Ed’s Daily Notes for July 26th   3 comments

Cnet: Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords

The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users’ stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed.

If the government is able to determine a person’s password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user. Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.

“I’ve certainly seen them ask for passwords,” said one Internet industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We push back.”

A second person who has worked at a large Silicon Valley company confirmed that it received legal requests from the federal government for stored passwords. Companies “really heavily scrutinize” these requests, the person said. “There’s a lot of ‘over my dead body.'”

Some of the government orders demand not only a user’s password but also the encryption algorithm and the so-called salt, according to a person familiar with the requests. A salt is a random string of letters or numbers used to make it more difficult to reverse the encryption process and determine the original password.

Don’t overlook this story. From a privacy perspective, this is an even bigger invasion of privacy than anything which Edward Snowden revealed about the NSA. Once you have someone’s password, ALL of their accounts can open up to you. It is one thing for a government to ask for the information in an account, but something else for them to ask for the password.

My view: The U.S. government is taking advantage of the fear of terrorism far beyond it’s powers as mandated by the Constitution. If all this privacy intrusion was working, then explain the Boston Marathon bombing?

As someone who works in the data mining arena, I can tell you that most people don’t understand data. I get requests for data that are totally worthless, but they want it anyway. Even when someone understands the data they are asking for, they still remain clueless on how to view it. I can only imagine how the government misuses the massive amounts of personal data they acquire, even when their intentions are good. People see in data what they want to see, and not what they need to see. The Boston Marathon bombing is a classic case of this: Our distrust of the Russians made us look away from the case, in spite of all the data we had on the bombers.

And no amount of bureaucracy will save us from a president who overrides the bureaucracy to get what he/she wants.

All Things D: Google’s Answer to the Great Chromecast/Netflix Giveaway Mystery: There’s No Mystery — We Sold Out

Good news for Google’s new Chromecast device, from Peter Kafka:

Why did Google kill its Chromecast/Netflix promotion a day after it launched?

It didn’t, exactly. And neither did Netflix.

Here’s a new statement from Google on the end of the deal, which gave Chromecast buyers three months of free Netflix: “Due to overwhelming demand for Chromecast devices since launch, the 3-month Netflix promotion (which was available in limited quantities) is no longer available.”

And here’s a tiny bit of clarity about what that means, as far as I can tell after speaking to people at both companies: Google bought a fixed amount of Netflix subscriptions to bundle with its $35 Web TV gadget, and it sold out.

Reuters (via Yahoo Finance): Facebook offers the dummy’s guide to mobile advertising

Facebook’s big earnings report is actually good news for the rest of the internet companies:

Facebook Inc’s mobile advertising success offers a ray of hope for Internet companies trying to make money within the confines of the smartphone’s small screen.

The social network’s 75 percent surge in mobile ad revenue in a span of just three months not only doused skepticism on Wall Street and Madison Avenue about Facebook’s business prospects, some say it could serve as a how-to guide for other Web companies navigating a world where the phone and tablet have fast become the screens of choice.

Facebook’s “Newsfeed” ads, which inject marketing messages straight into a user’s content stream and are tailored for mobile devices, were the stars behind the social network’s stunning numbers on Wednesday.

“You’re going to see a lot of companies transitioning and trying to emulate this model because it’s working so well. That’s why last night was a true watershed moment,” said Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Research.


Posted July 26, 2013 by edmcgon in Editorial/opinion, Market Analysis, News, Politics

3 responses to “Ed’s Daily Notes for July 26th

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  1. Call me a cynic, but the story on the passwords looks like cover to me. After the mini-roar over government spying on communications (notice how quickly that faded?), this is one of those follow up stories to make you feel better. Yes the government was pushing some boundaries but the businesses were there to protect you by “really heavily scrutinizing”, standing ground “over their dead bodies”, and by “pushing back”. Righhhhhhhht…. Until the government showed them the warrant rubber stamped by their circus court that is in place to give them legal cover for their illegal deeds.

    The level to which the software companies are complicit in the government spying activities has yet to be seen. I’m the cynical type so I expect that if you peeled back all the rotten wood, you would find that the government requested that they put in back doors so that the government could have access to anything they want and the companies complied. This was all based upon if the government got a warrant, they could execute without having to do special work to gain access. Then, as these things always do, it went sideways once the gov realized that they could snoop anywhere they wanted at any time. This power is irresistible so they started snooping full time and got busted. The software companies are covered because the gov is only supposed to use the abilities put into the software under a court order but they don’t want people knowing this has been done and losing the faith of the masses (remember when the software guys were thought of as mavericky sort of anti-gov?). The gov also doesn’t want people realizing that they have this broad access and need the people to trust the software they have access to so that they don’t start using alternative methods. So now you will see them try and separate themselves from each other. The gov will take some heat to preserve the sanctity and trust of the software industry.

    Now the fun stuff would be to see what the software companies put into the software so that their own personal communications are protected. I can’t believe that they wouldn’t leave themselves secure channels…

  2. Ed – what do you do in data mining? It s an area I am very interested in.

    • I work in aerospace manufacturing in the purchasing arena. As you can imagine, an airplane takes a lot of parts to build, so purchasing management requires a lot of reporting.

      I will admit, working for Bank of America was more interesting, although the pay is better in aerospace manufacturing.

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