This Week in Tech Privacy: Path, Twitter, More

Friday, February 17, 2012

Several companies are facing criticism for the way in which they access your data -- and the way in which Apple makes it available. We discuss Path, Twitter, and this week in privacy with Sam Biddle, editor at Gizmodo.


Sam Biddle

Comments [40]

Sue from Manhattan

The federal government recently subpoenaed the Twitter account of someone who participated in an Occupy Wall Street demonstration. That happened the same day that the "disorderly conduct" cases against several people for crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in an OWS demonstration were dismissed: there was no evidence of exactly where they were at the time. If those people had uploaded status locations to Facebook, there would have been a basis for conviction.

As the U.S. State Dept. picked up, those in more repressive countries who use social media face arrest and worse - as do their unconsenting friends.

This ain't paranoia. It's legal reality.

Feb. 17 2012 11:04 AM

It is fun to entertain these paranoid fantasies that our boring personal data is being used for nefarious purposes, but I haven't heard of one concrete reason why it matters that a website steals and sells the names of my friends and interests. How does this hurt me? They can't force me to buy the products they market to me, can they?

Feb. 17 2012 10:58 AM
Kathie from Brooklyn

How can doctors, dentists and other professionals function after their lines of communication become clogged with unwanted spam increasing exponentially each time another patient or client's address book is uploaded and sold to another advertiser?

Feb. 17 2012 10:50 AM
Alex from Brooklyn

that's why i have a Windows Tablet....
did you know that the cloud is exactly that...
all Androids do the same.... your contacts are not on your phone they are in Google's server.
how about this; did you know that if you email a person from your Gmail account that you never met, and you get an auto-response you now get that persons Photo in your contacts
and it goes on and on...

Feb. 17 2012 10:47 AM
Paul from New York City

Don't forget, the McCarthy era blacklisting was all about guilt by association. That happened here in America just 50 years ago or so. Seems unlikely now, but political climates change. And in other countries (China, perhaps?) the wrong contact in an address book can have serious consequences.

This is not just creepy, it is dangerous.

Feb. 17 2012 10:44 AM

Appropriating user data without permission is arguably theft.

Feb. 17 2012 10:44 AM
Nick from NJ, LLC

People believe this is creepy because they think there is a room full of old fat guys laughing at all of their tweets and making snarky remarks about their facebook photos. That simply can't happen. This is all 1s and 0s. I don't agree with it, but it is inevitable. Facebook is now a publically traded company. Twitter will probably be one soon as well. These companies have a feduciary reponsiblity to increase profits for their shareholers. Where I see the problem is that this is the birth. This is the Genesis of a harassment and privacy infringement that will only get worse. So, I agree that it should be stopped now. The harm hasn't happened yet. The harm will come when these companies start increasing their advertising harassment via phone calls, text messages, and advertisements on every single thing you look at.

Feb. 17 2012 10:44 AM
David A from Brooklyn

Sheesh. As an aging 60s activist I figured the DoJ and CIA has my number and details for the last 40 years. This is the crowd that topples governments and makes activists disappear. And what? I'm gonna worry about some company using my details to try to sell me something I don't want?. Eh. Not an issue.

Feb. 17 2012 10:44 AM

This does not happen on all platforms and it points to problems not only with particular apps, but with particular client side operating systems and software stacks.

Feb. 17 2012 10:43 AM
Lenore from Upper West Side

Remember MS Outlook? And how easy it was for illegal hackers to access your entire address book? That was illegal, and it was one reason why I never used Outlook.

But that was illegal...

Feb. 17 2012 10:42 AM

Big Brother is our narcotic addiction to this technology. The ironic thing is that it's not government, it's US giddily handing over ourselves!

Feb. 17 2012 10:42 AM

great - they are changing it now. how many millions and millions of peoples' address books are already uploaded? think those companies are going to delete that data?

Feb. 17 2012 10:42 AM
John A.

Thank-You for this segment. We probably need a major force like the ACLU to be pushing back in these matters. Personally I do not use FB, and am already "creeped out" with some of Googles practices.

Feb. 17 2012 10:42 AM
Sharon from Queens, NY

I think it's unconscionable & an invasion of privacy that these groups can upload information from your computer w/out your permission. Not everyone in my contacts is a "friend". And as a longtime Mac user, I am becoming more & more disillusioned w/Apple. That term is being used too freely. I have never been on Facebook, and resent the fact that many organizations are using social networks in order to get information from them.

Feb. 17 2012 10:42 AM
Marion Lane from NYC

I was infuriated that Linked In had taken my addresses. I sent them an e-mail expressing that but never heard from them , and didnt know what else to do.

Feb. 17 2012 10:42 AM
RJ from prospect hts

The biggest part of the problem is that there's no way of predicting. What will a health insurance company use to disqualify you from a particular coverage? If you say to a friend that you have an itch, a rash? What will a prospective employer find that loses you a job--that you go out to dinner (and drinks) 2-3 times a week? There's no way of knowing how such info is being used--and no antidiscrimination laws

Feb. 17 2012 10:42 AM
P from Glen Cove

I wouldn't be surprised if there are flagrant privacy violations, on our computers cellphones, etc. that are being sold to marketing, conversations being recorded, cameras being recorded on cell phones. I'm not scared, but -again, I wouldn't be surprised to the level companies will stoop to, to make a buck.

