Blog 1 – Pre-semester research

FBI director wants to resolve encryption issue before ‘something terrible happens’

Summary: FBI Director shares his concerns about US government and tech industry’s relationship, and the need for a consensus on data encryption, given big tech companies like Apple not being forthcoming with data related domestic and international terrorism issues. Also gives the tech industry’s perspective, explaining why creating back doors for government is a bad idea.

Media: – July 28, 2016

Author:  Associated Press

Factual and impartial account of FBI Director James Comey’s statements about the relationship between the US government and the tech industry, and how there is a need for both parties to come to an agreement on how data is encrypted.

Comey is concerned about potential domestic and international terrorism issues arising if the government is unable to access some private data; he cites an example where of 4000 phones the government seized in 2015, 500 of them were inaccessible due to the encryption involved.

The article then talks about Apple’s role in the situation, and looks at an incident earlier this year where they wouldn’t allow access to a phone used in a mass shooting without a court order. This seems like Apple is the bad guy, but on the other hand, handing over private data in this way sets a bad precedent for the future.

It follows this with the suggestion from Congress that ‘back door’ access is vital, but that the tech industry warns that this would make the whole system more vulnerable to hacking.


How to make Google forget your most embarrassing searches

Summary: Details what data Google collects about you and how it collects it, and then explains how you can erase the information Google has about you, stop them from collecting any information in the future, but also pointing out why you might not want to.

Media: Sydney Morning Herald – July 6, 2016

Author: Andrea Peterson

The article goes into detail about how Google stores data about you so that it can deliver targeted advertising to you. Google has a timeline of your online activity that goes back to when you first opened a google account – this includes searches you’ve made, videos you’ve watched on YouTube, the places you’ve travelled to (as Google tracks this through its location services).

It starts to mention some positives: you can go back through the data it has on you to find something you’ve lost (like an old search you did a while ago), you’ll receive search results more relevant to you if Google knows what you’ve looked for in the past, the targeted ads it sends are at least more beneficial to you than ones aren’t if you’re going to be watching the ads anyway.

It also gives you a step by step guide to erasing all the data google has on you, and how to stop them from collecting any more information, but also ends by mentioning that it’s a trade off because you lose some service features.


Both articles highlight the pros and cons of data collection and surveillance. On the positive side, data collection allows for the better use of services designed to help you as the user, and can also be used to provide government agencies with information they can use to prevent global and domestic injustices, such as terrorism, human trafficking, and the drug trade. Negatively, individual privacy can be heavily compromised, and information about users can be used nefariously (ie. blackmail, identity theft, credit card fraud.)

Tech giants in data privacy win

Summary: Federal court in the US decides that the government cannot force Microsoft and other tech companies to divulge information stored overseas, primarily because of the precedents it sets in relation to the access it would provide other countries to data stored in the US.

Media:  The Australian – July 15, 2016

Author: Larry Neuimeister

Details a US federal court case where a panel of 3 judges concluded that the US government cannot force companies like Microsoft to turn over information stored on servers overseas.

The case is a huge precedent setting win for the tech industry, which now relies on heavily on ‘cloud computing’ the process of storing data offshore instead of on servers in the country of origin.

A big reason they court ruled the way they did was because it said that applying US warrants overseas could lead to tensions with other countries, and also that if the US starts doing this abroad, there’s no reason why other countries can’t come to the US looking for information that they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed access to.


France serves notice to Microsoft over data

Summary: French government tries to prevent Microsoft from collecting about its people because it violates civil liberties, as it collects data used for advertising without the consent of the user, and also takes that information outside of the European Union, which has already been legislated against.

Media: The Australian – July 21, 2016

Author: Associated Press

The French government is trying to stop Microsoft from collecting data about what its users are doing without their consent as it violates civil liberties. The move comes with Microsoft’s automatic updating to Windows 10, and suggestions from media and political groups that the new system is excessively gathering information about users.

Some of the issues that France has with the system are that unlimited tries are allowed to enter account locking pin codes, the unconsented use of targeted advertising, and no means of blocking ‘cookies’ which are installed onto computers obliviously to the user. They also stated that despite legislation to prevent it, Microsoft continues to send information about users outside of the European Union to the US.

Both articles look at how data collection causes issues on a global level, with international politics becoming a big factor in how data is transferred overseas, and who has a right to access this data.

Mark Zuckerberg covers his laptop camera and you should too

Summary: Talks about Mark Zuckerberg’s personal security measures, including taping up his laptop camera and microphone, and goes on to talk about why he is targeted by hackers. Also talks about other kinds of people who are targeted more often, and identifies some other ways to prevent being compromised.

Media: Sydney Morning Herald – June 23, 2016

Author: Katie Rogers

Founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg was photographed with a his laptop’s camera and microphone covered with tape, presumably to prevent any attempts to hack his privacy, which lead to speculation that if a tech boss like Zuckerberg was concerned about getting hacked then we all should be.

Goes on to talk about how Zuckerberg’s twitter and linkedin accounts have been hacked before, and notes the use of the same password across websites and no two factor authentication as potential reasons.

FBI Director James Comey also puts tape over his camera, purely because he saw some else doing it.

Researchers say that even regular people are at risk, and that it’s a valid security measure for everyone to employ, as hackers use webcam footage for extortion and voyeurism.

Research shows that women are most vulnerable to these kinds of attacks.


How Google’s head of cybersecurity Gerhard Eschelbeck protects his privacy and fights cyber criminals

Summary: In response to an article about Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s head of cybersecurity details his own personal security measures. One of these measures includes a new Google product called a Security Key, which acts as a 2 part authentication system.

Media: Sydney Morning Herald – July 1, 2016

Author: Esther Han

This article follows the Zuckerberg article, and adds turning off location services or browsing in incognito mode as other simple measures, before asking Google head of cybersecurity Gerhard Eschelbeck about his personal security measures.

Eschelbeck says these small things are unnecessary, and that staying on top of system software updates are the best way to stay safe. He says that not patching fast enough is the reason for the biggest security compromises of the past 9 months.

Eschelbeck, also mentions the Security Key he’s developing at Google, which is a two part authentication system (like the one Zuckerberg doesn’t have) which requires the user to carry a USB around which will unlock their accounts. Also talks why specifically smaller measures either don’t work or are unnecessary, and to use strong unique passwords.


These articles look at how big names in the tech industry approach personal data security, and the kinds of people that are likely to be targets for hackers, and how everyone generally can make their online activity more secure.