Online Anonymity Eroded
The Age reports that the rise of websites requiring people to use the real names, and not an alias, is prompting concern amongst privacy advocates and internet users. Not only are people reportedly worried about restrictions on anonymous internet use, but they have also suggested that real name requirements are a cynical ploy to “exploit … information and mouse clicks for more money”. Services like Facebook and Google+ have reportedly defended their real name policies as a means of deterring criminal behaviour or other forms of abuse. University of Sydney sociology and social policy lecturer Dr Gavin Smith also reportedly suggested that the notion of privacy as a fundamental civil right may be replaced with acceptance of privacy as a commodity which can be exchanged for online services.
The Age: Death of anonymity online has net users fuming (5 September 2011)
(Source: The Age)
Security Breach Effects Felt Far and Wide
The Guardian reports that hackers have stolen security certificates from Dutch IT firm DigiNotar, and used these credentials to monitor some 300,000 internet users in Iran. The stolen certificates also allowed hackers to steal users’ passwords to a variety of online services. Fox-IT has reportedly suggested that DigiNotar’s network and procedures lacked the requisite security to prevent the attack, citing outdated software and a lack of antivirus protection. According to The Guardian, the Dutch Government is now examining whether the company bears criminal and civil responsibility for the breach.
The Guardian: Iranian net users hacked after security breach in Holland (6 September 2011)
Meanwhile, BBC News reports that Belgian security firm GlobalSign has also temporarily stopped issuing authentication certificates after claims that its servers were hacked.
BBC News: GlobalSign stops secure certificates after hack claim (7 September 2011)
(Source: The Guardian; BBC News)
Google Settles for US$500 Million Over Pharma Ads
The DOJ has reached a settlement with Google over allegations that the internet giant allowed Canadian companies to illegally advertise drugs for distribution in the United States. As part of its non-prosecution agreement, Google will forfeit $500 million in profits generated from the illegal advertising by Canadian pharmacies. According to the DOJ, knowledge of the advertising practices was widespread at Google, to the point that even current chief executive Larry Page “knew what was going on.” The agreement marks an expansion of the reach of federal drug laws and may lead to future investigations into search engine companies and their advertising practices.
New York Times: Behind Google’s $500 Million Settlement With U.S. (30 August 2011)
(Source: New York Times)
Missouri Teachers Seek to Stop Social Media Restrictions
The Missouri State Teachers Association is challenging a new state law that restricts private online communication between teachers and students. The new law, called the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, is designed to prevent teachers from abusing their students. However, the suit alleges that the law improperly prevents teachers from using online communication (like Facebook) to contact their children or relatives who happen to be current or former students. The sponsor of the law, state senator Jane Cunningham, has stated she is open to working with the group to amend the law.
Wall Street Journal: Missouri Teachers Sue to Protect Their Facebook Rights. (23 August 2011)
(Source: Wall Street Journal)
iPhone Faces Privacy Lawsuit
Jurist reports that over 26,000 iPhone users have joined in a lawsuit against Apple for alleged breaches of privacy. The lawsuit claims that applications installed on iPhones by Apple illegally collected location data, violating Articles 10 and 17 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. The plaintiffs are seeking KRW1 million each (approximately US$933) in damages.
Jurist: South Korea iPhone customers file class action against Apple over data collection (18 August 2011)
(Source: Jurist; National Assembly of the Republic of Korea)