technology

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Federal Judge: Google Must Hand Over Customer Data to FBI, No Warrant Necessary

Posted By on Sat, Jun 1, 2013 at 3:00 PM

A judge in San Francisco ruled May 20 that Google must hand over customer data to federal investigators, even without a warrant. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston ordered Google to comply with FBI demands, rejecting Google's argument that it was unconstitutional for feds to simply say it was in the interest of national security to seize personal records.

The ruling, which was written May 20, was made public Friday, May 31.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is now expected to take up the controversy, but the federal judge said that until the appellate court rules on the matter, Google must comply with FBI requests to collect unlimited amounts of private information, including financial and phone records.

Google's data includes search histories and its Gmail platform, used by millions of Americans.

The Associated Press reports that the FBI made 16,511 national security letter requests for information regarding 7,201 individuals in 2011.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Google Drive Disruption Plagues Internet

Posted By on Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 1:17 PM

Google Drive users may have found themselves faced with an inexplicable disruption in their usually trusty cloud-based service this morning, leaving many Internet users and IT worker bees questioning what exactly was going on.

No answers yet, says Google, but users are quickly seeing their Drive service restored, according to the Apps Status dashboard—meaning those sad, broken-apart robots are unlikely to be a permanent browser fixture for the Drive-reliant among us.

"Google Drive service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users within the next 1 hours. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change," stated a 9:55 a.m. (Mountain Time) update on the Google site, which earlier noted that "a significant subset of users" had been hit with the issue.

Google Drive allows users to save files, synchronize files with others, and performs many of the tasks that Google Docs once did, as more and more Internet users begin the slow shift to cloud storage.

Google has had a publicity-heavy week after the death of Google Reader, a popular RSS feed service that the Internet giant plans to shutter for good by July, claiming the changes had been made as usage of the service declined.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Watchdog Calls $7 Million Fine on Google For Wi-Spying 'Pocket Change'

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 9:05 AM

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Google has been hit by a $7 million fine after it acknowledged it had intercepted emails, passwords and other personal information from computer users via its Street View mapping program. The case covers 38 states—including Nevada, Oregon and Washington, but not Idaho—where households and businesses unknowingly had some of their personal data and communications accessed by Google.

The search engine giant was found to have collected emails, passwords and Web histories from home broadband networks between 2008 and 2010. Google acknowledged Wednesday the privacy breach had occurred but blamed a single engineer for including software code that accidentally collected the information from unsecured WiFi networks.

“We work hard to get privacy right at Google,” the firm said in a statement. “But in this case we didn’t, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address this issue. The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn’t use it or even look at it.”

Consumer Watchdog described the fine and conditions imposed as inadequate for the multi-billion-dollar company.

"The $7 million penalty is pocket change for Google," said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog privacy project director. "Asking Google to educate consumers about privacy is like asking the fox to teach the chickens how to ensure the security of their coop."

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Apple to Compensate Parents Whose Kids Went Overboard on App Purchases

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 9:01 AM

Apple is set to compensate millions of parents whose children made purchases from apps downloaded from the iTunes store without permission.

The California-based computer giant has agreed to pay out more than $100 million to parents who sued the company for making it too easy for kids to rack up charges by buying add-ons to games and other "free" apps.

The 2011 class-action suit alleged children had used iPhones and iPads to make "in-app" purchases of virtual items bought within games. In some cases, kids were able to rack up hundreds of dollars in purchases with their parents' credit card and PayPal accounts within a few minutes.

"A lot of parents feel, 'I don't know anything about technology,'" said Caroline Knoff, parenting editor at Common Sense Media. "That's how they got sucker-punched with the in-app purchases."

Meanwhile, Common Sense Media quoted Naren Prabhu, a Silicon Valley networking engineer, as saying:

Under the settlement, people who can show that a minor made an in-app purchase (IAP) can claim either iTunes Store credits, or cash settlements in cases where parents say the cost of purchases exceeded $30.

The proposed settlement still needs to be reviewed by U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Davila in San Jose on Friday, March 1.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Digiboo Downloadable Movie Kiosks Debut at Boise Airport

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 11:13 AM

Digiboo kiosks are being unveiled in airports in Boise, Seattle, Portland, Ore. and Minneapolis.
  • Digiboo kiosks are being unveiled at airports in Boise, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis.

Choosing Boise to be on its short list of launch cities, Digiboo is unveiling a new kiosk at the Boise Airport to allow travelers to download the latest movie and TV releases to smartphones, tablets or laptops.

"We chose to launch our product at BOI because Boise has a large population of early adopters, movie enthusiasts and business travelers," said Richard Cohen, Digiboo CEO. "Digiboo's mission is to deliver the simplest, easiest and most convenient way for movie-lovers to get the entertainment they love while on the go."

Digiboo calls itself "a first-of-its-kind download service with more than 800 movie titles and 20 TV series available through an interactive touchscreen kiosk." The Boise Airport joins Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis with four of the kiosks.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mac Attack: Apple Joins List of Corporate Giants That Have Been Hacked

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 9:05 AM

Officials at the core of Apple said Tuesday it was recently attacked by hackers, who infected the Macintosh computers of some of its employees. Reuters called the cyber hijack the "widest known attack targeting Apple computers used by corporations."

The hackers reportedly infected the Macs with malware when Apple employees visited a software developer website. The same software, which exploits a known flaw in Oracle's Java software, also was responsible for an attack on some Facebook employees' computers on Feb. 15.

