposed due to a crashed digital advertisement that revealed the coding behind its facial recognition system.  The billboard includes a camera and facial recognition software that can register gender, whether the watcher is young or an adult, facial expression, whether they wear glasses[,] and duration of time spent at the billboard.

The Editor says...
Hey, that's great news!  This may be slightly off-topic, but if someone has "facial recognition software that can register gender," that would settle a lot of "gender confusion" issues.  Chromosomes can also help sort confused individuals into male or female — for indeed those are the only two categories reflected in one's chromosomes.  There is no such thing as "gender confusion" at that level.

Google, Facebook angry they may no longer be able to sell your internet data without permission.  Social media giants Google and Facebook are actively trying to stop a proposed law that would force them to acquire consent from users before collecting their personal information.  The "Browser Act," introduced May 18 by Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, mandates that people must explicitly give permission to internet service providers (ISPs) and websites wanting to use their browsing history and other data for business purposes.

Salim Virani:  Top 9 Reasons to Stop Using Facebook... Now.  [Scroll down]  It sounds nuts when you put it all together!  [#1] Facebooks [sic] creates false endorsements for products from you to your friends — and they never reveal this to you.  [#2] When you see a like button on the web, Facebook is tracking that you're reading that page.  It scans the keywords on that page and associates them to you.  It knows much time you spend on different sites and topics.  [#3] They read your private messages and the contents of the links you send privately.  [#4] They've introduced features that turn your phone's mic on without telling you.  Based on their track-record changing privacy settings back without telling you, audio surveillance is likely to start happening without your knowledge. [... #9] Facebook is demanding to track what you buy, and your financial information like bank account and credit card numbers.  You've already agreed to it in the new Terms Of Service.  It's already started sharing data with Mastercard.

The Cloud Panopticon:  Google, Cloud Computing and the Surveillance-Industrial-Complex.  In June 2007, Privacy International, a U.K.-based privacy rights watchdog, cited Google as the worst privacy offender among 23 online companies, ranking the "Don't Be Evil" people below Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, eBay, LinkedIn, Facebook and AOL.  According to the report, no other company was "coming close to achieving [Google's] status as an endemic threat to privacy."  What most disturbed the authors was Google's "increasing ability to deep-drill into the minutiae of a user's life and lifestyle choices."  The result:  "the most onerous privacy environment on the Internet."  Indeed, Google now controls an estimated 70 percent of the online search engine market, but its deep-drilling of user information — where we surf, whom we e-mail, what blogs we post, what pictures we share, what maps we look at, what news we read — extends far beyond the search feature to encompass the kind of "total information awareness" that privacy activists feared at the hands of the Bush Jr. administration's much-maligned Total Information Awareness program.

You're All Idiots.  Amazon has introduced a "new" Echo device.  Having convinced a number of people to allow them to stick an always on speaker and microphone in their house with the data going to Amazon and whoever else they wish they have now upped the game with both a camera and screen. [...] If I see one of these in your house I know for a fact that you're stupid — and I'm immediately leaving, never to return.

Workplace Surveillance Is the New Office "Perk".  Whether through "voluntary" corporate wellness programs, smart badges that record voices and GPS locations, or surveillance apps in their mobile phones and personal computers, Americans are offering up more and more personal data at work.  Most of them don't have much idea of where that data goes, or how it will be used — and there aren't that many limits on what employers can find out about their employees, or what they can do with the data.  The more people who opt in now, the harder it will be to opt out in the future.  And it's about to get much worse.

A Microwave Can't Spy on You — But Plenty of Other Appliances Can.  We are all constantly surrounded by stuff that can spy on us.  Microwaves are not on the list (yet), but televisions, as Conway mentions, certainly are.  As detailed in CIA documents recently released by Wikileaks, certain Samsung televisions were compromised by the CIA such that they could remain on while appearing off, eavesdropping all the while.  Smart TVs may need to be hacked before they can listen to you, but other models have been known to spy on your watching habits right out of the box.

The Editor says...
If someone is bent on detecting activity in your house, the microwave oven would yield clues:  The operation of your microwave oven shows that you are awake and you're most likely in the kitchen, which someone outside the house may not have known.

Vizio Caught Spying on Customers Through Their TVs.  We've been warned about bringing devices into our home that have cameras, microphones or WiFi that are connected to the outside world.  Why?  Because any one of the devices has the capability to collect data about us.  And with advertisers and other organizations willing to pay for personal information, it's tempting for device makers to try to earn extra profits.  The consumer electronics hardware business has become highly competitive with so many similar products that do much the same, so the manufacturers are trying to find ways to increase their revenue through software subscriptions or by collecting data that they can sell to others.

These Toys Don't Just Listen To Your Kid; They Send What They Hear To A Defense Contractor.  Kids say a lot of random, unsolicited, or just plain personal things to their toys while playing.  When that toy is stuffed with just fluff and beans, it doesn't matter what the kid says: their toy is a safe sounding board.  When their playtime companion is an internet-connected recording device that ships off audio files to a remote server without even notifying parents — that's a whole other kind of problem.  According to a coalition of consumer-interest organizations, the makers of two "smart" kids toys — the My Friend Cayla doll and the i-Que Intelligent Robot — are allegedly violating laws in the U.S. and overseas by collecting this sort of voice data without obtaining consent.

Facebook's New "Fun & Creative" Filter: a Frighteningly Powerful Facial Recognition Tool.  Facebook recently purchased a facial recognition software company that promises to "bring more fun effects to photos and videos" posted on the social media behemoth.  The origins of the technology — named "FacioMetrics" — is much more sinister, however, and is likely to be used in much less lighthearted ways.  In its announcement of the acquisition, Facebook highlights FacioMetrics' ability to "allow people to express themselves in fun and creative ways" and to "build even more engaging sharing experiences on Facebook." There isn't, however, any mention of how, and more importantly why, FacioMetrics was created.

How to block the ultrasonic signals you didn't know were tracking you.  Dystopian corporate surveillance threats today come at us from all directions.  Companies offer always-on devices that listen for our voice commands, and marketers follow us around the web to create personalized user profiles so they can (maybe) show us ads we'll actually click.  Now marketers have been experimenting with combining those web-based and audio approaches to track consumers in another disturbingly science fictional way: with audio signals your phone can hear, but you can't.  And though you probably have no idea that dog whistle marketing is going on, researchers are already offering ways to protect yourself.  The technology, called ultrasonic cross-device tracking, embeds high-frequency tones that are inaudible to humans in advertisements, web pages, and even physical locations like retail stores.

Yahoo admits it knew about huge data breach in 2014, two years before it became public.  After months of speculation, Yahoo has finally admitted it knew about a massive data breach as far back as 2014. The tech company had previously claimed it only "recently" found out about the leak of 500 million users accounts.  Independent experts are now investigating exactly how much was known and by whom, Yahoo said.  They are looking at evidence that indicates a "state-sponsored actor" breached Yahoo's system and could have gained user data by creating "cookies" that bypassed password protection, the company said in a regulatory filing.  Yahoo said it doesn't believe it is currently possible for the attackers to forge valid Yahoo Mail cookies.

The Editor says...
One can create artificial, deceptive, functional cookies, but if they are forgeries, they are not valid.

Was "Google Home" designed to spy inside our homes?  Google Home (GH) is always listening to everything that goes on inside your home.  It's like paying the NSA, sorry I meant Google, $129.00 to bug your home.  Click [elsewhere] to find out about Google's close relationship with the NSA.  GH does more than listen to music, it can control your lights, thermostats, radios, TV's, refrigerators, smart plugs and more.  GH has partnered with Nest, Phillips, IFTTT and Samsung who also make the 'family hub refrigerator'.

