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Your So-Called Private Life

Your So-Called Private Life

Smart phones are hip, trendy, and loaded with user-friendly apps. But these devices also collect and store your personal information, leaving huge security gaps.

The prevalence of spyware in mobile technology and social networking sites has huge implications as a privacy issue, since users have no way of knowing who’s peeping, or for what purpose. New concerns over mobile and Internet privacy have been raised at the federal and state level, and there’s already push-back from some of the major players in the tech industry.

Privacy Please

As Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) writes for Care2, recent studies indicate smart phones and other mobile apps are being used as remote spyware. Franken, one of the leading advocates for Net Neutrality and other media policy issues on Capitol Hill, notes that researchers found that “both iPhones and Android phones were automatically collecting certain location information from users’ phones and sending it back to Apple and Google — even when people weren’t using location applications.”

One particularly disturbing aspect of these revelations is that location information could be used by cyberstalkers. Franken notes he’s been contacted by battered women’s organizations on this issue, but as the senator states, there are “a range of harms that can come from privacy breaches.”

Stronger federal law concerning mobile broadband security is needed, Franken argues.

“Right now, once the maker of a mobile app, a company like Apple or Google, or even your wireless company gets your location information, in many cases, under current federal law, these companies are free to disclose your location information and other sensitive information to almost anyone they please — without telling you. And then the companies they share your information with can share and sell it to yet others — again, without letting you know.”

Social Networking Privacy Bill Faces Opposition from Facebook and Twitter

The widespread popularity of social networking has also resulted in widespread concerns over privacy. Yet, as Truthout’s Nadia Prupis reports, “Facebook, Google, Skype, and Twitter have joined forces to oppose an online privacy bill in California that would prevent the companies from displaying users’ personal information without explicit permission.”

The bill in question is SB 242, a.k.a. the Social Networking Privacy Act. Introduced by California State Senator Ellen Corbett (D), the bill would create stronger privacy guidelines, and also require social networking sites to remove personal information, if the user requests, within 48 hours. A failure to do so would result in a $10,000 fine per instance.

Facebook and other sites say such privacy protections could harm their business. But legislators weren’t so sure. California’s Senate Judiciary Committee, which passed the measure on May 16, called the threat to privacy “serious,” adding, “[It] is unclear how requiring that default settings be set to private would unduly restrict the free expression of users who elect to disseminate their information.”

Tweeting Back at Comcast

Former FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell-Baker’s pending move to Comcast has been met with loud cries over conflict of interest. As Public News Service’s Mark Scheerer reports, more controversy has erupted, this time over Reel Grrls, a Seattle media training summer camp for young women, which sent out a tweet denouncing Attwell-Baker’s new job.

“Following Reel Grrls’ Twitter post,” Scheerer says, “a local Comcast vice-president immediately rescinded its annual $18,000 donation to the girls’ program. Comcast then apologized, calling it an action by an ‘unauthorized employee.’ By then, says Reel Grrls director Mallory Graham, the media had picked up the story and support came pouring in.”

The story goes on to note that non-profits like the Center For Media Justice (CMJ) helped to raise more than $14,000 for the program, allowing Reel Grrls to politely decline Comcast’s offer to restore the funding. The upshot of the whole episode: Reel Grrls’ will focus its summer program on free speech issues.

An Open Internet, Communities of Color, and Astroturf Orgs

Afro-Netizen recently picked up an op-ed by CMJ’s Malkia Cyril on digital diversity as it relates to Net Neutrality. Cyril writes:

In the fight over who will control the Internet, big companies like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast are hoping they will win a pass on FCC oversight and public interest protection leaving them free to make as much profit as they can even if the service they provide is gated and discriminatory. Some civil rights groups are legitimately concerned that protecting the public from discrimination online — especially the poor and people of color — from the proven abuses of Big Media companies will result in those companies refusing to build out high speed broadband to rural communities and poor urban communities.

She goes on to express her concern over media advocacy organization the Minority Media and Telecommunication Council (MMTC), calling it an “Astroturf” outfit whose positions on the open Internet issue happen to coincide with those of the telecommunication companies, while appearing to champion increased minority broadband access.

As Cyril points out, there’s a perplexing disconnect there. “What doesn’t make sense is that groups like MMTC would deny that the financial relationship between them and the same media companies that are blackmailing the communities MMTC claims to represent, has an impact on their position on open Internet protections.”

Who You Callin’ a Slut?

On May 24, MSNBC talk-show host Ed Schultz referred to conservative radio personality Laura Ingraham as a “right-wing slut.” Though Schultz was publicly rebuked and quickly suspended by MSNBC after his remark, Yana Walton of the Women’s Media Center blogged that sexism isn’t OK, even when it’s directed at someone whose politics you don’t agree with. Though Walton says Schultz has historically been a supporter of women’s issues, she also notes:

In a media climate where Talkers Magazine’s “Heavy Hundred” list of the top talk radio hosts only included 12 women with their own programs, (plus two women co-hosts), such comments dissuade women from entering into political talk radio careers. Thus, such comments widen gender disparities in media even further and contribute to a climate where half of America’s voices and priorities are not heard.

