TIME privacy

Italy Gives Google Deadline to Change Data-Use Policies

Google must present a game plan in September

An Italian data-regulation official told Google it has 18 months to change how it stores users’ information.

Italy is one of several European countries that have been jointly investigating Google’s consolidation of 60 different privacy policies into one last year, Reuters reports. The Italian watchdog said in a statement that Google’s disclosures about data use were insufficient, despite the company’s efforts efforts to abide by local laws.

A spokesperson for Google said the tech company has consistently cooperated with the inquiry and will continue to do so after it reviews the watchdog’s latest decision.

Google has a year and a half to, among other demands, start asking for users’ consent to profile them based off their data for commercial purposes. The official also asked Google to follow through on users’ requests to delete their personal data within two months.

In addition to the 18-month deadline, Google must also present in September a detailed plan for how it intends to meet the regulator’s demands. If Google ultimately does not comply with the regulator, it could face fines.

France and Spain have already fined the company for violating local data-protection laws. A Dutch regulator is still deciding whether to take steps to enforce changes following similar legal breaches in the Netherlands.

[Reuters]

TIME Law

U.S. Judge Grants Investigators Access to Gmail Accounts in Criminal Probes

The judge says the law already supports giving investigators access to documents simply to determine whether they're warrantable or not.

A New York federal judge ruled on Friday that prosecutors have a legal right to access Gmail-based emails in criminal probes that involve money laundering, a sharp turnaround from previous rulings in comparable cases and an alarm bell for privacy advocates.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein said that his decision was based on a law already on the books that allows investigators to seize documents–which Gorenstein interpreted as including emails–to determine whether data should be subject to a warrant, Reuters reports.

The big question is what happens if a user’s email account doesn’t yield any information that would justify a legal warrant, and how much public support lies behind the idea of privileging high profile investigations over personal privacy.

[Reuters]

TIME Web

Netflix Is Testing a ‘Privacy Mode’ So Nobody Can See Your Bad Movie Habits

Netflix Ends Messages Blaming Verizon
The logo of Netflix, the biggest driver of Internet bandwidth, is displayed on an iPhone. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Soon you may not have to worry about your friends who share your logon making fun of you

Netflix is reportedly testing a feature that will allow you to conceal your viewing activity so you can hide your more embarrassing binge watches.

Cliff Edwards, director of corporate communications and technology, told Gigaom that the company is testing a “Privacy Mode” option that will keep what you’re viewing from appearing in your activity log and ensure that Netflix doesn’t use it to recommend future titles you you or anyone else who shares your account.

The Netflix rep told Gigaom that the feature is being testing in all markets, but not all users will have access. It’s still unclear if the feature will be released for everyone to use after testing.

[Gigaom]

TIME technology

Amazon Wants to Test-Fly Its New Delivery Drones

The online retail giant is moving toward its planned “Prime Air” drone delivery system

+ READ ARTICLE

Amazon has formally asked regulators permission to test its controversial and much-hyped delivery drones in outdoor areas near Seattle. The move, made in a letter posted to the Federal Aviation Administration’s website Thursday, escalates an ongoing debate about the safety of commercial drones and privacy concerns associated with the technology. In its July 9 letter from Amazon’s head of global public policy Paul Misener, the company said drone delivery will one day be “as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today,” Reuters reports. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the company’s still-in-development “Prime Air” drone delivery service on the 60 Minutes television program last year but said it was still about five years away from actual implementation. The company has been conducting delivery drone test flights indoors and in other countries, but now Bezos wants to conduct tests in the open air, according to the letter. “Of course, Amazon would prefer to keep the focus, jobs and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States,” the company said in its letter. The U.S. government has designated six sites where tests can be conducted for commercial drone applications—in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia—but such tests are currently prohibited in the Seattle area, where Amazon is based.

[Reuters]

TIME How-To

Video: How to Properly Delete Your Android Phone or Tablet Data

Here's an extra step to ensure it's safe to get rid of your old Android device.

+ READ ARTICLE
TIME Religion

What the NSA Can Learn From Prophet Muhammad

Islam places immense emphasis on privacy in ways that Western governments today have only begun to match with privacy laws.

Whether it’s a legal scholar or a 7-year-old child that’s bullied on the playground, it’s hard to argue with this Harvard Law Review definition of privacy from 1890: “The right to be left alone.” Add to this simple concept a detailed U.S. Constitution and separation of powers to prevent abuse, and it seems like a no-brainer that we would leave alone those who have done nothing wrong.

Unfortunately, that simple concept seems lost on the NSA, as recent revelations indicate they invaded the privacy rights of prominent American Muslim lawyers for at least six years. As an American Muslim lawyer myself, who knows who else is reading my emails?