This employee badge knows not only where you are, who you are talking to.  Do you hog office conversations?  Or not talk enough?  Does your voice squeal?  Do you sit very still at your desk all day?  Or do you fidget under stress?  Where do you go in the office?  How much time do you spend there?  To whom do you talk?  An employee badge can now measure all this and more all with the goal of giving employers better information to evaluate performance.  Think of it as biometrics meets the boss.

Bryant Park mines data about you from your phone.  While hundreds of aspiring yogis strike their best tree-poses on the Bryant Park grass Thursday evening, the Bryant Park Corporation employs new technology to raid their cell phones for information about this crowd that travels to the park for a group stretch.  "It's just like what we do every day in the park," park brand relations manager Matt Castellan said.  "We take visitor counts every day with clickers."  Except instead of the informal numbers and maybe truthful answers to casual questions that Castellan and other employees gather from guests, the PlaceIQ system provides a far more detailed snapshot of the 8 million annual visitors to the park.

98 personal data points that Facebook uses to target ads to you.  The social network just revamped its ad preference settings to make them significantly easier for users to understand.  They've also launched a new ad education portal, which explains, in general terms, how Facebook targets ads.  "We want the ads people see on Facebook to be interesting, useful and relevant," a Facebook spokesperson said.  But it remains to be seen whether users are pleased or frightened by the new information they suddenly have.

Snapchat, Big Brother, credit card companies etc., are using facial recognition.  Everywhere you turn someone is using facial recognition to identify you.  Facial recognition is out of control and soon will be in use everywhere.

Windows 10 upgrade:  Don't use Express settings if you value your privacy.  When you're setting up a new or existing PC with Windows 10, Microsoft will offer to install the operating system with "Express settings."  Although Windows 10 Express settings will get you up and running quickly, that convenience comes at a cost:  By skipping over custom settings, you're agreeing to all kinds of data collection and behavior tracking, much of which didn't apply in earlier versions of Windows.  Here's our advice:  Instead of blindly enabling Express settings in Windows 10, take some time to understand what you're agreeing to.

Somewhat related:
More forced advertising creeps into Windows 10 Pro.  If you were wondering whether Microsoft could inflict even more damage to Windows' reputation, the answer is yes.  When the Anniversary Update rolls out on Aug. 2, Windows 10 Pro users will no longer be able to turn off certain kinds of advertising.  That presents a real concern for admins, who will not be able to keep Microsoft from pushing the likes of Candy Crush Soda Saga onto their domain-joined Pro machines.  It's also a frightening concern for anyone who paid for Pro's GPEdit feature.

Comcast Wants To Charge You Less For Broadband At The Expense Of Your Privacy.  Would you be willing to pay less for broadband if it means giving up more of your personal data? [...] Comcast wants to present lower tiered broadband options to customers who have no problem with their data being mined and exposed to advertisers.  This would create a luxury level of broadband with more privacy options.  At least, that's how Comcast is spinning it to the FCC.  The FCC doesn't appear to be having any of this nonsense.

This Company Has Built a Profile on Every American Adult.  For more than a decade, professional snoops have been able to search troves of public and nonpublic records — known addresses, DMV records, photographs of a person's car — and condense them into comprehensive reports costing as little as $10. [...] IDI, a year-old company in the so-called data-fusion business, is the first to centralize and weaponize all that information for its customers.  The Boca Raton, Fla., company's database service, idiCORE, combines public records with purchasing, demographic, and behavioral data.

Tale of the tape: Why Mark Zuckerberg is smart to cover his webcam.  Webcam security was thrust into the spotlight this week when a photo of Mark Zuckerberg appeared to show the camera and microphone on his MacBook covered with tape.  The photo, which was posted on Facebook to celebrate Instagram hitting 500 million followers, sparked plenty of interest.  While some worried about the broader effectiveness of Facebook's security, many see the tape as a shrewd defense against potential hackers.

Facebook is using smartphones to listen to what people say, professor suggests.  Facebook could be listening in on people's conversations all of the time, an expert has claimed.  The app might be using people's phones to gather data on what they are talking about, it has been claimed.  Facebook says that its app does listen to what's happening around it, but only as a way of seeing what people are listening to or watching and suggesting that they post about it.  The feature has been available for a couple of years, but recent warnings from Kelli Burns, mass communication professor at the University of South Florida, have drawn attention to it.

Did you know that your Facebook mobile app has complete access to your phone's microphone?  Recently, an expert has come out to claim that Facebook may be listening in on your conversations.  Kelli Burns, a mass communication professor at the University of South Florida, believes the app might be using people's microphones to gather data on the content of people's conversations.  Facebook admits that the app is capable of listening to what's happening around it — but claims the feature simply identifies what people are listening to or watching as means of conveniently posting about it.  Currently, the feature is only available in the U.S. and has been available for a couple of years according to Facebook, although recent warnings from Burns have drawn renewed interest.

Facebook will now track you even if you're not a Facebook user.  Facebook announced on Thursday evening [5/26/2016] that it is changing the way its advertising works across the web.  Facebook doesn't just serve ads on and in its mobile apps, the company also has a network of third-party websites and apps that it partners with to display ads.  It's called the Audience Network, and there has always been one big difference between the way Facebook's off-site ads work as compared to Google:  They were only shown to Facebook users.  Now, that will no longer be the case.  As The Wall Street Journal noted on Friday morning, Facebook's off-site ads will now be shown to people who are not registered Facebook users.

Here's Why You Shouldn't Use Facebook's Reactions Buttons.  Belgian police are warning users not to use the Facebook Reactions feature to respond to posts if they want to protect their privacy.  In February, the series of six emoticons, allowing users to express a range of emotions from anger to love, were added to the original thumbs-up option.  They came in response to calls for a 'Dislike' button.  However, the new expressions are another big 'like' for Facebook and a 'dislike' for its users — according to Belgian police who claim the site is using them as a way to collect information on people to target advertising toward them.

Report: Apple Music Now Finding and Removing Your Personal MP3s.  Seriously, that really happens today, and there's nothing you'll do about it.  You signed away your right to sue, and what's worse you still buy products and services from firm that do this sort of thing.  Apple Music is a new "subscription" music service.  But it has a twist — when you sign up it will root around your hard drive (and, presumably, any network-attached drives) and any music it "thinks" it has in the "cloud" that it deems to be the "same" was what you own it will remove from your computer entirely.  This [...] literally destroys your personal, private property.

Power shaming
Your Local Energy Companies Now Engaged in "Power-Shaming".  How much you wanna bet that the following is the result of a federally-funded program initiated by the rogue, lawless, and completely out-of-control Obama EPA?  To wit:  here is a snip from my latest online energy bill.

The Market For Secrets.  Alex Preston, writing in The Guardian, rhetorically asked if privacy was dead.  "Google knows what you're looking for.  Facebook knows what you like," he writes.  The NSA may know what you've written too, which could be very important in a world where value increasingly consists of human intellect integrated over time.  The 21st century is a time when people are rewarded for what they know or, alternatively, punished for what they allow to be known, as General Petraeus and Hillary Clinton have found.  Yet in a "world without curtains" a person may not even have much custody over these things and find it all leaking away no sooner than set down.  A modern individual's life history may be digitally preserved more imperishably than the pyramids, but the paradox is that this history is not really his, and is not even in his beneficial possession.

