British Man Impaled By Laptop

 by Tom Jowitt

A Briton living in New Zealand has suffered a bizarre injury after he was impaled by his laptop computer

A British man in New Zealand is recovering after suffering a freak injury caused by his laptop computer.

According to the New Zealand Herald newspaper, 52 year old William Warner suffered a horrendous hand injury after the DVD drive of his Toshiba laptop fired out a piece of metal which impaled his palm.

According to the newspaper report, Warner works as a driver in the Whangaparaoa area near Auckland. The Briton said that he had placed a disc on the DVD tray of his laptop, and was in the process of closing the drawer when a sharp piece of metal shot out and pierced his right palm.

Metal Spike

“I looked at my palm and I was wondering, God what just happened?” he is quoted as saying. “Then the pain … became excruciating and I had to be rushed to hospital.”

Warner was apparently taken to North Shore Hospital, where the 11cm metal spike was removed. His treatment included having a bone fused as well as stitches.

It seems that the metal spoke was part of the track holder of the DVD tray.

The accident reportedly happened a year ago, and Warner has been seeking compensation from Toshiba for the injury, after discovering from his doctors that the after effects may be permanent.

Warner states that he is struggling to complete simple chores.

“I’ve been told I can no longer fish or play golf, and even writing for me now is a struggle,” Warner reportedly said.

“I can’t believe that trying to play a DVD on the laptop would land me with injuries that ended the use of my right hand as I know it,” he said.

Replacement Laptop

Warner had first complained to the store where he purchased the laptop. He was asked to email the details so the problem could be raised with Toshiba.

Toshiba’s first response was apparently to offer Warner a replacement laptop, but he has since been negotiating for financial compensation.

The New Zealand Herald quoted Toshiba’s marketing communications manager, Mariana Thomas as saying that the company was aware of the case but would not make any further comment as it was in discussions with Mr Warner.

“Toshiba does not believe that the circumstances of the case raise any general safety issue with its products and stands behind their safety,” Thomas reportedly said. “We are not aware of any incident with a Toshiba product resulting in a person suffering injuries of a similar nature in New Zealand or elsewhere in the world.”

Hard To Verify

Of course incidents like this can be very hard to independently verify. Most injuries associated with laptops tend to be physical burns.

In June for example HP recalled 162,000 lithium-ion laptop batteries after a number of people reported incidents of injuries and burns affecting batteries that hadn’t been included in an earlier recall.

Prior to that, HP announced a recall programme in May 2010 affecting about 54,000 batteries, which itself followed on from a May 2009 recall affecting about 70,000 batteries, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Acer, Toshiba and Sony have also previously issued recalls for overheating machines.

In September 2010, 59-year-old Eileen Visser, a former school inspector sued her former employer Ofsted in the High Court for breaching safety regulations. Visser blamed her company’s laptop for causing a fire at her thatched cottage that resulted in more than £350,000 damages.

eWEEK Europe was unable to contact Toshiba UK for comment at the time of writing.

News Search Engines Security

Jeremy Hunt To Press Google On Copyright

 by David Jamieson

The culture secretary wants a new front in the war on online copyright infringement with the help of Google

The government is set to press Google to start pulling its weight in the fight against online piracy this week.

The call for more to be done will come in a speech from secretary of state for culture, media and sport Jeremy Hunt in Cambridge tomorrow, reports the Financial Times.

Hunt is expected to tell the Royal Television Society that search engines, advertisers and credit card companies should go further to “make life more difficult” for online pirates.

According to reports, if a court deems a site to be unlawful the government wants search engines to push it down the rankings to stifle traffic and at the same time cut off advertising or payment revenues to make the site economically unviable.

In the absence of an industry-led solution the government is apparently prepared to use the upcoming Communications Bill to legislate on the issue. The government has previously demanded that ISPs cut off pirate sites and users who infringe copyright, but this has been challenged in court by BT and TalkTalk – and ISPs have proposed an independent watchdog with the power to blacklist sites.

Equal rights

Hunt (pictured) will reportedly say that online businesses deserve the same legal protection and rights as offline, physical ones.

“We do not allow certain products to be sold in the shops on the high street, nor do we allow shops to be set up purely to sell counterfeited products. Neither should we tolerate it online,” the Financial Times expects him to say.

“The government has no business protecting old models or helping industries that have failed to move with the times. But those new models will never be able to prosper if they have to compete with free alternatives based on the illegal distribution of copyrighted material.”

The government has promised to table the new Communications Bill this parliament.

Pressuring search engines rather than ISPs over copyrighted content is a new approach for the government and opens up another front in the war against illegal content.

In July, Hollywood finally won a protracted legal bid to compel BT to block access to file-sharing site Newzbin which linked to copyright content around the Internet.

The ruling prompted fears from digital rights activists over the precedent set for other Internet service providers, potentially paving the way for further website blocking.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Google claims it already deals with requests from copyright holders within four hours.

In the US, the Departmebnt of Justice has fined Google £300 million for displaying adverts from Canadian online pharmacies, for products which it is illegal to sell in the US. Investors have sued the search giant over the incident.

Legal News

Nominet Considers Criminal Domain Takedown Rules

 by Matthew Broersma

Police could request a domain be blocked without a court order, if new proposals are adopted

Nominet, the registrar that handles .uk domains, is moving ahead with proposed rules (PDF) that could allow law enforcement agencies to request a domain be shut down without a court order.

The registrar launched the process in response to a request from the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). Currently Nominet’s rules don’t allow for domains to be shut down for criminal reasons, though in the past it has blocked domains at the request of law enforcement agencies on the pretext that they provided false contact details.

Limited application

Suspension of a domain will not require a court order but should be limited to circumstances where necessary “to prevent serious and immediate consumer harm”, according to Nominet.

The draft proposal would establish a process under which law enforcement agencies would request a domain be blocked in cases where “suspension is proportionate, necessary, and urgent”.

The policy would cover cases in which a site is involved in crimes covered under the Serious Crimes Act 2007, including fraud, prostitution, money laundering, blackmail and copyright infringement.

Nominet would only accept take-down requests from law enforcement bodies with which it has a trusted relationship.

The policy would allow for appeals and would not allow take-down requests related to “disputes between private parties, freedom of expression or political speech, or requests relating to offences where prosecution would require the authorisation of the Attorney General or the Director of Public Prosecutions”, Nominet said.

Nominet’s director of policy, Alex Blowers, said the policy was intended for cases where the delay needed to obtain a court order would allow damage to consumers.

Copyright enforcement

While the policy advisory group has taken input from the Alliance Against IP Theft, Blowers said the policy wasn’t intended for private copyright enforcement.

An advisory group was formed in March, chaired by Dr Ian Walden, a professor of communications law at Queen Mary University of London, and including members from law enforcement, ISPs, domain regsitrars and academia.

The group’s draft recommendations have now been published and Nominet is seeking feedback from stakeholders ahead of a 21 September meeting, where the issue will be discussed before submitting recommendations to the Nominet Board.

If adopted the rules could go into effect by the end of the year, and will be subject to an annual review.


Scavenging Free Green Power From Radio Waves

 by Eric Doyle

Radio wave propagation may be a form of pollution but it could be a source of free, ubiquitous energy

A free, green way to harvest energy from the radio waves all around us has been developed by a research team from Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

On a waveband basis, the available power is low, but there is a lot of it about with mobile phones, TV transmissions, satellite communications systems and Wi-Fi, to mention but a few, the air is full of radio waves. By scavenging this ambient energy, its AC pulses can be converted into DC power for storage in super capacitors or batteries.

A Revolution In Small Low-Energy Gadgets

For several years, the Georgia tech team has been working on very low-cost transducers that can tap into these transmissions and could result in a free, constant flow of electricity to power-up improved devices such as RFID tags, environmental monitors and medical sensors. It could even provide the power to add security to a new generation of RFID tags.

“There is a large amount of electromagnetic energy all around us, but nobody has been able to tap into it,” said Manos Tentzeris (pictured left), a professor and research leader in the Georgia Tech School. “We are using an ultra-wideband antenna that lets us exploit a variety of signals in different frequency ranges, giving us greatly increased power-gathering capability.”

The antennas will be low-cost to produce, he said, and the research units are printed using ordinary ink-jet machines using a nanoparticle “ink”. The substrate is either paper or a flexible polymer. The ink is described as “a unique in-house recipe” containing silver nanoparticles and/or other nanoparticles in an emulsion. This not only allows RF components and circuits to be printed but also opens up the possibilities of novel sensing devices based on carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials.

Many different frequency ranges are used by communications devices. The team’s scavenging devices can capitalise on frequencies from FM radio to radar, a range spanning 100MHz to 15GHz) or higher. The antennas can be tuned for use in specific environments, such as an airport where radar and fixed comms channels are major sources of free energy.

Scavenging Frequency Range Rapidly Increasing

When the research group began ink-jet printing antennas in 2006, the paper-based circuits only functioned at frequencies of 100 or 200MHz, recalled Rushi Vyas (pictured with Tentzeris), a graduate student who is working on the project.

“We can now print circuits that are capable of functioning at up to 15GHz-60GHz if we print on a polymer,” Vyas said. “So we have seen a frequency operation improvement of two orders of magnitude.”

Experiments using the transmission bands from a TV station half a kilometre away from the test site have yielded hundreds of microwatts of power. This was sufficient to run a temperature sensor but multi-band systems are expected to generate a milliwatt or more. The group is planning another demonstration where a microprocessor-based microcontroller would be activated simply by holding it in the air.

Super-capacitors may be used to power devices requiring above 50 milliwatts in a cycled operation. When power builds up to a preset level in the capacitor, it will be used to power the device and then will recharge.

The scavenging device could piggy-back solar energy panels so that, when the system stops generating power at sundown, the wireless energy could be used overnight to increase the battery charge or to prevent power leakage. The devices would also be useful in remote areas where an outage of a traditional power source could be flagged by sending a distress signal from an antenna-powered unit.

The possibilities are even more interesting in the world of RFID tags. Having a handy power supply attached would allow more features to be included in the tag. However, combining RFID tagging with sensors could offer even better returns.

Transportation of food is expensive and can be hit by strikes, vehicle or refrigeration breakdowns, traffic or timetable delays, and many other problems. Using radio-powered RFID tags linked to similarly-powered sensors would enable real time monitoring of any degradation in the cargo.

This possibility is not new but current systems rely on monitors using environmentally-damaging and more-costly batteries that have to be replaced from time to time.

Tentzeris said that self-powered, wireless, paper-based sensors will soon be widely available at very low cost but did not express a specific timeframe.


Survey: Consumers Want iPhone 5, Sight Unseen

 by Clint Boulton

Apple’s iPhone 5 is seeing heavy demand from consumers, even though they know nothing about it

Apple’s iPhone 5 is rumoured to be hitting the market this autumn, and the anticipation of what new perks Apple’s next-generation smartphone might offer users continues to percolate.

So frenetic is the fever pitch that 35 percent of nearly 3,000 US consumers surveyed online said they would buy the iPhone 5 upon its release later this year, according to Experian’s PriceGrabber shopping website.

Sight unseen

That means more than one-third of 2,852 people who filled out an online survey from 1 July through 11 July said they would buy the phone without ever having tried it. Fifty-one percent of respondents said that they will buy the smartphone within the first year of release.

Some 30 percent will purchase the device before the end of 2011, while 14 percent will buy it within the first month. Only 7 percent of those polled said they will buy it within the first week, a number that may change as they see friends, family and colleagues with the shiny new iPhones this fall.

It should be noted that those surveyed were clearly enamoured of Apple products.

PriceGrabber said that 48 percent of people polled said they preferred Apple’s iOS platform, compared to 19 percent who picked Google’s Android OS; 7 percent who chose Microsoft Windows; and 6 percent Research in Motion’s Blackberry.

Moreover, 69 percent of consumers indicated that they would prefer Apple’s iPhone 5 as a gift.

That compares to only 7 percent who claimed that they wanted Motorola’s forthcoming Droid Bionic, and only 4 percent opting to receive the Samsung Galaxy S II, perhaps the most heralded and anticipated Android smartphone that has yet to launch in the US.

Brand strength

The pledged purchasing faith in the iPhone 5 and clear iOS preference is a testimony to the power of Apple’s strong product brand, as well as the well-worn faith that Apple-focused and gadget blogs are correct in their early scoops.

For example, it is believed the iPhone 5 will include Apple’s new iOS 5 operating system paired with a faster processor and an 8 megapixel camera. A new, teardrop-shaped design may be featured as well.

Consumers are apparently looking for the little things in the new iPhone 5; some 59 percent of PriceGrabber respondents cited better battery life, with 55 percent looking for a less expensive iPhone.

Some 46 percent said that 4G network compatibility was important to them, while 45 percent are hoping for a larger screen. About 42 percent would like an improved camera, something they will likely see.

4G and a larger screen, however, haven’t been rumoured to be part of the new phone.

Google News

IPv6 Day Is Hailed As A Qualified Success

 by Eric Doyle

World IPv6 Day passed by quietly, so the new protocol works, but there were still low traffic volumes

Donn is glad the Internet didn’t break today.

These were the sign-off words at the end of World IPv6 Day from Donn Lee, senior network engineer for Facebook’s Network Engineering Team.

Earlier yesterday, like over 400 of his peers, Lee located the red button, closed his eyes in silent prayer to Saint Vint (Cerf) the patron saint of mobile bits and bytes, and, with a single finger, symbolically pushed the world into a new era of networking.

Without the dramatic licence, June 8 was the day the world went IPv6 for the 24 hours, between 00:00 and 23:59 GMT.

Small Tremor, Not Many Injured

It was less of a gamble than Lee makes out because months of testing assured network managers that it would work, but there was a collective intake of breath nonetheless.

“We’re pleased that we did not see any increase in the number of users seeking help from our Help Centre. The estimated 0.03 percent of users who may have been affected would have experienced slow page loads during the test,” noted Lee.

The same glorious anticlimax was echoed across the Web as the new hexadecimal IP addresses held strong. The accepted figure for those who would experience problems is 0.05 percent which equates to just over a million users. Many of these would have experienced extended wait times or complete failure to load a Web page.

Since many adversely affected users will not report the fault or may not have been online during the 24-hour period, the figure has to be accepted on trust. The test participants, however, did seem satisfied with their results.

“We carried about 65 percent more IPv6 traffic than usual, saw no significant issues and did not have to disable IPv6 access for any networks or services,” observed Google’s Lorenzo Colitti, network engineer and ‘IPv6 Samurai’. “Over the next few weeks, we’ll be working together with the other participants to analyse the data we’ve collected but, at least on the surface, the first global test of IPv6 passed without incident.”

The Waiting Game Continues

This was just a test. A significant test but the reality in the UK is that few ISPs support the protocol. Entanet is one of the few who do. In a blog the ISP commissioned from Iain Shaw, managing director of leading UK buying group Brigantia, he explained the reasoning:

“The ISPs complain that hardware manufacturers have not yet developed enough supporting hardware to accommodate demand and therefore justify their investment in moving to IPv6, whilst the hardware manufacturers argue that they shouldn’t be developing the hardware until the networks can support it.”

It is a classic standoff, as ISPs and manufacturers watch and wait till one of them blinks – but fortunately, the hardware-makers have global interests so the UK market could be drip-fed products produced for the growing world market for IPv6 routers. Then it will be up to the ISPs to bite the bullet and decide how to upgrade their customers.

With IPv4 addresses running dry and none being available on the open Regional Internet Registry (RIR) market, time is running out. Version 4 and version 6 are incompatible so, for a while, dual stacks will be used to cater for the parallel systems but there is a danger that the end-users will suffer before any action is taken.

Is No News Good News?

For the time being the pain threshold is a long way off and the big news for World IPv6 Day is that there is no news – which means that the test was passed with flying colours.

“As we watched the various test sites and dashboards move to ‘green’ status for IPv6, sighs of relief were heard, followed by a sense of great satisfaction among everyone involved. twenty-four hours later, no major issues have been reported,” blogged Mark Townsley, a Cisco distinguished engineer with responsibility for the company’s IP switch-over. “All in all, World IPv6 Day seems to have gone off without a hitch.”

As a footnote, the IPv6 traffic accounted for around 0.3 percent of Internet traffic. According to Cisco’s recent Visual Networking Index, that means three petabytes of traffic from the estimated one exabyte of traffic per day – so the test was hardly exhaustive.

At Facebook, Lee reckoned that a million of the sites 250 million daily visitors (0.4 percent) connected via IPv6.

