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How Google knows everything about you

If you are on Gmail or YouTube, you probably saw Google’s announcement of its new privacy settings. The company collects and compiles data about you based on your activity on its search page, Gmail, YouTube and phones running its Android operating system. Soon it will be selling that information to advertisers targeting you specifically based on your Google patterns.

This is giving privacy advocates cause for alarm. Eight members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, wrote a letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking Google to explain what kind of data it currently collects and explain how that info will be used under the new system.

The letter states: “While Google suggests that the purpose of this shift in policy is to make the consumer experience simpler, we want to make sure it does not make protecting consumer privacy more complicated.”

The lawmakers also noted that because of Google’s global reach, the change “potentially touches billions of people worldwide.”

In a post on the company’s public policy blog, Google’s Betsy Masiello wrote, “A lot has been said about our new privacy policy. Some have praised us for making our privacy policy easier to understand. Others have asked questions, including members of Congress, and that’s understandable too.”

Masiello further explains, point by point, what’s involved. Click here to read the points Masiello makes in the post.

Meanwhile, Google says this controversial new privacy policy will not create problems for Google Apps for Government customers, nor will it affect existing contracts that spell out how it handles and stores data belonging to government users of its cloud services.

Google’s Amit Singh, vice president of Google Enterprise stated, “As always, Google will maintain our enterprise customers’ data in compliance with the confidentiality and security obligations provided to their domain.”

The froth over Google’s rewritten privacy policy has been stirred, in part, because Google does not allow an opt-out option. Which means that if you don’t want your information from Gmail, YouTube and Google searches combined into one personal data bank that paints a detailed picture of you, your only option is to stop using Google’s services.

Google’s compilation of all your personal data is worth an estimated $5,000 on average. And that bothers some users. Is it bothering you?

Privacy is an issue

With regard to Internet privacy issues, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, said at a recent conference in Munich that we are in the middle of three trends. According to a report by Keith Teare, co-founder of TechCrunch, Sandberg said the first is a trend “from anonymity to real identity.”

Second, a trend from “wisdom of crowds to wisdom of friends” and third, a trend “from being receivers of information to broadcasters of information.”

This video showing her presentation helps when thinking about Google’s privacy policy changes.

Your reputation shot?

“I was slandered online. It damaged my business and my family. I figured out how to solve my problem, and I can help you too.” – Reputation Advocate’s Steven Wyer

Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites can be an open book to your life. Attempts by the feds to take over and control the Internet through regulation and legislation are ever present threats.

Steven Wyer, CEO of Reputation Advocate and author of “Violated Online” and the victim of online slander has tips to help you protect your online reputation, even after it has been damaged.

Privacy policies: Do you read them?

“People don’t read privacy policies,” according to Nick Bicanic, founder of Echoecho.

And that puts everyone in a privacy quandary.

“It means consumers don’t really know how much personal information they’re giving up and how it might be used,” Bicanic contiunues. “It calls into question the informed consent rationale for our primarily self-regulatory approach to online privacy in this country. And it undermines the argument the industry has used to wash its hands of further responsibility: Hey, we told users what we were doing.”

Read more about what can be done to protect your privacy.

Don’t want a visit from the feds? Don’t do this on Facebook

This definitely will not play in Peoria.

A veteran Peoria police sergeant posted something on his Facebook page that got the attention of the Secret Service. The photo depicted seven high school students, four of them with guns and another showing a T-shirt bearing a bullet-riddled image of President Barack Obama.

The outcome of the probe? You’ll have to read about it here.

Freedom of the press

The United States has fallen to 47th in press freedom rankings, according to a report released by Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for global press freedom. The annual report that shows the U.S. dropped 27 points due to arrests of several journalists who covered the Occupy Wall Street protests.

In another matter, Reporters Without Borders wrote to Twitter’s executive chairman Jack Dorsey, urging that the microblogger’s censorship policy be ditched immediately.

Is Twitter censoring?

Twitter’s got a new censorship plan, and it is outraging users worldwide.

Why? According to Twitter: “If we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to reactively withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time …”

Twitter also tells its users that upon receipt of requests to withhold content, it will notify affected users unless legally prohibited from doing so: “… and clearly indicate to viewers when content has been withheld. We have also expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to include the publication of requests to withhold content in addition to the DMCA notifications that we already transmit.”

