Skype, the online phone service long favored by political dissidents, criminals and others eager to communicate beyond the reach of governments, has expanded its cooperation with law enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police, said industry and government officials familiar with the changes.
Surveillance of the audio and video feeds remains impractical — even when courts issue warrants, say industry officials with direct knowledge of the matter. But that barrier could eventually vanish as Skype becomes one of the world’s most popular forms of telecommunication.
The changes to online chats, which are written messages conveyed almost instantaneously between users, result in part from technical upgrades to Skype that were instituted to address outages and other stability issues since Microsoft bought the company last year. Officials of the United States and other countries have long pushed to expand their access to newer forms of communications to resolve an issue that the FBI calls the “going dark” problem.
Microsoft has approached the issue with “tremendous sensitivity and a canny awareness of what the issues would be,” said an industry official familiar with Microsoft’s plans, who like several people interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly. The company has “a long track record of working successfully with law enforcement here and internationally,” he added.
The changes, which give the authorities access to addresses and credit card numbers, have drawn quiet applause in law enforcement circles but hostility from many activists and analysts.
Authorities had for years complained that Skype’s encryption and other features made tracking drug lords, pedophiles and terrorists more difficult. Jihadis recommended the service on online forums. Police listening to traditional wiretaps occasionally would hear wary suspects say to one another, “Hey, let’s talk on Skype.”
Hacker groups and privacy experts have been speculating for months that Skype had changed its architecture to make it easier for governments to monitor, and many blamed Microsoft, which has an elaborate operation for complying with legal government requests in countries around the world.
“The issue is, to what extent are our communications being purpose-built to make surveillance easy?” said Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, a digital privacy group. “When you make it easy to do, law enforcement is going to want to use it more and more. If you build it, they will come.’’
Two days ago, Microsoft-owned Skype, denied its architecture restructuring was done to allow for future government access, but did not deny that it might be so used in the future.
The idea of the Internet being a place safe and free from government intrusion has always been more dream and fantasy than reality. Yes, you can still use TOR to mask your Internet travels, but my guess is that it will not be too long before the NSA or some other government concern figures out a way to beat it, or its use is made illegal.
Now, more than any time in history, Big Brother is watching and the surveillance will only continue to intensify as long as most Americans pay more attention to what’s on TV tonight than to what their government is doing.
Today’s offering is a guest post, of sorts. It was borrowed, it toto, from the blog of my favorite talk-show host, Michael Graham. My comments follow.
Does This Sound Like “Standing Behind Small Business” To You?
So says President Obama in his new ad, attempting to undo the damage of his previous “You didn’t build that” comments.
“Those ads taking my words about small business out of context, they’re flat out wrong,” Obama says. “Of course Americans build their own business. Everyday hardworking people sacrifice to meet a payroll, create jobs and make our economy run. And what I said was that we need to stand behind them as America always has.”
So here is President Obama “standing behind [small business]” in his previous speech that, he says, was “taken out of context.” Does this sound like he’s pro-business to you?
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
If this is what Obama sounds like when he’s PRO-business, I’d hate to hear what he sounds like when he’s not “standing behind” them.
I think the President’s problem is that he said what he meant and he meant what he said. He’s an economically-idiotic, far-Left, envy-spreading, class-warfare hack who’s so far out of his depth he’s suffering a case of electoral bends. He may be a nice guy and a loving dad, but as a president, Barack Obama’s record absolutely, positively sucks.
But please—don’t take me out of context.
Does Obama really believe more of the same, failed policies will somehow magically turn things around in America?
I love it when politicians forget themselves and mistakenly say what they really think, then have to spend days and lots of campaign money trying to make it seem like they said something else.
Obama has always been a collectivist. Because he was glad-handed up the ladder his whole life, rather than advancing through hard work and accomplishment, he apparently really believes that everyone else must have relied on other people to make them successful.
He really believes the individual “owes” the collective, that successful people owe their success to everyone else and so should be happy to have government take and redistribute what they earned.
He is so blinded by his ideology, he cannot see the damage his utopian dreams have done to America and like, all such folks who live in a state of self-delusion, he’s sure the problem is not his policies but that we just need more of them.
