Decades Later, Governments Still Wary of Social Media

Posted July 28th, 2017 at 11:35 am (UTC-4)
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FILE - A notice announcing new Internet restrictions banning the use of Facebook, Twitter and other websites is displayed at an Internet provider's office in Pyongyang, North Korea, April 1, 2016. (AP)

FILE – A notice announcing new Internet restrictions banning the use of Facebook, Twitter, and other websites is displayed at an Internet provider’s office in Pyongyang, North Korea, April 1, 2016. (AP)

Social media has become a rallying ground for global citizens at odds with their governments. And while many governments have learned to coexist with this new reality, others still see it as a potential threat.

Things used to be simpler with early digital communications back in the ’70s and ’80s. Members of early pioneering social hubs like Compuserve and America Online would dial in to access email, share files, and frequent forums to chat with others about mutual interests.

Fast forward to June 2009, when Iran’s Green Movement hit the streets. Protesters, organizing and rallying on social media, demanded the ouster of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In response, the government blocked communications and social media sites.

A screenshot from the Iran Elections 2009 hashtag on Twitter that provided continuous updates on the unfolding situation following the presidential election and the demonstrations and crackdown that followed. (Twitter)

A screenshot shows the Iran Elections 2009 hashtag on Twitter that provided continuous updates on the demonstrations and crackdown that followed the presidential election. (Twitter)

When the dust settled, Iran published social media photos of protesters on a pro-Ahmadinejad website and circled their faces in red “in an attempt to identify individuals who participated in the protests,” said researcher Gillian Bolsover of the Oxford Internet Institute at the UK’s University of Oxford.

Social media, like any technology, can be used for good or ill, she noted. “It initially appears revolutionary but ends up being incorporated into existing power structures and benefiting existing power holders.”

The following year, The Arab Spring uprising rocked the Middle East. Democracy activists took to social media to rally, organize, and make a stand. “We had officials think they could turn off the internet for a period of time,” said digital media and marketing professor Ari Lightman, of Carnegie Mellon University.

They did. Egypt’s answer was a total shutdown of electronic media and all internet access.

Twitter users report on Egypt's internet shutdown in January 2011, following protests and against ousted President Husni mubarak. (Twitter)

Twitter users report on Egypt’s internet shutdown in January 2011, following protests against ousted President Hosni Mubarak. (Twitter)

Since then, many governments around the world have had an ambivalent relationship to social media platforms – they use them to communicate with their citizens but also are wary of what is happening in the digital realm. Governments are saying, ‘We need to pay attention to this trend that’s occurring and we have to utilize it to our advantage as best we can.’” said Lightman.

In some cases, government authorities turn to social media to engage citizens, pushing campaigns about disease outbreaks, for example, or debunking fake news and negative online coverage.

“What I’ve seen governments doing is … creating greater levels of awareness associated with engagement, social influence, differences between opinion versus fact,” he said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who won the 2014 election, used social media “really well to talk about his story, talk about his beliefs, to really engage various different citizens,” he added. “And some tout the fact that that helped him win the election.”

The victory tweet posted by Neranda Modi shortly after his 2014 election win as the country's prie minister. It was the most retweeted within a 20-minute period. (Twitter)

The victory tweet posted by Neranda Modi shortly after his 2014 election win as the country’s prime minister. It was the most retweeted tweet within a 20-minute period. (Twitter)

Despite the shift, Lightman argued that many governments, particularly in developing countries, don’t fully understand that social media “is not a traditional news aggregation channel” or that there are variations associated with it, such as bullying, radicalization, commercialization, and a host of other issues.

“One of the things we talk a lot about in my class is echo chambers, filter bubbles, and sort of this idea of radicalization or group mentality,” he said. “And that happens a lot within social media. And you want to pay attention to that. You want to sort of address it. But it shouldn’t dissuade governments, I believe, and it shouldn’t force them to crack down on the channel.”

FILE - A blocked website shows a notice from Thailand's Ministry of Digital Economy and Society with the message, 'This website contains content and information that is deemed inappropriate. It has been censored by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society,' Nov. 17, 2016, in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP)

FILE – A blocked website shows a notice saying, ‘This website contains content and information that is deemed inappropriate. It has been censored by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society,’ Nov. 17, 2016, Bangkok, Thailand. (AP)

Nevertheless, Thailand has been restricting online posts deemed critical of the monarchy in recent months. And China, which keeps a close eye on online discourse, uses the medium “as a channel to communicate directly with citizens and monitoring social media as a barometer of public opinion,” Oxford’s Bolsover said.

