FTC to Look Into Copy Machine Privacy Breakdown

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Federal Trade Commission has responded to an April 29 letter from Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., expressing concerns about sensitive data stored on digital copiers' hard drives. Markey's letter followed CBS News' April 19 airing of a report on its investigation into the matter.

The FTC said it was aware of the privacy issues and planned to take steps to inform manufacturers, resellers and office supply stores about the risks associated with digital copying and see that they were taking steps to provide options for secure copying.

"We will work with these entities to help ensure that they provide appropriate educational materials on this subject to their clients," wrote FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz. He also directed Markey to educational materials the FTC previously distributed on disposing of computer hard drives.

"We are also reaching out to government contracting officials to advise them of the risks associated with the use of digital copiers and ensure that the government is taking measures to protect the information we collect from the public," Leibowitz continued. The FTC routinely erases and destroys hard drives when it returns copiers, the chairman said.

European Racket Over Street View Privacy Spawns Probes

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

European privacy advocates are scaling up their scrutiny on Google regarding its Street View cars' collection of data from unencrypted WiFi networks.

German prosecutors and the Czech data protection agency have launched separate investigations into the issue; Italy's privacy regulator is looking into whether Google treated the data correctly; and the European Union's Justice Commissioner has waded into the fray.

Meanwhile, Google CEO Eric Schmidt reportedly said the company plays hardball with governments on privacy issues.
Old-World Angst

Prosecutors in Hamburg, where Google has its German headquarters, are reportedly following up on a complaint against unnamed Google workers over the unauthorized interception of data.

Their examination, which will determine if the allegations warrant a full-blown investigation, could take up to two weeks.

Meanwhile, Czech Republic's data protection agency, known as "UOOU," has also reportedly launched an administrative investigation into Google's WiFi data collection.

Over in Italy, the country's privacy regulator has said it would verify whether or not Google treated the data acquired by Street View correctly.

Privacy authorities in the United Kingdom have ordered Google to destroy WiFi data its Street View cars captured in the country. A similar request by privacy authorities in the Irish Republic had Google destroy data captured from citizens of that nation.

The European Union has also stepped into the fracas -- EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding reportedly criticized Google for not following the EU's rules.

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War and Revolution

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Earlier this month, Oracle effectively declared war on HP and went out of its way to disparage HP's products. I couldn't help but think back to Scott McNealy and his attacks on Microsoft nearly a decade ago. At that time, I scratched my head because Sun was basically a high-end hardware company and Microsoft a software pure-play, and it would have made more sense for the two to partner than to go to war.

After a decade of pounding Microsoft and doing a considerable amount of damage, Sun failed -- largely because HP, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) chewed Sun up. Sun had to restructure to be more effective against Microsoft and ended up commoditizing its own hardware products in the process, resulting in failure in the market.

Now look at Oracle and HP. Oracle is at the core a software company, and HP is a hardware company; however, HP is more complex in structure than Microsoft and is designed very similarly to IBM, with a few exceptions. HP lacks software, and it has printing, networking and PCs, which IBM lacks. So right now, HP really isn't in Oracle's space, and Oracle has no interest in much of the business that HP is in.

Oracle's more natural competitors are Microsoft and IBM in their class. Like Sun and Microsoft, it would seem more natural that Oracle should HP partner -- and historically they did, with an estimated 100,000 shared customers.

Little Tweets From Big Cheeses

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In October, Google's Rubin tweeted one other time, taking a shot at Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs with a cryptic definition of open source: "mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init --u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git; repo sync ; make."

Jobs had earlier criticized the downside of Android's open source system. Rubin's widely reported retort was another example of his whimsical yet effective approach to public relations. It also represents an ongoing public relations revolution that started with a migration to Web-based services such as Newswise and Eurekalert.

"Google sent a tweet rather than a press release in hopes that thousands of people would retweet, with potential impressions into the millions," said Jake Wengroff, global director for corporate communications at Frost & Sullivan. "Journalists, PR people, techies, analysts, consumers are all more likely to read and share a tweet, rather than a press release."

Although Rubin's tweets don't yet represent a new norm in public relations, they are no longer the exception, said Marino Organization public relations representative Joe O'Donnell.

"It is becoming more and more prevalent to release information via the social network, where you are targeting an engaged and substantial audience," O'Donnell told TechNewsWorld.

"It's to be expected that businesses will use all means possible to generate their buzz online, and Google is just setting the pace," added Vivian Hood, a vice president with Jaffe PR.

Commonly criticized for a national short attention span, Americans in particular have taken to Twitter and other social media platforms as "messaging has evolved into short, to-the-point bursts of information,"explained Rob Douthit, director of media relations at the University of West Georgia. "Where long, more contextual missives were the norm, social media is all about immediacy, and for organizations looking to disseminate timely messages, it has become an important factor."

A Kinder, Gentler WikiLeaks?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Wheres, Whats and Wherefores of OpenLeaks

A check with two Whois service providers showed the existence of two OpenLeaks domain names registered to different organizations.

According to Whois.de, 1and1.com's office in Chesterbrook, Penn., registered the domain name OpenLeaks.com on Sept. 26 and updated the registration Friday. This domain name expires Sept. 26, 2011.

1and1 was founded as a reseller of technology products, including an early online service, in 1988. It acquired Web host and Internet domain registrar Schlund + Partner in 1998 and has 70,000 servers installed in five data centers.

The company has sites in Austria, France, Germany, the Philippines, Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom and Chesterbrook.

When called, the Chesterbrook office directed TechNewsWorld to email questions about OpenLeaks.com to marketing@1and1.com. The company acknowledged receipt of the email but did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

The other registration is for OpenLeaks.org, and that domain is held by CINIPAC IBC, according to Domaintools.com.

CINIPAC IBC apparently registered the domain name Sept. 17, and that domain expires Sept. 17, 2011. CINIPAC IBC is located in Malaysia. Attempts to contact CINIPAC through the admin email address, abuse@cinipac.com, were unsuccessful.

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The Gawker Has Become the Gawkee

Gawker said Gnosis had claimed responsibility for the hack.

The hacker or hackers claimed they had been working on cracking Gawker's database for about 17 hours, according to a report on Mediaite.

Gnosis dumped a database with more than 1.3 million rows of data, source code information, an upcoming redesign of the Gawker site, a text file containing background information and passwords, and a list of Gawker server kernel versions.

These were then released on The Pirate Bay site.

The Pirate Bay is a Swedish website that indexes BitTorrent files. It has been battling the entertainment industry and people associated with the site have been charged with or convicted of aiding copyright infringement.

In an exchange of emails with Mediaite, Gnosis said it had retrieved 273,789 passwords and that tight deadlines prevented it from getting more than 500,000. The passwords included those linked to email accounts within organizations like NASA, banks and several government domains, Gnosis' emails said. It claimed to have had access to all Gawker's emails for a long time, and also to have access to most of the infrastructure powering Gawker's site.

Gnosis said Gawker's servers run outdated kernel versions, its site is filled with lots of exploitable code, and its database is publicly accessible.

The hacker or hackers said they wouldn't explain how they got into Gawker's servers because that information could be used against them. Gnosis said it isn't involved with 4Chan.

Hackers associated with the site 4Chan broke into Gawker's site in July, triggering a challenge from Gawker publisher Nick Denton and his staff. This apparently angered the people behind Gnosis, who launched their attack in retaliation.

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