A US Senate committee today approved an expansive cyber security bill that many fear could harm the Internet. The legislation can now move on to the Senate floor for a vote, where it will likely pass. Some have suggested the bill would allow the President to shut down parts of the Internet in the event of a terrorist attack. The so-called Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act is backed by several Senators, but Joseph Lieberman has been perhaps its staunchest supporter.
Backers of the legislation say that there is no provision for an "Internet kill-switch" as some have warned. Instead the bill only expands existing powers of the President to close "any facility or stations for wire communication" in case of war. The main purpose of the law would be to establish a centralized White House Office for Cyberspace Policy. Through this office, network operators could be ordered to implement emergency response plans in the event of attack. We suppose that could mean shutting something down, but the bill is unclear.
The vagueness of the bill is what concerns civil libertarians and security experts so much. It's true the bill would expand executive authority over communication infrastructure, but it is not entirely clear what is covered. There may not be a straight up "Internet kill-switch" in the bill, but we can't help but feel a little fretful about it. Where do you come down?
This change would likely give application developers and advertisers access to user data they have not previously had. One key beneficiary of the change is Apple itself. With the new iAd platform rolling out, having more leeway in how user location data is used could make targeted ads more effective.
Many of these privacy changes tend to get blown out of proportion. After all, is this much different than what Google does? Our real concern here is the lack of detail Apple goes into regarding just who would have access to the data, and how long it would be retained. We know from the past AOL search data leak and Netflix records that it is possible to identify people in anonymous data. Does this new policy concern you?
There has been a slight jump in comparisons between Google Docs and Microsoft’s wildly popular Office productivity suite, mainly due to the launch of Office 2010 earlier in the week. The comparison is barely justifiable as the numbers decisively favor the latter. But numbers seldom tell the whole story - Docs does have its moments.
Docs has traditionally excelled in areas such as collaboration and sharing. Google has just announced new upgrades to make sharing easier in Docs. Users can now choose among three visibility options: “Private,” “Anyone with a link” or “Public on the web.” All documents are marked as private to begin with.
If you opt to make a particular document visible to anyone who knows its URL, “you can better control who has access to your doc” by resetting the link whenever necessary.
A U.S. firm called Software Secure has developed a program designed to let students take exams at home with certain features built in to keep test takers honest. At least one college in Britain, the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, is buying into the glass half full software, at least on a trial basis.
The obvious concern here is how do you curb cheating, and there are a number of features Software Secure has implemented to safeguard against unscrupulous test taking techniques. To begin, students will need to provide a fingerprint to ensure no one else is taking the test for them. After that, the software puts a virtual lock on the use of all files and the Internet. And finally, audio and video are part of the package, so the teacher can still see and hear and what the student is up to, or at least what's visible in the webcam.
"It would be one solution to problems faced by those who might have difficulty reaching a university campus for exams," a spokesman said. "However it must not be used as an excuse to further cut costs or corners by reducing the amount of contact time students have with staff."
The latest crop of Facebook rivals is not driven by monetary ambitions but more altruistic causes. These efforts at snubbing the world's most popular social network site are being spearheaded by those aggrieved or even outraged by Facebook's actions.
A group of four students from NYU’s Courant Institute are in for a busy summer, with their concept of a “privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network” having received $200,000 from nearly 6500 backers on fundraising site Kickstarter.com. Their still-to-be-coded network is called Diaspora.
More about Diaspora and another rival's jihad against "blasphemous" Facebook after the jump.
A new report from security expert Bernard Marienfeldt illustrates a fairly big security hole in the way the iPhone secures user data. When plugged into a Windows or OSX box, and iPhone will only display the DCIM pictures folder. But on the newest Lucid Lynx build of Ubuntu Linux, users can get full read access to the phone. If you think setting a security PIN will help, you're wrong - it doesn't seem to do a thing.
This doesn't require the phone to be specially configured, or compromised in any way. Part of the problem is that in order to make syncing easier, the iPhone does not need any software switches to be flipped in order to exchange data with a computer. Another problem that allows this bug is the iPHone's lack of data encryption.
Marienfeldt says that full write access may be easy to gain as well with further investigation. If this is accomplished, an unauthorized party could access phone functions like calls and text messaging. The real lesson here is that maybe enterprise users should think twice about deploying iPhones. Does this change to calculation for anyone out there?
Can't go a week on any given tech site nowadays without seeing the "F" word. By that, of course, I'm referring to Facebook--and all the privacy implications for its users that have been arguing about on the Web for the past many weeks.
I'm not here to tell you that Facebook is good, evil, or a delicious chocolate-vanilla-strawberry mix. Make that decision yourself. What I can do, however, is point you to a wonderful tool for assessing your own privacy levels on the service. Trying to navigate Facebook's litany of settings and options for keeping this, that, and the other in (or out) of the public eye is indeed treacherous. Don't give up hope, though; salvation lies in the form of a tiny little bookmarklet that you can run on your profile at a moment's notice.
It looks like Facebook is actually planning to make some changes in the wake of repeated recent privacy issues. While on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, Facebook's VP of product, Chris Cox said that so-called "drastically simplified" privacy controls will roll out starting tomorrow. Many were skeptical about the likelihood of real changes this soon, but Cox claims the new controls will ease privacy fears.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post admitting Facebook had made mistakes. Some did, however, note he neglected to actually apologize for said mistakes. When the changes start taking place, we'll see if Facebook is actually listening to the concerns. It is unlikely that Facebook will cease the practice of requiring users to opt out of privacy changes, though.
We're a little concerned with the implications of "drastically simplified". There is such a thing as too simple. What are your predictions for Facebook's new privacy controls? Will it make more sense, or just lead to new complaints?
If you're under the impression that big tech firms are most concerned with the possibility of data breaches, think again. According to research released by BDO, a professional services firm, there are much bigger concerns when it comes to security risks.
According to BDO, natural disasters, wars, conflicts, and terrorist attacks were cited by 55 percent of respondents as a risk concern and was 16th on the list. So where did breaches of technology security rank? Far below at 23rd on the listed and mentioned by 44 percent of respondents, or less than half.
"I think it has to do not only with the general difficulty one might encounter as result, but also, at the end of the day, what they are concerned about is business continuity," said Aftab Jamil, leader of the Technology Practice at BDO. "Can they get back on their feet relatively quickly? If you in the path of a hurricane or an oil spill, can you keep your business going?"
As for the top spot, that belonged in part to failure to develop or market new products/services, which tied with strong competition as the leading risk factor with 94 percent mentioning those two areas.
All the recent hoopla surrounding Facebook's privacy policies has users of the social networking service more than a little nervous. So much so, in fact, that some 60 percent of Facebook users are ready to walk away and find a new virtual stomping ground, suggests a new poll by Internet security firm Sophos.
Out of the 1,588 Facebook users that were polled, 30 percent said that they were "highly likely" to quit over privacy concerns, while another 30 percent said they "possibly" would. Combined with the 16 percent who indicated they already have moved on, that's more than three-fourths who have either already walked away or are considering doing so.
"What this poll shows is that the majority of the people we polled are fed up with the lack of control that Facebook gives them over their own data," Sophos wrote in a blog post. "Most still don't know how to set their Facebook privacy options safely, finding the whole system confusing. What's needed is a fundamental shift towards asking users to 'opt-in' to sharing information, rather than to 'opt-out'."
Sophos also said that mass exodus from Facebook seems unlikely, but did note that "delete Facebook account" has become an increasingly hot search term on Google.