#416 June 8th, 2015 – US Privacy Debated

This week’s headline story: US Privacy Debated

spyApple CEO Tim Cook received the Champions of Freedom Award from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. At the awards dinner, Cook took the opportunity to take a shot at some of his rival tech companies for how they “gobble up” and use their customers’ personal data for financial gain. Cook criticized “so-called free services” that give tech companies access to users’ e-mail addresses, search histories and “even your family photos” – an apparent dig at Google’s new Photos app. He also directed critical remarks at some in Washington who are attempting to limit citizens’ abilities to protect and encrypt their personal data.

Coincidentally, Google just took a step to bring more clarity to the masses with a new dashboard called My Account that lets users fine tune what information Google collects about you. Google also launched privacy.google.com, a Web site that offers frequently asked questions and solid answers about privacy.

Meanwhile, on June 1st, while senators argued over the proposed USA Freedom Act, the current laws governing surveillance programs expired. With no deal reached in time, the NSA was forced to stop collecting American phone records and the FBI stopped collecting business records and eavesdropping on phone calls of suspected terrorists. Days later the USA Freedom Act finally passed and many of the government surveillance programs were reinstated with supposedly more safeguards in place for the American people.

However, more information is being discovered about the lengths that the government will go to in order to collect information on citizens. The Associated Press recently reported that the FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government. The planes’ surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge’s approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. The FBI said it uses front companies to protect the safety of the pilots and aircraft. It also shields the identity of the aircraft so that suspects on the ground don’t know they’re being watched by the FBI. In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country.

Other Tech News

  • Korean Robot Makers Walk Off With $2 Million Prize [NYTimes]
    A team of roboticists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology claimed a $2 million prize on Saturday that was offered by DARPA for developing a mobile robot capable of operating in hazardous environments. The second-place winner, the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., received $1 million, and the third-place winner, Tartan Rescue, from the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., received $500,000. Twenty-five teams competed for the prize. The robots were graded on their ability to complete eight tasks, including driving a vehicle, opening a door, operating a portable drill, turning a valve and climbing stairs, all in the space of an hour.
  • FCC Head Unveils Proposal To Narrow Digital Divide [Newsfactor]
    Tom Wheeler, the head of the Federal Communications Commission, is proposing that the phone subsidy program for the poor, named Lifeline, be extended to include Internet access. The proposal calls for extending Lifeline’s $9.25 monthly credit to give low-income households a choice of phone service or Internet access, via a wire to the home or a smartphone. In 2014, Lifeline served 12 million households and cost $1.7 billion, paid for by surcharges on the country’s telephone customer bills.
  • Global Smartphone Subscriptions To Double by 2020 [NewFactor]
    Although it may feel as if smartphones are already a ubiquitous part of modern life, you haven’t seen anything yet. The number of smartphone data plan subscriptions worldwide is expected to more than double in the next five years, according to a new report released this week by Ericsson.

in Information Security News…

  • Big U.S. data breaches offer treasure trove for hackers [Reuters]
    The White house has disclosed information about a massive breach of U.S. federal computer networks. The attack was against the Office of Personnel Management where as many as 4 million current and former federal employees may have been compromised. The breach is is the latest in a flood of attacks by suspected Chinese hackers aimed at grabbing personal data, industrial secrets and weapons plans from government and private computers.
  • IRS Hacked, Info on 100,000 Americans Stolen [NewsFactor]
    The IRS has confirmed that criminals used taxpayer-specific data acquired from outside sources to gain unauthorized access to ∫100,000 tax accounts through its “Get Transcript” application. This data included Social Security information, date of birth, and street address.

and in Tech Industry news…

  • Google I/O 2015: Everything You Need to Know [PC Magazine]
    Google announced it’s latest projects at its annual developers conference. They include a new version of Android coming later this year named Android M which claims to provide 50% more battery life for phones by allowing the phone to “doze” when not in use. Google also showed the latest version of its wallet app named Android Pay, which is intended to go head to head with Apple Pay. Another new Google technology is named Google Now on Tap which is a more intuitive and informed version of Google’s personal assistant app Google Now. Brillo is Google’s new operating system for the Internet of Things. Google is rolling out a new app for photos, Google Photos, which includes unlimited free cloud storage for your photos and videos. Google also has partnered with GoPro to build a 16-camera wheel that captures 360 degrees of imagery.
  • Facebook Expands AI Research with New Paris Lab [NewsFactor]
    You may not think of Facebook as a leader in Artificial Intelligence, but in this era of Big Data, the company has been developing its AI department significantly over the past year. Recently the company announced plans to further expand its research team with a new office in Paris dedicated to FAIR, or Facebook AI Research.

and finally,

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