Information Privacy-Are You Really Secure?

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Information privacy has been an issue since the dawn of internet companies. Some are open about what they do and do not do, other’s are not. In this era of being one click away from services that would take hours to set up, I look at one of the biggest online companies and what they make private for their users: Uber.

Uber’s privacy policy is actually very easy to find. It is the top three searches on any standard search engine and takes any curious onlooker right to where they need to be. For this post I will focus on the riders’ privacy policy, as there is a separate one for divers’. The latter will obviously much more intense and open since it is the companies employees so I will take a look at how they handle their customers’ information.

The policy concerns all aspects of Uber, including their new food delivery service. They are clear that they can be charged if are caught doing anything else not mentioned in the policy and give locations and contacts for their headquarters in the United States, Europe, and for some reason only Argentina (Uber, 2018 (updated)). While they collect background checks on any potential drivers, if you use Uber they spell out in the policy they collect everything in your user profile, email, phone, feedback, and even banking and Social Security information when money transactions go through (Uber, 2018 (updated)). The biggest thing, however, is what a user’s history and location. Uber is able to look at the previous services someone has ordered and even keep their location tracked five minutes after they get out (Uber, 2018 (updated)). This feature can be turned off but tragically a user is going to have take agonizing time to put in the address they want to be picked up/dropped off MANUALLY. So, Uber recommends not to, to save you the hard labor.

Not surprisingly, many people took notice and not kindly to this newest update, as this rule was applied as recent as the late 2000s. People of the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a lawsuit against Uber in 2015 stating that this new rule is unethical and does not follow the FCC standards (CBS News, 2016). The FCC states that communication companies cannot save a recipient’s information like that, but in a smartphone era, those same rules don’t apply anymore (CBS News, 2016). They have yet to start an investigation.

Even though the only company that can control Uber is not taking action, the controversial new policy took its toll on the driving service. That’s why as of 2017, Uber lightened it significantly to provide a much more transparent lense for a rider (Conger, 2017). The company will no longer track as many people once they leave their ride (including police enforcement, opposing journalists, and LYFT users), as well as provide an option to turn off this feature on the app, forced to type in so many numbers for an address (Conger, 2017). This update can be seen in the privacy policy I described earlier, being much clearer in what they are doing. They still take and store almost all of your info from your phone, but now they tell you about it.

In a as non-biased as I can be point of view, I see how there could be an advantage to all this tracking. Companies rely on demographic data. They want to know who they’re servicing and how they can adjust their service to be better for the types of people. As for the location tracking, I can see it as a way to where people are dropped off the most and plan their drivers accordingly, heavier in more populated areas, lighter in others, etc…

However, the disadvantage is a company is tracking where you are for five minutes after you leave. And considering they were doing this substantially on opposing businesses. people who disagreed with them, and literal cops, the possibilities for shady stuff to go down in the San Fran headquarters is limitless. I’ll be honest, I never liked Uber. It creeps me out and at least Lyft started much more upfront then Uber did. So while I see why they could want to track (or what they could argue in court), the disadvantage outweighs the advantage by a lot.

 

Sources

Uber (2018)(updated). Rider Privacy Policy from https://privacy.uber.com/policy/

Kate Conger (2017). Uber is Getting a New Privacy Policy from https://gizmodo.com/uber-is-getting-a-new-privacy-policy-1818620713

CBS News (2016). Uber’s new tracking policy: An Improvement or just “invasive?” from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/uber-location-track-riders-five-minutes-after-ride-privacy-concerns/

 

Copyright: It’s Covers More Than You Think

In the world of online bootlegs, the ability to download music and movies, and even desire to get tattoos of famous cartoons, copyright and copyright infringement is in everyone’s minds but no one really knows what it means. Sure you have your copying of ideas, songs, pictures, and so forth but there is a strange side to the copyright laws that are %100 true and %100 legal.

Hugh Stephens, well known blogger about copyright, shares a story last June on his personal page about how far these laws actually go. In Toronto, the couple Jason and Jodi Chapnick, living in a quiet suburb, decided to hire contractor Gordon Ridgely. He completely redid their property into a sleek but vintage style that was utterly original and based on his own personal schematics (Stephens, 2018). A few months after, however, another couple decided to remodel their own home as well. The Chapnicks took notice that this other house looked eerily similar to their own redone ideas. After claims of the second couple taking pictures of the Chapnicks’ home before their personal house renovations,  Jodi and Jason demanded that the second couple change any remodeling done on the other home. The second couple refused. And so the Chapnicks filed a copyright infringement claim because Ridgely made the schematics for their house and no one else (Stephens, 2018). You heard right folks, homeowners can take someone to court over too similar home renovations. And they are allowed to do so.

