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What is PRISM?

Quite recently, there have been news and rumors circulating all over the internet about PRISM. According to articles published by the Washington Post and the Guardian, PRISM is a covert collaboration between the NSA, FBI and the many tech companies we depend on daily. Fancy naming aside, it is actually a real US government program that is said to have started in 2007 to monitor potentially valuable foreign communications that could pass through US servers.

With the help of companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Apple and the like, the US government is able to access tremendous wealth of data and communications that passes through the companies’ servers. These information are then cascaded to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit which in turn reports to the NSA.

Documents describing the previously undisclosed program, obtained by the Washington Post, show the breadth of U.S. electronic surveillance capabilities in the wake of a widely publicized controversy over warrantless wiretapping of U.S. domestic telephone communications in 2005. See a handful of these documents in the screenshots below:

A slide briefing analysts at the National Security Agency about the program touts its effectiveness and features the logos of the companies involved.

This diagram shows how the bulk of the world’s electronic communications move through companies based in the United States.

The PRISM program collects a wide range of data from the nine companies, although the details vary by provider.

This slide shows when each company joined the program, with Microsoft being the first, on Sept. 11, 2007, and Apple the most recent, in October 2012.

Which means, basically, PRISM has allowed the US government unprecedented access to each and everyone’s personal information for the last six years. That includes chats, emails, pictures, videos and calls. Everything that makes up our online identity.  Scary, isn’t it?

Well, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, there is nothing to worry about PRISM. He writes:

The Guardian and The Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They contain numerous inaccuracies.

Section 702 is a provision of FISA that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons located outside the United States. It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.

Activities authorized by Section 702 are subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. They involve extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons.

Section 702 was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.

Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.

The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.

From what he wrote above, Clapper basically assures everyone that the US government’s PRISM program is totally legal and very important to ensure protection of US citizens (and to some degree, the subscribers and users of all the tech companies they have been tapping the last 6 years) from a variety of threats.

Not contented? To further ease the tension caused by the news about PRISM, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and just recently, Facebook, have published their individual albeit seemingly rehearsed press releases regarding the matter. Says Mark Zuckerberg in his personal FB page:

I want to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM:

Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn’t even heard of PRISM before yesterday.

When governments ask Facebook for data, we review each request carefully to make sure they always follow the correct processes and all applicable laws, and then only provide the information if is required by law. We will continue fighting aggressively to keep your information safe and secure.

We strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. It’s the only way to protect everyone’s civil liberties and create the safe and free society we all want over the long term.

From all these recent developments, maybe there is just one thing we should take note: the world we live in today has become increasingly connected and social that privacy and security as concepts have evolved and taken a slightly different definition. With the continuous growth and development of computing, internet and telco technologies, it is naive of us to think that the government (and to some extent, other malicious or criminal organizations) cannot and will not access the “personal” and “private” information that we share amongst our friends and the community. Hence, we as citizens of the web should be more responsible and aware of the things that we do, say, hear and share. With the help of today’s technology, the world is more open than ever before, and it is simply up to us if we would not be vigilant and allow other groups or individuals to bypass our personal privacy.

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Microsoft mocks Apple in new ad: less talking, more doing

The Mac vs PC wars reignites today as Microsoft takes a hit on the iPad’s multitasking capabilities compared to Windows8-enabled tablets. In a recent ad, the company mockingly uses Siri in an attempt to convince users that not only Windows8 tablets better overall, they are far cheaper as well.

Interested? See the video here.

Gamers, meet the new Xbox One!

Finally, after much speculation and wait, Microsoft has finally revealed the Xbox One, its successor to the hugely popular Xbox360 gaming console and competitor to rival Sony’s PlayStation4.

With Microsoft aiming to become everyone’s all-in-one entertainment system, does the new console stack up to the challenge? Read on to find out.

Packaged with Kinect, the Xbox One now features a Voice Control feature, which offers a voice-controlled experience from start to finish. Your voice serves as inputs to the Xbox and helps it identify your user profile. You may also dictate activities to the Xbox One, similar to how iOS and Android handles Siri and Google Now. And of course, gesture recognition is still there to control the system with your own hands.

A Snap Mode feature is also available on the new Xbox. Similar to the Microsfot Windows 8 experience, it allows users to run two activities simultaneously. This multitasking feature, which has been mostly reserved for computers and mobile devices, now comes to the gaming console scene and as such, it provides a second screen viewing experience to run alongside anything you are currently doing. For content providers, this should be of interest as they could leverage it to provide additional means to engage audiences losing interest in traditional ads.

Kinect has also been updated, which is now better at recognizing voice inputs and gestures, even allowing the system to read your heartbeat while exercising. It is also now capable of capturing 1080p video, and can detect more points on the body for better recognition. As for the controller, it looks quite similar to the one found in the Xbox360, although now, it features an integrated battery compartment, Wi-Fi Direct and a high precision directional pad.

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For a sample of the Xbox One’s release videos, see below:

Source: techgeeze.com, xbox.com

Sony releases PS4 trailer on eve of Microsoft’s new Xbox reveal

In a bold and daring move, Sony recently made public a teaser trailer of their upcoming PlayStation 4 gaming console that is set to go head-to-head for console superiority with Microsoft‘s newest Xbox set to be revealed tomorrow. A lot of closeups and geometry could be deciphered on the video, although amidst this, one thing is for sure: the console wars is on and this is just great news for gaming enthusiasts!

Source: forbes.com

Alert! Microsoft offers Get2Modern promo for entrepreneurs

Get2Modern

Approximately a year from now, Microsoft will finally retire support for its Windows XP and Office 2003 products. For businesses and entrepreneurs, this could signal a problem as important updates, fixes and technical support will no longer be available. In the long run, this could eventually result into security and privacy issues.

To remedy this, Microsoft Philippines has launched the Get2Modern promo. Its aim is to provide a smooth platform for small-to-medium scale businesses to transition to Windows 8 and Office 2013, the company’s next generation products and services.

For more information, you may see the company’s webpage regarding this.

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