And for China, this is a “natural evolution” from the state media environment in the country pre-internet, she noted. “So I think that rather than seeing the internet as a completely new tool that changes state approaches to information, it should be seen as a tool that is used by existing power-holders to further their existing strategies and goals.”

More recently, China ordered internet service providers to shut down all virtual private networks (VPNs) that connect citizens to Western websites and social media services in an effort to curtail the flow of information.

That only goes so far, said Lightman, and even the country’s Great Firewall can be brought to its knees.

“People are incredibly innovative,” he said. “… Folks are always going to find a way.”

So instead of cracking down on these services, he said governments should find a way to work with online populations, which in the case of Facebook or Twitter-based Chinese service Weibo, for example, could number in the millions.

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Thai Activists Fight for Web Freedom; Google to Train Millions in Africa

Posted July 27th, 2017 at 1:10 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - A blocked website shows a notice from Thailand's Ministry of Digital Economy and Society with the message, 'This website contains content and information that is deemed inappropriate. It has been censored by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society,' Nov. 17, 2016, in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP)

FILE – A blocked website shows a notice saying ‘this website contains content and information that is deemed inappropriate. It has been censored by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society,’ Nov. 17, 2016, Bangkok, Thailand. (AP)

Thai Activists Work to Keep Open Web Amid Online Freedom Restrictions

Thailand’s military junta has been steadily pursuing people who allegedly have defamed the country’s king on Facebook and other online services. Writer Janjira Sombatpoonsiri notes that hundreds of websites were blocked in May as internet restrictions increased. But pro-democracy activists are fighting back with cyber activism, distributed denial of service attacks on government websites, and online petitions.

Why Facebook’s Free Internet Service Is Failing

Facebook is under fire again for its limited Free Basics internet service in developing countries. A report released by Global Voices, a citizen media and activist group, said the service is overflowing with Western content and also failing to meet local linguistic needs. The research, which covered Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan and Philippines, noted that Facebook’s service harvests huge amounts of data from users. Writer Olivia Solon quotes Global Voices’ advocacy director Ellery Biddle as saying Facebook is “building this little web that turns the user into a mostly passive consumer of mostly western corporate content. That’s digital colonialism.” Facebook said the report only looked at a few markets and that Free Basics is an open platform for content providers.

Google Hopes to Train 10 Million People in Africa in Online Skills

Google is expanding a 2016 initiative to train young people in Africa in digital skills, to include 10 million Africans over the next five years. The company also hopes to train 100,000 software developers in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. CEO Sundar Pichai said the effort aims to prepare these people for future jobs.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Cybersecurity Key Concern for APAC; Google Preps for ‘Future of Work’

Posted July 26th, 2017 at 1:03 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - A woman surfs the Internet on a computer for visitors in Seoul, South Korea. (Reuters)

FILE – A woman surfs the Internet on a computer for visitors in Seoul, South Korea. (Reuters)

APAC Users Not Confident Their Online Data Is Properly Secured

A new survey released by the Internet Society shows cybersecurity is a top concern for consumers in the Asia-Pacific, with more than 70 percent saying they believe their online personal data is not properly secured. Up to 55 percent said they were unlikely to use online services without security guarantees. The survey sample covered more than 2,000 respondents in 40 markets in the region. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said they were uncomfortable revealing financial information online. About 60 percent said they lacked the knowledge and tools to protect their online credentials and privacy.

Google.org Is Launching $50 Million Effort to Prepare for ‘Future of Work’

Google.org, the charitable arm of the search giant, is investing in new programs in the U.S. and Europe to help people prepare for work changes precipitated by rapidly advancing technologies. The planned initiative envisions training for young people and connecting them with potential employers, improving working conditions, and providing job equality for low-income workers. However, as writer Tony Romm points out, Google’s announcement did not specify the technologies that are disrupting traditional workplaces, such as artificial intelligence and automation, in which Google is a key player.

Google Launches ‘Trusted Contacts’ Location Sharing App on iOS

Google’s new app is now available on both Android and iOS platforms. It allows users to share their location among a trusted list of friends, either to stay connected on a casual basis or to alert friends in case of emergencies. Trusted Contacts integrates Google Maps and the company’s Share Location feature to let users share their whereabouts with their contacts.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Gamers, Computer Users Push Limits of Scientific Research

Posted July 21st, 2017 at 11:30 am (UTC-4)
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Gamers and computer owners are joining forces with EVE Online’s Project Discovery and IBM’s World Community Grid in what could be a future avenue for accelerating underfunded scientific research.

