November 20th, 2014
02:29 PM ET

Act like a spy to protect your digital privacy

In today’s social media driven world, people’s entire lives are often stored on their smartphones. Email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, your photo roll, calendar and notes all provide clues to your location, contacts and personal details. It’s a veritable buffet for identity thieves.

Wickr CEO Nico Sell says, “I’ve been lucky enough to be educated by the very best hackers in the world.”

That’s how she learned how easy it is for people to tap into your mobile phone, eavesdrop on your calls and read your text messages.

Concerned about her own digital footprint and the security of her children, Sell created Wickr – a peer-to-peer encryption app. FULL POST

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Filed under: Cyber • Data • Technology
November 13th, 2014
03:48 AM ET

How deep is your data trail?

So I just cleared my Google search history.

I took a peek at my search log ahead of an interview with data privacy expert and Harvard Fellow Adam Tanner, and was simply stunned by the depth of my data trail.

Some companies say they collect user information to provide them with better services.

Tanner says, "They know where you live, work, go to university and they also know sensitive things like what religion you belong to - all with the goal of selling things to you."

As the saying goes, there's no such thing as a free lunch. And in this networked age, we're paying with our personal data.

But Tanner says, "There should be choice and transparency. You should know what you're getting into, and what you're getting in exchange."

September 2nd, 2014
07:06 PM ET

Cloud computing demystified

The FBI has entered the hunt for the hacker who stole dozens of private celebrity photos. The nude images may have been stored in the "cloud."

It's safe to say that many don't really understand cloud computing. The new Cameron Diaz film "Sex Tape" is based around the idea that nobody gets how it works.

But it's actually fairly simple.

cloud2The cloud is really just another word for servers on the Internet. Using the cloud means you're outsourcing tasks to those servers that might otherwise be performed by your local device. The most common one is to use the cloud for storage; so, instead of storing data on your computer, data is stored on remote servers that you access via the Internet.

Think of it like putting your money in a bank. You're putting your property in a dedicated storage space. Using a bank means you don't have to keep all your money in a piggy bank at home, while using the cloud means you don't have to have every photo you've ever taken taking up valuable space on your iPad. And when you do want to see your photos, storing them on the cloud allows you to access it on any device - similar to how banks allow you to withdraw money from any ATM.

And it's a safe bet that you're already using cloud services. If you've ever used Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or any web mail service, then you've been storing your email in the cloud.

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Filed under: Data • Technology
June 10th, 2014
02:46 PM ET

One year of Edward Snowden's revelations

"If history tells us anything it's that whistle-blowers are usually treated kindly, and claims of national security much less so."

Here's my interview with Edward Snowden's legal adviser, Ben Wizner, one year after Snowden revealed himself as the NSA leaker.

May 14th, 2014
06:54 AM ET

What is needed to stop torture?

It has been 30 years since the United Nations adopted the Convention Against Torture, which commits all governments to combating the abuse.

And yet, torture remains widespread across Asia.

Amnesty International reports there are at least 23 Asia-Pacific countries still carrying out acts of torture. It adds that the true number is likely to be higher.

The human rights group says China and North Korea are among the worst offenders.

Torture is also used to force confessions or silence activists in other countries in the region including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

What is needed to finally stop torture?

I posed that question to Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director of Amnesty International. Click on to hear her thoughts on what can finally end the brutal practice.

November 4th, 2013
09:20 PM ET

The NSA fury of Google’s Eric Schmidt

The Google Chairman is one angry dude.

Eric Schmidt expressed clear outrage during our interview here in Hong Kong about the revelation that the National Security Agency had spied on the company’s data links.

"I was shocked that the NSA would do this,” Schmidt tells me. “Perhaps it’s a violation of law, but it is certainly a violation of mission.”


October 10th, 2013
09:11 AM ET

What happened to Lavabit?

Why did the secure e-mail service Lavabit suddenly shut down in August?

It was widely believed that the U.S. government wanted access to the Lavabit account of NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Lavabit's owner, Ladar Levison, posted a message blaming a secret U.S. court battle. He also vowed to keep fighting while adding this warning:

"This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States."

