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# privacy - Monday 23 August, 2010

MARK ZUCKERBERG has made it even easier for people to know where you are at all times with Facebook Places.

But what if you didn’t want anything to do with Zuckerberg? Well, if you thought about blocking his profile to make a privacy point, think again.

The online campaign says that the site has changed its settings so that it is impossible to block Zuckerberg.

On his profile page, as with any other Facebook user, is a link marked Report/Block this person. Click on this, and a message asks you to distinguish which action you’d like to follow: block or report. Click on block, and an error message appears, saying “Block failed”.

Incidentally, Zuckerberg also appears to be the only person on Facebook who can’t be added as a friend. He’d have to add you first.

# privacy - Wednesday 18 August, 2010

GOOGLE HAS voluntarily opened a new service allowing German users to pre-emptively remove images of their properties from its Street View service before it launches next month.

The search company had come under enormous public pressure to allow users opt-out of the service after the country’s biggest newspaper, Bild, encouraged citizens to voice their concerns that the data could be used maliciously, such as by would-be thieves to identify potential entrances to a building.

The move is an unusual one for Google, coming without any legal imperative or requirement to allow such a service – especially given the fact that local legal experts do not believe that property details are considered personal information, which would be protected by law.

Industry insiders now wonder whether Google will offer a similar opt-out service to users in other countries where the service currently, or intends to, operate – including Ireland, where the service is expected to launch later this year.

It also raises the possibility that users may in future be able to request that their own personal images – if they, for example, are depicted standing on a street while Google’s cameras were passing – be removed.

Residents can now remove houses they own, or live in, before the service if they fill out an online form before September 15. Those visiting the opt-out site, however, are told it is “a pity” they wish to remove their property, because the service allows users:

…to see where your family and friends live, no matter how far you are from each other, or if you want to explore your next holiday destination in in advance.

Germany’s interior ministry is currently drawing up plans to curb the ability of Google to roll out the Street View service nationally, though it is illegal under Germany’s Grundgesetz, the constitution, to enact laws which single penalise any individual company.

Despite being one of the leading voices supporting an opt-out clause in the service, chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated that she won’t be removing her residence from the service, with a spokesman explaining that Merkel’s address was already well known to the public.

# privacy - Tuesday 17 August, 2010

GOOGLE has long been criticised for privacy issues. Complaints have been made about Google’s street view, collecting information on wi-fi networks and Google Buzz but Google chief Larry Schmidt has put minds at rest… or has he?

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal Schmidt said that adults should be allowed to change their names in order to get away from information held about their online misdemeanour’s.

He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites…

“I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,” he says… “I mean we really have to think about these things as a society.”

Not sure that’ll fly Larry.

# privacy - Thursday 12 August, 2010

GERMANY HAS vowed to take a hard line on Google’s Street View operation, following an overwhelmingly negative public reaction to the project.

Street View is a mapping system that provides internet users with panoramic views of various streets across the world. The project has seen Google teams traverse the globe in a mission to capture images.

The company has, however, provided special privacy options unique for German citizens – allowing people to object about pictures of their homes being published online before they appear.

Despite Google vowing to respect privacy requests submitted by people who are uncomfortable with their homes being photographed, the German government has warned that it will step in if its citizens feel the company is invading their privacy.

Although the project has come under fire in several European countries, surveillance is viewed with particular suspicion by many in Germany – a country that still bears the scars of the Nazi’s Gestapo and East Germany’s  Stasi secret police, whose brutal activities still exist in living memory.

Google has launched plans to allow users block pictures of their properties. In a statement, Google said:

Renters or owners can apply to have their building made unrecognisable before the pictures are published online.

Even a single objection from a household with multiple members will result in Google removing the image.

The proposal follows more than two years of negotiations and delays on the Street View project in Germany.


Critics have been scornful of Google’s choice to launch the pictures during the summer months, at a time when many Germans may be away on holidays. They suggest that a hotline be set up for those wanting to complain.

