News & Events

Change Your World DC 2012

By BHRP

The Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Program hosted Change Your World DC 2012 at The Newseum in Washington, DC on Friday, May 18, 2012.  CYW focused on how women are using technology, the Internet and social media to create positive change in the world, with an emphasis on governance, policy, media for social change, technology for development and using social media to address women’s health and reproductive policy.

See videos of the event here.

Learn more about our Change Your World series here or follow us on Twitter @YahooBHRP #YahooCYW.

2011 Vancouver Human Rights Lecture

By BHRP

Vancouver Human Rights LectureThe Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Program is proud to be a co-sponsor, together with The Laurier Institution, the University of British Columbia Continuing Studies and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, of the 2011 Vancouver Human Rights Lecture.  This year’s speaker will be Ethan Zuckerman whose lecture is titled “Cute Cats and the Arab Spring: When Social Media Meet Social Change“. The lecture will  be held on Sunday November 20th 2011, at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Vancouver, BC, Canada. For tickets, please visit here.

Cute Cats and the Arab Spring: When Social Media Meet Social Change”

Activists around the world are turning to social media tools usually used for more pedestrian purposes: the sharing of family videos and videos of cats flushing toilets. But these tools can be extremely powerful in the hands of activists, as they are pervasive, easy to use and difficult for governments to censor. Ethan Zuckerman will look at “the cute cat theory” of internet activism, as it helps explain the Arab Spring protests, aggressive internet censorship in countries like China and Vietnam, and the challenges for the corporate owners of social media platforms in an era of online speech.

Really? Half of Young People Not That Upset By Hacking Of Their Facebook and E-mail Accounts

By Nicole

Flickr Creative Commons| Random Men- 35|By Kashimir Hill| Forbes.com| Oct 12, 2011|

There’s constant debate over whether young people today care less about privacy. Certainly, they live more public lives, thanks to growing up on the Internet where starting a Facebook account is the equivalent of hitting digital puberty. Being out in the world in new ways increases the types of privacy violations that can occur for these “digital natives.” Last week, I mentioned briefly a poll from MTV and the Associated Press that found that a third of young people aged 14-24 reported that someone had logged into their Facebook, Twitter, or email account to impersonate them or spy on them. That may be shocking in and of itself, but what’s more surprising to me is that a good number of them said this didn’t upset them…

The poll, conducted in August, included 1,355 young’uns, three quarter of whom say they log onto the Internet several times a day. (Shockingly, three percent of those polled said they “never” use the Internet.) Approximately 285 of the kiddies said that they had been spied on by someone who logged into their email, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or “other” account.

The pollsters then asked how upset this made them. Approximately 43 of them said they “weren’t upset at all.” Another 100 said it made them “a little upset.” Less than half of these surveilled social networkers said they were very upset or extremely upset over someone logging into their account without their permission to spy on them. That seems like more proof for people like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who say that “young people today don’t care about privacy.” Well, at least half of young people.

Most of those who reported that their accounts had been hacked knew the person who did it very well, or casually, while 16% reported not knowing who the spy was.

I’m friends with a few whippersnappers on Facebook through family circles and a stint as a mentor in an urban journalism program for high school students. I realize I’m getting old when I’m shocked by what they post regarding their “extracurricular” activities. C’mon, kids, Facebook is like your permanent record! But according to the poll, despite extensive media coverage and parent haranguing, lots of young folks simply aren’t thinking about the repercussions of social networking.

A Blogger at Arab Spring’s Genesis

By Nicole

Flickr Creative Commons|nosferata1969|

By Kristen McTighe| New York Times| Oct 13, 2011|

She felt the stinging fumes of tear gas billowing through the streets here nine months ago and saw police officers firing live ammunition at protesters. She watched families weeping in grief over the bloodied bodies of their loved ones left lying on the ground.

The violence could have silenced Lina Ben Mhenni with fear, but it drove her to speak louder and clearer.