Your Phone Is Listening — Literally Listening — to Your TV.  The TV is on in the background, and you're replying to a quick email on your phone nearby.  You don't know it, but the devices are communicating.  During a commercial, the TV emits an inaudible tone and your phone, which was listening for it, picks it up.  Somewhere far away, a server makes a note:  Both devices probably belong to you.  This information about which devices belong to whom is immensely valuable to advertisers hoping to target ads specifically to you.

Feds rule in favor of snooping by tech giants.  Google, Facebook and other tech giants should remain free to spy on you, regulators ruled on Friday [11/6/2015].  A petition filed with the Federal Communications Commission by the privacy group Consumer Watchdog asked that such websites be forced to respect consumer requests not to have their online activity tracked.  The FCC dismissed the petition, stating that it has been "unequivocal in declaring that it has no intent to regulate edge providers."

3 gadgets that are always listening and how to stop them.  Personal digital assistants, such as Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Google's Google Now and Microsoft's Cortana, are like something out of science fiction.  A comparison is often made to the helpful-turned-homicidal computer Hal 9000 from the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey."  Of course, while today's personal digital assistants aren't going to try to kill you (hopefully), they do have this in common with Hal:  They're always listening.  Fortunately, also unlike Hal, stopping them from listening is simple.

AT&T Helped N.S.A. Spy on an Array of Internet Traffic.  The National Security Agency's ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company:  the telecom giant AT&T.  While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as "highly collaborative," while another lauded the company's "extreme willingness to help."

VW Has Spent Two Years Trying to Hide a Big Security Flaw.  Thousands of cars from a host of manufacturers have spent years at risk of electronic car-hacking, according to expert research that Volkswagen has spent two years trying to suppress in the courts.  "Keyless" car theft, which sees hackers target vulnerabilities in electronic locks and immobilizers, now accounts for 42 percent of stolen vehicles in London.  BMWs and Range Rovers are particularly at-risk, police say, and can be in the hands of a technically minded criminal within 60 seconds.  Security researchers have now discovered a similar vulnerability in keyless vehicles made by several carmakers.

Hacker's RollJam device can steal your car keys, open your garage.  [Scroll down]  It's a proven system that's secured tens of millions of cars and remote garage door openers for years.  And now it may be useless.  White-hat hacker Samy Kamkar, who last week cracked GM's OnStar smartphone app security and demonstrated his ability to illicitly unlock and start a car over a cellular network, has developed a device made from $20 worth of parts that he calls the RollJam, which does exactly what its name implies.

Facebook Monitors Your Private Messages and Photos For Criminal Activity, Reports them to Police.  Facebook has a new little known software that monitors your profile chat and pictures for criminal activity.  The software will proceed to alert an employee at the company who will then decide whether to call authorities or not.  The software will monitor individuals who have a 'loose' relationship on social media networks, according to an interview with Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan.

'Tape Your Webcam': Horrifying Malware Broadcasts You to the World.  The Internet is flush with webcam videos of people who clicked unwittingly on a malware link and opened their computer to anonymous miscreants intent on mocking, blackmailing or simply spying on them, according to a report being published Thursday [7/30/2015].  There's not enough being done about such little-known but alarming invasions of privacy, the Digital Citizens Alliance says in its report on computer "slaving" by programs known as Remote Access Trojans, or RATs.  However, the organization says both corporations and individuals can take steps to address the problem.  "Tape your webcam," advises Adam Benson, deputy executive director of the Digital Citizens Alliance.  "I have tape on both my work computer and home computer."  He also suggests not clicking on links with uncertain destinations, and keeping anti-virus software and device operating systems up to date.

Will the Internet Listen to Your Private Conversations?  The Echo, a $180 cylindrical device that began general shipping in July after months of public testing, is the latest advance in voice-recognition technology that's enabling machines to record snippets of conversation that are analyzed and stored by companies promising to make their customers' lives better.

Hillview man arrested for shooting down drone; cites right to privacy.  Hillview Police say they were called [7/26/2015] to the home of 47-year-old William H. Merideth after someone complained about a firearm.  When they arrived, police say Merideth told them he had shot down a drone that was flying over his house.  The drone was hit in mid-air and crashed in a field near Merideth's home.  Police say the owner of the drone claimed he was flying it to get pictures of a friend's house — and that the cost of the drone was over $1,800.

$300 gadget steals encryption keys out of the air, and it's nearly unstoppable.  Just when you thought you were safe, a new hacking toy comes along and rocks your world.  Imagine a tool exists that lets hackers pluck encryption keys from your laptop right out of the air.  You can't stop it by connecting to protected Wi-Fi networks or even disabling Wi-Fi completely.  Turning off Bluetooth also won't help you protect yourself.  Why?  Because the tiny device that can easily be hidden in an object or taped to the underside of a table doesn't use conventional communications to pull off capers.  Instead it reads radio waves emitted by your computer's processor, and there's really nothing you can do to stop it.

Is facial recognition a threat on Facebook and Google?  Facebook is one of the leading organizations in the world developing facial-recognition algorithms.  Facebook software can now identify people in photographs as well as people can.  Facebook's DeepFace (no, I'm not kidding — it's called DeepFace) can tell whether the subjects in two different photographs are the same person with 97% accuracy.  That's even better than the FBI's own Next Generation Identification system.  DeepFace achieves this amazing feat by analyzing faces, turning them into 3D models, then making it possible to recognize the faces from angles and under lighting conditions that are different from those in other photos of the same person.  The technology uses more than 120 million parameters, and a page on Facebook's research website explains that the company "trained it on the largest facial dataset to-date, an identity labeled dataset of four million facial images belonging to more than 4,000 identities."

Google eavesdropping tool installed on computers without permission.  Privacy campaigners and open source developers are up in arms over the secret installing of Google software which is capable of listening in on conversations held in front of a computer.  First spotted by open source developers, the Chromium browser — the open source basis for Google's Chrome — began remotely installing audio-snooping code that was capable of listening to users.

Fired worker sues company over 24-7 tracking app.  Myrna Arias didn't like the GPS app on her phone that constantly tracked her, so she uninstalled it.  The problem:  Arias' iPhone was issued by her employer, which required her to run the app constantly, and after she removed it, the California woman was fired.  Now she's suing her former employer, money transfer service Intermex, for invasion of privacy, unfair business practices, and retaliation, among other things, Ars Technica reports.

Worker fired for disabling GPS app that tracked her 24 hours a day.  A Central California woman claims she was fired after uninstalling an app that her employer required her to run constantly on her company issued iPhone — an app that tracked her every move 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Plaintiff Myrna Arias, a former Bakersfield sales executive for money transfer service Intermex, claims in a state court lawsuit that her boss, John Stubits, fired her shortly after she uninstalled the job-management Xora app that she and her colleagues were required to use.

The Editor says...
The way I understand it, if the company owns the phone, you have to leave it configured the way the company set it up.  The big question in this case is whether the company can compel you to lug the phone with you wherever you go.  If you don't want the company tracking your movements, all you have to do is wrap the phone in aluminum foil.  The GPS won't work, the cell phone sites won't see the phone, and the tracking apps will immediately stop working.  The phone won't be able to receive calls (of course) until you unwrap it, but if you're not "on call" 24/7, that's not an issue.

Lost in the clouds: 7 examples of compromised personal information.  Each day millions of people across the globe create backups of their files.  These backups are supposed to offer a measure of assurance that their files are safe, but that's not entirely true.  In fact, depending on how you've configured the device, your backups are freely available online to anyone who knows what they're looking for.

What the Progressive Snapshot is to your car, this device is to your body.