Walton also praised MSNBC for their handling of the issue, saying the cable network’s “decision to place the issue of media sexism front and center was commendable, and today they set the example for other networks who are often guilty of media sexism, yet aren’t even beginning to address the problem.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about media policy and media-related matters by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

 

Related Stories:

Sen. Al Franken, New Tech Tools and Protecting Our Privacy

Free Speech, Twitter and Soccer: Privacy Case Raises Questions About Social Media Use

Morning Mix: Ed Schulz Suspended From Radio Gig, Apologizes for Vile Name-Calling (Video)

 

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Photo from stevegarfield via flickr
written by Eric K. Arnold, Media Consortium blogger

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27 comments

+ add your own
6:40AM PST on Jan 23, 2013

Thank you Lindsay, for Sharing this!

12:03AM PDT on Oct 10, 2011

so scary

3:59AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

I already use an app that incorporates several proxy server indicating that I am about 10,000 kilometres from home and it automatically switches proxies every 10 minutes ). I'm sure homeland security is having a ball trying to figure out where I am). As a programmer, I am currently working on an app that will transmit deceptive GPS data so that it will appear that I am in the PRC, N. Korea or Kazakhstan. Let' see Apple and Facebook deal with that.

5:17AM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

Not a fan of FB an IPAD.

9:31AM PDT on Jun 3, 2011

To Ernie Miller:

They do in fact have prepaid smart phones. I would know because I have one from Virgin Mobile for $25/month. So even so, unless you get an absolutely basic prepaid phone, the prepaid cell phone market doesn't want to leave their customers out of having their privacy breached too!

7:26AM PDT on Jun 3, 2011

All I have is a disposable prepay phone I activated it from a store so no real information about me on it. no smart phones for me. but the internet sure as hell scares me.

1:04PM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

It's called bait and switch. facebook like all others seduced it clients into that good thing and later on sold your info to the highest bidder, which wasn't suppose to happen. Meanwhile down on the farm, it is business as usua,l in the fleecing and taking down of america and turning it into something else for the highest bidder. As many of us know; our privacy has been out the window for a long time now. An oprah show revealed to us about cell towers and how that works and how they can track you. Another show educated us about the use of satelites. Just think; how do you think it makes it possible to monitor so many people without invading your space with a human. Did we think the ex- pres was being kind to us when he forced us to have one type of tv over another? No; My belief is so that we can be tuned in on. One day; tv on, the caster made a comment I thought funny. I suddenly bust out in a smirkish laugh, which startled her and she re adjusted herself. Remember conference calls thru tv's. I saw this once being used. A two way t'v conference where I see and talk to someone else. Another time, getting dressed; I noticed how the tv suddenly shut itself off. Guess the sight of me was not in taste. I found that interesting. I said; that's what you get for watching. This is my assumptions no one else's. I get so I really don't give a dar-n. What can you do? My reality is changeling about everything. America really isn't what they say it is. Nor is living, I suspect.

1:03PM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

It's called bait and switch. facebook like all others seduced it clients into that good thing and later on sold your info to the highest bidder, which wasn't suppose to happen. Meanwhile down on the farm, it is business as usua,l in the fleecing and taking down of america and turning it into something else for the highest bidder. As many of us know; our privacy has been out the window for a long time now. An oprah show revealed to us about cell towers and how that works and how they can track you. Another show educated us about the use of satelites. Just think; how do you think it makes it possible to monitor so many people without invading your space with a human. Did we think the ex- pres was being kind to us when he forced us to have one type of tv over another? No; My belief is so that we can be tuned in on. One day; tv on, the caster made a comment I thought funny. I suddenly bust out in a smirkish laugh, which startled her and she re adjusted herself. Remember conference calls thru tv's. I saw this once being used. A two way t'v conference where I see and talk to someone else. Another time, getting dressed; I noticed how the tv suddenly shut itself off. Guess the sight of me was not in taste. I found that interesting. I said; that's what you get for watching. This is my assumptions no one else's. I get so I really don't give a dar-n. What can you do? My reality is changeling about everything. America really isn't what they say it is. Nor is living, I suspect.

10:37AM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

Our privates aren't even private particularly from homeland security...

10:19PM PDT on Jun 1, 2011

IMO these smart phones are definately incorporating remote spyware. Go-ogle (yes the hyphen is deliberate.. a perfect name)
now set to take over Nokia.
Be smarter...don't use a smart phone, don't bite the apple!
As for social networking... IMO they are just as bad for collecting the public's information and who knows what they are doing with it...who is really in control?
Go-ogle now reported on China hacking.

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Lindsay Spangler Lindsay Spangler is a Web Editor and Producer for Care2 Causes. A recent UCLA graduate, she lives in... more
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