Posts tagged EPIC
Privacy Group to Supreme Court: Tell NSA to Stop Spying on Americans
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a petition with the US Supreme Court to end the National Security Agency (NSA) PRISM surveillance program.
EPIC stated: “it is simply not possible that every phone record in the possession of a telecommunications firm could be relevant to an authorized investigation.”
As a customer of Verizon, EPIC has asked that the Supreme Court order the NSA to “disclose all information on its client’s call logs.”
Using the “exceptional circumstances”, Rule 20 of the Supreme Court, this petition for an extraordinary writ, EPIC is taking a chance that this appeal will be dead in the water before it is considered.
Although previous attempts at this same end have faltered, EPIC has requested that the NSA and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) be relieved of their over-reaching and intrusive spying methods that have placed into question that validity of our 4th Amendment rights.
The petition reads in part: “It is simply not possible that every phone record in the possession of a telecommunications firm could be relevant to an authorized investigation. Such an interpretation of Section 1861 would render meaningless the qualifying phrases contained in the provision and eviscerate the purpose of the Act.”
EPIC challenges the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) ability to review all documents they allegedly approved for the NSA to allow phone calls , emails and other various forms of surveillance to be conducted.
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC said that this lawsuit would “directly challenge the authority of the court to approve the phone records’ collection under the Patriot Act.”
In fact, EPIC states that FISA would have ”exceeded its statutory jurisdiction when it ordered production of millions of domestic telephone records that cannot plausibly be relevant to an authorized investigation’.”
Senators Ron Wyden and mark Udall say that there is a “secret interpretation” of the Patriot Act with regard to the world “relevant” that gives the executive branch authority to send out surveillance agencies such as the NSA to gather intelligence on the whim of the office of US president.
Stewart Baker, lawyer and former assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Secruty (DHS) is skeptical about EPIC’s motives for bringing such a case.
Baker said: “Color me deeply skeptical. This sounds more like a stunt than serious litigation. The Supreme Court doesn’t take cases just because an issue is in the newspapers and civil liberties organizations want the Court to review what the government is doing. There are procedures by which cases can come to the Supreme Court on this issue in the ordinary way — through the appeals courts. The Court depends on such procedures to make sure issues are properly ventilated before the Court reviews them, and it will be highly reluctant to take a case of this importance without following the usual process.”
Last month, Senator Rand Paul offered to challenge the NSA in the Supreme Court over the blatant disregard for obtaining search warrants prior to their surveillance program and spying was initiated on American citizens and residents of foreign nations; including heads of state, diplomats and members of foreign governments.
Paul said: “I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level. I’m going to be asking all the internet providers and all of the phone companies: Ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington.”
Snowden’s document show that GCHQ was involved with the NSA PRISM program which syphoned data from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and other tech corporations to create profiles on internet users.
PRISM data was handed to the GCHQ through a sharing agreement.
The GCHQ has their own spy program called TEMPORA which was exposed by Snowden. This is a clear violation of European privacy laws as if extracts massive amounts of data on unwitting UK citizens.
PI’s petition will be heard at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a secret court that sides with the British government.
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By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
Despite the fact that the FBI was accused of hiding information from judges when obtaining authorization for use of the secretive “Stingray” cell phone tracking device, a judge has ruled that the use of the device by federal agents was lawful.
This case could quite unfortunately have wide-ranging effects on how the government conducts the type of dragnet surveillance enabled by the Stingray device.
Interestingly, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) also recently received a new batch of documents from the FBI about the Stingray.
On Wednesday, Judge David Campbell dismissed the motion to suppress the information gathered through the Stingray device in the case of Daniel Rigmaiden.
Campbell refused to dismiss the motion even though the ACLU pointed out in an amicus brief that by “failing to apprise the magistrate that it intended to use a stingray, what the device is, and how it works, it prevented the judge from exercising his constitutional function of ensuring that warrants are not overly intrusive and all aspects of the search are supported by probable cause.”
