Tag Archives: Apple

After Getting ‘Stealth Bailout’ During Pandemic, US Corporations Try to Kill Proposed Tax Hikes

“When it’s time to finally put workers first, big businesses are spending millions to maintain their advantage and preserve the status quo,” said Kyle Herrig of Accountable.US.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 10-21-2021

Members of the Patriotic Millionaires hold a federal tax filing day protest in New York City. Photo: Michael Kink/Twitter

Major U.S. companies that got a “stealth bailout” thanks to congressional pandemic relief legislation are now lobbying against President Joe Biden’s proposal to hike taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations through the Build Back Better package, according to a new Accountable.US analysis provided exclusively to Common Dreams.

Accountable.US takes aim at the recent lobbying activities—and in some cases, statements from top executives—of Apple, Baxter International, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, DuPont de Nemours, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson, Oracle, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Walmart. Continue reading

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Digital Rights Groups Hail Record €746 Million Amazon Data Privacy Fine

La Quadrature du Net, whose complaint led to the Luxembourg fine, called the penalty a “first step,” but said that “we need to remain vigilant” in the face of Amazon’s ongoing violations.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-30-2021

Amazon/AWS offices in Luxembourg. Photo: -wuppertaler, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Digital rights advocates on Friday applauded a €746 million fine levied against Amazon by a Luxembourg regulator for the tech giant’s violation of European Union data privacy laws.

The record penalty—which converts to about U.S. $886 million—was imposed on July 16 by CNPD, Luxembourg’s data protection agency, and disclosed in an Amazon regulatory filing (pdf) on Friday, according to Bloomberg. Continue reading

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‘Can Anybody Still Deny That We Are Facing a Dramatic Emergency?’ Asks UN Chief at Climate Summit

“If we don’t change course,” he warned, “we may be headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 3 degrees this century.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-12-2020

The Orroral Valley Fire viewed from Tuggeranong, Australia on the evening of January 20, 2020. Photo: Nick-D/CC

World leaders aren’t doing enough to address the human-caused climate crisis.

That seemed to be the main message of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ speech on Saturday at the Climate Ambition Summit 2020, hosted by the U.N., the United Kingdom, and France in partnership with Chile and Italy to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement.

“Paris promised to limit temperature rise to as close to 1.5 degrees as possible. But the commitments made in Paris were far from enough to get there. And even those commitments are not being met,” Guterres said. “Carbon dioxide levels are at record highs. Today, we are 1.2 degrees hotter than before the industrial revolution. If we don’t change course, we may be headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 3 degrees this century.” Continue reading

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Espionage and repression in the Middle East courtesy of the West

Western companies are providing surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

By Jon Hoffman.  Published 5-13-2020 by openDemocracy

Cellphone tower | Picture by Peter Bjorndal / pixabay.com. Public Domain

Regime-directed surveillance has taken new forms within the Middle East as governments have been forced to adapt to new technological and social environments. While government surveillance of its citizens is not new to the region, this old authoritarian impulse has been revamped in the attempt to subvert opposition and monitor dissidence amid widespread use of social media and access to smartphones within the region.

New forms of targeted hackings and espionage have therefore become commonplace throughout the region, and often extend across borders into the international arena. Western companies, governments, and individuals have provided extensive assistance to the surveillance efforts of these governments, often by supplying them with the necessary technology and expertise needed to conduct such sweeping operations. However, regional countries – particularly Israel – have increasingly constructed and exported their own indigenous operations and platforms designed to surveil their publics. Conducted on a mass scale and bolstered by western technological support, these new and sophisticated forms of surveillance have supplied these governments with the tools necessary to go on the offensive against all who seek to challenge the status quo. Continue reading

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“Nice Try, FBI”: Stay Fit While Quarantined With The Government’s Home Fitness App

Looking to stay fit? The FBI has an app for that.

By Emma Fiala, Published 3-26-2020 by The Mind Unleashed

All across the United States people are spending a lot more time in their homes and will be there for the foreseeable future.

As such, many people are looking for new activities to occupy their time, including ways of staying fit. Thankfully the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has an app for that.

Those of us who simply can’t do sit-ups and push-ups on our own and are somehow unable to download one of the numerous fitness apps out there that aren’t associated with the U.S. government finally have an option. Continue reading

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Corporate Tech Giants Invited, But Consumer Advocacy Groups Shut Out of Senate Hearing on Data Privacy

“The absence of consumer representatives all but ensures a narrow discussion, focused on policy alternatives favored by business groups.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-19-2018

More than two dozen consumer groups are urging the Senate Commerce Committee to reconsider its witness list—which only includes industry representatives—for an upcoming hearing on data privacy policy. (Photo: Blogtrepreneur/flickr/cc)

While representatives for Apple, AT&T, Amazon, Charter Communications, Google, and Twitter are all slated to testify at a Sept. 26 Senate hearing about safeguarding consumer data privacy, the nation’s leading consumer advocacy groups weren’t invited—and they’re not happy about it.

