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How AT&T makes bank selling your data to law enforcement (which taxpayers fund)

(TECH NEWS) It’s one thing to cooperate with a warrant. It’s quite another for AT&T cash in by running surveillance on innocent citizens – and then get them to pay for it.

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“An extreme willingness to help”

When investigators are trying to solve a crime, they sometimes request data from phone companies. Knowing when and where a criminal made a call can sometimes make or break a case, so when communications companies are presented with a warrant, they are generally willing to comply. Seems reasonable enough, right?

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But AT&T has gone above and beyond their duty to comply, showing what the NSA called “an extreme willingness to help” federal agents access data, with or without a warrant. As a matter of fact, AT&T is profiting mightily by being “highly collaborative” with law enforcement agents.

Your every move, since 1987

Although the company won’t admit it outright, documents leaked last month by The Daily Best reveal AT&T is making millions, allowing law enforcement agencies to search a massive database of their records known as Hemisphere.

The data doesn’t include the content of text messages, and it doesn’t record phone calls. However, it does reveal who called who when, from where, and how long they talked. Data is collected from AT&T cell phones and landlines, and includes data from calls made to non-AT&T users as well.

These details can paint a vivid picture of a person’s daily activities, and can be used by law enforcement agencies to collect evidence for a case, even if they don’t have a warrant or probable cause.

While most companies periodically expunge their records (Verizon wipes its databases once per year, Sprint, every 18 months), AT&T has retained records since 1987. This means that AT&T has a massive database of information about innocent citizens that law enforcement agencies can search whenever they’d like – for a price.

Supporting the surveillance

For example, in 2011, Harris County, home of Houston, Texas, paid AT&T over $940,000 for access to Hemisphere. The federal government ultimately reimburses cities who use Hemisphere. In other words, we are under surveillance without our consent or due process of the law, and we are paying for it with our tax dollars.

It’s one thing to cooperate with a warrant. It’s quite another to cash in by running surveillance on innocent citizens – and then get them to pay for it.

Groups like the ACLU and Electronic Privacy Information Center question the constitutionality of Project Hemisphere, but have had difficulty acquiring documentation to build their case.

The recently leaked documents show that while AT&T doesn’t require a warrant to share data with law enforcement, they do require agents to agree not to remain hush-hush about their use of Hemisphere should the investigation go public. EFF is currently awaiting a judge’s ruling on the Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents regarding Hemisphere from the Department of Justice.

#ATT

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Tech News

Woven is the secret productivity weapon for remote teams

(TECH NEWS) Woven helps you keep track of your digital calendar in the age of remote work. It has great integration and alerts to keep you on track with ease.

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woven productivity

We are now several weeks into social distancing and remote work. Hopefully, you’ve begun to settle into a routine and you find yourself able to take a look at the situation around you instead of just fighting to keep your head above water. Managing, or being a part of, a remote team comes with its challenges.

Working remotely has the potential to blur the lines between work and life. As you try to schedule time to see family and friend’s virtually, it can become difficult to manage all your different digital commitments. This is especially true if you use multiple calendar systems such as Microsoft Outlook for work and Gmail for your personal life.

If you’re riding the struggle bus, Woven can lend a helping hand. This next-generation smart calendar released a suite of tools designed to help maintain productivity and collaborate better. Woven allows you to schedule meetings with people directly from your calendar. Share one-off scheduling links with anyone anywhere – eliminating the need for a bunch of third party apps. You can even send a link through iMessage. Woven also helps you schedule meetings with multiple people by building group polls and sharing availability with other participants.

One of the key tools in the Woven suite is Zoom integration.

Zoom meetings work to keep everyone together, but scheduling them and keeping track of your calendar can be a remote work nightmare. Using Woven, you’ll be able to turn those weird Zoom meeting URLs into simple “join call” buttons, streamline your entire day, and reduce the Zoom overwhelm. This can eliminate a source of unnecessary stress as you do your best to be a productive employee, or business owner, through the current global situation.

Other powerful tools joining Woven’s suite include, “Home” which highlights your important meetings for the day and “Analytics” which gives you actionable insights on how you spend your time. You can review it daily and weekly to ensure you’re spending your most valuable asset on the things you care the most about.

