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Apple says their hacking San Bernardino attackers’ phones sets a “dangerous precedent”

A federal court has ruled that Apple must build a backdoor into a terrorist’s iPhone, sparking a national debate on how to balance national security with digital privacy.

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Apple fights federal order to break into iPhone

After the Sen Bernardino terrorist attacks, Americans were rocked back on their heels. It led to questions about how it could happen here, how it could go undetected, and so forth, with one of the now-deceased attackers’ phone potentially holding answers.

Federal magistrate, Judge Sheri Pym has ordered Apple to break into an encrypted iPhone that FBI investigators found not on the attacker, but in a search after the attack. They’re seeking data that phone carrier Verizon cannot recover, as it is encrypted. That leaves Apple the remaining option for investigators.

Apple CEO said in a statement that the order “has implications far beyond the legal case at hand,” and Apple hacking their own user sets a “dangerous precedent.”

“We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good,” said Cook. “Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.”

This unique case sets a precedent, indeed

The challenge with this unique situation is that it is rallying people whose primary voting issue is national security, while rallying those who are primarily concerned with digital privacy, pitting them against each other. The ruling implies the two are disjointed, and created an immediate misunderstanding – the Judge did not ask Apple to open up one phone of one terrorist, rather build a back door into all Apple devices for the federal government.

In a Congressional hearing last week, FBI Director James Comey expressed that encryption is a tremendous challenge for law enforcement officials, given that a recovered device can’t be opened even when a judge rules probable cause.

In Tuesday’s court proceeding, where Apple was not allowed to participate, federal prosecutors said they didn’t have Farook’s work phone password, and work phones typically belong to an employer. In this case, the employer also cannot unlock the phone, so they’ve asked the judge to force Apple to do so and although Judge Pym agreed, Apple says they’ll fight the order.

So why is Apple fighting back?

Since 2014, iPhones have been encrypted by default so that contents can only be accessed by someone with the password, and too many attempts to crack the password automatically erases the device’s data. Before 2014, Apple could simply plug an iPhone into their extraction tool and offer data in response to warrant requests.

Because of the newer encryption (which Comey indicates is a road block to investigators), the courts are now requiring Apple supply a specialized software that the FBI can load on to an iPhone to bypass security, which Cook calls a “backdoor.”

Apple is fighting back because of the slippery slope. Cook said, “the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

“The implications of the government’s demands are chilling,” Cook says, calling for a national discussion on the topic. “The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

Some ask what can’t already be retrieved by third party companies like Google or Facebook, but the investigators may be after clues like location data or photos that exist only on the device. Part of what investigators are stuck on is the missing 18 minutes wherein the suspects escaped law enforcement eyes.

With voices like Edward Snowden and Donald Trump weighing in with their opinions, Cook’s wish for a conversation is coming true, but will it be enough for people to understand the true risks and rewards of the court’s ruling?

#FBIversusApple

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Tech News

Australia wants Facebook and Google to pay media royalties

Australia seeks to require Facebook and Google to pay royalties to media companies for use of news content on their platforms.

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Australia is in the process of requiring tech giants, Facebook and Alphabet, to pay royalties to Australian media companies for using their content. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the move the day after the US Congressional antitrust hearing that put the CEOs of Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon, and Apple back in the regulatory spotlight.

In addition to the pressure from the United States investigation into market control by these companies, global leaders are calling for similar regulations. Though none have been successful, media companies in Germany, France, and Spain have pushed for legislation to force Google to pay licensing fees to use their news content. Some companies have been pushing for this for years and yet, the tech giants keep dragging out their changes, even admitting their actions are wrong.

In 2019, the Australian government instructed Facebook and Google to negotiate voluntary deals with Australian media to use their content. The Australian government says the companies failed to follow through on the directive, and therefore will be forced to intervene. They have 45 days to reach an agreement in arbitration, after which the Australian Communications and Media Authority will create legally binding terms for the companies on behalf of the Australian government.

Google claims the web traffic that it drives to media websites should be compensation enough for the content. A Google representative in Australia asserts that the government regulations would constitute interference into market competition – which would be the point, Google!

