back to article Apple sent my data to the FBI, says boss of controversial research paper trove Sci-Hub

Alexandra Elbakyan, the creator of controversial research trove Sci-Hub, has claimed that Apple informed her it has handed over information about her account to the FBI. Elbakyan made the allegation in a week-old tweet that went unremarked-upon for longer than you’d imagine, given that Apple and the FBI have a history of …

  1. Vulture@C64

    The sooner publicly funded research is available to the public the better. So much research is locked away and stays locked away even after successful peer review, for commercial reasons. If it's funded by the public, then with very few obvious exceptions, it should be available to the public.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What are those exceptions?

      Publically funded research has been subtly hidden from exposure for decades. The key to a publication is it should provide enough detail for another researcher to duplicate your results.

      With the commercialisation of Universities and intellectual property any decent academic will have a few spin-offs hoping to go unicorn. Publications always hide that bit of the secret sauce that prevents duplication.

      Personally I think this is wrong - if its public then it should be open (its very difficult in practice to duplicate another's work anyway). If its commercially funded then hide what you want but be clear.

      What drives all of this is the imperfect metric that more publications = better research = more funding.

      1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

        Re: What are those exceptions?

        Without the datasets, duplication and incorporation into other research (meta-analysis) is usually impossible and as has already been pointed out in AI/ML, a hinderance to progress in the field. I've been in AI/ML for the last 45 years and it's maddening. As we progress further, other fields over the decades have found it a pain point as well.

        Personally, if it's publicly funded research in any amount, it should be fully open and be damned to corporates. I've always shared all my data, despite nearly ever project being privately funded by myself. Then again, I'm off in the nonlinear/non-parametric section of the field where it seems pretty much no one has an interest.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Like the Chinese publicly funded research in Wuhan into animal to human transmission of viruses you mean?

      1. VirtualizationGuy

        Please don't go there. EVERY 1st world nation has an organization that is studying disease transmission and that research includes cross species contagion. In addition, even if the Wuhan lab was involved in the outbreak, the most likely vector was poor processes in collection, not in examination. The people who collect samples (for many, if not all, of the world wide labs) frequently do not use good practices to control unintended transmission of virus to humans while collecting the samples.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. ST Silver badge
          FAIL

          > In addition, even if the Wuhan lab was involved in the outbreak, the most likely vector was poor processes in collection, not in examination.

          And you know that because you were there. And you were granted access by the Chinese government who, by the way, refused to grant requested access to the WHO investigators.

          That's what I call an open, transparent investigation.

          Why does your blurb sound like an official non-denial denial?

          1. Everyone does it.

          2. Even if we did it, which we're not saying we did, we didn't mean to.

          3. When something like this happens - which we're not saying it did - it doesn't happen the way you think it happened.

          4. It's someone else's fault. Someone fucked up. Not us.

          Sez the Xinhua News Service. All bases covered?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Looks like President Biden isn't convinced now, or Dr Fauci at the CDC. Even YouTube has changed policy and is allowing this to be aired.

            No longer Orange Man Bad?

        3. JohnSheeran

          Technically China is considered 2nd World. It's bad form to make such a dumb mistake when trying to sound smart.

      2. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

        Quite a bit of the funding, as has been documented elsewhere, did incorporate funding from the US NIH, The French were also involved at one point. Likely others. It wasn't just PRC funding. Gain of Function (GoF) research is controversial, shut down in the US in 2015, but is still conducted in various parts of the world. Funding and where the research is conducted are often two different things.

        NB: I've been off in the epidemiological world for a while and still keep track. That's where I've been doing quite a bit of AI/ML. First with MARSA.

    3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

      I saw something the other day where an academic was talking about papers being behind paywalls. They said that if you want to see a paper, you can generally get it quite easily just by contacting the academic who wrote it and asking "please can you send me a copy of your paper?". The response will generally be affirmative and gratis - academics actually care quite a lot about sharing their findings and helping people out.

      1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge
        WTF?

        That's fine for academics, but...

        What about industry groups and standards?

        Wouldn't it be a whole lot easier to design to standards and be able to select standardized components for use if the standards themselves were free? There is no single author I can ask for a copy.

