VERIZON OFFERS FREE GIFTS TO CUSTOMERS WHO CONSENT TO SURVEILLANCE

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Wireless company in middle of NSA scandal offers gift cards for your web surfing and location history

by KIT DANIELS | INFOWARS.COM | JULY 21, 2014

Verizon Wireless is launching a rewards program this week for subscribers who consent to having their everyday movements tracked.

The program, called Smart Rewards, offers gift cards and travel deals to subscribers who surrender their web surfing, app usage and location data in exchange for targeted advertisements based on that personal information through the Verizon Selects tracking program.

“To make marketing messages more relevant, Verizon will analyze the information described above to identify you as part of a group of people a marketer is trying to reach,” the terms and conditions for Verizon Selects state.

The wireless company introduced Verizon Selects back in 2012 but has now created the Smart Rewards program to encourage more subscribers to enroll.

Jeffrey Nelson, Verizon’s vice president of wireless marketing, told the AP that the company expects Smart Rewards to help with “customer retention,” which is an odd statement considering that Verizon lost customers last year after The Guardian revealed that the company gave the National Security Agency unfettered access to its subscribers’ phone records, including the time and duration of phone calls.

“In other words, if you are a Verizon customer, your detailed phone records secretly have been handed over – and will continue to be handed over – to NSA agents,” reported Joe Wolverton, II of The New American.

But instead of backing away from data collection, Verizon is now publicly announcing that it intends to do more, and although Google also uses personal data for targeted advertisements, Verizon is likely the first to publicly use location data from cell phone towers to send local ads to users based on their vicinity.

And the wireless company also followed Google’s lead when it filed a patent for a TV box back in 2012 that can detect ambient noise in people’s homes, such as talking, exercising, fighting and cleaning, which are then used to display targeted advertisements.

So, for example, if Verizon’s TV box senses a vacuum cleaner running in the background, it may display ads for carpet freshener or vacuum bags.

“The patent also notes that users will have the ability to connect smart phones and tablets to the box, increasing the range and sensitivity of the monitoring device,” reported Steve Watson. “Americans buying the product would not only be literally inviting Big Brother to come into their homes, but asking him to walk about inside it with them.”

And with the latest Smart Rewards program, it doesn’t appear that Verizon will step away from Big Brother anytime soon.

NSA Files Provided by Snowden Show Extent to Which Ordinary Web Users Are Caught in the Net

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In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are

By Barton Gellman, Julie Tate and Ashkan Soltani July 5 at 8:46 PM 

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.

The surveillance files highlight a policy dilemma that has been aired only abstractly in public. There are discoveries of considerable intelligence value in the intercepted messages — and collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address.

Among the most valuable contents — which The Post will not describe in detail, to avoid interfering with ongoing operations — are fresh revelations about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks.

A breakdown of the cache of NSA-intercepted communications provided to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden

Months of tracking communications across more than 50 alias accounts, the files show, led directly to the 2011 capture in Abbottabad of Muhammad Tahir Shahzad, a Pakistan-based bomb builder, and Umar Patek, a suspect in a 2002 terrorist bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali. At the request of CIA officials, The Post is withholding other examples that officials said would compromise ongoing operations.

Many other files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.

In order to allow time for analysis and outside reporting, neither Snowden nor The Post has disclosed until now that he obtained and shared the content of intercepted communications. The cache Snowden provided came from domestic NSA operations under the broad authority granted by Congress in 2008 with amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA content is generally stored in closely controlled data repositories, and for more than a year, senior government officials have depicted it as beyond Snowden’s reach.

The Post reviewed roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts.

The material spans President Obama’s first term, from 2009 to 2012, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.

Taken together, the files offer an unprecedented vantage point on the changes wrought by Section 702 of the FISA amendments, which enabled the NSA to make freer use of methods that for 30 years had required probable cause and a warrant from a judge. One program, code-named PRISM, extracts content stored in user accounts at Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and five other leading Internet companies. Another, known inside the NSA as Upstream, intercepts data on the move as it crosses the U.S. junctions of global voice and data networks.

No government oversight body, including the Justice Department, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, intelligence committees in Congress or the president’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, has delved into a comparably large sample of what the NSA actually collects — not only from its targets but also from people who may cross a target’s path.

A composite image of two of the more than 5,000 private photos among data collected by the National Security Agency from online accounts and network links in the United States. The images were included in a large cache of NSA intercepts provided by former agency contractor Edward Snowden. (Images obtained by The Washington Post)

Among the latter are medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque.

Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops.

“None of the hits that were received were relevant,” two Navy cryptologic technicians write in one of many summaries of nonproductive surveillance. “No additional information,” writes a civilian analyst. Another makes fun of a suspected kidnapper, newly arrived in Syria before the current civil war, who begs for employment as a janitor and makes wide-eyed observations about the state of undress displayed by women on local beaches.

By law, the NSA may “target” only foreign nationals located overseas unless it obtains a warrant based on probable cause from a special surveillance court. For collection under PRISM and Upstream rules, analysts must state a reasonable belief that the target has information of value about a foreign government, a terrorist organization or the spread of nonconventional weapons.

Most of the people caught up in those programs are not the targets and would not lawfully qualify as such. “Incidental collection” of third-party communications is inevitable in many forms of surveillance, but in other contexts the U.S. government works harder to limit and discard irrelevant data. In criminal wiretaps, for example, the FBI is supposed to stop listening to a call if a suspect’s wife or child is using the phone.

There are many ways to be swept up incidentally in surveillance aimed at a valid foreign target. Some of those in the Snowden archive were monitored because they interacted directly with a target, but others had more-tenuous links.

If a target entered an online chat room, the NSA collected the words and identities of every person who posted there, regardless of subject, as well as every person who simply “lurked,” reading passively what other people wrote.

“1 target, 38 others on there,” one analyst wrote. She collected data on them all.

In other cases, the NSA designated as its target the Internet protocol, or IP, address of a computer server used by hundreds of people.

The NSA treats all content intercepted incidentally from third parties as permissible to retain, store, search and distribute to its government customers. Raj De, the agency’s general counsel, has testified that the NSA does not generally attempt to remove irrelevant personal content, because it is difficult for one analyst to know what might become relevant to another.

The Obama administration declines to discuss the scale of incidental collection. The NSA, backed by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., has asserted that it is unable to make any estimate, even in classified form, of the number of Americans swept in. It is not obvious why the NSA could not offer at least a partial count, given that its analysts routinely pick out “U.S. persons” and mask their identities, in most cases, before distributing intelligence reports.

