Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 20, 2014

Shoppers Just Don’t Care About Credit Card Hacks;  5 Ways Identity Theft Can Ruin Your Life;  10 Noob mistakes Android users make;  The best tablet deals for Black Friday;  Your complete guide to Apple’s iCloud Drive;  Three apps that let you create and customize your own widgets;  Hands-on with Facebook Groups;  Google Serves Up Thanksgiving Travel Tips;  Bogus tech support operations scammed $120 million;  How to stop SMS spam on your Android or iOS phone;  Malware’s new target: your password manager’s password;  Firefox drops Google as default search engine;  Humans Have Become Too Good at Lying;  Duke it out on Middle-Earth via a Chrome Experiment;  Avira Free Antivirus.

Shoppers Just Don’t Care About Credit Card Hacks – If neither shoppers nor shareholders ultimately punish big businesses for data breaches, will companies move to prevent them before they occur? “In the end, the market’s behaving completely rationally,” says Avivah Litan, a security analyst for Gartner. “It’s still a pain in the neck for everyone, but there’s very little actual fraud committed as a result of these breaches.”

5 Ways Identity Theft Can Ruin Your Life – Identity theft sounds scary, but for many, the meaning isn’t entirely clear. What does it mean to say someone has stolen your identity? Just what are the consequences? As it turns out, those consequences can range from having to get a new credit card to spending time in jail. Let’s look at just what kind of trouble an identity thief can cause you.

10 Noob mistakes Android users make – Whether you’re coming from an iOS background, a BlackBerry background, a Windows Phone background, or dare I say a dumb phone background, Android will shock your system. Your eyes will be opened, and you’ll see everything in a completely new light. But you’ll also make some mistakes, like loading up your phone with battery-draining Live Wallpaper, or accidentally downloading an obviously virus-laden app. Whether this is your first Android device or your fiftieth, here are 10 mistakes all Android newbies make.

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The best tablet deals for Black Friday – This Black Friday is flush with tablet deals aimed at nearly everyone, from casual users to movie-buffs.

Your complete guide to Apple’s iCloud Drive – iCloud Drive will store and sync your files across all of your devices. It’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about it.

Here’s What Happens to Your Spine When You’re Constantly Texting – Your Candy Crush addiction might be harming your neck more than your productivity, according to new research. Looking down at your phone can add up to 60 pounds of pressure on your spine, depending on the angle. That’s according to a new study from spinal surgeon Dr. Kenneth Hansraj and published in Surgical Technology International.

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Three apps that let you create and customize your own widgets – Some of the widgets built into Android, or that come packaged with apps, are limited in functionality. And sometimes you want to go the whole nine yards when it comes to customizing your Home screen so that not only the wallpaper and icons match, but the widgets do, too. If that sounds like you, check out these three fantastic apps for making and customizing your own widgets.

Hands-on with Facebook Groups, a spin-off app you’ll actually want to use – Facebook’s Groups are one of the network’s original features. They’ve changed over the years, like the rest of the network, but Groups remain incredibly popular, even though they’re buried in the left rail of your News Feed like afterthoughts. This year, Facebook started to declutter its unwieldy big blue app by spinning off features into separate, stand-alone services. This week, Facebook Groups got the same treatment with a brand new iOS and Android app that takes the Groups that more than 650 million people use every month and makes them easily accessible.

Google Serves Up Thanksgiving Travel Tips – The Google Maps team looked at Thanksgiving traffic conditions over the last two years for 21 cities across the U.S. to bring you some useful information that should hopefully make your holiday trip a little easier. Those cities include: Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Providence, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa, and Washington, D.C.

Amazon uses Snapchat to send exclusive deals – Black Friday is here early and it may start on the app known for ephemeral messaging. The e-commerce giant grows its social media efforts in order to attract more mobile-friendly shoppers.

Amazon Fire TV Stick now shipping, out of stock until 2015 – Amazon’s Fire TV Stick wants to keep pace with the competition, just like big-brother Fire TV. On both fronts, Amazon’s TV ambitions are to keep up with rivals like Roku or Chromecast. All three offer their own take on the plug-and-play TV dongle, and those who purchased an Amazon Fire TV Stick will soon have theirs in-hand and on-TV. After what Amazon describes as their “most successful device launch ever”, the Fire TV Stick is now shipping.

