Oh, won’t someone think of the children!

4th September, 2015 — Laura Kalbag

Man in Google driverless car says “Because the only thing I haven’t put in Google’s hands is my life!”

An article on BBC News by Sean Coughlan explains the privacy fears over websites sharing children’s data. This follows the Information Commissioner’s Office (the UK data protection agency) examining 1,500 websites popular with young people:

The investigation looked at how websites were harvesting large amounts of personal information, with half sharing children’s data with third parties.

Adam Stevens, the head of ICO’s intelligence hub, said they wouldn’t rule out enforcement action in this area if required:

“These are concerning results. The attitude shown by a number of these websites and apps suggested little regard for how anyone’s personal information should be handled, let alone that of children.

Internationally, we saw some websites and apps gathering more information than we felt they needed, and sharing that data with third parties.”

The websites and apps weren’t named, but the research, co-ordinated by the Global Privacy Enforcement Network, found concerns with 41% of the sites they examined. Adam Stevens said the sites would be contacted and action could be taken against them to enforce changes.

Making children protect themselves

This week also saw a project from European Digital Rights (EDRi) to “Educate And Empower Children On Online Privacy.” Their end goal is “a textbook to help kids both become more aware of risks and of tools for privacy protection as they explore and learn online.” This includes information on how the Internet works, and also to help children stay safe from strangers, and protect their privacy and reputations online.

It is important to protect children from predators online, and arguably the most prolific predators are corporations farming for user data. EDRi vaguely suggests they will also address this:

“[T]here are many reasons for which people or businesses might try to get personal information about kids or their families.”

We’re looking forward to seeing EDRi’s completed material.

However, it’s important that we don’t rely solely on education for the protection of our privacy. Doing so puts the onus on the individual, or child, and then blames the victim when their privacy is invaded. How can you help a child when their school uses Google Apps for all their work? Or a European advisor suggests children should all learn how to use Facebook in school? This is the very reason Norway and Sweden place severe restrictions on public sector use of Google cloud services.

It’s in the corporations’ interests to make it easy to share your data (with them) in a way that is entirely unprotected. That’s how they make their money. It leaves us all as helpless as children when it comes to our privacy. This is why we need to create alternative technologies, and educate people in why these alternatives are important.

What is my personal data really worth?

On Thursday, Aral and Jo attended the Long Progress Bar in Brighton where they saw Paul Mason speak about Postcapitalism. Technology is a key part of this new era described by Paul. He brings it together this week in an article about the Spotify privacy policy changes:

“We are living in an era where big companies want to exploit the information we’ve given them for free. This powerful knowledge could be used for good — or to create entire business empires.”

Paul’s article provides a clear explanation of why corporate surveillance invades our privacy, and why data vs experience isn’t a worthwhile tradeoff:

“But once we get into networked information, producing random and spontaneous new knowledge as people interact, the distinction between use and value is not so clear.”

What are those cheeky corporations up to this week?

This week Google provides us with enough dodgy dealings to fill a roundup of its own. But first, Microsoft…


Windows 10 gets worse and worse as it turns out computers running Windows 10 could automatically be telling parents that their teens are visiting LGBT support websites.

“Browsing anonymously and clearing Internet history, the tools of many a closeted teen to date, did not seem to make a difference to the surveillance.”

Pink News found that when they set up a monitored child’s account on Windows 10, the child was only informed they were being monitored once, with no further warning.

(And, in keeping with their desire to out-Google Google, Microsoft has starting backporting its spyware in Windows 10 to Windows 7 and 8.)


Google is being investigated by the Competition Commission of India after the agency received complaints that the Google abused its market position and rigged search results. The regulator’s report accuses Google of rigging its search results to favour Google’s own properties, as well as third parties paying for ads within the results.

Google has until 10th September to respond to the early findings in India, although that deadline could be extended. If found guilty, Google could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its income (10% is at least a whopping $1.4 billion.)

In cuteness we trust

Google has also redesigned its logo. While the design decoration community had a field day analysing its aesthetic qualities, this wonderful tweet from Heather Anne Campbell cut to the heart of the matter:

“So happy about the new Google logo. The old one invaded my privacy and shared my info with the NSA. Wait, this doesn’t change that?”

As Aral says: “A critical analysis would explore Google’s new logo as part of their greater brand identity. Appropriating cute, child-like forms and colours is social camouflage. It’s misdirection. ‘Look how cute and loveable we are. Ignore the fact that we make our money by farming people.’ In light of a holistic reading of their brand identity, the new logo makes perfect sense. It’s simply the next logical iteration. It masterfully distills Google’s attempt at social camouflage to its simplest form. Google’s latest logo, ironically, represents a maturing of its identity. This is also reflected in Alphabet with its toy alphabet blocks.”

Get more with the Link Dump

If you’re still hungry for more, you should check out the Link Dump on our forum for all the links that didn’t make the roundup…