[Originially published November, 2010, Updated]
Chris Tolles wrote this Tweet regarding this issue.
yes! Keys being rigor & care. Also, understanding that if it’s you vs. NSA, you are outgunned. Also encryption attracts eyes 🙂 – Chris Tolles tweet, March 25, 2012
Outgunned? Encryption attracts the eyes? What does he mean by this?
Is Topix giving out user’s personal data to the NSA?
This post came about based on interesting and disturbing comments which were posted to my Open Salon post: Something way funky is going on over at Topix.com.
This post struck a real nerve with Topix from the moment it was posted.
Their total over-reaction to it, their failure to address my post with any professional communication to me, and especially, the many heavy trolling efforts mounted on Topix against it, only give more credence and validity to the information in it.
I do not appreciate the many hits and terrorizing I have had to bear for publishing this post. But this only made me more determined not to remove it. To lash out like that. is childish, and also revealing of insecurities regarding the information in it.
Something funky is going on with Topix and the NSA. The following is my original post along information from some of the comments on the post.
Topix, by the way, isn’t the only internet company whose NSA connections are being investigated:
Where it all started
In November, 2010, I received these comments on one of my Open Salon blog posts:
This “Topix” operation isnt about “ad revenues” or money at all really. This is a top down fascist operation where Topix is able to spy on citizens, profile them, invasion of privacy, etc. This is what is really going on. The “Tolle Trolls” can observe the habits of millions of Americans, perhaps report them to law enforcement, mess with their credit report, etc. The Justice Department should shut Topix down, but the problem there is the organized crime interests that run Topix, enjoy a very high level of support and protection inside the Justice Department.
The gist of the comments I received, said that Topix is gathering user’s personal data, unbeknownst to them, in conjunction with the NSA, to use it to spy on citizens, profile them and invade their privacy:
The “Tolle Trolls” can observe the habits of millions of Americans, perhaps report them to law enforcement, mess with their credit report, etc.
Topix is a fertile ground for the NSA, it has millions of viewers internationally. It is a huge internet forum, little known about but enormous just the same. The total lack of ethics of the company, has made many of their forums little more than mosh pits. Hatred is rampant as is malicious gossip. They are sheltered by the press and fly under the radar, despite the large size of their company and its predominance, in many small towns across America which have lost their newspapers.
The comments I received, declare that Topix has allowed the NSA, to breach their encryption and to access their user’s private information. They point out the unethical background of Topix founder Rich Skrenta, the creator of the malware virus, a computer virus which is “widely believed to be the first large-scale self-spreading personal computer virus ever created.”
They point out both Skrenta and Chris Tolles, the current CEO of Topix, worked at Sun Microsystems with IP-level encryption. Tolles and Skrenta also worked on Open Dictionary, which merged with Netscape and Google as a broadly used search engine. Topix advertises itself, as a news aggregator and search engine. It has been a successful new media busisness format.
The comments say that NSA has been working with internet companies in the Silicon Valley like Topix, to gain access to their encryption codes to access the private information of users.
Topix CEO Chris Tolles, while he was with Sun Microsystems said this:
Everyone in Silicon Valley, including us, has to have specific staff – highly paid experts – to deal with them,” said Chris Tolles, security group product manager at Sun.” Note it was Tolle’s function to deal with the NSA.
This article goes into more detail about the NSA:
Back in the days of the cold war, Washington insiders used to joke that NSA stood for “No Such Agency.” The government denied the very existence of this group, which is dedicated to intercepting and decoding foreign communications.
That was then. Today the National Security Agency is well known, and spends a lot of time leaning on software, switch and router vendors, pushing them to re-tool their products. The agency’s goal: to ensure that the government has access to encrypted data.”
This post also discusses this issue:
The NSA wants software vendors to make sure that any product with strongencryption have some way for the government to tap into the data. And because practically every commercial network application, router or switchthese days includes encryption or an option for it, almost every vendor nowhas to answer to the NSA if it wants to export.
The NSA has been under increasing scrutiny for corruption this year. There are several recent articles out about this.
