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What sites such as Facebook and Google know and whom they tell (WP)

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charlesg Donating Member (311 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-29-10 01:17 AM
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What sites such as Facebook and Google know and whom they tell (WP)

What sites such as Facebook and Google know and whom they tell
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, May 29, 2010; A01

When Disa Powell's husband and brother were badly burned in an electrical explosion while conducting maintenance at a Wal-Mart store and the family sued, the defense went after something she never expected: her online life. Through a subpoena seeking information about the men's injuries, Wal-Mart was able to gain full access to her Facebook and MySpace social-networking accounts - every public and private message, contact and photo for the previous 2 1/2 years. There were the pictures of Powell's newborn baby lying in a hospital bed after heart surgery. The messages detailing problems with her pregnancy. And the messages dissing on friends... The case, which was settled out of court in January, offers a window into an issue that in recent weeks has riled members of Congress, consumer advocacy groups and tens of thousands of account holders: what your social-networking sites know about you and whom they share it with.

Many online service providers over the past few years have been building huge dossiers with minute details of each user's online activities -- a practice that isn't usually mentioned in privacy policies. Some companies anonymize the data, while others do not. Some store detailed data for a month, while others keep it for years. At the same time, the ease with which outsiders can access the data is increasing, as corporations, insurance companies and parties in divorces or employment disputes make widespread use of subpoenas. David Hersh, the attorney who represented the Powells and Disa's brother Joel Ledbetter, said such subpoenas have become standard practice in litigation and are "meant to discover information that would be embarrassing or might be used adversely even if it has nothing to do with the claim."

Because your account information is stored on a company's servers, on the "cloud" that is the Internet rather than on your personal laptop, the company owns it, not you. While accessing your laptop may require a difficult-to-obtain search warrant, getting certain data on Facebook, MySpace, Meetup, LinkedIn and other social-networking sites' servers may require only a simple subpoena. "The law in this area is really outdated. It's pre-'www,' " Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said of the 1986 act that was designed to introduce privacy controls to electronic communications. "Back then nobody could even figure out whether an e-mail was more like a letter or a phone call."...

Google has confirmed that it keeps track of search queries sent from a particular IP address. Internal compliance manuals for law enforcement for Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft show that their data collection is much more extensive than users might believe based on what they themselves can access. Microsoft tracks the Xbox LIVE start and end dates and times for game-playing and notes the game played. Yahoo keeps chat and instant messenger logs for 45 to 60 days and notes the time/date and IP address for when content is added or deleted to someone's profile or to its Flickr photo service. Facebook's data collection is among the most detailed. For every user id, Facebook keeps a log of the IP address that accessed the account, the date and time, and what exactly the user did - clicking on an advertisement, looking at someone else's profile, posting a photo or sending a message to a friend... Eben Moglen, a Columbia University law professor, calls Facebook "one big database of hundreds of millions of people containing the kind of information far beyond what the secret police in 20th-century totalitarian regimes had." The company knows which social contacts are closest to you and can guess your moods, he said. And if you're obsessively checking another person's profile at the same time he or she is doing the same with yours, Moglen claims, "Facebook can even tell you're going to have an affair before you do."

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HiFructosePronSyrup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-29-10 01:20 AM
Response to Original message
1. I lay awake at night terrified and unable to sleep...
in the knowledge that some company out there might know my favorite tastes in books and movies and thus might market to me directly.
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Vinnie From Indy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-29-10 05:43 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. I thought you laid at wake at night terrified that some company would
reveal your true purpose posting here at DU. In any event, you have laid down quite a record at DU that might someday be used against you.

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Hydra Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-29-10 01:29 AM
Response to Original message
2. And people wonder why I don't like these services
Why didn't I listen to the extremely paranoid years ago...
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