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This is how Google is dealing with ‘right to be forgotten’ requests – About six months after the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) gave Europeans the right to compel search engines to remove search results in Europe for queries that include their names if the results are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive,” Google’s team has reviewed about 170,000 requests to delist search results that covered over 580,000 links, Google’s Global Privacy Council, Peter Fleischer, said Wednesday. So far, about 42 percent of the requests have been granted, while about 58 percent were denied by the team, which looks at every request, according to an online tool provided by Google that tracks the takedowns in real time.

Barbie book implies girls can’t be coders; Mattel apologizes – Mattel says a Barbie book that suggests girls can’t handle computer code doesn’t reflect its brand vision. That won’t stop the uproar surrounding the title, which is still available to buy.

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Digital eye strain: Understanding the condition and how to fight it – Technology can be such a headache. We’re not talking about bad software, we’re talking about the damage blue light can do to your eyes from staring at screens all day.

Pointing up    This past year I have noticed some level of eye discomfort following a full day on the net/machine. Recently, I installed a free application – f.lux – that has significantly eased the problem. A super application.

From the site: f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time. When the sun sets, it makes your computer look like your indoor lights. In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again. Tell f.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live. Then forget about it. f.lux will do the rest, automatically.

Visit beautiful Australia from the comfort of your computer – In collaboration with New South Wales National Parks and Catlin Seaview Survey, and in celebration of the once-a-decade IUCN World Parks Congress, 21 national parks and 27 underwater locations for Australia have been showcased on Street View, with special collections on the Street View website. Locations include the spectacular Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Harbour, Bondi Beach, Ku-ring-gai Chase, Cape Byron Lighthouse and Mount Kosciuszko. You can have a look through a selection of these in the gallery below, and hit up the National Parks and Australian Oceans landing pages for your own browsing.

Security:

How to stop SMS spam on your Android or iOS phone – The bad news is that mobile spam—either the iMessage variety or plain-old SMS spam—appears to be on the rise, and tracking down the spammers is about as easy as quelling a hive of hungry cockroaches. The good news, though, is that the latest iPhones and Android phones will let you block unwanted callers and texters—including mobile spammers—with a fair amount of ease.

FTC says two bogus tech support operations scammed $120 million from customers – The Federal Trade Commission has temporarily closed two operations alleged to have tricked customers out of $120 million by providing bogus technical support. The commission has brought two cases against the groups, both of whom reportedly offered specious advice and fake security software to computer users, before charging money to “activate” the useless programs.

Malware’s new target: your password manager’s password – Cyber criminals have started targeting the password managers that protect an individual’s most sensitive credentials by using a keylogger to steal the master password in certain cases, according to research from data-protection company IBM Trusteer. While the current impact of the attack is low, the implications of the attacker’s focus is that password managers will soon come under more widespread assault, Dana Tamir, director of enterprise security for IBM Trusteer, told Ars Technica.

Long-running Android botnet evolves, could pose threat to corporate networks – An Android Trojan program that’s behind one of the longest running multipurpose mobile botnets has been updated to become stealthier and more resilient. The botnet is mainly used for instant message spam and rogue ticket purchases, but it could be used to launch targeted attacks against corporate networks because the malware allows attackers to use the infected devices as proxies, researchers from security firm Lookout said.

BitTorrent dismisses Sync security concerns – The cryptographic implementation is solid and cannot be compromsied through a remote server, the company said.

Company News:

Firefox drops Google as default search engine, signs five-year deal with Yahoo – Today, Yahoo and Mozilla announced a five-year partnership that would make Yahoo the default US search engine for Mozilla’s Firefox browser on mobile and desktop. In December, Yahoo will roll out an enhanced new search function to Firefox users, and will also support Do Not Track functions in Firefox as a result of the partnership. The agreement also sets the stage for future product integrations, but so far the companies are keeping quiet on what those might be. Firefox has lost market share in recent years but is still used by roughly 17 percent of webgoers. According to Mozilla CEO Chris Beard, Firefox users search the web more than 100 billion times each year, suggesting a major windfall for Yahoo as a result of the deal.

