Government Surveillance Bill Is Sidelined by Privacy Question

The House of Representatives, after closed-door negotiations, came to an agreement to bring an amendment to vote that would protect Americans from FBI and CIA surveillance of their web browsing history without a warrant. The amendment, introduced by Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), would be a “significant reform to Section 215 [of the USA Patriot Act] that protects Americans’ civil liberties,” said Lofgren. However, after full details of the proposal were released, debate over who would specifically be protected led to the amendment’s downfall. Continue reading Government Surveillance Bill Is Sidelined by Privacy Question

Zoom Use Skyrockets, Revealing Privacy and Security Issues

Remote conferencing services company Zoom Video Communications has become an overnight success as more Americans stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. Zoom, once mainly used by businesses, is now being used for everything from yoga courses to happy hours, but is also stretching the tool’s limits to serve both those who pay for the premium service and consumers who gravitate to the free version. There’s also a dark side to Zoom’s uptick: online trolls who “Zoombomb” meetings, and concerns about the San Jose-based company’s privacy policies. Continue reading Zoom Use Skyrockets, Revealing Privacy and Security Issues

Commission Finds U.S. Is Unprepared for Major Cyberattacks

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission released a report based on a months-long study that showed the U.S. government’s lack of ability to block cyber threats. The Commission lists 75 recommendations for major structural changes, including the creation of Congressional committees dedicated to cybersecurity and a White House-based national cybersecurity director to be confirmed by the Senate. The report is blunt in its assessment that the U.S. government’s current approach to cyberattacks is “fundamentally flawed.” Continue reading Commission Finds U.S. Is Unprepared for Major Cyberattacks

Ransomware Attacks Increase and Demand Bigger Payouts

An increasing number of cities, hospitals and businesses are being attacked by ransomware, by which bad actors shut down the victim’s computer network until a ransom is paid. Up until now, these attacks have been hard to measure since many of those impacted quietly paid the ransom without notifying any authorities. Security firm Emsisoft just reported a 41 percent increase in ransomware attacks between 2018 and 2019, with 205,280 businesses and other groups submitting evidence of such intrusions in 2019. Continue reading Ransomware Attacks Increase and Demand Bigger Payouts

Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

Clearview AI has scraped over three billion photos from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Venmo and hundreds of other websites to create a facial recognition database now used by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and over 600 law enforcement agencies. Twitter just sent a cease-and-decease letter to the startup demanding that it stop taking photos and other data from its site and to delete any data it has already collected. Twitter accused Clearview AI of violating its policies. Continue reading Twitter Warns Clearview to Stop Scraping its Users’ Photos

Apple Drops iCloud Encryption Plan Based on FBI Concerns

According to six sources, in response to FBI concerns, Apple dropped the plan to allow iPhone users to encrypt backups in its iCloud service. Although this took place two years ago, it is just now being reported. Stress between Apple’s stance on privacy and law enforcement’s push to have access to its phones re-emerged a few weeks ago when a Saudi Air Force officer killed three Americans at Naval Air Station Pensacola. U.S. attorney general William Barr and President Donald Trump urged Apple to unlock the killer’s two iPhones. Continue reading Apple Drops iCloud Encryption Plan Based on FBI Concerns

FBI and Law Enforcement Use New Facial Recognition Tool

A small startup named Clearview AI, led by Hoan Ton-That, created a facial recognition app that may exceed the scope of anything built by the U.S. government or Big Tech companies. Now in the hands of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and hundreds of other law enforcement agencies, the app allows the user to take a photo of a person, upload it and search a database of more than three billion images to find public photos of that person with links to where they appeared. Images have been scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and “millions of other websites.” Continue reading FBI and Law Enforcement Use New Facial Recognition Tool

