Tag: imessage

EU wallops WhatsApp, iMessage and Gmail

Europe with flags - Wikimedia CommonsWhatsApp, iMessage and Gmail will face tougher rules on how they can track users under planned new laws being worked out by the European Union executive.

The web companies would have to guarantee the confidentiality of their customers’ conversations and get their consent before tracking them online to target them with personalised advertisements.

This means that Gmail and Hotmail will not be able to scan customers’ emails to serve them with targeted advertisements without getting their explicit agreement.

The European Commission extends some rules that now apply to telecom operators to web companies offering calls and messages using the internet, known as “Over-The-Top” (OTT) services, and seeks to close a regulatory gap between the telecoms industry and mainly US Internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

This means that telecoms companies will be allowed to use customer metadata, such as the duration and location of calls, as well as content to provide additional services and so make more money.

The proposal will also require web browsers to ask users upon installation whether they want to allow websites to place cookies on their browsers to deliver personalized advertisements.

All it is really doing is getting people’s permission, before they view a web page. Something most people will allow anyway.

But Online advertisers say such rules would undermine many websites’ ability to fund themselves and keep offering free services.

The proposal will need to be approved by the European Parliament and member states before becoming law.

Tech Industry group weighs in on back doors

Backdoor_crop380wA leading US-based technology lobby group rejected calls to give US law enforcement authorities backdoor keys to let them circumvent encryption technology for mobiles.

The Information Technology Industry Council said in a statement that the post-Paris move to weaken encryption to help the government monitor electronic communications in the name of national security “simply does not make sense”.

Dean Garfield, president of the Washington-based organization, which represents Apple, Google, Microsoft and dozens of other blue-chip tech companies said that after “a horrific tragedy like the Paris attacks, we naturally search for solutions: weakening encryption is not a solution.”

US intelligence officials and lawmakers have seized on the assault to rekindle a debate about whether tech companies should cooperate with authorities by building “backdoors” into encrypted devices and platforms.

Government authorities have said the growing prevalence of encrypted email and messaging platforms, such as iMessage or WhatsApp, hamstring their ability to monitor criminal suspects and thwart militant plots.

The Paris attackers did not use any particular form of secure messaging and a mobile phone recovered by French authorities at the scene of one of the attacks was found with an unencrypted text message.

Last month, the White House abandoned an effort to lobby tech companies and Congress to allow law enforcement and intelligence officials backdoor access to encrypted messaging. The idea has re-emerged in the wake of Paris, but congressional aides say federal legislation on the issue remains unlikely.

Privacy advocates, tech companies and security researchers say backdoors would expose data to malicious hackers.

“Encryption is a security tool we rely on everyday to stop criminals from draining our bank accounts, to shield our cars and airplanes from being taken over by malicious hacks,” Garfield said in his statement.

“We deeply appreciate law enforcement’s and the national security community’s work to protect us, but weakening encryption or creating backdoors to encrypted devices and data for use by the good guys would actually create vulnerabilities to be exploited by the bad guys.”