back to article Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, world+dog urge NSA transparency

A veritable Who's Who of the tech industry has sent a letter to the director of the US National Security Agency, President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Congressional national security watchdogs, urging that there be more transparency relating to the government's requests for user data. The signers include Apple, …

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Are US companies to be *required* to report *all* surveillance *truthfully*? Thought not.

Problem:

The whole world *knows* that US companies are passing *all* our data to the US goverment, for it to (ab)use however it deems fit. This knowledge is deterring us from using those NSA honeypots

Solution:

The Digital Millennium Subterfuge Act 2013

Companies shall be permitted to annually publish anonymized surveillance statistics

Effect:

Microogle Annual Surveillance Report

This year Microogle Corp. Inc. received 11 orders to disclose the data of US citizens and 39 orders to disclose data of foreign citizens. This resulting in the arrest of 29,375 terrorists and the prevention of 840 terrorist atrocities. [Honest. You can trust Microogle Corp. Inc. - we work for the NSA]

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Re: Are US companies to be *required* to report *all* surveillance *truthfully*? Thought not.

Other countries miss documentaries showing how government works such as "Yes Minister".

The number of requests is irrelevant if the request contains "We require all data from the following IP addresses:-

*.*.*.*

Oh wait, that's the entire IP V4 address space with one order. The number of orders is irrelevant when you don't know the scope of the orders.

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Dear Sen. Leahy

Americans deserve to know how much of their communications data is being swept up by government surveillance, ..."

Americans deserve to know that their communications data are not being swept up by government surveillance...

"... and the government's use of these authorities must be subject to strong oversight,"

And the government's data collection activities must be confined to targeted intelligence gathering under warrants issued by appropriate judicial authorities, and be subject to strict oversight and regular auditing.

There, fixed that for ya, Senator.

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A matter of trust

This alliance is wasting their time. Let's imagine they get their wish. What would happen next?

The US government issues an annual report on the level of the NSA's spying activities... which nobody in the right mind would believe to be truthful and accurate. The tech companies would rush forth to tell world + dog how few customers they've sold out, and even then it was only under secret legal orders. And nobody would believe them either. They have an incentive to under-report the numbers for PR purposes (so their foreign clients don't go to more trustworthy competitors) and even if they wanted to be scrupulously honest, there's no way an outside observer would know that they haven't been compelled to falsify their report by another secret NSA directive.

When you deal in lies and secret, the price is that nobody trusts a word you say.

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This is good

Now we have a list of US tech companies which don't appear in that slide and are forced to Cc stuff to Utah.

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Anonymous Coward

Transparency?!

Hold on, let me get this straight:

The tech companies who have the largest data repositories of personal information, outside the banking industry, available, a group that answers to NO ONE in regards to collected data protection and has not one stitch of ultimate data collection and redistribution transparency...is complaining that the government data collectors need oversight?

"Look in the mirror and straighten up your own house first", would be my reply to their face. Your association with one another on this matter seems nice but is probably just a nice smokescreen for the great unwashed masses: I have doubted your intentions from Day 1. You take as much as you can, give back not much and tell us even less.

And then say "Trust us!", with that lovely Cheshire smile.

And the sheep continue to follow your lead.

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Holmes

Re: Transparency?!

No because the "tech companies" can be controlled by law or the customers' purses. Whereas the bureaucracy is evidently above any law, even above the constitution and takes its sustenance by sending armed people to your house to collect the protection money.

I will trust the techs. If I could trust the framework.

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Re: Transparency?!

I will trust the techs

Of course, there is no reason at all not to trust Google. Oh, wait ..

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Linux

You aren't forced to compute like that

You don't HAVE to hand all your data over to the big tech companies. In fact, you can decide just to deal with open foundations who don't have any proprietary backends at all - where every line of code is open and auditable. For example, I'm typing this from a machine with Debian Wheezy with zero non-free repositories enabled, and no non-free firmware or software installed. I'm using vanilla Firefox - completely open source and auditable. Sometimes I use all-free Trisquel on this hardware, but I prefer Debian to the Ubuntu-underbelly of Trisquel. I don't use stuff like Facebook or Twitter or Skype, and when I use Startpage on this box instead of Google search, then I'm pretty far removed from the big tech data vacuums.

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FAIL

Re: You aren't forced to compute like that

Do you use email? Instant messaging? No...? Well, sorry, the rest of us do - and rest assured, it's not our OS we get spied on through either.

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Big Brother

Re: You aren't forced to compute like that

@DropBear - >"Do you use email? Instant messaging? No...? Well, sorry, the rest of us do - and rest assured, it's not our OS we get spied on through either."

Trust me - OS backdoors do matter - a lot. Google "_NSAKEY" if you've used any MS products in the past 15 years and you want to read something downright creepy.

