Mobile portable public toilet WiFi provider Purple recently added a “Community Service Clause” to its usual terms and conditions for wireless service:

The user may be required, at Purple’s discretion, to carry out 1,000 hours of community service. This may include the following:

  • Cleansing local parks of animal waste
  • Providing hugs to stray cats and dogs
  • Manually relieving sewer blockages
  • Cleaning portable lavatories at local festivals and events
  • Painting snail shells to brighten up their existence
  • Scraping chewing gum off the streets

More than 22,000 people accepted these terms during Purple’s two-week-long T&C gambit, with only one attentive person claiming the prize Purple offered to anyone who noticed this silliness. Purple conducted this experiment “to highlight the lack of consumer awareness when signing up to use free WiFi.” Winners include snails, local parks, sewer lines, and stray dogs and cats, now the potential beneficiaries of up to 22 million community service hours.  The clear loser? Those. Who. Don’t. Read. Notices.    Continue Reading Reading privacy policies to avoid surrendering your firstborn child

Ship engine trottle, full speed aheadNews reports today indicate that Verizon is pushing ahead with its purchase of Yahoo’s core internet business, despite Yahoo’s massive data breaches.  Yahoo suffered a breach of 500 million user accounts in 2014, on the heels of a one billion account compromise in 2013 (names, telephone numbers, birth dates, passwords, and security questions), reputedly the largest data breach in history.

Speculation swirled for months about whether Verizon would simply walk away from the deal, originally set at $4.83 billion, or would proceed with a drastically reduced acquisition price.  And the result, as of today’s announcement?  Full speed ahead, after lowering the purchase price by $350 million.

Verizon will gain personal data on Yahoo’s over one billion users, which will no doubt boost its digital media and targeted advertising revenues, and the deal will help Verizon expand beyond the crowded market for wireless services.  So, the value of user information is not in doubt.  But what about the value of privacy?

$350 million is a lot of money.  And apparently Verizon and Yahoo will share certain costs related to governmental investigations and breach litigation, with Yahoo remaining on the line for SEC and shareholder litigation fallout.  But still, the results of simple division are stark – $350 million against up to 1.5 billion affected persons … yielding 23 cents. Continue Reading What’s our privacy worth? According to the Verizon/Yahoo deal, about 23 cents.

television addict man watching tv holding remote control mesmerizedOn Monday the Federal Trade Commission announced a $2.2 million settlement with VISIO, one of the world’s leading providers of smart TVs.  The deal settles charges by the FTC and New Jersey’s Attorney General that VISIO collected data from 11 million consumer TVs, without consumers’ knowledge or consent.  According to the complaint, the secretly collected data included second-by-second viewing data and IP addresses, to which data aggregators added demographic information, including age, sex, income, marital status, household size, education, home ownership, and household value – a covert data cornucopia, tailor-made for targeted advertising.

But in her concurring opinion, Acting Chair Maureen Ohlhausen (recently appointed by President Trump to lead the FTC) signaled a retreat from FTC enforcement based on unfair practices.

So, while we’re watching our TVs, and our TVs are “watching” us, who’s watching out for our privacy & security interests with the Internet of Things?

Continue Reading Me, my TV, IoT, and the FTC – who’s watching whom?