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Twitter Gets A Buddy In The White House

twitter-bird-blue-on-whiteTwitter’s legal director of products, Nicole Wong, has joined the Obama administration as deputy U.S. chief technology officer.

Following in the footsteps of Google who has a rich history of sending ex-Googlers to Washington, DC to help the world (yes there is a bit of sarcasm there), Twitter now can count a White House staffer amongst its alums.

The Washington Post reports

Twitter executive Nicole Wong is joining the Obama administration as deputy U.S. chief technology officer, the White House said in a statement Thursday.

Wong, who has been Twitter’s legal director of products since November, will be working on Internet privacy and technology issues, according to a spokesman for the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

In Spite of Data ‘Fears’, Facebook Looks to Get Even More Information on Users With Free Wi-Fi Service

facebook-icon 1Hey, you can’t blame Facebook for wanting more data on its users. Marketers want it and will pay for it so Facebook is looking for new ways to provide it.

The latest comes in the form of a free wi-fi offering that is being used in the San Francisco area. Wired reports

The idea of offering people free Wi-Fi in exchange for their physical coordinates began at Facebook as a one-off experiment, a project by two engineers during an all-nighter in May 2012. Since then, Facebook has gradually spread what it now calls “Facebook Wi-Fi” further and further beyond the company’s corporate walls, deploying the system to cafes in Palo Alto and San Francisco and even into a line of routers made by Cisco.

Google Looks to Distance Itself From Its Competition Amidst NSA Data Leak Fallout

google-logo1In the wake of the leaks by Edward Snowden, many tech companies have been looking to distance themselves from the controversy by releasing how many requests they receive for information from the US government. The latest to take that step was Yahoo! yesterday which followed suit with the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Facebook.

Google is taking this battle to the next level as reported in the Washington Post

Google asked the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Tuesday to ease long-standing gag orders over data requests the court makes, arguing that the company has a constitutional right to speak about information it is forced to give the government.

Code Names, Leaked Docs, the NSA: Google and Facebook Land in the Center of a Spy Drama

PrismThe code name is PRISM. It’s a top secret program that gives the National Security Agency direct access to the inner workings of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype and just about every other big data company on the web. It even has its own snazzy, SciFi looking logo and reports that are stamped TOP SECRET.

Sounds like something you’d find in a Ben Affleck movie but the UK paper The Guardian says it’s real and they have the proof; a 41-page PowerPoint presentation created to train operatives on the program.

I’m telling you, just looking at those documents online makes me nervous. The news broke several days ago and since then the parties involved have been in damage control mode.

Google was the first to respond with a post appropriately titled “What the …?

Verizon Ordered to Give All Phone Records to Feds

large_verizonThere is a bit of a convergence of two situations that will make many in the general public take pause about any perception or misconception they may have about privacy in an increasingly mobile world.

First, a Pew study confirms what most have already known and that is the fact the smartphones are everywhere and the more wealthy you are the more likely you are an iPhone user. We could show you charts on that but it’s really old news to most.

What is new, however, is the revelation by The Guardian that US citizens who are Verizon customers are being watched by the federal government via a top secret order (view the order). The paper reports

Twitter’s Two-Factor Account Verification Process Is Live

Twitter has had some trouble in the recent past with some high profile accounts getting hacked and the ensuing fallout from those issues. Part of their response was to say that they will be enabling a two-step verification process. At the time that was a promise but now it is in play according to the post on the Twitter blog from yesterday.

Here’s a video for you to get the gist.

So while this is a good first step it may not really be much help to those who really need it. How’s that you ask? Well, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine has this to say

What Internet Companies Are Helping to Protect Your Data From the Government?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published it’s third annual “Who Has Your Back?” report which gives insight into some of the largest and most influential Internet players (which is synonymous with the term ‘data collectors’ in today’s world) and how they work to keep data from being grabbed by the government at their bidding.

Who Has Your Back Banner

Top performers include Twitter and Sonic.net both getting stars in all six categories measured while Google, LinkedIn, Spideroak and Dropbox each earned five stars. Google lost a half star from last year since they no longer warn individuals about data requests (they just offer transparency reports about government request as a whole).

The big losers? Verizon and MySpace (0 stars) and 1 star performers including Apple, AT&T and Yahoo.

Here is the complete chart.

NOTE: The categories are a little tough to read so they are (from left to right).

  • Requires a warrant for content
  • Tells users about government data requests
  • Publishes transparency reports
  • Publishes law enforcement guidelines
  • Fights for users’ privacy rights in court
  • Fights for users’ privacy rights in Congress