Apple attends 'spy summit' to discuss data privacy, mass surveillance issues

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2015
Apple was on the list of attendees at a secretive three-day conference last week, where heads of intelligence agencies from around the world met with private sector tech companies, security experts and journalists to discuss the ramifications of data privacy on state protection.




According to The Intercept, which obtained a copy of the event program, the summit was chaired by former British MI6 Sir John Scarlett as part of an ongoing series of conferences put on by the Ditchley Foundation. Said to discuss "complex issues of international concern," these highly confidential meetings are held at the foundation's mansion in Oxfordshire.

The guest list reads like a who's who of current and former high ranking government surveillance officials from the CIA, British signal intelligence group GCHQ, German intelligence service and many other agencies from the U.S., Australia, Canada and the EU. Apple's director of global privacy Jane Horvath and security and privacy manager Erik Neuenschwander represented the company's interests, while executives from Google and Vodafone were also in attendance.

Also present was current GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan, who recently condemned U.S. tech companies like Apple and Google as "command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals." Hannigan's stance mirrors that of his counterparts in the U.S. intelligence community who argue that access to public data is vital to national security.

Data privacy has been a hot button topic since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified information regarding secret government surveillance programs that collect data on a massive scale. In question are collection techniques that ingest data wholesale, with everything from phone calls to social network posts scrutinized without the user's knowledge or proof of wrongdoing.

Law enforcement agencies argue that a certain level of access to private data is needed to adequately conduct criminal investigations. Specifically, justice officials sometimes request personal data logs from telephone companies, cloud service providers like Apple and other entities in a lawful procedure allowed through court-ordered warrants.




Amid the Snowden leaks, technology companies began to provide consumers with communications products that boasted advanced encryption features. Apple was one of the first big tech firms to offer consumers high-security encryption in iOS 8, claiming at the time that its system was so secure that user data would be inaccessible even with the appropriate documentation.

While Apple's efforts are not designed to expressly thwart government sanctioned snooping, CEO Tim Cook has been an outspoken advocate of consumer data privacy with a hardline stance against data sharing.

"None of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information," Cook said during an interview in February. "This is a basic human right. We all have a right to privacy. We shouldn't give it up. We shouldn't give in to scare-mongering or to people who fundamentally don't understand the details."

Law enforcement agencies, however, find Apple's technology, as well as similar efforts from Google, counterproductive and even detrimental to time critical criminal investigations. In the U.S., some officials are pushing policy to institute mandated software backdoors for crime fighting purposes, but private companies that have an interest in keeping buyers happy are showing resistance. Most recently, Apple and other tech companies signed a letter asking President Barack Obama to disregard such measures, arguing that strong encryption is necessary to secure the "modern information economy."

The issue, then, becomes one of striking a balance between public privacy and lawful data access, a problem supposedly addressed during last week's summit. The Intercept notes the Ditchley conference is evidence that government and private companies are showing an increased willingness to discuss the matter, at least behind closed doors.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    So... completely absent and left unrepresented in these secret meetings are the very citizens affected by these outrageous abuses of power.
  • Reply 2 of 15
    prokipprokip Posts: 171member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    So... completely absent and left unrepresented in these secret meetings are the very citizens affected by these outrageous abuses of power.

     

    Too true !!   Where are those representing us, me and you, the users.  Even a cursory read of some of  the stuff that Snowden has released would have us all really worried.  (For once Spam you have something useful to contribute rather than your usual banal rubbish!)

  • Reply 3 of 15
    > striking a balance between public privacy and lawful data access

    I can't see that existing. Even the smallest back door will eventually make it into the public domain for all to abuse.
  • Reply 4 of 15
    geekmeegeekmee Posts: 473member
    "Don't hate the players (Apple, Google)... Hate the game!" --Chris Rock
  • Reply 5 of 15
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 992member
    The judiciary in the US has weighed in against the spy agencies... the second circuit court of appeals has deemed mass collection of data is illegal...so the spy agencies are on dubious legal terrority.
  • Reply 6 of 15
    brlawyerbrlawyer Posts: 828member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Planetary Paul View Post



    > striking a balance between public privacy and lawful data access



    I can't see that existing. Even the smallest back door will eventually make it into the public domain for all to abuse.



    Indeed. Seems like "sleeping with the enemy" will win in the end and you won't even know what "backdoors" are created.

  • Reply 7 of 15
    brlawyerbrlawyer Posts: 828member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by BadMonk View Post



    The judiciary in the US has weighed in against the spy agencies... the second circuit court of appeals has deemed mass collection of data is illegal...so the spy agencies are on dubious legal terrority.



