Weekend news round-up: More PRISM revelations shake world; RIP Google Reader

1 Jul 2013

Further revelations by Edward Snowden have dominated the weekend’s tech news. This time, the former CIA contractor has accused the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) of bugging and snooping on offices of the EU in the US, as well as embassies of other nations in Cold War-style tactics. Other reports suggest the longstanding spat between Oracle and Salesforce.com is coming to an end. Which vision of the cloud will win? And what are the replacements out there for Google Reader, which comes to an end today?

Snoopgate rumbles on; shall we call it the ‘phony’ war?

The Guardian reported that new Edward Snowden papers reveal 38 bugging targets, including the EU, France and Italy, with Berlin accusing Washington of Cold-War tactics.

“One document lists 38 embassies and missions, describing them as ‘targets’. It details an extraordinary range of spying methods used against each target, from bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmissions with specialised antennae. Along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets includes the EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey. The list in the September 2010 document does not mention the UK, Germany or other western European states.”

According to TechCrunch, the EU is warning that EU-US relations could be adversely impacted if claims the NSA bugged EU offices in America turn out to be true.

The claims are the latest in the NSA/PRISM controversy. EU President Martin Schulz is understood to be deeply worried about the issue.

“Respected German magazine Der Spiegel made the claims today in the the latest in a series about alleged NSA spying. Spiegel claims a ‘top secret’ US National Security Agency (NSA) document from September 2010 has been taken by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. It says its journalists have seen the document and claims that it goes into detail about how the NSA spied on EU offices and internal computer and phone networks in Washington and at the UN.”

The Verge reported how the Washington Post published four new slides from its trove of NSA/PRISM information appearing to confirm some of the reports earlier in June about the nature of the US government surveillance programme.

“One slide, containing a screenshot of a PRISM web interface, appears to show the scope of the government’s record keeping. The screenshot, which the Washington Post dates as of April 5th, shows 117,675 ‘records’. The Post claims these are ‘active surveillance targets’, but neither the Post nor the content of the slide indicate whether each of these records pertain to unique individuals under active surveillance. The extent of the information held within each record is also unknown.”

Encryption humbugs wiretaps for first time ever

On an interesting but related side note, Wired reported encryption is thwarting government surveillance efforts through court-approved wiretaps for the first time.

Quoting a report from the US Administrative Office of the Courts, Wired reported: “Encryption was reported for 15 wiretaps in 2012 and for seven wiretaps conducted during previous years. In four of these wiretaps, officials were unable to decipher the plain text of the messages. This is the first time that jurisdictions have reported that encryption prevented officials from obtaining the plain text of the communications since the AO began collecting encryption data in 2001.”

Oracle and Salesforce.com singing from the same hymn sheet?

The cloudy public spat between Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff appears to be simmering down, according to TechCrunch. The two companies will finally integrate their cloud services.

“While the personality-led public spats often seemed more like desperate grabs for publicity and attention than anything else, the Oracle-Salesforce feud can be boiled down to a much more interesting (and fundamental) conflict: Which company or model (if either) represents the ‘true cloud’ – present and future? In reality, that comes down to not only who has been able to win over enterprises with their respective service suites in the sky in the past – but who’s got the best shot at doing that tomorrow … or in 2025?”

Life after Google Reader

Today is the day that Google kills off a perfectly good and respected product called Google Reader. TidBITS had a good piece over the weekend on the various options users have to replace Reader. It said that when the news was first announced, the landscape for replacements was dry and barren.

However, “The good news is that the developer community has come through, and there are now several compelling alternatives to Google Reader for those who want syncing of RSS subscriptions between devices, though all are far from complete. And our previous favourite, Feedly, even has some new flair to share. I’ve sorted through the competition to find the best choices that work for multiple platforms, have third-party support, and, if possible, follow sustainable business models.”

Cyber spy image via Shutterstock

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years