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Google Secret Microphone Discovered Nest Secure Alarm System


the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Google is being accused of spying on consumers without their consent . In early February, Google announced that its home security and alarm system Nest Secure would be getting an update. Users, the company said, could now enable its virtual-assistant technology, Google Assistant.

Continue reading Google Secret Microphone Discovered Nest Secure Alarm System
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Could your high-tech gadgets send you to jail?

Amazon’s Echo device

The Amazon Echo hands-free voice-activated speaker could figure in an Arkansas murder investigation — and remind people that their internet-connected gadgets constantly collect information about their private lives. TNS .


Feel like no one ever really listens to you?

Your gadgets do. That may not always be a good thing.

Most recently, an Arkansas death investigation highlighted how the magic of Amazon’s Echo device — its ability to act on your voice commands — means it might have overheard conversations critical to a murder investigation.

That case could ultimately lasso Amazon’s cloud of remote computer storage into court fights. The results hold implications for the many ways technology’s romp toward ubiquity poses a growing threat to privacy.

It also acts as a reminder that buying a so-called smart speaker such as the Echo — or its chief competitor, Google Home — is like plugging Big Brother into your living room.

Those computerized sound systems are just the latest listeners to the party.

Your smartphone already mines mountains of personalized data (note how many apps seek access to your contacts, location, camera and microphone). The resulting cache of information creates a defining dilemma of the Digital Age.

The more bits about your life you share with your gadgets, the better help you’ll get from Siri, from your Fitbit, from your Google searches.

Read more here:

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Mass surveillance silences minority opinions, according to study


By Karen Turner March 28 at 11:15 AM

A new study shows that knowledge of government surveillance causes people to self-censor their dissenting opinions online. The research offers a sobering look at the oft-touted “democratizing” effect of social media and Internet access that bolsters minority opinion.

The study, published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, studied the effects of subtle reminders of mass surveillance on its subjects. The majority of participants reacted by suppressing opinions that they perceived to be in the minority. This research illustrates the silencing effect of participants’ dissenting opinions in the wake of widespread knowledge of government surveillance, as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.

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Justice Department cracks iPhone; withdraws legal action



Mar. 28, 2016 7:59 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI said Monday it successfully used a mysterious technique without Apple Inc.’s help to hack into the iPhone used by a gunman in a mass shooting in California, effectively ending a pitched court battle between the Obama administration and one of the world’s leading technology companies.

The government asked a federal judge to vacate a disputed order forcing Apple to help the FBI break into the iPhone, saying it was no longer necessary. The court filing in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California provided no details about how the FBI did it or who showed it how. The FBI is reviewing the information on the iPhone, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Apple did not immediately comment on the development.

The brief court notice left important questions unanswered: Who showed the FBI how to break into iPhones? How did the government bypass the security features that Apple has invested millions of dollars to build into its flagship product? Are newer iPhones vulnerable to the same hacking technique? Will the FBI share its information with scores of state and local police agencies that said they also need to break into the iPhones of criminal suspects? Will the FBI reveal to Apple how it broke its security? Did the FBI find anything useful on the iPhone?

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WhatsApp Encryption Said to Stymie Wiretap Order



WASHINGTON — While the Justice Department wages a public fight withApple over access to a locked iPhone, government officials are privately debating how to resolve a prolonged standoff with another technology company, WhatsApp, over access to its popular instant messaging application, officials and others involved in the case said.

No decision has been made, but a court fight with WhatsApp, the world’s largest mobile messaging service, would open a new front in the Obama administration’s dispute with Silicon Valley over encryption, security and privacy.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, allows customers to send messages and make phone calls over the Internet. In the last year, the company has been adding encryption to those conversations, making it impossible for the Justice Department to read or eavesdrop, even with a judge’s wiretap order.

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Apple encryption case risks influencing Russia and China, privacy experts say


Analysts and lawmakers warn FBI that ramifications over its demand that Apple unlock San Bernardino killer’s iPhone ‘could snowball around the world’

Authoritarian governments including Russia and China will demand greater access to mobile data should Apple lose a watershed encryption case brought by the FBI, leading technology analysts, privacy experts and legislators have warned.

Apple challenges ‘chilling’ demand to decrypt San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone

Apple’s decision to resist a court order to unlock a password-protected iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino killers has created a worldwide privacy shockwave, with campaigners around the world expecting the struggle to carry major implications for the future of mobile and internet security. They warned that Barack Obama’s criticism of a similar Chinese measure last year now risked ringing hollow.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a leading legislator on privacy and tech issues, warned the FBI to step back from the brink or risk setting a precedent for authoritarian countries.

“This move by the FBI could snowball around the world. Why in the world would our government want to give repressive regimes in Russia and China a blueprint for forcing American companies to create a backdoor?” Wyden told the Guardian.