In spying on innocent American Muslim lawyers, the NSA likely violated the U.S. Constitution, and definitely violated the Qur’an’s powerful teachings on privacy.

Not only did the Qur’an champion privacy rights centuries before any modern constitution, but also, perhaps no law in history preserves the right to privacy as thoroughly and emphatically as does the Qur’an. Chapter 24:28-29 declares:

“O ye who believe! Enter not houses other than your own until you have asked leave and saluted the inmates thereof. That is better for you, that you may be heedful. And if you find no one therein, do not enter them until you are given permission. And if it be said to you, ‘Go back’ then go back; that is purer for you. And God knows well what you do.

In our era of NSA surveillance and warrantless wiretaps, this Qur’anic teaching’s immense value should become crystal clear. The Qur’an forbids entering any home of another person, inhabited or uninhabited, without the owner’s permission. The Qur’an further commands people to retreat immediately when they’re told to retreat from the home in question—all in the name of protecting a person’s privacy. The Qur’an makes no exceptions, but specifically commands, “enter not houses other than your own until you have asked leave.”

As far as “the right to be left alone,” how astutely the Qur’an declared thirteen-hundred years before Harvard Law, “if it be said to you ‘Go back’ then go back.”

In fact, Prophet Muhammad’s hadith, or teachings, detail how important privacy is in Islam:

“A man peeped through a hole in the door of God’s Apostle’s house, and at that time, God’s Apostle had a Midri (an iron comb or bar) with which he was rubbing his head. So when God’s Apostle saw him, he said (to him), “If I had been sure that you were looking at me (through the door), I would have poked your eye with this (sharp iron bar).” God’s Apostle added, “The asking for permission to enter has been enjoined so that one may not look unlawfully (at what there is in the house without the permission of its people).” –Bukhari

Some might allege that poking an eye is a cruel punishment. On the contrary, this hadith further emphasizes Islam’s ardent protection of an individual’s privacy. Privacy, particularly for women and minors—two classes that are most victim to sexual abuse—cannot be emphasized enough.

First, consider the ease with which a person can simply not take the unauthorized liberty of peering into another’s home without permission. Contrast that with the massive potential and actual harm that exists for those who are victim to such voyeurism. Based on the ease of compliance and the potentially devastating harm to a victim of privacy violations, an active deterrent is necessary to ensure that privacy—for all people—remains protected.

Thus, Islam places immense emphasis on privacy in ways that Western governments today have only begun to match with privacy laws. And with these NSA spying revelations, it seems that even Western government efforts in the modern era pale in comparison to the unmatched privacy laws Prophet Muhammad established fourteen-hundred years ago.

So NSA, stop spying on American Muslims and stop referring to your victims with derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad. Instead, if you wish to uphold the U.S. Constitution, learn about Muhammad’s ardent protection of human rights and privacy rights.

And hopefully then, we can finally be left alone.

Qasim Rashid is an attorney and national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. The above is an excerpt from Qasim’s Amazon #1 Best Selling book on Islam, EXTREMIST. Find Qasim on Twitter @MuslimIQ.

TIME intelligence

Privacy Advocates Call for FISA Court Reform

NSA Surveillance-Privacy Report
This Thursday, June 6, 2013, file photo, shows a sign outside the National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md. Patrick Semansky—AP

The Senate version of the USA Freedom Act would reform the process that led to NSA surveillance of five prominent Americans

Privacy advocates renewed their calls for reforms at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Tuesday, after a new report revealed documents leaked by Edward Snowden that detail secret intelligence warrants against five American Muslims.

The targeted individuals, found on a list of thousands of mostly foreign targets for court-reviewed surveillance, include a professor at Rutgers University, a former Bush administration official and the executive director of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group. Because the Justice Dept. and the FBI refused to comment, it is unknown on what grounds the men were targeted for surveillance, nor is it clear under what precise legal authority the surveillance was conducted.

Civil libertarians say the report shows why the U.S. Congress should introducing a special advocate on the court, whose job it would be to represent civil liberties interests in court proceedings, and establishing a process for declassifying the court’s orders. Those reforms are included in a Senate version of an intelligence reform bill, but not the House version now under consideration.

“It’s been one of the core issues lacking in the debate,” said Mark Jaycox, a legislative analyst with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, about the process by which secret warrants can be obtained from the secret court. To get a FISA warrant, the NSA does have to explain to the court who it wants to spy on and why, as well as what they hope to get from the surveillance, but the bar is significantly lower than in a civilian courtroom. “I would call it a Probable Cause Warrant Light,” Jaycox said. “It’s not the high standard of a probably cause warrant.”

