Russian Surveillance, Retweets, and Gadgets that Spy in This Week's Headlines



MIT Technology Review: You’re Very Easy to Track Down, Even When Your Data has been Anonymized

By: Charlotte Jee

"The data trail we leave behind us grows all the time. Most of it isn’t that interesting—the takeout meal you ordered, that shower head you bought online—but some of it is deeply personal: your medical diagnoses, your sexual orientation, or your tax records."


CNET: Nerdy Craigslist Founder Wants to Change the World -- Starting with Your News

By: Jessica Dolcourt

"Craig Newmark is a man of quiet contradiction. Wrapped in a sweater the color of hot chocolate, the 66-year-old founder of Craigslist is painfully self-effacing, yet he started a wildly successful online marketplace emblazoned with his name. He deemphasizes his personal wealth, yet knows exactly how much he donated to his philanthropies last year (over $100 million). He speaks in vague terms about political "bad actors," yet specifically insists that a trustworthy press is "a matter of national security."


Ars Technica: Advanced Mobile Surveillanceware, Made in Russia, Found in the Wild

By: Dan Goodin

"Researchers have discovered some of the most advanced and full-featured mobile surveillanceware ever seen. Dubbed Monokle and used in the wild since at least March 2016, the Android-based application was developed by a Russian defense contractor that was sanctioned in 2016 for helping that country’s Main Intelligence Directorate meddle in the 2016 US presidential election."


New York Times: YouTube Is a Big Business. Just How Big Is Anyone’s Guess

By: Daisuke Wakabayashi

"YouTube probably generates $16 billion to $25 billion in annual revenue, making the video service big enough to crack the top half of the Fortune 500.

But that’s just a guess. Even though financial analysts on Wall Street think YouTube makes about as much money as the Gap, General Mills or Netflix, the video service’s financial results are a secret. They are lumped in with the rest of Google, an even larger internet company that last year generated $137 billion in revenue."


TechCrunch: Flaws in Widely Used Corporate VPNs put Company Secrets at Risk

By: Zack Whittaker

"Researchers have found several security flaws in popular corporate VPNs which they say can be used to silently break into company networks and steal business secrets. Devcore researchers Orange Tsai and Meh Chang, who shared their findings with TechCrunch ahead of their upcoming Black Hat talk, said the flaws found in the three corporate VPN providers — Palo Alto Networks, Pulse Secure and Fortinet — are 'easy' to remotely exploit."


BuzzFeed News: The Man Who Built The Retweet

By: Alex Kantrowitz

"Developer Chris Wetherell built Twitter’s retweet button. And he regrets what he did to this day. 'We might have just handed a 4-year-old a loaded weapon,' Wetherell recalled thinking as he watched the first Twitter mob use the tool he created. 'That’s what I think we actually did.'"


The Next Web: FTC Sues Now-Bankrupt Cambridge Analytica Over ‘Deceptive Practices’

By: Ravie Lakshmanan

"Facebook may have been slapped with a $5 billion fine for its handling of repeated data violations on the platform, but Cambridge Analytica isn’t getting off the hook either.

In an administrative complaint, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) initiated a separate legal action against the controversial data analytics firm for deceptively harvesting the personal information of millions of users through a personality app for voter profiling and targeting. In the wake of the data scandal, the company had ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy."


Motherboard: Amazon Requires Police to Shill Surveillance Cameras in Secret Agreement

By: Caroline Haskins

Amazon's home security company Ring has enlisted local police departments around the country to advertise its surveillance cameras in exchange for free Ring products and a “portal” that allows police to request footage from these cameras, a secret agreement obtained by Motherboard shows. The agreement also requires police to “keep the terms of this program confidential.”


Wall Street Journal: The Fun of Having Our Gadgets Spy on Us

By: Joe Queenan

"Last week, Apple disabled the Walkie-Talkie app on its line of watches after discovering a security flaw that could allow a person to eavesdrop on another person’s iPhone conversation. Almost simultaneously, Google admitted that it employs a small army of people to listen in on conversations between consumers and their digital assistants. This follows the revelation last year by Amazon that one of its Echo speakers recorded a private conversation and then sent it to one of the people on the owner’s contact list."


The Intercept: Google Continues Investments in Military and Police AI Technology Through Venture Capital Arm

By: Lee Fang

"Last year Google faced internal revolt from many employees over its handling of Project Maven, a secretive contract between the company and the Department of Defense to use artificial intelligence to improve the military’s drone targeting capabilities. After a series of internal, worker-led protests and resignations following reporting by The Intercept and Gizmodo, the company said it would wind down the drone project and promised a more transparent approach to similar work in the future."


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