Entries in Data (9)


Facebook, Microsoft Release Data on Info Handed Over to Government

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When reports of the National Security Agency’s alleged program to gain “direct access” to large amounts of Internet communications (code-named PRISM) was first reported last week, the technology companies tied to the reports all denied participation in the surveillance program – but they also urged the government to allow for more transparency regarding the requests they do receive.

On Friday evening, after reaching an agreement with the FBI and Department of Justice, Facebook and Microsoft were the first companies to release transparency reports. Facebook revealed that the company received between 9,000 and 10,000 data requests from local, state and federal governments in the last six months of 2012. Within those, access to or information about 18,000 to 19,000 individual Facebook accounts were requested. During that same period, Microsoft received between 6,000 and 7,000 requests for access to a total of 31,000 to 32,000 accounts.

“As of today, the government will only authorize us to communicate about these numbers in aggregate, and as a range,” Facebook General Counsel Ted Ullyot wrote in a Facebook blog post. “This is progress, but we’re continuing to push for even more transparency, so that our users around the world can understand how infrequently we are asked to provide user data on national security grounds.

“These requests run the gamut – from things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child, to a federal marshal tracking a fugitive, to a police department investigating an assault, to a national security official investigating a terrorist threat,” Ullyot wrote.

Ullyot reminded readers Facebook has more than 1 billion users, maintaining that “a tiny fraction of 1 percent of our user accounts were the subject of any kind of U.S. state, local, or federal U.S. government request (including criminal and national security-related requests) in the past six months.”

Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, John Frank, made similar points in a post of his own: “This only impacts a tiny fraction of Microsoft’s global customer base.”

Facebook and Microsoft agreed that the numbers were a step toward providing greater transparency, but because of the nature of the classified and sensitive information, the government has not allowed for more to be disclosed.

“We continue to believe that what we are permitted to publish continues to fall short of what is needed to help the community understand and debate these issues,” Frank wrote.

Earlier this week, Facebook, Google and Microsoft petitioned the government to allow them to share more about the scope and size of the user-data requests.

Google, however, doesn’t think Facebook and Microsoft’s approach is helpful and is instead looking to just reveal the numbers of the requests national security requests on its own.

“We have always believed that it’s important to differentiate between different types of government requests,” Google said in a statement on Friday night. “We already publish criminal requests separately from National Security Letters. Lumping the two categories together would be a step back for users. Our request to the government is clear: to be able to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Facebook to Increase Ad Targeting

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Facebook is hoping to increase its advertising revenue by gathering even more information about its users.

The social media website rolled out a new tool on Wednesday that will assist advertisers in targeting users based on both online and offline spending history.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the new tool will combine Facebook's information about users' friends and what they "like" with additional information from third-party data marketers. The new data will likely include what Web pages the consumer visits, the email lists they sign up for, and what they spend their money on.

By merging their own information with data from third-party brokers, Facebook can provide advertisers with massive groups of people who are the best fit for particular advertisements.

While Facebook would not provide information on individual users, they can provide advertisers with large groups of members and data on their behavior both in and out of the social network's realm.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook's ad-targeting methods.

Facebook says that is is not using location data from its users and will ensure that all information provided to its partners is anonymous. In addition, Facebook users can find out why they were targeted for specific ads, or opt out from ads from specific advertisers.

General Motors and the Neiman Marcus Group are two of the most notable companies who are reported to be increasing their advertising on Facebook, at least partially in response to the new data available to them. In the first quarter of 2013, Facebook's advertising revenue rose over 40 percent from 2012.

Sean Williams, the social media manager for Hyundai's America group, told The Wall Street Journal that he believes the new advertising tools could help companies target potential customers.

"In the past, we really just used Facebook as an engagement tool," he told the publication. "We're now thinking about turning this into an evergreen, or always-on, program."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


AT&T to Cap Smartphone Data Usage

David McNew/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- AT&T says it will no longer offer unlimited data usage to wireless customers, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The no. 2 wireless carrier will soon put limits on the amount of data customers can use on a plan.  Any data consumption over three gigabytes a month will result in a significant reduction in Internet download speeds and possibly additional fees for video, apps and music downloaded over the wireless network, AT&T says.

According to The Wall Street Journal, AT&T's new cap on data usage will mean the differences separating the company's $30 unlimited plan (which enforces a usage cap at three gigabytes) and its $30 tiered plan (which charges more for data used over three gigabytes) will blur. WSJ reports the wireless carrier will apply the new limits to each device on unlimited family plans as well.

AT&T says one reason for introducing data usage caps stems from its need to better manage its network and improve service for users.  It also recently sent letters to wireless subscribers who still use the carrier's older, 2G network, asking them to trade their devices up to 3G models, WSJ reports.

Worried about exceeding your data limit?  Here are some tips The Wall Street Journal suggests to conserve your data:

  • Use Wi-Fi as much as possible -- at home, hotels and other places offering wireless internet service.
  • Download Internet content onto your device directly from a computer.
  • Opt for lower resolution when downloading video content.
  • Use smartphone apps like My Data Manager for Android or iPhone to help you track your data usage.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


AT&T Raising Prices of Wireless Data Plans

David McNew/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Data hogs who are considering purchasing a smartphone or tablet with an AT&T plan may want to act quickly, or find the nearest wireless spots. AT&T is raising the prices of its wireless data plans and changing the data limits for new customers starting Sunday. The changes could add up to an extra $60 a year.