Insurance co. wants to track you 24/7 for a discount.  It's increasingly popular to wear a fitness tracker that measures your footsteps, heart rate or body movements.  Now, the life insurance company John Hancock is offering deal if you'll wear one:  15% off in some cases.  The company unveiled its optional, new program Wednesday morning [4/8/2015].  John Hancock is partnering with Vitality, which many people probably know as one of those work-related wellness programs.  The program is available in 30 states.

The Editor says...
The problem with this sort of idea is that if a high enough percentage of adults voluntarily participate, the program will become mandatory for everyone else, because obviously the holdouts don't know what's good for them. can hijack your computer using Java updates.  We learned this week that more than 317 million computer viruses or other malicious programs were unleashed by hackers last year, according to the Internet security firm Symantec.  That's nearly a million new cyberthreats daily.  But not all attempts at messing with your computer are from sneaky, illegitimate sources.  Some are from big-name tech companies that don't seem to care what you think of them.  Anyone whose computer has been hijacked by the toolbar knows exactly what I mean.

Twitter puts trillions of tweets up for sale to data miners.  You are travelling by plane to see your newborn grandchild.  As you board the aircraft, the cabin crew address you by name and congratulate you on the arrival of a bouncing baby boy.  On your seat, you find a gift-wrapped blue rattle with a note from the airline.  In Twitter data strategy chief Chris Moody's vision of the future, companies surprising their customers like this could become an everyday occurrence — made possible because Twitter is listening.

The Editor says...
If someone read your mail and then congratulated you on an unpublicized event, you'd call them a busybody.  Companies who pretend to be helpful by reading your social media pages are really just nosy.

Visa wants to track your smartphone to combat fraud.  Visa will introduce a feature this spring that will allow its cardholders to inform their banks where they are automatically, using the location function found in nearly every smartphone.  Having your bank and Visa know where you are at all times may sound a little like Big Brother.  But privacy experts are applauding the feature, saying that, if used correctly, it could protect cardholders and cut down on credit card fraud.

Hang on, this Wi-Fi doll records your child's voice? What could possibly go wrong?  Mattel has unveiled a high-tech Barbie that will listen to your child, record its words, send them over the internet for processing, and talk back to your kid.  It will email you, as a parent, highlights of your youngster's conversations with the toy.  If Samsung's spying smart TVs creeped you out, this doll may be setting off alarm bells too — so we drilled into what's going on.

Microsoft, Lenovo scramble to protect users from Superfish security flaw.  Superfish, a little-known Silicon Valley startup, is defending itself amid a firestorm of criticism for making software that exposed Lenovo laptop users to hackers bent on stealing personal information.  Researchers revealed Thursday that a vulnerability in Superfish software, which came pre-loaded on many Lenovo laptops, could let hackers impersonate shopping, banking and other websites and steal users' credit card numbers and other personal data.

How Lenovo's Superfish 'Malware' Works And What You Can Do To Kill It.  Lenovo might have made one of the biggest mistakes in its history.  By pre-installing software called 'Superfish' to get ads on screens it's peeved the entire privacy community, which has been aghast this morning on Twitter.  There are serious security concerns about Lenovo's move too as attackers could take Superfish and use it to ensnare some unwitting web users.  Here's what you need to know about Superfish and what you can do to stop it chucking irksome ads on your browser and leaving you open to hackers.

Lenovo caught installing adware on new computers.  It looks like Lenovo has been installing adware onto new consumer computers from the company that activates when taken out of the box for the first time.  The adware, named Superfish, is reportedly installed on a number of Lenovo's consumer laptops out of the box.  The software injects third-party ads on Google searches and websites without the user's permission.

Your Samsung TV Is Snooping on You.  Your Samsung smart TV is capturing your conversations.  Samsung's privacy policy for an internet-connected smart tv with voice commands reads, "Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party."

Samsung's Smart TVs Are Collecting And Storing Your Private Conversations.  Compare Samsung's wording...  ["]Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.["] with Orwell's:  ["]The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously.  Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard.  There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment...["]
[Emphasis in original.]

Facebook Will Tag You in Photos with Creepy Recognition Software.  Facebook is getting "aggressive" about tagging people in photos posted on the social networking site.  Its facial-recognition software, with the creepy name DeepFace, is going through the massive archive of photos and identifying people.  And the software is good at it.

Not in front of the telly: Warning over 'listening' TV.  Samsung is warning customers about discussing personal information in front of their smart television set.  The warning applies to TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature.  Such TV sets "listen" to some of what is said in front of them and may share details they hear with Samsung or third parties, it said.  Privacy campaigners said the technology smacked of the telescreens, in George Orwell's 1984, which spied on citizens.

Is your TV eavesdropping on private conversations? Samsung reveals its smart sets can capture every word.  Smart TVs and high-end games consoles that 'listen' to voice commands are becoming increasingly popular.  But Samsung is today under fire for what it does with this audio information after it is collected.  In its privacy policy, the South Korean firm has revealed that if their conversations contain 'personal or other sensitive information', this will be captured and transmitted to an unidentified third party.

Report Sees Weak Security in Cars' Wireless Systems.  Serious gaps in security and customer privacy affect nearly every vehicle that uses wireless technology, according to a report set to be released on Monday [2/9/2015] by a senator's office. [...] The report found that large amounts of data on driving histories are harvested, frequently without consumers being explicitly aware that the information is being collected or how it will be used.  At least nine automakers use third-party companies to collect vehicle data, which can make consumers even more vulnerable, and some transmit that data to third-party data centers too.

Mass. Retailers Ask For ZIP Code, And Lawsuits Follow.  In the past two years, at least 25 retailers have been sued for more than $100 million for requesting ZIP code information from Massachusetts customers.  Most of the lawsuits have been settled or withdrawn, but the practice of asking customers for their postal codes — bits of information with a marketing value of perhaps 5 cents each — has cost retailers millions of dollars in settlements and attorneys' fees.

Report: Uber Tracks Users' Sexual Liaisons.  An Uber executive's suggestion that the company should investigate the private lives of journalists has sparked a backlash against the popular car service, offering a potent reminder that tech companies are amassing detailed — and potentially embarrassing — records of users' communications, Internet traffic and even physical movements.

Everything Google knows about you (and how it knows it).  According to Google, I am a woman between the ages of 25 and 34 who speaks English as her primary language and has accumulated an unwieldy 74,486 e-mails in her life.  I like cooking, dictionaries and Washington, D.C. I own a Mac computer that I last accessed at 10:04 p.m. last night, at which time I had 46 open Chrome tabs.  And of the thousands and thousands of YouTube videos I have watched in my lifetime, a truly embarrassing number of them concern (a) funny pets or (b) Taylor Swift.  I didn't tell Google any of these things intentionally, of course — I didn't fill out a profile or enter a form.  But even as you search Google, it turns out, Google is also searching you.

Critics chafe as Macs send sensitive docs to iCloud without warning.  [Scroll down]  But it nonetheless came as a surprise to researcher Jeffrey Paul, who said he was alarmed to recently discover a cache of in-progress files he intended to serve as "temporary Post-It notes" that had been silently uploaded to his iCloud account even though he never intended or wished them to be.  "Apple has taken local files on my computer not stored in iCloud and silently and without my permission uploaded them to their servers," Paul wrote in a recent blog post.

Verizon, AT&T tracking their users with 'super-cookies'.  Verizon and AT&T have been quietly tracking the Internet activity of more than 100 million cellular customers with what critics have dubbed "supercookies" — markers so powerful that it's difficult for even savvy users to escape them.  The technology has allowed the companies to monitor which sites their customers visit, cataloging their tastes and interests. Consumers cannot erase these supercookies or evade them by using browser settings, such as the "private" or "incognito" modes that are popular among users wary of corporate or government surveillance.