Infrastructure News Security

IPv6 Traffic Remains Minuscule

 by Fahmida Y Rashid

Despite growing interest in IPv6, the traffic over the protocol remains less than 1 percent of overall online traffic, Arbor Networks has found

Even though the number of available IPv4 addresses are dwindling faster than expected, the move to IPv6 remains sluggish, according to a recent study from Arbor Networks.

In a study of native IPv6 traffic volumes across multiple large carriers, IPv6 adoption remains minuscule as a result of technical and design challenges, no economic incentives, and a dearth of IPv6 content, according to the Arbor Networks study released on 19 April. During the six-month study period, Arbor Networks researchers found that traffic over IPv4 networks grew by an average of 40 percent to 60 percent while IPv6 traffic actually decreased by an average of 12 percent proportionately because it was not growing fast enough in comparison to IPv4 traffic.

Rising IPv6 traffic

“Despite 15 years of IPv6 standards development, vendor releases and advocacy, only a small fraction of the Internet has adopted IPv6,” said Arbor Networks chief scientist Craig Labovitz.

While actual IPv6 traffic volumes have gone up, it has shrunk as a percentage of all Internet traffic, to a mere 0.25 percent of all net traffic, Labovitz said. The top IPv6 applications are largely peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent, accounting for 61 percent of traffic. In comparison, peer-to-peer networks account for 8 percent of IPv4-based traffic. Web traffic makes up the second largest block of traffic on both IPv4 and IPv6 networks, but the differences are still striking. HTTP traffic accounts for 19 percent of IPv4 traffic, compared to a mere 4.6 percent over IPv6.

Online video, such as Netflix, YouTube and web video, accounted for a little less than half of IPv4 traffic, but they didn’t even make a dent over IPv6. It’s ironic considering Netflix is one of the few major companies with an IPv6-accessible website.

Users and businesses that are interested in migrating, but stymied by their ISP’s lack of IPv6 offerings, can use tunnels to get IPv6 connectivity. Arbor examined the total IPv6 traffic over a specific 24-hour period in February and found over 250,000 such tunnels. More than 90 percent of the tunnels belonged to five major tunnel brokers, including Hurricane Electric, Anycast and Microsoft’s Teredo service.

The Arbor research highlighted the fact that most companies and ISPs are way behind in their transition plans to move their networking infrastructure to the newer address space. This is worrying in light of the fact that the remaining IPv4 addresses are running out faster than predicted.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) allocated the last blocks of IPv4 addresses to the five regional internet registries in a public ceremony on 3 February.

While existing sites will continue working just fine even when the last IPv4 address has been assigned, any organisations wanting to expand or add new capabilities will be unable to without transitioning their network infrastructure to IPv6.

IPv4 exhaustion

In fact, that’s more or less the case for Asia-Pacific businesses. The Asia Pacific Network Information Centre, the RIR responsible for assigning IP addresses to the region, announced the release of its last available batch of IPv4 addresses on 15 April. While analysts had predicted APNIC would run out of the IP address blocks first, the predictions had estimated the supply would last till the summer.

“Considering the ongoing demand for IP addresses, this date effectively represents IPv4 exhaustion for many of the current operators in the Asia Pacific region,” said APNIC director general Paul Wilson.

APNIC have placed the remaining IPv4 addresses under limited distribution. “From this day onwards, IPv6 is mandatory for building new Internet networks and services,” Wilson said.

Asia-Pacific is well on the way to become the first “IPv6-enabled region”, but businesses need to begin the migration if they haven’t already done so in order to “remain viable”, according to Wilson.

The American Registry for Internet Numbers received 253 requests for IPv6 address blocks from internet service providers in the first quarter of 2011, compared to 134 requests in the last quarter of 2010. It’s not just ISPs talking about IPv6, as ARIN also received 247 end-user requests for IPv6 address space in the first quarter 2011, compared to 103 requests in first quarter 2010. ARIN received a total of 434 requests from ISPs in 2010, and expects requests to exceed that in 2011.

The upcoming “World IPv6 Day” on 8 June marks “a major milestone in the Internet’s evolution”, Labovitz said, because it will force businesses and ISPs to stress test the global network infrastructure. “Will the flood of IPv6 traffic result in network failures? As an industry, we’re not sure,” Labovitz concluded.


