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New Facebook Marketing Tool Chews Up Data, Spits It Out
March 17, 2015
Facebook has launched Topic Data, a new service that reveals to advertisers the subjects users discuss, the products they use, and the activities they follow. Marketers will be able to sift through data compilations of what users say about events, brands, subjects and activities. Data on all of Facebook's 1.3 billion users will be used -- anonymized and aggregated to protect their identities.
Survey: Surveillance Is Fine as Long as It's Not on Me
March 16, 2015
Growing concern over privacy in cyberspace has people changing their online behavior. Nearly 90 percent of 475 adults recently surveyed said they were aware of government surveillance programs targeting Internet users, the Pew Research Center found. Large numbers of adults supported monitoring programs aimed at others -- from terrorists to political leaders -- but opposed spying on U.S. citizens.
Lawsuit Challenges NSA Internet Dragnets
March 13, 2015
The ACLU earlier this week filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the NSA from indiscriminately snooping on U.S. Internet traffic. Using a technique called "upstream" surveillance, the NSA does a spinal tap of the Internet's U.S. backbone, which carries the communications of millions of Americans, the ACLU explained in its complaint filed with a federal district court in Maryland.
Apple's Researchkit Could Be Gold Mine for Hackers
March 13, 2015
Apple earlier this week announced ResearchKit, an open source framework that will let medical and health researchers gather data through iPhone apps. ResearchKit will be released in April. Apps to monitor asthma patients and for studies on breast cancer survivors, cardiovascular health and Parkinson's Disease, already have been developed using ResearchKit.
The CIA Has Been Hacking iOS for Years: Report
March 12, 2015
The CIA for years has been working to break iOS security, according to a report published Tuesday. The allegations are based on documents provided by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Researchers working with the CIA have presented their tactics and achievements at Trusted Computing Base Jamborees, secret annual gatherings that have been going on for nearly a decade.
Windows Caught in Path of FREAK Security Storm
March 6, 2015
Microsoft on Thursday issued a security advisory acknowledging a vulnerability in all versions of Windows that could allow FREAK exploits. Windows systems previously were thought to be immune to FREAK attacks. "The vulnerability could allow an attacker to force the downgrading of the cipher suites used in an SSL/TLS connection on a Windows client system," the advisory reads.
China's Cybersecurity Plans Draw US Fire
March 5, 2015
China should change its tune on new rules for purchases from American high-tech companies if it wants to do business with the United States, President Obama recently warned. China reportedly is planning to ask U.S. high-tech firms to hand over their encryption keys and install security backdoors in their systems to allow surveillance as a counterterrorism measure.
Twitter's New Safety Rules: Hot Diggity or Hot Air?
March 3, 2015
Twitter has announced actions to further protect users of its network -- but it left them vague. The company is rolling out unspecified improvements to its reporting process for content issues including impersonation, self-harm, and the sharing of private and confidential information, aka "doxing." It's also beginning to add new enforcement actions for use against accounts that violate its rules.
Citizenfour's Oscar Highlights National Divide Over Snowden
February 24, 2015
Citizenfour, a film documenting interviews director Laura Poitras conducted with whistle-blower Edward Snowden, won the Oscar for best documentary Sunday. The talks took place as Snowden blew the lid off the United States National Security Agency's surveillance activities. The award highlights the divisions in the U.S. over Snowden's actions and the question of national security.
Government Spies Steal SIM Card Cryptokeys
February 23, 2015
The United States' National Security Agency and British spy agency GCHQ have hacked into the internal computer network of Gemalto, the world's largest maker of SIM cards, and stolen the cards' encryption keys, according to information in files leaked by whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Gemalto makes about 2 billion SIM cards a year, and sells them to 450 major wireless network carriers worldwide.
AT&T Puts a Price on Privacy
February 23, 2015
Users who want to sign on to GigaPower by AT&T, the carrier's 1-gigabit-per-second Internet service that just become available in Kansas City, Missouri, have an interesting choice. They can pay $70 with the understanding that their online movements will be tracked for commercial purposes -- or they can pay an additional $29 a month to avoid the monitoring.
Samsung Smart TV Owners Fume Over Sneaky Pop-Up Ads
February 11, 2015
Samsung Smart TV owners, already shaken by news earlier this week that their TVs can transmit voice commands and other private data to third parties, have been hit by another revelation -- that the devices sneak ads into movies they're watching, without the owner's knowledge or consent. A user on the Plex forum complained that a Pepsi ad popped up every 10 to 15 minutes while he was watching his Samsung TV.
