Allegedly acting as proxy for law enforcement, intel agencies
By Michael Carl
Yahoo.com is allegedly spying on its customers and acting as a proxy for U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
According to Wired.com, Yahoo also charges the agencies for the information. That means U.S. citizens’ tax dollars are being used by federal agencies to pay for information gathered in Yahoo’s spying.
A Yahoo customer who asked not to be identified became suspicious of Yahoo’s operations when the image below appeared on his screen while downloading his e-mail.
John Young, who runs the website Cryptome.org, believes the Internet giant is gathering data from customer e-mails for possible disclosure to U. S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Young says Yahoo has a standard operating procedure for e-mail data mining spelled out in the Yahoo Law Enforcement Compliance Manual. Young has posted a copy of Yahoo’s manual on his Cryptome.com website.
Yahoo and its Washington, D.C.-based legal counsel, Steptoe and Johnson, have not responded to WND requests for comment.
The manual says Yahoo records the IP address of any computer involved in a Yahoo e-mail exchange.
“Every message sent by a Yahoo! mail user contains the originating IP address in the header,” the Yahoo manual says. “That is, Yahoo! records the IP address of the computer that was used to send the email, and Yahoo! inserts that IP address in the header of the message. Accordingly, if law enforcement is seeking to determine the IP address from which a Yahoo! e-mail was sent, Yahoo! will have no additional information other than what is visible in the message itself.”
The manual continues.
“The relevant line from the header will generally look like this: Received: from [184.108.40.206] by web41705.mail.yahoo.com via HTTP; Fri, 05 Sep 2003 07:30:05 PDT
“In this example, the IP address in brackets corresponds to the computer from which the message was sent,” the manual states.
Section V of the Yahoo compliance guide says:
“Yahoo! generally will accept service of court orders, search warrants, and criminal grand jury or administrative subpoenas for the production of documents by fax from government entities.”
Then there’s this paragraph a few lines later in the same section:
“Yahoo! will ask law enforcement to certify that the prior or delayed notice provisions have been satisfied if contents are sought with legal process other than a Search Warrant.”
“…with legal process other than a Search Warrant.”
An intelligence analyst and private terrorism investigator who asked not to be named, believes this phrase is key in Yahoo’s willingness to turn over e-mail contents to U.S. intelligence agencies.
Young stands by his actions and what he has written about Yahoo’s surveillance. He believes the public material may be a diversion for deeper surveillance.
“What remains unclear is what are other arrangements between Yahoo and law enforcement and intelligence agencies that are not covered by publicly available material. It is more than probable that the publicly available material diverts attention from these other shenanigans,” Young observes.
He adds that other Internet providers are also involved in surveillance.
“Yahoo is not alone in these customer transgressions, the deceptive practices are widespread among telecommunications and IP providers,” Young asserts.
A story on Mathaba.net states, “Cox Communications, SBC, Cingular, Nextel, GTE and other telecoms and Internet service providers,” or ISPs, are involved in federally sanction data collection.
Young also believes media haven’t done a good job reporting the abuses.
“There’s an abysmal neglect of what the ISPs, OS (operating system) producers, network operators, data farmers and search engines are up to with customer data displayed on the computer screen.”
Yahoo’s legal counsel, Steptoe and Johnson, has contacted Young, acknowledging the compliance guide’s existence and how it facilitates Yahoo’s participation in intelligence and law enforcement investigations.
The letter posted on Cryptome.org reads.
The letter concludes with a threat of legal action.
The series of letters is posted on the Cryptome.org website.
THE SUNDAY TIMES
Advances in artificial intelligence are bringing the sci-fi fantasy dangerously closer to fact
A ROBOT that makes a morning cuppa, a fridge that orders the weekly shop, a car that parks itself.
Advances in artificial intelligence promise many benefits, but scientists are privately so worried they may be creating machines which end up outsmarting – and perhaps even endangering – humans that they held a secret meeting to discuss limiting their research.
At the conference, held behind closed doors in Monterey Bay, California, leading researchers warned that mankind might lose control over computer-based systems that carry out a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting on the phone, and have already reached a level of indestructibility comparable with a cockroach.
