Comcast is deliberating on asking customer to pay for privacy. Comcast defended a pay-for-privacy pricing structure in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission. AT&T already offer a service called “Internet Preferences” that provides lower monthly rates to customers in Austin, Texas and Kansas City who allow AT&T to track their web history and other behavioral data that can then be used by advertisers. Users who opt-out of “Internet Preferences,” which DSLReports calls a “deep packet inspection program that tracks your browsing behavior around the internet—down to the second,” face a $30 premium on their monthly bill.
The disclosures make the case for creating what I’ve called “the erasable Internet.” Last year, after the stunning rise of Snapchat, an app that sends pictures and messages that disappear after the recipient receives them, I argued that we were witnessing the birth of a new attitude toward data online.
Snapchat showed that saving everything — the default assumption of digital communication since its birth — wasn’t the only way to navigate the digital world. “Erasing all the digital effluvia generated by our phones and computers can be just as popular a concept as saving it,” I argued — and if we moved toward that model, the Internet might be a more private, and less dangerous and damaging place.
On the Pew Report:
Americans say they are deeply concerned about privacy on the web and their cellphones. They say they do not trust Internet companies or the government to protect it. Yet they keep using the services and handing over their personal information.
That paradox is captured in a new survey by Pew Research Center. It found that there is no communications channel, including email, cellphones or landlines, that the majority of Americans feel very secure using when sharing personal information. Of all the forms of communication, they trust landlines the most, and fewer and fewer people are using them.
Creepy is a software package for Linux or Windows – with a Mac OS X port in the works – that aims to gather public information on a targeted individual via social networking services in order to pinpoint their location. It’s remarkably efficient at its job, even in its current early form, and certainly lives up to its name when you see it in use for the first time. You can enter a Twitter or Flickr username into the software’s interface, or use the in-built search utility to find users of interest. When you hit the ‘Geolocate Target’ button, Creepy goes off and uses the services’ APIs to download every photo or tweet they’ve ever published, analysing each for that critical piece of information: the user’s location at the time.
Information we have happily shared in public is increasingly being used in ways that make us queasy, because our intuitions about security and privacy have failed to keep up with technology. Nuggets of personal information that seem trivial, individually, can now be aggregated, indexed and processed. When this happens, simple pieces of computer code can produce insights and intrusions that creep us out, or even do us harm. But most of us haven’t noticed yet: for a lack of nerd skills, we are exposing ourselves.
Are librarians hysterical about protecting user privacy, as Attorney General John Ashcroft contended in 2003? That was the question asked when LIS students at Rutgers University heard from two librarians on the front lines defending and promoting intellectual freedom since the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001. The colloquium entitled Libraries, Privacy, and National Securityfeatured George Christian, the plaintiff in John Doe v. Gonzales who was served a National Security Letter (NSL) in 2005 that demanded patron records from the Library Connection in Connecticut, and Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of the coalition OpenTheGovernment.org, an organization that shines a light on surveillance transparency.
Librarians in Massachusetts are working to give their patrons a chance to opt-out of pervasive surveillance. Partnering with the ACLU of Massachusetts, area librarians have been teaching and taking workshops on how freedom of speech and the right to privacy are compromised by the surveillance of online and digital communications — and what new privacy-protecting services they can offer patrons to shield them from unwanted spying of their library activity.
In September 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft called out the librarians. The American Library Association and civil liberties groups, he said, were pushing “baseless hysteria” about the controversial Patriot Act. He suggested that they were worried that spy agencies wanted to know “how far you have gotten on the latest Tom Clancy novel.”
Ashcroft was 17 speeches into a national speaking tour defending the Patriot Act, a law expanding government surveillance powers that passed nearly unanimously in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And all along the way, the librarians showed up to protest.
In the case of government surveillance, they are not shushing. They’ve been among the loudest voices urging freedom of information and privacy protections.
It was no surprise for Mike Seay when he got yet another piece of junk mail from OfficeMax last week. It was a surprise that the letter was addressed to ‘Mike Seay – Daughter killed in car crash.’ What’s more, the address was correct.
Seay’s daughter was killed in a car crash last year, the LA Times reports. She was 17 when she died in the car with her boyfriend. This is public information as this local news story shows, but that it ended up in a piece of junk mail from OfficeMax stands as a cruel reminder of how personal information is sold bought and sold for marketing purposes today.