Comcast Paid Civil Rights Groups To Support Killing Broadband Privacy Rules

Seth Martin
  
Techdirt.Techdirt. wrote the following post Wed, 05 Apr 2017 08:24:00 -0500

Comcast Paid Civil Rights Groups To Support Killing Broadband Privacy Rules

For years, one of the greasier lobbying and PR tactics by the telecom industry has been the use of minority groups to parrot awful policy positions. Historically, such groups are happy to take financing from a company like Comcast, in exchange for repeating whatever talking point memos are thrust in their general direction, even if the policy being supported may dramatically hurt their constituents. This strategy has played a starring role in supporting anti-consumer mega-mergers, killing attempts to make the cable box market more competitive, and efforts to eliminate net neutrality.

The goal is to provide an artificial wave of "support" for bad policies, used to then justify bad policy votes. And despite this being something the press has highlighted for the better part of several decades, the practice continues to work wonders. Hell, pretending to serve minority communities while effectively undermining them with bad internet policy is part of the reason Comcast now calls top lobbyist David Cohen the company's Chief Diversity Officer (something the folks at Comcast hate when I point it out, by the way).

Last week, we noted how Congress voted to kill relatively modest but necessary FCC privacy protections. You'd be hard pressed to find a single, financially-objective group or person that supports such a move. Even Donald Trump's most obnoxious supporters were relatively disgusted by the vote. Yet The Intercept notes that groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens and the OCA (Asian Pacific American Advocates) breathlessly urged the FCC to kill the rules, arguing that snoopvertising and data collection would be a great boon to low income families:

"The League of United Latin American Citizens and OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, two self-described civil rights organizations, told the FCC that “many consumers, especially households with limited incomes, appreciate receiving relevant advertising that is keyed to their interests and provides them with discounts on the products and services they use."

Of course, folks like Senator Ted Cruz then used this entirely-farmed support to insist there were "strenuous objections from throughout the internet community" at the creation of the rules, which simply wasn't true. Most people understood that the rules were a direct response to some reckless and irresponsible privacy practices at major ISPs -- ranging from charging consumers more to keep their data private, or using customer credit data to provide even worse customer support than they usually do. Yes, what consumer (minority or otherwise) doesn't want to pay significantly more money for absolutely no coherent reason?

It took only a little bit of digging for The Intercept to highlight what the real motivation for this support of anti-consumer policies was:

"OCA has long relied on telecom industry cash. Verizon and Comcast are listed as business advisory council members to OCA, and provide funding along with “corporate guidance to the organization.” Last year, both companies sponsored the OCA annual gala.

AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Verizon serve as part of the LULAC “corporate alliance,” providing “advice and assistance” to the group. Comcast gave $240,000 to LULAC between 2004 and 2012.

When a reporter asks these groups why they're supporting internet policies that run in stark contrast to their constituents, you'll usually be met with either breathless indignance at the idea that these groups are being used as marionettes, or no comment whatsoever (which was the case in the Intercept's latest report). This kind of co-opting still somehow doesn't get much attention in the technology press or policy circles, so it continues to work wonders. And it will continue to work wonders as the administration shifts its gaze from gutting privacy protections to killing net neutrality.

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#Privacy #Net Neutrality #Communications #Comcast #FCC #Lobbying #LULAC #Politics @LibertyPod+ @Gadget Gurus+ @Laissez-Faire Capitalism+
Is there a replacement for email?

Seth Martin
  last edited: Sun, 12 Mar 2017 12:14:19 -0500  
Finally, if you could create an alternative open standard system that could do all the things that email can do, it would probably have the same problems. That’s why I don’t think it will happen.

Oh look, Hubzilla is "an alternative open standard system that could do all the things that email can do", and it doesn't have the same problems. Now how can Hubzilla's Zot protocol gain popularity?

Is there a replacement for email?

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David is fed up with spam, phishing and viruses, and thinks email is no longer fit for purpose. What could he use to replace it?


#email #Spam #Malware #Communications #Hubzilla #Zot #Decentralization @Gadget Gurus+ @LibertyPod+
In Final Speech, FCC Chief Tom Wheeler Warns GOP Not to Kill Net Neutrality

Seth Martin
  last edited: Sat, 14 Jan 2017 09:55:00 -0600  
Since government is creating an environment where only some entities can afford to play, government must also protect the market from their abuse of power.

MotherboardMotherboard wrote the following post Sat, 14 Jan 2017 08:00:00 -0600

In Final Speech, FCC Chief Tom Wheeler Warns GOP Not to Kill Net Neutrality

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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler delivered an impassioned defense of US net neutrality protections on Friday, one week before Republicans who have vowed to roll back the policy are set to take control of the agency.

In his final public speech as the nation’s top telecom regulator, Wheeler warned that Republican efforts to weaken FCC rules ensuring that all internet content is treated equally will harm consumers, stifle online innovation, and threaten broadband industry competition.

“The open internet is the law of the land,” Wheeler declared during a speech at the DC offices of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. “Tampering with the rules means taking away protections consumers and the online world enjoy today.”

Open internet advocates say strong net neutrality safeguards are needed to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from creating online fast lanes for their own content or discriminating against rival services. The telecom giants, and their Republican allies in Congress, accuse the FCC of overstepping its authority and shackling their business models.

Wheeler’s departure from the FCC on January 20, President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration day, will leave the agency in the hands of Republican officials who have made no secret of their intention to dismantle the FCC’s policy. That would be a grave mistake, Wheeler said.

“To take those protections away at the request of a handful of ISPs threatens any innovation that requires connectedness and with it the productivity gains, job creation, and international competitiveness required for America’s economic growth,” Wheeler said. "It is time to keep moving forward. This is not the time to retreat and take things away.”
“Vigilance to protect that which Americans now enjoy must be our watchword.”

The FCC’s policy safeguarding net neutrality is the centerpiece of an ambitious pro-consumer agenda advanced by Wheeler over the last three years. Open internet advocates say that without net neutrality, hugely popular online video and communications services like Netflix and Skype could have been snuffed out by ISPs in favor of their own rival offerings.

“Those who build and operate networks have both the incentive and the ability to use the power of the network to benefit themselves even if doing so harms their own customers and the greater public interest,” Wheeler said. “Access to the network is what the new economy is built on, and it must not be taken away.”



FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's Final Public Address
by The Aspen Institute on YouTube

Unfortunately for open internet advocates, the prospects for the FCC’s net neutrality policy are bleak under Trump’s administration. The president-elect’s FCC transition team is led by right-wing ideologues who are expected to recommend a new anti-net neutrality chairman to replace Wheeler. And Trump himself has taken to Twitter to disparage the FCC’s policy.

In his speech, Wheeler warned Republicans soon to be in control of the FCC that reversing the agency's net neutrality policy is “not a slam dunk” because of the “high hurdle, imposed by the Administrative Procedure Act, of a fact-based showing that so much has changed in just two short years that a reversal is justified.”

Meanwhile, in Congress, Republicans are already scheming to kneecap the FCC’s policy. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Tennessee Republican who was recently tapped by the GOP to be the new chairman of the House telecom subcommittee, has described net neutrality as a “socialistic” Obama plot to take over the internet.

Blackburn, who has received mountains of campaign cash from the telecom industry since first being elected in 2002, has been trying to kill net neutrality for years. In the coming months, she will finally get her chance, possibly by working with other lawmakers to pass new legislation that claims to protect net neutrality, while actually gutting the FCC’s policy.

Outgoing FCC Chairman Wheeler, who has written books about the Civil War, concluded his remarks by quoting from Abraham Lincoln’s famous first inaugural address: “While the people retain their virtue, and vigilance, no administration … can very seriously injure the government, in the short space of four years.”

“The vigilance Lincoln spoke of means we must be alert to name-only, so-called net neutrality policies that actually retreat from the protections that exist today,” Wheeler said. “Vigilance to protect that which Americans now enjoy must be our watchword.”


#Net Neutrality #Internet #FCC #Communications #Politics @Gadget Guru+ @LibertyPod+ @Laissez-Faire Capitalism+
... "Surprise"!

Gadget Gurus
  
Technology | The GuardianTechnology | The Guardian wrote the following post Fri, 13 Jan 2017 05:00:16 -0600

WhatsApp backdoor allows snooping on encrypted messages

Exclusive: Privacy campaigners criticise WhatsApp vulnerability as a ‘huge threat to freedom of speech’ and warn it could be exploited by government agencies

A security backdoor that can be used to allow Facebook and others to intercept and read encrypted messages has been found within its WhatsApp messaging service.

Facebook claims that no one can intercept WhatsApp messages, not even the company and its staff, ensuring privacy for its billion-plus users. But new research shows that the company could in fact read messages due to the way WhatsApp has implemented its end-to-end encryption protocol.
Continue reading...


#WhatsApp #Signal #Encryption #Social Networking #Communications #Surveillance #Snooping #Privacy
Secure Messaging Takes Some Steps Forward, Some Steps Back: 2016 In Review

Seth Martin
  
DeeplinksDeeplinks wrote the following post Thu, 29 Dec 2016 18:10:08 -0600

Secure Messaging Takes Some Steps Forward, Some Steps Back: 2016 In Review

This year has been full of developments in messaging platforms that employ encryption to protect users. 2016 saw an increase in the level of security for some major messaging services, bringing end-to-end encryption to over a billion people. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen major platforms making poor decisions for users and potentially undermining the strong cryptography built into their apps.

WhatsApp makes big improvements, but concerning privacy changes
In late March, the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp introduced end-to-end encryption for its over 1 billion monthly active users.  The enormous significance of rolling out strong encryption to such a large user-base was combined with the fact that underlying Whatsapp’s new feature was the Signal Protocol, a well-regarded and independently reviewed encryption protocol. WhatsApp was not only protecting users’ chats, but also doing so with one of the best end-to-end encrypted messaging protocols out there. At the time, we praised WhatsApp and created a guide for both iOS and Android on how you could protect your communications using it.

In August, however, we were alarmed to see WhatsApp establish data-sharing practices that signaled a shift in its attitude toward user privacy. In its first privacy policy change since 2012, WhatsApp laid the groundwork for expanded data-sharing with its parent company, Facebook. This change allows Facebook access to several pieces of users’ WhatsApp information, including WhatsApp phone number, contact list, and usage data (e.g. when a user last used WhatsApp, what device it was used it on, and what OS it was run on). This new data-sharing compounded our previous concerns about some of WhatsApp’s non-privacy-friendly default settings.

Signal takes steps forward
Meanwhile, the well-regarded end-to-end encryption app Signal, for which the Signal Protocol was created, has grown its user-base and introduced new features.  Available for iOS and Android (as well as desktop if you have either of the previous two), Signal recently introduced disappearing messages to its platform.  With this, users can be assured that after a chosen amount of time, messages will be deleted from both their own and their contact’s devices.

Signal also recently changed the way users verify their communications, introducing the concept of “safety numbers” to authenticate conversations and verify the long-lived keys of contacts in a more streamlined way.

Mixed-mode messaging
2016  reminded us that it’s not as black-and-white as secure messaging apps vs. not-secure ones. This year we saw several existing players in the messaging space add end-to-end encrypted options to their platforms. Facebook Messenger added “secret” messaging, and Google released Allo Messenger with “incognito” mode. These end-to-end encrypted options co-exist on the apps with a default option that is only encrypted in transit.

Unfortunately, this “mixed mode” design may do more harm than good by teaching users the wrong lessons about encryption. Branding end-to-end encryption as “secret,” “incognito,” or “private” may encourage users to use end-to-end encryption only when they are doing something shady or embarrassing. And if end-to-end encryption is a feature that you only use when you want to hide or protect something, then the simple act of using it functions as a red flag for valuable, sensitive information. Instead, encryption should be an automatic, straightforward, easy-to-use status quo to protect all communications.

Further, mixing end-to-end encrypted modes with less sensitive defaults has been demonstrated to result in users making mistakes and inadvertently sending sensitive messages without end-to-end encryption.

In contrast, the end-to-end encrypted “letter sealing” that LINE expanded this year is enabled by default. Since first introducing it for 1-on-1 chats in 2015, LINE has made end-to-end encryption the default and progressively expanded the feature to group chats and 1-on-1 calls. Users can still send messages on LINE without end-to-end encryption by changing security settings, but the company recommends leaving the default “letter sealing” enabled at all times. This kind of default design makes it easier for users to communicate with encryption from the get-go, and much more difficult for them to make dangerous mistakes.

The dangers of unsecure messaging
In stark contrast to the above-mentioned secure messaging apps, a November report from Citizen Lab exposes China’s WeChat messenger’s practice of performing selective censorship on its over 806 million monthly active users.  When a user registers with a Chinese phone number, WeChat will censor content critical of the regime no matter where that user is. The censorship effectively “follows them around,” even if the user switches to an international phone number or leaves China to travel abroad. Effectively, WeChat users may be under the control of China’s censorship regime no matter where they go.

Compared to the secure messaging practices EFF advocates for, WeChat represents the other end of the messaging spectrum, employing algorithms to control and limit access rather than using privacy-enhancing technologies to allow communication. This is an urgent reminder of how users can be put in danger when their communications are available to platform providers and governments, and why it is so important to continue promoting privacy-enhancing technologies and secure messaging.

This article is part of our Year In Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2016.

Like what you're reading? Support digital freedom defense today!
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#Encryption #Privacy #Communications #Messaging #Security #WhatsApp #Signal #LINE #Allo #incognito  
@Gadget Guru+ @LibertyPod+
Never at my workplace!

Seth Martin
  last edited: Tue, 11 Oct 2016 12:58:51 -0500  
We use #Hubzilla at my workplace so our data remains our data!
I'm also considering introducing the team to Riot/matrix for a Slack/IRC like experience.

MotherboardMotherboard wrote the following post Tue, 11 Oct 2016 11:45:00 -0500

Facebook's Version of Slack Is Coming for Your Workplace. What Now?

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Sitting at work all day scrolling through Facebook is almost definitely frowned upon by your bosses, but Facebook wants to change that with the launch of a new version of Facebook—specifically designed for work—called Workplace.

Facebook is ubiquitous. If it’s not Mark Zuckerberg handing out “Free Basics” to developing countries, it’s internet connectivity beamed down from giant, solar-powered drones. As of July 2016, the social network had 1.71 billion monthly users. Facebook is without doubt one of the most pervasive technological phenomenons of the 21st Century. Thing is, Facebook’s hit a brick wall when it comes to growth. Everybody who would want to use Facebook, generally speaking, is already, or at least will be using Facebook very soon. So, to eke out the last embers of growth in a saturated market, Facebook has now, officially, entered your workplace.

Workplace by Facebook launched on Monday October 10 after almost two years of development and months of beta tests on early customers. The service is the social giant’s new effort to infiltrate businesses around the world, and to rival office apps like Slack and Microsoft’s Yammer. Essentially, it’s a modified version of the Facebook we all know and love/hate. It’s the same algorithms, the same news feeds, the same ability to share photos and documents and chat in groups or in private—only your bosses can see everything that happens and it’s all controlled by your company’s IT team. Workplace is on mobile, too, with standalone apps for Android and iOS meaning employees can access everything remotely, just like users would with the regular Facebook app.

Facebook, with Workplace, is hoping to revolutionise how companies want to work with employees by shedding the old ideals of emails and intranet. “It's for everyone, not just for one team, not just for five percent of the company, it's for everyone from the CEO to the factory workers to the baristas in the coffee shop,” a Facebook spokesperson said at the London launch event this week, which Motherboard attended. “Even people who don't have a desk, even people who have never had a PC, even people who have never had an email.”

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Image: Workplace by Facebook

The question is, to what extent will this horizontal workflow management clash with privacy concerns? If your team or company decides to implement Workplace, will signing up be compulsory? It would seem so, if Facebook has its way and truly lets your bosses ditch emails and intranet and all of the inner workings of PC-based bureaucracy. But then what?

The Facebook spokesperson at the launch event said it best when he was explaining how the chief information officer of an airline wanted to be able to see what his staff were doing in their personal, consumer versions of Facebook groups. “Every crew of every flight were using Facebook groups,” the spokesperson said. “It's not necessarily what the CIO of the company wanted, because he wants to control who sees the information.”

But the reason why many organisations will be attracted to Workplace, such as the familiarity employees will have with regular old Facebook, could also be its downfall. Employees will be accustomed to Facebook being a place for gossip, cat videos, and friends. So what’s the decorum for Workplace by Facebook? While the two are completely different applications, old habits die hard. Who can you trust to speak to in private? Is my group being monitored for productivity? Do I have to befriend everyone in the company, and if I block someone’s news feed, will my boss know I hate them?
Your workplace chats may well one day be used as evidence against you

It’s also worth noting, as highlighted in the Gawker vs Hulk Hogan case, in which Gawker Media’s Slack conversations were subpoenaed for court, that your workplace chats may well one day be used as evidence against you. While data on Workplace belongs to the company using it, rather than Facebook, it’s still wise to watch what you say with any office productivity app. Facebook did not immediately respond to Motherboard’s request for comment on whether workplace chats would be susceptible to subpoenas.

Ultimately, Facebook is banking on the familiarity of the platform winning over customers. It’s appears easy to use and offers all of the same features as regular Facebook. But in the end, only time will tell whether employees will ever be, or ever want to be, comfortable using Facebook as a work tool or not.


#CCF #Facebook #Social Networking #Communications #Privacy @Gadget Guru+
Google Fiber is now a fiber and wireless ISP

Gadget Gurus
  
Ars TechnicaArs Technica wrote the following post Mon, 03 Oct 2016 15:50:43 -0500

Google Fiber is now a fiber and wireless ISP

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Webpass radios on a San Francisco building. (credit: Webpass)

Google Fiber today said it has completed its acquisition of Webpass, a wireless Internet service provider that will figure prominently into its plans for deployment of high-speed Internet. But the Alphabet division is not giving up on fiber, saying it will use both wireless and fiber networks to compete against cable companies and telcos.

Google Fiber revealed its plan to buy Webpass in June, and the company said in an announcement today that Webpass "is now officially part of the Google Fiber family." The Webpass site has been updated to call the service "Webpass from Google Fiber."

"It’s been impressive to watch Webpass evolve from a boot-strapped startup to an established category leader with tens of thousands of happy customers in five major metros from San Francisco to Boston," Google Fiber President Dennis Kish wrote.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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#Google #Fiber #ISP #Webpass #Communications