Category Archives: Privacy

CISPA: Your Privacy At Severe Risk Of Government‑Corporate Surveillance

Following up on the earlier CISPA post, Anjali Dalal of AlterNet has a concentrated summary of CISPA and all the last-minute amendments applied last Thursday evening before the bill was passed unexpectedly by the House. Many of the amendments appear to have been inserted (and others deleted) in defiance of reservations expressed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology, all of whom were at least in theory invited to “participate” in amending the bill. Here’s Dalal:

Learning their lesson from SOPA, the House decided to invite civil liberties constituencies to the table so as to avoid having to witness another implosion of a major legislative goal. As a result, a number of amendments were introduced that began to address some of the most egregious parts of the bill, and, in response, some members of the civil liberties community decided to withhold further, vocal opposition. Then, on Thursday evening, it all fell apart. As Josh Smith at the National Journal described, the CISPA that was passed by the House on Thursday didn’t reflect this negotiation: …

Ah, the grand Republican tradition, let everyone have their say and then pass whatever they damned well please. “We listened to you!” they will doubtless protest. Yes, fuck them dead, they did. An overwhelming number of the amendments ultimately incorporated were Republican, while most Democratic amendments were omitted by the Republican-dominated House Rules Committee.

The linked AlterNet article discusses quite a few amendments. All I can say on a quick reading is that the words “warrantless” and “immunity” appear often, allowing warrantless searches by corporations (!) to be reported to government agencies with immunity for the corporations involved. These GOP guys ‘n’ gals really, really don’t like the “no search without a warrant” principle, and they really, really do like subcontracting legitimately government-only activities to private corporations.

Do you get the feeling that that pompous, ritualistic reading of the Constitution at the opening of the last House session was totally lost on the members of one party, and maybe some of the other party’s members as well?

Does anybody know the status of Obama’s original threat to veto this bill if it crosses his desk? Has he caved yet?

CISPA Passes House On Hurried-Up Vote After Surprise Changes Effectively Eviscerating Fourth Amendment Online

Remember Dan Quayle? Remember how we laughed at him? In our brave new world under our new overlords (whom I, for one, do NOT welcome), Quayle has had the last laugh. Here is Leigh Beaden of TechDirt on the sudden passage of CISPA, and the same author on the Quayle amendment to CISPA.

If this bill becomes law (for what it’s worth, Obama has issued a veto threat), companies that partner with DoD and NSA agencies can gather information on American citizens online without a warrant and with no application of the Fourth Amendment, just by listing certain keywords in their justification for the acquisition. It’s easier for me simply to hand you off to the ACLU for their initial impressions of the bill as passed in the House yesterday:

The House of Representatives just passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a dangerously overbroad bill that would allow companies to share our private and sensitive information with the government without a warrant and without proper oversight. CISPA gives companies the authority to share that information with the National Security Agency or other elements of the Department of Defense, who could keep it forever. The Obama administration issued a veto threat on CISPA earlier this week.

In a statement that we issued just after the House vote, ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson stated, “CISPA goes too far for little reason. Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back. We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity.”

Obscurity indeed… either that’s where the bill will go, or where your privacy will go; we can’t have both.

It seems to me that we must have had “Americans” in our midst for several decades just waiting for an opportunity to repudiate the Bill of Rights and turn our form of government into something most of us would regard as totalitarian. The “global war on terror” seems to have provided that opportunity, and these un‑Americans have whipped out their swords and begun whacking away at the freedoms listed in our fundamental document. Personally, I expect the worst. If you feel otherwise, please let me know. If you “welcome our new overlords,” please fuck yourself with a corkscrew.

(H/T Avedon.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: the wiki is also worth reading, especially the quotes from the bill’s opponents outside of Congress.

CISPA And Your Privacy – Here We Go Again

CISPA is the Cybersecurity Intelligence Sharing Protection Act. Kevin Gosztola of FDL’s The Dissenter interviews Trevor Timm, representative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the basics are visible in the first exchange:

KEVIN GOSZTOLA, The Dissenter: Let’s start broadly first. I’d like to have you address why the Electronic Frontier Foundation and why you think privacy is so important.

TREVOR TIMM, EFF Activist: Privacy is especially important on the Internet cause of all the Internet we end up sending and receiving from each other and also to different companies and perhaps the government. A lot of the information that we have in our email boxes or our Facebook accounts aren’t necessarily protected by the same constitutional protections that protect letters and phone calls. This is because the Electronic Communications Privacy Act was written twenty-five years before email even existed and that’s what still governs what the government can and can’t take from companies and us about our information. And, the worst part about this bill CISPA – which stands for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing Protection Act – is that it essentially carves out a giant cybersecurity loophole into already watered-down protections for our communications. And what we’re really worried about is that companies will end up handing over large swaths of our emails, private messages on Facebook or Twitter, to the government with no judicial oversight.

And there you have it. Your [inserted: international] phone calls are already wiretapped without a warrant; now they want to do the same with your emails, your tweets, your online purchases, etc. The current wording is so vague and broad that literally anything someone in government or even a corporation chooses could be labeled “cyber threat intelligence” and subject to warrantless interception. Believe me, Rep. Mike Rogers (R) and his approximately 100 House cosponsors intend you no good with this bill. The House vote is scheduled for Apr. 23… a week from today as I write this on Monday. The above-linked piece by Gosztola and Timm has links to an EFF FAQ about CISPA and an action center to oppose the bill. (One clever bit is a hashtag, #CongressTMI, i.e., Too Much Information, to which you can tweet literally your every activity for a day, to show the consequences burdensome to real security of intercepting literally everything.)

SOPA/PIPA may be dead, but the battle for fundamental online privacy protection… the degree of privacy protection we all enjoy legally and constitutionally in postal mail and (theoretically) phone calls… is nowhere nearly won. Here’s Trevor Timm of EFF again:

… Basic privacy practices like using an anonymization service like Tor to hide your location or identity or even encrypting your emails could be considered a threat under the Senate bills. …

Here we go again…

The State Of The Nation

Please read William Rivers Pitt’s piece, Let the Million Flowers Bloom. Allow yourself a short span to fathom the list of activities Pitt compiles, things being done by government entities at literally all levels. Then read it again.

It doesn’t take a conspiracy-oriented mind to believe that we in America are headed straight to Hell, based on a simple list of well-established facts. While I believe there are some conspiracies, I am very disinclined to believe they are typically perpetrated by our governments; I find it more than distasteful to imagine that municipalities are organizing against our well-being. But facts are facts, and Pitt has spent years establishing a reputation for getting his facts right. His facts on NYC’s treatment of the Occupy movement are almost certainly right. Who would you rather believe? Michael Bloomberg? And how far behind can the rest of us be, if they’re collecting retinal scans of peaceful protesters?

Pitt says that GeeDubya Bush is finally getting his wish expressed in his attempt at a “Total Information Awareness” program. The technology to do such a thing has been available for a decade at least, and if it is now a mission of the No Such Agency to establish such a database, it will almost certainly happen. As a first step in preparing ourselves, we might want to contemplate how we will live in an era in which individual privacy is effectively nonexistent.

After you’ve figured that out for yourself, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have some time to contemplate what comes next. Or maybe not. If I were in my 20s or 30s, I might seriously consider emigrating. And if that’s not an option for you…

Welcome to America! Enjoy your stay!

Employers: ‘Give Us Your Facebook Login Or Lose Your Job’

Literally. Or, to a prospective employee, “GUYFL or you don’t get the job.” Facebook is understandably upset, believes such employers are doing something illegal (not merely something detestable) and is threatening to sue them:

In response to a deluge of news reports that employers, including public sector organizations, are increasingly forcing employees and prospective hires to turn over their Facebook login information (or have people login and allow supervisors to look at profiles), Facebook itself has decided to weigh-in on the matter.

On Friday, Facebook’s recently appointed chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, posted a note on the social network’s privacy page explaining that Facebook will “take action to protect the privacy and security of our users,” including suing employers who violate user privacy.

I have consistently declined to join any social networking site because I have not been reassured that the companies that run them will not misuse the data they collect on individuals. Facebook has arguably been the worst about not protecting privacy.

But for an employer to hold a gun to your head and say “your password or your job” is beyond the pale. I hope the bastards get their asses sued off. (If we lived in a society in which every employee was backed by a good union, this kind of BS wouldn’t happen.)

New Technology Enables Government To Strip Away Civil Liberties More Easily And Effectively

Jeralyn Merritt, whom I really should read more often:

Via Spencer Ackerman at Wired, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has proudly announced the state’s new snitching App is available on iTunes.

[A] project of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center, the app sends submitted information, including photos and texts, to the Fusion Center where the information can help authorities react to and prevent incidents from occurring.

What’s wrong with this? As Spencer says:

There’s nothing in the app to stop you from snapping a picture of your annoying neighbor and sending it to the attention of federal and state counterterrorism agents in West Virginia, who can keep information on your neighbor’s face, body and perhaps his vehicle for an unspecified period of time.

As Spencer notes, W. Virginia is hardly a hotbed of terrorism. And this isn’t just happening in West Virginia. The Department of Homeland Security has its “If You See Something, Say Something” program. Here is its current list of partners.

One last bit from Jeralyn:

Key questions: How long is information retained? What are the procedures for the review, purge, and destruction of information? How does an individual find out what information has been submitted and collected about him or her? What information can be shared with third parties outside of government?

