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FTC Suggests “Privacy by Design”

FTC
(Image is in the Public Domain)

The Federal Trade Commission proposed a new standard of privacy in American Industry recently:

“Despite some good actors, self-regulation of privacy has not worked adequately and is not working adequately for American consumers,” Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the trade commission, said. “We’d like to see companies work a lot faster to make consumer choice easier.”

No kidding? Companies won't regulate themselves? Unbelievable!

Anyway, the article goes on to say:

The online advertising industry, Mr. Zaneis said, would suffer “significant economic harm” if the government controlled the do-not-track mechanism and there was “a high participation rate similar to that of do not call.” Mr. Zaneis said the industry would continue to build upon a self-regulatory framework and had recently put in place the use of icons on select online advertisements that allow users to opt out of customized advertising.

Oh boo hoo! Companies that have been tracking and tagging you like cattle would be upset if they had to stop. Waa.

Whether or not the FTC will get traction with this is uncertain, but it won't matter much if it's built into the browser AS IT SHOULD BE. Fortunately, Firefox at least is looking into this in an upcoming version.

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Farmville Addiction Leads to Baby’s Death

Today a severely depressing story of a baby that was shaken to death for interrupting his mother's Farmville time.

A normal parent knows interruptions happen and can deal, but someone suffering from an addiction is different. They're obsessed and nothing else is as important!

The Mashable article says this:

Needless to say, it is Ms. Tobias — and not the game itself — that is responsible for the death of her 3-month-old son.

While this is completely true, I don't think it's right to say that Farmville was not involved and bears none of the responsibility. The game, is fun, engaging, bright and feeds into people's innate needs to build, organize, nurture, and escape (all signs of addictive games), but worst of all, Farmville punishes you for not playing. When you stop playing, your animals and crops die.

At some point, the people who make Farmville had a meeting to decide how to keep people playing the game and came up with the death idea. To be fair, maybe they didn't realize how this would lead many people into addiction, but it has and that fact is pretty obvious by now.

Even Mashable agrees:

FarmVille, named one of the “worst inventions” in recent decades by Time magazine, has more than 60 million members, most of whom access the game through Facebook (Facebook). Some players have found it so addicting that they’ve lost their jobs and racked up debts north of $1,000.

In the end, what company owns up to this and apologizes or changes their ways even in the face of deaths and misery that they had a hand in causing? Instead, they'll blame the user saying that it's totally their responsibility for becoming addicted. So the only choice you have is to handle it yourself.

You have to manage or completely avoid games that are (allegedly) built addictive. Just do a search for "name of game" addictive and if there are pages and pages of results, you just might want to steer clear.

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Hijack A Facebook Account in One Click

(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

Ok so maybe not ONE click. But someone has put together a simple tool that you can use to take over the active sessions of anyone within wireless range of you. Hang out at the Starbucks free wi-fi and you'll be able to control the Facebook or other accounts of people nearby. It's an attack that was always simple to do for those who know how, but now any idiot can do it with a simple new interface.

By the way, they mention a few protections from this at the bottom of the article, but here's one more.

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Farmville Spys on You

(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

This is not surprising.

"Apps" are pieces of software that let Facebook's 500 million users play games or share common interests with one another. The Journal found that all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook were transmitting users' IDs to outside companies.

The apps, ranked by research company Inside Network Inc. (based on monthly users), include Zynga Game Network Inc.'s FarmVille, with 59 million users, and Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille. Three of the top 10 apps, including FarmVille, also have been transmitting personal information about a user's friends to outside companies.

Once you install a 3rd party application, you no longer have control. Think twice before touching any "app" about how much you care if your information remains private or is sold on the information black market.

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Facebook Yanks Your Phone Contacts Out of Your iPhone with App

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Rule number 1: don't trust Facebook or any other marketer with your information. Anything you provide should be carefully researched to see how safe it is then provided only after deciding what risk you face.

Rule number 2: don't use automated processes to share information without even MORE careful research.

Breaking both rules is a new app from Facebook which will allow you (or one of your friends) to violate the privacy of many people at once by uploading your phonebook.

The greatest part is that you don't have to give up your phone number since one of your friends can instead! This is just like how Facebook let friends tell stalkers where to find you or add you to groups so someone who's mad at you can make you look like a pedophile.

Don't you love Facebook?

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Yet Another Facebook Concern: Places

Let Facebook know location? Not a good idea
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

I can't imagine broadcasting my current location to the world. There are so many risks that I don't even know where to begin. If you like this feature, good luck and godspeed. Hopefully you don't get robbed, stalked, or worse. The point is that your risk is higher when strangers know your location, and Facebook helpfully turns on this feature by default. If you want to take my advice and turn it off, here's how:

1. Find the control for Places in your settings
2. Disable the ability of friends to check you in
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DuckDuckGo – New Search Engine Choice or Dud?

DuckDuckGo.com
(Image is in the Public Domain)

Every now and then, there's a new search engine released that tries to play with the big boys, but they often fail. Usually its because of speed, maybe financial backing, sometimes user interface, but most often because they don't do the job well.

So here's one that may be worth some attention. Like Google, they focus on keeping very minimal and having a nice interface. But unlike Google, they make an effort to help you find what you are actually looking for:

They also include some summary information right in the search making it possible to skip visiting the site at all if you don't need to or at least getting a better feel for what the site is about before going. And according to their About page, they store NO personal information (which has long been a complaint of mine about Google).

So far, they're doing a lot right, but with Google having just released HTTPS for searches, the competition is even stiffer. I wish them luck.

Check them out yourself here.

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Facebook Now Changing Privacy Policy In the Face of Public Hatred

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It looks like it didn't take long for them to get the hint. Facebook will now be improving their privacy controls and policy.

From the CNN article:

Tech blogger Robert Scoble... equated the privacy outrage to both Facebook's complicated privacy settings and the company's inability to communicate why users should share their private information with the public.

No kidding. Well now Mark Zuckerberg has admitted to making some mistakes and promises to do better. We'll see.

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Facebook Forces Users to Display Hometown, Work, Interests

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Looks like they're doing it again. This time, they've made a change where even information you've set to private will be fully visible to strangers.

Today, Facebook removed its users' ability to control who can see their own interests and personal information. Certain parts of users' profiles, "including your current city, hometown, education and work, and likes and interests" will now be transformed into "connections," meaning that they will be shared publicly. If you don't want these parts of your profile to be made public, your only option is to delete them.

Of course, this doesn't affect me since my REAL friends already know all that stuff so I saw no reason to enter it into Facebook in the first place, but if you or someone you know has it, tell them to pull it down or put in fake data instead. Why broadcast information to strangers hoping that none of them will use it against you?

Update

It looks like Lifehacker posted an article on how to restore your privacy after the change. Check it out

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How to Permanently and Completely Delete Your Facebook Account

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There have been stories in the past of how difficult and how impossible it is sometimes to remove information from Facebook. But if you get sick of it, you can just delete the account entirely using this technique. Tags:

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