Nearly 50,000 people are hunting for new planets outside Earth’s solar system in the massively multiplayer game EVE Online, thanks to a recent tweak from developer CCP Games that makes a mini game called Project Discovery part of EVE’s universe.

Project Discovery is a collaboration between CCP Games, Massively Multiplayer Online Science, Reykjavik University, the University of Geneva, and Swiss astrophysicist Michel Mayor. When it launched last year, players had the opportunity to help scientists identify patterns of protein distribution in human cells while getting rewarded for their effort. The project was so successful CCP Games decided to bring the search for exoplanets into EVE.

If a transit body is found, a Project Discovery player can mark the light curve, which shows the intensity of an object, with a period. In this screenshot, the transits align in a period of 0.5208, which means the player found a planet that orbits it's star every 0.5208 days. (Sverrir Magnússon, CCP Games)

If a transit body is found, a Project Discovery player can mark the light curve, which shows the intensity of an object, with a period. In this screenshot, the transits align in a period of 0.5208, which means the player found a planet that orbits it’s star every 0.5208 days. (Sverrir Magnússon, CCP Games)

Participating players examine graphs called ‘light curves,’ which are measurements of light emanating from a star. They look for regular dips in the curve that indicate that the star’s light is being eclipsed. This in turn helps them determine if a transit body is passing in front of that star and identify new planets. In the process, they earn a variety of rewards.

“The core of the concept was seamless integration – with visuals, game mechanics, the narrative and the reward system,” said Attila Szantner, co-founder of Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS) in an email.

Dr. Michel Mayor greets players when they first launch the Discovery Project and introduces them to the program.When the research is done, players can open the rewards windows shown above to claim a variety of items. (Sverrir Magnússon, CCP Games)

Dr. Michel Mayor greets players when they first launch the Discovery Project and introduces them to the program.When the research is done, players can open the rewards windows shown above to claim a variety of items. (Sverrir Magnússon, CCP Games)

“Though gamification is heavily used in other citizen science projects, as far as we know this approach, this level of integration with already existing AAA titles [games with big budgets and promotion] has never been done before,” he added.

Citizen science plays “an interesting and important role in research,” he said, not only as a tool for crowdsourcing data analysis or data acquisition, but also as “an invaluable tool in science outreach.”

Several other projects, including Zooniverse, Eyewire, FoldIt, and Phyloand are also reaching out to citizen scientists with games and other tools to push research into underfunded fields, such as neglected tropical diseases.

More recently, IBM dedicated $200 million to expand the role of the private sector and volunteers in climate research through its World Community Grid, a collaboration that aims to provide scientists with more computing power – a growing trend that could point the way toward the future of research.

“It’s certainly one direction,” said Jennifer Ryan Crozier, President of the IBM Foundation and VP of Corporate Citizenship. “We know supercomputing power is a really important instrument for successful research. And with limited funding, this is a really effective way for serious researchers to get their hands on it.”

All it takes is a personal computer or a mobile device.

“Volunteers around the world are able to contribute at a really low bar of entry,” Crozier told Techtonics. “… It takes less than five minutes to sign up your Android device or your laptop and get it contributing and then you have a lot of choice about what kind of research you want to be contributing your computing power to.”

An unintrusive program is installed on the volunteers’ devices to run scientific calculations during downtime. It stops if the computer is needed or if resources are low. On mobile devices – only Android for the moment – it will only use Wi-Fi and run when the battery is charging. When the calculations are done, volunteers send the data back to scientists teaming up with IBM.

“We partner with researchers who are tackling these problems and provide them with millions-dollar worth of computing power for free to really accelerate and scale up their research effort,” said Juan Hindo, Program Manager of World Community Grid, in an interview with Techtonics.

Drugs for neglected diseases, for example, don’t get a lot of commercial interest or research funding, she noted. “And so we’re here to fill a gap to say ‘these are humanitarian causes that impact millions of people, whether it’s access to clean water or tropical, neglected diseases that research for is underfunded.’”

Scientists at Tsinghua University in China use IBM's World Community Grid to discover the conditions necessary for moving water through carbon nanotubes 300 percent faster without requiring additional energy. The discovery has implications for more efficient water filtration. (Tsinghua University)

Scientists at Tsinghua University in China use IBM’s World Community Grid to discover the conditions necessary for moving water through carbon nanotubes 300 percent faster without requiring additional energy. The discovery has implications for more efficient water filtration. (Tsinghua University)

More than 730,000 volunteers have already contributed to research ranging from solar power and battling disease in Africa, including Zika and Ebola, to water filtration systems in China.

