The Washington Post reports that Google has filed a motion challenging the gag orders preventing it from disclosing information about the data requests it receives from government agencies. The motion cites the free speech protections of the First Amendment. "FISA court data requests typically are known only to small numbers of a company’s employees. Discussing the requests openly, either within or beyond the walls of an involved company, can violate federal law." From the filing (PDF): "On June 6, 2013, The Guardian newspaper published a story mischaracterizing the scope and nature of Google's receipt of and compliance with foreign intelligence surveillance requests. ... In light of the intense public interest generated by The Guardian's and Post's erroneous articles, and others that have followed them, Google seeks to increase its transparency with users and the public regarding its receipt of national security requests, if any. ... Google's reputation and business has been harmed by the false or misleading reports in the media, and Google's users are concerned by the allegation. Google must respond to such claims with more than generalities. ... In particular, Google seeks a declaratory judgment that Google as a right under the First Amendment to publish ... two aggregate unclassified numbers: (1) the total number of FISA requests it receives, if any; and (2) the total number of users or accounts encompassed within such requests."
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chicksdaddy writes "Beware you barons of BitCoin – you World of Warcraft one-percenters: the long arm of the Internal Revenue Service may soon be reaching into your treasure hoard to extract Uncle Sam's fair share of your virtual wealth. A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on virtual economies finds that many types of transactions in virtual economies – including Bitcoin mining and virtual transactions that result in real-world profit – are likely taxable under current U.S. law, but that the IRS does a poor job of tracking such business activity and informing buyers and sellers of their duty to pay taxes on virtual earnings. The report, 'Virtual Economies and Currencies: Additional IRS Guidance Could Reduce Tax Compliance Risks' found that the growing use of virtual currencies like BitCoin and virtual game currencies warrants the U.S.'s tax collection agency to mitigate the risks. Those include efforts to educate taxpayers and the publication of basic tax reporting requirements for transactions using virtual currencies, The Security Ledger reports."
Atticus Rex writes "The fact that our social networking services are so centralized is a big part of why they fall so easily to government surveillance. It only takes a handful of amoral Zuckerbergs to hand over hundreds of millions of people's data to PRISM. That's why this Slate article makes the case for a mass migration to decentralized, free software social networks, which are much more robust to spying and interference. On top of that, these systems respect your freedom as a software user (or developer), and they're less likely to pepper you with obnoxious advertisements." On a related note, identi.ca is ditching their Twitter clone platform for pump.io which promises an experience closer to the Facebook news feed. Unfortunately, adoption seems slow since Facebook, Google, et al have an interest in preventing interoperability and it can be lonely on the distributed social network.
crackspackle writes "The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of Texas earlier today in a murder trial where the defendant, prior to be taken into custody, had been questioned by the police and chose to remain silent on key questions. This fact was bought up at trial and used to convict him. Most of us have seen at least enough cop shows to know police must read a suspect their Miranda rights when placing them in custody. The issue was a bit murkier here in that the defendant had not yet been detained and while we all probably thought the freedom from self-incrimination was an implicit right as stated in the Constitution, apparently SCOTUS now thinks you have to claim that right or at least be properly mirandized first." It appears that if you are "free to leave at any time" you lose a few rights. Fancy trick, up there with getting kids to write apology letters.
Rick Zeman writes "Showing once again that once a privacy door is opened every law enforcement agency will run through it, The Washington Post details how state drivers license photo databases are being mined by various LEOs in their states--and out. From the article: '[L]aw enforcement use of such facial searches is blurring the traditional boundaries between criminal and non-criminal databases, putting images of people never arrested in what amount to perpetual digital lineups. The most advanced systems allow police to run searches from laptop computers in their patrol cars and offer access to the FBI and other federal authorities. Such open access has caused a backlash in some of the few states where there has been a public debate. As the databases grow larger and increasingly connected across jurisdictional boundaries, critics warn that authorities are developing what amounts to a national identification system — based on the distinct geography of each human face.'"
Zothecula writes "Applied DNA Sciences (ADNAS) has developed a new approach to solve crimes using DNA tagging. The difference is that instead of tagging the objects being stolen, the company's system tags the perpetrator with DNA. While this has been tried before by applying the DNA to a fleeing criminal with a gun, ADNAS has adopted a more subtle approach."
