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5Sep/13

N.S.A. Foils Much Internet Encryption

NSAThe National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.

The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.

Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. ... CONTINUE READING »

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2Sep/13

Facebook Wants to Use Your Profile Pic to Help Automatic Photo Tagging

20130902-160235.jpg Facebook is proposing a series of changes to its terms if service. There's a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, but the most interesting piece is that Facebook wants to start using your profile photo as the basis for suggesting that you be tagged in your friends' photos. What Facebook's really saying here is that the content of your profile photo—and your face really—is now an actionable piece of data that it can associate with your identity. Previously, you could keep Facebook from "knowing" your face by not letting other people removing any tags of you. That's not exactly an option any more. In theory, you could refuse to upload your likeness to Facebook, but that's a pretty extreme measure. It's always been possible to turn off tag suggestions for your profile. When you do so, it deletes the "template" that Facebook created to identify you. It appears that this deletion applies to any template information that would be created from your Facebook profile photo as well. When we're talking about all this, it's important to remember that most people don't ever touch their privacy settings. So if the proposed changes go through, this is how it's going to be for a majority of users. So far, Facebook has only posted a section-by-section summary of the changes has been posted, but the actual tracked changes document isn't online yet that we can see. Luckily, ATD has the relevant section in its news post:

We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by scanning and comparing your friend’s pictures to information we’ve put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you’ve been tagged.

The old language:

We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by scanning and comparing your friend's pictures to information we've put together from the other photos you've been tagged in. This allows us to make these suggestions.

In the short-term, the change will improve the company's facial recognition so that it can suggest you be tagged in more photos all over the site. And of course, if it can find you all over the site, then it's got a more comprehensive sense of who you are. And of course since this is a proposed change, it won't take effect until after a certain waiting and deliberation period—so if it matters to you, make sure to weigh in.

Via http://gizmodo.com/facebook-wants-to-get-a-better-picture-of-what-your-loo-1222315712

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12Apr/12

Social Networking Bill of Rights

BackgroundCheck.org has developed an interesting infographic seaks to address your rights as a social network user. (Click below for a larger view.)

Via: http://www.backgroundcheck.org/social-networking-bill-of-rights/

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19Mar/12

There’s an app for that: How researchers pwned your mind

Researchers turn smartphone users into unwitting minions with a simple app

With mobile users becoming more reliant on their devices and accompanying applications, researchers from Northwestern University have discovered the ease with which user’s mobility can be “soft” controlled.

As smartphone apps become further and further integrate into our daily lives, you have to wonder if we’re in control of our desires or if mobile applications are starting to controlling us.

To discover the ease with which app users can be manipulated, researchers from the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University underwent a study to determine whether they could change the habits of a smartphone user’s mobility through gaming and social-networking applications. The goal was to compel them to visit areas less frequented.

How can an application affect on our decisions on a daily basis?

Like with advertising, we can be compelled by Foursquare to achieve or maintain our “Mayor” standing at a particular restaurant or venue. We might be manipulated, for instance, to travel not to the local pizza shop, but instead to the Chinese food store that we’ve been visiting repeatedly for the last month.

The research was conducted by John Rula and Fabián E.

Bustamant and titled, “Crowd (Soft) Control Moving Beyond the Opportunistic.” They used four foundational elements that work together offer individuals incentives:

  • Location: The location desired stated in terms of latitude and longitude, and optionally altitude and heading.
  • Action: The type of action to be triggered at the particular location and time.
  • Expiration Time: The time when the request is no longer valid; this is used to control the timing and relevancy of actions.
  • Ranking: The relative importance of the location. This can be used by the game to differentiate incentives by priority Rula and Bustamant created an Android-based augmented reality game titled, “Ghost Hunter,” which required users to chase monsters and ghosts throughout the neighborhood. The objective of the game was to “zap” the ghosts and monsters by capturing the augmented image on their mobile phone’s camera. But what users were not aware of was the researcher’s underlying intent.

The researchers had positioned the ghosts in exact locations, around a predetermined building. The resulting photographs of the “ghosts” enabled the researchers to create a 3D picture of the building from the collected images. While the photographic modeling of the building was successfully crowdsourced by the unsuspecting “Ghost Hunter” gamers, what the researchers had also discovered was the ability to compel users to capture images of the building from angles and locations typically not frequented, as the image below indicates.

While mobile users are concerned about their privacy, the ease with which they can be “soft” controlled raises a whole new issue altogether. Games and social networks not only offer a means of learning more about the people who use them, they can potentially offer a way to control their actions. Manipulating users into conducting illegal acts or luring them to dangerous locations is very much a reality.

