EU Privacy Ruling May Disrupt U.S. Tech Firms, Spy Programs

from Bloomberg U.S. Internet companies may lose billions of dollars and spy agencies may be stifled in thwarting terror plots after Europe’s highest court struck down a trans-Atlantic data-use agreement. The U.S. Commerce Department will provide guidance to companies on how to proceed with data transfers in the wake of Tuesday’s ruling, which invalidates a 15-year-old agreement that allowed U.S. technology companies such as Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. to move European customers’ information to the U.S. “It could potentially be disruptive depending on how the Europeans choose to implement it,” Michael Daniel, the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator said in an interview in […]

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Thoughts on Privacy

from Doc Searls Weblog In Here Is New York, E.B. White opens with this sentence: “On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy.” Sixty-four years have passed since White wrote that, and it still makes perfect sense to me, hunched behind a desk in a back room of a Manhattan apartment. That’s because privacy is mostly a settled issue in the physical world, and a grace of civilized life. Clothing, for example, is a privacy technology. So are walls, doors, windows and shades. Private spaces in public settings are well […]

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New Reports Describe More Mass Surveillance and Schemes to Undermine Encryption

from Wired THE NEWS OF government mass surveillance keeps coming, as two more stories reveal that spy agencies in the US and the UK plotted to record the browsing habits of every internet user.  First up is a story from The Intercept about Karma Police, a seven-year-old program launched by the British spy agency GCHQ designed to catalog visits to porn sites, social media and news sites, as well as activity on search engines, chat forums, and blogs. As previously reported, GCHQ has tapped more than 200 undersea cables as part of its spying partnership with the NSA, siphoning gigabytes of data each day. […]

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AT&T Helped U.S. Spy on Internet on a Vast Scale

from NYTs The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T. While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” AT&T’s cooperation has involved a broad range of classified activities, according to the documents, which date from […]

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Think Your Email’s Private? Think Again

from TED Sending an email message is like sending a postcard, says scientist Andy Yen in this thought-provoking talk: Anyone can read it. Yet encryption, the technology that protects the privacy of email communication, does exist. It’s just that until now it has been difficult to install and a hassle to use. Showing a demo of an email program he designed with colleagues at CERN, Yen argues that encryption can be made simple to the point of becoming the default option, providing true email privacy to all. More here.

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The Changing Economics of Surveillance

from Schneier on Security Cory Doctorow examines the changing economics of surveillance and what it means: The Stasi employed one snitch for every 50 or 60 people it watched. We can’t be sure of the size of the entire Five Eyes global surveillance workforce, but there are only about 1.4 million Americans with Top Secret clearance, and many of them don’t work at or for the NSA, which means that the number is smaller than that (the other Five Eyes states have much smaller workforces than the US). This million-ish person workforce keeps six or seven billion people under surveillance — a ratio […]

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There is Actually One Thing You Can Do to Fight the Surveillance Machine

from New Tech City Reading this right now? Congratulations. You’re winning. Yes, all of the usual corporate and government entities know you’re here. Google remembers everything you’ve ever searched, BuzzFeed knows how you’ve scored on all their quizzes, and your cell phone provider knows who you talk to and who you sleep with. Terms of Service agreements are an exercise in futility, encrypted email often takes more trouble than it’s worth, and yeah, sure, go ahead and give Facebook a fake name, but don’t think you’re fooling anyone. Companies are collecting your data from just about everywhere, storing it through time unknown, and […]

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Now Corporate Drones are Spying on Cell Phones

from Schneier on Security The marketing firm Adnear is using drones to track cell phone users: The capture does not involve conversations or personally identifiable information, according to director of marketing and research Smriti Kataria. It uses signal strength, cell tower triangulation, and other indicators to determine where the device is, and that information is then used to map the user’s travel patterns. “Let’s say someone is walking near a coffee shop,” Kataria said by way of example. The coffee shop may want to offer in-app ads or discount coupons to people who often walk by but don’t enter, as well as […]

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White House Proposes Broad Consumer Data Privacy Bill

from NYTs The Obama administration on Friday proposed a wide-ranging bill intended to provide Americans with more control over the personal information that companies collect about them and how that data can be used, fulfilling a promise the president had talked about for years. But some privacy advocates immediately jumped on the proposed legislation, saying it failed to go far enough, particularly given the broad statements President Obama had made on the issue. They said the bill would give too much leeway to companies and not enough power to consumers. There are already a number of federal laws, like the Fair […]

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Why I’m Saying Goodbye to Apple, Google and Microsoft

from Medium Backchannel When I became a technology columnist in the mid-1990s, the public Internet was just beginning its first big surge. Back then, I advised my readers to avoid the semi-political, even religious battles that advocates of this or that technology platform seemed to enjoy. Appreciate technology, I urged, for what it is?—?a tool?—?and use what works best. So why am I typing this on a laptop running GNU/Linux, the free software operating system, not an Apple or Windows machine? And why are my phones and tablets running a privacy-enhanced offshoot of Android called Cyanogenmod, not Apple’s iOS or standard Android? […]