“Companies should comply with warrants to the extent they are able to do so, but no company should be forced to deliberately weaken its products. In the long run, the real losers will be Americans’ online safety and security.”

Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said the FBI was using an “unprecedented reading of a nearly 230-year old law” that put “at risk the foundations of strong security for our people and privacy in the digital age.

“If upheld, this decision could force US technology companies to actually build hacking tools for government against their will, while weakening cybersecurity for millions of Americans in the process,” Wyden said.

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Apple Fights Order to Unlock San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone



SAN FRANCISCO — Apple said on Wednesday that it would oppose and challenge a federal court order to help the F.B.I. unlock an iPhone used by one of the two attackers who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.

On Tuesday, in a significant victory for the government, Magistrate JudgeSheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the District of Central Californiaordered Apple to bypass security functions on an iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed by the police along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, after they attacked Mr. Farook’s co-workers at a holiday gathering.

Judge Pym ordered Apple to build special software that would essentially act as a skeleton key capable of unlocking the phone.

But hours later, in a statement by its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, Apple announced its refusal to comply. The move sets up a legal showdown between the company, which says it is eager to protect the privacy of its customers, and the law enforcement authorities, who say that new encryption technologies hamper their ability to prevent and solve crime.

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Yes, Facebook is stalking you


By Megan McArdle

October 10, 2015 | 5:15am

Facebook is following you around the Web. You knew that, right?

How else would Facebook know to serve that panda video straight into your news feed, and leave your college friend’s ill-informed rant about Pacific trade deals in the dark bowels of its servers? How else would it know to serve you with 7,000 ads for wedding dress vendors the very day you announce your engagement?

Facebook knows what you like. It knows what you don’t like. It probably knows whether you have been naughty or nice, and will be selling that data to Santa this Christmas season.

This bothers many people, especially since Facebook keeps expanding the list of things it knows about you, and the ways it is willing to use that data to make money.

The recent announcement that Facebook would soon target ads using your “likes” and “shares” has triggered some Olympic-level teeth- gnashing from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, because Facebook will get information from you not just when you actually like, “like” something, but when you load a page that has a “like” button on it.

The EFF wants Facebook to agree to use a “Do Not Track” standard that will keep all that potentially profitable data from the greedy eyes of advertisers.

Of course people should be able to hide data about what sites they use. But there’s a perfectly good way to do this: Stay signed out of Facebook and tell your browser not to accept cookies or otherwise let advertisers follow you around.

The problem is, this level of security is incredibly inconvenient, because you have to spend a lot of time painfully re-entering data. The other problem is that naive users, who probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about privacy, won’t bother.

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Cybersecurity bill could ‘sweep away’ internet users’ privacy, agency warns


Sam Thielman

Homeland Security admits Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act raises concerns while corporations and data brokers lobby for bill as it returns to Senate

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday said a controversial new surveillance bill could sweep away “important privacy protections”, a move that bodes ill for the measure’s return to the floor of the Senate this week.

The latest in a series of failed attempts to reform cybersecurity, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (Cisa) grants broad latitude to tech companies, data brokers and anyone with a web-based data collection to mine user information and then share it with “appropriate Federal entities”, which themselves then have permission to share it throughout the government.

Minnesota senator Al Franken queried the DHS in July; deputy secretary of the department Alejandro Mayorkas responded today that some provisions of the bill “could sweep away important privacy protections” and that the proposed legislation “raises privacy and civil liberties concerns”.

Much of the attention on Cisa has been directed at companies such as Google, Facebook and Comcast, which have large hoards of internet user behavior. But arguably more important are data brokers. Among the groups lobbying for the passage of Cisa are Experian, which tracks consumer trends using information from loyalty cards and other sources and licenses the information to help target advertising; Oracle, whose Data Cloud product works similarly; and Hitrust, which aggregates healthcare information.

The paragraph generating the most concern can be found in section 4 of the bill: “[a] private entity may, for cybersecurity purposes, monitor A) the information systems of such a private entity; B) the information systems of another entity, upon written consent of such other entity […] and D) information that is stored on, processed by, or transiting the information systems monitored by the private entity under this paragraph.”

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Concerns about civil liberties in the air as Bergen seeks to use drones

Drone Surveillance

JUNE 23, 2015, 3:57 PM    LAST UPDATED: TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 2015, 10:19 PM

Bergen County’s recent bid to be the first county in New Jersey to add drones to its toolbox for handling emergencies comes amid a growing national debate over the use of unmanned flying machines by government agencies.

Leaders of the county’s emergency management operation are seeking freeholder approval to acquire two drones, which would be used for purposes ranging from finding a lost child to getting a bird’s-eye view of a fire or disaster.

Civil liberties advocates say that’s fine. But they worry that what they termed “mission creep” could open the door to other uses for the new technology and lead to questions of who is watching whom and for what purpose.