Nowhere to hide: Feds reportedly demand passwords from internet companies

By on July 26, 2013, 1:30 PM
government, privacy, feds, surveillance, encryption, passwords, federal agencies

The internet is a dark place for privacy advocates these days, and the U.S. federal government continues to pick apart any semblance of privacy users may have been holding onto with the revelation that the feds are demanding that major internet companies turn over users’ passwords.

According to two industry sources familiar with the orders, the government has been making direct requests for user passwords, reports CNET, and some of the orders request both a user’s password, the algorithm used to encrypt it, and the password salt.

Both sources spoke anonymously, but reportedly worked for large Silicon Valley companies. Broadly speaking, companies “really heavily scrutinize” and push back against these requests, according to one source. “There's a lot of 'over my dead body.”

Some orders have gone as far as to request the secret questions and answers associated with a user’s account.

Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo each responded to CNET’s queries, but would not confirm that they have received any such federal government password requests. When asked if they would divulge passwords, salts, or algorithms, each company said they would never turn over such information.

"No, we don't, and we can't see a circumstance in which we would provide it," said a Microsoft spokesperson.

A Yahoo spokesperson elaborated, saying "If we receive a request from law enforcement for a user's password, we deny such requests on the grounds that they would allow overly broad access to our users' private information. If we are required to provide information, we do so only in the strictest interpretation of what is required by law."

A person familiar with the issue told CNET that larger internet companies are typically able to resist such requests on the grounds that the government doesn’t “have the right to operate the account as a person,” but said they don’t know if smaller companies are able to resist such requests.




User Comments: 23

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Scavengers Scavengers said:

Of course smaller companies can resist. All they have to do is what was being done back in the early to mid 2000's. A short and sweet "kiss my ass" does the trick.

Dave

MilwaukeeMike said:

We're missing the most important fact. WHOSE passwords are they asking for? Joe the barber who happened to have made the mistake of calling a Obama a hack, or Ted, who's been in contact with Hezbollah, has a swastika tattooed on his face and runs a website full of bomb making tutorials?

If they are asking for passwords of people who aren't heavily suspected of any crimes, then it's a serious invasion of privacy that we all should be concerned about. If they're looking for a facebook password to find out what young female a serial killer has been stalking online, then by all means, give up the passwords.

We can't just apply what the govt does to some and think it's going to happen to all of us. The police shoot someone in the country probably every week, but I'm not going to lose any sleep thinking that's going to happen to me.

1 person liked this |
Staff
Jesse Jesse said:

We're missing the most important fact. WHOSE passwords are they asking for? Joe the barber who happened to have made the mistake of calling a Obama a hack, or Ted, who's been in contact with Hezbollah, has a swastika tattooed on his face and runs a website full of bomb making tutorials?

If they are asking for passwords of people who aren't heavily suspected of any crimes, then it's a serious invasion of privacy that we all should be concerned about. If they're looking for a facebook password to find out what young female a serial killer has been stalking online, then by all means, give up the passwords.

We can't just apply what the govt does to some and think it's going to happen to all of us. The police shoot someone in the country probably every week, but I'm not going to lose any sleep thinking that's going to happen to me.

You raise a very good point, Mike. The problem with assessing the state of our privacy among all of these leaks and reports is that we are very often not given the whole story, and many people make assumptions for the worst to fill that factual void. This would normally be easily remedied by the release of further detail from all parties involved, but the confusion and misinformation is exacerbated by the fact that most information about most of these programs is still classified. That leaves the internet companies in question unable to accurately and honestly respond to inquiries from the press, and government officials unwilling to disclose more information for fear of giving up a competitive advantage against those whom are under surveillance.

Guest said:

In the UTOPIC world we wouldn't have to spy on each other :)

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This would normally be easily remedied by the release of further detail from all parties involved, but the confusion and misinformation is exacerbated by the fact that most information about most of these programs is still classified.
Precisely!!!

wastedkill said:

Lets remember that microsoft always lie and they lied about this... seriously microsoft are pathetic they blatantly lie about this even when everyone knows they are lying... they are giving up every little spec of dust they have on their customers its sad.