They can probably see a lot more than your face right now, but the pictures are intentionally fuzzied up.
Google's Satellites Could Soon See Your Face from Space.  Skybox's satellites cannot capture details as small as license plate numbers or someone's face — yet.  But DigitalGlobe's might.  At 25 centimeters, the images will be detailed enough to classify the make of a car.  If the restrictions relax further, the plate number or owner's face could come into clear view.

Every iPad and iPhone on the planet has a secret back-door allowing unknown parties to take control.  I wonder who could be behind this?

Growing Backlash to Facebook's Ambient Sound Recording Feature.  Seems not everybody is happy with Facebook's gift of a built-in ambient sound recorder.  An Australian news site reports that "the feature has sparked an online backlash, with users mobilising [sic] in an effort to get the social media giant to kill off the development."  The petition has over half a million signatures as of press time.

Why the young need to read 1984.  Young people too willingly surrender their privacy to Google and Facebook, a leading scientist warned yesterday [6/5/2014].  Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at Sheffield University, said that older people were more cautious with their personal data.

Another privacy threat: DNS logging and how to avoid it.  With AT&T now turning your DNS logs into a money-making proposition, it's time to look at alternatives.

'Do not track'? : The browser privacy system is in tatters.  In 2009, a few Internet privacy advocates developed an idea that was supposed to give people a way to tell websites they don't want to be monitored as they move from website to website.  The mechanism, which would eventually be built into all the major browsers, was called Do Not Track.  With a single browser setting, these advocates thought, users would be able to communicate a preference for their privacy.  It would be easier than downloading add-on software or creating a blacklist of specific companies to block.  Do Not Track, or DNT, would be the Web's version of the telemarketer Do Not Call list.  But today, DNT hangs by a thread, neutered by a failure among stakeholders to reach agreement.

Researchers develop formula that reveals home location based on tweets.  IBM researches announced Friday [3/21/2014] they successfully developed an algorithm to track down any Twitter user's home city based on metadata contained in their last 200 tweets.  The formula, which researchers said could benefit targeted advertising for marketers or locating major news events for journalists, has an almost 70 percent rate of accuracy according to MIT Technology Review, and is the latest research finding to highlight the possible danger to privacy and security presented by metadata collection and analysis.

Capital One says it can show up at cardholders' homes, workplaces.  Credit card issuer Capital One isn't shy about getting into customers' faces.  The company recently sent a contract update to cardholders that makes clear it can drop by any time it pleases.  The update specifies that "we may contact you in any manner we choose" and that such contacts can include calls, emails, texts, faxes or a "personal visit."  As if that weren't creepy enough, Cap One says these visits can be "at your home and at your place of employment."  The police need a court order to pull off something like that.

It will soon be technically impossible to be anonymous.  Whether we like it or not (and often we do), we are getting ever more astonishingly accurate authentication links between people and machines.  It soon will be technically impossible to stay "anonymous".  Data we emit as people as we do anything other than sit alone starving in a cave will be collected and stored and processed as part of things working normally.  That data will throw up patterns of behaviour that can be used for both good and malign purposes, by both government agencies and private organisations.

Somewhat related:
Ford: 'We have GPS in your car, so we know what you're doing'.  A top Ford executive made a startling admission about the amount of data the auto maker tracks from its customers at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show this week.  "We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you're doing it," Ford Vice-President Jim Farley told a crowd in Las Vegas during the show.  "We have GPS in your car, so we know what you're doing."  The global marketing and sales division chief was trying to make a larger point about the amount of real-time data Ford has on drivers that could be used in the future to alleviate problems like traffic congestion.


Exec Backpedals After Saying Ford Tracks Drivers.  A Ford Motor executive who said the company tracks and collects data on how Ford customers drive their vehicles said Thursday [1/9/2014] that he regrets making the comments.  Jim Farley, executive vice president of marketing and sales at Ford, said that he was wrong to suggest to customers that the automaker uses GPS devices in vehicles to collect data on how people drive.

Facebook 'snoops on your private inbox': Site sued over claim it is scanning and selling details.  Facebook is being sued over claims it has been scanning users' private messages for personal information to sell to advertisers.  The social networking site, is accused of monitoring messages and website links sent between users so they can profile what people read online.

Google wants to move into your Home: Giant plans to fit microphones in ceilings.  Google is already heavily criticised for trying to know almost everything about us, and now the firm wants to get inside our homes, literally.  Engineering director Scott Huffman told The Independent that in his vision of the future Google users would have microphones fitted inside their homes.

2 million Facebook, Gmail and Twitter passwords stolen in massive hack.  Hackers have stolen usernames and passwords for nearly two million accounts at Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and others, according to a report released this week.  The massive data breach was a result of keylogging software maliciously installed on an untold number of computers around the world, researchers at cybersecurity firm Trustwave said.

Memo to Workers: The Boss Is Watching.  Blue-collar workers have always been kept on a tight leash, but there is a new level of surveillance available to bosses these days.  Thanks to mobile devices and inexpensive monitoring software, managers can now know where workers are, eavesdrop on their phone calls, tell if a truck driver is wearing his seat belt and intervene if he is tailgating.

Big brother is watching you in Vegas, except in hotel hallways.  Closed circuit cameras hidden behind plastic ceiling domes are omnipresent in pop culture portrayals of Sin City. [...] Yet the Associated Press found that 23 of the 27 major Strip casinos have no surveillance in hotel hallways or elevator landings.

Phone companies remain silent over legality of NSA data collection.  America's top telecommunications companies are refusing to say whether they accept that the bulk collection of their customers' phone records by the National Security Agency is lawful.  The phone companies are continuing to guard their silence over the controversial gathering of metadata by the NSA, despite the increasingly open approach by those at the center of the bulk surveillance programme.  On Tuesday [9/17/2013] the secretive foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court declassified its legal reasoning for approving the NSA telephone metadata program periodically over the past six years.

Google knows nearly every Wi-Fi password in the world.  If an Android device (phone or tablet) has ever logged on to a particular Wi-Fi network, then Google probably knows the Wi-Fi password.  Considering how many Android devices there are, it is likely that Google can access most Wi-Fi passwords worldwide.

CFPB's data-mining on consumer credit cards challenged in heated House hearing.  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officials are seeking to monitor four out of every five U.S. consumer credit card transactions this year — up to 42 billion transactions — through a controversial data-mining program, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.

Attention, Shoppers: Store Is Tracking Your Cell.  Like dozens of other brick-and-mortar retailers, Nordstrom wanted to learn more about its customers — how many came through the doors, how many were repeat visitors — the kind of information that e-commerce sites like Amazon have in spades.  So last fall the company started testing new technology that allowed it to track customers' movements by following the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones.

The Web Cookie Is Dying. Here's The Creepier Technology That Comes Next.  Many Internet advertisers rely on cookies, digital code stored on your browser. [...] The problem for marketers is that some users set their browsers to reject cookies or quickly extinguish them.  And mobile phones, which are taking an increasing chunk of the Web usage, do not use cookies.  To combat the cookie's flaws, advertisers and publishers are increasingly turning to something called fingerprinting.

Big Brother alert: Cameras in the cable box to monitor TV viewers.  New technology would allow cable companies to peer directly into television watchers' homes and monitor viewing habits and reactions to product advertisements.  The technology would come via the cable box, and at least one lawmaker on Capitol Hill is standing in opposition.  Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Michael Capuano has introduced a bill, the We Are Watching You Act, to prohibit the technology on boxes and collection of information absent consumer permission.

