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After months of waiting on an official answer from the US Government, Apple, Google and Facebook say that they are tired of waiting and will begin notifying users of how often and when the government request their data be handed over. The big 3 have said that they all have begun updating their privacy policies to reflect this change as well.
"Later this month, Apple will update its policies so that in most cases when law enforcement requests personal information about a customer, the customer will receive a notification from Apple," company spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said. It's still unsure how the notifications will be handled per company, but the major win here is that it seems like the major tech companies are finally starting to fight back for the consumer.
We all know by now that the FBI, CIA and NSA request information on us from big tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, but did you know that Microsoft sends a massive invoice every time it gives away your private information? A newly released document shows that at least in one incident, Microsoft billed the government as much as $15,600 for information that was requested.
The Syrian Electronic Army hacker group has just leaked details that show Microsoft billing the US government more than $350,000 on September 5th of 2013. The invoice appears to show that more than 78 invoices for request were sent to the government, with the highest being shown set at a whopping $15,600.00.
Edward Snowden has changed the world with his revelations of the NSA spying on virtually everyone, where Down Under, multiple Australian law enforcement agencies and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) have submitted proposals asking the Australian Senate for more surveillance power.
State police have even gone as far as asking the government to log citizens' Web browsing history. After the Snowden leaks on the NSA's spying programs and Australia's cooperation in sharing information with other countries, the Australian Senate opened an inquiry on whether Australia's Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act of 1979 should be revised, in order to better protect Australian citizens' privacy.
Since then, ASIO as well as multiple state police, submitted commentary asking for even more data retention, but offering no added protection for citizens' data. ASIO added that the Snowden leaks will make it harder for the organization to gather meaningful data about a person, so it thinks it should have more power to perform its surveillance duties.
Edward Snowden's latest leak is quite interesting, with the NSA whistleblower talking about the US spy agency's MYSTIC voice interception program, which is capable of collecting the entire nation's "every single" phone call, storing the voice recordings for a month.
MYSTIC began back in 2009, with the NSA developing a RETRO tool that is capable of accessing any voice call from the selected nation, for a period of 30 days. The first nation to have their phone calls recorded by MYSTIC and RETRO started in 2011, with as many as six more countries possibly being spied upon. The Washington Post was asked by US officials to note reveal which countries MYSTIC was operating on.
The program was quite successful, with the NSA bringing in "high-stakes intelligence that would not have existed under traditional surveillance programs in which subjects were identified for targeting in advance," according to The Washington Post. "Unlike most of the government's public claims about the value of controversial programs, [highly classified] briefings supply names, dates, locations and fragments of intercepted calls in convincing detail."
The Communications Security Establishment Canada, the NSA-like department north of the border, launched a trial program to monitor unsuspecting travelers using Wi-Fi in Canadian airports. The collected metadata provided Canadian authorities with a glimpse of user Internet browsing habits, friendships, political affiliation, and other private information.
The leaked document indicated the "federal intelligence agency was then able to track the travelers for a week or more as they - and their wireless devices - showed up in other Wi-Fi 'hot spots' in cities" throughout Canada and in some U.S. airports. More alarming, the Canadian authorities could track travelers within its own borders at hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, train stations, and other public locations while they remained in the country.
The disclosure came from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, after he accused mainly the NSA for wide-scale spying of U.S. citizens, foreign residents, and political leaders of other governments. Most of Snowden's spying revelations focused on the actions of the NSA, but Canada, England, and other nations also have used newer technologies to conduct surveillance.
A couple of days ago we reported that the NSA uses insecure mobile apps to grab users' data, with Angry Birds mentioned, now Rovio, the developer of the smash hit game, is coming to its defense.
Rovio said that it "does not share data, collaborate or collude with any government spy agencies". Rovio insisted "Our fans' trust is the most important thing for us and we take privacy extremely seriously. We do not collaborate, collude, or share data with spy agencies anywhere in the world".
Rovio is coming out and putting its foot down that it does not cooperate with spy agencies, and that if Angry Birds gets mentioned as one of these potential information vacuums, that it's only because it's such a large title. Rovio continued "The alleged surveillance may be conducted through third party advertising networks used by millions of commercial web sites and mobile applications across all industries. If advertising networks are indeed targeted, it would appear that no internet-enabled device that visits ad-enabled web sites or uses ad-enabled applications is immune to such surveillance".
During Edward Snowden's sit down with German TV station NDR, he had quite a few things to say. One of these was asking the question, "if I am a traitor, who did I betray?"
He says "I gave all of my information to the American public, to American journalists who are reporting on American issues. If they see that as treason I think people really need to consider who do they think they're working for. The public is supposed to be their boss, not their enemy".
Anything you do electronically, whether you're buying bombs, or coffee, is tracked - for no reason other than the government wanting all data, 24/7. As he said "the public is supposed to be their [the government] boss, not their enemy".
The top two most common passwords in 2013 were "123456" and "Password," much to the dismay of security experts begging users to create more sophisticated passwords. The full list of passwords was compiled by SplashData and included stolen passwords that were posted online over the past 12 months.
The top five worst passwords:
Security experts also discourage using a password based on a website or application used, such as "adobe123" and "photoshop" - and many online services require passwords to be a certain length, include at least one capitalized letter, and a number or character. Furthermore, SplashData recommends using random words separate by a space or underscore, along with using different passwords for each online account.
Current cryptography encryption is still giving the National Security Agency (NSA) fits, providing Internet users with an extra layer of protection from government snooping, according to a well-known security researcher.
Bruce Schneier, author and security blogger, said the U.S. government is on a "quixotic mission" to collect as much information as possible, including online chats, instant messages, e-mails, and forum postings - and it's uncertain what current procedures are more secure. It's up to users to help develop an Internet that is secure for all users, rather than a system that is open and vulnerable from government snooping - and cyber criminals trying to compromise information.
The large amount of information collected by the NSA - against regular Internet users and foreign government leaders - has left people across the world angry.
The White House has announced that President Obama will on Friday, announce plans for NSA reform. Obama is expected to leverage a mix of executive orders and actions that will fundamentally change the way the NSA can gather information. One of the biggest actions that will be put into motion is the extension of privacy rights to non American citizens.
Other actions include the creation of a so-called "Privacy Advocate" which will argue on the peoples behalf in front of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which now only hears arguments for spying on behalf of the government. Obama is also expected to call for a complete restructuring of the phone-data program, and will state that data collected should be held by phone companies or a third party as to offer a barrier from unwarranted access to private files.
Personally, I caution everyone to remember that most of this is still smoke and mirrors, and true reform would involve ceasing any and all collection of information on American citizens without a court order. Furthermore, Obama would have never acted to reform these policies if it would not have been for Edward Snowden and his very loud whistle blowing. While this may seem like a small victory, more work will need to be done before the NSA can truly be given the title of "reformed."