Posts Tagged ‘Legal

11
Aug
10

Google Street View throws light on web privacy

NEWS
Google Street View throws light on web privacy

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Google’s online map feature has become a flash point for people worried about the erosion of privacy in the Internet Age.

Street View images at Google Maps sparked controversy from the outset of the project three years ago.

Google dispatched cars and tricycles rigged with cameras and satellite positioning gear to take pictures of what one might see on streets around the world and synched the images to its free online mapping service.

Some people complained that faces could be recognised in pictures, raising the potential that people caught in compromising situations, perhaps stepping out of an adult video store, would have such moments memorialised online.

Others expressed fears that numbers from licence plates could be used to figure out who parks or lives on certain streets.

People were soon accusing Street View vehicles of straying onto private roads or yards to snap pictures in violation of the California-based internet giant’s policies.

Google adapted to ameliorate concerns. It began blurring faces and car licence plate numbers in images.

This year the Street View controversy rocketed to a new level with the revelation by Google that electronics in its picture-taking vehicles captured data from wireless internet systems not secured by passwords.

Google basically had access to unencrypted email, video downloads, web browsing or other digital information passing through wireless routers in homes or businesses as its Street View vans went by, said John Verdi, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.

Google has apologised repeatedly for what it called an accidental data grab, but authorities in more than a dozen countries are investigating whether the company broke privacy laws.

South Korean police on Tuesday searched the offices of Google Korea as part of its probe, an officer said.

Police seized computer hard discs and other material. After analysing the material they plan to summon the company’s staff for questioning.

Efforts by governments to get the Street View data threaten to multiply damage to people’s privacy even if Google is true to its word that it has done nothing with the information.

‘Simply handing over the data to governments can be a very bad idea,’ said Electronic Frontier Foundation international rights director Katitza Rodriguez.

‘In some cases, the remedy can be worse than the disease.’

Countries could use the pretext of investigating Street View to mine Google data in ways that ‘might create risky situations for human rights activists, dissidents, or bloggers fighting for their rights,’ she added.

Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle theorised that Google might have intended to map locations of open wireless ‘hot spots’ as a potential service to users.

‘Telling people where they can get on the internet for free while they are out and about sounds to me like a typical Google thing to do,’ Enderle said. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me.’

Identity thieves might view a roster of open wireless zones the way burglars might look at a list of homes left unlocked, according to the analyst.

Google said it would allow Germans to block out their homes on Street View ahead of its launch in the country this year but privacy watchdogs were still not happy.

‘Google Street View is a great tool, for instance, for tourists to scope out the location that he or she wants to visit,’ Rodriguez said.

‘However, Google’s technology is too invasive, and goes too far. We expect some degree of anonymity while we are walking on the streets.’
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22
Jun
10

U.K. police probing alleged Google privacy breach

NEWS
U.K. police probing alleged Google privacy breach

U.K. Police Investigating Alleged Google Privacy Breach Through Public Wi-Fi Networks

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

••• Britain has become the latest country to open an investigation into whether Google violated communication and privacy laws by mistakenly gathering data over public Wi-Fi networks.

London’s Metropolitan Police says it is looking into complaints that the search engine’s ‘Street View’ project picked up people’s online activities through unprotected networks.

It says it is determining what offences, if any, were committed.

Privacy International, a London-based privacy watchdog that filed the case with police, says it had received complaints from members of the public who feared their personal data could be at risk.

The French independent privacy watchdog CNIL said last week that Google, following a complaint, had handed over personal data sucked up by its technicians.

The attorney general of the U.S. state of Connecticut is also looking into whether Google broke the law.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced on Monday that his office will lead a multi-state probe of “Google’s deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy.”

“Street View cannot mean Complete View – invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications,” Blumenthal said.

Similar probes have begun in Germany, Australia and New Zealand, where police are investigating Google and some of the internet giant’s employees for collecting private information while they photographed streets for the Google Maps website.
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22
Jun
10

U.S. States step up ante against Google over wireless data

NEWS
U.S. States step up ante against Google over wireless data

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

••• The attorney general of a U.S. state is looking into whether Google broke the law by capturing people’s personal data from wireless networks.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced on Monday that his office will lead a multistate probe of “Google’s deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy,” which has drawn ire and scrutiny in an array of countries.

“Street View cannot mean Complete View – invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications,” Blumenthal said.

Similar probes have begun in U.K., Germany, Australia and New Zealand, where police are investigating Google and some of the internet giant’s employees for collecting private information while they photographed streets for the Google Maps website.

Blumenthal said people had a right to know what information Google gleaned, how it was done and why.

He also wanted the internet giant to detail what safeguards are in place to fix the situation.

“While we hope Google will continue to cooperate, its response so far raises as many questions as it answers,” Blumenthal said.