You Thought You Had Privacy Before the NSA Leak? What About Facebook?.  Your privacy has already been invaded by Facebook and the other tech giants that collected the data in the first place.  If the government is turning to Big Brother in an effort to safeguard the homeland, then the tech companies are Rich Uncles, intent on getting ever richer.

NSA Built Back Door In All Windows Software by 1999.  In researching the stunning pervasiveness of spying by the government (it's much more wide spread than you've heard even now), we ran across the fact that the FBI wants software programmers to install a backdoor in all software.  Digging a little further, we found a 1999 article by leading European computer publication Heise which noted that the NSA had already built a backdoor into all Windows software.

New Xbox by NSA partner Microsoft will watch you 24/7.  One of the console's key features is the full integration of the Kinect, a motion sensing camera that allows users to play games, scroll through menus, and generally operate the Xbox just using hand gestures.  Microsoft has touted the camera as the hallmark of a new era of interactivity in gaming.  What Microsoft has not promoted, however, is the fact that you will not be able to power on the console without first enabling the Kinect, designed to detect both heartbeats and eye movement[,] and positioning yourself in front of it.

Is Big Data Turning Government Into 'Big Brother'?  With every phone call they make and every Web excursion they take, people are leaving a digital trail of revealing data that can be tracked by profit-seeking companies and terrorist-hunting government officials.

Your Computer is Bugging Your House.  The computer you are sitting at right now probably has a microphone.  It probably also has a camera looking at you this moment.  Is it sending sound and pictures from inside your house to the PRISM program at NSA?  Who knows?  But one thing is for sure — the technology is sitting there, on your desk.  Welcome to Winston's world.

Bloomberg Admits Terminal Snooping.  Reporters at Bloomberg News were trained to use a function on the company's financial data terminals that allowed them to view subscribers' contact information and, in some cases, monitor login activity in order to advance news coverage, more than half a dozen former employees said.

Bloomberg Terminal Scandal Makes Bunga Bunga Parties Seem Quaint.  When a billionaire mayor's news company uses his financial company's products to spy on the nation's top bankers and officials, no line is left uncrossed.

The Internet is a surveillance state.  Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time.  Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to.  Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users.  Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads.  One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period.  Increasingly, what we do on the Internet is being combined with other data about us.

New Malware Attacks Smartphone, Computer to Eavesdrop.  A recently discovered new form of Android malware called DroidCleaner can not only infect your smartphone, but also targets your PC to spy on you.

Online ad firm agrees to stop 'history sniffing' in Web browsers.  A digital advertising company agreed Wednesday [12/5/2012] to end its practice of "history sniffing," the practice of secretly tracking Internet users' activity through their Web browsers.  Epic Marketplace Inc. and a subsidiary were able to place a code in user's Web browsers allowing them to instantly see whether the unwitting users had visited any of the more than 50,000 websites that they were monitoring, including pages related to impotence, fertility issues and personal bankruptcy.

Facebook accused of massive 'data grab' with new service that automatically uploads your phone pictures.  Facebook has been accused of a massive 'data grab' after encouraging users to allow it to automatically synchronise photos from their mobile devices to the social networks servers.  The social network from Friday began asking users of its mobile apps to activate its new Photo Sync, which will automatically upload each picture to a private album.  Whether or not users decide share the photos on their public newsfeed, Facebook itself will still have access.

Bionic Mannequins Spy on Shoppers to Boost Luxury Sales.  The EyeSee looks ordinary enough on the outside, with its slender polystyrene frame, blank face and improbable pose.  Inside, it's no dummy.  A camera embedded in one eye feeds data into facial-recognition software like that used by police.  It logs the age, gender, and race of passers-by.

Microsoft wants to know how many friends you've got in your living room.  One of Microsoft's latest patent applications is a humdinger.  It proposes to turn the Kinect camera into a snitch for movie studios, reporting back just how many friends you've got in your living room and what they're watching.  Think that sounds alarmist?  Here's what it actually says:  "The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken."  It's that blatant — a system to spy on private viewing habits.

Vast F.D.A. Effort Tracked E-Mails of Its Scientists.  [Scroll down]  The software used to track the F.D.A. scientists, sold by SpectorSoft of Vero Beach, Fla., costs as little as $99.95 for individual use, or $2,875 to place the program on 25 computers.  It is marketed mainly to employers to monitor their workers and to parents to keep tabs on their children's computer activities.  "Monitor everything they do," says SpectorSoft's Web site.  "Catch them red-handed by receiving instant alerts when keywords or phrases are typed or are contained in an e-mail, chat, instant message or Web site."

Facebook Camera app really, really wants to know your location.  Facebook's slick new camera app goes on strike if you don't give it access to your location.

Is your TV watching you? Latest models raise concerns.  Samsung's 2012 top-of-the-line plasmas and LED HDTVs offer new features never before available within a television including a built-in, internally wired HD camera, twin microphones, face tracking and speech recognition.  While these features give you unprecedented control over an HDTV, the devices themselves, more similar than ever to a personal computer, may allow hackers or even Samsung to see and hear you and your family, and collect extremely personal data.

Street View cars grabbed locations of phones, PCs.  Google's Street View cars collected the locations of millions of laptops, cell phones, and other Wi-Fi devices around the world, a practice that raises novel privacy concerns, CNET has confirmed.  The cars were supposed to collect the locations of Wi-Fi access points.  But Google also recorded the street addresses and unique identifiers of computers and other devices using those wireless networks and then made the data publicly available through until a few weeks ago.

Why is Sprint installing junk apps on my Android phone?  A few days ago I noticed a strange app on my HTC Evo Android smartphone.  It's a demo version of a sci-fi shooter game called N.O.V.A.  It wasn't preinstalled, I didn't download it, and I can't uninstall it.  I checked to see what it does on my phone and was shocked to see the long list of permissions it has.

On the Web, Children Face Intensive Tracking.  A Wall Street Journal investigation into online privacy has found that popular children's websites install more tracking technologies on personal computers than do the top websites aimed at adults.  The Journal examined 50 sites popular with U.S. teens and children to see what tracking tools they installed on a test computer.  As a group, the sites placed 4,123 "cookies," "beacons" and other pieces of tracking technology.

More information about cookies.

Is Your Detergent Stalking You?  Unilever's Omo detergent is adding an unusual ingredient to its two-pound detergent box in Brazil:  a GPS device that allows its promotions agency Bullet to track shoppers and follow them to their front doors.

Backdoor found in Energizer Duo USB battery charger.  Software that can be downloaded for use with the Energizer Duo USB battery charger contains a backdoor that could allow an attacker to remotely take control of a Windows-based PC, Energizer and US-CERT is warning.

GM backs mandatory vehicle 'black boxes'.  General Motors Co. supports legislation to require so-called "black boxes" in vehicles, to collect crash data, and it is willing to support additional "reasonable" auto safety legislation.  In a roundtable interview with reporters today, GM's new vice president for government relations, Robert E. Ferguson, said the company backs legislation in the works from Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, to mandate event data recorders.

Software Turns Your Cell Phone Against You.  Malicious software for cell phones could pose a greater risk for consumer's personal and financial well-being than computer viruses, say scientists from Rutgers University.  The scientists have made a particularly resilient malware, known as a rootkit, that can turn a cell phone's microphone, GPS and battery against the phone's owner.

The Editor says...
That's odd.  Up until now, anyone who developed a rootkit was called a hacker by the mainstream news media.  Why, in this case, are they being called scientists?

