As it stands now, it is crystal clear that Facebook Inc. has failed in its bid to stop the biggest search warrant ever received by the company. This came to fruition as a result of a court ruling in New York. The ruling has the potential of mitigating the volume of information social media sites relay to law enforcement agencies in the future.
The huge amount of digital information in the hands of social media companies have triggered privacy related worries across America and this has been made worse by law enforcement officials who utilize it as evidence of wrongdoing against people.
Cyrus Vance Jr. a Manhattan District Attorney, in 2013, secured 381 warrants in the build up of a Social Security fraud investigation. Just last year, Facebook postings that included; photos of people performing martial arts and riding jet skis, provided Vance the required evidence to nail about 134 persons charged with cheating the government by lying about their various disabilities.
Facebook’s appeal was allowed to stand although it had already complied with the search warrant, in a case that has attracted the attention of big players like Twitter Inc, Google Inc, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
In New York, a Manhattan appeals court on Tuesday validated Vance’s search warrants and unanimously ruled that Facebook lacks any right to challenge the warrants before they were executed.
Keeper of Law
The court said that the judge serve as a ‘constitutional gatekeeper’ that ‘protects citizens from the actions of an overzealous government,’ and that there are other means of protections against unreasonable searches; primary amongst all is that fact that a judge determines the validity of a warrant before it is issued.
The court went on to say that any evidence obtained unconstitutionally from an individual can be suppressed before the beginning of the trial.
Facebook spokesman Jay Nancarrow, through an email, has revealed that the company will continue to fight on behalf of its users. He had this to say:
We continue to believe that overly broad search warrants — granting the government the ability to keep hundreds of people’s account information indefinitely — are unconstitutional and raise important concerns about the privacy of people’s online information.
Joan Vollero, Vance’s spokeswoman said this through an email: The appeals court is the third to block Facebook’s efforts to prevent “lawful evidence gathering.”
Guilty as Charged
Vollero said that a total of 108 persons has already pleaded guilty to charges of the felony for partaking in the fraud and that the sum of $24.7 million must be returned.
The court said that “Our holding today does not mean that we do not appreciate Facebook’s concerns about the scope of the bulk warrants issued here. Facebook users share more intimate personal information through their Facebook accounts than may be revealed through rummaging about one’s home.”
This particular case is In re 381 Search Warrants Directed to Facebook Inc., 30207-13, New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department.
Images from Rose Carson and Shutterstock.
This Tool Lets you Scan the Dark Web for your (Stolen) Personal Data
A recently revealed a dark web scanning service was launched in the UK. The service is called OwlDetect and is available for £3,5 a month. It allows users to scan the dark web in search for their own leaked information. This includes email addresses, credit card information and bank details.
The service reportedly uses online programs and a team of trained experts to scan hundreds of thousands of dark web websites in order to look for their customers’ data. If any personal data is found, the company helps its users act in order to keep themselves safe. It was launched in an attempt to remove reliance on big companies, as users usually only know they were hacked after these companies make it public.
In a few cases, however, the information is revealed a long time after users are hacked. Earlier this year, Yahoo confirmed that, at least 500 million user accounts were compromised by what they believed to be a “state-sponsored actor”. The breach reportedly occurred in 2014, so it took users two years to know they were hacked.
Chairman of the National Cyber Management Centre, and member of OwlDetect’s advisory team, Professor Richard Benham said:
Today the risk of having your personal information compromised is greater than ever. From messaging apps to online shopping and dating websites, we trust a huge number of companies with our details, and there are endless opportunities for those details to fall into the wrong hands.
Crawling the Deep Web
The deep web is, as we all know, beyond the reach of regular search engines. That may be about to change in the future, as more and more tools keep on claiming to be able to crawl it in search for specific information.
According to their website, this new service has a database of stolen data. This database was created over the past 10 years, presumably with the help of their software and team. A real deep web search engine does exist, however.
A few days ago, Hacked.com reported how the Department of Defense’s deep web search engine was to be enhanced by a recent acquisition. This search engine, named Memex, is reportedly able to crawl 90 to 95% of the deep web, presenting its search results in sophisticated infographics.
Image from Shutterstock.
Facebook Looking into “Disrupting Economics” of Fake News Sites
In a Facebook post Friday night, founder of the popular social network Mark Zuckerberg took time to outline the steps the company will take to tackle its “fake news” problem, which has been a hot topic in the wake of the election. One way the social media behemoth plans on doing that is by making sure fake news sites can’t profit.
Mr. Zuckerberg calls it “disrupting fake news economics.”
“A lot of misinformation is driven by financially motivated spam,” he posted. “We’re looking into disrupting the economics with ads policies like the one we announced earlier this week, and better ad farm detection.”
Mr. Zuckerberg underscored that Facebook takes “misinformation serious” and reinforced the company’s goal “to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful.”
The social media tycoon admits “We’ve been working on this problem for a long time.” There’s more work to be done, he says.
“Historically, we have relied on our community to help us understand what is fake and what is not,” he wrote in the long post. “…The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically. We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible. We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or mistakenly restricting accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.”
Mr. Zuckerberg claims the percentage of misinformation is small, then outlines what Facebook will do, including stronger detection, easy reporting by users, third party verification via fact checking organization, warnings for stories flagged as false by other users, and raising bar for articles which appear in related articles suggestions.
“Some of these ideas will work well, and some will not,” he admits. “But I want you to know that we have always taken this seriously, we understand how important the issue is for our community and we are committed to getting this right.”
Image from Shutterstock.
LastPass Password Manager Goes Free Cross-Platform
LastPass, arguably the most widely used password manager around is passing on some welcome news to its users. Starting Wednesday, LastPass users will be able to sync their passwords across multiple devices and platforms, for free.
The cross-platform sync for users’ credentials, previously a perk enjoyed by paying members, will now be enabled for all users and members on the free tier can start using the feature immediately across on multiple devices beyond their desktops or laptops.
Launched in 2008, LastPass has come a long way in becoming a ubiquitous name in password management. Joe Siegrist, founder and general manager of LastPass who made the announcement , sees the move enabling good password habits into becoming the norm. Using a password manager that works everywhere across devices and platforms, he notes, will help users with a strong foundation for securing their identities.
LastPass protects users’ credentials (usernames and passwords) and other data in a vault that’s secured by a master password. The data is encrypted with AES-256 bit encryption with Sha-256 salted hashes, which enables encryption and decryption to take place offline.
The announcement makes for a significant move for LastPass, the second in as many years. In August 2015, LastPass announced that it would enable users to manage their passwords, for free, on any one device. The popular choice was, of course, between desktops or smartphones. Now, users will merely have to put up with ads to use LastPass on their mobile devices once they’re out and about, away from their desktops or laptops.
Just under a year ago, LastPass was acquired by remote-access management provider LogMeIn, in a deal worth $110 million. This year, LastPass was proven to be vulnerable through a phishing attack. Since the revelation, the company has revamped and strengthened its security framework, before eventually launching its own two-factor authentication app, comparable to the likes of Google Authenticator and Authy.
Image from LastPass.
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