Once again Google is drawing ire over its Street View mapping feature, this time from the Czech Republic, which has gone and banned the sultan of search from snapping pictures in the eastern European country.
Officially, the Czech Office for Personal Data Protection claims Google hasn't been granted the requisite registration to do what it's doing, and the office plans to speak with Google about it next week. However, this is the second time Czech officials have denied Google the registration to expand its Street View service since opening the registration case in April.
Spokesman Hana Sepankova told the German Press Agency that Google's application "failed to meet all required conditions that would secure that personal data could not be abused."
Even at the risk of political party mud slinging that typically accompany these kinds of stories, there's definitely something here worth discussing, and that's what kind of punishment should be levied for abusive emails. Let's back up a moment.
Luke Angel, a 17-year-old British teenager, is now permanently banned from ever setting foot on U.S. soil. What did he do to warrant such a punishment? He fired off an inebriated email to the White House in which he called President Barack Obama the "P" word (and he wasn't talking about felines), among other things, Sky News Online reports.
The FBI intercepted the message and then contacted U.K. police.
"The police who came around took my picture and told me I was banned from America forever," Angel said.
According to the local police, "the individual sent an email to the White House full of abusive and threatening language. We were informed by the Metropolitan Police and went to see him. he said, 'Oh dear, it was me.'"
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wasn't willing to discusses specifics in this particular case, but did say that there are about 60 reasons a person can be banned from the U.S.
So what do you think, was the punishment too harsh or right on the money?
Look around your office and spot two other people. According to a new study by Symantec, one of you has fallen victim to some type of cybercrime, including viruses, identity theft, online hacking, online harassment, online scams, phishing, and sexual predation.
The study, titled "Norton's Cybercrime Report: The Human Impact Reveals Global Cybercrime Epidemic and Our Hidden Hypocrisy," pegs the victim rate of U.S. based surfers at 73 percent, one of the highest victimized nations in the world behind Brazil and India (tied at 76 percent) and China (83 percent).
"Are we just passively accepting our fate? No, of course, we feel extreme and varied emotions ranging from anger (58 percent) to fear (29 percent), helplessness (26 percent) and guilt (78 percent)," the study says. "Associate professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University Josepth LaBrie, PhD, describes a 'learned helplessness' for online victims. 'It's like getting ripped off at a garage -- if you don't know enough about cars, you don't argue with the mechanic. People just accept a situation, even if it feels bad.'"
According to Symantec, most victims never report cybercrime, and the vast majority don't expect cybercriminals to be brought to justice. One of the reasons for this is that most online crooks reside in foreign countries, which presents a challenge for law enforcement.
The ACLU, along with other groups, has filed a lawsuit challenging the authority of customs officials to search electronic devices at US borders. The practice of searching these items comes from a 2008 policy change that allows border agents to search a traveler's electronic devices without reason. The lawsuit seeks to have the practice ended, unless a warrant is obtained, or if there is probable cause.
Since the policy was established, some travelers have had their hard drives copied by border agents, and still others have seen their devices confiscated entirely. The ACLU has obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act that show 6600 travelers have had their electronic devices searched by border agents between October 2008 and June 2010.
Let us know where you stand on this. Under what circumstances should searches be allowed? What would you do if a border guard wanted to search your computer? What about your cell phone?
Let's cut right to the chase -- according to security firm Panda Security, the infamous Nigerian scam ranks as the decade's most popular online ploy to swindle victims.
"This was the first type of scam to appear on the Internet and continues to be widely used by cybercriminals today," Panda Security says.
Coming in second are lottery-based scams, in which potential victims receive an email claiming that they won the lottery. The ones that fall for it end up sending out something like $1,000 to supposedly cover bank related fees and other expenses in order to transfer the winnings, only the victim never sees a dime.
"As with all the classic scams that predate the Internet, many of the numerous users that fall for these tricks and lose their money are reticent to report the crime," says Luis Corrons, technical director of Panda Labs. "If recovering the stolen money was difficult in the old days, it is even harder now because criminals' tracks are often lost across the Web. The best defense is to learn how to identify these scams an avoid taking the bait."