If Snowden’s sample is representative, the population under scrutiny in the PRISM and Upstream programs is far larger than the government has suggested. In a June 26 “transparency report,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that 89,138 people were targets of last year’s collection under FISA Section 702. At the 9-to-1 ratio of incidental collection in Snowden’s sample, the office’s figure would correspond to nearly 900,000 accounts, targeted or not, under surveillance.

‘He didn’t get this data’

U.S. intelligence officials declined to confirm or deny in general terms the authenticity of the intercepted content provided by Snowden, but they made off-the-record requests to withhold specific details that they said would alert the targets of ongoing surveillance. Some officials, who declined to be quoted by name, described Snowden’s handling of the sensitive files as reckless.

In an interview, Snowden said “primary documents” offered the only path to a concrete debate about the costs and benefits of Section 702 surveillance. He did not favor public release of the full archive, he said, but he did not think a reporter could understand the programs “without being able to review some of that surveillance, both the justified and unjustified.”

“While people may disagree about where to draw the line on publication, I know that you and The Post have enough sense of civic duty to consult with the government to ensure that the reporting on and handling of this material causes no harm,” he said.

In Snowden’s view, the PRISM and Upstream programs have “crossed the line of proportionality.”

“Even if one could conceivably justify the initial, inadvertent interception of baby pictures and love letters of innocent bystanders,” he added, “their continued storage in government databases is both troubling and dangerous. Who knows how that information will be used in the future?”

For close to a year, NSA and other government officials have appeared to deny, in congressional testimony and public statements, that Snowden had any access to the material.

As recently as May, shortly after he retired as NSA director, Gen. Keith Alexander denied that Snowden could have passed FISA content to journalists.

“He didn’t get this data,” Alexander told a New Yorker reporter. “They didn’t touch —”

“The operational data?” the reporter asked.

“They didn’t touch the FISA data,” Alexander replied. He added, “That database, he didn’t have access to.”

Robert S. Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a prepared statement that Alexander and other officials were speaking only about “raw” intelligence, the term for intercepted content that has not yet been evaluated, stamped with classification markings or minimized to mask U.S. identities.

“We have talked about the very strict controls on raw traffic, the training that people have to have, the technological lockdowns on access,” Litt said. “Nothing that you have given us indicates that Snowden was able to circumvent that in any way.”

In the interview, Snowden said he did not need to circumvent those controls, because his final position as a contractor for Booz Allen at the NSA’s Hawaii operations center gave him “unusually broad, unescorted access to raw SIGINT [signals intelligence] under a special ‘Dual Authorities’ role,” a reference to Section 702 for domestic collection and Executive Order 12333 for collection overseas. Those credentials, he said, allowed him to search stored content — and “task” new collection — without prior approval of his search terms.

“If I had wanted to pull a copy of a judge’s or a senator’s e-mail, all I had to do was enter that selector into XKEYSCORE,” one of the NSA’s main query systems, he said.

The NSA has released an e-mail exchange acknowledging that Snowden took the required training classes for access to those systems.

‘Minimized U.S. president’

At one level, the NSA shows scrupulous care in protecting the privacy of U.S. nationals and, by policy, those of its four closest intelligence allies — Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

More than 1,000 distinct “minimization” terms appear in the files, attempting to mask the identities of “possible,” “potential” and “probable” U.S. persons, along with the names of U.S. beverage companies, universities, fast-food chains and Web-mail hosts.

Some of them border on the absurd, using titles that could apply to only one man. A “minimized U.S. president-elect” begins to appear in the files in early 2009, and references to the current “minimized U.S. president” appear 1,227 times in the following four years.

Even so, unmasked identities remain in the NSA’s files, and the agency’s policy is to hold on to “incidentally” collected U.S. content, even if it does not appear to contain foreign intelligence.

In one exchange captured in the files, a young American asks a Pakistani friend in late 2009 what he thinks of the war in Afghanistan. The Pakistani replies that it is a religious struggle against 44 enemy states.

Startled, the American says “they, ah, they arent heavily participating . . . its like . . . in a football game, the other team is the enemy, not the other teams waterboy and cheerleaders.”

“No,” the Pakistani shoots back. “The ther teams water boy is also an enemy. it is law of our religion.”

“haha, sorry thats kind of funny,” the American replies.

When NSA and allied analysts really want to target an account, their concern for U.S. privacy diminishes. The rationales they use to judge foreignness sometimes stretch legal rules or well-known technical facts to the breaking point.

In their classified internal communications, colleagues and supervisors often remind the analysts that PRISM and Upstream collection have a “lower threshold for foreignness ‘standard of proof’ ” than a traditional surveillance warrant from a FISA judge, requiring only a “reasonable belief” and not probable cause.

One analyst rests her claim that a target is foreign on the fact that his e-mails are written in a foreign language, a quality shared by tens of millions of Americans. Others are allowed to presume that anyone on the chat “buddy list” of a known foreign national is also foreign.

In many other cases, analysts seek and obtain approval to treat an account as “foreign” if someone connects to it from a computer address that seems to be overseas. “The best foreignness explanations have the selector being accessed via a foreign IP address,” an NSA supervisor instructs an allied analyst in Australia.

Apart from the fact that tens of millions of Americans live and travel overseas, additional millions use simple tools called proxies to redirect their data traffic around the world, for business or pleasure. World Cup fans this month have been using a browser extension called Hola to watch live-streamed games that are unavailable from their own countries. The same trick is routinely used by Americans who want to watch BBC video. The NSA also relies routinely on locations embedded in Yahoo tracking cookies, which are widely regarded by online advertisers as unreliable.

In an ordinary FISA surveillance application, the judge grants a warrant and requires a fresh review of probable cause — and the content of collected surveillance — every 90 days. When renewal fails, NSA and allied analysts sometimes switch to the more lenient standards of PRISM and Upstream.

“These selectors were previously under FISA warrant but the warrants have expired,” one analyst writes, requesting that surveillance resume under the looser standards of Section 702. The request was granted.

‘I don’t like people knowing’

She was 29 and shattered by divorce, converting to Islam in search of comfort and love. He was three years younger, rugged and restless. His parents had fled Kabul and raised him in Australia, but he dreamed of returning to Afghanistan.

One day when she was sick in bed, he brought her tea. Their faith forbade what happened next, and later she recalled it with shame.

“what we did was evil and cursed and may allah swt MOST merciful forgive us for giving in to our nafs [desires]”

Still, a romance grew. They fought. They spoke of marriage. They fought again.