“It was very dangerous to be a blogger under Ben Ali,” Ms. Ben Mhenni, a 27-year-old activist and blogger, said in a cafe here on the capital’s Avenue Habib Bourguiba. Tunisians had taken to this street and many others to rebel against the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali just nine months ago. “Of course I had fear, but when I saw people killed by the police I forgot it and it gave me the strength to do my work,” she said.

Ms. Ben Mhenni is an example of how protesters helped break a regime’s stranglehold on the media and accelerate a revolution that brought down the 23-year dictatorship of Mr. Ben Ali and that went on to ignite much of the Arab world. It was a revolution that, in the case of Ms. Ben Mhenni, began even before the Arab Spring.

Now a teaching assistant in linguistics at Tunis University, she began the blog in 2007, the year her mother donated a kidney to her to replace the one that had failed two years before. Six months after that surgery, she competed in the World Transplant Games. (She competed again in 2009, winning two silver medals in race walking.)

She named her blog “A Tunisian Girl” and wrote about censorship, women’s rights, human rights and freedom of speech. She soon found herself at odds with the government, which blocked her site inside Tunisia. She used proxy sites to access her pages, and in April 2010, she said, the police broke into her family home. “They took my computer, my cameras, my everything,” she said. “It was clear it was them because of the way only I was targeted and the way they went after my equipment.”

But Ms. Ben Mhenni — whose father, Sadok Ben Mhenni, was a political prisoner under Mr. Ben Ali’s predecessor Habib Bourguiba — fought on.

On Dec. 17, 2010, she and other Tunisians heard about a fruit vendor in Sidi Bouzid named Mohamed Bouazizi who set himself on fire to protest the confiscation of his goods and his constant harassment by municipal officials and police officers. Ms. Ben Mhenni called friends in the city to see what was happening. She reported what she learned on her blog, a Facebook page and her Twitter account.

On Dec. 25, she took part in the demonstration that erupted in the capital after Mr. Bouazizi’s death, uploading articles and photographs to social media sites. At the beginning of January, she went to Sidi Bouzid, Regueb and Kasserine, where the security forces’ response to the protests had been vicious. She took photos of people killed and wounded by the police and put them all online.

It soon became clear that the protests were not going to stop. “The social movement was spontaneous,” Ms. Ben Mhenni said. “There was no political party. It was just Tunisians. People were angry.”

Mr. Ben Ali fled Tunisia on Jan. 14. Censorship was lifted and Ms. Ben Mhenni and others could write freely.

Themeur Mekki, a journalist and blogger who worked with Ms. Ben Mhenni on an earlier campaign against censorship, said: “What she did was break the media blackout that the media aligned to Ben Ali had imposed during the revolution.”

Laetitia Matiatos, head of the new media desk at Reporters Without Borders, said: “Bloggers like Lina Ben Mhenni and Astrubal of the blog Nawaat during the Tunisian uprising played an important role in spreading information across the world, using VPN and proxies.” The bloggers, she added, not only were censored by the government, they also faced intimidation, arrest and physical attacks.

Kerim Bouzouita, author of ReadWriteWorld at blogspot.com, said Twitter and Facebook were important to the revolt. As in other uprisings, protesters were able to break the media blackout by spreading video, information and commentary through the Internet and social media operations.

But it was the government itself that lifted the blockade on the two sites and ironically allowed them to thrive.

“Ben Ali banned Facebook in August 2008 because of ‘disruptive people,’ according to the regime’s speech,” Mr. Bouzouita said. “We do not know why it was uncensored, perhaps because of popular discontent and mobilization.” But he said the government also hoped to use that openness to keep tabs on those who were using Facebook and Twitter to communicate and organize.

Ms. Matiatos agreed that the move was intended to open the door for surveillance. “Facebook has been unbanned in Tunisia mostly to spy on netizens,” she said. “For example, police also logged into Facebook accounts to steal activists’ passwords and infiltrate networks of citizen-journalists.” She said she believed the security forces in Syria and other countries use the same methods.

