Category Archives: Privacy

U.K. spooks waged spy campaign on own citizens

Who do they think they are?

The NSA?

From the Guardian:

The UK’s security agencies have secretly and unlawfully collected massive volumes of confidential personal data, including financial information, on British citizens for more than a decade, top judges have ruled.

The investigatory powers tribunal, which is the only court that hears complaints against MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, has ruled that the security services operated secret regimes to collect vast amounts of personal communications data tracking individual phone and web use and large datasets of confidential personal information without adequate safeguards or supervision for more than 10 years.

The IPT ruling includes the disclosure from an unpublished 2010 MI5 policy statement that the “bulk personal datasets” include material on the nation’s personal financial activities. “The fact that the service holds bulk financial, albeit anonymised, data is assessed to be a high corporate risk, since there is no public expectation that the service will hold or have access to this data in bulk. Were it to become widely known that the service held this data, the media response would most likely be unfavourable and probably inaccurate,” it says.

The ruling comes as the House of Lords debates the final stages of the investigatory powers bill – the snooper’s charter – which will put mass digital surveillance activities on a clear legal footing for the first time since the disclosure by Edward Snowden of the extent of state surveillance in 2013.

Companies gave California cops your media posts

Big Brother is has been watching your social media posts in the Golden State, especially if you’ve been Tweeting, Facebooking of Instragramming about protests, cops in many California cities [including Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego] are reading what you write and looking at your pictures and videos.

From the American Civil Liberties Union:

The ACLU of California has obtained records showing that Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram provided user data access to Geofeedia, a developer of a social media monitoring product that we have seen marketed to law enforcement as a tool to monitor activists and protesters.

We are pleased that after we reported our findings to the companies, Instagram cut off Geofeedia’s access to public user posts, and Facebook has cut its access to a topic-based feed of public user posts. Twitter has also taken some recent steps to rein in Geofeedia though it has not ended the data relationship.

Further steps are required if these companies are to live up to their principles and policies by protecting users of all backgrounds engaging in political and social discourse. So today the ACLU of California, the Center for Media Justice, and Color of Change are calling on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to commit to concrete changes to better protect users going forward. Read our letters here and here.

We first learned about these agreements with Geofeedia from responses to public records requests to 63 California law enforcement agencies. These records revealed the fast expansion of social media surveillance with little-to-no debate or oversight.

But as we continued to comb through thousands of pages of documents, we saw emails from Geofeedia representatives telling law enforcement about its special access to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram user data.

In one message, a Geofeedia representative tells police that the company has arrangements with Twitter and Instagram for user data. Right after that, the representative promotes a product feature that “covered Ferguson/Mike Brown nationally with great success.

Read the rest.

Headline of the day: More Hillary lies exposed

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Contradicting FBI view, Clinton’s leaked speeches portray her as computer savvy

Contrary to views collected by the FBI that Hillary Clinton was a technophobe unsophisticated in the use of computers, her paid speeches indicate that she was well aware of the dangers of computer hacking and penetration and that diplomats would be “totally vulnerable” without extreme precautions.

Yahoo’s Yahoos & a major case of buyer’s remorse

In his seminal 1726 satire, Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift coined a word to describe a loathsome creature spawned by his imagination.

The word was Yahoo, and here’s Wikipedia’s definition of the nature of the beast:

Swift describes them as being filthy and with unpleasant habits, resembling human beings far too closely for the liking of protagonist Lemuel Gulliver, who finds the calm and rational society of intelligent horses, the Houyhnhnms, greatly preferable. The Yahoos are primitive creatures obsessed with “pretty stones” they find by digging in mud, thus representing the distasteful materialism and ignorant elitism Swift encountered in Britain. Hence the term “yahoo” has come to mean “a crude, brutish or obscenely coarse person.”

Why anyone would want to name a company after disgusting a critter is something of a mystery, although the name may be apt given that the company was letting both the NSA and FBI root around in its emails searching for “pretty stones,” the jewels of intelligence.

And now a would-be buyer of the company is finding that they’re about to wind up with a mess of their hands.

From the New York Post:

Verizon is pushing for a $1 billion discount off its pending $4.8 billion agreement to buy Yahoo, several sources told The Post exclusively.

The request comes on the heels of the web giant getting bludgeoned by bad news in the past few days.

