Weekly output: IoT security, Facebook privacy pop-up, L0pht hacker testimony, Tech Night Owl

This edition of my weekly recap features a new client: The Parallax, the security-news site founded in 2015 by former C|Net writer Seth Rosenblatt. At least two friends had suggested earlier that I look into writing there, but that didn’t happen until I spotted Seth at the Google I/O press lounge earlier this month and introduced myself. If you were going to ask about the absence of another client in this post: Yahoo Finance hasn’t forgotten about me, I haven’t forgotten about them, and I’ve got three posts in the works there this coming week. Hint: One involves a hydrogen-fueled car.

5/22/2018: IoT regulation is coming, regardless of what Washington does, The Parallax

I wrote up the panel I moderated at RightsCon two weeks ago–which required me to record the whole thing on my phone and then spend an hour and change transcribing everything. On the upside, having to set aside my phone to capture the audio meant I couldn’t be distracted by the Twitter backchannel during the panel.

5/24/2018: Don’t ignore this alert from Facebook. It’s your chance to quickly curb what it knows, USA Today

I filed a cheat sheet on the privacy-settings pop-up you may have already seen. I got my version of this interruption Friday; mine did not advise me to check the info in my profile, maybe because I don’t have anything there advertising my political or religious leanings.

5/24/2018: 20 years on, L0pht hackers return to D.C. with dire warnings, The Parallax

The lede for this popped into my head not long after arriving at the Rayburn House Office Building for this panel Tuesday afternoon and noticing that the name tags in front of the room featured the hacker handles of the four speakers instead of their given names: Kingpin (Joe Grand), Mudge (Peiter Zatko), Weld Pond (Chris Wysopal), and Space Rogue (Cris Thomas). At one point, Zatko complained about companies that try to win over customers by stapling on “flashy security products” like anti-malware utilities; as the Parallax is sponsored by the anti-malware vendor Avast, I made sure to include that line, and it went into the post intact.

5/26/2018: May 26, 2017 — Rob Pegoraro and Ben Williams, Tech Night Owl

I showed up on Gene Steinberg’s podcast to talk about my at-the-time incomplete iMac drive transplant (by the time he rang me on Skype, I hadn’t finished disassembling the old drive, which is an anxious point at which to have to set aside the work), the weird case of an Amazon Echo capturing and sending a recording of people’s in-home banter, and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Advertisements

Weekly output: disinformation, IoT security, do not disturb while driving, GDPR

I wrapped up three weeks in a row of business travel by going to Toronto for Access Now’s RightsCon conference. This was somehow my first trip to Canada’s largest city, and now I’m already looking forward to returning there next year for Collision.

5/16/2018: The Perfect Storm? Misinformation and Extremist Propaganda, RightsCon

I moderated this discussion with Institute for Strategic Dialogue project coordinator Chloe Colliver, Data & Society media-manipulation project lead Joan Donovan, and Graphika research and analysis director Camille François. It all went well, aside from when I thought the panel only ran for an hour and needed the audience to remind me that we actually had a 75-minute timeslot.

5/17/2018: Internet of (Stranger) Things: Privacy threats of the next generation of vulnerable devices, RightsCon

I’ve been quoting security researcher Bruce Schneier for years, and somehow Access saw fit to have me moderate a panel featuring him–as well as Ryerson University expert-in-residence Ann Cavoukian, Access policy manager Amie Stepanovich, and Atlantic Council fellow Beau Woods. The stage for this panel happened to feature a large fern on either side, so I had no choice but to rip off “Between Two Ferns” for my introduction.

Although RightsCon didn’t record video of either panel, a new client asked me to write up our discussion, so I recorded it on my phone; you can listen to that audio after the jump.

5/20/2018: This new smartphone feature should be used by every driver, from teen to seasoned commuter, USA Today

I wrote a cheat sheet for using the “Do Not Disturb while driving” feature Apple added to iOS 11, as well as the Android Auto app that should be in Google’s standard Android bundle but is not. Neither is all that new, but I don’t always get to write the headlines.

5/20/2018: EU to install sweeping changes to online privacy rules, PBS NewsHour

I did this remote interview with NYC-based NewsHour anchor Alison Stewart about the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation from a studio in D.C. before this afternoon’s Nats game. My last appearance on the show came in 2011; I’ll try not to wait so long before a return.

Continue reading

Weekly output: Facebook privacy, social media vs. disinformation, mobile-app privacy, data breaches

The Facebook-privacy news cycle doesn’t seem to be letting up, with every other day bringing some ugly new revelation about the social network’s stewardship of our data. I feel like I’m getting the tiniest taste of life as a White House correspondent these days.

