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Archives for July 2013

National Security Agency can listen to the phone calls of American citizens without warrants

Documents declassified on Wednesday by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper describe the National Security Agency’s data snooping, aka “Bulk Collection Program,” carried out under the Patriot Act.

2009 document confirms the controversial program under which the NSA has the authority to collect from telecom providers such information as the date, time, and length of a call.

The document says that the actual call content is not collected, while any information gathered is not protected by the Fourth Amendment. The court orders served to telecom companies require them to turn over the records for any call made within the United States or between the U.S. and another country. The government has the power to snare certain details on e-mails as well, including the sender, receiver, and the time the message was sent, but not the content or subject line, according to the document.

However, recent revelations confirmed that NSA analysts can listen to the intercepted phone calls of American citizens without requiring a warrant.

The 2009 document also highlights the claim made by the NSA that it needs to collect this information in bulk as a way to identify terrorist threats:

These two collection programs significantly strengthen the Intelligence Community’s early warning system for the detection of terrorists and discovery of plots against the homeland…NSA needs access to telephony and e-mail transactional information in bulk so that it can quickly identify the network of contacts that a targeted number or address is connected to…To maximize the operational utility of the data, the data cannot be collected prospectively once a lead is developed because important connections could be lost in data that was sent prior to the identification of the RAS [reasonable, articulable suspicion] phone number or e-mail address.

2011 document provides virtually the same information found in the 2009 file, while a third document describes the order granting the NSA the power to vacuum up phone and e-mail records.

The NSA has been on the hot seat since the existence of PRISM was revealed in classified documents leaked by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden to The Guardian.

In response to anger over the program, DNI Clapper has been declassifying certain information,once in early June and now again on Wednesday. The companies who’ve been forced to hand over user data to the NSA have also been asking the government for permission to reveal more details to the public.


article credit: Cnet.com

Newly leaked NSA program sees ‘nearly everything’ you do


Edward Snowden

(Credit: The Guardian/Screenshot by CNET)

The National Security Agency has a secret program that allows it to see just about everything a person does on the Internet, according to a new report.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who is still holed up in a Moscow airport, has reportedly leakedto The Guardian new details on a high-powered, secret program run by the U.S. government, called X-Keyscore. The Guardian, which obtained slides of a presentation the NSA reportedly gave to employees, claims that the program is the “widest-reaching” intelligence system.

According to Snowden’s files on X-Keyscore, NSA employees can, with just a few clicks, obtain everything from phone numbers to e-mail addresses. The agency also can see e-mail content, full Internet activity, browser history, and an IP address. According to the files and Snowden, the NSA can essentially see everything a person is doing on the Internet without the need for a warrant.


Article Credit: CNET.com


Everyone wants television’s advertisers. YouTube has courted them with its efforts to help finance quality content. Twitter has even promised to match their ads on the social network with its ads on TV. And now Facebook wants in on the game, too.

The company is preparing to launch a video ad option, according to a Bloomberg report citing “people familiar the matter.”

According to the same report, Facebook’s video ads will be 15 seconds long, the length of a typical television commercial and the maximum length of Facebook-owned Instagram’s video option. As with other types of ads on the site, brands can tailor the spots based on ages and genders of users.

The new ads will reportedly be sold on a full-day basis, for as much as $2.5 million.

That’s not cheap, but, as Sheryl Sandberg recently reminded investors on a conference call, “Every night, 88 million to 100 million people are actively using Facebook during prime-time TV hours in the United States alone.”


article credit: fastcompany.com


VIDEO: ‘Elephant Man Bandit’ who wears eerie hood while he robs banks

Deputies in Seattle are searching for a creepy bank-robber they have dubbed the ‘Elephant Man Bandit’, who they suspect has held up three local banks in the past month.

The unique moniker has been given to the man because of the eerie masks he wears while committing his crimes and also because his face is pot-marked with scars.

In the case of each heist, the Elephant Man Bandit strong implied to tellers that he had a gun and then made his getaway in a car.


Article Credit: dailymail.co.uk

Government can grab cell phone location records without warrant, appeals court says

In a major victory for the Justice Department over privacy advocates, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that government agencies can collect records showing the location of an individual’s cell phone without obtaining a warrant.

The 2-1 ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld the Justice Department’s argument that “historical” records showing the location of cell phones, gleaned from cell site location towers, are not protected by the Fourth Amendment.

A key basis for the ruling: The use of cell phones is “entirely voluntarily” and therefore individuals who use them have forfeited the right to constitutional protection for records showing where they have been used, the court held.

