Got privacy? If you use Twitter or a smartphone, maybe not so much
The location stamps on just a handful of Twitter posts can help even low-tech stalkers find you, researchers found. Credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT
You’re probably giving away more than you think
“The notion of online privacy has been greatly diminished in recent years, and just this week two new studies confirm what to many minds is already a dismal picture.
First, a study reported on Monday by Stanford University found that smartphone metadata — information about calls and text messages, such as time and length — can reveal a surprising amount of personal detail.
To investigate their topic, the researchers built an Android app and used it to retrieve the metadata about previous calls and text messages — the numbers, times, and lengths of communications — from more than 800 volunteers’ smartphone logs. In total, participants provided records of more than 250,000 calls and 1.2 million texts.
The researchers then used a combination of automated and manual processes to understand just what’s being revealed. What they found was that it’s possible to infer a lot more than you might think.
A person who places multiple calls to a cardiologist, a local drug store, and a cardiac arrhythmia monitoring device hotline likely suffers from cardiac arrhythmia, for example. Based on frequent calls to a local firearms dealer that prominently advertises AR semiautomatic rifles and to the customer support hotline of a major manufacturer that produces them, it’s logical to conclude that another likely owns such a weapon.
The researchers set out to fill what they consider knowledge gaps within the National Security Agency’s current phone metadata program. Currently, U.S. law gives more privacy protections to call content and makes it easier for government agencies to obtain metadata, in part because policymakers assume that it shouldn’t be possible to infer specific sensitive details about people based on metadata alone.
This study, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests otherwise. Preliminary versions of the work have already played a role in federal surveillance policy debates and have been cited in litigation filings and letters to legislators in both the U.S. and abroad.
Researchers at MIT and Oxford University, meanwhile, have shown that the location stamps on just a handful of Twitter posts can be enough to let even a low-tech snooper find out where you live and work.
Though Twitter’s location-reporting service is off by default, many Twitter users choose to activate it. Now, it looks like even as few as eight tweets over the course of a single day can give stalkers what they need to track you down.
The researchers used real tweets from Twitter users in the Boston area; users consented to the use of their data and also confirmed their home and work addresses, their commuting routes, and the locations of various leisure destinations from which they had tweeted.”
…Continue reading the excellent article by Katherine Noyes @ Computerworld.com
California Senator Dianne Feinstein on Metadata:
Bulk Metadata Collection Not Surveillance – Contends that the telephony metadata bulk collection program is not ‘surveillance.’
See the brief 36-second video here of her statement before the US Senate Intelligence Committee: C-SPAN.org
NSA Verizon Phone Records: Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss Defend Data Collection
“The leading senators on the Intelligence Committee Thursday downplayed the significance of the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Verizon phone records as others voiced outrage over what they viewed as a gross invasion of privacy.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told an impromptu news conference in the Capitol that the NSA phone record data-collection effort is legal under the Patriot Act. She suggested that uproar over the government poring over the records is overblown, pointing out that the data collected is “metadata,” or information about the phone calls, including the length of the calls and the phone numbers involved in the conversations, not the content of the calls. Feinstein said the phone calls weren’t wiretapped, such as did occur illegally without warrants by the NSA under the George W. Bush administration.”
….Read more from the June 2013 story @ ibtimes.com
Feinstein (Again) Says Metadata Program ‘Is Not Surveillance’
“It’s not a surveillance program, it’s a data-collection program,” she said while appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Oh, but it’s actually both. According to supporters of the NSA, metadata is just a bunch of anonymous numbers harvested in hopes of discovering needles. To those actually paying attention, metadata is a very efficient way to collect very personal information about someone. Just because it looks like data doesn’t mean it’s not surveillance. Let’s not forget that metadata provides enough information to justify extrajudicial killings.
It’s still surveillance. It just bears no resemblance to what spyingused to mean. What the NSA has done is turn “surveillance” into something abstract, but equally invasive. It has eliminated the targeted nature of its classic definition and replaced it with servers full of data, all of it theoretically linked to another abstraction: “terrorism.”
The headline says Feinstein “blasts” critics, but this sort of clueless pedantry doesn’t actually “blast” anyone. Months after the defenders’ assertions have been repeatedly dismantled (including two similar assertions by the senator), Feinstein’s willingness to cling to a nostalgic view of surveillance could almost be termed “delightfully old school” — if only she still didn’t have at least one hand on the controls as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee.”
….Continue reading @ TechDirt.com
Facebook sued for scanning private user messages
– Washington Examiner
“A California man is suing Facebook for allegedly scanning the content of private messages sent between users of the site.
The suit alleges that Facebook scans the messages in search of hyperlinks sent between users. “If there is a link to a web page contained in that message, Facebook treats it as a ‘like’ of the page, and increases the page’s ‘like,’ counter by one,” the suit contends. The site tracks when users “like” pages in order to compile individual profiles that allow third parties to send targeted advertisements.
“When a Facebook user composes a message with a URL in the message’s body, Facebook generates a ‘URL preview,’ consisting of a brief description of the website and a relevant image from the website,” the suit adds. That “preview” creates two separate files, according to the suit.
One, called “EntShare,” is “tied to the specific user who sent the message.” The second file, “EntGlobalShare,” tracks all users who send a message containing the same URL.
It was first reported that Facebook was counting URLs sent in private messages as “likes” in 2012, but the site discontinued the practice shortly afterwards. However, plaintiffs allege, it is still spying on URLs included in messages for marketing purposes.
A motion granted on Wednesday by the District Court for the North District of California permits the plaintiff, Matthew Campbell, to seek “injunctive and declaratory relief” rather than financial damages. “We agree with the court’s finding that the alleged conduct did not result in any actual harm and that it would be inappropriate to allow plaintiffs to seek damages on a class-wide basis,” Facebook said in a statement.
The company added that its tracking amounted to “historical practices” that were “entirely lawful,” and said it was looking forward “to resolving those claims on the merits.” Campbell is set to file an amended complaint no later than June 8.
Facebook has been sued for invasive privacy practices in the past. That includes at least four lawsuits resulting from facial recognition technology employed by the site to retain more than a billion “facial templates.”
…Continue reading @ WashingtonExaminer.com
– See more in CaliforniaJimmy.com/Tech