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Posts tagged as “privacy”

Verizon Case Illustrates Why We Need a Linux Phone

There are plenty of reasons to be anticipating the arrival of GNU/Linux phones and tablets. Verizon Wireless has given us another.

On March 7, the FCC slapped a $1.35 million fine on Verizon in a privacy case, a move that’s being hailed as a victory by some privacy advocates. If so, it would seem to be a hollow victory. For starters, the fine is too low to be much of a deterrent against a company which last year had annual gross income of over $63 billion. But there is much more wrong with the agreement the carrier reached with the FCC than merely the price tag.

Verizon logoThe case revolves around Verizon’s use of a supercookie — a cookie that uses a variety of techniques to make it nearly impossible to remove or disable — which the carrier began placing on its customers’ phones in 2012. The cookie gathered information that combined a person’s Internet history — whether through browsers or apps — with their unique customer information. The company ran afoul of the law because of the way it shared the information it gleaned with third parties.

Google’s ‘Inbox’: Should Privacy Advocates Be Concerned?

Google is getting ready to migrate all Gmail users to Inbox, which should be something of a concern for those worried about privacy, but no one seems to be noticing. The current efforts seem to be directed at users of the Gmail mobile app, but it’s my guess that desktop users of Gmail will be getting be getting the same treatment soon.

Google Inbox logoExcept for those using a free version of Android such as Replicant, and who install apps from free and open software sources such as F-Droid or Fossdroid, the protection of privacy on mobile devices, by design, is hopeless. Users have come to accept that most apps from Google’s store demand a whole slew of privileges whether they need them or not, and even when not being used, many apps happily go about the business of collecting and reporting everything they’re permitted to find out about us.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Nowhere to Run or Hide in the Technology Age

Free tech is about much more than free software. It’s more than just being able to see and modify code and deeper than the rivalry between proprietary and FOSS or Windows versus Linux. It’s not just about computers. Free tech is also about freedom and rights, and keeping our lifestyle from being destroyed by the misuse of technology.

LPR cameraEach day our news sites offer more evidence that this is happening. Collectively, we shrug and think there’s nothing to be done. This dragon is too huge to slay.

On Friday, Ars Technica and other sites reported that the town of Paradise Valley, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, is hiding license plate readers (LPRs) inside artificial cactuses. Ho-hum. The cameras aren’t very well hidden and there’s really nothing new here. LPR technology has been around for a while — cops love it because it makes their jobs easier — and other jurisdictions have been hiding them too.

Besides, the town is so inept that there can’t be much danger here. The town manager told a local TV station that the cameras weren’t active, although the local gendarmes had announced a few days earlier that the cameras had scored their first hit and that a motorist had been subjected to a traffic stop but not arrested. Another ho-hum. This would seem to be another case file from “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

ATMs Might Go Linux, MS DOS Source Released & More…

FOSS Week in Review

Is Microsoft reading your Hotmail?

Last week we learned of the arrest of Alex Kibkalo, a Microsoft employee who’s charged with leaking an unreleased version of Windows 8 to a French blogger. According to Wired, during the course of an internal investigation in Redmond, an unidentified source approached Steven Sinofsky, who was then president of Microsoft’s Windows Division.

“The source gave Sinofsky a Hotmail address that belonged to the French blogger (also not named) and said that the blogger was the person who had received the leaked software. Microsoft had already been interested in the blogger, but apparently, after the tip-off, the company’s security team did something that raised alarm bells with privacy advocates. Instead of taking their evidence to law enforcement, they decided to search through the blogger’s private messages themselves. Four days after Sinofsky’s tip-off, Microsoft lawyers ‘approved content pulls of the blogger’s Hotmail account,’ the court filings state.

“By trolling through the Hotmail email messages and MSN Messenger instant message logs, Microsoft learnt how Kibkalo and the blogger pulled off the leak, says Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Armando Ramirez III, in an affidavit filed in connection with the case. Microsoft handed over the results of its investigation to the FBI in 2013, and Kibkalo was arrested on Wednesday.”

This, of course, created quite a stir among privacy advocates. So much so that the folks in Redmond on Thrusday announced a change of policy when it comes to riffling through people’s Hotmail accounts. They’re still going to do it, but in the future the company will publish stats regarding its breaking into people’s free Hotmail accounts. In other words, we’ll know just how much they do it.

Galaxy Backdoor, RIT Offers Open Source Minor & More…

FOSS Week in Review

Java is the target for half of all exploits

We’ve been saying for a couple of years now that Java isn’t safe and have been urging everyone who will listen to disable Java in the browser. As we’ve been saying this, comments to our articles on Java security have filled with folks wagging a finger and “reminding” us that Java is only a threat in the browser, that otherwise Java is safe.

That is wrong. The only time Java is safe is when it’s in a cup. According to an article published on IT World, researchers say that Java is now responsible for fully half of the exploits discovered in December.

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