Spying Files: NSA chief’s valley visit; Verizon, AT&T and ‘supercookies’; more

Once again, we’ve got some news for the Spying Files.

• NSA chief Mike Rogers is making nice with Silicon Valley, saying during a speech Monday at Stanford that the U.S. government needs the region’s expertise, including for cybersecurity. He said he visits the valley to look for talent — “we are going to give you the opportunity to do some neat stuff, things you probably aren’t going to be able to do anywhere else” — and to track the innovation that’s happening.

Rogers’ visit to the valley, his second since he became NSA director in April, comes after other government agencies’ recent criticism of tech companies’ stepped-up encryption efforts. Those efforts make it harder for the government to access Internet users’ information. He reportedly called the new encryption efforts a “challenge,” and said “we’ll deal with it.”

Tech companies have moved to retain or regain user trust after revelations based on the Edward Snowden leaks showed that governments accessed Internet users’ information. Some of the revelations showed that the U.S. secretly tapped into some tech companies’ networks.

• Meanwhile, the GCHQ chief in Britain wants increased cooperation from companies such as Twitter and Facebook, saying: “However much they may dislike it, they have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us.”

But civil liberties groups point out that tech companies are already cooperating with governments, as evidenced by the transparency reports that many of them issue.

“GCHQ is responsible for what has come out in the Snowden files as the largest Internet surveillance programme we have found to date. Their powers are already immense. I think asking for more is really quite disingenuous,” said Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, according to the BBC.

• And in other news about using technology to track people, that’s what Verizon and AT&T are doing, and they’re doing so without apology, the Washington Post reports. The wireless providers are using so-called supercookies, which track smartphone users’ Web activity for the purposes of ad targeting.

Verizon, which says it notified customers of the tracking, started the practice in 2012. AT&T’s tracking is still in the testing stage, but the company says it also has taken steps to let customers know about the practice, according to the Post.

Privacy groups worry that the supposedly anonymous information being collected could be accessed by the government. They also say the practice could violate federal telecom and wiretapping laws.


Photo: National Security Agency director Mike Rogers speaks at Stanford University, Monday, Nov. 3, 2014. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)


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  • Skydoor Blue

    Mos of us (and mea culpa) are all so careless online. These companies know it and take advantage of it. Apparently, https:// web browsing is immune to the Verizon and AT&T man-in-the-middle attack. But if you think this particular tracking is the only thing going on you would be naive.