Chinese researchers using the World Community Grid have been trying to understand how nanotechnology could make large-scale water filtering more efficient. The effort “could have real implications for rural areas or regions of the world that don’t’ have access to big water filtration infrastructure plants,” said Hindo.

All researchers using the Grid are required to comply with an open data policy and make all their findings publicly available to benefit the scientific community at large. “And it really helps us address these challenges at a faster scale by spreading the knowledge,” she added.

Since its launch in 2004, the World Community Grid has donated one million years-worth of computing power, valued at around $500 million.

“The scale that this is able to offer is often something that researchers haven’t conceived of because they are so limited by their funding,” said Crozier.

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

‘Devil’s Ivy’ Bug Hits IoT Devices; China Begins VPN Crackdown

Posted July 20th, 2017 at 12:57 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - The logo of Axis Communications is shown n Paris, France. (Reuters)

FILE – The logo of Axis Communications is shown n Paris, France. (Reuters)

​Millions of IoT Devices Hit by ‘Devil’s Ivy’ Bug in Open Source Code Library

Cybersecurity experts have been warning about potential risks to Internet of Things (IoT) devices for months. Now, millions of IoT devices, including Axis Communications’ security cameras, are vulnerable to remote attacks because of a flaw in a widely-used open source code library. Researchers with IoT security firm Senrio who discovered the bug, called Devil’s Ivy, were able to use it to reboot the cameras repeatedly, change network settings, and block owners from accessing the video feed.

Amid VPN Crackdown, China Eyes Upgrades to Great Firewall

At least one Chinese telecom carrier has begun implementing Beijing’s directive to curb the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and other tools that bypass the country’s Great Firewall. The move allows China’s censors to extend their control beyond the limits of the firewall, which blocks access to overseas websites. But local internet service providers can filter and censor content at home and on smartphones at a more granular level. The country’s state-owned telecom has also warned foreign companies against using VPNs beyond connecting to their headquarters.

ECJ to Rule on Whether ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Can Stretch Beyond EU

After a three-year legal battle between Google and France, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is getting ready to decide whether Google should also delete the search records of Europeans living outside EU confines in order to protect their privacy. France believes the rule is meaningless unless it applies universally. If Google wins, all will be for naught. But Google says extending the rule elsewhere could induce other countries to limit free speech.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

WhatsApp Partially Blocked in China; Google Overhauls Mobile Search

Posted July 19th, 2017 at 1:31 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - The WhatsApp logo appears on a smartphone in New York. (AP)

FILE – The WhatsApp logo appears on a smartphone in New York. (AP)

Chinese Government Partially Blocks WhatsApp Service

The WhatsApp messaging service ran afoul of Chinese government censors as part of a wider effort to restrict messengers that do not follow the country’s surveillance policies. The government partially blocked messages in China on Monday, with users reporting instances of undelivered messages that contain pictures and audio. Beijing is prepping for its 19th Communist Party Congress this fall, so the crackdown could be related to that event.

Google Is Shaking Up Mobile Search With Smart New Feed

Google is redesigning its mobile search engines to offer users a more “personalized” experience. What this means is Google will be using your previous interactions and location to offer you related local area information whether you ask for it or not. The new feature is dubbed “Google feed.”

Amazon’s Push Into Social May Set It on Collision Course With Facebook

Spark is a new “social shopping” site from Amazon. The app runs a feed that lets users scroll through as they would with an Instagram feed and click on images they like to buy items. Depending on how serious Amazon is about social media at this point, writer Kevin Kelleher argues Spark could set it on a collision course with Facebook.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Facebook Rejects Pakistan Policy Change; ‘GhostCtrl’ Malware Returns

Posted July 18th, 2017 at 12:01 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - A social media rights activist points to a Facebook page of a militant group featuring their late leaders, describing them as, "innocent martyrs," in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 7, 2017. (AP)

FILE – A social media rights activist points to a Facebook page of a militant group featuring their late leaders, describing them as “innocent martyrs,” in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 7, 2017. (AP)

Facebook Denies Pakistan Policy Change Request

Facebook informed the Pakistani government it was not interested in complying with its request to change authentication policies from email addresses to telephone numbers. Last week, Pakistan asked Facebook to make the change in order to track fake account owners and those who engage in hate speech or blasphemy. Pakistan sentenced a man to death a few weeks ago for making disparaging comments on social media about Islam and other topics.

