Until the revelations based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden came to light, the world had to take U.S. intelligence agencies’ word that they were adhering to legal limits on domestic and foreign data gathering. Now that we know better, all of the assurances they’ve made about the nature of their surveillance programs are under scrutiny. One such conceit—that the collection of metadata shouldn’t be viewed as surveillance—is being put to the test by researchers at the Stanford Security Lab at Stanford University. A new project, called Metaphone, will use metadata collected from the cellphones of volunteers to see how much additional information can be discovered when starting with logs of phone calls and text messages.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate began debate this week over the Surveillance Transparency Act introduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). The bill would require that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) make revelations of its own. Among them: how broad a net it is casting in its data collection programs; what proportion of the people having their data collected are U.S. citizens or permanent residents; and whose information was actually reviewed by a government agent. The legislation would also eliminate the gag orders that prevent phone and Internet companies from divulging the number of orders they receive demanding customer data and the number of requests with which they comply.
More On the U.S. Government and Digital Surveillance
Data Insecurity Heightened by Government-Installed Backdoors In Hardware, Software, and Networks, says New Report
Google Fielded More Than 10 000 User Data Requests from the U.S. Government in the First Half of 2013—More Than Twice the Number of Requests Received in 2010
State Obamacare Exchanges Not Secure
Obamacare Update: Security Expert says State Healthcare Insurance Exchanges “Built In Such a Way as to Almost Attract Attackers"
In Other Cybercrime News…
New Microsoft Cybercrime Center Puts Security Engineers, Digital Forensics Experts, and Lawyers Trained in Fighting Cybercrime All Under One Roof
Hackers Steal $1.2 Million from Australian Bitcoin Wallet
Facebook Posts Alert Telling Potential Adobe Hack Victims to Reset Their Passwords
Internet Explorer 11 and Google Chrome Hacked at Mobile Pwn2Own
Security Researchers Say Svpeng, an Android banking Trojan Created by Russian Hackers, Can Phish for Bank Card Access Credentials and Issue Commands to Empty Victims’ Accounts
Microsoft Provides Patch for Windows Vulnerability Discovered in the Wake of a Watering Hole Attack Targeting Visitors of an Unnamed U.S.-based Domestic and Foreign Security Policy Website
Willie Jones is an associate editor at IEEE Spectrum. In addition to editing and planning daily coverage, he manages several of Spectrum's newsletters and contributes regularly to the monthly Big Picture section that appears in the print edition.