All of this was in the files because, around the same time, he went looking for the Taliban.

He found an e-mail address on its English-language Web site and wrote repeatedly, professing loyalty to the one true faith, offering to “come help my brothers” and join the fight against the unbelievers.

On May 30, 2012, without a word to her, he boarded a plane to begin a journey to Kandahar. He left word that he would not see her again.

If that had been the end of it, there would not be more than 800 pages of anguished correspondence between them in the archives of the NSA and its counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate.

He had made himself a target. She was the collateral damage, placed under a microscope as she tried to adjust to the loss.

Three weeks after he landed in Kandahar, she found him on Facebook.

“Im putting all my pride aside just to say that i will miss you dearly and your the only person that i really allowed myself to get close to after losing my ex husband, my dad and my brother.. Im glad it was so easy for you to move on and put what we had aside and for me well Im just soo happy i met you. You will always remain in my heart. I know you left for a purpose it hurts like hell sometimes not because Im needy but because i wish i could have been with you.”

His replies were cool, then insulting, and gradually became demanding. He would marry her but there were conditions. She must submit to his will, move in with his parents and wait for him in Australia. She must hand him control of her Facebook account — he did not approve of the photos posted there.

She refused. He insisted:

“look in islam husband doesnt touch girl financial earnigs unless she agrees but as far as privacy goes there is no room….i need to have all ur details everything u do its what im supposed to know that will guide u whether its right or wrong got it”

Later, she came to understand the irony of her reply:

“I don’t like people knowing my private life.”

Months of negotiations followed, with each of them declaring an end to the romance a dozen times or more. He claimed he had found someone else and planned to marry that day, then admitted it was a lie. She responded:

“No more games. You come home. You won’t last with an afghan girl.”

She begged him to give up his dangerous path. Finally, in September, she broke off contact for good, informing him that she was engaged to another man.

“When you come back they will send you to jail,” she warned.

They almost did.

In interviews with The Post, conducted by telephone and Facebook, she said he flew home to Australia last summer, after failing to find members of the Taliban who would take him seriously. Australian National Police met him at the airport and questioned him in custody. They questioned her, too, politely, in her home. They showed her transcripts of their failed romance. When a Post reporter called, she already knew what the two governments had collected about her.

Eventually, she said, Australian authorities decided not to charge her failed suitor with a crime. Police spokeswoman Emilie Lovatt declined to comment on the case.

Looking back, the young woman said she understands why her intimate correspondence was recorded and parsed by men and women she did not know.

“Do I feel violated?” she asked. “Yes. I’m not against the fact that my privacy was violated in this instance, because he was stupid. He wasn’t thinking straight. I don’t agree with what he was doing.”

What she does not understand, she said, is why after all this time, with the case long closed and her own job with the Australian government secure, the NSA does not discard what it no longer needs.

Jennifer Jenkins and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

Capture

IS YOUR ANDROID DEVICE TELLING THE WORLD WHERE YOU’VE BEEN?

by PETER ECKERSLEY | EFF | JULY 3, 2014

Do you own an Android device? Is it less than three years old? If so, then when your phone’s screen is off and it’s not connected to a Wi-Fi network, there’s a high risk that it is broadcasting your location history to anyone within Wi-Fi range that wants to listen.

This location history comes in the form of the names of wireless networks your phone has previously connected to. These frequently identify places you’ve been, including homes (“Tom’s Wi-Fi”), workplaces (“Company XYZ office net”), churches and political offices (“County Party HQ”), small businesses (“Toulouse Lautrec’s house of ill-repute”), and travel destinations (“Tehran Airport wifi”). This data is arguably more dangerous than that leaked in previous location data scandals because it clearly denotes in human language places that you’ve spent enough time to use the Wi-Fi. Normally eavesdroppers would need to spend some effort extracting this sort of information from the latititude/longitude history typically discussed in location privacy analysis. But even when networks seem less identifiable, there are ways to look them up.

We briefly mentioned this problem during our recent post about Apple deciding to randomize MAC addresses in iOS 8. As we pointed out there, Wi-Fi devices that are not actively connected to a network can send out messages that contain the names of networks they’ve joined in the past in an effort to speed up the connection process.1 But after writing that post we became curious just how many phones actually exhibited that behavior, and if so, how much information they leaked. To our dismay we discovered that many of the modern Android phones we tested leaked the names of the networks stored in their settings (up to a limit of fifteen). And when we looked at these network lists, we realized that they were in fact dangerously precise location histories.

Aside from Android, some other platforms also suffer from this problem and will need to be fixed, although for various reasons, Android devices appear to pose the greatest privacy risk at the moment. 2

In Android we traced this behavior to a feature introduced in Honeycomb (Android 3.1) called Preferred Network Offload (PNO). 3 PNO is supposed to allow phones and tablets to establish and maintain Wi-Fi connections even when they’re in low-power mode (i.e. when the screen is turned off). The goal is to extend battery life and reduce mobile data usage, since Wi-Fi uses less power than cellular data. But for some reason, even though none of the Android phones we tested broadcast the names of networks they knew about when their screens were on, many of the phones running Honeycomb or later (and even one running Gingerbread) broadcast the names of networks they knew about when their screens were turned off.4

Response from Google

When we brought this issue to Google’s attention, they responded that:

“We take the security of our users’ location data very seriously and we’re always happy to be made aware of potential issues ahead of time. Since changes to this behavior would potentially affect user connectivity to hidden access points, we are still investigating what changes are appropriate for a future release.”
Additionally, yesterday a Google employee submitted a patch to wpa_supplicant which fixes this issue. While we are glad this problem is being addressed so quickly, it will still be some time before that fix gets integrated into the downstream Android code. And even then, Android fragmentation and the broken update process for non-Google Android devices could delay or even prevent many users from receiving the fix. (We hope Google can make progress on this problem, too.)

Protective Steps You Can Take Today

With that said, a workaround is available (for most devices) for users who want to protect their privacy right now: go into your phone’s “Advanced Wi-Fi” settings and set the “Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep” option to “Never”. Unfortunately this will cause a moderate increase in data usage and power consumption—something users shouldn’t have to do in order to keep their phone from telling everyone everywhere they’ve been.

Unfortunately, on at least one device we tested–a Motorola Droid 4 running Android 4.1.2–even this wasn’t sufficient. On the Droid 4, and perhaps on other phones, the only practical way to prevent the phone from leaking location is to manually forget the networks you don’t want broadcast, or disable Wi-Fi entirely whenever you aren’t actively connecting to a known Wi-Fi network.5 You can also find apps that will do this automatically for you.

