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World’s Biggest Internet & Telecom Giants Are failing at Protecting Users’ Digital Rights

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 Google has the highest score. Facebook, not so much. Overall, there are no winners. Users are still the losers.

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An independent ranking chart pitting the world’s biggest internet and telecommunications giants to look at corporate practices and measures used for protecting the freedom of expression and privacy among millions of users revealed Google to rank the highest. Facebook figures way behind.

The scale is a part of ‘The Ranking Digital Rights 2015 Corporate Accountability Index’ overseen by non-profit Ranking Digital Rights, wherein a number of indicators were accounted for to ultimately provide an aggregate score of the world’s foremost internet and telecom companies’ privacy policies and practices.

Accountability Index

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A total of 31 indicators rooted in three categories including privacy, freedom of expression and commitment were assessed. Guidelines for the three categories were borrowed heavily from existing international human rights frameworks.

Right away, the report reveals a damning claim:

We found that many of the world’s most powerful internet and telecommunications companies fail to disclose key information about practices affecting users’ rights.

Quite simply, the index shows user privacy isn’t at the top of the priority list for most tech giants, if at all any.GoogleHQ

Eight of the top publicly listed companies each in the telecom industry and the internet space to a total of 16 were chosen for the index.

Citing the need for substantial improvement, only six companies of the sixteen scored at least 50 percent with Google being the overall highest at 65.

Half the companies in the list scored less than 25 percent to show “a serious deficit of respect for users’ freedom of expression and privacy.”

The director of Ranking Digital Rights, Rebecca MacKinnon said:

When we put the rankings in perspective, it’s clear there are no winners.

Few Key Insights from the Rankings:

  • Microsoft ranked the best among the commitment indicator for its openly disclosed commitments to users’ digital rights and subsequent measures to implement those commitments.
  • Facebook’s lack of disclosures and poor policies with recent acquisitions Instagram and Whatsapp and its own privacy disclosures are lagging behind every other company in the index.
  • Google’s business model wherein customized data is sold to advertisers in a round-about way restricts the search giant from gaining better numbers, despite it being first among all companies ranked.
  • Overall, disclosures relating to collection, sharing, usage and retention of user information are poorly done by most companies and are ambiguous at best.

While the scores of individual companies may be deemed arbitrary, it shows an insightful glimpse into where the world’s foremost internet and communications companies — those who service billions of users globally — are succeeding and failing in their practices and policies.

It isn’t all gloomy, however, as the report highlights every company in the index to, at the very least, have policies in place to safeguard users’ digital rights. Furthermore, companies are also becoming more transparent in revealing information about government requests to look into users’ information, deny services or censor content.

The entire index with detailed insights into all 16 companies ranked across various parameters can be found here.

Ranking Digital Rights is a non-profit research initiative based in Washington D.C. and collaborates with an international network of partners to improve freedom of expression and privacy by focusing on policies and practices of companies, predominantly in the information technology sector.

Images from Shutterstock & Digital Rights Group.

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Breaches

Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet

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Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.

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Massive Data Breach

According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.

The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.

At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.

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“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”

Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.

Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp

The Fall of Uber?

Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.

The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.

Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”

Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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Cybersecurity

The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency

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For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.

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The Pirates Are At It Again

The Pirate Bay has been caught using software called Coinhive, a JavaScript library that essentially serves as a cryptocurrency miner. It basically connects to visitors’ computers to mine Monero, one of the world’s most profitable cryptocurrencies.

The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”

Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.

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Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.

CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors  know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.

“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.

The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.

Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally

The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.

Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.

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Breaches

Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.

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Ethereum Forges Higher Path

Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.

At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.

The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.

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Fractured Bitcoin Community

Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.

Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.

Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.

Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.

Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist

Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.

In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.

The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)

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