April 18, 2012
By Madison Ruppert
“Big brother is out of control – here is just one more example.” –KTRN
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has officially cleared Google of any and all wrongdoing in connection to their practice of covertly intercepting data from unencrypted Wi-Fi routers in the United States.
With Google set to start monitoring environmental information for targeted advertisements, gain Regina Dugan of DARPA, and even further expand their Big Brother policies all while maintaining a tight relationship with the government, this decision is somewhat par for the course.
That being said, this finding was still somewhat surprising since a federal judge previously ruled that Google could, in fact, be held liable for violating federal wiretapping legislation, which would thus potentially open Google up to lawsuits from individuals seeking damages.
It was not only a judge who found Google’s claims to be laughable, in fact Joel Burin, the Bureau of Consumer and Governmental Affairs chief, wrote in 2010, “Google’s behavior also raises important concerns. Whether intentional or not, collecting information sent over Wi-Fi networks clearly infringes on consumer privacy.”
In an order made public on Monday (which you can read below with a great deal of redacted information, unfortunately), reflecting a decision made by the commission on Friday, it is said that Google did not violate any wiretapping laws when they snooped on open wireless networks with their Google Street View mapping vehicles.
The FCC said that between 2008 and 2010, “Google’s Street View cars collected names, addresses, telephone numbers, URL’s, passwords, e-mail, text messages, medical records, video and audio files, and other information from internet users in the United States.”
June 2nd, 2011
By: Cathy Becker and Katie Kindelan
After a World Health Organization study concluded cancer, some are wondering what else in their homes and their everyday lives may be just as, or even more, dangerous to their health.
The World Health Organization, whose International Agency for Research on Cancer announced the results of its year-long cell phone study Tuesday, estimates that there are 5 billion cell phone users globally, representing nearly three-quarters of the world’s population.
A family of those 5 billion cell phone users can be found in the New York City home of Steve and Elizabeth Howard,and their two young sons, 9 month-old Luke and three year-old Graham.
Steve and Elizabeth, owners of five cellphones and an iPad among them, were initially calm in reacting to the multi-country study released by WHO that found people who used cell phones most often, an average of 30 minutes per day over 10 years, had a 40 percent higher risk for a rare brain tumor called a glioma.
“I kind of let it go in one ear and out the other,” Steve, the father, told “Good Morning America.”
The Howards’ ambivalent response could be a case of “the boy who cried wolf,” a response to the roughly 30 other studies that have tried, and failed, to establish any link between cell phones and cancer since cell phones hit the consumer market in the late 1970s.
What’s More Dangerous, Cell Phones or Microwave Ovens?
One study even found those who used cell phones occasionally had a lower cancer risk than those who used old-fashioned land lines.
But the latest decision from WHO placed cell phones on a list of possible carcinogens that includes the pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust.
Working as a hairdresser is considered riskier than using a cellphone, according to the IARC’s classification system, achieving “probable carcinogen” status. Other possible carcinogens include working as a dry cleaner or a firefighter.
Findings like those in the WHO study got the Howards questioning what else could be lurking in their home as a possible cancer risk. And are the radiation levels really that dangerous?
ABC News brought in Michael Knox, an electrical engineering professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University to examine the Howards’ home, testing their cell phone, Wi-Fi enabled computer and microwave, each a vital part of the Howards’ daily life.
“If I looked at these signal levels,” Knox said of the radio waves popping on his testing device. “If I had to say which one do you want to stay away from the most? The microwave oven. If anything, it’s transmitting a lot of energy,” he said.
Knox’s conclusion, that other items in the home may be even more dangerous than cell phones, matches the reaction among many doctors and experts to the WHO study, who say the data on cellphone use and brain cancer is still inconclusive.
“While experimental evidence and very limited human studies suggest that we should be cautious, people should realize there are many things we are exposed to every day that also is classified by IARC as possibly carcinogenic,” said Dr. Peter Shields, chief of Georgetown University Hospital’s cancer genetics and epidemiology program in Washington, D.C. “The classification used by IARC for cellphones is the lowest of all the carcinogenic classes, and no one should think that cell phones pose the same risk as smoking and asbestos.”
The WHO decided, in effect, to err on the side of caution.
Microwave Ovens May Be More Dangerous Than Cell Phones
“[The] IARC is saying that we should be cautious and think through what we do when we regulate exposures from cell phones,” Shields told ABC News. “They follow the precautionary principle and want to maximally protect public health.”
Nevertheless, some experts believe the evidence, inconclusive as it is, warrants caution. ABC News reached out to 92 physicians, 65 of whom said they would continue to hold their cellphones up to their ear, but 27 said they will use hands-free devices to minimize their risk.
The Howards say after the visit from Knox, they too plan to take similar caution.
“My children are so young I would want to limit the amount that they’re interacting with this sort of stuff,” said Elizabeth, noting she had previously allowed even 3-year-old Graham, to have his own cell phone, although it was not set up to make calls.
Researchers at the University of Utah established that the radiation dose is much higher inside the brains of 5- and 10-year-olds than in adults, a major concern as more children adopt cell phones.
