Posts tagged EFF
Christopher Soghoian: Government surveillance — this is just the beginning
Published by TED
About: Privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian sees the landscape of government surveillance shifting beneath our feet, as an industry grows to support monitoring programs. Through private companies, he says, governments are buying technology with the capacity to break into computers, steal documents and monitor activity — without detection. This TED Fellow gives an unsettling look at what’s to come.
TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more.
Find closed captions and translated subtitles in many languages at http://www.ted.com/translate
Rating Obama’s NSA Reform Plan: EFF Scorecard Explained
[...]President Obama announced a series of reforms to address abuses by the National Security Agency. We were heartened to see Obama recognized that the NSA has gone too far in trampling the privacy rights of people worldwide. In his speech, the President ensured that National Security Letters would not come with perpetual gag orders, brought new levels of transparency and fairness to the FISA court, and ended bulk collection of telephone records by the NSA. However, there is still much more to be done.
We’ve put together a scorecard showing how Obama’s announcements stack up against 12 common sense fixes that should be a minimum for reforming NSA surveillance. Each necessary reform was worth 1 point, and we were willing to award partial credit for steps in the right direction. On that scale, President Obama racked up 3.5 points out of a possible 12.
2013 in Review: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
As the year draws to a close, EFF is looking back at the major trends influencing digital rights in 2013 and discussing where we are in the fight for free expression, innovation, fair use, and privacy. Click here to read other blog posts in this series.
Negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) intensified in 2013, as trade delegates from the 12 participating countries aimed for (and ultimately missed) a year-end target for completing the sprawling agreement. Although the secretive nature of the negotiations means the public can’t really know how far along it is, both leaked position documents and public statements indicate that there are still major unresolved areas of disagreement in the 29-chapter deal.
The biggest TPP story this year was the publication by WikiLeaks in November of the chapter titled “Intellectual Property.” Unfortunately, its contents confirmed many of our worst fears: from ratcheting up copyright term lengths around the world, to boxing in fair use, to mandating a draconian legal regime around DRM software, section after section contained clauses plucked from corporate wishlists and snubbed the public interest altogether.
Against that backdrop, it makes sense that opposition to the agreement is mounting around the world. In May, EFF joined activists and protesters in Peru surrounding the round of negotiations held in Lima. As has been typical, neither public interest groups nor concerned citizens were allowed time with negotiators, but we helped coordinate a major petition and rally. These joined actions happening in TPP countries around the Pacific rim, from Japan to Australia to Mexico and more.
In the U.S., opposition has focused on the Obama administrations calls for Congress to grant “fast track authority,” thus waiving its constitutional role of reviewing international agreements. If it passes fast track, Congress would instead be limited to a single yes-or-no vote. Under normal circumstances that’s dangerous. But in a case where the public (and even Congressional staffers) haven’t been allowed to read the agreement at all yet, that’s reckless behavior.
We’ve set up a tool to allow people in the U.S. to contact their legislators asking them to oppose fast track authority for TPP, and people have already used it to send tens of thousands of letters. You can use it to send a letter today. Lawmakers seem to be taking notice: in the past few months, bipartisan letters from House Republicans and Democrats have firmly rejected the lack of transparency around the agreement, casting serious doubt on the possibility of fast track authority.
The year-end deadline has passed, but negotiators—especially the U.S. Trade Representative—continue to play up an artificial urgency to push the agreement through. The secret meetings between the trade delegates will continue into the new year, with the first one set for February.
This article is part of our 2013 Year in Review series; read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2013.
Image credit: https://www.eff.org
By Mark M. Jaycox
In a Close Vote, Congress Shamefully Defeats Amendment That Sought to Curtail NSA Surveillance
The US House of Representatives came within a few votes of passing a novel amendment that attempted to strike out funding for the highly contentious NSA calling records surveillance program. Under this program, the NSA acquires the records of who you called, when you called, and how long you spoke—for all calls made within the United States, including international, long distance, and even local.
