Tag: Gmail

EU wallops WhatsApp, iMessage and Gmail

Europe with flags - Wikimedia CommonsWhatsApp, iMessage and Gmail will face tougher rules on how they can track users under planned new laws being worked out by the European Union executive.

The web companies would have to guarantee the confidentiality of their customers’ conversations and get their consent before tracking them online to target them with personalised advertisements.

This means that Gmail and Hotmail will not be able to scan customers’ emails to serve them with targeted advertisements without getting their explicit agreement.

The European Commission extends some rules that now apply to telecom operators to web companies offering calls and messages using the internet, known as “Over-The-Top” (OTT) services, and seeks to close a regulatory gap between the telecoms industry and mainly US Internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

This means that telecoms companies will be allowed to use customer metadata, such as the duration and location of calls, as well as content to provide additional services and so make more money.

The proposal will also require web browsers to ask users upon installation whether they want to allow websites to place cookies on their browsers to deliver personalized advertisements.

All it is really doing is getting people’s permission, before they view a web page. Something most people will allow anyway.

But Online advertisers say such rules would undermine many websites’ ability to fund themselves and keep offering free services.

The proposal will need to be approved by the European Parliament and member states before becoming law.

US spooks think Google Mail is public

google-logo-art-image-hdThe US government has been involved in a battle with the search engine Google over its email service. It wants the search engine to hand over the metadata related to a security researcher and journalist associated with WikiLeaks.

The Justice Department won an order forcing Google to turn over more than one year’s worth of data from the Gmail account of Jacob Appelbaum, a developer for the Tor online anonymity project who has worked with WikiLeaks as a volunteer. The order gagged Google, preventing it from notifying Appelbaum that his records had been provided to the government.

What is a little alarming for Google mail uses is that the Government won its court order based on an argument that if Appelbaum was using Gmail he had no right to expect privacy.

Rather than seeking a search warrant that would require it to show probable cause that he had committed a crime, the government instead sought and received an order to obtain the data under a lesser standard, requiring only “reasonable grounds” to believe that the records were “relevant and material” to an ongoing criminal investigation.

Google did its best to challenge the demand, and wanted to immediately notify Appelbaum that his records were being sought so he could have an opportunity to launch his own legal defence.

This was particularly true because Appelbaum was a hack and the spooks antics “may implicate journalistic and academic freedom” because they could “reveal confidential sources or information about WikiLeaks’ purported journalistic or academic activities.”

However according to the Justice Department asserted that “journalists have no special privilege to resist compelled disclosure of their records, absent evidence that the government is acting in bad faith,” and refused to concede Appelbaum was in fact a journalist.

Which is interesting because we don’t consider Paul Revere was a journalist but most of the US press laws are based around defending his anti-British magazines.

Google’s attempts to fight the surveillance gag order hacked off the government which expected compliance. The Justice Department stating that the company’s “resistance to providing the records” had “frustrated the government’s ability to efficiently conduct a lawful criminal investigation.”

But Google’s attempt to overturn the gagging order was denied by magistrate judge Ivan D. Davis in February 2011. The company launched an appeal against that decision, but this too was rebuffed, in March 2011, by District Court judge Thomas Selby Ellis.

Appelbaum, an American citizen who is based in Berlin, told The Intercept  that the case was “a travesty that continues at a slow pace” and said he felt it was important to highlight “the absolute madness in these documents.”

He commented: “After five years, receiving such legal documents is neither a shock nor a needed confirmation. … Will we ever see the full documents about our respective cases? Will we even learn the names of those signing so-called legal orders against us in secret sealed documents? Certainly not in a timely manner and certainly not in a transparent, just manner.”

Google says no "legitimate privacy" for Gmail users

Gmail users should not expect “legitimate privacy” when they send emails using the service, according to a legal brief representing Google.

In a brief filed in federal court, Google lawyers said users “cannot be surprised if their emails are processed by the recipient’s email provider in the course of delivery”.

“Indeed, a person has not legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties,” the brief said.

A highly redacted copy of the complaint is available at the Consumer Watchdog website here (PDF). It argues that, due to Google’s silence, users do not consent to Google reading the content of email messages, as well as asserting Google is violating state and federal wiretap laws because the company combs through emails to help it with its targeted advertising.

Google’s motion to dismiss is available here (PDF) and repeatedly references how the process is automated, and suggests users are aware.

Google also says if the way it access emails are changed, it could criminalise services like spam filtering and search.

