The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, made up of a representative from the data protection authority of each EU Member State, released a document with recommendations about the protection of users’ privacy. The recommendations appeared soon after it had become clear that Google and Apple were storing location information on their customers’ devices.
The Article 29 group is responsible for data protection in each EU member state. Its recommendations can be accepted in some of the EU States or the whole European Union. Moreover, they can influence USA as well. But it is not compulsory to accept and follow their recomendations; the final decision depends on the local governments.
The report says that companies can store their customers’ private data only when they get the users’ consent to do so. Also, people should be “continuously warned” of when and with what purposes their sensitive information is used. It can help avoiding “secret monitoring”. According to the recommendations, users should have an opportunity to remove their data, “without any negative consequences to the use of their device”.
Recently, the South Korean authorities have accused American corporations Google and Apple of comitting privacy breach, and have sent them a questionnaire that includes questions regarding the duration and frecuency of the location information storage and their permission to collect data from their customers. The questionnaire also asks why the location data was stored in the iPhone and the Android smartphones, and why the actual data was unencrypted.
As we have already reported, Google and Apple are storing location data about their users. The companies can allegedly use this information for marketing purposes.
The answers to the questionnaire have already been received. To review them, the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) set up a committee formed by 16 members. The members are government officials and representatives from academic, engineering and legislative circles.
“We will release the committee’s decision after taking a look at the related laws, technologies and administrative procedures and reporting it to KCC's Chairman, Choi See-Joong,” said a representative of the KCC. If the committee decides that the companies are in violation of the country’s privacy protection laws, they will be subject to operation bans or fines.
Recently it has become widely known that iPhone and iPad are tracking you, collecting your current location information. This event made urgent the following questions: why do companies store data about their customers?, do users get anything in exchange for letting them do it? and, what can customers do about it?
First of all, it is worth mentioning that customers don’t give their personal information without indemnity, they receive offers in exchange for information. Companies use gathered data to create an offer that would suit you. This method of tracking was invented by marketers long before the Internet became widespread, the Internet just made it almost perfect. For example, supermarkets give you a discount for one of the products, in exchange they receive information about all the products that you have bought and give you discount coupons that you can use on your next visit to purchase similar things. And the gathering of location data doesn’t differ that much.
If you don’t want to disclose your personal data, it is easy to avoid it by switching off some options in the software on your phone or computer. Many people don’t do it just because they don't care about protecting their privacy or because they like to receive services/offers in exchange for their personal information.
Some people decide to use iPads for business purposes. Today we are going to talk about protecting your iPad and data by means of a virtual private network (VPN).
You do not need any additional software to setup a VPN connection on your iPad. It supports three kinds of VPNs:
- Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP),
- Point-To-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP),
- Cisco IPSec (that stands for Internet Protocol Security).
The kind of VPN to select depends entirely on the type of the VPN network you're connecting to.
Once you have set up the VPN account, you can connect securely whenever you need to. Open “Settings”, tap VPN, select the configuration you want to use, and tap the VPN on/off switch. Enter a password. A few moments later, you should be connected. An additional icon on the upper left corner of the screen will indicate that you're using a VPN.
The iPad also supports what are known as “SSL VPNs”. This type of connection uses SSL protocols. These are the protocols that Websites use when they want to secure the connection and protect the data from anyone sniffing it. The iPad supports SSL VPNs from Juniper, Cisco, and F5. You need to download clients for those from the App store. You can also create your own custom SSL VPN setup if you wish. Whenever you try to access a site or a resource behind the VPN, the "VPN on demand” starts automatically for you and quits when you're done.
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Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, security researchers, announced that the iPhone and the cellular version of the iPad track the user’s current location and save information regarding latitude, longitude and a timestamp to a hidden file, "consolidated.db". This file is stored in the device and is copied to your computer during their synchronization.
The researchers claim that the stored data is available in unencrypted and unprotected form, and worry about the users’ privacy. "Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you've been," said Pete Warden. Indeed, anyone who has access to your computer can use an application, created by the researchers, and see on a map your location at a specific time.
However, Apple has a legal right to store the information because terms and conditions for its iTunes program read as follows: "Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services."
Moreover, there is no information that the collected data is transmitted to Apple, it is just stored in your device and computer. Those who want to be protected in a better way can encrypt the backups to eliminate the possibility of getting location data from their computer.
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Lately, digital rights activist group Electronic Frontier Foundation has prepared a report that studies the protection of users’ privacy given by IT corporations. It looked at twelve companies and found out whether they inform their customers about government requests for user data and whether they defend users' privacy in courts and in Congress. Among the companies on the report we can find Apple, Amazon, AT&T, MySpace, Skype, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others.
Apple, MySpace and Skype are amongst the companies with the lowest degree of customers’ private data protection. They are not members of Digital Due Process, an organization fighting for protecting internet privacy. And moreover there are fuzzy claims in their user agreements that allow them to disclose private information to the government.
According to the report, Apple's customers are the least protected. Their privacy statement runs as follows: "We may also disclose information about you if we determine that for purposes of national security, law enforcement, or other issues of public importance, disclosure is necessary or appropriate." They do not enumerate specific cases when users’ private data can become available, and that gives them much freedom to act.
Twitter and Google are the best in protecting customers’ privacy. Twitter defended its users’ privacy rights in court and Google created a site that contains information about data requests from the government.
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Now the internet privacy is becoming the primary issue with the politicians. Florida GOP Congressman Cliff Stearns has introduced an updated web privacy bill that would claim the internet companies to expose how they’ll use all the confidential information they get. Apple responded immediately by adding the "Do Not Track" tool to its Safari Internet browser.
John Moe, the host of Marketplace Tech Report, explains that the "Do Not Track" feature prevents advertisers from chasing you while you’re surfing the internet. It is part of right for web anonymity – not to be chased. In such a way companies cannot pick the information about the things you’re buying or just looking at. Gathering this kind of information advertisers can enforce you to buy more, frequently the things that you do not need.
When the Federal Trade Commission spoke last year and recommended all browsers to have this feature, many companies simply took this as a must-have proposal. The Wall Street Journal reports, Apple is the latest to add a "Do Not Track" tool to its browser. Microsoft was the first to adopt it to Explorer, next came Mozilla with its Firefox. Google released a supplement that could be added to Сhrome. The ironic thing about Google is that it makes money from advertising, while introducing the no-chasing system it reduces its own income. But due to the contemporary situation, it doesn't want to be seen as the browser that fails to provide privacy or security. Suchwise that is going to overrule everything.
Will the privacy bill have the future? It seems it will. The legislation is undoubtedly going this way. Every politician in Washington is concerned about the privacy laws as it is an easy way to political wins.
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