Last week, some court documents were unsealed and made public. A review of the files on NewYorker.com says, "These disclosures fall short of the ideal of open justice, but they do give Levison’s ordeal a public shape."

Regular News Stream contributor Nicholas Thompson edited the New Yorker piece. I spoke to him about what the documents reveal.

He tells me, "What we are seeing from these court documents is that most e-mail providers - when the FBI came to them during the NSA (episode) – said, 'Here it is.'"

"But here's the one guy who said, 'No. I'm going to fight you tooth and nail, no matter what way I can.'"

Listen on to learn how Levison resisted U.S. government demands to turn over the Lavabit encryption key (including the use of an 11-page printout in 4-point type) and what the aggressive pursuit of Lavabit reveals about the psyche in Washington.

September 12th, 2013
08:02 AM ET

Behind the shocking numbers of the U.N. rape report

When I first read the report, I was aghast.

A U.N. study published this week revealed a truly shocking prevalence of rape across the Asia-Pacific region.

Out of more than 10,000 men surveyed:

  • Nearly a quarter of men interviewed admitted to raping a woman or girl.
  • Nearly half the respondents reported using physical or sexual violence against a female partner.
  • And nearly half of those who admitted to rape, first did so as a teenager with 12% of them under 15 years of age at the time.

The survey was conducted across six countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea.

The findings in the report are mind-boggling. So how did the team gather such brutally honest responses?

"The methodology is something that we feel is quite innovative for the study," said James Lang, the Program Coordinator for Partners for Prevention, which carried out the study.

"We used these handheld devices - iPod Touches - to ensure men would answer the questions about the perpetration of violence in a completely anonymous way."

The survey team also never used the word rape. Instead, participants were asked questions such as, "Have you ever forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex?" or "Have you ever had sex with a woman who was too drugged or drunk to indicate whether she wanted it?"

In addition to revealing the prevalence of sexual violence in the region, Lang says the study reaffirms that such violence is preventable.

"To prevent violence, we have to make violence unacceptable," Lang tells me. "We have to change these norms in communities where violence is allowed, as well as norms around gender equality and the subordination of women."

Lang's study has the statistics to shock anyone into recognizing the scourge of sexual violence in the region. Here's hoping it will spur policymakers across Asia into action and end the impunity for men who use violence against women.

August 23rd, 2013
09:33 AM ET

Why your mobile phone is a weather station

Your smart phone is smarter than you think.

The UK-based OpenSignal has developed an app that crowd sources the weather using data from your mobile battery.

That's right, you can tell how hot it is outside thanks your cellphone's energy source. That's because smartphones have built-in thermometers to track battery temperature to help prevent overheating.

It's something the company discovered by accident. A year ago, OpenSignal discovered a strong correlation between battery temperature and daily temperatures recorded at a weather station.

Its WeatherSignal app, available for Android phones, crowd sources the temperature data from thousands of users who are running the app.

How accurate is the data? And will it be able to predict the weather one day?

Click on to my News Stream interview with OpenSignal co-founder and CTO James Robinson to find out.

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Filed under: Data • Gadgets • Technology • Weather
May 2nd, 2013
08:15 AM ET

From MindMeld to Google Glass - can tech be too smart?

You've heard of Siri. You may be familiar with Google Now.

But what about MindMeld?

The app, built by Expect Labs, bills itself as "a smarter way to have conversations on your iPad."

It hasn't been released yet, but tech giants Samsung, Intel and Telefonica have just joined on as the startup's latest inventors.

This is how it works. When you talk, MindMeld listens so it can search and bring up information that's relevant to your discussion.

But after looking at the product demo online, it's easy to see why some call it "Siri on steroids" - a voice-activated search engine that hangs on to your every word.

There's something deeply fascinating and creepy about the technology that tracks everything you say. Why would I want to use it? And what do I give up for using it and similar tracking technologies like Google Glass?

CNN contributor Nicholas Thompson of the NewYorker.com says by using such hyper-smart technology, we are trading in our privacy in return for utility. There's always resistance at first, but eventually we grow to accept it.

What's your take?

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