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Consumer trafficking articles abound

On the heels of AT&T (NYSE: T ) launching its super fast fiber Internet service (called GigaPower) in Kansas City, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that the $70 monthly price comes with a caveat: users have to allow AT&T to track their web browsing. As in, all of it. If customers do not like it, they can pay to keep their privacy -- for an extra $29 per month.

The same week researchers reported that the National Security Agency had been embedding surveillance tools in the guts of thousands of machines in Iran, Russia and other countries, it was revealed that the world’s largest personal computer company had been doing something similar to its customers.

They know who you are, what you like, and how you buy things. Researchers at MIT have matched up your Facebook (FB) likes, tweets, and social media activity with the products you buy. The results are a highly detailed and accurate profile of how much money you have, where you go to spend it and exactly who you are.

Whether it's a barrage of creepy ads or the constant and confusing tweaks to its settings, Facebook is the technology company that consumers most fear when it comes to privacy. That's according to a poll conducted for CNBC.com by SurveyMonkey.

Facebook built itself into the No. 2 digital advertising platform in the world by analyzing the vast amount of data it had on each of its 1.3 billion users to sell individually targeted ads on its social network.

Do you trust Google? If you use its multitude of online services on a daily basis you might, but is that assumption wise? For some, Google is a wonderful company with a broad selection of useful online tools that make life easier, but for others Google is a looming, unregulated monster just waiting for the moment to drop the ‘don't' from the company's unofficial motto, "Don't be evil."

Last month Facebook created a more-prominent control panel called Privacy Shortcuts. But as New York Times "Bits" blogger Nick Bilton put it, "When Facebook giveth, Facebook taketh away" -- specifically, you can now no longer hide yourself from Facebook search.

Yahoo's general counsel said Thursday that the US government tried to force them to give up their user data in 2008 by threatening to fine them $250,000 each day they refused. Although the company did end up giving up the information after a unsuccessful legal challenge, Yahoo said it fought the government on the order in secret court proceedings.

Two Facebook users, Michael Hurley and Matthew Campbell, filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook on Dec. 30, 2013, alleging that the social network "has systematically violated consumers’ privacy by reading its users’ personal, private Facebook messages without their consent. "Accused Of Reading Private Messages, Selling Data"

Facebook is expanding its ad-targeting capabilities by building in users’ data from outside websites and apps, raising further concerns over privacy on the social network.

While the focus Wednesday was on a White House panel’s report recommending curbs to government spying programs, another less-noticed report peeled back the curtain on how private entities are collecting massive amounts of data about millions of Americans.

Facebook users beware: The company has -- yet again -- unilaterally changed its mind about its data collection practices. As users should know, that's not a good thing for their privacy. Earlier this month, the dominant social network announced that it's altering the way it determines which ads to show users of its site. In the past, the company based its ad choices on what users were doing on Facebook -- what pages they liked, what links they clicked on.

On Twitter, Facebook and other sites that promote sharing of content, users can typically choose whether they want to post their updates publicly to everyone or carefully select their audience. But even careful users may not be aware that sites where they post their status updates, photos, videos, fiction or digital art may be able to repurpose that content, using it for marketing or remixing it with other people’s submissions and republishing it.

Google Plus, the company’s social network, is like a ghost town. Want to see your old roommate’s baby or post your vacation status? Chances are, you’ll use Facebook instead. But Google isn’t worried. Google Plus may not be much of a competitor to Facebook as a social network, but it is central to Google’s future — a lens that allows the company to peer more broadly into people’s digital life, and to gather an ever-richer trove of the personal information that advertisers covet.

Are you a financially strapped working mother who smokes? A Jewish retiree with a fondness for Caribbean cruises? Or a Spanish-speaking professional with allergies, a dog lover and a collector of Elvis memorabilia? All this information and much, much more is being quietly collected, analyzed and distributed by the nation’s burgeoning data-broker industry, which uses billions of individual data points to produce detailed portraits of virtually every American consumer, the Federal Trade Commission reported Tuesday.

About a year ago, a thirtysomething sculptor in Los Angeles began working on a bust of Edward Snowden. When he was done, he shipped the bust to his artist friends on the East Coast. Just before dawn April 6, the artists crept under cover of darkness into Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park and installed the 100-pound bust atop a Revolutionary War memorial.

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