Terrorist Act Revives Clash Between Government and Apple

In the aftermath of a deadly shooting at a Naval air station in Pensacola, Florida that was later declared an act of terrorism, Attorney General William Barr requested that Apple provide access to the two iPhones used by the killer. He later complained that Apple has thus far provided no “substantive assistance.” The Saudi Arabian assassin, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, was training with the U.S. military but had earlier posted anti-American, anti-Israeli and jihadist screeds on social media. Continue reading Terrorist Act Revives Clash Between Government and Apple

Fake Facebook Accounts Used AI-Generated Profile Photos

Facebook discovered and removed hundreds of fake accounts with AI-generated profile photos tied to Epoch Media Group, the parent company of news outlet The Epoch Times and other Falun Gong-related publications. The use of artificial intelligence to generate fake photos has long been a concern among computer scientists. Although these fake photos were not the level of those created at Big Tech companies, their widespread appearance on Facebook marks another way that disinformation can invade social media platforms. Continue reading Fake Facebook Accounts Used AI-Generated Profile Photos

Federal Agency Reveals Bias in Facial Recognition Systems

The National Institute of Standards and Technology reported that most commercially available facial recognition systems — often used by police departments and federal agencies — are biased. The highest error rate involved Native American faces, but African-American and Asian faces were incorrectly identified 10 to 100 times more than Caucasian faces. The systems also had more difficulty identifying female faces and falsely identified older people up to 10 times more than middle-aged adults. Continue reading Federal Agency Reveals Bias in Facial Recognition Systems

Facebook Advances Encryption Plans For Messaging Apps

Although U.S. Attorney General William Barr has advocated against encryption, Facebook is advancing its plans to add the technology to all its messaging platforms. Barr wants Facebook to allow at least some government access to those platforms, in the name of public safety. WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart and Messenger head Stan Chudnovsky responded to Barr that, “undermining encryption in their products for law enforcement would create a ‘backdoor’ vulnerability that malicious actors also could leverage to harm users.” Continue reading Facebook Advances Encryption Plans For Messaging Apps

Comparison of Biometric Data Use, Storage in 50 Countries

The use of biometrics — and the resulting data — are growing exponentially. Pro-consumer website Comparitech analyzed 50 different countries to create a more detailed picture of where and why biometrics are collected and how the data is being stored. Although the U.S. is one of the countries whose biometric collection is “extensive and invasive,” in related news, the Department of Homeland Security mothballed a plan to require facial recognition screening for every person before leaving or entering the country. Continue reading Comparison of Biometric Data Use, Storage in 50 Countries

FCC Proposals Will Ban Carriers’ Use of Huawei, ZTE Gear

The FCC introduced two measures that would prevent U.S. carriers from using technology from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. Both measures impact the Universal Service Fund, managed by the FCC, that provides subsidies to low-income households. The first would prohibit carriers from using money from the Fund to buy ZTE or Huawei equipment. The second, under-development measure would require carriers receiving money from the Fund to remove existing Huawei and ZTE gear, possibly in exchange for replacements. Continue reading FCC Proposals Will Ban Carriers’ Use of Huawei, ZTE Gear

Disinformation From Iran and Russia Deleted by Facebook

Facebook revealed that it found and took down four disinformation campaigns, three of which originated in Iran and one in Russia, all of them aimed at users in the United States, Latin America and North Africa. The posts, which crossed ideological lines and covered multiple categories, touched on Middle Eastern conflict and racial strife and mentioned New York’s Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Russian campaign, comprised of 50 accounts, focused on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Continue reading Disinformation From Iran and Russia Deleted by Facebook

Facebook Freezes 69,000 Apps for Collecting Personal Data

Last Friday, Facebook suspended 69,000 apps, stating that they had harvested users’ personal data. The investigation began in March 2018, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, leading to the suspensions of those apps, associated with 400 developers. The Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey investigated and found that 10,000 of the 69,000 apps were found to have “potentially misappropriated” personal data, often as a way to add new users. The Justice Department and the FBI are still investigating Cambridge Analytica. Continue reading Facebook Freezes 69,000 Apps for Collecting Personal Data

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