Visit tied to investigation, Microsoft states that it will cooperate with officials
Officials from the China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC) showed up at four Microsoft offices in the country unannounced earlier today. Offices in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai received the sudden visits, that could be tied to the start of an antitrust investigation for a presently-unknown reason. The visits come at a time when Microsoft faces scrutiny in the country, over spying allegations and government refusal of Windows 8.
Report claims three judges in FISA Court bought Verizon stock in the last year
Judges sitting on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) may not be entirely impartial, according to a report. A number of judges on FISA Court allegedly own stock in Verizon, one of the companies subject to NSA bulk surveillance orders issued by the court, with the report suggesting this could be considered as unethical behavior by judges in an important role.
NTIA may be called to create voluntary best practices for commercial drones
President Barack Obama may issue privacy guidelines for commercial drones in the United States, claims a report. Plans to issue an executive order allegedly involve the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) working with consumer groups, and companies planning to operate drones in the future, to create "voluntary best practices" for the unmanned aircraft.
Repository of JTRIG tools shows some that can modify or mimic existing information
Information posted by The Intercept revealed this week that the British Intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has the tools to modify communications, on top of monitoring them and collecting data. A database in the form of a Wiki entry of internal tools was posted to the site, listing the function and development status of each. Data from social media sites like Facebook, video sites like YouTube and various forms of web traffic and phone calls can all be modified or spoofed.
Department for Transport requires electronics to power on for security checks
Following on from a recent decision by the US Transportation Security Administration effectively banning uncharged electronics on flights to the United States, the United Kingdom is preparing to do something similar. The Department for Transport is now requiring air passengers arriving or departing the UK to have their devices charged before going through security checkpoints.
Collection of call, text, Internet data to continue under plans by UK ministers
The government of the United Kingdom seeks to force telecommunication companies to log records of calls, texts, and Internet usage for a 12-month period, according to a report. Ministers are said to be attempting to counteract the effects of an European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in April, by introducing surveillance laws reinstating powers struck down by the court's decision.
Government could oblige carriers to remove locks, allow citizens device freedom
The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry of Japan is considering a plan to remove all SIM locks from handsets in the country. Carriers would be obliged to remove the locks, ending a hold on customers that they currently have through current phone discounts. Sources from Jiji Press indicate that the plan was being addressed at a panel of experts earlier this week, with the intent of "drastically" reviewing the guidelines.
Proposal would extend US Privacy Act rights to EU citizens
European citizens could receive some of the same rights to privacy as Americans in the future, if new proposals are adopted. US Attorney General Eric Holder advised to European leaders in Athens, Greece on Wednesday that the Obama administration is working on legislation that would provide EU residents similar protections under the US Privacy Act as US citizens already have.
NSA snooping of officials turns German government away from American company
Verizon is going to be out a high profile government client, thanks to the spying actions of the United States. Today, Germany indicated that it would not be renewing its contract with the wireless carrier based on concerns that Verizon had potentially abetted spying from the National Security Agency (NSA). Germany's contract with Verizon is set to expire in 2015.
Debate considers law that would regulate games like drugs and alcohol
South Korea is struggling with how it should deal with the population's booming interest in playing video games. From eSports involving games like League of Legends or Starcraft, to the surge of internet cafés and "PC bangs," games are rooted in the culture of the country. However, a string of gaming incidents and growing concern has caused the government to consider passing a law that would regulate videos games in a similar fashion to drugs and alcohol.
Government seeks right to require app changes if dangerous, remove device distractions
With smartphone navigation sitting in a gray area for operation in cars, the United States government is looking to set rules on how applications can be used. If the recently-announced Grow America Act is enacted as law, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would have control to set rules for in-car navigation systems. This would include any applications powered by smartphones, including Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze among others.
Bitcoin pool seized during Silk Road takedown expected to fetch over $17M
The United States Marshals Service will be selling off the collection of Bitcoin it seized following the take-down of black-market drug site Silk Road. Almost 30,000 Bitcoins will be sold in the online auction on June 27th, with the pool estimated at current exchange rate prices to be worth a total of $17.91 million at the time of writing, down from the $27 million it was originally expected to fetch during initial reports of the sale in January.
Law enforcement disclosure report claims phone tapping widely used on various Vodafone networks
The world's second-largest carrier has revealed its service is being monitored by government agencies. Following the lead of other technology companies in publishing a transparency report, Vodafone claims phone tapping is being widely used by agencies in a number of the 29 countries it operates in, and in some cases, authorities are able to access customer data without even requiring a warrant.
Application blocked by court order after lawsuit filed over privacy concerns
Facebook-owned Instagram has been blocked in Iran, marking another social media block from the country this month. A different Facebook company, WhatsApp, was banned at the beginning of the month, stemming from Mark Zuckerberg's family heritage, which is Jewish. Instagram was also temporarily banned in the country for 12 hours last December.
End of Windows XP support pushes China to avoid Windows 8
China has banned the use of Windows 8 on new computers used by the government, citing security issues. The limited lifetime of support for Microsoft operating systems, as evidenced recently with Windows XP, is said to have forced the government to decree all desktops, notebooks, and tablet PCs to run any other operating system than Windows 8.
Apple co-founder relays how important keeping Internet open is to country
Inventor and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has penned an open letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) emphasizing the importance of the agency to the people of the United States, and its role as a protector of the open Internet. The letter, published in The Atlantic magazine, chronicles Wozniak's history with telecom and the headaches he's run across at various times because of the monopoly companies have had as a result of government policies.
Chairman's vision of 'fast lane' access may be misinterpreted by public
The Federal Communication Commission has voted on Chairman Tom Wheeler's revised net neutrality proposal, and has accepted it. Starting immediately, the US government will begin a long period of debate and public comment on the issue, which has already proven contentious amongst both Capital Hill insiders as well as the public at large.
GOP leaders warn that FCC proposal could harm internet economy, innovation
Four Republicans in the United States House of Representatives including Speaker John Boehner sent a letter today to Federal Communications Committee (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler asking that he halt his plan on regulation of the Internet. Government leaders think the plan will be a detriment to the economy and innovation that currently thrives.
Goal is to force greater openness, courts to weigh in on secret collection
Apple and other tech companies are planning to adjust privacy policies to begin notifying customers when their information is requested by most law enforcement agencies, according to reports. Microsoft, Facebook and Google are also said to be planning to implement the same idea, as all four companies strongly support the right of users to know when their data is being requested by government officials in most cases. The move is widely seen as an attempt to force the process to become more lawful and transparent.
Claim of Twitter as tax evader follows lifting of ban in Turkey
The Prime Minister of Turkey is continuing to attack Twitter, accusing the microblogging service of tax evasion. In a televised address, Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed the recent ruling by Turkey's highest court against a ban on the service places the interests and rights of companies ahead of those of Turkey itself, and that his government will "go after" Twitter for supposedly due taxes.
US continues to ask for most user data, India most censorious
Facebook has updated its global government transparency report for the second time, covering the second half of 2013. Aside from revealing that it had 28147 requests for user data from 81 countries, up from between 25,607 and 26,607 requests from 71 countries in the previous report, Facebook is also revealing which countries are restricting or removing content from view.
Modernization of UK copyright law may occur in June
The United Kingdom is preparing to legalize the ripping of DVDs and CDs for private use, it has revealed. As part of a larger movement to modernize its copyright laws, the government is also changing the way copyright laws cover quotations, caricature and parody usage, with the new rules likely to come into force June 1st of this year.
US tops list of countries requesting user data from Google
Requests for user information received by Google from government agencies have increased 120 percent since 2009, according to the search company's latest transparency report. The quantity of requests in the second half of 2013 reached an all-time high of 27,477, up from 25,879 for the first half of the year, while the percentage of requests where some data is provided has reached its lowest point since the report began, with 64 percent.
Data protection specialist, former Senate staffer picked for top jobs
A former Senate staffer will take on the role of Apple's new top US government lobbyist in Washington DC, while a certified privacy professional with a background in healthcare, national security and social network privacy issues has been named to a new "privacy counsel" position within the company. Amber Cottle served as a staff director for an influential congressional committee, while Sabrina Ross as already begun her job overseeing the protection of customer data.
