How Facebook is putting its users last

It's almost become a joke: Facebook makes a change to its privacy settings that opts you in to a bunch of scary stuff, the entire Internet flips out about it, it rolls back the change, and then a few months or years later, it makes the same or a very similar update, opting you in to it again. It would be funny, if it weren't getting so damned insulting.

Here's the latest. In the wake of its F8 conference the other day, Facebook rolled out a slew of changes aimed at transforming the Web into one giant … Read more

Reporters' Roundtable: Twitter's business model (podcast)

Today: Twitter's business model. Yes, there is one. Finally. To talk about what Twitter is going to do--and if they really need to do it--we have two great guests with us here in the studio. First, from CNET, author of our social-networking blog The Social, Caroline McCarthy (@caro on Twitter). And from The New York Times, that paper's Twitter expert, Claire Cain Miller (@clariecm).

Subscribe with iTunes (audio) Subscribe with iTunes (video) Subscribe with RSS (audio) Subscribe with RSS (video)

Show notes and talking points… Read more

N.C. defends request for Amazon customer records

North Carolina's tax collectors said Wednesday that they never demanded personal information such as book titles from, which filed a federal lawsuit against the state this week seeking to keep that information confidential.

"Amazon's complaint is misleading in alleging the department has required detailed information revealing personal consumer preferences, such as book titles," North Carolina Secretary of Revenue, Kenneth Lay, said in a statement.

But CNET has obtained correspondence from the Department of Revenue that calls North Carolina's claim into question.

In a letter to Amazon dated December 1, 2009, Romey McCoy, the … Read more

Legal spying via the cell phone system

Two researchers say they have found a way to exploit weaknesses in the mobile telecom system to legally spy on people by figuring out the private cell phone number of anyone they want, tracking their whereabouts, and listening to their voice mail.

Independent security researcher Nick DePetrillo and Don Bailey, a security consultant with iSec Partners, planned to provide details in a talk entitled "We Found Carmen San Diego" at the Source Boston security conference on Wednesday.

"There are a lot of fragile eggs in the telecom industry and they can be broken," Bailey said in … Read more

Privacy officials criticize launch of Google Buzz

Ten privacy commissioners from countries including Germany, Canada, and the U.K. have sent a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt saying the company "failed to take adequate account of privacy considerations" when launching Google Buzz.

Monday's letter doesn't threaten the Mountain View, Calif.-based company with any formal or informal legal action. Instead, it asks for a response outlining how Google "will ensure that privacy and data protection requirements" are met in the future.

Also signing the letter were privacy commissioners from France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Spain. Jon … Read more

Amazon fights demand for customer records filed a lawsuit on Monday to fend off a sweeping demand from North Carolina's tax collectors: detailed records including names and addresses of customers and information about exactly what they purchased.

The lawsuit says the demand violates the privacy and First Amendment rights of Amazon's customers. North Carolina's Department of Revenue had ordered the online retailer to provide full details on nearly 50 million purchases made by state residents between 2003 and 2010.

Amazon is asking a federal judge in Seattle to rule that the demand is illegal, and left open the possibility of requesting … Read more

Reporters' Roundtable: Can the iPad save journalism? (podcast)

Today's show: Can the iPad save newspapers and magazines? Or, to be more general, can tablets save journalism? It's an important topic and we have two excellent and overqualifiied guests to get into it.

First, in the studio, Damon Darlin, the technology editor of a small newspaper that's still printed on actually paper. You may have heard of it: The New York Times.

And joining us from his headquarters in New York, the founder, publisher and editor of ContentNext Media and the insightful PaidContent news site, Rafat Ali.

Subscribe with iTunes (audio) Subscribe with iTunes (video) Subscribe with RSS (audio) Subscribe with RSS (video)

Show notes and talking points… Read more

DOJ abandons warrantless attempt to read Yahoo e-mail

The U.S. Justice Department has abruptly abandoned what had become a high-profile court fight to read Yahoo users' e-mail messages without obtaining a search warrant first.

In a two-page brief filed Friday, the Obama administration withdrew its request for warrantless access to the complete contents of the Yahoo Mail accounts under investigation. CNET was the first to report on the Denver case in an article on Tuesday.

Yahoo's efforts to fend off federal prosecutors' broad request attracted allies--in the form of Google, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Progress and Freedom Foundation--who … Read more

Google backs Yahoo in privacy fight with DOJ

Google and an alliance of privacy groups have come to Yahoo's aid by helping the Web portal fend off a broad request from the U.S. Department of Justice for e-mail messages, CNET has learned.

In a brief filed Tuesday afternoon, the coalition says a search warrant signed by a judge is necessary before the FBI or other police agencies can read the contents of Yahoo Mail messages--a position that puts those companies directly at odds with the Obama administration.

Yahoo has been quietly fighting prosecutors' requests in front of a federal judge in Colorado, with many documents filed … Read more

Google launches Buzz teen safety video

There was quite a privacy backlash after Google announced Buzz in February. The day it was announced, I was one of many who raised questions about both the privacy and safety implications of the service, including the fact that it is possible to use Buzz to disclose your location from a GPS-enabled mobile device. CNET's Molly Wood was less charitable, calling Buzz a "privacy nightmare."

The collective groan caused Google to almost immediately apologize for it missteps and quickly tweak its privacy settings.

On Monday, the company announced plans to start reminding users to reconfirm their privacy … Read more