As The Grand Signal recently reported, the owner of the encrypted e-mail service Lavabit — the one which Edward Snowden reportedly used to leak the NSA scandal — has been coerced by the US government into taking his service down. His cryptic e-mail suggested unethical coercion in the government’s part that he was unwilling and unable to elaborate on.
Democracy Now recently featured an exclusive video interview with owner Ladar Levison to explain his predicament.
Speaking beside his lawyer in measured words, Levison expressed serious concerns about the US gov’ts conduct with regards to his company. He expressed that there are details with the case that he isn’t allowed even to share with his lawyer.
Hesitant to elaborate, Levison concluded with: “I think you should assume any communication that is electronic is being monitored.”
[iframe width="400" height="225" src="http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2013/8/13/exclusive_owner_of_snowdens_email_service"]
via Democracy Now
The cloud computing industry is estimated to become a $200 billion dollar industry by 2016, and is one of the few analog industries still experiencing growth reminscent of the dot-com. As the leading figure in tech, the US has traditionally dominated the industry and looked poised to capture the market for the forseeable future. The recent NSA leaks, however, have severely damaged the US’s grip on the industry.
On the heels of the scandals, a Cloud Security Alliance survey estimates that nearly 10% of non-US companies have already cancelled contracts with US providers, and nearly 56% of potential respondents are hesitant to work with US providers in the future.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has estimated the US will see a loss of between $21.5 to $35 billion over the next three years.
(via Washington Post)
We were lucky enough to catch a pre-screening of the documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply last Friday night in San Francisco. It gave an excellent overview of the insidious data collection policies that big technology companies are doing today on its users. After talking to a few other viewers after the documentary, many of them came out with a strong sense of why they should care about online privacy. These people came from various backgrounds, from students interning at prominent technology companies to those working in public policy. We thought we’d share some of the key takeaways from the movie and shed some of our own insight on this growing problem.
The core issue surrounding internet privacy is building awareness among the general population of what these companies are exactly doing with your data. What goes on in the backend when your share things on Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon, is relatively unknown to the average user. There are many people who argue that they have nothing to hide and are comfortable with technology giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon using their data to improve their user experience, and if need be, are fine with government having access to their information to ensure national security. Opposingly, there are those on the other spectrum who are completely against these practices without consent. The truth is that everyone has something that, if made public, would be detrimental to their social and professional life. For those who still think they having nothing to hide, think about whether you’d be comfortable showing everything on your Facebook account to your parents? How would you feel if someone could read all your personal text messages with friends and family?
You know those superfluous terms and conditions that you never read when signing up to most online services? Well, they were originally created in 1986, many years before young internet users were even born. When you agree to those terms, you’re giving the company the right to sell your data to a third party, and with recent news surrounding the NSA, you also give access to the government of your data in order to prevent ‘terrorist’ related attacks. The fact is that many of these companies have built successful business models around user data, and so they have a monetary incentive to gather as much data from you as possible to then sell it to a third party who’s willing to pay for it. What’s most concerning is that history has shown that oppression always begins with the government justifying questionable actions with protecting its citizens. Sure, showing targeted ads based on our user behavior may actually be useful, but if that data feel into the wrong hands it could easily be used against us. Data is going to become the new gold, and whoever controls it will have an immense amount of power.
Technology is becoming more pervasive as more and more people across the world are connecting to the web. The fact that the government at this point is setting the precedent that they can do essentially whatever they want with it without our consent, what’s stopping them from doing even more malicious things if people don’t start to question their practices? If we look at the world today, digital rights abuse is happening all across the world – from internet censorship in the Arab Spring, to PRISM, and the centralized monitoring system in India. These problems are real and global, with profound consequences if left unchecked.
And the surprising part? He’s not the only one who has it.
Facebook’s had it’s security woes, that’s no secret. More recently, the big blue has come under fire over allegations of taking part in NSA espionage of it’s users. Facebookk has officially denied any claims linking it to the PRISM scandal.
More recently, an ex-Facebook employee has come out and expressed significantly more concerns over Facebook’s data. As it turns out, there is a master password that was delegated to early employees that gives you access to any account on the planet.
The security issues are clear here for obvious reasons. Although more recent customer service reps have been given secure, direct channels to make account changes, the ex employee has suggested that the password still exists, floating among the few remnants of early Facebook.
“Users of social networks generally assume that they are the only ones that can access the information they input, and in most cases at most companies that is most likely not true, because at least some of the staff need to have access to user accounts in order to do their jobs,” she said. “There has to be a way for the staff to manage and repair user account issues, and for this reason user data within most startups, especially when they are young, is never completely locked up from company staff.”
via the Guardian
Among the critics of NSA’s recently revealed international surveillance networks, Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been one of the most vocal. Her doom-and-gloom response to the revelations has been a sentiment echoed across Latin America, particularly in Brazil. Kirchner has expressed severe concern on the nature of data the NSA has gathering, suggesting that much of it goes beyond that of law and order and rather falls into the domain of information that would help support and leverage the United States’ economic interests.
“Through it [PRISM], the NSA collected data on oil and military purchases from Venezuela, energy and narcotics from Mexico, and have mapped the movement of the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).”
The head of state expressed serious doubt on the integrity of the network, also remarking sarcasticly at the fact that despite all it’s technical supremacy, the US wasn’t able to know that Snowden wasn’t on the Bolivian plane crossing Europe.
“I got chills down my spine when I went back to Bolivia and saw that a fellow president (Evo Morales) had been detained for 13 hours as though he were a thief. I got chills down my spine when we discovered that they are spying on all of us through their intelligence services … and on the other hand, within our own country, I hear only silence.”