privacy

Microsoft, along with other companies have been in the news surrounding the US National Security Agency (NSA) and general privacy concerns that government agencies have easy access to customer data. Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft, recently published a blog post detailing now is the time for an international convention on government access to data.

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It's no secret that Microsoft's at war with Google when it comes to email. Redmond has continuously attacked Google for crawling through emails that are believed to be private to provide better targeted advertisements to consumers. Microsoft has launched Keep Your Email Private, a new campaign to fight Google regarding this very concern. Do you use Gmail and/or are concerned about activities carried out by the Search? Read on past the break.

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Microsoft is teaming up with Google (no, you read that correctly) to sue the US government and win the right to reveal details surrounding official requests for user data. The two tech giants announced the lawsuit yesterday, taking the battle over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to a whole new level.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and other US government bodies utilise the mechanism to collect data on foreign Internet users, which has been in the news recently with activity through the likes of PRISM leaked to the media. Microsoft previously responded to the NSA controversy, stating the company is not spying on consumers.

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In a world where people don’t feel like being monitored 24/7 and the NSA just might have control over your devices with the snap of a finger, Xbox One’s always on Kinect was a big issue for many consumers. Yesterday Microsoft announced that the company would be doing another 180 on their policies and allow the Xbox One to be used without a Kinect plugged in to the unit.

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ZEN & TECH is our mobile lifestyle podcast, focusing not just on our phones, tablets, and gadgets, but how we can use technology to help us live better, richer, happier lives. It's how we center our inner geeks! Since it's security week on Talk Mobile 2013, Georgia and Rene talk about everything from camera phones in the locker room to wiretaps on the internet and how we, as private people, can cope in an age of where everyone from friends to family to strangers to governments may be spying on us.

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On May 21st, when Microsoft officially announced the Xbox One a lot of questions still remained. Will I be able to sell my games? Share my games? Do I need an internet connection once a day or once a month? These were questions we did not expect answered until E3, but Microsoft has decided to attack these concerns head-on and has shared their plans on all these fronts and more. That leaves E3 to be focused on games (a good call in our book). Details on the Xbox One after the break.

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Privacy in smartphones is always a big deal amongst consumers, so it’s a little odd to see the super popular WhatsApp messaging client have a platform-specific privacy breach regarding geo-location metadata.

The situation is a little convoluted so stick with us when trying to explain.  Photos that are received (not sent) from WhatsApp are automatically tagged with your current location, regardless of your privacy Settings (Applications > Photos + Camera). That means if you were to then pass that photo on to someone else or upload to SkyDrive, your location info will be preserved.

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A joint investigation by Canadian and Dutch officials has determined that popular mobile messaging program WhatsApp violates privacy laws of both countries. The problem is that the application, which lets users text each other over the internet in order to circumvent carrier texting charges, requires users to grant it access to their entire address book and not just the contacts who use it.

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A rag-tag group of privacy advocates, internet activists, journalists and organizations have banded together and have written an open letter to Skype, calling on the communications giant to "publicly document Skype’s security and privacy practices."

The letter, which is addressed to Skype Division President Tony Bates, Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith, says that the members of the group who authored it rely on Skype to communicate under circumstances where privacy and security are imperative and that it would be doing them a great service to know just what they can expect.

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Earlier today, Facebook announced a new advanced search engine for users called Graph Search. The engine allows users to search content friends and others have shared in rather interesting ways.

For example, a phrase like “Friends who live in Los Angeles under 30” would produce a list of all your friends who currently live in Los Angeles and are under 30 years old. While Graph Search was built by Facebook, sometimes results from the web need to be pulled in to help add context to results. Facebook was planning on working with Google, but that plan fell apart over privacy concerns.

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Microsoft, the company that has been plagued by security concerns with Internet Explorer in the past, has announced that it would change its new disclosure policy to inform customers explicitly that it will not use personal information obtained from product and service usage. This will protect customers from data being passed onto third-party companies for marketing and advertising.

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Verizon has begun selling customer information, according to a report by Yahoo!. The carrier is passing on geographical locations, app usage and even web browsing activities to third-parties. This - as one would expect - has raised privacy questions.

The start of October saw Verizon start offering reports to marketers showing what subscribed customers are doing on mobile phones, including what iOS and Android apps are used in locations.

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Did you know those using Facebook apps on their mobile devices can access your email address even if it's not displayed on your profile when checking the website? Most users of the social network don't.

Headlines have continuously attacked Facebook due to privacy concerns, confusing account settings and other monstrosities, but today we'll look at a quick tip on how to prevent your email address being available to contacts who can view your profile.

