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Verizon to Disclose Some of What It's Disclosing to the Government
December 20, 2013
Verizon on Thursday said it will release a semiannual report about the data requests it receives from the government. It is the first major telecom to make such a move. Verizon and other tech industry giants have come under fire for cooperating with government surveillance programs. Verizon and AT&T in particular were named in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Japanese Robot Shoots Breeze With Astronaut
December 20, 2013
A humanoid robot named "Kirobo" has had a chat with a Japanese astronaut on the ISS. The robot, also from Japan, is designed to process questions and construct answers from its vocabulary bank, as opposed to regurgitating preprogrammed responses. Asked if he could handle zero-gravity conditions, the robot replied, "I'm used to it now, no problem at all."
Surveillance Report Blasts NSA, Recommends Overhaul
December 19, 2013
A task force set up by President Obama to review the National Security Agency's surveillance activities has suggested a list of what it calls "significant" reforms, including restrictions on spying. Among the recommendations: changes in surveillance of both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens to protect their privacy; and an overhaul of the NSA and the secretive FISA Court.
Chinese Man Heads to US Prison for Microchip Smuggling Attempt
December 19, 2013
A Chinese citizen was sentenced to three years in U.S. prison Wednesday for trying to smuggle American-made microchips from California to China. The man, Philip Chaohui He, was targeted in a 2011 sting at a Los Angeles-area port. He was nabbed while approaching a Chinese freighter, toting with him 200 radiation-hardened microchips tucked inside a tub of baby formula.
Google Glass Just Got Creepier
December 18, 2013
Google on Tuesday released XE 12, the latest update to its Google Glass product. One of its new features lets users take a photo with a wink, something that previously could be done by using a third-party app. "If I were Google, I'd keep quiet about ... how quickly people can take photos of unsuspecting targets," said Joshua Flood, an analyst at ABI Research.
NSA's Latest Threat: Constitutional Law
December 17, 2013
A federal judge has ruled that the NSA's collection of telephone metadata is likely a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adding another point of debate to this volatile issue. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon's ruling has extra impact because he is a conservative appointed by George W. Bush. "That sets a serious precedent," said CREDO Mobile's Becky Bond.
Twitter's Block Backtrack Scores Points
December 13, 2013
Finding itself at the center of a social media firestorm, Twitter on Friday acted quickly to placate users who were concerned about changes it made to its blocking functionality Thursday afternoon. Twitter effectively turned the block button into a mute function, allowing a blocked user to follow, retweet, favorite, and publicly share tweets of the user who had imposed the block.
Instagram Hitches Wagon to Private Messaging
December 12, 2013
Instagram has dipped its toes into private-photo and video messaging waters. Instagram Direct allows the community's more than 150 million monthly active users to send photos and videos within a group. The process of sending a private message works just like posting a photo or video publicly: Take a new photo or upload an existing one, slap on a filter and effects, and add a caption and tags.
Australian State Outlaws Non-Consensual Sexting
December 12, 2013
The Australian state of Victoria has made it illegal to distribute explicit images without consent. The new law specifically outlaws "non-consensual sexting," which generally takes place when lovers split and there is post-breakup payback in the form of intimate photos of the former partners. The law does exempt children in order to ensure that they aren't charged with child pornography.
NSA Hackers Help Themselves to Google's Cookies
December 12, 2013
The United States National Security Agency reportedly is using at least one type of Google cookie -- PREF, which stores a user's preferences -- to home in on the PCs of targets it wants to hack. NSA's Special Source Operations division apparently is sharing information with Tailored Access Operations, the agency's cyberwarfare intelligence-gathering unit.
Chinese Supercomputer Gets a Job Forecasting Smog
December 10, 2013
Scientists in China will use the country's Tianhe-1A supercomputer to forecast and analyze smog in major cities. The Tianhe-1A will be used to create a simulation that will collate data from across more than 100 Chinese cities. Theoretically, this will enable scientists to predict the density of smog, how long it will linger, and where it might go next.
Cops' Cellphone Data Collection Challenged
December 10, 2013
Sen. Edward Markey plans to soon introduce legislation that will restrict the bulk collection of Americans' cellphone data by U.S. law enforcement agencies. "We need a 4th Amendment for the 21st century," he said. "Disclosure of personal information from wireless devices raises significant legal and privacy concerns, particularly for innocent consumers."
Tech Giants Demand Government Surveillance Overhaul
December 09, 2013
Eight major U.S. high-tech companies have called on governments worldwide to reform surveillance practices. Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple and AOL want governments to ensure that data collection by law enforcement and intelligence agencies is bound by rules and focuses on targeted suspects. They also want governments to be more transparent about the data they request.
NSA Snoops Extend Ops to Online Games
December 09, 2013
The U.S. National Security Agency and British counterpart GCHQ have monitored the activities of online gamers, according to documents published Monday that were leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The two agencies gained access to the online Xbox Live console network, the documents suggest, as well as deploying real-life agents into the virtual realms of Blizzard's World of Warcraft and Linden Labs' Second Life.
Ecuador Boards the Internet Freedom Train
December 09, 2013
Ecuador hosted an Internet freedom forum last week, welcoming guests from the pro-transparency community. The nation's president, Rafael Correa, is also funding a new research project designed to overhaul traditional copyright laws. To that end, the FLOK Society, based at a public university in Quito, is exploring ways to liberate Ecuador's Internet from global intellectual property laws.
NSA Harvests 5 Billion Cellphone Locations Worldwide Daily: Report
December 05, 2013
Every day, the NSA reportedly collects nearly 5 billion cellphone location records worldwide. The information, obtained from documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, indicate the records are stored in the agency's FASCIA database. Data on Americans' cellphones both in the U.S. and abroad is collected "incidentally," the NSA contended.
Microsoft Cranks Up Security to Lock Out Government Spies
December 05, 2013
Microsoft is taking steps to make its customers' data more secure in the wake of revelations about government spying. The company was implicated in NSA snooping operations after former government contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents related to the agency's activities earlier this year. Government spying on Microsoft's servers constitutes a persistent threat, said General Counsel Brad Smith.
India Asks US for Tips on Snooping
December 05, 2013
India's home ministry reportedly will seek advice from the U.S. to help decrypt communications taking place on platforms like Skype, BlackBerry and WeChat. Sharing such spying techniques is a potential "area of cooperation," according to Indian law enforcement. India has already launched an elaborate system that allows tax officials and security authorities to intercept phone calls and emails.
How to Encrypt Your Email
December 05, 2013
Some years ago, an antinuclear activist named Phil Zimmermann created a data encryption program for computers. He designed a key-generation and encryption-and-decryption system called "PGP," or Pretty Good Privacy, for the bulletin board systems that were the precursors to forums, email and the Web. This algorithmic scrambling of information has played an important part in the growth of the Internet.
Here's Looking at Me, iPhone
December 05, 2013
USPTO just granted Apple a patent for a facial recognition feature that could unlock a mobile device as well as control how it works. That's right, Apple just got a patent so our iPhones can look at us all the time. I just got used to the idea of using my fingerprint to unlock an iPhone 5s, but now my face? I'm vaguely uneasy about the potential for dark uses this sort of technology opens up.

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