Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Consider Benefits of Owning a ‘Burner Phone’

burner-phone

Despite all the buzz surrounding the new iPhone, many are considering something on the other end of the spectrum: a cheap, disposable, and prepaid mobile phone.

OK, so these “burner phones,” as they’re often referred to, may be an addendum to your pricey smartphone rather than a replacement for it, but these devices have some desirable benefits.

Maintains your privacy

While you might think a "burner phone" is something only a criminal may use to avoid being tracked by authorities – such as the drug dealers on a show like The Wire – law-abiding citizens may also appreciate the privacy awarded by a burner phone.

For example, you might not want to use your main phone number if you’re posting items on Craigslist or another classifieds site. After all, you’re opening up the possibility of unwanted calls or texts from strangers on your personal line. Instead, when the transactions are completed, you can simply dump (or “burn”) the temporary phone.

Burner phones are also desirable to those who use dating apps, as you might not want to give out your primary number to someone you don’t end up with. Sure, you can block someone on your main phone, but they could still contact you from another number.

Burner phones can be bought with cash and with no contract, plus providers that sell these devices don’t track personal data. Anonymity isn’t fully guaranteed, however, as burner phones can still be located over a cellular network by the temporary phone number, or logged whenever you call someone else’s phone via their carrier.

Other advantages

Aside from privacy, there are other reasons why you might consider a burner phone:

  • For emergencies: Thanks to a FCC mandate, every mobile phone must be able to dial 9-1-1 – even if you aren’t signed up with a carrier. Heck, you don’t even need a SIM card in the phone. And so a practical application for a cheap burner phone is to keep it for emergency purposes only. Toss it into your glove box and you’ll know it’s there, just in case.
  • Back-up phone: While some burner phones have some advanced features, most are barebones devices used for calls or texts only. Because most these devices don’t have big screens and advanced radios like 4G/LTE and GPS, they likely boast much longer battery life than a premium smartphone. This could be ideal for travelers, perhaps, or at least as a back-up phone if your main device’s battery peters out.
  • Low cost: Price is a good motivator, too. Rather than spend upwards of $850 for the latest iOS or premium Android device, pre-paid burner phones could be as low as $20 for the Motorola EX431G Tracfone, which includes a full physical keyboard and free double minutes for life. If you prefer a compact flip phone, the Samsung Entro is roughly $20 while the Kyocera Coast Prepaid Phone is $35. Pro tip: While your burner phone doesn’t have access to data, many social networks like Twitter and Facebook have a SMS option, so you can still be notified to get updates via text message.

There’s an app for that

Those who like the idea of a burner phone but aren’t quite ready to pick one up might consider an app like Burner, which allows you to create multiple numbers on your main smartphone. You might want one number for work, another for personal use, and a third for classifieds, shopping, dating, and so on.

Available at the App Store and Google Play, Burner is free to download and free to try. Additional time and numbers are available by in-app purchase (from $1.99) or a subscription for $4.99/month, which enables one burner line with unlimited calls, texts, and picture messages for one month. Be aware, however, phone calls use up your regular mobile phone minutes.

Read Article (Marc Saltzman | msn.com | 08/18/2016)

Europeans hold individual data privacy very high, which is not the case in the US. Some have begun to wonder, do they have it right? Well, only time will tell, though critics in the US say they’ve got it wrong, not surprising. But they also have trust in their government which is also not the case in the US. Analyze that!

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EU Files Third Antitrust Charge Against Google

Third-Antitrust-Charge

The European commission has filed a third antitrust charge against Google, this time against its AdSense advertising business.

The EU regulator accuses Alphabet’s Google of abusing its dominance in search to benefit its own advertising business, which has historically been the company’s main revenue stream. The EC also reinforced its existing charge against Google’s shopping service, which the regulator says receives preferential treatment in search results.

European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said: “Google has come up with many innovative products that have made a difference to our lives. But that doesn’t give Google the right to deny other companies the chance to compete and innovate.

“We have also raised concerns that Google has hindered competition by limiting the ability of its competitors to place search adverts on third-party websites, which stifles consumer choice and innovation,” Vestager said.

The commission said it had sent two “statements of objections” to Google and given its parent company, Alphabet, 10 weeks to respond. Google faces fines up to 10% of its global turnover for each case if found guilty of beaching the bloc’s antitrust rules.

Vestager also said the commission’s preliminary probe into Google Shopping has revealed that Google has “unduly favored its own comparison shopping service in its general search result pages”, meaning that “consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries.

