Uber under fire over data breach for up to 50,000 drivers

Uber revealed Friday Feb .27. 2014 it suffered a data breach that may have affected up to 50, 000 of its drivers. Photo by Flickr user acanyi

Uber revealed Friday Feb .27. 2014 it suffered a data breach that may have affected up to 50, 000 of its drivers. Photo by Flickr user acanyi

Uber disclosed Friday that a data breach may have affected up to 50,000 of its drivers across several states.

The computer-database was accessed on May 13, 2014 and Uber found out four months later, the company said. Uber is now facing flack for waiting over five months to notify affected drivers.

“Uber takes seriously our responsibility to safeguard personal information, and we are sorry for any inconvenience this incident may cause,” Katherine Tassi, Uber’s managing counsel of data privacy, wrote in a statement on the company’s blog.

The app-based car service company says once it was aware of the breach, it changed access protocols for the database. Uber said the company is in the process of notifying drivers whose names and driver’s license numbers were exposed.

In California, where the company is based, companies who lose consumer names and other personal information, including driver’s license numbers, are mandated to tell those affected “in the most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

“Investors and consumers want timely, if not immediate, notification,” Jacob Olcott, a former congressional adviser on cybersecurity told the Wall Street Journal.

Uber said in the blog post that no misuse of the exposed information has been reported. The company said it will provide a free one-year membership to identity protection services for drivers whose personal information may have been compromised.

The breach follows a number of legal challenges that have rocked the on-demand taxi service app in the recent past.

The post Uber under fire over data breach for up to 50,000 drivers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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Consumers frustrated by government error on health care tax forms

The Healthcare.gov website is displayed on laptop computers arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. Irritation arises after government error on health care tax forms. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The Healthcare.gov website is displayed on laptop computers arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. The government sent nearly one million consumers erroneous information on forms that they need to complete their 2014 tax returns. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — It’s not uncommon to feel some trepidation around tax-filing season. But there’s an added hassle this year for nearly a million consumers who got financial help with health insurance premiums under President Barack Obama’s law.

The government sent consumers erroneous information on forms that they need to complete their 2014 tax returns. Now they’re getting robocalls and emails advising them to delay filing until the mistakes get fixed.

Some are taking it in stride. Others wonder what else could go wrong.

“It’s been a comedy of errors from the start,” said K.C. Crafts, a freelance financial writer from South Berwick, Maine.

The mistake the government made affected 800,000 customers receiving subsidized health coverage through the federal insurance market. Some states running their own insurance exchanges also have had tax-form troubles.

In the federal case, 2015 premiums were substituted for what should have been 2014 numbers on new tax forms called 1095-As. Those forms are like W-2s for people who got subsidized health insurance – building blocks for filing an accurate tax return.

Crafts said her form has another error as well, potentially more serious. The coverage dates are wrong, and the result makes it appear as if she and her husband got much more in subsidies than they actually received. Maine is one of the 37 states served by HealthCare.gov, which is run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“This is not just an aggravation, it’s a financial issue, because I could end up paying for a clerical error,” she said.

The Obama administration says it’s trying to figure out what caused the broader mistake, even as it rushes corrected information to affected taxpayers.

Asked for an explanation at a recent House hearing, HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan put it this way: “It appears there was an unfavorable interaction between two pieces of software code.” Translation: The administration is still technologically challenged by health insurance programs.

“This is an unforced error,” scolded Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa. “It provides fodder for those who want to tear down” the law.

Donna Brown of Austin, Texas, said she thinks it’s about on par for the government.

“I never am too surprised when the federal government makes mistakes like this,” said Brown, a former executive administrative assistant for a tech company. Taking a break from the industry’s pressures, she said she’s relieved that she was able to get health insurance as a result of Obama’s law. Brown usually files her taxes at the last minute, so the error notices haven’t affected her routine.

“Whoever implemented this, there would have been problems,” said Brown. “It’s new. Even though it’s the second year of coverage, it’s the first time these statements are coming out.”

The health care law offers subsidized private insurance to people who do not have access to coverage on the job. Because those subsidies are delivered as tax credits, recipients have to account for them each year on their tax returns. That’s what the 1095-A tax form is supposed to help them do.

For John Stephens of Littleton, Colorado, it’s turned to vexation. An audio recording and editing specialist, Stephens said his 1095-A indicates he was only insured for the last two months of 2014, when in fact he had coverage since February. Such a mistake could expose him to tax penalties that the law levies on people who remain uninsured if they can otherwise afford coverage.

Stephens said he’s spent a lot of time on the phone with his insurer and the Colorado health insurance exchange, which is run by that state. “It’s really easy for them to bounce the ball back to the other.” Last year, insurers said many of the enrollment records they got from the then-new insurance markets had errors.

Spokesman Curtis Hubbard said the Colorado exchange is reviewing its records and working with Stephens’ insurer to resolve the situation.

