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Facebook's Atlas arms advertisers with deeper reach into user data

Facebook has unveiled a new ad platform that promises marketers deeper insight into the data of billions of its users — a move that has raises big concerns among privacy advocates. Also in data privacy headlines this week: Law enforcement officials are uneasy about Apple’s and Google’s new mobile encryption policy; the EU’s antitrust agency continues to call on Google to change its search practices; and mobile developers clamor for clear-cut health data guidelines.

Facebook’s new ad platform equips marketers with deep user data

On Monday, Facebook rolled out a revamped version of Atlas, its digital advertising platform. The updated platform will allow marketers to analyze the data of Facebook’s 1.3 billion users to target ads to these individuals on other websites and within mobile apps. Atlas also provides advertisers with information that determines which ads are most successful.

With the platform, Facebook plans to compete with Google, Yahoo and other online companies’ advertising networks. But while the detailed tracking Facebook conducts on its users’ information certainly provides marketers with a uniquely valuable tool, the revamped version of Atlas has also caused consumers and their advocates to voice privacy concerns. Facebook representatives are on the record claiming that the company never reveals users’ identity to advertisers.

Law enforcement uneasy about Apple’s, Google’s new encryption policy

Both Apple and Google’s new mobile operating systems, iOS 8 and Android L, respectively, include encryption protection that doesn’t allow the companies to extract information from smartphones protected by a four-digit passcode, even when a warrant is issued. This development has spurred members of the law enforcement community, including Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund President Ronald T. Hosko, to express concern that such policies would hinder efforts to solve crimes and punish criminals.

Apple’s and Google’s new policies “will create needless delays that could cost victims their lives,” Hosko said. He pointed out that while these policies won’t make it more difficult for law enforcement officials to intercept calls, it will be more challenging for them to access information stored on the devices.

EU’s antitrust authorities again demand that Google amend search settlement

European Union antitrust chief Joaquín Almunia is demanding that Google amend its settlement proposal for a fourth time, as antitrust authorities continue a nearly four-years-long investigation into the company’s search practices in Europe.

Almunia’s agency has been probing allegations that Google tweaks its search results in order to prioritize the company’s own products. The agency and Google reached a deal in February that would have allowed the search company to evade fines of around $6 billion if Google agreed to present rivals’ search results in a manner similar to its own. The settlement collapsed, however, when senior EU politicians and prominent publishing houses criticized the decision and called for authorities to diminish Google’s dominance of the search market.

Mobile app startups pursue developer-friendly health data guidelines

Earlier this month, a group of mobile app developers filed a letter of complaint to Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) regarding the lack of current online guidance concerning the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act’s patient health information privacy rules. The App Association, a group that claims to represent 5,000 mobile app providers, was among the letter’s signers.

Developers say it’s difficult to compete with larger rivals that have the means to hire legal experts, while startups must rely on out-of-date information available on government websites, according to Reuters. The group of developers also requested resources including better guidance for storing health data in the cloud, as well as increased participation by members of the Department of Health and Human Services in mobile health events.

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This is where Facebook has been heading for a long time, so it shouldn't surprise anyone - and the privacy concerns are really the same as they have been, it's just a different use of the data they already have. I read one post that basically said if you are really worried about this stuff, you shouldn't be on Facebook - and you probably shouldn't be on the internet at all.