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US Government Pushed Many Tech Firms To Hand Over Source Code (zdnet.com) 151

An anonymous reader writes: Apple isn't the only company that has been asked to hand over the source code of its operating system. In an effort to find security flaws that could be used for surveillance or investigations, the U.S. government has made numerous attempts to obtain the source code from other tech companies. From the ZDNet report, "The government has demanded source code in civil cases filed under seal but also by seeking clandestine rulings authorized under the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a person with direct knowledge of these demands told ZDNet. The Justice Department wanted to draw outrage, painting Apple as the criminal. With these hearings held in secret and away from the public gaze, the person said that the tech companies hit by these demands are losing 'most of the time.'"
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US Government Pushed Many Tech Firms To Hand Over Source Code

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  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @12:03PM (#51724037)

    ...hearings held in secret and away from the public gaze, the person said that the tech companies hit by these demands are losing 'most of the time...

    Can some one explain to me how this behaviour by our [democratic] government, is very very different as compared to similar action taken by "those regimes" to the east? I mean, I do not see the difference here!

    • That would be because there is no difference. Any pretense to 'civil rights' or 'government by the people, for the people' is being shown to be just a facade.
      • by Salgak1 ( 20136 )
        And any protestations otherwise are carefully focus-tested and lawyer vetted allowing them to lie openly about it, and STILL get away with it. . .
    • by Anonymous Coward

      well firstly the us would have to be an actual democracy. but the electorate college, gerrymandering and your 2 party system make it just democracy enough to fool the majority.

      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
        We were never a democracy, but a representative republic.
        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          ...as is true with nearly any "democracy".

          Don't get confused by abuse of terms in the vernacular.

          • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
            But, it's a major difference with the concept of (mob) rule of the people versus what was actually created.
        • We were never a democracy, but a representative republic.

          It's a desert topping and a floor wax.

          Democracies can have many forms. Republics can have many forms.

          On of those forms is a republican representative democracy, that's what you've got.

          What kind of ill educated fool thinks there's some contradiction between being a democracy and a republic?

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        If less people bought into this Democrat cult of victimhood, then the whole gerrymandering thing would be a total non-problem.

    • You have the illusion of choice?

    • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @12:39PM (#51724497)

      ...hearings held in secret and away from the public gaze, the person said that the tech companies hit by these demands are losing 'most of the time...

      Can some one explain to me how this behavior by our [democratic] government, is very very different as compared to similar action taken by "those regimes" to the east? I mean, I do not see the difference here!

      We "Aspire" to be better... Americans aspire towards Liberty, Freedom of Speech, Free elections and when we fall short we are supposed to feel bad about it. For over two centuries we have been unsteadily moving towards our ideals. Belief in Liberty had to overcome the realities of slavery and then Jim Crow laws. Belief in Freedom of Speech is always under continuous assault by those with power to coerce. Our rights to privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures have come under increasing attack lately, but have always been at the mercy of the fears and threats of the day. Our right to bear arms to defend ourselves have steadily eroded in the past 30 or 40 years or so. Democracy is just as beholden to the Party bosses that manipulate local elections and local press with casual ease. And good old fashioned corruption is still a big problem in the US as it is everywhere else in the world... These things ebb and flow with the times.

      What we are supposed to do as Americans is draw inspiration from the dreams of our founders for Life Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness and not give into the cynicism that this is 'just the way it is'

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by whoever57 ( 658626 )

        We "Aspire" to be better... Americans aspire towards Liberty, Freedom of Speech, Free elections and when we fall short we are supposed to feel bad about it.

        There is a big block of people who do not aspire to these virtues: Trump supporters. They don't feel bad about racism, they don't feel bad about violence against their opponents, they don't feel bad about suppressing dissent, they don't even feel bad about supporting Nazi-like policies (thank you Godwin!).

        Trump, Rubio and Cruz are competing to stake

      • For over two centuries we have been unsteadily moving towards our ideals

        Your examples notwithstanding, for over a hundred and fifty years, we've been moving away from our ideals - as Jefferson predicted we would.

      • Good post. It also partially explains an observation that Obama and many others clearly are unfamiliar with, which is titled "American Exceptionalism".

        The idea is that while most nations are ethnic groups who established geographical borders, the US is not. The US founding fathers, in the founding documents, declared that they were creating a new nation in order to have liberty and justice and ... . When the US government (including voters) fail to protect freedom and justice, they fail at precisely

    • It doesn't matter. The election results show that 98% of the voters approve. If there is a problem, you know where to look.