An anonymous reader writes "Not to be left out Apple has released details about government requests for customer data. The company said it received between 4,000-5,000 government requests, affecting as many as 10,000 accounts or devices. From the article: 'The iPad maker said that it received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from U.S. law enforcement agencies for customer data from December 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013, and that 9,000 to 10,000 accounts or devices were specified in the requests. Apple did not state how many of the requests were from the National Security Agency or how many affected accounts or devices may have been tied to any NSA requests.' Facebook and Microsoft released their numbers this weekend."
cold fjord writes "Yet more details about the controversy engulfing the NSA. From CNET: 'Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, explained how the program worked without violating individuals' civil rights. "We take the business records by a court order, and it's just phone numbers — no names, no addresses — put it in a lock box," Rogers told CBS News' "Face The Nation." "And if they get a foreign terrorist overseas that's dialing in to the United Sates, they take that phone number... they plug it into this big pile, if you will, of just phone numbers — it's like a phonebook without any names and any addresses with it — to see if there's a connection, a foreign terrorist connection to the United States." "When a number comes out of that lock box, it's just a phone number — no names, no addresses," he said. "If they think that's relevant to their counterterrorism investigation, they give that to the FBI. Then upon the FBI has to go out and meet all the legal standards to even get whose phone number that is."' From the AP: ' ... programs run by the National Security Agency thwarted potential terrorist plots in the U.S. and more than 20 other countries — and that gathered data is destroyed every five years. Last year, fewer than 300 phone numbers were checked against the database of millions of U.S. phone records ... the intelligence officials said in arguing that the programs are far less sweeping than their detractors allege.... both NSA programs are reviewed every 90 days by the secret court authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under the program, the records, showing things like time and length of call, can only be examined for suspected connections to terrorism, they said. The ... program helped the NSA stop a 2009 al-Qaida plot to blow up New York City subways.'"
According to a story at VentureBeat, "Google is working on a new database of flagged images of child porn and abuse that can be shared with other search engines and child protection organizations. The database will help create systems that automatically eliminate that sort of content. ... If the database is used effectively, any flagged image in the database would not be searchable through participating search engines or web hosting providers. And maybe best of all, computers will automatically flag and remove these images without any human needing to see them." Here's the announcement.
Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia's government, after banning Viber within the kingdom, is poised to prohibit at least two other such communication apps: Skype and WhatsApp. Says the article: "Conventional international calls and texts are a lucrative earner for telecom operators in Saudi Arabia, which hosts around nine million expatriates. These foreign workers are increasingly using Internet-based applications such as Viber to communicate with relatives in other countries, analysts say." With fewer legal options, a wide-scale Internet censorship regime would be easier to implement, too.
McGruber writes "The NY Times has the news that federal judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who ruled in 2000 that Microsoft was a predatory monopoly and must be split in half, has died. He was 76 years old. 'A technological novice who wrote his opinions in longhand and used his computer mainly to e-mail jokes, Judge Jackson refuted Microsoft's assertion that it was impossible to remove the company's Internet Explorer Web browser from its operating system by doing it himself. When a Microsoft lawyer complained that too many excerpts from Bill Gates's videotaped deposition — liberally punctuated with the phrase "I don't remember" — were shown in the courtroom, Judge Jackson said, "I think the problem is with your witness, not the way his testimony is being presented."'"
Writing "Wow, this is going to really set the cat amongst the pigeons once this gets around," an anonymous reader links to a story at The Guardian about some good old fashioned friendly interception, and the slide-show version of what went on at recent G20 summits in London: "Foreign politicians' calls and emails intercepted by UK intelligence; Delegates tricked into using fake internet cafes; GCHQ analysts sent logs of phone calls round the clock; Documents are latest revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden."
An anonymous reader writes "Parental filters for pornographic content will come as a default setting for all homes in the UK by the end of 2013, says David Cameron's special advisor on preventing the sexualization and commercialization of childhood, Claire Perry MP. Internet service providers will be expected to provide filtering technology to new and existing customers with an emphasis on opting out, rather than opting in."
First time accepted submitter TigerPlish writes "AT&T has rolled out Wireless Emergency Alerts for iPhones. The alerts are for huge catastrophes (a Presidential Alert), for weather / natural calamities, and for AMBER alerts. One can turn off the latter two, but the Presidential alert cannot be turned off. The article mentions only 4S and 5 get this update. That said, I have a 4 and it got the update this morning. This was enacted in 2006, for those keeping track of such things. I, for one, do not care for this any more than I like the idea of them reading my communications to begin with. Oh, I'm sorry, the "metadata" from my communications." As promised.
stoilis writes "Groklaw reports that the SCO vs IBM case is officially reopened: 'The thing that makes predictions a bit murky is that there are some other motions, aside from the summary judgment motions, that were also not officially decided before SCO filed for bankruptcy that could, in SCO's perfect world, reopen certain matters. I believe they would have been denied, if the prior judge had had time to rule on them. Now? I don't know.'"