In a letter (pdf) to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation on Wednesday, 28 groups expressed their “surprise and concern that not a single consumer representative was invited to testify” and called on committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to reconsider the witness list. Continue reading

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Cops Are Now Using Dead People’s Fingers to Unlock iPhones

By The Anti-Media. Published 3-27-2018

Screenshot: YouTube

According to Forbes, which spoke with sources close to local and federal investigations, it’s becoming standard operating procedure for cops to use dead people’s fingerprints to unlock their Apple iPhones.

FBI forensic specialist Bob Moledor detailed for Forbes the first known instance of law enforcement making such an attempt, during an investigation into the motives of an attacker killed by Ohio police back in 2016. Continue reading

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Future of Free Speech at Risk as Supreme Court Hears Critical Digital Privacy Case

“No constitutional doctrine should presume that consumers assume the risk of warrantless government surveillance simply by using technologies that are increasingly integrated into modern life.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-29-2017

In a Supreme Court case beginning Wednesday, the ACLU is arguing that Americans should not be expected to give up privacy rights every time they use a cell phone that pings phone towers nearby, as analog-era legal arguments would hold. (Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr/cc)

The Supreme Court will hear the first arguments in a landmark case regarding digital privacy rights on Wednesday as civil liberties advocates, joined by tech companies and journalists, argue the court must acknowledge that privacy rights and free speech protections should align with the reality of 21st century technology.

The case, known as Carpenter vs. United States centers around Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted in 2011 of several robberies after the police, without a probable cause warrant, gathered data from his cell phone company. Months of records were turned over, showing that he had been near cell towers close to the sites of the robberies when they took place. Continue reading

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Feds: We can read all your email, and you’ll never know

Clark D. Cunningham, Georgia State University

Fear of hackers reading private emails in cloud-based systems like Microsoft Outlook, Gmail or Yahoo has recently sent regular people and public officials scrambling to delete entire accounts full of messages dating back years. What we don’t expect is our own government to hack our email – but it’s happening. Federal court cases going on right now are revealing that federal officials can read all your email without your knowledge.

As a scholar and lawyer who started researching and writing about the history and meaning of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution more than 30 years ago, I immediately saw how the FBI versus Apple controversy earlier this year was bringing the founders’ fight for liberty into the 21st century. My study of that legal battle caused me to dig into the federal government’s actual practices for getting email from cloud accounts and cellphones, causing me to worry that our basic liberties are threatened.

A new type of government search

The federal government is getting access to the contents of entire email accounts by using an ancient procedure – the search warrant – with a new, sinister twist: secret court proceedings.

The earliest search warrants had a very limited purpose – authorizing entry to private premises to find and recover stolen goods. During the era of the American Revolution, British authorities abused this power to conduct dragnet searches of colonial homes and to seize people’s private papers looking for evidence of political resistance.

To prevent the new federal government from engaging in that sort of tyranny, special controls over search warrants were written into the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. But these constitutional provisions are failing to protect our personal documents if they are stored in the cloud or on our smartphones.

Fortunately, the government’s efforts are finally being made public, thanks to legal battles taken up by Apple, Microsoft and other major companies. But the feds are fighting back, using even more subversive legal tactics.

Searching in secret

To get these warrants in the first place, the feds are using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, passed in 1986 – long before widespread use of cloud-based email and smartphones. That law allows the government to use a warrant to get electronic communications from the company providing the service – rather than the true owner of the email account, the person who uses it.

And the government then usually asks that the warrant be “sealed,” which means it won’t appear in public court records and will be hidden from you. Even worse, the law lets the government get what is called a “gag order,” a court ruling preventing the company from telling you it got a warrant for your email.

You might never know that the government has been reading all of your email – or you might find out when you get charged with a crime based on your messages.

Microsoft steps up

Much was written about Apple’s successful fight earlier this year to prevent the FBI from forcing the company to break the iPhone’s security system.

But relatively little notice has come to a similar Microsoft effort on behalf of customers that began in April 2016. The company’s suit argued that search warrants delivered to Microsoft for customers’ emails are violating regular people’s constitutional rights. (It also argued that being gagged violates Microsoft’s own First Amendment rights.)

Microsoft’s suit, filed in Seattle, says that over the course of 20 months in 2015 and 2016, it received more than 3,000 gag orders – and that more than two-thirds of the gag orders were effectively permanent, because they did not include end dates. Court documents supporting Microsoft describe thousands more gag orders issued against Google, Yahoo, Twitter and other companies. Remarkably, three former chief federal prosecutors, who collectively had authority for the Seattle region for every year from 1989 to 2009, and the retired head of the FBI’s Seattle office have also joined forces to support Microsoft’s position.