The motion reads:

“Plaintiffs’ claims should be rejected because they would lead to anomalous results with far-ranging consequences beyond the allegations in the Complaint. Plaintiffs’ theory–that any scanning of email content by ECS providers is illegal–would effectively criminalize routine practices that are an everyday aspect of using email. Indeed, Plaintiffs’ effort to carve out spam filtering and virus detection from their claims underscores the fact that their theory of liability would otherwise encompass these common services that email users depend on.

District judge Luck H Koh will hear the case on 5 September in a San Francisco District Court.

Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director, John M Simpson, said users should take Google at its word. “

If you care about your email correspondents’ privacy don’t use Gmail,” Simpson said. “Google’s brief uses a wrong-headed analogy. Sending an email is like giving a letter to the Post Office, I expect the Post Office to deliver the letter based on the address written on the envelope. I don’t expect the mail carrier to open my letter and read it”. 

TechEye has approached Google for a response.

Google claims Gmail spam monopoly

Google has started putting adverts in the space reserved for e-mail messages in Gmail users’ inboxes.

While Google has been installing adverts alongside Gmail messages for years, these new ads appear as messages that can be opened like e-mails and forwarded to others.

The adverts appear in the new “promotions” tab of Gmail’s new multi-tab interface, and they’re marked with a pale yellow background and labelled “ad” just in case you can’t spot them.

In a statement, Google said that the ads are part of the Promotions tab in the new inbox in Gmail. You can see the old style of advert if you disable the Promotions tab.

The adverts are likely to hack off those who came to Gmail because it is so good at weeding out spam. Now it seems that Google has purged inboxes from spam to peddle spam of its own.

Google said that the advertising will keep Google and Gmail free to use. It said that it worked hard to make ads safe, unobtrusive, and relevant.

Google also said the new ads are more relevant than earlier Gmail ads. They replace the old-style ads above the inbox or to the right of messages unless people disable the Promotions tab.

Apparently the adverts can’t be marked as spam, but if you close them they will go away – until you refresh the browser.

Users can go to Gmail’s ads preferences manager to block specific advertisers. 

Europe launches legal attack on Google

The failure of Google to change its privacy policy in Europe has led six countries to coordinate an enforcement push.

The UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain have all launched investigations into Google’s net privacy and the penalties, if the corporation is found guilty are swingeing, amounting to millions of dollars.

The investigations centre around a decision made by Google at the beginning of last year to share data for services including YouTube and Gmail. The investigation was prompted by national agencies in all 27 countries in the European Union, which asked France to initiate an investigation.

Google maintains that its privacy policy doesn’t break European laws but in the middle of March investigators from the six countries met with executives and said there was not a satisfactory response from the company.

What the next step in the investigations will be is so far unclear – it appears that each of the six countries involved will have to approach Google separately because, according to the Wall Street Journal, there isn’t Europe wide legislation governing such matters.

Iran wastes time blocking VPNs

An outfit which runs a VPN service for Iranian customers said that attempts by the government to block the service over the weekend have failed.

Iran tried to block VPN ports all over the country to stop citizens seeing banned sites like Facebook and Skype.

But the owner of a Brazilian VPN says that it has been unaffected.

Joshua Van Raalte told TechEye that the users of the “Hide My Ass” free proxy have not been affected.

He thinks that this latest attempt at internet restriction is likely to be largely futile.

Van Raalte said that the block on VPNs was confirmed by a local protester on Facebook which is supposed to be a banned site in Iran.

“The Chinese government has also spent years and millions of dollars on technology intended to block VPNs, and yet they still get through regardless,” Van Raalte said.

He added that the provision of proxy technology, tools and software has so far managed to evade all attempts at censorship.

More than 1,200 Iranians use HMA’s free proxy service every week, even though it is officially “blocked” by the Iranian government.

Van Raalte said that HMA will continue to support users from Iran as much as it can in order to promote openness, and the global freedom of expression provided by the internet. 

Iran will lop off your VPN for network adultery

The Iranian government has worked out a way to cut off those people who used VPNs to bypass the countries ludicrous censorship laws.

Many Iranians use proxy servers over virtual private networks to circumvent government restrictions and mask their activities. Officials claim they have blocked use of the “illegal” tool by closing down “illegal VPN ports” in the country.

Ramezanali Sobhani-Fard, the head of parliament’s information and communications technology committee, told  Reuters: “Only legal and registered VPNs can from now on be used.”

It is not clear how much of this is possible as we suspect that there will be opposition groups that will work their way around any technology that the Iranians can throw at them. What is more likely is that the control of VPNs has less to do with controlling dissidents but more about forcing companies to buy government backed products.

Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace is planning to flog “official” and “legal” VPN services to companies and corporations that needed them for security.

