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This shouldn't come as a surprise to you, especially if you read TweakTown, as we try to cover the Edward Snowden leaks as they break. Well, the latest news is being reported by The Washington Post, and its a doozy.
The NSA is reportedly taking in users' cellphone data, on a global level, not just within the United States. This equates to around 5 billion records everyday, but don't worry, the NSA says it doesn't have the proper tools to check every single record. Because, you know - we should believe them, right? Well, one of the programs is named Co-Traveler, which allows the US spy agency to determine "behaviorally relevant relationships" based on data from signals intelligence activity designators located around the world. One of which, is named "Stormbrew".
Co-Traveler can locate targets purely from cellphone users moving in a group, even if they're unknown threats. Multiple meetups, with the geolocational data, is enough for the NSA's "Co-Traveler" system to notice a pattern.
We know that the NSA's PRISM system scoops up unimaginable amounts of data, so a couple of researchers created an Android app to see just how much metadata is collected from a smartphone, which was compared to basic information on Facebook.
The two Stanford researchers, Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler, created MetaPhone, using it to see how revealing the metadata was. Mayer told MIT Technology Review: "Some defenders of the NSA's bulk collection programs have taken the position that metadata is not revealing. We want to provide empirical evidence on the issue.... Our hypothesis is that phone metadata is packed with meaning."
You can grab MetaPhone yourself, a free app from the Google Play Store, with the app capable of collecting call and text logs, and asks for basic information from Facebook. Early research points to the fact that the metadata definitely includes some juicy data on you, with early results showing that phone metadata can predict whether someone is in a relationship with around 60% accuracy.
Google is a step ahead of Yahoo here, where it has upgraded all of its SSL certificates to 2048-bit, but now Yahoo is pushing ahead with some hopefully NSA-proof encryption to its information.
Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, has reiterated the fact that Yahoo has never handed over information from its datacenters to the NSA, or any other government agency for that matter. The CEO said there is nothing more important than users' data and privacy, and that the company is extending the SSL encryption with a 2048-bit key for Yahoo Mail, and all Yahoo products.
The 2048-bit goodness should encrypt all Yahoo datacenter information by the end of Q1 2014, so around 4 months from now. From here, it will offer users an option to encrypt all of their data in and out of Yahoo by the end of March next year. The company will also work close with their international Mail partners to make sure that co-branded accounts are also 2048-bit protected.
Just how many documents did Edward Snowden take from the NSA? Well, earlier estimates had this pegged at around 50,000... but it looks like the whistleblower took close to 200,000 documents.
This is coming directly from NSA General, Keith Alexander, who wished "there was a way to prevent" further leaks, and that information was being out out "in a way that does maximum damage to the NSA and [the United States]." This should mean that Snowden has enough information on him to keep him alive, or at least an asset to Russia.
We've seen what has happened to previous whistleblowers, like Bradley Manning and Michael Hastings, but it looks like Snowden has his fair share of information to keep him safe, for now.
According to some documents supplied to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden, Google and Yahoo data centers across the world are intercepted directly by the NSA and GCHQ. The program is known as "Muscular" and can tap into the main communications link that connect Google and Yahoo data centers.
A documented dating back to January 9, 2013 says that the NSA captured millions of records from the search giants each and every day, sending them to NSA data warehouses. Within a 30-day period, over 180 million records were collected, all of which included metadata, text communications, audio and video, too.
The Washington Post did say that the NSA doesn't keep everything, which should help you sleep at night (so much sarcasm intended). Both search giants maintain multiple data centers around the world for redundancy reasons, with data shared between the data centers all the time. Google has said that it was not aware of the NSA activity, with a Yahoo spokesperson saying that it has strict controls in place to protect the security of their data centers, and that it has not given the NSA or anyone else access to their data centers.
A new report from The Washington Post is suggesting that the NSA has been harvesting hundreds of thousands of email addresses from contact list, online address books, and even instant messaging services. The report is based off of top-secret documents that were provided by senior intelligence officials as well as PRISM whistle blower Edward Snowden.
The report goes on to say that the NSA's Special Source Operations division acquired over 440,000 email address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, and 33,697 from Gmail. Those numbers were derived from an internal NSA powerpoint presentation and are said to represent just a single days worth of email collecting activity.
The Washington Post speculates that the NSA now has a sizeable database of most of the email addresses that exist on the internet today. What the agency plans on doing with these address books is anyones guess. Personally I feel that this is not that big of a deal as many of us openly post our email address online for all to see anyway. On the other hand, I feel that by collecting, storing, and building a database, the NSA is violating some form of my privacy rights.
There are hundreds of millions of people out there who use Facebook on the daily, who think that their profiles are safe because they know the passwords to their account, and others don't - and these people need to read this news, now.
The social network founded by Mark Zuckerberg has just forced a not-so-friendly anti-privacy rule, that stops you from being able to hide your profile from searches. Although, Facebook did say it was going to do this a year ago, so here we are. Last December, an option called "Who cal look up your Timeline by name" was removed for people who weren't using it.
But those who opted in for the feature continued on with it, until now. The social network has said that the small number of people still using the privacy setting will see reminders of its impending removal within the next couple of weeks.
We saw video of Edward Snowden earlier on, but now we have Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak chiming in regarding the NSA whistleblower. Wozniak spoke with RT's Oksana Boyko, where he said that he hopes to have the courage to make the same kind of sacrifice for his country if needed.
During an exclusive interview with RT on "Worlds Apart," Wozniak said "I believe he's a hero. I believe he is coming directly from his heart and he feels some goodness, he wants to be truthful to the American people." The Apple co-founder said he doesn't have the same cache of information Snowden does to expose the government's evilness toward its citizens, but said if "there was anything in my life that I could do equivalent to [Snowden's] sacrifice - I would do it."
I think it's great to have someone like Wozniak step forward and call Snowden a hero, and I'm even more impressed that he stated he'd love to do a Snowden equivalent event for his country. Now if we could just get a majority of the government and corporations to actually do this, the world might be a better place.
Under the US government shutdown, we have 800,000 'non-essential' government staff not being paid, but there's enough money to keep things spied on at the NSA. But, don't think about looking into the NSA spying if you're part of the NSA surveillance panel.
The funds to the NSA surveillance panel have been put on hold thanks to the government shutdown, which was one of president Obama's promises: to look into the NSA's spying system. The panel is now stopped until funds begin flowing again, which will require Congress to start deciding on something, and fast. Then we have the US debt ceiling to begin worrying about.
Do you think we'll get to the bottom of the NSA's PRISM system?
We know that Lavabit was forced to shut its doors after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden blew the lid on the NSA PRISM system, but now it looks like more of the story is finally leaking out, and it's quite bad.
According to court documents acquired by Wired, the FBI had served Lavabit with an order requiring it to hand over Snowden's encryption keys, helping the FBI install a device that would collect metadata from Snowden's e-mail connections. Lavabit refused, but did at one stage provide SSL keys to the FBI, printing them on 11 pages of 4pt type.
This eventuated in Lavabit being threatened with criminal contempt charges and fines. Lavabit's founder, Ladar Levison decided to close up shop after this, as you can imagine. This news helps us better understand why Lavabit decided to go dark, but what I don't understand is that Snowden revealed the NSA's PRISM system captured virtually everything, so why couldn't it use its own system to their advantage?