Any search engine can quickly reveal your phone number, address and family information with a surprising level of detail.
Why it matters: This information, combined with social media posts, can be used by anyone to intimidate, harass, or stalk high-visibility people like politicians, business leaders, celebrities and journalists.
Democratic senators involved in a key bipartisan working group left a Wednesday evening meeting with little to say about whether they were making progress on a national privacy bill Republicans hope will preempt state measures.
Why it matters: There is a unique convergence of forces behind privacy regulation. If the U.S. is ever going to pass a federal privacy law, the time might be now — and that's brought a wide array of stakeholders out of the woodwork to give advice.
Consumers consistently say they want more privacy, but they don't do much about it.
Why it matters: That's the contradiction buried within the privacy debate. Survey after survey suggest that consumers care about preserving whatever privacy they have left — but few actually take steps to share less or delete the troves of data being collected about them online.
The Federal Trade Commission has issued orders to 7 U.S. broadband providers, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Comcast and Google Fiber, demanding they hand over information about their privacy practices and how they monetize consumer data — including those practices the companies have chosen to keep under wraps.
Details: The FTC wants to know what kind of personal information these companies are collecting from users and how they're using that data, including whether they are sharing it with third parties. The FTC has requested the companies also share whether consumers have a choice in the collection and use of their data and whether users who opt-out of collection are punished.
For years, Facebook has been storing hundreds of millions of users’ passwords exposed in plain text in an internal database that is searchable by tens of thousands employees, Brian Krebs of KrebsOnSecurity reports.
Why it matters: Although Facebook says it has no evidence that the database was abused by employees, this is just the latest example in a string of controversies over the company's handling of users’ information and privacy. In the last few months alone, Facebook has come under fire for sharing user data — including private messages — with other businesses and allowing users to be looked up by their phone numbers.
Every mile, every block, every inch of pavement driven by a Tesla vehicle generates a trove of information that can reveal as much about you as about your car.
Why it matters: Tesla is more of a tech company than a car company. And because data is critical to self-driving cars, it has designed its vehicles from the outset to be sophisticated rolling computers. As all cars get smarter and more automated, the data they collect will unlock new conveniences for drivers — but also new privacy concerns.
For all the many controversies around Facebook's mishandling of personal data, Google actually knows way more about most of us.
The bottom line: Just how much Google knows depends to some degree on your privacy settings — and to a larger degree on which devices, products and services you use.
The grand bargain of the digital age, in which consumers have traded their data for free services, is coming apart. And it may be too late to regain control of the personal data that's been bought, sold and leaked all over the web for the past three decades.
Why it matters: If information is power, our lackadaisical approach to safeguarding details about our lives has made a handful of companies more powerful than we ever expected, and it's made consumers more vulnerable than ever.
Privacy policies have been the standard approach to online privacy for the entire existence of the commercial internet. Now key Democrats are souring on them.
Why it matters: Moving away from relying on the so-called "notice and consent" requirements would be a sea change for users and could put the United States at odds with Europe's sweeping privacy regulation.
Cellphone numbers have become a primary way for tech companies like Facebook to uniquely identify users and secure accounts, in some ways becoming a proxy for a national ID.
Why it matters: That over-reliance on cellphone numbers ironically makes them a less effective and secure authentication method. And the more valuable the phone number becomes as an identifier, the less willing people will be to share it for communication.