Congress Makes a Move to Change New Internet Privacy Rules

The Republican-controlled Senate voted yesterday to reverse FCC privacy protections created under the Obama administration and former FCC chair Tom Wheeler that would have forbidden Internet service providers from using customer data without permission for use in targeted ads. “The measure passed in a 50-to-48 vote largely along party lines,” reports The New York Times. “The House is expected to mirror the Senate’s action next week, followed by a quick signature from President Trump.” The decision means service providers would not require permission to track and share the browsing and app activities of its customers. Continue reading Congress Makes a Move to Change New Internet Privacy Rules

U.S. Claims That Russian Hackers Were Behind Yahoo Attack

The Department of Justice officially charged four people yesterday in connection with Yahoo’s 2014 data breach that reportedly resulted in the theft of data from 500 million Yahoo accounts. According to the indictment, the Russian government used the data obtained by two intelligence officers (Dmitry Dokuchaev, Igor Sushchin) and two hackers (Alexsey Belan, Karim Baratov) to spy on White House and military officials, bank executives, cloud computing companies, a senior level airline official, a Nevada gaming regulator, as well as Russian journalists, business execs and government officials. Continue reading U.S. Claims That Russian Hackers Were Behind Yahoo Attack

Facebook Data Policy Update Will Curb Surveillance of Users

Under pressure from the ACLU and other advocacy groups, Facebook announced it would not allow law enforcement and third party vendors to use its data for surveillance purposes. Facebook did not define surveillance in the update to its data policy, but police have reportedly been using the social network to track protesters and activists. In October, the ACLU published documents from startup Geofeedia that detailed how the location-based, social media analytics platform tracked protestors in Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri. Continue reading Facebook Data Policy Update Will Curb Surveillance of Users

Eyewear Makers Take Focused Approach with Smart Glasses

After Google Glass failed to gain traction, eyewear companies are designing a new generation of smart glasses. Unlike Google Glass, these new wearables are not designed to emulate the functionality of a smartphone. Instead, the new glasses are aimed at narrower audiences. Snap’s Spectacles let users record photos and videos. Oakley’s Radar Pace eyewear acts as a fitness tracker. Italian company Safilo makes glasses that track brain waves and helps users concentrate. The new approach may finally help smart eyewear find a mass market. Continue reading Eyewear Makers Take Focused Approach with Smart Glasses

WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

WikiLeaks released thousands of documents yesterday that it claims detail methods used by the CIA “to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions,” reports The New York Times. According to WikiLeaks, the CIA and allied intelligence services bypassed encryption on messaging services including Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp. WikiLeaks also suggests that agencies can collect audio and messaging data from Android phones “before encryption is applied.” The Wall Street Journal notes that such activities, if actually taking place with consumer electronics, could fuel tensions between intelligence agencies and the tech industry, which has been concerned about customer privacy. Mobile devices are a major concern; NYT published an article detailing potential smartphone vulnerabilities. Continue reading WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

FCC: Pai Halts Privacy Rules, Foreshadowing Broader Repeal

After a 2-to-1 vote, the FCC put a halt to a portion of the privacy rules passed in October. New FCC chair Ajit Pai said those rules required high-speed Internet providers, such as AT&T and Comcast, to secure their customers’ data against hacking and other unauthorized uses. This stay of new government rules may be a foreshadowing of a broader repeal of privacy protections, believe some experts. In line with that, Pai also stated that the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC, should “oversee broadband and Internet industries.” Continue reading FCC: Pai Halts Privacy Rules, Foreshadowing Broader Repeal

Verizon to Pay $350 Million Less for Yahoo Internet Businesses

Verizon and Yahoo announced yesterday plans to move forward with the sale of Yahoo’s core Internet businesses. In the wake of major data breaches at Yahoo, the purchase price has been lowered by $350 million for a new deal valued at $4.48 billion. The companies plan to split future costs related to the data breaches. “The revised agreement,” notes The New York Times, “paves the way for the deal to proceed to a shareholder vote as early as April, although securities regulators are still assessing how Yahoo disclosed information about the breaches to investors.” Verizon is looking to compete with Facebook and Google in digital advertising and, according to The Wall Street Journal, plans to fold Yahoo’s ad tech and websites “into AOL, which Verizon acquired in 2015.” Continue reading Verizon to Pay $350 Million Less for Yahoo Internet Businesses

