Apple, tech corporations, support Microsoft fight against gag order on federal snooping

❝ Microsoft has received the backing of Apple and other major technology, media and pharmaceutical companies in its legal fight to dislodge laws preventing it from informing customers of government requests for user data.

Apple was among a host of companies and corporate lobbies to file amici curiae, or friend of the court, briefs siding with Microsoft in its case to end gag orders targeting the release of government requests for data…

❝ In April, Microsoft lodged a lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department, saying a government statute that allows the government to search or seize customer data without their knowledge is unconstitutional. The DOJ filed a motion to dismiss the suit in July…

These secrecy orders, Microsoft argues, violate the Fourth Amendment, which permits citizens and businesses the right to know of government searches or seizures of property. Microsoft is also having its First Amendment rights trampled on by not being afforded the opportunity to inform customers about the investigations…

❝ To increase transparency, Apple issues a biannual Report on Government Information Requests, with the latest release showing U.S. government data demands impacting nearly 5,200 accounts during the six-month period ending in April.

Uncle Sugar can’t continue to have it both ways. Our government blathers constantly about needing access to otherwise private information from individuals, organizations and businesses and, then, claim they need to have the process shrouded in secrecy for a number of crap reasons. Which usually ends up being “we need it – and that’s that!”

Feds claim Microsoft can’t shield user data from government

The U.S. says there’s no legal basis for the government to be required to tell Microsoft customers when it intercepts their e-mail.

The software giant’s lawsuit alleging that customers have a constitutional right to know if the government has searched or seized their property should be thrown out, the government said in a court filing. The U.S. said federal law allows it to obtain electronic communications without a warrant or without disclosure of a specific warrant if it would endanger an individual or an investigation.

Microsoft sued the Justice Department and Attorney General Loretta Lynch in April, escalating a feud with the U.S. over customer privacy and its ability to disclose what it’s asked to turn over to investigators…

The Justice Department’s reply Friday underscores the government’s willingness to fight back against tech companies it sees obstructing national security and [often bullshit] law enforcement investigations. Tensions remain high following a series of court confrontations between the FBI and Apple over whether the company could be compelled to help unlock iPhones in criminal probes…

The industry’s push against government intrusion into their customers’ private information began at least two years ago, in the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosures about covert data collection that put them all on the defensive.

Microsoft and Apple argue the very future of mobile and cloud computing is at stake if customers can’t trust that their data will remain private, while investigators seek digital tools to help them fight increasingly sophisticated criminals and terrorists savvy at using technology to communicate and hide their tracks…

The government said Microsoft doesn’t have the authority to sue over whether its users’ constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure are being violated…

Secrecy orders on government warrants for access to private e-mail accounts generally prohibit Microsoft from telling customers about the requests for lengthy or even unlimited periods, the company said when it sued. At the time, federal courts had issued almost 2,600 secrecy orders to Microsoft alone, and more than two-thirds had no fixed end date, cases the company can never tell customers about, even after an investigation is completed.

Our government does not recognize any individual right to privacy. Our government does not recognize any individual right to knowledge of the government investigating folks. Yeah, we can all come up with some unique circumstance when that might seem reasonable. Our government presumes a blanket privilege while denying any such right to ordinary citizens.

Not so incidentally, this isn’t especially a conservative vs liberal thing. There are a few of each in Establishment politics who will back up Americans’ right to privacy, right to know. Damned few.

The rest are silent.

Microsoft wins milestone appeal over US wanting to snoop offshore email

A federal appeals court…said the U.S. government cannot force Microsoft Corp and other companies to turn over customer emails stored on servers outside the United States.

The 3-0 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan is a defeat for the U.S. Department of Justice and a victory for privacy advocates and for technology companies offering cloud computing and other services around the world.

Circuit Judge Susan Carney said communications held by U.S. service providers on servers outside the United States are beyond the reach of domestic search warrants issued under the Stored Communications Act, a 1986 federal law.

“Congress did not intend the SCA’s warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially,” she wrote. “The focus of those provisions is protection of a user’s privacy interests.”

