In the post-Snowden era the idea that government agencies are spying on us is no longer the real of Movies/TV or conspiracy theorists. It is fairly well documented that this is happening every day. The question has moved from what if this happens, to what we are going to do to change it. Well one of the biggest hurdles has been trying to find people in power that even want this to change. When you consider the fact that the people with the power to stop the mass spying are likely to be the ones that voted to put it in place. This has meant that the average person must try to prove their case in the courts.
Privacy on the internet is a hard thing to achieve. For starters there are tons of companies that are very interested in what you do and where you go online so they can get you to buy things. On top of that there are the spying eyes of the government watching to make sure you are not a bad guy and storing all of this data in massive warehouses. This mass data collection seems to exist in every single device we own; from laptops to phone to smart TVs. It is enough to make someone paranoid, or at least to look for some form of privacy when connected to the internet.
We have more news from the Snowden front as Der Spiegel reports one a joint NSA, GCHQ program dubbed treasure map. Although the program was originally revealed by the NY Times in late 2013 it was originally described as a network mapping program with no surveillance application. This claim is no longer holding up as more and more information come out about the two agencies plans to map the entire internet in real time.
Yesterday we reported that Apple had lost a big to toss out a patent suit aimed at their iPhone and iPad in China. This was quite a blow to the company that has made China its manufacturing home. Normally Apple can get its way when dealing with patents simply because of the mythology they have created. However this has not always held up in China as we have seen multiple decisions go against Apple.
In the post Snowden world people are concerned about privacy (rightfully so). The revelation that the companies we have trusted with our personal information and data might be working with government agencies to catalog and track what we do and say is a sobering one. It also raises concerns about how to protect our individual rights moving forward. In many ways the public reaction is similar to what happened when the first widely distributed and harmful viruses hit the streets.
On Monday at the South by Southwest show infamous NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden talk via a live video conference. By all accounts the hall where the conference was held was packed as people were very interested to hear what Snowden had to say. For those of you that might not know, or need reminding Edward Snowden was a contractor to the NSA and is responsible for leaking information about multiple, highly-classified and potentially illegal (unconstitutional) surveillance programs being run on US Citizens and also on foreign diplomats.
Lately the news has had a few articles about how companies like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo etc. are pushing the government for radical changes to their surveillance policies and demanding better protections for their customers. We have seen new ads focused on explaining how important our data is to them (and in some cases how the other guys are abusing it). The groups lining up and demanding change are many of the same companies that Edward Snowden’s bevy of leaked documents claimed were working hand in hand with the NSA to allow for mass spying on peoples’ data and that in cases where they were not directly cooperating lax security practices allowed for easy retrieval of user information.
After the general announcement that Google’s Chrome exposes user information to capture, Google has come back with a reply. It seems that Google does not want anyone to know that there is a security hole in their flagship browser. They are continuing to claim that it is “the most secure” browser and that Chrome maintains user data in an encrypted format. They feel that there is nothing wrong and that the information being presented by Information Finders is no big deal. If Chrome is storing data then it will be encrypted… if your OS supports it and that it only collects this information if the user asks it to. It is a very interesting statement to be made given the information presented.
There is a pretty interesting story about how the NSA has been targeting the TOR Network for the last couple of days. The news is just another piece of the much larger tapestry of US government surveillance being performed by the National Security Agency. Some of this surveillance appears to be at the behest of the administration while others pieces seem to be generated from within the agency and possibly outside their charter and license. It seems that the NSA is determined to bring all forms of communication under their domain. This is why we were not surprised to hear that the NSA has been working on being able to identify people using the TOR Network since at least 2007 (possibly before that).
Shortly after Edward Snowden revealed the massive surveillance programs being run by the NSA we all were treated to speeches and claims that these programs were essential to national security. These claims further talked about the vital role the NSA plays in protecting the US from the bad guys around the world. Of course they never touched on the violations individual rights protected by the constitution, but that was such a small matter than they felt it was not important.