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Google Censorship Communications Encryption Privacy The Media United Kingdom United States Your Rights Online

Google Handed To FBI 3 Wikileaks Staffers' Emails, Digital Data 197

Ariastis writes Google took almost three years to disclose to the open information group WikiLeaks that it had handed over emails and other digital data belonging to three of its staffers to the FBI under a secret search warrant issued by a federal judge. WikiLeaks were told last month of warrants which were served in March 2012. The subjects of the warrants were the investigations editor of WikiLeaks, the British citizen Sarah Harrison; the spokesperson for the organisation, Kristinn Hrafnsson; and Joseph Farrell, one of its senior editors. When it notified the WikiLeaks employees last month, Google said it had been unable to say anything about the warrants earlier as a gag order had been imposed.
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Google Handed To FBI 3 Wikileaks Staffers' Emails, Digital Data

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  • Encryption? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brian.stinar ( 1104135 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @12:12AM (#48902251) Homepage

    If I worked for Wikileaks, I think I'd be encrypting everything especially if it involved using a Google server.

    • by NoKaOi ( 1415755 )

      If I worked for Wikileaks, I think I'd be encrypting everything especially if it involved using a Google server.

      Or better yet...don't use an email provider with any US presence.

      • Re:Encryption? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by grcumb ( 781340 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @02:02AM (#48902571) Homepage Journal

        If I worked for Wikileaks, I think I'd be encrypting everything especially if it involved using a Google server.

        Or better yet...don't use an email provider with any US presence.

        Uh... that only means they don't bother with a warrant. They just go and get whatever they like.

        Perversely, you're actually better off dealing with these ridiculous, draconian, panopticonian laws, because at least in theory you have some kind of recourse - even if it consists of fighting retroactively to reduce the J. Edgar Hoovering up of your personal data. If you use an offshore email provider, the NSA will just grab whatever it wants, whenever it wants, without even the tiniest fig leaf of law to cover up strategic bits.

        • Good luck "going and getting" something from a server location in Russia or China. That involves risks of data falling into the hands of those governments, but it's a question of who you fear more and who can hurt you more.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Good luck "going and getting" something from a server location in Russia or China.

            What on earth makes you think data becomes inaccessible to the NSA/FBI just because it's physically located in another country? Remember, this is the same NSA that intercepts Cisco shipments to install back-doored firmware and develops its own zero-day hacks for Windows. This is the same CIA that wrote Stuxnet. These are organizations that can drop six or seven figures on a drunk IT staffer in exchange for plugging a USB drive into a server and walking away.

            The US people couldn't care less whether the NS

            • Remember, this is the same NSA that intercepts Cisco shipments to install back-doored firmware and develops its own zero-day hacks for Windows.

              The fact that they have to do this says a lot about their capabilities.

              (Even that is somewhat questionable, as many Citizens prefer that legal rights not apply to undocumented residents or suspected criminals.)

              Those people are freedom-hating fools. So as soon as you're accused of something, those unspecified people think that you should lose all your rights?

              It may not be much more of a hurdle, but actually having to ask a rubber-stamp court for authorization is a higher bar than just pointing their hacking tool at a server.

              It's practically nothing, as we've seen with the NSA. They get a few rubber stamps and they're allowed to collect nearly everything.

              • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

                Remember, this is the same NSA that intercepts Cisco shipments to install back-doored firmware and develops its own zero-day hacks for Windows.

                The fact that they have to do this says a lot about their capabilities.

                How would you propose hacking into a computer WITHOUT developing a zero-day for it? Well, unless you want to count using vulnerabilities from three years ago that some sysadmin is too lazy to patch. It isn't like anybody thinks the NSA has some psychic that just controls the minds of sysadmins from halfway around the globe. Engineering software and getting it to run on targeted hardware is just the physical reality of intruding on systems.

                We're talking about wikileaks here. Obviously that is going to be

                • How would you propose hacking into a computer WITHOUT developing a zero-day for it?

                  I'm saying if they have to backdoor specific firmware, there is still hope. Of course, since they have the capability to sap up nearly everyone's data, there isn't much hope to begin with. Just saying that just because something is hosted outside the US, that doesn't mean it's somehow more vulnerable.

