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posted by cmn32480 on Monday October 12 2015, @08:35PM   Printer-friendly
from the leave-me-alone dept.

A universal do-not-track feature has been advocated by privacy groups after being introduced by the Federal Trade Commission in 2010. But the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – composed of software companies, academics, privacy groups, and others who determine international Web-browsing standards – has long struggled to develop a unified approach for the feature.

The somewhat-arcane debate over Internet tracking has mostly simmered quietly, but now some lawmakers are arguing that a working group the consortium set up to develop the standard has become overly influenced by tech industry concerns, putting those interests ahead of protecting consumers from the possibility of privacy invasion. The group is currently chaired by representatives from Adobe and Intel.

"Unfortunately, the group's composition no longer reflects the broad range of interests and perspectives needed to develop a strong privacy standard," Sen. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts, Sen. Al Franken (D) of Minnesota, and Rep. Joe Barton (R) of Texas wrote in a letter on Wednesday to the consortium. "The 'Do Not Track' standard should empower consumers to stop unwanted collection and use of their personal data. At the same time, the standard should not permit certain companies to evade important consumer protections and engage in anticompetitive practices."

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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by FatPhil on Monday October 12 2015, @10:10PM

    by FatPhil (863) <reversethis-{if.fdsa} {ta} {tnelyos-cp}> on Monday October 12 2015, @10:10PM (#248653) Homepage

    You make a request, they offer you some data which hopefully contains the info you're after. Accompanying that may be other suggested requests.
    It is *entirely of your chosing* whether you act upon those suggestions. If you do so, on your head be it. This may require chosing your browser, and its configuration, with some care.

    However, whilst I'm willing to deconstruct how the internet works in the favour of the websites, and subsequently break the internet in the process, I demand that the websites follow how the internet was designed to work at its lowest level too.

    Namely, I should be permitted to type in, or construct, an arbitrary URL, and if you send me any content when I request it, then that is explicit and unrevocable permission for me to receive that content - because you decided to send it to me. I have not "hacked" you by removing the filename from the end and receiving a directory listing, for example. This requires torching some US legal case history shat out by judges who were clueless under pressure from corporations who had well-paid squads of lethal attack lawyers.
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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Francis on Monday October 12 2015, @10:14PM

    by Francis (5544) on Monday October 12 2015, @10:14PM (#248654)

    That's ridiculous, there is no informed consent here and few sites even bother to disclose where your information is going. These are commercial websites, not websites put up by fans for your benefit. They reserve so many rights that there might as well not be an agreement at all.

    The problem is that they've grown accustomed to all sorts of over reach that now they're going to have to be regulated. They get information from god only knows where and combine it with information from other places unknown and then package that up for sale by 3rd parties. There's no way that any sane person could understand what's being done of the data or what data is being collected.

    Now, if it were a case of a company tracking what people do on their site and using it in ways that relate to the site, people wouldn't be freaking out about it. But, the fact that they're going so invasive is the problem.

    • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Tuesday October 13 2015, @03:44AM

      by bzipitidoo (4388) on Tuesday October 13 2015, @03:44AM (#248730) Journal

      Ideally, this shouldn't even be a question. Instead, our browsers are loaded with all sorts of functionality that is all too easy to use for tracking. If our browsers didn't have such capabilities, then it wouldn't be technically possible to track users, and tracking would not be an issue.

      But I know it's not that easy. There's plenty of legit functionality that needs capabilities which can be turned against us. I don't see any way to have the functionality without tracking.

      I use adblock of course. Also use clean links. I don't use a cookie blocker, but I do periodically remove all cookies. Sometimes I wipe out the hidden directories Flash sets up. I've tried Noscript, but find it a hassle to have to allow scripts all the time. I've also tried blocking at the hosts file level. That works fairly well.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Francis on Tuesday October 13 2015, @04:06AM

        by Francis (5544) on Tuesday October 13 2015, @04:06AM (#248738)

        Which would be fine, except that they're always looking for new and innovative ways of spying. Flash cookies started being used when people started to block the other methods or clear their cache.

        We can block attacks as they are discovered, but the only real solution is to hold website operators accountable for cyber-stalking. This isn't any different than following people around without their consent and recording all their activities. There's no expectation of privacy, but we do have laws against wiretapping and stalking anyways. At this point we've reached the point where something needs to be done before we hit the point where we can't turn back at all.

  • (Score: 2) by Hyperturtle on Tuesday October 13 2015, @01:49PM

    by Hyperturtle (2824) on Tuesday October 13 2015, @01:49PM (#248857)

    If a taxi driver took me to all of these other destinations I didn't ask about, and then took various personally identifiable details from me and shoved ads in my face, I would probably find a way to sue for kidnapping and other complaints...

    Why it is OK on the internet to redirect me to numerous unrelated places (optimizely? ads.anything.fu?)? I never approved that.

    And the fact they can serve viruses and malware and be exploited--and that I never opted to go to these places--why is it that I cannot sue the content provider for connecting me to such places?

    The best we get is a year of free credit monitoring? No, I want you to be liable for your decisions, even if it wasn't your server that was infected. I'll go after the infected advertiser after you -- you, the company I tried to do business with in some way, violated my trust and abused the relationship in an effort to monetize me further, and you didn't even care how it happened as long as you got paid for the ad imprint.

    When I flip through a catalog, I don't expect to get infected by viewing the contents. ALthough I understand that many catalogs (like Ikea) can take you to a web site if you take a photo of certain pages in the catalog. I wonder when things like that, and/or QR codes, simply process in the background via the act of accidentally getting one in a picture you were taking of something else.

    Imagine getting infected at a tourist location because you took a picture or selfie with your family, and some disposable soda cup from a tourist shop there had a QR code or image that your phone processed as a link and visited a site and downloaded malware.

    It doesn't even have to be their cup, someone could just apply stickers or place things in the area to get picked up in photos.

    I recall that at the college near me, someone put leaflets under student's windshield wipers; an advertisement for a rave. Except the QR code was actually a link to malware, and the page itself was just a error page message that distracted from what was happening on the phone. That was years ago, but technology has progressed since then... I wonder how many automatic things happen.

    If facial recognition tech can open a bio on someone, then I imagine the phone doesnt have to display what its downloading to you when you take a picture of anything else.

    It may be that we need to resort to white lists for our phones, not that we are able to really control much of that. Google didn't give away the OS for free because of altruism. The phones we have are not much different than the rings of the Dark Lord, Sauron, but at least we can choose what ring tones we have!

    • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Tuesday October 13 2015, @02:30PM

      by Phoenix666 (552) on Tuesday October 13 2015, @02:30PM (#248892) Journal

      If a taxi driver took me to all of these other destinations I didn't ask about

      Ah, I see you've been to China as well.

      Washington DC delenda est.