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The Internet

Thousands Of Cubans Now Have Internet Access (ap.org) 70

There's been a dramatic change in one of the world's least-connected countries. An anonymous reader quotes the AP: Since the summer of 2015, the Cuban government has opened 240 public Wi-Fi spots in parks and on street corners across the country... The government estimates that 100,000 Cubans connect to the internet daily. A new feature of urban life in Cuba is the sight of people sitting at all hours on street corners or park benches, their faces illuminated by the screen of smartphones connected by applications such as Facebook Messenger to relatives in Miami, Ecuador or other outposts of the Cuban diaspora...

Cuban ingenuity has spread internet far beyond those public places: thousands of people grab the public signals through commercially available repeaters, imported illegally into Cuba and often sold for about $100 -- double the original price. Mounted on rooftops, the repeaters grab the public signals and create a form of home internet increasingly available in private rentals for tourists and cafes and restaurants for Cubans and visitors alike.

The article also points out that last month, for the first time ever, 2,000 Cubans began receiving home internet access.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Begins Investigating Surveillance Technology Rumors At Standing Rock (eff.org) 147

Electronic Frontier Foundation has dispatched a team of technologists and lawyers to a protest site in Standing Rock, North Dakota, to investigate "several reports of potentially unlawful surveillance." An anonymous reader writes: The EFF has "collected anecdotal evidence from water protectors about suspicious cell phone behavior, including uncharacteristically fast battery drainage, applications freezing, and phones crashing completely," according to a recent report. "Some water protectors also saw suspicious login attempts to their Google accounts from IP addresses originating from North Dakota's Information & Technology Department. On social media, many reported Facebook posts and messenger threads disappearing, as well as Facebook Live uploads failing to upload or, once uploaded, disappearing completely."

The EFF reports "it's been very difficult to pinpoint the true cause or causes," but they've targeted over 20 law enforcement agencies with public records requests, noting that "Of the 15 local and state agencies that have responded, 13 deny having any record at all of cell site simulator use, and two agencies -- Morton County and the North Dakota State Highway Patrol (the two agencies most visible on the ground) -- claim that they can't release records in the interest of "public safety"...

"Law enforcement agencies should not be allowed to sidestep public inquiry into the surveillance technologies they're using," EFF writes, "especially when citizens' constitutional rights are at stake... It is past time for the Department of Justice to investigate the scope of law enforcement's digital surveillance at Standing Rock and its consequences for civil liberties and freedoms in the digital world."
Transportation

U.S. Proposes Car-To-Car Data Sharing Standards (networkworld.com) 134

Calling it "the next revolution in roadway safety," the U.S. Department of Transportation hopes to standardize "vehicle communications" technology. Slashdot reader coondoggie writes: The idea is to enable a multitude of new crash-avoidance applications that could save lives by preventing "hundreds of thousands of crashes every year by helping vehicles 'talk' to each other," the DOT stated... [D]evices would use the dedicated short range communications to transmit data, such as location, direction and speed, to nearby vehicles. That data would be updated and broadcast up to 10 times per second to nearby vehicles, and using that information, V2V-equipped vehicles can identify risks and provide warnings to drivers to avoid imminent crashes.
Self-driving cars (and human drivers) could be informed when it's safe to enter the passing lane (or when cars move into a vehicle's blind spot), for example, and "often in situations in which the driver and on-board sensors alone cannot detect the threat." Federal agencies estimate it will cost just $350 per vehicle by 2020 (and dropping over the decades to come), and they've also already issued guidelines about securing these systems from unauthorized access.
Software

Windows 10 'Home Hub' Is Microsoft's Response To Amazon Echo and Google Home (mashable.com) 101

Microsoft's response to the Amazon Echo and Google Home is Home Hub, a software update for Windows 10's Cortana personal assistant that turns any Windows PC into a smart speaker of sorts. Mashable reports: Microsoft's smart digital assistant Cortana can already answer your queries, even if the PC's screen is locked. The Home Hub is tied to Cortana and takes this a few steps further. It would add a special app with features such as calendar appointments, sticky notes and shopping lists. A Home Hub-enabled PC might have a Welcome Screen, a full-screen app that displays all these, like a virtual fridge door. Multiple users (i.e. family members) could use the Home Hub, either by authenticating through Windows Hello or by working in a family-shared account. Cortana would get more powerful on Home Hub; it could, for example, control smart home devices, such as lights and locks. And even though all of this will work on any Windows 10 device -- potentially making the PC the center of your smart home experience -- third-party manufacturers will be able to build devices that work with Home Hub. You can read Windows Central's massive report here. Do note that Home Hub is not official and individual features could change over time. The update is slated for 2017.
Windows