“If our investigations conclude that Google has broken EU antitrust rules, the commission has a duty to act to protect European consumers and fair competition on European markets,” Vestager said.

A Google spokesperson said: “We believe that our innovations and product improvements have increased choice for European consumers and promote competition. We’ll examine the commission’s renewed cases and provide a detailed response in the coming weeks.”

The EU’s concerns around Google’s adverts relate to the company’s AdSense for Search platform, in which Google acts as an intermediary for websites such as those of online retailers, telecoms operators or newspapers, with searches producing results that include search ads.

Google’s AdWords and AdSense programs, which formed the bulk of Google’s $75bn (£56bn) in revenue last year, have been on the EC’s radar since 2010, after rivals complained about unfair advertising exclusivity clauses and undue restrictions on other advertisers.

The EU’s executive branch is already investigating whether Google gives preferential treatment to its own products, including Google Search and Chrome, in its Android operating system. Device manufacturers are obliged to place Google Search and Chrome on the primary home screen of Android devices, as well as other Google apps, if they want to provide access to the Google Play Store - the single largest source of third-party Android apps.

The company is also facing complaints against its image search from Getty Images.

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

In the digital era, there is a significant difference between Europe and the US when it comes to individual privacy. Europe maintains individual privacy as primary whereas the US, unfortunately, views businesses as primary in this regard. The result is that US tech companies must conduct business in Europe much differently, or face penalties.

The European commission, though lobbied and charmed, has maintained their position on privacy. To continue business in Europe, US tech companies must comply with their rules and policies or be fined and removed, simple as that.

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Paris Victim’s Family Sues Facebook, Google & Twitter

Paris-Victim's-Family

SAN FRANCISCO — The family of a California college student killed in November's terrorist attacks in Paris is suing Facebook, Google and Twitter, alleging the companies provided "material support" to the Islamic State and other extremist groups.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, uses popular Internet services such as Facebook and Twitter to spread propaganda, to attract and train new recruits, to celebrate terrorist attacks and publicize executions.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco federal court is the latest to target social media services for making it too easy for the ISIL to spread its message. Cal State Long Beach student Nohemi Gonzalez was among 130 people killed in the Paris attacks.

Facebook said the lawsuit is without merit.

“There is no place for terrorists or content that promotes or supports terrorism on Facebook, and we work aggressively to remove such content as soon as we become aware of it," Facebook said in an emailed statement. "Anyone can report terrorist accounts or content to us, and our global team responds to these reports quickly around the clock. If we see evidence of a threat of imminent harm or a terror attack, we reach out to law enforcement."

Twitter said it "strongly condemns the ongoing acts of violence for which ISIS claims credit."

"Our sympathies go out to those impacted by these acts of terror," the company said in an emailed statement. "We have partnered with others in industry, NGOs and governments to find better ways to combat the online manifestations of the larger societal problem at the core of violent extremism. As we stated earlier this year, violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on Twitter and, like other social networks, our rules make that clear."

Google could not be reached for comment.

  • In January, Twitter was sued by the widow of an American killed in an attack on a Jordanian police training center. Tamara Fields, a Florida woman whose husband Lloyd Carl Fields Jr., a government contractor, died in the Nov. 9 attack, accused Twitter of knowingly allowing the terror group to use its platform.
  • In February, Twitter said it had suspended 125,000 accounts connected to the Islamic State over the previous six months.
  • In what may be the first act of terrorism broadcast on Facebook Live, the suspected killer of a French police commander and his wife this week streamed a 13-minute video threatening attacks on European soccer competition Euro 2016 and contemplating the fate of the dead couple's child.

Read Article (Jessica Guynn | usatoday.com | 06/15/2016)

Bless all the victims.

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Facebook & Google Battle Latest FBI Challenge

Latest-FBI-Attempt

Now the FBI wants access to your web browsing history as they continue efforts to expand surveillance. The FBI and Silicon Valley are in a fight over whether web browsing records are the same as telephone bill records.

The latest surveillance battle gripping the technology industry is focused on a rewrite of US surveillance law that would mean the justice department would be able to access a citizen’s web browsing history, location data and some email records without approval from a judge using a so-called “national security letters” (NSLs).

The FBI contends that such data is covered implicitly under current statute, which was written years ago and only explicitly covers data normally associated with telephone records.

Director James Comey now is lobbying Congress to make clear it also applies to the digital equivalent.

Late on Monday, major technology companies including Google, Facebook and Yahoo sent a letter warning Congress that they would oppose any efforts to rewrite law in the FBI’s favor.

