Facebook Fails to Police Device Makers’ Use of Personal Data

Last month, Facebook admitted that it failed to properly oversee the seven device manufacturers that the company allowed to access personal data of hundreds of million of people in order to build a so-called Facebook Experience. The Silicon Valley company detailed its errors, which was detected by its own government-approved privacy monitor in 2013, in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), a privacy advocate and frequent Facebook critic. Meanwhile, Facebook users whose data was compromised have not been alerted. Continue reading Facebook Fails to Police Device Makers’ Use of Personal Data

Demise of Google+ Points to Facebook’s Social Dominance

Google is shutting down its Google+ social network in the wake of revelation that a software bug exposed the data of up to 500,000 Google+ users since 2015. The company also debuted tools that give users more control over the data they share with Google-connected apps and services. The demise of Google+ is in stark contrast to its 2011 launch, when it represented an “exclusive club” that required a private invitation to enter. In following years, Google discovered running a social network is trickier than it appears to be. Continue reading Demise of Google+ Points to Facebook’s Social Dominance

Mastercard Deal Provides Valuable Info for Google Advertisers

A behind-the-scenes deal between Google and Mastercard was just revealed, whereby Google paid “millions of dollars” for “a stockpile of Mastercard transactions” that most of the credit card company’s two billion users were unaware of. Over the past year, Google provided select advertisers with the ability to track whether online ads led to sales at physical stores in the U.S. While the deal could give Google leverage over rivals such as Amazon, it could also raise privacy concerns regarding how customer data is used and shared. Google says no personal data was shared about users. Continue reading Mastercard Deal Provides Valuable Info for Google Advertisers

Privacy Group Files Complaint Over New Google Ad Program

The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a legal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over Google’s Store Sales Measurement, a new advertising program that connects consumers’ online activities with purchases in retail stores. According to the complaint, Google now has access to U.S. consumers’ credit and debit card purchase records, but doesn’t reveal how it gets the information and uses a secretive method to protect it. The complaint states that consumers should be provided a way to opt out of the program. Continue reading Privacy Group Files Complaint Over New Google Ad Program

WhatsApp Updates Privacy Policy, Shares Data with Facebook

When Facebook bought the popular free messaging service WhatsApp, it promised it wouldn’t change the privacy policies. Now the company has done just that, and organizations including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Digital Democracy are not happy. Facebook has stated it will now connect users’ phone numbers with Facebook’s systems, offering “better friend suggestions” and more relevant ads. The new approach will help Facebook finally monetize WhatsApp. Continue reading WhatsApp Updates Privacy Policy, Shares Data with Facebook

Google Plans Initiative to Build Products for Ages 12 and Under

Google has confirmed that it plans to develop kid-friendly versions of some of its more popular products next year. While Google has yet to release specific details about the initiative, many predict that Chrome and YouTube will be among those products redesigned for children 12 and younger. Google understands that kids are among those most active on the Internet, so it hopes to create Web-related products and services that are deemed appropriate for their use. Continue reading Google Plans Initiative to Build Products for Ages 12 and Under

Supreme Court Allows Case Against Google’s Mapping Project

Google has been sued for violating federal wiretapping laws by collecting personal data as part of its Street View project. The Supreme Court rejected to hear Google’s appeal regarding the class action lawsuit for secretly collecting email, passwords, and other personal info for the mapping project. The case will go forward in the lower court as Google maintains its innocence. The case highlights a rising public push for protection of privacy over data usage for commercial gain. Continue reading Supreme Court Allows Case Against Google’s Mapping Project

Facebook: Is Frictionless Sharing the Future of Social Networking?

  • In a recent GigaOM article, Matthew Ingram provides a compelling alternative viewpoint to the recently publicized complaints regarding Facebook’s philosophy of “frictionless sharing.”
  • The concept — which essentially allows apps and online publishers to post a user’s activity to their wall without permission — has raised a legitimate concern in terms of whether the feature is a worthwhile addition or an invasion of privacy.
  • “Consumer advocacy groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center are arguing the latter, and have even asked the government to step in, while some users have deleted their Facebook accounts in protest,” reports Ingram. “But there’s an argument to be made that Facebook isn’t forcing anyone to share; it’s simply adapting to the increasingly social way that we are living our lives online.”
  • While it’s easy to see the concerns regarding privacy, there are clear benefits to this type of sharing. Ticker, for example, can often provide “serendipitous experiences” such as finding interesting music, video clips, or articles based on the activity of friends. “It also fits right in with the concept that underlies Facebook and most social networking,” suggests the article, “which is what user-interface designer Leisa Reichelt has called ‘ambient intimacy’: the idea that there’s something to be gained by having transient and lightweight connections to people in your life.”
  • The article points out that the news feed was also originally heavily criticized when it launched in 2006, but eventually became immensely popular.
  • Zuckerberg’s “law of social sharing,” which notes that the amount of data people share doubles each year, is a “good predictor of what people will do, regardless of what they say they will do or how much they criticize features like frictionless sharing from social apps.”
  • “And soon, the idea that apps are sharing a continuous stream of our activity will seem just as commonplace and uncontroversial as the original news feed,” contends Ingram.
  • The article argues that “social sharing online isn’t going away any time soon; it’s not just the core of Facebook, but the organizing principle of the modern Web — Facebook is just a symptom of that change, not the cause.”

Privacy Watchdog Groups Ask the FTC to Investigate Facebook Features

  • An association of privacy groups, led by the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, has asked for a federal investigation into Facebook features that broadcast new information about users. The new partnerships with media platforms allow Facebook to acquire extensive data about user behavior.
  • “That information could also be made available to marketing companies for use in focusing advertisements, and potentially to government agencies interested in tracking people’s behavior,” suggests The New York Times.
  • In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, privacy advocates wrote, “frictionless sharing creates several privacy and security problems for users.”
  • Facebook responded by explaining its users have more control than what is being suggested. “Some groups believe people shouldn’t have the option to easily share the songs they are listening to or other content with their friends,” company spokesman Andrew Noyes communicated via e-mail. “We couldn’t disagree more and have built a system that people can choose to use, and we hope people will give it a try. If not, they can simply continue listening and reading as they always have.”
  • According to the article, “the FTC does not comment on whether it is investigating any company unless it has some results to release.”