HTTPS Bug Disrupts Secure Hotmail Service

Microsoft turned off HTTPS access for Hotmail in some countries, leaving emails open to interception

Hotmail users in the Middle East, Africa and Asia had secure access to their email accounts disabled on Friday 25 March, after Microsoft turned off its ‘use HTTPS automatically’ setting.

The move – initially reported by Jillian C. York, who writes for Al Jazeera English – could potentially have allowed government-controlled ISPs to eavesdrop on sensitive communications. The problem was reported in more than a dozen countries, including Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Congo, Myanmar, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Hotmail users with their location set to any of these countries, who attempted to turn on the always-use-HTTPS feature in order to read their mail securely, received an error message that said: “Your Windows Live ID can’t use HTTPS automatically because this feature is not available for your account type.”

York pointed out that users in the affected countries were able to overcome the problem by changing their location setting, indicating that users had been barred from HTTPS by their stated location rather than by IP address.

An inconvenient truth

Microsoft responded to the issue late on Friday, with a statement on one of its technical help sites.

“We are aware of an issue that impacted some Hotmail users trying to enable HTTPs.  That issue has now been resolved,” read the statement. “Account security is a top priority for Hotmail and our support for HTTPS is worldwide – we do not intentionally limit support by region or geography and this issue was not restricted to any specific region of the world.  We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers that this may have caused.”

However, some online commentators have pointed out that, for many people in the affected countries, this mistake could be far more than an inconvenience – and could even lead to political activists being rooted out and forced to face the consequences.

“For Microsoft to take such an enormous step backwards – undermining the security of Hotmail users in countries where freedom of expression is under attack and secure communication is especially important – is deeply disturbing,” wrote EFF International activist Eva Galperin on the Deeplinks blog.

Microsoft introduced the always-use-HTTPS feature for Hotmail in November 2010, enabling users to protect their sensitive communications from hijackers and fraud. The move followed Google’s decision to switch HTTPS to always-on by default for Gmail users earlier that year.

Facebook meanwhile, recently increased the security of its account log-ins, reportedly following attempts by the Tunisian government to capture login details of all Facebook users.

“By using a connection with advanced security features, you can be even more confident that your account is safer from hijackers and your private information is less likely to fall into someone else’s hands,” blogged Dick Craddock, group programme manager for Windows Live Hotmail, at the time.

Ensuring anonymity on the web

In related news, the Free Software Foundation has honoured the Tor Project – which works to ensure anonymity online and defend users against network surveillance and traffic analysis – at its latest annual award ceremony. According to the FSF, the technology “proved pivotal in dissident movements in both Iran and more recently Egypt”.

Despite attempts by the Egyptian government to block online communications during the recent political protests, the Tor Project helped to ensure privacy and anonymity on the web.

The Tor Project received the foundation’s Award for Projects of Social Benefit, which in previous years has gone to the Internet Archive, Creative Commons, Groklaw and Wikipedia.

News Security

Facebook’s Zuckerberg Questions Privacy Expectations

  • January 11, 2010
  • By Tom Jowitt

Privacy is no longer a social norm, according to the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg commenting on the rise of social networking

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook has said that people no longer have an expectation of privacy thanks to increasing uptake of social networking.

Speaking at the Crunchie Awards in San Francisco this weekend, the 25 year-old web entrepreneur said: “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds but more openly and with more people.”

Zuckerberg went on to add that the rise of social media reflects the changing attitudes among the general public, saying that this radical change has happened in the space of five years.

“When I got started in my dorm room at Harvard, the question a lot of people asked was, ‘why would I want to put any information on the Internet at all? Why would I want to have a website?’,” he said.

“And then in the last 5 or 6 years, blogging has taken off in a huge way and all these different services that have people sharing all this information,” he said.

Facebook is estimated to have over 100 million users in the United States alone, and more than 350 million users worldwide. Zuckerberg’s comments come after the social networking giant recently decided to (somewhat controversially) change the privacy settings of all its users.

In December, Facebook launched a number of new tools which enabled users to control who sees what content on their account, as well as a Transition Tool and simplified privacy settings.