Others have applauded Google’s attempts to provide accommodate objections, pointing out that users had the ability to opt out of having their houses shown for over a year by getting in touch via mail, email or fax.

However, some privacy experts just don’t accept that Google is doing enough: Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, an Austrian professor and the director of the Information and Innovation Policy Research Center at the National University of Singapore said:

I think their concern is justified because there is simply no historical precedent for making this many images available and of providing the world with this much transparency.

Images of Germany’s 20 largest cities, including Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Bonn, will be available by the end of this year.

# privacy - Friday 30 July, 2010

HE’S THE BILLIONAIRE founder of Facebook. At 26 Mark Zuckerberg has earned billions allowing people to post their pictures and document their innermost thoughts online – but now he’s receiving a taste of his own medicine.

Leading US website Gawker decided to put Mark Zuckerberg’s thoughts on privacy to the test, following him from his home in and around Silicon Valley for a day.

Gawker’s photographer Nick Stern spent a full day trailing Zuckerberg, snapping him outside a California bar, outside his modest terrace house, going to Chinese lessons and hugging his girlfriend Priscilla Chan.

Gawker justified its paparazzi tactics saying:

“If it feels a little naughty to take such a close look into Zuckerberg’s life, remember that this is the executive who pushed the private information of Facebook’s hundreds of millions of users progressively further into the public sphere. Facebook turned users’ friends lists into public information; it asked them to either publicize their likes and interests or delete such information entirely; it removed the option to conceal their profile photos; Facebook even let some partner websites tap into profiles without asking.”

Only this week Facebook came under pressure after a security expert published the names and user IDs of over 100m users. Today The Telegraph’s Milo Yiannopoulos, former contributing editor to TechCrunch asks the question: “Is this the death of privacy?

JUDGE NICHOLAS KEANRS has chosen to reserve his decision on Ruth Hickey’s defamation case against the Sunday World until after the summer recess.

After hearing submissions from both sides in the case the judge said he would give his judgement early in the new term (October).

Earlier this week counsel for Ruth Hickey put her case forward. They told the court that Hickey had been defamed by the Sunday World in two articles and that pictures of Hickey with her new born son violated her and her sons right to privacy.

Closing the case for Hickey, Senior Counsel Turlough O’Donnell  said ‘it simply could not be permissible’ under the constitution to photograph a mother and her child and use the words which were used to accompany the photographs.

Mr O’Donnell said it was highly significant that the newspaper was saying that the use of the word ‘whore’ did not mean Hickey was an actual prostitute. But O’Donnell did say the paper did not address the fact that it could mean that she was a person engaged in a sexual relationship in which there was no love.

Senior Counsel Eoin McCullough for the Sunday World said if the court were to accept the analysis of Hickey’s lawyers then a great deal of ordinary journalism would have to be excluded from newspapers.

For example he said photos of people walking down the street on a sunny day would fail the test, as would photos of people at a funeral or of where a person lives.

He said there could not be a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of having gone to register a birth at the Births, Deaths and Marriages office.

Mr McCullough said the words used were vulgar abuse – the newspaper repeating them does not make them anything else.

# privacy - Thursday 29 July, 2010

# privacy - Thursday 22 July, 2010

BRAD PITT and Angelina Jolie have won a case against the News of the World over claims the paper made about the couple separating.

The paper, which settled for an undisclosed amount, admitted that it had made “false and intrusive” allegations about the couple. Jolie and Pitt were absent from the hearing, which took place in London’s High Court.

The actors’ suit was based on the misuse of private information and breach of the 1998 Data Protection Act. It related to a front page story from January of this year (headlined “Pitts all over”) that detailed false information about the couple separating and splitting their assets.

The court also received a statement from Schillings Lawyers, which said their employee Sorrell Trope – who was identified as the couple’s divorce lawyer – had never even met the Jolie-Pitts.

Trope wrote: “I have never met… your clients or had any involvement with either of them. The foregoing is true with respect to all other members of this firm.”

The sum that the couple received through damages will be donated to their charity, the Jolie-Pitt Foundation.

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