snydeq writes: "Steganography expert Peter Wayner discusses six techniques that help obscure the data and traces you leave online. 'The truth is, worrying about the trail of digital footprints and digital dustballs filled with our digital DNA is not just for raving paranoids. Sure, some leaks like the subtle variations in power consumed by our computers are only exploitable by teams of geniuses with big budgets, but many of the simpler ones are already being abused by identity thieves, blackmail artists, spammers, or worse.' What tools and techniques do you use to ensure greater privacy and better security of personal data on the Web?"
snydeq writes: "The end of the world may or may not be nigh, but in the tech industry, many of these 12 possibilities could easily become reality for IT. From legislation against municipal fiber, to Oracle starting charging for the JDK, to the bad guys win the war on general-purpose computing, a number of scenarios could play out in the coming years to seriously damage the technology industry and all the people who depend on it."
snydeq writes: "A group of privacy enthusiasts has launched a free, open-source-inspired project called Terms of Service; Didn't Read (ToS;DR) in the hopes of helping users make better-informed choices before blithely clicking Agree when presented with those walls of legalese. By the group's assessment, clicking "I have read and agree to the terms of service" is the "biggest lie on the Web." In its current form, ToS;DR provides class ratings and reviews for several sites. The reviews include specific breakdowns on what a particular site is doing well and where it may be falling short."
snydeq writes: "First, it was data caps on cellular, and now caps on wired broadband — welcome to the end of the rich Internet, writes Galen Gruman. 'People are still getting used to the notion that unlimited data plans are dead and gone for their smartphones. The option wasn't even offered for tablets. Now, we're beginning to see the eradication of the unlimited data plan in our broadband lines, such as cable and DSL connections. It's a dangerous trend that will threaten the budding Internet-based video business — whether from Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Windows Store, or Google Play — then jeopardize Internet services of all sorts. It's a complex issue, and though the villains are obvious — the telecom carriers and cable providers — the solutions are not. The result will be a metered Internet that discourages use of the services so valuable for work and play.'"
snydeq writes: "At least 10,000 people believe in App.net's vision of a messaging platform for Web apps — but it's unclear whether those people will be peers or sharecroppers, writes Simon Phipps. 'Last week App.net reached the milestone of 10,000 users who signed up for a new — mostly yet to be written — social network that looks like an early reimplementation of Twitter. Signing up people to claim user names on an (not vaporware) alpha Web service may not seem surprising or novel, but this time there's a difference: Everyone who signed up for App.net paid $50 for the privilege,' Phipps writes. 'App.net has used the crowdfunding approach, but it's not the same kind of project. While superficially similar — there's an offer of immediate use of its Twitter-clone service and reservation of the user ID of your choice — it's much more speculative. It's crowdsourcing the seed capital for a new venture, crowdsourcing the design, crowdsourcing the testing, and crowdsourcing most of the software that interacts with the venture, all without actually giving anyone but the founder a true stake in the outcome.'"
snydeq writes: "While Apple and Samsung fight over patents and prototypes, other copyright trolls are waging an X-rated battle on innocent users, as lawyers representing some adult movie companies are sending letters accusing users of illegally downloading their movies and saying that, for a price, they can make the charges go away. "Cases like this, usually involving pornographic content, are very common," Mitch Stoltz, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation said. At least 250,000 individuals have been named in group lawsuits over the last few years. There's a very common belief that if someone pirates your Wi-Fi connection or uses your computer without your permission, you are responsible for illegal downloads of copyrighted material. That's not true, says Stoltz; the law is quite clear. However, the lawyers who bring those cases use that misperception to convince innocent people that they had better pay up. Since $3,500 is just a fraction of the money it would take to fight a case in court, most people simply settle."
snydeq writes: "Deep End's Paul Venezia questions whether Cisco can ever be trusted again in the wake of its automatic Linksys firmware update that forced customers to create Cloud Connect accounts and agree to have their browser histories tracked. 'In the intervening days since the discovery of this disgusting display of corporate thuggery, Cisco has backtracked. The company promises to modify the terms of service to remove some of the more egregious language, but as ExtremeTech points out, that doesn't matter — Cisco can still update those terms at any time. Cisco has also provided a way to downgrade affected devices, but that leaves users without an upgrade path in the future. It's actions like this that make open source solutions all the more attractive,' Venezia writes. 'These cases highlight the lag between regulation and technology. Prior to the past decade or so, the idea of a manufacturer purposefully breaking a product after purchase in order to spy on you and profit from that information was so outlandish, there was no need for concern. We're now living in a world where it could easily be done clandestinely."
