E.U. ruling invalidates Safe Harbor

In a recent ruling, the European Court of Justice struck down Safe Harbor, which dictated the rules for transatlantic data flow between the United States and the European Union. The invalidation of Safe Harbor carries significant consequence for American e-commerce firms who operate in Europe. Companies like Google and Facebook—as well as the U.S. administration—now must make high-profile decisions in response to the ruling.

Europe has broad legislation protecting the personal information of E.U. citizens from being exploited by businesses. The U.S., in contrast, only codifies privacy against government institutions and for certain high-sensitivity data (e.g. health records, etc.) Safe Harbor’s “principles” are more flexible extensions of the E.U.’s privacy laws; violations of Safe Harbor could result in sanctions from a self-regulatory organization or the Federal trade Commission.

When Europe’s highest court invalidated the agreement, it was under the premise that European citizens were being manipulated by U.S. tech companies as well as by the U.S. government. The ruling was a reflection of a recent decision made by an Irish court on Safe Harbor’s illegality. Any new agreement drafted will have to contain more stringent privacy rules, and will therefore create more limitations for U.S. firms.

Facebook and Google’s immediate options include continuing business practices in a time of legal uncertainty, shutting down their European operations (resulting in major loss), or changing the business model to include more data collection centers in Europe. The last alternative would require companies to keep European and American data completely separate, with the consequence of economic inefficiency.

Article via The Washington Post, 6 October 2015

Photo: Bandiera dell’Unione (EU Flag) via Giampaolo Squarcina [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Snowden enters Twitter

After keeping a relatively low profile since his exile to Moscow in 2013, Edward Snowden has made himself public on Twitter. His first post on Tuesday, “Can you hear me now?”, was a nod to his past whistleblowing as well as a subtle reference to a Verizon television commercial. Within two hours, Snowden had 300,000 followers.

Ben Wizner, one of Snowden’s lawyers, has confirmed that the account is authentic. The fugitive’s first tweet was welcomed by a response tweet—“Yes! Welcome to Twitter.”—from Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey. Astrophysicist and cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson also acknowledged Snowden, and ended a Twitter back-and-forth with: “Ed @Snowden, after discussing everything from Chemistry to the Constitute on #StarTalk, you’re a patriot to me. Stay safe.”

Snowden follows only one account, belonging to the NSA.

Article via CNET, 29 September 2015

Photo: Edward Snowden Wired via Mike Motzart [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Microsoft sued for gender discrimination

Former technician Katherine Moussouris sued Microsoft this Wednesday for gender discrimination. She alleges that Microsoft paid and promoted female employees less than male coworkers, and that women in the company were also ranked consistently below men. Moussouri proposed the class action lawsuit after working at Microsoft between 2007 and 2014.

The lawsuit states that the tech company’s practices and policies “systematically violate female technical employees’ rights and result in unchecked gender bias that pervades its corporate culture.”

This suit occurs as other tech giants, recently Twitter and Facebook, also battle gender discrimination lawsuits. Public interest in women’s role in the workplace has increased since Ellen Pao filed a high-profile lawsuit against the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for unequal treatment on the basis of gender.

Microsoft released a statement in response to Moussouri’s allegations: “We’re committed to a diverse workforce, and to a workplace where all employees have the chance to succeed.”


Article via CNET, 16 September 2015

Photo: Microsoft via Thomas Hawk [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Tech companies protect against government surveillance

The best protection against widespread government surveillance now comes from major tech companies, including those accused of collecting mass amounts of data to sell to other companies seeking targeted advertising.

The FBI has accused Apple of aiding criminals by offering default encryption in the new iPhones it sells. Government reproach is also directed towards Google, which is offering the same encryption for its new Android phones. However, the majority of Americans are grateful for the tech companies’ new developments; a recent Pew survey found that 65 percent of people believe that there aren’t enough limits on government surveillance.

Smartphone encryption is not the only guard against surveillance, either. Google and Yahoo announced that they’re both working on end-to-end encryption in email, and Facebook was established on a Tor hidden services site so that people with access to network traffic can’t access user data.

Encryption tools are generally difficult to operate, and thus only tech-savvy users have been able to achieve full privacy. As a result, anyone using encryption tools was unique and therefore suspicious to government officials. With new integrated encryption, privacy will be more universal, and those previously using encryption systems will be better camouflaged.

Articles: The Center for Internet and Society, September 9, 2015

Photo: DC Ralley Against Mass Surveillance via Susan Melkisethian [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Facebook creates personal learning program

In a blog post on Sept. 3, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox explained the company’s goal to offer personalized education to public school students. Facebook partnered with the Bay Area’s Summit Public Schools throughout the 2014 school year to develop Personalized Learning Plan (“PLP”), a tool to help students organize and tailor their educations. Over 2000 students and 100 teachers utilized the program in 2014.

Summit seeks to offer PLP to public schools across the nation, and is partnering with a few schools in 2015 to test the piloted program. Facebook will use feedback from the 2015 school year to improve the interface.

PLP is a program entirely separate from the main Facebook company. Students and teachers who login are not required to have a Facebook account, and user information will not be sold to any advertisement companies. In fact, Facebook must abide by the Student Privacy Pledge, a guide to protecting students endorsed by the US Government.

Article via TechCrunchJuly 13, 2015

Photo: Facebook via Scott Beale [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

How to start a crowdfunding campaign for social good

Crowdfunding can be an incredible campaigning tool, especially for a good cause. Finances can be a problem when starting a nonprofit, but crowdfunding has the ability to reach millions of people who would back your cause through donations, via the Internet.

A crowdfunding platform for nonprofits and social good projects, CauseVox explains how to make crowdfunding work for your cause in the infographic below.



Article via Mashable, 22 June 2015

Photo: Interactief seminar Crowdsourcing door Gijsbert Koren van Douw&Koren via Mediawijzer.net [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]