Archives November 20, 2019

Most Americans Think They’re Being Constantly Tracked, Study Finds

More than 60% of Americans think it’s impossible to go through daily life without being tracked by companies or the government, according to a new Pew Research study. It’s not just that Americans (correctly) think companies are collecting their data. They don’t like it. About 69% of Americans are skeptical that companies will use their private information in a way they’re comfortable with, while 79% don’t believe that companies will come clean if they misuse the information. When it comes to who they trust, there are differences by race. About 73% of black Americans, for instance, are at least a little worried about what law enforcement knows about them, compared with 56% of white Americans. But among all respondents, more than 80% were concerned about what social-media sites and advertisers might know. Despite these concerns, more than 80% of Americans feel they have no control over how their information is collected.

Facebook, Google Donate Heavily To Privacy Advocacy Groups

Few companies have more riding on proposed privacy legislation than Alphabet’s Google and Facebook. To try to steer the bill their way, the giant advertising technology companies spend millions of dollars to lobby each year, a fact confirmed by government filings. Not so well-documented is spending to support highly influential think tanks and public interest groups that are helping shape the privacy debate, ostensibly as independent observers. Bloomberg Law examined seven prominent nonprofit think tanks that work on privacy issues that received a total of $1.5 million over a 18-month period ending Dec. 31, 2018. The groups included such organizations as the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Future of Privacy Forum and the Brookings Institution. The actual total is undoubtedly much higher — exact totals for contributions were difficult to pin down. The tech giants have “funded scores of nonprofits, including consumer and privacy groups, and academics,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director at the Center for Digital Democracy, a public interest group that does not accept donations from Google or Facebook. Further, he says, their influence is strong. The companies have “opposed federal privacy laws and worked to weaken existing safeguards,” Chester said. Accepting donations from these “privacy-killing companies enable them to influence decisions by nonprofits, even subtly,” he said.

College Students Say Ditching Their Smartphones For a Week Changed Their Lives

It was part of a college course intended to break the powerful addiction of smartphones… an Adelphi University course called “Life Unplugged” where students did the unthinkable one week ago — handed over their smartphones. “I’m freaking out, I could probably cry right now,” one student said. It was a bold experiment to recognize today’s compulsive relationships with ever present devices. Seven days later, “who’s excited they’re getting their phones back today?” Professor Donna Freitas asked.

Gone were the nerves and the shakes. “Everything is perfect right now. I’m having a lot better relationships… it’s a stress free environment no pressure about social media,” Jacob Dannenberg said.

“I think it’s really refreshing and relaxing… I was able to fall asleep a lot easier,” student Adrianna Cigliano.

They managed to find their way, even without GPS for a week. “I just had to take the same route everywhere,” one student joked. They were also more productive. “Doing homework was 100 percent easier. I got it done faster, I was in the zone,” Cigliano said.

Prof. Freitas says it’s important for everyone to assess their addiction. “Are the conveniences worth it because the drawback are pretty significant,” Freitas said. “The face that no one can focus, that my students can’t sleep… They feel bad about themselves because of social media, the list goes on and on.”

Nearly Half of Parents Worry Their Child Is Addicted To Mobile Devices, Study Finds

According to a new survey from Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey, 47% of parents worry their child is addicted to their mobile device. By comparison, only 32% of parents say they’re addicted themselves. USA Today reports: Half of parents also say they are at least somewhat concerned about how mobile devices will affect their kids’ mental health. Nearly one in five say they’re “extremely” or “very” concerned. According to the survey, 89% of parents believe it’s up to them to curb their children’s smartphone usage. The survey conducted between Jan. 25 and Jan. 29 included a sample of 4,201 adults, including 1,024 parents with children under age 18. Data was weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the U.S. for adults over 18, based on Census data. Many devices and services feature parental controls, but some parents may not be aware they exist. The Common Sense-SurveyMonkey survey found 22% of parents did not know YouTube — which has faced scrutiny over how easy it is for kids to find inappropriate videos — offered parental controls. Also, 37% have not used the controls before. Among parents surveyed who say their kids watch YouTube videos, 62% said their kids have seen inappropriate videos on the site. Most, or 81%, said it’s the parents’ job to prevent kids from seeing these videos.