Tag Archives: google

Right to be forgotten: When should free speech trump privacy?

We live in interesting and largely online times, when significant amounts of personal information about each and every one of us can be found with a quick internet search or two.

But the online us, our web doppelgänger, is not one whose slate can ever be wiped clean – the internet never forgets what we say, what we do and notable things that happen to us, good and bad, continue to live on in perpetuity.

Or it least they did until the right to be forgotten sprung into being two years ago.

That judgement, handed down in Spain to a man unhappy that reports of his years-old bankruptcy were still the top results for a search of his name in Google, allows people within the EU linked to stories or actions they find outdated or undesirable to apply to have them de-listed from the search engine’s results. So not taken down, not removed from the web entirely – but a lot harder to find as they won’t appear in searches on that person’s name.

Crucially, this did not initially apply to Google indexes worldwide – so a search result de-listed in the UK, for example, would still be visible to users searching on google.com and google.fr – a loophole many exploited, and one essentially encouraged by the search giant.

But that has now come to a grinding halt after the French data protection authority fined Google €100,000 and ordered it to go even further, and block results for French people given the right to be forgotten from every domain, not just the French one.

In America, by contrast, what appears online is generally regarded as being free speech as protected by the First Amendment, and there are also statutes of limitation in US law, although these are extremely difficult to enforce online. The net result is that right to be forgotten has not gained traction there.

And this is where the arguments about free speech vs privacy smash into each other, with different but very similar parts of the same world held to differing accounts, and a verbal war being waged about what ultimately is more important – information that was once in the public domain staying there, or the rights of all of us to make mistakes and not be constantly reminded of them in the future?

Many, such as David Aaronovitch in the Times this week (£), claim that “Privacy rulings are striking at the heart of what we can find online” and “To me First Amendment rights should trump others,such as those to privacy, in almost every case because they alone make other rights possible. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are the primary safeguards against secrecy, abuse of power and tyranny.”

The case in Europe is confused slightly, by those not fully across the legislation, with the new GDPR rules set to come in in 2018, which allow a personal right to forget as one of the core tenets. This allows anyone who has shared information with a company in the past to revoke permission to them to keep it, and to instruct the company to forget it. This, of course, with the other key elements (which you can read about in our blog) is a good thing for greater personal data control, which we fully support and which our app and platform will be compliant with from the outset.

But what of the European right to be forgotten, or more accurately de-listed, how do we square that with the immense opportunities that freedom to search and know have brought to each of us as well as the wider world?

Not to mention that limits on what individuals are allowed to be aware of in the world around them are more commonly associated with repressive regimes such as North Korea and China, rather than Western democracies?

It is easy to have sympathy for a young or foolish person, destined to have a moment of folly uncharacteristic of their general lifestyle haunt them around the web for decades to come, potentially costing them jobs and relationships (because nobody does anything significant any more without Googling, right?)

But it is that very power of Google in our lives that means we should be extremely wary of any increased algorithmic attempt to influence and shape our surroundings. Today it is a benign force used by sheepish individuals who want to re-craft their online persona – but can we guarantee results manipulation will only ever be at the behest of individuals, not governments? Of course we can’t.

As Aaronovitch notes, US companies such as Google are unaccountable over here, create their own rules and are big enough not to be intimidated by the rest of the world. Great when you’re on their side, not so great if you – or your country – fall foul.

So a Spanish decision kick-started right to be forgotten, and now France’s desire to protect its citizens is extending it. They’re countries broadly in line with Western thinking on human rights and other key issues – but would we be so blasé if one of those countries was Iran or Russia, whose views do not chime so well with ours?

This is why we should see this slow creep for what it is – an encroachment on our privacy rights, and one we should resist where we can.

It’s hard to summarise better than Aaronovitch does, as he concludes: “In the matter of the US domination of the internet, be very, very careful what you wish for.

“For one reason or another the Yanks have done a pretty good job of opening up the world of information and free expression. Is your plan really any better?”

