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A Russian Monument to Honor Steve Jobs Has Been Torn Down Because Tim Cook is Gay

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In St. Petersburg, Russia, a memorial to the late Apple founder Steve Jobs which resembled a giant iPhone with a large screening and a QR code on the back has been taken down by ZEFS, the company which funded its erection in 2013, Business Insider reports:

Speaking in a press release sent to Russian media outlets, ZEFS chairman Maxim Dolgopolov explained that the memorial was torn down for two reasons: Tim Cook coming out as gay and Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA spying. (Snowden's documents suggest Apple products were used by the NSA to conduct surveillance.) He didn't rule out reinstalling the memorial, however, but said that it would only return if it could be modified to instruct Russian citizens to use products from companies other than Apple.

Apparently the Snowden revelations didn't warrant the monument's removal on their own since they happened months ago. ZEFS Chief Maxim Dolgopolov told Business FM Radio that because Apple CEO Tim Cook came out as gay, the monument now violates Russia's law banning gay "propaganda" to minors. He also urged users to switch to computer products that are not subject to surveillance (good luck).

Watch a video of the monument's unveiling in 2013, AFTER THE JUMP...

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SXSW 2014: What Info Can (And Should) the Government Protect and Collect? - No Easy Answers

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Sxsw_2014_bugSXSW - Austin's annual tech, film, and music festival - is currently underway and has brought in thousands of film buffs, tech geeks, actors, and musicians from across the globe to meet, mingle, and enjoy the coolest city in Texas. And with the Interactive portion of the festival drawing to a close, what better time to look back on the things we've learned at SXSW 2014 so far.

What Info Can (And Should) the Government Protect & Collect? - No Easy Answers

Issues surrounding citizens' right to privacy and right to access information have been front and center for much of the week here in Austin, with a host of big names offering their thoughts and opinions on the matter.

GoogleGoogle chairman Eric Schmidt and Director of Google Ideas Jared Cohen kicked off SXSW with a discussion that ranged from robotics to privacy to the role of whistleblowers in the digital age. Both also shared their concerns over government overreach and the “balkanization of the internet” by countries around the globe.

In 2012, for example, Iran became the first country to push for a “national internet,” which would allow the country’s government to wall off a part of cyberspace, control it, and potentially even rewrite history. “Imagine if the Arab world decides to delete all references to Israel,” Schmidt hypothesized.

Interestingly, many of the panelists who spoke on issues related to privacy and security in the digital age were unable to be at SXSW in person due to their complicated relationships with the U.S. government.

IMG_1475-1In a video conversation through Skype, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange blasted the NSA as a “rogue agency” and urged citizens to stand up and speak out about their right to privacy. Gay journalist Glenn Greenwald and whistleblower Edward Snowden also appeared via video, with Snowden accusing the NSA and U.S. government of “setting fire to the future of the internet” and telling attendees that they were the “firefighters” against mass surveillance and data collection.

"In an NSA building somewhere probably in Maryland there is a record of everyone who has ever called an abortion clinic, everyone who has called an Alcoholics Anonymous hotline, anyone who has ever called a gay bookstore," Snowden said. "And they tell us don’t worry we aren’t looking at it or we aren’t looking at it in that way...that is none of the government's business."

CloudOther panelists pushed back a bit against the enthusiastic embrace of Assange, Snowden and unfettered access to government information. BBC’s Sharon Weinberger asked audiences to imagine a hypothetical 1940s where both the internet and Edward Snowden were present. How would we feel if he had leaked classified government blueprints for nuclear warheads? Would we support open access to information if it enabled our wartime enemies to potentially build a weapon of mass destruction?

Google’s Schmidt also found the internet’s ability to allow leakers to release extremely large quantities of documents troubling:

“I don’t think we want random people leaking large amounts of random data,” Schmidt said. “People can be hurt. There’s no way to tell if there’s something in a leak of a million documents that it could get someone killed.”

For now, it seems the debate about who exactly gets to decide what “appropriate use” of government power is and what types of information should be public will continue into the foreseable future.  

[Google photo via PC Pro]


Edward Snowden Applauds Chelsea Manning’s 'Extraordinary Act of Public Service' - VIDEO

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In a speech delivered via video to the Oxford Union Society, Edward Snowden commended fellow whistleblower Chelsea Manning for her “extraordinary act of public service” at “an unbelievable personal cost” 

The speech was given in honor of Manning’s recent selection as the recipient of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity and Intelligence for "casting much-needed daylight on the true toll and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq; human rights abuses by U.S. and "coalition" forces, mercenaries, and contractors; and the roles that spying and bribery play in international diplomacy."  She is currently serving a 35-year sentence for her role in leaking the largest set classified documents in U.S. history. 

Snowden, who was last year’s recipient of the award, also spoke out against the government’s “over-classification” of documents that should be considered public record. 

