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 only CEO taking part in today’s White House cybersecurity summit

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We learned earlier this week that Tim Cook would be speaking at a White House cybersecurity summit today, and it now appears he will be the only tech CEO to do so. USNews is reporting that CEOs of other top tech companies all declined President Obama’s invitation, sending lower-ranking execs in their place.

Unlike Apple’s Cook, other top executives at key Silicon Valley companies declined invitations to the summit. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Google’s Larry Page will not attend amid the ongoing concerns about government surveillance. Facebook spokesman Jay Nancarrow said Zuckerberg is unavailable to attend and that Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan will speak during a panel at the event.

It’s believed other CEOs consider refusing to take part to be the best way to express their objections to increased government surveillance of electronic communications, while Cook takes the opposite view: that it is important to speak up in defence of user privacy …  Read more

Department of Justice: iPhone encryption will lead to the death of a child

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Apple and the government have long been engaged in a bitter war of words over encryption and security practices employed in Apple’s iOS devices, but a new Wall Street Journal report indicates that the Department of Justice is really starting to take the rhetoric to the next level.

According to the Journal, a DOJ official actually told Apple executives during a meeting last month that in the future the Cupertino company could eventually be directly responsible for the death of a child. Read more

Apple, Google, Facebook, other tech companies lobbying to stop NSA spying before new congress takes over in January

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Bloomberg reports that groups representing Apple, Google, Facebook and other high profile tech companies are lobbying to pass a new bill that attempts to limit NSA spying of email and communications of their users. The report says the groups are “pushing the Senate to pass legislation limiting National Security Agency spying before the Republican majority takes control of the chamber.” The news comes ahead of the Senate vote on the new bill scheduled for Nov. 18 and an upcoming Republican controlled Congress taking over in January: Read more

Apple removes language from Transparency Reports signaling new government requests for data

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Just as Apple published a new letter from Tim Cook and an update on privacy and security policies, a new report points to evidence the company has recently received new government demands for user data under the Patriot Act. GigaOM reports that language previously included in Apple’s Transparency Reports noting the company had “never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act” has since been removed. That could signal, according to the report, Apple’s involvement with controversial National Security Agency programs that demand data from companies: 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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Apple begins encrypting iCloud email sent between providers

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Last month Apple confirmed that it would soon beef up encryption for iCloud email following a report detailing security flaws in major email services. While Apple previously encrypted emails sent between its own iCloud customers, now the company has enabled encryption for emails in transit between iCloud and third-party services for me.com and mac.com email addresses. 

The change is documented on Google’s transparency website that shows the percentage of emails encrypted in transit for both inbound and outbound email exchanges (pictured below): Read more

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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Tim Cook among tech CEOs German committee may want to testify in NSA investigation

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Apple’s association with the United States National Security Agency may once again put the company in the spotlight as Germany begins to investigate the agency’s recent activity. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, members of a German parliamentary commission want the heads of a number of US-based tech companies, including Apple, to participate in their investigation of the NSA’s involvement in monitoring German officials.

Apple, for its part, has denied direct involvement with PRISM program and repeatedly said it has not allowed the government to have direct access to its servers. Read more

Apple provides update on government requests as tech companies reach settlement with DOJ

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Just a few days later after Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed his thoughts about the NSA and data collection transparency, Apple has posted an update to its website with new information regarding account data requests. The company’s press release comes as US Department of Justice comes to a settlement with technology companies over how they are allowed to disclose information about government data requests.

A statement from the DOJ explains the agreement will allow “detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, and the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests including the underlying legal authorities.” Due to these new guidelines, Apple has now been able to report FISA and National Security Letters separate from law enforcement requests as show in its graphics above and below.  It also notes the new data released today replaces the U.S. data from its Feb. 5 2013 Report on Government Information Requests.

Apple-National-Security-orders-02Apple has been working closely with the White House, the U.S. Attorney General, congressional leaders, and the Department of Justice to advocate for greater transparency with regard to the national security orders we receive. We believe strongly that our customers have the right to understand how their personal information is being handled, and we are pleased the government has developed new rules that allow us to more accurately report law enforcement orders and national security orders in the U.S.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a recent interview that he would push congress for more transparency regarding controversial surveillance programs and how companies can disclose information related to information requests. At the time, Cook said that there was much the company couldn’t speak about due to gag orders:

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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