Tag Archives: Privacy

Tech giants to press Obama on NSA reform in private White House meeting

 Tech giants to press Obama on NSA reform in private White House meeting

Technology industry leaders were due to question Barack Obama about privacy issues and his progress towards ending the National Security Agency’s collection of bulk telephone data on Friday, in their second White House meeting over Silicon Valley’s surveillance concerns.
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Executives from Facebook, Google and Yahoo were invited by the administration to the private Oval Office discussion amid continued anger over revelations stemming from leaks last June by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Reform efforts in Washington have stalled somewhat since Obama called for the US government to stop collecting domestic phone data in January but suggested an unspecified third party might be able manage the database instead – leaving Congress and the intelligence community locked in a battle over how to proceed.

This has doubly complicated matters for the US technology industry, which fears public surveillance concerns are damaging its international business interests but which has little appetite for replacing the NSA’s role with a private sector database provider.

Friday’s meeting comes just days after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called Obama to express his displeasure with the latest round of NSA revelations. “Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true, full reform,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post on 13 March.

Zuckerberg, who was expected to attend the Oval Office event with Google chairman Eric Schmidt, said he had been “confused and frustrated” by reports of the behaviour of the US government. “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government,” he wrote.

“The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.”

This week, Rajesh De, the NSA’s general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called “upstream” collection of communications moving across the internet.

Executives from Netflix and Palantir, the big data mining company, are also expected to attend the White House meeting, where a major topic of conversation is expected to be the imminent overhaul of how the US collects the phone records of millions of US mobile users.

Obama’s speech in January worried many in the tech and telecoms community, who are concerned that the burden of collecting and keeping that data will merely be passed on to them.

Following Obama’s announcement, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and others said the proposal represented “positive progress on key issues including transparency from the government and in what companies will be allowed to disclose, extending privacy protections to non-US citizens, and Fisa court reform.”

But they said crucial details remain to be addressed and additional steps were needed. Others were more critical. Alex Fowler, head of privacy and public policy at Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, said Obama’s proposals did not represent meaningful change.

“Overall, the strategy seems to be to leave current intelligence processes largely intact and improve oversight to a degree. We’d hoped for, and the internet deserves, more. Without a meaningful change of course, the internet will continue on its path toward a world of balkanization and distrust – a grave departure from its origins of openness and opportunity,” he wrote in a blog post.

Silicon Valley executives have made clear that they want greater transparency over the government’s collection of their users data and more oversight. But talks seem to have foundered in recent months with tech executives becoming increasingly concerned that little will change.

Source: TheGuardian

New Google patent suggests automatically sending your videos and photos to law enforcement

We come across tons of interesting patents each and every day, but recently none have caused as much concern and curiosity as this one. Google recently filed a patent for a system that identifies when and where a “mob” event takes place and sends multimedia alerts to relevant parties. The patents are actually titled “Mob Source Phone Video Collaboration” and “Inferring Events Based On Mob Sourced Video“.
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No… not that mob. In this case a “mob” is essentially an activity or event attracting an abnormal amount of attention in the form of video recording and picture taking. Here’s a quick blurb from the patent description:

Excerpt from US Patent #20140025755

“When there are at least a given number of video clips with similar time stamps and geolocation stamps uploaded to a repository, it is inferred that an event of interest has likely occurred, and a notification signal is transmitted (e.g., to a law enforcement agency, to a news organization, to a publisher of a periodical, to a public blog, etc.).”

fbi badge2 New Google patent suggests automatically sending your videos and photos to law enforcement


The fact that “law enforcement agencies” and “news organization(s)” are the first two examples provided by Google themselves is our greatest cause for concern. Especially at a time when privacy issues seem to take center stage all too often in the worst way possible.

Much has been made about NSA snoopingprivacyFISAcivil liberties and much more over the past year, so to think Google filed this patent application with the idea of potentially and proactively feeding information to law enforcement is a bit unsettling.

Would only photos/videos you uploaded as publicly viewable be included into this system? Could you opt out? Could Google access the private content stored on your local device for these purposes?

The exact details of this system – if put into practice – would likely be buried deep in a Terms of Service document. We’re guessing the most effective solution (for Google) would be collect aggregate and anonymous data to which you opted-in (time and location data of multimedia), extrapolating that data to identify “mob source” events, and then sharing related, publicly available multimedia to 3rd parties.

This could be used in any of the typical “nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd” scenario, from bar fights and car accidents to flash mobs and unpredictably  Arandom occurrences.

With that said, it’s important to remember that this isn’t inherently negative or invasive . Imagine heading out to see your favorite band, taking a few pictures, and Google Now alerts you that there are 100 related photos and videos from other concert goers.

0 New Google patent suggests automatically sending your videos and photos to law enforcement

The recently-held 56th annual Grammy Awards Show comes to mind as a big event at which many folks would want to snap tons of photos and videos. Google could recognize the photos are from the Grammys based on time and location information in the files, and send that information off to whatever 3rd parties they deem relevant: news agencies, nearby users, people searching Google for “Grammy Awards”, etc… you name it.

