Posts Tagged ‘electronic privacy’

The intelligence-industrial complex and the persistence of mass surveillance

Monday, February 3, 2014 at 9:26 am by
(Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

(Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

Revelations about the US government’s mass surveillance efforts truly piled up during this past week. According to documents released by NBC and journalist Glenn Greenwald, the British government showed its US counterparts a program that enables the extraction of user data through real-time monitoring of social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Then, the New York Times and ProPublica reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) and its British partner Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) gather personal data through smartphone applications. The agencies can access information about a user’s location, age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and education. Finally, Edward Snowden said in an interview on German television that the NSA participates in industrial sabotage, gathering information from foreign companies that could be advantageous to US interests beyond national security.

This outpouring of discoveries about the the scope of the American surveillance state and its partnerships abroad comes on the heels of an independent oversight board’s strong rejection of the NSA’s data collection program. On January 23, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) concluded that the bulk data collection program is illegal and should end. PCLOB further highlighted that the program has not identified terrorist threats to the United States or played a role in terror investigations.

What it all means for you: Guardian decodes NSA files

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 9:00 am by

NSA FilesIn June 2013, The Guardian broke the first story on the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The story revealed that the NSA was gathering the phone records of millions of Verizon customers in the United States. Since June, there has been a deluge of revelations as more documents have been released to the public, showing that the NSA is also gathering massive amounts of user data from companies like Google and Facebook, gaining access to encrypted messages, identifying drone targets, and spying on foreign leaders.

The information from the Snowden documents has in turn shocked and enraged people around the world, motivating politicians and communities to take action. As the full scope of NSA surveillance is revealed, it is challenging to fully comprehend the meaning of the documents and the larger significance they hold for the political process and everyday life.


NYC v. NSA: a guerrilla video world premiere

Monday, October 21, 2013 at 10:00 am by

Fight for The Future, in partnership with the BORDC, Restore the Fourth NYC, Demand Progress and other privacy groups in the Stop Watching Us coalition debuted their new film The NSA Video this week in Manhattan, New York.

BORDC Legal Fellow Matthew Kellegrew joined the crowd as it gathered under the Grand Arch in Washington Square Park in the cool air of New York in the fall. At first, only a few people milled about unsure what to do but before long the few strangers became an unmistakable crowd. The organizers donned NSA costumes, handed out popcorn and briefed the crowd on what was to come.

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Why NSA surveillance matters in a world with little privacy

Friday, October 18, 2013 at 10:00 am by

nsaemailThis week has brought with it yet another discovery about the extent of the NSA’s dragnet surveillance. On Monday, the Washington Post published a series of secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden, revealing that the NSA has been collecting millions of e-mail and instant messaging contact lists from users all over the world. The public can now clearly see that the NSA has extensive and largely unencumbered access to information about our lives and use of technology: who we call and when we call them, what websites we visit, who we e-mail and chat with online, and the content of our online communications.


Lavabit: the e-mail service risking everything in the fight for transparency

Monday, October 14, 2013 at 10:00 am by

Snowden: Lavabit Encrypted Email Service Shuts DownFor the past five months, an encrypted e-mail service called Lavabit has been locked in a mostly secret fight with the government over transparency and user privacy.  Lavar Levison created Lavabit in 2004 to provide a higher level of privacy to its users than other popular e-mail hosts like Gmail. The FBI contacted Levison in May of 2013, seeking data about a particular user of Lavabit. Without knowing the target of the investigation, Levison explained how his encryption system works and the agents left. They returned at the end of June, right after Edward Snowden used a Lavabit account to call a press conference in Moscow, making it increasingly clear that the individual in question was the high-profile NSA whistleblower.


NY Times endorses Surveillance State Repeal Act, joining BORDC

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 10:23 am by

This Sunday, September 21, the New York Times published an editorial, “Close the N.S.A.’s Back Doors,” supporting a piece of legislation that the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, alone among national advocacy organizations, has endorsed since August.

