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European Union’s General Data Protection regulation now before the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee - for 2014?
Posted October 29th, 2012 - 9:15 am by from Dijon, France (Permalink)






October 28, 2012

New York Times
Data-Gathering via Apps Presents a Gray Legal Area
By

KEVIN J. O’BRIEN

BERLIN — Angry Birds, the top-selling paid mobile app for the
iPhone in the United States and Europe, has been downloaded more than a
billion times by devoted game players around the world, who often spend
hours slinging squawking fowl at groups of egg-stealing pigs.

While regular players are familiar with the particular destructive
qualities of certain of these birds, many are unaware of one facet: The
game possesses a ravenous ability to collect personal information on its
users.

When Jason Hong, an associate professor at the Human-Computer
Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, surveyed 40 users,
all but two were unaware that the game was storing their locations so
that they could later be the targets of ads.

“When I am giving a talk about this, some people will pull out their
smartphones while I am still speaking and erase the game,” Mr. Hong, an
expert in mobile application privacy, said during an interview.
“Generally, most people are simply unaware of what is going on.”

What is going on, according to experts, is that applications like Angry
Birds and even more innocuous-seeming software, like that which turns
your phone into a flashlight, defines words or delivers Bible quotes,
are also collecting personal information, usually the user’s location
and sex and the unique identification number of a smartphone. But in
some cases, they cull information from contact lists and pictures from
photo libraries.

As the Internet goes mobile, privacy issues surrounding phone apps have
moved to the front lines of the debate over what information can be
collected, when and by whom. Next year, more people around the world
will gain access to the Internet through mobile phones or tablet
computers than from desktop PCs, according to Gartner, the research
group.

The shift has brought consumers into a gray legal area, where existing
privacy protections have failed to keep up with technology. The move to
mobile has set off a debate between privacy advocates and online
businesses, which consider the accumulation of personal information the
backbone of an ad-driven Internet.

In the United States, the data collection practices of app makers are
loosely regulated, if at all; some do not even disclose what kind of
data they are collecting and why. Last February, the California attorney
general, Kamala D. Harris, reached an agreement with six leading
operators of mobile application platforms that they would sell or
distribute only mobile apps with privacy policies that consumers could
review before downloading.

In announcing the voluntary pact with Amazon, Apple, Google,
Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research in Motion, whose distribution
platforms make up the bulk of the American mobile app market, Ms. Harris
noted that most mobile apps came without privacy policies.

“Your personal privacy should not be the cost of using mobile apps, but
all too often it is,” Ms. Harris said at the time.

But simple disclosure, in itself, is often insufficient.

The makers of Angry Birds, Rovio Entertainment of Finland, discloses its
information collection practices in a 3,358-word policy posted on its
Web site. But as with most application makers around the world, the
terms of Rovio’s warnings are more of a disclaimer than a choice.


The company advises consumers who do not want their data collected or
ads directed at them to visit the Web site of its analytics firm,
Flurry, and to list their details on two industry-sponsored Web sites.
But Rovio notes that some companies do not honor the voluntary lists.


As a last resort, Rovio cautions those who want to avoid data collection
or ads simply to move on: “If you want to be certain that no
behaviorally targeted advertisements are not displayed to you, please do
not use or access the services.”

Despite multiple requests by phone and Internet over five days, Rovio did not respond to questions.

Policy practices like Rovio’s often do little to inform consumers. Most
people simply click through privacy permissions without reading them,
said Mr. Hong, the Carnegie Mellon professor. His institute is
developing a software tool called App Scanner that aims to help
consumers identify what types of information an application is
collecting and for what likely purpose.

In Europe, lawmakers in Brussels are planning to bring Web businesses
for the first time under stringent data protection rules and to give
consumers new legal powers, the better to control the information that
is being collected on them.

Proposed revisions to the European Union’s General Data Protection
regulation now before the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
Committee of the European Parliament would require Web businesses to get
explicit consent from consumers to collect data. A proposal would also
give consumers the ability to choose what information an app can store
on them without losing the ability to use the software.

But the drafting of the revisions, which are not expected until late
2013 at the earliest, has set off a concerted lobbying battle by global
technology companies, most of which are based in the United States, to
weaken the consent requirements, which could undermine the advertising-
financed business models that drive many free applications.



Posted November 2nd, 2012 - 1:25 pm from Rockchapel, Ireland (Republic of)
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Posted November 2nd, 2012 - 2:34 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
It was David who posted the article and link. My Google search for the headline seems to have been more successful:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/29/technology/mobile-apps-have-a-ravenous-ability-to-collect-personal-data.html?_r=0

But you can of course also simply share the permalink to this thread here.

Posted November 2nd, 2012 - 2:39 pm by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
Poor Uli.

He has now become the go-to-guy for all questions.

Let me take this opportunity to thank Uli-Polyglot for all the work he has done to help inform us and others. He deserves a medal of honour.

Here's the link to the article I posted:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/29/technology/mobile-apps-have-a-ravenous-ability-to-collect-personal-data.html

Posted November 2nd, 2012 - 4:12 pm from Rockchapel, Ireland (Republic of)
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Posted November 2nd, 2012 - 4:49 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Let's leave the medals, flags & titles stuff to CS ambassadors. That's pretty much all that most of them have left after selling out to the corps. But its always nice to know the information is appreciated.

Posted November 15th, 2012 - 8:39 pm from Thessaloniki, Greece
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