Feb. 17 2012 10:41 AM

If a government agency attempted to access and store your contact information, it would be a constitutional issue. Is this not a privacy issue because it is deemed inherent to “social” media? When did Americans become comfortable with relinquishing consent?

Feb. 17 2012 10:41 AM
fabio carasi from montclair

the real issue is the violation of privacy of the people whose private information is being raided. when i give someone my phone number i presume my information will be kept private, not given out to the entire world.

Feb. 17 2012 10:41 AM
Gianni Lovato from Chatham

Oh come on! There is nothing "silly" or "creepy" about this.
But even electricity can be very dangerous, if you stick your wet fingers into the outlet.

Feb. 17 2012 10:40 AM
dara from Manhattan

Here is a more pressing question: What about the fact that our friends and contacts are "giving" our information without our permission?

Feb. 17 2012 10:40 AM

I'm an iOS developer and honestly, it's a difficult problem that ultimately relies on a system of trust between provider/developer/Apple and the end user.
Apples release yesterday of Gatekeeper in Mountain Lion is a step in the right direction.

Feb. 17 2012 10:40 AM
Chris from Queens

It feels creepy and now while they're just storing and selling information to advertisers. What happens when it becomes profitable to sell to governments and police?

Feb. 17 2012 10:39 AM

If you're worried, don't load all you sh*t uo to the WORLD WIDE WEB!

Or, sign or click OK to any of the fine print!!

Feb. 17 2012 10:39 AM
Lenore from Upper West Side


What about the people on your list who did not give permission for THEIR material to be released?

If it's been happening already that doesn't make it okay. It is not silly!

I think we need to wake up. I am not on Facebook and everything I read about it and similar things ensure that I will try at least to keep my life relatively off the elctronic grid. Please save us from advertising etc.

Feb. 17 2012 10:39 AM
Maria from Brooklyn

I would be okay with these companies going through our contacts and comparing it to their user database, and storing the results locally in the phone. Keeping the contacts in their servers is just creepy and unethical.

Feb. 17 2012 10:39 AM

People complain all the time about privacy rights yet people love their Facebook and sharing all their likes, dislikes, where have you dinner and where you shop.

Feb. 17 2012 10:38 AM
Joy from Manhattan

I think taking a contact list whether or not it is done with consent seems to me to be an invasion of the privacy of the people in the contact list. I don't like the idea someone consenting to pass on my email address and who knows whatever else without my consent.

Feb. 17 2012 10:38 AM
The Truth from Becky

You bet your sweet a** it's in the terms and condition. There is no privacy,know this going in..if you choose to put your address book out there expect it to be compromised. That and ALL information you share online. The solution, don't sign up!!

Feb. 17 2012 10:38 AM
savitra from manhattan

we're talking about our entire Address Book, not just our social media contacts, right? i think people don't understand this.

Feb. 17 2012 10:38 AM
Jon from West Village

Shame on all parents who let their kids have these phones / apps without knowing this was happening or possible. AND explaining to their kid what the dangers were. And monitoring what your kids are doing so you can guide them. You're deficient if you don't know this.

If you're just a user and you didn't understand this risk -- you're lost.

Feb. 17 2012 10:37 AM

Re: the social apps taking our full address books: The concerns I have are twofold. First, I agree with Sam Biddle that the user isn't adequately informed. This isn't something developers can bury in the End User License Agreement, but something they need to make very clear. It should also be opt-in.

I'm also concerned about security! Facebook accounts get hacked ALL THE TIME. When I found out FB had stored all of my contacts from my phone in my FB account, I was horrified.

Feb. 17 2012 10:37 AM
Annabel from Brooklyn

I think LinkedIn must do the same thing. A couple of weeks ago I was accepting requests and somehow must have pressed something that sent invitations to all the "People you may know". This includes my father, with whom I am estranged. I cringe knowing that he received a request from me to "connect".

Feb. 17 2012 10:36 AM
katie from Westchester

Just as important is how do all of the folks in my address book feel about Path taking their data from me - doesn't sound as if my friends have any say in this at all!

Feb. 17 2012 10:36 AM

This is creepy. What happens to your privacy at the hand of someone else's use of these apps?? Say I refuse to use any social apps or smartphones for privacy reasons, what's to keep these developers from getting my information out of someone elses use of these apps on their phones?

Feb. 17 2012 10:36 AM
Vicki from Manhattan

I don't think it's ok even if I authorize the sharing of my address book. Why? Because the person whose contact information is in my mobile device has not authorized that their information be made public.

Feb. 17 2012 10:35 AM

What about in situations like Domestic Violence? Aren't there ways this can enable a 'stalker' or past 'abuser' to stalk a victim even long after they've initially separated?

Feb. 17 2012 10:35 AM
David from Fredericksburg,

This sort of thing is why I stopped using Facebook over a year ago

Feb. 17 2012 10:35 AM

I think the biggest invasion of privacy is that it's not *your* information that's being used, but your friends. I should be able to allow or disallow an app from taking my user data, I shouldn't have the authority to give it my friend's data. I also don't want any of my friends giving away my contact info without my permission.

Feb. 17 2012 10:34 AM

maybe people should be more careful who they give their info to?
don't blame corps for your errors in judgment

Feb. 17 2012 10:32 AM

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