Microsoft Shares Windows 10 Telemetry Data With Third Parties (betanews.com) 175

An anonymous reader shares a report: To help with the smooth running of Windows 10, and to get an idea of how users interact with the operating system, Microsoft collects telemetry data, which includes information on the device Windows 10 is running on, a list of installed apps, crash dumps, and more. Telemetry data recorded by Windows 10 is, in a nutshell, just technical information about the device the OS is on, and how Windows and any installed software is performing, but it can occasionally include personal information. If you're worried about that, the news that Microsoft is sharing telemetry data with third parties might concern you. Microsoft recently struck a deal with security firm FireEye to provide access to Windows 10 telemetry data, in exchange for having FireEye's iSIGHT Threat Intelligence technology included in its Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection service. WDATP is an enterprise security product that helps enterprises detect, investigate, and respond to advanced attacks on their networks and is different from the free version of Windows Defender. The upsides of the deal are obvious for both Microsoft and FireEye, and enterprise customers will certainly benefit from the partnership. It's not known exactly what data Microsoft has made available to FireEye, but in a detailed TechNet article on its telemetry gathering the software giant originally said: "Microsoft may share business reports with OEMs and third party partners that include aggregated and anonymized telemetry information. Data-sharing decisions are made by an internal team including privacy, legal, and data management."
Advertising

Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban On Personally Identifiable Web Tracking (propublica.org) 155

Fudge Factor 3000 writes: Google has quietly changed its privacy policy to allow it to associate web tracking, which is supposed to remain anonymous, with personally identifiable user data. This completely reneges its promise to keep a wall between ad tracking and personally identifiable user data, further eroding one's anonymity on the internet. Google's priorities are clear. All they care about is monetizing user information to rake in the big dollars from ad revenue. Think twice before you purchase the premium priced Google Pixel. Google is getting added value from you as its product without giving you part of the revenue it is generating through tracking through lower prices. The crossed-out section in its privacy policy, which discusses the separation of information as mentioned above, has been followed with this statement: "Depending on your account settings, your activity on other sites and apps may be associated with your personal information in order to improve Google's services and the ads delivered by Google." ProPublica reports: "The change is enabled by default for new Google accounts. Existing users were prompted to opt-in to the change this summer. The practical result of the change is that the DoubleClick ads that follow people around on the web may now be customized to them based on your name and other information Google knows about you. It also means that Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit and the searches they conduct. The move is a sea change for Google and a further blow to the online ad industry's longstanding contention that web tracking is mostly anonymous. In recent years, Facebook, offline data brokers and others have increasingly sought to combine their troves of web tracking data with people's real names. But until this summer, Google held the line." You can choose to opt in or out of the personalized ads here.
Government

Theresa May Becomes UK's 'Spy Queen' and New Prime Minister (arstechnica.co.uk) 238

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Theresa May has become the new British Prime Minister. As she sat down with the Queen on Wednesday, a controversial surveillance draft legislation that looks to significantly increase surveillance of Brits' online activity will be debated during its second committee stage day in the House of Lords. Ars Technica reports: "The Investigatory Powers Act could be in place within months of May arriving at Number 10 -- if peers and legal spats fail to scupper its passage through parliament -- after MPs recently waved it through having secured only minor amendments to the bill. As home secretary, May fought for six years to get her so-called Snoopers' Charter onto the statute books." According to Ars Technica, Theresa May's key political moments on the Investigatory Powers Bill start in 1997 when she became the Member of Parliament for Maidenhead. During her opposition years, her home affairs record shows that she generally votes against the Labour government's more draconian measures on topics such as anti-terrorism and ID cards. Mid-2009: May votes against requiring ISPs to retain certain categories of communications data, which they generate or process, for a minimum period of 12 months. 2010: She was appointed home secretary in coalition government between the Conservatives and junior partner the Liberal Democrats. 2011: The previous government's shelved Interception Modernization Program is rebranded as the Communications Capabilities Development Program (CCDP) by home office under May. Mid-2012: The CCDP morphs into Communications Data Bill, which is brought before parliament. Late-2012: May's Snoopers' Charter bid fails as deputy PM Nick Clegg orders the home office to go back to the drawing board. Mid-2014: May rushes what she characterizes as an "emergency" Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill through parliament, after the European Court of Justice invalidates the Data Retention Directive for failing to have adequate privacy safeguards in place. Late-2015: British security services have intercepted bulk communications data of UK citizens for years, May reveals to MPs for the first time as she brings her revamped Snoopers' Charter bid -- this time dubbed the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) -- before parliament. Mid-2016: MPs support thrust of IPB as it passes through the House of Commons. July 13, 2016: Theresa May becomes the UK's new prime minister as peers in the House of Lords undertake a second day of committee stage scrutiny of the Investigatory Powers Bill. UPDATE 7/13/16: Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who led the Brexit campaign, has been made foreign secretary by the new Prime Minister Theresa May.
Government