Samsung confirms it will launch handset with flexible, foldable display in 2015 – Samsung has said that it will begin volume production of flexible displays for smartphones that can be folded next year, and the first such device will go on sale before the end of 2015.

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RelativeWave Gets Acquired By Google And Starts Giving Its $80 App Design Tool Away For Free – RelativeWave, creators of an $80 “interaction design and prototyping” Mac app called Form, has been acquired by Google. As a result, Form is now free. Form isn’t an app maker. That is, you don’t end up with an app that’ll do much on its own, or that you can distribute. Instead, you’ll get a rough prototype — a feel for whether or not a potential design (and many of its nuances, like the specifics of how an animation flows) are heading in the right direction. If doodling on a napkin is a 1 and actually coding the app is a 10, building a prototype with Form is somewhere around a 6.

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Apple Relabels “Free” Download Buttons On iTunes And Mac App Store To “Get” Following Pressure from EC – Across the iTunes and Mac App Stores today, a minor but also notable change is taking place with regard to how Apple is marketing its iOS and Mac applications. Instead of free apps being labeled as “FREE,” the download button now reads “GET.” The change likely has to do with increased pressures from the European Commission, which this summer, succeeded in forcing Google to relabel apps that offer in-app purchases.

BitTorrent Plans $40/Year Pro Tier For Sync File Sharing, Plus A New Mobile App To Send Large Files – BitTorrent is taking the wraps off the next phase of its strategy to turn its peer-to-peer file sharing network into a revenue-generating business, and compete more squarely against cloud-based services like Dropbox. In 2015, it will move its file-synchronising product — fittingly called Sync — out of beta as Sync 2.0, introducing a new “Pro” tier in the process for $39.99/year. And, expanding on some of the file-sending functionality of Sync, BitTorrent will introduce a new, as-yet unnamed mobile app focused specifically on large files.

Nielsen tipped in plan to monitor subscription video viewership – Nielsen plans to start monitoring video streaming services’ viewership numbers, shedding light on figures that have long been hidden from the public. Such information comes from the Wall Street Journal, which reports that it has viewed client documents related to the plan. The plan won’t include tracking viewership habits that take place on mobile devices (for now, at least), but will use Nielsen meters to analyze audio for determining what shows are being watched on other devices. The resulting numbers could, among other things, help studios negotiating with the services.

Games and Entertainment:

Duke it out on Middle-Earth via a Chrome Experiment – Fans are probably just counting down the days before the final Tolkien film lands in cinemas. But while whittling down the days, they can entertain themselves, and their friends mayhaps, by taking a virtual journey to Middle Earth. No you will not need some magical portal or even a ticket aboard Air New Zealand. All that is required is for you to fire up your Chrome web browser for this interactive tour of the fantasy world that also lets you even reenact the epics battles with your friends.

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Xbox One turns one on Saturday; 2 billion hours spent gaming and free swag for everyone – This Saturday, November 22nd, the Xbox One will turn one year old and Microsoft is celebrating that event with giveaways for everyone and a few gift bundles for random winners too.

Check out these amazing photos taken in the new ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ – A new and improved version of Grand Theft Auto V launched this week on PS4 and Xbox One, bringing with it beautiful graphics and a crazy new first-person mode. It makes for an intense new gaming experience, but players are also putting down their guns and taking some amazing photos in the more detailed version of Los Santos. And using the hashtag #gtaphotographers, they’re sharing those snaps, which include a lot of cars, landscapes, and even a few cute dogs. Check out some of the best right here.

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Obscenity laws prevent Indian release of Dragon Age: Inquisition – EA has announced that it will not be releasing a version of fantasy RPG Dragon Age: Inquisition in India “in order to avoid a breach of local content laws.” But just what local content laws are being breached is a matter of some debate.