NTIA starts process to end DNS management, American monitoring in 2015
The United States government has asked the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to begin drafting a proposal to transition the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) responsibility of domain name system (DNS) administration away from the United States. Stepping away from governance of ICANN would mark the final phase of DNS privatization that had been set in motion in 1998, allowing ICANN to operate independently.
Government employees will be subject to near-constant surveillance
US intelligence and military commands are in the process of evaluating a widespread government employee surveillance system that would accumulate databases in order to evaluate the behavior of security clearance holders. The system would be tailored to identify present and future corrupt officials, data leakers, and other "rogue agents", and pulls from aspects of a US military model that has been in the works for more than 10 years. The new system will collate data from many databases, public and private, to form a profile of a targeted individual, and evaluate them for threats to the US government from within.
Automated facial recognition performed on webcam stills by UK security agency
The British security intelligence agency GCHQ secured millions of photographs from webcams used with Yahoo's chat services, a report alleges. The agency is claimed to have captured and stored images from more than 1.8 million users in one six month period in 2008 alone, with the surveillance activities said to have continued from 2008 to 2010, though it is possible the program continued for years afterward.
Agrees to measures requiring court approval for NSA metadata searches
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has given its approval to changes President Barack Obama has requested as part of a surveillance reforms speech last month. Two measures in the reforms have been accepted by the court, which will affect the way the National Security Agency (NSA) searches its phone records database in the future.
Twitter complains over lack of detail when reporting FISA requests
Twitter has published its latest Transparency Report, detailing information requests and takedown notices, while at the same time taking the opportunity to attack the US government over its lack of transparency on national security requests. While Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and LinkedIn provided limited details about Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests, Twitter has opted not to, due to its current lack of usefulness.
FISA requests detailed in agreement with US government
A group of tech companies have released more information about government requests from the NSA and other agencies for user information, as part of their transparency reporting programs. Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Microsoft have all posted more statistics online for these Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests, following an agreement between the companies and the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
NSA,GCHQ allegedly claimed to collect information on individuals from mobile advertising
Intelligence agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom are allegedly taking advantage of smartphone apps to collect a wealth of information about individuals, in new spying allegations. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) are able to use the "leaky" nature of popular mobile phone apps to extract information about an individual, according to new leaked documents.
Users must be allowed to delete unwanted apps already installed on devices
Owners of smartphones in South Korea will be able to delete pre-installed apps from their devices in the future, the country's government has ruled. From April, carriers will be required to allow users to uninstall software placed onto the device before purchase, in an effort to let device owners make better use of a device's storage, as well as to improve its battery life.
Collection programs such as Prism is illegal according to review board
An independent federal watchdog has decided that the National Security Agency's (NSA) phone call logging and collection activity is illegal. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board advises that the call log collection provided "minimal" benefits to current counter-terrorism operations and should be stopped, in a 238-page report set to be released today.
Agency said to be mulling auction
The US Marshals Service may soon be tasked with liquidating $26.5 million worth of Bitcoin that was seized last year during the Silk Road takedown. Federal prosecutors in New York recently finalized the forfeiture of 29,655 Bitcoins from the Silk Road servers, while another 144,336 Bitcoins--worth approximately $129 million--awaits formal forfeiture as the government proceeds with its prosecution of alleged Silk Road founder Ross William Ulbricht.
Collected data to be handed to third party, judicial findings required for access
The United States government will reform the way it uses surveillance data, President Barack Obama has announced. Addressing concerns over the National Security Agency (NSA) and the various programs employed to monitor potential threats, Obama outlined a number of changes in how the data will be accessed by security agencies as he attempts to ease the concerns of US citizens.
Mac, iPad spending rising thanks to iPhone 'halo' effect, report says
A new study by Forrester Research shows that despite not actively courting the business and government markets, Apple continues to win sales in those sectors through the quality of the products. Having accounted for only one percent of worldwide government and business spending in 2009, Apple now accounts for eight percent, and is expected to hit 11 percent in 2015 -- even more remarkably, the study does not even include spending on smartphones.
Foreign consoles to go on sale in China for first tie in 14 years
China is allowing the sale of foreign game consoles in the country for the first time in over a decade. The country's government temporarily lifted the ban on Monday, opening the door to sales of recent game consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox One, the Sony PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo Wii U to its citizens, though it is not clear how long sales will be permitted for.