Ms. Ben Mhenni, however, said that though such sites played a role in Tunisia’s revolution, they did not spark it: “In Tunisia at least, the role of social media has been exaggerated.”

“Maybe in Egypt the call started on social media,” she added, “but here, everything started on the ground. Mohamed Bouazizi set his body on fire and everyone started to demonstrate. Social media didn’t start the revolution. It was just a tool that helped.”

Social media users lose privacy rights

By Nicole

Flickr Creative Commons| kelly_chu28|

By Cheryl Hall | Dallas Morning News|Sept 7, 2011|

Millions of Americans are blithely bounding into social network sites.

They think that by setting strict parameters for who can be their friends and see their postings on Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn, they’ve shielded their personal stuff from unwanted eyes.

Those are naïve and dangerous assumptions, says Peter Vogel, an Internet legal specialist. Your privacy rights are tossed out as soon as you click “yes” to join a social site.

“Because social media users almost never read the terms of service and privacy policies, they have no idea that they are licensing the sites to free, unfettered use of photographs, email addresses, names and contact information that they intended for personal friends, children and neighbors,” says Vogel, a partner with Gardere Wynne Sewell LLPand a professor of Internet law at Southern Methodist University.

Think twice before sharing any personal information online, no matter how tight-knit you think your Web community is, he says. “People should assume everything disclosed on social media will fall in the hands of bad players.”

Social networking, once the realm of teens and under-30 adults, is rapidly becoming part of the daily routine of Gen-Xers and boomers. And a third of online users who are 60-plus drop in for an occasional virtual visit.

Last week, the Pew Internet & American Life Project in Washington released a report showing that slightly more than half of American adults socialize on Internet networking sites. That number soars to 65 percent among online adults 18 and older.

But even the most adept at online schmoozing may be shortsighted when it comes to the rules of engagement, says Mary Madden, a senior research specialist who headed the study.

“People tend to set and forget,” she says. “They set up their accounts and privacy settings and they don’t go back to it, maybe ever.”

Terms in flux

The terms of what social sites can take from users are in constant flux, and the sites aren’t always forthcoming about those changes.

“Facebook has gotten the most negative attention for this,” Madden says. “There might just be a pop-up when you log in that says, ‘Hey, we’ve changed a few details of you privacy settings’ or whatever. ‘You might want to check it out.’ But sometimes it’s difficult to tell what the real changes are in how your information is being shared.”

As independent researchers, Madden and her colleagues at Pew remain publicly neutral on the privacy issues. But she says users should consider the tradeoff.

“Social sites give users an array of options to customize their privacy settings, but the default settings for many profiles err on the side of openness,” she says. “This is generally thought to encourage more sharing among users, making the networks more socially and commercially viable.

“But from a user perspective, we encourage people to take note. Everybody can agree that it’s complicated and worth taking seriously.”

A lack of privacy is the key turnoff for many social network holdouts, Madden says. While privacy was not specifically addressed in the latest Pew study, Madden says previous surveys have indicated serious issues with trust among nonusers of social media.

“I was talking with a retired gentleman who used to work in the government and was in charge of security for the computer system at a large hospital. He understands all the vulnerability issues and privacy issues. Before he clicks ‘yes’ on terms of service, he reads every single word. When you do take time to read those terms of service agreements, it’s amazing what you’re signing off on.”

Virtual fine print

There’s not much that you can do about the virtual fine print, Vogel says. You can try to negotiate with a social site, but you’re not likely to win. And Vogel says that so far the courts have held up the sites’ rights to set their own terms.

Vogel uses the term “social media” instead of “social networks” because he includes any online forum with shared information, including Wikipedia, Yelp and Second Life.

GPS units in iPhones, iPads and tablets give social media the means to track our every move and location, Vogel says.

You might think this is an invasion of privacy, but most GPS users allow themselves to be tracked when they agree to those unread terms, he says. “Isn’t it also possible that criminals could capture GPS data from social media sites so that they can be better informed to commit crimes?”