In the Sixties, there was a quip, “Don’t turn on your neighbor… turn on your neighbor!” These days, the quip still applies… with the meanings of “turn on” switched. O tempora, o mores!

AFTERTHOUGHT: Or perhaps it’s simply “Don’t turn on your neighbor… turn in your neighbor!”

There’s A Drone In Your Future

… or maybe your present; it’s hard to tell with today’s lack of regulations on drone use. But with high probability there’s at least a drone in your future:

Washington – A bill passed last week allocating more than $63 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration would increase the existence of drones in civilian airspace across America and is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

As America’s drone war begins a new surge in Pakistan, the U.S. House and Senate have both approved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act bill, a bill which would pressure the FAA to weaken rules currently in place on domestic drone authority, and allow American skies to be filled with tens of thousands of drones.

If the new bill becomes law, up to 30,000 drones could by flying in U.S. airspace by decade’s end. The Senate passed the bill by a 75-20 margin. Civil liberties groups have spoken out on the measure, stating the new legislation offers no restrictions on drone surveillance operations by police and federal agencies and could put us on track toward a “surveillance society.”

Well, so much for those backyard sunbathing parties… the rest of the article is as discouraging as the quoted part.

Seriously… I will not take this lying down. I will stand up, extend my old tennis racket as far as my arm can reach, …

H/T Avedon.

Who’s A Terrorist?

From Public Intellligence, via Michael Moore (whose site makes it damnably difficult to link individual front-page items)…

According to the FBI (link is to a copy of the FBI flyer on the Public Intelligence site, not the FBI site), if you like your privacy on the Internet, YOU MAY BE A TERRORIST. At the very least, if your neighbors or coworkers notice your predilection for privacy, they should report you. “If your mommie is a Commie then you gotta turn her in,” that old song about the John Birch Society says… Now the FBI says the same thing about privacy-loving individuals.

Do you encrypt any of your business documents when you email them? You may be a terrorist. Have you ever used an anonymizer to prevent being tracked? You may be a terrorist. Have you ever emailed photos of your friends or family, photos which could conceivably contain changed pixels representing a coded message? You may be a terrorist. Do you ever use your online residential Internet account from a remote location, say, a public library or an Internet café? You may be a terrorist. Do you pay cash a lot in the grocery store? You may be a terrorist.

And so on, and so forth. The list is long. It is a rare individual in modern society who does not do one or more of the things listed.

But if you are a loyal citizen, you must remember… “If your mommie is a Commie…” [/snark]

Supreme Court Rules 9-0: Government Cannot GPS-Track Without Fourth Amendment Probable Cause

Jonathan Turley tells us a lot about it.

This is big, even if the decision was split between a majority and a concurrence. But the fact that the Obama administration even sought to justify this practice is bigger. Please list this among the reasons I will not vote for Mr. Obama in November.

Unless there is probable cause to believe I have committed a crime, or am currently committing a crime, a cause strong enough for a judge to issue a warrant, my moment-to-moment location is none of my government’s goddamned business. Now our Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that I have that privacy right, though in much politer language, of course.

AFTERWORD: An email from the ACLU list reminded me that the government will almost certainly argue that cell phones may continue to be tracked without a warrant because their technology is different from that of GPS devices but still inevitably transmits location information to enable the appropriate cell tower to carry your phone conversation if you should call or be called. Yes, of course that’s absurd: it’s law instead of technology. A reasonable person would see no distinction between tracking someone’s location using one technology and tracking the same person’s location using another technology. But face it: the Obama administration’s DoJ and FBI contain many, many people who could not be classified as “reasonable.” Mark that down as yet another reason I will not vote for the man in November.

MORE INFO: The ruling may mean less than it at first seems to, because the Court ruled on very narrow grounds and emphasized not the use of a tracking device but the repeated physical invasion of the defendant’s vehicle and the complete disregard for the specifics of the warrant that was obtained (specifically, the search took place in a time period not covered by the warrant, and in a different state from where the warrant was issued). This may have very little to do with whether police must obtain a warrant to track a vehicle using an electronic device, but as the Court ruled on such narrow grounds, we still do not know.

Send In The Drones!

Don’t bother… they’re here.”

Jillian Rayfield of TPM tells us the FAA counts 285 active “Certificate[s] of Authorization” issued to a variety of entities, the feral gummint and the military, of course, but also state and local governments and a plethora of law enforcement agencies… not to mention real estate firms, academic institutions and (improbably) resorts.

Enjoy your privacy. You may have it in the bathroom of your own home, if it has no window, but I wouldn’t bet on it anywhere else in the world. As Rayfield points out, this is quite literally a page out of Orwell’s 1984