Report: NSA collecting email and IM contacts globally
by Melanie Eversley & Byron Acohido
The National Security Agency has been collecting contacts from people's personal email address books and instant messaging accounts in an effort to detect relationships that might be crucial to government security, the Washington Post is reporting.
The agency is collecting the data from overseas points and many of the contacts belong to Americans, the Post reports.
The Post bases its report on word from senior intelligence officials and top secret documents, including a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden..
The majority of the contacts harvested come from Yahoo and Hotmail accounts, but others also come from Facebook, Google and unspecified other providers, the Post reports. The contacts amount to a sizeable portion of the world's email and instant messaging accounts, according to the news organization.
"You need the haystack to find the needle," the Post quotes Gen. Keith B. Alexander, NSA director, as saying in defense of the bulk collection.
No one from public affairs was available to discuss the allegations at National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., Monday evening.
Senior intelligence officials say such collection would be illegal if done from facilities in the United States, according to the news organization. The NSA, however, has avoided that error by intercepting contact lists from points "all over the world," one anonymous official tells the Post .
Large technology companies use data centers around the world to ease the loads on their servers in the United States, the Post reports.
A Google spokesman told USA TODAY the Internet company had not heard of the email/instant messaging program.
"We have neither knowledge of nor participation in this mass collection of webmail addresses or chat lists by the government," the company said in a statement emailed to USA TODAY.
A Microsoft spokesman said the company does not provide the government with such data.
"Microsoft does not provide any government with direct or unfettered access to our customer's data," spokesman Dominic Carr said in an email. "We would have significant concerns if these allegations about government actions are true."
Yahoo's response was similar in an emailed statement. "We are not aware of nor have we participated in the alleged mass collection of user data by the government," the statement read.
A Facebook spokesman said the company did not know of or assist with the alleged collection of contacts.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the program a breach of Americans' rights.
"Today's revelation further confirms that the NSA has relied on the pretense of 'foreign intelligence gathering' to sweep up an extraordinary amount of information about everyday Americans," Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, said in an email to USA TODAY. "The NSA's indiscriminate collection of information about innocent people can't be justified on security grounds, and it presents a serious threat to civil liberties," he said.
The revelations may be adding to consumer resolve not to take online privacy so blithely. Antivirus companies ESET and AVG both said consumer interest in privacy tools have been on the rise since the Snowden disclosures began.
"People are being shocked into taking action," says Jim Brock, AVG's vice president of privacy products. "People are starting to realize that they do have some measure of control and they're staring to act on that."
Stephen Cobb, a security researcher at ESET, says many consumers now realize the personal disclosures shared on social media and web apps can get tapped by government snoops.
"I'm pretty sure consumers are adjusting their online behaviors as these round of disclosures roll on, particularly in the area of use of social media," Cobb says. "None of these revelations have had a positive impact on how people view the Internet and technology."
The silver lining may be more consumer support for online services that do a better job of respecting consumer privacy, akin to Europe's approach of giving consumers much more control over their online personas.
"People are starting to understand what this means to them, and that's good," says Brock. "It's time to move from shock and awe to taking more responsibility for our own data and doing a better job at being our own data stewards."
Rutgers police asking students' opinions on how to improve public safety
by James Queally
The Rutgers Police Department has released a university-wide survey asking for students opinions on how to improve police practices and public safety tactics on the school's three campuses, officials said today.
The 20-question survey, which will be conducted at least once every three years, is part of a department wide effort to improve community relations and a requirement for the agency to keep its status as an internationally accredited law enforcement agency, according to Capt. Michael Rein, a Rutgers police spokesman.
This marks the second time Rutgers has released such a survey. The department received several thousand responses from students, faculty and other members of the campus community in 2011, Rein said.
Many of the questions revolve around community members' previous interactions with Rutgers Police, asking what type of services officers' provided at the time and what they could have done better to resolve the incident they were called to respond to.
The questions are fairly straightforward, and should only take a few minutes to answer, according to Rein,
"It's nothing that somebody who is familiar with the community wouldn't be able to answer," he said.
The full survey can be taken here . It will remain available online until Nov. 30th, Rein said.
Emergency Managers Expanding Communication Channels to Increase Public Safety Awareness
National Study Finds Concerted Effort to Meet Diverse Public Communication Needs, Address Complacency with Broader Approaches
UNIVERSITY PARK, Ill., Oct. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As mobile technologies and social media channels continue to penetrate Americans' communications behaviors, emergency managers are working diligently to ensure emergency communications keep pace. This is one of the findings from the 2013 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey , which examines some of the greatest challenges currently faced by emergency managers. The survey, following on the heels of September's National Emergency Preparedness Month, comes as recent tragedies in Yosemite National Park and Aurora, Colo., remind Americans of the unpredictable and devastating effects man-made and natural disasters can have.
