People sending email to any of Google's 425 million Gmail users have no reasonable expectation that their communications are confidential, the internet giant has said in a court filing.
The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog uncovered the filing
and called the revelation a stunning admission. John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's privacy project director said:
Google has finally admitted they don't respect privacy. People should take them at their word; if
you care about your email correspondents' privacy, don't use Gmail.
Google set out its case last month in an attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of breaking wire tap laws when it scans emails sent
from non-Google accounts in order to target ads to Gmail users. That suit quotes Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman:
Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.
filing continues that Google:
Unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people's private email messages. Unbeknown to millions of people, on a daily basis and for years, Google has systematically and
intentionally crossed the 'creepy line' to read private email messages containing information you don't want anyone to know, and to acquire, collect, or mine valuable information from that mail.
The City of London has demanded that an advertising firm stop using a network of hi-tech litter bins that can track people walking through London's financial district.
The City of London Corporation has now told Renew to pull the plug on the
programme, which captures smartphones' serial numbers and analyses signal strength to follow people up and down the street.
It is unclear how Renew had planned to use the data, gathered by its reinforced, shoulder-height bins stationed near St
Paul's Cathedral and Liverpool Street station.
The bins include a video display for advertising and it is speculated that adverts could be tailored to passers by eg for noting for example whether a phone is in roaming mode. Different adverts could
be shown to City workers and visitors.
A spokesman for the council said it had learned about the tests through the press only last week.
Nick Pickles of the privacy advocacy group Big Brother Watch said questions need to be asked about
how such a blatant attack on people's privacy was able to occur .
Novelist Salman Rushdie spoke out against a new culture of offendedness yesterday, saying that people increasingly define ourselves by hate .
Speaking to a sellout crowd on the opening day of the Edinburgh International Book
Festival, the Midnight's Children author said:
I do think that one of the characteristics of our age is the growth of this culture of offendedness. It has to do with the rise of identity politics, where you're
invited to define your identity quite narrowly -- you know, Western, Islamic, whatever it might be.
Classically, we have defined ourselves by the things we love. By the place which is our home, by our family, by our friends. But
in this age we're asked to define ourselves by hate. That what defines you is what pisses you off. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?
The adult content blocking system championed by David Cameron is controlled by the controversial Chinese company Huawei, the BBC has learned.
UK-based employees at the firm are able to decide which sites TalkTalk's service blocks.
Politicians in both the UK and US have raised concerns about alleged close ties between Huawei and the Chinese government.
Even customers who do not want filtering still have their traffic routed through the system, but matches to Huawei's database are dismissed rather than acted upon.
One expert insisted that private companies should not hold power over
blacklists, and that the responsibility should lie with an independent group. Dr Martyn Thomas, chair of the IT policy panel at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, told the BBC:
It needs to be run by
an organisation accountable to a minister so it can be challenged in Parliament,
There's certainly a concern about the process of how a web address gets added to a blacklist - who knows about it, and who has an opportunity to
appeal against it.
You could easily imagine a commercial organisation finding itself on that blacklist wrongly, and where they actually lost a lot of web traffic completely silently and suffered commercial damage. The issue is who
gets to choose who's on that blocking list, and what accountability do they have? 'Policing themselves'
Huawei's position was recently the subject of an Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report. It criticised the lack of
ministerial oversight over the firm's rapid expansion in the UK. The committee said:
The alleged links between Huawei and the Chinese State are concerning, as they generate suspicion as to whether Huawei's intentions
are strictly commercial or are more political.
In the US, intelligence committees have gone further, branding Huawei a threat to national security.
Initially, TalkTalk told the BBC that it was US security firm Symantec that was
responsible for maintaining its blacklist, and that Huawei only provided the hardware, as previously reported. However, Symantec said that while it had been in a joint venture with Huawei to run Homesafe in its early stages, it had not been involved for
over a year.
TalkTalk later confirmed it is Huawei that monitors activity, checking requests against its blacklist of over 65 million web addresses, and denying access if there is a match.
The contents of this list are largely determined by
an automated process, but both Huawei and TalkTalk employees are able to add or remove sites independently.
UK Border Agency staff use counter-terrorism laws to remove a mobile phone from any passenger they wish coming through UK air, sea and international rail ports and then scour their data.
The blanket power is so broad they do not even have to show
reasonable suspicion for seizing the device and can retain the information for as long as is necessary .
Data can include call history, contact books, photos and who the person is texting or emailing, although supposedly not the contents of
David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws, is expected to raise concerns over the power in his annual report this week. He will call for proper checks and balances to stop this power being abused. He said:
Information downloaded from mobile phones seized at ports has been very useful in disrupting terrorists and bringing them to justice. But ordinary travellers need to know that their private information will not be taken
without good reason, or retained by the police for any longer than is necessary.
It echoes concerns surrounding an almost identical power police can use on the streets of the UK, which is being reviewed by the Information
Commissioner. However, in those circumstances police must have grounds for suspicion and the phone can only be seized if the individual is arrested.
Around 60,000 people a year are stopped and examined as they enter or return to the UK
under powers contained in the Terrorism Act 2000. It is not known how many of those have their phone data taken.
So did you enjoy your solo trip to see the 'temples' of Thailand?
US Government workers with a lust for money and sex could be potential insider threats to the government, according to the Obama administration.
The Obama administration has quietly implemented the Insider Threat Program to
force federal employees to report their co-workers if they identify signs that they might harm the government's interests from within.
The Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive warns on its website:
Insiders who seek to harm U.S. security interests normally are either long-term plants or they are people who have been lured to betray their nation for ideological reasons, a lust for money or sex, or through blackmail.
The administration's Insider Threat Program requires federal employees to report indicators of insider threat behavior among their own colleagues, in order to defend against potential spies and security leaks.
Obama created the
program by executive order in October 2011. The program triggers investigations into federal employee conduct both in the office and online, where computer network monitoring systems patrol for suspicious user behavior.
The program requires
federal workers to pay close attention to their colleagues' lifestyle patterns --- with odd working hours or unexplained travel indicators of suspicious activity.