Privacy Settings – Careful Using US-Based Companies

The EU considers US surveillance a “grave threat” to EU sovereignty. Rightfully so, as all data stored in public US clouds is subject to mass surveillance by US authorities. The EU considers personal privacy a fundamental right of any European citizen, which is obviously incompatible with warrantless mass-surveillance (FISA), as recently reauthorized for another 5 years by US President Obama.

This is particular problematic for non-US citizen living outside the US, because they are not protected by the search and seizure 4th Amendment of the US constitution. The US government can easily request your data from any US company doing business within the EU (Google/Facebook) and EU privacy laws will not protect you.

Google’s statistics about government requests for personal data show a steady increase of such requests over time. The US government made the most requests (8438) followed by India (2431) in the last 6 months, clearly indicating a need for control and oversight to prevent abuse. The picture looks even worse for the US if you calculate request per capita, making one wonder why the US government is so afraid of its own citizens?

Facebook Privacy – It is too complicated!

If you’ve read our posts before you probably know I am not a big fan of Facebook. In my opinion Facebook is the antithesis to privacy – period.

The social media giant recently released its newest feature “Graph Search,” its latest search engine. While Facebook claims strong privacy protection sample search results were a lot more revealing than most people would be comfortable with, i.e. searching for “Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran, Iran” where homosexuality is illegal. Of course this is an extreme example, however, it should make you think twice about what information to share using social media.

I had another look at Facebook’s privacy settings and I am sorry to say I don’t undertand how exactly to protect my information or how my information will be used based on my settings. Sharing is great, but for me protecting my privacy is more important and I am not willing to spend hours learning how to do that on just one website. Not surprisingly the industry (Google/Facebook) is pushing back against tougher privacy protection in the EU citing the usual suspects like stifling innovation and harming businesses.

Unfortunately even the best privacy setting won’t protect you if companies choose to illegally circumvent them; Google is being sued in the UK for doing just that. Even companies not commonly associated with such breach of privacy protection have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, see Delta Airlines…

Then there is always Kim Dotcom who wants to encrypt the Internet. Maybe he is on to something…

Image Credit: Abode of Chaos

Leave a comment