aNewDomain.net — It was really fun, after all the recent PRISM-esque privacy attacks, to find out that the United States government has asked companies, under the guise of the Patriot Act, for our account passwords.
And where is the government requesting these passwords from?
Basically, wherever it can get them. That amounts to pretty much all the free email providers — Microsoft Hotmail and free Outlook, Google Gmail, Yahoo Mail and others.
The statement that these companies gave, when asked by the tech press about this issue, is rich. Their collective response boils down to this:
We don’t give them (the U.S. government) anything except the minimum that is required and we push back.”
Right. As I recall these were the same companies who told us that they didn’t open their backdoors to the NSA PRISM electronic surveillance project, either. They said, “Oh, we know nothing about this sort of snooping!”
Then came the famous, previously-confidential slideshow — brought to light by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. See those slides here.
That unveiling put all of these same companies in bed with the government — they fawned and groveled in cooperation while denying it happened.
So now we are supposed to believe the claims that they are “pushing back?”
You can believe that if you want. But it sounds like hogwash to me.
The real question is this: Why are you using these lame, free email services in the first place?
Quit it. Drop it. Move on. Go and find an independent provider or set up a service yourself.
Go overseas and use free email there. France would be my choice. Or the Ukraine, a country that refuses to cooperate with anyone for anything. Your account information probably won’t get stolen, but it’s quite hard to get through the Cyrillic (Russian alphabet) barrier.
You could try this Google search for free offshore email services.
In that list of hits is an excellent article, which outlines the stupidity of using free email services in the first place.
If you already know that these big companies are in bed with the government — and you know the government is slap-happy over the thrill of snooping on whomever it wants — then why do business with free email service companies?
Keep it to a minimum.
Do nothing in a confidential nature in an untrustworthy environment, which this now is. It’s not rocket science. It’s simple and it’s about your protection, your rights.
The fact that the U.S. gathers passwords is not exactly a surprise to anyone paying attention. It has been a long time coming.
Inform yourself, get in the know. Read more here on the government’s collection of snail mail data.
John C. Dvorak is a long time and award-winning author, broadcaster, writer, thinker and tech columnist . And he is co-founder with Gina Smith and Jerry Pournelle of aNewDomain.net. Follow him @theRealDvorak. He writes Tech Stock Corner for aNewDomain.