Location history is extremely sensitive information. We urge Google to ship their fix as soon as possible, and other Android distributors to offer prompt updates containing it.

IN THE US: 4 MAJOR NEWS NETWORKS, ZERO BILDERBERG 2014 COVERAGE

IN THE US: 4 MAJOR NEWS NETWORKS, ZERO BILDERBERG 2014 COVERAGE

Full-on press blackout testament to dinosaur media’s growing irrelevance

In the US: 4 Major News Networks, Zero Bilderberg 2014 Coverage
by ADAN SALAZAR | INFOWARS | JUNE 1, 2014

With the exception of 24-hour cable news providers, Americans rely on 4 major television networks to deliver them information regarding important world events: ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.

It is with predictable disappointment to announce all four networks failed to inform the public of a secretive and extremely exclusive meeting of central bankers, CEOs, public officials and world dignitaries taking place this weekend.

From May 29 through today, June 1, esteemed academicians, hand picked journalists, intelligence officials, world banking oligarchs and the CEOs and bosses of Royal Dutch Shell, Google and Microsoft, to name just a few, slinked behind closed doors at the Marriott hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark, to do God knows what.

But watching the major news networks and monitoring the domestic news wires, you’d never guess this meeting happened.

With the conference now into its fourth and final day, one would expect at least a trickle of articles from the mainstream press regarding Bilderberg 2014, if at the least to perform the routine mock, shame and ridicule of “tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists” claiming participants are working towards a “new world order.”

While past meetings have been afforded at least some press, this year neither of the four networks opted to cover Bilderberg 2014.

NBC was most upfront about it:

Other networks have awarded the meeting of elite power brokers press in the past, but for some reason didn’t find this year’s globalist shindig quite as enticing (click to enlarge):

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Indeed, the degree to which all four networks uniformly ignored the matter is a curious coincidence, leaving the door open for skeptics to argue they’ve been handed specific orders to disregard the assembly, colluding to perform what’s termed a “media blackout.”

“The reason they want secrecy is because they’re doing evil,” explained late veteran Bilderberg investigative journalist Jim Tucker. For decades, Tucker did tireless work attempting to expose the group, following them to multiple meeting locations around the globe and reporting on leaks concerning their un-official agendas. “Evil is done under the cover of darkness, good works are done in the sunshine.”

But surely, you ask, the top cable news network in the country, CNN, can devote at least a fraction of time or webspace to cover this important meeting? Nope. Are you kidding? They’re busy worrying about the next Clippers owner.

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To be fair, one of their hired propagandists, Jake Tapper, did do a superficial, surface report on the conference – last year – putting Bilderberg protestors on the same level as “bigfoot believers” and labeling Alex Jones a “provocateur.”

But surely the newspaper that carries “all the news that’s fit to print” would deem a meeting of elite power brokers “news”? Nope. Not this year.. Maybe that’s because some of its editors have attended past meetings.

“On its face, it makes no sense the corporate media would ignore and fail to report a confab comprised of newsworthy royal elites, chancellors, prime ministers, presidents, ambassadors, secretaries of state, Wall street bankers and investors, CEOs of transnational corporations, and corporate media executives,” writes Kurt Nimmo. “It makes no sense — that is until you realize the corporate media is owned and directed by this very same elite. In the past, darlings of the corporate media have attended Bilderberg meetings, including the late Peter Jennings of ABC, Joseph C. Harsch of NBC, the “liberal” Bill Moyers of PBS, the ‘conservative’ William F. Buckley, Jr., Robert L. Bartley of the Wall Street Journal, the neocon William Kristol, Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times, the late Katharine Graham of the CIA’s favorite newspaper, the Washington Post, Leslie Stahl of CBS, and many others. Many are also members of the CFR and the Trilateral Commission.”

“Jim Tucker puts it best,” writes Michael Collins Piper for American Free Press. “If 140 of the world’s best known baseball players or movie stars gathered secretly under armed guard at an exclusive resort for an entire weekend, every major newspaper and magazine and all of the tabloids would be on hand, clamoring to get inside, demanding to know what was going on behind those closed doors. All of the television gossip shows would be chatting about it regularly. The whole world would know about that secret meeting in a heartbeat.”

Besides a limited number of American sites, and American sites owned by foreign governments, mainstream Bilderberg coverage this year has hovered around zero, a further indication of the dying dinosaur media’s increasing irrelevance.

But even if journalists ventured to Denmark, which Infowars reporters did, they wouldn’t get very far. Taxpayer-funded armed security details keep a 24-hour guard, huge eyesore fences block nosy journalists out and invitees are strictly forbidden from revealing anything discussed at meetings. Secrecy always trumps transparency at Bilderberg.

“I don’t think they’re happy about it, they prefer nothing at all, no publicity, they prefer absolute secrecy,” Tucker said in an interview, commenting on Bilderberg’s sentiments toward the growing media interest garnered in recent years.

The Bilderberg Group recently worked up the courage to put up a website.

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This gesture was in all likelihood spurred by incessant coverage from independent media, but it could also mean the group is now confident enough in their plans to move out from behind the curtain.

One thing’s certain.. Vice President Biden’s frequent hat tips to the “New world order” aren’t particularly reassuring.

But then again, maybe there is hope after all:

Facecrook: NSA storing your facial web images, millions intercepted daily

Facecrook: NSA storing your facial web images, millions intercepted daily

The National Security Agency is collecting millions of images of people through its international surveillance network to be implemented in a number of other facial recognition programs, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

Read Snowden’s comments on 9/11 that NBC didn’t broadcast

Thanks to rapid advances being made in the field of facial recognition technology, the NSA is much better equipped to “exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, video conferences and other communications,” according to an article in the New York Times, co-written by Laura Poitras, who, together with Glen Greenwald, are the only two journalists to have received the leaked NSA documents.

The NSA has the capacity to intercept “millions of images per day,” as well as some 55,000 “facial recognition quality images.” This latest milestone in US intelligence gathering, which goes a long way to putting the final touches on the much-feared Orwellian nightmare, gives the US spy agency “tremendous untapped potential,” according to the 2011 documents.

“It’s not just the traditional communications we’re after: It’s taking a full-arsenal approach that digitally exploits the clues a target leaves behind in their regular activities on the net to compile biographic and biometric information” that can help “implement precision targeting,” noted a document dated 2010.

Such comments are bound to spark fears that the harvesting of facial images, much like the collection of oral and written communications, will snag innocent Americans in the vast intelligence net.