This is precisely the issue that has been raised in previous coverage of this technology.
Campbell ruled that the warrant was valid and the suspect “did not have an expectation of privacy society is willing to accept as legitimate.”
According to Campbell, since Rigmaiden allegedly rented the apartment and purches the computer fraudulently using false identities, Rigmaiden could not “credibly argue that he had a legitimate expectation of privacy.”
While that ruling is quite understandable, it gets troubling when one realizes that Campbell’s ruling goes much further.
Campbell ruled that the use of the Stingray did not in fact constitute a “severe intrusion” and ruled that “no Fourth Amendment violation occurred.”
The ACLU said that this ruling “trivializes the intrusive nature of electronic searches and potentially opens the door to troubling government misuse of new technology.”
According to the ACLU, the judge dismissed the significance of the Stingray’s ability to gather data from innocent third parties who just happen to be in the area.
“The violation arises from the fact that the government searched people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing,” the ACLU stated. “This is a violation even if the government doesn’t later use the information against those third parties.”
Rick Santorum calls President Obama a “nig”
The complete video coverage of Santorum’s speech to a crowd at The Armory in Janesville, Wisconsin can be found following the link below. His ignorant slip up comes about 34:31 into this disgusting video filled with smooth con job rhetoric.
Rick Santorum catches himself before uttering the second syllable. Wow, and this is the person many Christian right wing conservatives are supporting because they feel he has such high morals, values and religious beliefs. Funny how a Freudian slip brings out the real person’s thoughts and attitude. Wake up folks and quit being the sheep listening to the shepherd and start thinking for youselves. If you feel Santorum is honest, upright and represents anything having to do with freedom you have been truly deceived, either by others or by yourself. Do your diligent homework or go back to sleep, should you be one of the sheep following the shepherd off a cliff.
By Jill Duffy
Google’s policy update is unavoidable, but you can partially side-step its effects. Here’s how.
But the change has a lot of people very concerned about the implications. One group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, has already sued to stop Google from implementing the change, arguing that the company is in violation of a recent Federal Trade Commission settlement. The nation’s attorneys general, the European Commission, and another consumer group have also voiced their opposition.
What Google’s New Policy Means for You
A preview of the new Google policy, which Google has made available online, explains some of the information Google collects and will soon conflate. It includes “information you give us” (personal information that you have to provide in order to sign up for certain free services), information about how and when you use the services, which devices you use, your location, and more. A big part of the body of data is your Google.com search history.
Google’s stated purpose in bringing together the information it collects about you is to improve its services, but it also enables the company to deliver more personalized ads and personalized search results… which not everyone wants. Luckily, there is at least one way to avoid that.
How to Side-Step the Effects of Google’s Privacy Change
One way to get out of some of the effects of Google’s privacy change is to delete your Web search history. It’s an option that Google voluntarily provides.
I spoke with Galperin by phone to better understand what it really means.
When you delete your search history from Google, it does not mean that the company stops collecting the data that you create. It still takes the information and stores it away, but it promises not to use it. If presented with a subpoena or warrant, Google would have to give that information to the appropriate parties, but there doesn’t seem to be any other reason the company hangs onto it. After 18 months, the data becomes “anonymized.”
I asked Galperin to define “anonymized,” and she said “It depends. They’ll take your name off and strip some bits off the IP address.” But, she added, “The extent to which [Google has] anonymized the data is unclear.” She also mentioned that some research suggests that it’s possible to de-anonymize data fairly easily “if you have a large enough corpus.” No one would dispute that Google certainly has a very large data set.
And what happens if you don’t delete it? “It’s unclear how long Google keeps [your information] if you don’t delete your Web history,” said Galperin. Leaving it alone also means that Google can give you those more personalized results it keeps promising, which Galperin notes isn’t necessarily “better” or what you want.
Personalized Results: Creepy?
Providing a more personalized experience on all of Google’s products is not something everyone wants, though some will certainly see the value. Some people, Galperin included, find it creepy.
