The FBI director James Comey has been busy making his rounds pressurizing the Congress to force Apple and Google to do away with their new default smartphone encryption.
“Perhaps it’s time to suggest that the post-Snowden pendulum has swung too far in one direction — in a direction of fear and mistrust,” Comey reportedly told the Brookings Institution in a speech last week, where he hinted that the administration might consider new laws and regulations to force companies to offer the government some ways to unlock personal data stored on the phones, such as photos, videos, emails, messages and contacts list “so that those of us in law enforcement, national security and public safety can continue to do the job you have entrusted us to do, in the way you would want us to.”
Here are some video clips to amplify his views on the subject:
The Tokyo District Court ordered Google Japan last Thursday to follow Europe’s recent “right to be forgotten” ruling and remove the search results of a Japanese man’s past relations with a criminal organization following his complaint of violation into his privacy.
According to the judge preceding the case, some of the Google results “infringe personal rights” and had harmed the plaintiff.
The European Court of Justice ruled in May that anyone living in the European Union and Europeans living outside the region could ask search engines to remove links if they believed the online contents breached their right to privacy and are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”
But despite the uproar and headlines in the aftermath, the dirty little secret is that nothing has really changed. What Google has effectively done is to remove results from name search of those names approved to be deleted but only on its European websites. The same results remain on the Google US homepage and all its non-European sites.
Furthermore, Google is only removing the results but not the links. Its European sites may have deleted the results for a search on a specific name but a search for the same name accompanied by other key words may still churn out the same results.
In an earlier Shhh-cretly column, I explained with examples why there is a limit on the extent of privacy and any attempt to manually and selectively remove the Google search contents, successful or otherwise, is like playing God.
Shhh-cretly was interviewed by renowned and award-winning director Werner Boote, who was in Hong Kong with his Austrian crew this week to film Citizen B, a 90-minute documentary on surveillance and privacy to be released in 2015.
In what could be equivalent to a nuclear bomb on Wall Street, former New York Federal Reserve Examiner Carmen Segarra has released some 46 hours worth of voice recordings, secretly taped with a small recorder on her keychain in 2012, that purportedly show bank regulators going soft and cozy with banking giant Goldman Sachs at a time when the New York Fed was expected to become a stronger regulator after the financial crisis of 2008.
To demonstrate a case in point from the recordings: “We’re looking at a transaction that’s legal but shady,” according to a New York Fed staffer in reference to a proposed Goldman Sachs financial transaction.
The secret recordings – released to both a reporter for ProPublica and radio program This American Life – show an unwillingness among some Fed supervisors to both demand specific information from Goldman about a transaction with Banco Santander and to strongly criticize what Segarra concluded was the lack of an appropriate conflict-of-interest policy at Goldman.
Segarra, who later suited the New York Fed for wrongful termination after her refusal to alter a critical examination of Goldman’s legal and compliance units, said her colleagues were too soft on those kinds of transactions and the banking industry in general.
“More than once, I’ve wished my real life had a delete key.” – Harlan Coben, American novelist.
If that sounds familiar, it has now become a reality but with reasons for concern – it has been two months since the controversial European “right to be forgotten” ruling. The irony is that nothing has actually changed fundamentally despite all the subsequent hoo-hah.
Let’s not forget the internet was originally designed to exchange raw data between researchers and scientists. Any attempt to manually and selectively remove the contents, successful or otherwise, is like playing God – much worse when Google decides what to delete.
I have listed an example to illustrate the lessons to be learned and price to be paid – of a somewhat similar attempt and the implications on the society at large.
It’s the one year anniversary of what is now known as the Snowden revelations, which appeared on June 5 and June 9 when The Guardian broke news of classified National Security Agency documents and Edward Snowden revealed himself in Hong Kong as the source of those leaks.
There is still much to decipher from the chronology of events in the aftermath and the sudden global awakening to the end of privacy. Among the impacts on the personal, business and political fronts, one interesting salient feature is the hypocritical rhetorical spats between the US and China in recent weeks, which could set the undertone for US-Sino relations for years to come.
Snowden said his biggest fear is that nothing would change following his bold decision a year ago.
The latest hack on Bitcoin exchange Mt.Gox, leading to its sudden bankruptcy late February, and the spate of recent cyber-attacks have prompted warnings of a wave of serious cybercrimes ahead as hackers continue to breach the antiquated payment systems of companies like many top retailers.
Stock exchange regulators like the American SEC have rules for disclosures when company database were hacked but the general public is often at the mercy of private companies less inclined or compelled to raise red flags.
The private sector, policymakers and regulators have been slow to respond and address the increasing threats and sophistication of cybercriminals – only 11 percent of companies adopt industry-standard security measures, leaving our personal data highly vulnerable.
Time for a standardized data breach law?
Find out more from my latest column posted here and there.
Who should be most afraid of auditing in China – a US examiner, the Chinese regulators or the companies being audited? Pick those doing the examining. For all of the accounting profession’s image as a dull and boring occupation, in China it isn’t. Sometimes it can be downright dangerous.
Hong Kong Tightens Rules on IPOs – The Territory Gets Tough on Regulating Domestic and International New Listings
Starting Oct. 1, in a worst-case scenario, bankers and listing professionals could be put behind bars for their role in public listings in Hong Kong, up till recently a top capital-raising center and magnet for initial public offerings from Chinese companies. To top it off, the current clampdown on data and corporate investigations in mainland China further complicates the situation.
