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Friday
Apr062012

Project Glass: Will You Want Google Tracking Your Eyes?

Google(NEW YORK) -- The world was stunned by the first real look at Google’s Project Glass.  In a video released by the search giant, we got a captivating look at how its glasses could help you get a weather forecast by looking up at the sky, or find out about subway delays just by standing outside the station.

But while many were blown away at the video Google released Wednesday, others started to ponder what Google could ultimately do with the technology.

One of those people was Jonathan McIntosh, who calls himself a pop culture hacker and transformative storyteller.

“To be honest, when I first saw the Google Glasses video I thought that was really cool,” he said.  “But a moment later, I thought, ‘Oh God, there are some very serious implications in terms of privacy and data mining.’”

Google has, of course, been collecting data for a long time.  They know what you search, who you email (if you use its Gmail), what you watch on YouTube, and where you’re going if you use Google Maps.  It uses that information to provide more personalized search results as well as more targeted advertising.

That advertising part is a big piece of the puzzle.  It’s ultimately how the company makes money.  The Internet giant states in its policy that it “makes money without doing evil” with your personal data.

“Google’s an ad company.  I think it’s something people should be mindful of and critical of, especially in the frame of these awesome new glasses,” McIntosh said.

A former Google exec, James Whittaker, recently wrote about how Google’s mission was becoming too focused on ads and competing with Facebook’s targeted ads.  He left to go work at Microsoft.   Additionally, on March 1, Google’s privacy policy was changed to allow the data collected from your activity to be shared across its services.

Peter Swire, a privacy and cybersecurity expert and professor at Ohio State, has similar worries when it comes to the glasses. 

“Advertising won’t skip this platform, but there will be ongoing battles about how pervasive the ads will be and how users will turn them off,” he said.

Swine also brings up the tracking issue of the glasses and the fact that Google’s Android software does not give the user a choice about location tracking for each app; it’s a system-wide setting.

“Will Google Glasses use the same all-or-nothing approach?” Swine asked.  “We have got ‘Do not Call’ and ‘Do not Track;’ we will see if we get ‘Do not See.’”

It is too early to tell what Google will do with the glasses.  The company wouldn’t comment on advertising in Project Glass.  It has said the glasses are merely prototypes right now, although it does plan to start testing them in public this summer.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

Facebook Sued for Allegedly Tracking Users after They've Logged Off

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(OXFORD, Miss.) -- A Mississippi woman has sued Facebook in federal court, accusing the social network of violating federal wiretap laws to track her online activity, even when she wasn't logged onto the site.

Facebook denies the allegations, but it has conceded in the past that it inadvertently tracked users through so-called cookies -- small files a website sends to your computer when you visit.  It has said it fixed the problem before the Mississippi suit was filed.

"Leading up to September 23, 2011, Facebook tracked, collected, and stored its users' wire or electronic communications, including but not limited to portions of their Internet browsing history even when the users were not logged-in to Facebook," reads the complaint by Brooke Rutledge of Lafayette County, Miss.  "Plaintiff did not give consent or otherwise authorize Facebook to intercept, track, collect, and store her wire or electronic communications, including but not limited to her Internet browsing history when not logged-in to Facebook."

It is not the first lawsuit of its kind -- there are suits in Kansas, Kentucky and Louisiana -- and Facebook is not the only large company to be accused of violating visitors' privacy.  But the issue has spread since Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced the site's new Timeline and Ticker features in September.

"All your stories, all your apps, a new way to express who you are," Zuckerberg said at the introduction.

Facebook sent ABC News a one-line statement in response to the suit: "We believe this complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously"

Copyright 2911 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep282011

OnStar Reverses Policy, Won’t Track Non-Subscribers

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(DETROIT) -- OnStar, the service that connects to people’s cars by cell signal and can tell where they are if they have an accident, has now promised not to keep tracking people even if they cancel their subscriptions.

“We listened,” said OnStar’s president, Linda Marshall. “We hope to maintain the trust of our more than six million customers.”

OnStar stepped on a public relations landmine earlier this month by announcing some changes to its privacy policy. In a routine email to customers, it said it reserved the right to provide its traffic data to law enforcement, credit card processors and marketers. And it said that unless people asked, OnStar would keep tracking people’s cars even if they canceled the service.

Several senators piled on, expressing “serious concern” for people’s privacy; Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

OnStar said it wasn’t actually selling or sharing its data and had no plans to do so, but that wasn’t good enough. It has now revised the policy, promising that if people cancel their OnStar subscriptions, the cellular connection with their cars will automatically be disconnected.

“We regret any confusion or concern we may have caused,” Marshall said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May102011

Google, Apple Testifying Over Cellphone Tracking Claims

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Following reports that their phones are tracking users, Apple and Google will testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday to answer questions on smartphone privacy.

Both companies have told lawmakers that their phones are not spying on customers but rather keeping track of Wi-Fi hot spots and cellphone towers used in figuring locations.  They say the data collected is sent to the company in an anonymous and encrypted form so it cannot be used to track where you go.

In related news, The Detroit News reports that two Michigan women have filed a $50 million lawsuit against Google, demanding the company stop selling phones that can track your location.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr272011

Apple Responds to iPhone Tracking Controversy

George Frey/Getty Images(CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- One week after security researchers stoked privacy fears with evidence that iPhones and iPads store location data, Apple on Wednesday finally released an official statement attempting to quell customer concerns.

"Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so," the company said in a public "Q & A on Location Data" posted on the company Web site.

Instead of logging the location of its users, Apple said the iPhone keeps a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers nearby users' current locations, some of which could be more than 100 miles away from the phone.

That information is stored on the phones to help them more quickly and accurately determine the phones' location when owners use navigation or location-based services.

"Calculating a phone's location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data to quickly find GPS satellites, and even triangulate its location using just Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data when GPS is not available (such as indoors or in basements)," the company said.

The company emphasized that security and privacy are important and that, in the coming weeks, it will release a software update that will reduce the amount of location data stored on the phone and cease to backup the information.

In the days following the researchers' announcement, digital rights activists and lawmakers criticized both Apple and Google for privacy infringements related to location data.

Apple's official statement on location data comes two days after Franken announced that the Senate would hold a hearing on mobile privacy concerns, with Apple and Google executives, on May 10.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio