Daily Digest (7/16)

Twitter Silences High-Profile Accounts After Hacks; CIA Gets Wide Powers to Launch Cyberattacks in Secret WH Order; Google Sued in Class-Action, Alleging It Tracks App Users Even When They Opt Out; 4 States Sharing Driver’s License Info to Find Out Who’s a Citizen. Click “Continue reading” below.

Twitter Silences High-Profile Accounts After Hacks

Several high-profile Twitter accounts were hacked Wednesday and used to solicit digital currency, Reuters reports.

The hacked accounts of some of the platform’s top voices included U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, reality television star Kim Kardashian, former U.S. President Barack Obama, billionaire Elon Musk and rapper Kanye West, according to the report.

The cause of the breach was not immediately clear — and, more than an hour after the first wave of hacks, Twitter took the extraordinary step of preventing some of the verified accounts from publishing messages altogether.

It was not clear whether all verified users were affected but, if so, it would have a huge impact on the platform. Verified users include celebrities and journalists, but also governments, politicians and heads of state.

Twitter did not offer clarification but said in a statement that users “may be unable to tweet or reset your password while we review and address this incident.”

Twitter told Reuters just before 5 p.m. EDT that it was investigating what it later called a “security incident” and soon would issue a statement.

However, more than an hour-and-a-half later, the company had still not offered any explanation of what had happened, Reuters reports.

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CIA Gets Wide Powers to Launch Cyberattacks in Secret WH Order

The Central Intelligence Agency has conducted covert cyberoperations against Iran and other targets since winning a secret victory in 2018 when President Donald Trump signed what amounts to a sweeping authorization for such activities, former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the matter told Yahoo News.

The secret authorization, known as a presidential finding, gives the agency more freedom in the kinds of operations it conducts and who it targets, undoing many restrictions that had been in place under prior administrations.

The finding allows the CIA to more easily authorize its own covert cyberoperations, rather than requiring the agency to get approval from the White House.

Unlike previous presidential findings that have focused on a specific foreign policy objective or outcome — preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, for instance — the directive, driven by the National Security Council and crafted by the CIA, focuses more broadly on a capability: covert action in cyberspace.  

The “very aggressive” finding “gave the agency very specific authorities to really take the fight offensively to a handful of adversarial countries,” a former U.S. government official told Yahoo.

These countries included Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — all mentioned directly in the document — but the finding potentially applies to others as well, another former official said.

“The White House wanted a vehicle to strike back,” the second former official told Yahoo. “And this was the way to do it.”

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Google Sued in Class-Action, Alleging It Tracks App Users Even When They Opt Out

A federal class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday in California alleges that Google tracks users on thousands of apps even when they opt out of “Web & App Activity” in the settings.

The lawsuit accuses the search-engine giant of violating wiretap law and California privacy regulations by recording what users are looking at in apps, Business Insider reports.

It also contends the tracking occurs through Google’s Firebase, a popular set of software for app makers.

The action, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, is the second in as many months against Google by the Boies Schiller Flexner law firm on behalf individual consumers.

The firm’s clients also have included Google competitors such as Facebook Inc. and Oracle Corp.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filing, originally reported by Reuters.

“Even when consumers follow Google’s own instructions and turn off ‘Web & App Activity’ tracking on their ‘Privacy Controls,’ Google nevertheless continues to intercept consumers’ app usage and app browsing communications and personal information,” the lawsuit contends.

Google uses some Firebase data to improve its products and personalize ads and other content for consumers, according to the lawsuit.

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4 States Sharing Driver’s License Info to Find Out Who’s a Citizen 

To help figure out the U.S. citizenship status of every adult in the country, the White House has made agreements to amass driver’s license and state identification-card information from states including Iowa, Nebraska, South Carolina and South Dakota, NPR has learned.

The Census Bureau has been gathering state and federal records to produce anonymized citizenship data under directives from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the bureau, and an executive order President Donald Trump issued in July 2019.

In November, Nebraska became the first state to voluntarily agree to transfer data from its state driver’s license and state ID records to the Census Bureau, as NPR reported last year.

The bureau entered into a data-sharing arrangement with the Iowa Department of Transportation in March, both agencies confirmed to NPR on Wednesday.

Iowa is not sharing citizenship information, but it has agreed to share the names, addresses and dates of birth of driver’s license and state ID cardholders from 2019 through 2024, according to a copy of the agreement NPR obtained from the department.

In April, South Dakota Public Safety Secretary Craig Price, who was appointed to President Trump’s commission on law enforcement this year, signed an agreement to share information from driver’s licenses and state ID cards with the bureau, according to documents provided to NPR.

A copy of an agreement provided to NPR by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles shows the DMV formally agreed this month to transfer data about state driver’s license and state ID cardholders from 2018 through March 2020.

The Census Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NPR.

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— By DPN Staff