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Transparency Reports On Trial: New Front For Free Speech?

from gigaom The latest high profile free speech fight isn’t over a book, a movie or even a video game. Instead, the court case is over a corporate report, and has led media companies to join Twitter in an unusual First Amendment challenge of government gag orders. The court case highlights the growing significance of the so-called “transparency reports” that Twitter and a growing number of other companies, are using to inform users about government demands and other trends that affect the internet. Since they began appearing five years ago, the reports have served as an important measure of free speech and privacy. But they can also be a PR tool for the companies that publish […]

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The Future of the Internet Might Hinge on This Bet

from Medium Humans are driven by metaphors. We can’t help it. “Internet access is like electricity,” we say, and that leads to a host of other mental images: standard plugs for a wealth of devices, warm light against a dark frozen landscape, the burdens of life made more bearable. The warring metaphor now is “the Internet is the new TV,” thoroughly managed, channelized, bent on entertainment, ad-driven, interactive only when it suits someone’s business plan. Both of these metaphors are limited and not quite right. That’s the way metaphors work. But we are in fact ants on a wrinkle of […]

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Verizon’s Mobile ‘Supercookies’ Seen as Threat to Privacy

from NYTs For the last several months, cybersecurity experts have been warning Verizon Wireless that it was putting the privacy of its customers at risk. The computer codes the company uses to tag and follow its mobile subscribers around the web, they said, could make those consumers vulnerable to covert tracking and profiling. It looks as if there was reason to worry. This month Jonathan Mayer, a lawyer and computer science graduate student at Stanford University, reported on his blog that Turn, an advertising software company, was using Verizon’s unique customer codes to regenerate its own tracking tags after consumers […]

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Can The Privacy Revolution Prevail?

from Forbes How many of you were suckered by the Facebook privacy hoax and posted the scary note revoking Facebook’s rights to your pictures and data? Oops. Snopes has pointed out that Facebook never owned your data. The message is useless. You control who sees your information through Facebook privacy controls, but by agreeing to the site’s terms of use you are granting Facebook a “non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any content you post.” But the number of people who’ve posted point to a very real phenomenon: the growing sensitivity of consumers to websites that share or sell […]

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Secure Messaging Scorecard

From EFF In the face of widespread Internet surveillance, we need a secure and practical means of talking to each other from our phones and computers. Many companies offer “secure messaging” products—but are these systems actually secure? We decided to find out, in the first phase of a new EFF Campaign for Secure & Usable Crypto. This scorecard represents only the first phase of the campaign. In later phases, we are planning to offer closer examinations of the usability and security of the tools that score the highest here. As such, the results in the scorecard below should not be […]

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Whether Working or Job Seeking, the Algorithm Is Watching

from Bits Blog Are you perusing LinkedIn at work more than usual? That small change in behavior could set off alerts in computer analytics programs used to surveil and rank employees, according to a forthcoming book, “The Reputation Economy: How to Optimize Your Digital Footprint in a World Where Your Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset.” If your LinkedIn browsing is noticed “by a recruiter, look forward to increased cold calls trying to lure you into new jobs,” the authors write. “If it’s caught by your company, look forward to either a conversation about what it would take to keep […]

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What’s Wrong With Your Pa$$w0rd?

from TED Lorrie Faith Cranor studied thousands of real passwords to figure out the surprising, very common mistakes that users — and secured sites — make to compromise security. And how, you may ask, did she study thousands of real passwords without compromising the security of any users? That’s a story in itself. It’s secret data worth knowing, especially if your password is 123456 … More here.

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On Privacy, Free Speech, & Related Matters – Richard Posner vs David Cole & Others

from Concurring Opinions I’m exaggerating a little, but I think privacy is primarily wanted by people because they want to conceal information to fool others. – Richard Posner Privacy is overrated – Richard Posner (2013)  Much of what passes for the name of privacy is really just trying to conceal the disreputable parts of your conduct. Privacy is mainly about trying to improve your social and business opportunities by concealing the sorts of bad activities that would cause other people not to want to deal with you. – Richard Posner (2014) More here.

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Online Education Run Amok?

from Politico Massive open online courses, first envisioned as a way to democratize higher education, have made their way into high schools, but Washington is powerless to stop the flood of personal data about teenage students from flowing to private companies, thanks to loopholes in federal privacy laws. Universities and private companies this fall unveiled a slew of free, open-access online courses to high school students, marketing them as a way for kids to supplement their Advanced Placement coursework or earn a certificate of completion for a college-level class. But when middle and high school students participate in classes with […]

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Click Here to See If You’re Under Surveillance

from BusinessWeek For more than two years, researchers and rights activists have tracked the proliferation and abuse of computer spyware that can watch people in their homes and intercept their e-mails. Now they’ve built a tool that can help the targets protect themselves. The free, downloadable software, called Detekt, searches computers for the presence of malicious programs that have been built to evade detection. The spyware ranges from government-grade products used by intelligence and police agencies to hacker staples known as RATs—remote administration tools. Detekt, which was developed by security researcher Claudio Guarnieri, is being released in a partnership with advocacy groups Amnesty […]

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