Parks: 40% of Broadband Homes Remain Self-Quarantined, Increasing Exposure to Data Hacks

New data from Parks Associates finds that through May, more than 40% of U.S. broadband households were still sheltering in place, even without government mandates to do so. This finding, from a nationwide survey of more than 5,000 domestic broadband households from May 14 through May 28, underscores increased consumer demands on their home network — including importance of data and privacy protections.

“Online attacks to the home network can now disrupt work and education along with entertainment and shopping activities,” Brad Russell, research director of Connected Home for Parks Associates, said in a statement. “Increased time online increases exposure to threats. Consumers are also increasingly aware of these threats and are interested in solutions, with nearly 80% expressing concern about the possibility of a data security or privacy breach.”

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Indeed, Razvan Todor, director of connected home security with Bitdefender, said that over a six-month period his company registered more than 7.73 million successful security breaches using a combination of usernames and passwords.

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“Imagine the [data breach] possibilities … that more than 22 billion [Internet of Things] are currently connected to the Web,” Todor said.

Spain’s Top Soccer League Fined for Spying on Fans via Mobile App

Spain’s top professional soccer league, “La Liga” has been fined €250,000 ($280,000) for using its mobile app to determine whether users were watching pirated games.

The country’s data protection agency said the free Android app, which reportedly has been downloaded nearly 10 million times, enabled fans to keep track of games, scores, player stats and schedules, among other data.

The technology could also track a user’s surroundings – such as a restaurant or sports bar – and determine whether matches were being shown illegally – information, the agency said, La Liga did not disclose to users.

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La Liga, along with English Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1, ranks among the most lucrative in the world. Yet, it contends annual revenue loses upwards of €150 million from pirated games.

“This translates into direct damage for clubs, operators and fans, among others,” La Liga said in a statement denying the allegations. The league  claims the regulatory agency is unfamiliar with the app’s technology.

“All this technology was implemented to achieve a legitimate goal: fight against piracy,” the league said.

La Liga, which said the app followed existing regulations, added it would shutter the alleged spying functions at the season’s end on June 30.

Parks Research: One-Fifth of Broadband Consumers Highly Sensitive to Data Collection

A group of consumers, representing approximately 20% of U.S. broadband households, is highly sensitive to collection and use of information about themselves and their activities, according to new research from Parks Associates. While these consumers understand that many companies use this data, 80% believe that they receive little in return for use of their data.

The findings are part of the report TV Services: Pay TV in a Data-Driven World, which focuses on the impact of big data on the pay-TV industry.

“While traditional companies in the pay-TV marketplace use data in all of their decisions, new companies in the entertainment ecosystem such as Google take data use to the next level,” said Brett Sappington, senior director of research, Parks Associates, in a statement. “These companies were built in the age of big data, which allows them to iterate their services, software, user experiences, and content investment decisions much more quickly than traditional players. However, the traditional pay-TV players do have one notable advantage regarding the consumer — trust. One-third of U.S. broadband households feel that online video services are poor protectors of their data compared to pay-TV providers.”

The report recommends pay-TV providers and cable networks continue to gain data-oriented expertise and integrate data-centric features into their offerings that are transparent to consumers about data being gathered as well as incentives that come with that collection, according to Parks.

“The North American pay-TV market will experience a slow net decline in subscribers, falling from a market penetration of 79% in 2018 to 73% by the end of 2023,” Sappington said in a statement. “Cable and pay-TV companies see the challenges ahead and are exploring new ways of doing business in order to better perform, compete, and attract a new generation of customers.”

Additional findings include:

  • 42% of U.S. broadband households would have greater confidence in sharing data if they could access a website or app that shows what data is being collected.
  • Almost 40% of U.S. broadband households strongly believe that it is impossible to keep data private from companies whose products they use.
  • More than one-half of consumers strongly believe that they do not get much in return for sharing their data.

Facebook: Data Breach Affected 87 Million Users

Facebook has quietly upped to 87 million the number of users whose personal data was compromised by Cambridge Analytica, a conservative London-based consulting firm with ties to the 2016 presidential election.

The social media behemoth previously admitted to 50 million users whose personal data was sold in violation to the company’s privacy rules. Cambridge Analytica contends it obtained data from “no more than 30 million people.”

Regardless, Facebook admits that “malicious actors” could have had access to the personal data of all 2 billion registered members. It buried the updated numbers in an April 4 blog, ironically titled “Our Plans to Restrict Data Access on Facebook.”

“Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way,” Michael Schroepfer, chief technology officer, wrote in the blog.

Schroepfer said effective immediately apps using Facebook’s various “application programing interfaces” (APIs) would no longer be able to access the guest list or posts without Facebook approval to “strict (third-party use) requirements.”

Facebook APIs include “events,” “groups,” “commentary” and Instagram pages – bedrock of the social media pioneer.

“We will also no longer allow apps to ask for access to personal information such as religious or political views, relationship status and details, custom-friends lists, education and work history, fitness activity, book reading activity, music listening activity, news reading, video watch activity, and games activity,” Schroepfer wrote.

Facebook will also remove a developer’s ability to request data people shared with them if it appears they have not used the app in the last 3 months.

