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Code Names, Leaked Docs, the NSA: Google and Facebook Land in the Center of a Spy Drama

PrismThe code name is PRISM. It’s a top secret program that gives the National Security Agency direct access to the inner workings of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype and just about every other big data company on the web. It even has its own snazzy, SciFi looking logo and reports that are stamped TOP SECRET.

Sounds like something you’d find in a Ben Affleck movie but the UK paper The Guardian says it’s real and they have the proof; a 41-page PowerPoint presentation created to train operatives on the program.

I’m telling you, just looking at those documents online makes me nervous. The news broke several days ago and since then the parties involved have been in damage control mode.

Google was the first to respond with a post appropriately titled “What the …?

Virginia Politician Says House Unlikely to Pass Marketplace Fairness Act

The bill that is making its way through Washington DC that would require Internet companies to collect sales tax like brick and mortars businesses do is not likely to get through the House of Representatives according to Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va).

Here is the report from WSLS

WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

This is important to Internet retailers but it is not likely that it is simply going away any time soon. Representative Goodlatte’s statement about Internet retailers being treated fairly is likely to stir some resentment from the brick and mortar community since they feel like they are the ones getting screwed with the current state of affairs regarding taxation.

Data Requests Without a Warrant? Google, Says No to the Justice Department

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather QuillHow much of your privacy are you willing to give up in the name of national security? It’s a question that we’ve been pondering in some form since those boys in Philadelphia penned the Constitution. But doesn’t it feel like it’s become a stickier point in the 21st Century?

Look at the recent bombing in Boston. As soon as the suspects were named, people started asking questions. Why didn’t the FBI see this coming? Were there signs on social media accounts? Were there mobile phone calls that could have and should have been intercepted? After the fact, we’re quick to blame law enforcement for not digging deep enough. But think about it. If a month earlier, the FBI has asked for data from Facebook and Twitter, cell phone records and email records from a University, eyebrows would raise.

What Internet Companies Are Helping to Protect Your Data From the Government?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published it’s third annual “Who Has Your Back?” report which gives insight into some of the largest and most influential Internet players (which is synonymous with the term ‘data collectors’ in today’s world) and how they work to keep data from being grabbed by the government at their bidding.

Who Has Your Back Banner

Top performers include Twitter and Sonic.net both getting stars in all six categories measured while Google, LinkedIn, Spideroak and Dropbox each earned five stars. Google lost a half star from last year since they no longer warn individuals about data requests (they just offer transparency reports about government request as a whole).

The big losers? Verizon and MySpace (0 stars) and 1 star performers including Apple, AT&T and Yahoo.

Here is the complete chart.

NOTE: The categories are a little tough to read so they are (from left to right).

  • Requires a warrant for content
  • Tells users about government data requests
  • Publishes transparency reports
  • Publishes law enforcement guidelines
  • Fights for users’ privacy rights in court
  • Fights for users’ privacy rights in Congress

Tweet It Ain’t So! Can Social Media Wreak Havoc in Markets?

Corporate Cyber CrimeLast week the big news was the Associated Press’ Twitter account getting hacked and the stock market taking a 150 point dip on the ‘news’ of the bombing that injured the president.

The markets recovered quickly but I know my first thoughts were:

  1. Someone has shown just how fragile the markets are to any kind of news whether it’s real or not
  2. Someone just got very rich on this deal
  3. This won’t be the last time something like this happens

Well, the investigations are underway as to who might have profited from this scenario and if there was a connection between the incident and the any profits taken as a result of what’s known as “high frequency trading”.

The New York Times reported

Will the Internet Sales Tax Bill Help or Hurt the Small Business Retailer?

585040_business_buttonsPresident Obama on Monday, said that the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act, which would require online retailers to collect sales tax, “will level the playing field for local small business retailers that are in competition every day with large out-of-state online companies.”

Far be it for me to disagree with the President, but I don’t see it.

Let’s take this step-by-step. Brick and mortar stores say they’re going out of business because people are choosing to buy online instead of in their store. I believe this is true. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Amazon helped put Borders out of business.

Google’s Offer to EU Labeled a ‘Non-Starter’ By Rivals Before It Is Even Seen

google-logoSo as not to create confusion about what exactly is going on between Google, the European Union and Google’s friends at FairSearch.org here are the highlights of what appears to be going on with Google in its continuing battle with the EU and various ‘competitors’.

  • For three years Google and its treatment of its search results have been under investigation by the EU or the European Commission (EC) (I get confused myself on this one so forgive me).
  • FairSearch.org and its member companies have been after the EU to punish Google for claims of unfair trade practices which include charges of Google being a search monopoly