Craigslist has long maintained that the site is run for the benefit of users, and that making money is a secondary concern at best. To this day, the company boasts that even though it's not a nonprofit, it nonetheless has a "relatively non-commercial nature, public service mission, and non-corporate culture." But for a company with a public service mission, Craigslist takes some pretty questionable positions. In recent months, Craigslist has spent a lot of time trying to shut down other developers who draw on the site's free listings -- even when those developers benefit users.
Privacy advocates Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center are urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook's alliance with Datalogix. The groups today sent a letter to the FTC, questioning whether the Facebook-Datalogix deal violates a consent decree that the agency recently signed with the social networking service. That settlement requires Facebook to obtain people's express consent before sharing their information more broadly than in the past.
A company that allegedly installed spyware on rent-to-own computers has been charged by the Federal Trade Commission with the "unfair gathering and disclosure" of personal information. The company, DesignerWare, enabled some fairly egregious privacy violations, if the allegations are true. Still, the FTC's complaint is notable because it appears to mark the first time the agency has said outright that merely collecting sensitive, personal information can be unfair.
Facebook once again has launched an initiative that's drawing scrutiny from privacy advocates.Facebook once again has launched an initiative that's drawing scrutiny from privacy advocates. The company's latest project, an analytics alliance with Datalogix, is aimed at determining whether online ads affect people's offline purchases. Datalogix has amassed a wealth of information about users' offline purchases from loyalty cards, which themselves are often tied to email addresses. Facebook obviously also has a database of its users' email addresses. The two companies are now going to compare enough information to figure out how many users who view particular ads go on …
One of the most contentious issues surrounding online privacy centers on how much data companies should be able to collect after users say they don't want to be tracked. This week, Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill weighed in on the subject. In a speech delivered at the State of the Net West conference, Brill told ad networks they should spell out why they say they must collect market-research data from consumers who don't want to be tracked.
Advocacy groups are asking the Federal Trade Commission to help settle a debate within the World Wide Web Consortium about the meaning of do-not-track. "The W3C talks have reached a point where a clear statement from the FTC will play a decisive role in reaching consensus," the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog and the Electronic Frontier Foundation say in a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
A long-running legal battle between the Authors Guild and Google won't end any time soon, thanks to a new court ruling. This week, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals granted Google's application to stay proceedings in the trial court while the company appeals an order allowing the authors to bring a class-action. That ruling means that a decision about the central question -- whether Google's ambitious book digitization project is protected by fair-use principles -- might not come for at least one year.
Comcast is moving forward with a new pricing plan that could discourage subscribers from cutting the cord. The company's new model imposes data caps that range from 300 GB to 600 GB, depending on the subscription package. Users who exceed the limits will be charged $10 per 50 GB. Comcast has already started imposing the new caps in Nashville, Tenn., and intends to start rolling them out next month in Tuscon, Ariz.
Google has confirmed that it will soon join Mozilla, Microsoft and Apple in adding a do-not-track setting to its browser, Chrome. With the move, Google is fulfilling a promise it made in February to start offering a browser-based do-not-track setting. Despite the news, the browser-based approach to do-not-track seems to have lost momentum from earlier in the year, when everyone from the Federal Trade Commission to the online ad group Digital Advertising Alliance went on record as supporting the concept.
Faced with the prospect of contempt charges, Twitter today gave a New York City judge information connected with the account of Occupy New York protester Malcolm Harris. But the case is far from over. Twitter is appealing the order requiring it to hand over Harris' information to a higher court. Meanwhile, Criminal Court Justice Matthew Sciarrino Jr. has said he will keep the material sealed until at least next week, when another judge will hear arguments about whether Sciarrino's order was proper, the Village Voice reports.