February 17, 2012
By Rob Waugh and Tamara Cohen
Twitter has admitted harvesting contact lists from its customers’ mobile phone address books without telling them.
The website said it copied lists of email addresses and phone numbers from those who used its smartphone application, amid claims it kept them on its database for 18 months.
Its management yesterday agreed to change guidance to users about what it does with their personal information, after a storm of protest from privacy campaigners in the U.S.
The breach occurs when users of the micro-blogging site click the ‘Find Friends’ option to see if any of their contacts are also on it.
Many of them did not know this meant the site then uploaded their entire address book and stored it afterwards.
Twitter spokesman Carolyn Penner said it would now offer users the option to ‘upload your address book’ or ‘import your contacts’ to make it clearer.
She said: ‘We want to be clear and transparent in our communications with users. Along those lines, in our next app updates, which are coming soon, we are updating the language associated with Find Friends – to be more explicit.’
The practice by a giant such as Twitter raises more concerns about the privacy implications posed by social networking sites which are used by an estimated 37 million Britons.
There is no suggestion the San Francisco-based firm was using the data – which it said was securely encrypted – for anything other than finding contacts for its customers.
But critics say the lack of ‘informed consent’ raises questions about other less reputable sites which could harvest details to sell on, or potentially leave customers open to identity fraud.
January 11, 2012
By Sean Poulter
Shopping centres have triggered a Big Brother row after installing equipment that allows them to track customers using their mobile phone signals.
The technology has raised privacy concerns after it emerged that major shopping centre owner Land Securities has installed it at ten of Britain’s biggest malls.
These include the giant Cabot Circus, Bristol; Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth; Princesshay, Exeter; Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow; Bon Accord & St Nicholas, Aberdeen; and The Centre, Livingston.
A tiny yellow sign in Exeter’s Princesshay shopping centre is the only warning customers receive that their mobile phone signal is being ‘tracked’ by Footpath’s scanners. There is no way to opt out except not to enter or to turn off your mobile
Path Intelligence, which developed the system in the UK, said it includes safeguards to prevent spying on individuals and that no personal information is collected.
Rather, it is designed to track people’s movements to better understand what shops and services they find most interesting or useful.
However, most shoppers are completely in the dark about the tracking technology, and the only way to escape it is to turn off the mobile phone.
July 13th, 2011
By: J.D. Heyes
The U.S. Constitution is clear about the issue of privacy. In fact, the Fourth Amendment states, in part, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”
With that in mind, it’s safe to say it’s more than just a little disturbing to know that, in certain circumstances, police can search your cell phone and computer(s), even if you don’t want them to and even if they don’t yet have a warrant to do so.
The good news is, someone out there has recognized the problem and has taken steps to help you protect that vast amount of data you have stored on your smart phone or laptop.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, long defenders of electronic rights, has written a legal guide designed to help you better understand your rights and, more importantly, when police can – and cannot – legally confiscate and search your personal electronic devices.
“In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to remember what your rights are and how to exercise them,” says EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. “Sometimes police can search your computer whether you like it or not, but sometimes they can’t. We wrote this guide to help you tell the difference and to empower you to assert your rights when the police come knocking.”
Adds EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury, “With smart phones, tablet computers, and laptops, we carry around with us an unprecedented amount of sensitive personal information.
“That smart phone in your pocket right now could contain email from your doctor or your kid’s teacher, not to mention detailed contact information for all of your friends and family members,” Fakhoury continued. “Your laptop probably holds even more data — your Internet browsing history, family photo albums, and maybe even things like an electronic copy of your taxes or your employment agreement. This is sensitive data that’s worth protecting from prying eyes.”
According to a summary of full EFF legal guide:
· Always say “no” when police ask if they can search your server, personal computer or cell phone because if you give them permission to search, they don’t need a warrant – even to enter your home;
· If police tell you they have a search warrant, ask to see it because you have a right to;
· Make sure police are only searching the areas outlined in the warrant;
· Be silent – you don’t have to help the police or answer their questions, and that means you don’t have to give them your encryption keys or passwords;
· If you do decide to talk, don’t lie because lying to the police is a crime;
· Finally, if you can consult with a lawyer before police conduct a search or even just talk to you, that’s ideal.
This guide is extremely helpful in this digital age when being secure in our “papers” and effects now includes our data-filled electronic devices. Know your rights; that is your best protection.
October 17th, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health is one of the first of its kind to analyze the effects of driving while talking on a mobile phone or “texting”. According to the findings, roughly 16,000 people died between 2001 and 2007 due to mobile phone-related traffic accidents.