“This expansion of the NSL statute has been characterized by some government officials as merely fixing a ‘typo’ in the law,” the companies wrote. “In reality, however, it would dramatically expand the ability of the FBI to get sensitive information about users’ online activities without court oversight.”

It marks another battle over a small clause in federal law that could dramatically affect how the US conducts terrorism investigations. For years, the bureau has relied on the controversial national security letters to obtain certain types of data quickly from technology companies. These letters don’t require a warrant and often come with a gag order prohibiting the recipients from discussing them. Technology companies complain the FBI has become too reliant on them, but the FBI complains that cases are getting slowed down because some companies have stopped cooperating.

It’s not so much that technology companies don’t want to give any user data to the government. Rather, their legal teams have problems with the growth of national security letters because the accompanying gag orders prevent companies from telling users much about how they help the government. This can create mistrust and, as happened after the Edward Snowden leaks, eventual embarrassment if the details are disclosed.

Companies also argue NSLs are problematic because of the lack of judicial oversight. They give too much power to one branch of government, they argue, and make it hard to predict what the government may ask for next.

Comey has said expanding NSL rules is one of his agencies top legislative priorities. US senators are exploring multiple ways to pass the law tweak this year.

Technology and legal experts also dispute Comey’s argument that he effectively is asking Congress to correct a typo. In 2008, the justice department’s office of legal counsel said explicitly that the agency can only issue national security letters for “name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records”.

At the time, the government had asked DoJ’s lawyer if those four types of data are “exhaustive or merely illustrative of the information that the FBI may request and a provider may turn over”.

To which the office of legal counsel responded: “We conclude that the list ... is exhaustive.”

Read Article (Danny Yadron | theguardian.com | 06/07/2016)

How important is your browsing history to the law? Federal Prosecutors have Claimed that Clearing Browser History is an Obstruction of Justice. Negligent Mom’s Browser History Admissible in court.

Knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important as Internet access if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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ACLU Joins Microsoft in Suit Against the DOJ

Suit-Against-DOJ

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft got an ally in its lawsuit against the Justice Department Thursday. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a motion to join Microsoft’s effort to challenge DOJ gag orders that prevent the tech company from telling customers when the government has ordered it to turn over data.

The ACLU is a Microsoft customer. Microsoft filed its lawsuit in April, one of a number of legal challenges the Redmond, Wash., company has mounted against growing law enforcement requests for its cloud-based consumer data.

“A basic promise of our Constitution is that the government must notify you at some point when it searches or seizes your private information,” said Alex Abdo, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “Notice serves as a crucial check on executive power, and it has been a regular and constitutionally required feature of searches and seizures since the nation’s founding.”

Microsoft spokesperson David Cuddy said the company "appreciates the support from the ACLU and many others in the business, legal and policy communities who are concerned about secrecy becoming the norm rather than the exception.”

Requests from law enforcement agencies for access to users' personal information routinely flood tech companies that store vast amounts of data in the cloud. Massive data centers run by Microsoft, Amazon and other big tech companies allow businesses and individuals to access email, photos and other content from multiple devices, wherever they are.

Law enforcement officials say that access to such data is critical to fighting crime and terrorism. Using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the U.S. government is increasingly targeting such data, according to Microsoft, which says the government has mandated secrecy in 2,576 instances over the past 18 months. People would know if the government went through their filing cabinet or their hard drive, but are unaware when their privacy in the cloud is intruded upon, they argue.

The 1986 law was written before the Web was born and long before Americans started sending, receiving and storing so much of their personal communications and documents on the Internet.

Microsoft alleges the Electronic Communications Privacy Act violates users' Fourth Amendment right that a search be reasonable and Microsoft's First Amendment right to talk to its users.

"Notably and even surprisingly, 1,752 of these secrecy orders, or 68% of the total, contained no fixed end date at all. This means that we effectively are prohibited forever from telling our customers that the government has obtained their data," Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith wrote in an April blog post when the suit was announced.

Tech companies increasingly are being drawn into legal battles with federal agencies over access to consumer information. A broad swath of major technology names filed amicus briefs on behalf of Apple during the iPhone maker's protracted battle with the FBI earlier this year over access to the smartphone used by one of the San Bernardino killers.

Read Article (Marco della Cava | usatoday.com | 05/26/2016)

Today Microsoft is fighting a battle to protect your digital privacy, tomorrow you may need to fight your own battle to protect your digital privacy. But only if you realize it’s been hacked and only if you know what you are talking about.

By now you should have some idea of what we are about, if not read our about page. But our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing digital literacy and how to fully use devices that connect to the Internet and the Internet itself.

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