“Our investigation will consider whether laws may have been broken and whether changes to state and federal statutes may be necessary.”

Blumenthal has asked Google to explain how and when it learned its Street View bicycles and cars were capturing data from unencrypted wireless networks and why they recorded the quality of wireless networks they passed.
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25
May
10

AT&T Launches Wi-Fi Zone in NYC’s Time Square

NEWS
AT&T Launches Wi-Fi Zone in NYC’s Time Square

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

••• AT&T today announced the launch of an AT&T Wi-Fi “hotzone” in New York City’s Times Square. The pilot comes as AT&T looks for offload strategies in major markets like Manhattan and San Francisco, where the carrier has admitted its network performance has suffered.

AT&T has installed Wi-Fi service in the north central part of Times Square, near 7th Avenue between 45th and 47th Street. The effect is a large outdoor hotspot zone that AT&T users can access using any Wi-Fi enabled device. The ATT Wi-Fi hotzone at Times Square is available at no additional charge.

“With this pilot AT&T Wi-Fi hotzone, we’re examining new ways to combine our Wi-Fi and 3G networks to help ensure that AT&T customers in Times Square always have a fast mobile broadband connection to do what matters most to them,” said John Donovan, AT&T chief technology officer, in a statement.

AT&T claims that it has seen mobile data traffic growth of 5,000 percent over the past three years. As a result, the company has been experimenting with technologies like 3G MicroCell devices for homes, distributed Antenna System networks to extend 3G coverage in stadiums, convention halls and other areas where people congregate; and temporary network enhancements to support one-time events and emergency situations.

Pressed to find a solution to the 5,000% growth in its mobile data traffic, AT&T said Tuesday it is exploring establishing public Wi-Fi “hotzones” to relieve pressure on its mobile phone network, most of it caused by iPhone users.

AT&T said it has launched a “pilot deployment” in New York City’s Times Square, the nation’s symbolic public crossroads.

Wi-Fi hotspots have been proliferating in New York City, but most of them are for use by customers already paying for other services. For instance, Cablevision, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable currently offer Wi-Fi service across a vast New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region, but users must already be a paid customer of one of the providers.

AT&T itself has some 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots that can be utilized by users who have an AT&T service. The Times Square service is free to AT&T customers with certain smartphones, laptops, and AT&T Internet plans.

With the Federal Communications Commission already sounding the alarm of an approaching “spectrum crisis” due largely to the rapid proliferation of smartphones and their insatiable thirst for data, carriers are seeking ways to encourage subscribers to use non-carrier spectrum. The FCC has suggested that Wi-Fi and femtocells be utilized to ease the spectrum crunch. AT&T recently began marketing its 3G MicroCell femtocell devices to its customers.

AT&T, which has an exclusive contract to market Apple’s popular – and data-guzzling – iPhone, has seen its mobile traffic grow 5,000% in three years and the New York City area has been particularly affected.

“With this pilot AT&T Wi-Fi hotzone, we’re examining new ways to combine our Wi-Fi and 3G networks to help ensure that AT&T customers in Times Square always have a fast mobile broadband connection,” said John Donovan, AT&T chief technology officer, in a statement. “It’s another example of how AT&T is exploring the ideal blend of technologies to maximize the mobile experience for our customers in New York City.”

Verizon Wireless offers a public area Wi-Fi service to many of its customers through a partnership with Boingo. If Verizon eventually markets an iPhone, as is rumored, the development would take at least some of the spectrum pressure off AT&T.
• Source(s): AT&T

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15
May
10

Google Data Admission Angers Europe

NEWS
Google Data Admission Angers Europe

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Germany’s Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner has sharply criticized Google for inadvertently collecting personal data.

“According to the information available to us so far, Google has for years penetrated private networks, apparently illegally,” Aigner said in a statement on Saturday.

The “alarming incident” showed that Google still lacks understanding for the need for privacy, according to the statement.

Privacy breach

Google’s fleet of Street View cars, photographing streets for its online map program, has been collecting more data than previously thought. After reviewing a system in the cars that recorded names and addresses of wireless networks detected along the routes, Google revealed that a programming error had led to small amounts of personal data to be collected from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

“It’s now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open Wi-Fi networks,” Google’s head of engineering Alan Eustace said in a blog posting.

The blog post did not specify what kinds of personal data had been collected but indicated it could be things such as email and web browsing history. However, since the data had been collected by moving vehicles, only fragments of information were recorded. Google regretted its mistake and would look for a way to destroy the personal data.

“Maintaining people’s trust is crucial to everything we do, and in this case we fell short,” said Eustace in the blog post.

Google reviewed its data collection methods in response to an inquiry from the Data Protection Authority in Hamburg.

The Google Street View service allows users to “walk” along panoramic street views in many countries, using images recorded by specially-outfitted cars. The fleet of cars around the world has been halted for the time being as Google attempts to fix the glitch.

