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Privacy News & Analysis

Thanks Google, I Can Manage My Own Bills - and Privacy

Google releases some pretty cool apps on a regular basis. But, it just doesn’t seem to get the whole privacy thing. This week, it announced that it is extending its Google Now personal assistant technology to enable it read your bills — and tell you when they’re overdue.

The first thing that will strike most people is that they don’t really need anyone to tell me when they owe money. It's a sure bet that they are painfully aware of that themselves.

The second thing is privacy. Google has already admitted that it snoops on your emails to produce personalized advertising. Why would it want to look at your bills?

Lose Your Customers' Personal Information, Lose Everything

The customer information your organization collects and analyzes can give you incredibly detailed and useful insights. But for all the advantages this storehouse of data can bring, it can also bring significant risks.

Anytime you collect information about your customers, you run the risk of exposing personally identifiable information. That can not only raise your customers' ire, but may cause your organization to run afoul of security breach laws.

How can you protect your organization? Is it enough to have a well-written privacy policy — and try to follow the rules?

Is Microsoft the Caped Crusader of Email Privacy?

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Jumpin' Jehoshaphat, Batman! Looks like Microsoft is defending email privacy. This, after it confirmed over the weekend that it would not be handing over email data to US federal regulators.

The decision follows a ruling on Friday by a US judge, which instructed the company to turn over email stored in Ireland to US prosecutors. But Microsoft does not plan to turn over the emails, and plans to appeal, a company spokesperson said.

Microsoft Secures Azure Data with Enhanced Encryption

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Microsoft — like Google — is beating the drum on security. It is enhancing the encryption of data transfers between users and the Azure cloud guest operating systems. 

The encryption improvements, which apply to Microsoft Azure cipher solution for hosted guest virtual machines, gives users better and more secure connections during the transmission of data.

According to a Microsoft blog post the new enhancements apply to the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Socket Layer (SSL), which makes it harder to decrypt connections and information going across such connections.

This follows  recent moves by Google to secure and encrypt emails. In the coming weeks, it announced that it will publishing a list of best practices in the coming weeks to make Transport Layer Security (TLS) adoption easier and to avoid common mistakes.

Yep, Facebook Generates a Lot of Hate

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Let's face it, social media networks are annoying ... but we can't live without them.

Especially Facebook. The controversy around the social media giant's re-launch of Facebook Messenger has once again stirred up a nest of privacy concerns.

Like all social networks, Facebook has benefits and warts. The benefit is that it is sublimely designed, it works very well, its got a gigantic user base (including most of your friends) and its got a world-class team constantly refining and tweaking it.

The downside is that Facebook is an immensely commercial operation and it doesn't seem to care too much about your privacy. This is not Craigslist. Let's face it: Facebook is chronicling every subtle activity in your life in a gigantic database so it can cash in on your life. 

Google and Yahoo Ally to Keep Email Snoopers Out

Thumbnail image for Google Secures Gmail  June 6 2014.jpgGoogle and Yahoo are unlikely bedfellows. But yesterday at the annual Black Hat security conference the two announced they were teaming up to keep government and commercial snoopers out of users’ emails.

By 2015, the two promise that not only will it be near impossible to hack or view either Yahoo mail or Gmail, it will also be possible to encrypt emails between Yahoo and Gmail, accounting for a huge amount of email traffic across the Web.

This follows yesterday’s announcement from Google that it will be giving secure websites higher search rankings

What's Behind Google's Encryption Moves

As part of the growing movement toward encrypting web data, Google announced this week that it will boost the search status of web sites that use HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) to encrypt data, shedding more light on its own motivations to lock and further anonymize  the web.

Google Will Reward Secure Websites with Better Rankings

Google has confirmed plans to give higher search rankings to sites that are deemed more secure. In a blog post on Google’s Online Security blog, it announced it will favor websites that are using HTTPS encryption by default and that it will be rolling this out across all its algorithms.

Facebook's Mind Experiments: Just Media As Usual

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Yes, "furor erupted" over Facebook's massive psychological experiment to control user emotions by changing the configuration of posts.

How naive are we, really? Of course Facebook wants to control your thoughts — that's the whole point of media.

Emotional manipulation in the media is nothing new. That's why we have Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps Facebook's experiment was more disturbing because of its scale, and the fact that it failed to alert or gain the consent of its users.

But anybody thinking that the trend of media companies using real time user data to control reactions of its audience is something new is mistaken. 

Digital Ad Alliance Boss: We Can Police Ourselves

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The biggest challenge in mobile marketing may not be what the technology can do, but how the benefits of data-driven ads affect the privacy of the consumers they target.

Much has been said about the "creepy" factor of compiling information about your kids, location, financing and health. At the same time, studies show 70 percent of consumers prefer to see ads that align with their personal interest. 

Lou Mastria, executive director of the Digital Advertising Alliance, has been at the eye of the privacy hurricane for years while working in public affairs, government and the ad industry. He also holds a masters degree in public policy. In his current role, he reflects his industry-backed group's push for self-regulation of advertising practices. He's had plenty of success.

Google API Gives Developers Easier Access to Gmail #io14

2014-26-June-Google-IO.jpgGoogle is playing with Gmail again. This time it’s not just taking a stick and poking the hornets’ nest called privacy. This time, it’s taking a bat and trying to hit that hornets’ nest out of the park. And it all comes in the name of a new Gmail API.

In principal the API looks like a good thing. In principal, Google wants to make it easier to let internet applications use information in your email, with the user’s permission. The question is how much access to your information will the new API need and how much access will the new API get?

Google Feathers its Nest with New Developer Program

If Google-owned Nest’s announcement yesterday that it was buying Dropcam for $555 million caused some surprise, today’s announcement that it is opening up its platform to third-party developers, while not as in-you-face as the Dropcam deal, could have significantly more long-term effects.

Dropcam extended Google’s reach into the home through Nest. But opening the Nest platform looks like Google is aiming to corner the smart home market even if there are already some seriously heavy hitters like Apple or Samsung operating there, too.

Nest Buys Dropcam as Google Continues March Into Smart Homes

Thumbnail image for 2014-6-23 Dropcam.jpgGoogle is making another move to make its mark in the developing Internet of Things. Late Friday, Nest -- the home automation company which Google acquired in January -- announced it was buying home-monitoring camera developer Dropcam for $555 million cash.

No sooner had news of the deal emerged than questions about information, privacy and Google started to appear. However, representatives from Dropcam said this is a straightforward deal and that Google will not be getting its hands on anyone’s data.

How Much Is Your Data Worth?

2014-19-June-Froggy-Love.jpgIn today’s age of information, data is currency. Information about our preferences, habits and everything in our life is a valuable commodity for companies trying to learn more about us in order to make us their customer. The value of our personal data seems to rise every day.

If our personal data is valuable, shouldn’t we guard our privacy more closely? If we are giving away information for free, how much are we getting in return? Data for services is the business model for both Google and Facebook. They provide you a free service and in return, they mine your data to drive advertising revenue. The question people don’t seem to be asking is this, “Is the average consumer aware of the value of their information to make an informed decision?”

Google Claims It's Making Gmail More Secure

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It’s just about a year now since former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden confirmed what many suspected already: that governments around the world systematically spy on email.

Ever since, technology companies have been working steadily to develop security apps to prevent or at least minimize the potential for snooping. In two significant announcements this week, Google moved closer to securing Gmail.

According to a blog post by Brandon Long, tech lead at the Gmail Delivery Team, Google is  close to releasing new end-to-end encryption standards on Gmail that will effectively stop unwanted and unauthorized access to users’ email.

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