The case has attracted strong interest from the technology and media sectors, amid concern that giving prosecutors expansive power to collect data outside the country could make it harder for U.S. companies to compete there.

Dozens of companies, organizations and individuals filed briefs supporting Microsoft’s appeal, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,, Apple, Cisco Systems, CNN, Fox News Network, Gannett and Verizon…

Judge Carney said limiting the reach of warrants serves “the interest of comity” that normally governs cross-border criminal investigations.

She said that comity is also reflected in treaties between the United States and all European Union countries, including Ireland, to assist each other in such probes.

It’s like the stupidity that passes for legal reason over most “religious freedoms”. You decide what you want for an outcome and then search till you can find articles or junk research to suit your convictions. Regardless of logic or science. This is what political lawyers do in so many cases involving privacy and free speech.

Constitutional protections be damned. If they can find some out-of-date regulation that can be torturously interpreted to validate the result they want – Bingo, make it so!

Alibaba just beat the US in a global tech competition

Each year, Jim Gray held a battle of the machines.

This was a battle of speed and time and energy, and it involved some of the top minds in the world of hardcore computer science. Who could build a system that could analyze the most data in 60 seconds? Who could sort 100 terabytes the quickest? Who could sort 100 terabytes — aka 100,000 gigabytes — using the least amount of electricity?

Gray — the legendary computer scientist who won the Turing Award for his work with computer databases — was lost at sea in 2007, mourned across the computer science community and beyond. But in the years since, others have continued his battle of the machines. Today, as we move so rapidly into the age of cloud computing, this competition doesn’t just pit one machine against another. It pits an army of machines against so many other armies.

In recent years, researchers at Microsoft — where Gray was working when he died — have topped several of these contests. Last year, a top prize went to a team that includes one of the top engineers at Google. Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley have also fared well. But this year, there was a new winner: Alicloud, which sorted 100 terabytes of data in a mere six-and‐a-­half minutes, abusing the previous record of 23-and-a-half minutes.

Alicloud, or Aliyun, is the cloud computing arm of Chinese tech giant Alibaba. It’s analogous to Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure or the Google Cloud Platform…Such “public cloud” services represent the future of information technology. A new report from research outfit Forrester deems the public cloud a “hyper-growth market,” predicting that this market will grow to $191 billion by 2020. Here in the States, Amazon is the king of cloud computing, with revenues of about $6 billion a year, and the two big challengers are Microsoft and Google…and Alicloud is very much on the rise in China…

RTFA for all the details. Especially if you’re a datahead geek. An enjoyable read with only a trace of the “White Man’s Burden”.

Sooner or later journalists will realize that a connected world doesn’t care a rat’s ass about who rolled out a particular style or method first. It will take editors and publishers with their usual commitment to ideology – called style – a few more decades.

Politicians and pundits? Maybe another century.

Apple, tech companies warn Obama, again, against violating privacy

“Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data”

In a letter delivered to President Barack Obama on Monday, two trade groups comprised of some of the largest tech companies in the U.S. asked the White House to reject government policies designed to undermine encryption systems built to keep consumer data private.

Both the Information Technology Industry Council and the Software and Information Industry Association were signatories of the letter…The groups represent a number of companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and IBM, among others.

“We are opposed to any policy actions or measures that would undermine encryption as an available and effective tool,” the letter reads…

Law enforcement officials, looking for access to data that could potentially help in criminal investigations, have repeatedly called on private sector firms to install backdoors into their existing security infrastructure. They argue technology companies like Apple are blocking access to information deemed vital to criminal investigations. Further, Apple is advertising the fact that iOS users are “above the law,” officials said…

For its part, industry representatives argue encryption is not merely a perk, but a necessity for many consumers. Some attribute the modern data privacy movement to revelations concerning the existence of government surveillance programs, as leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The general public has since become hyper-sensitive to prying eyes, especially those attached to government bodies.

“Consumer trust in digital products and services is an essential component…” I’ll second that. For all the crapology from so-called constitutional scholars like the president, security presented as taking precedence over privacy is nothing more than sophistry. The sort of argument our original revolutionary forebears rose up against.