        (I'm looking mostly at you, SAE**, because you've become a major repository of tech data the US DoD doesn't want to maintain itself in publicly-accessible copyright-free "Distribution A" military standards/specifications.

        ** Society of Automotive Engineers. My last job had a company-wide unlimited IHS subscription include the entire SAE Digital Library, but I'm not sure my current employer has company-wide access yet -- they do for IEEE Xplore. They pay me well, but not well enough for me to use my own dosh at $80 a document.)

        1. msobkow Bronze badge

          Re: That's fine for academics, but...

          An "industry group" has a budget and can pony up the fees.

          I have sympathy for individual researchers needing access, especially those not employed by a university or research institution, but NONE for greedy corporations trying to get things for free. None at all.

          1. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Re: That's fine for academics, but...

            NONE for greedy corporations trying to get things for free

            I'm not a greedy corporation. I'm a poor bloke trying to find CANBUS standards to hack on my motorcycle.

        2. msobkow Bronze badge

          Re: That's fine for academics, but...

          Your problem is your current employer if they won't pony up a lousy $80 for a paper. I suppose they CHARGE you for coffee at the office, too. :(

          1. tfb Silver badge
            Alien

            Re: That's fine for academics, but...

            But it's often not $80: it's thousands. I was involved with a language standard where people went through this. The end result was that a lot of people worked for years on the thing (it was a big standard) and then were faced with it being only available at some vast cost. This was all worked-around by some copyright cleverness with the result that a 'final draft' which differed from the standard only in not having a copyright notice on it and saying 'draft' on the title page became freely available. But I think it took months and probably lawyers to establish this was OK.

            It clearly is the case that various publishing organisations are ripping people off. That doesn't mean just tearing it all down is the answer though.

          2. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: That's fine for academics, but...

            If you are a personal researcher and your charged $80 a paper and you want to read the couple of dozen papers published on an obscure subject then it can quickly get prohibitively expensive.

            Now one wouldn't mind so much if the authors were actually receiving the proceeds; however they aren't.

        3. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: That's fine for academics, but...

          "if the standards themselves were free?"

          I keep on thinking this every time I read an article about something screwed up in the implementation of WiFi.

          The standards and protocols used really ought to be RFCs that get bounced off the hacker community, and not secret committee generated standards. Maybe then we wouldn't have something as piss poor as WPS baked into the routers that depend upon.

          1. bpfh
            Coat

            Re: That's fine for academics, but...

            Semantically speaking…. An RFC - Request For Comments - is not a standard, but a document still working towards its final version.

            Actual standards - IETF STD documents are rarer… although they are still free!

            Zis konkludes my ekzplanation and I vill get mein coat.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Ah. I remember the days of authors buying reprints for their own purposes. One of my jobs was retrieving them from the filing system and posting them out. I reindexed the entire system of incoming reprints and created a database linked to our reference manager. Made my life easier too because another of my jobs was double checking the actual thing being referenced whilst preparing papers for publication. My professor had a mind like a steel trap - he could recall exactly what was said and where it was said from literally thousands of papers in his collection.

      3. tfb Silver badge
        Boffin

        Yeah, that absolutely used to be the case. People would get preprints of their paper and you'd just ask them and they'd send you one. I think I remember someone saying 'can you send it back as it's the last one I have'. Nowadays they'd just send you a PDF, I'm sure.

        Whether that works for people enquiring from non-academic addresses I don't know. In the fields I care about so much is now on ArXiv that it is, ehem, academic.

      4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        "please can you send me a copy of your paper?"

        But that makes search a little bit tricky.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Depends on creds and doesn't scale.

      6. Abbas

        What about those unreachable for many reasons, say fot instsnce, those dead?

        And don't forget lazy ones. Long live to Sci-Hub!

      7. WorldwideNige

        I'm not so sure. I work at a uni, and the officer in charge of subscriptions and publishing costs has a constant battle on their hands as most of our researchers feel publishing research in free journals offer no prestige.

  2. LDS Silver badge

    White Dwarf McNealy?

    The Man Who Run The Sun To The Ground?

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: White Dwarf McNealy?

