Is Your iPhone Call Data Vulnerable?--Tech Roundup

Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 17.

The debate rages on whether the government and other third parties should have the legal right to access users' phones and other mobile devices. Why should they? Well, in certain instances--such as with criminals and terrorists--it can help the authorities track down other perpetrators that might otherwise cause harm to the public.

On the flip side though, many consumers don't like having "Big Brother" looking over their shoulder, analyzing their conversations and listening in on their discussions. 

The debate really came to a head when Apple (AAPL) refused to cooperate with the FBI, which demanded the tech giant unlock an iPhone they had possession of. 

Apple vs. the FBI might be the most public case, but others have also created waves, particularly Facebook (FB) and its many number of social media platforms. These companies have been fully encrypting their applications and devices, making them so private that even they cannot gain access to the information - even if they wanted to!

However, one slip-up seems to have come form Apple. According to Elcomsoft, a Russian digital forensics firm, if users have enabled iCloud, their phone call data are sent to the company's servers. 

Information such as phone numbers, time and day, duration and missed calls are all retained by Apple for up to four months on a user's iCloud account. Of course, Apple iCloud is a convenient way for users to keep all of their data synced from device to device. 

It's not clear whether the company will change the way it stores this data in order to prevent law enforcement or other third parties from trying to access it. 

Shares of Apple closed at $109.95 Thursday, down 0.05%.

Apple, Facebook and Alphabet (see item below) are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells AAPL, FB or GOOGL? Learn more now.

Will Verizon (VZ) be able to successfully transform some of yesterday's tech titans into tomorrow's future leaders? Maybe, maybe not -- but it's at least worth trying. 

The company acquired Yahoo! (YHOO) earlier this year for about $4.8 billion to go along with its acquisition of AOL, which it made last year. 

While the Yahoo! acquisition is certainly turning into a bit of a headache, given the latter's rather large breach of 500 million accounts it suffered several years ago, AOL is trying to find its stride. 

AOL is laying off 500 employees as part of a restructuring. The company is still being led by CEO Tim Armstrong, who wants to emphasize new business units for the company, particularly video and mobile. 

The move represents just 5% of the company's current workforce, as AOL looks to shrink some of its corporate units and redeploy those resources into growth opportunities. 

Assuming the Yahoo! deal does get done with AOL, Armstrong will have even more flexibility when it comes to the company's mobile and video segments. 

Shares of Verizon closed at $41.45 Thursday, down 1.2%. 

It's not just Facebook and Alphabet (GOOGL) looking to provide global internet access. Albeit, Facebook and Google, with drones and balloons, respectively, are trying to do so in slightly more interesting ways.

However, we can add Elon Musk's SpaceX to the list looking to provide service as well. 

The company "is requesting government approval to operate a massive satellite network that would provide high-speed, global internet coverage," according to Reuters

According to the filing, SpaceX estimates that the completed project would result in 4,425 satellites orbiting the earth, while back in January 2015, Musk estimated that the project would cost about $10 billion. 

It should be noted though, that the most recent filing did not include a cost estimate, but did say it would consist with launching about 800 satellites to start the system. 

Musk must be busy, building solar roofs and electric cars with Tesla (TSLA) and working on global internet and trips to Mars with SpaceX. What will he have up his sleeve in 2017 and beyond?

Shares of Tesla closed at $188.66 Thursday, up 2.6%. 

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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