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Monthly Archives: April 2016

25
Apr
2016

The Dangers of IP Mapping

by Bill

IP Mapping is a convenient tool, especially for marketers who want to know where their internet users are browsing from, without having to ask them outright. Using IP mapping, businesses can sometimes find out where their browsers are located – but usually the information given is the town or general area, however, sometimes services can pinpoint the location down to the exact address.

However, what happens when there are people who mask or hide their IP address, or an IP address can’t be found for one reason or another? Well, these get denoted as preset longitude and latitude values, set up by the companies that create IP mapping software. However, this is a problem because unsurprisingly, people actually live at these random locations.

One troubling example of this has been discovered by a company known as MaxMind. They set the default latitude and longitude for their service as 38°N and 97°W, a simplified version of the true center of the United States. However, this is the location of a farm that belongs to the Vogelman family, who lives there and also rents out the property. Due to the choice of MaxMind, the family has become the target of threats, visits from various law enforcement agencies and many accusations, which are just not true.

The family has a computer, but they don’t really use the internet all that much, choosing instead to use the computer to write letters and make up lesson plans for Sunday school sessions. Despite this, people have left toilets in their driveway, and harassed them for the better part of a decade. Things have gotten so bad for the family that the local town sheriff placed a sign in front of the house telling people to call him instead of bothering the family.

According to security researchers, it’s not like these IP mapping services tell consumers that the IP address they’re seeing might not be real, and the creators of Max Mind say that “it didn’t occur to us that people would use the database to attempt to locate people down to a household level.” However, clearly they do, and it’s a problem for innocent people like the Vogelman family.

So, the lesson here is that technology can provide a lot of useful data, and opt-in user metrics can be used to further qualify information about your audience, but relying too heavily on single elements like an IP address is far too risky a methodology for any astute digital marketer, and guessing can end up damaging your reputation more than you might expect.
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19
Apr
2016

The EU is Paving The Way Toward Greater Data Privacy Rights

by Bill

The new General Data Protection Regulation rules enacted by the EU more clearly define the right of citizens to decide when their data is gathered, how it may be used or packaged and how long it may be stored. The new regulations also call for fines on infringing companies of up to 4% of their worldwide revenue, whether the infringing entity resides inside the EU or outside Europe entirely.

Privacy regulations now include the right to have personal information deleted from a company database, the right to transfer your own data from one company to another, and the right to know if any third party has compromised your data. There is even an “affirmative consent” clause that requires a company to obtain direct permission prior to collecting or storing your data. That makes the prior practices of implicit agreements based on fine print or merely offering an opt-out option specifically insufficient under the new legal framework.

So-called data “profiling” where user information is relied on to make predictions about the economic status, location, health or consumer preferences of any end user without their preauthorized consent is also strictly prohibited.

As Wired magazine first reported, trade groups are less than thrilled with the wide reach of these new regulations. “While we continue to believe that the final text fails to strike the right balance between protecting citizens’ fundamental rights to privacy and the ability for businesses in Europe to become more competitive, it is now time to be pragmatic” said DigitalEurope Director General John Higgins. “DigitalEurope stands ready to make the new legal framework for data protection in Europe work,”

However, privacy advocates are also not entirely happy with the wording of the legislation. Private companies can still collect personal data for “legitimate interests” which seems to be a glaring loophole in the law that has not yet been fully examined by the legal community. Also governments continue to have expansive powers to collect data through superseding laws that allow for data collection and usage under several laws aimed at national security purposes.

Whether this framework becomes functionally enforceable outside of the EU and gains global traction largely depends on how many other countries adopt similar restrictions on the commercial use of consumer data. The United States has been very quiet on the matter so far, but with the election looming in November it could quickly become a hot button issue in the general election.

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