Addition of voice search trigger command to Chromium causes outcry
Google has come under fire from privacy campaigners, for automatically installing an audio monitoring tool as part of Chromium, the core of Chrome. Developers discovered the browser was automatically downloading and installing code that listens to the user's voice for the voice search trigger "OK Google," something that is allowed within the main Chrome browser, but not within the open source Chromium browser.
Adobe, Wikimedia, WordPress, Yahoo among top-rated tech firms
For the second year running, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has given Apple and a handful of other tech firms a perfect "five out of five" star rating for efforts related to securing consumer data against both theft and government intrusion. The high score reflects a top initiative of Apple CEO Tim Cook, and the company generally, in believing that the business model that requires collecting and monetizing customer data is fundamentally flawed.
First transparency report suggests Amazon may have received National Security Letters
Amazon is joining the likes of Google, Facebook, and Apple, by issuing its first transparency report. Later than other online giants in providing the information, and only doing so after criticism from civil liberties and digital rights groups, the retailer's first report advises of the number of times the company has received requests from both US and non-US governments for customer data, and how many times Amazon has provided what was requested.
CNIL gives Google 15 days to implement search removal requests globally
Google is facing pressure to implement its "Right to be Forgotten" measures on all sites around the world, instead of just the European versions. French data protection regulator CNIL has demanded that Google allows European users to request the removal of certain search results in all global Google search sites in the next 15 days, or face the prospect of having sanctions imposed on the company's activities.
Speaks strongly against government, tech firms data collection practices
Even as the Republican-dominated US Senate passed a measure attempting to restore some -- but not all -- of the government's bulk data-collection powers (which expired on Monday), Apple CEO Tim Cook reiterated his role as America's leading corporate pro-privacy advocate by speaking via teleconferencing at an event hosted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, where he was honored as one of America's "Champions of Freedom."
Google creates My Account tool to manage security, privacy settings
Google is making it easier to manage the security and privacy of a user's account, by bringing everything within the same page. The new My Account site allows users to manage their Google account's privacy settings, device activity and notifications, and other settings that apply across all Google services. Privacy Checkup and Security Checkup tools also aim to simplify the process, taking users gradually through the account settings. A second site, privacy.google.com, has been created to explain what Google does with user data, how it is secured, and other similar queries.
Patent for responsive toys with microphones, cameras deemed creepy by critics
A recently published patent from Google is drawing concern from privacy groups. The patent for "Agent Interfaces for Interactive Electronics that support Social Cues" effectively describes a toy or doll that can analyze a user's speech and body language to determine if it is being communicated with directly and respond accordingly, with law-related tech company SmartUp describing it as "one of Google's creepiest patents yet."
Agency joining with Apple, AT&T in opposing sale of cell phone customer data
Following a similar move by Apple last Thursday filed with the Delaware bankruptcy court handling the sale of some RadioShack assets, the US Federal Trade Commission has sent the court a list of conditions for the sale of the electronics retailer's assets that would be needed to protect personal privacy of cellular service customers who bought their equipment and/or service from RadioShack. Neither Apple, nor fellow filer AT&T, are seeking to block the overall sale.
New P2P instant messaging app helps keep conversations private
It's hard to have a conversation about the Internet without also having a conversation about privacy, or the lack thereof. As a response, BitTorrent Bleep is a new messenger service brought about by a desire for a little more privacy than the average text or IM program. We sat down with Bleep to see just how well this newcomer holds up to its promises.
Apple files brief to protect customer data from sale in RadioShack bankruptcy deal
Almost 59 percent of European search listing removal requests denied by Google
Google is not fulfilling a high proportion of "Right to be Forgotten" requests, with more than half of requests being denied by the search company. According to its latest Transparency Report, Google has evaluated over 922 thousand requests for the removal of search listings since the program began last year, but out of that figure, 58.7 percent of all requests have been rejected.
Bill would suspend mass-collection efforts, require legal justifications
The USA Freedom Act (PDF file) was reintroduced in the US House of Representatives recently. It proposes to curtail the mass collection of the telephone records of US citizens under section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, , and force intelligence agencies to justify selective acquisition -- more in accordance with the principles laid out in the US Constitution. The bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 25-2.
