New Tech Observer

New Tech Observer

Germany Re-Opens Facebook Faces Probe

Posted: 16 Aug 2012 06:48 AM PDT

Johannes Caspar, the Data Protection Commissioner for Germany, suspended an investigation into Facebook's business practices related to the photo suggest feature on Facebook. The privacy complaint is two-fold; that Facebook is developing a massive database of images uploaded by Facebook subscribers without their permission, and that Facebook uses an opt-out rather than an opt-in approach, which is the legal standard in Germany. While the legal consequences for Facebook are a minuscule $31,000 fine, reopening this investigation might have an EU-wide effect with greater legal and reputation consequences.
From the NYTimes article:
The data protection commissioner in Hamburg, Johannes Caspar, suspended the inquiry in June, but said he reopened it after attempts to persuade Facebook to change its policies had failed.
"We have met repeatedly with Facebook but have not been able to get their cooperation on this issue, which has grave implications for personal data," Mr. Caspar said in an interview.

AT&T Victim of Denial of Service Attack

Posted: 15 Aug 2012 06:39 PM PDT

According to Martyn Williams of IDG News (as reported through PCWorld), AT&T has been a victim of a distributed denial of service attack aimed at the AT&T DNS servers. Some AT&T business customers have been unable to gain Internet access. From the article:
The multi-hour attack began Wednesday morning West Coast time and at the time of this writing, eight hours later, does not appear to have been mitigated. 
"Due to a distributed denial of service attack attempting to flood our Domain Name System servers in two locations, some AT&T business customers are experiencing intermittent disruptions in service," an AT&T spokesman told IDG News Service by email. "Restoration efforts are underway and we apologize for any inconvenience to our customers." 
The attack appears to have affected enterprise customers using AT&T's managed services DNS product.

License Plate Surveillance

Posted: 15 Aug 2012 06:31 PM PDT

Cyrus Farivar has a great roundup of license plate surveillance in Ars Technica. He focuses on the town of Tiburon, California which had a crime rate of about 100 - 120 thefts per year before it installed the $130k surveillance system to record every license plate that comes into or out of town.
Farivar covers a wide range of privacy concerns that this practice raises; from a lack of retention standards to false positives to insufficient updates. License Plate Readers, or LPR's, are cameras that scan a license plate from a distance, record the license plate number and match those numbers against a "hot list". This essentially means that the license plate of every car that passes by the camera is added to a database, tracking your every move. From the article:

Today, tens of thousands of LPRs are being used by law enforcement agencies all over the country—practically every week, local media around the country report on some LPR expansion. But the system's unchecked and largely unmonitored use raises significant privacy concerns. License plates, dates, times, and locations of all cars seen are kept in law enforcement databases for months or even years at a time. In the worst case, the New York State Police keeps all of its LPR data indefinitely. No universal standard governs how long data can or should be retained.