Privacy News of the Week


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eLenovo adware found to track user browsing activity

Software on certain Lenovo PCs can compromise users’ online privacy, Lenovo has admitted.

The software, called Superfish, intercepts internet traffic – nominally to insert targeted ads into web browsers. Because it issues its own security certificates, however, Superfish can theoretically spoof legitimate websites.

No criminal activity related to Superfish has been reported, but a California woman is suing Lenovo for violating California’s Invasion of Privacy Act. PC Magazine explains how to remove Superfish here.

Snowden film wins Best Documentary Oscar

Citizenfour, the documentary about ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden and the journalists who shared what he knew about the NSA’s domestic surveillance program, has won an Academy Award for documentary filmmaking.

Director Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald accepted the award at Sunday’s ceremony. The film, which received a limited theatrical release, will air on HBO this week.

Snowden, who has sought asylum in Russia, was unable to attend the Academy Awards. He did issue a statement in response to Citizenfour’s win, saying he hoped the award “will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.”

AT&T to charge more for privacy in superfast internet plan

AT&T’s new GigaPower internet service starts at $70 per month – but the price tag jumps up to $99 if customers don’t want AT&T to serve advertising based on their browsing habits.

GigaPower, which aims to compete with Google Fiber’s 1 Gbps download speeds, was rolled out in Kansas City this week. The “default” option includes ad tracking, which is surprisingly invasive: AT&T says, as an example, that “if you search for a car online, you may receive an email notifying you of a local dealership’s sale.”

The trend of opting in to privacy – and paying for the privilege – isn’t new. As the Christian Science Monitor reported last week, quoting two of Abine’s founders, online privacy is becoming something of a luxury item for those who can pay for it.

Facebook allegedly violating EU privacy laws

The lack of clarity in Facebook’s terms of service amounts to a violation of European Union privacy rules, a Belgian government commission says.

For example, CNET reports, the Facebook terms’ reference to “third party companies” and “other partners” does not specify what these businesses can do with Facebook users’ data.

Based on the commission’s findings, Belgium’s Privacy Commission has grounds to challenge Facebook’s data use policy in court. It has not yet announced that it will do so.

Visiting health websites could compromise information privacy

If you visit a health-related website like WebMD, there’s a good chance that your personal health information will be sold to advertisers or data brokers, a new study shows.

The study, conducted by a student at the University of Pennsylvania, found that 91 percent of health websites communicate with third parties via HTTP. Google, Facebook and comScore were some of the most common third parties identified, which means that those companies could connect your browsing history at WebMD, and other health sites to everything else they know about you.

The good news: you can use a tracker blocker like Blur to prevent hundreds of tracking companies from knowing what you view on the web.

Image courtesy of Superfish.

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