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Google tracks purchases


Internet privacy


Data breach


CISPA passes in House


Google Privacy Violations



Cyber Security and Privacy

It's virtually impossible to live your life incognito.

If you make or receive phone calls, use email, visit websites, buy things with a credit card, or simply give personal details to the government or a business, your information is being tracked.

There are legitimate uses for this data, but also many ways it could unfairly effect you. You might never know about most of these. But if your personal information is stolen, you could find out in unpleasant ways.

In this section we report news related to all of these issues.

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Google tracks what you buy - from wherever

2019-May-17By: Barry Shatzman

You might not remember everything you bought in the past few years, but someone does. Google.

Whenever you buy something from anywhere online, a receipt is emailed to you. And if you use Gmail - Google's free email service - Google knows about it.

Maybe you just archived the email without deleting it. Or maybe you're saving it in a receipts folder you created. Regardless, Google knows it's something you purchased.

It also knows about travel reservations that were sent to your Gmail account.

You can delete each item by deleting the email. But if you're saving the email as a record of the receipt, you would need to come up with a different record-keeping method.

Google also keeps track of places you've been, your web activity, and even your voice commands when you say "Hey Google" into your phone or other Google device.

Google says you can turn off all tracking, but it doesn't work, CNBC reports.

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Congress revokes Obama internet privacy protections

2017-Mar-29By: Barry Shatzman

A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule finalized late last year would have prevented internet service providers (ISPs) from sharing customers' personal data without their clear permission.

Congress has voted to nullify the rule.

Because the rule was finalized late in the Obama administration, Congress could cancel it using the Congressional Review Act. That allows the Senate to agree to a nullification with a simple majority - it is not subject to a filibuster.

The rule required ISPs to...

o Obtain explicit customer approval to sell their personal information.

o Take reasonable measures to secure customer proprietary information, and provide notification to customers, the FCC, and law enforcement in the event of data breaches that could result in harm.

o Not make surrendering privacy rights a condition of providing service.

In the rule, the FCC states...

Privacy rights are fundamental because they protect important personal interests - freedom from identity theft, financial loss, or other economic harms, as well as concerns that intimate, personal details could become the grist for the mills of public embarrassment or harassment or the basis for opaque, but harmful judgments, including discrimination.

Telecommunication companies such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon had lobbied for the rule to be rescinded.

Because the rule was not intended to take effect until the end of 2017, this bill does not change any existing practices. Revoking the rule merely prevents the protections from going into effect.

Also, what internet service providers sell is aggregate data for targeted advertising. They do not directly sell individuals' data. However, an ISP would have no legal barriers preventing them from doing so.

Even if they don't, internet service providers still have done some nefarious things that might have affected you. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, some ISPs actually hijacked search queries intended for Yahoo and Google - sending the user directly to paid advertisers.

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20 million Social Security numbers stolen from government computers

2015-Jul-09By: Barry Shatzman

If you have a job that requires a government background check, it's likely that much of your personal information - including your Social Security number and fingerprints - has been stolen by hackers.

And if you just happen to know someone who has had a background check in the past 15 years? Same thing.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) says it is investigating how sensitive data of more than 21 million people was stolen from government computers. For those who had received background checks, the stolen information included addresses, health information, financial information and travel destinations outside the United States. It also included details on their relatives, neighbors, and friends.

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Cybersecurity bill would create personal information free-for-all


A bill that would allow companies to share your personal information with government agencies and other companies passed the House of Representatives last week.

Under the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), companies would be immune from lawsuits related to any information they share with the government - including information that identifies you personally. The law also would allow the government to share that information with any company.

Although the bill states that the information can be anything that pertains to cybersecurity, the definition is broad enough to include virtually anything, according to critics such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The bill provides no oversight into how the information is used after it is shared, according to the ACLU.

"Under CISPA, the same companies holding records on what we read, where we go, and what we're thinking about get to decide who else can see those records", the ACLU writes.

Supporters of CISPA, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, and Comcast, have spend 140 times as much lobbying money as have its opponents such as the ACLU and the American Library Association.

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Google Fined for Privacy Violations


The Federal Trade Commission has fined Google $22 million for violating users' privacy.

The company tracked the browsing habits of users of Apple's Safari web browser, even though the users had selected Safari's "Ask Websites not to track me" option.

The tracking itself was not illegal. However, Google had told users they would not be tracked if they chose that option.

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