Colin Lecher

Tax Filing Websites Have Been Sending Users’ Financial Information to Facebook

Major tax filing services such as H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer have been quietly transmitting sensitive financial information to Facebook when Americans file their taxes online. The data, sent through a widely used code called the Meta Pixel, includes not only information like names and email addresses but often even more detailed information, including data on users’ income, filing status, refund amounts, and dependents’ college scholarship amounts. The information sent to Facebook can be used by the company to power its advertising algorithms and is gathered regardless of whether

Amazon can be held liable for defective third-party products on its platform, court rules

The 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Amazon can be sued over third-party sales on its platform, setting a potentially damaging precedent for the company. While Amazon sells goods itself, it also allows vendors to sell their products through its Marketplace platform, taking a cut in the process. In late 2014, a woman named Heather Oberdorf ordered a dog collar from a Marketplace seller, but it broke on a walk, sending the leash flying and permanently blinding her in one eye. The seller hasn’t been found, but Oberdorf sued Amazon, accusing the company of negligence.

A 911 outage hit AT&T customers around the US

A 911 outage prevented AT&T customers from calling emergency services for hours during the morning of July 2, officials in multiple states said. Officials in TX, MN, WI, WA, and several other states reported issues. The company soon said its fixed the problem. “Earlier this morning some wireless customers may have been unable to connect to 911,” an AT&T spokesperson said. “This has been resolved and we apologize to anyone who was affected.”

First Amendment constraints don’t apply to private platforms, Supreme Court affirms

In a case closely watched for its potential implications for social media, the Supreme Court has ruled that a nonprofit running public access channels isn’t bound by governmental constraints on speech. The case, which the conservative wing of the court decided in a split 5–4 ruling, centered around a Manhattan-based nonprofit tasked by New York City with operating public access channels in the area. The organization disciplined two producers after a film led to complaints, which the producers argued was a violation of their First Amendment speech rights.

Ripping Huawei out of US networks could be a nightmare for rural providers

Joe Franell is a fan of Huawei’s equipment. As the CEO of Eastern Oregon Telecom, he’s responsible for providing internet to about 4,000 customers, many in small communities or remote farmland. He’s been lucky: the Huawei equipment he uses has never failed, which he hasn’t been able to say about everything else in the company’s network.

FTC complaint accuses Facebook of revealing sensitive health data in groups

A complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission is accusing Facebook of failing to protect sensitive health data in its groups. The complaint, filed with the agency in Jan and released publicly Feb 18, argues that the company improperly disclosed information on members of closed groups.

The Huawei crackdown could be a disaster for small carriers

The Trump administration has banned contractors from using Huawei tech, and major carriers do not use Huawei equipment that could compromise that contract work. But the same isn’t true for smaller companies without those contracts. In the face of the unfolding controversy, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed rules that could prevent companies from using agency funds to buy equipment from businesses deemed a security risk — or possibly from using equipment from companies like Huawei at all.

Facebook critics file FTC complaint over breach of 30 million accounts

A coalition of Facebook critics has filed a complaint against the company with the Federal Trade Commission, asking the agency to investigate 2018’s breach of 30 million user accounts. In Sept, the company first announced that 50 million users had their accounts improperly accessed because of a flaw in a Facebook feature, but it later revised the figure down. The company said hackers accessed data ranging from basic contact information to more sensitive information, like demographics and recent searches.

Why robocalls have taken over your phone

Washington (DC) has tried several tactics to stem the tide of automated calls, from passing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 1991 to establishing the Do Not Call Registry in 2003. The Federal Communications Commission regularly hands down multimillion-dollar penalties against individual robocallers. But the calls keep coming, and the problem has only gotten worse. The issue is the ease of becoming a robocaller. Anyone with a minor amount of technical ability can run their own system by downloading the relevant software. 

Rep Blackburn Fought to End Net Neutrality, But Will It Matter to Voters?

In March of 2017, Congress had just voted to allow internet service providers to sell the browser histories of consumers, a move that was greeted by an overwhelming backlash online. At the time, it seemed the browser history vote was politically poisonous for the Republican Reps who pushed it through. Yet House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who became more identified than most lawmakers with the rollback, has not only survived politically, but is reaching higher.