With the holiday season in full swing, it’s easy to forget about the importance of privacy and security in this world of endless digital devices. More and more of our electronics are constantly connected to the Internet through cloud services, providing more and more entry points into our homes for those with nefarious intentions. McAfee reached out to me with some tips on staying secure when using different devices, and they’re good enough to be shared, as they just might help you avoid a privacy-related disaster. Additionally, McAfee is running a sweepstakes where the grand prize winner will receive a trip for two to Iceland. More details on that at the end of this article.
One of my journalist friends, Monica Guzman, sent me an email asking what I'm looking forward to for 2014 as it pertains to technology and gadgets. There's a lot that I'm looking forward to, since I see 2014 as a marquee year--one that we will look back on as having brought us devices and convergence that we've been waiting for, for years. However, when I thought about it more, there was one thing that was more important to me. Here's how I responded:
Facebook is now compliant with the Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program, and has to show the AdChoice icon in behaviorally targeted Facebook Exchange (FBX) ads. This allows users to know when an ad is marketed to them on their browser behavior. The catch, however, is that the icon is only displayed when a user interacts with it by scrolling of the gray "X" over the ad.
Facebook will change the "Report this Ad" text with "Learn About Facebook Ads," and users can choose to opt out of specific ad networks. As Engadget notes, however, whether this legally complies with the Federal Commission guidelines for "clear and prominent notice" is unsure, as the ads only reveal itself as targeted once a user interacts with it.
AdChoice implementation will start at the end of March.
Instagram wants you to know that it hears your concerns and its doing its best to alleviate the symptoms of change. Accordingly, the photo-sharing service has altered the parts of its new Terms of Service.
Earlier, we reported that many people were leaving the service for Flickr and the like, because people took the new ToS to mean the community's photos would be unfairly monetized for Instagram's gain. Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, has since made it clear that is not the case. Systrom states that Instagram wants "to experiment with innovative advertising." Which according to Systrom means allowing Instagram access to people you follow, and who they follow, for businesses to use in order to better promote its business.
Systrom also claimed that users still own their content and that his company won't sell user photos to advertisers.
Read More | Instagram Blog
Microsoft, the parent company of Skype, has patched a password recovery tool bug that Russian hackers utilized to exploit and gain access to user's accounts with nothing more than their account name and email. According to The Next of Web, they independently verified the five step process and confirmed that it works. Skype made this announcement on its website blog:
Early this morning we were notified of user concerns surrounding the security of the password reset feature on our website. This issue affected some users where multiple Skype accounts were registered to the same email address. We suspended the password reset feature temporarily this morning as a precaution and have made updates to the password reset process today so that it is now working properly. We are reaching out to a small number of users who may have been impacted to assist as necessary. Skype is committed to providing a safe and secure communications experience to our users and we apologize for the inconvenience.
Read More | Skype
Somber news for the jailbreaking and unlocking community. Per rule of the Library of Congress, it will be illegal to unlock any smartphone (including iPhone) or jailbreak any tablet (including iPad) purchased after January 1, 2013. The only exception is jailbreaking or rooting a smartphone, which is covered by the DMCA for the next three years.
B. Wireless telephone handsets – software interoperability
Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute lawfully obtained software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications with computer programs on the telephone handset.
C. Wireless telephone handsets – interoperability with alternative networks
Computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, that enable a wireless telephone handset originally acquired from the operator of a wireless telecommunications network or retailer no later than ninety days after the effective date of this exemption to connect to a different wireless telecommunications network, if the operator of the wireless communications network to which the handset is locked has failed to unlock it within a reasonable period of time following a request by the owner of the wireless telephone handset, and when circumvention is initiated by the owner, an individual consumer, who is also the owner of the copy of the computer program in such wireless telephone handset, solely in order to connect to a different wireless telecommunications network, and such access to the network is authorized by the operator of the network.
This exemption is a modification of the proponents’ proposal. It permits the circumvention of computer programs on mobile phones to enable such mobile phones to connect to alternative networks (often referred to as “unlocking”), but with limited applicability. In order to align the exemption to current market realities, it applies only to mobile phones acquired prior to the effective date of the exemption or within 90 days thereafter. - US Library of Congress.
Read More | Library of Congress
Recently, it has been reported that, with iOS 6, Apple has a new tracking mechanism built-in that allows targeted advertising. Basically, this just means that when there are ads in apps, that they can display ads that Apple feels will be more relevant to you, rather than having them be completely random. Some users don't appreciate any sort of behavior tracking, and would rather turn this feature off. One easy way to get to this setting is to visit the following address from your iOS device: http://oo.apple.com. That will redirect you to the opt out panel for Interest Based iAds. Turn the setting to OFF to disable the feature, and you'll no longer see ads that are targeted to your interests.
Apple is not shy about submitting patents on its creations, but this one is a little different. This particular filing attempts to patent the essence of 1984, and would give the Cupertino-based company the sole right to disable a user's iPhone camera app in restricted areas, such as at a concert venue or movie theater. However, it appears that the now-granted patent may disable far more than just your ability to take snapshots.
Read More | Business Insider
In the latest Apple Maps saga, The Verge is reporting some security concerns regarding sensitive military installations that appear on mapping solutions by Apple. as compared to Google Maps and Nokia Maps. The picture being portrayed is that Apple is showing more information than the other companies. While it may appear accurate on the surface, it lacks transparency and fairness. Case in point, we all can agree that Area 51 is one of the most secretive government military installations in the world. Coincidentally, or ironically, The Verge failed to report that Google's map offering shows a much more pristine image of Area 51 than Apple's map of that particular base, nor is it pixelated for security. I went out of my way to tweet the author of the post to get an explanation for the discrepancy. There are definitely more examples of similar discrepancies, this isn't limited to just Area 51.
Read More | The Verge
With all the recent uproar over the fact that many app developers have been accessing and uploading users contacts without their explicit permission, we know that Apple is set to being a feature to iOS that asks the user if it's okay that the app does that. What we didn't realize, however, is that the feature will be coming to the Mac as well with the release of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. One new feature in today's release of Developer Preview 2 sees the operating system notifying the user that an app "Would Like to Access You Contacts" and then offering the user the opportunity to say OK, or to not allow the action. It's a small gesture, but it will go a long way towards keeping your data private.