Big Brother is here and his name is PRISM

Picture credit - Gismag.com

Picture credit – Gizmag.com

First came news from The Guardian that the NSA was collecting phone records from millions of Verizon customers under a top-secret government order:  “The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top-secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.”

Then, in the last few hours, more layers were peeled back by The Washington Post:  “The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track one target or trace a whole network of associates, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.”

The story continues to list the companies who allegedly gave the US government unfettered access to customer data (emphasis is ours): “Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: ‘Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

According to a series of alleged PowerPoint slides obtained by The Washington Post, Microsoft was the first to join the program, in September of 2007. The most recent addition was Apple, in October of 2012. Dropbox is reportedly “coming soon.”

Interestingly, most of the companies named are responding to requests for comment by flat-out denying awareness or involvement. According to The Next Web, Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and Yahoo have all denied participation. PRISM reportedly began collecting data in 2007, which means it was introduced under President Bush. However, The Washington Post says the program has experienced “exponential growth” under the Obama administration.

Video: The U.S. goverment is accessing top Internet companies’ servers to track foreign targets. Reporter Barton Gellman talks about the source who revealed this top-secret information and how he believes his whistleblowing was worth whatever consequences are ahead.

Video: The U.S. goverment is accessing top Internet companies’ servers to track foreign targets. Reporter Barton Gellman talks about the source who revealed this top-secret information and how he believes his whistleblowing was worth whatever consequences are ahead.

The slides reveal an annual budget of US$20 million for the program with data monitored by the program including e-mails, instant messages, videos, photos, stored data (presumably in the cloud), voice chats, file transfers, video conferences, log-in times, and social network profile details. Although the program is supposedly aimed at surveillance of foreign targets, such as spies and terrorists, and is intended to take advantage of the fact that most of the world’s data flows through the US, it is inevitable that data of US citizens is caught up in the mix. The NSA Powerpoint slides describe this as “incidental.”

It shouldn’t be too shocking that the US government spies on its citizens. What may be more surprising is just how far-reaching, and possibly unconstitutional, this program is. Perhaps the most significant part will be the fallout now that the secrets are out in the open.

Recent developments concerning customs data exchange via “cloud-type” mediums will therefore come under more scrutiny given current revelations in the US. It serves little purpose for countries to agree on data confidentiality and unwittingly (?) make such data available for ‘harvesting’ via third-party technology providers. Let this come as a fore-warning to governments.

Sources: The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Next Web, and Gizmag.

Gmail to allow money to be sent as an attachment

Google will soon be rolling out a new feature that lets you attach money to Gmail messages

Google will soon be rolling out a new feature that lets you attach money to Gmail messages

While Customs Authorities are still challenged to address the question of cyber-trade and associate crime, Gmail makes it possible for you send all kinds of files as attachments. Now Google Wallet lets you pay for just about anything. Why not combine the two? That could have been the thinking by someone at Google, as the search giant is set to launch a payment system that’s the love child of Gmail and Google Wallet.

Pretty soon, U.S. Gmail users 18 and older (sorry, kiddies) will see a dollar sign icon among their Gmail attachment options. Click on the icon, select a dollar amount, and send it along. The recipient doesn’t have to have a Gmail address to take your money, but they’ll presumably need to have a Google Wallet account (or at least sign up for one to claim their money).

In fact, that might be one of Google’s motives here. Make it ridiculously easy to send money to your pals, and if they aren’t already in the Google ecosystem, this is a new way to reel them in. Let the rush to Google+ sign-up pages commence.

Google does also take a small cut from credit card payments – 2.9 percent per transaction, to be exact (with a minimum of $0.30). If you’re paying from your bank account or directly from your Google Wallet balance, then you’re off the hook. Receiving payments is free. Dare say this will cause some concern for Treasury and enforcement bodies?

The feature will be rolling out to U.S. Gmail users in “the next few months.” In the meantime, you can preview the feature in Google’s video below.  Source: Gmail Blog, Google via Engadget.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JA8m0JOoNYQ

Inside track to the local Tobacco ‘Cabal’

Peter Tell-AllWith much international focus on tobacco and tobacco products its great to read something outside of the mainstream media. Evidently this guy has some real insight in the tobacco industry and he sure is passionate about his views. This is a fine example of ‘Social Media’ providing what your average Google search-and-hit will never reveal. Conspiracy theory or not, this is a site dedicated to one thing – exposing the ‘Anglo-American tobacco cabal’. Aptly titled “All Disclosed by Peter Tell(all)” he invites you………

…………… to browse, interact and explore my website dedicated to the exposure of facts, truths and the responsible sharing of the information contained within these pages, about South Africa’s Tobacco Industry! The compilation of articles and also unpublished fact sheets about how this very lucrative and secretive industry operates has up until now been a very dark and well-kept secret! Why would all this information be kept from us? Why would they not want us to know how much money is being made? Why does the Government play both sides of the fence? Who pulls the strings of the authorities? THESE ARE THE QUESTIONS WE SHOULD BE ASKING!!

Is Google moving into box tracking?

container-trackingThe US Patent and Trademark Office has granted Internet search giant Google a patent on a system for securing, monitoring and tracking containers. According to United States Patent 8284045, it describes a two-way communication system, supported by an electronic bolt seal, a network gateway, a web-based platform, and a mobile device, that allows containers to be networked for the transfer of data. Shipping containers are networked for transferring data between the shipping containers. The shipping containers include sensors for detecting conditions associated with the shipping containers. The conditions sensed by any shipping container whether transported by rail or ship is transmitted from an ad hoc network, via a gateway configured for satellite or cellular communications for example, to a container-tracking application server or equivalent computer system. The computer system is remotely located to the shipping container for central compilation, analysis, and/or display of data regarding the shipping containers.

The system describes an environmental sensor that can travel with a product within a carrier’s logistics network. The environmental sensor being configured to sense an environmental condition capable of affecting the product to generate product environment data. The system includes a scanner configured to read product environment data from the environmental sensor. The system also includes a hub control unit configured to communicate with the scanner and receive the product environment data from the scanner and determines whether the product environment data transcends a limit of exposure of the product to an environmental condition. The hub control unit is also configured to generate a transporting instruction to redirect transport of the product to an alternate destination different from its original destination if the hub control unit determines that the product environment data indicates the environmental condition of the product has transcended the limit of exposure. What a mouthful! I dare say that there are people out there that can decipher the patent content and relate to its various diagrams. If you are interested in this topic, please visit the following link – http://www.archpatent.com/patents/8284045. Also visit the Patent Buddy for similar information. Hopefully as the business case for this patent unfolds things may become a bit more clearer – and perhaps a little sinister too for some!