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Submission + - Lone Grad Student Scooped the Government (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Jonathan Mayer had a hunch.

A gifted computer scientist, Mayer suspected that online advertisers might be getting around browser settings that are designed to block tracking devices known as cookies. If his instinct was right, advertisers were following people as they moved from one website to another even though their browsers were configured to prevent this sort of digital shadowing. Working long hours at his office, Mayer ran a series of clever tests in which he purchased ads that acted as sniffers for the sort of unauthorized cookies he was looking for. He hit the jackpot, unearthing one of the biggest privacy scandals of the past year: Google was secretly planting cookies on a vast number of iPhone browsers. Mayer thinks millions of iPhones were targeted by Google.


Submission + - U.S. senator asks FTC to probe Apple, Google (

Pigskin-Referee writes: NEW YORK — A U.S. senator has urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate reports that applications on the Apple and Google mobile systems steal private photos and contacts and post them online without consent.

Democrat Charles Schumer's request comes after iPhone maker Apple tweaked its privacy policies last month after prodding from other lawmakers.

The distribution of third-party applications on iPhones and phones running on Google's Android system has helped create a surge in the popularity of those devices in recent years.

Related story: Android apps can snoop photos, too

However, Schumer said on Sunday that he was concerned about a New York Times report that iPhone and Android applications can access a user's private photo collection.

He also referred to a discovery last month that applications on devices such as the iPhone and iPad were able to upload entire address books with names, telephone numbers and email addresses to their own servers.

"These uses go well beyond what a reasonable user understands himself to be consenting to when he allows an app to access data on the phone for purposes of the app's functionality," Schumer said in a letter to the FTC.
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The lawmaker said it was his understanding that many of these uses violate the terms of service of the Apple and Android platforms. He said "it is not clear whether or how those terms of service are being enforced and monitored."

Related story: iPhone flaw allows apps access to your contacts

As a result, he said, "smartphone makers should be required to put in place safety measures to ensure third party applications are not able to violate a user's personal privacy by stealing photographs or data that the user did not consciously decide to make public".

Schumer said phone makers have an obligation to protect the private content of their customers.

"When someone takes a private photo, on a private cellphone, it should remain just that: private," said Schumer.


Submission + - FTC says "yes" to Facebook activity check (

Pigskin-Referee writes: You now have another reason to check your privacy settings. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Social Intelligence Corp, has been given the legal thumbs up to archive seven years worth of your Facebook posts. These archives will be used by SIC (oh the applicability of the acronym) as part of their background checking service for job applicants.

There are a couple sides to this argument that have been hashed out many times over. A hiring manager could say that they were glad they discovered that Johnny the master of the great resume also drank heavily every night and posted all his parties on Facebook — so they could avoid hiring him. The other side of the argument has been that if someone is functional, professional and sober at work, then why is it fair to factor in what they do outside of work when deciding if you should schedule an interview? As long as they are not a violent criminal or addicted to hard drugs, who cares?


Submission + - Work E-Mail Not Protected by Attorney-Client Privi (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Threat Level Privacy, Crime and Security Online
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Work E-Mail Not Protected by Attorney-Client Privilege, Court Says

        * By David Kravets Email Author
        * January 18, 2011 |
        * 3:37 pm |
        * Categories: Surveillance, privacy

E-mails between a client and attorney are no longer considered privileged and confidential if the client writes the messages from a work e-mail account, a California court of appeals has ruled.

The 3-0 decision Thursday by the Sacramento Third Appellate District means that if you intend to sue your employer, don’t discuss the suit with an attorney using company e-mail. The company has a right to access it and use it against you in a court.

“ [T]he e-mails sent via company computer under the circumstances of this case were akin to consulting her lawyer in her employer’s conference room, in a loud voice, with the door open, so that any reasonable person would expect that their discussion of her complaints about her employer would be overheard,” (.pdf) the court wrote.

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