Blog

  • Stallman urges Americans to support Senator Merkley's bill, the Protect America's Privacy Act

    posted by Keito
    2012-09-23 13:47:18
    'US citizens: Phone your senators to support Senator Merkley's bill, the Protect America's Privacy Act (S. 3515), which would limit warrantless wiretapping of Americans.

    The Capitol Switchboard numbers are 202-224-3121, 888-818-6641 and 888-355-3588.

    Here's info from CREDO Action about the bill:

    While Sen. Merkley's bill does not repeal telecom immunity for illegal spying, restore privacy protection to library and bookstore records, end National Security Letter abuse, or roll back the worst abuses of the PATRIOT Act (all issues CREDO will continue to fight for, in addition to the full repeal of the PATRIOT Act), it does make three major changes to the warrantless wiretapping program that help us end some of the abuses of the Bush era.

    First, it would put stronger protections in place to ensure that spy agencies are not using this program as an indirect way to target someone in the U.S.

    Second, current law allows the government to collect information in anticipation of having its request to do so approved by a special type of top-secret court. Sen. Merkley's bill would ensure that if this court decides the procedures the government is using to collect information are improper, any information collected from Americans cannot be used in a legal proceeding.

    Third, the bill would establish a new process for ensuring that if security agencies determine that information is being collected on Americans, that information cannot be accessed or searched until a proper warrant is obtained.'
  • Secret Ruling Against The NSA For Spying On Americans

    posted by Keito
    2012-09-11 16:04:53
    'The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is suing the Justice Department for details of last month's ruling by a secretive U.S. court that National Security Agency's domestic spying program violated the U.S. Constitution, Jon Brodkin of arstechnica reports.

    The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) found that "on at least one occasion" the NSA had violated the Fourth Amendment’s restriction against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    The decision is classified “because of the sensitive intelligence matters" it concerns, according to a letter from Seb. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to Congress that was acquired by Wired.

    The EFF wants the information because of its current lawsuit against the NSA (i.e. Jewel vs. NSA) that alleges the U.S. government operates an illegal mass domestic surveillance program. Three NSA whistleblowers—including William Binney—agreed to provide evidence that the NSA has been running a domestic spying program since 2001.

    The kicker is that there is ample evidence that the NSA has gone above and beyond the powers granted through the 2008 FISA Amendment Act by actively spying on the electronic communications of American citizens within the U.S. and by coercing service providers to feed it any and all information it wants.

    That is what FISC found and what the government does not want to admit.'

    http://www.businessinsider.com/nsa-spying-4th-amendment-2012-8
  • FBI launches $1 billion face recognition project

    posted by Keito
    2012-09-11 15:22:09
    'The Next Generation Identification programme will include a nationwide database of criminal faces and other biometrics

    "FACE recognition is 'now'," declared Alessandro Acquisti of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in a testimony before the US Senate in July.

    It certainly seems that way. As part of an update to the national fingerprint database, the FBI has begun rolling out facial recognition to identify criminals.

    It will form part of the bureau's long-awaited, $1 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) programme, which will also add biometrics such as iris scans, DNA analysis and voice identification to the toolkit. A handful of states began uploading their photos as part of a pilot programme this February and it is expected to be rolled out nationwide by 2014. In addition to scanning mugshots for a match, FBI officials have indicated that they are keen to track a suspect by picking out their face in a crowd.

    Another application would be the reverse: images of a person of interest from security cameras or public photos uploaded onto the internet could be compared against a national repository of images held by the FBI. An algorithm would perform an automatic search and return a list of potential hits for an officer to sort through and use as possible leads for an investigation.

    Ideally, such technological advancements will allow law enforcement to identify criminals more accurately and lead to quicker arrests. But privacy advocates are worried by the broad scope of the FBI's plans. They are concerned that people with no criminal record who are caught on camera alongside a person of interest could end up in a federal database, or be subject to unwarranted surveillance.

    The FBI's Jerome Pender told the Senate in July that the searchable photo database used in the pilot studies only includes mugshots of known criminals. But it's unclear from the NGI's privacy statement whether that will remain the case once the entire system is up and running or if civilian photos might be added, says attorney Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The FBI was unable to answer New Scientist's questions before the magazine went to press.

    The FBI hasn't shared details of the algorithms it is using, but its technology could be very accurate if applied to photographs taken in controlled situations such as passport photos or police shots.

    Tests in 2010 showed that the best algorithms can pick someone out in a pool of 1.6 million mugshots 92 per cent of the time. It's possible to match a mugshot to a photo of a person who isn't looking at the camera too. Algorithms such as one developed by Marios Savvides's lab at Carnegie Mellon can analyse features of a front and side view set of mugshots, create a 3D model of the face, rotate it as much as 70 degrees to match the angle of the face in the photo, and then match the new 2D image with a fairly high degree of accuracy. The most difficult faces to match are those in low light. Merging photos from visible and infrared spectra can sharpen these images, but infrared cameras are still very expensive.

