Oct 312011
 October 31, 2011  Posted by  Court, Laws, Non-U.S., Online

Chris Wimpress reports:

The number of celebrities hiding behind super-injunctions has fallen dramatically, Britain’s top newspaper editors have confirmed.

Earlier this year a row over public figures abusing such court injunctions broke out.

Private Eye editor Iain Hislop was one of several senior journalists to tell MPs and Peers on Monday that the issue appeared to have corrected itself.

Parliament is considering whether privacy laws and press regulation needs changing in the light of a string of celebrity injunctions which became a laughing stock on Twitter.


Earlier, MPs heard from Professor Steven Barnett of the University of Westminster, who rejected the notion that someone revealing the name of someone with a superinjunction should be prosecuted.

“Exposure on Twitter is irrelevant. Because people are talking about something in the pub doesn’t mean you can run a five page spread about it. This is not a mass medium. For me the pub analogy still works.”

Barnett was also sceptical about whether a blogger should be prosecuted for similar offences. “There are very few blogs which have mass audiences, and those that do are people in the know talking to each other.”

Read more on Huffington Post UK.

While it would be nice to see bloggers protected, it seems to be a two-edged sword. How can we argue that bloggers should be treated as journalists when it comes to freedoms and protections and yet not hold them to the same standards as other journalists if they violate a court gag? What do you think?

Oct 312011
 October 31, 2011  Posted by  Breaches, Business, Featured News

Color me stunned.

As an Optimum Online subscriber, I’m supposed to get free online access to Newsday, one of the largest newspapers in New York.  So I went to sign up on Newsday’s site. And that’s when my eyes popped out of my head.

Not only does Newsday’s sign-up form ask you for your Optimum ID (username), full name, and address, but they require you to provide the password to your Optimum account.


Not believing my eyes, I called their help number and asked why they didn’t just take the ID and send a confirming e-mail to the user’s account, but was told that no, I had to provide the password to my account.

I told the representative, who I won’t name as this is not her fault, that that was the stupidest thing I’ve heard all day and is really poor from a security standpoint.

She put me on hold and eventually came back to tell me that I did have to provide the password but it’s “encrypted.”


I asked to speak to Newsday’s Chief Security Officer and was told they have none. Gee, what a surprise.

I asked to speak to Newsday’s Chief Privacy Officer and was told they didn’t have one of those, either.

So I called Optimum Online and asked to speak to their online security office.  I posed my question to them and they told me I’d have to take it up with Newsday.  Of course, they (Cablevision) own Newsday, so you’d foolishly think they might have some influence or be concerned about passwords being needlessly entered in a subsidiary’s web site, but no, they said I had to take it up with Newsday.

Obviously, I didn’t sign up for digital Newsday today.  Shame on them and Cablevision for even requiring the major account password to access the site.  What is Cablevision going to do if Newsday gets hacked?  Email hundreds of thousands of customers and tell them to change their Optimum Online passwords?  And what are they going to do if Newsday is hacked and the hackers decide to decrypt passwords, login to Optimum Online accounts and listen to people’s voicemail or look at their payment arrangements?

Such an unecessary and foolish risk.


Oct 312011
 October 31, 2011  Posted by  Business, Featured News, Laws, Non-U.S., Online, Surveillance

Anna Leach reports:

The icy location is a big advantage for the new data centre that Facebook is planning in the northern Swedish town of Lulea. But while the frigid Arctic winds will fan the servers, it’s the legal climate that could get hot.

A controversial Swedish internet surveillance law passed in 2008 allows the government there to intercept any internet traffic that passes Sweden’s borders with no need for a court warrant. It’s called the FRA law and the Swedes don’t like it, and Google called it “unfit for a Western democracy”. And the rest of Europe could start to get annoyed by it too when that internet traffic includes their Facebook data.

Read more on The Register.

In other coverage of this story, the Associated Press reports:

Jan Fredriksson, a spokesman for Facebook in Sweden, said the company was confident that restrictions on the agency’s surveillance activities would protect the integrity of regular Facebook users.

“This isn’t something that will affect users,” Frediksson said. “Only people who are strongly suspected of terrorism can become subjected to this.”

Just like here? Oh good. Then we can be sure that there will be no abuses of the system, right?

Another day, another pat on my own back that I had the foresight not to sign up for a Facebook account.

Carousel image credit:  What Are You Looking At? by nolifebeforecoffee♡ /Flickr.

Oct 312011
 October 31, 2011  Posted by  Business, Non-U.S.

A new report from the very excellent Carnegie Mellon University CyLab, by Pedro G. Leon, Blase Ur, Rebecca Balebako, Lorrie Faith Cranor, Richard Shay, and Yang Wang: Why Johnny Can’t Opt Out: A Usability Evaluation of Tools to Limit Online Behavioral Advertising.


We present results of a 45-participant laboratory study investigating the usability of tools to limit online behavioral advertising (OBA).We tested nine tools, including tools that block access to advertising websites, tools that set cookies indicating a user’s preference to opt out of OBA, and privacy tools that are built directly into web browsers. We interviewed participants about OBA, observed their behavior as they installed and used a privacy tool, and recorded their perceptions and attitudes about that tool. We found serious usability flaws in all nine tools we examined. The online opt-out tools were challenging for users to understand and configure. Users tend to be unfamiliar with most advertising companies, and therefore are unable to make meaningful choices. Users liked the fact that the browsers we tested had built-in Do Not Track features, but were wary of whether advertising companies would respect this preference. Users struggled to install and configure blocking lists to make effective use of blocking tools. They often erroneously concluded the tool they were using was blocking OBA when they had not properly configured it to do so.

Full Report: CMU-CyLab-11-017