Tag Archive: Google


Defiant Apple, Facebook, other firms to inform public of govt surveillance requests

Published time: May 02, 2014 01:07
Edited time: May 02, 2014 06:42
Reuters / Eric Thayer

Reuters / Eric Thayer

The same technology companies that the US intelligence community has relied upon to disclose email records are now refusing to keep surveillance requests secret and informing customers when they are the subject of such requests.

In the nearly ten months since former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed extensive surveillance efforts on everyday Americans’ online activity, the companies that were forced to facilitate that surveillance have come under harsh public scrutiny.

The embarrassment ignited a series of comments from executives at Google and Facebook, among others, calling on the NSA and other agencies to either stop forcing them to provide the communications that customers trust them with, or allow them to be more transparent.

Now, according to a Thursday report in the Washington Post, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google have updated their policies to routinely notify customers when law enforcement has requested information about them.

Yahoo enacted such a change in July, with the Post reporting Thursday that companies “have found that investigators often drop data demands to avoid having suspects learn of inquiries.”

 

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Apple, Facebook, others defy authorities, notify users of secret data demands

Major U.S. technology companies have largely ended the practice of quietly complying with investigators’ demands for e-mail records and other online data, saying that users have a right to know in advance when their information is targeted for government seizure.This increasingly defiant industry stand is giving some of the tens of thousands of Americans whose Internet data gets swept into criminal investigations each year the opportunity to fight in court to prevent disclosures. Prosecutors, however, warn that tech companies may undermine cases by tipping off criminals, giving them time to destroy vital electronic evidence before it can be gathered.

Graphic

How the NSA is infiltrating private networks

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How the NSA is infiltrating private networks

Fueling the shift is the industry’s eagerness to distance itself from the government after last year’s disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance of online services. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google all are updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures, unless specifically gagged by a judge or other legal authority, officials at all four companies said. Yahoo announced similar changes in July.As this position becomes uniform across the industry, U.S. tech companies will ignore the instructions stamped on the fronts of subpoenas urging them not to alert subjects about data requests, industry lawyers say. Companies that already routinely notify users have found that investigators often drop data demands to avoid having suspects learn of inquiries.

“It serves to chill the unbridled, cost-free collection of data,” said Albert Gidari Jr., a partner at Perkins Coie who represents several technology companies. “And I think that’s a good thing.”

The Justice Department disagrees, saying in a statement that new industry policies threaten investigations and put potential crime victims in greater peril.

“These risks of endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses are not merely hypothetical, but unfortunately routine,” department spokesman Peter Carr said, citing a case in which early disclosure put at risk a cooperative witness in a case. He declined to offer details because the case was under seal.

The changing tech company policies do not affect data requests approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which are automatically kept secret by law. National security letters, which are administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI for national security investigations, also carry binding gag orders.

The government traditionally has notified people directly affected by searches and seizures — though often not immediately — when investigators entered a home or tapped a phone line. But that practice has not survived the transition into the digital world. Cellular carriers such as AT&T and Verizon typically do not tell customers when investigators collect their call data.

Many tech companies once followed a similar model of quietly cooperating with law enforcement. Courts, meanwhile, ruled that it was sufficient for the government to notify the providers of Internet services of data requests, rather than the affected customers.

Twitter, founded in 2006, became perhaps the first major tech company to routinely notify users when investigators collected data, yet few others followed at first. When the Electronic Frontier Foundation began issuing its influential “Who Has Your Back?” report in 2011 — rating companies on their privacy and transparency policies — Twitter was the only company to get a star under the category “Tell users about data demands.” Google, the next mostly highly rated, got half a star from the civil liberties group.

 

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Internet users told to change ALL passwords in security alert over ‘catastrophic’ Heartbleed bug

  • Online security breach is described as ‘catastrophic’
  • Alert is result of internet bug Heartbleed being uncovered
  • Heartbleed is able to bypass websites’ security measures to access passwords and personal information

By Rebecca Evans and Tania Steere

Internet users have been warned to change all their computer and phone passwords following what could be a ‘catastrophic’ security breach.

Major technology firms have urged the public to immediately update their online security.

The alert is the result of the discovery of an internet bug called ‘Heartbleed’, which is able to bypass computer security settings.

LastPass Heartbleed Checker warns if a website may be at risk. It also reveals websites that aren't affected

LastPass Heartbleed Checker warns if a website may be at risk. It also reveals websites that aren’t affected

 

HOW TO BEAT THE BUG

If a password is in any dictionary in any language then it will take just three minutes to crack, warned computer expert Tony McDowell.

The worst passwords are the likes of ‘password’, ‘123456’, ‘qwerty’, or your child’s name. Using the same password for every site can leave you even more vulnerable to hackers, he added.

His advice is to use a phrase rather than a word. For example, use ‘nameisabella’ rather than just ‘Isabella’ – and use a mixture of letters and numbers.

A password of ‘name!saBe1la’ would take a year to crack, said Mr McDowell, managing director of Encription Ltd.

‘Most hackers give up after 24 hours unless it is something they really want to gain access to,’ he added.

WHICH MAJOR SITES ARE AT RISK?

Potentially vulnerable sites:

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Google, Gmail, Lloyds TSB, Nationwide, Santander

Safe sites:

Bing, Yahoo, Flickr, LastPass, DuckDuck Go, Natwest, GitHub

The tool is a guide to affected services; it is not a definitive list.

Sites listed as vulnerable may use unreported servers, meaning their status can’t be officially verified.

As a result, personal information such as passwords and credit card details has been accessible.

 

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Heartbleed test

 

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S.C.G. News

Posted by S.C.G. February 12, 2014

Rather than grovel and beg for the U.S. government to respect our privacy, these innovators have taken matters into their own hands, and their work may change the playing field completely.

People used to assume that the United States government was held in check by the constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and which demands due process in criminal investigations, but such illusions have evaporated in recent years. It turns out that the NSA considers itself above the law in every respect and feels entitled to spy on anyone anywhere in the world without warrants, and without any real oversight. Understandably these revelations shocked the average citizen who had been conditioned to take the government’s word at face value, and the backlash has been considerable. The recent “Today We Fight Back” campaign to protest the NSA’s surveillance practices shows that public sentiment is in the right place. Whether these kinds of petitions and protests will have any real impact on how the U.S. government operates is questionable (to say the least), however some very smart people have decided not to wait around and find out. Instead they’re focusing on making the NSA’s job impossible. In the process they may fundamentally alter the way the internet operates.

1

Decentralized Social Media – Vole.cc

Anyone who was paying attention at all over the past several years knows that many of the top social media websites Facebook and Google have cooperated with the NSA’s surveillance program under PRISM, handing over the personal information that they’ve been hoarding over the years. Many of us have grown to despise these companies but continue to use their services due to the fact that no real competitors have presented themselves. Yes there are a few sites oriented towards the anti-government niche but nothing that has the potential of opening up the kind of reach that’s possible on Facebook or Google plus. The underlying problem here is that the server technology to run a site even a fraction of the size of Facebook is highly expensive, and to build and maintain a code base that can handle millions of users requires a full time team of highly skilled programmers. What this means is that anyone who wants to launch a real competitor to these sites would have needed to be well funded and have a sustainable business model. But what if someone came up with a system that removed the need for massive centralized servers? That’s just what vole.cc is working to accomplish. Vole.cc is a decentralized social media system in development based on bittorrent and Ember.js which completely cuts the server out of the equation and allows users to build social media networks without exposing their personal information to “authorities” or data mining companies.

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Getsync Decentralized and Encrypted File Sharing – A Dropbox Alternative

With the revelations that data in Apple’s iCloud was available to the NSA as part of PRISM it has become clear that any centralized file sharing service is vulnerable, and any information that you upload to services like dropbox may end up being inspected by government agents. The folks at Bittorrent didn’t like that idea, so they decided to build a viable alternative, one that doesn’t depend on a centralized server at all and encrypts your data to make it difficult if not impossible to open without your permission. The service claims to already have amassed over 2 million users. Interestingly the vole.cc social media project uses Getsync to manage the social media data on your computer.

 

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Decentralized & Encrypted Communications – Bittorrent Chat

Don’t like the fact that the NSA has been rummaging through your skype chats, emails and other instant messaging services? Well if you were a bit tech savvy you might have opted to set up your own mumble server or IRC channel, but this route will likely never be approachable for the average citizen and the reliance on a centralized server brings security vulnerabilities. However work is currently underway on a protocol that will completely remove the need for a centralized server and cut the NSA out of the loop entirely.

 

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DAHBOO77

 

Published on Feb 11, 2014

Heads Up Folks! Justine Tunney is connected with Google!

http://pando.com/2014/02/07/occupy-wa…

 

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Occupy Wall Street leader now works for Google, wants to crowdfund a private militia

 

justineRemember Justine Tunney? The OWS-anarchist-turned-cultist-Google-employee who bashed my reporting on Google’s for-profit surveillance? Well, today she hit the big time.

Over the last few days, Tunney has been causing a Twitter outrage tsunami after she took full control of the main Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Twitter account, claimed to be the founder of OWS and then proceeded to tweet out stream of ridiculous anarcho-corporatist garbage. She railed against welfare, described the government as “just another corporation,” argued poverty was not a political problem but “an engineering problem” and told politicians to “get out of the way.” She also debunked what she thought was a misconception: people thought OWS activists were protesting against concentrated corporate power, and that, she claims, is simply not true.

As I wrote before, Tunney’s sudden epiphany that not all corporations are evil just happened to coincide with her decision to take a well-paid job at Google. Since then she has become an astroturfer par excellence for the company, including showing up in a comment section to bash my reporting on Google’s vast for-profit surveillance operation. “It never ceases to amaze me how far people have to stretch in order to denounce the one corporation that gives away everything for free,” she wrote.

It’s important to realize that, before taking her job at Google, Tunney wasn’t just an Occupy foot soldier, but a prominent spokesperson for the movement. She’s been written about in the New Yorker and The Nation as one of the founding members of OWS in Zuccotti Park, and was instrumental in setting up and  running OWS’s main Internet communication hub, OccupyWallSt.org. In media profiles, Tunney described herself as “just another geek trying to help out with the revolution,” and you can see her in photographs with other hi-tech revolutionaries occupying a table in Zuccotti Park, hunched over laptops, wires and computer gear.

And this week Tunney’s shift away from her former Occupy pals broke the Twitter troll barrier. Her tweets caused such a social media backlash that even Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray felt compelled to cover it:

 

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Josh del Sol
Activist Post

Two weeks ago, the New York Times’ truth-humor strip on “The Home of the Future” came on the heels of Google’s purchase of ‘smart thermostat’ manufacturer Nest for $3.2 Billion.  With power utility commissions such as California already stating their intention to “expand third-party access” to in-home data, the perfect storm is brewing for Google’s mission of making you their product – even in your own home.

For context, this is the same Google whose executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, told MSNBC:

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

While pushing to nullify privacy laws, the Big G obviously doesn’t care about pesky old-fashioned encumbrances like ethics either, as evidenced by this gem:

I would argue that [us] implanting things in your brain is beyond the creepy line – at least for the moment, until the technology gets better.

The timing of Google’s purchase announcement is interesting, coming only a couple weeks after US federal judge William Pauley ruled that the unwarranted NSA phone surveillance against US citizens is legal.

However, federal judge Richard Leon, the European Union, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board have all strongly condemned the spy programs.  (The credibility of the Justice Department is in serious question, following revelations that last April it had secretly inked a deal with the Obama Administration to help corporations evade federal wiretap laws.)

The Battleground Hits Home

So where does a ‘smart thermostat’ fit in the current corporatist drive for total in-home surveillance?

For the last couple of years, utilities around the globe have all been touting their new metering systems with buzzwords such as ‘smart’, ‘advanced’, ‘upgraded’, or ‘modernized’.  All rhetoric aside, these devices are intended to integrate with all appliances in your home to form an inescapable wireless data-mining dragnet, dubbed as the “home area network”, with your HVAC and likely other in-home systems overseen by spy-giant Google, if they get their way.

 Around the world, more than 1 million homeowners have now refused
the corporate push to deploy a ‘smart’ meter on their home.

As we’ve seen, even former CIA director David Petraeus was publicly frothing over having the ability to spy through ‘smart’ appliances, intended to wirelessly report back to the meter continuously, while receiving energy-use dictates from the meter.

According to a US Congressional Research Report:

With smart meters, police will have access to data that might be used to track residents’ daily lives and routines while in their homes, including their eating, sleeping, and showering habits, what appliances they use and when, and whether they prefer the television to the treadmill, among a host of other details.

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Google buys ‘smart’ thermostat maker Nest for £2bn

Smart move: Nest’s next-generation smoke alarm, Protect

Updated: 09:10, 14 January 2014

Google has spent $3.2 billion (£2bn) acquiring ‘smart’ home appliances start-up Nest Labs.

California-based Nest makes thermostats and smoke alarms that connect to the internet, allowing people to remotely monitor and control them from their smartphones.

The company was founded by Tony Fadell, a former Apple executive dubbed the “godfather of the iPod” for his work on the MP3 player. He left the position of head of music at Apple in 2008 to found Nest.

Nest launched is first thermostat in 2011 and says its products are now in over a million homes. Late last year the company made its first foray into the UK market, launching its smoke alarm here.

Fadell said in a statement: “We’re thrilled to join Google. With their support, Nest will be even better placed to build simple, thoughtful devices that make life easier at home, and that have a positive impact on the world.”

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Google will buy London-based artificial intelligence company DeepMindThe Information reports that the acquisition price was more than $500 million, and that Facebook was also in talks to buy the startup late last year. We’ve emailed Google and DeepMind for comment. The acquisition was originally confirmed by Google to Re/code.

Google’s hiring of DeepMind will help it compete against other major tech companies as they all try to gain business advantages by focusing on deep learning. For example, Facebook recently hired NYU professor Yann LeCunn to lead its new artificial intelligence lab, IBM’s Watson supercomputer is now working on deep learning, and Yahoo recently acquired photo analysis startup LookFlow to lead its new deep learning group.

DeepMind was founded by neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, a former child prodigy in chess, Skype and Kazaa developer Jaan Tallin, and researcher Shane Legg.

This is the latest move by Google to fill out its roster of artificial intelligence experts and, according to Re/code, the acquisition was reportedly led by Google CEO Larry Page. If all three of DeepMind’s founders work for Google, they will join inventor, entrepreneur, author, and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who was hired in 2012 as a director of engineering focused on machine learning and language processing.

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***Presently there are approximately 143 Google mergers and  acquisitions listed.  I  have  only provided  the  most recent 43.  More  can be seen Here on Wikipedia***

~Desert Rose~

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List of mergers and acquisitions by Google

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Google’s logo

Google is a computer software and a web search engine company that has been acquiring, on average, more than one company per week since 2010.[1] The table below is an incomplete list of acquisitions, with each acquisition listed being for the respective company in its entirety, unless otherwise specified. The acquisition date listed is the date of the agreement between Google and the acquisition subject. The price of each acquisition is listed in US dollars because Google is headquartered in the United States. If the price of an acquisition is unlisted, then it is undisclosed. If the Google service that is derived from the acquired company is known, then it is also listed here.

Google has acquired over 100 companies, with its largest acquisition being the purchase of Motorola Mobility, a mobile device manufacturing company, for $12.5 billion. Most of the firms acquired by Google are based in the United States, and, in turn, most of these are based in or around the San Francisco Bay Area. To date, Google has divested itself of three [2] business units: Frommers, which was sold back to Arthur Frommer in April 2012;[3] SketchUp, which was sold to Trimble in April 2012;[4] and Google Radio Automation, which was sold to WideOrbit in 2009.[5]

Many Google products originated as services provided by companies that Google has since acquired. For example, Google’s first acquisition was the Usenet company Deja News, and its services became Google Groups. Similarly, Google acquired Dodgeball, a social networking service company, and eventually replaced it with Google Latitude. Other acquisitions include web application company JotSpot, which became Google Sites; Voice over IP company GrandCentral, which became Google Voice; and video hosting service company Next New Networks, which became YouTube Next Lab and Audience Development Group.

Following the acquisition of Israel-based startup Waze in June 2013, Google submitted a “10-Q” filing with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) that revealed that the corporation spent US$1.3 billion on acquisitions during the first half of 2013, with US$966 million of that total going to Waze.[6]

100 August 1, 2011 Dealmap One deal a day service  USA Google Offers [121]
101 August 15, 2011 Motorola Mobility Mobile device manufacturer  USA $12,500,000,000 Android, Google TV, Patent portfolio [122]
102 September 7, 2011 Zave Networks Digital coupons  USA Google Offers [123]
103 September 8, 2011 Zagat Restaurant reviews  USA $151,000,000 Google Places, Google Maps [124][125][126]
104 September 19, 2011 DailyDeal One deal a day service  GER $114,000,000 Google Offers [127]
105 October 11, 2011 SocialGrapple Social media analytics service  CAN Google+ [128]
106 November 10, 2011 Apture Instantaneous search  USA Google Search [129]
107 November 14, 2011 Katango Social circle organization  USA Google+ [130]
108 December 9, 2011 RightsFlow Music rights management  USA YouTube [131]
109 December 13, 2011 Clever Sense Mobile apps  USA Android [132]
110 March 16, 2012 Milk, Inc Social networking service  USA Google+ [133]
111 April 2, 2012 TxVia Online Payment  USA Google Wallet [134]
112 June 4, 2012 Meebo Instant Messaging  USA $100,000,000 Google Hangouts [135]
113 June 5, 2012 Quickoffice Productivity Suite  USA Google Docs [136]
114 July 20, 2012 Sparrow Mobile apps  FRA $25,000,000 Gmail [137][138][139]
115 2012 WIMM Labs Android powered smartwatches  USA Android [140]
116 August 1, 2012 Wildfire Interactive Social media marketing  USA $450,000,000 Google, Google+ [141]
117 September 7, 2012 VirusTotal.com Security  ESP Google [142][143]
118 September 17, 2012 Nik Software, Inc. Photography  USA Google, Android [144][145][146]
119 October 1, 2012 Viewdle Facial recognition  UKR $45,000,000 Android [147][148]
120 November 28, 2012 Incentive Targeting Inc. Digital coupons  USA Google Offers [149][150]
121 November 30, 2012 BufferBox Package delivery  CAN $17,000,000 Google Shopping, Android [151][152]
122 February 6, 2013 Channel Intelligence Product ecommerce  USA $125,000,000 Google Shopping
123 March 12, 2013 DNNresearch Inc. Deep Neural Networks  CAN Google, Google X [153]
124 March 15, 2013 Talaria Technologies Cloud computing  USA Google Cloud [154]
125 April 12, 2013 Behavio Social Prediction  USA Google Now [155]
126 April 23, 2013 Wavii Natural Language Processing  USA $30,000,000 Google Knowledge Graph [156]
127 May 23, 2013 Makani Power Airborne wind turbines  USA Google X [157]
128 June 11, 2013 Waze GPS navigation software  ISR $966,000,000 Google Maps [6]
129 September 16, 2013 Bump Mobile software  USA Android [158]
130 October 2, 2013 Flutter Gesture recognition technology  USA $40,000,000 Google, Android, Google X [159]
131 October 22, 2013 FlexyCore DroidBooster App for Android  FRA $23,000,000 Android [160]
132 December 2, 2013 Schaft.inc Humanoid robots  JPN Google X [161]
133 December 3, 2013 Industrial Perception Computer Vision  USA Google X [161]
134 December 4, 2013 Redwood Robotics Robotic Arms  USA Google X [161]
135 December 5, 2013 Meka Robotics Robots  USA Google X [161]
136 December 6, 2013 Holomni Robotic wheels  USA Google X [161]
137 December 7, 2013 Bot & Dolly Robotic cameras  USA Google X [161]
138 December 8, 2013 Autofuss Ads and Design  USA Google X [161]
139 December 10, 2013 Boston Dynamics Robotics  USA Google X [162][161]
140 January 4, 2014 Bitspin Timely App for Android   CHE Android [163]
141 January 13, 2014 Nest Home automation  USA $3,200,000,000 [164][165]
142 January 15, 2014 Impermium Internet security  USA Google+ [166]
143 January 26, 2014 DeepMind Technologies Artificial Intelligence  UK $400,000,000 [167]

 

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Google buys British artificial intelligence firm DeepMind

Google has bought UK start-up DeepMind for a rumoured $400 million

Google logo

Photo: AFP

Google is buying London-based artificial intelligence company DeepMind Technologies, according to reports.

Technology news website Re/code, which first reported the deal, said the price was $400 million (£242m), which would make it Google’s largest European acquisition so far. Other reports suggest the acquisition price was closer to $500 million.

Google declined to confirm the figure, while privately-held DeepMind was not immediately available for comment.

DeepMind was founded by 37-year-old neuroscientist and former teenage chess prodigy Demis Hassabis, along with Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman.

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Welcome to the Memory Hole

Disappearing Edward Snowden

By Peter Van Buren

What if Edward Snowden was made to disappear? No, I’m not suggesting some future CIA rendition effort or a who-killed-Snowden conspiracy theory of a disappearance, but a more ominous kind.

What if everything a whistleblower had ever exposed could simply be made to go away? What if every National Security Agency (NSA) document Snowden released, every interview he gave, every documented trace of a national security state careening out of control could be made to disappear in real-time? What if the very posting of such revelations could be turned into a fruitless, record-less endeavor?

Am I suggesting the plot for a novel by some twenty-first century George Orwell? Hardly. As we edge toward a fully digital world, such things may soon be possible, not in science fiction but in our world — and at the push of a button. In fact, the earliest prototypes of a new kind of “disappearance” are already being tested. We are closer to a shocking, dystopian reality that might once have been the stuff of futuristic novels than we imagine. Welcome to the memory hole.

Even if some future government stepped over one of the last remaining red lines in our world and simply assassinated whistleblowers as they surfaced, others would always emerge. Back in 1948, in his eerie novel 1984, however, Orwell suggested a far more diabolical solution to the problem. He conjured up a technological device for the world of Big Brother that he called “the memory hole.” In his dark future, armies of bureaucrats, working in what he sardonically dubbed the Ministry of Truth, spent their lives erasing or altering documents, newspapers, books, and the like in order to create an acceptable version of history. When a person fell out of favor, the Ministry of Truth sent him and all the documentation relating to him down the memory hole. Every story or report in which his life was in any way noted or recorded would be edited to eradicate all traces of him.

In Orwell’s pre-digital world, the memory hole was a vacuum tube into which old documents were physically disappeared forever. Alterations to existing documents and the deep-sixing of others ensured that even the sudden switching of global enemies and alliances would never prove a problem for the guardians of Big Brother. In the world he imagined, thanks to those armies of bureaucrats, the present was what had always been — and there were those altered documents to prove it and nothing but faltering memories to say otherwise. Anyone who expressed doubts about the truth of the present would, under the rubric of “thoughtcrime,” be marginalized or eliminated.

Government and Corporate Digital Censorship

Increasingly, most of us now get our news, books, music, TV, movies, and communications of every sort electronically. These days, Google earns more advertising revenue than all U.S. print media combined. Even the venerable Newsweek no longer publishes a paper edition. And in that digital world, a certain kind of “simplification” is being explored. The Chinese, Iranians, and others are, for instance, already implementing web-filtering strategies to block access to sites and online material of which their governments don’t approve. The U.S. government similarly (if somewhat fruitlessly) blocks its employees from viewing Wikileaks and Edward Snowden material (as well as websites like TomDispatch) on their work computers — though not of course at home. Yet.

Great Britain, however, will soon take a significant step toward deciding what a private citizen can see on the web even while at home. Before the end of the year, almost all Internet users there will be “opted-in” to a system designed to filter out pornography. By default, the controls will also block access to “violent material,” “extremist and terrorist related content,” “anorexia and eating disorder websites,” and “suicide related websites.” In addition, the new settings will censor sites mentioning alcohol or smoking. The filter will also block “esoteric material,” though a UK-based rights group says the government has yet to make clear what that category will include.

And government-sponsored forms of Internet censorship are being privatized. New, off-the-shelf commercial products guarantee that an organization does not need to be the NSA to block content. For example, the Internet security company Blue Coat is a domestic leader in the field and a major exporter of such technology. It can easily set up a system to monitor and filter all Internet usage, blocking web sites by their address, by keywords, or even by the content they contain. Among others, Blue Coat software is used by the U.S. Army to control what its soldiers see while deployed abroad, and by the repressive governments in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Burma to block outside political ideas.

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Yahoo to add encryption to all services in wake of NSA spying revelations

Yahoo
Yahoo recently announced it was beefing up security on its email service by introducing more encryption. Photograph: Michael Nelson/EPA

Yahoo will add encryption to all its products by spring 2014, chief Marissa Mayer has announced, in a bid to tackle users’ privacy fears in the wake of reports that the National Security Agency had accessed the tech firm’s data centres.

In a blogpost on Monday, Mayer said: “We’ve worked hard over the years to earn our users’ trust and we fight hard to preserve it. As you know, there have been a number of reports over the last six months about the US government secretly accessing user data without the knowledge of tech companies, including Yahoo.

“I want to reiterate what we have said in the past: Yahoo has never given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency. Ever. There is nothing more important to us than protecting our users’ privacy.”

Mayer’s move comes after the Washington Post reported last month that the NSA had broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centres around the world.

According to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with officials, the NSA, in partnership with its British counterpart GCHQ, has been copying large amounts of data as it flows across fibre-optic cables that carry information between the companies’ worldwide data centres.

After the story broke, Yahoo said government attempts to circumvent its online security systems offered “substantial potential for abuse”. Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, called the news “really outrageous”.

 

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By Chris StrohmNov 15, 2013 10:42 AM CT

Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. are fighting back against the National Security Agency by using harder-to-crack code to shield their networks and online customer data from unauthorized U.S. spying.

The companies, burned by disclosures they’ve cooperated with U.S. surveillance programs, are protecting user e-mail and social-media posts with strengthened encryption that the U.S. government says won’t be easily broken until 2030.
Enlarge image Silicon Valley Nerds Seek Revenge on NSA Spies With Super Coding

The National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Photographer: NSA via Getty Images

The NSA has tapped fiber-optic cables abroad in order to siphon off data from Google and Yahoo, circumvented or cracked encryption, and covertly introduced weaknesses and back doors into digital coding, according to reports in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

While the NSA may find ways around the barriers, the companies say they have to assure users their online connections are secure and data can’t be grabbed when transmitted over fiber-optic networks or digitally stored.

Microsoft Corp. is convinced it must “invest in protecting customers’ information from a wide range of threats, which if the allegations are true, include governments,” Matt Thomlinson, general manager of trustworthy computing, said in an e-mail. He didn’t provide details.

Internet companies including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple Inc. are trying to distance themselves from news reports that they gave the agency data on electronic communications of Americans and foreigners or have lax security.

While the companies are trying to prevent the NSA from gaining unauthorized access to their data, they say they comply with legal court orders compelling them to provide the government information.

The NSA has tapped fiber-optic cables abroad in order to siphon off data from Google and Yahoo, circumvented or cracked encryption, and covertly introduced weaknesses and back doors into coding, according to reports in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Game On

Companies are fighting back primarily by using increasingly complex encryption, which scrambles data using a mathematical formula that can be decoded only with a special digital key. The idea is to protect sensitive information like e-mails, Internet searches and digital calls.

Google has accelerated efforts to encrypt information flowing between its data centers, doubled the length of its digital keys and implemented measures to detect fraudulent certificates for verifying the authenticity of websites, according to a statement from the Mountain View, California-based company.

NSA spy programs have “the great potential for doing serious damage to the competitiveness” of U.S. companies, Richard Salgado, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security, told a Senate subcommittee Nov. 13.

“It’s very important that the users of our services understand that we are stewards of their data, we hold it responsibly, we treat it with respect,” Salgado said. “We’ve already seen impacts on the businesses.”

Government Threat

Google, Yahoo and Facebook generated $44.4 billion in advertising revenue so far in 2013 in part by mining users’ private data, according to Bloomberg Industries.

An Aug. 14 analysis by Forrester Research Inc. analyst James Staten found the U.S. cloud computing industry could lose as much as $180 billion by 2016 due to the spying disclosures.

Yahoo will make encrypted connections standard by January for all its Mail users with 2048-bit digital keys, Sarah Meron, a spokeswoman for the Sunnyvale, California-based company, said in an e-mail.

Facebook, in addition to moving toward 2048-bit encryption keys, is accelerating a tactic known as “perfect forward secrecy” that prevents the NSA from deciphering the communications of users if it obtains a security code, Jodi Seth, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

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Battle brews as tech companies attempt to fend off NSA hacking

Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and others are all improving their data encryption to discourage the NSA from accessing user information.

November 15, 2013 8:20 AM PST

The NSA allegedly gathered millions of records from Google and Yahoo data centers around the world, but soon, the agency might have a much harder time trying to collect this type of data.

Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, and other prominent technology companies are investing heavily in stronger, 2048-bit encryption. Due to computing power constraints, it’s expected to be more than a decade before this type of encryption can be easily overcome.

Google, one of the leaders in the effort, announced in May that it would switch over to 2,048-bit encryption keys by the end of 2013. Yahoo recently confirmed to Bloomberg, which spoke with several tech companies that are investing in new encryption, that it will make 2048-bit encryption standard by January 2014 for all its Mail users. Facebook also plans to move to 2048-bit encryption, a spokeswoman told Bloomberg, and will roll out “perfect forward secrecy,” a feature that prevents snoopers from accessing user data even if they can access the company’s security codes.

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Without their knowledge or permission, the National Security Agency has broken into the global data centers of Yahoo! and Google, the Washington Post is reporting on Wednesday.

In a report that terms the specific NSA surveillance program as “unusually aggressive,” the newspaper claims that leaked documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden show how the operation, codenamed MUSCULAR, allowed the agency to access the “cloud networks” of the two internet giants and “collect at will from among hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans.”

Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw the leaked drawing from the NSA: “I hope you publish this,” one of them said.

“The NSA does not keep everything it collects,” the Post reports, “but it keeps a lot.”

Though the stream of information generated by the Snowden leaks seems endless, these latest revelations come amid growing concern both in the U.S. and abroad about the unrivaled power of the NSA when it comes to accessing information that was otherwise thought protected.

In this case, it is the internet giants themselves who seem most caught off guard over the revelations. Since the Snowden leaks first began, these companies (along with others) have been criticized for allowing the NSA specific kinds of access to their customer data.  As the Post reports, however, disclosure of the MUSCULAR program becomes “especially striking,”

because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.

The MUSCULAR project appears to be an unusually aggressive use of NSA tradecraft against flagship American companies. The agency is built for high-tech spying, with a wide range of digital tools, but it has not been known to use them routinely against U.S. companies.

When asked by the Post if they were aware of the program, both Yahoo! and Google adamantly said they did not know and expressed deep concern—anger, in fact—that the NSA had possibly infiltrated their private, highly secure, “cloud” networks.

As the Post explains:

In order for the data centers to operate effectively, they synchronize high volumes of information about account holders. Yahoo’s internal network, for example, sometimes transmits entire e-mail archives — years of messages and attachments — from one data center to another.

Tapping the Google and Yahoo clouds allows the NSA to intercept communications in real time and to take “a retrospective look at target activity,” according to one internal NSA document.

In order to obtain free access to data center traffic, the NSA had to circumvent gold standard security measures. Google “goes to great lengths to protect the data and intellectual property in these centers,” according to one of the company’s blog posts, with tightly audited access controls, heat sensitive cameras, round-the-clock guards and biometric verification of identities.