Only days ago, three Japanese tourists were mislead by their GPS into the Moreton Bay in Australia during a low tide and became trapped in the thick mud. With the tide rising, they were forced to abandon their waterlogged rental car.

Ultimately, users will have to decide for themselves where they draw the line. As the research reiterates, “As augmented reality gamers can be trusted to exercise their best judgment during play, users of extended location based applications should be trusted to judge the suggestions made through CSC (Crowd Soft Control).”

Via http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/researchers-turn-smartphone-users-into-unwitting-minions-with-a-simple-app/

 

 

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16Mar/12

Privacy suit filed against Path, Twitter, Apple, Facebook, others

Privacy suit filed against Path, Twitter, Apple, Facebook, others Address book issue with mobile apps prompts privacy lawsuit against app makers.

Thirteen individuals have filed a lawsuit against more than a dozen mobile app makers—including Path, Twitter, Apple, and Facebook—who were accused of automatically uploading user address books without permission.

The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas, names 13 plaintiffs, most of them from Austin, and seeks class-action status. The defendants in the suit are: Path, Twitter, Apple, Facebook, Beluga, Yelp, Burbn, Instagram, Foursquare Labs, Gowalla, Foodspotting, Hipster, LinkedIn, Rovio Mobile, ZeptoLab UK, Chillingo, Electronic Arts, and Kik.

“Literally billions of contacts from the address books of tens of millions of unsuspecting wireless mobile device owners have now been accessed and stolen,” the suit says. “The surreptitious data uploads—occurring over both cellular networks and open, public wireless access nodes in homes, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, stores, and businesses all across the nation—have, quite literally, turned the address book owners’ wireless mobile devices into mobile radio beacons broadcasting and publicly exposing the unsuspecting device owner’s address book data to the world.” The lawsuit was prompted by reports last month that Path and a bunch of other apps were snagging address books from users without their permission when the users were prompted to find friends to connect with. The companies claimed they weren’t doing anything nefarious and figured that the users would have realized that access to contact lists were needed to provide the functionality. The news prompted questions from Congress for Apple, as well as public backlash, despite the fact that Path, Apple, and others promised to fix the problem.

Representatives from Twitter, Path and Kik said they had no comment on the lawsuit. LinkedIn spokesman Hani Durzy said, “Yes, we’ve seen the suit. It’s baffling, because quite simply, our mobile apps do not do what is alleged in the suit.” ZeptoLab provided this statement: “As far as we know we have not been legally served with any lawsuit, and thus have no comment at this time.” Representatives from the other companies did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment today.

Privacy has become a huge topic of concern for the industry, particularly when it comes to mobile devices. Google, Apple, and other mobile platform providers have reached an agreement with the California Attorney General’s office to require app developers to post visible privacy policies. And the Obama Administration is pushing for a code of conduct and is looking toward legislation to protect consumer privacy online.

Via http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-57399021-245/privacy-suit-filed-against-path-twitter-apple-facebook-others/

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8Feb/11

I Know What You Did Last Winter (Snow Job)

For those who believe revenge is a dish best served cold...

Like so many around the country, David Welles has had to endure a long cold Winter this year -- only made worse by the volume of snow in front of his Chicago home, and the untimely disappearance of his snow shovel. While Welles is no better equipped to dig his way out of a snowstorm than anyone else without a shovel, he was perfectly equipped to identify the perpetrator -- or, at least her car. That's because Welles works for a security company by the name of Tunnel Vision Technology, and it appears as though he's been visiting the supply closet.

While we'll presume that David's "eagle eye" came with a receipt, the snow shovel he caught his neighbor stealing on digital video didn't. Under ordinary circumstances, one might turn the evidence over to the police. Then again, under ordinary circumstances, it's not likely there would have been any evidence. But, these are no ordinary circumstances, and these are no ordinary times.

David's shovel was probably worth less than $25, maybe ten on the street. The trail was cold before it was laid. And the "perp" wore gloves, so no fingerprints. This wasn't about money. This was about the age's-old relationship between a man and his tools. Besides, Welles had another idea. He entered an arms race, added a dose of PsyOps... and then he turned to YouTube. The result? What Welles calls, "The Quadrilogy of My Favorite Snow Shovel". See the results for yourself.

(NOTE: If you are ONLY connaisseur of revenge, skip to the mid-point.)

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2Feb/11

The Flip-side of Mandatory Data Retention: Flickr Accidentally Deletes 4,000 Photos – Can’t Get Them Back

Zurich-based photoblogger Mirco Wilhelm says Flickr deleted his paid ("Pro") account by mistake and lost 4,000 of his photos. Flickr confirmed that Wilheilm's account was mistakenly deleted after he reported that another user was stealing his photos.

