In the brave new world of cloud computing, where data is stored off-site in massive server farms instead of on a user's local hard drive, privacy and security are paramount in the consumer's mind. Unfortunately for privacy advocates, their concerns are essentially moot thanks to the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which a key Microsoft official said recently permits the U.S. to spy on data stored within cloud servers across the European Union. The revelation of transcontinental spying, which has long been suspected, came from Gordon Frazer, Microsoft U.K.'s managing director, speaking at an announcement event for the company's new suite of office software. Frazer's admission was caught by ZDNet reporter Zack Whittaker, who's long covered data security issues as they relate to the Patriot Act.
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Mark Milian writes on CNN:
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When you buy a video game from Best Buy, you don’t give the retailer the right to barge into your house whenever it wants. So why do we give that permission to software companies?
Most popular smartphone operating systems and other electronic gadgets include what security researchers refer to as a kill switch.
This capability enables the company that makes the operating software to send a command over the Web or wireless networks that alters or removes certain applications from devices.
Apple, Google and Microsoft include this function in their platforms, along with a few lines in their usage agreements describing the policy. Google and Apple executives say this feature is important in order to protect against malicious software.
“Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs told The Wall Street Journal in 2008.
In two weeks, IBM’s Watson computer will compete on Jeopardy against two of the show’s all-time human champions. But instead of wondering whether humanity emerge victorious against the rise of the machine, Stephen Wolfram is wondering which machine is better. The physicist behind the Wolfram Alpha “answer engine” just announced the results of his own experiment, which revealed that Google would beat Microsoft’s Bing search engine in any contest based on questions from Jeopardy!
“Wolfram took a sample of Jeopardy clues and fed them into search engines,” explains this technology blog. “When it came to the first page, Google got 69 percent correct, just beating Ask with 68 percent and Bing on 63 percent… To put that into context, the average human contestant gets 60 percent of answers correct, while champion Ken Jennings has a record of 79 percent.” Interestingly, Wikipedia came in last, scoring 23%, though they may have more to do with how Wikipedia handles searches.… Read the rest
Always remember — the vacant, shining, plastic eyes of Ronald McDonald are upon you. A lawsuit claims that internet users’ browsing histories are tracked and shared among corporations that use the data to tailor advertising. Via MediaPost:
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A New York resident who recently sued behavioral advertising network Interclick for allegedly violating her privacy by using history-sniffing technology has filed a related lawsuit against McDonald’s, CBS, Mazda and Microsoft.
In a complaint filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Sonal Bose alleges that McDonald’s and the other companies “acted in concert with Interclick,” to mine users’ Web surfing history for marketing purposes. “Defendants circumvented the privacy and security controls of consumers who, like plaintiff, had configured their browsers to prevent third-party advertisers from monitoring their online activities,” Bose alleges.
The lawsuit alleges that the companies violated the federal computer fraud law, wiretap law and other statutes.
Microsoft’s new Kinect gaming console has been a success in the weeks following its November unveiling — sales are expected to top 5 million units by the end of the year. However, privacy advocates are concerned about the machine’s built-in camera, equipped with motion-sensing and facial-recognition technology. Xbox’s CFO implied that Microsoft would use Kinect to gather data on its users, the Wall Street Journal notes. It begs the question: Are your videogames watching you?
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Microsoft Corp. officials are considering using the camera on their new Kinect videogame system to target ads to people watching the games.
Dennis Durkin, who serves as chief operating officer and chief financial officer for Microsoft’s Xbox video game business, told investors Thursday that Kinect – which allows users to play video games without so much as a joystick – presents business opportunities for targeted game marketing and advertising.
Kinect is a camera peripheral that plugs into the Xbox 360 console and allows players to control games with only body movements.