Now in its fourth year, and conducted again by Zogby, the annual report has traditionally surveyed the general public on safety awareness and emergency preparedness attitudes and behaviors. For the first time, however, this year's survey shifts the conversation by asking emergency managers about the most significant challenges they face and the measures they are taking to address them.
"Last year's Federal Signal Public Safety Survey showed that complacency and a lack of safety awareness are common public perception when it comes to emergency preparedness and response," said Joe Wilson, president of the Industrial Systems Division, Safety and Security Group at Federal Signal. "This year, we wanted to assess the complexity of the issues emergency managers face and uncover the actions they are taking to find effective solutions."
Facing the Facts
As the technology landscape continues shifting, the American public's communication methods are increasing and gradually becoming more mobile-oriented. The 2013 study showed that nearly one-in-three (28 percent) emergency managers identify the public's varied communication preferences as the greatest challenge they face. These challenges include effectively reaching a growing, older population with many special language and other needs. For those with hearing and vision impairments, physical limitations and varying debilities, communication preferences may extend beyond traditional landline phone calls and email, to include text messages and social media channels and more.
"The increase in the number of communication layers emergency managers are up against has drastically added to the complexity of developing an effective, all-encompassing communications program," said Wilson. "Age, physical disabilities and cultural differences are human factors that they have always had to recognize and take into consideration, but rapid mobile and social media technology growth has only compounded the issue — making it not only challenging to reach community members wherever they are, but increasingly difficult to drive a sense of urgency."
As communication preferences continue to change and diversify, emergency managers must consider a layered approach that can reach all community members effectively and efficiently. That includes not only enabling new technologies, but successfully integrating these with traditional communication methods in a way that drives citizens — of all ages, needs and communication preferences — to action.
Driving a Public Sense of Urgency
Community members trust emergency managers to provide them with the tools they need during an emergency, making it critical that they leave no stone unturned when it comes to effective communication. More than half of respondents (58 percent) trust local and regional government officials to ensure sufficient public safety standards, communication and planning, according to the 2012 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey.
The 2012 survey results found that less than one half (47 percent) of community members would take action based on a potential severe weather warning. It comes as no surprise, then, that nearly one-in-four (22 percent) emergency managers said that apathetic community members are their greatest challenge, according to the 2013 study. In fact, the study found only 20 percent of emergency managers feel that their community members are very aware of existing alerting and notification systems in their area.
"An emergency manager's goal is to generate 100 percent awareness among the community," said Wilson. "It is critical that they not only ensure that families and community members have an emergency plan in place, but that they understand all of the possibilities for receiving real-time messages in emergency situations — from siren notifications, to a text message or email alert, and much more."
In order to best reach community members, emergency managers need to consider the places where each of their citizens seeks information. As expected, one of the toughest challenges for emergency managers is the cost associated with new tools and equipment. The 2013 survey found that for 75 percent of emergency managers, the greatest deterrent to updating emergency communication systems is their budget (75 percent). Yet, there are many ways to interact with the public that are simple and cost effective, many of which emergency managers have already embraced. According to the 2013 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey:
81 percent are promoting their activities and programs at community events and meetings
72 percent are communicating with their community directly though emails, direct mail, and phone calls
67 percent are communicating with the public through a community website
The Need to Be More "Social"
New technology enables community-wide engagement and can help drive emergency responsiveness among citizens — often at the touch of a button. This presents new opportunities for emergency managers to expand their reach. Only 55 percent of emergency managers are currently using Facebook as part of their alerting and notification system, and three-in-ten currently are not providing educational tools through websites and social media.
"By evaluating modern technology, emergency managers can supplement communications plans with new ways to take a more comprehensive outreach approach and ultimately connect with more community members," said Wilson.
For more information on the 2013 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey, visit http://www.alertnotification.com/ .
About the Survey
Zogby International was commissioned by Federal Signal to conduct a nationwide, live operator telephone survey of 200 EMS decision makers, or emergency managers. All surveys were completed Aug. 1-2, 2013. A sampling of Zogby International's emergency manager panel, which is representative of the emergency manager population of the U.S., was invited to participate.
About Federal Signal
Federal Signal Corporation (NYSE: FSS ) enhances the safety, security and well-being of communities and workplaces around the world. Founded in 1901, Federal Signal is a leading global designer and manufacturer of products and total solutions that serve municipal, governmental, industrial and commercial customers. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., with manufacturing facilities worldwide, the Company operates three groups: Safety and Security Systems, Environmental Solutions and Fire Rescue. For more information on Federal Signal, visit: http://www.federalsignal.com .