The Times editorial board wrote:

[T]he [NSA] has never met an encryption system that it has not tried to penetrate. And it frequently tries to take the easy way out. Because modern cryptography can be so hard to break, even using the brute force of the agency’s powerful supercomputers, the agency prefers to collaborate with big software companies and cipher authors, getting hidden access built right into their systems.

The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica recently reported that the agency now has access to the codes that protect commerce and banking systems, trade secrets and medical records, and everyone’s e-mail and Internet chat messages, including virtual private networks. In some cases, the agency pressured companies to give it access….

These back doors and special access routes are a terrible idea, another example of the intelligence community’s overreach….If back doors are built into systems by the N.S.A., who is to say that other countries’ spy agencies — or hackers, pirates and terrorists — won’t discover and exploit them?

Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, has introduced a bill that would, among other provisions, bar the government from requiring software makers to insert built-in ways to bypass encryption. It deserves full Congressional support.

The bill introduced by Rep. Holt is the “Surveillance State Repeal Act” (H.R. 2818). If enacted into law, the bill would entirely repeal both the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.


What you need to know about NSA data collection

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 10:04 am by

There is an excellent FAQ regarding the NSA data collection controversy. It provides a great overview of exactly what the NSA has been doing, lo, these many years. Among the many questions answered are:

1) What information does the NSA collect and how?

2) Does the NSA record everything about everyone, all the time?

3) Does the NSA need an individualized warrant to listen to my calls or look at my emails?

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this data collection nightmare is a quote from a former Stasi (Communist East Germany’s secret police) Lieutenant Colonel Wolfgang Schmidt:

You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true…So much information, on so many people…

Not surprisingly, according to the McClatchy article, “Germans are dismayed at Obama’s role in allowing the collection of so much information.”

A wonderful film depicting the horror of data collection by the Stasi and its effects on the people involved is the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 2007 Best Foreign Film, “The Lives of Others.” It’s well worth your time to see it.

BORDC presents at Netroots Nation 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 7:56 am by

Last weekend, Netroots Nation met for its eighth annual gathering, in San Jose California. The event attracts hundreds of attendees and major speakers, including presidential candidates and elected representatives. Organizations and attendees cover a vast array of issues, from immigration to women’s health.

BORDC was invited to participate on a panel, “Challenging Drones: From Pakistan to Oakland.” My fellow panelists clarified the connection between the overseas use of drones and the serious issues created by the rapid proliferation of drones domestically.


Could scaling back the AUMF become a justification for more surveillance?

Monday, June 17, 2013 at 9:04 am by

This past week, CNN featured an article written by Mieke Eoyang (director of the National Security Program at Third Way) and Christopher Preble (vice president for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute), considering President Obama’s recent speech on counter-terrorism issues at the National Defense University.

Among other things, President Obama’s speech examined whether the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) should be left intact, or whether instead our national security would benefit from scaling it back.  Obama argued that the US must tailor its method of fighting terrorism to better fit “the nature of today’s threats.”

He continued by saying, “Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.”  Obama did not specifically mention a clean repeal of the AUMF, but that is the strategy that Eoyang & Preble advocate as being the most effective. Repealing the AUMF would help to scale back the very broad executive power that has characterized the office of the presidency since 2001.


Google, NSLs, and the future of privacy

Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 8:31 am by

In a court ruling on May 20, in San Francisco, CA, Google was ordered to comply with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) requests for private user information through the use of National Security Letters, a counter-terrorism measure implemented after the passing of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Judge Susan Illston, who ultimately decided against Google’s contention that the FBI’s probing was unconstitutional, ruled against the letters in a case filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in March–citing the letters as unconstitutional.

The new ruling comes at the heels of Google executives, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, releasing a manifesto titled The New Digital Age. Schmidt & Cohen touch on the importance technology has, and will have, on future developments in trading and politics, suggesting that the deterioration of privacy will help “open” democratic governments understand their constituents while arguing that “companies responsible for storing this data have a responsibility to ensure its security, and that will not change.”

They also reflect their views on the “importance of a guiding hand in the new digital age.” Cohen and Schmidt go on to say: