Privacy SOS

Technology news you can use

SENATE WILL VOTE ON NET NEUTRALITY RESOLUTION // From Motherboard: Democratic Senators Are Officially Forcing a Net Neutrality Vote

When net neutrality protections officially end on June 11, internet service providers will be able to prioritize, throttle, and block lawful content. To prevent this travesty, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) filed a petition in the Senate on May 9, initiating a Congressional Review Act motion to overturn the December 2017 FCC order repealing net neutrality. Currently, the resolution has 50 supporters in the Senate, meaning Markey and his merry band of internet freedom fighters need just one more vote to win in that body. If an additional senator ultimately decides to join the cause, the resolution will move on to the House, where it faces a substantially more difficult political battle. Take action to support the effort to protect net neutrality!

COMCAST PLANS TO KEEP GORGING // From Motherboard: Comcast is Already Hated—and It’s About to Become a Lot More Powerful

Award-winning least favorite company Comcast has just announced plans to acquire 21st Century Fox and the European TV company Sky. Back in 2011, Comcast acquired NBC Universal for $30 billion. Back then, regulators considered Comcast’s growing monopoly a cause for concern, but only worked some “flimsy conditions” into the deal, and allowed Comcast to put forth its own restrictions. Unsurprisingly, the light touch regulative approach didn’t work; Comcast didn’t even follow its own rules. As it builds its media business, Comcast has steadily grown its broadband business. In light of the company’s pattern of anti-competitive behavior, consumer advocates worry about this deal’s implications for “smaller companies, journalists, and media operations trying to compete with it.” Comcast’s growing control over the internet and media could have horrible consequences for consumer privacy and net neutrality. After all, without alternative ISPs, consumers won’t be able drop Comcast even if they disapprove of their policies. Comcast says that it will only follow through with the deal if AT&T is able to acquire Time Warner. Given that analysts believe that AT&T will be successful in that merger plan, it looks like Comcast is about to get even bigger. To fight back, take action to support consumer internet privacy and net neutrality in Massachusetts!

ALEXA’S EARS ARE WIDE OPEN // From the New York Times: Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You can’t.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley discovered that the Amazon Echo can receive embedded commands in music or recorded speech. Specially edited tracks sound like normal music to a human’s ears, but an Echo device in earshot of them would pick up on and respond to secret instructions. Uh oh. Using this hack, so-called “smart” digital assistants could be instructed to unlock the door, disable an alarm, or visit a malicious website—all without the owner’s knowledge.

COHEN’S VERY OWN COLLUSION SCANDAL?// From the Verge: Net neutrality, mergers, AT&T, and Michael Cohen: what we know so far

An explosive document published last week reveals that President Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, received large sums of money from AT&T, Novartis, Columbus Nova, and Korea Aerospace Industries for consulting services. According to the document, AT&T alone paid him $200,000, but the actual sum could be as high as $600,000. Given that AT&T has its own robust, well-connected legal team, some wonder whether the payments had anything to do with the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality. AT&T maintains that it contracted Cohen’s consulting firm to gain “insights into understanding the new administration.”

THE HACK THAT KEEPS ON GIVING// From Vox: Equifax denied passport numbers were involved in its data breach in February. Now it’s admitting they were.

After experiencing a massive data breach last year, Equifax vehemently denied that consumers’ passport numbers were compromised. But in a recent regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company admitted that in addition to the 38,000 driver’s licenses, 12,000 Social Security or taxpayer ID cards, and 3,000 other government-issued IDs, 3,200 passports were indeed compromised. The backtracking and delayed disclosure mirror how Equifax has dealt with other elements of the breach. Although they discovered the breach in July of 2017, they did not inform consumers until September, after executives sold $2 million of shares. Additionally, the company initially announced that 143 consumers’ data had been compromised, but they later said that the true number is 148 million.

This post was written by ACLU of Massachusetts intern Iqra Asghar.

© 2018 ACLU of Massachusetts.