The Street View project is controversial in Germany due to privacy concerns.
• Source(s): Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and Google Inc.
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13
May
10

Adobe Blows Apple a Kiss

NEWS
Adobe Blows Apple a Kiss

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Two weeks after Apple CEO Steve Jobs published his anti-Flash manifesto, Adobe – which makes the rich media software – has hit back. But instead of just sending out an anti-Apple rant, Adobe blows a kiss at the company, before scolding companies like Apple that ‘put content and applications behind walls’ and ‘dictate what you can create, how you create it, or what you can experience on the web.

Adobe’s pro-Flash campaign appears in newspapers such as the Washington Post, and on a number of major web sites. In an open letter, Adobe founders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock attempt to debunk Jobs’ claims that Flash is a closed platform, and instead hint that other companies are doing more to undermine open web standards:

We believe that consumers should be able to freely access their favorite content and applications, regardless of what computer they have, what browser they like, or what device suits their needs. No company – no matter how big or how creative – should dictate what you can create, how you create it, or what you can experience on the web.

When markets are open, anyone with a great idea has a chance to drive innovation and find new customers. Adobe’s business philosophy is based on a premise that, in an open market, the best products will win in the end – and the best way to compete is to create the best technology and innovate faster than your competitors.

We believe that Apple, by taking the opposite approach, has taken a step that could undermine this next chapter of the web – the chapter in which mobile devices outnumber computers, any individual can be a publisher, and content is accessed anywhere and at any time.

While Adobe’s Flash format still powers 75% of video on the web, it’s not the company’s main source of revenue. Most of the company’s income comes from its Creative Suite product, which includes developer tools for Flash – but is generally better known as the home of Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere. That could insulate the company from any drop in Flash, though with 50% of all CS sales going to Mac users, Adobe can’t afford to ignore Apple. So, those hearts are likely to keep fluttering. And maybe Geschke and Warnock will trade in their starched shirts and ties for something a little more casual – though we’re just kidding about Adobe hating black turtlenecks.
• Source(s): Adobe Systems Incorporated ; The Adobe Flash Platform ; Rich Internet applications
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03
May
10

United Airlines and Continental merge to create world’s biggest operator

NEWS
United Airlines and Continental merge to create world’s biggest operator

Monday, May 03, 2010

••• Directors at Continental and United airlines have approved a deal that would combine them into the world’s largest airline, a source said.

The stock-swap deal values Continental at about $3.2 billion.

The Sunday board actions were described by a person with knowledge of the votes, who declined to be identified because the companies plan an announcement on Monday.

Combining Continental and United would leave the US with three big international airlines – the new United, Delta, and American. U.S. Airways Group Inc also flies internationally, but its 2009 international traffic was less than one-third the size of American’s.

The combined airline will be called United, based in United’s hometown of Chicago, and run by Continental CEO Jeffery Smisek. United CEO Glenn Tilton will be chairman.

United, a unit of UAL Corp, is the nation’s third-largest carrier by traffic. Continental Airlines Inc, in Houston, is the country’s fourth biggest.

Any deal would need the approval of antitrust regulators. The Justice Department approved Delta Air Lines Inc’s purchase of Northwest in 2008, which turned Delta into the world’s biggest carrier.

Another key issue in putting the two airlines together will be integrating the pilot workforce.

A union hot line message to United pilots on Sunday said the ‘union remains engaged in this issue, and if a merger is announced by United and Continental’, union officials ‘are fully prepared to protect and defend the interests of all United pilots’.

Continental and United both trace their roots to air services founded by Walter Varney in the 1920s and 30s.

One of United’s main attractions is its Pacific routes, which it bought from Pan-Am in 1985. It was already the biggest carrier in the U.S., and the Pan-Am deal made it a major international carrier for the first time. Northwest’s Pacific routes were one reason Delta pursued that deal two years ago.

Continental jumped in size in 1987 by swallowing Frontier, People Express and New York Air.

Both airlines shrank to cope with the recession. United cut capacity 7.4 percent last year, and Continental shrank 5.2 percent.

And they’ve both been losing money. Continental reported a 2009 loss of $282 million as revenue plunged 17.4 percent to $12.59 billion. UAL lost $651 million for the year as revenue fell 19.1 percent to $16.34 billion.

The market capitalisation for UAL Corp on Friday was $3.62 billion, while Continental’s was $3.12 billion.

Just two years ago, American Airlines was the nation’s biggest carrier. First Delta surpassed it, and now United might. More than pride is at stake. Corporate travellers gravitate toward airlines with the most routes.

On April 8, when there was talk that United and U.S. Airways were discussing a deal, American CEO Gerard Arpey said the company was ‘not in any way threatened’ by the merger talk involving other carriers.

‘We think we’re in a very good position irrespective of what may happen,’ he said at the time.

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