Which Companies Protect Your Data?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation took a look at several companies and rated them based on how they fared regarding user privacy against unreasonable requests from the government. I included their criteria and results below but on a quick summary, the one company that surprised me in doing really well? Dropbox. One that I was really disappointed in? Foursquare.

The companies were evaluated based on the following criteria:

1. A public commitment to inform users when their data is sought by the government. To earn a star in this category, Internet companies must promise to tell users when their data is being sought by the government unless prohibited by law. This gives users a chance to defend themselves against overreaching government demands for their data.

2. Transparency about when and how often companies hand data to the government. This category has two parts. Companies earn a half-star in this category if they publish statistics on how often they provide user data to governments worldwide. Companies also earn a half-star if they make public any policies they have about sharing data with the government, such as guides for law enforcement. (If a company doesn’t have law enforcement guidelines at all, though, we don’t hold that against them). Companies that publish both statistics and law enforcement guidelines receive a full star.

3. Fight for users’ privacy rights in the courts. To earn recognition in this category, companies must have a public record of resisting overbroad government demands for access to user content in court. Not all companies will be put in the position of having to defend their users before a judge, but those who do deserve special recognition.

4. Fight for users’ privacy in Congress. Internet companies earn a star in this category if they support efforts to modernize electronic privacy laws to defend users in the digital age by joining the Digital Due Process coalition.


Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

Facebook Privacy Settings

I have been hearing and reading from a lot of different people about the growing concern regarding privacy on Facebook and wanting to quit. First of all, if you don’t want to share something that might be a little compromising, do not put it up online in the first place. It would make your life a whole lot easier.

However, if there are things you share that you want to limit who sees them and how they can share them, hopefully this post helps you accomplish that. In order to update your settings with the new Facebook Privacy Settings, just follow these simple steps and you should be able to restrict what you want, from who you want.

Note: If you click the image, it will actually direct you to that page on Facebook.

Here is a step-by-step instruction guide on how to reduce the amount of information you are sharing to third and unwanted parties but as I said earlier, the best protection against shared information is to not share it at all.

1. First on your main profile page, select the “Account” button on the top right corner of the page and select “Privacy Settings“.

2. Now select the 4th item down on the list, “Applications and Websites“.

3. Once you are on this page, there are a couple of options for you (“What your friends can share about you” and “Instant Personalization Pilot Programs”) but I would certainly recommend both of them. If you only want to do the first one, go to step 4 but skip 5. If you only want to do the second one, go to step 5 and skip 4 — but again, I would recommend at least taking a look at both.

4. For “What your friends can share about you“, you can see that Facebook lists a whole range of items that you can grant access to your friends and whatever applications they use to share those information. Go through the list and anything you feel comfortable with being shared across applications, check away and naturally, uncheck anything you don’t want shared. Make sure to hit the “Save Changes” button on the bottom of the page to ensure your selections are saved.

5. Now select the “Applications and Websites” button on the top left corner and select “Instant Personalization Pilot Program“. Facebook connects with many websites so you can quickly connect with your friends and see and share relevant content on their sites. If you don’t want to share such information or don’t want to have the personalization and information sharing across many of these sites, just uncheck the box below the image on the page.

Now you have taken steps to share less information but I’ll reiterate for a third time, don’t post anything you don’t necessarily want to share with the rest of the world. With the constant privacy policy changes by Facebook, I would consider nothing safe and they keep a copy of all information on their servers anyway.

Any comments, questions or suggestion on this post or any other, feel free to leave me a message below or contact me in any other form that you know. Happy Surfing.

Google Maps + Live Video?

It was only a matter of time before someone combined the likes of Google Maps with live video to provide a greater perspective of what is going on in our communities. There was always a concern on what this might to do privacy in public areas as well as the privacy of the individuals just walking or driving around in those areas.

Well the video below shows how computer scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology combining all those aspects and concerns with cameras around the city and their augmented version of Google Earth animates all these. They include sports scenes, traffic flows, the march of pedestrians and weather in addition to masking identities of people and vehicles for statistical purposes.

For a better perspective and a more in-depth look at the new innovation, check out: Live Video Makes Google Earth Cities Bustle.

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Google Health: A Data Collecting Tool?

Google, which offers services for everything from email to blogging, from maps to finance, recently released a service called Google Health. At first I thought this was yet another remarkable and innovative tool offered by Google to organize one’s life and consolidate everything into one place. I was ready to jump all over it and quickly hand them over all my personal health data and see what it offered. Then my brother stepped in and said one statement on it that has made me reluctant to touch this for the past two months.

“So Google will have every little detail about your life on you now”

I try not to be skeptic about things before trying them out but in today’s age when courts are forcing companies to hand over user data and anything else they may have logged about their activity, who is to say that some day in the not too distant future Google is made to hand over medicial data as well?

Fortunately, I have been quite healthy recently and have not require much medical assistance than some others I know but I am still not certain this is something I would recommend to them. Leaving aside the privacy issues, this could falsely power the patients into making decisions that they are not properly educated about or might make a decision based on misunderstanding some facts.

Look at some of the features that Google Health offers. With it, you can do the following:

image Build online health profiles
You can enter your health conditions, medications, allergies, and lab results into your Google Health profile and you can name the profile anything you want. You can even create multiple profiles for family members or others you care for.
Import medical records from hospitals and pharmacies
Choose from a list of Google Health partners to see if your hospital or pharmacy can send copies of your medical records or prescriptions to your Google Health profile. This way, you can save an accurate history of your medical conditions, medications, and test results all in one place.
image Learn about health issues and find helpful resources
Review trusted information on diseases and conditions and learn about possible medication interactions and other topics to talk your doctors about.
image Search for doctors and hospitals
You can search for a doctor’s name or location, find a doctor’s website, get directions to a doctor’s office, and save a doctor’s information to your medical contacts list.
image Connect to online health services
Browse the online health services directory to find services that are integrated with Google Health that can help you better manage your health needs.

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