Google chairman Eric Schmidt, other tech CEOs meet with Obama, NSA

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Google chariman Eric Schmidt joined a group of tech CEOs who met with the president and members of the administration today to discuss the implementation of recently-announced changes in the National Security Administration’s spying practices. Other CEOs in the group represented Facebook, Dropbox, Netflix, and more. Along with the president were several advisors and councilors, including the Deputy Director of the NSA.

The executives were updated on the status of changes to the NSA’s spying policies that were first detailed last year and continued to be further expanded upon in recent months. These CEOs were among those who signed an open letter to the federal government comdemning the unwarranted sue of spying tactics to intercept and store communications sent via various online platforms.

Earlier this week Google’s Larry Page also discussed the NSA and issues of privacy during the TED conference.

Boeing enters smartphone race with the secure, tamper-proof Android ‘Boeing Black’

Following reports last night when the device was spotted going through the FCC, Reuters reports Boeing today officially announced a new Android smartphone with a number of innovative security features. Dubbed “Boeing Black,” the device will be marketed towards government officials and other organizations that highly value keeping their data secure. The tamper-proof device builds in a number of security features for encrypting calls and more and is designed to wipe itself clean of any data if someone attempts to open the physical casing of the phone. Here’s a bit more from Boeing’s website: Read more

Google joins tech titans in calling for government spying reform and limitations

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Google has joined Microsoft, Twitter, Apple, Yahoo!, Facebook, and other giants in the tech industry in calling for a reform of the NSA’s surveillance tactics. Earlier this year it was revealed that the National Security Agency was using information from these companies and more to monitor citizens across the nation without warrants.

The companies allegedly involved in the “PRISM” program denied turning over any user data to the government, but a leaked NSA slidedeck (seen above) seemed to imply the opposite.

The new collaborative campaign, called Reform Government Surveillance, cites five driving principles in its drive to curb excessive government spying:

Read more

Google’s top legal chief says the company is not ‘in cahoots’ with the NSA

David Drummond, Google's top legal chief

David Drummond, Google’s top legal chief

A lot of false facts were spread around when the original news regarding the NSA’s relationship with technology companies broke. Since then, Google, Apple, and other others have been on a mission to repair their public image. In an interview with the Guardian, Google’s top legal chief reaffirmed the fact that the company is not “in cahoots” with the NSA, nor does it give the government direct access to its servers.

“We’re not in cahoots with the NSA and there is no government programme that Google participates in that allows the kind of access that the media originally reported,” David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said. “There is no free-for-all, no direct access, no indirect access, no back door, no drop box,” Drummond reaffirmed.

“We didn’t know [Prism] existed,” he said, suggesting that Google was just as surprised by the leaked reports as citizens were. Read more

Samsung set to launch anti-theft features for smartphones in July

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Earlier this month, we told you about government officials calling on major tech companies to improve anti-theft features of their devices. At WWDC this year, Apple did just that and announced its new Activation Lock feature. Now, all eyes have shifted to the other large smartphone manufacturer, Samsung. According to a report out of Korean site MK, Samsung is set to launch its anti-theft features for smartphones as early as July.

The feature will essentially be a kill switch that will allow carriers, manufacturers, and even the government to remotely wipe, lock, and disable any smartphone that has been stolen. Once this is done, the device would be rendered useless, even when a new SIM card is installed.

A kill switch is exactly what government officials called for earlier this month, and what it and manufacturers likely discussed when they met last week at a “smartphone summit” to talk about mobile security.  Read more

Boston drops Microsoft, switches 20,000 city employees to Google Apps

Google Apps Logo Ring hires

Google has been signing up a lot of Google Apps for Government customers over the last year, including Colorado and the US Naval Academy, and today The Boston Globe reports that Boston is soon making the switch from Microsoft to a Google Apps environment for city employees.

As noted in the report, Boston was previously relying on Microsoft’s Exchange for much of its tasks and making the switch to Google will save the city around $280,000 a year:

It’s not just the gee whiz factor: It’s also a matter of money. It will cost Boston around $800,000 to move over to Gmail, Google Docs for word processing, and Google’s cloud service for storing documents. But by dropping some Microsoft products, the city government will save at least $280,000 a year.

Microsoft responded to the decision in a statement to the Boston Globe, claiming, “Google’s investments in these areas are inadequate, and they lack the proper protections most organizations require.” Read more