“There are a lot of people who have started using Google’s products separately,” she noted. You might have one side of your personality that uses YouTube, while a very different personality uses Blogger, or Google Scholar, or any of the other services. Some users prefer to keep these slices of their lives separate.
“The questions consumers should be asking are, ‘Who has your data and how much do they have and with whom are they sharing it?’” Galperin said. That’s what’s at stake, typically, when you use an ostensibly “free” service such as Google or Facebook.
Galperin plans to write at least one more step-by-step guide on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website for helping users do what they can to bypass the effects of Google’s new privacy changes, such as deleting their history on YouTube.
by: J. D. Heyes
How out-of-hand has the “war on terror” become? So much so that now, the Department of Homeland Security has taken to monitoring social media Web sites trolling for would-be terrorists, as if the world’s most dangerous killers were Tweeting their plans.
Only, DHS isn’t just trolling for terrorists by monitoring Twitter and Facebook. No, the department – which at least one presidential contender, Rep. Ron Paul, believes is out of control – is wasting valuable and limited assets evaluating media reports, organizations and news sites like The Drudge Report for anti-government attitudes and social unrest.
But wait, you ask. What does monitoring American-based Web sites and social media applications have to do with the war on terror? Probably nothing, but you may remember that the Department of Homeland Security was born out of legislation passed immediately after the 9/11 attacks to protect “the American people from terrorist threats.”
First Amendment, anyone?
You’re not the only one who isn’t buying the spying. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a watchdog organization looking to protect civil liberties, privacy, the First Amendment and constitutional values in an increasingly interconnected world, has convinced a House subcommittee that the DHS activity is suspicious enough to warrant closer examination. The hearings come on the heels of the group’s acquisition of some 300 pages of DHS documents resulting from a Freedom of Information Act request which lay bare the agency’s “intelligence gathering” activities online.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s monitoring of political dissent has no legal basis and is contrary to core First Amendment principles,” says EPIC’s director, Ginger McCall, who says a government agency that monitors what ordinary Americans are saying about federal policies goes too far, and has direct implications on freedom of speech.
“The language in the documents makes it quite clear that they are looking for media reports that are critical of the agency and the U.S. government more broadly,” she said. “This is entirely outside of the bounds of the agency’s statutory duties.”
EPIC says documents it has obtained show that DHS has used contractors to monitor Twitter, Facebook, Hulu, Wikileaks, Drudge and other news sites including the Huffington Post. The documents reveal that the contractors were required to provide DHS with reaction regarding potential “threats and hazards,” as well as any media reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. Government and the Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) ability to prevent, protect and respond, to recovery efforts or activities related to any crisis or events which impact National Planning Scenarios.”
The program should also highlight “both positive and negative reports on FEMA, C.I.A., C.B.P., ICE, etc., as well as organizations outside of D.H.S.,” the documents said.
Looking over your shoulder
Now, DHS officials admit that, yes, the agency was monitoring the Web for any negative opinion of the government. But they said the operation was only undertaken as a one-and-done test, then quickly dropped, because it didn’t meet “operational requirements or privacy standards” which “expressly prohibit reporting on individuals’ First Amendment activities.”
Homeland Security is monitoring the web for anti-government sentiment and signs of social unrest
A privacy advocacy group has swayed Congress to hold a hearing next week into the Department of Homeland Security’s practice of monitoring social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as media reports and organizations, including The Drudge Report.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) recently obtained close to 300 pages of documents, as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, detailing the federal agency’s “intelligence gathering” practices on the web.
Among the documents were guidelines from DHS instructing outside contractors to monitor the web for media reports and comments that “reflect adversely” on the agency or the federal government.
As Reuters reported last month, in early 2010 contractors were asked to spend 24 hours monitoring news media coverage on popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks, as well as news sites including the Huffington Post and The Drudge Report.