Yahoo revealed two weeks ago that it had been hacked in 2014 and that usernames and passwords for 500 million accounts were swiped. Then, earlier this week, it was learned that Yahoo had been ordered by a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to scan emails for terrorist signatures.

“In the last day we’ve heard that [AOL boss] Tim [Armstong] is getting cold feet. He’s pretty upset about the lack of disclosure and he’s saying, ‘Can we get out of this or can we reduce the price?’” said a source familiar with Verizon’s thinking.

But it gets worse, as the Intercept reports:

Contrary to a denial by Yahoo and a report by the New York Times, the company’s scanning program, revealed earlier this week by Reuters, provided the government with a custom-built back door into the company’s mail service — and it was so sloppily installed that it posed a privacy hazard for hundreds of millions of users, according to a former Yahoo employee with knowledge of the company’s security practices.

Despite this week’s differing media accounts, this much isn’t disputed: In 2015, Yahoo provided the U.S. government with the means to scan every single email that landed in every single Yahoo Mail inbox. The scanning was kept an absolute secret — and as this ex-Yahoo source describes, that meant keeping it a secret from security personnel who came to believe it endangered Yahoo’s hundreds of millions of unwitting customers.

The employee, who worked at Yahoo before, during, and after the installation of the email-scanning program, requested anonymity because of a nondisclosure agreement formed when the individual quit several months after the program was discovered internally last summer. The source declined to share certain specific names for fear of violating that same NDA or the NDA of others, but The Intercept has confirmed details of the source’s employment at Yahoo, which would have put the then-employee in a position to know this information.

Yep Yahoo is precisely the right name, no?

Headline of the day: The snitch in your in-box

Another gem from the London Daily Mail:

REVEALED: Yahoo ‘secretly scanned the incoming emails of hundreds of millions of customers for the FBI and NSA’ while Edward Snowden urges people to delete their accounts

  • Sources say company complied with classified U.S. government directive
  • They scanned hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI 
  • Intelligence officials wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters
  • Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled senior executives, former employers claim
  • It also led to the departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook, in June 2015
  • Not known what data – if any – was handed over
  • Raises questions about whether intelligence officials approached other email providers with the same kind of request
  • Microsoft, Google, Apple and Twitter have all issued statements denying similar activity within their companies

Quote of the day: A matter of perspective. . .

From From Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program, writing for Medium:

It’s deeply disturbing that, 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government’s sense of justice is so skewed that while not a single person has been prosecuted for torture or unlawful drone killings, it is Edward Snowden who faces decades behinds bars.

So, while we witness the vilification of Edward Snowden, this is happening:

  • The architects of CIA torture celebrate their abuses, safe in the knowledge they likely won’t ever be prosecuted.
  • 61 men languish at Guantanamo, many locked away without charges for more than a decade, and they may die there.
  • Drone strikes have killed scores, including a woman struck by Hellfire missiles and blown to bits before the eyes of her grandchildren, and yet her death has never even been acknowledged by the U.S. government.

Wednesday September 14th marked the 15th year that U.S. intelligence and defense agencies have used the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force, a law passed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, as a permission slip for human rights abuses.

These out of control agencies, unchecked by the courts and Congress, violating human rights with impunity — this is why Edward Snowden had to speak out, why it’s ludicrous to suggest he could have worked within this desperately broken system, a system where human rights abuses are systematically ignored and sometimes covered up.

Headline of the day II: He spies on you, but. . .

Facebook, the most popular social media platform in history, requires users to let the software spy on their most intimate habits.

But don’t you day try to do the same to the guy who runs it, because he’ll spend millions to stop you.

Irony, anyone?

From the London Daily Mail:

Palo Alto REJECTS Mark Zuckerberg’s bid to demolish neighboring homes and create a family compound after he spent $30m on properties next to his house

  • Facebook founder filed paperwork with the city of Palo Alto in May, stating his intentions to tear down and rebuild four neighboring homes
  • Architectural review board rejected the plans saying a giant compound will violate zoning codes and ideal land use 
  • Plans shows that Zuckerberg will tear down the four homes and rebuild them as smaller properties
  • Zuckerberg bought the four properties in 2013, after a developer threatened to build a house with views right into the billionaire’s bedroom