Concerns Emerge About Samsung Smart TVs 'Bugging' Owners
February 9, 2015
The feature in question may transmit some voice commands, along with information about the device, to a third-party service that converts speech to text, Samsung's global privacy policy warns. If voice recognition is going to be on all the time, "that seems like really poor design, and certainly represents a privacy risk," said Justin Brookman, director of the consumer privacy project at the Center for Democracy & Technology.
Anthem Mega-Breach Jeopardizes 80 Million Consumers
February 5, 2015
Hackers broke into the databases of Anthem Inc., the second-largest health insurer in the U.S., and stole up to 80 million customers' personal information. The data includes current and former customers' names, birthdays, medical IDs, social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, Anthem president and CEO Joseph Swedish wrote in a note sent to customers.
A Little Dab of Credit Card Data Can ID Customers
February 2, 2015
Credit card users may be dismayed by findings MIT Researchers reported last week in the journal Science: Just four pieces of vague non-identifying information were enough to identify 90 percent of people in a data set of 1.1 million credit card users. When the researchers went to work with three pieces of less vague information, they achieved 94 percent success.
Canada Levitates Data from File-Sharing Sites
January 29, 2015
Canada's spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment, has been eavesdropping on 102 free file upload sites, including Sendspace, Rapidshare and Megaupload, which has been shut down. A CSE program called "Levitation" lets analysts access information on 10-15 million uploads and downloads of files from such sites daily, according to documents released by whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
Businesses Seek Liability Protection for Cybersecurity Disclosures
January 28, 2015
"No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families," President Barack Obama told the U.S. Congress during the State of the Union Address last week. However, hunting down the perpetrators of cyberattacks that compromise national security or disrupt commerce is only going to get more difficult in the future.
Wikileaks Steamed Over Google's Lengthy Silence on FBI Snooping
January 27, 2015
Google may have contributed to violating the First Amendment rights of three journalists working for WikiLeaks two and a half years ago, when it turned over to the FBI all their email, subscriber information and metadata. Google informed the journalists about its actions last month, saying that it had been unable to do so earlier due to a gag order.
Google to Add Mobile Carrier Hat to Its Collection
January 23, 2015
Google reportedly is planning to set up shop as an MVNO, purchasing bandwidth from Sprint and T-Mobile in order to offer its own wireless service. Details are sparse, but Sprint is said to be putting a volume trigger into its contract that would allow for renegotiation if Google's customer volume should exceed a predefined number. The project, led by Nick Fox reportedly bears the code-name "Nova."
White House Jump-Starts Cybersecurity Protection Programs
January 23, 2015
As members of the U.S. Congress started to prepare for the upcoming legislative session, President Obama lost little time in putting cybersecurity near the top of a to-do list for lawmakers. During a visit to the federal National Cybersecurity Communications Integration Center, Obama called for additional legislation to improve information technology protection.
Verizon's Cookies Never Crumble
January 16, 2015
Verizon advertising partner Turn is using the carrier's Unique Identifier Header, or UIDH, to maintain tracking cookies on smartphones even after privacy-minded users have deleted them, Jonathan Mayer, a computer scientist and lawyer at Stanford University, reported this week. Turn shares the cookies with dozens of major websites and advertising networks.
Cameron Takes Hard Line on Encrypted Communications
January 15, 2015
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who is standing for re-election, has vowed to ban personal encrypted communications apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp if he is voted in. He also will allow UK government security agencies to monitor communications, with warrants signed by the Home Secretary. "The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe," Cameron declared.
Sony Sortie's Smoking Gun Still Missing
January 14, 2015
Recent research from security firm Cloudmark has raised doubt about the purported connection between North Korea and last November's intrusion on Sony Pictures Entertainment's computer networks. The FBI last week continued to press its case that North Korea was behind the cyberattack, pointing to an exposed block of IP addresses allocated to North Korea.
The Fallout From the NSA's Backdoors Mandate
January 13, 2015
The United States National Security Agency (NSA) is widely believed to have mandated high-tech vendors build backdoors into their hardware and software. Reactions from foreign governments to the news are harming American businesses and, some contend, may result in the breakup of the Internet. For example, Russia is moving to paper and typewriters in some cases to move certain types of information.

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Should humans colonize Mars?
Yes. It's human nature to explore.
Yes. Earth is running out of resources.
No. It's too impractical and risky.
No. We should focus on saving Earth.
Maybe -- but not until a round-trip is possible.