Even a child understands that if you hit a board with a hammer and it cracks, hitting it harder, again and again, is not going to fix it.
I guess it’s a good thing Obama never appeared on the TV game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.”
As many of you know, I live in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts and, each morning, read The Boston Globe (aka The Democratic Party Newsletter). So you will understand my lack of surprise at the recent columns calling for yet more gun control after a psychopath shot up a theater in Colorado. One columnist, Derrick Z. Jackson titled his column, yesterday, “Start the conversation on guns.” Follow the link to read the whole column, but here are two excerpts:
After the 2011 Tucson massacre that left six people dead and 13 wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, President Obama called for a “common sense” discussion “to prevent future bloodshed.” Can we have that discussion now, in the wake of the Aurora, Colo., massacre at a movie theater that has taken 12 more lives and left 58 more people wounded?
Conventional wisdom in most of the news coverage and reaction from politicians would indicate not. But the national conversation needs to start, and it needs to be led by the presidential candidates. This may be difficult because Obama now allows guns in national parks, and presidential challenger Mitt Romney has fled from his Massachusetts record on gun control. But once upon a time, they could have been political allies on this issue.
Obama and Romney should do their duty to spark a discussion. So, too, should Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and challenger Elizabeth Warren. Warren has been silent about guns in the wake of Aurora, though on paper she supports a federal assault weapons ban. Brown says he remains in favor of Massachusetts’ assault weapon ban but does not support a reinstatement of the federal ban.
A national discussion could start with assault weapons and limits on ammunition purchases. The alleged shooter at the new Batman movie in Aurora purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet. This week, a man was arrested in Maine with several guns in his car, including an AK-47, and police later found more weapons and 8,000 to 10,000 rounds of ammo. He said he had taken a loaded gun into a Batman movie.
It’s not difficult to see Jackson wants the conversation to be about more restrictive gun legislation disarming more Americans. I’d like to see the conversation go in a different direction. Here’s what I have to say to Mr. Jackson.
Yes, Derrick! By all means. Let’s start the conversation.
Let’s talk about making guns as easy for law-abiding citizens to obtain as they are for criminals and psychopaths to buy on the black market.
Let’s talk about ensuring that all able-bodied men and women across America are able to purchase and carry-concealed handguns so the next time a James Holmes starts shooting, lots of people are armed and ready to stop him before he kills twelve and wounds scores more.
Let’s talk about teaching our children from a young age how to handle and respect firearms and how to shoot accurately.
Let’s talk about reviving the concept of a citizen militia that is armed with weapons equal to or greater than those issued to the conventional military.
Let’s talk about making life so damn dangerous for criminals to try to assault someone or break into homes they’ll be lining up for honest work.
Yes, Derrick, let’s start the conversation, but let’s not waste our time talking about what has not worked for generations and will never work, even if you and your ilk manage to ban all firearms. What folks like you seem to be immune to understanding is that criminals and psychopaths do not care about laws. That’s what makes them criminals and psychopaths. And they will always be able to obtain guns of all sorts as long as they exist anywhere on Earth.
Let’s talk about all of us facing reality for a change, instead of wallowing in the delusion our grand utopian ideals make even one whit of difference to anyone but ourselves.
By all means, let’s talk about things that will make a difference, that are proved to make a difference.
When you’re ready for that conversation, Derrick, let us know.
What else would you add to the conversation about guns?
There is no doubt that filling your home or business with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) will save you some money — if they last as long as they are supposed to. I’ve had CFLs die far sooner than their advertised lifetime. But the truth is, I don’t care about the supposed savings. Neither saving nor spending an extra $10 or $20 or $50 a year on light bulbs and electricity will impact my lifestyle one bit, which is why I make minimal use of CFLs in my home.
I know others feel differently and you may be one of them. If so, if your home is full of the little beasties, here is something important you need to know about them — they apparently can damage your skin.
Energy-efficient CFL bulbs cause skin damage, say researchers
New research funded by the National Science Foundation has scientists warning consumers about the potentially harmful effects energy-saving CFL light bulbs can have on skin.
