Entries tagged as privacy
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Tuesday, March 25. 2014
Via Slash Gear
Google has made clear their intent on joining the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, a worldwide organization dedicated to standards, policies, and for the greater good of human health. Google’s role in this group will be to contribute toward refining technology and evolving the health research ecosystem for the whole planet.
Google will also be submitting open-source projects based on a web-based API to "import, process, store, and search genomic data at scale." In doing so, Google is submitting a proposal for this "simple web-based API" alongside a preview implementation. This implementation will be utilizing the API built on Google’s cloud infrastructure, and will include sample data from public datasets galore.
The Google Genomics API will focus on the following from the start:
At the moment, potential users are being granted access to the Genomics API through a access request process. This process is done through Google itself, but may one day be hosted by the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health.
Google suggests that they are at the beginning of a big change in the global health and healthcare environment, and asks that other Global Alliance for Genomics and Health members contact them to " your ideas about how to bring data science and life science together."
Monday, March 03. 2014
Japan’s Osaka Station could become another focal point in the global battle over personal privacy protection as a Japanese research center prepares for a long-term face-recognition study there.
The independent research group National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) plans to begin the experiment in April to study crowd movements in order to better plan for emergency procedures during disasters.
The train station is western Japan’s busiest, with an average of 413,000 passengers boarding trains there every day. Over a million people use it and neighboring Umeda Station daily.
NICT will deploy cameras in Osaka Station and the adjacent Osaka Station City, a multipurpose complex, that can track faces as they move around the premises. The cameras will be separate from any security cameras that are already installed by operator West Japan Railway (JR West), a spokesman for the railway said.
"The purpose of the study is to determine whether or not sensor data on crowd movements can be used to validate the safety measures of emergency exits for when a disaster strikes,” a NICT spokesperson said.
JR West referred all questions about the protection of passenger privacy to NICT, but the research institute said the experiment was still being prepared.
"At this time, we are considering the technology to be used to obtain statistics on crowd flows,” the NICT spokesman said. “Depending on the technique used, the data that can be obtained on pedestrian flows will be different. So, it’s difficult to say how many people could be subject (to the experiment).”
NICT would not elaborate on technical aspects of the study, but it said previously that it is slated to run for two years and will involve about 90 cameras and 50 servers.
It said the facial-recognition system can track dozens of points on a face. It emphasized that the data cannot be used to identify people and it will abide by Japan’s Personal Information Protection Law when handling it.
The NICT spokesperson said the institute is not aware of any similar large-scale study.
A report in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said computers linked to the cameras will run face-recognition algorithms and assign IDs to faces, which will be tracked for a week.
The dozens of cameras would be able to track the movements of people the algorithms recognize, and record whether they go to a coffee shop or through a ticket gate, for instance.
The technology under consideration for the study can identify faces with an accuracy of 99.99 percent, according to the report.
Monday, February 24. 2014
Qloudlab is the inventor and patent holder of the world’s first touchscreen-based biosensor. We are developing a cost-effective technology that is able to turn your smartphone touchscreen into a medical device for multiple blood diagnostics testing: no plug-in required with just a simple disposable. Our innovation is at the convergence of Smartphones, Healthcare, and Cloud solutions. The development is supported by EPFL (Pr. Philippe Renaud, Microsystems Laboratory) and by a major industrial player in cutting-edge touchscreen solutions for consumer, industrial and automotive products.
Monday, January 27. 2014
Lightbeam, a firefox plugin you may want to try... or not... in order to have an idea about what it means for you and your privacy to browse the Web. Nowadays, this is something obvious and well spread that the 'free' Web is now a very old chimera. Web drills you the same way one drills for oil.
Collusion is a similar plugin for the Chrome Web browser.
Wednesday, October 30. 2013
Via The Verge
For some time Facebook has studied your Likes, comments, and clicks to help create better ads and new products, but soon, the company might also track the location of your cursor on screen. Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin told The Wall Street Journal about several new measures the company is testing meant to help improve its user-tracking, like seeing how long you hover your cursor over an ad (and if you click it), and evaluating if certain elements on screen are within view or are off the page. New data gathered using these methods could help Facebook create more engaging News Feed layouts and ads.