“These are powerful technologies that could be used in good ways or scary ways,” warned Eric Horvitz, principal researcher at Microsoft who organised the conference on behalf of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.
According to Alan Winfield, a professor at the University of the West of England, scientists are spending too much time developing artificial intelligence and too little on robot safety.
“We’re rapidly approaching the time when new robots should undergo tests, similar to ethical and clinical trials for new drugs, before they can be introduced,” he said.
The scientists who presented their findings at the International Joint Conference for Artificial Intelligence in Pasadena, California, last month fear that nightmare scenarios, which have until now been limited to science fiction films, such as the Terminator series, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Minority Report, could come true.
Robotic unmanned predator drones, for example, which can seek out and kill human targets, have already moved out of the movie theatres and into the theatre of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. While at present controlled by human operators, they are moving towards more autonomous control.
They could also soon be found on the streets. Samsung, the South Korean electronics company, has developed autonomous sentry robots to serve as armed border guards. They have “shoot-to-kill” capability.
Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at Sheffield University, warned that such robots could soon be used for policing, for example during riots such as those seen in London at the recent G20 summit. “Is this a good thing?” he asked.
Scientists are particularly worried about the way the latest, highly sophisticated artificially intelligent products perform human-like functions.
Japanese consumers can already buy robots that “learn” their owner’s behaviour, can open the front door and even find electrical outlets and recharge themselves so they never stop working.
One high-tech US firm is working on robotic nurses, dubbed “nursebots”, that interact with patients to simulate empathy. Critics told the conference that, at best, this could be dehumanising; at worst, something could go wrong with the programming.
The scientists dismissed as fanciful fears about “singularity” – the term used to describe the point where robots have become so intelligent they are able to build ever more capable versions of themselves without further input from mankind.
The conference was nevertheless told that new artificial intelligence viruses are helping criminals to steal people’s identities. Criminals are working on viruses that are planted in mobile phones and “copy” users’ voices. After stealing the voice, criminals can masquerade as a victim on the phone or circumvent speech recognition security systems.
Another kind of smartphone virus silently monitors text messages, e-mail, voice, diary and bank details. The virus then uses the information to impersonate people online, with little or no external guidance from the thieves. The researchers warned that many of the new viruses defy extermination, reaching what one speaker called “the cockroach stage”.
Some speakers called for researchers to adopt the “three laws” of robotics created by Isaac Asimov, the science fiction author, that are designed to protect humanity from machines with their own agenda. Each robot, Asimov said, must be programmed never to kill or injure a human or, through inaction, allow a human to suffer. A robot must obey human orders, unless this contravenes the first law. A robot must protect itself, unless it contravenes either of the first two laws.
While many scientists fear artificial intelligence could run amok, some argue that ultrasmart machines will instead offer huge advances in life extension and wealth creation.
Some pointed out that artificial intelligence was already helping us in complex, sometimes life-and-death situations. Poseidon Technologies, the French firm, sells artificial intelligence systems that help lifeguards identify when a person is drowning in a swimming pool. Microsoft’s Clearflow system helps drivers to pick the best route by analysing traffic behaviour; and artificial intelligence systems are making cars safer, reducing road accidents.
Google’s blog hosting service, Blogger.com, admits that in the name of “free speech” some of its blogs are “offensive, harmful, inaccurate,” but when one of its clients blogged in opposition to a transgender rights bill, Google drew the line.
A day before the Massachusetts Legislature plans to review a controversial gender identity bill, Blogger.com blocked the blog of MassResistance, an organization that exposes the increasingly open agenda of the homosexual movement in Massachusetts, with a warning that some of the content may be “objectionable,” requiring readers to confirm their intent to visit.
Screen shot of content advisory and permission requirement prior to accessing the MassResistance blog
“Some readers of this blog have contacted Google because they believe this is objectionable,” the warning reads. “In general, Google does not review nor do we endorse the content of this or any blog. For more information about our content policies, please visit the Blogger Terms of Service.”