      He wanted a smaller company.

      1. Steve Graham

        Re: White Dwarf McNealy?

        I think he just mis-spelled "smarter".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: White Dwarf McNealy?

      That quote from Scott McNealy that if you want more privacy you should vote for a smaller government is quite an interesting view point. As if governments are the biggest threat to privacy, not corporations.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: White Dwarf McNealy?

        Not to mention, isn't her government different from his? And isn't his government one of those which does not do anything about all these infos being locked up behind paywalls?

        Maybe he should take his own advice and vote accordingly.

      2. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Smaller government quote

        Isn't that the irony? A CEO jerk trying to tell customers that they have "no privacy" thanks to 'large government'...but it is a corporation that collected, held and then forwarded the info, when asked?

        Exactly WHOM should we fear most: the government, who is asking for info, or the corporations that are actually taking it??

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Smaller government quote

          "Big Brother really is watching you - so he can SELL YOU STUFF"

    3. oiseau Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: White Dwarf McNealy?

      The Man Who Run The Sun To The Ground?

      Beat me to it. 8^D

      Have one on me --->

      O.

    4. John Gamble
      Big Brother

      Re: White Dwarf McNealy?

      Yeah. And who apparently thinks that a small government would be less intrusive than a large government, because apparently databases are all stored in filing cabinets.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: White Dwarf McNealy?

        In a broom cupboard, no doubt, with a sign warning of the presence of large, angry felines.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple sent my data to the FBI, says boss

    of the Russian hacking gang that got a payout of 5M bucks off Colonial Pipeline and the feds are on the case!

    ...

    nah, only kidding! Now, as to that Terrror Mastermind Osama Elbakyan that poses a Constant Threat to American Way of Life..

    1. nematoad Silver badge

      Re: Apple sent my data to the FBI, says boss

      "Now, as to that Terrror Mastermind Osama Elbakyan that poses a Constant Threat to American Way of Life."

      No.

      A threat to the bottom lines of companies like Elsevier, that's much more important. After all, where would the campaign contributions come from is such "socialism" was allowed?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apple sent my data to the FBI, says boss

        I'm getting old to the point of heading (or toeing) towards the incinerator. Oh, where's the art of recognizing sarcasm in the youths of today :(((

        1. bpfh
          Joke

          Re: Apple sent my data to the FBI, says boss

          Sarcasm is a category 2 micro-agression and will no longer be tolerated in this Safe Space. You will be reported to Human Remains for retraining.

  4. IGotOut Silver badge

    I got a similar email...

    From the HMRC, oh and several banks I apparently have accounts with, of which I knew nothing about, oh and the Met Police.

  5. Handel was a crank

    "Dear Account Holder/Customer"? Never seen a genuine email from any company that doesn't use your actual name in the salutation.

    1. dkjd

      http: link in a security notification? smells a bit

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

    Scott, I think that you are going to learn the hard way that privacy is on the rise now. You're part of the clique that has been plundering our lives gratis for long enough, and telling us to just accept and bend over is, quite frankly, more than insulting.

    Nice redirection on the government though, unfortunately the government is less than half of the problem. Google, Facebook, Apple and Android are not government institutions, or maybe you forgot that when you tried to blame the current situation on the electoral process.

    But don't worry, we are on the path of corralling you Big Tech guys back into the pen you belong. It will take some time, granted, but GDPR has already shaken up your world in a major way, and it's not going to stop soon.

    Privacy will be ours, get over it.

    1. Kane Silver badge

      Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

      "Google, Facebook, Apple and Android are not government institutions"

      I don't disagree with the sentiment behind your statement, but it shouldn't be ignored the revolving doors that exist between western governments and said corporations for the past decade, at least.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

        I do, I have sticky tape over the camera on my iMac. Even NASA hasn't got the image enhancement technology to get a recognisable picture of me from that.

        1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

          Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

          I go one better. There isn't a camera on my Mac Mini. Let's see them get out of that one!

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

            Post-it note I keep all my passwords on is stuck over the lens.

          2. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

            I go one better. There isn't a camera on my Mac Mini. Let's see them get out of that one!

