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Google and Facebook Go Deeper Into Your Privacy

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This post is a summary of an excellent article appearing in USA Today By Byron Acohido, Scott Martin and Jon Swartz.

It’s a heated competition to tap what many experts predict will be the next big Internet gold rush — online advertising — Google and Facebook laid down very big bets, during a week when European regulators are hashing out strict new rules that could prevent much of what the tech giants seek to do.

Google signaled its intent to begin correlating data about its users’ activities across all of its most popular services and across multiple devices. The goal: to deliver those richer behavior profiles to advertisers.

Likewise, Facebook announced it will soon make Timeline the new, more glitzy user interface for its service, mandatory. Timeline is designed to chronologically assemble, automatically display and make globally accessible the preferences, acquaintances and activities for most of Facebook’s 800 million members.

“If they can make the ads more relevant, the logic goes, they can increase the number of advertisers and the price they can charge per click (on each ad),” says Alex Daley, chief investment strategist at Casey Research. “Because the click will be from more qualified leads — customers who are more interested in the product — they can grow the revenue base.”

But security analysts, privacy advocates and technologists say consumers probably should be very concerned. While making richer behavioral data more readily available to advertisers, Google’s new data-correlating practices and Facebook’s new Timeline and Open Graph, a more powerful way to express preferences on third-party websites, also tend to aid and abet more unsavory uses.

Richer personal details are very beneficial to identity thieves and cyberspies, as well as to parties motivated to use such data unfairly against consumers, such as insurance companies, prospective employers, political campaigners and, lately, hacktivists, security analysts say.

“What these unilateral decisions by Google and Facebook demonstrate is a complete disregard for their users’ interests and concerns,” says John Simpson, spokesman for Consumer Watchdog. “It’s an uncommonly arrogant approach not usually seen in business, where these companies believe they can do whatever they want with our data, whenever and however they want to do it.”

The deeper personal data of Timeline — which Facebook users willfully share — are potentially online advertising gold for marketers and advertisers. This is especially crucial, analysts say, as Facebook has finalized it’s initial public stock offering.

John Sileo is an award-winning author and international speaker on the dark art of deception (identity theft, data privacy, social media manipulation) and its polar opposite, the powerful use of trust, to achieve success. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which advises teams on how to multiply performance by building a culture of deep trust. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentation (he shares how he lost $300,000, 2 years and his business to data breach) or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business. 1.800.258.8076.

iPhone and Droid Want to Be Your Big Brother

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Remember the iconic 1984 Super Bowl ad with Apple shattering Big Brother? How times have changed! Now they are Big Brother.

According to recent Wall Street Journal findings, Apple Inc.’s iPhones and Google Inc.’s Android smartphones regularly transmit your locations back to Apple and Google, respectively. This new information only intensifies the privacy concerns that many people already have regarding smartphones. Essentially, they know where you are anytime your phone is on, and can sell that to advertisers in your area (or will be selling it soon enough).

The actual answer here is for the public to put enough pressure on Apple and Google that they stop the practice of tracking our location-based data and no longer collect, store or transmit it in any way without our consent.

You may ask, “don’t all cell phone carriers know where you are due to cell tower usage?” Yes, but Google and Apple are not cell phone carriers, they are software and hardware designers and should have no real reason (other than information control) to be tracking your every move without your knowledge. Google and Apple are not AT&T or Verizon, therefore they should not be recording, synching and transmitting your location like it appears they are.

Both companies are trying to build huge databases that allow them to pinpoint your exact location. So how are they doing it? By recording the cell phone towers and WiFi hotspots that you pass and that your phone utilizes. This data will ultimately be used to help them market location based services to their audience, which is a market that is expected to rise $6 billion in the next 3 years.

The Wall Street Journal found through research by security analyst Samy Kamkar, the HTC Android phone collected its location every few seconds and transmitted the data to Google at least several times an hour. It transmitted the name, location and signal strength of any nearby WiFi networks, as well as a unique phone identifier. This was not as personal of information like what the Street-View cars collected that Google had to shut down some time ago.

So what do we do now? According to the Wall Street Journal, neither Apple or Google commented when contacted about these findings, so it is hard to know the extent of how they are using the data collected. Right now, there really isn’t much you can do to stop GPS tracing of your location without your consent. Of course you could power down your phone, but we are all way too additcted to these handy little digital Swiss Army Knives to do that. You can turn of GPS services, but again, that makes it impossible to use maps and other location-based apps.

The actual answer here is for the public to put enough pressure on Apple and Google that they stop the practice of tracking our location-based data and no longer collect, store or transmit it in any way without our consent.

While this may be the future of privacy, it is better that we are aware of what may come rather than remain in the dark about the possibilities of technology.

John Sileo is the President of The Sileo Group and the award winning author of four books, including his latest workbook, The Smartphone Survival Guide. He speaks around the world on identity theft, online reputation and influence. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and Homeland Security. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com.

How to Opt Out of Data Miners and Online Directories

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Whether you like it or not, your information is available publicly to everyone through online directories. Businesses and advertisers have the ability to easily find this information and then market their products to you. This means that you have never actually “opted-in” to receive these ads. Fortunately, there are ways for you to “opt-out” of widespread information sharing (see the list of more than 120 ways below).

The Top 4 Opt-Out Opportunities:

  1. www.OptOutPreScreen.com. Remove yourself from the marketing lists sold by the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There is not cost for this list.
  2. www.DMAchoice.org. This puts you on a Do Not Mail list for the Direct Marketing Association. The cost is $1, but it is well worth the instant trip down in your mail.
  3. White Pages. That’s right, your old-fashioned printed phone directory is the source for most of the online contact info databases. Remove your directory listing (you will likely have to the phone company every month to have your info NOT shared – I know, it’s asinine) or otherwise opt out.
  4. www.Spokeo.com. To opt out, read this blog post about [intlink id=”1752″ type=”post”]removing your info from Spokeo[/intlink]. This is one of the more utilized sites by identity thieves, stalkers and scammers.

There is a slower and more tedious process of opting out of online directories (i.e., you have to visit every one. Some (Spokeo.com)  are more important than others (Whitepages.com) because of the information that they collect. Sites such as Spokeo.com can have as much information as your physical address and pictures of your home, while others may just house your phone number. These sites spend hours upon hours scouring public records such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, and real estate purchases for this type of information.

Since most online directories typically offer a way to opt out of their listings you would think they would make it easy. Not so. They tend to hide this option deep within the site, as they don’t actually want you to leave. Luckily, The Privacy Rights Clearing House has done most of the legwork in their Comprehensive Opt Out List. I suggest starting with a few main sites, 123people.com, spokeo.com, etc. and continuously adding to it over time. Opt out of one a week if you like, and eventually your data will be less exposed. Protecting your privacy and identity is a layering process. It is easy for people to get overwhelmed, especially when it comes to online directories.

John Sileo speaks on information control, identity theft prevention and data breach avoidance. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more, contact him directly on 800.258.8076.