Free Destiny demo with transferable characters now available on all consoles – The news comes directly from Bungie, who announced the program on their support forums. Destiny Trial and Demo – same thing just different names – are available on whichever console you prefer PlayStation 3 or 4 and Xbox One and 360. If you finish the demo and decide to purchase the game your character will transfer to the full purchased version even if that’s on a different console – but not a different console family. Meaning you can transfer your 360 character to the Xbox One, but not to a PlayStation.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

U.K. lad is youngest ever Microsoft Certified Professional at five years – A five-year-old boy from Coventry has become the youngest ever Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP). Ayan Qureshi took the same Microsoft tests as IT pros after previously settting up his own computer network at home. The boy, who has now turned six, has a father who is an IT consultant.

NASA visualizes a year of carbon dioxide emissions – Seeing a visual representation of how much carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere really hits home the impact humans are having on the Earth.

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Pointing up    We can continue to ignore reality – but, we will not be able to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.

Ashton Kutcher, Uber investor, wanders into the dumbest fight of his life – Uber investor Ashton Kutcher is defending Uber from comments that one of its executives made on Friday, in which the exec casually threatened to launch a smear campaign against a specific journalist who had written negatively about the company. In a series of tweets, Kutcher questioned whether Uber business exec Emil Michael’s suggestion that the company hire researchers to dig up dirt on journalists was really a bad idea. “What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?” Kutcher tweeted, without noting what was “shady” about the journalist in question.

Anonymous wages cyberwar on the KKK with #OpKKK & #HoodsOff – Anonymous has been waging cyberwar on the KKK after the hate group said it would use ‘lethal force’ on Ferguson protesters. The KKK threatened to shoot anyone wearing a Guy Fawkes (Anonymous) mask. The FBI warned there will likely be violence and attacks on critical infrastructure; the Missouri Governor declared a state of emergency authorizing the National Guard to support police.

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‘Smart Pipe’ is every bad startup in one delightful parody – “Your anus is the key to your future,” trumpets a bespectacled man at the end of the fake Smart Pipe infomercial. This phantasmagorical episode is the latest in Adult Swim’s delightful parody series, which was responsible for last week’s viral hit, “Too Many Cooks.” It opens with a snappily dressed man introducing us to one of the hottest “disrupt” technologies in town, a pipe capable of reading and interpreting your fecal matter. From there, things only get more surreal. The 11-minute video quickly descends into a riot of buzzwords, pompous expositions, and even an encounter with an alleged paedophile. What really sells the clip, however, is its sly takedown of the technology industry’s worst sins, including the sales of customer data and its obsession with social media sharing.

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Toronto wants court to shut Uber down – The City of Toronto wants a local court to shut down the Uber. The news comes just one day after an Uber executive was revealed to have suggested digging into the personal lives of journalists who write about the ridesharing company. In its Tuesday application for an injunction, Toronto claims that the company “operates in breach of the City’s licensing by-laws insofar as, among other things, it operates as a taxicab brokerage and limousine service company.” Uber has fought similar regulatory battles elsewhere around the globe and has prevailed to some degree.

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Is 2014 the Year We Hit the Technology Tipping Point? – Earlier this year, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer said more users would access its content on mobile devices and tablets than on personal computers. That’s the type of trigger that has her and many pundits proclaiming 2014 as a “tipping point” for technology.

Humans Have Become Too Good at Lying – Language is one of the most effective lie-detectors we have. But we suck it all up. We know lies happen every day and we just accept it. From PRs embellishing the truth to sell something (or doing that annoying “Re.” thing in the email subject line—mate, we haven’t ever had a conversation about your natty Christmas stocking fillers), to politicians bullshitting their way into power, we’ve come to expect and accept it. Without lies, society as we know it wouldn’t make sense. A good, decade-old New Yorker cartoon about a politician talking to press surmises it neatly: “I’m not spinning—I’m contextualizing.”

Something to think about:

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

–     Albert Einstein

Today’s Free Downloads:

Avira Free Antivirus – Avira AntiVir Personal FREE Antivirus was developed to be a reliable free antivirus solution, that constantly and rapidly scans your computer for malicious programs such as viruses, Trojans, backdoor programs, hoaxes, worms, dialers etc. Monitors every action executed by the user or the operating system and reacts promptly when a malicious program is detected.

