Brazil is urging a plan to introduce local data storage for Internet giants like Facebook and Google in order to keep the information they get from Brazilian users safe –as part of a complex of measures to oppose US spying.
The new law could impact Google, Facebook, Twitter and other Internet global companies that operate in Brazil, Latin America’s biggest country and one of the world’s largest telecommunications markets.
The country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is urging lawmakers to vote as early as this week on the law, according to Reuters who have seen the draft of the legislation.
“The government can oblige Internet service companies … to install and use centers for the storage, management and dissemination of data within the national territory,” the draft of the document read.
Rousseff’s calls come after surveillance leaks by the US in Brazil that went as far as tracking the personal phone calls and e-mails of the President herself.
Last month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff canceled a scheduled meeting at the White House after leaked documents showed the NSA spied on her country’s state oil company.
“We are not regulating the way information flows, just requiring that data on Brazilians be stored in Brazil so it is subject to the jurisdiction of Brazilian courts,” Rousseff spokesman Thomas Traumann said. “This has nothing to do with global communications.”
However, the companies disagree saying that the legislation will increase costs of services, and damage the economic activity connected with information.
Last week a coalition of business groups representing dozens of Internet companies including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and eBay sent a letter to Brazilian lawmakers.
“In-country data storage requirements would detrimentally impact all economic activity that depends on data flows,” the letter read, Reuters reported.
Many also threatened the law will scare the companies, while others, nevertheless, were of the opinion that the companies would comply if faced with no other options.
This week, Brazil is expected to vote on a cyber-security bill to create a state system to protect the country’s citizens from spying.
When the news on the bill emerged two weeks ago, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff tweeted the news, stressing the need for greater security “to prevent possible espionage.”
The latest legislation project comes against a backdrop of Brazil set to host a conference next April to debate ways to guard Internet privacy from espionage.
The meeting is to be held by ICAAN, the body that manages web domain names. It is thought to be neutral and includes governments, civil society and industry.
Meanwhile, BRICS companies are working to create a “new Internet”.
In particular, Brazil has been reported to be building a “BRICS cable” that will create an independent link between Brazil, South Africa, India, China and Russia, in order to bypass NSA cables and avoid spying.
The cable is set to go from the Brazilian town of Fortaleza to the Russian town of Vladivostok via Cape Town, Chennai and Shantou.
The length of the fiber-optic cable will be almost 35,000 kilometers, making it one of the most ambitious underwater telecom projects ever attempted.
Last week, most of the BRICS countries joined talks to hammer out a UN resolution that would condemn “indiscriminate” and “extra-territorial” surveillance, and ensure “independent oversight” of electronic monitoring.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that “contacts [between Moscow and Washington] never stop,” when asked if the latest publication of secret files leaked by the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor would affect relations between Russia and the US.
Also, Lavrov made it clear that the situation surrounding Snowden is irrelevant to Russia.
“We have formulated our position on Snowden and have said everything,” he said.
- China echoes Brazil’s call for cyberspace guidelines (thebricspost.com)
The US National Security Agency is collecting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal email and instant messaging accounts around the world, according to a new report.
Many of the contacts belong to American citizens, The Washington Post reports, citing senior intelligence officials and documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
According to the report, the super spy agency intercepts millions of email address books every day from private accounts on Yahoo, Gmail, Facebook, and Hotmail that move through global data links. The agency also collects a half million buddy lists from live chat services and email accounts.
It is the latest revelation of the NSA’s practices to be disclosed by Snowden, who lives in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum. The leaker is wanted in the US for espionage charges.
NSA’s analysts of the collected data can search for hidden connections and map relationships within a much smaller universe of foreign intelligence targets, according to the report.
“The collection depends on secret arrangements with foreign telecommunications companies or allied intelligence services in control of facilities that direct traffic along the Internet’s main data routes,” it says.
Although the collection takes place overseas, the NSA sweeps in the contacts of many Americans too. The agency collects as many as 250 million contacts per year, many them US citizens.
The NSA’s collection of all US call records has already generated controversy in the country since the agency’s program was first revealed in June. NSA officials have defended bulk collection as an essential tool to counter terrorism.
Following in the footsteps of Facebook, anything you post, like, comment or review on Google or tied-in services can in future be used in product endorsement ads.
It means that starting Nov. 11, when Google’s new terms of service go live, all content (video, brands or products) Google+ and YouTube users publicly endorse by clicking on the “+1” or “Like” button can appear in an ad with that person’s image.
Such “shared endorsements” ads will also appear on millions of other websites that are part of Google’s display advertising network.
Google+ users will have the ability to opt out by turn the setting to “off,” but at the same time it “doesn’t change whether your Profile name or photo may be used in other places such as Google Play.”
“For users under 18, their actions won’t appear in shared endorsements in ads and certain other contexts,” the announcement on Google’s website reads.
Another way to “opt out” is just stop “liking”, sharing and publicly checking-in.
Google’s move follows a similar change Facebook imposed in August. There it is called “sponsored stories.” It works almost exactly the same way – a recommendation made through the social network’s “like” button appears as advertising endorsement on a friend’s Facebook page.
While both companies say the service will be helpful for users, Google’s revised terms of service have again raised privacy concerns.
“It’s a huge privacy problem,” Reuters cited Marc Rotenberg, the director of online privacy group EPIC, as saying.
He has called on the US Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the policy change violates a 2011 consent order that prohibits Google from retroactively changing users’ privacy settings.
The announcement also was harshly criticized on Google’s profile, with users expressing dismay and disappointment. Some users suggested they might pull down all their current pictures or change profile pictures.
The Bahrain Watch organization has revealed that the Manama regime uses fake Twitter accounts to track government critics online.
Since October 2012, the Bahraini regime has detained several citizens for posting anonymous tweets that refer to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
An eight-month investigation showed that the Bahraini regime identifies those anonymous online critics by sending them malicious IP (Internet Protocol) spy links from a network of Twitter and Facebook accounts impersonating well-known opposition figures or other seemingly friendly individuals.
When a person clicks on an IP spy link, the report said, the security forces reveal the IP address of the internet connection they clicked from.
The regime can then force the internet service provider of the IP address to disclose the real name and street address of that internet connection’s subscriber.
According to the report, an examination of court records for five related cases shows that the Public Prosecution’s case centers on linking the IP address of the defendant to the offending anonymous Twitter account.
The prosecution, however, declined to disclose how the IP addresses were acquired, citing information obtained through “private methods that cannot be disclosed.”
The Bahraini regime apparently uses these accounts in secret, and may target their followers, friends, or contacts through private messages.
The report also lists over 120 other accounts that were also targeted in Twitter with IP spy links traceable to the government over the past two years.
Bahrain Watch lead researcher Bill Marczak said, “It is outrageous enough that individuals have been arrested and jailed for mere tweets criticizing the government.”
“That these individuals are being tracked down and convicted based on such weak digital evidence only makes matters worse.”
Bahrain Watch has urged political and social activists in Bahrain, and around the world, to be vigilant about impersonation accounts and malicious links.
“Given the government’s track record, it comes as no surprise that it would resort to such measures to stifle free speech,” Marczak stated.
“However, our hope is that this report will spread awareness of the methods that governments around the world use to trap digital activists.”
- Al-Khalifa regime blocks Al-Manar website in Bahrain (realisticbird.wordpress.com)
- Bahrain Declares War on the Opposition (lobelog.com)
Turkey said on Wednesday it had asked Twitter to set up a representative office inside the country, which could give it a tighter rein over the micro-blogging site it has accused of helping stir weeks of anti-government protests.
While mainstream Turkish media largely ignored the protests during the early days of the unrest, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook emerged as the main outlets for Turks opposed to the government.
Transport and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters on Wednesday that without a corporate presence in the country, the Turkish government could not quickly reach Twitter officials with orders to take down content or with requests for user data.
“When information is requested, we want to see someone in Turkey who can provide this … there needs to be an interlocutor we can put our grievance to and who can correct an error if there is one,” he said.
“We have told all social media that … if you operate in Turkey you must comply with Turkish law,” Yildirim said.
Twitter declined to respond to the government request on Wednesday, but a person familiar with the company’s thinking said it had no current plans to open an office in that country.
Turkey successfully pressured Google Inc into opening an office there last October after blocking YouTube, a Google subsidiary, from Turkish Internet users for two years.
