Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Morning Brief: Feds looking into apps that share user information; Appeals Court dismisses 'net neutrality' lawsuits as premature; arrests in phone hacking case

No doubt that the John Galt crowd will see the move as government intrusion, but smartphone owners will probably applaud a move by the feds to examine whether mobile phone apps improperly reveal too much user information to their developers.
As noted late last week, Pandora has revealed in a Security and Exchange Commission filing that it has been issued a subpoena by a federal grand jury that is looking into information sharing being done by mobile phone applications. The company has been informed that it is not a target of the investigation, but part of a broad investigation into privacy issues.

At the very least, the hope is that developers will be more open with their users about what information they are revealing by using their apps, and possibly cut down on the practice when the user has not opted in.

Politico reported yesterday that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Monday has dismissed lawsuits brought by Verizon and MetroPCS that were challenging the FCC's recent rulings regarding 'net neutrality'. The court found that the lawsuits were premature as the rulings have not published its Open Internet Order in the Federal Register.

A spokesman for Verizon told Politico that once the rules are published they will file again.

The British phone hacking case has finally resulted in some arrests. The former editor and current chief reporter of the News of the World, a News Corp. tabloid, have been arrested for allegedly intercepting cell phone call voicemail messages, The Guardian reports this morning.

The ongoing melodrama has been news because it involves actions that occurred the recently resigned communications director of the ruling Tories was the editor of the News of the World.

The phone hacking scandal goes all the way back to 2006 when a News of the World editor was arrested and charged with hacking the phones of members of the royal family through accessing their voicemail and using information found for stories about the royals. Clive Goodman, the editor involved in this first incident eventually plead guilty and served four months.

But The Guardian was on the case and future revelations ensured. Then in September of last year the New York Times reported its own findings that included the allegation that Andy Coulson, who had left the paper for a roll in the Conservative Party government, knew about the phone hacking. This, plus other revelations, led to Coulson resigning as communications director this January.

The Epsilon data breach mess keeps claiming its victims. This morning Marriott sent out notices to its registered customers that their email addresses are out in the open thanks to the incident at the email marketing services firm.

The question on my mind is how many other companies are holding back on notifying their customers that they use Epsilon and that their email addresses have been compromised?