Tag: obama

Obama blows hot and cold on encryption

thewhitehouseWhile his security spooks are complaining that company moves to use strong encryption is making their life difficult, President Barack Obama said he likes the technology, other than when he doesn’t.

Talking to Recode, Obama appears to have jumped on the side of the big tech corporations against the NSA and when asked if American citizens should be entitled to control their data, just as the president controls his own private conversations through encrypted email, he said yes.

Obama replied that he’s “a strong believer in strong encryption …. I lean probably further on side of strong encryption than some in law enforcement.” He maintained that he is as firm on the topic as he ever has been.

However the matter, claimed Obama was hypothetical. If the FBI had a good case against someone involved in a terrorist plot and wants to know who that person was communicating with? Traditionally, they could get a court order for a wire tap. Today, a company might tell the FBI they can’t technically comply.

He warned that the first time that an attack takes place in which it turns out that we had a lead and we couldn’t follow up on it, because the data was encrypted the public’s going to demand answers.

“Ultimately everybody, and certainly this is true for me and my family, we all want to know that if we’re using a smartphone for transactions, sending messages, having private conversations, that we don’t have a bunch of people compromising that process. There’s no scenario in which we don’t want really strong encryption,” he said.

So, in other words, everyone should have strong encryption which should turn itself off when the security services want to have a look at it.

EU furious with Obama’s defence

Obama BarackThe European Commission is angry at US president’s Barack Obama claims that the EU was  intentionally setting up commercially-driven roadblocks to prevent US technology companies from operating here.

Obama claimed these roadblocks were put in place to stop US tech companies like Google and Facebook from doing business in Europe and competing fairly with homegrown rivals.

Instead, Obama praised the US companies for being “more commercially-driven than anything else” while the EU companies were rubbish because they could not really compete with the glorious US corporations.

Obama said that the US “owned the internet” and it was created by US companies. “And oftentimes what is portrayed as high-minded positions on issues sometimes is just designed to carve out some of their commercial interests.”

He said that the Germans “given its history with the Stasi” are very sensitive to [privacy] issues.

All this seems particularly dark when you consider that the roadblock appear to be antitrust investigations held by the European Commission against Google.

That sort of pro-corporate US Imperialism did not go down too well with the Europeans.  After all it was a British person who invented the world wide web.

A European Commission spokesperson told the Financial Times: “This point – that regulations are only there to shelter our companies – is out of line. Regulations should make it easier for non-EU companies to access the single market. It is in [US companies’] interest that things are enforced in a uniform manner.”

However, there is more to it than that. Pressure is mounting on the EU to do something about US companies’ tax avoidance efforts, as well as prevent companies from taking a monopolistic stranglehold of any one market.

Last year, Google was made to comply with Europe’s “right to be forgotten” which allows people to request their personal details are removed from the company’s search engine results.

Catalan MEP Ramon Tremosa told the FT: “President Obama forgets or maybe isn’t aware that among the dozens of complaints in the Google antitrust case, there are several US companies.”

Tremosa added: “Some companies, like [search engine] Yelp, have no problem going public. Others don’t want to attack Google only because they fear retaliation measures, such as demotion/exclusion and penalties supposedly applied by Google to some rival companies.”

Obama has support for “big data” bill

Obama BarackIt is looking like President Barack Obama’s “Big Data” privacy plans might get through the Republican controlled Congress.

He has proposed action on a series of laws to address “Big Data” concerns, but most have not gone anywhere when many corporations want to collect data to sell products, and are telling their paid politicians to vote them down.

This was the reason that a proposal to update the outdated Electronic Privacy Communications Act to protect email and other data stored in the cloud died.

However that is starting to change after public concerns over privacy and cybersecurity that have been amplified by high-profile hacking of credit card data at companies such as Target and Home Depot.

First up is a law being put through by Indiana Congressman Luke Messer, the chairman of the House of Representatives Republican Policy Committee, and Democrat Jared Polis of Colorado, an Internet entrepreneur who founded a network of charter schools.