The version of the USA FREEDOM Act that passed in the House in May—which stirred controversy after civil liberties groups dropped support for the watered down legislation in droves—largely eliminated the special advocate position, replacing it instead with an official to consult in case of novel legal situations. The version of the bill championed by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and under consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee, includes a special advocate who would permanently represent privacy interests on the court.

The secrecy of proceedings in the highly-classified FISC and the question of declassification has been another major point of contention. “The House-passed version of the bill has enormous loopholes to that requirement,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani.

Whereas the Senate bill establishes a timeline and a process for making FISC decisions public in redacted form, the House version removed that requirement, allowing the FISC to instead declassify decisions “when practical” and to publish only a summary of their legal reasoning, Guliani said.

TIME privacy

Verizon Received Nearly 149,000 Government Requests For User Data So Far This Year

German Government Gives Up On No-Spy Deal
A German official holds his microphone next to his two mobile phones during a meeting of the German federal Parliament in Berlin in February 2014. Adam Berry—Getty Images

As reported by Verizon's second ever transparency report

Verizon received 148,903 U.S. government requests for customer information in the first half of 2014, slightly less than the 160,733 requests from half of 2013, according to Verizon’s second transparency report.

The report lists the number of subpoenas, orders, warrants and emergency requests Verizon received from Jan. 1 to June 30, and are on par to roughly meet by the year’s end the 321,545 requests Verizon received in 2013. Arriving amidst heavy debate on NSA surveillance and a NSA reform bill passed by the House in May, the report suggests that law enforcement requests for customer data have remained relatively steady. Verizon notes that the “vast majority of these various types of demands relate to our consumer customers,” not enterprise customers.

While figures for emergency requests (e.g. during 9-1-1 calls), warrants (e.g. for crime investigation) and subpoenas (e.g. for seeking specific customer information) are lower than those of 2013, court orders have increased. (Note: Since Verizon’s first transparency report listed the full-year figures, Verizon computes half-year 2013 data by dividing previous figures in half.)

Verizon Transparency Report US Data
Verizon’s Transparency Report for the First Half of 2014

Verizon for the first time provided specifics about the number of customers affected by government requests: the 72,342 subpoenas received in the first half of 2014 sought data for 132,499 people, for an average of 1.8 people per subpoena.

Orders are broken down into wiretap (accessing content of communication), pen register (phone numbers of outgoing calls), trap & trace (phone numbers of incoming calls) and general (all other orders). While wiretap orders have fallen slightly, all others have increased.

Verizon’s Transparency Report for the First Half of 2014

Verizon also reports the law enforcement data demands for customers outside of the United States. Requests in Germany have significantly fallen, a statistic arriving on the heels of the German government terminating a contract with Verizon in June due to fears of U.S. spying. Italy, France and Belgium saw the greatest increases, despite their condemnations of U.S. digital surveillance.

intlverizon
Verizon’s Transparency Report for the First Half of 2014

Data on national security demands — which include NSA requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — are largely not reported due to legal restrictions. Verizon disclosed broad ranges, reporting that in 2013, there were 0 to 6,000 national security demands seeking information about 11,000 to 17,000 people.

TIME privacy

How to Delete Yourself from the Internet

Americans love the Internet, with 87% of us active online. We have accounts everywhere, letting us kill time at work on Facebook, check Twitter for the latest news, cruise Pinterest for inspirational moodboards and hit Amazon for great shopping deals. On top of that, most of us also have a pile of inactive accounts created for discounts or one-off purchases.

With our digital footprints expanding, we are relaying more personal data than ever to trackers, hackers and marketers with and without our consent. Are we sharing too much? Do we have the right not to be tracked? Is withdrawing from the Internet entirely to preserve your privacy even possible? Let’s go over each of these issues.

Data dangers

Creating profiles at sites you use regularly has many benefits, such as ease of log-in and better suggestions for links or products you might like. But with growing concern over privacy terms that change at the drop of a hat, the sale of personal data by less scrupulous websites and the challenges of keeping stalker-y exes at bay, more and more Americans are deciding to reclaim and delete their personal data.

If you’re among the roughly 23% of Americans who use a single password for a handful of accounts, deleting inactive accounts is an important security measure. If a hacker cracked that password, you could suffer a domino-effect hacking of your other accounts too, especially if they are linked via a common email address.

Aside from the accounts and profiles we willingly create, our data is also exposed as hundreds of people search websites that comb police records, courthouse records and other public records such as real estate transactions, making our personal data publicly available to anyone who looks for it. Deleting this data isn’t as easy as you might expect — and many companies won’t remove your personal details fully.

Deleting your online presence

Tracking down all your data won’t be easy. There is no one service that will trawl the Internet for pieces of you, so start by tearing down your social profiles.