India Opens its Massive Biometric Database to App Developers

Having created the world’s largest biometric-identity database, India is now opening it up for use by tech firms, healthcare providers and app developers. The country’s government had already culled fingerprints and eye scans, among other digital ID records, of nearly all its 1.2 billion citizens. Now, “India Stack,” a government-backed initiative, plans to standardize the digital exchange of that data. The result will make it easier for citizens to conduct financial transactions, get jobs and verify their identity. Continue reading India Opens its Massive Biometric Database to App Developers

Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Both Amazon and Google are thinking about turning their respective home speakers — Echo and Google Home — into home telephones. Knowledgeable sources say the tech giants could introduce the feature this year, with the goal of gaining yet more control over consumers’ home lives. But the companies are also finding that it’s not so simple, facing issues related to privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services — as well as the potential that consumers will be wary that their conversations are being recorded. Continue reading Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Signal App Update Adds Ability to Make Encrypted Video Calls

The Signal app from non-profit Open Whisper Systems provides end-to-end encrypted messaging, voice calling, and now video chatting. The new feature, along with improved voice calling functionality, comes as part of a beta update for the app’s Android and iOS versions. Signal is a popular choice for activists and journalists who need a private communications platform, but it is still struggling to find a foothold in the mainstream because it sacrifices some popular features for security.  Continue reading Signal App Update Adds Ability to Make Encrypted Video Calls

Yahoo Warns Users: Hackers Forged Cookies to Access Data

Yahoo has issued another warning that users’ personal data may have been compromised. In addition to the malicious activity reported in December that involved more than 1 billion user accounts in 2013-2014, following the September report regarding a separate theft of 500 million records, the Internet company is now notifying users that additional accounts were compromised between 2015 and 2016. “The stolen data included email addresses, birth dates and answers to security questions,” reports CNBC. The hacks involved “the use of ‘forged cookies’ — strings of data which are used across the Web and can sometimes allow people to access online accounts without re-entering their passwords.” Continue reading Yahoo Warns Users: Hackers Forged Cookies to Access Data

Court Rules Microsoft Email Surveillance Lawsuit Can Proceed

In April, Microsoft sued the federal government for intercepting its customers’ emails and preventing Microsoft from alerting them. Now, U.S. District Judge James Robart has ruled that Microsoft made a viable argument, but rejects its contention that the government interception is an unlawful search and seizure of property. At the time, federal courts issued Microsoft about 2,600 so-called secrecy orders, and the tech company could not inform its customers, even when the search was over. Continue reading Court Rules Microsoft Email Surveillance Lawsuit Can Proceed

Vizio Settles FTC, New Jersey Lawsuit Against Data Collection

Vizio just agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission and the New Jersey Attorney General. The lawsuit accused the smart TV manufacturer of using its TVs to track what its owners watched — without their knowledge or consent — and then selling that information to marketing firms. According to the FTC, Vizio began gathering such data in 2014, and even retrofitted smart TVs sold as early as 2010 via a software update, for a total of 11 million TVs. Continue reading Vizio Settles FTC, New Jersey Lawsuit Against Data Collection

Trump Promotes Net Neutrality Opponent Ajit Pai to FCC Chair

President Trump has named Ajit Pai as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He will replace Tom Wheeler, who stepped down on Friday. Pai, appointed as an FCC commissioner in 2012 by President Obama, has opposed many of the Commission’s recent initiatives, such as regulating cable mergers, introducing consumer privacy protection, and establishing net neutrality. In a December letter to the leaders of CTIA, NTCA, WISPA, the American Cable Association and Competitive Carriers Association, Pai and fellow commissioner Michael O’Rielly wrote of net neutrality’s “disproportionate impact … on smaller sized broadband providers,” promising to “revisit … the Title II Net Neutrality proceeding … as soon as possible.” Continue reading Trump Promotes Net Neutrality Opponent Ajit Pai to FCC Chair

SEC Opens Investigation into Massive Yahoo Data Breaches

The Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into Yahoo’s highly-publicized data breaches and whether the company should have disclosed the massive hacks earlier. “The SEC requires companies to disclose cybersecurity risks as soon as they are determined to have an effect on investors,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Yahoo’s 2014 breach, disclosed in September 2016, involved data from at least 500 million users. In December 2016, the company revealed that more than 1 billion Yahoo user accounts had been breached in 2013. “The SEC has investigated multiple companies over whether they properly disclosed hacks,” notes WSJ, especially after the 2013 Target breach “that compromised up to 70 million credit and debit-card accounts.” Continue reading SEC Opens Investigation into Massive Yahoo Data Breaches

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