I would go as far as saying microsoft is the only one kissing the governments and NSA's feet as they walk through their doors worshipping them.

I cant see any other company going as far as microsoft is which is good but still would like to see what other companies are doing.

MilwaukeeMike said:

You raise a very good point, Mike. The problem with assessing the state of our privacy among all of these leaks and reports is that we are very often not given the whole story, and many people make assumptions for the worst to fill that factual void. This would normally be easily remedied by the release of further detail from all parties involved, but the confusion and misinformation is exacerbated by the fact that most information about most of these programs is still classified. That leaves the internet companies in question unable to accurately and honestly respond to inquiries from the press, and government officials unwilling to disclose more information for fear of giving up a competitive advantage against those whom are under surveillance.

Correct, it's still classified. And it's human nature to be afraid of the unknown, even if there's no logic in it. I want to know what to be afraid of. Are we just bothered because we think it's creepy that they could read our emails, or are we just afraid because they might do something? Unless you're a conservative group who applied for non-profit tax status last year, you haven't been persecuted by the govt something that should have been private. But none of that information was the result of NSA gathered info.

The reality is, the news doesn't have any stories about the NSA's invasion of our privacy leading to personal detriment.

So again.. the program is classified... so why is our default reaction to freak out? I would understand if this program were new. Freaking out about SOPA is legit because of things that might occur if it passed. PRISM started in 2007. 6 years have gone by with the NSA's ear in our internet and nothing has happened, why are we afraid our lives are going to change now that we know about it?

tekman42 said:

We're missing the most important fact. WHOSE passwords are they asking for? Joe the barber who happened to have made the mistake of calling a Obama a hack, or Ted, who's been in contact with Hezbollah, has a swastika tattooed on his face and runs a website full of bomb making tutorials?

We can't just apply what the govt does to some and think it's going to happen to all of us. The police shoot someone in the country probably every week, but I'm not going to lose any sleep thinking that's going to happen to me.

If they are asking for passwords of people who aren't heavily suspected of any crimes, then it's a serious invasion of privacy that we all should be concerned about. If they're looking for a facebook password to find out what young female a serial killer has been stalking online, then by all means, give up the passwords.

I do believe there's a saying that originated with the constitutions stand on this type of privacy intrusion and doesn't it say something like ummmmm ("He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither" Ben Franklin)

Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates. "On Freedom of Speech and the Press", Pennsylvania Gazette, 17 November 1737.

(Ben Franklin).

Concerning those pesky super secret "gag orders" issued by those super secret courts and those super secret judges.

YES...let's keep on giving up our freedoms in the name of safety...PEOPLE...listen up...other nations do not and have not openly attacked the United States of America because they all FEAR our retribution.

We can NOT choose safety over something that...could happen or may happen...We must rely on our constitution and respond to any open direct threat with whatever force is required but to deny our citizens the basic rights...rights, and freedoms afforded us by our constitution and the blood of our youth and military is a direct path to destruction and the complete failure of Democracy means we no longer deserver our form of government.

Look at history, pick up a book and learn where all this ends up at...there's plenty of examples throughout history to describe this journey we are now all on thanks to those in government that run the U.S. If you do not think tyranny exists start looking at Africa, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Greece, Egypt and the United Emirates...tyranny ensures that the people do not have any rights...look at the fool that won't leave after being isolated and his reign being dismantled that is insisting he doesn't have to leave so he uses his military to destroy the public as in...Mubarak...and what about it being ILLEGAL to talk bad about a president... as in France?