The latest revelations to be gleaned from Snowden’s stash of top-secret documents prove the NSA is not just interested in collecting the meta-data from global communications, but also the images that put a face on potential terrorists and other would-be adversaries of the American government.

The NSA is unique in its ability to match images with huge troves of private communications.

“We would not be doing our job if we didn’t seek ways to continuously improve the precision of signals intelligence activities — aiming to counteract the efforts of valid foreign intelligence targets to disguise themselves or conceal plans to harm the United States and its allies,” said Vanee M. Vines, the agency spokeswoman.

ID databases out of the game?
Since most people have a number of photographs taken of themselves for identification purposes, the question arises as to how much reach the NSA has in acquiring peoples’ facial images.

According to Vines, the NSA does not access driver’s licenses or passport photos of Americans, but refused to say whether the agency had access to the State Department’s photo archive of foreign visa applicants. She also declined to say whether the spy agency collected photographs of Americans from social media sources, like Facebook and Instagram, which would not be a difficult task considering that millions of people willingly post ‘selfies’ to the web.

Moreover, the report claimed that one of the agency’s most intense efforts to acquire facial images is through a program dubbed Wellspring, which “strips out images from emails and other communications, and displays those that might contain passport images.”

Because images are considered a form of communicational content, the NSA is required to get court approval for collecting facial images of Americans, just as it is required to read emails or listen in on phone conversations, an NSA spokeswoman was quoted in the Times article as saying.

However, exceptions may be made in the event “an American might be emailing or texting an image to someone targeted by the agency overseas,” it said.

Human rights and civil liberty groups are expressing concern that the power of the technology, in the hands of government and corporate officials, could have a disastrous impact on privacy.

“Facial recognition can be very invasive,” Alessandro Acquisti, a researcher on facial recognition technology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, told the paper. “There are still technical limitations on it, but the computational power keeps growing, and the databases keep growing, and the algorithms keep improving.”

Harvesting on video conferences
The NSA facial recognition program made tremendous headway in 2010 when it successfully matched images from two separate databases, one in the NSA database code-named Pinwale, and another in the government’s primary terrorist watch database, known as Tide, the NSA files revealed.

That technical breakthrough led to an “explosion of analytical uses” for the agency.

The NSA has since brought on board “identity intelligence” analysts whose job it is to match the facial images with other records about individuals to build broad portfolios of intelligence targets.

The full depth of the image-collection program is daunting in that it has developed sophisticated methods of integrating facial recognition programs with numerous other databases.

“It intercepts video teleconferences to obtain facial imagery, gathers airline passenger data and collects photographs from national identity card databases created by foreign countries, the documents show,” the files revealed.

They also show that the NSA was attempting to infiltrate such databases in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Aside from its own programs, the NSA partially relies on commercially available facial recognition technology, including from PittPatt, a company owned by Google, the leaked files show.

Geo-positioning does matter
But the power of facial recognition technology apparently goes beyond the collection of faces, and includes geographic points photographed from satellites.

One leaked file shows photographs of several men standing near a waterfront dock in 2011. Through the use of the recognition technology, the NSA was able to match their surroundings to a satellite image of the same dock taken about the same time.

The document said the photograph showed a militant training facility in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, US law remains surprisingly flimsy in terms of the protections it offers Americans when it comes to their images.

“Unfortunately, our privacy laws provide no express protections for facial recognition data,” said Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, in a letter in December to the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

News of the NSA’s ‘facial-mining’ techniques echo earlier leaked information, reported in February, that Britain’s spy agency GCHQ, in direct cooperation with the NSA, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of terrorism or other criminal behavior.

GCHQ records between 2008 and 2010 reveal a surveillance program, codenamed Optic Nerve, harvested still images of Yahoo webcam chats and stored them on databases, the Guardian reported.

“In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally,” the paper reported.

NSA TO LISTEN TO CONVERSATIONS IN REAL TIME VIA CELLPHONE MIC

New Facebook app another backdoor for government snooping

by PAUL JOSEPH WATSON | MAY 23, 2014

Facebook’s new mobile spy app which listens to a user’s background noise by utilizing the device’s microphone is merely another backdoor via which the NSA and other government agencies will be able to spy on conversations in real time, a technique that we warned about eight years ago.

“Each time I think they’ve become as creepy as possible, somehow they find a way to be even creepier than that,” joked comedian Jimmy Kimmel in response to the announcement, before a skit about how Facebook would soon automatically post your thoughts as a status update.

“Facebook is to release a new feature on its mobile app that “listens” to your music and TV shows,” reports BBC News. “The feature, which will be available in a few weeks’ time, uses the microphones inside users’ smartphones to detect nearby music or TV shows.”

Although Facebook claims the app cannot record conversations, the user agreement for Facebook’s messenger service includes a term that necessitates users to agree to allow their audio to be recorded without permission. Given that microphones on cellphones exist for the sole reason of sending audio of speech, Facebook’s claim that its new app cannot also do so is dubious to say the least.

Such technology was already being mooted eight years ago, when we published an article entitled, Government, Industry To Use Computer Microphones To Spy On 150 Million Americans, in which we explained how, “Private industry and eventually government is planning to use microphones in the computers of an estimated 150 million-plus Internet active Americans to spy on their lifestyle choices and build psychological profiles which will be used for surveillance and minority report style invasive advertising and data mining.”

Given new reports based on the latest Edward Snowden documents which show that the NSA is recording nearly every phone call in entire countries, to think that the federal agency isn’t already utilizing or at least planning to use open microphones on cellphones to spy on Americans would be incredibly naive.

Back in March it was revealed that the NSA is masquerading as Facebook in order to infect millions of computers around the world with malware as part of its mass surveillance program.

“We are sure this will not be abused or hacked by the NSA… and we are sure there will be plenty of small digital print that users will understand… One wonders though, is there any way for non-Facebook users to know that they are being eavesdropped upon?” asks Zero Hedge.

The answer is that every virtually single user of smartphones has given their permission to have their conversations listened to via the device’s microphone. As we have previously highlighted, terms of agreement for both Android and iPhone apps now require users to agree to allow their microphone to be activated at any time without confirmation before they can download the app.

Earlier this year we also reported on how a computer programmer discovered that Google’s Chrome browser had the ability to record conversations without the user’s knowledge.

FBI: We need wiretap-ready Web sites – now

FBI: We need wiretap-ready Web sites – now

The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance .

In meetings with industry representatives, the White House, and U.S. senators, senior FBI officials argue the dramatic shift in communication from the telephone system to the Internet has made it far more difficult for agents to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities, CNET has learned.

