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Paul Merrell

Belgium sues Facebook over illegal Privacy Violations of Users and Non-Users | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • The Belgian government will be suing Facebook. The Commission for the Protection of Privacy states that Facebook violates Belgian and EU law by tracking systems that target both Facebook users as well as non-Facebook users. Facebook is known for cooperating with the U.S.’ National Security Agency. 
  • The Belgian privacy watchdog’s case against the internet giant Facebook will be heard at a court in Brussels on Thursday. The Commission has repeatedly requested that Facebook should comply with Belgian and EU law. Facebook failed to comply, and the Commission has no power to enforce the law; hence the decision to sue Facebook to attain a a court ruling. The President of the Commission for the Protection of Privacy, Willem Debeuckelaere, told the press that: “Facebook treats its users’ private lives without respect and that needs tackling. It’s not because we want to start a lawsuit over this, but we cannot continue to negotiate through other means. .. We want a judge to impose our recommendations. These recommendations are chiefly aimed at protecting internet users who are not Facebook members.”
  • The Belgian privacy watchdog alleges that Facebook tracks the web browsing of all visitors, including those who have specifically turned the tracking function off; This gathering of private information allegedly also includes those who do not have a Facebook account. Moreover, the Commission claims that Facebook has the capability to surveil computers without consent, even when users are logged out; and Facebook can monitor every PC of users that use websites with Facebook plugins. The capability to monitor both Facebook users and non-Facebook users allegedly functions via Cookies that store information about user’s internet activities, including preferential settings of websites and which websites internet users have visited. The Commission claims that Facebook installs these Cookies on all computers that visit websites that for example have a Facebook plugin to share internet content. That includes the computers of persons who do not make use of Facebook’s “share” or “like” button.
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  • In other words, Facebook has the capacity to monitor your browser settings as well as which websites you have visited if you have read this article or any other article on any website that contains a Facebook “share” button, whether you “like” it or not. The Commissions lawsuit against Facebook is or particular importance due to the fact that the corporation is known for its cooperation with the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). While the lawsuit is of particular interest for Belgian and EU citizens, it also sheds light on Facebook’s monitoring of U.S. citizens.
Gary Edwards

ptsefton » OpenOffice.org is bad for the planet - 0 views

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    ptsefton continues his rant that OpenOffice does not support the Open Web. He's been on this rant for so long, i'm wondering if he really thinks there's a chance the lords of ODF and the OpenOffice source code are listening? In this post he describes how useless it is to submit his findings and frustrations with OOo in a bug report. Pretty funny stuff even if you do end up joining the Michael Meeks trek along this trail of tears. Maybe there's another way?

    What would happen if pt moved from targeting the not so open OpenOffice, to target governments and enterprises trying to set future information system requirements?

    NY State is next up on this endless list. Most likely they will follow the lessons of exhaustive pilot studies conducted by Massachusetts, California, Belgium, Denmark and England, and end up mandating the use of both open standard "XML" formats, ODF and OOXML.

    The pilots concluded that there was a need for both XML formats; depending on the needs of different departments and workgroups. The pilot studies scream out a general rule of thumb; if your department has day-to-day business processes bound to MSOffice workgroups, then it makes sense to use MSOffice OOXML going forward. If there is no legacy MSOffice bound workgroup or workflow, it makes sense to move to OpenOffice ODF.

    One thing the pilots make clear is that it is prohibitively costly and disruptive to try to replace MSOffice bound workgroups.

    What NY State might consider is that the Web is going to be an important part of their informations systems future. What a surprise. Every pilot recognized and indeed, emphasized this fact. Yet, they fell short of the obvious conclusion; mandating that desktop applications provide native support for Open Web formats, protocols and interfaces!

    What's wrong with insisting that desktop applciations and office suites support the rapidly advancing HTML+ technologies as well as the applicat
Gary Edwards

Google Apps no threat to Microsoft? Too Little Too Late - 0 views

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    The race is on. Google will win the consumer Web. Microsoft will win the business Web. Sadly i don't think there is any way for Google to challenge Microsoft with regard for the privilege of transitioning existing MSOffice bound workgroup- workflow business processes to the Web. Even if Google Docs could match MSOffice feature to feature, cracking into existing MSOffice workgroups is impossibly hard. Anyone who doubts this ought to take a second look at the Massachusetts ODF Pilot Study, or the recently released Belgium Pilot results. Replacing MSOffice in a workgroup setting is simply too disruptive and costly because of the shared business process problem.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

PirateBrowser - No More Censorship! - 1 views

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    "PirateBrowser is a bundle package of the Tor client (Vidalia), FireFox Portable browser (with foxyproxy addon) and some custom configs that allows you to circumvent censorship that certain countries such as Iran, North Korea, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Italy and Ireland impose onto their citizens."
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    # Not just for #Piracy but to #thwart #censorship...
Paul Merrell