Encrypt attachments before emailing them
People do tend to believe that a Word attachment is emailed out across the Internet as exactly that, a Word attachment: they don't realize that it's converted into something else for transmission. Similarly, people tend to think that an email leaves their computer and goes directly to their recipient's machine: they don't realize how many, many and three times many other computers that email may pass through on the way. In theory, someone using one of those computers along the way could intercept the email, and obtain a copy of that Word attachment. So that's what Privacy Envelope is designed to do: it is built to stop even the incredibly remote possibility of anyone getting their paws on your attachment.
Class action given go-ahead by appeals court over privacy violating data collection
The Court of Appeal of England and Wales has dismissed an attempt by Google to prevent British computer users from being able to sue it in England. The landmark hearing followed an earlier defeat for Google in the English High Court in which it was unsuccessful in preventing three British computer users from having the right to sue it for breach of privacy, after the computer giant ignored users wishes not to have tracking cookies placed on their computers.
Product debut build-up resulting in rare access to CEO and design chief
A new interview with Apple design head Sir Jonathan Ive and recent remarks by CEO Tim Cook are shedding some light (and building up hype) for both the Apple Watch and the current outlook of the company and the men who run it. Ive, in an interview with London's Financial Times, explains the rationale behind the development of the Apple Watch, while Cook expanded on his view on privacy, and Apple's industry leadership. In other news, a forthcoming Apple Watch app has already set the bar to a new low.
Mac maker will continue to not share security information with government, however
Apple and Intel are among the US firms that have agreed to sign on to President Obama's new Cybersecurity Framework as a result of a recent summit on the topic held on Friday in Palo Alto, California. The two tech firms are the first in that sector to adopt the measures, which are intended to better coordinate reporting of data and security breaches and the response to them between businesses and the federal government.
President seeks to strike balance between security and privacy
The Office of the President has announced a forthcoming White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection that will take place on Friday, February 13 at Stanford University. President Obama and representatives from business, government, cyber security firms and other interested stakeholders will gather in the hopes of finding a balance between protecting America's interests from the growing threat of cyber-attacks, while still protecting citizen privacy. Apple CEO Tim Cook is among those who have been invited to speak.
Personal information overheard by smart TV may be transmitted to third party
House Democrat from Maryland hopes to build on momentum from Sony hack
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is a bill that, if signed into law, allows for the sharing of Internet traffic information purportedly to allow for the investigation of threats to the security of networks and "cybercrime." The bill failed in both 2012 and 2013, amid concerns of "broad language" and threats to privacy, but Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland) plans to reintroduce the controversial bill this Friday.
Apple, most big tech companies support Microsoft in Irish email case
This week saw the submission of ten amicus curae briefs filed from a combined 87 individuals, businesses, and associations in support of Microsoft's challenge to a US search warrant for an email stored on a data center in Ireland to the court. The fight between the US government and the Windows maker centers around US law's reach into a customer's private records when the records are actually stored in another country.
Court injunction shutters Nevada Uber service one month after launch
Uber has shut down its service in Nevada barely a month after launching, following the issuing of a preliminary injunction preventing it from operating within the state. In a separate announcement, the company has also advised it has disciplined an executive following allegations he had tracked the location of a journalist using a corporate-level "God View" tool.
All Writs Act compels 'reasonable' unlock assistance, gives idea of future circumvention
In the face of increasing security measures on consumer devices, the US Department of Justice appears to be returning to old school tactics to get at data in devices. A judge in New York ordered an unnamed smartphone manufacturer to provide technical assistance in unlocking a device, something prosecutors argued under the All Writs Act of 1789. While the All Writs Act has been used in the past in technological situations, it could be the de facto means of law enforcement data requests in the future.
Calls on Congress to make general 'data brokering' more transparent
Information on ePubs sent in plain text over unencrypted channels to Adobe servers
If Adobe didn't enough problems with its reputation for security because of the frequency of the company's products being used for attack vectors, then the claim that the company collects detailed, personal data through Digital Editions 4 will undoubtedly further alienate some customers. The program, which is used to enforce digital rights management on borrowed books from libraries or other online avenues, is reporting details on the use of the ePub files back to Adobe - and is unencrypted, inviting further privacy and security issues.
Google chairman defends company against implied Tim Cook remarks
Google chairman Eric Schmidt has fought back against comments over the company's security and privacy, following comments laid out by Apple CEO Tim Cook. In an interview which touched upon a recent open letter about privacy from Cook, Schmidt claims "Someone didn't brief [Cook] correctly on Google's policies. It's unfortunate for him."
