Microsoft admits to snooping blogger’s Hotmail account – National

LOS ANGELES – Microsoft Corp., which has skewered rival Google Inc. for going through customer emails to deliver ads, acknowledged Thursday it had searched emails in a blogger’s Hotmail account to track down who was leaking company secrets.

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John Frank, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, which owns Hotmail, said in a statement Thursday that the software company “took extraordinary actions in this case.” In the future, he said, Microsoft would consult an outside attorney who is a former judge to determine if a court order would have allowed such a search.

The case involves former employee Alex Kibkalo, a Russian native who worked for Microsoft as a software architect in Lebanon.

According to an FBI complaint alleging theft of trade secrets, Microsoft found Kibkalo in September 2012 after examining the Hotmail account of the blogger with whom Kibkalo allegedly shared proprietary Microsoft code. The complaint filed Monday in federal court in Seattle did not identify the blogger.

READ MORE: Former Microsoft employee arrested for leaking trade secrets to blogger

“After confirmation that the data was Microsoft’s proprietary trade secret, on September 7, 2012, Microsoft’s Office of Legal Compliance (OLC) approved content pulls of the blogger’s Hotmail account,” says the complaint by FBI agent Armando Ramirez.

The search of the email account occurred months before Microsoft provided Ramirez with the results of its internal investigation in July 2013.

The email search uncovered messages from Kibkalo to the blogger containing fixes for the Windows 8 RT operating system before they were released publicly. The complaint alleges Kibkalo also shared a software development kit that could be used by hackers to understand more about how Microsoft uses product keys to activate software.

Besides the email search, Microsoft also combed through instant messages the two exchanged that September. Microsoft also examined files in Kibkalo’s cloud storage account, which until last month was called SkyDrive. Kibkalo is accused of using SkyDrive to share files with the blogger.

Kibkalo has since relocated to Russia, the FBI complaint says.

Frank said in his statement that no court order was needed to conduct the searches.

“Courts do not issue orders authorizing someone to search themselves,” he said. “Even when we have probable cause, it’s not feasible to ask a court to order us to search ourselves.”

Hotmail’s terms of service includes a section that says, “We may access or disclose information about you, including the content of your communications, in order to … protect the rights or property of Microsoft or our customers.”

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft has taken a defiant stand against intrusions of customer privacy, in the wake of National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden’s revelations of government snooping into online activities.

General counsel Brad Smith said in a blog post in December that Microsoft was “especially alarmed” at news reports of widespread government cyber-spying.

Microsoft also has a long-running negative ad campaign called “Scroogled,” in which it slams Google for scanning “every word in every email” to sell ads, saying that “Google crosses the line.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Chimp attack victim asks again for right to sue – National

HARTFORD, Conn. – The Connecticut woman disfigured in a 2009 chimpanzee attack asked state lawmakers Friday to grant her the ability to sue the state so she can pay her medical bills and “have a chance to live a comfortable life.”

“The state knew what was happening and failed to protect me,” the woman, Charla Nash, said at a public hearing before being guided back to her seat by her college-age daughter, Briana, who later fed her a banana with a spoon.

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Nash’s lawyer Charles Willinger contends the state’s environmental agency “failed miserably” in its mission to keep the public, especially Nash, safe, by not seizing the 200-pound chimpanzee when it had the chance. That inaction, Willinger argued, led to Nash’s life being irreparably harmed.

“Today, Charla’s world is basically one of darkness. She sits in a room without eyes, without hands, without her own face. She is obviously, permanently scarred, not only physically, but emotionally and psychologically,” he said. “She cannot see Briana, and in my way of thinking, even worse, she can’t embrace Briana.”

The sight of Nash and her daughter appeared to move some members of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, which is considering her request.

“The simple words spoken by Ms. Nash rang loudly, I think for all of us,” said Sen. John Kissel, the top-ranking Senate Republican on the committee, who acknowledged he questions whether Nash has legal standing to sue the state. “There doesn’t seem to be any bitterness. There doesn’t seem to be any grudge. It seems to be a woman trying to do the best she can with the horrific circumstances she endured.”

The committee is considering a bill that would overrule a decision last year by State Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr., who refused Nash’s request for permission to sue the state. It’s a last-ditch effort by Nash’s attorneys to recoup damages from the state, which generally is immune from lawsuits unless allowed by the commissioner. The panel has until April 2 to act on the bill.

Kissel suggested there may be a way for legislators to assign a monetary value to Nash’s claim, without her having to go to court, and vote on that proposal this session, which ends May 7.

Nash’s lawyers have asked for $150 million, but Willinger said she would be willing to settle for less, possibly half that. He also said Nash would accept a settlement that could be paid out over years, reducing the impact on the state budget.

The 200-pound chimpanzee, known as Travis, attacked Nash on Feb. 16, 2009, when she went to the Stamford home of its owner, Sandra Herold, to help her friend and employer to lure the animal back inside. The chimp went berserk and Nash lost her nose, lips, eyelids and hands before the animal was shot to death by a police officer.

Nash resides at a Massachusetts convalescent centre, where she is awaiting a second attempt at a hand transplant.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen told lawmakers the state cannot be held responsible.

“I am not here to diminish Ms. Nash’s suffering. It has been and will continue to be horrific,” said Jepsen, also acknowledging the former Department of Environmental Protection’s actions were not “flawless.” Nash’s lawyers have pointed to a memo from a DEP biologist who warned that the chimpanzee was “an accident waiting to happen.”

“Rather, my argument is this: Regardless of the extent of Ms. Nash’s injuries, or whether in hindsight DEP could have done things differently or better, the law does not support this claim,” Jepsen said. “Nor is it in the public interest to grant it.”

Jepsen warned that overruling Vance’s decision would create a dangerous precedent for the state and “open the floodgates” for other claims, an argument dismissed by Willinger as “a Chicken Little response.”

Nash reached a $4 million settlement in 2012 with the estate of Herold, who died in 2010. Her attorneys say that will only cover a small portion of her medical costs, which are estimated to be in the millions. While she receives Social Security disability and Medicaid payments, Nash’s housing, treatment and meals at the nursing home cost about $16,000 a month. That doesn’t include outside medical care, medication costs and surgeries.

On Friday, Jepsen said if Nash is allowed to sue, claiming the state was negligent in not seizing the animal, others will likely pursue lawsuits concerning alleged negligence involving millions of state permit and license-holders. Jepsen said there are cases awaiting a decision on Nash’s request.

©2014The Canadian Press

Edmonton conservationist Al Oeming dies at age 88 – Edmonton

EDMONTON – Edmonton conservationist Al Oeming has died of complications after heart surgery.

Oeming’s son, Todd, confirms his father died in hospital earlier this week.

Oeming, 88, was well-known in the province for his Alberta Game Farm, later known as Polar Park, 25 kilometres east of Edmonton.

He opened the massive 500-hectare facility in 1958 and closed it in 1998 after admitting that animal-rights activists were becoming increasingly successful at dissuading people from going to zoos.

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In the early 1970s, the game park was home to about 800 species and 3,000 animals and drew thousands of visitors a day.

By the time it closed, amid criticism from groups such as Zoocheck Canada, there were just 500 animals and maybe 200 visitors in a weekend.

“No regrets, but I wouldn’t do it again,” Oeming said at the time. “It’s the colossal costs. You’re also beset with much tougher regulations.”

Oeming was a Second World War veteran and a boxer, held a PhD and spent decades touring elementary schools across Canada with his cheetah named Tawana, presenting award-winning nature films and promoting conservation.

At the height of his fame, he was the subject of a TV series called “Al Oeming — Man of the North,” co-hosted by actor Leslie Nielsen.

After closing his exotic animal park, Oeming turned his attention to collecting and auctioning horse-drawn carriages and sleighs.

“His express wishes were that there would be no funeral,” said Todd Oeming.

“He wanted to have a cremation done and he wanted his ashes placed in a certain portion of our land known as our Spruce Box in order that his spirit can go on (amid) the continued growth of the trees.”

With files from CHED

Marois tells Quebecers there will be no referendum until they are ready for one

WATCH: The leaders of the four main political parties in Quebec faced off for the first election debate. Elysia Bryan-Baynes reports on how each of them performed.

MONTREAL – A Parti Quebecois majority government will not hold an independence referendum until Quebecers are ready for one, Leader Pauline Marois told a televised audience Thursday night.

But Marois refused to confirm in a debate with her political rivals there won’t be a referendum if her party is re-elected on April 7.

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  • Who do you think won Quebec’s first election debate?

“You know that (Liberal Leader Philippe) Couillard, in order to have people forget the Liberal years, would have you believe that this election is being fought on the issue of another referendum,” she said during the leaders’ debate.

“False. There will be no referendum as long as Quebecers are not ready.”

With polls repeatedly suggesting that a majority of Quebecers do not want another referendum, the debate provided Marois with a perfect opportunity to reassure voters that a PQ victory would not spark an immediate vote on the province’s future.

But, just like many previous PQ leaders who can’t afford to alienate hardline sovereigntists in the party, Marois refused to say there wouldn’t be a referendum in the next four years.

WATCH: Political analyst Bruce Hicks summarizes the first Quebec election debate and shares insight on how all four candidates performed.

Marois reiterated that a PQ government would launch an extensive consultation period with Quebecers before making any decision to send them to the ballot box to vote on creating a country.

READ MORE: Who do you think won Quebec’s first election debate?

Couillard’s basic strategy in the televised debate was clear: cast the PQ as a party that fosters political uncertainty at the expense of economic prosperity.

“The choice is clear,” he said. “Do you want to elect the Parti Quebecois, which will prepare another referendum, or a Liberal government that will attend to the economy, jobs, education and health?

“With the PQ, Quebec lost 66,800 full-time jobs in 2013 and what is Madame Marois doing? She’s building a team with another referendum in mind.”

Marois also made it clear a PQ government would push ahead with the party’s controversial charter of values, which would prevent public-sector employees from wearing religious clothing and symbols on the job.

Although the charter has divided Quebecers, Marois is hoping it will attract support from many small-c conservatives who can help the PQ win ridings currently held by Francois Legault’s Coalition party.

Legault, whose party is struggling in opinion polls, said his government would do “great things” for Quebec, reduce taxes for the middle class and manage public funds in a more responsible manner.

“Quebec needs to start over, move forward,” said Legault, who has admitted he is fighting the battle of his life. “I refuse to give up. I am convinced that we can do great things.

“The Parti Quebecois and the Liberals, since the beginning of the campaign, have talked about a referendum. In my opinion, they are disconnected from your reality.”

Francoise David, whose leftist Quebec solidaire has two seats in the 125-member assembly, spoke about the importance of more equality in the province.

“For the past 40 years, two parties (the Liberals and the PQ) have formed the government. Isn’t it time to look elsewhere? Isn’t it time to choose Quebec solidaire?”

The leaders debated four topics: the economy; social issues such as education; public finances and integrity; and identity and the national question.

The debate was considered key because a large segment of the electorate was expected to tune in ahead of the election.

READ MORE: PQ leader envisions sovereign Quebec keeping the dollar, having seat at Bank of Canada

Opinion polls indicate the Liberals and the PQ are locked in a virtual tie in popular support, with the Coalition and Quebec solidaire in a distant third and fourth place respectively.

Although Marois had initially said she would participate in only one debate, she and the other leaders will also face off again next week on TVA, the television network owned by star PQ candidate Pierre Karl Peladeau.

There will be no English-language debate.

The debates are considered a chance for the leaders to set the tone for the remainder of the campaign, while a strong performance can energize a party’s troops.

©2014The Canadian Press

Who will become the next leader of the PC Party of Alberta?

EDMONTON – For the third time in eight years, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives will be on the hunt for a new leader, following Premier Alison Redford’s resignation, which takes effect on Sunday.