The Journal notes that this kind of tracking is hardly uncommon, but until now, Facebook hadn't gone this deep in its behavioral data measurement. Sites like Shutterstock, for example, track how long users hover their cursors over an image before deciding to buy it. Facebook is famous for its liberal use of A/B testing to try out new products on consumers, but it's using the same method to judge the efficacy of its new testing methods. "Facebook should know within months whether it makes sense to incorporate the new data collection into the business," reports the Journal.
Assuming Facebook's tests go well, it shouldn't be long before our every flinch is tracked on the site. So what might come next? Our eyeballs.
Sunday, October 20. 2013
Wednesday, October 16. 2013
The world of Big Data is one of pervasive data collection and aggressive analytics. Some see the future and cheer it on; others rebel. Behind it all lurks a question most of us are asking — does it really matter? I had a chance to find out recently, as I got to see what Acxiom, a large-scale commercial data aggregator, had collected about me.
At least in theory large-scale data collection matters quite a bit. Large data sets can be used to create social network maps and can form the seeds for link analysis of connections between individuals. Some see this as a good thing; others as a bad one — but whatever your viewpoint, we live in a world which sees increasing power and utility in Big Data’s large-scale data sets.
Of course, much of the concern is about government collection. But it’s difficult to assess just how useful this sort of data collection by the government is because, of course, most governmental data collection projects are classified. The good news, however, is that we can begin to test the utility of the program in the private sector arena. A useful analog in the private sector just became publicly available and it’s both moderately amusing and instructive to use it as a lens for thinking about Big Data.
Acxiom is one of the largest commercial, private sector data aggregators around. It collects and sells large data sets about consumers — sometimes even to the government. And for years it did so quietly, behind the scene — as one writer put it “mapping the consumer genome.” Some saw this as rather ominous; others as just curious. But it was, for all of us, mysterious. Until now.
In September, the data giant made available to the public a portion of its data set. They created a new website — Abouthedata.com — where a consumer could go to see what data the company had collected about them. Of course, in order to access the data about yourself you had to first verify your own identity (I had to send in a photocopy of my driver’s license), but once you had done so, it would be possible to see, in broad terms, what the company thought it knew about you — and how close that knowledge was to reality.
I was curious, so I thought I would go explore myself and see what it was they knew and how accurate they were. The results were at times interesting, illuminating and mundane. Here are a few observations:
To begin with, the fundamental purpose of the data collection is to sell me things — that’s what potential sellers want to know about potential buyers and what, say, Amazon might want to know about me. So I first went and looked at a category called “Household Purchase Data” — in other words what I had recently bought.
It turns out that I buy … well … everything. I buy food, beverages, art, computing equipment, magazines, men’s clothing, stationary, health products, electronic products, sports and leisure products, and so forth. In other words, my purchasing habits were, to Acxiom, just an undifferentiated mass. Save for the notation that I had bought an antique in the past and that I have purchased “High Ticket Merchandise,” it seems that almost everything I bought was something that most any moderately well-to-do consumer would buy.
I do suppose that the wide variety of purchases I made is, itself, the point — by purchasing so widely I self-identify as a “good” consumer. But if that’s the point then the data set seems to miss the mark on “how good” I really am. Under the category of “total dollars spent,” for example, it said that I had spent just $1,898 in the past two years. Without disclosing too much about my spending habits in this public forum, I think it is fair to say that this is a significant underestimate of my purchasing activity.
The next data category of “Household Interests” was equally unilluminating. Acxiom correctly said I was interested in computers, arts, cooking, reading and the like. It noted that I was interested in children’s items (for my grandkids) and beauty items and gardening (both my wife’s interest, probably confused with mine). Here, as well, there was little differentiation, and I assume the breadth of my interests is what matters rather that the details. So, as a consumer, examining what was collected about me seemed to disclose only a fairly anodyne level of detail.
[Though I must object to the suggestion that I am an Apple user J. Anyone who knows me knows I prefer the Windows OS. I assume this was also the result of confusion within the household and a reflection of my wife’s Apple use. As an aside, I was invited throughout to correct any data that was in error. This I chose not to do, as I did not want to validate data for Acxiom – that’s their job not mine—and I had no real interest in enhancing their ability to sell me to other marketers. On the other hand I also did not take the opportunity they offered to completely opt-out of their data system, on the theory that a moderate amount of data in the world about me may actually lead to being offered some things I want to purchase.]
