Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues July 13, 2019

Subject: How Fake News Could Lead to Real War
Source: POLITICO Magazine

We think of false information as a domestic problem. It’s much more dangerous than that.

Who really bombed the oil tankers in the Persian Gulf two weeks ago? Was it Iran, as the Trump administration assured us? Or was it Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Israel—or some combination of the three?

Here’s a confession from two former senior government officials: For days after the attacks, we weren’t sure. Both of us believed in all sincerity there was a good chance these actions were part of a false flag operation, an effort by outsiders to trigger a war between the United States and Iran. Even the film of Iranians hauling in an unexploded limpet mine from near the side of tanker, we reasoned, might be a fabrication—deep fake footage just like the clip of Nancy Pelosi staggering around drunk.

But the whole unsettling episode opened our eyes to a deeply troubling reality: The current fake news epidemic isn’t just shaking up U.S. politics; it might end up causing a war, or just as consequentially, impeding a national response to a genuine threat.

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Subject: Airport Facial Recognition, How Abusers Exploit Basic Apps, and More News
Source: WIRED

Today’s Headlines

Opting out of facial recognition at the airport isn’t easy.
Flying this weekend? In at least 17 airports—if you’re flying airlines that include Delta, JetBlue, American Airlines, and others—you may be asked to submit to a facial recognition scan in lieu of passport scanners before boarding. The Department of Homeland Security reports that the facial recognition program being deployed in airports will be able to scan 97 percent of commercial air passengers departing the US by 2023. Don’t want your face to be part of the surveillance state database? You can still opt out by finding an airline representative and getting your passport scanned instead.

The simple way Apple and Google let domestic abusers stalk victims.

You know to be careful of malware when downloading new apps, but the apps needed to track you are already installed on your phone. Researchers have found that location-sharing features on popular apps like Apples’ Find My Friends and Google Maps can easily be abused, allowing anyone with physical access to your phone to track you without your knowledge.

Subject: How to Protect Our Kids’ Data and Privacy
Source: WIRED

Imagine that a child avoids having a digital footprint—that neither this child’s parents nor the child herself has ever used or posted anything online. Institutions can still use data about other youngsters who fall into similar categories (such as those with the same zip code or those who go to the same school) to make inferences about the child. To put it simply, even if a child is somehow shielded from a premature online identity, his or her life will still be influenced by the online presence of similar children.

The practice of data collection could have far-reaching consequences for children’s fundamental rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most ratified human rights treaty ever, protects children as individuals. But modern technology raises new questions: Will children self-censor themselves on the internet because they don’t know how their data will be used? How is access to information limited when social media platforms use algorithms to display personalized and targeted content? We don’t know what ramifications widespread data collection could have on future generations of kids.

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Subject: Google tracks all Gmail account purchases, even if emails are deleted
Source: CNBC via USA Today

Story Highlights

  • Google Gmail keeps a log of everything you buy.
  • Google says this is so you can ask Google Assistant about the status of an order or reorder something.
  • It also says you can delete this log by deleting the email, but three weeks after we deleted all email, the list is still there.

Google and other tech companies have been under fire recently for a variety of issues, including failing to protect user datafailing to disclose how data is collected and used and failing to police the content posted to their services.

Companies such as Google have embedded themselves in our lives with useful services including Gmail, Google Maps and Google Search, as well as smart products such as the Google Assistant which can answer our questions on a whim.

The benefits of these tools come at the cost of our privacy, however, because while Google says that privacy should not be a “luxury good, ” it’s still going to great lengths to collect as much detail as possible about its users and making it more difficult than necessary for users to track what’s collected about them and delete it.

Subject: ICE, FBI use state driver’s license photos for facial-recognition scans
Source: Washington Post via CNNPolitics

Washington (CNN) Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI are utilizing state driver’s license databases to scan through “millions of Americans’ photos without their knowledge or consent,” The Washington Post reported Sunday.

A cache of internal documents and emails from ICE and the FBI obtained by Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology and provided to the paper show “federal investigators have turned state Department of Motor Vehicles databases into the bedrock of an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure,” the Post said.

