Congress has dropped the ball on surveillance reform, according to Tim Cook and a host of other top tech CEOs throughout the country.
In a full-page ad printed in today’s Washington Times, the tech companies tell the Senate it’s been a year since revelations on the NSA’s over reach were made known to citizens, but Congress has failed to pass a version of the USA Freedom Act that would restore the confidence of internet users.
Apple legend Bill Atkinson, left, and Andrew Stone talk Steve Jobs, drugs and the Internet at AltConf 2014 in San Francisco. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
SAN FRANCISCO — At Apple’s WWDC developer conference, there are talks about interface design, writing code and fixing bugs.
Across the street at indie spinoff AltConf, the talks are concerned with spying on users and making choices between good and evil.
“We have had a hand in creating one of the most dystopian and undesirable societies imaginable,” said Andrew Stone, a veteran programmer who once worked with Steve Jobs, during a talk entitled “What Have We Built Here?”
It’s not the kind of stuff you’d expect to hear at a developer’s conference, but in an age of widespread government spying and cynicism about corporate slogans like “Don’t be evil,” AltConf highlights that programmers are often presented with moral choices. There’s a growing awareness in the coding community that although the activity of programming is benign, what’s created can be used for evil. Take Maciej Cegłowski’s talk last month in Germany, which has been widely discussed on the Web. Cegłowski argues — convincingly — that the utopian ideals of the early internet have been thoroughly corrupted, and the entire industry is “rotten.”
This time on The CultCast: No, those rumored new EarPods won’t measure your pulse. Last week’s biggest Apple rumor was a fake made up by a guy on a toilet! Plus, why you shouldn’t expect new hardware at June’s WWDC; iPhone warns you when the NSA wants you for drug trafficking; Apple’s newest executive gets a HUGE payday; Katie Cotton, Apple’s long time PR lead and Steve Jobs confidant, calls it quits; Cupertino will take on Samsung with more Guerrilla-style marketing; and since you asked, we reveal the jobs we’ve always wanted on an all-new Get To Know Your Cultist.
Have a few LOLs while we catch you up on each week’s best Apple stories! Stream or download new and past episodes of The CultCast now on your Mac or iDevice by subscribing on iTunes, or hit play below and let the audio adventure begin!
Our thanks to Smile Software for supporting this episode! If you haven’t tried TextExpander from Smile software, you’re missing out on one of the most useful apps available for the Mac. With TextExpander, you’ll save time and effort by expanding short abbreviations into frequently-used text and pictures. Try it out yourself for free at smilesoftware.com/cultcast.
The data-hungry tentacles of the NSA have managed to choke America’s top tech firms into silent submission on data requests, but after months of demanding more transparency, Apple is ready to defy authorities and let you know when the NSA wants your data.
Prosecutors warn that such a move will undermine investigations by tipping off criminals and allowing them to destroy sensitive data, but according to the Washington Post, Apple and others have already changed their policies.
While accusations about NSA backdoors to Apple devices have been doing the rounds for a while now, yesterday’s revelations about spying agencies using so-called “leaky apps” to capture user data has reignited the debate. Below is a Q&A covering everything we’ve learned so far:
Q) What is a leaky app?
A) An app that transmits private user information across the Internet. While apps have come under fire for collecting private user information before, the current outcry follows revelations leaked by Edward Snowden, suggesting that leaky apps have been the focus of spying organizations such as the NSA and its UK counterpart, GCHQ (Government Communications HQ). The NSA has cumulatively spent more than $1 billion in its phone targeting efforts. A 2010 NSA presentation cites poor secured apps as a “golden nugget” for gathering user information — including, but not limited to, address books and friend lists.
Today the U.S. Department of Justice gave permission to companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft to share previously classified details regarding requests for customer data from the government.
Tim Cook recently said in an interview that Apple has a gag order preventing it from disclosing what exact information it has given over to the NSA. Now Apple and other companies that have fought for greater transparency from the government can share more about what they’ve had to share. Apple has posted a revised list of the information requests it received between January and June of 2013.
Having your phone calls listened to and your text messages read remotely is a genuine concern for many smartphone owners now that we’ve gotten an insight into the activities of the NSA spies. We’ve quickly learned that our seemingly secure devices are like an open book for those who have the knowledge and the power to get into them.
But the Blackphone, an Android-powered smartphone from Silent Circle and Geeksphone, is designed to ensure that your private data remains private, and cannot be obtained by even the snoopiest of snoopers.
Apple denies working with the National Security Agency to create a backdoor into the iPhone and other products that would give the spy agency access to users’ data.
The denial is a response to leaked NSA documents published yesterday from 2008 that detail a backdoor into the iPhone called “DROPOUTJEEP.” The spyware is able to intercept data like the iPhone’s SMS messages, contacts, location, and more after being installed.
The U.S. National Security Agency has spyware designed to grant backdoor access to the iPhone specifically, according to leaked documents shared by high-profile security researcher Jacob Appelbaum and German publication Der Spiegel.
While speaking at the Chaos Communication Congress in Germany, Appelbaum shared his knowledge of “DROPOUTJEEP,” a top-secret NSA program that can intercept an iPhone’s SMS messages, contacts, location, camera, and microphone.