Things became a bit more intrusive (and interesting) when I started to look at my “Characteristic Data” — that is data about who I am. Some of the mistakes were a bit laughable — they pegged me as of German ethnicity (because of my last name, naturally) when, with all due respect to my many German friends, that isn’t something I’d ever say about myself. And they got my birthday wrong — lord knows why.
But some of their insights were at least moderately invasive of my privacy, and highly accurate. Acxiom “inferred” for example, that I’m married. They identified me accurately as a Republican (but notably not necessarily based on voter registration — instead it was the party I was “associated with by voter registration or as a supporter”). They knew there were no children in my household (all grown up) and that I run a small business and frequently work from home. And they knew which sorts of charities we supported (from surveys, online registrations and purchasing activity). Pretty accurate, I’d say.
Finally, it was completely unsurprising that the most accurate data about me was closely related to the most easily measurable and widely reported aspect of my life (at least in the digital world) — namely, my willingness to dive into the digital financial marketplace.
Acxiom knew that I had several credit cards and used them regularly. It had a broadly accurate understanding of my household total income range [I’m not saying!].
They also knew all about my house — which makes sense since real estate and liens are all matters of public record. They knew I was a home owner and what the assessed value was. The data showed, accurately, that I had a single family dwelling and that I’d lived there longer than 14 years. It disclosed how old my house was (though with the rather imprecise range of having been built between 1900 and 1940). And, of course, they knew what my mortgage was, and thus had a good estimate of the equity I had in my home.
So what did I learn from this exercise?
In some ways, very little. Nothing in the database surprised me, and the level of detail was only somewhat discomfiting. Indeed, I was more struck by how uninformative the database was than how detailed it was — what, after all, does anyone learn by knowing that I like to read? Perhaps Amazon will push me book ads, but they already know I like to read because I buy directly from them. If they had asserted that I like science fiction novels or romantic comedy movies, that level of detail might have demonstrated a deeper grasp of who I am — but that I read at all seems pretty trivial information about me.
I do, of course, understand that Acxiom has not completely lifted the curtains on its data holdings. All we see at About The Data is summary information. You don’t get to look at the underlying data elements. But even so, if that’s the best they can do ….
In fact, what struck me most forcefully was (to borrow a phrase from Hannah Arendt) the banality of it all. Some, like me, see great promise in big data analytics as a way of identifying terrorists or tracking disease. Others, with greater privacy concerns, look at big data and see Big Brother. But when I dove into one big data set (albeit only partially), held by one of the largest data aggregators in the world, all I really became was a bit bored.
Maybe that’s what they wanted as a way of reassuring me. If so, Acxiom succeeded, in spades.
Tuesday, October 01. 2013
Google faces financial sanctions in France after failing to comply with an order to alter how it stores and shares user data to conform to the nation's privacy laws.
Google was ordered in June by the CNIL to comply with French data protection laws within three months. But Google had not changed its policies to comply with French laws by a deadline on Friday, because the company said that France's data protection laws did not apply to users of certain Google services in France, the CNIL said.
The company "has not implemented the requested changes," the CNIL said.
As a result, "the chair of the CNIL will now designate a rapporteur for the purpose of initiating a formal procedure for imposing sanctions, according to the provisions laid down in the French data protection law," the watchdog said. Google could be fined a maximum of €150,000 ($202,562), or €300,000 for a second offense, and could in some circumstances be ordered to refrain from processing personal data in certain ways for three months.
What bothers France
The CNIL took issue with several areas of Google's data policies, in particular how the company stores and uses people's data. How Google informs users about data that it processes and obtains consent from users before storing tracking cookies were cited as areas of concern by the CNIL.
Google is also embroiled with European authorities in an antitrust case for allegedly breaking competition rules. The company recently submitted proposals to avoid fines in that case.
Saturday, September 28. 2013
Google Improves Knowledge Graph With Comparisons And Filters, Brings Cards & Cross-Platform Notifications To Mobile
Google is turning 15 tomorrow and, fittingly, it’s celebrating the occasion by announcing a couple of new features for Google Search. The mobile search interface, for example, is about to get a bit of a redesign with results that are clustered on cards “so you can focus on the answers you’re looking for.”
Those answers, Google today announced, are also getting better. Thanks to its Knowledge Graph, the company continues to push to give users answers instead of just links, and with today’s update, it’s now featuring the ability to use the Knowledge Graph to compare things. If you want to compare the nutritional value of olive oil to butter, for example, Google Search will now give you a comparison chart with lots of details. The same holds true for other things, including dog breed and celestial objects. Google says it plans to expand this feature to more things over time.