The amendment was part of the Defense Appropriations Bill (basically, the budget for the Department of Defense, of which NSA is a part), and was eloquently supported by a bipartisan coalition of Reps. Justin Amash, John Conyers, Jr., Thomas Massie, Mick Mulvaney, and Jared Polis. The push by Rep. Amash was a great step forward and comes in the wake of a combative House Judiciary hearing during which many members voiced opposition to unconstitutional NSA spying.
Unfortunately, Congress was unable to muster the votes to pass this important amendment. The amendment failed, with an extremely close vote of 205 to 217.
“This amendment reflected the deep discomfort of Americans who don’t want the government collecting data on them indiscriminately. This type of surveillance is unnecessary and unconstitutional, a needless return to the general warrants that our country’s founders fought against,” said Kurt Opsahl, EFF Senior Staff Attorney.
The principal author of the PATRIOT Act in 2001, Rep. Sensenbrenner, was among the strongest supporters of the Amash amendment, urging his fellow Congress members to support this effort to rein in NSA: “The time has come to stop it and the way we stop it is to approve this amendment.”
“We were heartened by the many supporters from across the country who called their representative to support the amendment, laying the foundation for further Congressional action to investigate the NSA spying and enact greater privacy protections,” said Rainey Reitman, EFF Activism Director.
Congress may not have stood up against the mass spying today, but the fight is not over. Earlier this month, EFF filed First Unitarian v. NSA to stop the spying and get the judiciary to rule that the call records program is illegal and unconstitutional. And earlier this month, a federal court rejected the government’s assertion of the state secrets privilege in Jewel v. NSA, allowing that case to continue.
EFF will continue to push Congress to rein in unconstitutional surveillance. Please add your name to our campaign by signing Stopwatching.us.
Image credit: http://www.activistpost.com
FBI sued over secretive facial recognition program
Soon the FBI will be done building a database containing the photographs, fingerprints and other biometric data for millions of Americans, but the agency has been far from forthcoming with the details. A new lawsuit filed this week aims to change that.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit digital rights group based out of California, sued the United States Department of Justice this week for failing to comply with multiple Freedom of Information Act requests filed last year by the EFF.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation received no fewer than three FOIA requests from the EFF last year for details about its state-of-the-art Next Generation Identification program, or NGI, a system that will store personally-identifiable data for millions of Americans and foreign nationals to act as what the FBI has called a “bigger, faster and better” version of what law enforcement already uses. But while the bureau has indeed already been using fingerprint information to track down potential terrorists and troublemakers for years, the EFF’s main concern revolves around what sort of space-age face recognition abilities NGI will be able to employ.
The FBI previously acknowledged that NGI will “house multimodal biometrics records like palm prints and iris scans” in one master system, as well as facial imaging information and intelligence about scars, marks and tattoos. Eventually, the agency said, it hopes to incorporate technology to track down people using only their voice. For now, though, the EFF is interested in what the facial recognition infrastructure will be able to do, and is demanding the FBI fesses up.
“NGI will change almost everything about how the FBI treats photograph submissions,” the complaint filed this week reads. Citing government documents, the EFF says that the system will allow “the increased capacity to retain photographic images, additional opportunities for agencies to submit photographic images and additional search capabilities, including automated searches.”
“The proposed new system would also allow law enforcement ‘to collect and retain other images (such as those obtained from crime scene security cameras’ and from family and friends) and would allow submission of ‘civil photographs along with civil fingerprint submissions that were collected for noncriminal purposes,’” the EFF continues.
When all is said and done, the FBI will be able to use NGI to scan millions of entries in a single database to find someone based off of a single photograph, and the EFF fears that could send things down a slippery slope.
“Governmental use of face recognition — and the potential for misuse — raises many privacy concerns,” the EFF says in the lawsuit.
Using statements already made by the FBI about the program, the EFF presents an argument about why they should be worried that’s hard to counter.
“The FBI has also stated in a public presentation given at a national biometrics conference that it wants to use its facial recognition system to ‘identify unknown persons of interest from images’ and ‘identify subjects in public datasets,’” the complaint continues. “In the same presentation, the FBI included a graphic image that implied the Bureau wanted to use facial recognition to be able to track people from one political rally to another.”
