Iceland Won't Grant Snowden Asylum - Until He Gets There
Today in international tech news: Icelandic law could muddy Edward Snowden's plans to seek asylum there; Google officially acquires Waze; the U.S. wraps up an unprecedented piracy prosecution of a Chinese national; and Europe has made plenty of data requests of its own.
As far as Iceland goes, Edward Snowden may be left out in the cold.
Snowden, the whistleblower who made international headlines after leaking secrets about the U.S. National Security Agency's PRISM program, is believed to currently be in Hong Kong. Given Hong Kong's history of extraditing people to the United States -- and Snowden, to be sure, will be wanted in the United States -- speculation has turned to where Snowden might go after Hong Kong.
Russia has formally offered asylum, while Snowden himself told The Guardian that Iceland could also be a possible destination. There could, however, be a snag with Iceland: Snowden isn't there.
Iceland's ambassador to China, Kristín Árnadóttir, told the South China Morning Post that a person can only submit an asylum application in Iceland if that person is already in Iceland.
Snowden mentioned Iceland as sharing his values, and indeed, on Sunday, a member of Iceland's parliament called for the country to grant Snowden asylum. Alas, that isn't possible according to current Icelandic law so long as Snowden is in Hong Kong -- or, for that matter, anywhere besides the 300,000-person nation of Iceland.
A joint letter from the Icelandic Pirate Party and the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative said they were looking into ways to ensure that an asylum request would be processed in a swift manner.
[Source: South China Morning Post]
Google Purchases Waze and Will Keep It in Israel
The rumors -- this time, at least -- were true.
Confirming recent reports, Google has officially purchased Israel-based Waze for US$1.03 billion. Other outlets put the tab at $1.1 billion -- $1 billion plus $100 million in Google stock -- but whatever the final tally, it was a lot.
Waze, a social mapping startup with some 50 million users, had previously been courted by Apple (which reportedly offered $500 million) and, more recently, by Facebook (which reportedly offered $1 billion).
It is not yet clear why Waze accepted Google's offer over Facebook's. However, earlier reports hinted that Facebook wanted to integrate Waze into its overseas facilities. Thus, it is perhaps instructive that in a blog post announcing the deal, Waze's chief executive, Noam Bardin, said that nothing practical would change at Waze: The "community, brand, service and organization" will all continue as usual and remain in Israel.
Unprecedented US Prosecution of Chinese Pirate
A federal court in Wilmington, Del., sentenced a Chinese national to 12 years in U.S. prison for peddling more than $100 million worth of pirated software from American companies.
The defendant, 36-year-old Li Xiang, pleaded guilty to copyright and wire fraud conspiracy charges stemming from sales made on his China-based website. The case marks the first time a Chinese citizen has been apprehended and prosecuted in the U.S. for cybercrimes carried out exclusively overseas, according to court filings.
Li was nabbed in June 2011 on the island of Saipan, where undercover agents posed as businessmen wanting to purchase 20 GB of proprietary data from a U.S. software company.
Li's website, "Crack 99," reportedly distributed more than 500 copyrighted works to hundreds of buyers in the U.S. and abroad. The retail value of the pirated products, according to government authorities, was $100 million.
Li's site was certainly a bargain: Prices ranged from $20 to $1,200 for products that, purchased legitimately, would cost between several hundred dollars and millions of dollars, according to the government.
Spotlight on EU Requests for Microsoft Data
With Europe taking a closer look at data collection in the wake of the PRISM story, Microsoft's unsung March report detailing information requests from governments around the world, including those pertaining to Microsoft-owned Skype, is suddenly -- finally -- in the news.
Microsoft's Google-esque report details which governments requested data and what exactly they were looking for.
It turns out that the UK made more requests for Skype-related data than any other country, and in fact made a quarter of all international requests, according to The Guardian. The U.S., Germany, France and Taiwan were also named in The Guardian's writeup.
Requests were for things like names of callers, addresses, email details and numbers dialed.
The UK was also particularly zealous with Microsoft's Hotmail and Outlook email services, as well as Xbox Live, which has a chatting platform.
[Source: The Guardian]