Facebook has announced new default settings and a privacy checkup tool.
On Thursday, before the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting, Facebook announced that posts from new users will only be shared with “Friends” unless they change the default settings and choose “Public”.
Facebook announced that posts from new users will only be shared with Friends unless they change the default settings and choose Public
Before, it was the other way around, something that caused privacy concerns because new users might not understand that “Public” meant that people outside of their social circle could see their photos and status updates.
“While some people want to post to everyone, others have told us that they are more comfortable sharing with a smaller group, like just their friends,” Facebook wrote in a statement.
“We recognize that it is much worse for someone to accidentally share with everyone when they actually meant to share just with friends, compared with the reverse.”
That should make it easier for Facebook newbies to avoid sharing vacation photos with people they don’t know. But even longtime Facebook users can get confused over what exactly they are sharing.
For them, Facebook is releasing a new “privacy checkup tool” that will take users through who is seeing their posts, what apps they are using, and what private information they might be sharing on their profile.
A group called “Stop The Cyborgs” warns that Google Glass and other augmented reality gadgets risk creating a world in which privacy is impossible.
Stop The Cyborgs wants limits put on when headsets can be used.
It has produced posters so premises can warn wearers that the glasses are banned or recording is not permitted.
The campaign comes as politicians, lawyers and bloggers debate how the gadgets will change civil society.
Stop The Cyborgs warns that Google Glass and other augmented reality gadgets risk creating a world in which privacy is impossible
Based in London, the Stop The Cyborgs campaign began at the end of February and the group did not expect much to happen before the launch of Google Glass in 2014.
However, the launch coincided with a push on Twitter by Google to get people thinking about what they would do if they had a pair of the augmented reality spectacles. The camera-equipped headset suspends a small screen in front of an owner and pipes information to that display. The camera and other functions are voice controlled.
Google’s push, coupled with the announcement by the 5 Point Cafe in Seattle to pre-emptively ban users of the gadget, has generated a lot of debate and given the campaign a boost.
Posters produced by the campaign that warn people not to use Google Glass or other personal surveillance devices had been downloaded thousands of times.
In addition, coverage of the Glass project in mainstream media and on the web had swiftly turned from “amazing new gadget that will improve the world” to “the most controversial device in history”.
The limits that the Stop The Cyborg campaign wants placed on Google Glass and similar devices would involve a clear way to let people know when they are being recorded.
In a statement, Google said: “We are putting a lot of thought into how we design Glass because new technology always raises important new issues for society.”
“Our Glass Explorer program will give all of us the chance to be active participants in shaping the future of this technology, including its features and social norms,” it said.
Already some US states are looking to impose other limits on augmented reality devices. West Virginia is reportedly preparing a law that will make it illegal to use such devices while driving. Those breaking the law would face heavy fines.
Google has to pay the largest fine ever imposed on a single company by the US Federal Trade Commission.
Google agreed to pay $22.5 million after monitoring web surfers using Apple’s Safari browser who had a “do not track” privacy setting selected.
The firm does not have to admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
The penalty is for misrepresenting what it was doing and not for the methods it used to bypass Safari’s tracker cookie settings.
Cookies are small text files that are installed onto a computer to allow it to be identified so that a user’s web activity can be monitored.
“No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement.
Google agreed to pay $22.5 million after monitoring web surfers using Apple's Safari browser who had a "do not track" privacy setting selected
The government agency launched its inquiry after a Stanford University researcher noticed the issue while studying targeted advertising.
He revealed that the search giant was exploiting a loophole that let its cookies be installed via adverts on popular websites, even if users’ browsers’ preferences had been set to reject them.
This allowed the firm to track people’s web-use habits even if they had not given it permission to do so.
Google said no “personal information” – such as names or credit card data – had been collected, and that the action had been inadvertent.
Apple’s browser automatically rejects tracking cookies by default. But Google got around this block by adding code to some of its adverts to make Safari think that the user had made an exception for its cookie if they interacted with the ad.
At the same time as using the exploit the search giant said on its help centre that Safari users did not need to take extra steps to prevent their online activities from being logged.
Google said the workaround had been employed to help it deploy its +1 button – letting users show their approval for something on the web – a feature it introduced for its Google+ social network.
“We set the highest standards of privacy and security for our users,” said a spokesman.
“The FTC is focused on a 2009 help centre page published more than two years before our consent decree, and a year before Apple changed its cookie-handling policy.
“We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple’s browsers.”
But Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said it was right that Google should be penalized.
“It’s an essential part of a properly functioning market that consumers are in control of their personal information and are able to take steps to protect their privacy,” he said.
“The size of the fine in this case should deter any company from seeking to exploit underhand means of tracking consumers. It is essential that anyone who seeks to over-ride consumer choices about sharing their data is held to account.”