The New Year’s Biggest Privacy Risks

Many Americans are wrapping up a holiday season filled with online shopping, Facebook status updates, and gifts of smartphones and eBook readers. Now that the New Year is upon us, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is urging Americans to pay attention to the privacy risks that accompany these trending technologies.

Geotag, You're It! What Your Smartphone Might Be Saying Behind Your Back

Snap a photo of a sunset with your iPhone and you can upload it to Twitter with a few clicks. But your smartphone might be transmitting more than a pretty photograph. It could be collecting and storing data about your real-time location – and then broadcasting that information when you upload photos onto the Internet. What is Geotagging? Geotagging refers to the practice of adding location information – like GPS coordinates – to different types of media, such as photos. The location information is embedded in a way that may not be visible to the naked eye. There are several ways to make geotags visible, including browser plug-ins and software programs that can reveal the location information embedded in photos, videos and other types of media.

The Privacy Problems Inherent in the Smart Grid

The infrastructure that will support the Smart Grid will be capable of informing consumers of their day-to-day energy use, right down to the appliance level.  This sophisticated infrastructure has the potential to curb greenhouse gas emissions and reduce consumers’ energy bills.  However, it introduces the possibility of collecting detailed information on individual energy consumption usage and patterns within consumers’ homes, traditionally the most private of places.  Industry and regulators must take great care not to sacrifice consumer privacy in the process of developing and implementing the Smart Grid. 

 

The Proliferation of Online Information Brokers and Reports of Abuses of Consumer Privacy

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) appreciates the opportunity to submit the following comments on the online information broker industry to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as part of the agency’s deliberations for the Privacy Roundtables series.

The online information broker industry has come to the forefront of consumer privacy issues in recent years. Information brokers are companies that compile information on individuals via public, semi-public and private records and offer this information via online “lookup” services, often with no questions asked. Some charge a fee while others provide their services at no charge. Consumers who are attempting to limit the availability of their personal information, due to concerns about privacy, safety or identity theft, have lodged numerous complaints against this industry with the PRC over the years.

Top 8 Things You Shouldn't Give Social Networking Sites

While websites like Facebook and MySpace make it easy to share vacation photos with old classmates, the personal information on social networks is also attracting people besides friends and family members.  Scam artists, identity thieves, debt collectors, stalkers, hiring managers, and companies looking for a marketing advantage are turning to social networking sites to gather valuable information. Before you publish your next status update, take care that you aren’t risking your identity, security or reputation.

Below are eight things you shouldn’t give to a social network – when signing up for an account, posting content or interacting with your contacts through the network.

Online Reputation Management - What Every Jobseeker Should Know

In today’s digital world, false or unflattering information attached to your name could haunt you for years.  For jobseekers competing in a tough economy, an unprofessional online presence could be a hindrance to landing a good job.  More employers are using the Internet to learn about job candidates, with a recent Microsoft survey showing that 70% of hiring managers have rejected a job applicant because of information posted online. 

Some jobseekers are turning to Online Reputation Management (ORM) firms to help them improve their digital personas.  Before you pay for an ORM service, be aware that ORM firms do not have the ability to remove unflattering information from the Internet any more than you do. If you are willing to invest the time, you can manage your own online reputation at little or no cost.

Is Your Computer a Zombie?

Has your computer or smart phone become a resource to commit malicious acts against other persons and companies? By taking advantage of a wide variety of computer vulnerabilities, your device may become a zombie that is under the control of a criminal that conducts crime using electronic devices (e-criminal). Once an e-criminal has control, not only is your device being used to attack other systems, anything stored on, or typed into, that device is also compromised.

In the past the malware focused on causing harm to the device such as making it crash or capturing keystrokes for the purpose of gaining access to bank accounts or credit card information.  As e-criminals continue to evolve their destructive goals and increase damage to their targets, they realized the need for substantial computing resources and a way to avoid being detected.  To achieve both of these goals, malware was developed enabling e-criminals to take over network-attached devices; a very cost effective solution!

Societal Perspectives on the Role of Privacy in Social Networking Sites

Web 2.0, or the social web, means two things for the world of privacy: 1. The end of forgetting. The information posted on the Internet has the potential to exist in perpetuity. As individuals live increasingly in cyberspace, scholars like Jeffrey Rosen and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger point out that the unforgetting and often unforgiving eye of the Internet may create a hyper-vigilant society and suppress free expression. The Internet, some have postulated, could become a modern Panopticon. 2. Casual documentation. With the rise of easily accessible social media, consumers have become content producers en masse. Consumers are not only providing location data, photographs, videos and biographical details, but they are providing to-the-moment insight into their thoughts and feelings. The community of hyper-sharing encourages others to share by example. The result? Individuals posting their every moment with what some might call narcissistic abandon.

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