Also new in this update is the ability to use Knowledge Graph to filter results. Say you ask Google: “Tell me about Impressionist artists.” Now, you’ll see who these artists are, and a new bar on top of the results will allow you dive in to learn more about them and to switch to learn more about abstract art, for example.
On mobile, Google is now making it easier to use your voice to set reminders and have those synced between devices. So you can say “Ok Google, Remind me to buy butter at Safeway” on your Nexus tablet and when you walk into the store with your iPhone, you’ll get that reminder. To enable this, Google will roll out a new version of its Search app for iPhone and iPad in the next few weeks.
With regard to notifications, it’s also worth noting that Google is now adding Google Now push notifications to its iPhone app, which will finally make Google Now useful on Apple’s platform.
Thursday, August 29. 2013
Via Le Monde Blog
C'est une édition du 27 juillet 1970, du magazine américain Newsweek, titrée "La vie privée est-elle morte ?", et repérée par le Daily Beast. Dedans, un article de six pages, qui montre que les inquiétudes soulevées par les révélations sur la surveillance, par l'Agence américaine de la sécurité, des données personnelles des internautes et des communications téléphoniques ne datent pas d'hier. Même, elles apparaissent dès lors comme le dernier rebondissement masquant une tendance plus longue.
En 1970 donc, Newsweek expliquait que "durant les vingt dernières années, les Etats-Unis sont devenus (…) l'un des pays qui espionnent le plus et sont le plus soucieux de ses données dans l'histoire mondiale. Les gros commerçants, les petits commerçants, l'administration fiscale, les institutions de police, les organismes de recensement, les sociologues, les banques, les écoles, les centres médicaux, les patrons, les agences fédérales, les compagnies d'assurance (…), tous cherchent obstinément, stockent et utilisent chaque parcelle d'information qu'ils peuvent trouver sur chacun des 205 millions d'Américains, individus et groupes". Bref, "très bientôt, toute la vie et l'histoire d'une personne va être disponible en un clic sur un ordinateur. On va finir en 1984 avant d'avoir atteint cette année", prévoyait, à cette époque, un juriste américain.
>> Lire la note de Big Browser : "Le scandale de la surveillance des données personnelles booste les ventes de "1984'"
L'article énumère une série d'anecdotes où s'entrechoquent collectes de données pour la sécurité et protection de la vie privée. Par exemple, cette bibliothécaire qui a reçu une visite d'employés de l'IRS, l'agence américaine chargée des impôts, lui demandant de lui fournir les noms des "utilisateurs de matériel militant et subversif" – ouvrage sur les explosifs ou biographie du Che Guevara. Ou ce fichier de l'armée fichant les "potentiels perturbateurs ostensibles de la paix", "en plus des 7 millions de fichiers de routine" sur la loyauté ou le statut criminel des citoyens.
Le chapitre sur les écoutes téléphoniques est tout aussi parlant : les écoutes légales, "prudemment utilisées pendant la seconde guerre mondiale pour pister les espions et les saboteurs, sont devenues une pratique si banale du FBI et de la police à la fin des années 1950 qu'elles étaient menées, dit-on, contre chaque bookmaker du coin". A la suite de l'indignation de certains politiques, "le Congrès a spécifié en 1968 que le département de justice, le FBI et la police ne pouvaient pratiquer la surveillance électronique qu'avec un ordre de justice". Mais le gouvernement fédéral se réserve toujours le droit de faire des écoutes clandestines, sans ordre de justice, dans l'intérêt de la "sécurité nationale", explique Newsweek. Avant de préciser – de manière un peu incongrue, vu d'aujourd'hui : "La méfiance grandissante envers le téléphone représente la seule protection réelle de la vie privée."
En parallèle de ce vaste mouvement de collecte des données, les Américains sont devenus de plus en plus sensibles à leur droit à la protection de leur vie privée, explique l'hebdomadaire. Ce qui n'empêche pas, aujourd'hui, une majorité d'entre eux d'approuver la surveillance des communications téléphoniques, et 62 % d'estimer qu'il est important que le gouvernement fédéral enquête sur d'éventuelles menaces "terroristes", quitte à empiéter sur la vie privée, selon un sondage publié le 10 juin.
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