Amazon-Government Data Demands Way Up; Hedge Fund Melvin Takes a 53% Pounding After Redditors Play Gamestop; Amazon Ring Now Partnered With 2,000+ Police Agencies; iMessage’s Stealth Security Feature

It says something that I am writing two stories about your data being Hoovered up in one blog post, but more and more, we live in a surveillance society. Techcrunch.com reports that Amazon has announced that government demands for user data spiked by 800% in 2020! Amazon says it handled 27,664 government demands for data the last 6 months of 2020, up from 3222 data data demands in the first 6 months of the year! Besides, Ring, mentioned below, the info included shopping searches and data from Amazon’s Echo and Fire devices. Amazon Web Services is reported separately, but Amazon says it processed 523 demands for data there, with 75% of requests made by US authorities. Amazon turned over user’s content in just 15 cases. 

How it ends remains to be seen, but the runup in Gamestop stock last week powered by Redditors using apps….mainly Robinhood…has definitely had an impact. Arstechnica.com reports that hedge fund Melvin took a 53% hit last week from it. Melvin apparently exited its bet against Gamestop on Wednesday, with their leverage ratio sitting at its lowest point since the firm was founded in 2014. The rally in GameStop shares has captivated Wall Street and forced many hedge funds to rethink risk management practices. On Monday and Tuesday last week, other long-short hedge funds cut their exposure to the market by covering short bets and selling out of stocks. “The market action has been a wake-up call and retail traders are likely to continue to be a force to be reckoned with, which will probably permanently affect the business models of institutional investors,” said Maneesh Deshpande, a strategist at Barclays. It may be brief, but for now, the little guys have beat the Street.

Despite criticism of the feature, Amazon’s Ring continued to expand partnerships with police agencies last year, and is now up to over 2,000 of them. Engadget.com says that Montana and Wyoming are the only two states at this point where Ring doesn’t have an alliance. Ring did recently add end-to-end encryption, and the police agencies allegedly have to get home owners’ permission to access the video. Reportedly, Ring only handed over 57% of data requested in 2020, compared to 68% in 2019. The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that neighbors and passers-by might be caught on camera without granting consent. This amounted to a “massive and unchallenged” surveillance network, according to the EFF.

With the rollout of iOS 14, Apple added a security feature that hasn’t been touted…or even mentioned. It’s called BlastDoor. According to bgr.com, it was actually first noted by a Google from Project Zero. Everything coming in via iMessage goes through a secure location meant to contain threats that hackers might include in messages. Highly sophisticated information bombs can allow hackers to attack unsuspecting iPhone users, but BlastDoor will now stop all of that. The new security feature is amazing, and it’s something other operating systems and chat apps will undoubtedly copy. After all, hackers target all devices and programs, not just Apple’s. This will be an absolutely bulletproof protection…until it isn’t, like all security features, so use and enjoy it until its hacked, and Apple and others have to rush to come up with more protections!



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