Microsoft Is Suing The US Government Over Cloud Data Searches

Microsoft is but one of many technology firms that have recently moved their focus from internal hard drives to the cloud, allowing people to access their data from anywhere in the world given the right details. The problem is other people also have access to this information, both legally and illegally and Microsoft is suing the US government over their attempts to force companies to remain quiet on the matter.

Microsoft has now filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department stating that it’s not just wrong but it’s “unconstitutional” that companies should be forced to remain silent when they are asked to hand over any data you might store in the cloud. In their complaint, Microsoft says that section 2705(b) of the Electronics Communications Privacy Act “sweeps too broadly” and effectively gives the government the power to gag companies, regardless of the reasons they are investigating someone. Microsoft even went so far as to name the number of secrecy orders they’d received in the past 18 months, a huge number sitting at almost 2,600.

The best part of almost 2.6 thousand secrecy orders, was that over two-thirds would never run out thanks to them containing “no fixed end date”. The end result is clear, Microsoft wants section 2705(b) ruled as unconstitutional and removed, a judgment that would affect every technology company based on the internet these days thanks to the broad range of uses that the cloud is utilized for.

Recently Reddit removed their Warrant canary, giving users a legal warning that the government had requested access to at least some of their information (possibly). While other companies, such as Apple has been arguing with the FBI over who and where the line should be drawn for gaining access to devices and the steps they can make companies provide to open the door for them.

TSA Spent $47,000 on a Random Lane Picker

Governments and companies often contract out work to help create app’s and software to make systems. The problem is that the app’s and software comes at a price, it would now seem that the TSA spent quite a bit on a random lane picker.

It’s being reported that the TSA spent $47,400 on a piece of software that would help TSA staff pick lanes to separate and ease up congestion at Airport terminals, as shown in the video below.

The information comes as part of a freedom of information request revealed by Kevin Burke, revealing a contract with IBM totaling $336,413.59. Included in this documentation was a document relating to “randomizer software”.

The deal could have included more than just the software, with the iPad’s and tablets used for the software possibly also included in the deal. People are hoping this is the case, with the software being considered entry-level programming. The app itself was a random number generator, assigning people to the right or left lane (1 or 2) at airport security.

It’s got to be embarrassing that such a simple piece of software would come at such a high cost, all while governments are being scrutinized for their spending, higher taxes and budget cuts. The app is no longer in use, with the process of being randomly allocated lanes also being removed from their processes.

FBI Doesn’t Want To Tell How It Tracked People Across The Tor Network

The FBI are known for their digital prowess, although they may require some help when it comes to breaking into an iPhone. One of their most recent successes was the tracking of people using the Tor network, but after a judge ruled that the defendants representatives needed to know how he was identified the FBI has declined to say how they tracked people across the Tor network.

The ruling was provided by the Judge overlooking the case and was provided so that the defendants experts could check that the method used to identify the client was both within the FBI’s authority and also properly identified the client amongst the thousands of users of the Tor network.

The Tor network is a system (also known as the Onion Router) which people can use to hide their true identity by encrypting their traffic and bouncing it around the world in a series of steps. The network is also known for hiding a selection of “secret” websites that can only be accessed from within the network.

The FBI claim that they have already provided enough details for the defence to figure out if they went beyond their authority. FBI Agent Daniel Alfin, states in the court papers filed by the DOJ in the case, as saying “knowing how someone unlocked the front door provides no information about what that person did after entering the house”. While a valid argument, one would also argue that if someone breaks into your house, stealing something from your house and gaining access were both things you need to be made aware, not just one of the two.

YouTube Create Team to Deal With Takedown Mistakes

YouTube is known as much for its community content as it is for the paid content it wants to introduce. Community content can be anything from the cute cat playing piano video to an action packed music video featuring your favourite movie and video game clips, the latter of which don’t last long online sadly. The reason the video wouldn’t last long is due to the automated copyright system flagging even the smallest piece of content, ending up with videos being taken down for any reason provided. This is set to change with YouTube creating a team to deal with these takedown mistakes.

User created content is the backbone of YouTube and when people are finding their videos being removed, even though they have a genuine right to publish them, they would more likely to leave for one of YouTube’s rival services. The new team will have the purpose of “minimizing mistakes”, with the hopes that with fewer mistakes more content will be left on the site without any legal issues regarding their content.

Alongside the new team, there will also be some new initiatives rolled out in the coming months designed to “strengthen communications between creators and YouTube support”. Including increased transparency for the status of monetization claims, the features you’ll see coming seem to be focused on supporting and developing YouTube content creators as much as the service itself.

 

Belgians Aid Police With Cat Pictures

After the recent events in Paris, police in Belgium have been operating to find Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris attacks. The operations came to a height on Sunday when a search of Brussels was conducted amid requests from the police for people to not post information about their activities.

So how did the internet respond? By tweeting cat pictures! The hash tag #BrusselsLockdown became awash with images of kittens as people swamped out any reports of police activity amongst a sea of kittens.

The initial tweet reads as follows:

This (roughly) translates as:

For safety, please observe the radio silence on social media regarding ongoing police operating in Brussels. Thank you

The public’s response was simply amazing with the following tweets showing that not only do they care, they will do anything to help hinder those who weren’t willing to listen.

 

 

The police even posted this message in response to the overwhelming public support for their actions:

This translates to:

For cats who helped us last night, help yourself!

With both the public and the police using social media to not only help one another but also to help calm and entertain others in a time like this it goes to show that the internet does have a good side.

Thank you to the BBC for bringing these amazingly heroic cats to light.

Activision Buys Creator Of Candy Crush

On the train, in the car and even at work, people enjoy games on their mobile phones. From the days of the first game boy, the idea behind mobile gaming devices was always to let you play what you wanted, where you wanted and with mobiles phones becoming as powerful as they are, the ability to change your little communications device into a gaming hub is as easy as ever. One of the biggest names in the mobile video games group is Candy Crush Saga and its creator just got a new owner, Activision.

On Monday, Activision Blizzard announced that it had agreed to acquire the rights for King Digital Entertainment, the company behind Candy Crush Saga, for a staggering total of $5.9 billion.

Popular on platforms such as Facebook, Candy crush follows a business model called freemium. You can play the game for free, and you could even complete it for free but if you wanted those little extra bonuses, the boosters or the level skips then it will cost you real world money.

With King stating that it has over 158 million daily users and over 1 billion games played each day it’s not hard to see why this acquisition by Activision Blizzard could see the company getting a rather large foot in the door of mobile gaming.

Twitter Personal Information Requests Double In UK

The UK Government has made more than double the amount of requests about citizen’s data on Twitter compared to six months ago. Twitter’s open ethos means the company publishes a “Transparency Report” about the number of requests they receive globally. The information requests between January and July dramatically increased from 116 to 299. As a result, the UK Government easily exceeds other European nations such as France which only made 139 requests.

Despite this, the USA still accounts for the majority of cases and increased by a mammoth 52%. The statistics show that the USA made 2,436 requests within a 6 month period. In second place was Japan with 425 requests followed by Turkey which made 412. According to Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch,

“Thanks to the transparency reports of internet companies, we know police are already accessing data with far greater frequency than many other countries,”

“If the public are to have any confidence that surveillance powers are being used proportionately, then we should not have to rely on private companies to publish this data.

“The government should proactively be publishing their own transparency reports, highlighting exactly how many requests are being made, how often they are refused and why,”

The Security Services received a great deal of criticism for infringing the privacy of citizens and abusing their power. The internet should maintain an open ideology but it’s difficult to find a balance between security and privacy. Should Governments have the right to monitor online communications and request personal data? Let us know your thoughts!

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information.

Amazon Breaks Silence On Disclosure Requests and PRISM

Governments have been requesting people’s details for a while now, from their internet providers to web-based forums, companies have been asked to reveal a myriad of information about their users with a variety of reasons. Amazon has recently revealed how many data demands they received from the government.

Revealing it in a blog post on Friday, Amazon’s chief Information security Officer, Stephen Schmit, posted regarding not only the information requests but sought to clarify their participation, or lack of,  in the government’s PRISM program.