Cell phone safety options for the Howards, and the world’s other 5 billion cell phone users, include texting more and talking less, or using hands-free devices.
“Use a wired ear piece, that absolutely has a minimal amount of radiation, or even use a Bluetooth which has substantially less radiation than a cell phone,” advised Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society, to ABC News.
In the U.S., the Federal Communication Commission set a maximum limit of 1.6 watts per kilo of body tissue. However, they did not test phones being carried directly in a person’s pocket, just inside of belt holsters. So far, the recommendation continues to be to hold your cell phone about one inch away from your body.
October 25th, 2010
By: Vanessa Allen
Google was accused of spying on households yesterday after it admitted secretly copying passwords and private emails from home computers.
The internet search giant was forced to confess it had downloaded personal data during its controversial Street View project, when it photographed virtually every street in Britain.
In an astonishing invasion of privacy, it admitted entire emails, web pages and even passwords were ‘mistakenly collected’ by antennae on its high-tech Street View cars.
Privacy campaigners accused the company of spying and branded its behaviour ‘absolutely scandalous’.
The Information Commissioner’s Office said it would launch a new investigation. Scotland Yard is already considering whether the company has broken the law.
Google executive Alan Eustace issued a grovelling apology and said the company was ‘mortified’, adding: ‘We’re acutely aware that we failed badly.’
Critics seized on the admission as the latest example of technology’s ever-expanding ability to harvest information about ordinary households, often without their knowledge or consent.
Google sent a fleet of specially equipped cars around Britain in 2008, armed with 360-degree cameras to gather photographs for its Street View project.
There were immediate complaints that the pictures were a security risk, after householders complained that house numbers and car registrations were easily identifiable.
Privacy fears followed when it emerged that individuals could be seen, including a man emerging from a sex shop in London’s Soho, three police officers arresting a man in Camden, North London, and children throwing stones at a house in Musselburgh, Scotland.
Earlier this year the California-based firm admitted that the cars’ antennae had also scanned for wireless networks, including home wi-fi, which connect millions of personal computers to the internet.
Google registered the location, name and identification code of millions of networks and entered them into a database to help it sell adverts.
The firm – which uses the slogan ‘Don’t be evil’ – was able to record the location of every wireless router and network without alerting households because wi-fi signals are ‘visible’ to other internet devices, including the cars’ antennae.
Google played down the significance of the wi-fi mapping and insisted it had not collected or stored data from personal computers.
It then backtracked and said its software had ‘inadvertently’ collected fragments of data which were being transmitted as the cars criss-crossed Britain.
The cars’ antennae skipped networks five times a second, it said, meaning each network was only accessed for one-fifth of a second.
But it has now emerged that entire emails, web pages and passwords were copied and stored during that split-second.
The information was only gathered from wireless networks which were not password-protected.
But it means the antennae potentially harvested millions of private emails and passwords around the country. It is not known how many householders have unprotected wireless networks.
June 22, 2010
By: Gregg Keizer
As many as 30 states could join an investigation into Google Inc.’s collection of personal information from unprotected wireless networks, Connecticut’s attorney general said today.
According to Richard Blumenthal, who issued a statement Monday, more than 30 states’ attorneys general have expressed interest in joining the investigation, which his office will lead.
Google’s response today was similar to what it said earlier this month.
“It was a mistake for us to include code in our software that collected payload data, but we believe we didn’t break any U.S. laws,” a company spokesman said in an e-mail. “We’re working with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns.
The joint investigation will ask Google for additional information about its snatching of data from personal and business Wi-Fi networks using the company’s Street View vehicles, which have cruised U.S. streets and roads since 2007 as part of an effort to map wireless hot spots for mobile location purposes.
Calling the practice “deeply disturbing,” Blumenthal also said the inquiry will look into possible violations of state laws, and whether state and federal privacy laws need to be strengthened.
“Street View cannot mean Complete View — invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications,” said Blumenthal in his statement. “Google must come clean, explaining how and why it intercepted and saved private information broadcast over personal and business wireless networks.”
Last month, Google acknowledged that its Street View vehicles had collected data from unsecured wireless networks around the world, but it said that snooping had been inadvertent. Earlier this month, Google CEO Eric Schmidt blamed an unnamed company engineer for adding code to the Wi-Fi detection software that grabbed fragments of data from nearby networks.
The company first disclosed the data-gathering when it conducted an audit after complaints by German data privacy authorities.
Google already faces investigations by privacy authorities in several European countries, including the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Last week, the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) said its investigation had concluded that Google had snatched passwords and extracts of e-mail messages from the air.
In the U.S., Google faces multiple civil lawsuits, and the company has been asked for more information from several congressmen as a preliminary step to a legislative hearing.
Google has asked that the lawsuits be consolidated and moved to a California federal court’s jurisdiction.
Blumenthal did not name the other states that will join the investigation, saying only that he expected “a significant number” to participate.
“[Google's] response so far raises as many questions as it answers,” argued Blumenthal. “The company must provide a complete and comprehensive explanation of how this unauthorized data collection happened, why the information was kept if collection was inadvertent and what action will prevent a recurrence.”