            Even better! I'm running Linux. If they can get that webcam working, I'd appreciate a note on how they did it!

        2. Korev Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

          >I do, I have sticky tape over the camera on my iMac

          See, I told you Tape ain't dead

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

            Thanks, Korev, that made me smile ---------->

            1. The Sprocket

              Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

              Ditto.

              1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
                Unhappy

                Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

                Actually, I could be wrong:

                https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/may/18/amazon-ring-largest-civilian-surveillance-network-us

                "Then there’s this: since Amazon bought Ring in 2018, it has brokered more than 1,800 partnerships with local law enforcement agencies, who can request recorded video content from Ring users without a warrant. That is, in as little as three years, Ring connected around one in 10 police departments across the US with the ability to access recorded content from millions of privately owned home security cameras."

    2. msobkow Bronze badge

      Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

      Someone else who thinks they can legislate technology into doing things it wasn't designed for. *LOL*

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

      Does Scott think if you roll back government so it's the size of a tiny shrivelled walnut then Facebook, Google, and so on will suddenly behave themselves and stop doing what they've been doing for 15-20 years?

      I think he needs to get over himself.

    4. Alumoi Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "You have NO privacy. Get over it"

      Privacy will be ours, get over it. This ad was brought to you by ...

  7. Howard Sway

    Get over it or vote for a smaller government.

    Yeh, vote for small government conservatives. Who will give all your data to big profit focused corporations as part of their government-reducing plan. Then be given well paid jobs with those corporations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get over it or vote for a smaller government.

      Don't forget the large contributions to the GQP's congresscritters re-election campaigns.

      Electing them every two years (for the House) must cost an absolute packet. That's why they start fundraising for the next election even before they have taken the oath (which most prompt break) and take their seat.

      Marjorie 'Jewish space lasers' Taylor-Greene [1] has already raised over $500K for her re-election campaign. Quite why she needs that much is a bit of a mystery. She ran unopposed in 2020 and in an area where anyone with a MAGA hat would get elected by a landslide.

      [1] If she is still a member of congress in 2022 and hasn't been kicked out for stalking AOC.

      1. ST Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Get over it or vote for a smaller government.

        > Marjorie 'Jewish space lasers' Taylor-Greene [ ... ]

        She also screams at mail slots. Saw it on CNN. It's awesome.

        1. Kane Silver badge

          Re: Get over it or vote for a smaller government.

          "She also screams at mail slots. Saw it on CNN. It's awesome."

          Please, tell me there's a video of that...

          1. ST Silver badge

            Re: Get over it or vote for a smaller government.

            > Please, tell me there's a video of that...

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtVYpG7z6vg

    2. Ace2

      Re: Get over it or vote for a smaller government.

      This is right up there with the people so mad about the factory bosses moving all of the jobs to China, they voted Republican! That’ll fix it.

  8. TrevorH

    Wouldn't a genuine email say "from the Federal Bureau of Investigation" not just "from Federal Bureau of Investigation"?

    1. tfb Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Yes! This is another clue that it's spam, and a much better one than my poking around. It's been written by someone in whose native language you can do that, when you can't in English. I don't know what the classification of such languages is - 'pro-drop' is when can drop pronouns (like that)' but this is something like 'article-drop', which you can do sometimes in English but not there.

      'The forest is dark at night' is fine, but ?'forest is dark at night' sounds immediately like a non-native speaker to me. Similarly 'Scully works for the FBI' but ?'Scully works for FBI'.

      This is spam, isn't it? Seems increasingly clear to me. Well done to her for getting it into the news though: now she's even more well-known.

  9. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    El Reg» ..., has claimed that Apple informed her it has handed over information about her account to the FBI.

    What's not mentioned is whether the FBI used a warrant or not. If they did, fair enough. That is how the system is supposed to work.

    If not, then she has a good point.

  10. Chris G Silver badge

    I feel so sorry

    For the likes of Elsevier and Springer and their I'll, they must be missing out on a few dollars.

    What really galls me is the way they frequently archive well known or older information that is or should be freely available, put it behind a paywall and seem to massage search results such that you need to scroll through countless pages of search results to find the free and open source papers.

    These publishing companies must must have teams hoovering up old tech and patents.

  11. msobkow Bronze badge

    Scott is correct.

    People assume there is privacy guaranteed by law, but there isn't. There is only a guarantee that the government has to do paperwork by getting its yes-man judges to sign a warrant before they probe. But when you PAY the judges, they usually take your side, not the citizen's.

    "Security" on the internet is a haccked up layer of glue on top of plain digital transmissions that make no attempt to hide where there coming from or where they're going. The problem is the general public just does NOT understand the technical security issues, so they latch onto the simplified views that talking heads and politicians bandy about, 99% of which are completely and totally inaccurate depictions of reality.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      You know that none of the points you said have anything to do with his statement, right? And that several don't even work together?

  12. heyrick Silver badge

    such research may be very useful to foreign governments

    Well, if you're going to do research and then bury it because some other government might be interested (a subtle way of saying "we want to milk this for all it's worth and not share"), then kindly seek alternative funding.

    If the public funds your research, the public deserves to benefit from the results.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scott inciting is own dox?

    Sounded like Scott McNealy just incited his own doxing to me. Im sure he'll get over it.

  14. tfb Silver badge
    Big Brother

    So, wait

    It's hard to tell without poking at the headers, but:

    'Dear Account Holder/Customer' – the mail I've had from Apple has had my name on it, because, well, they know my name and they're not stupid enough to send mail which looks like generic spam. The same reason why mail from my bank has my name on it.

    '2019-02-06'. Hmm. Well, that's the right order for dates where she lives and Apple are smart enough to maybe get this right.

    `http:/...'. WTF? Seriously? I'd be really, really surprised. Obviously it just redirects, but why? (And: I don't use gmail, but is that actually the link, or does the real link go somewhere ... more interesting?).

    FBI? Wait, aren't the FBI the domestic intelligence service? Why are they asking for this, as I think she's Russian or Eastern European? Surely the CIA would be the people who would be asking (or maybe the NSA or someone, but not the FBI I think). But maybe that's wrong, I don't know.

    So, well, you'd want to look pretty forensically at the actual text of the email, but it smells pretty bad to me: if it's not spam then Apple need some lessons in how to make things which aren't spam look like they're not spam.

    What's sad is that the person seems to have fallen straight into the trap and panicked. Don't people get hundreds of things which look much like this a week?

    1. ST Silver badge

      Re: So, wait

      > `http:/...'. WTF? Seriously?

      I just checked my own correspondence from Apple. Yes, I confess, i switched to iPhone from Android. So I have a bunch of emails from no-reply@apple.com.

      Sadly, and surprisingly, Apple does include http://<bla-bla-bla> URL's in their correspondence. It's a mix. Some are http:// some others are https://.

      What does not match at all is the sender's email address as shown in the Twitter screenshot: noreply@apple.com. All my correspondence from Apple comes from no-reply@apple.com and not noreply@apple.com.

      But who knows, maybe Apple has two different no-reply email addresses. That sounds improbable though.

      1. DS999 Silver badge
        FAIL

        I agree, this is very shady

        The big tip off is not including the person's name in the notice. I could see sending a "dear account holder/customer" email if they were telling you about changes to how much storage iCloud comes with for free or a similar generic message. But a notice that they've surrendered your personal info to the FBI? Sorry, that notice would include the person's name so it is VERY clear whose info was subpoenaed and surrendered.

        There's not a chance in hell this is legit.

      2. tfb Silver badge

        Re: So, wait

        Well I get (real) mail from Apple, and I did some greppery, and ...

        do_not_reply@email.apple.com, noreply@email.apple.com, no_reply@email.apple.com, do_not_reply@euro.apple.com, donotreply@apple.com, noreply-iphonedev@apple.com, noreply@apple.com.

        So they're just wildly inconsistent about that. Some of these may be spam but by no means all are. What I haven't checked is if any are not to me by name: I could, but not this late in th evening..

        I guess I was wrong about the http:// URLs as well.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Register has asked Apple ...

    For the shits 'n' giggles?

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: The Register has asked Apple ...

      With this particular information, I would hope Apple wouldn't send this to anyone except the person receiving the message.

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