The key role private companies play in National Security Agency surveillance programs is detailed in a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published for the first time on Friday.
One slide in the undated PowerPoint presentation, published as part of the Guardian’s NSA Files: Decoded project, illustrates the number of intelligence reports being generated from data collected from the companies.
In the five weeks from June 5 2010, the period covered by the document, data from Yahoo generated by far the most reports, followed by Microsoft and then Google.
Between them, the three companies accounted for more than 2,000 reports in that period – all but a tiny fraction of the total produced under one of the NSA’s main foreign intelligence authorities, the Fisa Amendents Act (FAA).
It is unclear how the information in the NSA slide relates to the companies’ own transparency reports, which document the number of requests for information received from authorities around the world.
Yahoo, Microsoft and Google deny they co-operate voluntarily with the intelligence agencies, and say they hand over data only after being forced to do so when served with warrants. The NSA told the Guardian that the companies’ co-operation was “legally compelled”.
Canada-based telecom Nortel went bankrupt in 2009 and sold its biggest asset—a portfolio of more than 6,000 patents covering 4G wireless innovations and a range of technologies—at an auction in 2011.
Google bid for the patents, but it didn’t get them. Instead, the patents went to a group of competitors—Microsoft, Apple, RIM, Ericsson, and Sony—operating under the name “Rockstar Bidco.” The companies together bid the shocking sum of $4.5 billion.
Patent insiders knew that the Nortel portfolio was the patent equivalent of a nuclear stockpile: dangerous in the wrong hands, and a bit scary even if held by a “responsible” party.
This afternoon, that stockpile was finally used for what pretty much everyone suspected it would be used for—launching an all-out patent attack on Google and Android. The smartphone patent wars have been underway for a few years now, and the eight lawsuits filed in federal court today by Rockstar Consortium mean that the conflict just hit DEFCON 1.
Google probably knew this was coming. When it lost out in the Nortel auction, the company’s top lawyer, David Drummond, complained that the Microsoft-Apple patent alliance was part of a “hostile, organized campaign against Android.” Google’s failure to get patents in the Nortel auction was seen as one of the driving factors in its $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola in 2011.
Rockstar, meanwhile, was pretty unapologetic about embracing the “patent troll” business model. Most trolls, of course, aren’t holding thousands of patents from a seminal technology company. When the company was profiled by Wired last year, about 25 of its 32 employees were former Nortel employees.
The suits filed today are against Google and seven companies that make Android smartphones: Asustek, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE. The case was filed in the Eastern District of Texas, long considered a district friendly to patent plaintiffs.
Several monks of the Laughing Monkey Clan found their brother in a state of great anguish, typing frantically at his workstation.
“What vexes you so?” they asked.
Said the monk: “When new business rules are delivered next year, my code will need to be updated. Today the abbot told me who will be assigned this task, and my heart sank. He is an impatient fool who scorns documentation and breezes by comments, electing instead to guess the purpose of everything by name alone. Thus I must idiot-proof every class and method.”
The monk pointed to his screen. “Here he will be tempted to modify this object’s properties, so I must make it immutable to prevent disaster. Here he will surely mistake the purpose of this parameter, so now I must check for an illegal argument wherever it is used.” The monk collapsed upon his keyboard. “Ten thousand curses upon that imbecile, Taw-Jieh!” he wailed. “That he of all people should be chosen to maintain my code!”
The other monks looked at each other uncomfortably.
“But you are Taw-Jieh,” said one.
One of those analyses showed that when a human was behind the wheel, Google’s cars accelerated and braked significantly more sharply than they did when piloting themselves. Another showed that the cars’ software was much better at maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead than the human drivers were.
“We’re spending less time in near-collision states,” said Urmson. “Our car is driving more smoothly and more safely than our trained professional drivers.”
Abject-oriented programming is a set of practices for encouraging code reuse and making sure programmers are producing code that can be used in production for a long time. The number of lines of code in the application is a common measure of the importance of the application, and the number of lines a programmer can produce in a day, week, or month is a useful metric for project planning and resource allocation. Abject-oriented programming is one of the best ways to get the most lines of code in the shortest time.
The preparations were top-secret. From Thursday through the end of the following week, Apple completely took over Moscone. Backstage, it built an eight-by-eight-foot electronics lab to house and test the iPhones. Next to that it built a greenroom with a sofa for Jobs. Then it posted more than a dozen security guards 24 hours a day in front of those rooms and at doors throughout the building. No one got in without having his or her ID electronically checked and compared with a master list that Jobs had personally approved. The auditorium where Jobs was rehearsing was off limits to all but a small group of executives. Jobs was so obsessed with leaks that he tried to have all the contractors Apple hired — from people manning booths and doing demos to those responsible for lighting and sound — sleep in the building the night before his presentation. Aides talked him out of it.
Who watches the watchers?
It took just a week for nearly 300 students who got iPads from their Los Angeles high school to figure out how to alter the security settings so they could surf the Web and access social media sites.
The breach at Roosevelt High and two other LA schools has prompted Los Angeles Unified School District officials to halt a $1 billion program aimed at putting the devices in the hands of every student in the nation’s second-largest school system, the Los Angeles Times reported. The district also has banned home use of the iPads until further notice as officials look for ways to make sure students use the devices for school work only.
This is indisputably educational. It probably only took one kid and one hour to do the crack, and a week to spread it to the rest of the school population. Why on Earth is anybody surprised about this? And why on Earth stop them? If you give them pen and paper, they quickly learn how to write notes to each other, but you don’t ban pen and paper because of that!
Are you excited about the launch of Apple’s new iPhones? Have you decided to get one? Do you have any idea what you’re buying? If so, you are on your own. When asked where it obtains its minerals, Apple, which has done so much to persuade us that it is deft, cool and responsive, looks arrogant, lumbering and unaccountable.
The question was straightforward: does Apple buy tin from Bangka Island? The wriggling is almost comical.
Nearly half of global tin supplies are used to make solder for electronics. About 30% of the world’s tin comes from Bangka and Belitung islands in Indonesia, where an orgy of unregulated mining is reducing a rich and complex system of rainforests and gardens to a post-holocaust landscape of sand and acid subsoil. Tin dredgers in the coastal waters are also wiping out the coral, the giant clams, the local fisheries, the endangered Napoleon wrasse, the mangrove forests and the beaches used by breeding turtles.
The biometrics hacking team of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) has successfully bypassed the biometric security of Apple’s TouchID using easy everyday means. A fingerprint of the phone user, photographed from a glass surface, was enough to create a fake finger that could unlock an iPhone 5s secured with TouchID. This demonstrates – again – that fingerprint biometrics is unsuitable as access control method and should be avoided.
Apple had released the new iPhone with a fingerprint sensor that was supposedly much more secure than previous fingerprint technology. A lot of bogus speculation about the marvels of the new technology and how hard to defeat it supposedly is had dominated the international technology press for days.
“In reality, Apple’s sensor has just a higher resolution compared to the sensors so far. So we only needed to ramp up the resolution of our fake”, said the hacker with the nickname Starbug, who performed the critical experiments that led to the successful circumvention of the fingerprint locking. “As we have said now for more than years, fingerprints should not be used to secure anything. You leave them everywhere, and it is far too easy to make fake fingers out of lifted prints.”
Since Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) arrived in the United States Senate, he’s become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. He’s made it his mission to raise questions about tech issues that he feels are improper, unjust, or just downright questionable.
The debut of the new iPhones 5S, replete with a fingerprint reader, has now also gotten Franken’s attention. On Thursday, the Minnesota senator published a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, raising questions about the logic in making fingerprint readers more mainstream.
He also has specific questions for Cupertino:
(1) Is it possible to convert locally stored fingerprint data into a digital or visual format that can be used by third parties?
(2) Is it possible to extract and obtain fingerprint data from an iPhone? If so, can this be done remotely, or with physical access to the device?…
(10) Under American intelligence law, the Federal Bureau of Investigation can seek an order requiring the production of “any tangible thing (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items)” if they are deemed relevant to certain foreign intelligence investigations. See 50 U.S.C. § 1861. Does Apple consider fingerprint data to be “tangible things” as defined in the USA Patriot Act?
The problem, senator, is that the NSA has been caught lying about this kind of stuff. Why do you think the FBI is any better?
Let’s set up a timeline here. We’re at the first step:
1) Franken: Can the FBI get the fingerprints?
2a) FBI: No.
2b) Apple: No, and how dare you ask me that!
3) Snowden: Yes
4a) FBI: Okay, yes.
4b) Apple: Yes, but they forced us. Not giving it is treason.
Steve Ballmer, 2007:
Right now we’re selling millions and millions and millions of phones a year. Apple is selling zero phones a year.
Steve Ballmer, a few months later:
It’s sort of a funny question. Would I trade 96% of the market for 4% of the market? (Laughter.) I want to have products that appeal to everybody.
Now we’ll get a chance to go through this again in phones and music players. There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.
Steve Ballmer, yesterday:
Mobile devices. We have almost no share.
And talking about 6 years of mobile phone history, ouch.
As you can see in the video above, Apple’s new fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5s isn’t restricted to human users. After commandeering a cat, I tested a colleague’s hypothesis that you could register the identifying skin segments of your favorite furry friends for Touch ID, too.
In the case of Microsoft, according to the engineers, the requests came in the course of multiple meetings with the FBI. These kinds of meetings were standard at Microsoft, according to both Biddle and another former Microsoft engineer who worked on the BitLocker team, who wanted to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter.
“I had more meetings with more agencies that I can remember or count,” said Biddle.
Biddle said these meetings were so frequent, and with so many different agencies, he doesn’t specifically remember if it was the FBI that asked for a backdoor. But the anonymous Microsoft engineer we spoke with confirmed that it was, in fact, the FBI.
During a meeting, an agent complained about BitLocker and expressed his frustration.
