Tag Archives: Privacy

Dropbox . . . How Could You ?!?

Via ProfHackerProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://ift.tt/2cXQigs

apple crates
Dropbox is a perennial favorite of ProfHacker writers, as folks have used it at one point or another for more or less all the things. That IT departments seemed not to like it was practically a point in its favor as, let’s face it, it works. Really well!

This is why it was so dispiriting to learn last week about Dropbox’s apparently cavalier approach to Mac permissions. (The article’s from July, but it resurfaced on Twitter and on sites like LoopInsight.)

In effect, using the Accessibility tools of your Mac, Dropbox appears to arrogate to itself the ability to control your computer. What’s more, if you remove this permission via System Preferences, Dropbox will re-grant itself the permissions the next time you re-start.

The good news is there’s a workaround; the bad news is that’s annoying: Uninstall Dropbox from your Mac, then re-install it, remove it from the Accessibility pane, then re-install it. When you do so, don’t give it your administrative password. Everything will still work, but you’ll have to cancel out of the “please enter your computer password” dialog box every time you restart your computer. (There are full details, with screenshots, at the link.

Dropbox has since pledged more transparency about how it seeks permissions on the Mac, and what they’re for, as well as pleaded for more granularity in system permissions from Apple . . . but it’s still a blow. Some writers always swore by SpiderOak . . . maybe it’s time to take a look? Has your confidence in Dropbox wavered? Are you contemplating an alternative? Let us know in comments!

Photo “Vintage Harvest Crate” by Flickr user James Wellington / Creative Commons licensed BY-2.0

Google Deceptively Tracks Students’ Internet Browsing, EFF Says in FTC Complaint | Electronic Frontier Foundation


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December 1, 2015

Google Deceptively Tracks Students’ Internet Browsing, EFF Says in FTC Complaint

EFF Launches ‘Spying on Students’ Campaign to Raise Awareness About Privacy Risks of School Technology Tools

San Francisco—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a complaint today with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Google for collecting and data mining school children’s personal information, including their Internet searches—a practice EFF uncovered while researching its “Spying on Students” campaign, which launched today.

The campaign was created to raise awareness about the privacy risks of school-supplied electronic devices and software. EFF examined Google’s Chromebook and Google Apps for Education (GAFE), a suite of educational cloud-based software programs used in many schools across the country by students as young as seven years old.

While Google does not use student data for targeted advertising within a subset of Google sites, EFF found that Google’s “Sync” feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools. This allows Google to track, store on its servers, and data mine for non-advertising purposes, records of every Internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords. Google doesn’t first obtain permission from students or their parents and since some schools require students to use Chromebooks, many parents are unable to prevent Google’s data collection.

Google’s practices fly in the face of commitments made when it signed the Student Privacy Pledge, a legally enforceable document whereby companies promise to refrain from collecting, using, or sharing students’ personal information except when needed for legitimate educational purposes or if parents provide permission.

“Despite publicly promising not to, Google mines students’ browsing data and other information, and uses it for the company’s own purposes. Making such promises and failing to live up to them is a violation of FTC rules against unfair and deceptive business practices,” said EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo. “Minors shouldn’t be tracked or used as guinea pigs, with their data treated as a profit center. If Google wants to use students’ data to ‘improve Google products,’ then it needs to get express consent from parents.”

Google told EFF that it will soon disable a setting on school Chromebooks that allows Chrome Sync data, such as browsing history, to be shared with other Google services. While that is a small step in the right direction, it doesn’t go nearly far enough to correct the violations of the Student Privacy Pledge currently inherent in Chromebooks being distributed to schools.

EFF’s filing with the FTC also reveals that the administrative settings Google provides to schools allow student personal information to be shared with third-party websites in violation of the Student Privacy Pledge. The ability to collect and potentially share student information follows children whenever they use Chrome to log into their Google accounts, whether on a parents’ Apple iPad, friend’s smartphone or home computer. 

“We commend schools for bringing technology into the classroom. Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education have enormous benefits for teaching and preparing students for the future. But devices and cloud services used in schools must, without compromise or loopholes, protect student privacy,” said EFF Staff Attorney Sophia Cope. “We are calling on the FTC to investigate Google’s conduct, stop the company from using student personal information for its own purposes, and order the company to destroy all information it has collected that’s not for educational purposes.”

EFF’s “Spying on Students” project aims to educate parents and school administrators to the risks of data collection by companies supplying technology tools used by students. The website provides facts on how data is collected, a case study, links to resources for parents and school officials, and tips for improving privacy. 

Michael Godbe, a Fall 2015 EFF Legal Intern, helped prepare the FTC complaint, and Annelyse Gelman, EFF activist intern, helped prepare education material for the project.

To view the FTC complaint:

For more information on EFF’s “Spying on Students” project:

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The Web We Need to Give Students

This article first appeared in Bright, a Medium-based publication

Student privacy has become one of the hottest issues in education, with some 170 bills proposed so far this year that would regulate it. These legislative efforts stress the need to protect students when they’re online, safeguarding their data from advertisers as well as from unscrupulous people and companies. There’s some pushback against these proposals too, with arguments that restrictions on data might hinder research or the development of learning analytics or data-driven educational software.

But almost all arguments about student privacy, whether those calling for more restrictions or fewer, fail to give students themselves a voice, let alone some assistance in deciding what to share online. Students have little agency when it comes to education technology – much like they have little agency in education itself.

The Domain of One’s Own initiative at University of Mary Washington (UMW) is helping to recast the conversation about student data. Instead of focusing on protecting and restricting students’ Web presence, UMW helps them have more control over their scholarship, data, and digital identity.

The Domains initiative enables student to build the contemporary version of what Virginia Woolf in 1929 famously demanded in

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