Items tagged with Privacy

Apple has found itself in trouble more times than we could count over privacy issues with its iPhones and other products. Apple recently issued an iOS 13.3.1 beta that is aimed in part at patching a flaw in location tracking on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. Apple had promised to bring a toggle switch to allow customers to turn off this tracking feature specifically. The toggle can be found in Privacy > Location Services > System Services, and it is labeled "Networking & Wireless." Apple warns that turning off location services for Networking & Wireless could affect Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and ultra wideband performance. Those particularly concerned about having their location tracked... Read more...
In a recent post to Twitter, President Donald Trump offered up harsh criticism on Apple's policy of refusing to "unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers, and other violent criminals," which boils down to a fundamental argument over privacy and encryption, and the iPhone maker's resistance to building a backdoor into iOS. Apple's stance drew widespread attention following the shooting by a pair of San Bernardino terrorists a few years ago. Authorities had recovered an iPhone 5C that belonged to one of the shooters, but he perished in the gunfire during a confrontation with police. Initial attempts to bypass the iPhone's security to unlock the handset were unsuccessful, leading to a legal showdown... Read more...
Starting next month, Google will tighten the controls on its Chrome browser by limiting cross-site tracking, and within the next two years, it plans on eliminating third-party cookies from the equation. These and other steps are part of a larger initiative Google is calling "Privacy Sandbox," which entails open standards to enhance user privacy when surfing the web. "Our goal for this open source initiative is to make the web more private and secure for users, while also supporting publishers," Google said. On the surface, getting rid of third-party cookies may seem to go against the latter part of that statement, but Google believes there is a better way of satisfying both users and publishers.... Read more...
Many smartphone users would agree that bloatware, or pre-installed apps that cannot be deleted, are fairly irritating. However, several organizations are now also arguing that bloatware could potentially violate users’ privacy. An open letter from over fifty groups has requested that Google prevent bloatware from exploiting users’ data. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, and Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) addressed an open letter to Alphabet Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai regarding pre-installed apps and privacy. This past year, Pichai stated in a New York Times op-ed that “Privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who... Read more...
We have a winner, winner, duck dinner! Google announced the winners of its Android screen auction ballot, which determines the three other default browser choices (in addition to Google's own) users in Europe will see when setting up an Android device. In all applicable territories but one (United Kingdom), DuckDuckGo is the first option, while Bing is the big loser. However, DuckDuckGo is not celebrating the victory, and instead is chastising Google over the situation. Let's back up a moment. Back in 2018, the European Union smacked Google with a $5 billion fine for forcing smartphone makers to preinstall Google Search and Chrome, in order to be granted access to the Play Store. The EU determined... Read more...
Facebook can't seem to do anything right when it comes to privacy. Despite that fact, people continue to use the social network, and the latest privacy issue has exposed the phone numbers of 267 million users. The phone numbers were in a database that included both phone numbers and Facebook user IDs. Security researcher Bob Diachenko along with Comparitech discovered the Elasticsearch database. They believe that the database belongs to a cybercriminal organization rather than Facebook. Diachenko went to the ISP managing the IP address to remove it. The database was left unsecured on the web for nearly two weeks before it was removed. The team says that such an extensive database is likely being... Read more...
Privacy in the internet era is a myth, folks. We learn this lesson all the time, though sometimes the lesson hits particulary hard. One example is when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the US government's extensive spying program. Now several years later, an investigation into the extent that smartphone devices are tracked has led to some startling details that drives this point home yet again. The parallels between these two revelations are hard to ignore, even though they are not exactly the same. When Snowden came forward with information about the government's efforts to spy on the public at large, it was through the media, which published documents and information... Read more...