    Of course, it is easier to match up posed images and the FBI has already partnered with issuers of state drivers' licences for photo comparison. Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union urges caution: "Once you start plugging this into the FBI database, it becomes tantamount to a national photographic database."'
  • Internet enemy number one, Lamar Smith, is sponsoring the FISA FAA renewal and pushing it to a vote in the House on Wednesday. This is the bill that retroactively legalized NSA warrantless wiretapping. We need to stop this now.

    posted by Keito
    2012-09-11 15:03:19
    'It’s back. On Thursday the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a five-year reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), the 2008 law that legalized the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program and more. It permits the government to get year-long orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications—including phone calls, emails, and internet records—for the purpose of collecting foreign intelligence. The orders need not specify who is going to be spied on or even allege that the targets did anything wrong. The only guarantees that the FAA gives are that no specific American will be targeted for wiretapping and that some (classified) rules about the use of intercepted information will be followed.

    After four years, you’d hope that some basic information or parameters of such a massive spying program would be divulged to the public, or at least your rank-and-file member of Congress, but they haven’t. Only a small handful of members have either personally attended classified briefings or have staff with high enough clearances to attend for them. Sen. Ron Wyden—who has been on the Senate Intelligence Committee for years—has even been stonewalled by the Obama administration for a year and a half in his attempts to learn basic information about the program, such as the number of Americans who have had their communications intercepted under the FAA.

    Yet the House ambles on, ready to rubber stamp another five years of expansive surveillance that can pick up American communications without meaningful judicial oversight and without probable cause or any finding of wrongdoing. Instead of blind faith in the executive branch, every member of the House should demand that the administration publicly disclose the following before proceeding with reauthorization:
    • Copies of FISA court opinions interpreting our Fourth Amendment rights under the FAA, with redactions to protect sensitive information (the Department of Justice can write summaries of law if necessary);
    • A rough estimate of how many Americans are surveilled under the FAA every year;
    • A description of the rules that govern how American information picked up by FAA surveillance is protected.

    Can you believe that 435 members of Congress who have sworn to uphold the Constitution are about to vote on a sweeping intelligence gathering law without this basic information? Act now to let them know that it’s time for Congress to fix FISA. Keep an eye on this space and the @ACLU on Twitter for updates this week (for more detailed tweets about FISA, follow @Richardson_Mich, A.K.A. Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s lobbyist who works on FISA).

    Relatedly, on October 29th, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the ACLU’s constitutional challenge to the FAA, which was filed in 2008 less than an hour after President Bush signed the amendments into law.'

    http://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/house-vote-fisa-amendments-act-wednesday
  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee accuses government of 'draconian' internet snooping

    posted by Keito
    2012-09-06 20:47:39
    'The inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has accused the government of invading the privacy by monitoring internet use.

    Sir Tim warned that plans to monitor individuals' use of the internet would result in Britain losing its reputation as an upholder of web freedom

    The plans, by Theresa May, would force service providers to keep records of every phone call, email and website visit in Britain.

    Sir Tim told the Times: "“In Britain, like in the US, there has been a series of Bills that would give government very strong powers to, for example, collect data. I am worried about that."

    Yesterday was the launch of the World Wide Web Foundation's first global Web Index analysing the state of the web in 61 countries using indicators such as the political, economic and social impact of the web, connectivity and use.

    Britain came third in the list which was topped by Sweden and the United States in second place.

    Speaking at the launch, Sir Tim said that Britain would soon slip down the rankings if the draft Communications Data Bill became law.

    “If the UK introduces draconian legislation that allows the Government to block websites or to snoop on people, which decreases privacy, in future indexes they may find themselves farther down the list,” he said.

    The draft bill extends the type of data that internet service providers must store for at least 12 months. Providers would also be required to keep details of a much wider set of data, including use of social network sites, webmail and voice calls over the internet.

    Mrs May has justified the need for the new legislation by saying that it is necessary to combat organised crime and terrorism.

    Sir Tim's comments came on the same day as he denied that there was an 'off'; switch for the internet.

    He said the only way the internet could only ever be completely shut down is if governments across the world coordinated to make it a centralised system:

    "At the moment, because countries connect to each other in lots of different ways, there is no one off switch, there is no central place where you can turn it off.

    "In order to be able to turn the whole thing off or really block, suppress one particular idea then the countries and governments would have to get together and agree and coordinate and turn it from a decentralised system to being a centralised system.

    "And if that does happen it is really important that everybody fights against that sort of direction."'

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/9524681/Sir-Tim-Berners-Lee-accuses-government-of-draconian-internet-snooping.html