The FBI general counsel’s office has drafted a proposed law that the bureau claims is the best solution: requiring that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.

“If you create a service, product, or app that allows a user to communicate, you get the privilege of adding that extra coding,” an industry representative who has reviewed the FBI’s draft legislation told CNET. The requirements apply only if a threshold of a certain number of users is exceeded, according to a second industry representative briefed on it.

The FBI’s proposal would amend a 1994 law, called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, that currently applies only to telecommunications providers, not Web companies. The Federal Communications Commission extended CALEA in 2004 to apply to broadband networks.
“Going Dark” timeline

June 2008: FBI Director Robert Mueller and his aides brief Sens. Barbara Mikulski, Richard Shelby, and Ted Stevens on “Going Dark.”

June 2008: FBI Assistant Director Kerry Haynes holds “Going Dark” briefing for Senate appropriations subcommittee and offers a “classified version of this briefing” at Quantico.

August 2008: Mueller briefed on Going Dark at strategy meeting.

September 2008: FBI completes a “high-level explanation” of CALEA amendment package.

May 2009: FBI Assistant Director Rich Haley briefs Senate Intelligence committee and Mikulsi staffers on how bureau is “dealing with the ‘Going Dark’ issue.'” Mikulski plans to bring up “Going Dark” at a closed-door hearing the following week.

May 2009: Haley briefs Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, currently the top Democrat on House Intelligence, who would later co-author CISPA.

September 2008: FBI staff briefed by RAND, which was commissioned to “look at” Going Dark.

November 2008: FBI Assistant Director Marcus Thomas, who oversees the Quantico-based Operational Technology Division, prepares briefing for President-Elect Obama’s transition team.

December 2008: FBI intelligence analyst in Communications Analysis Unit begins analysis of VoIP surveillance.

February 2009: FBI memo to all field offices asks for anecdotal information about cases where “investigations have been negatively impacted” by lack of data retention or Internet interception.

March 2009: Mueller’s advisory board meets for a full-day briefing on Going Dark.

April 2009: FBI distributes presentation for White House meeting on Going Dark.

April 2009: FBI warns that the Going Dark project is “yellow,” meaning limited progress, because of “new administration personnel not being in place for briefings.”

April 2009: FBI general counsel’s office reports that the bureau’s Data Interception Technology Unit has “compiled a list of FISA dockets… that the FBI has been unable to fully implement.” That’s a reference to telecom companies that are already covered by the FCC’s expansion of CALEA.

May 2009: FBI’s internal Wikipedia-knockoff Bureaupedia entry for “National Lawful Intercept Strategy” includes section on “modernize lawful intercept laws.”

May 2009: FBI e-mail boasts that the bureau’s plan has “gotten attention” from industry, but “we need to strengthen the business case on this.”

June 2009: FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs prepares Going Dark briefing for closed-door session of Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

July 2010: FBI e-mail says the “Going Dark Working Group (GDWG) continues to ask for examples from Cvber investigations where investigators have had problems” because of new technologies.

September 2010: FBI staff operations specialist in its Counterterrorism Division sends e-mail on difficulties in “obtaining information from Internet Service Providers and social-networking sites.”

FBI Director Robert Mueller is not asking companies to support the bureau’s CALEA expansion, but instead is “asking what can go in it to minimize impacts,” one participant in the discussions says. That included a scheduled trip this month to the West Coast — which was subsequently postponed — to meet with Internet companies’ CEOs and top lawyers.

A further expansion of CALEA is unlikely to be applauded by tech companies, their customers, or privacy groups. Apple (which distributes iChat and FaceTime) is currently lobbying on the topic, according to disclosure documents filed with Congress two weeks ago. Microsoft (which owns Skype and Hotmail) says its lobbyists are following the topic because it’s “an area of ongoing interest to us.” Google, Yahoo, and Facebook declined to comment.

In February 2011, CNET was the first to report that then-FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni was planning to warn Congress of what the bureau calls its “Going Dark” problem, meaning that its surveillance capabilities may diminish as technology advances. Caproni singled out “Web-based e-mail, social-networking sites, and peer-to-peer communications” as problems that have left the FBI “increasingly unable” to conduct the same kind of wiretapping it could in the past.

In addition to the FBI’s legislative proposal, there are indications that the Federal Communications Commission is considering reinterpreting CALEA to demand that products that allow video or voice chat over the Internet — from Skype to Google Hangouts to Xbox Live — include surveillance backdoors to help the FBI with its “Going Dark” program. CALEA applies to technologies that are a “substantial replacement” for the telephone system.

“We have noticed a massive uptick in the amount of FCC CALEA inquiries and enforcement proceedings within the last year, most of which are intended to address ‘Going Dark’ issues,” says Christopher Canter, lead compliance counsel at the Marashlian and Donahue law firm, which specializes in CALEA. “This generally means that the FCC is laying the groundwork for regulatory action.”

Subsentio, a Colorado-based company that sells CALEA compliance products and worked with the Justice Department when it asked the FCC to extend CALEA seven years ago, says the FBI’s draft legislation was prepared with the compliance costs of Internet companies in mind.

In a statement to CNET, Subsentio President Steve Bock said that the measure provides a “safe harbor” for Internet companies as long as the interception techniques are “‘good enough’ solutions approved by the attorney general.”

Another option that would be permitted, Bock said, is if companies “supply the government with proprietary information to decode information” obtained through a wiretap or other type of lawful interception, rather than “provide a complex system for converting the information into an industry standard format.”

A representative for the FBI told CNET today that: “(There are) significant challenges posed to the FBI in the accomplishment of our diverse mission. These include those that result from the advent of rapidly changing technology. A growing gap exists between the statutory authority of law enforcement to intercept electronic communications pursuant to court order and our practical ability to intercept those communications. The FBI believes that if this gap continues to grow, there is a very real risk of the government ‘going dark,’ resulting in an increased risk to national security and public safety.”

Next steps
The FBI’s legislation, which has been approved by the Department of Justice, is one component of what the bureau has internally called the “National Electronic Surveillance Strategy.” Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation show that since 2006, Going Dark has been a worry inside the bureau, which employed 107 full-time equivalent people on the project as of 2009, commissioned a RAND study, and sought extensive technical input from the bureau’s secretive Operational Technology Division in Quantico, Va. The division boasts of developing the “latest and greatest investigative technologies to catch terrorists and criminals.”

