Legal Research Blog


Hackers Are Keeping You Safe at Facebook?

A recent article by Roberto Baldwin of Gizmodo explores the privacy and security maintenance strategy of the social network Facebook. At the moment Facebook has managed to avoid a catastrophic security breach that many of their online peers have recently fallen victim to. To keep such breaches at bay the social network uses both in-house and recreational hackers who receive cash prizes when they discover and report security flaws found within the structural code of the expansive social network. The strategy traces back to CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s hacking past while an undergrad at Harvard working to develop Facebook. More recently, the in-house security team at Facebook has been working on over drive to secure the successful launch of Facebook’s newest and controversial feature: Timeline. With its request for an increasing array of personal information Facebook’s reputation is on the line more so than at any other time in its brief history. While Facebook has been able to ward off a large scale attack thus far it is the individual account breaches, Baldwin notes that are slowly chipping away at the reputation of Facebook. Let’s just hope that our information stays secure as we continue to place more of it in the hands of Facebook.

The World’s Most Valuable Startups

On Wednesday Business Insider released their annual list of the 100 Most Valuable Startups. Topping the list were a few names that came of no surprise including Facebook, Groupon, Twitter, Wikipedia, and LivingSocial. A bit more surprising, but not insensible by any means, were the likes of Craigslist, Vente-Privee, Palantir Technologies, Airbnb, and Jawbone—names that haven’t been occupying headlines as readily as their more infamous counter parts (Unless of course you’re Airbnb and the publicity is for the wrong reasons) but successful in their own right. Notable changes from last year’s list include a few major drop-offs and those who went on to greener pastures in the form of an IPO. Click to see the full list.

Windows 8 at a Glance

Photo Credit: Gene Hunt

Wait, did you say Tiles? Yep, Microsoft unveiled a working prototype of its next generation Windows 8 operating system that comes complete with—tiles. The new operating system out of Redmond changes what consumers have come to expect in the traditional desktop computing environment. Instead, Microsoft has borrowed heavily from elements found in their mobile applications line, specifically, from their much maligned Zune Mp3 players and freshly minted Windows Phone 7 operating system. The interface breaks up multiple applications into the so-called tiles that are then displayed in a format that is optimized for touch-sensitive displays. All is not forever changed though, there is an option for technophobes to remain with a marginally updated version of the Windows desktop that you may or may not be reading this blog on right now. All in all the initial reaction seems to be a rather intrigued one from members of the tech community, but the ultimate conclusion seems a few months away as a launch date has yet to appear.

Somebody Doesn’t Know What They’re Talking About

Your smart phone is awesome, we know. It seems like everyday day there’s a new app that lets you keep your eyes glued to that screen in your pocket no bigger than an index card.  But what if your smart phone has been deceiving you? An article by David Segal of the NY Times notes the increasing number of businesses that are falsely reported as closed on Google Maps. When you consider how easy it is for a hungry smartphone user to browse between the vast assortment of food and service options listed in a Google search any small inconvenience threatening to push a customer away, such as the possibility of being closed, is serious business.  As of now, the problem is limited to small businesses that are the target of, presumably, other competing small businesses. However, one does wonder how quickly the problem could get out of control. While services such as Google Maps and Yelp have become an increasingly popular way of picking a restaurant or hotel the problem must be reined in now before the reputation of these services crumble.  If the situation doesn’t improve soon people may begin to look for good places to eat the old fashioned way—trial and error.

Online Privacy Takes Another Hit

Photo Credit Alan Cleaver

“The cultural changes wrought by the Internet are not yet done, because our understanding as a society of exactly what information is on the Internet is not complete” says Kevin Gold of Slate magazine. What if all the Facebook privacy settings in the world couldn’t stop someone from prying into the details of your life which aren’t even written down, never mind posted on Facebook for the world to see?  Kevin Gold’s recent article explores how simple statistical analysis can reveal more than a typical Facebook user would care to actively share in their own profile. While you may not feel comfortable sharing sensitive aspects of your personal life some of your friends might not mind, if only indirectly. A study out of Northeastern University, “has shown that it takes only a 20 percent participation rate among college students in filling out profile information to deduce facts—such as major, year, and dorm—about the nonresponders who simply friended others.” When you consider the similarities between those who you associate with it’s not surprising that researchers can deduce an uncomfortable amount of information about one person simply by learning about their digital peers.  This fact has even made some give up on the notion of privacy all together.  The choice seems reasonable especially when we consider the alternative of living with the headaches or dropping the digital social lifestyle all together.

Don’t relax just yet, with our increased visual presence online there exists another opportunity to unknowingly pass along private information. Research by Ming-Zher Poh, Daniel J. Mcdug, and Rosalind Picard found that pulse information can be taken from a basic webcam.  This technology would theoretically allow a savvy individual to deduce one’s mental and/or emotional state by simply analyzing a grainy headshot. Well, I guess it’s time to start working on that poker face.