As Belgium threatens fines, Facebook's defence of tracking visitors rings hollow | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • Facebook has been ordered by a Belgian court to stop tracking non-Facebook users when they visit the Facebook site. Facebook has been given 48 hours to stop the tracking or face possible fines of up to 250,000 Euro a day.
  • Facebook has said that it will appeal the ruling, claiming that since their european headquarters are situated in Ireland, they should only be bound by the Irish Data Protection Regulator. Facebook’s chief of security Alex Stamos has posted an explanation about why non-Facebook users are tracked when they visit the site. The tracking issue centres around the creation of a “cookie” called “datr” whenever anyone visits a Facebook page. This cookie contains an identification number that identifies the same browser returning each time to different Facebook pages. Once created, the cookie will last 2 years unless the user explicitly deletes it. The cookie is created for all visitors to Facebook, irrespective of whether they are a Facebook user or even whether they are logged into Facebook at the time. According to Stamos, the measure is needed to: Prevent the creation of fake and spammy accounts Reduce the risk of someone’s account being taken over by someone else Protect people’s content from being stolen Stopping denial of service attacks against Facebook
  • The principle behind this is that if you can identify requests that arrive at the site for whatever reason, abnormal patterns may unmask people creating fake accounts, hijacking a real account or just issuing so many requests that it overwhelms the site. Stamos’ defence of tracking users is that they have been using it for the past 5 years and nobody had complained until now, that it was common practice and that there was little harm because the data was not collected for any purpose other than security. The dilemma raised by Facebook’s actions is a common one in the conflicting spheres of maintaining privacy and maintaining security. It is obvious that if you can identify all visitors to a site, then it is possible to determine more information about what they are doing than if they were anonymous. The problem with this from a moral perspective is that everyone is being tagged, irrespective of whether their intent was going to be malicious or not. It is essentially compromising the privacy of the vast majority for the sake of a much smaller likelihood of bad behaviour.
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    I checked and sure enough: five Facebook cookies even though I have no Facebook account. They're gone now, and I've created an exception blocking Facebook from planting more cookies on my systems. 
Gary Edwards

Google Apps no threat to Microsoft? Maybe it is... | TalkBack on ZDNet - 0 views

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    Replace or Re-Purpose? The Belgian Desktop Pilot Study Here is the summary of the Belgian desktop pilot study. The conclusion echoed the findings of Massachusetts and California; they found that they could not use OpenOffice as a replacement for MSOffice. Although there were many reasons sighted, i think they all fit under the larger framework that MSOffice is the center of what turned out to be a sprawling desktop productivity ecosystem.
Paul Merrell

