WHISTLEBLOWER - feat. Edward Snowden [RAP NEWS 19]
posted by Keito
Congress Disgracefully Approves the FISA Warrantless Spying Bill for Five More Years, Rejects All Privacy Amendments
posted by Keito
2012-12-29 11:33:54'Today, after just one day of rushed debate, the Senate shamefully voted on a five-year extension to the FISA Amendments Act, an unconsitutional law that openly allows for warrantless surveillance of Americans' overseas communications.
Incredibly, the Senate rejected all the proposed amendments that would have brought a modicum of transparency and oversight to the government's activities, despite previous refusals by the Executive branch to even estimate how many Americans are surveilled by this program or reveal critical secret court rulings interpreting it.
The common-sense amendments the Senate hastily rejected were modest in scope and written with the utmost deference to national security concerns. The Senate had months to consider them, but waited until four days before the law was to expire to bring them to the floor, and then used the contrived time crunch to stifle any chances of them passing.
Sen. Ron Wyden's amendment would not have taken away any of the NSA's powers, it just would have forced intelligence agencies to send Congress a report every year detailing how their surveillance was affecting ordinary Americans. Yet Congress voted to be purposely kept in the dark about a general estimate of how many Americans have been spied on.
You can watch Sen. Ron Wyden's entire, riveting floor speech on the privacy dangers and lack of oversight in the FISA Amendments Act here.
Sen. Jeff Merkley's amendment would have encouraged (not even forced!) the Attorney General to declassify portions of secret FISA court opinions—or just release summaries of them if they were too sensitive. This is something the administration itself promised to do three years ago. We know—because the government has admitted—that at least one of those opinions concluded the government had violated the Constitution. Yet Congress also voted to keep this potentially critical interpretation of a public law a secret.
Tellingly, Sen. Rand Paul's "Fourth Amendment Protection Act," which would have affirmed Americans' emails are protected from unwarranted search and seizures (just like physical letters and phone calls), was voted down by the Senate in a landslide.
The final vote for re-authorizing five more years of the FISA Amendments Act and secretive domestic spying was 73-23. Our thanks goes out to the twenty-three brave Senators who stood up for Americans' constitutional rights yesterday. If only we had more like them.
Of course, the fight against illegal and unconsitutional warrantless wiretapping is far from over. Since neither the President, who once campaigned on a return to rule of law on surveillance of Americans, nor the Congress, which has proven to be the enabler-in-chief of the Executive's overreach, have been willing to protect the privacy of Americans in their digital papers, all eyes should now turn to the Courts.
EFF was just in federal court in San Francisco two weeks ago, challenging the NSA's untargeted dragnet warrantless surveillance program. And the Supreme Court will soon rule whether the ACLU's constitutional challenge to the "targeted" portions of the FISA Amendments Act can go forward.
But make no mistake: this vote was nothing less than abdication by Congress of its role as watchdog over Executive power, and a failure of its independent obligation to protect the Bill of Rights. The FISA Amendments Act and the ongoing warrantless spying on Americans has been, and will continue to be, a blight on our nation and our Constitution.'
Federal Government Reportedly Vastly Expands Big Data Spying, Includes Innocent Citizens
posted by Keito
2012-12-29 11:29:22'After fierce internal controversy, the White House has reportedly authorized a vast expansion of spying capabilities, including the ability to investigate innocent citizens and mine previously separated databases.
“This is a sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public,” said chief privacy officer of the Department of Homeland Security Mary Ellen Callahan, whose concerns were steamrolled, according to an investigatory report by The Wall Street Journal. One senior official called the expanded powers “breathtaking” in scope.
In part prompted by the frightening near success of the Christmas Day underwear bomber, President Obama demanded more sophisticated resources to prevent future terrorist attacks. “This was not a failure to collect or share intelligence,” said the president’s chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, in January 2010. “It was a failure to connect and integrate and understand the intelligence we had.”
Prior to the updated guidelines, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) maintained the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database (TIDE), a digital warehouse of half a million terror suspects and their friends and family. Under new rules, the NCTC now has access to many other government databases so long as it is “reasonably believed” to contain “terrorism information.”
The NCTC can now copy whole datastores on information, such as flight records, the names of Americans hosting foreign exchange students, and many others. The Federal Privacy Act of 1974 sought to stifle indiscriminate sharing of datasets on Americans, but the law contains a skyscraper-size loophole that exempts an agency from the rules if they notify the Federal Register. “All you have to do is publish a notice in the Federal Register and you can do whatever you want,” security consultant Robert Gellman told the Journal.
A supplementary blog post to the report notes a few key differences between an updated 2008 memo from the Bush Administration and the 2012 guidelines:
Dropping the requirement to remove innocent U.S. people: In 2008, the NCTC was to remove U.S. individuals “not reasonably believed to be terrorism information.” Now, they can keep tabs on U.S. persons for up to five years.
“Pattern-based queries”: Previously, analysts were prohibited from conducting certain sophisticated matching queries that “are not based on known terrorism datapoints,” explains the Journal. Now, its explicitly allowed.
Added oversight: 2012 guideliens added “periodic reviews” to review egregious violations and whether keeping some information “remains appropriate.”
Sharing information with foreign governments: 2012 added guidelines for data sharing with “any appropriate entity.”
Read the full report here
posted by Keito
Google agrees to pay largest fine in FTC history for bypassing Safari privacy settings
posted by Keito
2012-09-26 21:07:05'Google on Thursday agreed to pay a record $22.5 million fine for ignoring security settings designed to prevent advertisers from tracking users with cookies in Apple's Safari web browser, bringing an end to a six month investigation aimed at better protecting consumers' privacy rights online.
