Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts in USA Privacy

As a parent Adam Sheffield says he worries about his Xbox Kinect being capable of spying on his family in their home, “It recognizes him when he enters the room and says “Hi.” The question a lot of people have, what’s that data being used for?”

Sheffield is a Cyber Security Program Manager and he says there is a good reason to be worried, “You should assume anything that can connect to internet – push info out, is a source of collection.”

And this applies to more than just gaming devices – computers, TV’s, cellphones – anything online. “When you download an app you give them permission to access phone book, camera, microphone. Could they go in and turn on your camera and microphone? They could. Are they? I am not quite sure.”

Experts say go into your privacy settings and make it as private as possible, but there’s no promise it’s fool proof. Make sure to change your password from the default and decide how many devices online you actually need.

“Develop a personal threshold with what you are comfortable sharing with. As for my son, we put a sticker over the camera unless he is using it. Not that we are paranoid or anything,” says Sheffield.

Source.

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(Photo: William Petroski/Register photo)

(Photo: William Petroski/Register photo)

The Iowa Department of Transportation would like it if everyone would carry their driver’s license on their cell phone.

The app, which will be provided to drivers at no additional cost, will be available sometime in 2015, DOT Director Paul Trombino told Gov. Terry Branstad during a state agency budget hearing Monday.

“We are really moving forward on this,” Trombino said. “The way things are going, we may be the first in the nation.”

People will still be able to stick a traditional plastic driver’s license in their wallet or purse if they choose, Trombino said. But the new digital license, which he described as “an identity vault app,” will be accepted by Iowa law enforcement officers during traffic stops and by security officers screening travelers at Iowa’s airports, he said.

“It is basically your license on your phone,” he said.

At least for now, it’s possible to stick to the traditional license, but what happens when that becomes mandatory? What if you don’t have a cell phone? Will you be forced to get one in order to have a driver’s license or not be allowed to drive?

There are also privacy concerns. Right now, nearly every state requires some sort of warrant before police can unlock your phone. Once you unlock your phone to show your driver’s license, police are free to search it at will.

The new app should be highly secure, Trombino said. People will use a pin number for verification.

Should be. How long is the PIN? If it’s the traditional 4-digit PIN, it’s not highly secure.

While Iowa may be the first to allow driver’s licenses on phones, it is among 30 states that already allow electronic proof of insurance.

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The new law says an employer cannot force you to tell them your social media passwords or login to let them see what you’re doing. That seems obvious to most people. But what an employer also cannot do anymore is tell an employee or applicant, I need you to ‘friend’ me on Facebook, or I need you to friend me on Instagram, or follow me on Twitter. That way I can see what you’re doing,” said Chris McCarty, a Knoxville attorney who specializes in employment law.

Tennessee now joins a list of dozens of states that have passed an Employee Online Privacy Act. McCarty says it protects people who make their online settings private, not the information someone shares with the entire world wide web.

“The default setting for most social media accounts is ‘public’ so anyone can see it. Anything that is public is still fair game for an employer to see what its workers or an applicant is doing. I tell people to be smart, because everything you do online that is public, it’s just like going in the street and doing it,” said McCarty.

The new law says employers cannot force an employee or job applicant to provide access to private information.

“You have to take an active role as the user and make everything friend-only and set your privacy settings. If you don’t do that, this law doesn’t protect you at all,” said McCarty.

More at WIBR.

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elfonboxset

Professor Laura Pinto, a digital technology professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, says that there might be something more to that elf sitting on your child’s shelf each night.

In her paper, Who’s the Boss, published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Laura Pinto argues Santa’s spying little helper “sets up children for dangerous, uncritical acceptance of power structures.”

Based on a modern-day Christmas fairy tale, the Elf on the Shelf takes up residence in children’s homes for the month of December. Each night, it flies back to the North Pole to update Santa, a.k.a. “the boss,” on the kids’ activities, both “naughty” and “nice.”

“You’re teaching (kids) a bigger lesson, which is that it’s OK for other people to spy on you and you’re not entitled to privacy,” she told the Star. And while it might be done in the spirit of fun, she said the messaging could be problematic down the road. She likened the relationship between elf, “an external form of non-familial surveillance,” and children to state and citizen.

“If you grow up thinking it’s cool for the elves to watch me and report back to Santa, well, then it’s cool for the NSA to watch me and report back to the government.”

Pinto isn’t the only one who’s worried about the elf.

Emma Waverman, a blogger with Today’s Parent, is also unimpressed with the elf.

“It’s a little creepy, this idea that this elf is watching you all the time,” she said. But her main beef is the use of a threat — not getting presents — to produce good behaviour.

“It makes the motivation to behave something that’s external,” she said. “If I’m not around or if the elf is not around, do they act crazy?”

Psychotherapist and parenting expert Alyson Schafer took a similar position; the Elf on the Shelf is an extension of the “naughty or nice list,” she said.

“Someone’s commercializing on confused parents who will just do anything that feels good if they think they can get their kid to act better.”

While some people don’t think the elf is that big of a deal and is just a nice Christmas gift, combining the elf with other surveillance tools children also encounter, such as tracking at school, it’s another small piece that conditions children to not question authority and forces them to live with the possibility of being in trouble when not conforming to what authority figures say is correct behavior.

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From Help Net Security:

After having disclosed the extent of the employees’ information stolen in the recent hack to the California Attorney General’s Office, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) has sent out an email to the affected workers, outlining the scope of the potential damage the “brazen cyber attack” might bring to them personally.

“Although SPE is in the process of investigating the scope of the cyber attack, SPE believes that the following types of personally identifiable information that you provided to SPE may have been obtained by unauthorized individuals: (i) name, (ii) address, (iii) Social Security Number, driver’s license number, passport number, and/or other government identifier, (iv) bank account information, (v) credit card information for corporate travel and expense, (vi) username and passwords, (vii) compensation and (viii) other employment related information,” the letter described.

Download (PDF, 149KB)

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