Today marks the first day of a brand new year, but if you have plans of traveling abroad, be advised that the same old laws apply. That includes the government's right to search and seize your electronic devices without a warrant. The controversial law comes up in headlines every once in a while, and is again making the rounds after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the policy.
By far the biggest revelation of 2013 was that of the U.S. government's overreaching National Security Agency (NSA) and its PRISM surveillance program. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the government's ability to spy on various forms of communication by leaking several documents to the press, and since doing so, new information keeps coming out. One of the most recent reports claims the NSA routinely intercepts computer deliveries in order to exploit vulnerabilities to aid with spying.
Eight companies collaborate on an open letter to Washington
Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, Aol, and LinkedIn have teamed up to call for global government surveillance reform. Rival companies and services are working together to put pressure on Washington to start the path towards reforming government surveillance and maintaining individual privacy.
If privacy is one of your main concerns online (and it very well should be given the goings-on lately), Twitter's latest move should please you considerably. The microblogging platform announced on Friday it has taken on "perfect forward secrecy" across its multiple platforms. It may sound a little hard to believe, but the aim is to keep outside organizations from snooping on encrypted traffic.
There's even more than what Google's allowed to show
Everything changed when news of the U.S. government's PRISM spying program came to light. In an instant, we went from assuming our dealings online were mostly kept private (or as private as we wanted them to be) to knowing that virtually nothing is out of bounds, not even instant messaging conversations. The government will contend all this snooping is in the best interest of national security, which also happens to be the same reason why Google can't share certain statistics with us. What the company is able to share, however, is pretty staggering.
Microsoft brought privacy concerns to the forefront of gaming with the introduction of the Kinect peripheral, and with the advent of the Xbox One, which uses the same technology, users are concerned as to what exactly the console will collect as far as personal information goes.
See who's tracking your online browsing with this new add-on
Online privacy is already tough to nail down, and everywhere you go on the internet retains little traces of your presence. You're still easily traceable, even if you take more precautions than the average user takes. Lightbeam (via PC World), is an interesting new add-on from Mozilla, is an informative new tool that shows us exactly which sites are tracking or otherwise gleaning data from you.
Less privacy restrictions for Facebook users under 18
Younger Facebook users will now have much more freedom from the more adult-oriented social network. Previously, 13 to 17-year-olds who signed up were previously restricted from sharing updates, photos, and comments with the public, but now Facebook is relaxing its stance in an apparent bid to compete with other networks that allow younger users much more freedom.
Professional networking site LinkedIn recently found itself the recipient of a class action lawsuit alleging that the company has been hacking into its users' email accounts and downloading their contacts, which it would then use to send out marketing materials. Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that LinkedIn essentially impersonates its users. Blake Lawit, Senior Director of Litigation at LinkedIn, denied the accusations in a blog post.
If privacy while you're browsing the web is important to you, the new Epic Privacy Browser from Hidden Reflex could be the answer for all your discreet surfing needs. It's free, proxies all search queries, and also offers a proxy feature that can cloak source IP addresses for all other internet browsing activity.