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:NKcenSEI8KVUXZ - May 14-20, 2012

The prying eyes of data miners are watching

The U.S. government is building a $2-billion facility in Utah to
spy on civilian communications
In the information age, what you share online may end up in
unexpected places because of data miners and privacy and
security aws
On the bright side, privacy-protection efforts are underway and
new protection tools are emerging
o youve booked the air tickets online,
e-mailed the itinerary to your travel
buddies, and posted on Facebook a
photo of that quaint hotel you will call
home for the weekend. Congratulations!
It looks like youre all set for your
summer getaway.
L uIso Iooks IIke you`ve exposed yourseII
and your friends to serious security risks.
With personal data as the currency of the
digital economy, and with the posting of
information online becoming a normal
part of everyday life, what you share with
contacts on the Web, you might as well
have shared with the rest of the world.
Uncle Sam wants your data. Citizens
of the U.S. should be doubly nervous.
Web magazine Tecca reports the four
ways the federal government is spying
on its citizens, and this includes the
construction of a $2-billion data center
in Utah, to be completed in September
2013, to spy on civilian communications
encompassing mobile, e-mails, and credit-
card transactions.
The report also warns that the U.S.
governmenL muInLuIns deLuIIed hIes
on numerous public, semi-public, and
prIvuLe hgures, und empIoys soILwure
und Iurdwure Lo rIe LIrougI InIormuLIon
publicly available on social media sites,
and that the House of Representatives
is considering a bill, entitled Protecting
Children from Internet Pornographers
Act, which would require commercial
Internet service providers to create logs of
customers names, IP addresses, and
bank information.
Grabby corporations. Of course,
no discussion of data mining is complete
without mention of the two titans
of the technological world: Google
and Facebook.
Both are known to collect user data in
order to provide a more intuitive and
personuIIzed onIIne experIence (reud:
smother you with targeted ads). But just
how much do they know?
In February, Jonathan Mayer, a
graduate student at Stanford University,
blogged that he had discovered Google
bypassing the privacy settings of Apples
web browser, Safari. The three other
companies that he found to be doing
this were advertising companies Vibrant
: . +
Media, Media Innovation Group, and
By deIuuIL, SuIurI Is conhgured Lo bIock
third-party cookies. These four, however,
placed traceable cookies by using a special
computer code, which allowed them to spy
on peoples Internet browsing habits.
Google denied collecting personal
information through the advertising
cookIes, und expIuIned LIuL LIe prIvucy-
setting circumvention was accidental.
The code was disabled after Google was
contacted by The Wall Street Journal,
which has published a report on the matter.
In its research into Facebooks privacy
munugemenL, non-prohL consumer-
protection organization Consumer Reports
cites two Facebook users whose stories
reveal that the social network maintains
a massive repository of highly sensitive
information about their members.
TIe hrsL, Mux ScIrems, Is u zq-yeur-oId
law student from Austria who was able
Lo obLuIn u deLuIIed copy oI IIs prohIe
information 1,222 pages spanning
three years of Facebook activity from
ucebook`s oIhce In DubIIn. ScIrems wus
surprised to discover deleted messages,
wall posts, e-mail addresses, and friends
sLIII vIsIbIe In IIs hIe. AIso IncIuded In
the document were sensitive data such as
last known geographic location, including
IongILude und IuLILude, und LIe exucL duLes
and times he logged in.
The Boston police investigation into the
death of the second user mentioned in
the report, Philip Markoff, illustrates
how Facebook also knows so much about
their American users. In 2010, Markoff
committed suicide in jail while awaiting his
trial for the murder of masseuse and former
call girl Julissa Brisman, dubbed by the
media as the Craigslist Killer case.
TIe hIe ucebook reIeused Lo LIe poIIce
showed Markoffs wall posts, photos,
log-in dates and times, IP addresses, and
list of friends.
According to the same report, you
dont even have to click on the Like
button in order to be tracked: Facebook