My Privacy Is AT&T’s IP?

Concerns Raised Over AT&T Privacy Policypdf

Consumer advocates said yesterday that a new privacy policy from AT&T Inc. marks the first time a major telecom company has asserted that customer calling and Internet records are corporate property and raises concerns about how the company tracks consumer behavior and shares data with government and law enforcement agencies.

The new privacy policy is scheduled for release today on the company’s Web site. AT&T said it does not share the data with third-party marketing firms, but it cites circumstances under which it shares customer information with the government and law enforcement. For its broadband Internet customers, the company also makes clear that it will collect information about which Web pages its customers view, how much time is spent on each page and what links are clicked on.

Will They Find A Middle Ground?

Is there such a thing as compromise when it comes to digital restrictions management: France Softens iTunes Law, but Apple Is Still Disgruntled

Leading French lawmakers voted Thursday to water down a draft copyright law that could force Apple Computer to make its iPod music player and iTunes online store compatible with rivals’ offerings.

But the changes did not appear to go far enough to satisfy Apple, which dropped the strongest hint yet that it might withdraw from the French downloading market rather than comply.

So What’s Next?

How far is this going to have turned out go have gone? Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror

The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans’ financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift.

That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues.

“The capability here is awesome or, depending on where you’re sitting, troubling,” said one former senior counterterrorism official who considers the program valuable. While tight controls are in place, the official added, “the potential for abuse is enormous.”

Later: Officials Defend Financial Searches

Community Action or a Lynch Mob?

And can one ensure that one does not become the other? Tale of a Lost Cellphone, and Untold Static

Three weeks ago, Mr. Guttman went on a quest to retrieve a friend’s lost cellphone, a quest that has now ended with the arrest of a 16-year-old on charges of possessing the missing gadget, a Sidekick model with a built-in camera that sells for as much as $350. But before the teenager was arrested, she was humiliated by Mr. Guttman in front of untold thousands of people on the Web, an updated version of the elaborate public shamings common in centuries past.

The tale began when Mr. Guttman’s best friend Ivanna left her cellphone in a taxicab, like thousands of others before her. After Ivanna got a new Sidekick, she logged on to her account — and was confronted by pictures of an unfamiliar young woman and her family, along with the young woman’s America Online screen name.

[…] Using instant messages, Mr. Guttman tracked down Sasha and asked her to return it. “Basically, she told me to get lost,” Mr. Guttman recalled. “That was it.”

So he set up a no-frills Web page with a brief account of what happened, and posted the pictures of the girl and her family. Within hours of putting up the Web page, Mr. Guttman was fielding hundreds of e-mail messages from those nursing their own bitter memories of a lost cellphone, a BlackBerry or a digital camera that went unreturned.

Gearing Up For A Conference

But came across this gem: WARD-Generating Civil Society

Generating Civil Society (Music by Ward)

Director: David Meme

Generating Civil Society is a stopmotion animation that explores the meaning and form of commons based peer-production (See the work of Yocahi [sic] Benkler) through the use of intertextuality and interdiscursivity in the production of a music video. […]

Privacy, Children and Chattels

In some ways, the title says it all: Cellphones: Just a leash for children?pdf

Sprint Family Locator, which debuted in April, is just one of many newly released cellular services that use global positioning satellites — originally developed for military use — to allow family members to keep tabs on each other via their phones. Disney Mobile, which opened for business earlier this month, includes child tracking among its basic features. Verizon Wireless’ Chaperone service lets parents enclose up to 10 areas in virtual fencing, and to receive a text message if their children breach a boundary.

This technology isn’t cutting-edge, exactly; similar location based services have been marketed with limited success over the last few years, notably Nextel’s Mobile Locator designed for companies to track employees. But cellular carriers are in a tizzy to fulfill a Federal Communications Commission mandate that 911 operators be able to pin down phone locations — and it stands to reason that they recoup their investment by offering that same capability to subscribers. Carriers make beaucoup bucks, parents like Fahrnow rest easier; everybody wins.

Everybody except the people being tracked, say teens and privacy advocates who peg this trend to an unhealthy desire for control. […]

[…] Alan Phillips is an ardent proponent of this revolution. In 2002 he caught his 14-year-old son skateboarding when he was supposed to be at a friend’s house, and Phillips promptly founded uLocate Communications, in Massachusetts, to develop location-based services for mobile phones. These days the Phillips family can check each others’ locations via a cellphone click (or on the Web) and can even view the rate of speed at which family members are traveling.

“My son plays soccer,” Phillips says. “We set up ‘geofences’ so that when he’s coming back from games on the bus, every time his phone comes within five miles of the school, we are alerted. So that we know when to pick him up.”

Very convenient; but even Phillips admits that sometimes the ever-present eye is a little much. “I have intentionally turned off my phone to suppress data from my wife,” he says. “If I’m leaving late and had told her that I’d meet her somewhere….”

Salon on Internet Spying

Or not. Is the NSA spying on U.S. Internet traffic? A surpisingly weak story from Salon.

In a pivotal network operations center in metropolitan St. Louis, AT&T has maintained a secret, highly secured room since 2002 where government work is being conducted, according to two former AT&T workers once employed at the center.

In interviews with Salon, the former AT&T workers said that only government officials or AT&T employees with top-secret security clearance are admitted to the room, located inside AT&T’s facility in Bridgeton. The room’s tight security includes a biometric “mantrap” or highly sophisticated double door, secured with retinal and fingerprint scanners. The former workers say company supervisors told them that employees working inside the room were “monitoring network traffic” and that the room was being used by “a government agency.”

[…] The nature of the government operation using the Bridgeton room remains unknown, and could be legal. Aside from surveillance or data collection, the room could conceivably house a federal law enforcement operation, a classified research project, or some other unknown government operation.

Later: More Rumblings About Net Privacy

My Tax Dollars At Work

US says progress made in fighting piracypdf

Officials with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights advocacy group, said they understood the government’s desire to prosecute commercial piracy but questioned the need for more expansive laws targeting such acts as “attempted” piracy.

“The legal changes that DOJ is seeking are completely outrageous and legally unjustifiable,” EFF staff attorney Fred von Lohmann said. “Those changes are intended to make it possible to criminally convict someone without having to prove that actual copy infringement took place. There’s no evidence here that we need to make it any easier to throw a person in jail than it is to sue them for money for infringement.”

More on Data Mining, Terrorism and Privacy

Data Mining Still Needs a Clue to Be Effective [pdf]

In the two decades or so since software scientists began “mining” computerized databases for information they were never designed to yield, the sophistication of their techniques has increased dramatically.

And although marketing companies today — especially with the advent of the Internet — can routinely predict who you will vote for, where you will eat dinner and, most of all, what products you will buy, experts say it is far less clear whether security agencies can sift mounds of data to track down terrorist networks — unless they start with a useful lead.

[…] “Even if one out of 10 searches is a hit, the technique is useful,” one expert said. “But one out of 1,000 or one in 1 million?” In these cases, experts suggest, maybe the technician would be more cost-effective by searching something besides phone logs.

So, is that an excuse to collect more data, or to change tactics and focus a bit more on pure investigation? Which strategy do you expect we’ll see coming down the road?