According to a 2019 study, an estimated 3,000 journalism jobs have been lost in the last decade. The previous generation of media companies has paid substantial advertising fees to Google and Facebook while receiving nothing in return for the use of its news content. Frydenberg asserts the regulatory measures are necessary to protect consumers and ensure a “sustainable media landscape” in the country.

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Onboarding for customers and employees made easy

(TECH NEWS) Cohere enables live, virtual onboarding at bargain prices to help you better support and guide your users.

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Web development and site design may be straightforward, but that doesn’t mean your customers won’t get turned around when reviewing your products. Onboarding visitors is the simplest solution, but is it the easiest?

According to Cohere–a live, remote onboarding tool–the answer is a resounding yes.

Cohere claims to be able to integrate with your website using “just 2 lines of code”; after completing this integration, you can communicate with, guide, and show your product to any site visitor upon request. You’ll also be able to see what customers are doing in real time rather than relying on metrics, making it easy to catch and convert customers who are on the fence, due to uncertainty or confusion.

There isn’t a screen-share option in Cohere’s package, but what they do include is a “multiplayer” option in which your cursor will appear on a customer’s screen, thus enabling you to guide them to the correct options; you can also scroll and type for your customer, all the while talking them through the process as needed. It’s the kind of onboarding that, in a normal world, would have to take place face-to-face–completely tailored for virtual so you don’t have to.

You can even use Cohere to stage an actual demo for customers, which accomplishes two things: the ability to pare down your own demo page in favor of live options, and minimizing confusion (and, by extension, faster sales) on the behalf of the customer. It’s a win-win situation that streamlines your website efficiency while potentially increasing your sales.

Naturally, the applications for Cohere are endless. Using this tool for eCommerce or tech support is an obvious choice, but as virtual job interviews and onboarding become more and more prevalent, one could anticipate Cohere becoming the industry example for remote inservice and walkthroughs.

Hands-on help beats written instructions any day, so if companies are able to allocate the HR resources to moderate common Cohere usage, it could be a huge win for those businesses.

For those two lines of code (and a bit more), you’ll pay anywhere from $39 to $129 for the listed packages. Custom pricing is available for larger businesses, so you may have some wiggle room if you’re willing to take a shot at implementing Cohere business-wide.

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Smart clothing could be used to track COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) In order to track and limit the spread of COVID-19 smart clothing may be the solution we need to flatten the curve–but at what cost?

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COVID tracking clothing

When most people hear the phrase “smart clothing”, they probably envision wearables like AR glasses or fitness trackers, but certainly not specially designed fabrics to indicate different variables about the people wearing them–including, potentially, whether or not someone has contracted COVID-19.

According to Politico, that’s exactly what clinical researchers are attempting to create.

The process started with Apple and Fitbit using their respective wearables to attempt to detect COVID-19 symptoms in wearers. This wouldn’t be the first time a tech company got involved with public health in this context; earlier this year, for example, Apple announced a new Watch feature that would call 911 if it detected an abnormal fall. The NBA also attempted to detect outbreaks in players by providing them with Oura Rings–another smart wearable.

While these attempts have yet to achieve widespread success, optimism toward smart clothing–especially things like undershirts–and its ability to report adequately someone’s symptoms, remains high.

The smart clothing industry has existed in the context of monitoring health for quite some time. The aforementioned tech giants have made no secret of integrating health- and wellness-centric features into their devices, and companies like Nanowear have even gone so far as to create undergarments that track things like the wearer’s heart rate.

It’s only fitting that these companies would transition to COVID assessment, containment, and prevention in the shadow of the pandemic, though they aren’t the only ones doing so. Indeed, innovators from all corners of the United States are set to participate in a “rapid testing solutions” competition–the end goal being a cheap, fast, easy-to-use wearable option to help flatten the curve. The “cheap” aspect is perhaps the most difficult; as Politico says, the majority of people have a general understanding of how to use wearable technology.

Perhaps more importantly, the potential for HIPPA violations via data access is high–and, during a period of time in which people are more suspicious of technology companies than ever, vis-a-vis data sharing, privacy could be a significant barrier to the creation, distribution, and use of otherwise crucial smart clothing.

There is no denying that the Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated, among other things, technological advancement in ways unseen by many of us alive today. Only time will tell if smart clothing–life-saving potential and all–becomes part of that trend.

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