World’s biggest tech companies failing users on data privacy

Some of the world’s top tech companies are failing users over privacy, according to the most comprehensive research published on the subject.

Firms including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, AT&T, Orange France and Vodafone were surveyed by an organisation called Ranking Digital Rights using 31 measures that focused on corporate disclosure of policies and practices that affect users’ freedom of expression and privacy.

After examining their user agreements, each was given a percentage grade, with no companies scoring over 65 per cent, and only six scoring 50 per cent. Seven companies – nearly half – only scored 22 per cent.

The report’s key findings were:

  • Disclosure  about  collection,  use,  sharing,  and  retention  of  user  information  is  poor.  Even  companies  that  make efforts  to  publish  such  information  still  fail  to  communicate  clearly  with  users  about  what  is  collected  about  them, with  whom  it  is  shared,  under  what  circumstances,  and  how  long  the  information  is  kept.
  • Disclosure  about  private  and  self-regulatory  processes  is  minimal  and  ambiguous  at  best,  and  often  non-existent.  Few  companies  disclose  data  about  private  third-party  requests  to  remove  or  restrict  content or  to  share  user  information – even  when  those  requests  come  under  circumstances  such  as  a  court  order  or subpoena.
  • In  some  instances,  current  laws  and  regulations make  it  more  difficult  for  companies  to  respect  freedom  of  expression  and  privacy.

“When  we  put  the  rankings  in  perspective,  it’s  clear  there  are  no  winners,”  said  Rebecca  MacKinnon,  director  of Ranking  Digital  Rights.  “Our  hope  is  that  the  Index  will  lead  to  greater  corporate  transparency,  which  can  empower users  to  make  more  informed  decisions  about  how  they  use  technology.”

With the report’s compiler highlighting that there no “winners”, it is clear that the losers are users creating and posting pictures and videos to platforms that are unclear at best about what they can actually do with them.

There was also wide differences in transparency within companies, with Facebook (owner of both Instagram and Whatsapp) found to make better disclosures about its flagship platform and the picture-sharing app than at Whatsapp, which did not always even publish privacy agreements in the right language.

Overall,  Google  ranked  highest  among the eight Internet  companies,  while  the  UK-based  Vodafone  ranked  highest among  telecommunications  companies. The Russian Mail.ru email service ranked the worst with 13 per cent.

The survey also found very low levels of web-based companies that allowed encryption of private content and control access, with the average score across the eight just six per cent.

Your Digital Footprint Revealed

Each person is unique like the facets of a diamond as a result your digital footprint online is also unique to you but how do you get to see those unique aspects of your digital footprint?  What patterns and relationships online are unique and valuable to you and how do you identify them in among the reset of the social media noise?

We here at digi.me understand that everyone is unique and we haDigi.me Puts You in Control of Your Social Media Datave been working on a range of different ways for you to interact with your social media networks.  Unlike when you go onto Facebook and view your timeline (or rather what Facebook allows you to see on your timeline) we show you everything you have posted in chronological order.  You can search, save and share that data.  You also have the ability to analyse your content and find your closest connections based on who you interact with most often.  You also get to see the combination of your social media updates from all of your different networks in one place.

If you are wondering who you haven’t been in touch with for a while you can even analyse an older set of updates and see who you might like to reconnect with by starting a conversation with them.  You can find out what your all time top photo’s were and even find out what days of the week you do post most of your social media updates on.

With our Flashback feature you can see what you were up to this time last year across all your social networks, or even look back beyond last year to the ones before that to see what you were up to then. You may be fascinated what memories and moments you come across.

Quite simply digi.me is a tool that opens up social networks on a personal level giving you that granular insight into those things that are most important to you.  If you think there is a feature missing or that you would like all you need to do is tell us and we will look into adding this in a future update.  


Facebook Supported By Google, Microsoft & More In Privacy Case

You may recall back in June that Facebook had been issued with a court order demanding that it hand over the data of some 381 users who were being investigated as part of a fraud trial. The social network lodged an ultimately unsuccessful appeal, and had to release the personal data – including photographs and private messages – to the authorities.