This IS where we are headed if we keep going down this path the government has us all on...if you don't think so then take a look at who and in what amounts special interest groups can now donate to a campaign!!!!! We are headed to a bad place and right quick we will arrive if we keep allowing our government to pick and choose what's "Right" for each and every one of us! History shows us exactly where this all ends up at..so keep going along...just keep it going on...keep burying your heads, keep ignoring our past history...keep throwing out the "Bill of Rights" for perceived safety...the truth is that there is NO SAFETY guaranteed NONE...

I'm not a war monger or anything like it and I AM a Veteran who when I could fight... swore an oath to keep our constitution and it's people safe with my life if necessary...but we better stand up and say ENOUGH, STOP or we will forever lose the right to do just that.

This is my opinion as illustrated in the annals of history....just read it for yourselves...go ahead...I dare you...read up and see where this goes.

Respectfully,

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

So again.. the program is classified... so why is our default reaction to freak out? I would understand if this program were new. Freaking out about SOPA is legit because of things that might occur if it passed. PRISM started in 2007. 6 years have gone by with the NSA's ear in our internet and nothing has happened, why are we afraid our lives are going to change now that we know about it?
And we are supposed to just sit back and let a governing body govern without placing conditions? Tell me where is our freedom in that question? Allowing a government to govern without conditions, is taking away everyones rights to vote. I think it is safe to say we didn't vote for this, or we would have known about its existence. And now that we do know about its existence, we are being denied the opportunity to vote it out.

We celebrate Independence Day every year, but for the life of me I don't understand why. The concept behind Independence Day died, when we made our own equally comparable laws.

LookinAround LookinAround, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Hell, if the hackers seem to be able to get into systems to get 'em, why should we make it easy for the feds?!!

1 person liked this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

In the UTOPIC world we wouldn't have to spy on each other

In Thomas Moore's "Utopia", people were allowed to have slaves! But that's OK, because they were in golden chains

Before I forget, who's "utopia" are you referring to? Aldous Huxley's, "Brave New World", Plato's "Republic", Thomas Moore's "Utopia", or some imploding fantasy about how you think things should be?

BTW, I think "utopia" means "nowhere" in Latin, or something like that. Jus' sayin'.

Guest said:

Tekman you fool. Other countries aren't afraid of assmericas bullshit retribution.

It's simply a stupid and assmerican thing to do, to attack established countries.

The Chinese for example, wouldn't WANT to attack the stupid US, even if they could.

Simply because it's bad for buisness and hurts way more people than will probably

be intended. But stop being so full of yourself, damn assmericans. Your country is neither

the best in the world, nor the most powerful. If it was, it's hilarious to think about how the

wars you're engaged in now, seem to be so hard to win; despite all your fancy tech and

stupid warcries. Assmerica is a bullshit country. There's more bullshit than CO2 in the air!

Hahaha. Everything from your legal system, to your various other systems are filled with

bullshit of varying sorts. Other countries have these faults too, but you guys take the cake.

I love listening to some of your bullshit sometimes. One of the most hilarious is the one

"Land of the free" yet I think a pretty large percentage of your population is either in prison

or being spied on to the extent that they can't be considered free. "Land of the brave"

yet you always use fearful future outcomes to determine current day actions. For a country

with such a large populace armed with all sorts of weaponry, I don't hear much bravery

being enacted against your evil government. You'd rather "be brave" against entities like

al-qaeda or the taliban, Entities which 99% of your populace will never come into contact

with. Good job. It's good to see you know which enemies to prioritize. Your freedom is

constantly being erroded by entities like the NSA, CIA and FBI. Yet you've got people like

M Mike who muddy the waters with the kind of reasoning that at first glance sounds logical,

but lacks clear vision. If you'd just limit your governments power and stop speaking about

your bullshit "constitution" as if it meant something, maybe you'd actually get somewhere,

in realizing some actual change. The people who spy on you, ARE NOT your allies. They

are your ENEMIES. If not enemies of you as individuals, then of your so-called democracy.

For **** sake.

Guest said:

Oh and tekman.