While Ankara had no problems with Facebook, which had been working with Turkish authorities for a while and had representatives inside Turkey, Yildirim said it had not seen a “positive approach” from Twitter after Turkey issued the “necessary warnings” to the site.
“Twitter will probably comply, too. Otherwise this is a situation that cannot be sustained,” he said, without elaborating, but he stressed the aim was not to limit social media.
An official at the ministry, who asked not to be named, said the government had asked Twitter to reveal the identities of users who posted messages deemed insulting to the government or prime minister, or that flouted people’s personal rights.
It was not immediately clear whether Twitter had responded.
Facebook said in a statement that it had not provided user data to Turkish authorities in response to government requests over the protests and said it was concerned about proposals Internet companies may have to provide data more frequently.
In the midst of some of the country’s worst political upheaval in years, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has described sites like Twitter as a “scourge,” although senior members of his party are regular users. He has said such websites were used to spread lies about the government with the aim of terrorizing society.
Police detained several dozen people suspected of inciting unrest on social media during the protests, according to local reports.
Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D. C., Twitter’s Chief Executive Dick Costolo said on Wednesday that he had been observing the developments in Turkey, but he emphasized that Twitter had played a hands-off role in the political debate.
“We don’t say, ‘Well, if you believe this, you can’t use our platform for that,’” Costolo said. “You can use our platform to say what you believe, and that’s what the people of Turkey … are using the platform for. The platform itself doesn’t have any perspective on these things.”
Turkey’s interior minister had previously said the government was working on new regulations that would target so-called “provocateurs” on social media but there have been few details on what the laws would entail.
One source with knowledge of the matter said the justice ministry had proposed a regulation whereby any Turk wishing to open a Twitter account would have to enter their national identification number, but this had been rejected by the transport ministry as being technically unfeasible.
Turkish users have increasingly turned to encryption software to thwart any ramp up in censorship of the Internet.
Last year, Twitter introduced a feature called “Country Withheld Content” that allows it to narrowly censor tweets considered illegal in a specific country, and it caused some concern among users.
Twitter implemented the feature for the first time in October in response to a request by German authorities, blocking messages in Germany by a right-wing group banned by police.
- Turkey announces plans ‘for gas’ and cyber security in face of Gezi protests (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A new batch of classified NSA docs leaked to the media reveals the details of a comprehensive piece of software used by NSA to analyze and evaluate intelligence gathered across the globe as well as data extraction methods.
The top-secret documents released by the Guardian shed light on the National Security Agency’s data-mining tool being used for counting and categorizing metadata gathered and stored in numerous databases around the world.
Known as Boundless Informant, the software provides its operator a graphical insight on how many records were collected for a specific “organizational unit” or country, what type of data was collected and what type of collection was used. The program also allows determining trends in data collection for both strategic and tactical decision making, according to the slides.
One of the slides contains a part of the Informant’s user interface showing a world map with countries color-coded ranging from green to red depending on the amount of records collected there. While Iran, Pakistan and some other states are predictably “hottest” according to the map, the agency collected almost 3 billion intelligence pieces in the US in March 2013 alone.
The map showing how much data is being collected in different countries across the globe (image from the Guardian)
The insight on the software being used by the NSA comes amid the agency spokesperson Judith Emmel’s claims that the NSA cannot at the moment determine how many Americans may be accidentally included in its surveillance.
“Current technology simply does not permit us to positively identify all of the persons or locations associated with a given communication,” Emmel said Saturday adding that “it is harder to know the ultimate source or destination, or more particularly the identity of the person represented by the TO:, FROM: or CC: field of an e-mail address or the abstraction of an IP address.”
NSA data sources
Another slide from the internal NSA presentation redacted by the Guardian editors details the data gathering methods used in the NSA global surveillance program.
The first method suggests interception of data from “fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past” under the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008, Section 702.
The second distinguished method is data collection “directly from the servers of the US service providers.”
The slide detailing methods of data extraction under the FISA Amendment Act (image from the Guardian)
The presentation encourages analysts to use both methods for better results.
Google, Facebook negotiated ‘secure portals’ to share data with NSA?
