Well, it’s not even been a week and the companies here, in the UK have decided to slap a big-old ban on those new fangled Google Glasses.
Microsoft has been placed between a rock and a hard place as a US Judge calls for Redmond to hand over its customer’s emails, even though they’re stored on a server in Ireland.
It has recently been reported learnt that Google may now be beginning to encrypt users documents within Google Drive following the spate of scandals in regards to tech firms and the NSA’s PRISM program. The move would be an attempt at curbing the U.S government’s habit of poking their noses into other peoples business. CNET was told that the firm is actively working on defending peoples documents and already a small percentage are encrypted.
Currently users and privacy campaigners have scrutinised the National Security Agencies PRISM program that was exposed following the leaking of secret slides by Edward Snowden; who is now taking asylum in some far away land – far away from the USA and the NSA. It isn’t uncommon for the internet to encrypted. All banking sites, email and other sites that require a login are normally encrypted with HTTPS, the S standing for secure. Google has already revealed that it transmits its data in a secure manor but does not hold them in a encrypted manor on its servers.
If Google were to encrypt your documents it would mean the NSA would be able to read the contents even if they submitted a legal warrant. Protests have sparked up around the world and Europe is beginning to worry that the USA has been involved in international cyber espionage even upon their allies. The US risks making a lot of people angry with the PRISM program although it was apparently established for defence. Microsoft earlier this week received stick for supposedly aiding the NSA at decrypting data of users through the program. The USA needs to be careful. There needs to be a fine line between surveillance for safety and also users privacy. Whatever happens we always have to remember, that if we violate liberties such as privacy to protect life then it must remain that way and not be used for other alternatives.
In a statement the Information Commissioners office said:
“We believe that the updated policy does not provide sufficient information to enable UK users of Google’s services to understand how their data will be used across all the company’s products.”
Google argued the point that their new privacy statement makes it easier for users to understand where they data goes and that it “respects” European law. Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the UK have all expressed concern over the policy.
Google has yet to have explained how their policy “respects” EU law with 5 EU governments saying otherwise. Google issued the following on the matter:
The matter of the fact is that now the governments are involved the matter will only be solved by either Google doing as its told, or through a legal battle. While we sit back and read the finer print on Google’s policy, it does make you think… Where does all my data go?
Seen those Google Street View cars recently in your area? Driven past your house? Google’s fleet of cars equipped with full rotating cameras and top of the range equipment have been buzzing round the streets of the world over the last few years collecting images to allow Google to build up a virtual image of the entire world. These vehicles are specially designed to allow Google to build ‘street view’ images of buildings and roads but now face an investigation. Google has 35 days to act following the decision.
It appeared in 2010 that engineers had developed software to collect not just images but information from unsecured wireless networks on route. The company was fined $25,000 in April 2012 and faced further disapproval in the US.
Today’s enforcement notice strengthens the action already taken by our office, placing a legal requirement on Google to delete the remaining payload data identified last year within the next 35 days and immediately inform the ICO if any further discs are found,”The Information Commissioners Office said.
Google had apparently known about the breach of privacy but had said it “mistakenly collected” the questioned data. The FCC was told that at least two Google engineers knew of the breach and one senior manager but the collection was not authorised at a corporate level.
The investigation uncovered that Google had collected such data in over 30 countries and the data includes examples such as: full emails, instant messages, log in credentials and medical lists. Google said in a statement:
“We work hard to get privacy right at Google. But in this case we didn’t, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue. The project leaders never wanted this data, and didn’t use it or even look at it.
Activists for privacy protection have called the ICO’s approach ‘too kind’ – Google did not receive a fine and has seemingly got off lightly. Campaigner, Nick Pickles said: “it is being allowed to escape with a slap on the wrist in Britain.”
And he has a point. It can be difficult to enforce privacy around the world with an abundance of judicial systems. Different punishments and deferents might just confuse people. Google has been given 35 days to delete the data before facing legal proceedings. But the question has bee raised by campaigners: is everyone’s data equally as important?
It had to happen at some point; we just hoped it wouldn’t be true. Apple has become the next company to admit it had received over 4,000 information requests from the US government under the NSA PRISM program that has caused a rift in the media and online community. Technology firms have come under increasing pressure by government agencies to disclose details of users who are suspected of criminal activity. The program enabled agencies to access or have direct access to companies data servers, housing their entirety of user data. Apple earlier refused that it gives government agencies unlimited access to their servers but that’s not what they say now. In their defence Apple admitted they only heard of PRISM via the news organisations themselves:
“We first heard of the government’s ‘Prism’ program when news organizations asked us about it on June 6.”