You, like everyone else, has to stop using the "we're headed" towards things like

tyranny. You're living it now. But did you know that none are as hopelessly enslaved, than

the ones who think they're free? You have very few real rights, when it all comes down to it.

2 people like this | tekman42 said:

I'm setting here laughing my a** off at your enlightened rhetoric. I knew someone would crawl out of the woodwork when I wrote this...sure nuff

In my opinion (of which I'm allowed to have in my Fettered freedom as you call it) My Constitution and Democracy trumps ANYTHING you might have and I placed my life in possible harms way to defend both so you folks out there can write like this on the internet...Nuff Said.

Our money is the worlds standard, Our Military is the mightiest on the planet, our nation is the #1 Superpower, We are the Richest nation, We wield immense political power as well as global influence, our economy leads the global economy...that's a lot of #1's for such a bad country.

Call em as you see em bub...that's what I do, the numbers don't lie.

But thanks for the criticism...it's appreciated by all; this was written for we the people of the United States of America; it's a family matter and you're not family so enjoy your day sir.

Respectfully,

MilwaukeeMike said:

I do believe there's a saying that originated with the constitutions stand on this type of privacy intrusion and doesn't it say something like ummmmm ("He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither" Ben Franklin)

Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates. "On Freedom of Speech and the Press", Pennsylvania Gazette, 17 November 1737.

(Ben Franklin).

Ben Franklin's quote has a nice ring to it, but isn't very relevant in 2013. We have accepted restrictions on freedom in almost every aspect of our lives. Every time you sit at a red light your freedom is restricted in the name of safety. Even freedom of speech is restricted in the name of safety. You can't yell 'Fire' in a theater without risking a charge for endangering public safety.

The Feds gathering emails isn't a freedom of speech issue, it's a 4th amendment issue. The 4th says that citizens shall not be subject to 'unreasonable search and seizure.' So how did such a huge surveillance program get congressional approval past the 4th amendment we ask? Because (according to the congressmen and women who voted for it) it only looks at something called 'envelope data'. They gather who we call, what time we call and for how long we talk. Much like the front of an envelope shows who the letter is going to, who it's from and the postage stamp shows time and place it was sent from. The data on the front of an envelope is easy for everyone to see, and that's the data they SAY they collect on the internet. And that's how the laws got through congress.

Look at history, pick up a book and learn where all this ends up at...there's plenty of examples throughout history to describe this journey we are now all on thanks to those in government that run the U.S.

I understand the 'death by a thousand cuts' argument. Income tax started at 1% when it was made law. Today Obama is pushing us toward more and more govt dependence one small (or large - Obamacare) step at a time. Each of those steps results in less personal freedom. Am I worried that's happening here with the NSA? Not yet, but maybe soon. I'm waiting for the effect.... the story about a person who was harassed for something gathered via one of these programs. When Obama wants us to depend on the govt more, I lose another small piece of my paycheck. I care about that far more than my emails and texts ending up in a database somewhere.

I care more that our administration lied and told the world that a terrorist attack on our embassy in Benghazi on 9/11/12 was the result of an anti-Muslim video (that no one has ever seen) when it was in fact a planned attack. They did it because there was a big election in 2 months.

I'm not a war monger or anything like it and I AM a Veteran who when I could fight... swore an oath to keep our constitution and it's people safe with my life if necessary...but we better stand up and say ENOUGH, STOP or we will forever lose the right to do just that.

Respectfully,

Thanks for your service, I don't disagree with you, but I do feel better about something that has bi-partisan support. And if we don't like those who voted for it we can respond next Nov. We still have that freedom.

MilwaukeeMike said:

And we are supposed to just sit back and let a governing body govern without placing conditions? Tell me where is our freedom in that question? Allowing a government to govern without conditions, is taking away everyones rights to vote. I think it is safe to say we didn't vote for this, or we would have known about its existence. And now that we do know about its existence, we are being denied the opportunity to vote it out.