Meanwhile, a report by the New York Times revealed that Internet giants, including Google and Facebook, have been in negotiations with the US security agency over ‘digital rooms’ for sharing the requested data. The companies still insist there is no “back door” for a direct access to user data on their servers.
The Internet companies seem more compliant with the spy agencies than they want to appear to their users, and are cooperating on “behind-the-scenes transactions” of the private information, according to a report that cites anonymous sources “briefed on the negotiations.”
According to the report, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, Apple and Paltalk have “opened discussions with national security officials about developing technical methods to more efficiently and securely share the personal data of foreign users in response to lawful government requests,” sometimes “changing” their computer systems for this purpose.
These methods included a creation of “separate, secure portals” online, through which the government would conveniently request and acquire data from the companies.
Twitter was the only major Internet company mentioned in the report that allegedly declined to facilitate the data transfer to the NSA in a described way. As opposed to a legitimate FISA request, such a move was considered as not “a legal requirement” by Twitter.
The sources claim the negotiations have been actively going in the recent months, referring to a Silicon Valley visit of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin E. Dempsey. Dempsey is said to have met the executives of Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Intel to secretly discuss their collaboration on the government’s “intelligence-gathering efforts.”
NSA pressured to declassify more PRISM details
In response to the fury over US government’s counterterrorism techniques, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for the second time in three days revealed some details of the PRISM data-scouring program.
Being one of the “most important tools for the protection of the nation’s security” the PRISM is an internal government computer system for collecting “foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision,” Clapper said.
He also said that PRISM seeks foreign intelligence information concerning foreign targets located outside the US and cannot intentionally target any US citizen or any person known to be in the US. As for “incidentally intercepted” information about a US resident, the dissemination of such data is prohibited unless it is “evidence of a crime”, “indicates” a serious threat, or is needed to “understand foreign intelligence or assess its importance.”
Clapper also stressed that the agency operates with a court authority and that it does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of US telecoms and Internet giants without their knowledge and a FISA Court judge approval.
- The NSA Black Hole: 5 Basic Things We Still Don’t Know About the Agency’s Snooping
- NSA Document Leak Proves Conspiracy To Create Big Brother Style World Control System
- DOJ launches criminal probe of NSA leaker
- US security officials said NSA leaker, journalist should be ‘disappeared’ – report
- Government Spying: Should We Be Shocked?
- The NSA’s Favorite Weasel Word To Pretend It’s Claiming It Doesn’t Spy On Americans
- The “Congress knew” defense
- NSA memo pushed to ‘rethink’ 4th Amendment
Oh, And One More Thing: NSA Directly Accessing Information From Google, Facebook, Skype, Apple And More
Obviously, the Verizon/NSA situation was merely a small view into just how much spying the NSA is doing on everyone. And it seems to be spurring further leaks and disclosures. The latest, from the Washington Post, is that the NSA has direct data mining capabilities into the data held by nine of the biggest internet/tech companies:
The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
Dropbox , the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as “coming soon.”
This program, like the constant surveillance of phone records, began in 2007, though other programs predated it. They claim that they’re not collecting all data, but it’s not clear that makes a real difference:
The PRISM program is not a dragnet, exactly. From inside a company’s data stream the NSA is capable of pulling out anything it likes, but under current rules the agency does not try to collect it all.
Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by the Post instruct new analysts to submit accidentally collected U.S. content for a quarterly report, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”
Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content.
I expect we’ll be seeing more such revelations before long.
BETHLEHEM – A Facebook page promoting Nakba commemoration events in Jaffa was temporarily blocked overnight, Palestinian activists said Monday.
Fatima Huleiwi, an activist with Jaffa Youth, told Ma’an that it was not the first time that Facebook had blocked the group’s user page.
“When we published material urging people to support hunger striking prisoners, our pages were blocked. Last night the invitation to an event commemorating the Nakba anniversary in Jaffa was also blocked on several accounts for hours,” she said.
Sometimes right-wing Israelis report violations on the group’s Facebook pages, Huleiwi says, and as a result Facebook temporarily blocks the site for several hours.
Jaffa Youth has to send a complaint to Facebook before they eventually unblock the page, she added.
Members of Jaffa Youth will commemorate the 65th Nakba anniversary in Jaffa’s Clock Square from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The event will include artistic activities and public discussions about the Nakba, with Dr. Thabet Abu Ras from Adalah, and Eitan Bronstein from Zochrot, or ‘remembering,’ among the participants.
“We will continue to prepare for this event and will try to make it the most prestigious commemoration of the Nakba in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948,” Mahmoud Abu Arisha, an activist from Jaffa Youth, told Ma’an.
More than 760,000 Palestinians — estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants — were pushed into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.
Around 160,000 Palestinians, who remained in Israel after 1948, now number around 1.36 million people, or 20 percent of the country’s population.
Have you clicked “like” next to “Bret Michaels” or “I Love Being a Mom” on Facebook?
Did you also click “like” next to “Austin Texas”?
Or maybe you clicked “like” next to “Never Apologize For What You Feel It’s Like Saying Sorry For Being Real,” because you were inspired by the quote sometimes attributed to Lil Wayne.
Then you’ve just given enough information to Facebook for someone to profile you as a likely drug-user with a low IQ whose parents divorced before you were 21.
That may or may not be wholly true to your specific case, but researchers at the University of Cambridge published a study this week, titled “Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior” that shows—with alarming accuracy—the types of sensitive, personal information that can be predicted based solely on your Facebook likes.
The researchers—Michal Kosinski, David Stillwell and Thore Graepel—write in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
We show that a wide variety of people’s personal attributes, ranging from sexual orientation to intelligence, can be automatically and accurately inferred using their Facebook Likes. Similarity between Facebook Likes and other widespread kinds of digital records, such as browsing histories, search queries, or purchase histories suggests that the potential to reveal users’ attributes is unlikely to be limited to Likes. Moreover, the wide variety of attributes predicted in this study indicates that, given appropriate training data, it may be possible to reveal other attributes as well.
EFF and other privacy organizations often warn users of social media sites to be mindful of the type of information they make publicly available. We advocate locking down your privacy settings and opting out of tracking programs launched by marketing companies, so your data, to the extent it can, remains under your control.
Nevertheless, the seemingly innocuous things you “like” on Facebook may reveal far more about your life than what you actually like.
The authors write:
Commercial companies, governmental institutions, or even one’s Facebook friends could use software to infer attributes such as intelligence, sexual orientation, or political views that an individual may not have intended to share. One can imagine situations in which such predictions, even if incorrect, could pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life. Importantly, given the ever-increasing amount of digital traces people leave behind, it becomes difficult for individuals to control which of their attributes are being revealed. For example, merely avoiding explicitly homosexual content may be insufficient to prevent others from discovering one’s sexual orientation.
The researchers used a pool of 58,000 volunteers in the United States. Based on “Likes” alone, they were able to predict whether a user was African-American or white 95% of the time, male or female 93% of the time.
They were able to gauge sexual orientation 88% of the time for men and 75% of the time for women. They were also able to predict political leaning (Republican versus Democrat) 85% of the time. On a more personal level, the researchers were able to predict whether your parents divorced when you were a kid 60% of the time.
The study also could make reasonably accurate guesses about whether you were a drug user, drinker, or smoker, as well as a host of other attributes, including emotional stability, satisfaction with life, and extroversion.
The research confirms what we’ve expected all along: Our privacy continues to constrict in an era of big data. Information we put out there for one purpose can now easily be collated and acted upon for wildly different purposes.
In their conclusion, the researchers admit their research is scary, but they also suggest a solution:
There is a risk that the growing awareness of digital exposure may negatively affect people’s experience of digital technologies, decrease their trust in online services, or even completely deter them from using digital technology. It is our hope, however, that the trust and goodwill among parties interacting in the digital environment can be maintained by providing users with transparency and control over their information, leading to an individually controlled balance between the promises and perils of the Digital Age.
With knowledge of tracking schemes, users should be able to tailor their settings to display (and receive) only information they’re comfortable with sharing. We suggest you practice good Facebook hygiene and go through your “Likes” right now to make sure you still actually like those things.
After all, if liking “Harley Davidson” implies a low level of intelligence, you may want to keep your love of motorcycles hush-hush.
Conversely, if you’re smart (or want to come across as smart), you might just go out and like “Curly Fries” or “Morgan Freemans Voice.”
Check out some of the charts from the study here.