Vogel’s advice: Take extreme care in what you share. It’s not just Big Brother watching you.

Political Repression 2.0

By Nicole

Flickr Creative Commons |Dantessina.Sara|

By Evgeny Morozov| New York Times |Sept 1, 2011|

AGENTS of the East German Stasi could only have dreamed of the sophisticated electronic equipment that powered Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s extensive spying apparatus, which the Libyan transitional government uncovered earlier this week. The monitoring of text messages, e-mails and online chats — no communications seemed beyond the reach of the eccentric colonel.

What is even more surprising is where Colonel Qaddafi got his spying gear: software and technology companies from France, South Africa and other countries. Narus, an American company owned by Boeing, met with Colonel Qaddafi’s people just as the protests were getting under way, but shied away from striking a deal. As Narus had previously supplied similar technology to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, it was probably a matter of public relations, not business ethics.

Amid the cheerleading over recent events in the Middle East, it’s easy to forget the more repressive uses of technology. In addition to the rosy narrative celebrating how Facebook and Twitter have enabled freedom movements around the world, we need to confront a more sinister tale: how greedy companies, fostered by Western governments for domestic surveillance needs, have helped suppress them.

Libya is only the latest place where Western surveillance technology has turned up. Human rights activists arrested and later released in Bahrain report being presented with transcripts of their own text messages — a capacity their government acquired through equipment from Siemens, the German industrial giant, and maintained by Nokia Siemens Networks, based in Finland, and Trovicor, another German company.

Earlier this year, after storming the secret police headquarters, Egyptian activists discovered that the Mubarak government had been using a trial version of a tool — developed by Britain’s Gamma International — that allowed them to eavesdrop on Skype conversations, widely believed to be safe from wiretapping.

And it’s not just off-the-shelf technology; some Western companies supply dictators with customized solutions to block offensive Web sites. A March report by OpenNet Initiative, an academic group that monitors Internet censorship, revealed that Netsweeper, based in Canada, together with the American companies Websense and McAfee (now owned by Intel), have developed programs to meet most of the censorship needs of governments in the Middle East and North Africa — in Websense’s case, despite promises not to supply its technology to repressive governments.

Unfortunately, the American government, the world’s most vociferous defender of “Internet freedom,” has little to say about such complicity. Though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton often speaks publicly on the subject, she has yet to address how companies from her country undermine her stated goal. To add insult to injury, in December the State Department gave Cisco — which supplied parts for China’s so-called Great Firewall — an award in recognition of its “good corporate citizenship.”

Such reticence may not be entirely accidental, since many of these tools were first developed for Western law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Western policy makers are therefore in a delicate spot. On the one hand, it is hard to rein in the very companies they have nurtured; it is also hard to resist the argument from repressive regimes that they need such technologies to monitor extremists. On the other hand, it’s getting harder to ignore the fact that extremists aren’t the only ones under surveillance.

The obvious response is to ban the export of such technologies to repressive governments. But as long as Western states continue using monitoring technologies themselves, sanctions won’t completely eliminate the problem — the supply will always find a way to meet the demand. Moreover, dictators who are keen on fighting extremism are still welcome in Washington: it’s a good bet that much of the electronic spying done in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt was done with the tacit support of his American allies.

What we need is a recognition that our reliance on surveillance technology domestically — even if it is checked by the legal system — is inadvertently undermining freedom in places where the legal system provides little if any protection. That recognition should, in turn, fuel tighter restrictions on the domestic surveillance-technology sector, including a reconsideration of the extent to which it actually needs such technology in our increasingly privacy-free world. 

As countries like Belarus, Iran and Myanmar digest the lessons of the Arab Spring, their demand for monitoring technology will grow. Left uncontrolled, Western surveillance tools could undermine the “Internet freedom” agenda in the same way arms exports undermine Western-led peace initiatives. How many activists, finding themselves confronted with information collected using Western technology, would trust the pronouncements of Western governments again?

