The move of SWIFT the data server to Switzerland would be an excellent opportunity to stop the nearly unlimited access of US authorities on EU bank transactions. But EU justice and interior minister are apparently keen agree a deal as soon as possible, on 30 November. Why 30 November? Because one day later, on 1 December 2009, the EU’s Lisbon Treaty will be in force and would allow the European Parliament to play a major role in the negotiations of the deal with the USA. A deal one day before will be a slap in the face of democracy in the EU.

It’s one thing to report on the phenomenon of people disappearing. But to really understand it, I figured that I had to try it myself. So I decided to vanish. I would leave behind my loved ones, my home, and my name. I wasn’t going off the grid, dropping out to live in a cabin. Rather, I would actually try to drop my life and pick up another.

In games like Mafia Wars, Farmville, YoVille and Vampires Live, you know, some of the major sources of all those garbage announcements cluttering up your Facebook, players compete to complete missions and level up. By leveling up, you can complete more difficult missions and fight off weaker opponents. You can wait for your various energies to regenerate naturally over time, or you can purchase with real money in-game boosts. Or, you can complete various lead generation offers, many of which are of the "answer page after page of questions and opt in and out of receiving various kinds of spam" variety. Some of them install malware and adware that is impossible to remove. And some of them secretly subscribe you to monthly recurring $9.99 credit card charges.

ID theft is often considered a “white-collar” crime because it is committed during the course of normal employment duties (e.g., a bank employee gathering personal information), or the crime does not usually involve any physical harm. Identity thieves are often portrayed as sophisticated computer specialists, hackers, or organized networks. But, is this the reality?

A recent research report by Heith Copes (U Alabama at Birmingham) and Lynne Vieraitis (U Texas at Austin) has shed some light on this issue.

Companies continue to store and sometimes release vast databases of "anonymized" information about users. But, as Netflix, AOL, and the State of Massachusetts have learned, "anonymized" data can often be cracked in surprising ways, revealing the hidden secrets each of us are assembling in online "databases of ruin."

Here’s a real copy of an American citizen’s DHS Travel Record retrieved from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s Automated Targeting System (ATS). This was obtained through a FOIA/Privacy Act request and sent in by an anonymous reader (thanks!)

The document reveals that the DHS is storing the reader’s:

* Credit card number and expiration (really) * IP address used to make web travel reservations * Hotel information and itinerary * Full Name, birth date and passport number * Full airline itinerary, including flight numbers and seat numbers * Cruise ship itinerary * Phone numbers, incl. business, home & cell * Every frequent flyer and hotel number associated with the subject, even ones not used for the specific reservation

But such services as YourHackerz.com are still active and plentiful, with clever names like "piratecrackers.com" and "hackmail.net." They boast of having little trouble hacking into such Web-based e-mail systems as AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, Facebook and Hotmail, and they advertise openly.

By default, Facebook’s privacy settings let applications access information on your profile even if you have restricted access to a specific network or friend group (as application privacy settings are separate from profile privacy settings). In addition, Facebook’s default settings allow applications run by your friends to pull information from your profile. Surprised? Check out your settings and see for yourself!

The lesson in all of this is that little we do is ephemeral anymore. We leave electronic audit trails everywhere we go, with everything we do. This won't change: We can't turn back technology. But as technology makes our conversations less ephemeral, we need laws to step in and safeguard our privacy. We need comprehensive data privacy laws, protecting our data and communications regardless of where it is stored or how it is processed. We need laws forcing companies to keep it private and delete it as soon as it is no longer needed, and laws giving us the right to delete our data from third-party sites. And we need international cooperation to ensure that companies cannot flaunt data privacy laws simply by moving themselves offshore.

Facebook has decent privacy controls, but most users don't realize how to take full advantage of them. Ars guides you through Facebook's privacy settings so that you can be both social and respectable at the same time.

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