Online privacy and security concerns have taken center stage in the last week.
It started with Facebooks's settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) promising that from now on, it will give consumers clear and prominent notice and obtain consumers' express consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established.
"I'm the first to admit that we've made a bunch of mistakes," said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a post on the company's blog. "In particular, I think that a small number of high profile mistakes ... and poor execution as we transitioned our privacy model two years ago, have often overshadowed much of the good work we've done."
If Facebook users are breathing a little easier, smartphone users might have something to worry about. ConsumerAffairs,com reported Wednesday that researchers at North Carolina State University found that some smartphones specifically designed to support the Android mobile platform have incorporated additional features that can be used by hackers to bypass Android’s security features, making them more vulnerable to attack.
The researchers found that HTC’s Legend, EVO 4G and Wildfire S, Motorola’s Droid X andSamsung’s Epic 4G all had significant vulnerabilities – with the EVO 4G displaying the most vulnerabilities.
Meanwhile, London's The Telegraph reported that malware installed on millions of Android phones could be secretly tracking every key stroke, Google search, and text message by their users. The paper reported that an Android app developer in the U.S. has posted a video showing what he claims is conclusive proof that 'Carrier IQ' software installed by manufacturers of many US phones record the way those phone are used in real time, as well as their geographic locations.
Carrier IQ, meanwhile, has claimed that the software only tracks information for the benefit of users, not for any spying purposes.
Congress takes note
Where issues of privacy are concerned, you can expect regulators and lawmakers to take an active interest. On Thursday Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass) made public communications he had with Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos concerning Markey's security concerns about the new Kindle Fire. Markey said he was concerned that Amazon was collecting too much information about consumers who used the e-reader.
“Amazon’s responses to my inquiries do not provide enough detail about how the company intends to use customer information, beyond acknowledging that the company uses this valuable information,” Markey said. “Amazon states ‘Customer information is an important part of our business’, but it is also important for customers to know how the company uses their personal information. Amazon is collecting a massive amount of information about Kindle Fire users, and it has a responsibility to be transparent with its customers. I plan to follow-up with the company for additional answers on this issue.”
Markey said he thinks Bezos is dodging questions about how the informatin will be used. He cited a New York Times story reporting that Amazon could collect and utilize information about its users Kindle Fire Internet surfing and buying habits through the combination of its new tablet and Silk browser, including which items users buy and how much they pay on sites across the Internet.