Thursday, October 25, 2007


Clearly, one of the next developments in technology and privacy are GPS enabled and other small devices. We've heard about how useful it can be for prisoners, children, and the elderly (not to lump them all together).

Laura M. Holson of CNET address it here.

Holson writes about Loopt, a service by Sprint Nextel. For $2.99 a month, a use can she can see the location of friends who also have the service, represented by dots on a map on the user's phone, with labels identifying their names.

She writes:
"And for teenagers and twentysomethings, who are fond of sharing their comings and goings on the Internet, youth-oriented services like Loopt and Buddy Beacon are a natural next step.

Sam Altman, the 22-year-old co-founder of Loopt, said he came up with the idea in early 2005 when he walked out of a lecture hall at Stanford.

"Two hundred students all pulled out their cell phones, called someone and said, 'Where are you?'" he said. "People want to connect."

"There are massive changes going on in society, particularly among young people who feel comfortable sharing information in a digital society," said Kevin Bankston, a staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation based in San Francisco.

"We seem to be getting into a period where people are closely watching each other," he said. "There are privacy risks we haven't begun to grapple with."

For a segment of the younger generation, this may be somewhat compelling.

As the author correctly points out, though, the interesting questions arise when the service is involuntary, or semi-voluntary (Employer-Employee). Who would feel comfortable with anyone, including an employee, knowing where you are at all times?


Microsoft has finalized plans to take a $240 million equity stake in Facebook during its next round of financing. Thel deal will give Microsoft a 1.6 percent stake in the Facebook, giving the social networking website a highly theoretical, paper value of somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 billion.

Paper or otherwise, a respectable neighborhood.

Friday, October 19, 2007


According to ABC news, "police in Atlanta Georgia are investigating how the personal files of 1,200 Ameriquest Mortgage customers" turned up in a dumpster at an apartment complex.

"Police say the 40 boxes of records contain sensitive financial information, including customers' credit histories, bank account information, tax and salary records and social security numbers."

The boxes appeared last month, but oddly, the three Ameriquest offices in the Atlanta area closed in 2005.

Police say the files involved mortgage customers from a number of different states, including Georgia, Florida and Mississippi.

Authorities plan to alert customers identified from the documents so that they can check their records to confirm they were not fraud victims.

An Ameriquest representative has reviewed some of the documents, and spokesman Chris Orlando says the company believes they were stolen from Ameriquest in late 2002.

According to Orlando, "We take the security of our records very seriously...and have been working to locate the person or persons responsible for the theft. We are pleased that the files have now been secured by authorities in DeKalb County, and we are working with local law enforcement to determine what information is contained in the files and who stole them."

It would be interesting to see if Ameriquest filed a police report for stolen files back in 2002.

Deputy Chief Burrows says so far his department has uncovered no evidence that the files were stolen from Ameriquest.

Deputy Chief Mike Burrows of the DeKalb County Police Department told the Blotter on that the documents would have been a treasure trove to identity theft criminals."

According to Burrows, "If anyone finds it, they can delve into the files and assume people's identity and obviously open credit accounts and obtain loans on vehicles, mortgages -- the general financial identity fraud situation that the whole country's facing."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Leahy and Specter have introduced another ID theft bill.

This bill, The Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2007 would, would:

* Give ID theft victims the right to seek compensation for they time lost and expenses they incur in correcting their credit history.

* Criminalizing the act of threatening to obtain or release information from a protected computer.

* Eliminate a requirement that the loss resulting from damage to a victim's computer must exceed $5,000 for prosecution (violations resulting in less than $5,000 damage would be catergorized as misdemeanors)

* Expand federal computer fraud statutes to cover small businesses and corporations.

* Allowing for federal prosecutions of cases in which both the identify thief's computer and the victim's computer are located in the same state.

* Make it a felony to use spyware or keyloggers to damage 10 or more computers;

* Expand the definition of cybercrime to include extortion schemes that threaten to damage or access confidential information on a computer.

"Cybercriminals are getting smarter and more effective in their online efforts to strip Americans of their privacy and their property.

"Protecting American consumers from identity theft and fraud should be one of the Senate's top priorities. Cyber criminals are getting smarter and more effective in their online efforts to strip Americans of their privacy, and their property," Leahy said in a statement.

"In 2006, some 8.4 million Americans became victims to identity theft. Victims are often left with a bad credit report and must spend months and even years regaining their financial health. In the meantime, victims have difficulty getting credit, obtaining loans, renting apartments, and even getting hired," Arlen Specter said.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


DeDeclan McCullagh, writer for CNET, reports that "Comcast's confidential "Law Enforcement Handbook" was publicly disclosed on Monday."

MuCullagh's article is titled: "Secret manual shows Comcast (gasp!) protects customers' privacy."

I haven't read that manual myself, but Declan reports that is demonstates concern for their customer's privacy. This is isn't entirely surprising, and is an interesting development, given what we've recently about other telecoms and their cooperation with the Bush administration's wiretapping.

McCullagh writes:

"It turns out to be a 35-page manual dated September 2007 for police and intelligence agencies to use when they're trying to extract information out of Comcast about subscribers. The company's Internet service, VoIP telephone service and cable TV service are all covered.

What's perhaps most interesting, though, is that the leaked handbook shows that Comcast seems to be trying to protect its customers' privacy. I didn't see anything in the document offering to divulge more information than the law permits. Instead, the company repeatedly stresses that police follow legal requirements, and even attaches the text of two federal privacy laws as appendixes."

For more, click here: Declan McCullagh on Comcast's confidential "Law Enforcement Handbook."

Monday, October 15, 2007


According to Reuters, the EU will take several more months examining whether Google, and other search engines, are violating EU privacy law.

"We have written to Google to say that we are continuing our work, that it is not limited to Google, and that we will adopt an opinion at the beginning of 2008," Reuters quotes an official as saying after, after Article 29 committee met last week.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Sara Burnett and Jeff Smith, report in the Rocky Mountain News that documents suggest that the National Security Agencym and other government agencies, retaliated against Qwest by not giving the company lucrative government contracts because Qwest would not cooperate with the federal government's possibly illegal phone surveillance program.

The documents were under seal until Wednesday, part of the trial of former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio for insider trading.

Nacchio, it appears, wanted to raise a defense related to the possibility that in 2001 Qwest was about to get a $100 million contract from the NSA. They didn't get the contract, and as we know, Qwest -- unlike AT&T and Verizon -- refused to track their customers phone calls without a warrant. The suggestion is that the program was raised at the same meeting in which the contract was discussed.

Nacchio also apparently was going to argue that he was in line for a $2 billion contract to build an Internet network which would be safe from terrorist attack, but that never happened.