May 17, 2020

What recent tech security hiccups reveal about privacy

AI
Cyber Security
William Smith
2 min
A number of high profile incidents have highlighted anxieties around privacy when it comes to technology
A number of high profile incidents have highlighted anxieties around privacy when it comes to technology.

It started with Google’s Devices and Servic...

A number of high profile incidents have highlighted anxieties around privacy when it comes to technology.

It started with Google’s Devices and Services head, Rick Osterloh, who was asked a question by the BBC regarding whether guests should be warned about active smart devices in the homes that they are visiting. 

The context for the interview was around Google’s recent product launch, with the Pixel 4 smartphone, the Pixelbook Chromebook and Google’s Stadia cloud gaming platform all on display. Of particular relevance, though, was google’s Nest line of smart speakers, which records both audio and video to monitor sound and movement.

Osterloh revealed that he believed the presence of such a device should indeed be disclosed, and went further to say that this was something he already did. The Nest’s recording capabilities reportedly cannot be turned off in a temporary fashion, instead requiring disabling in the settings.

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Then came two other incidents. The first involved Samsung’s flagship S10 smartphone and its ultrasonic fingerprint reader, which was discovered to have faulty recognition when covered by an unauthorised screen protector, allowing anyone to unlock the device. Samsung responded quickly, promising a software update to rectify the issue.

At the same time, a concern was raised about Google’s new Pixel 4 Face Unlock system, which does not incorporate the check for alertness found in competing systems. Consequently, the spectre of the phone being unlocked when held up to a sleeping or otherwise unwilling individual. Google responded by highlighting the presence of a higher security mode that disables facial recognition altogether.

Taken together, all three highlight the trade-off between convenience and security. And the different responses are instructive of three potential routes forward. In the case of the Nest, it’s a question of ethics and informed consent. The S10 suggests the answer is simply to upgrade the technology. Finally, the Pixel 4 situation shows that the most convenient of solutions cannot hope to also be the most secure.

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Jul 26, 2021

Mark Zuckerberg: from college dropout to billionaire

Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg
Social Media
Catherine Gray
4 min
As the creator of the most popular social media platform, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has shaped the way generations communicate online

Mark Zuckerberg is the co-founder and CEO of the popular social networking website, Facebook. Founded out of his college dorm room at university, Zuckerberg left Harvard University in his sophomore year to concentrate on building the Facebook site.

The user base of the website has now grown to more than two billion people, turning Zuckerberg into a billionaire.

Early accomplishments

From an early age, Zuckerberg used his talents to create online applications for his friends and family to use. Around the age of 12, Zuckerberg used Atari BASIC to create messaging program ‘Zucknet’.

Zucknet was used by Edward Zuckerberg, Mark’s father, in his dental office to communicate with this receptionist. The Zuckerberg family also used it within their house.

Throughout his early education, despite excelling in literature and captaining the fencing team, Zuckerberg remained fascinated by computers. In high school, he created an early version of the music software Pandora.

Companies including AOL and Microsoft expressed interest in buying the software, as well as hiring teenage Zuckerberg before graduation. He declined these offers.

Life at Harvard University

By Zuckerberg’s sophomore year he had developed the reputation as the go-to software developer on campus.

In his time at Harvard, as well as developing Facebook, he built programs called CourseMatch and Facemash.

CourseMatch helped students choose their classes based on the course selections of other users.

Facemash compared the pictures of two students on campus, allowing them to vote on who was more attractive. This was later shut down by the school administration after it was deemed inappropriate.

Zuckerberg was sought out to help fellow students Divya Narendra and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss on an idea of their own. The idea, a social networking site they called Harvard Connection, was designed to use information from Harvard’s student network to create a dating site for the Harvard elite.

After agreeing to help, Zuckerberg dropped out to work on his own site, The Facebook.

Founding Facebook

With his friends, Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg created The Facebook. This site allowed users to create their own profiles, upload photos and communicate with others.

The group of friends ran the site out of a dorm room at Harvard University until June 2004. In the same year, Zuckerberg dropped out of university and moved the company to Palo Alto, California.

By the end of 2004, Facebook had 1 million users.

In 2005, Accel invested $12.7 million into the network even though at the time it was only open to Ivy League students.

After granting access to other colleges, schools and international schools to use his site, Zuckerberg’s Facebook grew to more than 5.5 million users by 2005. 

Although companies offered to buy the social networking site, Zuckerberg did not want to sell out. One offer he turned down was a $1bn buyout offer from Yahoo in 2007. Zuckerberg focused instead on expanding the site and opening more features.

But, in 2007 Facebook did strike a deal with Microsoft. The software company paid $240 million for a 1.6 per cent stake in Facebook. Digital Sky Technologies purchased 1.96 per cent for $200 million two years later.

Zuckerberg’s net worth was estimated at about $1.5 billion in 2008.

Legal battles with Harvard Connection

Despite his successes with Facebook, Zuckerberg faced legal issues with the creators of Harvard Connection. 

Claiming Zuckerberg stole their idea, the creators of Harvard Connection insisted the software developer paid for their businesses losses.

After incriminating messages revealed Zuckerberg may have stolen the intellectual property of Harvard Connection, Zuckerberg apologised saying: “I think I’ve grown and learned a lot.”

An initial settlement of $65 million was reached. Despite this, the legal dispute over the issue continued into 2011 after claims Narendra and the Winklevosses claimed they were misled in regards to the value of their stock.

Current Influence

With a net worth of $113 billion, Zuckerberg signed the Giving Pledge which means he will donate 50% of his net worth to philanthropic causes before he dies. In 2010, he donated more than $100 million to save the Neward school system in New Jersey.

Following the birth of his daughter, Zuckerberg and his wife, Pricilla Chan, authored an open letter in which they pledge to give away 99% of their net worth during their lifetime

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