Tech News Recaps


About 10 years past, this is what was making the headlines – with respect to questions about  Government surveillance and individual privacy issues.

For more than a decade now, Americans have made peace with the uneasy knowledge that someone – government, business or both – might be watching.

We knew that the technology was there. We knew that the law might allow it. As we stood under a security camera at a street corner, connected with friends online or talked on a smart phone equipped with GPS, we knew, too, it was conceivable that we might be monitored.

Now, though, paranoid fantasies have come face to face with modern reality: The government IS collecting our phone records. The technological marvels of our age have opened the door to the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance of Americans’ calls.

Torn between our desires for privacy and protection, we’re now forced to decide what we really want.

What’s being done with your data: Experts ask, shouldn’t someone get this under control?

Now that Facebook, Google and Amazon know pretty much everything about us, how they’re using that information is drawing the focus of politicians throughout the Western world, asking in effect: “Shouldn’t something be done about this?”

It’s not as though none of this was unforeseen. 

What are Web services anyway?

By David Berlind
February 12, 2002

“Web services” is nothing more than a fancy moniker for “big honking API (application programming interface).” Consider what xDBC (replace the x with O for “Open” or J for “Java”) and SQL (structured query language) did for databases. They made it possible for just about any software – reporting tools, spreadsheets, even word processors – to extract query results from any database. Any software. Any database.

Sun and Microsoft compete for IDs

By Connie Guglielmo & Charles Babcock
October 3, 2001 

When Sun Microsystems took to the pulpit last week to propose an alternative to Microsoft’s Passport, the move marked more than just another showdown between the technology industry’s two fiercest rivals. 

This time, Sun and Microsoft are on a bigger quest: to create a standard for digital IDs. One of the Holy Grails of online computing, the digital ID has been touted as the magical key that will unlock the Web and turn it into a wonderland of convenient, personalized services, while warding off crooks intent on stealing personal and credit card data from unsuspecting online users who want to live, work, and play in the virtual world. 

Sun challenged Microsoft’s Passport by launching the 33-member consumer-oriented Liberty Alliance Project, which will supply online user IDs and authorization. Sun announced the venture in New York City, which is still reeling from the Sept.11 terrorist attacks. 

As the U.S. continues to cope with the aftermath of the attacks, better forms of identification–digital IDs as well as a possible national ID authorized by the federal government–are being mentioned by some as one of the many cures for the nation’s security ills. 

Facebook travelled in the internet’s grey areas and now it faces a reckoning

Stuart Thomson
April 2, 2018 11:26 AM EDT

Your Google Play music tastes, your entire YouTube watching history, all the places you’ve used your phone, which can be displayed on a Google Map that places red dots on your whereabouts over the years. You can see all the ads you’ve clicked, the photos you’ve uploaded, the emails you’ve sent.

Facebook keeps a record of all your login attempts, with information about where, when and what device you used. Facebook knows all your friends, your likes and dislikes and it predicts your tastes based on what it knows.

It’s the digital equivalent of walking into a stranger’s house and finding zoom lens photography of yourself plastered over the walls. You’ll want to run screaming from the room and never look back.

These features can usually be disabled, but most of them are turned on by default. And Google and Facebook aren’t the only ones doing it, they’re just the best at it.

This kind of data is the lifeblood of the internet and anyone who’s ever thought for a minute about the business models driving all these companies should understand what’s going on. Google’s parent company has a value of $700 billion and Facebook has been hovering around $500 billion, based on products that are free for most users. There is an axiom for that: If the product is free, you are the product.

And it’s fair to say that Silicon Valley saw this coming.

“You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it,” said Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy.

That was in 1999, when Google was only a few months old, eight years before the iPhone and four years before Mark Zuckerberg started his “FaceMash” website in 2003 which allowed Harvard students to pass judgment on the hotness of their classmates.

A year later Facebook was born and a company called Cambridge Analytica was founded nine years after that, in 2013.

Here’s How Facebook Tracks You When You’re Not On Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg seemed uncomfortable answering questions about how Facebook tracks you when you’re not on Facebook. We went to Facebook’s website to find out exactly what’s happening.

Alex Kantrowitz
BuzzFeed News Reporter     Posted on April 11, 2018, at 4:12 p.m


Facebook tracks your browsing activity around the web with the “like” button

You know those Facebook “like” buttons you see around the internet? (There’s even one on this article.) They’re tracking your browsing activity whether you’re a Facebook user or not. “If you’re logged into Facebook and visit a website with the Like button, your browser sends us information about your visit,” Facebook’s website says. “If you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account and visit a website with the Like button or another social plugin, your browser sends us a more limited set of info.”

Here’s what Facebook says it tracks when you’re not logged in: “We receive info about the web page you’re visiting, the date and time and other browser-related info. We record this info to help us improve our products.”

Facebook tracks when you visited advertiser pages via the “Facebook pixel”

The Facebook pixel is a piece of code advertisers put on their sites that tracks your activity on those sites and reports it back to Facebook. Here’s how Facebook explains how it works: “When someone visits your website and takes an action (for example, buying something), the Facebook pixel is triggered and reports this action. This way, you’ll know when a customer took an action after seeing your Facebook ad. You’ll also be able to reach this customer again by using a custom audience.” 


Digital ID: You shop, they snoop?

By Stephen Shankland
Special to ZDNet News
February 8, 2002, 5:20 PM PT

SAN FRANCISCO-Sun Microsystems has joined a program called Auto-ID to build wireless digital identification tags into everything from razor blades to soup cans, Chief Executive Scott McNealy said Thursday. 


McNealy and his colleagues at Sun have eagerly anticipated the day when everything with a “digital heartbeat”-cell phones, cars, microwave ovens-is attached to the Internet. Sun hopes to supply the mammoth servers that will process all the information produced by these devices.

“I used to talk about everything with a digital or electric heartbeat” being connected to the Internet, McNealy told financial analysts in a speech here Thursday. “Now I’m talking about tomato cans, and I’m not making it up anymore,” he quipped.

Sun has joined the Auto-ID program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, funded by Procter & Gamble, Gillette, Wal-Mart, Unilever, Tesco, Target and other corporations.

“You put stuff in a grocery basket and just drive by (a detector),” McNealy said, describing the idea. The detector reads what’s in the basket, charges a person’s credit card and “tells the factory to restock the shelves,” McNealy said.

Privacy problems?
But building transponders into every sort of product could spark privacy concerns, said David Holtzman, an Internet security researcher and former Network Solutions chief technology officer.

People might not be comfortable walking around with items that identify themselves as medication, condoms or pornography. They also might not be comfortable with manufacturers tracking where products go after being purchased.
And “if legislators mandate mandatory tagging of things like firearms or ammunition, we could get both the left and right wing pissed off,” Holtzman said.

Keeping store shelves stocked or easing checkout isn’t a big deal, Holtzman said. But combining that product information with data about the individuals buying those products could raise hackles.

“Any one piece of information”-cell phone records, purchasing records, car location-“is not that damning or intrusive. But if you put them together, you’ve got my life,” Holtzman said. “It’s very hard to hide things when you have that level of analysis.”
Even if these uses aren’t what retailers and manufacturers have in mind, technology has a way of creeping into other domains, Holtzman added. Transponders for driving through electronic tollbooths started as a convenience to drivers but now are used in combination with timing analysis to send out speeding tickets, for example.



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