The story has now resurfaced after several large tech firms in the US have argued that the original search warrant was a breach of the US Constitution. In court documents filed in New York, companies including Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and Twitter  have thrown their support behind Facebook, claiming that the original process violated the First Amendment, which protects against persons’ belongings falling subject to “unreasonable searches and seizures”.

The BBC has seen the documents submitted to a New York court, and reports that the following tech firms have declared their support for Facebook:

  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Yelp
  • Dropbox
  • Pinterest
  • Foursquare
  • Kickstarter
  • Meetup
  • Tumblr

Google and Microsoft said that they had “a strong interest in the resolution of the issues in this case”, as they have had to deal with similar issues in the past. This also seems to be a case of the strong looking after the weak, with a lawyer representing some of the medium-sized companies saying that “smaller entities, such as start-ups and other developing companies, may not always have the resources to litigate”.

If the bigger firms are able to establish a precedent that may protect smaller businesses in the future, then that will be of benefit to the tech community as a whole.

Facebook Ads Based On Google Searches? How ‘Little’ Data Could Win The Day

 Today I witnessed firsthand circumstantial evidence that Facebook is somehow accessing my browsing history and using this information to show me targeted ads in my News Feed. Facebook ads based on Google searches is a topic that has been in the tech press a lot in recent weeks, but I hadn’t consciously encountered it myself until today.

This weekend I’m going to a wedding, and in my own typical style I have left it until the last minute to arrange overnight accommodation or a late night taxi to take me all the way home. So I fired up another tab in Chrome (within the same overall window in which I’m logged into Facebook on another tab), and set about finding prices for a pub/hotel I know near the groom’s house.

I left the booking site without making a reservation, and then a few minutes later when casting my eye across my News Feed, I noticed a very familiar building:

Facebook ads based on Google Searches

Yes, the very same place I had been pricing up as somewhere to rest my bones after inevitably dropping some questionable dance moves at the wedding reception on Saturday night. At first I thought, “well that makes sense, classic re-marketing there,” but then I thought “hang on a second, Facebook and Google are separate companies… are they sharing my data without my consent?”

It irked me for a short while to think that my information was being exchanged for another party’s gain (even if I might benefit from a favourable room rate in the long run), but then I started to think about how much further the breadcrumb trail could have been laid out before me.

For this particular wedding my friends used a Facebook Event as both a save the date, and as an easy way to communicate with the guests on mass about finer details nearer the time. Now… I’m sure it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch for Facebook to work out that I’m searching for a hotel within 3 miles of the location of an event I’m going that is happening within the date period that I was checking room availability.

Many of the other people attending the wedding (as indicated by their response to the Facebook Event) are also my friends on Facebook. Would it be too much of stretch to then assume that Facebook knows that they’ll be needing accommodation based on my actions, and would they be shown similar posts in their News Feed?

Going a step further, and thinking largely outside the box, would it be possible to combine the Facebook Event information and the Google search information of people that Facebook knows are friends, in order to produce suggested posts and even deals, specific to tagged groups of people.

For example, two people who are friends on Facebook and both attending an event might have also both looked at the cost of a single room in the same hotel. Say single rooms cost £70 each, but a twin is only £100 a night. Could Facebook then issue some sort of alert to say that you and friend X could save £20 each if the two of you shared a twin room for the night?

Obviously we’ve crashed through a few (hopefully still very sturdy) privacy gates to flesh out this hypothetical example, but it’s not entirely inconceivable, is it? The only way it would really work is if there was absolute trust in the person holding the data, and if you were confident in those who you were allowing the data to be shared with. (Imagine the amount of domestic disputes that would arise if similar examples of people looking at hotel bookings led to the discovery of extra-marital affairs etc).