There is no less a need, today.

Microsoft campus defended by autonomous robot guards

look, mom – a new kind of Dalek

With proprietary secrets and employees to protect, Microsoft turns to special robot guards to keep its Silicon Valley campus safe…

While it sounds high-tech and interesting, these drones are not reminiscent of RoboCop. They are five feet tall and weigh 300 pounds. Equipment includes cameras, sensors, alarms, and rudimentary artificial intelligence, but no weapons. Their primary function is to patrol large areas like parking lots and alert human security guards to any danger or intrusion.

The system was built and designed by Knightscope, a company located in Mountain View, California. Knightscope markets the robots as data machines that demand to be noticed and yet offer a non-intimidating presence. The company kept the robots in development for several years as engineers perfected a discerning camera.

The resulting high-definition cameras read license plates and distinguish between a harmless employee gathering and something sinister, like an attempted break-in. Other specific equipment includes microphones, weather sensors, loud alarms, and Wi-Fi connectivity to alert human security enforcement. In addition to scanning for intruders, the robots can detect explosives, possible natural disasters, and other emergencies…

As of now, Microsoft has five drones monitoring the campus. Once aware of a possible disturbance, the K5 will either sound its alarm or contact a human. If people attempt to mess with it, it will first sound a warning and then work up to a piercing alarm if the behavior continues…

Purchasing the robots is a cost-savings venture allowing Microsoft to hire fewer security guards. Competitively priced, Knightscope indicates that any company can deploy several robots and make crime prevention much easier.

Still sounds like this is a project designed to evolve into Robocop. Or Daleks.

Thanks, Mike

Tech giants lobby to curb NSA — before Congress gives away privacy altogther

Trade groups representing Facebook, Microsoft and Apple are pushing the Senate to pass legislation limiting National Security Agency spying before the Republican majority takes control of the chamber.

A coalition of Internet and technology companies, which also include Google and Twitter, support a bill the Senate plans to vote on Nov. 18 to prohibit the NSA from bulk collection of their subscribers’ e-mails and other electronic communications. Many of the companies opposed a Republican-backed bill the House passed in May, saying a “loophole” would allow bulk collection of Internet user data.

Members of the Consumer Electronics Association “have already lost contracts with foreign governments worth millions of dollars,” in response to revelations about U.S. spying, Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of the group that represents Apple, Google and Microsoft, wrote in a letter sent to all senators yesterday.

The clock is ticking. If a final bill isn’t reached this year, the process for passing legislation would begin over in January under a new Congress controlled by Republicans, many of whom support government surveillance programs.

U.S. Internet and technology companies are confronting a domestic and international backlash against government spying that may cost them as much as $180 billion in lost business…

The issue emerged in June 2013 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed a program under which the U.S. uses court orders to compel companies to turn over data about their users. Documents divulged by Snowden also uncovered NSA hacking of fiber-optic cables abroad and installation of surveillance tools into routers, servers and other network equipment…

The Senate bill, S. 2685, would end one of the NSA’s most controversial domestic spy programs, through which it collects and stores the phone records of millions of people not suspected of any wrongdoing. In addition to curbing data collection, the legislation would allow companies to publicly reveal the number and types of orders they receive from the government to hand over user data.

RTFA for all the gory economic details. No, you won’t see any participation from tech companies dedicated to skimming the cream off the vat of money tied to the military-industrial complex. And you won’t find a clot of Blue Dog Democrats standing in line to vote for privacy.

Like their peers in today’s Republican Party, conservative Democrats aren’t likely to fight for the personal liberty they all blather about. The concept of “Libertarian” in Congressional politics is thrown around a lot. Mostly by hustlers who read one or two books by Ayn Rand. Perish the thought they stand up to be counted alongside ordinary citizens.

Microsoft confronts the DOJ and Congress over global privacy

Some folks think this is up-to-date

American law enforcement officials cannot get evidence located in other countries without the help of foreign governments. But can an American company be ordered by a court to turn over information stored on computer servers located in another country? The Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York will consider that question this week in a narcotics case in which federal prosecutors want access to a Microsoft email account stored in Ireland.