60 Minutes did an investigative report on the NSA last May:
NSA and selling the nation’s prized secrets to contractors
Thanks to some very patriotic and loyal Americans inside NSA, this author is now in possession of an internal NSA contract document from November 2002 that shows how GROUNDBREAKER and TRAILBLAZER have allowed the Eagle Alliance and other contractors to gain access to and even virtual control over some of the most sensitive systems within the U.S. intelligence community.
Former National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas A. Drake says continuing mismanagement and malfeasance have turned the nation’s premier electronic spy agency into “the Enron of the U.S. intelligencecommunity.”
Domestic spying is an issue of growing concern.
Massive spike in domestic spy operations, over 12,000 “special ops” personnel deployed daily, 100s of thousands of secret surveillance requests rubber stamped by crooked judges, secret illegal spy operations conducted in over 75 countries and over $11 billion spent annually to cover it all up. And this is only the tip of the iceberg that the feds were willing to declassify through various Freedom of Information Requests. Much more still remains classified in the interest of National Security.
A NSA whistleblower, was vindicated here. I can well-sympathasize with this man:
A National Security Agency whistleblower, who said early during the George W. Bush administration that the agency was misspending millions of taxpayer dollars on the technically flawed system that sifted through emails and other digital communications, has been vindicated by a secret government report released this week.
The Attacks on Topix
I am no stranger, to cover-up. On Topix, they use the brutality of trolls to batter critics. The trolls use threats of hacking as one of their weapons. I have faced many, and been hacked many times.
In some of the threats of hacking that have been posted to me on Topix, there is allusion to the sharing of my IP info, on the part of the Mods.
The top comment on the screen capture is from an especially inflammatory Topix troll post where the troll is proclaiming Topix itself, is giving her access to my IP information to enable hacking:
It doesn’t count as hacking when you work for the company and already have access to all the files, remember?
The McDonald’s Defense
The entire issue of just how private Topix keeps its user’s IP addresses, was raised up high on Topix after my post was published, by a troll who wrote this comment on Topix thread Chris Tolles himself was on in Kentucky.
The comment claimed the Topix moderators are checking into the IP addresses of everyone who responds to my and the Topix Keeper’s posts: ¬ the moderators… check the IP address of those who respond to you
Emily: Try to remember that the moderators have a record of my posts. They can also check the IP address of those who respond to you and your gang of idiots.
The Topix Keepers are a group of Topix posters I am a part of. They have been hit hard by trolls on Topix which responded with great paranoia to their existence.
I responded to Emily’s post here, addressing Chris Tolles:
Is this true Chris Tolles? Are Topix moderators so paranoid of a group of Topix user called the Topix Keepers that they INVADE the IP addresses of Everyone who responds to our posts?
I need an answer here because that is unlawful invasion of privacy.
This was not the end of the trials the Topix Keepers were put through because of my NSA post.
A thread was posted on Topix: Do the Topix Keepers have your IP address? which accused the Topix Keepers of gathering the IP addresses of those who visit their website.
I called it the McDonald’s defense:
Hello Emily, ummmmmmmm, I am?
I did not build this thread, I did not make the comment, that the Topix Mods are digging into the IP addresses of those who comment on our posts, you did Emily.
It is funny to me, however, that you are attempting to compare the Topix Keeper’s Clicky, to Topix.
– First of all, its an admittance of guilt, that Topix does indeed access the private data of its users.
– Secondly, its like say, the McDonald’s food chain, were found in violation of Health Codes, and the corporation’s response was: “Oh, well, so does the Mom and Pop diner down the street.”
while Topix does not. In the analogy, the “Mom and Pop diner” has more adherence to codes than McDonalds.
– – – – – – – – – –
The NSA was formed to protect Americans. If the NSA is indeed an agency that protects Americans, why would they be working covertly with Topix to gather the user’s personal data there?
And Silicon Valley, because it is you who have sheltered and created, Topix. Is this the Internet you imagined? Do you support privacy on the internet or do you not?