Many would argue that Facebook and Google are not the ones to entrust with this sort of information if it is to be used in a social matching scenario. Here at SocialSafe we have recently joined Respect Network, which has the goal of putting control of personal data back into the hands of individuals and not only gives them the choice of how their information is used, but compensates them for their value. This is definitely a step in right direction.

The future for data is definitely big, but is big data the future? We believe the economy surrounding the user sanctioned exchanges of lots of little data (always specific to, and owned by, the individual) could be even bigger than ‘big’ data.

Google+ Allows Anyone To Send You Gmail – Check Your Privacy Settings

Google has announced a new feature for Gmail that will allow anyone with an account on Google+ to send you an email through the network. While you aren’t able to see anyone else’s email address unless you are the recipient (or they have replied to you), it is possible to email anyone that has a Google+ account by selecting their profile from a drop down menu when you are writing an email.

One thing to bear in mind is that Google’s default setting is to allow anyone to email you if you have a Google+ account. However, this is a setting to that can changed, and it will function similarly to Facebook’s privacy settings in that it will be based on how many degrees of separation there are between you on Google+.

For example, you change the setting so that instead of anyone on Google+ being able to email you, this privilege can be extended to people in your Extended Circles, only those in your actual Circles, or you can disable the functionality altogether by selecting the ‘No one’ option. People who aren’t in any of your circles will also be constricted to only contacting you once, unless you subsequently reply to them or add them to one of your Circles.

Before you start to worry that you’re already susceptible to barrages of unwarranted communications from people you don’t know, a Google spokesperson told ReadWrite’s Selena Larson that Google+ users will be alerted to the new feature via email, and that it won’t be active until all of those emails have gone out.

So what do you think of the new feature? Is it a good idea that will make it easier for us to communicate and connect with new people, or has another privacy barrier been torn down? Given that you can turn the feature off altogether, you do have the choice as to whether or not you allow yourself to be contacted by strangers, although it might have been better if it was as an opt-in feature rather than enabled as default.

Giving Your Passwords To Third-Party Apps: A Lesson From ‘InstLike’

An app promising free likes and followers for Instagram users has harvested the usernames and passwords from over 100,000 people who downloaded the app since June this year. The Apple and Google approved InstLike app directly asked users for their login credentials rather than using the Instagram API, and created a massive ecosystem of botnets that would like random photos and follow random users.

Security firm Symantec  subsequently alerted Google and Apple, who have both removed InstLike from their respective app stores.

This story serves to highlight what can be a tricky situation for both app developers and app users. Any third-party app that you download to enhance or expand your use of a service such as Instagram (or for that matter Facebook, Twitter etc) would need you to login to your account. However, how do you know who you can trust?

If the app developers are playing by the book, any logging in to a network should be done through that respective network’s API. However in reality it’s not hard for people to create something that looks very similar to those login screens, which might convince the slightly less privacy conscious users that they’re logging in through the normal channels. This appears to be what we’ve seen with InstLike, which saw users submitting their usernames and passwords directly to the developers.

It’s tough on the legitimate app developers as well as the users, as stories like this foster an environment of distrust against any app that requires the user to login via an online account. Adhering to the APIs is one thing, but making sure that your audience realises that you are one of the good guys is another.

With more people choosing to remain logged in to their accounts on their own devices, it’s easy what the actual login screens look like. Just to refresh your memory, here are how five of the most common login/authorisation screens appear:

Facebook Authorisation LinkedIn Authorisation Twitter Authorisation Instagram Authorisation Google Login

At SocialSafe your privacy, trust and peace of mind mean a huge amount to us. That is why we never see nor store any of your data, nor do we ever have access to any of your login credentials. All of the content that you choose to back up from your social networks is downloaded directly from the host network in adherence with the respective APIs, and it is stored on your own machine where you have complete control over your data.

If you ever have any questions about how SocialSafe works and what this means in terms of privacy and social network access, then we are always happy to talk to you about this. Just get in touch via one of our social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+) or leave a comment below.