    • They seem to be learning the meaning of 'Democratic' from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2016 @12:09PM (#51724099)

    Apple isn't the only company that has been asked to hand over the source code of its operating system.

    I heard that even Linux had to hand over the source code of its operating system.

  • by cloud.pt ( 3412475 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @12:10PM (#51724109)
    Can't help but guess the reason why they lose 'most of the time' is precisely because they don't need to be painted to the public as criminals - if a business is induced by the state to incur in practices most of its client-base would condemn, but these practices are done under cover of darkness, there's really no reason (other than an ethical one) to even attempt to fight such demands. And pragmatically, why would you spend money to defend your customers' rights when they were the same customers who elected officials that in turn stripped away those rights... (I'm being ironic - we all know law is ever changing and only through continuous scrutiny, even in lower courts such as the Apple case, can the people be defended from abuse of something that was initially considered fair).
    • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
      This just points out that the secretive FISA court does far far more harm than good. There should be no secret laws, and no courts to deal with secrets. The NSA is allowed to spy on foreigners, and does not need a court order. The FBI and underlings do need court orders, and those should at most be sealed for the duration of the activity. IOW, FISA was a work around the Constitution.
  • No shit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @12:11PM (#51724127) Homepage Journal

    It's becoming obvious that the government needs to be outright forbidden from doing just about anything except a few specific things, rather than merely not authorized. Just like there's hardly any difference between pointing a gun at someone and saying, "Wouldn't it be nice if I had more money?" as compared to saying "Your money or your life." -- nowadays there's very little difference between the government "asking" and the government demanding.

    • Re:No shit (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kbonin ( 58917 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @12:23PM (#51724255) Homepage

      I love your comment! You know, that is EXACTLY what the original intent of the US Constitution was - the founders essentially said 'here's a short list of what the Federal government is allowed to do, anything else is up to State legislatures to decide for themselves'. And since then, through a myriad of little cuts, the Constitution has been reinterpreted (as a "living" document) to mean the opposite, and anyone talking about State's Rights is now called a Racist (Because state's rights were cited during slavery debates, therefore all State's Rights are racist, see what they did there?) The Commerce Clause has been interpreted so widely that the Feds can claim authority over almost anything (Wickard v. Filburn: you can't feed your own wheat to your own animals if we tell you not to, as your production of wheat could influence the supply of wheat, which is sold across state boundaries, and therefore we can tell you what to do.) FISA lets our secret tribunals order anyone to do anything without even letting them talk to their own lawyer about it, and thanks to the latest interpretation of the All Writs Act now any court can order anyone to do anything. Welcome to the new definition of "freedom". And pick up that can.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's a great interpretation of my country vs our country.

        If you want, no one stops one from selling his own wheat within the state and never crosses state lines--it's called a local market... or you setup your own store. It's been done. It's just that to fulfill free market *growth* and higher profits, federal corporations/global conglomerate move into the state freely (cause the state wants its taxes). You're somewhat forced to sell in the federal market place to stay competitive (unless you have an outs

        • by sconeu ( 64226 )

          Except that the courts have ruled that intrastate sales of marijuana fall under the commerce clause because they affect the interstate sales thereof.

          See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        • Re:No shit (Score:5, Interesting)

          by kbonin ( 58917 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @03:34PM (#51726421) Homepage

          Your example is actually incorrect. According to current interpretation of the Commerce Clause, there is no such thing as a local market exempt from federal control, as under the precedent of Wickard v. Filburn; SCOTUS: "[b]ut even if appellee's activity be local and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce and this irrespective of whether such effect is what might at some earlier time have been defined as 'direct' or 'indirect". And that word "substantial", despite sounding so reasonable, was applied in its initial case to a single farmer who chose to feed his own cows his own grain instead of buying feed, so "substantial" under current precedent has already been scoped down to include things you do on your own land with your own property. I'll state again - the Constitution has been reinterpreted to mean nearly the opposite of what it actually says, in practice. You are free to be a consumer of approved goods you use in approved ways without asking permission, but you have few remaining unencumbered freedoms even on your own land. If you feel otherwise you aren't paying attention.

      • by anegg ( 1390659 )
        So... to make an analogy, the US Constitution is like a whitelist of federal government powers implemented as the Constitutional firewall. And the "Interstate Commerce Clause" is where TCP port 80 was plumbed into the Constitutional firewall as a network-level pass-through instead of having a good application-level filter on it. So now anything the federal government wants to blast through the Constitutional firewall they just wrap up in TCP 80. Got it.
  • goofy priorities (Score:5, Insightful)

    by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @12:16PM (#51724179)
    Reading this along with the other article regarding FBI wants backdoor into Apple phones, I'm thinking law enforcement priorities getting skewed. Reminds me of back in the days when John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde were considered national threats when in reality they were just basic thugs that robbed banks. Larger criminals were the mob (which FBI did nothing about until Hoover died in 1970s) and a even more serious threat was the rise of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
    • FBI's job is to take on domestic criminals, not foreign ones. As far as the mafia, their connection to government isn't clear, but it seems likely they had people in the Federal government watching out for them. Shooting bank robbers makes better press, and "back in the days" the FBI seemed to be driven by publicity, not results.
  • Have they asked for the source code to Linux yet?
  • How many punch cards would it take?

    How long would the paper tape be?

    yep, showing my age here...

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      Use binary cards without sequence numbers, so that if the punch cards get dropped there's no easy way to resequence them.

  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Friday March 18, 2016 @12:57PM (#51724749)

    The US government repeatedly asked Linus Torvalds for the source code of Linux.
    I heard they are pretty pissed off, something about being called "git" if I remember correctly.

  • Because the government spends all their time looking at these companies, while completely ignoring the activities of certain large banks. Isn't HSBC still providing money laundering services for terrorists? Frankly, I'm amazed that the government has money to pursue this kind of thing while the SEC has 4 whole people, and they are paid to look the other way.

  • Considering that property seizures do have to be compensated, I wonder what the valuation on the iOS source code would be? And how long would Apple litigate, before handing it over, to set said value? There are after all, real, hard, numbers for iPhone sales over the years. And then there's extrapolated future sales to consider.

  • This reminds me of that scene from Armageddon where Harry Stamper complains to NASA that they "stole the key to the patent office" so they could build one of his rigs for free. Though let's be honest... they're not after the code to get something free. They're after it to do static vulnerability analysis.
  • Let me check: the American government is using using secret courts to steal IP from private firms, under the threat of detention, in order to facilitate spying on its own citizens. This is behavior I would expect to read of Soviet Russia, the GDR's Stasi, or some other corrupt, quasi-totalitarian state where the border security exists not to keep people out but to keep its populace in.
  • Software copyright should not apply at all when complete source code is not available

    • Another freetard. Very few people can make a living writing free code. And a lot of that free code is crap clones of other software that somebody took time and effort to create. Where are all the great original open source games? Top selling open source productivity applications? Hundred billion dollar open source businesses keeping people employed and pumping money back into the economy? Open source is great for some things, but there will never be but a small minority who will be able to earn a living wri
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Disagree. A binary without source code is still a substantial, useful work represented in a tangible medium that deserves protection.

      Software patents, OTOH, should only apply to software for which source is available. It's very possible to implement the same functionality with entirely different code, and without being able to view the original, it's impossible to know whether you're infringing or not.

  • Right Now is 2016. Right Now [youtube.com] is also a song by Van Halen and most of the things they mention in the video are still going on. They were always going on, and everybody knew it. The first thing that leaped to my mind was this little cartoon at 3:40 in the video. [youtube.com].

  • In my opinion the US government - in the person of its primary internal investigation agency - obtaining either a compelled downloadable security bypass hack or the source code to enable them to construct their own, would have committed a Fifth Amendment "Taking".

    ... nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    What would be taken would be the security reputation of the company, and thus the bulk of their current and future markets worldwide (ESPECIALLY foreign), for all fut

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      So the Feds should buy Apple for about the cost of 4 F-35s. Sounds like a deal to me but why would they do that if they can get what they want through the courts for comparatively free?

  • We need to have congress repeal the Patriot act. I bet dollars to doughnuts that most of those companies do not have enough cash to fight the government. I think Apple has plenty of resources. What we need is something like this to go to the Supreme court. I bet the Government would never want one of these patriot act seizures to make it that far as it would tumble down the pile of dominoes that the Patriot act actually is. I know that the Government came into the Windsor Public Library in Windsor CT a

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