In what a security researcher called "one of the more curious behaviors" of Apple's iPhone 11 Pro, and perhaps the entire iPhone 11 lineup, the latest generation iPhone can and does track users in some instances even disabling Location Services for each individual app. As far as Apple is concerned, there is nothing wrong with this. While Apple might not see anything wrong, however, the continued tracking is seemingly not in line with what the company states in its privacy policy. The policy explains that if Location Services is enabled, the iPhone will sometimes "send geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers (where supported by a device) in an anonymous and encrypted form... Read more...
Pretty much all new TVs these days have smart functionality built into them. This can vary by model—some are simply loaded up with streaming apps, like Netflix and Hulu, while others offer voice control. Some even have built-in cameras, both for facial recognition and to utilize apps like Skype. In response to these increasingly sophisticated TV sets permeating the market, FBI Portland has issued a warning that they can pose security and privacy threats. Of course, this has been known, and for quite a while. Around this time in 2012 (seven years ago), it was discovered that some smart TV models (including some Samsung smart TVs) were susceptible to a vulnerability that could allow an attacker... Read more...
California, a state that is known for its tough talk on privacy regulations, is coming under fire for its own actions regarding the misuse use of drivers’ personal information. Thanks to an inquiry by Motherboard, it's been discovered that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has been selling private records to third parties, and has been pulling in quite a bit of money in the process over the past decade. According to the report, during the fiscal 2017/2018 period alone, the California DMV pulled in over $52 million by selling this data. Personal information within the records contains drivers’ full name, physical address, and car registration. However, the... Read more...
Facebook is a company that is no stranger to controversy, privacy lapses, or downright bizarre behavior that has drawn the ire of users and politicians on Capitol Hill. The company's latest misstep is likely to further tarnish the company, which just hasn't been able to catch a break during 2019. There is apparently a "bug" in the current version of the Facebook app for iOS that results in some pretty atypical behavior. According to Joshua Maddux, who first discovered the oddity and posted video evidence to Twitter, the Facebook app is actively querying the iPhone's camera in the background when scrolling through the News Feed.  If you have an iPhone, and have given the app access... Read more...
Google has long been fascinated with the healthcare industry, and in a move that some may find unsettling, it has been mining patient data in collaboration with Ascension, a non-profit Catholic healthcare organization with more than 2,600 hospitals and facilities. Naturally, Google and Ascension are pitching this joint effort as a good thing, one that will help the latter "optimize the health and wellness of individuals and communities." "As the healthcare environment continues to rapidly evolve, we must transform to better meet the needs and expectations of those we serve as well as our own caregivers and healthcare providers. Doing that will require the programmatic integration of new care... Read more...
Google Chrome might be the most popular browser on the planet, but that isn't stopping Mozilla from making a number of crucial updates to its venerable Firefox browser. Mozilla announced today that Firefox 70.0 is now available for download for Windows, macOS, and Linux platforms.  Before we get into the new features that are introduced with this release, let's first talk about the improvements that Mozilla has made to the existing rendering engine. For starters, the JavaScript Baseline Interpreter has been enhanced to better handle large codebases, which has resulted in an 8 percent improvement in page performance.  In addition, Mozilla is further expanding WebRender availability to... Read more...
NordVPN, widely regarded as one of the best virtual private network (VPN) services, confirmed one of its datacenters was hacked. The security breach occurred over a year ago, in March 2018, though is just now being disclosed to users. Apparently NordVPN used the time between then and now to audit its infrastructure and make sure its operations were secure. Security breaches are always unfortunate, and some might find them especially concerning when they happen to a VPN provider. VPNs are supposed to afford users anonymity on the web. Of course, nothing that happens online is every truly anonymous, though VPNs operate by routing Internet traffic through an alternate, encrypted route. This makes... Read more...
Smart speaker owners beware—attackers have found a clever way of exploiting devices offered by Amazon and Google to both listen in on your conversations and dupe you into forking over private information, such as your account password, credit card details, and other details that should be kept close to the vest. What makes this possible are flaws that allow third-party app developers to leverage Google Home and Amazon Alexa devices in malicious ways. This is not an entirely new scheme, but while Amazon and Google have patched similar security flaws in the past, new ones keep popping up. Security Research Labs (SRLabs) notes that one such vulnerability consists of adding a long audio pause... Read more...