How To Embed Google+ Posts Into WordPress.com & Other New Features

Google+ has rolled out a new feature that makes it possible for bloggers and content creators to embed Google+ posts on other sites. The functionality had previously been tested on a number of accounts from select publications – National Geographic, Sports Illustrated etc – but yesterday it became available to all users.

Embedding a Google+ post on your website is fairly straightforward – simply click the ‘Embed Post’ button from the drop-down menu on an individual post to obtain the necessary code. Embedding a Googe+ post on WordPress.com is slightly different, but is easily done.

When you are presented with the embed code, only copy from the post link itself – eg https://plus.google.com/104580270311111171846/posts/SEzDPDsqonF. Then simply paste the link into your writing pane, adding the following prefix and brackets:

embedding google+ posts on wordpress

Your selected Google+ post, along with the option to +1 the post and leave a Comment, will appear as such:

Speaking about the new feature, Seth Sternberg – Director of Google+ Platform – said “We want to make it easy to expand your audience across the web”. In a blog post on the topic, the social network also revealed another the feature – Author Attribution – which will allow articles you publish to be associated with your Google+ profile automatically.

For more information about these new features, check out the Google+ Developers Blog.

SocialSafe v6.5.8 Released – Download Your Instagram Videos, Historic Data Pop-up and More

We’ve just released SocialSafe v6.5.8 and this latest version contains a couple of brand new features never before seen in SocialSafe.

First up we have added support for Instagram Video. This allows SocialSafe users to safely download Instagram Videos to their own machine, along with all the comments, tags, and likes. This works in the same way that we currently support Instagram Photo download, meaning that you can also search and export Instagram Videos from within SocialSafe. Here’s how the Instagram videos appear among your other photos in the SocialSafe journal:

download instagram videos

We’ve also added historic data pop-up. This is a really cool new feature that shows you your most popular content on that day in previous years. Ordinarily this will be your most popular photo from Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, but if there are no photos on that day in years gone by, your most popular written update will be shown. You’ll see this appear discretely in the corner of your screen, even if you don’t have SocialSafe open, and this will occur at 1000 hrs daily. This is how the historic data pop-up will appear on your desktop:

on this day

It wasn’t all just shiny new features with this release, there was some general maintenance that we had to take care of. We were aware that some of you had experienced problems with stalling syncs when backing up certain types of content from Facebook and Twitter – these have now been fixed, along with a .NET error and a sync looping issue. We also made some minor bug fixes and UI improvements.

We hope you like the new features we’ve added to SocialSafe, and as ever, if you have any further suggestions please let us know through our Feedback Forum, on our Facebook Page, get in touch via Twitter, or on Google+ or LinkedIn.

SocialSafe Chairman Julian Ranger Talks ‘Life Logging’ With Gordon Bell And Robert Scoble

Last week our Chairman, Julian Ranger , sat down with Gordon Bell and Robert Scoble to discuss life logging, and how SocialSafe can enable users to get their whole story, in an online world were we tell stories in a variety of different places.

Gordon Bell, Researcher Emeritus at Microsoft Research, pioneered the concept of life logging, and since 1999 has – among other endeavours – worked on MyLifeBits, an experiment in lifetime storage and a software research effort.  Robert Scoble is Startup Liaison Officer at Rackspace, but is perhaps best known for his blog, Scobleizer, which came to prominence during his tenure as a technical evangelist at Microsoft.

You can watch Julian’s interview with Robert and Gordon here in full:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbzRxf_JI60 align’center’]

We feel that taking ownership of your data is very important, but the ability to view and use the data from across a number of different social networks is where SocialSafe really excels, and we’re thrilled that Robert and Gordon agree with what we’re enabling our users to achieve with our app.

As Julian explains in the video, all data that a SocialSafe user backs up is downloaded directly from their social network accounts and then stored on their own machine. This makes using SocialSafe totally private, and gives users their whole story without having to share it with anyone else.

For more information about SocialSafe please visit our website, where you can also download the free trial.