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Last Week Online #46 – Your political opinion just leaked

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
3 min read

Shutting down the Internet might seem like a good idea when you read Facebook comments. It's not.

1.2 billion people exposed in massive data leak, including political and religious information on individuals

A data leak, containing data sets originating from two different data enrichment companies, have revealed 4 billion user accounts and more than four terabytes of data to the public. In total, the leak exposed 1.2 billion unique people across all data sets.

This leak is not a "hack", but more similar to leaving your front door wide open to the public. Two security researchers "found" a database where all the information was unprotected and searchable via any web browser. No password or authentication of any kind was needed to access or download all of the data.

A data enrichment company sells data. They use a known piece of information – like a name, or email address – to expand it with hundreds of additional data points of information. A profile can include information such as the size of your household, your finances and income, political and religious preference, and even what social activities you like.

Some of the data in this leak came from previous data breaches. The data leaked this time will now be sucked into new databases by companies collecting and selling user data. This chain effect is why data never dies.

Iran pulled the plug on the Internet

Violent protests in Iran have killed at least 12, injured hundreds and arrested more than a 1,000 people – according to news agencies. After anti-government forces dominated the streets of both Tehran and other cities for the third day in a row, Iran inflicted a nearly nationwide internet blackout last Sunday. The government attempted to cut off Iranians both from each other, and the rest of the world.

"The deaths and the ruthless images of authorities raining bullets on protesters that are being disseminated are not the images they want dominating their narrative," said Mahsa Alimardani, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, to the New York Times. She further explained that the Iranian government was trying to limit the spread of evidence of state violence.

One interesting aspect was how the shut down of the Internet did not impact critical national infrastructures, allowing financial services and health care to operate as usual. The Iranian government have built it's National Information Network – a highly censored digital infrastructure – in a way that let them shut down the public Internet whenever it suits them.

Apple CEO Tim Cook asks for stricter privacy regulations

There has been a lot of initiatives from the federal government on how to regulate big tech. Last week they got unexpected support from Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Many are focused on splitting up companies like Facebook into separate, smaller entities. But the Apple CEO argued that regulators are too concentrated on antitrust action and not enough on data privacy. Breaking up big tech companies without paying attention to how much user data is still collected is pointless, he said. "Unless you take an action where there's materially less data in the companies that are left," Cook told ABC News, "you haven't done anything."

"I think we can all admit that when you've tried to do something and companies haven't self-policed, it's time to have rigorous regulation," Tim Cook explained in an interview with ABC News. Cook said that big tech companies haven't corrected their mistakes, and now it's time for the government to step in — preferably with a federal privacy bill.

Tool of the Week: Table Capture

Have you ever tried to copy a table from the web into a spreadsheet? It often becomes pretty messy. But with the browser extension Table Capture, you'll finally get the information you want, without the mess.

You can easily create a Google Sheet from any HTML-table, and with the pro version, you can directly download CSV or Excel-files. And it's not only <table>-tables, any repeating <div> element on a webpage can be seamlessly copied and pasted.

Very neat!

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

Thinker and doer. Loves running, wine, and human behaviour.


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