How far would you go to make your house guests comfortable? Most of us would probably tidy our home, fluff the sofa pillows, and pour a few drinks. However, would you also unplug every smart speaker in your home? Google hardware SVP Rick Osterloh recently remarked that users should warn their guests about smart speakers in their homes. Osterloh was interviewed by BBC News and was asked his opinion about smart speakers and privacy. When he was asked whether users should tell their guests about smart speakers, he stated, “It's quite important for all these technologies to think about all users... we have to consider all stakeholders that might be in proximity. Does the owner of a home need... Read more...
As part of the built-in protection in Safari to keep iOS users safe from malicious websites, Apple sends to browsing data to Tencent, a technology firm in China. This is revealed in an updated privacy notice, in which Apple says Tencent "may also log your IP address" in addition to the web address. Apple is not being nefarious here. Quite the opposite, at least in intent—when an iOS user visits a website, the URL and, in some cases, their IP address is sent off to be cross checked against known fraudulent websites. This step serves as an additional layer of protection against being caught up in a phishing scam. Previously in the US, Apple relied on Google and it's Safe Browsing service... Read more...
At the CS3sthlm security conference in Stockholm, Sweden later this month, security researcher Monta Elkins, the "Hacker-in-Chief" at FoxGuard Solutions, will demonstrate a proof-of-concept hardware hack involving spy chips implanted onto enterprise IT equipment, with a budget of less than $200. The idea of implanting spy chips onto hardware is not new. Back in 2018, an explosive Bloomberg Businessweek article claimed Chinese spies had installed malicious microchips the size of a grain of rice on Supermicro hardware at the supply chain level, creating a "stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines." This was concerning because (A) of how difficult it would be to detect... Read more...
If you have purchased a TV over the past few years, there's a high chance it features smart capabilities, tapping into your Internet to beam streaming content. Smart functionality is a standard amenity these days. Lower pricing is also a trend, despite the advanced functionality, but have you ever wondered why costs have come down so much over the past few years? It might be because your TV is watching you as much as you watch it. Princeton University and the University of Chicago co-published a study titled, "Watching You Watch: The Tracking Ecosystem of Over-the-Top TV Streaming Devices," and it contains some interesting findings. The study focused on various streaming services and products,... Read more...
It seems as though we've been down this road before. Over the past few months, tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google and others have admitted to using human workers to listen in on your smart assistant voice recordings in order to improve functionality. Most did this without getting express consent from users, which in turn caused a huge privacy uproar. Now, we're learning that Amazon may have taken things a step further by not only using human to review audio recordings, but also video recordings from its Cloud Cam security device. Amazon's Cloud Cam Before we get into the controversy, we need to first tell you what the Cloud Cam is. The Cloud Cam is a first-party... Read more...
Many companies are working hard to improve their artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. AI could impact everything from medicine to silly Instagram overlays and everything in between. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are all toiling to gain an edge in the AI field by leveraging their massive treasure troves of data, but what are their existing privacy policies and user data security track records? Which of these companies cares the most about protecting your privacy? Should you even trust Amazon, Apple, Facebook, or Google with your data? We examined the kind of data that is collected by the above companies and how it is shared, their virtual assistants, and privacy controls. We also reviewed... Read more...
After catching heat for hiring subcontractors tasked with listening to audio recordings from its smart products, Google is making some changes to its privacy policies in hopes of easing concerns among consumers. It is basically an effort towards better transparency, as Google outlines in a new blog post on the subject. "It's clear that we fell short of our high standards in making it easy for you to understand how your data is used, and we apologize. When we learned about these concerns, we immediately paused this process of human transcription globally to investigate, and conducted a full review of our systems and controls. Now we want to share more about how audio recordings work, and some... Read more...
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