aNewDomain.net — As a Freedom of Information Act request now reveals, despite the fact that Silicon Valley companies denied knowledge of the NSA surveillance electronic spying program, in fact they were in league. And on the payroll. As you’ll see below, our best hope for a way out of this might be a Hobbit.
But first some background. As the UK Guardian and, now, The New York Times, report, the NSA paid huge amounts for tech companies’ compliance with court orders. As the slides NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed to the Guardian in June showed so clearly, the NSA relies on Silicon Valley to provide both information and technology. And the NSA is paying the tech companies handsomely for the privilege.
Investors might at first think this a boon — but what about the inevitable lawsuits and costs attached to the inevitable investigations to come as a result of this intermingling. Kim Dotcom is getting involved in a big way. Find out what Hobbits have to do with it below the fold.
Here’s an excerpt from the NYT piece on the matter:
Although Silicon Valley has sold equipment to the NSA and other intelligence agencies for a generation, the interests of the two began to converge in new ways in the last few years as advances in computer storage technology drastically reduced the costs of storing enormous amounts of data — at the same time that the value of the data for use in consumer marketing began to rise. ‘These worlds overlap,’ said Philipp S. Krüger, chief executive of Explorist, an Internet start-up in New York. The sums the N.S.A. spends in Silicon Valley are classified, as is the agency’s total budget, which independent analysts say is $8 billion to $10 billion a year.”
With tech companies in bed with the U.S. government and its wide-reaching and global e-surveillance project, through which all communications online are captured and saved, you’ve got to wonder who can save us.
Only an outlier will be able to stop the madness. This will have to be someone who is not part of the Washington, D.C. and Silicon Valley axis. Not surprisingly, a Megaupload group run by Kim Dotcom called The Hobbits are at work in New Zealand to create an alternative Gmail encryption system.
from the never-a-dull-moment dept
Whatever your views about Kim Dotcom, you have to admire his dogged fight against extraditionfrom New Zealand, not least because it has revealed some serious abuses of power against dozens of people. Now it seems he is taking things a stage further, if this recent tweet is any indication:
I told you it would take a hairy-toed Hobbit to save us.
Image credit of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gollum: Wikimedia Commons
So it’s officially the Hobbits versus the U.S. NSA. And the Hobbits aim to replace Gmail, which is apparently bought and paid for by the NSA.
The news couldn’t arrive at a better time. Just this week, two U.S.-based sites providing secure and encrypted email shuttered as a result of NSA U.S. electronic surveillance of all Internet communications. First Lavabit.com closed down. The mail encryption service couldn’t operate, its exec Ladar Levison said, because it refused to unencrypt and therefore could be “complicit in crimes against the American people.”
Silent Circle closed, too. Its founder, Jon Callas, wrote the following in a blog post:
We see the writing (on) the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now.”
Privacy and security are hot button topics for Kim Dotcom.
Dotcom was a surveillance target, he says, not only by U.S. authorities but also by the New Zealand security service, GCSB. He is at present tied up in a legal battle with the latter after a court found NZ authorities monitored him illegally.
He explains his stuff from 2L00 on his appearance with aNewDomain’s Trey Ratcliff on Trey’s Variety Hour. Watch that here.
According to Kim DotCom, the Hobbit service will be a DropBox-like system for privacy-minded adults. And designed by hackers who know what they’re doing.
As Kim Dotcom told Torrentfreak.com:
Over the next 10 years you will see a decline of US Internet giants and the rise of non-US Internet companies that care about user privacy. We will not see a strong NSA (as) before the Snowden leaks again. The truth is out there and when politicians and laws can’t protect our basic human rights, innovation and friendly jurisdictions will save us.”
As Google admitted in court papers this week, users can expect no privacy at all.
Its entire financial structure — and that of the entire search and cloud-based email economy — would collapse if privacy were the goal.
Yet a few entrepreneurs are betting that the PRISM scandal will stoke user interest in privacy-focused services. Pirate Bay’s founder Peter Sunde closed its crowdfunding campaign three days after announcing Hemlis, an encrypted-messaging app. The project received 150 percent of its goal, as reported by Gigaom here.
Another entrepreneur working with the privacy issue is the above-mentioned and now embattled Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom. He is also embarking on a new project to get more privacy-focused apps in the hands of the public. As we said, Megaupload, now Mega, wants to replace Gmail.
Mega’s Chief Executive Vikram Kumar, who is heading the development of the company’s own end-to-end encryption technology to protect the privacy of the future email’s users, has reacted to the Lavabit founder’s decision to suspend his service’s operations.
That act was shortly followed by the voluntary closing down of another secure email service, Silent Circle. It got Megaupload’s attention.
Kumar says Mega is working on an email system with an “exceptional level of encryption,” a project which is “exciting” but “very hard.” He ads:
The biggest tech hurdle is providing email functionality that people expect, such as searching emails, that are trivial to provide if emails are stored in plain text (or available in plain text) on the server side … if all the server can see is encrypted text, as is the case with true end-to-end encryption, then all the functionality has to be built client side … on this and other fronts, Mega is doing some hugely cutting-edge stuff … There is probably no one in the world who takes the Mega approach of making true crypto work for the masses, our core proposition.”
For his part, Kim Dotcom insists that Mega never holds any encryption keys — that way, governments can’t force the door open to customer email, and customers can feel secure that their email isn’t being routinely gathered and saved, only to be parsed as needed like something out of the movie Minority Report.
Image credit: Mega
Dotcom told TorrentFreak.com that the U.S. government and the other Five Eyes partners — those being the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — are pushing new spy legislation to provide backdoors into Internet service.
New Zealand, officially now the land of the Hobbits, certainly will put new laws in place. Laws that will enable it to ask private companies — or demand from private companies — a backdoor entry to everything.
If that happens, Kim Dotcom says he’d move his service out of NZ.
Stay tuned. This listening station in NZ is. It’s time to get organized, say Kim Dotcom, and the Hobbits have his back.
Image credit: Wikipedia
For aNewDomain.net, I’m David Michaelis.
Based in Australia, David Michaelis is a world-renowned international journalist and founder of Link Tv. At aNewDomain.net, he covers the global beat, focusing on politics and other international topics of note for our readers in a variety of forums. Email him at DavidMc@aNewDomain.net.