But the White House, perhaps less inclined than the bureau to initiate what would likely be a bruising privacy battle, has not sent the FBI’s CALEA amendments to Capitol Hill, even though they were expected last year . (A representative for Sen. Patrick Leahy, head of the Judiciary committee and original author of CALEA, said today that “we have not seen any proposals from the administration.”)

Mueller said in December that the CALEA amendments will be “coordinated through the interagency process,” meaning they would need to receive administration-wide approval.

Stewart Baker, a partner at Steptoe and Johnson who is the former assistant secretary for policy at Homeland Security, said the FBI has “faced difficulty getting its legislative proposals through an administration staffed in large part by people who lived through the CALEA and crypto fights of the Clinton administration, and who are jaundiced about law enforcement regulation of technology — overly jaundiced, in my view.”

On the other hand, as a senator in the 1990s, Vice President Joe Biden introduced a bill at the FBI’s behest that echoes the bureau’s proposal today. Biden’s bill said companies should “ensure that communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text contents of voice, data, and other communications when appropriately authorized by law.” (Biden’s legislation spurred the public release of PGP, one of the first easy-to-use encryption utilities.)

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment. An FCC representative referred questions to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, which declined to comment.

From the FBI’s perspective, expanding CALEA to cover VoIP, Web e-mail, and social networks isn’t expanding wiretapping law: If a court order is required today, one will be required tomorrow as well. Rather, it’s making sure that a wiretap is guaranteed to produce results.

But that nuanced argument could prove radioactive among an Internet community already skeptical of government efforts in the wake of protests over the Stop Online Piracy Act , or SOPA, in January, and the CISPA data-sharing bill last month. And even if startups or hobbyist projects are exempted if they stay below the user threshold, it’s hardly clear how open-source or free software projects such as Linphone, KPhone, and Zfone — or Nicholas Merrill’s proposal for a privacy-protective Internet provider — will comply.
Related stories

FBI to announce new Net-wiretapping push
FBI: We’re not demanding encryption back doors
FBI targets Net phoning

The FBI’s CALEA amendments could be particularly troublesome for Zfone. Phil Zimmermann, the creator of PGP who became a privacy icon two decades ago after being threatened with criminal prosecution, announced Zfone in 2005 as a way to protect the privacy of VoIP users. Zfone scrambles the entire conversation from end to end.

“I worry about the government mandating backdoors into these kinds of communications,” says Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has obtained documents from the FBI relating to its proposed expansion of CALEA.

As CNET was the first to report in 2003, representatives of the FBI’s Electronic Surveillance Technology Section in Chantilly, Va., began quietly lobbying the FCC to force broadband providers to provide more-efficient, standardized surveillance facilities. The FCC approved that requirement a year later, sweeping in Internet phone companies that tie into the existing telecommunications system. It was upheld in 2006 by a federal appeals court.

But the FCC never granted the FBI’s request to rewrite CALEA to cover instant messaging and VoIP programs that are not “managed”–meaning peer-to-peer programs like Apple’s Facetime, iChat/AIM, Gmail’s video chat, and Xbox Live’s in-game chat that do not use the public telephone network.

If there is going to be a CALEA rewrite, “industry would like to see any new legislation include some protections against disclosure of any trade secrets or other confidential information that might be shared with law enforcement, so that they are not released, for example, during open court proceedings,” says Roszel Thomsen, a partner at Thomsen and Burke who represents technology companies and is a member of an FBI study group. He suggests that such language would make it “somewhat easier” for both industry and the police to respond to new technologies.

But industry groups aren’t necessarily going to roll over without a fight. TechAmerica, a trade association that includes representatives of HP, eBay, IBM, Qualcomm, and other tech companies on its board of directors, has been lobbying against a CALEA expansion. Such a law would “represent a sea change in government surveillance law, imposing significant compliance costs on both traditional (think local exchange carriers) and nontraditional (think social media) communications companies,” TechAmerica said in e-mail today.

Technology Exclusive: Emails reveal close Google relationship with NSA

 Technology Exclusive: Emails reveal close Google relationship with NSA

Email exchanges between National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt suggest a far cozier working relationship between some tech firms and the U.S. government than was implied by Silicon Valley brass after last year’s revelations about NSA spying.

Disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the agency’s vast capability for spying on Americans’ electronic communications prompted a number of tech executives whose firms cooperated with the government to insist they had done so only when compelled by a court of law.

But Al Jazeera has obtained two sets of email communications dating from a year before Snowden became a household name that suggest not all cooperation was under pressure.

On the morning of June 28, 2012, an email from Alexander invited Schmidt to attend a four-hour-long “classified threat briefing” on Aug. 8 at a “secure facility in proximity to the San Jose, CA airport.”

“The meeting discussion will be topic-specific, and decision-oriented, with a focus on Mobility Threats and Security,” Alexander wrote in the email, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the first of dozens of communications between the NSA chief and Silicon Valley executives that the agency plans to turn over.

Alexander, Schmidt and other industry executives met earlier in the month, according to the email. But Alexander wanted another meeting with Schmidt and “a small group of CEOs” later that summer because the government needed Silicon Valley’s help.

“About six months ago, we began focusing on the security of mobility devices,” Alexander wrote. “A group (primarily Google, Apple and Microsoft) recently came to agreement on a set of core security principles. When we reach this point in our projects we schedule a classified briefing for the CEOs of key companies to provide them a brief on the specific threats we believe can be mitigated and to seek their commitment for their organization to move ahead … Google’s participation in refinement, engineering and deployment of the solutions will be essential.”

Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, said she believes information sharing between industry and the government is “absolutely essential” but “at the same time, there is some risk to user privacy and to user security from the way the vulnerability disclosure is done.”

The challenge facing government and industry was to enhance security without compromising privacy, Granick said. The emails between Alexander and Google executives, she said, show “how informal information sharing has been happening within this vacuum where there hasn’t been a known, transparent, concrete, established methodology for getting security information into the right hands.”

The classified briefing cited by Alexander was part of a secretive government initiative known as the Enduring Security Framework (ESF), and his email provides some rare information about what the ESF entails, the identities of some participant tech firms and the threats they discussed.
The classified briefing cited by Alexander was part of a secretive government initiative known as the Enduring Security Framework (ESF), and his email provides some rare information about what the ESF entails, the identity of some participant tech firms and the threats they discussed.

Alexander explained that the deputy secretaries of the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and “18 US CEOs” launched the ESF in 2009 to “coordinate government/industry actions on important (generally classified) security issues that couldn’t be solved by individual actors alone.”

