— John Siracusa (@siracusa) December 9, 2013
Ryan Lizza, writing in the New Yorker, has a great essay that explores why the President seems to do nothing to rein in the NSA. It is long, but is certainly worth a full read.
Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) has announced that he will propose new legislation to restrict and control government access to cellphone data, including location tracking. In the last year alone, cellphone companies provided information to law enforcement and other governmental entities more than 1.1 million times.
Most of the requests were for information from a specific customer account. But law enforcement agencies also received information from 9,000 so-called tower dumps, in which the agencies were granted access to data from all the phones that connected to a cell site during a specified period of time.
The cellphone carriers’ reports, which came in response to a congressional inquiry, underscored the law enforcement agencies’ strong reliance on wireless phone records. The carriers are shown to turn over records thousands of times a day in response to police emergencies, subpoenas and other requests.
- Bill would require warrants for law enforcement tracking of cellphones (jsonline.com)
- Matthews Bark | “Cellphone Data Flowing To Law Enforcement” (criminaldefenseattorneyorlando.wordpress.com)
- US police using NSA techniques to spy (rinf.com)
- Cellphone data spying: It’s not just the NSA (usatoday.com)
Eight large technology companies have launched a large pro-privacy public campaign to push back against the massive surveillance state created by the NSA. Part of the campaign features this website, which sets forth various principles on which surveillance reform should be based.
AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo all signed an open letter published on their website. An excerpt:
We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.
The tech industry is no small part of our economy. The industry is under a real threat caused by the NSA. They do have ample money to wage such campaigns and they are also a major target for campaign contributions. This effort is important to the survival of both individual privacy and the Internet.
- Tech Giants Issue Call for Limits on Government Surveillance of Users – New York Times (nytimes.com)
- Tech giants call for controls on gov’t snooping (news.yahoo.com)
- Apple and Other Tech Companies Call for Government Surveillance Reform (macrumors.com)
- Tech firms seek surveillance reform (bbc.co.uk)
According to a report in the New York Times, the NSA has been collecting information about users of online gaming systems, like World of Warcraft and Second Life, for at least several years.
Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.
The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players, according to the documents, disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. Because militants often rely on features common to video games — fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions — American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there, according to the papers.
Online games might seem innocuous, a top-secret 2008 N.S.A. document warned, but they had the potential to be a “target-rich communication network” allowing intelligence suspects “a way to hide in plain sight.” Virtual games “are an opportunity!” another 2008 N.S.A. document declared.
Is there any activity that the NSA is not tracking? Is there any legal basis for this particular program of data collection? According to the times, the Snowden documents don’t show any particular successes from these programs.
It is time for a full and open audit of the costs of the NSA’s spying, with a particular focus on what, if anything, is worth the price in terms of cash and the loss of privacy. The Times notes that there is no indication that any warrants were used in the program and that it very well could have swept up Americans.
- Revealed: spy agencies’ covert push to infiltrate virtual world of online games (theguardian.com)
- World of Spycraft: NSA and CIA Spied in Online Games (propublica.org)
- What Are Intelligence Agencies Doing in Virtual Worlds? (propublica.org)
- US, UK spy agencies collect gamer chats and deploy real-life agents into World of Warcraft, Second Life – @Guardian (theguardian.com)
This is a very handy compendium of Siri commands. I learned several new ones.
(via The Loop)
We are in the midst of learning about the massive and pervasive programs that the surveillance agencies are running in the US and around the world. Many, including me, are appalled at the breadth of the collection of private data by our government.
So, last night the National Reconnaissance Office launched a classified satellite into earth orbit. The office of the Director of National Intelligence could not resist tweeting out the launch together with a picture of the military patch created for this satellite. I don’t think the slogan on the patch is something that will generate positive publicity for the DNI.
Ready for launch? An Atlas 5 will blast off at just past 11PM, PST carrying an classified NRO payload (also cubesats) pic.twitter.com/ll7s0nCOPg
— Office of the DNI (@ODNIgov) December 5, 2013
- Successful Launch of NROL-39 CubeSats (amsat-uk.org)
- United Launch Alliance Atlas V Rocket Successfully Launches Payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (sacbee.com)
Listen to this debate organized by Intelligence Squared and focused on the massive surveillance state that the US has created. The embed below requires flash, but you can go directly to the page using the link above.
Like many others, we are especially alarmed by recent allegations in the press of a broader and concerted effort by some governments to circumvent online security measures – and in our view, legal processes and protections – in order to surreptitiously collect private customer data. In particular, recent press stories have reported allegations of governmental interception and collection – without search warrants or legal subpoenas – of customer data as it travels between customers and servers or between company data centers in our industry.
If true, these efforts threaten to seriously undermine confidence in the security and privacy of online communications. Indeed, government snooping potentially now constitutes an “advanced persistent threat,” alongside sophisticated malware and cyber attacks.
– Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft, announcing a major effort on the part of Microsoft to protect their customers from US spying operations.
- Microsoft vows to boost Internet encryption, transparency (news.cnet.com)
- Microsoft labels US government a ‘persistent threat’ in plan to cut off NSA spying (theverge.com)
Another disclosure from the Edward Snowden files has been released. It turns out that the NSA is tracking cellphones around the world to the tune of 5 billion records a day. The tracking program includes tracking the locations of US citizens outside the country. The program does not “target” phones inside the US, but it collects enormous data on in-the-US phones by claiming that the collection is “incidental.”
The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.
The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool.
The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones “incidentally,” a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result.
So there you have it. The NSA is tracking the locations of millions of Americans, despite earlier non-denial denials. Tracking location is a pure insult to the right to travel anonymously.
- NSA Tracking 5 Billion Cellphones (dailywireless.org)
- Latest NSA Leak Shows the Agency’s Tracking Cellphone Locations All Over the Globe (truthdig.com)
- Latest Snowden Revelation: NSA Gathers Billions of Records on Cellphone Locations Worldwide Every Day (reason.com)
According to reporting in the Wall Street Journal, China Mobile, the largest mobile provider in China, has signed a deal with Apple to sell iPhones in that country. This is a big win for Apple, in that the deal will give Apple access to 700 million new potential customers in China. China Mobile is seven times larger than Verizon Wireless.
At 6:45 am this morning in pre-market trading, Apple stock is up $9 or approximately 1.6%.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.
- The Apple-China Mobile deal is done, the Wall St. Journal reports (tech.fortune.cnn.com)
- Apple, China Mobile sign deal to offer iPhone (marketwatch.com)
- China Mobile inks deal for Apple’s coveted iPhone (macdailynews.com)
- Apple officially inks iPhone deal with China Mobile (tuaw.com)
This is amazing. More detail here.