For secure email, Startpage is about to beta test the "World's Most Private Email". Be sure to sign up to be a beta tester at https://startmail.com/

For secure messaging, Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde is working on a project called "heml.is" (http://intellihub.com/2013/07/10/pirate-bay-founder-to-launch-nsa-proof-messenger-app/).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You aren't forced to compute like that

For secure email, Startpage is about to beta test the "World's Most Private Email".

Oh really? You Dutch guys really have to start defining what you mean by "private" then. "Secure", possibly. "Private", not so much:

DNS registrar: GoDaddy: USA based. Let's change them DNS records for a MITM then.

Server: mail.startpage.com, Ashburn, USA. Actually, leave DNS manipulation, we go direct.

Must try harder. MUCH harder.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You aren't forced to compute like that

For secure messaging, Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde is working on a project called "heml.is"

Are you really going to rely for your security on someone who drifts on the wrong side of the law? Further, why wait? There is already an app that delivers, with a much better pedigree: see http://threema.ch/.

If you want to use SMS as a carrier, use Whispersys TextSecure. That's Open Source, again from a reputable source, works on Android and you don't even need a data link for that.

All of this is free or cheap and works, right now. No need for lots of spin.

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Re: You aren't forced to compute like that

@AC 07:50 - >"Oh really? You Dutch guys really have to start defining what you mean by "private" then. "Secure", possibly. "Private", not so much"

No, I'm not Dutch, and I don't work for the company. I was just trying to offer some suggestions based on who is currently promoting their new efforts to do private messaging and email.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You aren't forced to compute like that

No, I'm not Dutch, and I don't work for the company

Ah, apologies.

I was just trying to offer some suggestions based on who is currently promoting their new efforts to do private messaging and email.

Yes, but that's exactly my issue with what I see promoted. All these companies have done is TippEx out the word "secure" and changed it to "private". The more sophisticated may have even used Search & Replace, but as I have said repeatedly, security is NOT the issue.

As I have shown above with StartMail, as long as they have one leg in a jurisdiction that is as cavalier in treating privacy as journalists are in treating someone's physical privacy, no organisation offers privacy, they only offer security which is irrelevant of any random officer cam waltz in without as much as a warrant and demand they decrypt what they have. The UK has already put in place an answer for "we will not or cannot" - under RIPA it's contempt of court and jail time then.

We're now entering an era in which we get people with a false sense of privacy. You heard it here first.

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Facepalm

Re: You aren't forced to compute like that

"Are you really going to rely for your security on someone who drifts on the wrong side of the law?"

Don't know whether retarded or just trolling. Or a Fed.

Either way, this must be one of the bestest citations of the year.

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Thumb Up

Re: Transparency?!

Of course, there is no reason at all not to trust Google. Oh, wait ..

Way to miss the point entirely.

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Big Brother

Still not getting that Nazi smell, I see

'More disclosures on secret data gathering, please'

Followed by an IRS bullet to the head of those companies.

"Dear Apple. Our tax records show...."

What's that? Ok, that's better. Now shut up. You know the president can kill you at his pleasure?

Talking about bullets, any news on the explodo-car "accident" of Michael Hastings?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still not getting that Nazi smell, I see

Followed by an IRS bullet to the head of those companies.

Unfortunately, that sort of government sponsored harassment does indeed take place.

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Big Brother

Meanwhile, deep in the dark woods of bureaucracy, not far away.,,

The Obama Administration's Hostility to Whistleblowers Is Both Immoral and Illegal

That's where the Insider Threat program comes in. Detailed by McClatchy newspapers in recent weeks, the new scheme encourages all agencies of the federal government to come up with their own disparate anti-whistleblower rules, at the center of which will be a threat to punish anybody who even suspects a potential whistleblower and doesn't turn them in. The details of the initiative get more terrifying the deeper one delves into them, with the conclusion that recent divorcees and people with perceived money troubles have to be turned in, and will face preemptive action against them, likely ending their careers on mere suspicion that they couldn't be trusted, when the chips are down, to continue betraying the public trust in the name of secrecy.

Yeah. "More Transparency". You want a pony with that, faggot? Medium rare, slightly hellfired? Certainly, sir.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meanwhile, deep in the dark woods of bureaucracy, not far away.,,

"...which will be a threat to punish anybody who even suspects a potential whistleblower and doesn't turn them in."

Oh what fun the bickering & backstabbing office twats and their petty power struggles will have with that. Sounds like the prefect recipe for employee morale and a productive civil service.

"...well it was only a suspicion but I had to report it!"

Sometimes I think the whole US is about to implode.

(Dear NSA, I said implode... I'm not threatening or planning to do anything. Please don't... oh shi

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Big Brother

"No Mr. Bond. I expect you to rat."

It goes on....

Journalist James Risen ordered to testify in CIA leaker trial

A federal appeals court has delivered a blow to investigative journalism in America by ruling that reporters have no first amendment protection that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in the event of a criminal trial.