Another digital watchdog group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, previously alleged that NGI system could be integrated with other surveillance technology in order to enable “real-time image-matching of live feeds from CCTV surveillance cameras.”
Obtaining information about how the FBI will manage and operate this information has been a priority for the EFF for over a year now, and the failure to comply with those FOIA requests has finally prompted the organization to ask a court to intervene.
“NGI will result in a massive expansion of government data collection for both criminal and noncriminal purposes,” EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch said in a statement this week. “Biometrics programs present critical threats to civil liberties and privacy. Face-recognition technology is among the most alarming new developments, because Americans cannot easily take precautions against the covert, remote and mass capture of their images.”
The EFF is asking the court to enforce the FOIA requests sent last June and July, which could compel the FBI to disclose information about the face-recognition program and any plans to merge civilian and criminal records in a single database. They are also asking for the total number of face-recognition capable records currently in the database and an assessment of what number the agency expects to have when it rolls out the program in 2014.
“Before the federal government decides to expand its surveillance powers, there needs to be a public debate,” Lynch said. “But there can be no public debate until the details of the program are presented to the public.”
In a July 18, 2012 assessment, the FBI reported that the program was “on scope, on schedule, on cost and 60 percent deployed.” The program is being put together by contractors Lockheed Martin, who are expected to rake in $1 billion from the government by the time the NGI system is finally up and running.
The FBI previously admitted that they found 7,380 records that were “potentially responsive” to one of the EFF’s request, but has yet to deliver actual information pursuant to any of the three FOIA submissions filed, prompting the nonprofit to allege the FBI is “dragging its feet.”
“FBI has not explained to the public how NGI or IAFIS’s system design would ensure that civil submissions are not ‘tainted’ by criminal submissions or explained why it is necessary to combine the two types of data,” the EFF wrote in the complaint.
Posted by Judy Morris
Timeline of NSA Domestic Spying
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
The new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone authorization list obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit reveals more than 20 additional public entities allowed to fly drones over the United States.
This news comes as Charlottesville, Virginia passes a resolution banning drones, the entire state of Virginia might pass a drone moratorium, a Justice Department white paper was leaked outlining the supposed legal justification for the drone assassination program, the Obama administration is reportedly going to release legal memos to intelligence committees and the location of a CIA drone base in Saudi Arabia was revealed after two large media outlets withheld it at the government’s request.
This brings the total to 81 public entities authorized by the FAA to fly drones as of October 2012, according to the list obtained by the EFF. Keep in mind, documents obtained by the EFF reveal that drones are already flying over the United States.
Furthermore, we now know the military is operating drones domestically and sharing data with law enforcement, at least one National Guard unit uses drones, the Department of Homeland Security has embraced small spy drones and colleges and universities are offering more drone piloting programs to keep up with this drone boom.
End the Lie contacted the EFF’s media liaison by phone, confirming that this list is not merely applicants but indeed entities that have been authorized to fly drones over America.
Some of the newly approved agencies include the State Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and several sheriff’s departments including Canyon County Sheriff’s Office (Idaho), Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office (Northwest Oregon), Grand Forks Sheriff’s Department (North Dakota) and King County Sheriff’s Office (covering Seattle, Washington).
Another interesting new addition highlighted by the EFF is the Barona Band of Mission Indians Risk Management Office (near San Diego, California).
Interestingly, Ohio had several new entities approved, including the Medina County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Department of Transportation, Sinclair Community College and Lorain County Community College.
The concerns raised by this new list are legion. One of the most significant concerns is the privacy and civil liberties implications of domestic drone use, especially given the advances in drone technology.
Among the most worrisome advances are: the capability of potentially constant surveillance thanks to solar power and laser-based charging methods, drone-based facial recognition technology, automated tracking systems, a drone-based camera capable of capturing 36 square miles of imagery at once, ultra-stealthy drones and even fully automated weapons systems.
The EFF also points out, “Even the smallest drones can carry a host of surveillance equipment, from video cameras and thermal imaging to GPS tracking and cellphone eavesdropping tools. They can also be equipped with advanced forms of radar detection, license plate cameras, and facial recognition.”
The EFF hopes that the release of the new list will “spur more people to ask their local law enforcement agencies about their drone programs.”