According to an email from the company:

Unfortunately, I have mixed up the accounts and accidentally deleted yours.

Given all the recent discussion regarding government-mandated data retention for investigative purposes, this event certainly emphasizes what can happen when there is no data retention policy in place. Unlike many popular online services, who typically disable accounts before deleting them (if they are ever deleted at all), Flickr apparently sends closed accounts directly to the incinerator.

Read more at http://www.observer.com/2011/tech/flickr-accidentally-deletes-users-4000-photos-and-cant-get-them-back

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27Jan/11

Unlike: Facebook’s Plan To Turn YOU Into A Spokesperson

The funny thing about world-domination is that even when you achieve it, you still have to finance it. Maybe that's why Facebook keeps coming up with crazy money-making schemes.

Last week it was disclosing users' addresses and phone numbers to third-parties. The latest puts you in the role of company spokesperson by turning your "likes" and "checkins" into sponsored ads on your friend's pages--without your consent. Currently there is no way for users to disable this "feature".

Read more at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110126/ap_on_hi_te/us_tec_facebook_ads

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18Jan/11

Facebook Drops Plan to Disclose Users’ Home Addresses and Personal Phone Numbers

Via Epic.org: Facebook has retreated from its decision to allow third-party access to users home addresses and phone numbers. Facebook backed off after criticism of the new policy, but said it would go forward once it has made further changes. EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg said "Facebook is trying to blur the line between public and private information. And the request for permission does not make clear to the user why the information is needed or how it will be used." EPIC, and several consumer organizations, have complaints pending at the Federal Trade Commission concerning Facebook's earlier changes to users' privacy settings. For more information, see EPIC: In Re Facebook, EPIC: In Re Facebook II, and EPIC: Facebook Privacy.

Read full article at http://epic.org/2011/01/facebook-drops-plan-to-disclos.html

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11Jan/11

Winona Ryder Fears Accidentally Opting-Into Al Queda

Careful What You Click F

Actress Winona Ryder doesn't use the Internet. She just got her first smartphone, but finds it unpredictable. She had a laptop, but rarely used it.

She's fearful of technology. And that just might make her smarter than you.

As evidenced in her "Late Night" interview with Jimmy Fallon, these days, such concerns are the fodder for comedians. It's the current equivalent of being afraid to drive or swim. In the late 20th. Century, it might have been a fear of handing one's money over to an ATM machine. Or more recently, making a purchase online. But, well over 30,000 people died in car accidents in 2009. Another 24,000 were injured. In a similar period, more that 3000 people died from drowning. Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Not if it keeps you safe.

Most of us either fear what we don't know, or fear what we do. There's also a whole complicated subset of irrational, or misguided fears that really fall into the first category. According to her own interview, Ryder falls into the former classification.

Ryder told Fallon, "We're a button away from joining Al Queda!"

How many times have you accidentally opted yourself into joining a mailing list because you forgot to un-approve your pre-approved consent? What about that time when you accidentally installed a bunch of "trial-ware" that came along with a program you legitimately wanted to use. Somewhere, before or after the end-user-license agreement you didn't read, it may have been an option. In the 90's one of my attorney-client's accidentally sold a good investment when he was dabbling with online day trading. I have met people who accidentally purchased cars on eBay. Meanwhile, I promise (though I don't recommend confirming it) that many forms of contraband are just a few clicks, or even a typo, away from where you sit this very moment. Last Summer I gave National Public Radio (NPR) a glimpse into just how easy it can be. Even if you bleed apple pie filling, you're still just a click away from looking like someone else.

I haven't tried it myself, but I'll bet joining Al Queda requires, at least, the completion of an annoying CAPTCHA in order to submit a membership application.  While I'm sure Ryder has no interest in joining, just the accusation, or even a rumor, that she ever supported a terrorist organization, or had some other frighting interest, could be just as detrimental. Remember Christine O'Donnell, the Republican Party's most famous witch? In some parts of the country that's harder to understand than extremism.

Ryder: "We're a button away from joining Al Queda."

Remember, Ryder works in the industry that was most famously asked, "Are you, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"

Maybe -- even if unwittingly -- she's on to something. Maybe we'd have several thousand fewer vehicular deaths every year if more drivers understood the engineering that goes into the highway, or a car, it's tires, or even just its brakes and safety systems. Sure, it might scare a few people out of driving altogether. But it might make the rest think a little harder before they accelerated into a turn, or tried to beat a red light across a wet intersection. Maybe, if more people really understood the Internet better before hopping on the "Information Superhighway", law enforcement might have fewer accidents to investigate.

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