Proposals for Facebook research to undergo more stringent reviews
Facebook has admitted fault over its handling of user-based research, a matter which erupted this summer, and is taking steps to prevent such incidents from happening again. The social network is putting in place measures that it hopes will place a greater degree of scrutiny on future research projects, at the time of proposal, and at the time of publication.
Apple's product-centric business model differentiates it from others, CEO says
During more of the interview for PBS' "Charlie Rose" show, Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed the thorny issue of user privacy, with Cook coming out strongly differentiating Apple from other companies, noting that Apple "tries not to collect data." Cook said he believes users "have a right to privacy," and used the issue to reiterate that Apple was not cooperating with US government spying programs.
Amicus briefs filed with NY Supreme Court decry overly broad warrants
Facebook is battling the New York courts over what it says are overly-broad warrants to examine user profiles and data. Supporting the social media giant, Dropbox, Foursquare, Google, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Meetup, Microsoft, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, and Yelp have all filed amicus curae ("friend of the court") briefs with courts in support of the Facebook effort, complaining that services like Facebook are multi-faceted and require more granular warrants, rather than a sweeping motion to collect all data about a targeted user.
Lawsuit launched in Austrian court, points to privacy issues, violation of EU law
Law student Max Schrems has turned from filing complaints against Facebook's Irish subsidiary to filing a European lawsuit against the social media company for privacy violations. Schrems filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, asking people from outside the United States and Canada to join in. At the heart of the matter are violations Schrems and his group, Europe vs. Facebook, believe are against European data privacy laws.
Company releases first chat application Bleep, currently only available for Windows
BitTorrent is making an attempt to diversify its offerings even more. While the company has said it was adding pay options to its Bundles early in the month, it has now launched a server-less chat client called Bleep. BitTorrent says that the app is created in a way that the experience is decentralized, only exposing messages and phone calls to people users choose to trust.
Dating site owns up to experiments, claims that's just 'how websites work'
Dating site OkCupid took to its blog today in a small defense of the outrage over Facebook's study involving manipulation of users' emotional states through data on its news feed for "psychological research." In a post titled "We Experiment on Human Beings," the dating company proceeded to make light of the data situations, while owning up to several of its own experiments.
Suit makes a third attempt at suing tech company over March 2012 policy change
Google's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit that dates back to 2012 failed today, after a California district judge ruled that the search company will have to fight the breach of contract and fraud claims. The first lawsuit was dismissed last December, with the stipulation that any further pursuit would require an amended complaint. The new complaint could have been dismissed "with prejudice" after two previous complaints were dismissed by the judge.
NSA whistleblower points to board member, companies should have no access to data
In an interview with UK newspaper The Guardian last week, fugitive American whistleblower Edward Snowden made it clear that he opposed cloud companies that had access to user data. He specifically pointed out Dropbox as being "hostile to privacy" for a number of reasons, including a board appointment of an ex-government official with ties to suspected privacy violations.
Four-part request form allows Internet users to remove listings from Bing
Microsoft is following after Google in complying with a decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union over the "right to be forgotten." Microsoft has created a four-part form for users to request the removal of European search listings from Bing relating to their name, in cases where information can be deemed "inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant."
Google legal chief outlines removal request difficulties following EU court ruling
Google is still being swamped with requests to remove website listings in Europe, following the Court of Justice of the European Union's ruling on the "right to be forgotten." Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond claims the search company has received more than 70,000 takedown requests since the ruling in May, with the requests covering 250,000 webpage listings in its search results.
Analysts believe it could take 20 years to solve data search and seizure issues
Last month, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that law enforcement agencies would need a warrant to access information on a cell phone in criminal cases. While the ruling was thought to be an outright win for privacy, it appears that the fight isn't over yet. Law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups are decrying the ruling, believing the need for a warrant to search held devices to be too strong a requirement. Analysts, on the other hand, believe that the fight could take 20 years to sort out.
Blackphone with privacy features will recommence sales next month
The Blackphone, the privacy-based smartphone joint venture between Geeksphone and cryptographic service provider Silent Circle, has started shipping. Launched at Mobile World Congress in February, the Android smartphone aims to provide secure phone calls, texts, file transfers, and other communication options without compromising on the user's privacy.