While several names have been thrown around — including former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel and former leadership hopeful Jim Dinning — many politicians say it’s simply too soon to speculate.

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  • What’s next for Alberta following Alison Redford’s surprise resignation

  • ‘It was really great to work with Alison Redford’: Iveson

“It’s too early to be talking about this,” said Justice Minister Jonathan Denis. “I want to thank the premier for her service today, and I am going to be going back to my constituency tomorrow to talk to a lot of my key supporters and we’ll go from there.”

“It’s too early to think about it, and definitely too early to talk about it,” added Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Thomas Lukaszuk. “The fact is, we still have a premier until Sunday, we have an interim premier that will be sworn in, the party has to make some very crucial decisions on what the process will be for the selection of a new leader.”

“It’s too early to even think about those things,” said the Honourable Diana McQueen, Minister of Energy. “What I’m concentrating on is doing the job at hand for my constituents and as the Minister of Energy.”

Thursday morning, Deputy Premier Dave Hancock was named interim leader of the PC Party. The party will now have four to six months to elect a new leader.

READ MORE: Dave Hancock will serve as Alberta’s interim premier

While many say it’s too soon to name names, Redford’s former campaign manager says it doesn’t matter who the party elects. Speaking candidly to Global News, Stephen Carter said the PC Party may be too far gone.

“I’m really concerned about how the leadership is going to unfold. In the next six months we’ll elect a leader, but I’m not sure that that leader is going to be able to move the party at all.

“I think the Progressive Conservative Party as we know it has done its time.”

Watch below: Stephen Carter speaks about Redford’s resignation

While time will only tell who will become the PC’s next leader, those inside the legislature say they’ll have a big job ahead of them.

“Obviously we need somebody that’s going to be a team player and that’s going to involve every single one of us as caucus members,” said Neil Brown, MLA for Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill.

“I think they need somebody who can really drive change and support that,” said Independent MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans, who recently left the PC caucus. “I think they need a changed leader, somebody who will implement changes.”

READ MORE: Another Alberta MLA resigns from PC Caucus

The process has been altered since Redford was elected leader of the PC Party. According to a recent update to party rules, if no candidate earns a majority vote in the first ballot, only the first and second candidate will move on to the second ballot vote. Previously, three candidates would have moved on.

If those rules were in place in 2006, Ed Stelmach would have been eliminated after the first ballot. In the 2011 leadership race, Redford would have only faced Mar in the second ballot.

Follow @CaleyRamsay

With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News.

©2014Shaw Media

Bidding wars heat up in Calgary’s hot housing market – Calgary

CALGARY- It’s been a frustrating few months for Balwinder Saroa, who was trying to buy a house. Every time he found one within his budget, someone else looking at the same home outbid him.

Saroa was forced to increase the amount of money he budgeted.

“In Balwinder’s case, we did like about five of the houses,” says realtor Puma Banwait. “We lost four and finally the one that we got for them in Saddleridge was listed for $334,900. We actually got it for $341,000.”

And that beat offers from seven other buyers.

The number of single family listings in Calgary is very low, especially in the mid-price range.  That comes at a time when more people are looking for affordable homes.

“There’s been a large amount of net migration into the city,” says Ann-Marie Lurie of the Calgary Real Estate Board. ”And combine that with the fact we’ve had a very tight rental situation, that has limited a lot of availability in the market. “

To maximize your success in buying a new home, realtors have the following tips:

Try to view a home as soon as possible after it’s listed- the first day is best.Don’t low ball on the first offer.Come equipped with pre-approved financing.
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Related

  • First look at new affordable housing tower in Calgary

  • Calgary Real Estate Board to launch rental listings

Did sexism play a role in Alison Redford’s downfall?

CALGARY- Alison Redford served as premier for just 898 days after she became Alberta’s first woman premier on October 7, 2011.  She now has the dubious distinction of being the third shortest-serving premier in the province’s history.

In the days leading up to her resignation, Redford was accused of entitlement stemming from her use of government planes and bringing her daughter and friends on government trips.