    Irrelevant, since there is whole wide world and consumer market outside the US market - such decisions concern only US citizens at most; everyone else would still be spied on through mass data collection and local US courts couldn't care less.

  • Reply 8 of 15
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    So... completely absent and left unrepresented in these secret meetings are the very citizens affected by these outrageous abuses of power.

    To be fair, I believe the watchdog role of journalism is designed to fulfill that role, and there were journalists there.
  • Reply 9 of 15
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,644member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by NolaMacGuy View Post





    To be fair, I believe the watchdog role of journalism is designed to fulfill that role, and there were journalists there.

    Why would journalists be invited to a highly classified meeting? The fact The Intercept got a hold of the event program only goes to show everyone how people can't keep their mouths shut and why we as private citizens need as much control over our own lives as we can. 

     

    In my opinion, the Apple representatives were there for me because they are required to follow Cook's direction on protecting user data. These two people would have a lot more pull than you or me. Of course, what happens behind closed doors is supposed to stay behind closed doors but this hardly ever seems to happen, especially with journalists.

  • Reply 10 of 15
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,380member
    nolamacguy wrote: »
    To be fair, I believe the watchdog role of journalism is designed to fulfill that role, and there were journalists there.

    Even if that's true, sadly many so called journalists are part of the polarized world we find ourselves in these days and parse their reporting through preconceived filters. Objectivity seems to be an anachronism.
  • Reply 11 of 15
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,380member
    rob53 wrote: »
    Why would journalists be invited to a highly classified meeting? The fact The Intercept got a hold of the event program only goes to show everyone how people can't keep their mouths shut and why we as private citizens need as much control over our own lives as we can. 

    In my opinion, the Apple representatives were there for me because they are required to follow Cook's direction on protecting user data. These two people would have a lot more pull than you or me. Of course, what happens behind closed doors is supposed to stay behind closed doors but this hardly ever seems to happen, especially with journalists.

    Yes for sure I feel Tim's team is representing my beliefs far better than I'd have faith that any politician, of any persuasion, was. VNAC ( Vitae nostrae Apple confidimust) :D
  • Reply 12 of 15
    krreagankrreagan Posts: 218member

    "Apple was on the list of attendees at a secretive three-day conference last week, where" ... They were issued a secrete warrant signed by a secrete court to install back doors into there encryption products without any notifications to customers...

     

    Every time the government says "we are not doing something" we find out that they have been it and that we have been lied to!

  • Reply 13 of 15
    I would rather fight a terrorist for my life than the government for my freedom.
  • Reply 14 of 15
    damn_its_hotdamn_its_hot Posts: 1,193member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GrangerFX View Post



    I would rather fight a terrorist for my life than the government for my freedom.



    No kidding -- I would rather not be in either fight but since standing up for our rights and freedoms (here in the US anyway) is what this country is all about. A relatively small group of people got together in the early 1770's to hash this out -- the govt (at the time UK since the US was colonies) was ruthless at stamping out any freedoms sought by the rebels including killing, plundering, looting, etc... for even talking about such things. They became much less tolerant of the 'rebels' as words moved towards action -- some as simple as a boycott. The complacency and the attitude that the govt is some entity unto itself is what scares me today. US citizens don't seem to realize that WE are the govt and that the politicos and bureaucrats work for us, they do not rule or control us (legally anyway).

     

    Once we, the people, acquiesce to the govt taking our everything by give up our privacy we are back to square one but this time fighting a monster of our own creation.

     

    A wise men once said 'just cause I'm paranoid doesn't mean they are not out to get me'.

  • Reply 15 of 15
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,380member

    No kidding -- I would rather not be in either fight but since standing up for our rights and freedoms (here in the US anyway) is what this country is all about. A relatively small group of people got together in the early 1770's to hash this out -- the govt (at the time UK since the US was colonies) was ruthless at stamping out any freedoms sought by the rebels including killing, plundering, looting, etc... for even talking about such things. They became much less tolerant of the 'rebels' as words moved towards action -- some as simple as a boycott. The complacency and the attitude that the govt is some entity unto itself is what scares me today. US citizens don't seem to realize that WE are the govt and that the politicos and bureaucrats work for us, they do not rule or control us (legally anyway).

    Once we, the people, acquiesce to the govt taking our everything by give up our privacy we are back to square one but this time fighting a monster of our own creation.

    A wise men once said 'just cause I'm paranoid doesn't mean they are not out to get me'.

    ... and speaking of British colonies ... I have always suspected the fuss in 1770's was stirred up by a few on this side of the Atlantic to gain power/land/money/ for themselves. It is not as if New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Britain are exactly oligarchies or even if slightly leaning that way they pale in comparison to the USA.
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