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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar


Smári McCarthy, in his Twitter bio, describes himself as a "Information freedom activist. Executive Director of IMMI. Pirate."

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On Friday, two Icelandic activists with previous connections to WikiLeaks announced that they received newly unsealed court orders from Google. Google sent the orders earlier in the week, revealing that the company searched and seized data from their Gmail accounts—likely as a result of a grand jury investigation into the rogue whistleblower group.

Google was forbidden under American law from disclosing these orders to the men until the court lifted this restriction in early May 2013. (A Google spokesperson referred Ars to its Transparency Report for an explanation of its policies.)

On June 21, 2013, well-known Irish-Icelandic developer Smári McCarthy published his recently un-sealed court order dating back to July 14, 2011. Google sent him the order, which included McCarthy's Gmail account metadata, the night before. The government cited the Stored Communications Act (SCA)(specifically a 2703(d) order) as grounds to provide this order.

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher


NSA Headquarters in Fort Meade, MD.

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One organization's data centers hold the contents of much of the visible Internet—and much of it that isn't visible just by clicking your way around. It has satellite imagery of much of the world and ground-level photography of homes and businesses and government installations tied into a geospatial database that is cross-indexed to petabytes of information about individuals and organizations. And its analytics systems process the Web search requests, e-mail messages, and other electronic activities of hundreds of millions of people.

No one at this organization actually "knows" everything about what individuals are doing on the Web, though there is certainly the potential for abuse. By policy, all of the "knowing" happens in software, while the organization's analysts generally handle exceptions (like violations of the law) picked from the flotsam of the seas of data that their systems process.

I'm talking, of course, about Google. Most of us are okay with what Google does with its vast supply of "big data," because we largely benefit from it—though Google does manage to make a good deal of money off of us in the process. But if I were to backspace over Google's name and replace it with "National Security Agency," that would leave a bit of a different taste in many people's mouths.

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Original author: 
Adi Robertson

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Leaked information about a piece of NSA software called Boundless Informant could shed light on how organized the agency's surveillance program really is. Glenn Greenwald — who recently exposed both widespread phone metadata collection and an internet spying program called PRISM — has revealed details about the ominously named program, which aggregates and organizes the NSA's data. Greenwald says the tool is focused on metadata, not the contents of emails or phone calls. Among other things, it tracks how many pieces of information have been collected per country.

3 billion pieces of information were allegedly tracked in the US over a 30-day period ending in March. In that same period, 97 billion pieces were collected worldwide, with...

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Original author: 
Dan Goodin

Josh Chin

The Chinese hackers who breached Google's corporate servers 41 months ago gained access to a database containing classified information about suspected spies, agents, and terrorists under surveillance by the US government, according to a published report.

The revelation came in an article published Monday by The Washington Post, and it heightens concerns about the December, 2009 hack. When Google disclosed it a few weeks later, the company said only that the operatives accessed Google "intellectual property"—which most people took to mean software source code—and Gmail accounts of human rights activists.

Citing officials who agreed to speak on the condition that they not be named, Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima said the assets compromised in the attack also included a database storing years' worth of information about US surveillance targets. The goal, according to Monday's report, appears to be unearthing the identities of Chinese intelligence operatives in the US who were being tracked by American law enforcement agencies.

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Let’s have a little talk about secrets. There are all kinds of secrets out there in the world: personal secrets, state secrets, secret recipes, secret sauces, top secrets, secret levels in video games, Victoria’s Secret. The list goes on. But as we’re quickly learning from the rapidly unraveling details of David Petraeus’s affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, secrets are no longer sacred. In a world where America’s chief of secrets— a.k.a. the director of the Central Intelligence Agency —can’t even keep a silly little extramarital affair to himself, there’s something wrong.

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