When their ‘Privacy Policy’ sucks. What do you do?

Image, courtesy Michael Geiger on Unsplash

Let’s see what you make of this privacy statement. You’ve probably clicked on hundreds of similar ones and never cared to read them. Beware! Many companies count on you doing just that, so they pack all kinds of double-speak into it. You’re basically giving away the farm, and provide them with a legal defense to spy on you.

When you visit our websites, use our apps, read our emails or otherwise engage with us, we may automatically collect certain information about your device through a variety of technologies, including cookies, web beacons, log files, embedded scripts, location-identifying technologies, or other tracking/recording tools (collectively, “Tracking Technologies”), and we may combine this information with other personal information we collect about you.

Do most of us know – or care – about ‘web beacons’ or scripts? Here’s how Wikipedia authors define a web beacon:

“It is software used “to unobtrusively (usually invisibly) allow checking that a user has accessed some content.[1] Web beacons are typically used by third parties to monitor the activity of users at a website for the purpose of web analytics or page tagging.[2] They can also be used for email tracking.[3

Basically spyware we agree to have on our devices. Consider this statement: “With your permission, we may also access your photo or camera roll.” Wow! Those plots in espionage movies about someone remotely turning on a camera or accessing images from a phone’s camera folder isn’t the stuff of dystopian fiction, is it?

As always, it starts with an innocuous statement.

I was a bit shocked to see that the privacy policy in question went on to state that “We take your privacy as seriously as you do, and we are committed to protecting it.” In other words, they do want to secure our privacy; we have the right to opt-out of certain data being collected. But……If we object to any of the changes to the policy, we “must cease using our Products and/or Services, and may request us to erase your personal information.” Which is neither here nor there.

There’s only one cure for this invasion of privacy disease. Delete the app, for heaven’s sake. It’s not really free.


The above excerpt of a Privacy Policy is from a company whose app I used when my daughter began driving. It’s a terrible surveillance tool. The company will not be named but you probably know who it is.

Healthcare, now a social, not private affair!

Time was when someone would keep his/her healthcare concerns under the hood, so to speak. A health complication would be kept within the family; the unwritten doctor-patient privacy act was upheld.

Now? We seem to be ready to blab more about it. or, to put it another way, patients are more than ready to take to social media to discuss health-related issues in the open. Some examples

This latest report by PwC recognizes this, and gives you a more granular look at how the private concerns of those seeking healthcare have become closely intertwined with their social media behavior.

For example:

  • Nearly a quarter of people in the US (24%) post something about their healthcare experience.
  • 16 % share health-related videos and images!

It gets more interesting, in the face of concerns about invasion of privacy and health information.

  • Some 30% of people are willing to share their health-elated information with other patients, using social channels.
  • Also, 80% of 18-24 year-olds are likely to share health information through social media. 80 percent! You could find out more here at the PwC site.

This ought to have huge implications for healthcare companies, and even medical practitioners who have been concerned that their connecting with patients could run afoul with health information privacy, or HIPAA, laws. Physicians have been behind the curve. Sermo, their online community, has just 130,000 users, but one study found that while 87% of physicians use at least one social media site at a personal level, only 67% are using at least one site for professional reasons.

Egg on its Facebook, why doesn’t Zuckerberg learn?

The moment I heard Mark Zuckerberg say things like “When people have control over what they share, they are comfortable sharing more,” I knew that (a) I had heard it before and (b) this was a desperate to distance Facebook from the keyword “privacy” to the other seven-letter keyword, “sharing.”

He has said that “The key here is that we always listen to what people say and the data.”
: “we are always being forced to respond to react to the outcry.”

In his state of the backlash address yesterday (video) he spoke of his belief in a more connected, world powered by sharing. Hard to fault him on that.

But you can sense that this 26 year old idealistic web visionary  (who was only nine years old when the first Web browser arrived on the scene) has not quite understood the true human motivations that make his application so popular. He and his team may have a critical feel for the market forces they are engaging, but they are constantly misjudging the people who populate Facebook.

