Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Just trust us...

A couple of stories today to highlight the growing reach of corporations and their seemingly never-ending quest to know everything about you.

First, via a group of privacy experts at Princeton comes news that a security flaw that could allow companies to track a user's web traffic via their battery status is actually being used on the web to actually track your user's web patterns.  Some of this is fairly technical but I highlighted the key components.

"Two security researchers from Princeton University have shown that the battery status indicator really is being used in the wild to track users. By running a specially modified browser, Steve Engelhard and Arvind Narayanan found two tracking scripts that used the API to “fingerprint” a specific device, allowing them to continuously identify it across multiple contexts.

 And while it is only tracking scripts using it now, Olejnik warns that unscrupulous actors could do more.

Some companies may be analyzing the possibility of monetizing the access to battery levels,he writes. “When battery is running low, people might be prone to some – otherwise different – decisions. In such circumstances, users will agree to pay more for a service.”

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Then comes news that Comcast - one of the behemoths of the cable/broadband industry - 
is arguing to the FCC that "charging consumers more money to opt out of "snoopvertising" should be considered a perfectly acceptable business model."

Comcast is arguing that protecting your own privacy should be a paid luxury option, and stopping them from doing so would raise broadband rates.  So in their version of the world if you would like to not have Amazon, Walmart, UnitedHealthcare, Pepsi, etc., not receive a notice of every move you make online you should have to pay more for your broadband access.  If the FCC were to allow this line of thinking I imagine our beloved TimeWarner/Charter would be the next in line to apply this logic to your monthly bill.

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Finally, this story on our favorite little vampire squid - Goldman Sachs - who agreed to pay a whopping $36 million fine for leaking confidential Federal Reserve information to clients.  This begs the questions

a) Um, why the **** does Goldman Sachs have "access to confidential Federal Reserve" information?

b) How much incremental business and revenue was derived by Goldman by leaking this information?

However, I'm sure hitting them with a fine of 0.1% of revenues or roughly 5 large bonuses will really teach them a lesson.

Cheers!

I'll have some thoughts on an increasingly dangerous set up we are facing in the global markets soon.

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