Beginning April 9, Facebook will display to users a link at the top of their “news feed” identifying what apps they use – and information they have shared with those third-party apps.

Users will also be able to remove apps they no longer want. As part of this process Facebook will reveal to users if their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg is slated to appear April 11 before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to answer questions about the Cambridge Analytica controversy.


MoviePass Looking to Avoid ‘Facebook’ Fallout

NEWS ANALYSIS — Movie theater subscription service MoviePass’ recent announcement offering first-time annual subscribers access for $6.95 a month – 30% below the standard $9.95 rate – underscores increasing consumer concern about data privacy.

CEO Mitch Lowe said the price cut is an attempt to make the moviegoing experience “easy and affordable” for everyone. Apparently, paying less than $10 monthly to watch one theatrical screening per day amounts to fiscal overreach for consumers.

Or could it be in reaction to Lowe’s loose lips at a recent industry event (first reported by Media Play News), dubbed, “Data is the New Oil: How Will MoviePass Monetize It?” in which he bragged about MoviePass tracking subscriber activities before and after screenings?

“We watch where you go afterwards,” he said without concern.

Of course, Lowe had no idea about the looming Facebook data tsunami and ensuing fallout after the social media behemoth admitted selling the personal data of 50 million subscribers to a foreign consulting firm with ties to the 2016 presidential election.

The debacle has reportedly cost Facebook more than $60 billion in market capitalization, scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission, calls for increased regulation and founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s pending grilling before Congress.

Not to mention increasing public distrust how Internet giants Amazon, Google, Yahoo and others track user behavior and what they do with that information.

To be sure, Lowe rushed out an email to subscribers claiming his comments about MoviePass data mining had been mischaracterized.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter isn’t so sure.

“The media reaction since indicates that many do not believe it was a ‘mischaracterization,’ especially given Facebook’s recent debacle with Cambridge Analytica,” Pachter wrote in a March 26 note.

Indeed, MoviePass hasn’t explained what it does, or will do, with the subscriber data – other than market/leverage it to exhibitors for reduced ticket prices or a percentage of concession sales — a reality, Pachter contends, harbors ongoing concern about the service’s long-term viability.

“Additionally, we now harbor concerns about the potential for consumer backlash should [MoviePass] collect certain data without consent, or improperly use the data it collects,” he wrote.

Netflix Expands Security Program

Amid the public’s growing concerns about web security and data vulnerability, Netflix March 22 announced it has made public its security program, called the bug bounty program.

“We are now publicly launching our bug bounty program through the Bugcrowd platform to continue improving the security of our products and services while strengthening our relationship with the community,” reads the company blog.

The company started its “responsible vulnerability disclosure” program in 2013 to provide an avenue for researchers to report security issues. It has received and remediated 190 valid issues from this program, according to the blog.

“Once we felt comfortable with our processes around handling external reports efficiently, we dipped our toe in the bug bounty space with a private program launch in September 2016,” the blog reads. “Over the past 18 months, we have gradually increased the scope as well as the number of researchers in the program.”

The company started the program with 100 of Bugcrowd’s top researchers, and in preparation for the public launch, increased the scope over the last year to more than 700 researchers, according to the blog.

“Since the launch of our private bug bounty program, we have received 145 valid submissions (out of 275 total) of various criticality levels across the Netflix services,” the blog reads. “These submissions have helped us improve our external security posture and identify systemic security improvements across our ecosystem.”

Researchers are rewarded for finding bugs, with the highest payout so far $15,000, according to the blog.

“Engineers at Netflix have a high degree of ownership for the security of their products and this helps us address reports quickly,” the blog reads.

Facebook Loses $37 Billion in Value Following Data Privacy Scandal

Facebook March 19 saw its market cap plummet $37 billion after media reports said the social media behemoth violated privacy rules selling user information to a third-party company active in the 2016 presidential election.

Specifically, The New York Times reported Facebook sold personal information of about 50 million users to Cambridge Analytica, a conservative London-based consulting firm that combines data mining and data analysis to “change audience behavior” for the electoral process.

Facebook, which became aware of the data breach in 2015, according to the Times, has been under pressure to do more about the spread of politically-motivated fake news posts during the election.

Last November, the paper reported that many of the posts on Facebook had been paid for by Russian operatives seeking to disrupt the electoral process in favor of Donald Trump.

“America, we have a problem,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said at the time. “We basically have the brightest minds of our tech community here and Russia was able to weaponize your platforms to divide us, to dupe us and to discredit democracy.”

Now, members of Congress want to grill Facebook and other tech companies about data security.

Lawmakers Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA) March 19 called on Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before Congress to answer questions.

“While Facebook has pledged to enforce its policies to protect people’s information, questions remain as to whether those policies are sufficient and whether Congress should take action to protect people’s private information,” Klobuchar and Kennedy said in a joint statement. “The lack of oversight on how data is stored and how political advertisements are sold raises concerns about the integrity of American elections as well as privacy rights.”

Separately, Facebook reportedly will hold an open meeting with employees March 20 to discuss the Cambridge debacle. Alex Stamos, chief information security officer at Facebook, has already announced plans to leave the company this summer.