UK Gov't Creating Secret Mega Database On Citizens Without Informing Parliament (theregister.co.uk) 70

Alexander J Martin, reporting for The Register: The Home Office is secretly creating a centralised database on the good folk of Britain without presenting the capability increases to the public or subjecting them to Parliamentary scrutiny. The Register can reveal the project, which was described as simply a "replatforming" of the department's aging IT infrastructure, has already begun to roll out, with the "first wave" of changes being delivered in what it is calling the Technology Platforms for Tomorrow (TPT) programme. TPT will lay the foundations for this mega database by ushering in "core infrastructure, compute platforms and Live Service capability" changes, primarily using Hadoop, the open source software framework for centralising databases and allowing batch queries and analyses to be run across them in bulk.
Facebook

Facebook Begins Tracking Non-Users Around the Internet (theverge.com) 124

Amar Toor, reporting for The Verge: Facebook will now display ads to web users who are not members of its social network, the company announced Thursday, in a bid to significantly expand its online ad network. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Facebook will use cookies, "like" buttons, and other plug-ins embedded on third-party sites to track members and non-members alike (Editor's note: link swapped with a non-paywall source). The company says it will be able to better target non-Facebook users and serve relevant ads to them, though its practices have come under criticism from regulators in Europe over privacy concerns. Facebook began displaying a banner notification at the top of its News Feed for users in Europe today, alerting them to its use of cookies as mandated under an EU directive.Mark Wilson of BetaNews adds that Facebook has outlined these changes in its cookies policy page. As part of which, the company is now allowing Facebook users to opt-out of the ad scheme by making changes to their Facebook settings. For users that don't have a Facebook account, they can opt-out through Digital Advertising Alliance in the United States and Canada, and the European Interactive Digital Adverting Alliance in Europe.
Google

Google Assistant and Google Home: Amazon Echo, But From Google (arstechnica.com) 80

At its developer conference I/O, Google on Wednesday unveiled Google Home, a small round gadget with microphones and speakers that listens and responds to your questions and commands. As you may have guessed, Google Home will compete with Amazon Echo. The company also announced Assistant. Ars Technica reports: Google's conversational assistant is in the same vein as Cortana and Siri, Google Assistant. Google Assistant will be on phones and wearables too, and Google says that it will be better at picking out the context of what you're doing than any of the competitors. As an example, when standing near Cloud Gate, better known as The Bean, in Chicago, you can ask Google Assistant "Who designed this?" Based on your location alone, Assistant will understand that you're probably referring to the large shiny sculpture in front of you, and answer "Anish Kapoor."The Google Home will be available for purchase later this year. CNET has more details.
Privacy

Revealed: What Info the FBI Can Collect With a National Security Letter 93

An anonymous reader writes with this lead from Help Net Security's story on a topic we've touched on here many times: the broad powers arrogated by the Federal government in the form of National Security Letters: On Monday, after winning an eleven-year legal battle, Nicholas Merrill can finally tell the public how the FBI has secretly construed its authority to issue National Security Letters (NSLs) to permit collection of vast amounts of private information on US citizens without a search warrant or any showing of probable cause. The PATRIOT Act vastly expanded the domestic reach of the NSL program, which allows the FBI to compel disclosure of information from online companies and forbid recipients from disclosing they have received an NSL. The FBI has refused to detail publicly the kinds of private data it believes it can obtain with an NSL. A key sentence from the same story: "Merrill is now able to reveal that the FBI believes it can force online companies to turn over the following information simply by sending an NSL demanding it: an individual’s complete web browsing history; the IP addresses of everyone a person has corresponded with; and records of all online purchases." Reader Advocatus Diaboli adds this, from The Intercept: One of the most striking revelations, Merrill said during a press teleconference, was that the FBI was requesting detailed cell site location information — cellphone tracking records — under the heading of "radius log" information. Traditionally, radius log refers to a user's attempts to connect to a server or a DSL line — a sort of anachronism given the progress of technology. "The notion that the government can collect cellphone location information — to turn your cellphone into a tracking device, just by signing a letter — is extremely troubling," Merrill said.
The Internet

