Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Three on the Value of Privacy

First, the Economist, “Everybody Does It:”

WHY is a beer better than a woman? Because a beer won’t complain if you buy a second beer. Oops. There go your correspondent’s chances of working for Barack Obama, America’s president-elect.

(Ironically, the Economist’s articles are all anonymous.)

Second, Fraser Speirs, “On the Flickr support in iPhoto ‘09:”

As you may guess, I was a little perturbed at this since I pay my mortgage by selling, er, a Flickr upload plugin for iPhoto.

Fraser looks at his (excellent) product, FlickrExport, and finds that the value is now in privacy and control of what leaves your computer and how.

And finally, a follow-on to an aside in ‘Lessons for security from “Social Networks’,:”

In recent months, American Express has gone far beyond simply checking your credit score and making sure you pay on time. The company has been looking at home prices in your area, the type of mortgage lender you’re using and whether small-business card customers work in an industry under siege. It has also been looking at how you spend your money, searching for patterns or similarities to other customers who have trouble paying their bills.

In some instances, if it didn’t like what it was seeing, the company has cut customer credit lines. It laid out this logic in letters that infuriated many of the cardholders who received them. “Other customers who have used their card at establishments where you recently shopped,” one of those letters said, “have a poor repayment history with American Express.”

It sure sounded as if American Express had developed a blacklist of merchants patronized by troubled cardholders. But late this week, American Express told me that wasn’t the case. The company said it had also decided to stop using what it has called “spending patterns” as a criteria in its credit line reductions. (“A (Very) Watchful Eye on Credit Card Spending,” The New York Times.

Apparently, that was just too creepy, even for American Express, who I’ve commented on in “American Express and Privacy.”

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