Of course this means that all corporations will have to run their businesses through government servers which will make them a lot easier to spy on.

Council Secretary Mehdi Akhavan Behabadi told the Tehran Chronicle last month that by launching this program, the Iranian government can “prosecute” users who are violating state laws and the Internet Filtering Committee can take offenders to national courts.

The government probably wants all its plans in place before June when there is going to be a presidential election. It is expected that the government will try to switch off the Internet to stop people complaining about the status quo and organising opposition. 

Iran hit by new cyber attack

Iran claims to have repelled a fresh cyber attack on its industrial units in a southern province.

A local civil defence official said that “enemies” of the country had been carrying out nonstop attacks against its infrastructure.

The ISNA news agency quoted Ali Akbar Akhavan as saying that the virus had penetrated some manufacturing industries in Hormuzgan province, but thanks to the efforts of some skilled Iranian hackers its  progress was halted.

Akhavan claimed that the malware was “Stuxnet-like” but did not elaborate.  The virus had been placed inside machines over “past few months.”

Iran is a little sensitive about malware attacks after Stuxnet, knocked out a big chunk of Iran’s uranium enrichment operation.

IN this case the virus targeted Bandar Abbas Tavanir, which oversees electricity production and distribution in Hormuzgan and adjacent provinces.

However there is a lot of information in the announcement.  It is not clear when the attacks started to happen, how the virus was spread and what damage it did.

According to Security Week,  the matter was made muddier because soon after Akhavan’s announcement has been swiftly denied by er Akhavan himself. He claimed that he only held the press conference we announced readiness to confront cyber-attacks against Hormuzgan installations, which was mistakenly reported by the agencies as a cyber-attack having been foiled.

Iran blames the US and Israel for nearly every cyber attack that happens in the country.  In April, it said a voracious virus attack had hit computers running key parts of its oil sector and succeeded in wiping data off official servers.

US claims Iran is firing cyber weapons of mass distraction

Desperate for a reason to invade Iran, the US military establishment is using its latest bugbear of cyber warfare as its latest pretext.

Last week the US military warned that it could  act to stop a cyber war and Defence Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that the United States was at risk of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor.” This followed early mutterings that cyber war could be could be countered with conventional weaponry a year ago.

Now according to the New York Times, US spooks have claimed that Iran was the place of origin of a serious wave of network attacks that crippled computers across the Saudi oil industry and breached financial institutions in the United States.

Instead of weapons of mass destruction, US spooks have focused on a “cybercorps” that Iran’s military created in 2011. This was partly in response to American and Israeli cyberattacks on the Iranian nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz.

The attacks emanating from Iran have been modest and the country is a lot weaker than China and Russia. But the US does not want desperately to go to war with China or Russia.

However the US does feel the need to get involved anytime that oil is mentioned.. The biggest hack was on Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company. The War on Iraq was against the Saudi’s enemies and an oil rival and now it seems that that the Saudis are not big fans of Iran either.

Aramco, the Saudi state oil company, has been bolstering supplies to customers who can no longer obtain oil from Iran because of Western sanctions. 

Iran blocks Google and Gmail

Tehran is claiming that its move to block access to Google and Gmail is in reaction to an anti-Islam film that triggered protests across the world.

The movie, Innocence of Muslims, which appears to have been created to start riots in Arab countries, has placed Google in a position where Iran wanted. The Iranians had wanted a pretext to ban Google from Iran for a while, but really did not have a good reason until YouTube refused to take down the anti-Islam film.

Now the Iranian government can safely say they are saving Iranians from the evil Satanic Google.

According to the Guardian, Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, an Iranian official with the state-run body in charge of online censorship and computer crimes, said that Google and Gmail will be filtered throughout the country until further notice.

He did not indicate if the filtering would be temporary or permanent, however smart money is on a total ban. The Iranians are currently planning to pull their country out of the Internet and run the nation as a big Intranet of state controlled information. Google and its webmail operation would have no place in such a scheme anyway.

Iranians do not really care that much about the movie, according to the Guardian, but are a bit miffed that they have lost their Gmail accounts.

Golnaz Esfandiari, who has a blog on the Radio Free Europe website, Persian Letters, tweeted: “By blocking Gmail/Google, #Iran government punishes its own people over anti-Islam movie. Most Iranians have not seen it/don’t care.”

But the move comes just as the Iranians move to stage one of their cunning Internet plan.

Ali Hakim-Javadi, deputy communications and technology minister, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency said that all governmental agencies and offices have been connected to the national information network.

Iran is worried about another outside cyber attack, particularly if it gets involved in a war with Israel or the US.