Friday, May 7, 2010

School laptops spied on students, took pics covertly

An article on Wired says a school district in Philadelphia was caught spying students by using LANrev, a MAC-based asset management software on MacBooks for high school students, which was preinstalled on each of the computer and was supposedly used to track the device and recover the equipment in the event of theft.

The laptop usage policy explicitly stated the users could not modify the loaded software in any way, nor could they use another laptop while in school or leave it at home. So even if the students found out the presence of the software, they coul not remove it anyway. 

Needless to say, a public outrage burst out, the IT staff were blamed for the whole scandal, and the lawsuit is seeking a class action against the school district.

Moral lesson? Never trust a computer you can't throw out a window. (Ironically the quote is attributed to Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple...)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Facebook: What privacy??

In addition to an article stating a Facebook employee claims that Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn't believe in privacy, Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted a timeline that shows how Facebook's privacy policy has evolved, from good to bad, from bad to worse:

Ca. 2005:

No personal information that you submit to Thefacebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.
Ca. 2006:

We understand you may not want everyone in the world to have the information you share on Facebook; that is why we give you control of your information. Our default privacy settings limit the information displayed in your profile to your school, your specified local area, and other reasonable community limitations that we tell you about.

Ca. 2007:

Profile information you submit to Facebook will be available to users of Facebook who belong to at least one of the networks you allow to access the information through your privacy settings (e.g., school, geography, friends of friends). Your name, school name, and profile picture thumbnail will be available in search results across the Facebook network unless you alter your privacy settings.

Ca. Nov. 2009:

Facebook is designed to make it easy for you to share your information with anyone you want. You decide how much information you feel comfortable sharing on Facebook and you control how it is distributed through your privacy settings. You should review the default privacy settings and change them if necessary to reflect your preferences. You should also consider your settings whenever you share information. ...

Information set to “everyone” is publicly available information, may be accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into Facebook), is subject to indexing by third party search engines, may be associated with you outside of Facebook (such as when you visit other sites on the internet), and may be imported and exported by us and others without privacy limitations. The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.” You can review and change the default settings in your privacy settings.

Ca. Dec. 2009:

Certain categories of information such as your name, profile photo, list of friends and pages you are a fan of, gender, geographic region, and networks you belong to are considered publicly available to everyone, including Facebook-enhanced applications, and therefore do not have privacy settings. You can, however, limit the ability of others to find this information through search using your search privacy settings.

Ca. Apr. 2010:

When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. ... The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.” ... Because it takes two to connect, your privacy settings only control who can see the connection on your profile page. If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.

Any and all original material on the EFF website may be freely distributed at will under the Creative Commons Attribution License, unless otherwise noted.

OK, the way it evolves is really disturbing. For the time being, configuring my privacy setting to not let anyone else to see my profile should do, but if things really get out of hand, then maybe account removal is the only way out.