snydeq writes: "Law professor Tim Wu sheds light on a growing legal concern: the extent to which computers have a constitutional right to free speech. 'This may sound like a fanciful question, a matter of philosophy or science fiction. But it’s become a real issue with important consequences,' Wu writes. First it was Google defending — and winning — a civil suit on grounds that search results are constitutionally protected speech. Now it is doubling down on the argument amidst greater federal scrutiny. 'Consider that Google has attracted attention from both antitrust and consumer protection officials after accusations that it has used its dominance in search to hinder competitors and in some instances has not made clear the line between advertisement and results. Consider that the “decisions” made by Facebook’s computers may involve widely sharing your private information.... Ordinarily, such practices could violate laws meant to protect consumers. But if we call computerized decisions “speech,” the judiciary must consider these laws as potential censorship, making the First Amendment, for these companies, a formidable anti-regulatory tool.'"
snydeq writes: "Hacker group Rex Mundi has made good on its promise to publish thousands of loan-applicant records it swiped from AmeriCash Advance after the payday lender refused to fork over between $15,000 and $20,000 as an extortion fee — or, in Rex Mundi's terms, an "idiot tax." The group announced on June 15 that it was able to steal AmeriCash's customer data because the company had left a confidential page unsecured on one of its servers. "This page allows its affiliates to see how many loan applicants they recruited and how much money they made," according to the group's post on dpaste.com. "Not only was this page unsecured, it was actually referenced in their robots.txt file.""
snydeq writes: "While privacy groups are working to lock away your personal data, a better — or perhaps supplementary — option may be to let you sell it for what it's really worth. 'Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, Google Drive, or Pinterest, the truth is the product is you — all that data about you used to target ads and sales pitches. It's hardly a new business model — it's how trade publications have made their money for decades — but in the online world all that information is easily stolen, traded, and spread.... If the data has value — and we know it does — its creators (you and me) should be paid for it. And if we take over the selling of our data, all those companies using it now have to respect us and abide by our standards.'"
snydeq writes: "The jury decided yesterday that Google did not infringe on Oracle's patents related to Android. Fantastic news — but the wider view offers little comfort, writes Simon Phipps. 'While the specific news of the patent phase verdict is good news for most people, the case still tells a sad story about software patents. The complexity found by the jury shows why software patents fail to deliver on the contract with society that they should represent. Unlike real patents, software patents contain little of value to the programmer: no sample code, only stylized algorithms. Instead, they consist mainly of a list of ways a lawyer can assert that the patent has been infringed. Even then, they are linguistically complex, leaving juries scratching their heads to interpret.'"
snydeq writes: "Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister sees Oracle's suit against Google boiling down to calling dibs on the Java APIs, and if the court agrees, this will be bad news for developers everywhere. 'Oracle's argument is roughly akin to me claiming that because I own the copyright to a book of commonly used English phrases, publishers of Shakespeare need to pay me royalties. If it holds true for Java, it will hold true for any programming language, from any source. That could radically change the relationship between developers and platform vendors,' McAllister writes. 'For one thing, it raises questions about programming language licensing. If the most basic language APIs can be copyrighted, would that not in effect make any program written in any language a derivative work of that language's APIs? How would that work in practice? Who would developers have to pay? What rights would they have to sign away?'"
snydeq writes: "Amid widespread concern about its new privacy policies, Google is now facing criticism over an offer to give users Amazon gift certificates if they open their Web movements to the company in a program called Screenwise. 'Google is asking users to add an extension to the Chrome browser that will share their Web-browsing activity with the company. In exchange, users will receive a $5 Amazon gift when they sign up and additional $5 gift card values for every three months they continue to share. (Amazon is not a partner in the project.) Users must be over age 13, and minors will need parental consent to participate. The tracking extension can be turned off at any time, allowing participants to temporarily close their metaphorical shades on Google.'"
snydeq writes: "With so many threats to a free and open Internet, sooner or later, people will need to arm themselves for the fight, writes Deep End's Paul Venezia. 'If the baboons succeed in constraining speech and information flow on the broader Internet, the new Internet will emerge quickly. For an analogy, consider the iPhone and the efforts of a few smart hackers who have allowed anyone to jailbreak an iPhone with only a small downloaded app and a few minutes,' Venezia writes. 'All that scenario would require would be a way to wrap up existing technologies into a nice, easily-installed package available through any number of methods. Picture the harrowing future of rampant Internet take-downs and censorship, and then picture a single installer that runs under Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux that installs tor, tools to leverage alternative DNS servers, anonymizing proxies, and even private VPN services. A few clicks of the mouse, and suddenly that machine would be able to access sites "banned" through general means.'"