Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"

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    ProPublica and Mashable: Meet the Online Tracking Device That is Virtually Impossible to Block

    Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

    ProPublica and Mashable report on “canvas fingerprinting,” which is a new kind of online tracking tool. The report discusses a paper documenting canvas fingerprinting, “The Web never forgets: Persistent tracking mechanisms in the wild,” from researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium. The researchers are: Gunes Acar, Christian Eubank, Steven Englehardt, Marc Juarez1, Arvind Narayanan and Claudia Diaz. ProPublica and Mashable report:

    [T]his type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user’s device a number that uniquely identifies it.

    Like other tracking tools, canvas fingerprints are used to build profiles of users based on the websites they visit — profiles that shape which ads, news articles, or other types of content are displayed to them.

    But fingerprints are unusually hard to block: They can’t be prevented by using standard Web browser privacy settings or using anti-tracking tools such as AdBlock Plus. Read more »

    Information Age: More than a third of security pros sending sensitive data without encryption

    Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

    Information Age reports on a new survey from Voltage Security concerning the encryption of sensitive information:

    Despite headline-making breaches that have called attention to the importance of data encryption, nearly 36% of IT security professionals admit to sending sensitive data outside of their organisations without using any form of encryption to protect it, a new survey from Voltage Security reveals. [...] Read more »

    Wired: ISPs File Legal Complaint in Europe Over Spying

    Monday, July 7th, 2014

    Wired reports that a group of Internet service providers and nonprofits in different countries have filed a legal complaint over allegations of spying by Britain’s GCHQ and the United States’s National Security Agency:

    Seven Internet service providers and non-profit groups from various countries have filed a legal complaint against the British spy agency GCHQ. Their issue: that the clandestine organization broke the law by hacking the computers of Internet companies to access their networks.

    The complaint, filed with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, calls for an end to the spy agency’s targeting of system administrators in order to gain access to the networks of service providers and conduct mass surveillance. The legal action was filed in conjunction with Privacy International, and stems from reports last year that GCHQ hacked employees of the Belgian telecom Belgacom in order to access and compromise critical routers in the company’s infrastructure to monitor the communication of smartphone users that passed through the router. [...] Read more »

    Update: Four Former News of the World Staffers Sentenced for Phone Hacking

    Monday, July 7th, 2014

    To recap: The scandal that began in 2011 over allegations that thousands of British citizens’ phones were hacked by the UK News of the World led to that newspaper’s closing and the questioning of owner Rupert Murdoch and his son, James Murdoch, by British officials. (It also led to much discussion about the privacy and security of telephone voicemail systems.) The scandal grew to include  more tabloid newspapers in the UK. Now, CNN reports that court former News of the World staffers have been sentenced to prison for their parts in the scandal:

    London (CNN) – Former tabloid editor and ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson was sentenced Friday in London to 18 months in prison for phone hacking offenses.

    Coulson, who was editor of News of the World from 2003 to 2007, was convicted last week at the Old Bailey court of conspiracy to hack phones between 2000 and 2006. He had denied the charge. [...] Read more »

    Update on PCLOB Report on the Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of FISA

    Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

    Today, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent oversight agency within the executive branch, voted on a “Report on the Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of FISA” (pdf). In January, the board released a report on the NSA’s surveillance program that collects telephone records in bulk in which it said that NSA program is illegal and should be ended. That report was a strong statement for privacy and civil liberties. Unfortunately, the report that the board released on Section 702 today is not. The board has concluded that the program, which authorized the government to target foreigners reasonably believed to be located overseas, is legal.

    The board noted that the Section 702 program does raise privacy issues, but its proposals fall short of what are needed for real reform to protect individuals’ privacy and civil liberties. The board says, “The Section 702 program has enabled the government to acquire a greater range of foreign intelligence than it otherwise would have been able to obtain — and to do so quickly and effectively. [...] The program has proven valuable in the government’s efforts to combat terrorism as well as in other areas of foreign intelligence.” Read more »

    New York Times: The Privacy Paradox, a Challenge for Business

    Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

    The New York Times reports on a new study concerning privacy sponsored by data-storage company EMC:

    People around the world are thrilled by the ease and convenience of their smartphones and Internet services, but they aren’t willing to trade their privacy to get more of it.

    That is the top-line finding of a new study of 15,000 consumers in 15 countries. The privacy paradox was surfaced most directly in one question: Would you be willing to trade some privacy for greater convenience and ease?

    Worldwide, 51 percent replied no, and 27 percent said yes. (The remainder had no opinion or didn’t know.) There were country-by-country differences, but there was a consistency to the results, especially in the developed nations. The United States was 56 percent no and 21 percent yes. Britain was almost identical — 55 percent no, 18 percent yes. Germany was most privacy protective — 71 percent no, and 12 percent yes. India, by contrast, had the highest yes percentage — 48 percent, to 40 percent no. Read more »