Avira AntiVir Personal is a comprehensive, easy to use antivirus program, designed to offer reliable free of charge virus protection to home-users, for personal use only, and is not for business or commercial use.

Avira AntiVir Personal gives you the following functions:

Control Center for monitoring, administering and controlling the entire program

Central configuration with user-friendly standard and advanced options and context-sensitive help

Scanner (On-Demand Scan) with profile-controlled and configurable search for all known types of virus and malware

Integration into the Windows Vista User Account Control allows you to carry out tasks requiring administrator rights

Guard (On-Access Scan) for continuous monitoring of all file access attempts

Integrated quarantine management to isolate and process suspicious files

Rootkit protection for detecting hidden malware installed in your computer system (rootkits) (Only for 32-bit systems)

Direct access to detailed information on the detected viruses and malware via the Internet

Simple and quick updates to the program, virus definitions, and search engine through Single File Update and incremental VDF updates via a webserver on the Internet

Integrated Scheduler to plan one-off or recurring tasks, such as updates or test runs

Very high rates of virus and malware detection using innovative search technologies (search engines) and heuristic search processes

Detection of all common archive types, including detection of nested archives and smart extensions

High-performance multithreading function (simultaneous high-speed scanning of multiple files)

Features:

AntiVir protection against viruses, worms and Trojans AntiDialer protection against expensive dialers

AntiRootkit protection against hidden rootkits

Faster Scanning up to 20% faster

AntiPhishing protection against phishing

AntiSpyware protection against spyware and adware NetbookSupport for laptops with low resolution

QuickRemoval eliminates viruses at the push of a button

This program is advertising supported and may offer to install third party programs that are not required for the program to run. These may include a toolbar, changing your homepage, default search engine or other third party programs. Please watch the installation carefully to opt out.

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AppRemover – AppRemover fully supports the thorough uninstallation of hundreds of antivirus and antispyware applications. The following support chart is updated with each new release. The chart lists two different types of supported applications. One set has been verified by OPSWAT Labs testing. The other set lists applications that have been reported as supported by the hundreds of thousands of users that have previously downloaded AppRemover. After using AppRemover, please take a moment to answer a few brief questions about the product. Your feedback will greatly improve AppRemover’s effectiveness.

In addition, AppRemover may be able to successfully remove other security applications on your system. However, these are not guaranteed.

Use AppRemover:

When replacing one security application with another

When competing security applications tie up your computer

When the application’s built-in uninstall process fails

When you have forgotten the application password

This program is advertising supported and may offer to install third party programs that are not required for the program to run. These may include a toolbar, changing your homepage, default search engine or other third party programs. Please watch the installation carefully to opt out.

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Pointing up   Quick Tip – replacing one security application with another, can often result in a messy outcome unless the installed application is uninstalled with the specific tool offered by the vendor – many AV vendors offer such a tool. The built-in uninstaller (in the application to be deleted), is not to be trusted in my view.

AppRemover, which I use regularly following an AV test, has performed flawlessly over the years. It does exactly what it says it will do. A very handy tool.

BleachBit – BleachBit deletes unnecessary files to free valuable disk space, maintain privacy, and remove junk. Rid your system of old clutter including cache, cookies, Internet history, localizations, logs, temporary files, and broken shortcuts.

It wipes clean Adobe Reader, Chromium, Firefox, Flash, GIMP, Google Chrome, Google Earth, Internet Explorer, Java, KDE, OpenOffice.org, Opera, RealPlayer, Safari, Skype, VIM, and more.

All in all, BleachBit will offer you the possibility to get back disk space as well as keep your privacy.

Features:

Simple operation: read the descriptions, check the boxes you want, click preview, and click delete.

Free to share, learn, and modify (open source)

Free of adware, spyware, and malware

Translated to 27 languages

Shred files to hide their contents and prevent data recovery

Shred any file (such as a spreadsheet on your desktop)

CleanerML allows anyone to write a new cleaner using XML

Frequent software updates with new features

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tech Reacts To The Demise Of Partial NSA Reform In The Senate – The failure of the Senate to advance NSA reform in the current Congress isn’t too popular with the technology community. The demise of the USA FREEDOM Act — a half-measure at best — in the Senate is another loss for the technology industry, which saw many of its leading companies repeatedly call for the bill’s passage.

