Kundra takes leave, Google raises privacy flags

It may be a good idea to be paranoid about whether your computer harbors malware

Well, at least the issue is not unpaid taxes this time -- but Vivek Kundra, the brand-new, first-ever federal CIO after just a few days on the job is already on a leave of absence after the office of the Washington, D.C., CTO was raided by federal agents. Kundra had been the District's CTO before President Barack Obama appointed him the nation's CIO. In other news, Google peeved privacy advocates by announcing a behavioral advertising program and separately saying it is testing a new service that will transcribe voice-mail messages and make them searchable.

1. Kundra takes leave of absence from federal CIO post: The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the offices of the Washington, D.C., CTO and arrested its acting security director and a contractor on bribery charges. While that would have been enough of a headline, the real news of the story is that President Barack Obama's newly appointed federal CIO -- the nation's first ever -- had until last week been the CTO of Washington, D.C. Vivek Kundra has not been implicated in the ongoing FBI investigation, but he quickly announced he will take a leave of absence as the nation's CIO.

2. Privacy groups rip Google's targeted advertising plan: Google raised the hackles of privacy advocates first this week when it launched a behavioral advertising program, although it had said it would not get into that type of advertising despite buying DoubleClick. "It's a disaster," Electronic Privacy Information Center Executive Director Marc Rotenberg said of Google's news. "It's about whether the most dominant Internet media firm should be able to exploit its access to Internet user data for advertising purposes. Google long maintained it would not do this type of advertising. Indeed, they claimed they didn't need to and they went after others who did." That was not all the vexing news that could affect Internet users' privacy that was related to Google this week -- read on.

3. After Gmail, Google wants to search your voice mail too and Google Voice: Press "1" to invade your privacy: Google is testing a service that transcribes voice-mail messages that can then be searched. It will offer its transcription services to customers of GrandCentral Communications, a telecommunications provider it bought in July 2007. While the company did not say if that service will be expanded and it seems benign enough on its surface, Preston Gralla at Computerworld raised some points and questions at least worth pondering, even if you do not tend to be paranoid.

4. Conficker.C variant set for April 1 surprise, CA says: So, while you may not be paranoid about privacy issues, it may be a good idea to be paranoid about whether your computer harbors malware (more on this in following entries as well). CA says that the third variant of the dreaded Conficker worm will activate on April 1. If that does not concern you, keep going ...

5. Researchers sniff keystrokes from thin air: Two separate research teams have uncovered ways to "read" what is being typed into a PC keyboard, including picking up passwords and other personal data. One team of researchers used an oscilloscope and an inexpensive wireless antenna to pick up the electromagnetic radiation emitted by keyboards and then decode the keystrokes. Pretty tricky, eh? If you are not yet feeling creeped out (it is Friday the 13th, after all), consider that the other team of researchers tapped into power sockets to pick up keyboard signals from ground cables.

6. Antivirus vendor: ID theft Trojans on 1 in 100 PCs: As many as 10 million PCs could have Trojan programs on them that are designed to steal financial information, according to Panda Security. OK, we'll stop now -- that's it for tinfoil hat time. (Click that last link if you don't know what we mean, if you dare, that is.)

7. Google exec to replace AOL CEO: This week's executive shuffle comes courtesy of AOL, which hired Google executive Tim Armstrong to take over from Chairman and CEO Randy Falco as it continues to try to figure out how be relevant again.

8. Apple unveils new iPod shuffle and Apple plans iPhone software 3.0 event: Speaking of shuffles, Apple released its next-generation of iPod shuffles. The company also sent out invitations to "select" reporters for an event next week that will give "an advance preview" of iPhone software 3.0, the next update of the OS. There were a flurry of Apple rumors this week, too, including renewed speculation about that netbook we keep hearing about and the possibility of company layoffs.

9. Gmail down; outage could last 36 hours for some people and Microsoft restores service after Hotmail outage: In the annals of the perils of Internet mail, Gmail went down for the count for some users (again) this week and Hotmail also had an outage.

10. H-1B hiring too much of a hassle?: New government restrictions make it more difficult for U.S. companies to hire foreign nationals. Then there is all the focus on companies that hire foreign nationals even though they are laying off U.S. residents and using the recession as an excuse. Those are among the H-1B issues leading to the question of whether such hires are becoming too much of a hassle.

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