Articles Posted in Technology & Privacy

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) could be the next thing in spending as banks, retailers and businesses race to incorporate the latest technology into the consumer relationship. However, protection of private information continues to be a concern — illustrating the need for a Massachusetts business attorney whenever new technology is introduced into the sales and marketing equation.

A data breach in Massachusetts or elsewhere is a real concern. Recent issues at Citi Bank (more than $2 million was stolen after hundreds of thousands of accounts were breached), Sony and other corporate giants continue to illustrate the dangers.
A recent gathering of researchers at UMass Amherst focused on improving security and privacy of RFID and electronic payments. Radio frequency identification is the next-generation technology, which allows consumers to pay for purchases by swiping their mobile phones. Concerns primarily focus around the fact that it’s equally possible for fraud to occur by anyone who can get close enough to your phone to pick up the frequency. The workshops June 26 to 28 at the Hotel Northampton will focus on the security and privacy concerns and are the first to take place in the United States.

One demonstration will include a device built from parts purchased on eBay, which has the ability to peer into a wallet for sensitive credit card and identifying information from several feet away.

Like bar codes, RFID technology permits contactless payments simply by waving a cell phone at a cash register or other device; the concern comes when fraudsters intentionally intercept the radio waves for the purpose of recording bogus transactions.

“Good security and privacy is built in, not bolted on. It is less costly to anticipate threats and to secure systems from the start than to patch after the fact,” said Kevin Fu, a UMass Amherst computer scientist.

Similarly, it is best to consult a Massachusetts technology attorney whenever new technology is being instituted or changes are being made to billing processes. Getting it right at the start is much easier than trying to correct errors or illegalities after the fact.

High-profile computer breaches continue to plague corporate America. Most recently, Citigroup is under fire for taking too long to notify customers after hundreds of thousands of accounts were hacked and more than $2 million was stolen, Infosecurity Magazine reports. The company waited six weeks.

The Boston Globe reports 3,400 customers lost $2.7 million but will be reimbursed. The bank reports more than 360,000 credit card accounts — or about 1.5 percent of the bank’s North American accounts — were compromised.

Now Reuters reports Citgroup also failed to provide its customers with the degree of privacy protection that many other companies provide. Most companies suffering a similar breach have offered to buy or give customers a year of identity theft protection or credit monitoring services. Citi did not — only reminding customers that they could place a fraud alert on their credit files.
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A Massachusetts tech company is among those who have been embroiled in one of a growing number of lawsuits involving technology and privacy or information technology, Bloomberg News reports.

Skyhook Wireless Inc. v. Google Inc., (2010-3652 Massachusetts Superior Court, Suffolk County (Boston)) and Skyhook Wireless v. Google Inc. (10cv11571, U.S. District Court for the District Court of Massachusetts), claims copyright infringement on four patents related to establishing smartphone locations. The company also claims Google used its leverage to cut off the phonemaker’s access to third-party applications in the Android market.

Massachusetts technology attorneys have seen an explosion in interest and concern surrounding the ability of a number of smartphones — including Apples iPhone — to pinpoint a user’s location and store or transmit such data for a number of uses. Privacy advocates are increasingly questioning such technology. Bloomberg News reports the European Union is proposing tougher restrictions on such technology. There, users must be given “clear, comprehensive” and understandable information about how and why the data is collected and how it is used.

Technology firms and business startups in Massachusetts and elsewhere can use such information to deliver targeted advertising and for a wide variety of other uses. However, a Massachusetts business law firm should be consulted, to both help keep a business from running afoul of the law and to protect a startup’s proprietary technology.

Apple and other companies have defended collection of the data by saying it is used to record wi-fi hotspots for ease of the returning user. The May 16 decision in Europe made it clear that England, Germany and France will consider such information private data.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Senator is making inquiry about the privacy policies of Microsoft, Google and Apple. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, also sent a letter to Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerrys. He contends the tracking of the whereabouts of a cell phone user violates his/her reasonable expectation of privacy.

Skyook’s technology is among the location-finding technologies available on the market. Google rejects the allegations that it undermined plans by Samsung Electronics and Motorola to using competing location-finding technology.

In other technology news, Baidu is accused in a U.S. lawsuit of assisting Chinese censorship efforts. Often referred to as the Google of China, Baidu was sued by eight Chinese residents of New York, who say the company’s censorship of political expression is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit also alleges Baidu violates New York state law and demands $16 million in damages from Baidu and the Chinese government.

Both lawsuits illustrate the need to think globally in the age of the global economy. Startups often consider U.S. law when designing or implementing products, even while targeting the burgeoning markets in China, India, Brazil and elsewhere. Those aiming for the global stage must also consider the global legal ramifications.
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