The reasons for puttin' your stuff online just keep getting better and better:
Facebook Sued Over Alleged Scanning of Private Messages
Facebook Inc. (FB) was sued over allegations it systematically intercepts its users private messages on the social network and profits by sharing the data with advertisers and marketers.
When users compose messages that include links to a third-party website, Facebook scans the content of the message, follows the link and searches for information to profile the message-sender’s Web activity, violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and California privacy and unfair competition laws, according to the suit.
The practice compromises privacy and undermines Facebook’s promise of “unprecedented” security options for its messaging function, two Facebook users said in the complaint filed in federal court in San Jose, California.
Now normally I am more concerned about government snooping than about private company snooping: a private company "threatens" to offer to sell me something I might want, whereas a government can arrest me or worse. But then company tracking data can be subpoenaed by government and then used against me, which is why I've always said that the only safe online data is that which doesn't exist (i.e., no tracking). The following piece shows me that I've been excessively incautious in my assessment, as any more not even a subpoena is necessary --
NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking
The National Security Agency is secretly piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using "cookies" and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.
The agency's internal presentation slides, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government. The slides also suggest that the agency is using these tracking techniques to help identify targets for offensive hacking operations.
For years, privacy advocates have raised concerns about the use of commercial tracking tools to identify and target consumers with advertisements. The online ad industry has said its practices are innocuous and benefit consumers by serving them ads that are more likely to be of interest to them.
According to the documents, the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, are using the small tracking files or "cookies" that advertising networks place on computers to identify people browsing the Internet. The intelligence agencies have found particular use for a part of a Google-specific tracking mechanism known as the “PREF” cookie. These cookies typically don't contain personal information, such as someone's name or e-mail address, but they do contain numeric codes that enable Web sites to uniquely identify a person's browser.
In addition to tracking Web visits, this cookie allows NSA to single out an individual's communications among the sea of Internet data in order to send out software that can hack that person's computer. The slides say the cookies are used to "enable remote exploitation," although the specific attacks used by the NSA against targets are not addressed in these documents.
One small bit of relief regarding this particular practice is that it's not (yet) a tool for continuous mass surveillance:
Check out the whole piece for additional angles and all the gory details.
Finally, chew on this:
NSA seeks to build quantum computer that could crack most types of encryption
In room-size metal boxes, secure against electromagnetic leaks, the National Security Agency is racing to build a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world.
According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the effort to build “a cryptologically useful quantum computer” — a machine exponentially faster than classical computers — is part of a $79.7 million research program titled, “Penetrating Hard Targets.” Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park.
A working quantum computer would open the door to easily breaking the strongest encryption tools in use today, including a standard known as RSA, named for the initials of its creators. RSA scrambles communications, making them unreadable to anyone but the intended recipient, without requiring the use of a shared password. It is commonly used in Web browsers to secure financial transactions and in encrypted e-mails. RSA is used because of the difficulty of factoring the product of two large prime numbers. Breaking the encryption involves finding those two numbers. This cannot be done in a reasonable amount of time on a classical computer.
Experts think that one of the largest hurdles to breaking encryption with a quantum computer is building a computer with enough qubits, which is difficult given the very fragile state of quantum computers. By the end of September, the NSA expected to be able to have some basic building blocks, which it described in a document as “dynamical decoupling and complete quantum control on two semiconductor qubits.”
“That’s a great step, but it’s a pretty small step on the road to building a large-scale quantum computer,” Lloyd said.
A quantum computer capable of breaking cryptography would need hundreds or thousands more qubits than that.
Our debt of gratitude to Edward Snowden grows on a daily basis.