Android Malware Uses New Tricks to Turn Your Phone Into a Spying Device

Trend Micro security researchers have discovered an Android malware dubbed GhostCtrl that allows hackers to remotely control a victim’s phone. According to the research, GhostCtrl is an extension of OmniRAT, a worm that extracts data. OmniRAT targeted patient data at Israeli hospitals a few weeks ago. GhostCtr often masquerades as a legitimate app and installs a malicious package that runs in the background when launched.

Android as We Know It Is Dead, but It’s Not Going to Go Away

Despite its dominance, powering around 85 percent of new shipped phones, Android has multiple problems Google is aware of, such as the fragmentation of the Android operating system, security and a troubled Linux legacy at its core. To address these problems, Google came up with Project Fuchsia, which aims to fix all of Android’s problems by starting with a clean slate. The Android brand, however isn’t going anywhere.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Give Away Your Cellphone Number

Posted July 14th, 2017 at 11:30 am (UTC-4)
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FILE - A vendor browses magazine at a news stand with a paper displaying mobile phone numbers for sale in Beijing. (AP)

FILE – A vendor browses magazine at a news stand with a paper displaying mobile phone numbers for sale in Beijing, China. (AP)

Cellphone numbers are slowly becoming personal identifiers – a role all-important social security and national numbers have fulfilled for decades. But these mobile gateways to your life are left unprotected in an age of hacking, data mining, and sheer negligence.

For the past 50, 60, 70 years, social security numbers have been the key that private investigators and information brokers used to tap into credit reports, addresses, dates of birth and a whole lot more.

With that kind of data, investigators can run the social security number into different indexes and find out about finances, property ownership, criminal records and more, said Thomas Martin of Martin Investigative Services and author of Seeing Life Through Private Eyes: Secrets From America’s Top Investigator to Living Safer, Smarter, and Saner.

“But now, where’s your identifier? asked cybersecurity expert Shaun Murphy, CEO of sndr.com. “Well, it’s your social media profile. It’s your email. It’s your messaging application. And guess where all those things are? It’s … your phone.”

Traditional wisdom has it that you don’t give your social security number to just anyone because it reveals so much about you. But when asked, many people often freely give away their cellphone number – the “number one gateway to your identity,” as he put it in a chat with Techtonics.

“Your entire life is on your phone,” he stressed. “Most people have their emails, their social media, their pictures, their location-tracking applications – and all these things are on one little tiny spot that fits in your pocket. And someone could grab it out of your pocket very easily.”

Grant permission to an app and it can “listen to your microphone all day” or “potentially steal data off your phone as well,” added Murphy.

“Not too long ago, if a computer program you had on your Windows or Mac desktop would call home or would try to access the internet, we would freak out,” he recalled. “… But nowadays, everything does that. … It is a whole different world.”

Criminals already have figured out that it is far easier to use a cellphone number to get all the data they want than chasing after a social security number. And they are not deterred by two-factor authentication, noted Martin, a former federal investigator.

“Now, the bad guys around the world … and who are hackers, can get your cellphone number and then that is a gateway to your living room,” he told Techtonics. “… Now, I can get into your text messages, your email, your photos, your Amazon account, your credit card information.”

Once they have your phone – and everybody has either ‘1234’ or ‘bingo’ [for passwords], I mean those things are easily obtained, that’s the least of the hackers’ worries – once they have your number, your password is kind of like making oatmeal – Thomas Martin

FILE - A Chinese investor uses his smartphone to check stock prices in a brokerage house in Beijing. (AP)

FILE – A Chinese investor uses his smartphone to check stock prices in a brokerage house in Beijing. (AP)

It could also be a gateway to your bank account. In the age of mobile banking, financial institutions offering these services are not obligated under any “rules or regulations to protect your cell number.”

“Everything that you do with your banking is tied to your cell number,” said Martin. “So once I have your cell number, I can find out your banking. I can find out your bank account, your checking account, your savings accounts, your IRAs, your retirement, I can find all that out.  … I’m telling you what the real world is. I’m not telling you that we do that.”

Yet that those same cellphone numbers are compiled and sold by companies making “billions off of the fact that they can gather information about you,” said Murphy.

“They can sell your data,” he said. “… Sure, they’re interested in securing their own interests, but securing you data – well that’s sort of against what their mission is. … It turned out to be an incredible business model.”

“There are no regulations,” added Martin. “There are no rules by the government, by the states, by the cities to make any effort to try and regulate it. …  We get many calls from corporate executives or famous people or entertainers who say … somebody got a picture of me through my cellphone and they want $100,000.”

