Somewhere, Edward Snowden is laughing, but probably in Russian and along with the ghost of George Orwell.
CNET reports the United States government is demanding Internet companies hand over user passwords, which are usually encrypted and private.
The passwords would enable federal agencies “to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user,” writes CNET’s Declan McCullagh.
Scant detail is provided.
McCullagh cites two unnamed “industry sources” and does not reveal which Internet firms have received the requests. Microsoft, Google and Yahoo declined to say whether or not they have received requests.
The companies are allegedly fighting the demands. An unnamed Microsoft spokesperson said the company would not share customer passwords. “No, we don’t, and we can’t see a circumstance in which we would provide it,” the anonymous source said.
A Google spokesperson said the company has “never” turned over a user’s encrypted password, and that it has a legal team that frequently pushes back against requests that are fishing expeditions or are otherwise problematic.
According to the report, the feds are not just demanding passwords, but also the master Secure Sockets Layer encryption keys of the Web’s biggest companies.
So, changing your password regularly isn’t going to help.
No one seems to know if the government’s alleged requests are legal. It would likely take a lawsuit and the Supreme Court to figure that one out.
Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives defeated the “Amash amendment” to the Patriot Act by a 217-205 vote. The amendment would have defunded the NSA’s massive data collection program.
Another measure, the ‘Pompeo amendment,’ submitted by Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican, passed by a 409-12 vote, restricts the NSA from collecting or storing the content of U.S. citizens’ communication data, including phone calls and emails. The Pompeo amendment does not restrict the federal government from continuing to collect and store cell phone metadata.
However, it seems the exact wording of the amendment would allow federal agencies other than the NSA to collect and store emails and phone calls.
Pompeo, on the House floor, said, “I want to make clear to everyone that contrary to the suggestions of some, the NSA has not been acting outside the scope of its authorities. The metadata program is carefully designed with program layers of oversight by all three branches of government. This is precisely the way our government ought to operate: with input from Article I and Article 2 and Article III of the United States Constitution.”
TheBlaze.com has a good writeup on the two amendments.
The more restrictive Amash amendment brought together Georgia politicians with divergent voting histories as Republicans Jack Kingston, Tom Price, Paul Broun and Tom Graves voted aye alongside Democrat John Lewis.
The entire Georgia delegation approved passage of the Pompeo amendment.
In related news, The New York Times reports Chief Justice John Roberts is packing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court with individuals likely to approve government wiretaps.