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

[via Jezebel]

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President Obama Announces NSA Reforms in Major Speech on Government Surveillance: VIDEO

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President Obama gave a speech announcing a number of NSA reforms including an end to tapping the phones of allied governments and the holding of metadata from millions of Americans, the NYT reports:

In a much-anticipated speech that ranged from broad principles to technical details, Mr. Obama said he would end the vast collection of phone data as it exists today. He will also restrict the ability of the National Security Agency to throw a net well beyond the data of an individual target and collect unlimited numbers.

And the president said he would sharply restrict eavesdropping on the leaders of dozens of foreign allies, the disclosure of which ignited a diplomatic firestorm with friendly countries like Germany.

But Mr. Obama did not accept other recommendations that have been made to him on reining in surveillance, like requiring court approval for so-called national security letters, in which the government demands information on individuals from companies. That was a victory for the F.B.I. and other law-enforcement agencies, who argue that these letters are vital to investigations.

Obama also briefly mentioned leaks of NSA intelligence by Edward Snowden:

“I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations. I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy....Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.”

Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who helped break the Snowden story, called the speech a PR stunt:

“It’s really just basically a PR gesture, a way to calm the public and to make them think there’s reform when in reality there really won’t be. And I think that if the public, at this point, has heard enough about what the NSA does and how invasive it is, that they’re going to need more than just a pretty speech from President Obama to feel as though their concerns have been addressed.”

Watch the full speech, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Glenn Greenwald Rips Columnist Ruth Marcus Over Stance on Edward Snowden: VIDEO

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Columnist Gleen Greenwald, who broke the NSA Edward Snowden story, blasted Ruth Marcus and "everything horrible about DC media" in a debate on Jake Tapper's The Lead about Edward Snowden and whistleblowers, calling her a "loyalist" of the Obama administration.

Mediaite reports:

“People in Washington who are well-connected to the government, like she is, do not believe that the law applies to them,” Greenwald insisted. He later added that the Obama administration has been more aggressive with whistleblowers than previous administrations.

“I think there has been an excessive use of the whistleblower – an excess use of power against whistleblowers,” Marcus agreed. She noted sarcastically that, because she sees the world in “grey terms,” this makes her a “complete tool of the establishment.”

However, Marcus added that she has tried to take into account many of Snowden’s leaks which have been a public service, but she asserted that many of his leaks do harm national security interests. She further asserted that Snowden’s attitude is “insufferable” and “reprehensible.”

“You do not need to be collecting, Jake, billions of calls and emails – billions every day – as the NSA does,” Greenwald asserted.

Marcus closed by correcting Greenwald for “conflating” all of Snowden’s disclosures with the efficacy of the NSA’s domestic information gathering programs.

Watch the fiery debate, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Edward Snowden Declares Mission Accomplished, Records Christmas Message: VIDEO

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BY Daniel DeFraia / GlobalPost

Six months after he blew the whistle on the US National Security Agency's surveillance around the world, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden believes his actions have been validated, and that, at least personally, his mission is accomplished.

In his first in-person interview since arriving in Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum, an apparently satisfied Snowden sat down with The Washington Post for a lengthy discussion.

“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he told The Post.

“I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”

In the wake of 9/11, the NSA's capability increased dramatically, in part due to the passage of the Patriot Act.

“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” Snowden said. “That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”

NsaThe so-called NSA revelations, which began when Snowden passed on secret NSA documents to journalist Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, have reverberated across the world through many international newspapers and diplomatic channels.

The leaders of Brazil and Germany — both of whom were allegedly monitored by the NSA —  have voiced their strong disapproval of the scope of the agency's surveillance. In addition, giant technology companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have taken steps to assure their customers that their data is safeguarded against bulk data collection.

Earlier this month, a US federal judge ruled that the NSA's mass collection of telephone data was likely unconstitutional, calling it "almost Orwellian."

A day later, a panel appointed by President Obama made 46 recommendations to limit the scope of the NSA's surveillance and data collection.

The 5-person panel, which included a former deputy director of the CIA and a counter-terrorism advisor, concluded "the government should not be permitted to collect and store mass, undigested, non-public personal information."

Obama is expected to make a "definitive statement" about the panel's recommendations in January. He indicated some things may change:

“In light of the disclosures that have taken place it is clear that whatever benefits the configuration of this particular program may have may be outweighed by the concerns people have on its potential abuse,” Obama told reporters on Friday. “And if that’s the case there may be another way of skinning the cat."

As for Snowden, he says he's still working for the NSA, at least in an unofficial capacity:

"I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA," he said. "I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don't realize it."

"The system failed comprehensively," he added, "and each level of oversight, each level of responsibility that should have addressed this, abdicated their responsibility."

Snowden told The Post that he wasn't sure how the public would react. He didn't know if people would agree with his actions or share his views.

"You recognize that you're going in blind... But when you weigh that against the alternative, which is not to act, you realize that some analysis is better than no analysis."

Snowden also recorded a video Christmas message on Tuesday.

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

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