Microsoft Is Using Cortana To Read Your Private Skype Conversations

Are you using Skype? If so, perhaps you should switch to something that is more secure.

Brian Fagioli shares a report from BetaNews:

“So, here’s the deal, folks. In order for this magical “in-context” technology to work, Cortana is constantly reading your private conversations. If you use Skype on mobile to discuss private matters with your friends or family, Cortana is constantly analyzing what you type. Talking about secret business plans with a colleague? Yup, Microsoft’s assistant is reading those too. Don’t misunderstand — I am not saying Microsoft has malicious intent by adding Cortana to Skype; the company could have good intentions. With that said, there is the potential for abuse. Microsoft could use Cortana’s analysis to spy on you for things like advertising or worse, and that stinks. Is it really worth the risk to have smart replies and suggested calendar entries? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have my Skype conversations read by Microsoft.”

Brian Fagioli’s complete report may be found at: https://slashdot.org/~BrianFagioli.

Court rules Stingray use Without a Warrant Violates Fourth Amendment

The Washington DC Court of Appeals overturned a Superior Court conviction of a man who was located by police using a cell-site simulator, or Stingray. The court ruled that the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when law enforcement tracked down the suspect using his own cell phone without a warrant.

Stingrays work by pretending to be a cell tower and once they’re brought close enough to a particular phone, that phone pings a signal off of them. The Stingray then grabs onto that signal and allows whoever’s using it to locate the phone in question. These sorts of devices are used by a number of different agencies including the FBI, ICE, the IRS as well as police officers. However, those agencies will no longer be able to (legally) use the devices.

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Things You Don’t See Anymore

An article in the BBC News web site points out one major change in lifestyles in the past decade: the number of U.S. homes that have an old-fashioned, wired telephone obtained from the local telephone company has now dropped to less than 50%. That is a number that few people would have dreamed of ten years ago.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed thousands of Americans and found most American homes contain at least one cell phone; but, for the first time ever, fewer than half the homes have a wired phone obtained from the telephone company.

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We Have Lots of Encrypted Chat Capabilities, Why Not Add Encrypted Calls?

If encryption works for text-based chat, voice seems like a natural extension. If only it were that easy.

Encrypted voice calls can circumvent government wiretaps, or criminal snooping. But a host of technical challenges with facilitating the calls themselves has slowed the spread of voice over internet protocol overall.

You can read the details in an article by Lily Hay Newman in Wired at http://bit.ly/2p566TT.

However, encrypted voice applications do exist. See https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aprivacyblog.com+voice+encryption&t=ha&ia=web for some past articles about voice encryption, mostly about applications that are available today.

Who Did You Say Is Listening to My Cell Phone Calls?

The Ooma Blog has a short article that explains how anyone who knows your cell phone number has the ability to hear your calls, read your texts, and track your location (even if GPS is turned off). I suggest this article be required reading for anyone who is concerned about privacy and does not want anyone listening in.

The article is obviously designed to promote Ooma’s VoIP telephone service, which is encrypted. However, I have used Ooma for several years and love the service so I don’t mind the advertising.

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Make Encrypted Voice Calls Using Telegram

Telegram is introducing the ability to make encrypted voice calls. It offers end-to-end encryption, meaning it is super secure.

The Telegram interface is both familiar and easy to use. However, Telegram’s voice calling capabilities offer two major innovations over most of the competition: end-to-end encryption and granular control.

Telegram puts you, the user, in charge of who can and cannot call you. This precision control means you can turn voice calls on for everybody, just your contacts, or nobody. You can also restrict certain individuals from calling you on a one-on-one basis. It also offers crystal-clear call quality. It works on wi-fi as well as on cellular connections.

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How the US Secret Service Breaks into Smart Phones

There is an interesting article about cell phone privacy and security at https://goo.gl/JyxK0m.

One thing in the article surprised me: “A cheaper phone that might be less popular, it seems like it’d be easier for the vendors to get into it,” says Darnell of the Secret Service phone lab. “But it’s actually quite the opposite.”

I think I’ll go out today and buy a cheap cell phone.