He is pushing a student privacy bill which will stop big corporates collecting data on kids. The lawmakers have worked on the issue with privacy advocates and more than 100 companies including Microsoft, Google and News Corp subsidiary Amplify to develop a privacy pledge to prevent misuse of data collected in classrooms.

The law will make sure that data collected from students is used only for educational and legitimate research purposes.

Obama wants to go further and has proposed a new national standard to require companies to tell consumers within 30 days from the discovery of a data breach that their personal information had been compromised.

However, there are a patchwork of differing state regulations, which might put a spanner in the works.

Obama is also worried about how Big Data could be used to discriminate against people based on race or where they live for housing or jobs.

On Thursday, the White House will release a report on how companies use Big Data to offer different prices to different consumers saying that Big Data techniques have “turbocharged” price discrimination.  Those sorts of laws will hack off the US corporate sponsors of the US political system, and might also die.  But US reports are optimistic that Obama might win that one.


Obama joins British calls for encryption back-doors

 revolutionPresident Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David “One is an Ordinary Bloke” Cameron are singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to the matter of encryption.

Obama has issued a statement that he can’t see why police and spies should not be locked out of encrypted smartphones and messaging apps.  Clearly he has not been paying much attention to the Snowden affair where it appears that the lack of encryption gave US and UK snoops huge powers over the lives of the great unwashed, while not making much difference to terrorists or criminals.

Apple, Google  and Facebook  have introduced encrypted products in the past half year that the companies say they could not unscramble, even if faced with a search warrant. That’s prompted vocal complaints from spy chiefs, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

In fact Obama’s comments came after two days of meetings with Cameron, and were made with his loyal lapdog at his side.

“If we find evidence of a terrorist plot… and despite having a phone number, despite having a social media address or email address, we can’t penetrate that, that’s a problem,” Obama said.

He insisted that US tech-giants are on the side of the spooks.

He said that “They’re patriots.”  Standing next to a British Prime Minister claiming that people who are publically claiming they are working to stop UK and US spooks are actually working for them is a hugely ironic piece of disinformation.

Google, Apple and Microsoft have spent a fortune encrypting links to their networks to keep “tyranny” out. If they are patriots then they are unlikely to side with the British, if US history is anything to go by.

In the US, governments have long been able to access the contents of electronic communication, including phone calls, consumer email and social media, with warrants, through wiretaps and from technology companies themselves.

But the law that governs these practices is dated and doesn’t mandate tech firms incorporate such features into modern apps.

The president wants a technical way to keep information private, but ensure that police and spies can listen in when a court approves. He is on a hiding to no-where with this one. Bill Clinton tried for a “clipper chip” that would allow only the government to decrypt scrambled messages.

Security experts have long argued such systems would tigger anti-hacking tools, leaving computers exposed. An encryption algorithm with a master key, it is inherently weaker because it’s possible for an outsider to steal that master key and crack the code.

What is worrying about this particular transatlantic accord is that the UK is more likely to get it into law than the US.

Security experts have warned that you can’t have secure systems with backdoors and that if you bring in such rules you will be making it easier for terrorists to take control of systems.


Sony co-chair says sorry for Obama emails

Obama BarackThe Sony hack is causing more collateral damage than just a few movies leaked onto the internet.

Amongst a batch of emails made public by the hackers were several racially tinged emails about President Obama’s imagined movie tastes.

The comments were made by film producer Scott Rudin in private email banter with Amy Pascal, Sony’s co-chairwoman.

Pascal was on her way to a breakfast for Obama that was organised by Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation.

“What should I ask the president at this stupid Jeffrey breakfast?” Ms. Pascal asked Rudin in an opening query. She then speculated that she might ask if Mr. Obama liked “Django Unchained,” about a former slave. Rudin countered with a suggestion about “12 Years a Slave,” while Ms. Pascal suggested other films involving African-Americans.

Rudin wrote: “Ride-along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart.” The email referred to a broad comedy, from Universal Pictures, that starred Hart and Ice Cube.

