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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 …?

Verizon Ordered to Give All Phone Records to Feds

large_verizonThere is a bit of a convergence of two situations that will make many in the general public take pause about any perception or misconception they may have about privacy in an increasingly mobile world.

First, a Pew study confirms what most have already known and that is the fact the smartphones are everywhere and the more wealthy you are the more likely you are an iPhone user. We could show you charts on that but it’s really old news to most.

What is new, however, is the revelation by The Guardian that US citizens who are Verizon customers are being watched by the federal government via a top secret order (view the order). The paper reports

Twitter’s Two-Factor Account Verification Process Is Live

Twitter has had some trouble in the recent past with some high profile accounts getting hacked and the ensuing fallout from those issues. Part of their response was to say that they will be enabling a two-step verification process. At the time that was a promise but now it is in play according to the post on the Twitter blog from yesterday.

Here’s a video for you to get the gist.

So while this is a good first step it may not really be much help to those who really need it. How’s that you ask? Well, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine has this to say

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 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

Twitter Doesn’t Exactly Instill Confidence in Memo to Journalists

imagessources-unreliableTwitter has taken a bit of a reputation ding after the hijacking of the AP Twitter account last week. Financial markets dipped and now federal attention is being given to the activities to see who profited from this event.

The result has been the promise, or the rumor, of a two step authentication process. Uhhh, those are nice words but until it’s in place and works it means absolutely nothing. Now to add to the uncertainty that surrounds the security of a Twitter account and, as a result, the reliability of the service in ‘reporting’ the news (God help us if Twitter is actually seen as a reliable breaking news source ever but it seems inevitable) is the following memo sent to journalists trying to help them protect their Twitter accounts.

BuzzFeed provided the contents of the memo and here it is.

Will Two-Step Authentication Be Enough to Prevent Stupidity in Handling Twitter Accounts?

SecurityIn the wake of the Associated Press’s Twitter account being hacked yesterday there is plenty of vulture reporting about the possibility of Twitter incorporating a two step authentication process into the service sometime in the future. Gotta love what passes for news these days.

We are piecing together things from various pieces of other things and we are going to say that we think that maybe something like this may happen in the near, or maybe even not so near, future.

But here I am ‘reporting’ on it as well so enough of that talk. This is where the rumors about Twitter getting more serious about account security seem to have begun (maybe kinda sorta). Wired reported yesterday

Bing Might Ask, Is This a Fair Search Survey?

AV-TEST logoBing has been working real hard to poke holes in Google as of late.

Ads attacking Gmail privacy and the Scroogled campaign have been running along side the ‘Bing It On’ challenge that is still being run on TV. Basically Bing is saying that Bing is better because Bing says it is (along with those choosing Bing in the B.I.O. challenge.

Now a new study from Germany’s AV-TEST, that calls itself ‘The Independent IT-Security Institute’ says that while Bing can claim it’s better than Google there is at least one third party out there that says it’s not nearly as safe as Google when it comes to serving up malware sites in results.

AV-Test Results