Friday, December 26, 2014

Facebook Message Scanning Lawsuit - What You Need to Know!

Earlier this week U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton passed down a ruling that Facebook Inc must face a class action lawsuit in which the social media site is accused of violating its users' privacy by scanning the content of messages they sent to other users for advertising purposes.

At the heart of the lawsuit, which was initially filed in 2013, are allegations that Facebook actively scanned the content of private messages sent between users for links to websites and would then count any links in a tally of "likes" of the pages. These "likes" would then be used to compile user profiles, which in turn were used for building a database that was used for delivering targeted advertising to its users.

In basic terms, Facebook would use tools to read private messages for the most popular links being shared across its own site, even if they were sites or pages not within Facebook. That information would then be used to target advertising to each user. This data most likely would also be shown to prospective advertisers to help bolster sales of advertising via Facebook allowing them to profit from your personal information.

The complaint, filed by Facebook user Matthew Campbell, alleged that the scanning of these private messages violated both federal and California state law. Facebook had originally argued that the alleged scanning of its users' messages was covered by an exception under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act for interceptions by service providers occurring in the ordinary course of business. However, judge Hamilton dismissed those claims stating that Facebook had "not offered a sufficient explanation of how the challenged practice falls within the ordinary course of its business."

The case is Campbell v. Facebook Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 13-5996 and seeks class action status on behalf of all U.S. users who sent or received private messages that included website addresses in their content. As reported by Bloomberg the suit is seeking as much as $10,000 in damages for each user and could benefit all users of the site.

Facebook is not alone in facing these allegations. Lawsuits against Internet companies and social networks are multiplying as more users become more aware of how much personal information these sites are collecting, how they are using it and how they are revealing it to third parties, often without end user knowledge. Google Inc., Yahoo! Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. also are facing accusations of intercepting communications for their profit at the expense of users or non-users.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Amazon Offering $220 Worth of Apps For Free Beginning December 24th

Christmas will come a day early this year thanks to Amazon, as the company will be offering customers a ton of free apps as part of what they are calling the 'largest Free App of the Day bundle ever'! The bundle includes apps and games from developers like Halfbrick Studios, Rovio Entertainment and Sega of America, which range in price from $0.99 to $64.99, all for free!

Starting December 24th and running until December 26th, Amazon Appstore will offer a number of paid apps and games for free, as part of the largest Free App of the Day bundle ever. The bundle includes apps and games from developers like Halfbrick Studios, Rovio Entertainment and Sega of America, which range in price from $0.99 to $64.99, all for free—saving customers up to $220. Also starting today, and for a limited time, when customers buy or gift Amazon Coins, they can get up to a 30% discount on their overall Coins purchase—up to triple the normal savings to spend on apps, games and in-app items, like card packs in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, gold in Game of War-Fire Age, lollipop hammers in Candy Crush Saga and gems in Brave Frontier. Throughout the remainder of December and into the New Year, customers will find 50-85% discounts on titles from developers like Disney, Gameloft and Sony Pictures Television. Find out more at and download the Amazon App at

In addition to the loads of freebies Amazon wil also be offering customers several other exciting deals including up to 50% off Holiday and Kids movies and TV shows and up to 85% off popular Kindle books from best-selling authors. For more details checkout Amazon's full press release and be sure to check back on Wednesday December 24th to get all your free apps!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

iPhone 6, Robin Williams and World Cup Top Google's 2014 Search Trends

It is that time of year again when Google releases the company's annual list of the most popular  searches that its users have collectively searched for the most over the past 12 months. As per usual the list is broken down into several categories of interest. However the few that interest us geeks the most are listed below!