Well...we don't get to vote on laws in this country. I think that's a good thing as there's no way the general public could read 1000 page bills and make educated decisions. So we've elected representatives to do it for us and they vote for us. They did vote for this surveillance, and we can vote for a different rep if we don't like it.

What about the laws that weren't voted for by anyone? There are two ways laws are created, bills and court cases. Look at Roe vs Wade. That made abortion legal in this county and it wasn't voted on by elected officials OR people. Gay marriage almost took the same route, but the Supreme Court sent the issue back to the lower courts because they understand that major issues should be voted on, either by the people, or the elected officials who have to answer to the people.

So if you really want to worry about your freedom being undermined, keep your eyes open for Supreme Court cases. They are supposed to interpret the law, but every so often they create law.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

I'm setting here laughing my a** off at your enlightened rhetoric. I knew someone would crawl out of the woodwork when I wrote this...sure nuff

In my opinion (of which I'm allowed to have in my Fettered freedom as you call it) My Constitution and Democracy trumps ANYTHING you might have and I placed my life in possible harms way to defend both so you folks out there can write like this on the internet...Nuff Said.

Our money is the worlds standard, Our Military is the mightiest on the planet, our nation is the #1 Superpower, We are the Richest nation, We wield immense political power as well as global influence, our economy leads the global economy...that's a lot of #1's for such a bad country.

Call em as you see em bub...that's what I do, the numbers don't lie.

But thanks for the criticism...it's appreciated by all; this was written for we the people of the United States of America; it's a family matter and you're not family so enjoy your day sir.

Respectfully,

I couldn't agree more and I'm not even an American.

tekman42 said:

I care more that our administration lied and told the world that a terrorist attack on our embassy in Benghazi on 9/11/12 was the result of an anti-Muslim video (that no one has ever seen) when it was in fact a planned attack. They did it because there was a big election in 2 months.

I hear ya and I especially hate how President Obama allowed the administration to hang Mrs. Hillary Clinton's ass out to dry on that one...she fell on the grenade like the good soldier she had to be. Mrs. Clinton is Hellfire or Blood and Guts on lying or bad ideas...

President Clinton didn't get that title by accident...I know for a fact, I was in the Air Force in Arkansas when President Clinton was governor and issued the order to install Law Enforcement in the back room of Convenience stores open all night and the night clerks that were getting robbed and killed by armed criminals at a frightening rate in the early 80's...the sign on the front of the establishment was in the image of a officer looking down the barrels of a double barreled shotgun aimed right at you...and yes...there were a few criminals who were introduced to those double barrels...guess what...the crime rate took a HUGE nose dive immediately after those poor unfortunate souls met those double barreled toting men of law enforcement face to ummmm barrels!

I hold several degrees in IT...telecommunications...and networking...that data they say is only Meta data...is an outright lie...Snowden released documents indicating that ALL data was to be collected, analyzed and held for later analyses.

ALL data includes the voice conversations and contents of texts and emails as well as names, addresses, IP addresses, bank account information, passwords, usernames...ALL data.

There were just secret warrants issued for what the secret courts, secret judges felt like collecting...there was NO HONEST OR HONORABLE EFFORT MADE HERE...there was nothing but furtive, secret efforts, to collect data from whomever they wanted, whenever they wanted, in any amounts they felt like and feel like right now as the programs are still very much in effect and ongoing 24/7 365.

In a democracy...you cannot spy on your citizens at will here in the United States of America, you cannot listen to their phone calls, you cannot read their emails and texts, the constitutions guarantees some autonomy that is inalienable and no man has the "right' to take that autonomy from you. YOU cannot do so with secret orders, gag orders, secret courts and secret Judicial decisions hidden away from public and governmental oversight...in this nation...the Law of the Constitution says it's illegal and unconstitutional and therefore PROHIBITED.

So reap what you have sowed...ride the whirlwind and fear what is coming that you so richly deserve...government and politicians, I do believe you are about to be introduced to your constituency in a new and enlightening way...at least I sure hope so.

