Washington Post

WWDC: Three awesome new Apple features that also protect your privacy

Apple critics are already bummed that the company didn't release a new TV or shiny iDevice during its 2014 keynote at the World Wide Developers' Conference. But WWDC has always been mainly about the software, and for fans of iOS and Mac OS X, there's actually a lot to like.
Some of the biggest changes take place under the hood.

And this time, Apple has released a handful of software features that promise to improve security without sacrificing ease of use, which is often the tradeoff when it comes to protecting your data. Here's a sampling.

  • Mindblowingly huge e-mail attachments. The next version of Apple's operating system, Yosemite, will support attachments that are up to 5 GB in size.
  • A fingerprint sensor API. Apple introduced a hardware update to the iPhone that let users sign into their Apple accounts and unlock their devices just by pressing their thumb to the built-in sensor. Now, Apple's making that same hardware available to developers, meaning you'll soon be able to log in and make purchases with your fingerprint on third-party apps, too.
  • Support for third-party keyboards. After years of forcing people to use the keyboard that came with the iPhone, Apple is allowing other keyboards onto iOS.

Google will take requests to scrub embarrassing search results. But it won’t help US users.

Google launched a Web form that allows European customers to ask for aspects of their digital histories to be expunged from the search engine -- but only in Europe.

This is Google's first response to a decision by Europe's highest court ordering the tech giant to review requests from users who say that articles linked from Google searches besmirch their reputations.

The ruling handed down chafed Google and several other search engine operators, who called it a form of censorship that forces them to make judgment calls about what should or shouldn't be on the Web. “The court's ruling requires Google to make difficult judgments about an individual's right to be forgotten and the public's right to know," Google said.

Someone submitting a request to Google must include a list of the links to be removed, a justification for the information's removal and a photo ID. The company will note when certain search information has been removed from results, similar to what it does when people search for things that have been subject to intellectual property claims. European customers searching for delisted information will see a note at the bottom of their results letting them know that something has been removed.

Google said it has already received thousands of requests to have information removed, but it has not released any details on how long it may take to review those requests. The company said it has also established an advisory committee to review the process.

Members of that review panel, the company said, will include experts on European data laws and Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales -- who has decried the decision, as the BBC reported. It will be co-chaired by Google chairman Eric Schmidt and the company's chief legal officer, David Drummond.

The FCC may consider a stricter definition of broadband in the Netflix age

What is high-speed Internet? Believe it or not, there is a technical definition. Currently, it's set at 4 megabits per second. Anything less, and in the government's view, you're not actually getting broadband-level speeds.

These days, 4 Mbps may not get you very much anymore. The rise of streaming music and video means that all the things we do online now require a lot more bandwidth compared to even five years ago.

So the Federal Communications Commission is beginning to consider whether to raise the definition of broadband -- a change that might have big implications for the way we regulate Internet providers.

The FCC soon intends to solicit public comments on whether broadband should be redefined as 10 Mbps and up, or even as high as 25 Mbps and up, according to an agency official who asked not to be named because the draft request was not yet public.

The new threshold would likely increase the number of people in the United States that statistically lack broadband, which in 2012 amounted to 6 percent of the population. Depending on the responses, the FCC may decide that broadband must be defined as being at least 10 Mbps, or even 25 Mbps.

China’s cyber-generals are reinventing the art of war

The conventional wisdom is that the future of war will involve private robot armies, predator drones carrying out precision strikes, and maybe even the militarization of space.

All of this assumes, however, that the fundamental nature of war does not change, only the technological sophistication with which we wage this war. And, contrary to just about any military text dating back to the era of Sun Tzu, it also assumes that we always know who our enemies are.

Yes, nations still fight wars, but it’s in a totally new and different way.

That’s why the current high-profile tussle over Chinese cyberattacks is so fascinating. The White House’s recent condemnation of Chinese cyberspying is just the clearest signal to date that we have entered a new era of warfare. Instead of tallying costs in terms of dead and wounded, we now measure them in purely economic terms. Instead of a known enemy, we now have a shadowy assailant who, on the surface, is still our friend. For every claim by the United States that the Chinese have gone beyond mere spying for national security to include ruthless appropriation of commercial secrets, there is a counterclaim by China that the United States has been using the NSA as its own kind of global surveillance state.

When the new paradigm for the world is economic power rather than military power, it means that we will find ways to fight without destroying our economic relationships. The new warfare will be cheap, low-intensity and most likely, waged primarily in cyberspace. Attacks will occur against economic targets rather than military targets. Taking down a stock market or a currency has greater tactical value than taking out a hardened military target.

Report: One in seven US consumers notified of personal data breaches in 2013

US consumers are increasingly victims of data breaches in which their personal data is stolen -- with one in seven being notified that their personal data was breached in 2013, according to a survey released by Consumer Reports. But most, 62 percent, have done nothing to protect their privacy online, the survey found.

Consumer Reports projected that 11.2 million people fell for e-mail phishing scams and 29 percent of Americans online had their home computers infected with malware since 2013. (The study was conducted in January 2014 by research company GfK for Consumer Reports and included interviews with 3,110 adults with home Internet access.)

Google, Silicon Valley must do more to hire female engineers

[Commentary] The technology industry has been fighting hard not to reveal race and gender diversity data -- especially for its engineering teams -- because it has a lot to be embarrassed about.

