Tech Giants join Microsoft’s fight for privacy

by Shijaz Abdulla on 17.12.2014 at 08:40

The below is quoted from an article on MSN News.

Microsoft is getting some reinforcements in its battle with the Justice Department over access to emails stored on servers overseas.

Verizon, Apple, Amazon, AT&T, Cisco, eBay, HP, Infor, Salesforce, and Rackspace on Monday all signed on to legal briefs urging a federal appeals court to throw out the Justice Department’s warrant. The companies argued that U.S. prosecutors have no authority to seize the emails, which are stored in Ireland.

Business associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and BSA-the Software Alliance and civil liberties groups including the Center for Democracy & Technology, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation also filed briefs supporting Microsoft. CNN, ABC, Fox News, the Washington Post, and other media outlets also sided with Microsoft in legal briefs.

Since the Snowden leaks last year revealed the vast scope of U.S. surveillance, tech companies have been struggling to convince foreign customers that their information can be kept private.

One brief from Verizon and other companies warned that if the warrant against Microsoft is enforced, it would damage U.S. businesses, violate international agreements, and potentially lead other countries to retaliate by seizing private information of Americans.

"Collectively these briefs make one conclusion unmistakably clear. This case involves not a narrow legal question, but a broad policy issue that is fundamental to the future of global technology," Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith wrote in a blog post applauding the other companies and groups for filing their briefs.

The Justice Department has claimed that any company with operations in the U.S. has to comply with search warrants, even if the actual data is in another country. Microsoft argues that the U.S. has to work through a legal treaty with Ireland to get access to the information. The details of the case are secret.

In July, a federal judge in New York agreed with the government and ordered Microsoft to turn over the emails. Microsoft has now appealed that ruling to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

AT&T and some of the other companies had already weighed in on Microsoft’s side when its case was at the district court level. Smith said that the additional companies and organizations who filed briefs Monday "reflect the continuing growth in concerns" about the Justice Department’s bid for overseas data.

Smith argued that, regardless of the outcome of Microsoft’s legal battle, Congress and the Obama administration should update privacy laws so that people in the U.S. and other countries can trust their information is safe from prying eyes.

Azure implements stronger encryption to protect customers from ‘Government Snooping’

by Shijaz Abdulla on 08.08.2014 at 01:34

I received a notification on my Azure Management Portal today. It basically said:

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When I clicked on OK to get more information, here’s what I got:

As part of Microsoft’s promise to protecting customer data from government snooping (details at http://aka.ms/Pltfsk) Azure is implementing stronger cryptography to protect communications. The Transport Layer Security (TLS)/Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Cipher Suite enhancements and Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) are implemented in the August 2014 updates of the Azure Guest OS. These changes will be available in versions 4.11, 3.18, 2.30, and 1.38 (if released) of the Azure Guest OS. For more detailed information regarding these security enhancements or for information you can share with a customer, please see the MSDN article, "Differences between Azure Guest OS and Default Windows Server" at http://aka.ms/Ire274

Now, that is really cool.

It shows Microsoft’s commitment to protecting customer data privacy and confidentiality in the Snowden era.

According to CNN, Microsoft had challenged the US government’s search warrant when it requested Microsoft turn over customer emails stored in its datacenters in Ireland. Microsoft challenged the warrant on the grounds that it violated constitutional privacy protections and that US warrants only were valid in the United States.

On July 31 2014,  a US District Judge ruled that Microsoft has to comply with the government request.

Microsoft has immediately said that it would appeal the ruling.

Your face and name will start appearing in Google Ads starting today

by Shijaz Abdulla on 14.05.2014 at 19:46

I was shocked to read this article on Gizmodo, that states that Google will soon be using people’s names and photos on their ads.

This is not unexpected of Google, a company with a rich history decorated with privacy issues, but who knew this would happen all so soon?!

This isnt the end of the word, you can still opt out by unchecking the box at the bottom of this page.

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Photocopy machines: A security risk!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 24.05.2010 at 14:34

So you have state-of-the-art security software and hardware rolled out in your environment, a great security and privacy policy adhered to in your organization and you have taken every step to protect your organization’s data and the privacy of your employees and customers? Think again.

What about copier machines? Did you know that almost all copier machines have a hard drive built into it? Yes? No? Watch this interesting video to learn more.

Key go-do’s:

  • Find out how many copier machines in your organization have a built-in hardware or other data storage.
  • Figure out how to clear the images saved on that hard drive
  • Document a process for discarding/repurposing used copier machines – just as you would discard computers. Make sure wiping the hard drive is on the list.
  • Make sure data on the hard drives is wiped before these machines leave your premises for repairs and maintenance.

“Oops, I did it again” – Google

by Shijaz Abdulla on 16.05.2010 at 16:12

Google has said sorry again to the public after inadvertently collecting 600 GB of personal wireless data on people’s unencrypted wireless networks, which may even include personal emails.

Last Friday, Google revealed that its Street View cars were collecting sensitive personal information from wireless networks in addition to taking pictures of the world’s roadways. Today Google announced that they are going to stop collecting Wi-Fi information altogether.

Interesting to note that this adds to the long string of privacy issues surrounding Google:

  • Google has already been collecting publicly broadcast SSID information (Wi-Fi network names) and MAC addresses
  • Google Chrome allows Google to know to each and every URL or even partial URL as you type it in the location bar, by the keystroke. It keeps sending this information back to Google without asking you, this means they know what you’re looking at with their browser!
  • In its 2007 Consultation Report, Privacy International ranked Google as “Hostile to Privacy”, its lowest rating on their report, making Google the only company in the list to receive that ranking. Read the report.
  • Google’s Gmail is the only email provider that reviews the contents of users’ mail and uses it  to improve relevance of advertisements.
  • The launch of Google Buzz, Google’s social networking service resulted in anyone with a Gmail account being automatically added as a contact to pre-existing Gmail contacts. Google Buzz immediately drew criticism for violating user privacy because it automatically allowed Gmail users’ contacts to view their other contacts.
  • Google’s online map service, Street View, has been accused of taking pictures of people’s private homes and taking pictures of people who walk down the street without their permission, not knowing they are being watched on Google’s online service.
  • Google saves your internet searches for 2 years on their systems.