Twitter sent out an email on Wednesday announcing a couple of upcoming updates, one of which includes automatic t.co link wrapping. In the coming weeks, Twitter's link wrapping service will intercept all URLs posted on the microblogging service and convert them into shorter, easier to read URLs. So what exactly has privacy mavens up in arms? This little tidbit:
"When you click on a wrapped link, your request will pass through the Twitter service to check if the destination site is known to contain malware, and we will then forward you on to the destination URL ... When you click on these links from Twitter.com or a Twitter application, Twitter will log that click. We hope to use this data to provide better and more relevant content to you over time," the microblogging site said.
Even so, this will come as little consolation to privacy advocates who view this move as a "disgusting data landgrab."
Smartphones are really amazing devices. They do so many things that many people can't really keep track of all of them. Such is the case with the geotagging of images many smartphones do by default. A new site called "I Can Stalk U" is parsing Twitter in search of geotagged photos. The information then shows up in the stream on the site.
Now that phones have both GPS and cell network location services, it's easy to add geographical information to the EXIF data every time a picture is snapped. Most of the time, users are expected to turn this off if they do not want their location stored. I Can Stalk U is the brainchild of security researchers Ben Jackson and Larry Pesce. They explain that the site is aimed at raising awareness regarding what people are really telling the world at large about their movements.
This site is not unlike the now defunct Please Rob Me, which consisted of an aggregation of everyone that Tweeted they were not at home. In the case of I Can Stalk U however, it's not about the blatant statements people are making, but rather about data they might not know exists. Have you ever posted an image someplace only to realize you'd posted your location?
Before you finish typing that status update, why not let uncle Zuckerberg suggest what you ought to be sharing? A new Facebook feature will offer page suggestions to link to while you type your updates. The suggestions are targeted to the user. With the vast amounts of data we feed into the site, this is not surprising.
Friends will be suggested, but only if you capitalize the name. The same goes for locations, bands, and causes. This will avoid unnecessary suggestions when you don't intend to link to a page. This feature makes more sense in the wake of Facebook's slow rollout of more uniform Interest categories.
Many expect the announcement of location sharing on Facebook soon, and this feature could take center stage. It may be an easy way to check in at a location by linking to a page in your status update. Have you tried the feature? Was it accurate?
As you may have heard, the RIAA has found another way to piss off music lovers, this time by backing a PRA (Performance Rights Act) mandate to force cell phone makers to include FM radio chips in their mobile phones. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) initially showed little interest in getting involved in the matter, but is now speaking out against the mandate.
"The backroom scheme of the NAB and RIAA to have Congress mandate broadcast radios in portable devices, including mobile phones, is the height of absurdity," said a statement issued by CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro. "Forced inclusion of an additional antenna, processor and radio receiver will compromise features that consumers truly desire, such as long battery life and light weight. Reducing product performance, mandating inclusion of features consumers don’t want, and replacing product innovation by companies like Amazon, Apple, Motorola and HP-Palm with government design mandates are not in our national interest."
Shapiro went on to say that not only are the NAB and RIAA failing to adapt to the digital marketplace (haven't we been saying this all along?), they're acting like "buggy-whip industries that refuse to innovate and seek to impose penalties on those that do."
Mothers are wonderful sources of sound advice, like always start your day off with a clean pair of briefs, eat your vegetables, and wash your hands when they're dirty. On that last bit, we always assumed it was just a sanitary thing, but now we realize how much of a prophet mothers can be, able to see into the future and help us form good habits that could mean the difference between a secure smartphone and compromised security.
In a report titled, "Smudge Attacks on Smartphone Touch Screens," researchers from the University of Pennsylvania warn that your greasy fingers leave behind a trail that hackers can easily follow to discover your graphical password pattern.
"We believe smudge attacks are a threat for three reasons," the researchers write. "First, smudges are persistent in time. Second, it is surprisingly difficult to incidentally obscure or delete smudges through wiping or pocketing the device. Third and finally, collecting and analyzing oily residue smudges can be done with readily-available equipment such as a camera and a computer."
More than just a theoretical threat, the 10-page report goes on to show exactly how easy it is to uncover a graphical password from the leftover residue of oily fingers.