Operation Socialist: How GCHQ Spies Hacked Belgium's Largest Telco - 0 views

  • When the incoming emails stopped arriving, it seemed innocuous at first. But it would eventually become clear that this was no routine technical problem. Inside a row of gray office buildings in Brussels, a major hacking attack was in progress. And the perpetrators were British government spies. It was in the summer of 2012 that the anomalies were initially detected by employees at Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider, Belgacom. But it wasn’t until a year later, in June 2013, that the company’s security experts were able to figure out what was going on. The computer systems of Belgacom had been infected with a highly sophisticated malware, and it was disguising itself as legitimate Microsoft software while quietly stealing data. Last year, documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters was behind the attack, codenamed Operation Socialist. And in November, The Intercept revealed that the malware found on Belgacom’s systems was one of the most advanced spy tools ever identified by security researchers, who named it “Regin.”
  • The full story about GCHQ’s infiltration of Belgacom, however, has never been told. Key details about the attack have remained shrouded in mystery—and the scope of the attack unclear. Now, in partnership with Dutch and Belgian newspapers NRC Handelsblad and De Standaard, The Intercept has pieced together the first full reconstruction of events that took place before, during, and after the secret GCHQ hacking operation. Based on new documents from the Snowden archive and interviews with sources familiar with the malware investigation at Belgacom, The Intercept and its partners have established that the attack on Belgacom was more aggressive and far-reaching than previously thought. It occurred in stages between 2010 and 2011, each time penetrating deeper into Belgacom’s systems, eventually compromising the very core of the company’s networks.
  • Snowden told The Intercept that the latest revelations amounted to unprecedented “smoking-gun attribution for a governmental cyber attack against critical infrastructure.” The Belgacom hack, he said, is the “first documented example to show one EU member state mounting a cyber attack on another…a breathtaking example of the scale of the state-sponsored hacking problem.”
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  • When the incoming emails stopped arriving, it seemed innocuous at first. But it would eventually become clear that this was no routine technical problem. Inside a row of gray office buildings in Brussels, a major hacking attack was in progress. And the perpetrators were British government spies. It was in the summer of 2012 that the anomalies were initially detected by employees at Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider, Belgacom. But it wasn’t until a year later, in June 2013, that the company’s security experts were able to figure out what was going on. The computer systems of Belgacom had been infected with a highly sophisticated malware, and it was disguising itself as legitimate Microsoft software while quietly stealing data. Last year, documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters was behind the attack, codenamed Operation Socialist. And in November, The Intercept revealed that the malware found on Belgacom’s systems was one of the most advanced spy tools ever identified by security researchers, who named it “Regin.”
  • The revelations about the scope of the hacking operation will likely alarm Belgacom’s customers across the world. The company operates a large number of data links internationally (see interactive map below), and it serves millions of people across Europe as well as officials from top institutions including the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council. The new details will also be closely scrutinized by a federal prosecutor in Belgium, who is currently carrying out a criminal investigation into the attack on the company. Sophia in ’t Veld, a Dutch politician who chaired the European Parliament’s recent inquiry into mass surveillance exposed by Snowden, told The Intercept that she believes the British government should face sanctions if the latest disclosures are proven.
  • Publicly, Belgacom has played down the extent of the compromise, insisting that only its internal systems were breached and that customers’ data was never found to have been at risk. But secret GCHQ documents show the agency gained access far beyond Belgacom’s internal employee computers and was able to grab encrypted and unencrypted streams of private communications handled by the company. Belgacom invested several million dollars in its efforts to clean-up its systems and beef-up its security after the attack. However, The Intercept has learned that sources familiar with the malware investigation at the company are uncomfortable with how the clean-up operation was handled—and they believe parts of the GCHQ malware were never fully removed.
  • What sets the secret British infiltration of Belgacom apart is that it was perpetrated against a close ally—and is backed up by a series of top-secret documents, which The Intercept is now publishing.
  • Between 2009 and 2011, GCHQ worked with its allies to develop sophisticated new tools and technologies it could use to scan global networks for weaknesses and then penetrate them. According to top-secret GCHQ documents, the agency wanted to adopt the aggressive new methods in part to counter the use of privacy-protecting encryption—what it described as the “encryption problem.” When communications are sent across networks in encrypted format, it makes it much harder for the spies to intercept and make sense of emails, phone calls, text messages, internet chats, and browsing sessions. For GCHQ, there was a simple solution. The agency decided that, where possible, it would find ways to hack into communication networks to grab traffic before it’s encrypted.
  • The Snowden documents show that GCHQ wanted to gain access to Belgacom so that it could spy on phones used by surveillance targets travelling in Europe. But the agency also had an ulterior motive. Once it had hacked into Belgacom’s systems, GCHQ planned to break into data links connecting Belgacom and its international partners, monitoring communications transmitted between Europe and the rest of the world. A map in the GCHQ documents, named “Belgacom_connections,” highlights the company’s reach across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, illustrating why British spies deemed it of such high value.
  • Documents published with this article: Automated NOC detection Mobile Networks in My NOC World Making network sense of the encryption problem Stargate CNE requirements NAC review – October to December 2011 GCHQ NAC review – January to March 2011 GCHQ NAC review – April to June 2011 GCHQ NAC review – July to September 2011 GCHQ NAC review – January to March 2012 GCHQ Hopscotch Belgacom connections
Paul Merrell

Belgian court finds Facebook guilty of breaching privacy laws - nsnbc international | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • A court in the Belgian capital Brussels, on Friday, found the social media company Facebook guilty of breaching Belgian privacy laws. Belgium’s Privacy Commission had taken Facebook to court and the judge agreed with the Commission’s view that Facebook had flouted the country’s privacy legislation. The company has been ordered to correct its practice right away of face fines. Facebook has lodged an appeal.
  • Facebook follows its users activities by means of so-called social plug-ins, cookies, and pixels. These digital technologies enable Facebook to follow users’ behavior when online. Cookies, for example, are small files that are attached to your internet browser when you go online and visit a particular site. They are used to collect information about the kind of things you like to read or look at while surfing the web. Facebook uses the data both for its own ends, but also to help advertisers send tailor made advertising. In so doing Facebook also uses certain cookies to follow people that don’t even have a Facebook profile. The court ruled that it is “unclear what information Facebook is collecting about us” and “what it uses the information for”. Moreover, Facebook has not been given permission to keep tabs on internet-users by a court of law.
  • he court has ordered Facebook to stop the practice straight away and to delete any data that it has obtained by means contrary to Belgian privacy legislation. If Facebook fails to comply it will face a penalty payment of 250,000 euro/day.
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  • Facebook, for its part, has said that it is to appeal against the verdict.
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