Moves could include loosening hiring rules, formation of a new department
Likely as a way to alleviate future project issues, the Obama administration is reportedly evaluating the formation of a new federal unit specifically for complex technology implementations, amongst a few other potential fixes for the governmental "brain drain" in technology. As part of the initiative, the administration is also considering cutting back on restrictions that may possibly be preventing the hiring the best talent for the jobs.
Obama sticks with BlackBerry due to security risks
President Barack Obama's administration is likely the most tech savvy the United States has seen, but the Commander in Chief can't rely on the best selling smartphone in the world for personal use. In a summit at the White House today, Obama revealed that he cannot use an iPhone for official business due to "security reasons." The President still uses a BlackBerry in the course of his daily duties, but even that device is quite limited in what it can be used for.
Skype traffic in China flows directly through Microsoft servers
Microsoft has moved to a new partner for providing Skype in China, one that could help improve privacy in the region. The messaging service will now be operated by Guangming Founder instead of TOM Online, with some reports suggesting that the move could potentially offer greater protections to users in China from monitoring by the country's government.
Requests up by more than 100 percent since 2010
Google has released its latest Transparency Report, detailing government requests for user data during the first half of the year. Such requests have more than doubled since Google released its first report in July 2009, totaling 25,879 for the six-month period, though the company notes that "these numbers only include the requests we're allowed to publish."
Apple claims to have never received a Patriot Act request for user data
Apple has published a report on US government and law enforcement information requests that have been submitted to it. The report provides statistics on requests related to customer accounts, as well as those related to specific devices, limited by legal restrictions applied to it regarding disclosure.
Spying scandal forces UK government to take caution with mobile devices
The British government is combating the overreaching electronic surveillance by intelligence agencies by banning tablets from closed door meetings, according to reports. A number of iPads used during a presentation to the Cabinet were allegedly seized shortly after it had concluded, for fear that they may be used to listen in on private and secret governmental conversations.
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter memo over spying concerns
A group of technology companies has asked members of the UK government that there needs to be a debate about Internet surveillance. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Twitter have jointly written a memo to Members of Parliament (MPs) calling for more transparency in requests for information by government-controlled organizations, such as GCHQ.
Request to monitor e-mail escalated to threats of fines, jail time
Encrypted e-mail service Lavabit was pressured by the FBI to provide private SSL keys for all of its traffic, according to unsealed court documents that provide more details about the service's shutdown. The Texas e-mail provider's refusal to provide details about one specific account, believed to be that of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, forced the courts to threaten daily fines and possible imprisonment if it continued to disobey the FBI's order.
Companies claim violation of First Amendment
The federal government has promised to issue a response to legal challenges from Google and Microsoft by September 30, following multiple delays and a renewed push by the companies. The ongoing dispute centers around Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) rules that prohibit the companies from disclosing how many national-security data requests they have been asked to fulfill.
Company highlights its FISA challenge
Yahoo has published its first global transparency report, outlining raw statistics surrounding government requests for user data in the first half of the year. In an accompanying blog post, Yahoo general counsel Ron Bell criticized the US government and highlighted the company's two-year legal challenge against the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Legal blog shuts down due to lack of privacy in e-mail
Legal blog Groklaw has shut down, citing the potential monitoring of e-mail by the NSA and other government organizations. The closure by founder Pamela Jones makes Groklaw the latest site to close its doors in the wake of the ongoing domestic surveillance scandal, following behind encrypted e-mail service provider Silent Circle and Lavabit.
Edward Snowden's use of the service attracted federal and NSA attention
Encrypted email service Lavabit has shut down, reportedly due to pressure from the US Federal government. Citing legal fallout from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden's use of the service during his confinement in the Moscow airport, founder Ladar Levison closed the service -- saying that a Congressional gag order prevents him from disclosing more details about what specifically led to his decision to close.
Chinese firm under more espionage-related scrutiny in UK government proposal
One of the adult content filtering systems being used at a large Internet service provider (ISP) in the UK has come under fire in reports, due to close ties with the Chinese government. Homesafe, the filtering system used by TalkTalk and praised by Prime Minister David Cameron in his online child protection proposal speech earlier this week, is being managed by Huawei, a company that has been accused of being a security risk by authorities in both the United Kingdom and the United states.