Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
1. More online privacy regulations for Europe. The European Commission announced a draft proposal that would require internet-based communication service providers such as Gmail, Facebook, and Skype to explicitly obtain the consent to read user data. The proposed change is significant given that many of these services deploy algorithms that scan user data to serve them ads, keeping the communication service free or at a very low cost. The Commission argues the change is necessary to maintain the privacy of user communications and to level the playing field between internet-based providers and telcos, which are already subject to strict communications privacy rules. The proposal is part of a raft of new online privacy proposals that would roll back the EU’s cookie consent rules and require user consent to allow providers to access location metadata.
2. China’s Big Brother for hire. China’s Southern Metropolis Daily published an investigation into tracking services found online in China, which allow private individuals to spy on their fellow citizens. For 700 yuan (little over one hundred U.S. dollars), two journalists were able to buy access to their colleague’s personal data, including a log of his hotel stays and bank account information. For an additional fee, the journalists were granted access to a GPS tracker linked to his phone. For years, privacy advocates have fretted over how China’s surveillance state amasses data on its citizens as a means of social control. But as David Bandurski points out, the nature of Chinese institutions, which are fractious and prone to corruption at the local level, means anyone with money and ill-intention can buy big brother’s services.
3. Russia erases LinkedIn. At the request of the Russian government, Apple and Google have both removed LinkedIn from their app stores in Russia. The country’s internet providers blocked access to LinkedIn’s website in November after a court ruled that the professional networking service was not in compliance with a 2014 data localization law, which requires online services store user data domestically. Data localization laws are a growing international trend as governments around the world push for greater access to their citizens’ online information. American tech giants like Google and Apple are increasingly caving to state pressure. Just last week, Apple removed the New York Times app from the App Store in China after being informed that the company was in violation of local regulation.
4. Cyber! Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that he’ll be leading the Trump administration’s ninety-day cyber review to "aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks." Giuliani, who runs an eponymous security consulting firm, says he plans to apply his know-how to unleash a private-sector response to cyberattacks. Detractors, however, point out that the vulnerabilities of his firm’s website show that he might not be the right person to shore up the United States’ cyber defenses.
5. Be careful of who you befriend online. Israeli intelligence officials are raising the alarm at an alleged honey trap set by Hamas to surveil Israeli soldiers. They assert that Hamas has been luring soldiers to chat with fake profiles flirtatious women on social media, who then ask the soldiers to download video chat apps for more explicit exchanges. The video chat apps, however, were malware that enable a remote attacker to access location data, files, the microphone and camera of a cell phone. This is not the first time that an old intelligence technique has been adapted for an internet age. Back in 2012, news reports surfaced claiming that Chinese spies were trying to obtain information from NATO officials, using fake social media accounts as bait.