Sep 302009
 September 30, 2009  Posted by  Govt, Non-U.S., Surveillance

A council which took part in a project involving residents’ bins being searched has apologised for not letting people know in advance.

The Evening Telegraph exclusively reported last week that an army of bin snoopers was out and about examining the contents to see what is filling landfill sites.

Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough councils authorised waste experts Resource Futures to dip into the bins of residents to try to cut down the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Read more in The Evening Telegraph.

Sep 302009
 September 30, 2009  Posted by  Breaches, Laws, U.S.

Governor M. Jodi Rell announced a new law [An Act Concerning Consumer Privacy and Identity Theft] which increases criminal penalties for identity theft and establishes a fund from forfeited assets to help individuals whose identity has been stolen will become effective on October 1st.


The legislation makes numerous changes in existing laws relating to identity theft, misuse of Social Security Numbers or other personal identifying information. The law also includes tougher penalties for those convicted of victimizing senior citizens. A suspect now faces first-degree identity theft charges – a class B felony – for victimizing anyone older than 60 and stealing assets and valuables over $5,000. The law lowers the theft threshold for a first-degree offense from $10,000.

The legislation broadens the definition of identity theft, increases penalties for criminal impersonation and creates the crime of unlawful possession of personal access devices, such as card readers or scanners, account numbers, personal identification numbers or PIN number and telecommunications service.

Read more on News8

Sep 302009
 September 30, 2009  Posted by  Business, Featured News, Online

Stephanie Clifford reports:

About   two-thirds of Americans object to online tracking by advertisers — and that number rises once they learn the different ways marketers are following their online movements, according to a new survey from professors at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley.

Read the full story in the New York Times.

From the survey’s overview:

Our survey did find that younger American adults are less likely to say no to tailored advertising than are older ones. Still, more than half (55%) of 18-24 year-olds do not want tailored advertising. And contrary to consistent assertions of marketers, young adults have as strong an aversion to being followed across websites and offline (for example, in stores) as do older adults. 86% of young adults say they don’t want tailored advertising if it is the result of following their behavior on websites other than one they are visiting, and 90% of them reject it if it is the result of following what they do offline. The survey uncovered other attitudes by Americans toward tailored content and the collection of information about them. For example:

  • Even when they are told that the act of following them on websites will take place anonymously, Americans’ aversion to it remains: 68% “definitely” would not allow it, and 19% would “probably” not allow it.
  • A majority of Americans also does not want discounts or news fashioned specifically for them, though the percentages are smaller than the proportion rejecting ads.
  • 69% of American adults feel there should be a law that gives people the right to know everything that a website knows about them.
  • 92% agree there should be a law that requires “websites and advertising companies to delete all stored information about an individual, if requested to do so.”
  • 63% believe advertisers should be required by law to immediately delete information about their internet activity.
  • Americans mistakenly believe that current government laws restrict companies from selling wide-ranging data about them. When asked true-false questions about companies’ rights to share and sell information about their activities online and off, respondents on average answer only 1.5 of 5 online laws and 1.7 of the 4 offline laws correctly because they falsely assume government regulations prohibit the sale of data.
  • Signaling frustration over privacy issues, Americans are inclined toward strict punishment of information offenders. 70% suggest that a company should be fined more than the maximum amount suggested ($2,500) “if a company purchases or uses someone’s information illegally.”
  • When asked to choose what, if anything should be a company’s single punishment beyond fines if it “uses a person’s information illegally,” 38% of Americans answer that the company should “fund efforts to help people protect privacy.” But over half of Americans adults are far tougher: 18% choose that the company should “be put out of business” and 35% select that “executives who are responsible should face jail time.”

The investigators are Joseph Turow, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania; Jennifer King of University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology;
Chris Jay Hoofnagle, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology;
Amy Bleakley, Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania; and Michael Hennessy, Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania.

Update: Matt Cutts raises concerns that one of the principal investigators of the study, Chris Hoofnagle, is affiliated with EPIC, but the relationship was not disclosed in the study:

Most people know that the choice of questions in an study can make a huge difference to the outcome. To fully inform the people who read the study, do I wish Chris Jay Hoofnagle had mentioned his connection to EPIC in the paper’s bio section? Yeah, I kinda do. At least when I checked Techmeme, not a single story mentioned Hoofnagle as a Principal Investigator on the grant and co-author on the study, or Hoofnagle’s connections with EPIC.

Well, this site did mention Chris as a principal author, but not his connection to EPIC, probably because I have great respect for Chris and do not think that investigator bias can account for the surprising survey results. Could any firmly held views on Chris’s part — which some might call “informed” and not “biased” — influence his interpretation of the survey results? Sure, theoretically. But interpretation aside, the results are the results in terms of numbers, and those promoting online advertising and tracking technologies need to address the surprising findings.

Image credit: Questions? by Valerie Everett/Flickr, used under Creative Commons License

Sep 302009
 September 30, 2009  Posted by  Govt, U.S.

The New York Times editorial board has written an editorial on the Obama administration’s new guidelines for invoking the state secrets privilege, previously reported here and here.

The other day, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. issued new guidelines for invoking the state secrets privilege in the future. They were a positive step forward, on paper, but did not go nearly far enough. Mr. Holder’s much-anticipated reform plan does not include any shift in the Obama administration’s demand for blanket secrecy in pending cases. Nor does it include support for legislation that would mandate thorough court review of state secrets claims made by the executive branch.

Read the complete editorial here.

One of the existing cases that would not be affected by the new policy is Jewel v. NSA Commenting on the NYT editorial, Kevin Bankston of EFF writes:

The White House’s continuing silence about pending legislation to reform the state secrets privilege has caused the issue to stall in Congress. Even though State Secrets Protection Act legislation was introduced in both the House and the Senate this past spring, Congress have been wary of considering those bills without knowing the White House’s position. Hopefully, this editorial from the New York Times will convince President Obama that now is the time to take a strong position in favor of those bills’ reasonable limits on government secrecy.