Windows 7 Update "Phones Home" to Microsoft Every 90 Days.  The release of Windows 7 "Update for Microsoft Windows (KB971033)" will change the current activation and anti-piracy behavior of Windows 7 by triggering automatic "phone home" operations over the Internet to Microsoft servers, typically for now at intervals of around 90 days.  The purpose?  To verify that you're not running a pirated copy of Windows...

What the data miners are digging up about you:  Databases know more about you than you realise.  A Carnegie Mellon University study recently showed that simply by knowing gender, birth date and postal zip code, 87% of people in the United States could be pinpointed by name.  Websites can collect huge amounts of data from users.  Retailers, for example, can track our every click, what we buy, how much we spend, which advertisements we see — even which ones we linger over with our mouse.

The Coolest (or Creepiest) Thing on Facebook.  Facebook likes to talk about privacy, but, let's be honest:  If you've spent any time on the social networking behemoth, you know the site is all about revealing yourself.  A new app, however, may take Facebook's hey-look-at-me culture one step too far.

Photocopiers with disk drives could be used for ID theft.  Consumers are bombarded with warnings about identity theft.  Publicized threats range from mailbox thieves and lost laptops to the higher-tech methods of e-mail scams and corporate data invasions.  Now, experts are warning that photocopiers could be a culprit as well.

Neighbor's data shows up in my browser.  There seems to be some way that my next-door-neighbor's information got into my PC.  They always have their wireless internet on, but my wireless reception is usually disabled.  I really don't know how this could have happened.  Of course, since the problem showed up while I was doing my taxes, I am even more paranoid about what information of mine might have been swapped between households.

Personal data found hidden in iTunes tracks.  Fresh privacy fears have been sparked after it emerged that Apple has embedded personal information into music files bought from its iTunes online music store.  Technology websites examining iTunes products discovered that personal data, including the name and e-mail addresses of purchasers, are embedded into the AAC files that Apple uses to distribute music tracks.

Adi Shamir's bug attack:  One (possibly hidden and intentional) bug in any high-level microprocessor as used in any modern configuration can possibly leak secret keys used by Public-Key Infrastructures. … How easy is it to verify that such a single multiplication bug does not exist in a modern microprocessor, when its exact design is kept as a trade secret?

McCain loan could violate donor privacy.  When John McCain's presidential campaign all but went broke, it borrowed money from its bank using its fundraising list as collateral.  Problem:  McCain's own privacy policy promises donors he won't sell their information.  That seems to put the Republican senator's campaign in a pickle; either it pledged to its bank proceeds from something it can't sell, or it offered to violate its own promise to donors.

AT&T's Internet Monitoring Plans:  News stories are now appearing widely about an AT&T plan to try block pirated content at the network level. … To actually pick out particular content from those streams would imply the need to actually examine and characterize the payload of files to locate and block potentially offending music and/or video content.

AT&T rewrites the rules:  Your data isn't yours.  AT&T has issued an updated privacy policy that takes effect Friday [6/23/2006].  The changes are significant because they appear to give the telecom giant more latitude when it comes to sharing customers' personal data with government officials.  The new policy says that AT&T — not customers — owns customers' confidential info and can use it "to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process."

This is apparently related to the issue of Domestic spying.

This is an original compilation, Copyright © 2015 by Andrew K. Dart

RIAA Still Feels Entitled To Scour Everyone's Hard Drives.  Ever since the RIAA started taking on file sharing, it's always acted as if it were entitled to all sorts of things it isn't: access to the names associated with IP addresses without filing lawsuits, private info on the people they're suing and even the aid of the FBI in what's clearly a civil, not criminal, dispute.

Lawsuits mounting over massive customer data breach at TJX.  The TJX Cos. Inc. faces federal lawsuits in five additional states over a data theft that exposed at least 45 million credit and debit cards to potential fraud, according to a regulatory filing Thursday [6/7/2007] by the owner of stores including T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.

Printer steganography:  Many color printers (Xerox, HP, etc.) add barely visible yellow dots that encode printer serial numbers and time stamps, down to the minute.  Intended primarily to combat counterfeiters, the purportedly "secret" steganographic code in color printer copies has now been decoded by four people at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. There are of course various slippery-slope privacy issues.

Sleuths Crack Tracking Code Discovered in Color Printers.  It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it isn't.  The pages coming out of your color printer may contain hidden information that could be used to track you down if you ever cross the U.S. government.

Caution:  Your Printer is a Government Spy.  The government conspired with manufacturers to hide a secret code on every page generated by a color printer or copier.

Printer dots raise privacy concerns.  The affordability and growing popularity of color laser printers is raising concerns among civil liberties advocates that your privacy may not be worth the paper you're printing on.  More manufacturers are outfitting greater numbers of laser printers with technology that leaves microscopic yellow dots on each printed page to identify the printer's serial number — and ultimately, you, says the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the leading watchdogs of electronic privacy.

EFF's "Yellow Dots of Mystery" on Instructables.  Since late 2004, EFF has been warning the public about "printer dots" — tiny yellow dots that appear on documents produced by many color laser printers and copiers.  These yellow dots form a coded pattern on every page the printer produces and can be used to identify specific details about a document; for example, the brand, model, and serial number of the device that printed it and when it was printed.  In short, the printer dots are a surveillance tool that can link each printed page to the printer that printed it.

Keep Your Grubby Mitts Off My Hard Drive.  Amazon's new UnBox video service turns out to have some traits that are even more annoying than the impenetrable cellophane stickers they put on DVD cases. … To be allowed the privilege of purchasing a video that I can't burn to DVD and can't watch on my iPod, I have to allow a program to hijack my start-up and force me to login to uninstall it?  No way."

Big Brother Is Tracking You.  Many new cell phones come equipped with tracking devices that can pinpoint the location of the phone to within 30 feet.  The feature offers lots of possibilities both to users and law enforcement. … Even the simplest phones now have enhanced 911 capability mandated by federal law, which can detect a caller's location within a broad area through triangulated radio signals sent to cell towers.

20 inspectors suspended over GPS.  The Massachusetts public safety commissioner yesterday [7/10/2006] suspended 20 state building and engineering inspectors for refusing to accept cellphones equipped with global positioning systems.

Camera With Pitt-Jolie Photos Is Seized.  Local police, accompanied by state police and Secret Service officers, went to the Westfield home of William Keys on Tuesday to recover a digital camera's memory stick after three photos that appeared on the Internet were tracked to Keys.

The Editor says...
[How did they track the photos to a specific camera?  Sounds like I need to do some research.]

Cell Service Lets Parents Track Kids by GPS.  Up until now, parents had to deal with a separate company or buy special equipment to track their children through their cell phones.  Sprint Nextel Corp. becomes the first U.S. wireless provider to sell its own product when the Family Locator Service rolls out Thursday [4/13/2006].

The Editor says...
The expression "Track Kids by GPS" is misleading.  GPS is a one-way (receive only) service using weak signals that are unreliable inside houses and cars, and completely useless in tunnels and underground parking garages.  Nextel is most likely comparing the arrival time of PCS signals at several different sites, and using simple calculations to figure out where the phone is.  (That would be possible without GPS technology, but you'd need an atomic clock at every cell phone site, so it wouldn't be economically feasible.)  What it boils down to is simply this:  Cell phone signals travel about one foot in one nanosecond.  If every cell phone site has a clock that is accurate to 10 nanoseconds, you can figure out where a PCS phone is within 10 feet by comparing the arrival time of its signals at various (precisely known) locations around town.