The FREEDOM Act was aimed at ending the NSA’s collection of American’s telephone metadata, a controversial program that the Snowden leaks uncovered.

The Act was no panacea, but it did appear to be an achievable piece of legislation. The House passed a version of the bill that was mocked after it was neutered before passage. The Senate’s variant was stiffer. It was called a first step. Even that couldn’t pass.

Reaction by tech industry groups to the 58-42 has been negative. The group Reform Government Surveillance, which counts Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook as members released a small statement saying that it was “disappointed in the Senate procedural vote.” The influential Business Software Alliance called it a “missed opportunity.”

The big tech companies appear content to speak through groups that they are members of, sparing them the need to directly criticize member of Congress that, in many cases, are about to take the majority position in the upper chamber.

Beefed up iPhone crypto will lead to a child dying, DOJ warned Apple execs: Apple is “marketing to criminals,” US No. 2 cop says – The No. 2 official at the Justice Department recently warned top Apple executives that stronger encryption protections added to iPhones would lead to a horrific tragedy, such as a child dying, because police couldn’t access a suspect’s device, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Justice Department officials wasted no time objecting to the changes and used the scenario of a child being kidnapped and murdered to drive home their claim that Apple was “marketing to criminals.” According to the WSJ, Justice Department officials including Deputy Attorney General James Cole met with Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell and two other company employees on October 1. Reporters Devlin Barrett, Danny Yadron, and Daisuke Wakabayashi gave the following account, which they attributed to the recollections of people who attended.

Congress Is Irrelevant on Mass Surveillance. Here’s What Matters Instead – The “USA Freedom Act”—the proponents of which were heralding as “NSA reform” despite its suffocatingly narrow scope—died in the august U.S. Senate last night when it attracted only 58 of the 60 votes needed to close debate and move on to an up-or-down vote. All Democratic and independent senators except one (Bill Nelson of Florida) voted in favor of the bill, as did three tea-party GOP Senators (Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Dean Heller). One GOP Senator, Rand Paul, voted against it on the ground that it did not go nearly far enough in reining in the NSA. On Monday, the White House had issued a statement “strongly supporting” the bill.

The “debate” among the Senators that preceded the vote was darkly funny and deeply boring, in equal measure. The black humor was due to the way one GOP senator after the next—led by ranking intelligence committee member Saxby Chambliss of Georgia (pictured above)—stood up and literally screeched about 9/11 and ISIS over and over and over, and then sat down as though they had made a point. Their scary script had been unveiled earlier that morning by a Wall Street Journal op-ed by former Bush Attorney General Mike Mukasey and former CIA and NSA Director Mike Hayden warning that NSA reform would make the terrorists kill you; it appeared under this Onion-like headline:

As Microsoft battles feds on email access, Ireland asks EU to join the fight – The Irish government is turning to the European Commission for help dealing with U.S. demands for email stored in Microsoft servers in Ireland and allegedly containing information on drug trafficking. If the Department of Justice gets its way, it may end up bypassing European data protection laws, the Irish government said in a request for legal guidance.

Microsoft is appealing a U.S. district court ruling to hand over the email to U.S. law enforcement.

The court, overruling Microsoft’s opposition to a magistrate judge’s decision, said that the location of the data was not a relevant factor in deciding whether the U.S. Department of Justice has the authority to seize the data. It also ruled that DOJ prosecutors do not need to seek the cooperation of Irish authorities.

The case is now in front of a U.S. appeals court but meanwhile it “raises important issues about the interface between EU and US law on data protection,” specifically in relation to the protection of personal data, the Irish Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection, Dara Murphy, told the European Commission late Tuesday.

“By seeking direct access to data held in the EU through the US judicial system, existing legal mechanisms for mutual assistance between jurisdictions may be being effectively bypassed,” Murphy said, adding that the case has given rise to legal uncertainty and the outcome could have potentially serious implications for data protection in the EU.

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