Just because your personal email address isn't viewable on the website when checking your profile via a web browser, don't be fooled into believing your friend's Windows Phone won't pull it down to his (or her) contact list. By default, it seems Facebook's settings are configured so email addresses are invisible to the 'timeline' but are still available and accessible by friends. So how does one configure email settings on Facebook to prevent them being accessed?

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Online ads can be annoying and it appears Microsoft is working on a way to focus these ads more towards your likes and away from your dislikes. We ran across the Microsoft Personal Data Dashboard that will let you filter out the unwanted ads and let those you might be interested in through.  These filters will likely impact ads you see over on Outlook.com and on your Windows Phone.  

The Dashboard has several sections or tabs with the main tab reflecting your Windows Live Profile. Additional sections include: 

My Data: Here is where you can tag your interests and dislikes from a wide variety of topics. You can also narrow down your likes and dislikes to the brand names of products.

The My Data page also lets you view your Bing search history and any Microsoft Newsletters you are currently subscribed to.

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The location services on your Windows Phone can come in handy for navigation apps, finding local services and focus ad banners to content relative to your location. It also allows wireless providers and OS manufacturers to provide location services to allow customers to locate their phones if lost.

A recent Court ruling may have opened the door for law enforcement to use the same location services to track you without a warrant (at least in the Sixth Circuit). The case in question involves a drug dealer, Melvin Skinner, who was tracked by Federal Agents using his cell phone location services. Agents received Court authorization to obtain information on the cell phones used by Skinner that was in turn used to track his location. The tracking information obtained by law enforcement not only connected Skinner to the crimes but would also lead agents to his location for arrest.

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A few days ago, questions were raised over Skype's security in that Microsoft is reconfiguring the Skype network to allow Law Enforcement Agencies can have access to intercept calls. Mark Gillett, Skype's Chief Development and Operations Officer, responded to these concerns today.

With regards to the claims Skype has made changes in its architecture to provide Law Enforcement Agencies have greater access to Skype communications, Gillett says that this is false:

"The move was made in order to improve the Skype experience, primarily to improve the reliability of the platform and to increase the speed with which we can react to problems. The move also provides us with the ability to quickly introduce cool new features that allow for a fuller, richer communications experience in the future."

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Our audience is smart enough to know that no electronic system of communication is impervious to eavesdropping and there’s very little out there that’s near 100% secure. So it should come as no surprise that Skype is getting some publicity of its internal network restructuring that started occurring once Microsoft acquired the company last year.

The charge: Microsoft is reconfiguring the Skype network so that it Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) can have access to intercept calls over the network to aid in investigations.

The reality is of course convoluted with no concrete evidence but it’s worth mentioning what exactly is going on here. So head past the break to get the scoop.

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Do you own a Windows Phone that's connected on a AT&T account? You might not be aware of this, but you can restrict the use of personal data, should you have any privacy concerns or simply do not wish for the carrier to contact you. Customer Proprietary Network Information (or CPNI) is personal information obtained by the telecommunications company through providing a service to the customer. 

So what is this all about, and should you be bothered? AT&T collects information from you based on the services you have on your account. All carriers (and many companies) carry out the same actions to offer similar services / products to customers. If you've received a call from a company you use often who are attempting to sell you a related product, this is exactly what we're talking about.

Majority of the time the offers are exclusive to that call and may not be available online or in-stores. A mobile carrier may offer the latest Windows Phone at a discounted price, or on a plan that has 6 months subtracted from the contract. In this case, AT&T will contact you and provide said offers, but according to the privacy policy the carrier will not sell / disclose CPNI to third-parties without customer consent. You'll need to check the policies of other carriers and companies to be sure they don't sell on your information.

To keep everything in check and restrict AT&T's use of your CPNI, be sure to give the carrier a call. Should you feel the need to do so with any other company, you can also enquire to request exclusion from future marketing and promotional offers where possible.

Source: AT&T; Thanks EasyPeasyJD for the tip!

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Microsoft has updated the how-to section of the official Windows Phone website to include a small tip regarding when location based services are currently active. A small indicator (see above image) will be included in a future update, which be displayed with the other disappearing status indicators that will alert the user as to when apps are using the phone's location.

Microsoft informed The Verge that the update will be included with handsets shipping with Windows Phone "Tango" with existing devices receiving the update once the company has finalised the update with carriers.

"After the new devices are out, we’ll start the process of working with mobile operators to bring an update to current customers. It’ll be a few months before we have specifics on that roll out,

Just how long existing consumers will have to wait for the update hasn't been specified, but it's a positive move to fight privacy concerns. We could well see the update including this location indicator being bundled with the new features in "Tango" for Mango users.

Source: Microsoft, via: The Verge@WPUG

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