In a two-to-one ruling from the fourth circuit appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, two judges ruled that a New York Times reporter, James Risen, must give evidence at the criminal trial of a former CIA agent who is being prosecuted for unauthorised leaking of state secrets. [The authorised leaking is of course fully encouraged]

The timing of the appeal court ruling is ironic as it comes just days after the new Justice Department guidelines were published. Those guidelines were drawn up at the request of President Obama following the controversy over surveillance of the phone lines of Associated Press.

Lucy Dalglish, co-chair of the First Amendment Committee of the American Society of News Editors, said the decision would add to the chill that was rapidly taking hold in America as a result of the aggressive pursuit of leakers by the Obama administration. "It has really got bad, and not just in national security reporting. Every official now knows that if they talk to a reporter they are potentially in a world of hurt."

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Re: "No Mr. Bond. I expect you to rat."

Any federal cases heard in Virginia or Maryland are almost always going to go badly for the average citizen. Maryland is too beholden to DC to cross too far over the line and Virginia is a horrible quagmire of coverups and corruption throughout the state.

I wish there was some kind of rule that all federal cases that impact the whole country had to be heard in states with the lowest level of verified corruption. I know it will never happen, but it would be nice.

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IT Angle

Maybe it's a big chance?

If you think rationally for a moment - any documents published by NSA or companies working closely with them can be worth as much as the bunch of socks rotting away in the corner of my apartment (yeah, laundry day). In such situation the game is rather simple: "liar until proven truthful".

On the other hand this is a fantastic opportunity to us, IT people living and working in Europe. Facebookers and bread eaters posting pictures of cat could not care less, but the percentage of CEOs actually understanding the implications of being under "a constant threat of spying" is growing - and they want similar products, but HERE, so that it's pretty clear which GOV is maintaining the data.

In many countries there's also the law which says: "you can process this and that citizen data, but servers must be ON OUR LAND".

All hands to keyboards! We have a truckload of good stuff to create & sell. 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

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Anonymous Coward

@Frances Banana

"the percentage of CEOs actually understanding the implications of being under "a constant threat of spying" is growing - and they want similar products, but HERE, so that it's pretty clear which GOV is maintaining the data."

But is the percentage of CEOs dumb enough to think that European governments don't do the same, also growing?

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Re: @Frances Banana

But is the percentage of CEOs dumb enough to think that European governments don't do the same, also growing?

That isn't the issue. If you live and work in country X and are CEO of a company based in country X you have no choice but to trust (to some extent) the government of country X. You may campaign for more openness or regulation of your own government or to change your own government but ultimately you have no choice to either abide by the laws of your country or leave.

That doesn't mean you also have to trust the US government! A government over which you have absolutely zero influence, which may dislike you more than your own government do, which may choose to favour your competitors, or (like in the UK) be a tool for your own government to get around restrictions on its actions.

Any CEO of a company based outside the US can readonably expect to be fired by his shareholders as soon as they discover that he has decided to expose them not just to the vagaries of their own government but to the US as well.

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FAIL

Obama FAIL

Obama will ignore these letters from world+dog. He is only interested in establishing a totalitarian communist state. Privacy and liberty are irrelevant.

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WTF?

Re: Obama FAIL

What the hell is your malfunction? I'm almost positive you don't know what most of those words mean.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Obama FAIL

Maybe just following a HOWTO? "Trolling for beginning beginners?"

:)

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Flame

Re: Obama FAIL

You are so damned amazing with this communist, socialist, left, right, free, and capitalist mongering. One word to explain everything, pathetic. When Microsoft started to discredit Linux they knew some of you would take the bite with un american, socialist and communist, pathetic. In Europe we consider good and affordable education a no brainer, Private schools are OK too as long as the quality is OK. Schools run bye religious nuts for profit not OK. Good and affordable health care is a no brainer, private doctors and hospitals are OK too as long as the standard is OK, I could go on. I know there are many, hopefully more and more, educated and intelligent Americans but I sincerely hope there was less of the one bit brains you represent.

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Anonymous Coward

or else?

or else we send another letter

;)

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Happy

It's a pity that Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, and others ...

have better security than the NSA.

It would be nice if a Snowden civil industry counterpart would leak lists of all those the US government had demanded information about.

It would be kind of hard to declare the companies security risks when they have the goodies.

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Move abroad

We (The World) need to stop using services that are all US based. Seeing as no country is better than another, chose different countries for different stuff.

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It's all Bullshit

It is technically possible for those companies to expunge their user data and to conduct their business in such a way that blinded proxies are used instead of actual Meatspace identities. The government could not request the user data because it effectively would not exist.

Anybody with a lick of sense and some idea of technology has to realize that this entire thing is akin to 'security theater'. If we work *really* hard, we will get them to use a different scam to get what they want. Why not fix this once and for all.

Forget about that stuff. Get politically active, throw the lot of them out and make it illegal with severe penalties to conspire to violate our rights.

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