“For example, over the last 18 months, we (primarily Intel, AMD [Advanced Micro Devices], HP [Hewlett-Packard], Dell and Microsoft on the industry side) completed an effort to secure the BIOS of enterprise platforms to address a threat in that area.”

“BIOS” is an acronym for “basic input/output system,” the system software that initializes the hardware in a personal computer before the operating system starts up. NSA cyberdefense chief Debora Plunkett in December disclosed that the agency had thwarted a “BIOS plot” by a “nation-state,” identified as China, to brick U.S. computers. That plot, she said, could have destroyed the U.S. economy. “60 Minutes,” which broke the story, reported that the NSA worked with unnamed “computer manufacturers” to address the BIOS software vulnerability.

But some cybersecurity experts questioned the scenario outlined by Plunkett.

“There is probably some real event behind this, but it’s hard to tell, because we don’t have any details,” wrote Robert Graham, CEO of the penetration-testing firm Errata Security in Atlanta, on his blog in December. “It”s completely false in the message it is trying to convey. What comes out is gibberish, as any technical person can confirm.”

And by enlisting the NSA to shore up their defenses, those companies may have made themselves more vulnerable to the agency’s efforts to breach them for surveillance purposes.

“I think the public should be concerned about whether the NSA was really making its best efforts, as the emails claim, to help secure enterprise BIOS and mobile devices and not holding the best vulnerabilities close to their chest,” said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s digital civil liberties team.

He doesn’t doubt that the NSA was trying to secure enterprise BIOS, but he suggested that the agency, for its own purposes, was “looking for weaknesses in the exact same products they’re trying to secure.”

The NSA “has no business helping Google secure its facilities from the Chinese and at the same time hacking in through the back doors and tapping the fiber connections between Google base centers,” Cardozo said. “The fact that it’s the same agency doing both of those things is in obvious contradiction and ridiculous.” He recommended dividing offensive and defensive functions between two agencies.
Google, NSA
The government has asked for Silicon Valley’s help. Adam Berry / Getty Images

Two weeks after the “60 Minutes” broadcast, the German magazine Der Spiegel, citing documents obtained by Snowden, reported that the NSA inserted back doors into BIOS, doing exactly what Plunkett accused a nation-state of doing during her interview.

Google’s Schmidt was unable to attend to the mobility security meeting in San Jose in August 2012.

“General Keith.. so great to see you.. !” Schmidt wrote. “I’m unlikely to be in California that week so I’m sorry I can’t attend (will be on the east coast). Would love to see you another time. Thank you !” Since the Snowden disclosures, Schmidt has been critical of the NSA and said its surveillance programs may be illegal.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did attend that briefing. Foreign Policy reported a month later that Dempsey and other government officials — no mention of Alexander — were in Silicon Valley “picking the brains of leaders throughout the valley and discussing the need to quickly share information on cyber threats.” Foreign Policy noted that the Silicon Valley executives in attendance belonged to the ESF. The story did not say mobility threats and security was the top agenda item along with a classified threat briefing.

A week after the gathering, Dempsey said during a Pentagon press briefing, “I was in Silicon Valley recently, for about a week, to discuss vulnerabilities and opportunities in cyber with industry leaders … They agreed — we all agreed on the need to share threat information at network speed.”

Google co-founder Sergey Brin attended previous meetings of the ESF group but because of a scheduling conflict, according to Alexander’s email, he also could not attend the Aug. 8 briefing in San Jose, and it’s unknown if someone else from Google was sent.

A few months earlier, Alexander had emailed Brin to thank him for Google’s participation in the ESF.

“I see ESF’s work as critical to the nation’s progress against the threat in cyberspace and really appreciate Vint Cerf [Google’s vice president and chief Internet evangelist], Eric Grosse [vice president of security engineering] and Adrian Ludwig’s [lead engineer for Android security] contributions to these efforts during the past year,” Alexander wrote in a Jan. 13, 2012, email.

“You recently received an invitation to the ESF Executive Steering Group meeting, which will be held on January 19, 2012. The meeting is an opportunity to recognize our 2012 accomplishments and set direction for the year to come. We will be discussing ESF’s goals and specific targets for 2012. We will also discuss some of the threats we see and what we are doing to mitigate those threats … Your insights, as a key member of the Defense Industrial Base, are valuable to ensure ESF’s efforts have measurable impact.”

A Google representative declined to answer specific questions about Brin’s and Schmidt’s relationship with Alexander or about Google’s work with the government.

“We work really hard to protect our users from cyberattacks, and we always talk to experts — including in the U.S. government — so we stay ahead of the game,” the representative said in a statement to Al Jazeera. “It’s why Sergey attended this NSA conference.”

Brin responded to Alexander the following day even though the head of the NSA didn’t use the appropriate email address when contacting the co-chairman.

“Hi Keith, looking forward to seeing you next week. FYI, my best email address to use is [redacted],” Brin wrote. “The one your email went to — sergey.brin@google.com — I don’t really check.”

New Verizon Software Tracks ALL Computers, ALL The Time

New Verizon Software Tracks ALL Computers, ALL The Time

Verizon Wireless Customers: Take note.

The company announced they will be surreptitiously downloading and installing tracking software in all devices that use their network.

The tracking software will be sold to advertisers to swamp you with pop-up and targeted ads. Verizon will make no distinction which devices – or whose – they install the software – children and adults alike.

What Verizon Wireless is doing with targeted ads is basically what Google, Yahoo and most other big Internet companies do — leveraging data about your cyber-behavior to boost marketing money.

But here’s the thing: Google and Yahoo offer lots of cool free services, such as Gmail and Yahoo Finance. Their aggressive data collection is how they help subsidize these offerings.

In Verizon Wireless’ case, customers pay them upfront for the services they receive. Thus, any additional revenue the company can pocket from data collection is above and beyond what it’s already earning.

A Verizon Wireless spokeswoman said that anytime any customer registers on the company’s “My Verizon” website, tracing software is installed in the form of a “cookie.”

Most cookies are relatively benign, saving a few bits of data to make frequent visits faster. But Verizon’s software is different: It tracks where you go after you leave Verizon’s site.

That information is “anonymized,” Spokeswoman Debra Lewis said, to mask the Verizon customer’s identity and is then shared with marketers, which can use the info to provide ads on the customer’s Verizon Wireless device that match his or her home-computer interests.

So, by way of example, let’s say you enjoy watching videos on the Victoria’s Secret website on your personal computer in the privacy of your home. You shouldn’t be surprised if ads for women’s undergarments start appearing on your Verizon Wireless mobile device.

Users can “opt out” of the tracking, but it’s an onerous process.