Arab Spring– and the Long Winter Ahead

By Nicole

Flickr Creative Commons| chris.corwin|

By Alison Craiglow Hockenberry| Huffington Post |August 16, 2011|

For all the debate about whether this is the year of the Twitter revolution and the Facebook riots, the much more interesting question is: What is not happening on the giant social media websites of the world?

The answer is: A lot.

About two billion people have been touched by the Internet revolution. The connections they have made, information they have exchanged, and actions they have taken are undeniably revolutionary and immeasurably profound. But Facebook and Twitter, for all their power to speed a new era of openness, can’t do it all.

While we celebrate the fact that two billion people now have access to the Internet’s opportunities for speaking out, five billion others are still waiting for their chance to be heard.

In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, there are countries with regimes every bit as repressive as those we hear about daily in the Middle East, in which Internet penetration is only about one percent.

This dismal rate is due to many factors, including the lack of cable and electrical infrastructure, a prohibitively-high cost of service, language barriers, and illiteracy. The region’s more readily-available mobile phones allow some information access, but sharing one’s own views and interacting over social media is not practical on a non-smart phone and in places where languages are not digitized.

Globally, there is another group without a strong enough voice: women. In much of the world where home Internet connections are prohibitively expensive, Internet communication happens mostly in cyber cafes. In regions where women are not allowed or not comfortable going to these public gathering places, it’s mostly men doing the blogging. This is a vastly unbalanced situation.

“If we want a world that is more just and more representative and involves more perspectives and more voices, and has more fairness for more people, then let’s build it,” said Ethan Zuckerman, who was recently named director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media. The big question is, he said, “How do we get our technologies to do what we want them to?”

In Afghanistan, for example, the Jalalabad-based FabLab develops locally-designed tech solutions from start to finish that address communications challenges specific to the country. Among other things, the organization aims to keep information flowing across Afghanistan despite sketchy infrastructure and a fluid political and security situation. FabLab is an initiative of MIT; there are FabLab workshops around the world.

Mizzima News Agency trains the passionate storytellers of Burma’s emerging democracy to create engaging, well-crafted narratives out of their citizen journalist impulses. Mizzima recognizes that in a country long under the grip of censorship, factual, compelling journalism of the kind that can engage citizens and hold the government accountable is a skill that needs to be developed. Citizen media cannot be the only source of checks and balances.

FreedomBox aims to confront the privacy risks associated with communicating over huge, easily-tapped networks by building simple, low-wattage devices that put privacy controls squarely in the hands of users. “We integrate privacy protection on a cheap plug server so everybody can have privacy,” explained James Vasile, FreedomBox counsel. “Data stays in your home and can’t be mined by governments, billionaires, thugs, or even gossipy neighbors.”

Mizzima, FreedomBox, and many other brilliant ideas can be found among the entrants in Citizen Media, a Google-sponsored online competition with Ashoka Changemakers. The global competition welcomes innovations that “catalyze full information citizenship… to engage freely and powerfully with information to advance their own lives and society.”

The competition seeks not only tools for increasing access to information and avenues for expression, but also to solve other challenges of a more open world, including: How to figure out what sources to trust, how to get other people to care about a story, how to share ideas efficiently and effectively and ensure people’s exposure to a diversity of opinion, and how to sift through the ever-growing supply of information.

These grass roots approaches may be the key to opening access to free expression to more and more people — especially those in the “Long Tail” — in rural and marginalized communities. The solutions may overcome the challenges of infrastructure requirements, expense, and cultural barriers that have left people totally unconnected, especially in places where the profit-potential hasn’t been attractive to investors.

“Free expression is a universal value,” said Jillian York, director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. A universal value that’s not nearly yet experienced universally. You can help change that. If you have or know of a solution for creating a more engaged global citizenry through boosting media access, you have until September 14 to enter and vie for $5,000 and a chance to become an Ashoka Fellow, part of the world’s leading network of systems-changing social entrepreneurs.