The feds get everything

This search warrant clearly spells out who the government thinks controls email accounts – the provider, not the user. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

It’s very difficult to get a copy of one of these search warrants, thanks to orders sealing files and gagging companies. But in another Microsoft lawsuit against the government a redacted warrant was made part of the court record. It shows how the government asks for – and receives – the power to look at all of a person’s email.

On the first page of the warrant, the cloud-based email account is clearly treated as “premises” controlled by Microsoft, not by the email account’s owner:

“An application by a federal law enforcement officer or an attorney for the government requests the search of the following … property located in the Western District of Washington, the premises known and described as the email account [REDACTED]@MSN.COM, which is controlled by Microsoft Corporation.”

The Fourth Amendment requires that a search warrant must “particularly describe the things to be seized” and there must be “probable cause” based on sworn testimony that those particular things are evidence of a crime. But this warrant orders Microsoft to turn over “the contents of all e-mails stored in the account, including copies of e-mails sent from the account.” From the day the account was opened to the date of the warrant, everything must be handed over to the feds.

The warrant orders Microsoft to turn over every email in an account – including every sent message. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Reading all of it

In warrants like this, the government is deliberately not limiting itself to the constitutionally required “particular description” of the messages it’s looking for. To get away with this, it tells judges that incriminating emails can be hard to find – maybe even hidden with misleading names, dates and file attachments – so their computer forensic experts need access to the whole data base to work their magic.

If the government were serious about obeying the Constitution, when it asks for an entire email account, at least it would write into the warrant limits on its forensic analysis so only emails that are evidence of a crime could be viewed. But this Microsoft warrant says an unspecified “variety of techniques may be employed to search the seized emails,“ including “email by email review.”

The right to read every email. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

As I explain in a forthcoming paper, there is good reason to suspect this type of warrant is the government’s usual approach, not an exception.

Former federal computer-crimes prosecutor Paul Ohm says almost every federal computer search warrant lacks the required particularity. Another former prosecutor, Orin Kerr, who wrote the first edition of the federal manual on searching computers, agrees: “Everything can be seized. Everything can be searched.” Even some federal judges are calling attention to the problem, putting into print their objections to signing such warrants – but unfortunately most judges seem all too willing to go along.

What happens next

If Microsoft wins, then citizens will have the chance to see these search warrants and challenge the ways they violate the Constitution. But the government has come up with a clever – and sinister – argument for throwing the case out of court before it even gets started.

The government has asked the judge in the case to rule that Microsoft has no legal right to raise the Constitutional rights of its customers. Anticipating this move, the American Civil Liberties Union asked to join the lawsuit, saying it uses Outlook and wants notice if Microsoft were served with a warrant for its email.

The government’s response? The ACLU has no right to sue because it can’t prove that there has been or will be a search warrant for its email. Of course the point of the lawsuit is to protect citizens who can’t prove they are subject to a search warrant because of the secrecy of the whole process. The government’s position is that no one in America has the legal right to challenge the way prosecutors are using this law.

Far from the only risk

The government is taking a similar approch to smartphone data.

For example, in the case of U.S. v. Ravelo, pending in Newark, New Jersey, the government used a search warrant to download the entire contents of a lawyer’s personal cellphone – more than 90,000 items including text messages, emails, contact lists and photos. When the phone’s owner complained to a judge, the government argued it could look at everything (except for privileged lawyer-client communications) before the court even issued a ruling.

The federal prosecutor for New Jersey, Paul Fishman, has gone even farther, telling the judge that once the government has cloned the cellphone it gets to keep the copies it has of all 90,000 items even if the judge rules that the cellphone search violated the Constitution.

Where does this all leave us now? The judge in Ravelo is expected to issue a preliminary ruling on the feds’ arguments sometime in October. The government will be filing a final brief on its motion to dismiss the Microsoft case September 23. All Americans should be watching carefully to what happens next in these cases – the government may be already watching you without your knowledge.

The Conversation

Clark D. Cunningham, W. Lee Burge Chair in Law & Ethics; Director, National Institute for Teaching Ethics & Professionalism, Georgia State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Leaked Encryption Draft Bill ‘Ignores Economic, Security, and Technical Reality’

“This bill makes effective cybersecurity illegal.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-8-2016

"This bill is a clear threat to everyone's privacy and security," said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel with the ACLU. (Photo: Laura Bittner/flickr/cc)

“This bill is a clear threat to everyone’s privacy and security,” said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel with the ACLU. (Photo: Laura Bittner/flickr/cc)

A draft of a proposed bill mandating companies give, under a court order, the government access to encrypted data is being derided by technology experts as “ludicrous,” as it “ignores technical reality” and threatens everyone’s security.

The Hill reports that it obtained a discussion draft of the legislation, and others have posted the purported 9-page draft online.

The bill’s proposers, Senators Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Dianne Feinstein (D-California), top Democratic on the committee, neither disavowed the document nor confirmed its legitimacy, the Wall Street Journal reports. Continue reading

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