US Rep. Joe Barton Has a Plan To Stop Terrorists: Shut Down Websites (arstechnica.com) 275

Earthquake Retrofit writes: In an FCC oversight hearing, U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) asked Chairman Tom Wheeler if it's possible to shut down websites used by ISIS and other terrorist groups. He said, "Isn't there something we can do under existing law to shut those Internet sites down, and I know they pop up like weeds, but once they do pop up, shut them down and then turn those Internet addresses over to the appropriate law enforcement agencies to try to track them down? I would think that even in an open society, when there is a clear threat, they've declared war against us, our way of life, they've threatened to attack this very city our capital is in, that we could do something about the Internet and social media side of the equation." Wheeler pointed out that the legal definition of "lawful intercept" did not support such actions, but added that Congress could expand the law to validate the concept. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is exploring the idea of using the recent terror attacks in France as ammunition to force tech companies away from end-to-end encryption. "Lawmakers said it was time to intensify discussions over what technology companies such as Apple and Google could do to help unscramble key information on devices such as iPhones and apps like WhatsApp, where suspected terrorists have communicated."
Advertising

Ad Networks Using Inaudible Sound To Link Phones, Tablets and Other Devices (arstechnica.com) 223

ourlovecanlastforeve writes with a link to Ars Technica's report of a new way for ads to narrow in on their target: high-pitched sounds that can make ad tracking cross devices and contexts. From the article: The ultrasonic pitches are embedded into TV commercials or are played when a user encounters an ad displayed in a computer browser. While the sound can't be heard by the human ear, nearby tablets and smartphones can detect it. When they do, browser cookies can now pair a single user to multiple devices and keep track of what TV commercials the person sees, how long the person watches the ads, and whether the person acts on the ads by doing a Web search or buying a product.
Advertising

Viewing Data Harvested From Smart TVs Used To Push Ads To Other Screens? (securityledger.com) 148

chicksdaddy writes: In the latest episode of EULA overreach, electronics maker Vizio Holdings has been called out by the non profit investigative reporting outfit ProPublica for an on-by-default feature on its smart TVs called "Smart Interactivity" that analyzes both broadcast and streamed content viewed using the device. ProPublica noted that the company's privacy policy failed to clearly describe the tracking behavior, which included the collection of information such as the date, time, channel and whether the program was viewed live or recorded.

According to ProPublica, the monitoring of viewing information through IP addresses, while it does not identify individuals, can be combined with other data available in commercial databases from brokers such as Experian, creating a detailed picture of an individual or household. Vizio has since updated its privacy policy with a supplement that explains how "Smart Interactivity" works.

The bigger issue may be what that updated privacy policy reveals. As The Security Ledger notes, the updated Vizio privacy policy makes clear that the company will combine "your IP address and other Non-Personal Information in order to inform third party selection and delivery of targeted and re-targeted advertisements." Those advertisements "may be delivered to smartphones, tablets, PCs or other internet-connected devices that share an IP address or other identifier with your Smart TV."

In other words, TV viewing patterns will be used to serve ads to any device user who happens to be connected to the same network as the Vizio Smart TV — an obvious problem for households with a mix of say... adults and children?! Vizio does provide instructions for disabling the Smart Interactivity features and says that "connected" features of the device aren't contingent on monitoring. That's better than some other vendors. In 2014, for example, LG used a firmware update for its smart televisions to link the "smart" features of the device to viewer tracking and monitoring. Viewers who applied the update, but refused to consent to monitoring were not able to use services like Netflix and YouTube.

Privacy

Nine Out of Ten of the Internet's Top Websites Are Leaking Your Data 133

merbs writes: The vast majority of websites you visit are sending your data to third-party sources, usually without your permission or knowledge. That's not exactly breaking news, but the sheer scale and ubiquity of that leakage might be. Tim Libert, a privacy researcher, has published new peer-reviewed research that sought to quantify all the "privacy compromising mechanisms" on the one million most popular websites worldwide. His conclusion? "Findings indicate that nearly 9 in 10 websites leak user data to parties of which the user is likely unaware."

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