Programmatic Surveillance of the NSA
Reports are that the National Security Agency obtained orders from a 'secret
court', permitting them to do “programmatic surveillance” by gathering large
amounts of data from technology firms such as AOL (AOL), Apple (AAPL), Facebook
(FB), Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), PalTalk, Skype (owned by Microsoft),
Yahoo! (YHOO) and YouTube (owned by Google). All nine firms carefully crafted
their denial of giving the U.S. government direct access to their servers or
voluntarily providing customer data to the feds however, U.S. companies are
required by law to comply with court orders or other legal authorizations
requiring them to turn over user data. When a company receives a court order
issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA], the firm is
prohibited from acknowledging receipt of the order and prohibited from
discussing it publicly. FISA orders can remain in place for as long as a year
before renewal order is required. Orders dealing with national security can
cover a huge batch of data involving millions of people and the U.S. government
does not need to establish probable cause to obtain a court order. An example
would be for U.S. government to gather all emails from email programs provided
by some of the providers, sent to or sent out of a foreign country. The
government could then use their computers to search those emails for keywords or
other info that might indicate terrorists at work. Web searches, cloud-based
documents or retail purchases can also be tracked. It remains unknown as to
whether emails or uploaded files by ordinary Main Street American people, could
get caught up in the massive electronic dragnet of the NSA.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) was fined $6 million by the Securities
and Exchange Commission on Tuesday for "various systemic breakdowns" in their
regulations, including allegedly failing to enforce rules to prevent abusive
short selling. According to the SEC, CBOE agreed to pay the fine and to improve
system operations. The CBOE was allegedly found to have failed to adequately
police and control a conflict between their rules and the business interest of
their members. Chief of the SEC enforcement division's market abuse unit, Daniel
Hawke said, "CBOE's failures in this case were disappointing."
According to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, overdraft
protection services offered by banks and once referred to as “occasional
courtesies", are turning into one of the banking industry’s biggest money
makers. “They’re a significant source of industry revenues,” CFPB director
Richard Cordray said in a conference call. Overdraft services represent over 60%
of fees from consumer checking accounts. According to the CFPB, consumers
participating in an overdraft program who overdrew their accounts paid an
average of $225 in overdraft and insufficient-fund charges over the course of a
year. Due to the extensive overdraft protection fees, banks bottom line is the
only one gaining from the service. “Consumers need to be able to control their
costs and expenses and deserve clarity on these issues,” Cordray says.
Involuntary closure rates of customers’ accounts, normally due to negative
checking account balances, were more than 2.5 times higher for account holders
with debit and ATM overdraft coverage. This can result in a black mark on a
consumer’s credit record plus, make it difficult to open another bank account
even with, a different bank. During 2012 it is estimated that consumers paid $32
billion in overdraft fees, up $400 million in 2011. Consumers can opt to have a
transaction denied when they have insufficient funds, pay no extra charge and
avoid the expensive overdraft protection fees which are only making the banks,
Manpower’s employment-outlook survey released Tuesday showed a seasonally
adjusted net 12% of employers said they plan to add to their workforce in Q3, up
1% point from both Q2 and Q3 of 2012. Jonas Prising, president of Manpower Group
said, “At a very slow pace the labor market is improving and the intention to
hire is improving as well.” The report is based on interviews with over 18,000
employers in the U.S. and measures the percentage of firms planning to hire
minus the percentage of firms intending layoffs. Prising said, “This is just a
further manifestation of an increase in employers’ confidence in slow, measured,
but steady growth, and they are adjusting their hiring intentions.” Of the four
regions monitored by Manpower, seasonally adjusted net employment outlook in the
West is 12%, Midwest 12%; South is 12% and in the Northeast at 9%. All 13
industry sectors, led by leisure and hospitality, have a net positive employment
outlook for Q3. “The recovery and economic growth is broad based,” Prising said.
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