Overall top search trends of 2014:
  1. Robin Williams
  2. World Cup
  3. Ebola
  4. Malaysia Airlines
  5. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
  6. Flappy Bird
  7. Conchita Wurst
  8. ISIS
  9. Frozen
  10. Sochi Olympics

And trending consumer tech:
  1. iPhone 6
  2. Samsung Galaxy S5
  3. Nexus 6
  4. Moto G
  5. Samsung Note 4
  6. LG G3
  7. Xbox One
  8. Apple Watch
  9. Nokia X
  10. iPad Air
Interestingly enough smartphones and wearable tech take most of the consumer tech positions breaking from some past trends that saw gaming consoles taking a few of the top spots. For a full overview Google has a website dedicated to the year with stories and highlights following some of the wide range of stories that intrigued the world at some point or another. Here's the full list of the top search trends of 2014 if you're interested.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Comcast Hit With Class Action Lawsuit Over Use of Customer Routers For Comcast Xfinity Wifi Service

Much to the disdain of many customers earlier this year Comcast began its roll out of the company's new Comcast Xfinity Wifi service. The service features an update to rented home Wi-Fi routers that turns on a little known feature enabling your Xfinity router to be turned into a public hotspot!

Unfortunately for many un-suspecting customers the newly update service was turned on by default, and while Comcast promises there is no risk to users, and no added costs associated. The new service has not been met with open arms.

According to a San Francisco Chronicle report a class-action lawsuit was filed against Comcast last week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The suit was submitted by East Bay residents Toyer Grear and daughter Joycelyn Harris, who claim that Comcast is using its equipment to exploit customers for profit. They're seeking an injunction that will prevent Comcast from using its residential wireless routers as public hotspots. The suit also seeks compensation for unspecified damages.

According to the complaint Comcast violated the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as California laws on unfair competition and computer data access and fraud. They claim that the public hotspots, broadcast from the same equipment used for subscribers' private Wi-Fi networks, raise customers' electricity costs and harm network performance. But they also make what Comcast says is a false allegation regarding network security.

Comcast is looking to build a public Xfinity WiFi hotspot network, one that offers any current Comcast customer access to WiFi hotspotx throughout the region. This network will reside in 19 of the largest cities here in the United States and compete with America's top mobile service providers such as AT&T and Verizon. To do this, Comcast has added a second Internet channel to the newer models of its wireless gateway modems that are leased out to subscribers.

The lawsuit claims that “unauthorized broadcasting of a secondary, public Wi-Fi network from the customer’s wireless router subjects the customer to potential security risks, in the form of enabling a stranger who wishes to access the Internet through the customer’s household router, with the customer having no option to authorize or otherwise control such use.” The suit goes on to say that “upon information and belief, any activity on the Xfinity Wi-Fi Hotspot will appear as though it originated from the Comcast customer’s IP address.”

A Comcast FAQ says the public hotspots are "completely separate from your secure Wi-Fi home network" and contend that there is no risk of cross access or communication. Furthermore Comcast ensures users that because the public Wi-Fi signal these features provide is treated as a separate connection, you won’t get into trouble for anything anyone does with it. It should be a separate IP address and usage will be associated with the account the other person signs on with.

Security risks aside the lawsuit also claims that end users with these 'hotspot enabled' routers are subject to higher electricity bills and slower overall connections speeds. Another claim that Comcast has previously defended in regards to the hotspots, saying they use minimal extra power, do not pose security risks because they are walled off from each customer’s private network, and do not cause any noticeable performance drop.

Although the hotspots are turned on by default, customers can turn them off by calling 1-800-XFINITY or online at  More details can also be found in our previous report here.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Checkout The Writings of Albert Einstein - 5000 Papers Added Online Today

Albert Einstein has arguably one of minds in history and starting today you can gain a little more insight into how his genius worked! The Digital Einstein Papers — launched by Princeton University Press, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the California Institute of Technology have released more than 5,000 of his personal papers, including everything from Einstein's love letters to his high school essays.

The documents published on the Web are just a few of the 80,000 he left behind before his passing in 1955 at age 76.

For those that are able to follow them there are some very fascinating finds. For the scientific minded you can view lectures he gave on his theory of relativity at Princeton in 1921. For those looking for a little romantic intrigue, there is his letter at age 22 to Mileva Marić, his future wife.

The volumes are packed with lots of geeky stuff, from mathematical equations to scientific theory. Not all of the early works are translated, and some of the material contains some pretty in-depth theory. However, even for those of us that do not fully grasp the material, it still makes for good reading and rather interesting insight into Einstein's working mind. Definitely something every geek out there should checkout!