Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Exposing the militarization of the Internet: An inside look into the NSA’s surveillance technology

Monday, January 20, 2014 at 10:33 am by

2013-12-29_30C3_-_Jacob_Appelbaum_3329-cropThe 30th Chaos Communications Congress held at the end of December in Hamburg, Germany was an apt way to conclude 2013, a year filled with revelations of invasive US surveillance practices. With a record attendance of almost 8,000 hackers and activists, the Congress provided an inside look into the surveillance technology used by the National Security Agency (NSA), as well as other foreign governments, to spy on and monitor their people.

Jake Appelbaum, an Internet privacy activist and journalist, was a featured speaker at the conference and gave detailed information about how the NSA conducts its “truly scary” surveillance practices around the world.


New York Times quotes former BORDC leader

Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 9:29 am by

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on yet another aspect of the NSA domestic dragnet: the government’s covert hacking of data center transmission lines. The story quoted former BORDC Board President Chip Pitts, who served as Chief Legal Officer at Nokia in the 1990s and is now a lecturer at Stanford Law School.

The story explained that:

“People knowledgeable about Google and Yahoo’s infrastructure say they believe that government spies bypassed the big Internet companies and hit them at a weak spot — the fiber-optic cables that connect data centers around the world….

 It went on to quote Mr. Pitts:
“From Echelon to Total Information Awareness to Prism, all these programs have gone under different names, but in essence do the same thing,” said Chip Pitts, a law lecturer at Stanford University School of Law….

Mr. Pitts said that while working as the chief legal officer at Nokia in the 1990s, he successfully fended off an effort by intelligence agencies to get backdoor access into Nokia’s computer networking equipment….

Aaron’s Law to amend the CFAA

Monday, June 24, 2013 at 10:00 am by

Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) have drafted legislation called Aaron’s Law, which aims to correct the outdated and overly aggressive Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

The bill is named after the late Aaron Swartz, the young internet genius who took his own life in January in the face of vindictive prosecution for supposed CFAA violations committed in the public interest.

The CFAA has acted as a passé legal dragnet, criminalizing many forms of internet abuse in an inefficient and heavy-handed way.  In an article in Wired magazine introducing Aaron’s Law to the public, Lofgren and Wyden characterize the core flaw of the CFAA as its vagueness.  The CFAA currently makes it criminal to access a computer knowingly without authorization or in a way that exceeds authorization.


President foreshadows new internet surveillance proposal during national security speech

Friday, May 31, 2013 at 10:40 am by
The following post by Trevor Timm was originally published on Electronic Frontier Foundation’s  blog Deeplinks, on May 30, 2013.

President Obama gave an influential speech on counter terrorism and national security policy last week, and while much of the media coverage discussed the President remarks on Guantanamo prison and drone strikes, buried in the speech was a line just as critical to civil liberties online.

Half way through the speech, Obama said he wanted to “review[] the authorities of law enforcement, so we can intercept new types of communication, and build in privacy protections to prevent abuse.”

We certainly agree with the president we need new privacy protections for our digital communications, and it’s encouraging to hear him suggest support for such proposals. After all, we know the vast surveillance authorities given to law enforcement over the last decade’—like the Patriot ActFISA Amendments Act, and National Security Letters—have been serially abused. Unfortunately, President Obama has actively defended these laws and policies in Congress and the courts, despite promising to reform them as a candidate.

There are still many measures his administration could support in the coming months to protect Americans communications. The White House could formally support reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which still says law enforcement agencies do not need warrants to obtain emails over 180 days old. The White House could come out in favor of warrant protection for cell-phone location information since it’s requested by authoritiesliterally millions of times a year without a warrant. In the wake of the Associated Press scandal, Obama could also support a bill to require a court order for call records of all Americans.

But the first half of Obama’s statement—about “review[] the authorities of law enforcement, so we can intercept new types of communication”—is quite troubling. The line is likely an allusion to CALEA II, a dangerous proposal the New York Times has reported the administration “is on the verge of backing.” The measure would force companies like Google and Facebook to install backdoors in all of their products to facilitate law-enforcement access, putting both our privacy and security at risk.

Law enforcement certainly doesn’t need more legal authorities to conduct digital surveillance. As mentioned above, Congress has already been provided a huge amount of new surveillance authority that has been abused. As former White House Chief Counselor for Privacy Peter Swiresaid in 2011, “today [is] a golden age for surveillance.”


News Digest 04/09/13

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 5:00 pm by

The internet says no to CISPA, but will Congress?

Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 10:26 am by

This week, BORDC participated in the week of action against CISPA,the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. Participants ranged from civil liberties advocates to major companies. Craigslist, Firefox, and Reddit all displayed anti-CISPA messages that allowed users to connect with online action opportunities. Since the week of action began, the list of supporters has continued to grow daily.

As we wrote several weeks ago, CISPA is back in front of Congress after it elicited significant opposition from the privacy and civil liberties world last year. Even those who argue that some form of cybersecurity is needed acknowledge that there are serious flaws in CISPA as written. The bill is riddled with problematic provisions, including immunity from civil or criminal liability for companies who share users’ private information with the government, the ability to use intelligence information information they receive from the government for reasons completely unrelated to cybersecurity, including  commercial purposes, and authorization to share information directly with the National Security Agency.

While many of the major corporations that supported the bill last year have maintained that support, there is one noteable absence: Facebook. While the company has not come out in vocal opposition, Facebook reps did tell Cnet that the company: “prefer[s] a legislative ‘balance’ that ensures ‘the privacy of our users.’” Microsoft is also absent from the list of CISPA supporters this year, while other big corporations like AT&T and IBM continue to support the legislation.

That support has not only taken the form of letters sent to the House Intelligence Committee. One of the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Mike Rogers (MI-08-R) made a major gaffe this week. He retweeted a a story that revealed that members of the House Intelligence Committee “have received, on average, 15 times more money in campaign contributions from pro-CISPA organizations than from anti-CISPA organizations.” He deleted his tweet 23 minutes later, but not before the Sunlight Foundation got a screen shot of it. His tweet is a prime example of why CISPA is so concerning; it is being driven by the lobbying of corporations with horrible privacy track records that will be shielded from liability and potentially make millions off shared information.

At this point, it is likely that a vote on CISPA will take place in mid-April, which means there is still plenty of time to contact your representative to tell them what you know about the bill. Be sure to watch our blog, as well as BORDC ally EFF’s homepage for continuing updates.

News Digest 12/18/12

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

News Digest 11/19/12

Monday, November 19, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

The anniversary of Occupy: reflections on state suppression

Friday, September 14, 2012 at 9:23 am by

As the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street approaches, the enormous protests of 2011 and early 2012 seem almost a distant memory.  Camps across the country have been dismantled, and public demonstrations have dwindled in size and media coverage.  There are a variety of reasons for this, but the repressive responses of local and federal law enforcement have indisputably contributed.  From the beginning, the violence of police tactics on the street shocked the public.  What has been less apparent, but equally ubiquitous, is the extensive surveillance and harassment of Occupy by law enforcement.

In November of last year, the National Lawyers Guild, Michael Moore, and the Partnership for Civil Justice filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit with five federal agencies requesting information on surveillance of Occupy. This request resulted in hundreds of pages of responsive documents in which federal law enforcement discuss tactics and responses. Local law enforcement also conducted surveillance. A recent report from New York University and Fordham University stated that surveillance by the New York Police Department of Occupy Wall Street had been constant and ubiquitous, and was accompanied by interrogation and intimidation.  In fact, the NYPD may have violated legal restrictions on intelligence gathering in New York.

As if this surveillance were not enough, law enforcement has turned to the internet to gather more information.  Aden Fine of the American Civil Liberties Union notes, in reference to a legal battle in which Twitter has sough to squash a subpoena requiring it to turn over a user’s information:

“ Law enforcement agencies—both the federal government and state and city entities—are becoming increasingly aggressive in their attempts to obtain information about what people are doing on the Internet.”


A SLAPP in the right direction

Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm by

A bill called the Free Speech Act of 2012 has been introduced by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AR). Its purpose is “to prevent so called ‘Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation’ (SLAPP) that attempt to censor and chill First Amendment protected speech.”

Anti-SLAPP laws are intended to stop defamation lawsuits—frequently filed by plaintiffs with deep pockets—that have little to no chance of winning, yet are aimed at pressuring the target into settling for fear of expensive litigation.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), while this is a good start, the bill is “written too narrowly.”

The provision only applies to “a representative of the news media,” and may not include bloggers, citizens journalists or other commentators on the Internet who need this protection the most.

Senator Kyl introduced the bill by saying:

The Free Press Act of 2012 responds to a number of recent incidents in which defamation lawsuits have been used to try to squelch criticism of particular groups and individuals…

EFF_icon_spchWhile this particular bill doesn’t go far enough, the EFF points out that “(a)nother anti-SLAPP bill with stonger protections being discussed in Congress right now is the PETITION Act.”

The EFF Action Center has a page where you can “send your representative a message encouraging them to support anti-SLAPP legislation, such as the PETITION Act.”