Just this past Wednesday, an Israeli company left up to six million Verizon subscriber records publicly available on a storage server – cellphone numbers, account numbers, names – all available for download with little effort.

Verizon apologized in a statement, but claimed media reports were overstated and that there was “no loss or theft of Verizon or Verizon customer data information.” The statement also noted the server had “a limited number of cellphone numbers for customer contact purposes.”

“The way to solve the problem,” said Martin, ” … is to have two or three phones. I would have one phone that is as clean as Mother Theresa,” he explained. “And that phone would only be used to receive calls and maybe every once in a while to make a call. … And that phone would have no text[ing].”

The other option is to use a prepaid or burner cellphone, where you pay for whatever call you make and dispose of the phone.

“The phone that you have your kids pictures on, your relatives pictures or your texts that are sent to your boyfriend, girlfriend, buddies, friends, neighbors, pictures that you share – all of that is on a separate phone that you never, ever, ever give out,” he advised.

Juggling three phones might be a problem for people who prefer to have all their data on one device, or for 18-23-year-olds who grew up with cellphones and never owned a landline. “Their whole life is in that cellphone,” he said.

This is why Murphy believes people need to be more protective of their devices and smarter about what apps they download, what permissions they give, and who they share their cell number with because their life could be stolen without their knowledge, and they might not even understand the implications of that loss.

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Report: AI Will Deepen Social Divides; India Leads Global Facebook Use

Posted July 13th, 2017 at 12:33 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

A woman inputs orders for a robot which works as a waitress in a restaurant in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China, April 20, 2016. (Reuters/China Stringer network)

FILE – A woman inputs orders for a robot which works as a waitress in a restaurant in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, China, April 20, 2016. (Reuters/China Stringer network)

New Report Says Robots, AI Will Make Social Inequality Even Worse

A new report from UK charity Sutton warns that developments in automation and artificial intelligence will deepen the divide between rich and poor in the UK unless the government takes action. The report suggests it will be easier for richer people to retrain for new skills as automation puts at risk an estimated 15 million jobs.

What Should You Do If You’re a Verizon Customer?

Verizon now says only six million subscriber records were exposed Wednesday on an unsecured service at an Israeli subsidiary. But security experts prefer not to take chances and advise users to change their passwords or PIN codes and monitor their credit card accounts. A Verizon spokesman also advised subscribers to be wary of suspicious emails or callers claiming to be from a bank or utilities company.

India Overtakes USA as Facebook’s Number 1 Country

Facebook’s largest audience as of July 13 is in India, according to the company’s latest figures. India’s “potential audience” is estimated at 241 million active users, compared to 240 million in the U.S. Facebook has seen a 27 percent increase in active users in India in the last six months and only a 12 percent increase in the United States during the same period.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Millions of Verizon Records Leaked; Tech Giants Rally for Net Neutrality

Posted July 12th, 2017 at 12:51 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - Logo of Israeli software provider NICE Systems is seen at their headquarters in Raanana, Israel. (Reuters)

FILE – Logo of Israeli software provider NICE Systems is seen at their headquarters in Raanana, Israel. (Reuters)

Millions of Verizon Customer Records Exposed in Security Lapse

Up to 14 million Verizon subscriber records were left unprotected on an Amazon storage server in Israel. An employee of Israel-based NICE Systems left the information unsecured on the server and available for download with little difficulty. The leak includes sensitive records of customers who called Verizon in the past six months. Privacy advocates caution that NICE Systems works closely with several government intelligence agencies and phone-hacking groups. Cybersecurity experts warn potential consequences could lead to phone hijacking and account takeovers.

Apple Sets Up China Data Center to Meet New Cybersecurity Rules

Apple is setting up its first data center in China’s southern province of Guizhou in collaboration with local internet providers to comply with the latest, tough cybersecurity rules Beijing introduced in June. The center’s cloud data storage services will be operated by Chinese companies, but Apple said no backdoors will be allowed in the system that might compromise privacy and security. The latest cybersecurity laws subject foreign companies moving more than 1,000 gigabytes of data out of the country to annual security reviews.

Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Spotify Among Firms Pushing Net Neutrality Day of Action

Up to 40 technology companies launched a Day of Action Wednesday to encourage internet users to voice their concerns this week before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolls back Obama-era internet protections. Apple is noticeably missing from the group. Net neutrality rules required internet providers to treat all traffic equally without selectively controlling content and speed to prioritize their own paid material, for example, or throttle traffic.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.