Loss of Privacy

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

Browsing Posts tagged tracking

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a glut of companies are lurking in the shadows of the Internet, gathering your data to sell it to anyone who’s willing to pay the price. These so-called “data brokers” can easily follow your digital trail by using your browser cookies and other ingenious tracking methods.

And it’s not just general statistics, demographics, or overall trends that they’re selling. Many data brokers sell dossiers on individuals, complete profiles that include your name and personal information, without your knowledge or consent. These dossiers can include sensitive information such as medical history, political and religious affiliations, and sexual orientation.

There are no regulations for companies such as these. If you want to keep your personal data private and not let anonymous companies bid over it, you have to take matters into your own hands to block their efforts.

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Known as Stingrays, the FBI has admitted to using cell phone towers to track you. Their usual response includes they must do this to catch terrorists, pedophiles and missing children.

The press conference actually occurred back in October, but the video didn’t surface until this weekend and hadn’t been reported on until the Charlotte Observer’s excellent investigation into the use of Stingrays by local police was published on Sunday.

Stingrays work by allowing police to track the movement of a suspect, and are often used without a warrant, which was recently declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court.

Comey also said that the agency has “nothing to hide” from “good people,” but that secrecy is important if Stingrays are going to be effective. Comey doesn’t note, however, that, in trying to track down any one “bad person,” the agency law enforcement necessarily tracks the locations of everyone within a wide geographic radius, thanks to the way the technology works.

The ACLU, meanwhile, has said that every year, millions of good people are getting wrapped up in a surveillance dragnet they didn’t ask to be involved in.

“The devices wrap up innocent people, which looks like a dragnet search that’s not legal under the Fourth Amendment,” Nate Wessler, a staff attorney for the ACLU, recently told me. “Even if they’re tracking a specific suspect, they’re getting info about every bystander. That’s a concern.”

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Whether we are reading the Guardian, the New York Times, the Hindu or any other news website, third party trackers are collecting data about our online behaviour.

When we access websites, third parties are able to track our online behaviour, aggregate our data, link it to other data collected about us and subsequently create profiles. These profiles tell a story about us – which may or may not be true – and can include our political beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, habits, interests, affiliations and much more.

And while this might all appear to be harmless, we largely have very little control over how and when our data is collected, how our profiles are created, whether they are accurate, who they are subsequently shared with, who has access to them, what they are used for, where they are stored and for how long.

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Cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies are increasingly part of a modern journalist’s spycraft. But what does it look like when a reporter actually tries to protect herself and her sources with the best tools that the hacker/academic/activist/cipherpunk/technologist communities have produced? Disaster, chaos, crashes, and UI-sponsored opsec fails.

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