STLR Link Roundup – Feb. 26, 2016

Apple Files Motion to Vacate Order to Unlock iPhone

On Thursday, February 25, Apple filed a motion to vacate a court order compelling the company to aid the U.S. government in unlocking the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook. In the motion, filed in the Federal District Court for the Central District of California, Apple argues that the All Writs Act does not give judges the authority “to compel innocent third parties to provide decryption services to the F.B.I.” The motion also argues that the order violates Apple’s First Amendment right to free speech and its Fifth Amendment right to be free from arbitrary deprivations of liberty by the government. In addition, Apple argues that following the order would undermine the security infrastructure Apple has created, and that any mechanism it develops to unlock the iPhone would quickly become a target for criminals.  Since Tim Cook published an online letter explaining the court order and justifying Apple’s opposition, a number of tech giants have expressed support for Apple, including Facebook, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

F.B.I. Director Makes Appeal to Congress

In the wake of Apple’s disagreement with the F.B.I. over data privacy, F.B.I. Director Jim Comey appeared before Congress Thursday, urging members of the House Intelligence Committee to pass laws clarifying when the government can access individuals’ private data in the name of security. Comey expressed a concern that the legislature should decide the issue ultimately, saying, “The larger question isn’t going to be answered in the courts, and shouldn’t be. It’s really about who do we want to be as a country and how do we want to govern ourselves.” Comey called the tension between protecting citizens’ privacy and national security “the hardest question [he’s] seen in government.

MasterCard to Roll Out Selfie ID Authentication

This week, MasterCard announced the imminent arrival of “selfie pay”, which—as the name implies—will allow users to confirm credit card purchases by taking a selfie. The new feature uses facial recognition technology to confirm users’ identities. To complete a transaction, customers using the MasterCard app will still have to input their credit card number during payment. However, they will be able to confirm the purchase by taking a short video in which the user blinks (to prove that the no one is using a photo of the card owner to make fraudulent purchases). The MasterCard app currently uses a password to confirm purchases, but “selfie pay” will be even more secure. MasterCard reports that 92% of pilot testers preferred the new technology to using a password. The feature will become available this summer in the United States and parts of Europe.

Airbnb Admits to Removing NYC Listings Before Releasing Data

On Wednesday, February 24, Airbnb admitted to removing about 1,500 listings before publicly releasing its data about rental activity in New York City. On December 1, 2015, the company released anonymous information about thousands of New York rentals, including host earnings, the types of listings and how often people rent out their homes. The voluntary release was part of an on-going effort to convince regulators that Airbnb is not a platform for illegal hotels. In Wednesday’s letter, Airbnb explained that it removed about 1,500 of the 37,000 listings on its New York City platform “that were controlled by commercial operators and did not reflect Airbnb’s vision for our community.” Cutting those listings made it appear as though there were fewer professional hosts with multiple listings using Airbnb. 134 of the hosts whose listings had been removed in November have added at least one listing since then.

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