Start with JustDelete.me

A site called JustDelete.me provides an incredibly comprehensive list of email, social media, shopping and entertainment sites, along with notes on how difficult it is to completely erase your account and links to actually get it done. This is a great resource to help you remember and find unused profiles as well as gauging how much effort you’ll have to expend to shut it down.

Find other open accounts

Next, review your email accounts, looking for marketing updates and newsletters to get wind of other accounts you may still hold or companies that have bought your email address. Then go through your phone and check for apps that have required you to create accounts.

Once you’ve created a list of accounts, you then should sort them according to how often you use them, if at all. Delete any you don’t use. “Data is an asset to these companies,” says Jacqui Taylor, CEO of web science company Flying Binary. “Not only are these companies able to monetize you as their product, you aren’t even receiving a service in exchange.”

Working off your list of accounts, head back to JustDelete.me and use it as a springboard to start deleting accounts.

Downloading and removing your content

If there’s data you’d like to keep — say, photos or contact lists — you may be able to download them before deleting your account. Facebook and Twitter data can be downloaded in the respective Settings tabs, while LinkedIn contacts can be exported via Contact Settings.

At many sites such as Evernote and Pinterest, you won’t be able to delete your account. You can only deactivate it and then manually remove personal data. At sites such as Apple, this process includes a call to customer service.

Don’t forget background checking sites

To find out which background check websites have posted information about you, check out the list of popular sites on this Reddit thread. Then go to each and try searching for your name. See if you pop up in the first few pages of search results. If you do, the same Reddit thread has information on opting out, but get ready for a hassle: usually calling, faxing and sending in physical proof that you are who you say you are. After that, expect to wait anywhere from 10 working days to six weeks for information to disappear.

Sites that don’t allow complete withdrawal

A large number of companies make it impossible to delete all traces of your accounts. According to JustDelete.me, this list includes Etsy, the online marketplace for home crafters, which retains your email address no matter what; Gawker Media, which retains the rights to all posts you made; and Netflix, which keeps your watch history and recommendations “just in case you want to come back.”

Then there’s Twitter, which signed a deal with the Library of Congress in 2013 giving it the right to archive all public tweets from 2006 on. This means that anything you’ve posted publicly since then is owned by the government and will stay archived even if you delete your account.

To prevent future tweets from being saved, convert your settings to private so that only approved followers can read your tweets. (Go to the settings in the security and privacy section.)

Shut down your Facebook account by going to Settings, Security and then click “Deactivate my account.” You can download all of your posts and images first by going to Settings, General and then click “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”

However, you’ve already agreed to the social media giant’s terms and conditions, which state that Facebook has the right to keep traces of you in its monolithic servers. Basically any information about you held by another Facebook user (such as conversations still in the other person’s inbox or your email address if it’s in a friend’s contact list) will be preserved.

The divide between companies that make it easy to delete your data and the companies that make it difficult is clear. “If you’re the product (on such free services as the social platforms), the company tends to make it difficult,” Taylor says. Monetizing your data is the basis of the business model for such companies.

For services like eBay and Paypal, Taylor adds, you aren’t the product (both collect fees from sellers), making it easier to delete your account and associated data.

The right to be forgotten

Being able to erase social and other online data is linked to a larger issue: the right to be forgotten online. In the European Union, a recent Court of Justice ruling gave EU residents the right to request that irrelevant, defamatory information be removed from search engine databases. However, no such service is available to the residents of United States.

“You should be able to say to any service provider that you want your data to be deleted,” Taylor says. “If someone leaves this earth, how can their data still be usable by all these companies?”

When erasure isn’t an option

Much of our personal data online is hosted on social platforms that regularly update their terms of service to change how our data can be used. A privacy policy that you were comfortable with when you signed on could evolve to become something you don’t agree with at all.

“Your digital footprint is not under your control if you’re using these free services,” Taylor says.

But in an increasingly connected, virtual age, it can seem inconceivable not to have a footprint at all. Most of us use a social account to log in to dozens of other sites. Some sites require that you do so: for example, Huffington Post requires a Facebook log-in, while YouTube commenters need a Google+ log-in.

Employers frequently perform background checks through Google or dedicated third-party social media checkers. In many professions, an online portfolio of work on the likes of WordPress or Tumblr is a necessity. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to communicate socially without the aid of a Facebook or Twitter account.

Given the realities of our connected world today, not being online can be seen as a negative. The key, Taylor says, is to take ownership of your data. Control how much of your personal data is available online by pruning inactive accounts. Create new accounts selectively, and post with the understanding that within a single update to the terms of service, your data could become publicly shared or further monetized.

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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