Thanks to a partnership with MuckRock, it’s even easier to request this information from your local agencies.
The EFF is encouraging people to “ask hard questions of government officials about who is funding drone development in their communities and what policies the government will demand agencies follow if they fly drones.”
“We need greater transparency and citizen push-back to protect Americans from privacy-invasive domestic drone use,” the EFF concludes.
About Madison Ruppert
Madison Ruppert is a Los Angeles-based independent journalist and researcher as well as the founder, owner, administrator and editor of EndtheLie.com. He has no affiliations with any government agencies, political parties, non-governmental organizations, or economic schools. He is available for freelance writing assignments and appearances or interviews in any format. He can be reached by emailing Admin@EndtheLie.com
If the growing use of governmental tip-toeing to wiretap phone lines and emails doesn’t seem serious, think again. So heightened lately are concerns over surveillance that two major organizations have published a primer on federal spy programs.
Both ProPublica and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have released thorough guides this week that explore what the US government can and can’t do in terms of tracking US citizens using an array of weirdly-worded wiretap laws currently on the books.
The EFF, a long-time opponent of the expanding evasive spy state, published on Thursday a collection of information they’re considering “Warrantless Surveillance 101: Introducing EFF’s New NSA Domestic Spying Guide.” Just two days earlier, the independent journalism project ProPublica released their own breakdown, “No Warrant, No Problem: How The Government Can Still Get Your Digital Data.”
Yet again, the Congress, courts, executive branch and the establishment media work together to protect the nation’s most powerful actors
So pervasive and reliable is the rule of elite immunity – even in the face of the most egregious crimes – that one finds extreme examples on a weekly basis. Six weeks ago, the Obama justice department forever precluded the possibility of criminal accountability for Bush torturers by refusing to bring charges in the only two remaining torture cases, ones involving the deaths of the detainee-victims by torture.
The Obama campaign is now running a new campaign ad against Mitt Romney that rails against a litany of Wall Street “criminals” and “gluttons of greed”, but as David Dayen astutely notes, those examples were all imprisoned during the Bush era because the Obama administration has prosecuted no significant Wall Street executives for the 2008 financial collapseand thus have none of their own examples to highlight:
“So the Obama campaign could not fill a list of three Wall Street criminals that the Obama Justice Department actually sent to jail. Heck, they couldn’t fill a list of one!
“This is despite Eric Holder telling students at Columbia University in February of this year that his Justice Department’s record of success on fighting financial fraud crimes ‘has been nothing less than historic.’ But not historic enough that his boss could point to, well, one Wall Street criminal behind bars as a result of DoJ’s actions.
That’s painfully telling. Nobody from Bank of America or Wells Fargo or Citigroup or JPMorgan Chase or Goldman Sachs or Bear Stearns or Morgan Stanley or Merrill Lynch or even Countrywide or Ameriquest was available to stand in as a ‘glutton of greed’ in this advertisement. Literally no major figure responsible for the financial crisis has gone to jail. So the campaign has to use two CEOs from a decade-old accounting scandal, and a garden-variety Ponzi schemer.”
And now, the US supreme court just consecrated one of the most corrupt acts of the US government over the past decade: its vesting of retroactive legal immunity in the nation’s telecom giants after they had been caught red-handed violating multiple US eavesdropping laws. Just as the Obama DOJ forever precluded any legal accountability for Bush-era torturers, the supreme court on Tuesday forever precluded any legal accountability for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and other telecoms for their crucial participation in the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program (the Obama DOJ, needless to say, supported the position of the telecoms).
When the New York Times revealed on 16 December 2005 that the Bush administration was spying on the telephone calls and emails of American citizens without the warrants required by the criminal law, it exposed lawbreaking not only by government officials but also by the nation’s largest telecoms. Multiple laws were in place at the time imposing both criminal and civil liability on telecoms for enabling government spying on the communications of their customers without warrants or other legal authority, and that is exactly what these telecoms did. One former AT&T employee, Mark Klein, publicly described how AT&T had even built a separate room with no purpose but to permit the National Security Agency unfettered access to all of its customers’ communications.