The warning comes based on a study conducted by Stony Brook University and New York State Stem Cell Science — published in the June issue of Photochemistry and Photobiology — which looked at whether and how the invisible UV rays CFL bulbs emit affect the skin.
Based on the research, scientists concluded that CFL light bulbs can be harmful to healthy skin cells.
“Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation,” said lead researcher Miriam Rafailovich, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University, in New York, in a statement. “Skin cell damage was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles were introduced to the skin cells prior to exposure.”
According to Rafailovich, with or without TiO2 (a chemical found in sunblock), incandescent bulbs of the same light intensity had zero effects on healthy skin.
If you did not follow the link, the story goes on to suggest there be a layer of glass between the bulbs and you, as would happen in many overhead light fixtures. But glass generally blocks only a percentage of UV radiation. The rest gets through to impact your skin.
How much harm will CFLs actually do to your skin over the long term? I don’t know. But given that incandescent bulbs produced zero harm in the tests, I plan to stick with them rather than serve as a guinea pig for enviro-busybodies and bureaucrats.
What about you?
Do you use a lot of CFLs in your home?
If so, will this report make you rethink their use?
Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner — K Howe.
For the sake of this discussion, let’s say your local utility charges 12 cents for each kilowatt hour of electricity that they buy on the open market for 8 cents. You get tired of paying so much to power your home so you spend $17,000 to install solar panels. Now, the panels produce power all day long, even when you’re not home, so you get to sell what you’re not using to the local utility. But instead of paying you the going 8-cent wholesale rate, they are required by law to pay you the 12-cent retail rate! And since you’ll save $2000 a year on your electric bill, you’ll pay off the solar investment in 8.5 years and after that, it’s all gravy.
You might wonder how the utility can pay you 12 cents/kWH and turn around and sell it to someone else for the same price. Don’t they have costs for infrastructure and labor and insurance and lots of other things? Of course they do, but you needn’t worry. Those costs related to what you sell to the utility will be paid by folks who can’t afford to install solar panels, primarily the poor and middle class.
Sweet deal for you, eh?
Now, you might think such a scheme would be illegal, but you’d be wrong. Here in The People’s Republic, they want to double the size of the program!
Wind, solar subsidy set for review
Program’s growth spurs fairness issue
Former Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs Ian Bowles, who thinks it just fine if others have to pay more so he can pay less.
The array of solar panels recently installed on Ian Bowles’s slate roof in Jamaica Plain should pay off for him in less than a decade, but the green power the state’s former top environmental official generates may cost other utility customers for many more years.
Bowles and the increasing number of homeowners, businesses, and municipalities connecting solar panels and wind turbines to the region’s power grid receive a little-known subsidy, and the cost is being borne by other utility customers, who may soon pay anywhere from a dime to as much as $100 more on their monthly electricity bills.
The surcharge on customers who do not feed into the grid has become increasingly controversial as state lawmakers this month hash out the language in a bill that would double the amount of power that utility companies could buy from those producing their own energy.
“At a certain point, there’s absolutely a fair argument about the equity of this,” said Bowles, the former secretary of energy and environmental affairs, who argues that the benefits of reducing harmful carbon emissions outweigh the relatively small costs to utility customers.
Talk about hubris. If reducing carbon emissions are really beneficial, shouldn’t everyone have to share in the cost since everyone shares in the benefit? Apparently not in the privileged world of politicians and former bureaucrats like Bowles, whose attitude translates as “Let the suckers pay.”
I suppose it should not surprise me to discover this has been going on here in The People’s Republic, where the left is so entrenched a tsunami could not dislodge them.
How is it where you live?
Are you, too, being forced to subsidize solar installations for those who can afford them?
I expect it was intended to convince me Republicans are better than Democrats because they are, on average, more fiscally responsible. But that is not how I see it.
What I see is that Republicans are a little less fiscally irresponsible, but so what? They are still fiscally irresponsible.
If the graphic concerned murders rather than money, would anyone think Republicans were somehow better because they only killed 159 people while the Democrats killed 372?
The fact is, for far too long, both parties have been spending taxpayer money like drunken sailors on leave in a whorehouse. (And isn’t ‘whorehouse’ the perfect metaphor for Congress?)