“Our results suggested that recent and rapid increases in texting volumes have resulted in thousands of additional road fatalities in the United States,” wrote Fernando Wilson and Jim Stimpson from the University of North Texas Health Science Center and authors of the study in their report.
The data indicates that right around the time texting volumes significantly increased, there was a corresponding increase in the number of automobile accident fatalities that involved driver distraction, pointing directly to phone use in the car.
“Since roughly 2001-2002, texting volumes have increased by several hundred percent,” Wilson is quoted as saying in a recent Reuters article. And according to the same article, texting volume increased an astounding 11,000 percent between 2002 and 2008.
“Since 2001 our model predicts that about 16,000 people have died since then that we attribute to the increase in texting volume in the United States.”
Interestingly, overall traffic deaths are actually down, having hit their lowest level since the 1950s in 2009. But among these, the proportion of those attributable to mobile phones has drastically increased compared to other causes of death.
“Distracted deaths as a share of all road fatalities increased from 10.9 percent to 15.8 percent from 1999 to 2008, and much of the increase occurred after 2005,” wrote researchers.
Many states have already outlawed texting while driving or talking on the phone without a hands-free device in order to curb the sharp rise in accidents and deaths. But others say that individuals, rather than the government, need to be begin taking more personal responsibility for their actions by saving their conversations for when they are not driving.
August 30, 2010
by David Gutierrez
A product survey conducted by The Independent found that the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) is used in 18 on the 20 top-selling canned food products in the United Kingdom.
BPA is one of the most widely produced chemicals in the world. It is used to harden plastic in everything from infant and water bottles to mobile phone and computer casings, and also to make linings for cans of food, beverages and infant formula. Yet a growing body of research has implicated the chemical as an endocrine (hormone) disruptor that can lead to cancer, birth defects, behavioral problems and other diseases.
The FDA recently reversed its position on the safety of BPA, acknowledging concern over the chemical’s effects on the development and brains of infants and young children. This move sparked a new, still-ongoing review of the chemical’s safety by the European Food Safety Authority. The British Food Standards Agency still maintains that BPA poses no health risks.
The Independent surveyed manufacturers General Mills, Heinz, Spam, Asda, Baxters, John West, Princes, Premier Foods, Sainsburys and Tesco about the use of BPA in the liners of several of their canned food products. Together, the 20 products represented account for £921 million ($1.4 billion) in sales, or 43 percent of the total for all canned food sold in the United Kingdom.
Every manufacturer sold at least one product lined with BPA. The only cans not lined with the chemical were those containing Tesco canned fruit and Tesco Value tomato products. Yet Tesco and Tesco Value canned fish both came in cans lined with BPA.
Other top-selling products in BPA-lined cans included soups, baked beans, corned beef, canned pies, chopped ham, long spaghetti and Green Giant Niblets.
Claire Dimmer of Breast Cancer UK called for manufacturers to clearly label all cans that are lined with BPA.
“Otherwise it’s impossible for us to make a decision on ways of limiting our and our families’ exposure to this chemical,” she said.
March 8, 2010
By Associated Press
A North Korean factory worker has been executed by firing squad for sneaking news out of the country on his illicit mobile phone, Seoul-based radio said today.
The armaments factory worker was accused of divulging the price of rice and other information on living conditions to a friend who had defected to South Korea years ago, Open Radio for North Korea reported.
The man, surnamed Chong, made calls to the defector using an illegal Chinese mobile phone, according to an unnamed North Korean security agency official cited by the report.
The execution took place by firing squad in late January in Hamhung, according to Open Radio for North Korea. The station broadcasts into North Korea, which tightly controls news.
South Korea’s unification ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, and the national intelligence service, Seoul’s main spy agency, said they could not immediately confirm the report.
Mobile phone use in North Korea is tightly restricted, although the country introduced an advanced network in partnership with Cairo-based Orascom Telecom in 2008. North Koreans who manage to make illegal overseas mobile calls mostly use networks in China.
Open Radio for North Korea said it believes that more than 10,000 North Koreans living near the border with China illicitly possess Chinese mobile phones.
Ha Tae-keung, the broadcaster’s chief, said it was not known to whom in South Korea the information passed on by Chong was eventually delivered.
The North Korean defector said to have received the calls, only identified by the common Korean family name of Kim, may have worked for South Korean government officials, researchers or news outlets, Ha said.
Ha said neither the executed man nor the defector had worked for Open Radio for North Korea.