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April 05, 2013

Facebook's new HOME app eliminates any shred of privacy

Why Facebook Home bothers me: It destroys any notion of privacy — Tech News and Analysis
In fact, Facebook Home should put privacy advocates on alert, for this application erodes any idea of privacy. If you install this, then it is very likely that Facebook is going to be able to track your every move, and every little action. It is a future I wrote about a few days ago, and let me explain using that very same context. The new Home app/UX/quasi-OS is deeply integrated into the Android environment. It takes an effort to shut it down, because Home’s whole premise is to be always on and be the dashboard to your social world. It wants to be the start button for apps that are on your Android device, which in turn will give Facebook a deep insight on what is popular. And of course, it can build an app that mimics the functionality of that popular, fast-growing mobile app. I have seen it done before, both on other platforms and on Facebook. But there is a bigger worry. The phone’s GPS can send constant information back to the Facebook servers, telling it your whereabouts at any time. So if your phone doesn’t move from a single location between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for say a week or so, Facebook can quickly deduce the location of your home. Facebook will be able to pinpoint on a map where your home is, whether you share your personal address with the site or not. It can start to build a bigger and better profile of you on its servers. It can start to correlate all of your relationships, all of the places you shop, all of the restaurants you dine in and other such data. The data from accelerometer inside your phone could tell it if you are walking, running or driving. As Zuckerberg said — unlike the iPhone and iOS, Android allows Facebook to do whatever it wants on the platform, and that means accessing the hardware as well.

Blackberry's new "share what I'm listening to" feature tells the whole about your porno habits

Oops. Blackberries That Tell Everyone You're Looking At Porn Are Part Of A Much Bigger Problem | ThinkProgress
BlackBerry 10 users who like to enjoy adult entertainment on their devices may want to think twice about opting into the device’s music sharing feature. While at first glance the “Show What I’m Listening To” feature sounds like it would merely share your music listening habits with your BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) contacts, what it actually does is record all activity in the media player and tells your friends and colleagues about it, regardless of content type. So many users turned this feature on thinking they would broadcast fairly benign information about what kind of music they enjoy, and instead wound up revealing something they would have preferred to keep private: “BBM records any usage of the phone’s media player and can push these visits and downloads to all messenger contacts, much like a status update. So your grandmother might be notified that you’ve been listening to the new Justin Timberlake album, or she might know that you have a fetish for, uh, granny porn.“ BlackBerry users unwittingly sharing porn preferences is not just an unfortunate (if funny) accident, it’s an example of how a lack of transparency about what information we are sharing online creates a wide gap between the experiences users want and what the ones they get. Facebook’s controversial Beacon advertising system revealed user purchases to friends with only an opt out mechanism, in some cases ruining big events like engagements.

March 11, 2013

Harvard professors furious that their email is being secretly monitored

This is routine in corporate America, of course, there is no expectation of privacy with business email accounts. Not that there *shouldn't* be. This is just another symptom of our war on whistleblowers. Harvard E-Mail Search Stuns Faculty Members - NYTimes.com
Bewildered, and at times angry, faculty members at Harvard criticized the university on Sunday after revelations that administrators secretly searched the e-mail accounts of 16 resident deans in an effort to learn who leaked information about a student cheating scandal to the news media. Some predicted a confrontation between the faculty and the administration. “I was shocked and dismayed,” said the law professor Charles J. Ogletree. “I hope that it means the faculty will now have something to say about the fact that these things like this can happen.” News of the e-mail searches prolonged the fallout from the cheating scandal, in which about 70 students were forced to take a leave from school for collaborating or plagiarizing on a take-home final exam in a government class last year. Harry R. Lewis, a professor and former dean of Harvard College, said, “People are just bewildered at this point, because it was so out of keeping with the way we’ve done things at Harvard.” “I think what the administration did was creepy,” said Mary C. Waters, a sociology professor, adding that “this action violates the trust I once had that Harvard would never do such a thing.”