The Choice Point Syndrome.  An extensive list of breaches of sensitive personal information, disclosed just since January 2005.

A bank you might not want to have Wachovia.  More than 48,000 customers of Wachovia Corp. and 600,000 of Bank of America Corp. have been notified that their financial records may have been stolen by bank employees and sold to collection agencies.

Texas loan company's personal data 'lost'.  Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corp. has announced the loss of the names and Social Security numbers of 1.3 million customers.

Security Breach Could Expose 40 Million to Fraud.  A computer hacker may have accessed more than 40 million credit card accounts in what could be the largest in a series of recent security breaches involving consumer data, officials said.

MasterCard says 68,000 Customers are at High Risk.  Credit card users, don't fret.  Only a small fraction of the 13.9 million credit cards accounts at MasterCard exposed to possible fraud were considered at high risk, the company said Saturday [6/18/2005].

LexisNexis May Have Had Earlier Breach.  A LexisNexis executive said Wednesday [4/13/2005] there may have been an earlier breach of consumers' personal data that was never reported to the public.  The disclosure at a Senate hearing came a day after London-based Reed Elsevier, which owns LexisNexis, revealed that criminals may have breached computer files containing the personal information of 310,000 people since January 2003.

Evidence From Black Boxes in Cars Turns Up in Courts.  An estimated 25 million automobiles in the United States now have so-called event data recorders, a scaled-down version of the devices that monitor cockpit activity in airplanes.  Like aviation recorders, automobile black boxes mainly receive attention after an accident.  What the devices record increasingly finds its way into courtrooms as evidence in criminal and civil cases, leading some privacy advocates to question how the recorders came to be installed so widely with so little public notice or debate.

Privacy Experts Shun Black Boxes.  Some safety and privacy experts are reacting with apprehension, others with all out condemnation over a recent ruling by the National Transportation Safety Board to require electronic data recorders or "black boxes" in all new cars manufactured in the United States.  "I take offense that this personal property of individuals is now being designed by the federal government," said Jim Harper, privacy attorney and editor of

Software that knows your every move:  Worklenz tracks workers — what they do, when they do it, and how long it takes.

Online job listing an ID theft scam:  "Background check" was used to steal full slate of personal info.

The ugly truth about privacy:  Issues involving our personal privacy affect our day-to-day lives much more than you might think.

Privacy Survival Guide:  How to Take Control of Your Personal Information.

EPIC's Caller ID Page:  Privacy aspects of Caller ID

EPIC's Cookie Page:  Privacy aspects of browser cookies

Big Brother rides shotgun:  Rental-car company uses GPS to track customer, fines him $450 for speeding.

Drivers let Big Brother in to get a break.  In two new tests, car owners will be able to let insurance companies monitor their driving via new technology in exchange for lower rates.  The technology will track some combination of when, where, how far and how fast they drive, giving insurers a way to reward low-risk driving.  Now just experiments, the technology might be a glimpse of the future of car insurance.  [Or the future of law enforcement.  Or tax collection.]

How to Build Privacy Into Customer Authentication.  Reports of worsening identity theft are pressuring companies to adopt stronger methods of making sure they know the identity of their customers.  Most customers will find this additional layer of security comforting.  But the more invasive authentication methods — biometrics, especially — have people worried that they'll lose their privacy in the process.  How can businesses authenticate their customers without scaring them away?  By putting the consumer in control throughout the authentication process.

Residential Internet Security:  Two types of bad things can happen to an Internet-connected home computer:  The first involves a miscreant duping a user into running harmful software-a worm, virus, Trojan Horse, or some form of spyware that reports back some aspect of the user's activities or configuration.  The second bad thing involves a miscreant taking direct control of the computer and running arbitrary software-either the user's own or the miscreant's.  Of course, many type-1 Trojan Horses give attackers type-2 control, but the type-1 exploit isn't the only path to type-2 control.

Car-tracking system:  Promises and potholes.  General Motors plans to begin installing new sensors and communications systems into vehicles next year in a move that could save lives but that also raises privacy concerns.

Smile, You're on In-Store Camera:  If you can't shop anonymously at your local retail giant, then privacy as we know it is dead.

It's Raining Privacy NoticesAmerican consumers are being leafleted this spring with privacy notices from financial institutions that invite them to say "no thanks" to having their personal information shared with third parties.  But some privacy advocates say the notices fail to communicate to consumers, in clear English, their right under federal law to opt out of data sharing.

TiVo Technology Erodes PrivacyA group that is an advocate for our right to privacy, The Privacy Foundation, has discovered that TiVo, a system that allows us to record TV shows onto a hard drive, has been routinely selling information about viewers' habits to advertisers and the television networks.  In other words, TiVo has been sharing its customers' viewing practices via the phone lines hooked to their recording devices without viewers' consent or even knowledge.

Netscape Navigator Browser Snoops On Web Searches:  AOL Time Warner's Netscape unit is snooping on searches performed by users of its latest Navigator browser at Google and other search sites.  According to a network traffic analysis performed by Newsbytes, Netscape is capturing Navigator 6 users' search terms, along with their Internet protocol (IP) address, the date Navigator was installed and a unique identification number.

The World's Most Privacy-Conscious Browser.  Most browsers offer the option of removing potentially privacy-shattering content saved on the user's PC, such as searches performed and visited websites.  Enter Browzar — the browser which specialises in doing so to the extent that all of the user's browsing activity is automatically removed once the application has been closed.

Anonymous No More On AOL:  Warning to anonymous critics on Internet chat boards trying to sink stocks:  We may soon know who you are.

A Setback for Online Privacy:  The ruling against the world's largest ISP goes to the heart of the question of anonymity on the Internet, and marks a new stage in the evolution of privacy laws as they pertain to the Internet and identities of Web surfers, privacy experts said.

One-Third of U.S. Online Workforce under Internet/E-Mail Surveillance:  This study is the first attempt to estimate the extent of workplace monitoring based on self-reported user-base ("seats") and revenue figures from publicly-traded companies that sell e-mail and Internet monitoring software. The report focuses strictly on continuous, systematic monitoring of employees, rather than random spot-checks.

Privacy groups take aim at Microsoft Passport:  Thirteen organizations, headed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, supported an updated complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, alleging that Microsoft is in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act because of its data collection, sharing and security practices with Passport.

Who's Watching You in Your Hotel Room?:  Next time you check into a hotel, you may want to consider asking if there are any hidden cameras in your assigned room. There could be cameras hidden in mirrors, television sets, lamps and even the radio alarm clock on your nightstand.

Dissecting the Cue Cat:  It is now obsolete, but the Cue Cat was a trojan horse.

All That Data, All That Secrecy.

Comcast tracks Web browsing of its 1 million Internet subscribers:  The nation's third-largest cable company has begun tracking the Web browsing activities of its 1 million high-speed Internet subscribers without notifying them.

Privacy Laws: Not Gonna HappenPrivacy legislation may not be going public anytime soon.  Conventional wisdom in the nation's capital says that the prospect of Congress enacting Internet privacy laws is extraordinarily likely, and perhaps even inevitable.

Privacy at Work?  Be SeriousIf you feel your privacy at work has been eroding lately, it's probably more than just your imagination. Experts say companies are under increasing pressure to monitor employees electronically, and workers should assume they are being watched.

Email Privacy:  If you want privacy, don't count on email.  Here's why.

Insurer's patent targets driver's every move.

Microsoft denies secret accord with NSA, but doubts persist.

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Updated March 5, 2018.

©2018 by Andrew K. Dart