Last month technicians from GCHQ, the UK electronic surveillance agency, stood over journalists from The Guardian newspaper to make sure that they destroyed a computer containing files leaked to them by Edward Snowden, the former contractor to the US National Security Agency. This week the British police abused anti-terror legislation to detain David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian journalist, and seize his files. Coming up next: officials from the NSA and GCHQ bang their heads against a brick wall in frustration at having allowed Mr Snowden to abscond with their secrets. It would be as effective, and legal.
Spend one-and-a-half days at a Founders Forum event and it’s impossible not to get infected by the techie-enthusiast bug. The day after last week’s big get-together I found myself beginning a Bob the Builder story with my two-year-old: “It was a busy time in Silicon Valley.”*
The Financial Times is media partner with the event, and this year sponsored two prizes. Founder of the year was won by Ilkka Paananen, chief executive and co-founder of Supercell, the Finnish gaming company behind Clash of the Clans and Hay Day, while Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi, the credit card-sized microcomputer, was awarded the One to Watch prize. Read more
Everybody loves a conspiracy – provided they are part of it. That is the lesson of the outbreak of outrage in the UK last week, when the “secret world government” that attends the Bilderberg meetings landed on the front lawn of middle England.
Google’s stance against the European Commission on the subject of privacy – rolling out its new policy for sharing personal data among its sites despite warnings that it may breach European law – strikes me as foolhardy.
US companies that get into a tangle with the EU, often egged on by US supporters who believe that European regulators are over-reaching their powers, tend to come off worse from the struggle. The prime example was Microsoft in its anti-trust battle during the mid-2000s.
The pattern is in danger of being repeated, with supporters of internet freedoms such as Jeff Jarvis of City University of New York criticising the EU action and arguing that it is part of a pattern of government attempts at misguided regulation. Read more
A privacy storm has blown up over the revelation (if that is the right word) that iPhones and 3G iPads keeps data on the movements of their owners, which is backed up to personal computers when the devices are synchronised.
Al Franken, the Minnesota senator, has already complained about this fact, pointing out that:
“Anyone who gains access to this single file could likely determine the location of the user’s home, the businesses he frequents, the doctors he visits, the schools his children attend and the trips he has taken over the past months or even a year.”
Two researchers announced their findings on iPhone tracking data at a conference on Wednesday, only to be criticised by another one on the grounds that they were not saying anything new.
The news that Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites have been (unintentionally) sending some user details to advertisers adds to my growing sense that the companies either do not place a high enough value on privacy or are not careful enough about it.
It follows Google’s disclosure that it accidentally picked up personal information from WiFi networks while filming for its Street View service. Read more