The issue of privacy is a vexed one, especially in the United Kingdom where, late last year, the Home Office pledged to push ahead with controversial plans to monitor all Internet use. The Ministry is requiring communications firms to monitor all Internet use, and is asking them to retain information on how people use social networks such as Facebook.

Yet the dangers posed by people opening up online to the rest of the world is well know. Back in August, a survey sponsored by British insurance firm Legal & General found that users of social networking sites were giving away vital information about themselves and their whereabouts that was being used by professional burglars to establish a list of targets. The report, “The Digital Criminal,” found that 38 percent of users of sites such as Facebook and Twitter have posted status updates detailing their holiday plans and a third of people have posted status updates saying that they are away for the weekend.

Zuckerberg also said it was important for companies such as Faceook, to reflect the changing social norms in order to remain relevant and competitive.

“A lot of companies would be trapped by the conventions and their legacies of what they’ve built,” he said. “Doing a privacy change for 350 million users is not the kind of thing that a lot of companies would do.

“But we viewed that as a really important thing, to always keep a beginner’s mind and what would we do if we were starting the company now and we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it.”

Photo credit: (CC) Brian Solis, / / CC-BY

News Security Wikileaks

Twitter Fights US Court Demands For WikiLeaks Details

 by Brian Prince

Twitter is fighting a US court’s demand, made in December, for details of WikiLeaks supporters

Micro-blogging site Twitter is opposing an order from a US court, to reveal the account details of supporters of WikiLeaks. Twitter has called on Facebook and Google to reveal whether they also received similar court orders.

As part of the US government’s investigation into WikiLeaks, a court ordered Twitter, in mid-December, to give details of accounts owned by supporters of the whistle-blower site. Twitter has protested against the subpoena and informed the individuals whose account information has  been requested, while raising the possibility that other social networking players have received similar orders.

Records required for criminal investigation

The US Department of Justice obtained a subpoena for the micro-blogging site on 14 December, requesting records going back to 1 November 2009, that are “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” Among those targeted are WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp (whose name is misspelled in the subpoena) and Bradley Manning, the US Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking documents to WikiLeaks.

Also named in the subpoena are computer programmer Jacob Appelbaum (identified by his Twitter username, ioerror) and former WikiLeaks volunteer and current Icelandic parliament member Birgitta Jónsdóttir (left), who wrote the following in a tweet: “just got this: Twitter has received legal process requesting information regarding your Twitter account in (relation to wikileaks).”

Jónsdóttir also tweeted that she plans to oppose the subpoena.

According to a copy of the court order published by (PDF), the government is looking for a variety of information, including session times and mailing addresses.

“WikiLeaks strongly condemns this harassment of individuals by the US government,” WikiLeaks said in a statement relayed to Reuters by WikiLeaks attorney Mark Stephens.

The recent WikiLeaks controversy began when the site started publishing a trove of US diplomatic cables in late November. The release of the documents has touched off months of debate and prompted WikiLeaks supporters and opponents alike to air their differences with denial-of-service attacks while businesses such as PayPal cut ties with the whistle-blower site.

In December, Assange was arrested in the UK on charges of sexual assault originating in Sweden. He is currently out on bail.

In its statement, WikiLeaks reportedly said that some of the people named in the subpoena were key figures in helping WikiLeaks make public US military video of a 2007 airstrike that killed Iraqi civilians. WikiLeaks is instructing its lawyers to oppose the subpoena, and is calling on Facebook and Google to disclose whether they received similar subpoenas as well.

A federal judge unsealed the court order on 5 January after Twitter requested the right to inform the people being targeted.

In addition to obtaining the subpoena, it was also revealed that the US government has taken steps to protect people judged by officials to be in danger because of the document leak. On 7 January, US State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley told the media the department has helped relocate “a handful of people” identified in the diplomatic documents out of concern for their safety. The CIA set up a WikiLeaks Task Force (WTF) in response to the leak.

WikiLeaks has denied putting any lives at risk, and the UN has supported its right to publish the leaked material on human rights grounds.

WikiLeaks publication of the US cables resulted ina war of denial of service (DoS) attacks, hitting both WikiLeaks itself , and the sites of financial institutions such as Mastercard, which withdrew facilities for WikiLeaks supporters to donate money to the whistleblower.