Monday, September 28, 2015

OpenStack 09/28/2015 (p.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, NSA, Rogers, Congress, bulk-collection

    • The head of the National Security Agency on Thursday told Senate lawmakers that preventing his agency from collecting Americans’ information in bulk would make it harder to do its job.

      Under questioning before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Adm. Michael Rogers agreed that ending bulk collection would “significantly reduce [his] operational capabilities.”

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      “Right now, bulk collection gives us the ability ... to generate insights as to what’s going on,” Rogers told the committee.

      The NSA head also referenced a January report from the National Academy of Sciences that concluded there is “no software technique that will fully substitute for bulk collection” because of the ability to search through the storehouse of old information. 

      “That independent, impartial, scientifically-founded body came back and said no, under the current structure there is no real replacement,” Rogers said.

      Rogers was questioned on Thursday by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Intelligence Committee who has become its most vocal privacy hawk.

    • In response to the NSA head’s comments, Wyden pointed to a 2013 White House review group, which found that one controversial NSA bulk collection program “was not essential to preventing attacks” and that the information obtained by the NSA “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using” other means.

      The debate follows on a congressional clash earlier this year over the NSA’s bulk collection of records about the phone calls of millions of Americans. The records contained information about whom people called and when but not what they talked about.

    • After a brief lapsing of some portions of the Patriot Act, Congress eventually reined in the NSA by forcing it to go through the courts to search private phone companies’ records for a narrower set of records. 

      Many privacy advocates treated the new law, called the USA Freedom Act, as a significant victory, through national security hawks worried that it would make it harder for the NSA to track terrorists.

      Under the new system — which has not gone into effect yet — the amount of time it takes to obtain those records “is probably going to be longer I suspect,” Rogers said.

      Though the phone records database has been the NSA’s most prominent bulk collection program, it is not the only one. The agency’s collection of vast amounts of Internet data has alarmed many privacy advocates and is the target of a current lawsuit from Wikipedia and the American Civil Liberties Union. 

  • Tags: suveillance-state, NSA, DoJ, Wikimedia, litigation

    • The foundation behind Wikipedia is suing the U.S. government over spying that it says violates core provisions of the Constitution.

      The Wikimedia Foundation joined forces on Tuesday with a slew of human rights groups, The Nation magazine and other organizations in a lawsuit accusing the National Security Agency (NSA) and Justice Department of violating the constitutional protections for freedom of speech and privacy.

    • If successful, the lawsuit could land a crippling blow to the web of secretive spying powers wielded by the NSA and exposed by Edward Snowden nearly two years ago. Despite initial outrage after Snowden’s leaks, Congress has yet to make any serious reforms to the NSA, and many of the programs continue largely unchanged.

      The lawsuit targets the NSA’s “upstream” surveillance program, which taps into the fiber cables that make up the backbone of the global Internet and allows the agency to collect vast amounts of information about people on the Web.

      “As a result, whenever someone overseas views or edits a Wikipedia page, it’s likely that the N.S.A. is tracking that activity — including the content of what was read or typed, as well as other information that can be linked to the person’s physical location and possible identity,” Tretikov and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales wrote in a joint New York Times op-ed announcing the lawsuit. 

      Because the operations are largely overseen solely by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — which operates out of the public eye and has been accused of acting as a rubber stamp for intelligence agencies — the foundation accused the NSA of violating the guarantees of a fair legal system.

      In addition to the Wikimedia Foundation and The Nation, the other groups joining the lawsuit are the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Pen American Center, the Global Fund for Women, the Rutherford Institute and the Washington Office on Latin America. The groups are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

    • In 2013, a lawsuit against similar surveillance powers brought by Amnesty International was tossed out by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the organization was not affected by the spying and had no standing to sue. 

      That decision came before Snowden’s leaks later that summer, however, which included a slide featuring Wikipedia’s logo alongside those of Facebook, Yahoo, Google and other top websites. That should be more than enough grounds for a successful suit, the foundation said. 

      In addition to the new suit, there are also a handful of other outstanding legal challenges to the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, a different program that has inspired some of the most heated antipathy. Those suits are all pending in appeals courts around the country.

  • Tags: internet freedom, U.N., internet-censorship

    • The United Nations has disgraced itself immeasurably over the past month or so.

      In case you missed the following stories, I suggest catching up now:

      The UN’s “Sustainable Development Agenda” is Basically a Giant Corporatist Fraud

      Not a Joke – Saudi Arabia Chosen to Head UN Human Rights Panel

      Fresh off the scene from those two epic embarrassments, the UN now wants to tell governments of the world how to censor the internet. I wish I was kidding.

      From the Washington Post:

      On Thursday, the organization’s Broadband Commission for Digital Development released a damning “world-wide wake-up call” on what it calls “cyber VAWG,” or violence against women and girls. The report concludes that online harassment is “a problem of pandemic proportion” — which, nbd, we’ve all heard before.

      But the United Nations then goes on to propose radical, proactive policy changes for both governments and social networks, effectively projecting a whole new vision for how the Internet could work.

      Under U.S. law — the law that, not coincidentally, governs most of the world’s largest online platforms — intermediaries such as Twitter and Facebook generally can’t be held responsible for what people do on them. But the United Nations proposes both that social networks proactively police every profile and post, and that government agencies only “license” those who agree to do so.

    • People are being harassed online, and the solution is to censor everything and license speech? Remarkable.

      How that would actually work, we don’t know; the report is light on concrete, actionable policy. But it repeatedly suggests both that social networks need to opt-in to stronger anti-harassment regimes and that governments need to enforce them proactively.

      At one point toward the end of the paper, the U.N. panel concludes that“political and governmental bodies need to use their licensing prerogative” to better protect human and women’s rights, only granting licenses to “those Telecoms and search engines” that “supervise content and its dissemination.”

      So we’re supposed to be lectured about human rights from an organization that named Saudi Arabia head of its human rights panel? Got it.

      Regardless of whether you think those are worthwhile ends, the implications are huge: It’s an attempt to transform the Web from a libertarian free-for-all to some kind of enforced social commons.

      This U.N. report gets us no closer, alas: all but its most modest proposals are unfeasible. We can educate people about gender violence or teach “digital citizenship” in schools, but persuading social networks to police everything their users post is next to impossible. And even if it weren’t, there are serious implications for innovation and speech: According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, CDA 230 — the law that exempts online intermediaries from this kind of policing — is basically what allowed modern social networks (and blogs, and comments, and forums, etc.) to come into being.

      If we’re lucky, perhaps the Saudi religious police chief (yes, they have one) who went on a rampage against Twitter a couple of years ago, will be available to head up the project.

      What a joke.


Posted from Diigo. The rest of Open Web group favorite links are here.

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