John McAfee is one of the strangest characters in the tech world, and for a while everyone thought he might be a murderer, so it only comes as a moderate shock that his most recent plans involve thwarting the NSA. Future Tense Central is the homepage for the D-Central device, which McAfee claims will create a private network for a small group of users that cannot be traced by any outside sources. D-Central has supposedly been in the planning phases for several years, but a countdown on Future Tense Central is currently leading up to next March, when a prototype of the device might see the light of day. If McAfee’s plans do come to fruition, D-Central will sell for less than $100 and NSA analysts will no longer be able snoop on our files or, even worse, attempt to date us.
With the NSA spying on everyone on the planet (not really), Apple tracking your every move (not really) and hackers constantly running amok (really), online privacy is one of the hottest topics around right now. Of course, some concerns might be just a tad overblown, but it’s still not a bad idea to know what your options are when it comes to hiding your online activity. As such, Co.Labs writer Abram Handler recently put together a quick little guide that will help worried Web users protect their digital communications, including instructions on how to encrypt chats and emails sent from your computer. And for those concerned about mobile spying, BGR already has you covered with our earlier piece on which mobile chat apps will best protect you from the NSA’s watchful eye.
Don’t mess with Texans’ email. Ars Technica reports that Texas has become the first state in the United States that requires law enforcement officials to get search warrants before snooping on citizens’ emails. The law only applies to state and local law enforcement officials, however, and won’t apply to federal officials who can still access emails without a warrant once they’ve been opened or if they’ve sat unopened in a user’s inbox for more than 180 days. The new Texas law comes at a time when electronic privacy has become a hot-button issue in the wake of revelations about the National Security Agency’s vast data collection program.
Facebook (FB) is planning another round of privacy changes with a focus on making it easier to control what’s shared and what’s not, according to The New York Times. Sam Lessin, Facebook’s director of product told the publication that a new always-visible button called “Privacy Shortcuts” will be added that will let users quickly change settings for what they share. Users will also finally be able to block other users they don’t want to have any interaction with. More →
It’s not just paranoid people who should be freaked out about having unmanned spy drones hovering over their neighborhoods at all times, as a new report from the Congressional Research Service says that drones could effectively end privacy in the United States. Andrew Counts of DigitalTrends does an excellent job of going through the CRS report and finds a number of details that should unnerve anyone who cares one bit about their right to privacy. More →
FBI plugs $1 billion into facial recognition tech to turn America into its own game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’
Hiding in plain sight is about to get a whole lot harder. New Scientist reports that the FBI is spending $1 billion to add facial recognition technology to its national fingerprint database as part of a broad upgrade aimed at making it easier to identify alleged criminals. While this sounds rather scary for civil libertarians, the FBI says that the facial recognition data base will only include official mug shots of known criminals, although New Scientist writes that there’s no guarantee the FBI will stick with this limited implementation. The site also reports that the database upgrade will “add biometrics such as iris scans, DNA analysis and voice identification” into the mix along with facial recognition tech.
Getting busted for allegedly violating your users’ privacy is never fun for any company, but for Google (GOOG) it recently became costly to the tune of a $22.5 million fine from the Federal Trade Commission. Never one to remain passive, Google has started scouting around for privacy experts who will comprise a new “red team” that will aggressively seek out user privacy risks within Google products.
California’s state legislature has just passed a law requiring police to obtain a proper warrant before using tracking technologies such as GPS to gather information on suspects, Ars Technica reports. The legislation, which was co-sponsored by both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for a signature, although Ars notes that Brown “vetoed California’s last attempt at enforcing stricter privacy rules in 2011, when he killed a bill that would have prevented police from searching the phones of apprehended suspects without a warrant.” More →
Unmanned aerial drones are set to become a shiny new toy used by law enforcement officials to gather information, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be restrictions on how they’re used. The Hill reports that the International Association of Chiefs of Police on Thursday released a set of recommendations outlining how surveillance drones should and should not be used. Mercifully, the chiefs “strongly discouraged” equipping the drones with weapons since lobbing cruise missiles at jaywalkers could incite a public backlash. More →
The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday announced that Google (GOOG) has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $22.5 million to settle charges that it misrepresented itself to users of Apple’s (AAPL) Safari Web browser. Earlier this year, it was discovered that the Internet giant had been bypassing the security settings on Safari to install unwanted third-party tracking cookies on computers even when such actions were supposed to be blocked. “The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. “No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place.” In addition to the civil penalty, Google is also required to disable all the tracking cookies that were wrongly placed on unsuspecting computers. The FTC’s press release follows below. More →
A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of President George W. Bush’s controversial Terrorist Surveillance Program, which allows the government to spy on Americans without a warrant. The court reversed an earlier decision in which two American attorneys were awarded more than $20,000 in damages and their lawyers $2.5 million in legal fees after they proved the government had spied on them without warrants. The earlier lawsuit was the first and only case that successfully challenged the controversial program. More →
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wants to know why the Transport and Security Administration has broken its promise to hold public hearings to create rules and regulations for its use of nude body scanners, Wired reports. You know, the ones that make it amazingly easy for people to sneak things onto airplanes. The court last year ordered the TSA to “act promptly” to hold public hearings on the controversial body scanners that have been set up at airports across the United States. But more than a year after receiving the court’s order, the TSA has yet to hold even one public hearing discussing any restrictions on how the scanners are used. The TSA has said that it doesn’t expect any sort of hearings to get started until 2013, Wired says. More →