Read this letter to Twitter’s CEO urging him to not to cooperate with censors.

Try cutting costs?

I wonder how many Marylanders are aware that their governor intends to place yet another tax burden on them amid this economic turmoil?

It was Thomas Jefferson who once advised, “We have the greatest opportunity the world has ever seen, as long as we remain honest, which will be as long as we can keep the attention of our people alive. If they once become inattentive to public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors would all become wolves.”

Those words of wisdom came to mind when I read that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed budget includes a six percent sales tax on virtually every downloaded product.

For example, if Marylanders purchase a downloaded song from iTunes for 99-cents, it would cost them $1.05.

Why does the guv need the extra dough? A $1.1 billion shortfall. Apparently the idea of cutting waste hasn’t occurred to Hizzoner the Guv.

Kiddie multi-tasking: A trend parents had better address now

Young girls who spend the most time multitasking between various digital devices, communicating online or watching video are the least likely to develop normal social tendencies, according to a study by Stanford University of 3,461 American girls aged 8 to 12 who volunteered responses.

The study was conducted as a survey in Discovery Girls magazine and measured only girls. But researchers say the results should apply to boys too.

There is a cure for this hyper-digital phenomenon, and it’s pretty straightforward.

Facebook Timeline, whether you want it or not

If you’re on Facebook, you have just a few more days to update your home page to the new Timeline before Facebook does it for you. Timeline, according to Facebook, is a new kind of profile that lets you highlight the photos, posts and life events that help you tell your story.

You’ll be notified on your home page when Timeline is available at your account. You’ll have seven days to preview your information before publishing it to the world.

Facebook describes its new product: “Timeline gives you an easy way to rediscover the things you shared and collect your most important moments. It also lets you share new experiences, like the music you listen to or the miles you run.”

Facebook IPO possibly next week. Are you invited to the party?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been telling you that Facebook’s initial public offering is imminent. The IPO is speculated to be worth as much as $100 billion whenever it arrives. Some speculate Facebook could file for its IPO as early as this week.

As we wrote in our Jan. 2 column, you might want to contact your member of Congress and ask them if they might enrich their stock portfolio with an invitation to FaceBook’s IPO. To make direct contact with your member, I suggest you use Gradegov.com, as this is the personal email account of each member of Congress. Let me know if you get a response.

Ask your Congressional representative: “Have you received an invitation to the FaceBook initial public offering?” or “Will you have any involvement whatsoever in the FaceBook IPO?”

Quoting Sarah Palin: “Thanks to the solid new research and recent revelations in Peter Schweizer’s book ‘Throw Them All Out’ and the subsequent coverage on ’60 Minutes,’ we have concrete proof to explain how members of Congress accumulate wealth at a rate astonishingly faster than the rest of Americans and have stock portfolios that outperform even the best hedge-fund managers (Full disclosure: Schweizer is employed by my political action committee as a foreign policy adviser).”

Bits & Bytes

An interactive gallery.

Apple’s iPhone, iPad sales. MASSIVE!

Leading political candidates coming into Florida

Last week we told you about Intrade. This week we found another source to help you try to figure who’s pulling ahead: the number of new Facebook fans that each candidate is getting, according to the Inside Facebook Election Tracker.

Time capsule

1835 – Attempted assassination of President Andrew Jackson

1943 – German 6th defeated at Stalingrad

1968 – Martial law declared as “Tet Offensive” continues

1974 – Newspaper heiress Patty Hearst kidnapped

1979 – Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran, ends 14 years of exile

1996 – France halts nuclear testing

2003 – Shuttle Columbia destroyed on re-entry, crew of seven lost

2003 – “Shoebomber” Richard Reid gets life in prison

Now playing at the Princess Theater, Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WND readers Georgia Smithfield of Pensacola, Fla., and Harrison Tyler of Tipton, Ga., who were among the first to correctly guess actor Billy Bob Thornton in his portrayal of Richard Jemmons in the 1998 movie “Primary Colors.” The film was based on the best seller by “Anonymous” (Joe Klein).

The selection was tied to last week’s item when in 1998 President Clinton denied an affair with Monica Lewinsky.

The quote was: “That’s what these guys do. They love you and then stop lovin’ you.”

This week’s quote: “Why are they doing this? Why are they doing this? They said when you got here the whole thing started. Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from! I think you’re evil. EVIL!”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Please be sure to add your town and state. Good luck!