Now, in any case, this would be settled fairly quickly. If you look at any suburban villages that popped up in the 1950s, they would seem to be a real life equivalent of hitting copy and paste (Stephens, 2018). The thing is though, is that many of those early settlements were all done by the same contractor. And with Ridgely dying in 2013, the second couple had to find another contractor, hence why Ridgely’s original schematics could be copyrighted and ergo “stolen” by another home contractor (Stephens, 2018). In the end, the matter was settled out of the court, but speculation has risen that the second couple had to make changes to their home and pay the Chapnicks some amount of money (Stephens, 2018). This is but one of hundreds of claims of copyright infringement for physical buildings. Battles for tennis courts, soccer fields, schools, office buildings, even bathrooms have popped up for years across the world (Stephens, 2018). If someone built a toilet too similar to another company’s design, they can get sued.

If you haven’t noticed from my tone, I find this whole ordeal very ridiculous. But, this shows what and how copyright laws really do work. It is not just about movies or songs or art  being shared without paying or being passed off as another person’s creation. Any creative idea that is then put out into the world and gotten some kind of copyright protection can be stolen, copied, or imitated. And any imitations can be taken to legal action. Now why exactly have you not been sued by tattooing Spongebob to your left calf or don’t need to call up a lawyer because your Johnlock fanfiction got struck for infringement? Because the creator won’t. They don’t care, so they don’t file a claim. All of us are breaking copyright laws every day of our lives. There is no action, however, until the original creator decides for action. Learning about copyright has made me more savvy of it, but also realize that laws, especially ones about figurative concepts and ideas, can be broken but not cared about. The digital equivalent of jaywalking.

Hugh Stephens (2018, June 18). So You Admire Your Neighbor’s House? Best Not to Copy the Design. Accessed September 23, 2018 from https://hughstephensblog.net/2018/06/18/so-you-admire-your-neighbours-house-best-not-to-copy-the-design/

 

 

Digital Wellness

In this society of countless social media platforms, there is an ongoing trend that humans are becoming too addicted to our phones, the internet, and overall everything inside the digital world instead of outside. The Washington Post article describes this compulsion as B.F. Skinner’s pigeons, pecking for possible rewards that soon become obsessive, and delve into ways many new programmers have been combating it (Wan, 2018). Nick Fitz, a researcher of behavior of humans at Duke University, has teamed up with a branch of programmers to find how and why people become addicted to social media and the ways in which he can combat it.
Being a digital citizen online means becoming a reasonable citizen online. Much like we cannot fully engage in the outside world for hours on end, we cannot do the same online. The wellness comes from balance, which is what Fitz is trying to accomplish. After running psychological studies, Fitz realized that two results surfaced after completely cutting his participants of phone notifications. One, their stress levels decreased, and two, their anxiety increased because of the fear of missing important news, emails, text, or not being there when a huge story or mind blowing video is posted (Wan, 2018). In this technology world we now live in, we cannot be cut off from either. With work, school, and social groups interconnected, a digital citizen must be updated on their digital world without getting lost to it. Fitz’s solutions are the same ideas as beating fire with fire, creating apps that countdown how much time a person has or how a tree is slowly dying whenever a person is on their phone for too long (Wan, 2018). The user can now be online, but has a countdown and sense of dread to eventually get off it.
In my opinion, the resource relaying these new methods is thorough and shows the process in which Nick Fitz came to this. The methods themselves, however, I have a problem with. By showing a user their own mortality or have them feel responsible for the deaths of trees, this produces more anxiety which is not healthy, especially for a citizen who has a lot of connections to the digital realm. Better alternatives would be offer rewards for being offline, such as points for a gift card or coupons. That way, the new balance that the citizen has made actually goes into a better digital wellness. With Fitz’s method, being on and away creates anxiety. For wellness to be well, being on and away should create peace.
Rebel developers are trying to cure our smartphone addiction — with an app (2018, June 17). William Wan. Retrieved September 1st, 2018 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/rebel-developers-are-trying-to-cure-our-smartphone-addiction–with-an-app/2018/06/17/153e2282-6a81-11e8-bea7-c8eb28bc52b1_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.efccc9477677