Then she was accused of being a bully and “not a nice lady” by Calgary Foothills MLA Len Webber as he quit the PC Party caucus.

This led to many questioning whether Redford was being treated differently because she was a woman.

Those questions continued on social media after her resignation with many wondering if gender politics and the “old boys club” may have contributed to her political demise.

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Related

  • Who will become the next leader of the PC Party of Alberta?

Experts on gender politics say while sexism in politics may be less overt  these days, it still exists.

“I think people who claim that gender no longer matters don’t understand how politics works,” says Brenda O’Neill, a political science professor at the University of Calgary. “It’s not explicit, people aren’t explicitly sexist in the way they treat politicians nowadays.”

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t hidden sexism in the way parties treat their female leaders, and female cabinet ministers and female MLAs.”

Political analyst Duane Bratt doesn’t believe sexism played a part in Redford’s political troubles.

“I do not buy into the narrative advanced by some that Redford was deposed by her own party because it is an “old boys club” and she was a woman. It had to do more with her own expenses and the public/caucus/party sense of her entitlement, poor communication skills with her caucus and destroying the electoral coalition that she had built in the 2012 election.”

But O’Neill argues women leaders can be held to different standards than men and receive less support.

“I think there still is a double standard that’s applied to women versus men in terms of how they lead, the degree of support they are given and the degree to which is extended to them when they make mistakes.”

Currently, four provinces are led by women:  Kathleen Wynne in Ontario, B.C.’s Christy Clark, Newfoundland’s Kathy Dunderdale , and Quebec’s Pauline Marois.

O’Neill says the numbers are stacked against women premiers in Canada.

“No woman has won two consecutive terms as premier in our country’s history and gender may be part of that.”

At least one woman, Diana McQueen, Minister of Energy is rumoured to be considering a run at the Tory leadership. She said it was too early to discuss a possible bid when asked Friday.

With Redford’s resignation, the Wildrose’s Danielle Smith is now the only woman leader of a main political party in Alberta.

-with files from Gary Bobrovitz

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Debate over cellphone kill switches heats up in Canada – National

Watch above: What is a cellphone “kill switch” and why do Canadians want them to be mandatory? Shirlee Engel reports.

TORONTO – Cellphone theft has become a hot button issue for consumers and law enforcement agencies across Canada, opening the debate for so-called cellphone “kill switches” north of the U.S. border.

On Thursday Toronto Police arrested five men in relation to a cellphone theft ring investigation targeting high-end smartphones from Apple and Samsung.

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Police allege the suspects would target unattended bags and jackets to steal the smartphones and later repackage and resell the stolen devices.

In Vancouver, police say the crime has reached “epidemic levels” and Toronto Police have warned the crime can often become violent. Robberies became so bad at one Toronto-area high school that students began hiding their devices to avoid confrontations and assaults.

“It got to the point where I would put my phone in my sock,” said Toronto-area student John Masangkay.

WATCH: Toronto Police announced Thursday they had busted a large-scale cellphone theft racket, including over 200 stolen phones at one location

The volume of cellphone related robberies in Canada has prompted police agencies and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) to investigate the option of cellphone “kill switches” that would protect users from information theft and help crack down on the problem.

“Having the ability to remotely erase it and render it useless is a convenience that we probably should be looking towards,” NDP MP Mike Sullivan told Global National’s Shirlee Engel.

Last year, Samsung Electronics proposed installing built-in anti-theft measures in their devices that would render stolen or lost phones useless. The kill switch would wipe the phone clean of all data, ensuring the user’s private information is protected.

But in November 2013 the biggest carriers in the U.S. rejected the proposal, reportedly over concerns it would allow hackers to disable a user’s phone.

READ MORE: My cellphone has been stolen, what do I do: How the cellphone blacklist works

U.S. District Attorney George Gascon — after reviewing emails between a senior vice-president at Samsung and a software developer — alleged carriers are reluctant to sell phones with built-in kill switches in fear of losing billions of dollars in insurance premiums.