We’d even venture a guess that Michael Bay’s meltdown at CES earlier this month would have landed the appearance in the “Mob Source” category with photos and videos being taken and shared left and right:

0 New Google patent suggests automatically sending your videos and photos to law enforcement

Then there’s the stuff Google already does where this technology already be in use, such as the Party Mode feature on Google+ Events. Said feature allows party-goers to upload images and video to the event page for everyone who attended that event to check out.  We imagine Google could make that whole process automatic for bigger events so you won’t have to fiddle around with uploading multimedia while you should be having a good time.

0 New Google patent suggests automatically sending your videos and photos to law enforcement

Don’t get too alarmed just yet — whether for alerting the authorities or enhancing their own services — they’ll almost certainly have easy and obvious ways to opt-in or opt-out (though we’d definitely prefer the former over the latter) to such features.

In fact, several illustrations and descriptions within the patent (see image below) refer to a system where the person who took the photo or video is asked if they’d like to include their content in whatever repository he or she may be uploading to. Still not convinced? Well, it’s easy enough to disable geo-location features in the camera or take images in airplane mode, so there’s that.

google image repo patent New Google patent suggests automatically sending your videos and photos to law enforcement

One the one hand it seems like Google is approaching this with the idea that users will know exactly what they’re getting into before they get into it. On the other hand, it’s hard to shake their own emphasis on law enforcement agencies and news organizations.

Google has been scrutinized, chastised, and criticized about privacy issues lately, so if this is an area they tread they’ll do so lightly, and we’ll continue sleeping with one eye open. Let’s hope the company that beats the “don’t be evil” drum louder than anyone else stays true to their word.

Where do you think Google is headed with these new patents and are you further concerned about your privacy after reading this article? And one more wrench to throw into the discussion… what if the data collected by law enforcement agencies was used for the purpose of holding law enforcement agencies accountable? After all, most of those “police brutality” videos are taken by innocent bystanders.

0 New Google patent suggests automatically sending your videos and photos to law enforcement


Source: Rob Jackson contributed to this article.

US judge says, IP address does not prove online piracy.

Code US judge says, IP address does not prove online piracy.


A US federal judge in Washington wrote that a suspected internet pirate should not be prosecuted solely because his computer’s IP address was identified by a film studio. The landmark opinion may tip the fortunes of defendants in similar situations.
Continue reading «US judge says, IP address does not prove online piracy.»

The Hollywood executives behind the movie ‘Elf Man’ filed a lawsuit against hundreds of people, alleging that they were guilty of copyright infringement because their internet protocol (IP) address was found to have illegally downloaded the film. An IP address can be likened to a computer’s online fingerprint; each is unique to the machine it originates from.

Copyright holders seeking to take offenders to court often put fake movie files online, record the hundreds or thousands of IP addresses that download it, and then provide that information to the courts in an attempt to identify and sue hapless users on the other side of the screen.

The studio argued that “the defendants either (a) downloaded the pirated film themselves, or (b) permitted, facilitated, or promoted the use of their Internet connections by others to download the film,” according to TorrentFreak.

Washington District Judge Robert Lasnik said this week that the rationale is insufficient, in part because it begins with the assumption of guilt. Ruling on a motion to dismiss the claim, Lasnik sided with the defendants because the conditions described in complaint section b were overly vague.

[The movie studio] has actually alleged no more than the named defendants purchased Internet access and failed to ensure that others did not use that access to download copyrighted material,” the judge wrote.

Lasnik also said that there was no proof that the person who could wind up facing a lawsuit was in fact the person who chose to download the copy of ‘Elf Man.’

Simply identifying the account holder associated with an IP address tells us very little about who actually downloaded ‘Elf Man’ using that IP address,” he wrote. “While it is possibly that the subscriber is the one who participated in the BitTorrent swarm, it is also possible that a family member, guest, or freeloader engaged in the infringing conduct.”

Other judges presiding over similar cases in the past have agreed with Lasnik, creating a precedent that has required copyright enforcers to narrow down their list of suspects before attempting to launch a case.

Last year, a Sydney-based law firm revealed that courts in both Australia and the US have refused to turn over personal details of internet users who downloaded content without permission.

For example, in an office or at home, where there is a WiFi connection, only one IP address will be allocated to that wireless connection. This means that every user of each device (computer, iPad, iPhone, etc) connected to that WiFi connection will use the same IP address. Even a random passerby accessing the WiFi network would be using the same IP address,” lawyers from Marque Lawyers wrote, as quoted by TorrentFreak.

This decision makes a lot of sense to us If it holds up, copyright owners will need to be a whole lot more savvy about how they identify and pursue copyright infringers and, perhaps, we’ve seen the end of the mass ‘John Doe’ litigation.”


Source: RT