The controversy stems from measures announced by the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission in December 2012 to step up the regulatory regime for listing sponsors, including clarifications of their liabilities – up to civil and criminal liabilities – to be put into effect Oct. 1 this year, and will apply to all public listings filed from that date. These measures supplement the new listing rules previously announced by The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong to promote more extensive and thorough due diligence of listing candidates.
NSA Snooping Compromises the Cloud Computing Industry
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg complained last week that trust in social networks and Internet companies has dived ever since cyber snooping and spying activities by the US National Security Agency began to make global headlines earlier this year.
It is no surprise. In fact, as fugitive former NSA operative Edward Snowden pointed out, the encryption system adopted by the International Organization for Standardization and its 163 member countries were actually written by the NSA, convincing proof that online platforms being used by Internet companies and the commercial world, including banks, could in fact be easily compromised by the NSA.
In other words, the NSA designed their own secret back door into the global encryption system for their convenience. So until the encryption system has been overhauled and taken away from NSA’s control, no server and no cloud service provider is secure enough to be entrusted with any confidential data.
So why then are blindly trusting companies still moving ever more data into the cloud and onto servers, where online access to highly confidential information related to clients, customers, employees, deals, business plans and performances, etc., is available to the US snoops?
For Whom the Bell Tolls was a 1940 novel by Ernest Hemingway about an American in the International Brigades who blows up a bridge during the Spanish Civil War with death the ultimate sacrifice.
But what about For Whom The Whistle Blows? That informs the current debate about Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, two Americans who risked their lives by leaking documents on US foreign policy and covert cyber-snooping activities during the US war on terrorism. Are they prisoners – one in a US army stockade and the other in exile in Moscow – of conscience?
In contrast to the contemptuous labels and espionage charges the US government slapped on the two, one a US Army private first class and the other a former government intelligence contractor, both claimed their motive was to spark public debate and promote greater transparency in US government conduct. Whistle-blowers in general have all along been quite rightly championed and heralded by the authorities, media and the general public – at least by those whose oxen are not being gored from the revelations. Such are the dichotomies of modern history.
Wall Street – and some of Asia’s markets as well – should really panic if New York’s voters give Eliot Spitzer (again) to troll through corporate records looking for wrongdoing – and if the name Jesse M. Unruh rings a bell.
Spitzer, the disgraced former New York governor and attorney general best remembered for his forced resignation five years ago after being revealed as “client #9″ in the wake of a prostitution scandal, announced last week his return to the political spotlight by running for office – as the New York City Comptroller.
One would be forgiven for thinking the Harvard-trained lawyer – once considered in some quarters to be on his way to the White House – has gone low and cheap to run for a backwater auditing office best associated with pallid career politicians. But no, Spitzer the corporate scourge has other ideas.
Or was Dick Cheney looking for a cheap excuse to play politics?
Edward Snowden with his sudden departure from Hong Kong for Moscow and eventually elsewhere, possibly a country hostile to the US, would reignite the question if he’s a spy or double agent.
But the allegations made last week by former US vice president Dick Cheney that the National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden could be a spy for China is off track, and he knows it, and are a deliberate public distraction as the Obama administration searches for scapegoats in the midst of defending the NSA surveillance programs with their one and only trump card.
Snowden left with his passport annulled, a warrant on his head plus criminal charges of espionage, theft and communicating classified intelligence to unauthorized persons.
But here is the dichotomy: While the corporate world is still coping with US regulations on better corporate governance practices, where does the notion of whistleblowing stand right now?
The US tries to cut off a lifeline for low-cost pharmaceuticals
The issue of parallel trading seems to have reached the United States, where the US Justice Department has begun demanding that the two largest American couriers, FedEx and UPS, open and report on the contents in the sealed packages of their customers or face criminal charges.
At stake is the delivery of prescription medicines from online pharmacies to customers, according to a report last week by the online news portal WND. FedEx and UPS disclosed last November that they are targets of a federal criminal investigation related to their dealings with online pharmacies.
The Companies Ordinance review has been years in the making
A recent hotly debated topic in Hong Kong relates to the government’s attempt to rewrite the Companies Ordinance, spurred largely by the sudden public realization that the resulting new Companies Bill was already passed in the local legislature without much media attention and the rude awakening to the subsequent impacts.
Much of the current media focus and public debates have been placed on only one aspect of the many proposed changes: to withhold from the public parts of the identification numbers and details of the residential addresses of company directors found in the Hong Kong company registration records.
The lightning rod for public concern has struck many a wrong cord, including outcries about the suppression of transparency and apprehension over possible government submission to China’s will.
This column looks at the roots of the situation and puts the fuss in perspective.
Paradoxically, even as the Hong Kong government is proposing far-reaching changes to the Companies Ordinance that would bring due diligence and investigations to a stop, officials are also quietly studying the possibility of introducing a Freedom of Information Act.
If that seems a contradiction, that’s because it is.
The Companies Ordinance amendments, either missed or ignored by the mainstream media when it was passed through the legislature earlier last year, will result in withholding from the public parts of the identification numbers and details of the residential addresses of company directors found in the Hong Kong company registration records – the very thing a freedom of information act is designed to facilitate.