Google has made the statement that users of Gmail not only have consented to any electronic snooping and scanning of their communication, but have no reasonable expectation that their mail will remain private anyway. The revelation comes through a brief filed by Google to dismiss a data-mining suit against them. In it they describe the act of sending email through their services as if you are handing your letter to someone else. They seem to forget that letters are processed by the post office (or other carrier) and during transit cannot legally be opened. This makes the analogy very inaccurate indeed.
The US Government is trying very hard to shatter any illusions that we might have about the right to privacy on the internet. They are currently in the process of going after a few of the smaller privacy oriented email services with the intent of getting user information out of them; very specific user information. Right now the current focus is on the company Lavabit who has the unfortunate distinction of having been used by Edward Snowden on multiple occasions to send email to the press and others. This distinction has gotten them into some hot water and now they are actually closing their doors in order to not comply with a government request to hand over the contents of Snowden’s email (and possibly others). This incident has sent a shiver through the small yet strong market for private email and web services.
Yesterday there was a vote on one of the more important pieces of legislation to go through Congress this year. Despite its importance there was very little media coverage outside the internet and the few sites that are still determined to fight for people’s right to privacy. The bill was named HR 2397 and was introduced by Representative Justin Amash (R MI) and was intended to deny funding to the NSA for any program that allows for broad (warrantless) spying on US Citizens.
Japanese scientists Isao Echizen from the National Institute of Informatics and his colleague Seiichi Gohshi from Kogakuin University, believe that the Google Glass and smart surveillance cameras with computer algorithms that allow for face recognition in the future play a major role in the withdrawal of the last havens of our privacy, and therefore began to develop a system that would successfully fight against it last year.
Apple experienced one of those things that no service provider wants to have, a multi-hour outage that affects an unknown number of users. Unfortunately this is exactly what happened to Apple today and to both iMessage and Face Time. Now these all on their own are bad and make Apple look a little foolish, but there is more to it than just the loss of text and video messaging to iPhone and iPad owners. This outage and loss of transmission capabilities also makes a recent note that was “leaked” by the DEA to cnet look a little foolish.
They spy on us in the virtual world, which is no problem for them to do, and now they do it more and more in the physical world. Every once in a while a new surveillance camera sprouts up somewhere. Germans, especially those who live in Berlin, which is full of surveillance cameras, are sick of this trend. To do something about it they organized Camover 2013 competition, a kind of game in which you destroy CCTV cameras.
The FBI is getting on the biometric bandwagon as they are moving forward with a program to help them catch bad guys. The problem with the program, as always, is that these same systems that are intended to keep us safe can be abused. The new program dubbed The Next Generation Identification program is a $1 Billion “upgrade” to the national finger print database. The new system adds in a few items that could be very helpful in tracking down and catching the “bad guys”. The new data includes pictures, voice prints, iris scans, DNA and potentially more.
Well we knew it would come to this, despite growing outcry against the Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Protection Act the House of Representatives (who are they representing?) is holding a debate on this controversial bill. We have talked about CISPA in the past and the bills that led up to what is nothing more than a revocation of your right to private communication in the past and what the implications of a bill so loosely outlined will mean in the coming months.
The explosion of the smart phone tied to the sudden need for people to post where they are and what they are doing every minute of the day has led to some rather interesting consequences. We all have heard the numerous reports of applications that are taking your personal data right off of your phone and then either selling it or using it to push their own applications… which reminds us… what ever happened to all those congressional requests and demands? Anyway getting back to the point we have even heard how one application (now pulled from distribution) used public Facebook profiles combined with check-ins on the Facebook game Four Square to allow almost anyone to stalk nearby women.