Keep in mind that the numbers in the graphic reflect only state debt. The $15 trillion federal debt is a horse of a different color. Heck, it’s a whole ‘nother animal entirely.
Neither party has anything to be proud of and would have much to be ashamed of, if any of them had any shame. But they don’t. Except, perhaps, for Ron Paul.
I suppose, as voters, we can use the numbers above to decide in November, when it comes time to vote, how deeply in debt we prefer our state be, but really, it’s just a matter of bleed me fast or bleed me slow.
Boston’s mayor, Thomas Menino, is a perfect example of the contention that one does not need to be particularly bright to become a politician and rise to high office.
Last year, WalMart wanted to open a grocery store in a poorer, under-served part of “his” city, bringing with it lower food costs and desperately needed jobs, but Menino refused to allow it because, he said, he was concerned about the impact on neighborhood businesses and lower-paid workers. Apparently, he was not at all concerned about the neighborhood residents and the unemployed. What was it really about? Who knows? Logic and reason have never been associated with Boston’s current mayor.
Now, he’s at it again.
Mayor Menino on Chick-fil-A: Stuff it
Vows to block eatery over anti-gay attitude
“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” Menino told the Herald yesterday.
“That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”
Chick-fil-A has been swept up in a growing national controversy over company president Dan Cathy’s remarks questioning gay marriage and lauding the traditional family.
Chick-fil-A did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But the company released a statement yesterday saying it has a history of applying “biblically-based principles” to managing its business, such as closing on Sundays, and it insisted it does not discriminate.
“The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender,” the statement read. “Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”
But that isn’t cutting the mustard with Menino. He said he plans to fire off a letter to the company’s Atlanta headquarters “telling them my feelings on the matter.”
“If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies,” he warned.
Menino’s quote in the second paragraph really says it all.
“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”
Let’s think about what he’s really saying.
“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston.”
You see, Boston is not a city where the residents get to decide which businesses they want there by supporting them, or not. It’s a city where one man decides whether or not a business meets with his personal approval. This is what he calls, with a straight face, freedom, when he says “That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”
“You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population.”
One turkey eats the leg of another.
Apparently all those high-end restaurants, which insidiously discriminate against Boston’s poor with their sky-high prices, do not count. And, of course, Chick-fil-A doesn’t discriminate. They serve everyone who has the money to buy what they sell. But that’s a bit too subtle a point for Menino’s thinking power.
“We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”
The most laughable of the three quotes, since, by his words and actions, Menino clearly demonstrates everyone is, indeed, welcome except those who do not think like him and believe what he believes.
He proves how inclusive he and “his” town are by discriminating against businesses that do not meet his person standards.
Sadly, this is just business as usual for the left, who claim the moral high ground even as they violate the very principles they espouse.
Even more sadly, we see this kind of thing every day here in The People’s Republic.
How are things where you live?
Do you think Menino should be using his political power to keep out businesses he doesn’t like?
Comment Contest Winners # = Repeat winner
For the week ending
1/29 Leonard Barnes2 2/5 Pat
2/12 Brogan1 2/19 Stephanie
2/26 Scott Schluter
3/5 Storm4 3/12 Donna C.
3/26 Becky Holm
4/30 Brogan1 5/7 Blue_Sky
5/14 Drill Sgt K.
6/25 Woody3 7/2 Christie
7/9 Candace Delaney
7/16 No responses!
7/23 Rob Andrews
7/30 George Deas
8/6 Vinny V
9/17 Leonard Barnes2 9/24 Kathy
11/5 Kentucky Kid
11/26 Woody3 12/3 Leanne
12/10 Gina Jackson
12/31 charles scamman
1/7/12 Gloria Meyer
1/14 Liz Gavaza
2/4 Phillip Dukes
2/11 Storm4 2/18 Leslie
3/3 Debby Rich
3/17 Carolyn McBride
3/24 Keith Hodges
3/31 Jeffrey C. Anthony
4/7 Sue Reynolds
4/14 No responses!
5/5 No responses!
5/19 Estes Mills
6/16 Chip Johnson
6/30 Elizabeth Martin
7/21 K Howe
8/4 Will you be this week's winner?