Apple, Google & other large tech companies urge the White House & Congress not to renew the Patriot Act

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Apple is one of ten tech giants to once again call on the US Government not to reauthorize the Patriot Act in its current form. The Act expires on 1st June unless it is renewed by Congress. Apple was joined by AOL, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo.

In an open letter to President Obama, NSA Director Admiral Rogers and other prominent government figures, the companies urge Congress to end the bulk collection of communications metadata–the logs that determine how and when ordinary citizens contact each other.

The letter says that mass surveillance must end, and that a revised bill must contain mechanisms to ensure that future government surveillance is both transparent and accountable …  Read more

Snowden: The CIA has been working “for years” to break iPhone, iPad and Mac security

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The Central Intelligence Agency has conducted “a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads,” claims The Intercept, referencing new Snowden leaks of a document from the CIA’s internal wiki system.

A presentation on the attempts, focusing on breaking Apple’s encryption of iOS devices, was said to have been delivered at an annual CIA conference called the Jamboree.

Studying both “physical” and “non-invasive” techniques, U.S. government-sponsored research has been aimed at discovering ways to decrypt and ultimately penetrate Apple’s encrypted firmware. This could enable spies to plant malicious code on Apple devices and seek out potential vulnerabilities in other parts of the iPhone and iPad currently masked by encryption.

One route reportedly taken by the CIA was to create a modified version of Xcode, which would allow it to compromise apps at the point at which they are created …  Read more

Tim Cook talks Snowden, Apple Car and Steve Jobs as the best teacher he’s ever had

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Tim Cook appears to be using his international tour, which so far includes Israel, Germany and the UK, to push a second product every bit as hard as the Apple Watch: privacy. In an interview with the German newspaper BILD posted yesterday (paywall), Cook went as far as to praise Edward Snowden for his role in prompting discussion of the issue.

If Snowden did anything for us at all, then it was to get us to talk more about these things. [Apple’s] values have always been the same.

The comments follow a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at which data privacy was reportedly a key topic. Cook also told the Telegraph last week that “none of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information.” Cook has in the past resisted FBI pressure to compromise its strong encryption, and was the only tech CEO to attend a recent White House cybersecurity summit.

In the BILD interview, Cook reiterated Apple’s stance on privacy, and also said that as Apple had grown larger, it had taken deliberate decisions to be less secretive about some aspects of its business …  Read more

Tim Cook talks privacy in part two of Charlie Rose interview

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The first clip of part two of Tim Cook’s interview with Charlie Rose has posted tonight with a segment on Apple and privacy. In the interview, Cook discussed the privacy of user data using Apple services as Apple has mentioned in the past.

We’re not reading your email, we’re not reading your iMessages. If the government laid a subpoena on us to get your iMessages, we can’t provide it. It’s encrypted and we don’t have the key.

Cook also discussed how Apple’s approach to Apple Pay, its new mobile payment system, emphasizing that Apple is in the business of selling iPhones, not user information like other companies. Cook commented strongly that he is “offended” by the practices of some other companies. The shot at Google, which Cook stated is his idea of Apple’s competition in the part one with Charlie Rose, was mentioned similarly during last week’s iPhone event. Cook also discussed earlier privacy issues involving “server backdoors” and Edward Snowden. You can view the new clip below…

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Reported ban on Apple products by Chinese government just a misunderstanding, say Chinese authorities

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The reported ban on national and local government departments purchasing Apple products was just a misunderstanding, according to statements by the Finance Ministry and Central Government Procurement Centre cited by Reuters.

The statements say that the procurement list referred to by Bloomberg was just one of many, and listed only “energy-saving products.” China claims that Apple products did not make this list despite qualifying because the necessary paperwork had not been completed …  Read more

Chinese government’s war on Apple escalates as it bans govt purchases

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After a Chinese state-run TV channel last month described the iPhone as a “national security concern” (a claim Apple denied), Bloomberg reports that the Chinese government has stepped up its war on Apple by removing the company’s products from its procurement lists.

Ten Apple products — including the iPad, iPad Mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro — were omitted from a final government procurement list distributed in July, according to officials who read it and asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The models were on a June version of the list drafted by the National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Finance, the officials said …

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Chinese state TV annoyed by NSA, takes it out on Apple

The WSJ reports that the state-run China Central TV has described the iPhone as a “national security concern” due to its location-tracking capabilities.

In its national noon broadcast, state-run China Central Television criticized the “frequent locations” function in Apple’s iOS 7 mobile operating system, which tracks and records the time and location of the owner’s movements. The report quoted researchers who said that those with access to that data could gain knowledge of the broader situation in China or “even state secrets” …

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EFF marks Apple’s ‘remarkable improvement’ in protecting customer data from governments

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today published its annual “Who Has Your Back?” report that rates and compares how major corporations deal with government data requests. The EFF’s ranking of technology company data request transparency is notable because the organization is the “leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world.” The report ranks companies based on six categories: requires a warrant for content, tells users about data requests, publishes transparency reports, publishes law enforcement guidelines, fights for users’ privacy in courts, fights for users’ privacy for rights in Congress. This year, Apple received a star for each of the six categories. 

This compares to many other technology companies, including Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, that received stars across the board:

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New leaked docs show NSA collects personal data from smartphone apps

New documents leaked by Edward Snowden and reported by The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica detail how the NSA and its British counterpart can collect users’ personal data through smartphone apps. The reports specifically mention popular apps like Angry Birds, Twitter, Google Maps and Facebook and claim the NSA is capable of intercepting information ranging from location, age, and sex of users to address books, buddy lists, phone logs, geographic data and more:

The N.S.A. and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters were working together on how to collect and store data from dozens of smartphone apps by 2007, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. Since then, the agencies have traded recipes for grabbing location and planning data when a target uses Google Maps, and for vacuuming up address books, buddy lists, phone logs and the geographic data embedded in photos when someone sends a post to the mobile versions of Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter and other services.

At least one of the app developers, Rovio, is not surprisingly unaware of any of the activity mentioned in the documents, but it will be up to the app developers, Apple, and Google to address the issue and clarify for users if their personal data is safe. In a recent interview with ABC, Apple CEO Tim Cook commented on the controversy over surveillance programs and promised he would press congress for more transparency: Read more

Anonymous claims Apple’s Touch ID and Authentec purchase gives NSA access to fingerprints

Interesting but totally unsubstantiated claim by Anonymous.

…claims the group make concerning Touch ID seem to focus on Authentec director, Robert E Grady, who appears to have been a prominent figure within the George Bush administration and (Anonymous claim) was connected with The Carlyle Group, which Anonymous also claim is a majority shareholder in Booz Allen Hamilton, the NSA contractor with which whistleblower Edward Snowden worked.

I’d like to think the government and NSA already have my fingerprints but they went out of business so NBD. Read more