Google, Facebook and others have betrayed their global users
...We trusted technology companies to do the “right thing” and not the “legal thing”. We even cheered when they did the right thing, like defying the government of Egypt by standing up for the activists in 2011, in countries that we believed had oppressive governments.
This trust has been the biggest casualty of the leaks over the last week. It reveals that despite “foreigners” making up for more than 80% of their user base, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and others remain US companies first. When asked to cough up inordinate amount of personal data of their unsuspecting clients, they do not stand up to the US government, the way they do in India or some other country. When facing mass surveillance, they do not pullout of the US.
They only do the “right thing” when they are operating outside the US....
House committee looks into IRS seizure of 60 million medical records
Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are looking into allegations that the Internal Revenue Service seized 60 million medical records from a California health care provider.
“(T)he Committee on Energy and Commerce is investigating allegations that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in the course of executing a search warrant at a California health care provider’s corporate headquarters in March 2011, improperly seized the personal medical records of millions of American citizens in possible violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” members of the committee wrote in a letter Tuesday to Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel....
IRS tracks your digital footprint
The Internal Revenue Service is collecting a lot more than taxes this year -- it's also acquiring a huge volume of personal information on taxpayers' digital activities, from eBay auctions to Facebook posts and, for the first time ever, credit card and e-payment transaction records, as it expands its search for tax cheats to places it's never gone before.
The IRS, under heavy pressure to help Washington out of its budget quagmire by chasing down an estimated $300 billion in revenue lost to evasions and errors each year, will start using "robo-audits" of tax forms and third-party data the IRS hopes will help close this so-called "tax gap." But the agency reveals little about how it will employ its vast, new network scanning powers.
Tax lawyers and watchdogs are concerned about the sweeping changes being implemented with little public discussion or clear guidelines, and Congressional staff sources say the IRS use of "big data" will be a key issue when the next IRS chief comes to the Senate for approval. Acting commissioner Steven T. Miller replaced Douglas Shulman last November.
"It's well-known in the tax community, but not many people outside of it are aware of this big expansion of data and computer use," says Edward Zelinsky, a tax law expert and professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and Yale Law School. "I am sure people will be concerned about the use of personal information on databases in government, and those concerns are well-taken. It's appropriate to watch it carefully. There should be safeguards." He adds that taxpayers should know that whatever people do and say electronically can and will be used against them in IRS enforcement....
Yes, Actually, the NSA Says They Can Eavesdrop on Phone Calls Without Warrants (UPDATED)
...The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed "simply based on an analyst deciding that."
If the NSA wants "to listen to the phone," an analyst's decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. "I was rather startled," said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.
Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA's formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls....
...What seems more likely is that Nadler is saying analysts sifting through metadata have the discretion to determine (on the basis of what they’re seeing in the metadata) that a particular phone number or e-mail account satisfies the conditions of one of the broad authorizations for electronic surveillance under §702 of the FISA Amendments Act. Those authorizations allow the targeting of whole groups or “categories of intelligence targets,” as the administration puts it. Once the FISA Court approves targeting procedures, they have no further role in deciding which specific accounts can be spied on. This is, as those of us who wrote about the FAA during its recent reauthorization observed, kind of a problem....