Stephens said he suspects his situation is an early indicator of more problems. “It’s the pointy end of the spear,” he said. “It’s going to be a big, big problem.”

Hubbard said Colorado sent out about 107,000 of the forms to consumers. So far, the exchange has gotten about 170 calls with questions.

The post Consumers frustrated by government error on health care tax forms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Touching Photo Series Captures Dying Pit Bull’s First And Last Time Seeing The Ocean

When a photographer’s beloved pit bull got sick, she decided to take him on one last special trip so he could make a few more beautiful memories.

Zhenia Bulawka spent almost a decade with her cherished rescue dog, Mr. Dukes. But after falling ill, her pit bull found himself in the last stages of Grade III mast cell cancer last August, according to a blog post she wrote for The Dodo. While Mr. Dukes’ favorite activity was swimming in pools, the canine had never been to the ocean. So for his final adventure, the photographer and her boyfriend decided to bring Mr. Dukes, along with the couple’s other two dogs, Ruby and Violet, to see the ocean for the first time in Assateague, Maryland.

The trip was captured in a moving photo series.

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Bulawka and Ruby in the ocean.

“[Mr. Dukes’] initial reaction seemed to be intimidation — as if he was confused by this endless ‘swimming pool’ which made so much noise,” Bulawka told The Huffington Post of her pooch’s first response to the ocean, but noted he became fascinated by what he saw. “He was transfixed. Perhaps he was mesmerized by the waves.”

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Bulawka’s boyfriend, Christian Valiente, sharing a dog-safe sandwich with Mr. Dukes.

Sadly, Mr. Dukes died a month after the trip. The photographer recently decided to share her photos series in a memorial blog post.

“Every moment spent with him was the best — he was that cool … Cherish every moment spent with loved ones — be they two-legged or four,” she told HuffPost in an email. “The memories created will be with you, always.”

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Bulawka holding Violet, one of her dogs.

While losing her best friend was hard for the photographer, she says that photo project was a necessary undertaking. She wanted to both commemorate Mr. Dukes, while smashing the negative stereotypes regarding pit bulls.

“With so much stigma surrounding pit bull-type dogs, I just wanted to convey something that portrayed them in a positive light,” she said. “They don’t deserve mistreatment and are worthy of human love and kindness.”

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Mr. Dukes and Ruby, who had their ears cropped before Bulawka rescued them, with Violet.

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Bulawka taking her dogs for a walk on the beach.

It’s been a few months since Mr. Dukes’ death, but Bulawka says that the memories of his big personality will never fade.

“Dukes loved life! He was the most eager to get the day started — always on a mission,” she said. “Dukes had so much purpose. He never let a second go to waste.”

(Photo series continues below.)
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The view along the beach.

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Valiente relaxing with Ruby.

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Ruby, sleeping.

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Violet at the door.

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Bulawka’s bracelet, featuring two dogs modeled off Mr. Dukes and Ruby.

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Bulawka on the beach with her three dogs.

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Valiente and Mr. Dukes on the beach.

To see Zhenia Bulawka’s photo series in its original form, click here.

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Dirty Pig Pulls Over Man, Takes Bribe (VIDEO)

Let’s hope no one squeals.

A Bradford, Maine, man was cruising along last Sunday when an officer of the hog stopped his vehicle.

“What’s up, big guy?” the man in the vehicle says during the 51 second confrontation.

It’s clear the swine isn’t taking any beef, snorting and sniffing at the man until finally, the terrified driver feels he has no other choice but to offer a bribe.

“You want a cookie?” the man asks.

The pig accepts and the man is allowed to continue on his way.

After reaching out to his superiors, owners Stacey and Brian — who identified the rogue pig as Buster — came to the animal’s defense.

“We made him our buddy,” Brian told WAIBI. “In the summertime, he gets daiquiris and deserts for breakfasts and then he gets some grain and what not, whatever we can come up with and he’s just part of the bunch. He hangs out. Does campfires with us in the summer and in the winter time, he runs amok and startles the neighbors.”

Running amok? Startling neighbors? It’s time we got these crooked hogs off our streets.

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Algeria From A Drone Might Be The Most Stunning Place We’ve Ever Seen

Algeria is a place of nearly unimaginable beauty and diversity. From the heights of the Tell Atlas mountains to the bleakly beautiful desert expanse of Tamanrasset Province, it offers truly unforgettable landscapes. The country that inspired the works of Camus, Algeria also reflects the beauty and complexity of an ancient civilization, mingled with the effects of more than 100 years of French occupation.

A new project, SkyCam Algeria, has set out to capture the country’s diverse attractions in a set of incredible photographs taken from drones. Using a GoPro camera, SkyCam Algeria captured the snowy peaks, desert vistas and ancient edifices that make Algeria such a unique — and irresistible — place to visit.

A version of this post originally appeared on HuffPost Maghreb.