Hacker Traces Laptop Thief Using Facebook Information

By Nicole

 

Flickr Creative Commons| radiant guy|

By Erica Swallow| BBC |August 17, 2011|

If you’re going to steal a laptop, make sure you know who you’re dealing with — one London teenager accused of stealing a laptop during the recent London riots certainly didn’t do his homework on who he was robbing.

Greg Martin, an IT security specialist and former FBI and NASA employee, came home to his West Kensington apartment last Wednesday to find that his place had been ransacked and his MacBook Pro was stolen.

Martin, who runs a blog called InfoSecurity 2.0, was obviously the wrong person to be stealing a laptop from — he had previously installed an open source tracking software called Prey on his computer. The free software “lets you keep track of your phone or laptop at all times, and will help you find it if it ever gets lost or stolen,” the product’s website states.

A self-described hacker, Martin wrote on his blog:

“Almost two weary days had gone by [since the robbery], and I’m at dinner on a business trip in Luxembourg, and I received an email which nearly knocked me out of my chair with excitement.”

The robber had finally logged on to the laptop — Martin went back to his hotel to stake out and gather evidence against the thief.

After two hours of watching the laptop thief surf the Internet, Martin was able to collect information on the man’s name, school, address, IP address, Internet service provider, wireless access point and Facebook ID number.

The thief’s Facebook information was the deciding piece of information for Martin — he sent the information on to the London Metro police and went to bed.

After details about the thief — identified as Soheil Khalilfar, 18 — were released to the police, the man’s apartment was raided and the laptop was recovered and returned to Martin.

Modern day thieves are at a much higher risk of being caught with the pervasiveness of technology.

In June, another MacBook thief was nabbed after the laptop’s owner tracked the thief using Hidden app and a Tumblr account.

Internet Firms Must Help Police Online Tracking

By Nicole

Flickr Creative Commons | pixieclipx |

|San Jose Mercury News| July 26, 2011 |

Privacy groups and some members of Congress are up in arms, and rightfully so, over a new study revealing that many online advertising companies continue to follow people’s Web activity, even after users believe they have opted out of tracking.

Consumers have legitimate worries about the information that’s being collected and used online. It’s time for the Internet industry to come to a collective agreement about the privacy protections it will guarantee.

Six months ago we warned that if innovators did not find a way to police online tracking, Congress would feel compelled to regulate the industry. Washington does not have a good track record when it comes to imposing rules on technology; too often it has either slowed Silicon Valley innovation or done significant damage to tech firms’ bottom line. But there is little confidence the industry will do the right thing, either.

One of the leading proponents of a “Do Not Track” law is Rep. Jackie Speier, a Hillsborough Democrat who calls the notion of industry self-regulation “a joke.” And the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, Jeff Chester, told the Mercury News that self-regulation “is deliberately designed to not be effective. It’s designed to give the appearance of protecting privacy, while actually enabling data collection to proceed full force.”

To battle that perception, which was buoyed by last week’s report, consumer advocates and Internet companies must agree quickly on what, if any, data collection remains permissible even after a consumer opts out of tracking. The agreement should clearly bar companies from selling information about users to third parties. Both sides must acknowledge that consumers should be able to halt ads that are targeted based on the sites they surf and their demographic. And consumers should have some recourse when these rules are broken.

It’s less clear whether Web firms should be prevented from collecting data to prove to advertisers their ads have been delivered. Internet companies need the capacity to perform reasonable business functions that don’t intrude on consumer privacy.

The ultimate goal should be a one-click option for consumers that protects their privacy without the need to install complex software or read the fine print of a wordy disclosure statement.

Consumers know that Internet companies legitimately earn vast amounts of revenue from advertising and data collection. Many don’t mind sharing their information if it means they can continue to view websites for free, and they may prefer seeing ads targeted to their specific interests. This kind of agreement won’t kill the industry.

The Do Not Call registry, enacted in 2005, shows that Congress can act when consumers’ privacy is in jeopardy. The Internet industry must move quickly to assure lawmakers and the public that it is capable of responding to these legitimate consumer concerns.