“The Government does not require a member of the public to own or carry a phone,” wrote U.S. Judge Edith Brown Clement in an opinion joined by U.S. Judge Dennis Reavley. The opinion continued: “Because a cell phone user makes a choice to get a phone, to select a particular service provider, and to make a call, and because he knows that call conveys cell site information … he voluntarily conveys his cell site data each time he makes a call.”

The issue of cell phone location data has become a major and increasingly contentious battleground in the privacy wars. Privacy advocates argue that the proliferation of cell phone towers in the U.S. – 285,561, according to the latest industry records, more than double the number 10 years ago – and new technologies, such as smartphones, permit law enforcement agents to track highly sensitive information about where individuals have been – their homes or trips to see doctors, friends or lovers – without making a showing to a judge that there is “probable cause” that a person has committed a crime.

Instead, police and law enforcement agents have been obtaining such records under a law called the Stored Communications Act by asserting that there are “specific and articulable facts” showing the records are needed for a criminal investigation – a lower standard.

The debate has even touched on the National Security Agency’s surveillance program: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last week wrote a letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden stating that the agency has “no current plans” to collect cell phone location data as part of its bulk collection of phone records.

But Wyden, a Democrat, has repeatedly asserted that the agency has the legal authority to do so, noting in a recent speech that “most of us have a computer in our pocket that potentially can be used to track and monitor us 24/7.”

Tuesday’s ruling involved three cases in which unknown federal agencies applied for 60 days of cell site location data in three criminal investigations. But it is hardly the last word on the subject. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled that federal judges may require warrants for such data, and the ACLU and other privacy groups this month filed a brief to the 4th Circuit urging that warrants be required for all such government requests.


article credit: nbcnews.com

RIP: Telegram service ends world wide on 7/15/13

NEW DELHI: After 160 years, India’s has decided to discontinue its telegram service as a result of losses incurred by the state-owned telecoms operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).

The telegram service, which first started in India in 1851, is a victim of the mobile phone age — currently there are 900,000 mobile phone users and 120 million internet users in India, and these figures are expected to increase further in the coming years.

The telegram department, on the other hand, is incurring losses of more than US$23 million a year.

Hence, the government’s decision to once and for all, end a service that had become more of a piece of “nostalgia” than a practical service.

From July 15, tele-printers in India will finally fall silent.

At the time of India’s Independence in 1947, there were some 160,000 kilometres of telegraph lines criss-crossing the country, even though the service had gone wireless in 1902.

After the British subdued the Indian Rebellion of 1857, one captured Indian soldier reportedly pointed at telegraph wires on his way to the gallows and said: “There is the accursed string that strangles us.”

Senior officials tell of how the service, from an average of 17 million messages a year in the 1950s, fell to just a few thousand in recent years.

There is one happy note though, as there will not be any lay-offs when the service finally winds up.

Shameem Akhtar, senior general manager at the central telegraph office, said: “These people will be inducted into various other departments of the telecommunication service, like mobile phone services, broadband, land line, etc.”

R P Gaur, the last chief superintendent of India’s telegraph services, is due for retirement in December and feels nostalgic

He said: “When I got this job, when I was selected to be in Indian telegraph services, I was informed through telegram. I still have that telegram with me.”

With little work in hand, Gaur has had plenty of time to develop a strong bond with his staff. But soon, they will all be dispatched to other departments and locations — much like the telegrams of old.

Article Credit: channelnewsasia.com

Court upholds ruling striking down NYC’s ban on large sugary drinks

A New York appeals court has upheld a ruling striking down New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest health push: his controversial ban on large sugary drinks.

The ban, which would have prohibited the sale of sodas and other sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces by restaurants and city eateries, was an illegal overreach of executive power, the state appeals court ruled Tuesday, upholding a lower court decision in March that struck down the law.

The law “violated the state principle of separation of powers,” the First Department of the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division said in a unanimous decision.

A state supreme court justice in Manhattan had ruled the new regulation was “arbitrary and capricious” in March a day before the regulation was due to take effect, ruling it invalid after the American Beverage Association and other business groups sued New York City, challenging the ban.

Bloomberg has been unwavering in his efforts to promote public health over the past decade — from banning trans fats to requiring chain restaurants to publicize calorie counts — and he vowed to fight on.

“Since New York City’s ground-breaking limit on the portion size of sugary beverages was prevented from going into effect on March 12th, more than 2,000 New Yorkers have died from the effects of diabetes,” Bloomberg said Tuesday in a statement.

“Today’s decision is a temporary setback, and we plan to appeal this decision as we continue the fight against the obesity epidemic.”

The American Beverage Association hailed the ruling Tuesday.

“We are pleased that the lower court’s decision was upheld.  With this ruling behind us, we look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on the people of New York City,” said spokesman Christopher Gindlesperger in a statement.


Article Credit: nbcnews.com

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