The case raises difficult questions about the reach of domestic law and the Internet’s global nature. It also points to significant gaps in American laws, which do not address how data stored abroad should be treated. Congress passed the Stored Communications Act, the law at issue in this case, in 1986, when few people could have foreseen cloud computing or imagined that businesses would operate data centers around the world that store messages and documents of Americans and foreigners alike.

I certainly hope you don’t think the lazy bastards we elected would keep up-to-date with changing technology and legal responsibility. Some of these clowns still haven’t figured out civil rights or having a commitment to the whole electorate.

Microsoft is asking the court to quash a warrant issued by a federal magistrate judge in December, contending that it cannot be compelled to turn over information located in its Irish data center because American law does not apply there. It argues that to obtain information stored in Ireland, the Justice Department needs to go through the legal-assistance treaty between that country and the United States. Other companies, including Verizon, AT&T and Apple, and public-interest groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed briefs supporting Microsoft’s position.

The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is fighting Microsoft, argues that going through foreign governments would be far too cumbersome and would allow criminals to evade American law by storing information about illegal activities on foreign servers.

Not much more detail needed. The crux of the case is privacy protection which can affect all of us.

Microsoft trying to patch security flaw encompassing Internet Explorer 6 through Internet Explorer 11 — WTF? — UPDATED


Microsoft is rushing to fix a bug in its widely used Internet Explorer web browser after a computer security firm disclosed the flaw over the weekend, saying hackers have already exploited it in attacks on some U.S. companies.

PCs running Windows XP will not receive any updates fixing that bug when they are released, however, because Microsoft stopped supporting the 13-year-old operating system earlier this month. Security firms estimate that between 15 and 25 percent of the world’s PCs still run Windows XP.

Microsoft disclosed on Saturday its plans to fix the bug in an advisory to its customers posted on its security website, which it said is present in Internet Explorer versions 6 to 11. Those versions dominate desktop browsing, accounting for 55 percent of the PC browser market…

Cybersecurity software maker FireEye Inc said that a sophisticated group of hackers have been exploiting the bug in a campaign dubbed “Operation Clandestine Fox…”

“It’s a campaign of targeted attacks seemingly against U.S.-based firms, currently tied to defense and financial sectors,” FireEye spokesman Vitor De Souza said via email…

He declined to elaborate, though he said one way to protect against them would be to switch to another browser.

Microsoft said in the advisory that the vulnerability could allow a hacker to take complete control of an affected system, then do things such as viewing changing, or deleting data, installing malicious programs, or creating accounts that would give hackers full user rights.

Gee, is that all? Is there anything left to steal or compromise?

When Apple introduced the Mini, I took that as the occasion to experiment for the first time with Apple’s operating system OS X. After 22 years in the IBM and Microsoft environments.

Never looked back.

UPDATE: Homeland Insecurity now advises all Americans to stop using Internet Explorer till a Microsoft fix!

Facebook and Microsoft funding rightwing lobbyists

Some of America’s largest technology and telecoms companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and AT&T, are backing a network of self-styled “free-market thinktanks” promoting a radical rightwing agenda in states across the nation, according to a new report by a lobbying watchdog.

The Center for Media and Democracy asserts that the State Policy Network (SPN), an umbrella group of 64 thinktanks based in each of the 50 states, is acting as a largely beneath-the-radar lobbying machine for major corporations and rightwing donors.

Its policies include cutting taxes, opposing climate change regulations, advocating reductions in labour protections and the minimum wage, privatising education, restricting voter rights and lobbying for the tobacco industry.

The network’s $83.2m annual warchest comes from major donors. These include the Koch brothers, the energy tycoons who are a mainstay of Tea Party groups and climate change sceptics; the tobacco company Philip Morris and its parent company Altria Group; the food giant Kraft; and the multinational drugs company GlaxoSmithKline.

More surprisingly, backers also include Facebook and Microsoft, as well as the telecoms giants AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Verizon…

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