4/2/2018: How Facebook should fix its privacy problem, Yahoo Finance

My key suggestions: collect less data, don’t try so hard to maximize engagement, and give U.S. users the same privacy controls that European users will get in May as required by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. On Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t commit to extending GDPR controls to the U.S.; on Wednesday, he said he would do just that.

4/2/2018: How Facebook should fight fake news, Yahoo Finance

Headline notwithstanding, this column is as much about Twitter as it is about Facebook–and a lot of it covers how large social networks like those two can’t necessarily adopt the strategies that have helped Wikipedia deter disinformation.

4/3/2018: After you delete old Facebook apps, take a hard look at Uber and Snapchat settings, USA Today

I would have written this piece faster if I hadn’t had the chance to see how the Samsung-ified Settings app on a Galaxy S7 buried a crucial app-permissions interface. Then I spent more journalistic processor cycles rewriting an explanation of how old versions of Facebook’s Android apps collected call and SMS logs.

4/4/2018: We need a federal law protecting consumers from data leaks, Yahoo Finance

This column inspired by Panera Bread’s data breach started in my head with the tweet I used to promote it. Reporting it involved an intersection of my college and professional lives: Stephanie Martz, the National Retail Federation lawyer I interviewed, is a fellow Georgetown Voice alum who graduated two years before me.

Weekly output: WiFi setup, big data and road safey, 2017 tech-policy successes, 2018 tech-policy forecasts, pay-TV rate increases

I’m wrapping up this year with a flurry of stories for Yahoo, without which I’d have had to invoice my client for a disgracefully low amount for December. Thanks for reading throughout 2017, and I’ll see you in 2018.

12/27/2017: WiFi how and why: Setting up a new router securely, USA Today

I really didn’t think I’d have to lead off this how-to column by reminding readers to change the admin password on their new router to something besides “admin” or “password.” But here we are…

12/27/2017: How your next navigation app could reduce your chances of a car crash, Yahoo Finance

I would have filed this post about interesting road-safety applications of auto-insurance firms’ data before Christmas but let myself get swamped my last week in town. CES Advent is just not my favorite time of the year.

12/27/2017: The 4 best developments in tech policy in 2017, Yahoo Finance

As crummy as 2017 has been overall, in the area of tech policy it could have been much more of a garbage fire.

12/28/2017: 2018 tech forecast: Expect more angst about privacy and net neutrality, Yahoo Finance

Mark my words: Some U.S. tech companies will be tripped up by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and will accordingly get whacked with a massive fine for violating that new set of privacy rules.

12/31/2017: Your pay-TV rate might be increasing — here’s what to do about it, Yahoo Finance

My last story of the year is a bit of a dog-bites-man story. Want to bet I’ll be able to write the same basic story at the end of 2018?

Weekly output: AI anxiety, iOS VPNs in China, side effects of unlimited data, Googling Islam, GDPR and data portability, leaving family wireless plans

I take a little pride in having made it through all of July without once writing about iPhone 8 rumors.

7/31/2017: AI worries, Al Jazeera

I talked about the recent argument between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg about the possible threat of highly competent, extraordinarily capable artificial intelligences. My take: The machines probably won’t kill us, but they may take some of our jobs.

Yahoo iOS VPN apps post7/31/2017: Apple’s decision to drop privacy apps in China might not be the last of its kind, Yahoo Finance

The eviction of VPN apps from the Chinese-market App Store is something anybody could have seen coming. And as long as Apple leaves itself as the only judge of which apps most users can install on iOS devices, we’ll keep seeing this kind of story play out.

8/2/2017: Study shows unlimited data plans are slowing wireless carrier speeds, Yahoo Finance

A lot of other sites ran with OpenSignal’s new study finding slower speeds at AT&T and Verizon Wireless after their belated reintroduction of unmetered-data plans, but most others didn’t try to compare that firm’s findings with those of other recent tests of the big four wireless carriers.

8/2/2017: Google and searches on Islam, Al Jazeera

My producer asked if I could talk about some recent controversy over Google favoring Islamophobic pages in results for some common queries about Islam. I have to admit I’d missed some of that news, but on closer inspection it fit with past episodes of Holocaust denial creeping up in Google results.

8/2/2017: A massive EU privacy rule could bring an unexpected benefit for US consumers, Yahoo Finance

I hadn’t paid much attention to the European Union’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation until moderating a panel about privacy issues at CES. But once I started looking at “GDPR” I realized that these EU rules could make a difference here by requiring social networks–hi, Instagram and Tumblr–to let their users take their data with them. I can only hope that this data-portability angle resonated with some readers.

8/6/2017: Options available when it’s time to leave the wireless-family-plan nest, USA Today

I would have filed this column a little earlier if AT&T still had the simple rate-planning tool that let visitors get estimates of different wireless plans; now, you have to step through signing up for service to see what you might pay.