Your welcome for my service, thank you for remembering.

Respectfully,

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Tekman you fool. Other countries aren't afraid of assmericas bullshit retribution.

It's simply a stupid and assmerican thing to do, to attack established countries.

The Chinese for example, wouldn't WANT to attack the stupid US, even if they could.

Simply because it's bad for buisness and hurts way more people than will probably

be intended. But stop being so full of yourself, damn assmericans. Your country is neither

the best in the world, nor the most powerful. If it was, it's hilarious to think about how the

wars you're engaged in now, seem to be so hard to win; despite all your fancy tech and

stupid warcries. Assmerica is a bullshit country. There's more bullshit than CO2 in the air!

Hahaha. Everything from your legal system, to your various other systems are filled with

bullshit of varying sorts. Other countries have these faults too, but you guys take the cake.

I love listening to some of your bullshit sometimes. One of the most hilarious is the one

"Land of the free" yet I think a pretty large percentage of your population is either in prison

or being spied on to the extent that they can't be considered free. "Land of the brave"

yet you always use fearful future outcomes to determine current day actions. For a country

with such a large populace armed with all sorts of weaponry, I don't hear much bravery

being enacted against your evil government. You'd rather "be brave" against entities like

al-qaeda or the taliban, Entities which 99% of your populace will never come into contact

with. Good job. It's good to see you know which enemies to prioritize. Your freedom is

constantly being erroded by entities like the NSA, CIA and FBI. Yet you've got people like

M Mike who muddy the waters with the kind of reasoning that at first glance sounds logical,

but lacks clear vision. If you'd just limit your governments power and stop speaking about

your bullshit "constitution" as if it meant something, maybe you'd actually get somewhere,

in realizing some actual change. The people who spy on you, ARE NOT your allies. They

are your ENEMIES. If not enemies of you as individuals, then of your so-called democracy.

For **** sake.

Oh look, here's a new twist on a spambot, a "BlusterBot".

Nothing I enjoy more than curling up with a good copy of the Al Queda propaganda manifesto.

Shouldn't you be out making yourself a suicide vest, and thumping off over the 72 virgins whazzis name promised you? (Did you ever take the time to notice that Bin Laden never considered becoming a suicide bomber, what's up with that)?

This just in: Virgins are way overrated anyway. They don't know what they're doing, and you can't get rid of them when you're done. Stick with the goats.

1 person liked this | Kildazar Kildazar said:

Or maybe they want the passwords for the people that posted unflattering comments about the Obama administration. Or maybe the next republican administration would like the passwords of those who bad mouthed them. Oh, but I forgot, they said they wouldn't do stuff like that. Silly me.

1 person liked this | tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

They don't need your password then can say "SOMEONE WAS ATTEMPTING TO ACCESS YOUR EMAIL" we had to reset your password. Thus they can get into your account look at what you been typing. If the Government wants to get in they can get in. If the eMail Host allows password changes they can do it.

All this going to get worth though. We do so much today online and we forget what that brings. Lost of privacy.

Guest said:

The reason people are assuming the worst about the government requesting passwords is because of all of the information we've been getting in regards to other activities. Everything from the IRS targeting conservative groups, to them hacking reporter's computers in order to out their informants, to court-martialing military personnel for posting political views while off-duty, this government has turned almost completely Orwellian. The public has every right to be concerned.

tekman42 said:

Not just every right...but a constitutional responsibility to question EVERYTHING.

Top security specialists and experts even agree on this matter in the U.S.....and they placed the responsibility squarely where it belongs...In Washington D.C.

[link]

Read and understand what a Top Security specialist has to say about what is wrong with what is being done and who is behind it.

"In accepting the award I don't condone the NSA's surveillance. Simply put, I don't think a free society is compatible with an organisation like the NSA in its current form."

Says it all doesn't it!!

Respectfully,

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