MassResistance blogger Amy Contrada, however, writes that the only potentially “objectionable” items on the blog are photos taken in public settings and her group’s politically incorrect viewpoints.
“We publish only facts, ‘uncomfortable truths,’ not rumors or personal attacks,” Contrada writes on her blog. “And obviously, our photos reveal the ugly truth. Then, we identify those public figures who are twisting the law to enable public perversion and subversion of our youth and culture.”
“We’ve had that blog on there since 2005,” said Brian Camenker, president of MassResistance, “and only when we started posting on the new transgender bill before the Legislature did this happen.
“If you look at Google’s policy on hate speech, they do state you can’t include hate against people for their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Camenker told WND. “But the things we write are all factual; we don’t advocate beating anyone up. On the other hand, there are an enormous number of blogs against religious people that are clearly vile and hateful, particularly during the Proposition 8 battle in California. Some of that content was hideous, and it’s still up.
“Nothing on our site could be construed as ‘hate,’” Camenker said.
The website’s content policy further states, “It is our belief that censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression.”
MassResistance, however, told WND that Google’s actions speak louder than the words in its policies.
“Google seems to have a double standard,” Camenker said. “It hosts a large number of gay activist sites that are vile and vicious, particularly against religious people, yet they put up an ‘objectionable content’ warning on our blog. How do they define what’s offensive?”
Contrada told WND that as more and more states – and even the federal government – look to pass “hate speech” bills and laws protecting the undefined labels of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” Americans will be shocked, both by what they see displayed on the public streets and by what they can’t say in the public square.
“I’ve been anticipating this for quite a while now,” Contrada said. “Obviously Google is a private enterprise at this point, but their actions represent a trial balloon for government censorship of undefined ‘hate’ speech. And just like the gender identity bills, nowhere is it clearly defined what the terms mean. What will be classified as ‘hate?’
“MassResistance’s blog has pointed out this can of worms, and I think that’s one of the reasons it draws ‘objections’ from transgender activists,” Contrada said. “This act of censorship is just a harbinger of what may come.”
Camenker also said that as Google becomes more technologically entrenched in every aspect of communications, he fears how content will be monitored in the future.
“It’s Orwellian,” Camenker told WND. “With Google controlling operating systems, blogs, Web searches, and software, it can get pretty bad. It could happen to anyone with a company as powerful as Google.”
WND contacted Google for comment on its content advisory and permission confirmation on the MassResistance blog, but a representative merely pointed to the site’s page on “flagging” a blog:
“The Flag button isn’t censorship and it can’t be manipulated by angry mobs,” the Google page reads. “Political dissent? Incendiary opinions? Just plain crazy? Bring it on.
“When someone visiting a blog clicks the Flag button in the Blogger Navbar, it means that person believes the content of the blog may be potentially offensive or illegal,” the Google help page continues. “We track the number of times a blog has been flagged as objectionable and use this information to determine what action is needed. This feature allows the blogging community as a whole to identify content deemed objectionable.”
WND has reported on Google’s history of being frequently criticized for its content policies and one-sided political slant, including the following actions:
- Issuing a statement publicly opposing Proposition 8, California voters’ attempt to constitutionally define marriage as between one man and one woman
- Restricting Christian advertising on the issue of abortion, until a lawsuit compelled Google to amend its policy
- Rejecting an ad for a book critical of Bill and Hillary Clinton while continuing to accept anti-Bush themes
- Rejecting ads critical of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., while continuing to run attack ads against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas
- Allowing the communist Chinese government to have the search engine block “objectionable” search terms such as “democracy”
- Ignoring major American patriotic and religious holidays, while honoring Remembrance Day in Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Halloween and other observances.
In addition, the company came under fire for an editorial decision giving preferential placement to large, elite media outlets such as CNN and the BBC over independent news sources, such as WND, even if they are more recent, pertinent and exhaustive in their coverage.
MassResistance told WND it is currently in the process of backing up its blog content and transferring the blog to a different host service.
Editor’s note: Once a reader confirms he or she wishes to access the MassResistance blog, the content warning no longer appears in subsequent visits to the blog.