According to the Associated Press, one email said Samsung had pre-installed kill switch software in some smartphones ready for shipment, but carriers ordered their removal as a standard feature.

“These emails suggest that the carriers are rejecting a technological solution so they can continue to shake down their customers for billions of dollars in (theft) insurance premiums,” Gascon said. “I’m incensed. … This is a solution that has the potential to end the victimization of their customers.”

In March, New York officials announced they would support a bill requiring smartphone and tablet creators to have pre-installed kill switches, joining California in the fight for legislation.

The U.S. senate is also pushing its own bill.

Because the Canadian market is smaller than the U.S., the decision for manufactures to build phones with a built-in kill switch will likely depend on whether the U.S. makes it law.

READ MORE: U.S. carriers reject ‘kill switch’ for stolen phones

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has said he supports the idea, and the CWTA is now studying the option; but many questions remain about how the technology would actually work.

“Who would be liable for that kill switch, how it could be used, who could use it, who could launch a kill switch, how many phones could you kill at the same time? Those are all important questions that have not been answered by anyone,” said Bernard Lord, president of the CWTA.

Apple, for example, already offers a kill switch-like feature for its iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices.

The app called “Find My iPhone” allows users to remotely set up a pass code to lock their devices if one wasn’t already set up, as well as remotely erase all contents and settings on the phone, returning it to factory settings.

However, this only protects the user’s data – it does not stop a thief from using or re-selling the device.

In October in the CWTA launched a so-called “blacklist” for stolen devices in hopes of targeting cellphone theft.

The blacklist stores the International Mobile Equipment Identity number of devices that have been reported lost or stolen as of September 30, 2013, preventing them from connecting to Canadian service provider networks.

Once a device has been added to the blacklist it will not be able to be activated by a carrier for use – rendering it useless for web browsing, phone calls or texting.

– With files from Global National’s Shirlee Engel and the Associated Press

©2014Shaw Media

Google enhances Gmail encryption technology making it harder for NSA to intercept – National

WASHINGTON – Google has enhanced the encryption technology for its flagship email service in ways that will make it harder for the National Security Agency to intercept messages moving among the company’s worldwide data centres.

Among the most extraordinary disclosures in documents leaked by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden were reports that the NSA had secretly tapped into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centres around the world.

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HangZhou Night Net

Google, whose executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, said in November that he was outraged over the practice, didn’t mention the NSA in Thursday’s announcement, except in a veiled reference to “last summer’s revelations.” The change affects more than 425 million users of Google’s Gmail service.

Yahoo has promised similar steps for its email service by this spring.

Google and other technology companies have been outspoken about the U.S. government’s spy programs. The companies are worried more people will reduce their online activities if they believe almost everything they do is being monitored by the government. A decline in Internet use could hurt the companies financially by giving them fewer opportunities to show online ads and sell other services.

“Your email is important to you, and making sure it stays safe and always available is important to us,” Nicolas Lidzborski, Gmail’s security engineering lead, wrote in a blog post.

Lidzborski said that all Gmail messages a consumer sends or receives are now encrypted.

“This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail’s servers, but also as they move between Google’s data centres – something we made a top priority after last summer’s revelations,” Lidzborski wrote.

The NSA has said it only focuses on targets with foreign intelligence value.

A secret Jan. 9, 2013, accounting indicated that NSA sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the NSA’s Fort Meade, Md., headquarters, according to documents released by Snowden and obtained by The Washington Post last year.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the Google and Yahoo data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ. NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centres of the Silicon Valley giants, the Post reported.

President Barack Obama has promised to consider changing some of the surveillance programs that Snowden disclosed. But the type of surveillance Google is trying to prevent by improving its encryption technology is not among the reforms Obama has discussed.

Google and other technology companies provide information to the NSA and other government agencies when required by a court order.

“Google is making it tougher for the government to spy on its customers without going through Google,” said Chris Soghoian, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union.

“There are still ways for NSA to spy on the bad guys,” Soghoian said. “But this will prevent them from spying on 500 million people at once.”

©2014The Canadian Press