                  It isn't like anybody thinks the NSA has some psychic that just controls the minds of sysadmins from halfway around the globe.

                  You'd be surprised.

                  We're talking about wikileaks here. Obviously that is going to be a high-profile target for intelligence agencies anywhere. You simply can't run such an operation on some unencrypted webmail service ANYWHERE.

                  Agreed.

                  • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

                    I'm saying if they have to backdoor specific firmware, there is still hope. Of course, since they have the capability to sap up nearly everyone's data, there isn't much hope to begin with.

                    Snowden revealed quite a bit in this space. The NSA has numerous departments and they cooperate.

                    You have the zero-day guys. They get lists of things that would be useful to hack, and they hack them. I'm sure that includes OSes, firmwares, peripherals, you name it. Some zero-days are held in reserve to avoid revealing them in case a high-priority target comes along.

                    You have the target intelligence guys. They identify systems to hack. They profile the targets - is this just a casual PC user, a company,

                • It isn't like anybody thinks the NSA has some psychic that just controls the minds of sysadmins from halfway around the globe.

                  What do you think the tinfoil hats are for?

                  Come to think of it, the whole "tinfoil hat to block the mind control rays" thing is a complete psy-op. Wouldn't wrapping your head in tinfoil make you more susceptible to mind control rays, like wadding up tinfoil on your TV antenna?!

          • Good luck "going and getting" something from a server location in Russia or China

            1) Google is blocked in china.
            2) Thats partly because of the massive police state and strong net censorship they have going on over there-- but I'm sure YOUR data would be safe over there
            3) Google is probably the only company formerly doing business in China that wont give your data up to the CPC. As a consequence of that, see #1.

          • Storing your stuff in China or Russian jurisdictions only raises you to the top of the governments shit list. On the other hand you can always join the US expat group in Russia. At least until Russia and the US agree to exchange certain individuals that may be resident in their countries. The US and Russia have a long history of making these kind of deals.

        • Uh... that only means they don't bother with a warrant. They just go and get whatever they like.

          Sounds like what the NSA is already doing. You think the government cares about the constitution?

        • If you use an offshore email provider, the NSA will just grab whatever it wants, whenever it wants, without even the tiniest fig leaf of law to cover up strategic bits.

          And likely none of it would ever be admissible in an American court of law........

      • Or better yet...don't use an email provider with any US presence.

        There are maybe a small handful of places better than the US for hosting as regards privacy, and in any of them a court order will compel you to give up customer data.

      • If the provider doesn't have any US presence, then two things are true. First, it has a presence elsewhere, and is likely to be subject to warrants from its home country. (This is not to say they're all the same; a provider in a continental European country may be safer). Second, the NSA has absolutely no qualms whatsoever about hacking into it.

      • by guruevi ( 827432 )

        E-mail is fully plain text otherwise, all it needs is someone on any part of the wire (so any NATO member could or has participated with US or EU surveillance) to read your mail. The only thing that works is end-to-end encryption, which e-mail clients have fully supported for the last few decades.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by DaHat ( 247651 )

      Agreed, using a third party service when you know you are going to be subject to scrutiny from those in power is just dumb... but then I've come to expect that from WikiLeaks.

      When I was in school long ago I found that from time to time a teacher might try to punish me for my attitude or behavior but not by lowering a value in such a way (if there was such a column on the report card), but by arbitrarily claiming I got 20% less on a given test than I really did scored. Once I discovered this occasional patte

    • If *I* worked for wikilieaks, I sure would have an additional freemail account somewhere that I'd use for facebook, slashdot, mailing cat pictures to friends....

      • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

        If *I* worked for wikilieaks, I sure would have an additional freemail account somewhere that I'd use for facebook, slashdot, mailing cat pictures to friends....

        I'd have a cunning code involving the colour of kittens and whether they meow or not

        • ...which adds to the point that an email account, that doesn't contain emails about the subject at hand should also be part of a criminal investigation.

          • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

            ...which adds to the point that an email account, that doesn't contain emails about the subject at hand should also be part of a criminal investigation.

            I can see pareidolia becoming an issue, with claims that pictures interpreted in a certain way could mean something when they really are just cat pictures.