If you’re struggling to manage your new remote workflow and keep track of your digital appointments, consider trying Woven. It is currently available for free download for Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Windows.

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Zoom banned by Space X? Why?

(TECH NEWS) Just because an app is most used doesn’t mean it is most trustworthy, Zoom has some glaring security faults most people didn’t know about.

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Zoom security

Video conference apps are the glue currently holding large parts of workforce together. If you’re working from home either as a result of the quarantine or business as usual, then you’ve likely heard or used the common go-to app, Zoom. Recently, Zoom has made some troubling headlines regarding privacy concerns so much so that SpaceX employees are now banned from using the app. This comes soon after an announcement by the FBI warning about call hijacking and harassment now aptly named “Zoombombing”.

An earlier report this week by The Intercept shows that Zoom does not provide end-to-end encryption between call participants. The company also has the ability to view call sessions. As SpaceX is a federal contractor whose customers include NASA and the Department of Defense, the company is classified as an essential business. The decision to ban Zoom usage came from a memo from founder and CEO Elon Musk.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has reached out to Zoom addressing security concerns. Other security researchers have discovered flaws in Zoom’s software where hackers can gain access to users’ cameras or microphones.

As if it couldn’t get any dicier, the iOS version of the Zoom app is found to send data to Facebook regardless if a user has a Facebook account. As of March 2020, Zoom’s privacy policy made no mention of the data exchange.

ZOOM CEO Eric Yuan announced the company is focusing on solving its privacy and security issues. He’s vowed that over the next 90 days, Zoom will prepare a transparency report showing information related to data requests in addition to diverting all engineering resources to resolve “trust, safety, and privacy issues.”

Considering how many video calls will be made in the near future, and that we don’t know when Zoom will be trustworthy here are some paid and free options. It seems that even your computers aren’t safe during the pandemic.

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Tech News

Will COVID-19 break the internet?

(TECH NEWS) Internet usage is obviously up right now, but what can that do to the infrastructure? Tech companies say it’s the websites and local networks that are slow.

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internet world slow down

With more people staying at home, working from home and doing school from home, the internet is being taxed. You might have noticed your own service running slower or low-quality video streaming. Do we have to worry about the internet crashing? The quick answer is – “It depends.”

Yes, Americans are stressing the internet

The internet is actually pretty resilient when it comes to bandwidth. The network cables that connect people to the internet are built to handle spikes in use. When you stream video, it’s designed to adjust to your connection for the best quality. Even though Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime are reducing the download speeds in the Europe market, there is no reason to suspect that the internet is going to shut down during this crisis.

That being said, Tech Crunch reports that download speeds in the United States are being affected in some markets. New York City, one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 virus had download speeds drop by about 24%. Austin saw a drop of 44%.

Rural markets are struggling. It’s hard to imagine that there are still some places in the United States that don’t have internet access. Other places may get internet, but the service can be unreliable on a good day. With the added stress of people staying home, service can be even spottier.

Traffic might be up on the internet, but the system was built to scale up. Think about how much more data is available today over two decades ago. And consider how many more users there are from even 10 years ago. More Americans are streaming movies and TV shows than ever before.

It’s local networks and websites that may see a problem

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said,
We’re trying to make sure that we can stay in front of this challenge. Right now, this isn’t a massive outbreak in every country around the world, but if it gets there, then we really need to make sure we’re on top of this from an infrastructure perspective and make sure that we can continue to provide the level of service that people need in a time like this.”

Google, Amazon and Facebook have been built for spikes in usage, but even Amazon’s website had a problem in 2018 on Prime Day when their servers couldn’t handle the number of shoppers. Big companies have the infrastructure in place to deal with the kinks of added traffic. There could be some issues that come up, but it’s unlikely to shut down things for too long.

It’s more likely that users will see issues in local websites that aren’t designed for the added traffic. Home networks will be stressed with multiple people trying to manage work and school at the same time. If you’re experiencing problems, check how many devices are trying to access the system within your own home. Go with SD streaming instead of HD.

The Internet was built to withstand a nuclear bomb

One BuzzFeed article believes that the likelihood of the internet breaking down is low. There may be challenges in some areas, especially as more providers lift data caps for its users. But most companies are aware of the problem and are trying to ramp up services to meet demands during this crisis.

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