Psychological study in 2012 altered users' news feeds for positive or negative mental states
In a study to see if emotional states could be transferred to others online, Facebook conducted a psychological experiment in January 2012 with its users as guinea pigs. According a research paper published this month, feeds from over 689,000 English-language accounts were altered for either positive or negative states for one week to see if there was an impact on mental states.
Proposal would extend US Privacy Act rights to EU citizens
European citizens could receive some of the same rights to privacy as Americans in the future, if new proposals are adopted. US Attorney General Eric Holder advised to European leaders in Athens, Greece on Wednesday that the Obama administration is working on legislation that would provide EU residents similar protections under the US Privacy Act as US citizens already have.
Nest co-founder says it is about products 'that keep us connected to our homes'
Nest, now owned by Google, has revealed that it is buying Dropcam, a smart home-monitoring camera. The deal for the company cost Nest $555 million in cash, and will see the Dropcam team moving to Nest's Palo Alto headquarters. Despite the fact that it is now owned by Google, Nest co-founder Matt Rogers says that the team behind Dropcam will be "indoctrinated" to Nest privacy policies, which -- currently -- are far more strict than those of Google. Critics, however, are skeptical.
EU court ruling over privacy prompts form collecting removal requests
Google is complying with a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union over the "right to be forgotten." A form has been published on Google's support pages, collecting requests from individuals for Google to consider removing specific listings from its search services in Europe, though it does not state how long it will take for a URL to be hidden from view.
New design, functions bring smarter searches with more options for users
Privacy-centric search engine DuckDuckGo has undergone an overhaul of its design in an attempt to build smarter searches for users. The design changes the look of the site completely, to move away from the previous cluttered look of the service. Functionality has also been addressed, adding a number of community requests to improve the quality of searches. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the team's stance on privacy.
Reminders will show to new, existing users about audience of status updates
Facebook is changing the default target of status updates for new users, it has revealed, potentially helping users from posting publicly things that should be between friends. As well as helping prevent first-time posters from oversharing, Facebook is also preparing to release a new privacy checkup tool, which will aid existing users in reviewing their privacy preferences.
Search engine turns focus from privacy concerns to personalization
Last week, Yahoo announced that it would no longer be honoring Do Not Track requests from browsers accessing the search engine and associated services. The move comes as the company attempts to provide a more personal experience to users, bringing policies in line with other companies that ignore Do Not Track requests such as Facebook and Google. This comes as a reversal to previous statements made by the company, which claimed to be "the first major tech company to implement Do Not Track."
Goal is to force greater openness, courts to weigh in on secret collection
Apple and other tech companies are planning to adjust privacy policies to begin notifying customers when their information is requested by most law enforcement agencies, according to reports. Microsoft, Facebook and Google are also said to be planning to implement the same idea, as all four companies strongly support the right of users to know when their data is being requested by government officials in most cases. The move is widely seen as an attempt to force the process to become more lawful and transparent.
New paragraph specifically advises of content scanning on Google services
Google has updated its terms of service, adding an explanation for its content scanning efforts. The new paragraph, one of relatively few changes to the document, specifically notes that Google scans e-mails in order to provide "personally relevant product features," including "customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection."
An Ontario, Canada class-action suit now underway alleges that Facebook has been scanning user's private messages without permission from users. Allegedly, the social network was using the data to grow advertising revenue, and was stopped in 2012 when an investigation found that the practice was widespread.
Data protection specialist, former Senate staffer picked for top jobs
A former Senate staffer will take on the role of Apple's new top US government lobbyist in Washington DC, while a certified privacy professional with a background in healthcare, national security and social network privacy issues has been named to a new "privacy counsel" position within the company. Amber Cottle served as a staff director for an influential congressional committee, while Sabrina Ross as already begun her job overseeing the protection of customer data.
Judge Lucy Koh, of Apple versus Samsung fame, denies suit combination
US District Judge Lucy Koh has handed a partial victory to Google in a privacy suit against the search engine. In a Tuesday decision, the judge rued that a handful of lawsuits the company is facing may not be combined into a class-action suit, as the suits lack sufficient commonality. Based on the ruling, the myriad of filers must be heard individually or in smaller groups, escalating costs to the complainants.