Rudin, who has been a producer of films like “Captain Phillips” and “The Social Network” for Sony, wrote a long apology on Deadline.com that “private emails between friends and colleagues written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity, even when the content of them is meant to be in jest, can result in offence where none was intended.”

“To anybody I’ve offended, I’m profoundly and deeply sorry, and I regret and apologise for any injury they might have caused… I made a series of remarks that were meant only to be funny, but in the cold light of day, they are in fact thoughtless and insensitive — and not funny at all.”

Pascal added: “The content of my emails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am. Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologise to everyone who was offended.”

Another Sony executive, Clint Culpepper, used harsh language in suggesting that the studio rebuff a salary demand from Hart, who has starred in several films for the company’s Screen Gems unit, including a coming movie, “The Wedding Ringe”.

“I’m not saying he’s a whore, but he’s a whore,” Mr. Culpepper wrote.

Hart is a little upset. He wrote on his Instagram account. “I will never allow myself to be taken advantage of… I refuse to be broken.”

All these things are the sort of stuff which most corporate networks have, they just prefer they were not made public, which is exactly why the Sony hack was so embarrassing.

Sony expects to face further unauthorised disclosures in the days ahead.


AT&T sulks

parenting1AT&T is sulking about the FCC and the government not immediately doing what it says over the vexed issue of net-neutrality.

The outfit has said that it will stop investing in gigabit internet “until it has a better idea of what the government will do regarding net neutrality.”

President Barak Obama told the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband as a telecom service rather than an information service in its upcoming net neutrality rules. The move would give the FCC more power to regulate ISPs (like AT&T) and wireless carriers. The FCC said it would think about the issue a bit more and make an announcement next year.

AT&T’s move to demand its ball back is an indication how much pressure the US telcos are heaping on politicians to allow them to charge customers twice for the internet.  The telcos fear that they will have to stump up a huge chunk of their profits to pay for the network for an open internet.

Ultra-fast fibre is a carrot that AT&T is waving in the hope that users will demand the right to be charged an arm and a leg for their internet connection. It was supposed to be rolled out to 100 cities nationwide, including 21 major metropolitan areas.

AT&T Chief Randall Stephenson said during an appearance at a Wells Fargo conference  that AT&T can’t go out and just invest that kind of money, deploying fibre to 100 cities other than these two million [covered by the DirecTV deal], not knowing under what rules that investment will be governed.

Of course if it does not pull finger there is a chance that Google, along with the city councils of cities might start providing the backbone themselves – something else that the telcos have been pressuring their tame politicians to block.

The fact that AT&T is trying to cut its costs at the moment has absolutely nothing to do with it delaying the fibre scheme.


Watchdog delays net neutrality ruling

pelosi-lap-dogThe FCC has decided that the only way it can keep its chums in the telcos happy and prevent themselves being lynched by an angry public is to delay making a decision on net-neutrality.

The US watchdog, which is staffed by ex-members of companies it is supposed to be watching, is in a bit of a pickle. The US people and President Barack Obama expect it to come out in favour of net neutrality.  The only problem is that the US telcos hate the idea which will stop them from creaming shedloads of cash from customers without having to provide much needed infrastructure changes.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the government regulatory body that’s spent much of 2014 deliberating whether to make the Internet a public utility has said that it will not vote on open internet rules on the December meeting agenda. That would mean rules would now be finalised in 2015.

Obama campaigned on a promise of net neutrality, the general concept that internet providers should not be able to dictate the rules of how fast customers can access certain sites. However he appointed Tom Wheeler, a former cable lobbyist, to head the FCC which was seen as appointing a fox to run the hen house.

The news that the FCC will delay its decision is particularly devastating for net neutrality proponents, because it means that the telcos can ring up their mates in the Republican-held Congress. The Republicans do not really understand net neutrality Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the issue the “Obamacare for the internet” he later realised that it was too stupid even for a Republican senator that he retracted it. However, the Republicans see it as one of those matters that if Obama wants it, they have to oppose. Besides while the American people might want net neutrality, the telcos do not, and they that will provide the Republicans with campaign contributions to nix the idea.