"We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network. There is no evidence that any data left Apple," the company said in a statement.

Tuesday's announcement was just the latest in a slew of attacks that have hit Twitter, The New York Times and the U.S. Department of Energy. The Twitter accounts for Burger King and Jeep were also hacked over the last two days.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mystery Porn Bug Stumping Google

Posted By on Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 8:56 AM

A Google search bug that returns pages of pornographic results when users enter certain equations or search strings has the experts stumped.

A user on Quora uncovered the bug by accident in January, but Google is still trying to eradicate the problem.

Australia's Fairfax Media tested the glitch, typing in a Google search for "-4^(1/4)" which revealed the result on a calculator but below listed several pages of porn links with titles such as "four guys and a hooker" and others apparently that needed censoring.

According to Fairfax, other search strings that return mostly adult links include:

"1 2" -1
"1 2" -2
"h 3" -h
"1 4" -4
"apple 1" -apple

The glitch continues to appear when the search engine was asked to solve multiple equations.

Meanwhile, Google engineer Jeremy Hoffman gave this explanation on Quora:

As a web search query, [-4^(1/4)] is interpreted like [-4 "1 4"], as in "Find me pages which contain a 1 next to a 4, but which do not contain a 4." This should return zero results, because it is impossible to satisfy both requirements. However, we have uncovered a bug that causes some web pages to "match" these contradictory queries. Since these are the only results that "match" the query, they are the results that get shown. We are working on a bug fix. Thanks to the Quora community for bringing this to our attention.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Law Effective Today: It's Illegal to Unlock Your Cellphone

Posted By on Sat, Jan 26, 2013 at 11:00 AM

In a bizarre but little-known law that goes into effect today, it's now illegal for you to unlock your cellphone without your carrier's permission.

Chances are that when you purchased your cellphone from your carrier (i.e. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon,) the device would only work through the carrier's cell and data network. That is, unless you "unlocked" the device, by replacing the SIM card or took the phone to another carrier for service.

But beginning today, something called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act no longer allows phone unlocking unless you have the initial carrier's permission.

"It wasn't a good ruling," Rebecca Jeschke, a digital-rights analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told ABC News. "You should be able to unlock your phone. This law was meant to combat copyright infringement, not to prevent people to do what they want to do with the device they bought."

What's the worst-case scenario? A civil offense could be hit with as much as a $2,500 fine. Anyone trying to profit off of the act, such as a cellphone reseller, could face a $500,000 fine and prison time.

But feds add that if your phone has been previously unlocked, you're grandfathered in and won't face any legal issues.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Apple Peels Back Orders for iPhone 5 Components

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 9:11 AM

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Apple shares opened lower this morning on the NASDAQ exchange in the wake of Monday's report that Apple has cut their orders for iPhone 5 parts significantly, which some have speculated was in reaction to lower-than-expected demand.

The company's orders for screens for the new model have dropped to around half of what they had initially planned to order for this coming quarter, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Japanese daily Nikkei reported similar cutbacks, saying that Apple has asked suppliers Japan Display Inc., Sharp Corp., and South Korea's LG Display Co. Ltd. to cut back on some of the iPhone 5's components, according to Reuters.

Business Insider's Jay Yarow wrote:

Apple is expected to sell ~48 million iPhones in the December quarter. If it meets that expectation it would be Apple's best ever iPhone quarter. Yet, somehow Apple was putting in an order for a giant sequential increase?

The new order number of 32.25 million sounds more reasonable. (We can't find a consensus number for the March quarter.) But we find it hard to believe Apple cut its orders in half.

Apple's hold on the smartphone market has also reportedly been dropping over the last year or so. While it held control over 23 percent of the market in the fourth quarter of 2011, that number had dropped to 14.6 percent by 2012's third quarter.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Consumer Electronics Show: More Gadgets But More Big Brother

Posted By on Sat, Jan 12, 2013 at 10:13 AM

Panasonic unveiled one of its new Smart Tvs at the CES.
  • Panasonic unveiled one of its new smart TVs at the Consumer Electronics Show.

While the Consumer Electronics Show—held annually in Las Vegas—traditionally brings wonder and anticipation, this year's edition produced more than its share of caution as more and more companies revealed that they expect consumers to voluntarily give up personal information while using the latest gadgets.

"This could be creepy to some of us because it is making use of data in a way that has not been done before," said data consultant Thomas Coughlin of Coughlin Associates.

Several technology companies unveiled what they called “smart televisions” at this year’s show. The TVs would use devices like eyes trackers and voice recognition software to figure out who was watching and what that individual would like to watch.

"Increasingly, TVs will know who is watching them, and I expect advertisers will know shortly thereafter. This should result in shows and commercials you like more and even better products, but far less privacy," Rob Enderle, an analyst and consultant with Enderle Group, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

For more active technophiles, health gadget company Fitbit unveiled its fitness monitoring bracelet. Called “Flex,” the device can track steps, distance, calories and how many minutes the user has been active. It also tracks how long the user has been sleeping and details how much the user has been moving in his or her sleep. The website that works in tandem with the Fitbit bracelet will also track user weight goals, calories consumed and the fitness progress of friends.

Additionally, forks with accelerometers will tell a user how quickly they're eating, while sharing the results with friends on data logs.

An estimated 350 million IP-addressable devices will ship worldwide this year. Any device with an IP address makes the physical location of its user traceable.

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