“Fuck, you guys are giving us the shaft,” the agent said, according to Biddle and the Microsoft engineer, who were both present at the meeting. (Though Biddle insisted he didn’t remember which agency he spoke with, he said he remembered this particular exchange.)
Biddle wasn’t intimidated. “No, we’re not giving you the shaft, we’re merely commoditizing the shaft,” he responded.
Mike McCue, co-founder of Flipboard, got his 14-year-old a MacBook Air for his birthday. His son promptly set it up, and the Apple ID process gave him this. What a nice, low-calorie touch.
At a highly anticipated press event at its Silicon Valley headquarters Tuesday afternoon, tech giant Apple officially unveiled to the public a panicked and completely idea-free man.
The white, ultrathin man, who exhibited such features as artificial excitement, a fully quavering voice, and what appeared to be a near total lack of inspiration, was put on full display for thousands of shareholders, industry insiders, reporters, and fans today in what Apple hopes will be a game-changer for the multinational corporation.
“This is the future of Apple,” announced the lightweight, 75-inch desperate man while being presented on stage. “We are indeed staking our company’s reputation on what you see here on this stage. And as always with Apple, you are getting a glimpse of the entire tech industry’s future today.”
Whoa. Big news from the middle of the night. According to Nokia, Microsoft will purchase “substantially” all of Nokia’s device and service arms as well as licensing the phone maker’s patents and mapping know-how. The Redmond company will pay Nokia a cool 3.79 billion euros ($4.99 billion) for the business, and 1.65 billion euros ($2.18 billion) for its patent armory.
Microsoft hopes that allying with its biggest Windows Phone manufacturer will speed up growth (and improve its smartphone market share) — the company is already promising “increased synergies”. CEO Steve Ballmer added: “It’s a bold step into the future – a win-win for employees, shareholders and consumers of both companies. Bringing these great teams together will accelerate Microsoft’s share and profits in phones, and strengthen the overall opportunities for both Microsoft and our partners across our entire family of devices and services.”
Just a few short years ago this would have been unthinkable…
Google has a plan. Eventually it wants to get into your brain. “When you think about something and don’t really know much about it, you will automatically get information,” Google CEO Larry Page said in Steven Levy’s book, “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives.” “Eventually you’ll have an implant, where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you the answer.”
Don’t worry, we’re only scanning your brains to check for pedophiles. Protect the children.
The National Security Agency paid millions of dollars to cover the costs of major internet companies involved in the Prism surveillance program after a court ruled that some of the agency’s activities were unconstitutional, according to top-secret material passed to the Guardian.
The technology companies, which the NSA says includes Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook, incurred the costs to meet new certification demands in the wake of the ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court.
And in the article, you can find Google basically admitting as much:
Google did not answer any of the specific questions put to it, and provided only a general statement denying it had joined Prism or any other surveillance program. It added: “We await the US government’s response to our petition to publish more national security request data, which will show that our compliance with American national security laws falls far short of the wild claims still being made in the press today.”
Falling short of “wild claims” is very easy…
Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor.
Google patents ‘pay-per-gaze’ eye-tracking that could measure emotional response to real-world ads
Advertisers spend heaps of cash on branding, bannering, and product-placing. But does anyone really look at those ads? Google could be betting that advertisers will pay to know whether consumers are actually looking at their billboards, magazine spreads, and online ads. The company was just granted a patent for “pay-per-gaze” advertising, which would employ a Google Glass-like eye sensor in order to identify when consumers are looking at advertisements in the real world and online.
Jim O’Donnell was at a library conference in Singapore when his Ipad’s Google Play app asked him to update it. This was the app through which he had bought 30 to 40 ebooks, and after the app had updated, it started to re-download them. However, Singapore is not one of the countries where the Google Play bookstore is active, so it stopped downloading and told him he was no longer entitled to his books.
It’s an odd confluence of travel, updates, and location-checking, but it points out just how totally, irretrievably broken the idea of DRM and region-controls for ebooks is.
You can all relax now. The near-unprecedented outage that seemingly affected all of Google’s services for a brief time on Friday is over.
The event began at approximately 4:37pm Pacific Time and lasted between one and five minutes, according to the Google Apps Dashboard. All of the Google Apps services reported being back online by 4:48pm.
The incident apparently blacked out every service Mountain View has to offer simultaneously, from Google Search to Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, and beyond.
Big deal, right? Everyone has technical difficulties every once in a while. It goes with the territory.
But then, not everyone is Google. According to web analytics firm GoSquared, worldwide internet traffic dipped by a stunning 40 per cent during the brief minutes that the Chocolate Factory’s services were offline.
When was the last time you emailed yourself something from work? Or had a private moment over chat, the kind you’d like to keep just to yourself? If you’re like most of us the answer is “relatively recently.” According to Google, however, that’s just too bad. All of that information, from your confidential memos to your love letters, is now fair game.
You see, in a recent filing in federal court, the Internet giant announced that no one should expect privacy when sending messages to or from a Gmail account.
“Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter,” Google wrote in a brief to the court, “people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS provider in the course of delivery. Indeed, ‘a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.’”