    • Right. Assange wrote a piece about Google

      http://www.newsweek.com/assang... [newsweek.com]

    • I think I'd be encrypting everything especially if it involved using a Google server.

      Why especially? AFAIK Google is the only one of the big 3 webmail providers not currently bending over backwards for the Chinese Government. There was a warrant in this case; even the famed lavabit had to fold when given a warrant.

      Its absurd to go after Google for following the terms of a court order; you'd do better to ask whether the order was justified, and if not ask why the courts issued it and who can be held accountable.

  • Lets blame google! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2015 @12:18AM (#48902263)

    "We have a 'secret' warrant. Give us what we want or YOU goto jail."

    Damm google for not protecting users... It's all their fault!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Google has the resources to fight against this if they cared.
      They got rich by using the open infrastructure of the United States.
      If they don't fight to continue having open infrastructure, then they don't deserve being rich, are not good stewards of their riches, and do not seem to care about the citizens of the country that helped make them rich.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Twitter has fought these secret warrants and won.... Goggle could too if they gave a damn about their users.

    • by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @08:31AM (#48903651)

      If Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, etc. stood together against government encroachment, the Feds would have to back down. The collateral damage to the US economy (read: taxes) would be huge if they were all shut down and their executives given orange jumpsuits.

      For the sake of their long-term business interests, and our liberty, it is time for some civil disobedience from corporate America.

      • by ahodgson ( 74077 )

        Good luck with that. Ratings agencies can't even give an honest appraisal of the country's debt without getting dragged into lawsuits and being forced to fork over billions of dollars in penalties. Any company that actually defied the police state would be out of business within a week.

  • OK Google (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2015 @12:20AM (#48902271)

    See that Android phone in front of you, the one you say 'OK Google' to? the one with the camera and the face-unlock feature? Google owns your life, and if secret warrants can get Google to turn over data it has on you, then that device in front of you is nothing but a surveillance device.

    How many cameras and microphones do you have in the room right now?

    • by wiredog ( 43288 )

      This applies to Apple phones, too. And Microsoft phones. And hardwired landline phones.

      • "This applies to Apple phones, too. And Microsoft phones. And hardwired landline phones"

        This pretty much applies to ANYTHING that is network connected. It can be audio, video or just meta-data that shows what your daily schedule pattern looks like. ( Eg, A burglar alarm or Electric Meter can show when you're typically at home, other systems like car tech will have GPS, traffic cams, CCTV and license plate readers will tag you, point of sale transactions via Debit or Credit cards )

        Stop and think about the
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ixquick.com [ixquick.com]
    yandex.com [yandex.com]
    torproject.org [torproject.org]
  • The subjects of the warrants were the investigations editor of WikiLeaks, the British citizen Sarah Harrison; the spokesperson for the organisation, Kristinn Hrafnsson; and Joseph Farrell, one of its senior editors

    It's obvious they also stole some vowels from the poor spokesperson.

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @09:25AM (#48903989)
    Did I miss something? Did they skip FBI 2 just like Windows 9? That headline could be written in a less confusing manner: "Google Handed Three Wikileaks Staffers' Data to FBI"
  • by dablow ( 3670865 ) on Monday January 26, 2015 @09:25AM (#48903995)

    This is a perfect example of why cloud computing is a baaaaad idea...

    At least when you have it in-house, the gov usually needs a warrant to come through your door and seize stuff....At the very least you are aware you are being targeted and can start mounting a legal defense.

    When it's housed on a 3rd party provider, you need not even be aware they have seized your stuff.....

    Not to mention corporate espionage going on and you have exactly 0 ways of detecting it.

    Yes yes you can encrypt. But encryption does not work for EVERYTHING in every situation. You can encrypt documents easy enough, but what if those documents are only available via a web interface (something like good docs). Or how do you encrypt say virtual servers so the host (who has root access to the hardware) cannot see them or what is inside them but their hypervisor can execute it....

    Funny enough phone service suffers from the same problems. Your service provider knows who you are calling, when, from where and can listen in to your convo at will without you knowing any better. But this is why, pre-911, you needed a warrant to do that and there where legal protections in place to prevent that from occurring.

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