Google announced on Monday that the company will be reducing the amount of time that it will keep sensitive, identifying log data on its search engine customers. To the naive reader, the announcement seems like a clear win for privacy. However, with a bit of careful analysis, it's possible to see that this is little more than snake oil, designed to look good for the newspapers, without delivering real benefits to end users.
If you thought that the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping was limited to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, think again.
While these household names of the telecom industry almost certainly helped the government to illegally snoop on their customers, statements by a number of legal experts suggest that collaboration with the NSA may run far deeper into the wireless phone industry. With over 3,000 wireless companies operating in the United States, the majority of industry-aided snooping likely occurs under the radar, with the dirty-work being handled by companies that most consumers have never heard of.
A recent … Read more
Silicon Valley start-up NebuAd has suspended plans to deploy a controversial program that displays ads based on the monitoring of Web activity while Congress reviews privacy concerns, according to a report in The Washington Post.
The secretive company, which intercepts and performs deep-packet inspection of what's flowing through a company's network in hopes of delivering relevant ads, announced earlier this week that co-founder and CEO Bob Dykes was resigning. His departure comes as several Internet companies canceled or suspended trials of the tracking technique.
"Our platform was architected to be a multi-channel ad system," spokeswoman Janet … Read more
q&a James Powderly didn't trek from New York City to Beijing during the 2008 Olympics to watch table tennis. The artist was plotting to laser-beam a billboard-size, pro-Tibet message at the Bird's Nest Stadium. Instead, he spent six days locked up and interrogated by Chinese police under conditions he likens to torture. He was joined by other American would-be protestors sentenced to prison without being charged of a crime, then released early following U.S. pressure.
The Graffiti Research Lab co-founder and former engineer has helped pioneer open source, digital graffiti techniques, like L.A.S.E.R. tag projections of words and icons onto public walls, as well as LED bulb "throwies" that stick to surfaces to spell out messages in light.
Originally Powderly was invited to participate in a show at the National Art Museum of China, until he says organizers, fearing political controversy, kicked him out. Instead, he collaborated with Students for a Free Tibet (SFT).
Powderly says his high-tech gear--including a cell phone, green laser, laser printer, laptop, camera, tripods--may have tipped off Chinese authorities. And he suspects that if Twitter stops working in China, you might blame him and his collaborators.
Q: The last time we were in touch, you'd mentioned the upcoming Green (Chinese) Lantern project, which you didn't detail for obvious reasons. What happened? How did Chinese authorities find out what you were planning to do? Powderly: When I entered the country on the 15th of August I had a cell phone that might have already been compromised. It had already been used by protesters in the country...We don't know. They weren't telling.
It's safe to say I'm much more like Dr. Strangelove than like James Bond. I stick out like a sore thumb in Beijing. I'm about a foot taller than everybody. I'm wearing a fedora, camos, and sleeveless vest...
These people were still kind of bumbling but resourced and numerically outnumbered adversaries, in terms of the Chinese secret police. There are just so many of them and they're working with so much citizen support, meaning there are 300,000 people in the city just looking constantly and reporting, from taxi drivers to people on the street, undercover cops, policemen in uniforms, soldiers.
Whatever clued them into us, by the afternoon of the 18th I was being tailed by a woman. I spotted her, but I'm in a city of 20 million people. No way they're on me, I hadn't done anything. I was literally at the Wal-Mart superstore buying supplies..I doubted what I was seeing...
What happened next? When did you know for sure? How were you arrested? Powderly: I spent the day of the 17th scouting locations, buying a new laser printer. I went to kind of a safe house to build this laser stencil thing...They'd snuck a new laser in to me and I'd snuck in LED throwies for the LED banner for another group of activists...
I went to Tiananmen Square to scout that location because we'd planned to do two projection events. If we got away with the first one at the Olympic stadium, then we were gonna do the second one in Tiananmen Square...We were gonna project "Free Tibet" or "Tibet will be free" or "6/4/1989."
What worked and what didn't go forward? Powderly: None of them worked. We did nothing. We were arrested and detained in China...for doing nothing except for thinking about it.
On the 18th...I did my one and only laser projection that evening out the window on some torn-down buildings...way out in the outskirts of Beijing, literally the last stop of the "One" line...It worked better than any had before, and I'd come up with a new technique for making the stencils to do transparencies with a normal laser printer.
By choosing Joe Biden as their vice presidential candidate, the Democrats have selected a politician with a mixed record on technology who has spent most of his Senate career allied with the FBI and copyright holders, who ranks toward the bottom of CNET's Technology Voters' Guide, and whose anti-privacy legislation was actually responsible for the creation of PGP.
That's probably okay with Barack Obama: Biden likely got the nod because of his foreign policy knowledge. The Delaware politician is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee who voted for the war in Iraq, and is reasonably well-known … Read more
ASPEN, Colo.--Recording industry and motion picture lobbyists are renewing their push to convince broadband providers to monitor customers and detect copyright infringements, claiming the concept is working abroad and should be adopted in the United States.
A representative of the recording industry said on Monday that her companies would prefer to enter into voluntary "partnerships" with Internet service providers, but pointedly noted that some governments are mandating such surveillance "if you don't work something out."
"Despite our best efforts, we can't do this alone," said Shira Perlmutter, a vice president for … Read more
In response to a Congressional inquiry about targeted advertising, Yahoo announced Friday that consumers will be able to opt out of customized advertising on Yahoo.com.
The news comes one day after Google announced the addition of DoubleClick ad tracking across its sites with an opt-out capability for users.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on August 1 sent a letter to 34 companies about concerns that privacy protections already in place for consumers may not be applicable to customized advertising. The letter asked the companies to respond to 10 questions about their targeted ad policies, including, "If your … Read more
Mobile devices today are far more capable, and capacious, than the analog bricks of decades past. That also creates new security risks, which the feds are asking the public to address in comments due Friday.
"Mobile devices are expected to continue to become more powerful and communicate at higher speeds, eventually giving people the power and functionality of a full desktop," the National Institute of Standards and Technology says in its draft of Guidelines on Cell Phone and PDA Security. "Besides increasing productivity, such improvements are rapidly turning cell phones into extensive data reservoirs capable of holding … Read more
The whopping housing bill that President Bush signed into law last week does far more than merely address the nation's real estate woes. Some sections have raised serious privacy concerns.
Tucked in near the end of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act is a requirement that banks and online payment networks annually collect and report to the IRS electronic payments made to online merchants. It takes effect in 2011, and will affect what information companies like PayPal collect from their sellers and could raise privacy and auditing complications.
The housing bill also finalized the SAFE Mortgage Licensing Act. As … Read more
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has concocted a remarkable new policy: It reserves the right to seize for an indefinite period of time laptops taken across the border.
A pair of DHS policies from last month say that customs agents can routinely--as a matter of course--seize, make copies of, and "analyze the information transported by any individual attempting to enter, re-enter, depart, pass through, or reside in the United States." (See policy No. 1 and No. 2.)
DHS claims the border search of electronic information is useful to detect terrorists, drug smugglers, and people violating "… Read more