Data collected on Github showed that the percentage of female engineers at Qualcomm’s development center in Austin was 5.5 percent. At Dropbox it’s 6.3 percent, at Yelp 8.3 percent, at Airbnb 13.2 percent and 14.4 percent at Pinterest. Google just revealed that 17 percent of its technology staff is female. That is impressive compared with the rest of Silicon Valley, but not once you put it in the context of the available pool of female computer scientists.

In 1987, some 37 percent of the graduating computer-science class was female. But, because of the unfair hurdles they face, women are getting discouraged from studying computer science, and the percentage had dropped to 18 percent by 2012. Nonetheless, about a quarter of the pool of highly-experienced software developers is female. A company such as Google -- which has its choice of new graduates as well as of experienced engineers -- should therefore have far greater diversity.

Technology companies need to rethink the way they recruit. They need to look at how jobs are defined so that they don’t exclude women, who have a tendency, unlike males, to pass up opportunities for which they don’t have the exact skills. They need to look beyond the usual recruitment grounds by interviewing from universities where there are high proportions of women and minorities, as well as at conferences that women engineers attend, such as the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and Women 2.0. They need to insist that, for every job opening, at least one woman and minority member be interviewed, and that the interviewing committee be diverse. And they need to make sure that the hiring is for competency rather than for credentials.

[Wadhwa is a fellow at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University and director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke’s engineering school]

Where to get Hachette books now (other than Amazon)

For the first time, Amazon is publicly acknowledging a long-simmering dispute between it and a major publishing company, Hachette Book Group.

At the heart of the fight is how much money will flow to Hachette from Amazon sales of e-books. But because of the disagreement, Amazon is now playing hardball with the French-based publisher by stocking fewer print copies in its warehouses, ending support for Hachette pre-orders and making it generally more difficult for consumers to read Hachette-linked authors, such as J.K. Rowling.

For titles where there are no copies on hand, customers can still place orders through Amazon, the company said, but they will take longer since Amazon must first order the inventory from Hachette.

"If you do need one of the affected titles quickly, we regret the inconvenience and encourage you to purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors," Amazon said. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Facebook Seeks EU Antitrust Review of WhatsApp Deal

Facebook has asked European Union antitrust regulators to examine its $19 billion deal to buy messaging service WhatsApp, in an attempt to avoid other antitrust reviews by individual countries, people familiar with the matter said.

The move was unexpected because the deal already had been approved in the US and wasn't expected to face scrutiny by the European Commission, the EU's central antitrust authority. However, in light of potential reviews from different countries, Facebook is seeking one hearing that will cover the entire 28-nation bloc.

"Facebook might prefer to go to the commission than go before several national regulators, which would each ask it for information," said Thomas Graf, an antitrust lawyer with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in Brussels. The commission also might be expected to take a more neutral approach than national authorities, which would face vigorous lobbying from local interest groups such as national telecom companies, experts said.

The deal has raised concerns among Europe's telecom companies, which have warned that WhatsApp -- a service that acts as a replacement for text and picture messaging -- would give Facebook a dominant position in the market for instant messaging in Europe.

Brokers use ‘billions’ of data points to profile Americans

Data brokers that quietly gather billions of pieces of data on Americans should be required to operate more openly, so that those categorized as “financially challenged” or possibly suffering from serious medical conditions have the ability to check and challenge those characterizations, a federal report said.

The data broker industry, which is lightly regulated, develops profiles of hundreds of millions of people using online and offline sources, such as magazine subscriptions, visits to Web sites, posting on social networking services and purchase histories, the Federal Trade Commission reported. The information sold to marketers can include race, income and homeownership. Categories used to label consumers include “Bible Lifestyle,” “Smoker in Household” and “New Age/Organic Lifestyle,” the report said. One category, called “Rural Everlasting,” describes people of retirement age who have “low educational attainment and low net worths.”

FTC officials, who based their report on documents gathered by issuing subpoenas to nine data brokers in December 2012, expressed concern about how the data is collected, how it’s used and the potential for making errors that are kept secret from the consumers themselves. “The extent of consumer profiling today means that data brokers often know as much -- or even more -- about us than our family and friends, including our online and in-store purchases, our political and religious affiliations, our income and socioeconomic status, and more,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “It’s time to bring transparency and accountability to bear on this industry on behalf of consumers, many of whom are unaware that data brokers even exist.”

The report included several legislative proposals intended to help Americans learn what information has been gathered about them and to correct errors. Consumers, under the FTC proposals, also would have the option to opt-out of data gathering about themselves. Such information is widely used by digital advertisers to improve the targeting of their marketing messages.

Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability

Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft say government has no right to suppress data request disclosures

Unsealed court documents show Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft are arguing that government gag orders that stop them from disclosing the number of national security requests they receive violate the companies' First Amendment right to free speech.

Leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that revealed how the government uses tech firms in its surveillance efforts have damaged their bottom lines and public reputations -- particularly overseas.

The companies have begun to push back against some government orders to stay silent. The gag orders, called "national security letters," compel Web and telecommunication companies to share information with the government while simultaneously prohibiting them from speaking about the request. Since the Snowden leaks, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft have fought to include more information about national security requests in regular reports they release on how much data the government requests from their servers.

In the court documents, filed in April with the 9th Circuit Court in California, the tech giants argue that the government is infringing on their First Amendment rights -- a form of prior restraint. The government has argued that companies have no First Amendment right to share information gained from participation in a secret government investigation, according to the filing. The case is now on appeal.