Crime and Punishment
A Verizon worker recently learned the hard way that yes, he can hear you now–even in underground vaults.
Mike Hathaway parked his van on 71-year-old Howard Cook’s lawn, CBS Boston reports. The cranky Mr. Cook got so pissed he trapped Mr. Hathaway in an underground storage vault, slammed the door, and then, as if that wasn’t enough, piled huge rocks on top of it.
Let’s say you’re a New York City tech startup moving into a prewar commercial space. It’s totally trendy, you probably told yourself, until you realized that the Internet connection consisted of a bunch of old, dead wires—or nothing at all. What the heck will your small business do?
Fiber broadband might be your tech-savvy startup’s first choice, but if you’re not based in Kansas City, let’s face it: fiber’s not always feasible. The City of New York estimates that the average cost of a commercial fiber installation is $50,000 per business—a price your landlord might not be willing to shell out.
It’s been one year since Marissa Mayer was installed as Yahoo!’s CEO but aside from a reversal in stock (that’s up 70 percent), critics charge that there hasn’t been much of a turnaround. [Wall Street Journal]
Gowalla cofounder Josh Williams is soon leaving Facebook to work on a new startup. [AllThingsD]
Apple is supposedly creating some elaborate ad-skipping television technology that would compensate media companies. [Jessica Lessin]
Shipments of Google Chromebooks could spike in the latter half of the year because of “weak demand” for Windows-powered machines. [CNET]
Hackers can tap into Verizon cellphones for $300. [NPR]
Good morning! It seems we’ve all woken up in a conspiracy theorist’s fever dream, so I hope your wore your finest tinfoil hat to work.
Yesterday opened with the revelation that the NSA is collecting phone records for millions of Verizon subscribers on a daily basis. If that wasn’t Orwellian enough, then came another bomb from the Washington Post. As part of a program called PRISM, the NSA is collecting information from several major tech companies–Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and finally Apple. The Post claims the agency is grabbing “audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets.”
We know all this, by the way, thanks to a disturbed whistle-blower, who sent PowerPoint slides about the program. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” he told the Post. Hello and welcome to your cyberpunk future!
Today in brilliant ideas: Verizon’s security blog tells the story of an employee at an unnamed company who decided to outsource his job to China so that he could “watch cat videos” all day.
When the company noticed that someone from China was using the VPN of the employee (named “Bob”) to login, they called their telecommunications company, Verizon, to investigate. Verizon initially thought it was some type of malware, but it turned out that the company just had an amazingly lazy genius on their hands.
When last we checked in on creepy technologies that wholly encroach on your sense of personal privacy, Microsoft had registered a patent that would allow the Kinect to detect how many people are in a room and stop playback on a movie if it sensed more people than the copyright allowed. But a new patent filed by Verizon takes that concept a step further by allowing a set-top box to observe what’s going on in your house and serve you ads based on what it hears.
Perhaps it’s time for a burner phone? The New York Times reports that the NYPD has begun quietly and methodically accumulating heaps of call logs and putting them into a searchable database called the Enterprise Case Management System.
It works like this: When someone has their cell phone stolen, the NYPD frequently subpoenas the call logs for that phone, hoping that if the thief used the phone, the recordings will provide evidence that can help track him or her down. But instead of deleting the logs after closing the case, they continue to exist in the NYPD’s database, and could “conceivably be used for any investigative purpose.”
Law and Order
Anyone in the New York/New Jersey region knows how hard it was to make a call or send a text message in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation. Simply dialing up your parents to let them know you were okay resulted in many a frustrating dropped call, “mobile network not available” message or weird busy signal. Not to mention that those who lost power were left without a way to charge their typically omnipresent communication devices.
While waiting for your data to transfer from an old cell phone to a new one, who hasn’t experienced that flash of fear that the Verizon employee doing the transfer will sneak a peek at your text messages? (You really should come up with a better code word for weed than “green.”) Still, most of us believe that they can’t really get into that much trouble while you’re standing there watching them…right?
Zappos’ Tony Hsieh is using his empire to help revitalize downtown Las Vegas. “I first thought I would buy a piece of land and build our own Disneyland.” [New York Times]
Sources say the SEC’s probe into Facebook’s IPO has found no evidence that the company withheld information from investors. Good news for those seeking relief for the stock dive in civil court: Whether retail investors were led astray by misleading info from brokers still remains to be seen. [Bloomberg]
BuzzFeed is opening a Los Angeles bureau; prepare for a lot more celebrity photo lists. [BuzzFeed]
Internet service providers like Verizon and Time Warner have launched the Copyright Alert System, a new warning feature that will send notes to customers they’ve found are pirating content. Users who ignore these messages could even have their connections throttled, because ISPs will pretend to care about piracy if it gives them an excuse not to pay for bandwidth. [CNN]
Shopping for glitzy gowns just got a lot easier. On Friday, Rent the Runway introduced a new feature that replaces models with everyday women, “allowing visitors to search for women of a certain age, height, weight and even bust size, to see how that dress looks on someone similar.” [New York Times]