### FTC members conflicted over settlement
The penalty imposed by the United States Federal Trade Commission is the largest the agency has ever issued and the first for violations of its Internet privacy order.
Despite the record setting fine, FTC members issued a statement (PDF) noting that the fine posed no serious threat to the company, and that Google agreed to pay the fine only if it could "denial of the substantive allegations in the Commission’s civil penalty complaint."
Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch voted against the order, arguing that the FTC's settlement with Google was not in the public interest, primarily because it allowed Google to deny the allegations raised by the FTC.
The FTC wasn't just responding to Google's bypassing of Safari settings. Instead, the settlement involved the larger issue of an agreement the FTC made with Google last year addressing the privacy of users. Google's willful bypassing of Safari's settings violated that earlier consent order, the commission determined.
Allowing Google to deny liability while still paying a fine divided the Commission members 4 to 1 against Rosch. "We strongly disagree with Commissioner Rosch’s view that if the Commission allows a defendant to deny the complaint’s substantive allegations, the settlement is not in the public interest," other members wrote.
"Here, as in all cases, a defendant’s denial of liability in a settlement agreement has no bearing on the Commission’s determination as to whether it has reason to believe the defendant has violated the law or that a proposed settlement will afford appropriate relief for the Commission’s charges."
### Google's lying to users deemed more serious than feeding them ads they didn't want
Commission members noted that the heart of the charges were aimed, not at Google's continuing to collect identifying data through cookies, but primarily at Google's false instructions to Safari users telling them that they didn't need to opt out because, Google had lied, Apple's default Safari settings were being respected by the company and that no further action on users' part was necessary.
Commissioners who voted for the deal wrote that "the historic $22.5 million fine is an appropriate remedy for our charge that Google violated a Commission order by misrepresenting to Safari browser users how to avoid targeted advertising by Google."
"In our view," they added, "the most important question is whether Google will abide by the underlying FTC consent order going forward."
### There's more where that came from
"We firmly believe that the Commission’s swift imposition of a $22.5 million fine helps to promote such future compliance," the group stated in response to Rosch's opposition to the settlement. "With a company of Google’s size, almost any penalty can be dismissed as insufficient.
"But it is hardly inconsequential to impose a $22.5 million civil penalty when the accompanying complaint does not allege that the conduct at issue yielded significant revenue or endured for a significant period of time.
"This settlement is intended to provide a strong message to Google and other companies under order that their actions will be under close scrutiny and that the Commission will respond to violations quickly and vigorously."
Google remains under its consent order, and the FTC has left the door open to additional fines if the search giant continues to violate its agreement with the government not to bypass the rights of users and lie to them about what they are doing or provide false instructions about how to opt out of Google's data collections.
### Busted by Old Media
Google's investigation by the FTC, initiated in February, followed a Wall Street Journal investigation that alleged Google and other ad networks had bypassed Safari's security protocols, violating its October 2011 privacy settlement with the FTC.
Specifically, the FTC charged that for several months in 2011 and 2012, Google placed a certain advertising tracking cookie on the computers of Safari users who visited sites within Google’s DoubleClick advertising network. It did so, the agency asserted, despite previous promises to Safari users that they would automatically be opted out of such tracking as a result of the default settings in Safari on Macs, iPhones and iPads.
"The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place."
### Google denied wrongdoing early and often
For its part, Google in a statement to AppleInsider previously denied the claims waged by the Journal, alleging the paper "mischaracterizes what happened and why." The company issued a statement saying:
We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It’s important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.
Unlike other major browsers, Apple’s Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default. However, Safari enables many web features for its users that rely on third parties and third-party cookies, such as “Like” buttons. Last year, we began using this functionality to enable features for signed-in Google users on Safari who had opted to see personalized ads and other content--such as the ability to “+1” things that interest them.
To enable these features, we created a temporary communication link between Safari browsers and Google’s servers, so that we could ascertain whether Safari users were also signed into Google, and had opted for this type of personalization. But we designed this so that the information passing between the user’s Safari browser and Google’s servers was anonymous--effectively creating a barrier between their personal information and the web content they browse.
However, the Safari browser contained functionality that then enabled other Google advertising cookies to be set on the browser. We didn’t anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers. It’s important to stress that, just as on other browsers, these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.
### Google floats above the law, pays millions only when caught
Google's FTC fine pales in comparison to the $500 million forfeiture settlement it paid the US government after allowing a Canadian pharmacy to illegally advertise drugs in the United States, supporting the illegal import of prescription drugs and controlled substances into the country.
That forfeiture, to avoid further litigation with the government, was also described as the largest ever of its kind. Google's criminal activity was only discovered after David Whitaker, the target of a multimillion dollar financial fraud scheme, was apprehended and confessed to federal investigators that he had been advertising illegal drugs using Google's AdWords program.
Whitaker demonstrated to investigators how he had set up a number of websites using Google's AdWords to advertise illegal drugs. Further investigation revealed that Google knew about the fraudulent advertising as early as 2003, but failed to stop the online pharmacies because it was making money on them.
The Canadian pharmacies Google assisted were not just skirting inconvenient laws to provide Americans with cheaper drugs. Instead, investigators noted that "Google was also on notice that many pharmacies accepting an online consultation rather than a prescription charged a premium for doing so because individuals seeking to obtain prescription drugs without a valid prescription were willing to pay higher prices for the drugs."
Government investigators specifically noted that Google had acknowledged “that it improperly assisted Canadian online pharmacy advertisers," not only allowing them to place illegal AdWords advertisements, but that also "from 2003 through 2009, Google provided customer support to some of these Canadian online pharmacy advertisers to assist them in placing and optimizing their AdWords advertisements and in improving the effectiveness of their websites."