Google and Yahoo also pay for premium data links, designed to be faster, more reliable and more secure. In recent years, each of them is said to have bought or leased thousands of miles of fiber optic cables for their own exclusive use. They had reason to think, insiders said, that their private, internal networks were safe from prying eyes.

In an NSA presentation slide on “Google Cloud Exploitation,” however, a sketch shows where the “Public Internet” meets the internal “Google Cloud” where their data resides. In hand-printed letters, the drawing notes that encryption is “added and removed here!” The artist adds a smiley face, a cheeky celebration of victory over Google security.

Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw the drawing. “I hope you publish this,” one of them said.

Whether those in the outraged public will find sympathy with the likes of Google and Yahoo!, the exposure of MUSCULAR shows the degree to which online data—even that which was thought to be more secure—is susceptible to the reach of the NSA.

One of the other key takeaways from the Post reporting is how this particular program seemed to target communication hubs and data centers located outside of the U.S., showing that legal requirements, though clearly not effective overall, certainly have an impact on the manner in which the NSA operates. Again, from the report:

Intercepting communications overseas has clear advantages for the NSA, with looser restrictions and less oversight. NSA documents about the effort refer directly to “full take,” “bulk access” and “high volume” operations on Yahoo and Google networks. Such large-scale collection of Internet content would be illegal in the United States, but the operations take place overseas, where the NSA is allowed to presume that anyone using a foreign data link is a foreigner.

Outside U.S. territory, statutory restrictions on surveillance seldom apply and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has no jurisdiction. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein has acknowledged that Congress conducts little oversight of intelligence-gathering under the presidential authority of Executive Order 12333 , which defines the basic powers and responsibilities of the intelligence agencies.

John Schindler, a former NSA chief analyst and frequent defender who teaches at the Naval War College, said it was obvious why the agency would prefer to avoid restrictions where it can.

“Look, NSA has platoons of lawyers and their entire job is figuring out how to stay within the law and maximize collection by exploiting every loophole,” he said. “It’s fair to say the rules are less restrictive under Executive Order 12333 than they are under FISA.”

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Snowden leak: NSA secretly accessed Yahoo, Google data centers to collect information

 

Published time: October 30, 2013 16:36
Edited time: October 30, 2013 17:58

Google data center

Google data center

Despite having front-door access to communications transmitted across the biggest Internet companies on Earth, the National Security Agency has been secretly tapping into the two largest online entities in the world, new leaked documents reveal.

Those documents, supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and obtained by the Washington Post, suggest that the US intelligence agency and its British counterpart have compromised data passed through the computers of Google and Yahoo, the two biggest companies in the world with regards to overall Internet traffic, and in turn allowed those country’s governments and likely their allies access to hundreds of millions of user accounts from individuals around the world.

From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants,” the Post’s Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani reported on Wednesday.

The document providing evidence of such was among the trove of files supplied by Mr. Snowden and is dated January 9, 2013, making it among the most recent top-secret files attributed to the 30-year-old whistleblower.

Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, told reporters Wednesday afternoon, “I don’t know what the report is,” according to Politico, and said his agency is “not authorized” to tap into Silicon Valley companies. When asked if the NSA tapped into the data centers, Alexander said, “Not to my knowledge.”

 

Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander (AFP Photo / Alex Wong)

Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander (AFP Photo / Alex Wong)

Earlier this year, separate documentation supplied by Mr. Snowden disclosed evidence of PRISM, an NSA-operated program that the intelligence company conducted to target the users of Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple services. When that program was disclosed by the Guardian newspaper in June, reporters there said it allowed the NSA to “collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats” while having direct access to the companies’ servers, at times with the “assistance of communication providers in the US.”

According to the latest leak, the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters are conducting similar operations targeting the users of at least two of these companies, although this time under utmost secrecy.

The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process,” the Post noted.

And while top-brass in the US intelligence community defended PRISM and said it did not target American Internet users, the newest program — codenamed MUSCULAR — sweeps up data pertaining to the accounts of many Americans, the Post acknowledged.

The MUSCULAR program, according to Wednesday’s leak, involves a process in which the NSA and GCHQ intercept communications overseas, where lax restrictions and oversight allow the agencies access to intelligence with ease.

NSA documents about the effort refer directly to ‘full take,’ ‘bulk access’ and ‘high volume’ operations on Yahoo and Google networks,” the Post reported. “Such large-scale collection of Internet content would be illegal in the United States, but the operations take place overseas, where the NSA is allowed to presume that anyone using a foreign data link is a foreigner.”

 

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