The blog states that:

  • Amazon has never participated in the PRISM program and have challenged government requests for information which they believed were “overboard”
  • They do not disclose information about amazon customers unless; there is a clear indication that something done via amazon was illegal or they are legally required to for a valid and legally binding order
  • They accept that government and law enforcement agencies are required to investigate criminal and terrorist activities
  • They oppose any legislation or mandate that would lead to the restriction or weakening of security or encryption for both their own or their customers use.

After many years of being silent they have announced formally that they did not take part in PRISM and were protecting people’s details, even going so far as to inform people before they had to hand over their details (unless doing so was deemed illegal).

Good guy Amazon!

Thank you Amazon Security blog for the information.

Image courtesy of UEUnion.

The Pirate Bay’s Fredrik Neij Not Allowed to Play on His Nintendo in Prison

Fredrik Neij, one of The Pirate Bay’s operators and so-called co-founders, is not only a ‘pirate’, but a gamer too. This is why he requested to have his Nintendo 8-bit console brought to him in prison. However, the request got denied because the console cannot be opened to check for concealed items. Bummer, huh?

Neij avoided a prison sentence back in 2010, but eventually got trialled and sentenced to a prison in Skänninge, Sweden, last November. All fine and dandy up until now, but like every other human being, life got boring when living behind four walls (and some metal bars in his case).

He eventually filed a request to have his Nintendo 8-bit console brought in to kill some time on it, but his request got denied by the prison administration. Why? Well, it’s not because gaming is banned in prison of course, but because there is “no way to open the box to check it for concealed items”.

“The console is sealed in such a way that it can not be opened without the machine being destroyed,” the prison wrote in a reply. In light of this, the institution can’t implement the necessary control of the game console and it is therefore impossible to ensure that it does not contain prohibited items.”

The administration may have denied his request, but that won’t stop Neij. He is now appealing the administration’s decision and told them that a simple screwdriver can open console. A simple “How to repair…” search on the Web reveals the same thing, so what is going on here? Does the administration lack the IT skills to do a simple Google or YouTube search, or do they have other reasons to deny Neij’s request?

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

Closed Beta Testing for StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void Could Start at the End of March

The latest StarCraft title, Legacy of the Void, is said to be the closing story for the StarCraft 2 series. It was first announced at BlizzCon last year, but Blizzard did not mention when it will be released.

While Blizzard is known for taking its time with their titles, The Daily Dot gives some hope that the release date is close than expected. Their sources say that the closed beta for Legacy of the Void should be launched at the end of March or early April, pointing out that gaming press and esports organisations have been told to submit their requests for beta keys.

“It’s great timing for them. WCS Season 1 will be all but over and this will give players plenty of time to stream the beta and generate some excitement. As things stand the beta is pretty much ready to launch with the balance team just tweaking a few units.”

Blizzard stated that StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void will not be an expansion, but a standalone game. It is said to focus on the Protoss side of the story and should ultimately end the StarCraft 2 story as a whole.

Thank you Ubergizmo for providing us with this information

Users Can Now Make ‘Loop Back’ Requests For Loved Ones Who Have Passed Away

On Facebook’s 10-year anniversary, the social media giant celebrated the occasion by introducing the ‘Look Back’ feature which basically consisted of a video generated with bits and glimpses from each user’s ‘life’ on Facebook.

The most shared, most liked, first moments and active discussions, everything compiled in an amazing video which brought happy memories and probably nostalgia to users who had spared the time to view it.

However, Facebook’s videos are more capable than just show you a few bits of your life. It can also show you brief reminders of who you are and the kind of life you’ve lived, and they can do this even after you’re not amongst us anymore.

Facebook has introduced the ability for family members to request a ‘Loop Back’ for loved ones who have passed away by requesting a video here. Along with the feature request, Facebook has also stated that the company is changing the way it will manage accounts belonging to the deceased.

Previous accounts belonging to people who have passed away were switched to friends-only upon death. However, pages will now remain ‘as-is’ so that people can continue to view the page the way the owner intended while they were alive. Nevertheless, this will still remain something to think about when managing your account’s privacy settings.

Thank you Android Police for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Android Police