[since these DB probably have under-18 drivers’ pix, I wonder if that violates the law in passing them to other agencies? /pmw1]

An ICE spokesperson declined to detail to the Post how the agency uses facial-recognition software, stating “investigative techniques are generally considered law-enforcement sensitive.” CNN has reached out to ICE and the FBI for comment on the report.

Subject: Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak urges people to leave Facebook
Source: Business Insider

  • Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak advised that most people “find a way to get off Facebook” when speaking with TMZ. He said he quit the site last year.
  • Wozniak says he does not think using Facebook is worth the trade-off when it comes to personal privacy.
  • He also expressed concern over the notion that our mobile devices may be listening to us, an accusation that Facebook has long denied.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stressed the company’s focus on privacy in recent months, particularly during its developers conference. But Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak isn’t convinced that Facebook is keeping our personal interactions confidential.

“There are many different kinds of people and some the benefits of Facebook are worth the loss of privacy,” Wozniak recently said when approached by the outlet at the Reagan International Airport. “But to many like myself, my recommendation to most people is, you should figure out a way to get off Facebook.”

It’s not the first time Wozniak, who famously cofounded Apple in a garage with Steve Jobs, has spoken publicly about the topic of social media and privacy. Last year, he told USA Today that he was leaving Facebook over privacy concerns, also adding that he would rather pay for Facebook then have his personal data shared with advertisers.

Facebook, along with other tech giants like Google and Twitter, have come under scrutiny in recent years over how they handle consumer data and the role their platforms have played in political campaigns.

Subject: Brands use Uber-style rating to track shoppers with too many returns
Source: Business Insider

  • MyVerte, an online marketplace for direct-to-consumer companies, is launching Monday with more than 100 brands.
  • The site allows companies to give customers an “ Uber-style” rating of one to five stars based on their return activity.
  • The ratings tool will allow brands to block serial returners from purchasing — or even browsing — their products.
  • Returns cost US retailers an estimated $369 billion in lost sales in 2018. Many major retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Victoria’s Secret, also track customers’ return activity.

For consumers, the MyVerte marketplace will serve as a site to discover new e-commerce brands.

For brands, it will provide access to a host of tools, including fulfillment services, inventory financing, and an “Uber-style ratings feature” that allows brands to rate shoppers on a scale of one to five stars based on their return behavior, according to Project Verte founder and CEO Julian Kahlon.

Subject: Firefox 68 arrives with darker reader view, recommended extensions, IT customizations
Source: VentureBeat via beSpacific

VentureBeat: “Mozilla today launched Firefox 68 for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Firefox 68 includes a darker reader view, recommended extensions, IT Pro customizations, and more. Firefox 68 for desktop is available for download now on, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. The Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play, while the iOS release is available on Apple’s App Store.

Subject: PA Court decision siding with plaintiff injured by dog leash purchased on Amazon
Source: Axios via beSpacific

Axios: “A malfunctioning dog leash could end up creating billions of dollars of potential liabilities for online marketplaces, with Amazon front and center. Background: A dog leash sold and shipped by The Furry Gang, one of the millions of small sellers that operate on Amazon’s marketplace, snapped, permanently blinding the buyer in her left eye.

Amazon is responsible for the injury, according to a 2-1 decision from Philadelphia’s Third Circuit Court of Appeals.“Amazon’s involvement in transactions extends beyond a mere editorial function; it plays a large role in the actual sales process,” the opinion states.

Subject: Researchers detail privacy-related legal, ethical challenges with satellite data
Source: Penn State University News

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Satellite technology has been a boon for humanity, leading to faster, clearer communications, quicker emergency responses, accurate location information, and global financial transactions. Smart devices are almost always embedded with GPS satellite chips, enabling people around the world to know where they are; telling motorists whether they are traveling in the right direction for their summer vacations; and allowing athletes to accurately track their runs, walks and bike rides.

That’s great, right? Not always.

A team of Penn State researchers is reminding policymakers, industry and citizens that satellite data, left unchecked, can be as dangerous as it is useful and as threatening to national security and civil liberties as it is helpful to the national economy.

Posted in: Civil Liberties, Cybersecurity, Data Mining, E-Government, Email, Email Security, Privacy, Search Engines, Search Strategies, Social Media