Apple told us it receives around 5,000 request for law enforcement agencies which affected 9,000 accounts but denies just allowing random access to sensitive user data. Apple stated they have:
“always placed a priority on protecting our customers’ personal data,”
But now they become the latest victim of the PRISM program by the NSA. This cyber snooping project allows agencies access to servers full of confidential data for lawful purposes: We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer content must get a court order”. Apple had previously put emphasis on the fact services such as iMessage and FaceTime remained encrypted; but it now appears Apple can decrypt them to share with the NSA and others. The NSA and others have not focused on Apple but it is merely the latest in a spate of companies publishing their data request statistics in attempts to make their data handling more transparent. In essence we look at Apple from a deceptive point of view but they aren’t the only ones. It raises the question, how do the companies we entrust our data with keep it safe? Agencies, in the pursuit of the law should have the right to access possible criminal data but what we don’t want is a full nanny state society or snooping patrol that threatens the independence of the Internet. Apple and other firms have been made an unfair scapegoat in the last few days, however it is up to politicians and society to ensure we don’t fall into the horrible trap of mass censorship that we all know too well.
Read full PR statement below:
Apple’s Commitment to Customer Privacy
Two weeks ago, when technology companies were accused of indiscriminately sharing customer data with government agencies, Apple issued a clear response: We first heard of the government’s “Prism” program when news organizations asked us about it on June 6. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer content must get a court order.
Like several other companies, we have asked the U.S. government for permission to report how many requests we receive related to national security and how we handle them. We have been authorized to share some of that data, and we are providing it here in the interest of transparency.
From December 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013, Apple received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from U.S. law enforcement for customer data. Between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices were specified in those requests, which came from federal, state and local authorities and included both criminal investigations and national security matters. The most common form of request comes from police investigating robberies and other crimes, searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, or hoping to prevent a suicide.
Regardless of the circumstances, our Legal team conducts an evaluation of each request and, only if appropriate, we retrieve and deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities. In fact, from time to time when we see inconsistencies or inaccuracies in a request, we will refuse to fulfill it.
Apple has always placed a priority on protecting our customers’ personal data, and we don’t collect or maintain a mountain of personal details about our customers in the first place. There are certain categories of information which we do not provide to law enforcement or any other group because we choose not to retain it.
For example, conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers’ location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.
We will continue to work hard to strike the right balance between fulfilling our legal responsibilities and protecting our customers’ privacy as they expect and deserve.
Facebook has announced that in the last half of 2012 – the US government requested 9,000 – 10,000 pieces of data from users accounts and affected over 18,000 users. This isn’t a lot when we now know over 1 billion use Facebook but its a good handful.
These claims come from the US government and range from data requested for criminal activity to matters of national security. Facebook’s lawyer, Ted Ullyot, posted that the government had approached Facebook in order to help solve these matters. But f. Is t alone, Microsoft later announced that it had received 7,000 request which could affect 31,000 accounts. Now that’s a lot of data.
Former US surveillance experts have been surprised at the amount of data requested by the government and have said monitoring of US citizens is much larger than they thought. In a possible attempt to lock down the loopholes in US security and ‘protect’ affairs it is believed that last week: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo all signed up to allow the NSA (National Security Agency) “direct access” to their servers under a project called ‘Prism’.
The big tech giants quickly denied that they had handed their users data over to the government but added they comply with legal requests. Shedding light on the topics of interest Mr Ullyot said data would help solve matters from:
“things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child, to a federal marshal tracking a fugitive, to a police department investigating an assault, to a national security official investigating a terrorist threat,”
Interestingly enough no company has come out to defend their users data. Earlier in June, Edward Snowden, a former CIA technical assistant, leaked data of the Prism project and his whereabouts are now unknown. Facebook and others have been quick to sign themselves up to such a project. Whilst analysing its Data Policy I have not been able to find any relation that directly allows Facebook to share data or allow government bodies to willingly take a look at your profile. This is a state of monitoring and more cyber snooping – the Internet is a free place and should remain so. The data we place on Facebook is our data, and the government can not just cherry pick their way through. Facebook and others may have begun a slippery slope that means privacy isn’t their top concern. Of course data should be readily available to aid in criminal investigation – but their has to be a process. Currently it looks like there isn’t any and it is a free market – privacy should be paramount and in a civilised society how is spying on people and sneaking around social network sites ensuring privacy is upheld.