• California’s police can't keep license plate data secret: Court

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the ACLU won a decision by the California Supreme Court that the license plate data of millions of law-abiding drivers, collected indiscriminately by police across the state, are not “investigative records” that law enforcement can keep secret. California’s highest court ruled that the collection of license plate data isn’t targeted at any particular crime, so the records couldn’t be considered part of a police investigation.

  • On internet privacy, be very afraid

    In the internet era, consumers seem increasingly resigned to giving up fundamental aspects of their privacy for convenience in using their phones and computers, and have grudgingly accepted that being monitored by corporations and even governments is just a fact of modern life. In fact, internet users in the United States have fewer privacy protections than those in other countries. In April, Congress voted to allow internet service providers to collect and sell their customers’ browsing data. Cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier talked about government and corporate surveillance, and about what concerned users can do to protect their privacy. “Surveillance is the business model of the internet,” he says.

  • Google’s assault on privacy: a reminder

    On its best day, with every ounce of technology the U.S. government could muster, it could not know a fraction as much about any of us as Google does now” (Shelly Palmer, technology analyst).

  • EFF to court: Border agents need warrants to search contents of digital devices

    Searches of mobile phones, laptops, and other digital devices by federal agents at international airports and U.S. land borders are highly intrusive forays into travelers’ private information that require a warrant, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a court filing Monday.

  • CDT files complaint with the FTC against Hotspot Shield VPN

    For many Americans looking to protect their online privacy, virtual private networks, or VPNs, are a good option. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) says, however, that a popular free VPN, Hotspot Shield, promises to protect its users’ privacy but has undisclosed data sharing and traffic redirection practices that violate that promise. Plixer said that the claims by CDT ignore the internet market realities.

  • “Stalking software”: Surveillance made simpler

    The controversial Snap Map app enables Snapchat users to track their friends. The app makes it possible for users to monitor their friends’ movements, and determine – in real time – exactly where their posts are coming from (down to the address). Many social media users expressed their indignation, referring to the app as “stalking software.” This is the latest in a series of monitoring tools to be built on social media platforms. A new study assesses the benefits and risks associated with their use.

  • The real costs of cheap surveillance

    Surveillance used to be expensive. Even just a few years ago, tailing a person’s movements around the clock required rotating shifts of personnel devoted full-time to the task. Not any more, though. Governments can track the movements of massive numbers of people by positioning cameras to read license plates, or by setting up facial recognition systems. Private companies’ tracking of our lives has also become easy and cheap too. Advertising network systems let data brokers track nearly every page you visit on the web, and associate it with an individual profile. It is worth thinking about all of this more deeply. U.S. firms – unless they’re managed or regulated in socially beneficial ways – have both the incentive and the opportunity to use information about us in undesirable ways. We need to talk about the government’s enacting rules constraining that activity. After all, leaving those decisions to the people who make money selling our data is unlikely to result in our getting the rules we want.

  • Minority Report? Wisc. company replaces ID cards, badges with microchips implants

    River Falls, Wisconsin-based technology company Three Square Market has become one of the first in the world to implant microchips in staff so they can clock-in or enter secure areas by waving their arm instead of using swipe cards or ID badges. The implanted microchip would also allow employees to order food at the cafeteria and open the parking garage doors. They can also log in to their computer without a password.

  • App ensures safe surfing on public Wi-Fi hotspots

    You always need to assume someone’s looking over your shoulder when you’re using public Wi-Fi: a hacker, or the government, or a plain old snoop. New app — SaferVPN — automatically turns on as soon as your device connects to unsecured networks, an begins to direct data through an encrypted “tunnel.”

  • Encryption system hides your travel data from Uber

    The apps created by Uber and its competitors put peers in touch with each other when one of them is looking for a ride. But the online platforms these companies have developed also collect users’ personal data – from passengers and drivers alike. Multiplied by millions of users each day, that comes out to be a goldmine of information, especially in the era of Big Data. Researchers looked at how the same level of service could be achieved without disclosing users’ personal data.

  • Bringing transparency to cell phone surveillance

    Modern cell phones are vulnerable to attacks from rogue cellular transmitters called IMSI-catchers — surveillance devices that can precisely locate mobile phones, eavesdrop on conversations or send spam. Security researchers have developed a new system called SeaGlass to detect anomalies in the cellular landscape that can indicate where and when these surveillance devices are being used.

  • Protecting against online privacy attacks

    When Congress voted in March to reverse rules intended to protect internet users’ privacy, many people began looking for ways to keep their online activity private. One of the most popular and effective is Tor, a software system millions of people use to protect their anonymity online. But even Tor has weaknesses, and in a new paper, researchers recommend steps to combat certain types of Tor’s vulnerabilities.

  • Using Bitcoin to prevent identity theft

    A reaction to the 2008 financial crisis, Bitcoin is a digital-currency scheme designed to wrest control of the monetary system from central banks. With Bitcoin, anyone can mint money, provided he or she can complete a complex computation quickly enough. Through a set of clever protocols, that computational hurdle prevents the system from being coopted by malicious hackers. Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory presented a new system that uses Bitcoin’s security machinery to defend against online identity theft. The system piggybacks on the digital currency’s security protocols to thwart hijacked servers.

  • Lawsuits filed about electronic privacy, profiling abuses at borders, airports

    Earlier this week, two lawsuits were filed in federal court to demand that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) release information about how federal officials have treated travelers who are Muslim or who are perceived to be Muslim at United States borders, including airports. The lawsuits highlight the numerous recent reports of individuals who are or are perceived to be Muslim having their electronic devices searched while traveling or having their trusted traveler status revoked without explanation.

  • Driver privacy can be compromised in Usage-Based Insurance (UBI) systems

    Researchers have demonstrated that it is possible to compromise a driver’s private information stored in the cloud for Usage-Based Insurance (UBI) programs, based on only part of the data collected. UBI programs determine a consumer or fleet insurance premium rate based on several driving parameters that are collected, including total driving time, cornering and average speed. As part of the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) connected-device functionality in vehicles, driver data is gradually being stored in the cloud, rather than onboard a vehicle’s computer.