Advocates push to protect elderly, poor from Web fraud

By Nicole

 

Flickr Creative Commons | matulio |

By Rachel Roubein| USA Today | July 27, 2011 |

Consumer and privacy advocates on Tuesday pushed for greater online protections and education for seniors as well as low-income and disadvantaged users who increasingly are embracing the Internet.

Among families with an annual income of $20,000 or less, 92% of blacks and 63% of Hispanics look for jobs online, compared with 54% of whites, according to a 2010 study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

“Broadband has the potential to level the playing field,” says Nicol Turner-Lee, vice president and director of the center’s media institute. We “don’t want new adopters to face potential harms they’re not ready for.”

Among the concerns expressed at a policy forum hosted by the Joint Center:

Vulnerability to Web fraud. “We’ve got many people that are learning the rules of the road on the Internet — and without the experience of understanding or distinguishing what’s a real request and a fraudulent request,” Turner-Lee says.

Privacy protection. While there’s not enough data to know whether new Internet users are more prone to identity theft or other privacy breaches, now is the time to educate them about ways to protect their personal data, she says.

Making sure privacy statements aren’t written in legalese can help new Internet adopters understand exactly what they’re signing up for, says Marc Berejka, senior policy adviser for the Commerce Department.

Robert Quinn, AT&T’s chief privacy officer, noted that his company simplified its privacy policy, and yet the policy is still about nine pages long.

Users need to know — and understand — the different privacy policies of Internet providers and websites.

Partnerships with organizations — such as AARP and NAACP — could help, says Katherine White of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Opportunities for discrimination. There’s potential for advertisers to target people based on their race or ethnicity.

“Too often those characteristics — those labels — have been used in the off-line world,” says Timothy Robinson, legislative director in the office of Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill. “There’s really no reason to question why similar practices could not be perpetrated in a virtual world.”

Transparency. It’s not always clear where personal information ends up on the Internet. Congress is currently considering several measures, including proposed “do not track” legislation, that would allow consumers to bar advertising networks from following their movements around the Web. 

Consumer and privacy advocates on Tuesday pushed for greater online protections and education for seniors as well as low-income and disadvantaged users who increasingly are embracing the Internet.

Among families with an annual income of $20,000 or less, 92% of blacks and 63% of Hispanics look for jobs online, compared with 54% of whites, according to a 2010 study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

“Broadband has the potential to level the playing field,” says Nicol Turner-Lee, vice president and director of the center’s media institute. We “don’t want new adopters to face potential harms they’re not ready for.”

Among the concerns expressed at a policy forum hosted by the Joint Center:

Vulnerability to Web fraud. “We’ve got many people that are learning the rules of the road on the Internet — and without the experience of understanding or distinguishing what’s a real request and a fraudulent request,” Turner-Lee says.

Privacy protection. While there’s not enough data to know whether new Internet users are more prone to identity theft or other privacy breaches, now is the time to educate them about ways to protect their personal data, she says.

Making sure privacy statements aren’t written in legalese can help new Internet adopters understand exactly what they’re signing up for, says Marc Berejka, senior policy adviser for the Commerce Department.

Robert Quinn, AT&T’s chief privacy officer, noted that his company simplified its privacy policy, and yet the policy is still about nine pages long.

Users need to know — and understand — the different privacy policies of Internet providers and websites.

Partnerships with organizations — such as AARP and NAACP — could help, says Katherine White of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Opportunities for discrimination. There’s potential for advertisers to target people based on their race or ethnicity.

“Too often those characteristics — those labels — have been used in the off-line world,” says Timothy Robinson, legislative director in the office of Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill. “There’s really no reason to question why similar practices could not be perpetrated in a virtual world.”

Transparency. It’s not always clear where personal information ends up on the Internet. Congress is currently considering several measures, including proposed “do not track” legislation, that would allow consumers to bar advertising networks from following their movements around the Web.

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