AT&T announced that new smartphone customers would have a choice of three new monthly data plans: $20 for 300 megabytes, or  $30 for 3 gigabytes. For $50, smartphone customers get 5 GB of data for tethering, or for sharing the Internet connection of another mobile device.

While the company described the new plans as a “great value,” Mike Gikas, Consumer Reports’ electronics senior editor, said, “giving you more data that you’re probably not going to use and charging you more is just a price hike.”

New smartphone customers who want additional data will have to pay $10 per additional gigabyte on the 3 GB and 5 GB plans. New customers with the 300 MB plan can get an extra 300 MB for $20.

Because data usage over Wi-Fi does not count against a customer’s monthly data usage, AT&T said it encouraged customers to keep their device’s Wi-Fi turned on. However, smartphone users who enable Wi-Fi on their phone may burn through battery power.

Existing smartphone and tablet customers can choose to keep their current plans, which are $15 for 200 MB, $25 for 2GB and $45 for 4 GB, and also include tethering, according to Consumer Reports. Under the old $25 plan, AT&T charged an overage fee of $10 per GB, so the new $30 plan could save data hogs $5 per month, according to Time.

The new tablet plans are $30 for 3 GB and $50 for 5 GB.

In July, competitor Verizon Wireless eliminated unlimited data plans for new smartphone customers and introduced plans of $30 for 2 GB, $50 for 5 GB or $80 for 10 gigabytes of monthly data usage. Verizon customers are charged $10 more for each additional GB.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Wireless Providers to Alert Customers of Plan Overages

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Federal Communications Commission and the cellphone industry are announcing a deal Monday that could put an end to the shock over monthly mobile bills. Subscribers will get warnings when they're about to go over monthly limits, USA Today reports.

Millions of cellphone subscribers have suffered sticker shock over extra charges when they go over pre-paid limits with their monthly plans: mobile customers can get hit with charges of over $100 for heavy data, voice or texting use.

USA Today says consumer complaints led government regulators to consider alerts requiring wireless companies to tell consumers when they're about to face extra charges.

The alerts should be in place within 18 months.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sprint Rumored to Offer Apple Unlimited Data Service Plan

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sprint Nextel Corp. may be the latest wireless carrier to team up with Apple Inc. in a unique way in an attempt to distinguish itself from rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Bloomberg News reports that Sprint is planning to offer Apple’s iPhone 5 unlimited data service plans, beginning in October.

Under the deal, Sprint—the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier—will become the country’s only operator to offer the iPhone unlimited data service for a flat fee in an effort to pull customers away from AT&T and Verizon Wireless and to Sprint instead.

Kansas-based Sprint has reported sales losses for 15 consecutive quarters as it has struggling to compete against larger rivals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sony Reports New Cyber Attacks on Multiple Websites

AFP/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Sony announced Wednesday that hackers have broken into the Sony Ericsson website in Canada and the Sony Music Entertainment website in Greece, putting the personal information of more than 10,000 users at risk, according to the BBC.

The Japanese company said although users' credit card information was not compromised, their e-mails, passwords ,and phone numbers were.

This latest breach comes on the heels of the largest cyber security breach involving Sony's PlayStation Network service, which shut down the system and jeopardized the information of 100 million users.

Two other websites -- one in Indonesia and one in Thailand -- were also hacked on Wednesday but no information was taken, Sony spokesman George Boyd told the BBC.

All four websites have been shut down for now.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Census Bureau Data: Richest Counties Get Richer, Poorest Get Poorer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, at least judging by the most extreme neighborhoods for median household income in the latest Census Bureau data.

The census' American Community Survey, released last week, provides detailed neighborhood data, including languages spoken in a home, commute time and income levels.

The poorest county, Owsley County, Ky., had the lowest median household income outside of Puerto Rico. Its median income decreased to $18,869 from $20,346 in 2000. Of all the county or county equivalents, Falls Church, Va. had the highest median income, at $113,313, an increase from $96,449 in 2000.

Virginia also was home to the counties with the three highest median household incomes, and the only counties with median household incomes greater than $100,000. Fairfax County had a $104,259 median household income, and Loudoun County had one of $112,021.

The data came from surveys which were mailed to about 3 million addresses from January 2005 through December 2009. The Census Bureau's official 2010 census demographic data, which provide less detail on the neighborhood level, will be released on Dec. 21. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Insurers Using Consumer Data for Risk Assessment

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Insurance companies are turning to consumer habits to assess the health of their customers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, insurers are using consumer-marketing data to estimate a person’s risk for illness. Information from online and offline purchases, along with data from public records such as hunting permits and property transfers are all being used to conduct the risk assessment.

One company, Aviva, examined data from 60,000 of its recent insurance applicants, and found that a “predictive modeling” system proved to be convincing in its ability to arrive at similar results that traditional techniques would. That test was conducted by Deloitte Consulting, and estimated the risk for illnesses such as high blood pressure and depression. 

Other companies considering pursuing a similar route for assessment include AIG and Prudential.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio