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RESTful Rails Development by Silvia Puglisi

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Chapter 16. Privacy and Security

This chapter considers  privacy and security issues that should be evaluated while writing a RESTful application or service. Our discussion will go beyond the usual Rails recommendations and security best practices; we will also explore the implications of handling and collecting data about users’ behavior and preferences.

How to Protect User Privacy

Privacy is currently one of those hot topics in information technology. This is probably because there are two primary opposing views on the subject:

  1. Users do not care about privacy.
  2. Users wouldn’t want to be “social” if they knew what it really meant for their privacy.

Both views are utterly right and utterly wrong at the same time. The truth in fact is that users do see a benefit in disclosing their preferences and in having websites collect their data. They receive value back in terms of utility, or in other words a better service already filtered and tailored for their needs and tastes. Still, by collecting user data, over time you will end up with a history of your users’ behavior on your platform, and some information about their activity on other platforms as well. This can be a potential source of a whole class of issues.

The first important step when it comes to security is understanding what kinds of sensitive data your service is storing. This may include anything from credit card and banking information, to physical addresses or personal preferences that the users would like to keep ...

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