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Tom Owad over at Applefritter.com presents an interesting look at privacy, data mining, and Amazon.com wish lists in an article entitled Data Mining 101: Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists.
The article, while technical, shows the frightening and fascinating results of a small-scale data mining operation. Using public domain tools and without violating the Amazon terms of service, Mr. Owad was able to collect and correlate the addresses and potential reading interests of hundreds of persons. This article is sobering and--without hyperbole--a must read.
mdoneil writes "I had a nice sandwich from Subway this evening. They gave me a game piece for some promotion. I scratched the thing off and then went to the website as instructed to see if I won.
I never got around to entering the code number as I was offended by the data they wanted before I could find out if I won. Name and Address, well I guess that is OK, but birthdate... before I could even check to see if I won!
The scary thing is the sheeple will fill this out hoping they win a free sandwich. We wonder why we have privacy anympre, because we freely give it away that's why.
I like Subway, but this stuff annoys me."
My impression is that this that circulation records wouldn't show if people used a pc-based newsreader instead of a public web-based one like Bloglines.
It's also important to let any outraged people know that this isn't the fault of the libraries because it is the patrons who sign up for Library Elf accounts.
There is now another version of this story about a Dartmouth student who received a visit from Homeland Security after requesting an original version of Mao's Little Red Book. The latest version takes place at University of California/Santa Cruz and mentions History Professor Bruce Levine. I emailed Levine to see if he could verify the story, but my email was the first he'd heard about it. He was a bit amused, as his specialty is Civil War history, and curious about his name got tacked on to the story. ALA's Public Information Office is digging into the story as well. More details as they become available!
Update: 12/19 22:45 GMT by R :Jessamyn contacted the reporter of the original, Dartmouth story, and he's trying to confirm what he heard from the sources. What's clear is that the UCSC version of the story is a total rip-off of the Dartmouth story. Here's a cached page explaining that the UCSC story was bogus, and removed at the request of one of the professors mentioned in the story.
Anonymous Patron writes "PCWorld.com: With identity thieves targeting big consumer databases, your data isn't just up for sale--it could be up for grabs.
Information brokers gather incredible amounts of personal data--not just credit details--from many different sources, including private companies and government agencies; then they sell it to businesses, to law enforcement, or to anyone who can demonstrate a need that the brokers consider legitimate. The laws limiting what information can be sold and who can receive it are weak and narrowly focused, so for the most part each broker is free to formulate its own standards."
Anonymous Patron writes "Columbia Spectator: A harmless act of procrastination by a Queens College law student inadvertently uncovered what has become a massive headache for hundreds of City University of New York students, employees, and affiliates.
The university rushed to inform CUNY students last week that a security foul-up had compromised their confidential information."
Anonymous Patron writes "Italy recently passed a law that requires operators of Internet cafes to record and photocopy IDs and passports of anyone who logs on the net in an Internet Cafe. Can such a law be far behind in the US, and applied to libraries, in another future itertion of the Patriot Act? Read this USA Today story here:
Want to check your e-mail in Italy? Bring your passport"
Anonymous Patron writes "One From The San Fransisco Chronicle says that contrary to appearances, there has probably not been an increase in security breaches.
Instead, there has been more disclosure, precipitated by the same California law that forced ChoicePoint to come clean, they said.
"I think there have always been as many security breaches as we've seen in the last few months," said Beth Givens, founder and director of the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Deigo. "The California security- breach notice law has increased the visibility of those breaches.""
Anonymous Patron writes "Tampa Bay Online has a good report on our digital footprints. Companies track these trails for patterns and preferences. The digital footprints can be collected into profiles, or dossiers, so companies can pitch additional products or target advertising to customers.
As a result, government regulators, consumers and the companies offering the high- tech services are beginning to wrestle with how such digital histories will - or should be - stored and sold.
Of course, the government ain't much better, as The Palm Beach Post reports Federal agencies are using data brokers such as Seisint Inc. and ChoicePoint Inc. as a major investigative tool, despite concerns by some activists and lawmakers that the practice sidesteps a long-standing privacy law."
Pete writes "The Register, interesting as always, has this to say about databases and privacy, "Misuse of database information by insiders happens everyday, and there's little we can do about it.Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodies?What's bothering me now? It's the security and privacy stories that don't make major headlines, and recently I stumbled across two that stuck with me. The first only came my way when the Drudge Report picked it up. A woman in Florida wrote some rather unflattering remarks about a local sheriff in the newspaper. She was then caught off guard after receiving a letter at home from the sheriff himself, using her full name. Inquiries from reporters revealed the fact that the sheriff and his staff had used Florida's driving records system to access personal information about the lady after seeing the letter in the newspaper."To find out the other incident you'll have to read on..."