  • Check some earlier problems here (the EU was upset then)
  • And here (remember Beacon?) and here.

Almost every Facebook user I speak to (friends, clients and colleagues) admit they have no clue as to how to tweak the convoluted privacy filter settings.

Three years ago a security firm, Sophos, warned of how too much sharing would backfire. They did that again last year. They found that the sharing gene in people lets them give away too much information.

By invoking what he called the “simple master switch” Zuckerberg is trying to woo users by saying that they will be more in control. He has also said that:

“The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work.”

Where have I heard this before?

Zuckerberg didn’t say it yesterday. He said this in February 2009!

Quotes for the week ending 8th May, 2010

“In the Future, we’ll all have 15 minutes of privacy.”

Scott Monty, head of social media for Ford, on a post about Facebook’s latest move to connect to the rest of the web

“No one is laughing in Arizona. Do your job and secure the border.”

Governor Jan Brewer, in a YouTube video aimed at president Obama, who made a joke about the immigration Bill that Brewer signed into law.

“A lot of great stories are hidden within the public”

Manesh Nesaratnam, Malaysian film director of a movie, Your Grandfather’s Road, which is being crowd-sourced.

“That QR code on the left will even take your smartphone to my Twitter feed. And if you really liked this story, you can re-Tweet too.”

Kit Keaton, whose column in Fast Company, features this Quick Response code.

“A nastygram.”

Shel Holtz, referring to the letter Apple, which sent a nine-year-old girl a cease-and-desist letter after she suggested enhancements to the iPod.

“You gotta give him credit for his media manipulation skills.”

Pat Elliot, commenting on a post I wrote for ValleyPRBlog, about the value Sheriff Joe Arpaio holding a press conference to announce he is NOT running for governor.

We are heartened by news reports that J.S.Tissainayagam appears to have been pardoned…”

CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) in a statement on the presidential pardon for journalist J. S. Tissanayagam in Sri Lanka

Quotes for the week ending 23 Jan, 2010

“We’ve got the Internet here at Signal, and it’s been a miracle that we’ve been able to stay on air … “Don’t ask me how we’ve managed to do that.”

Mario Viau, station director at SignalFM, in Port-au-Prince, which has been on the air and online since the earthquake struck..

“Because this is just a dirge. I’m ready to shut it off. And I’m sure there’s plenty other about to do the same.

Anonymous commenter on the Rolling Stone blog that live blogged the Hope For Haiti Now telethon. He went on to say that Live Aid “existed to raise money for a terrible epidemic. But the performances were more like a giant party. People were interested, and it was a huge success. This sad telethon will be immediately forgotten. And that’s a shame. Wasted opportunity.”

“Good attitude Mr. Anonymous. With a mindset like that nothing will ever happen.”

Someone going by the name of Jeff, responding to the above poster.

“We are experiencing an outage due to an extremely high number of whales.”

Message on the Twitter web site, supposedly after Haiti suffered aftershocks on Wednesday.

“It puts into the public domain every bit of information collected by public bodies that is not personal or sensitive, from alcohol-attributable mortality to years of life lost through TB. Happily, not all the data sets deal with death.”

Editorial in the Guardian, on the launch of new website, data.gov.uk, which Tim Berners Lee ( and professor Nigel Shadbolt) served as advisors, on the request of Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

“News Corp. needs Google more than Google needs News Corp.”

Greg Patterson, attorney at Espresso Pundit, in Mike Sunnucks’s story on the battle eating up over the Fair Use Doctrine

“Yet, honest Abe and HAL9000, both had one thing in common. They conveniently applied a Heuristic theory as they were, in fact, the only one calling the shots.”

Steven Lowell, PR Manager, Voice 123, on why failure, and the ‘Heuristic Algorithm’ is a bad long-term solution.