The contractors were required to provide the DHS with feedback on any potential “threats and hazards”, as well as “any media reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. Government and the Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) ability to prevent, protect and respond, to recovery efforts or activities related to any crisis or events which impact National Planning Scenarios.”
The documents also state that the program should highlight “both positive and negative reports on FEMA, C.I.A., C.B.P., ICE, etc., as well as organizations outside of D.H.S.”
The documents obtained by EPIC indicate that following the exercise, a procurement official awarded an $11.3 million contract to General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in order to carry out the monitoring on a “24/7/365 basis”.
EPIC director Ginger McCall notes that monitoring what people are saying about government policies goes too far and has a chilling effect on free speech.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s monitoring of political dissent has no legal basis and is contrary to core First Amendment principles,” she said.
“The language in the documents makes it quite clear that they are looking for media reports that are critical of the agency and the U.S. government more broadly,” said McCall. “This is entirely outside of the bounds of the agency’s statutory duties.”
DHS officials have admitted that monitoring of social networks for negative opinion was undertaken by the agency, but claim that the operation was a one off test and was quickly dropped as it did not meet “operational requirements or privacy standards,” which “expressly prohibit reporting on individuals’ First Amendment activities.”
EPIC argues otherwise and has presented evidence that suggests the practice is being held up by the DHS an an example that should be emulated.
“They are completely out of bounds here,” McCall said. “The idea that the government is constantly peering over your shoulder and listening to what you are saying creates a very chilling effect to legitimate dissent.
The Congressional hearing, DHS Monitoring of Social Networking and Media: Enhancing Intelligence Gathering and Ensuring Privacy, will be held Thursday February 16th.
However, it is already apparent where the House subcommittee for intelligence and counter-terrorism stands on the matter. As reported by Reuters, the top two members of the subcommittee, Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), wrote to DHS Intelligence Chief Caryn Wagner last month, pressing her to more carefully monitor users’ posts on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, in order to help detect “current or emerging threats.”
As we have also previously reported, The DHS has openly announced that it is actively monitoring social media for signs of “social unrest”, in a bid to pre-empt any sign of social dislocation within the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security makes fake users on Twitter and Facebook with which to follow suspicious people. But what if you’re not shifty enough to get your own government e-stalker? No problem: Just tweet “My cow collapsed, and now there’s a human to animal infection outbreak among illegal immigrants.”
That should bring heaps of DHS scrutiny, judging from a fresh lawsuit seeking access to the agency’s data. In the suit, the privacy advocates at Electronic Privacy Information Center said DHS is monitoring social networks, blogs and message boards for users saying terms like “human to animal,” “collapse,” “infection,” “outbreak,” and “illegal immigrants.” If you use these words and phrases, the government might follow you, record your activity, and share information about you with local, state, federal, and foreign governments. Since EPIC has thus far received no cooperation from the government and is suing for access, it’s not clear how the nonprofit compiled its list of red-flag keywords. Hopefully its research did not involve human to animal contact, smuggling things through airport security, or bribing government employees!
[Image via Johann Helgason/Shutterstock]
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An internal U.S. Department of Homeland Security document indicates that a controversial program designed to predict whether a person will commit a crime is already being tested on some members of the public voluntarily, CNET has learned.
If this sounds a bit like the Tom Cruise movie called “Minority Report,” or the CBS drama “Person of Interest,” it is. But where “Minority Report” author Philip K. Dick enlisted psychics to predict crimes, DHS is betting on algorithms: it’s building a “prototype screening facility” that it hopes will use factors such as ethnicity, gender, breathing, and heart rate to “detect cues indicative of mal-intent.”
The latest developments, which reveal efforts to “collect, process, or retain information on” members of “the public,” came to light through an internal DHS document obtained under open-government laws by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. DHS calls its “pre-crime” system Future Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST.
“If it were deployed against the public, it would be very problematic,” says Ginger McCall, open government counsel at EPIC, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.
It’s unclear why the June 2010 DHS document (PDF) specified that information is currently collected or retained on members of “the public” as part of FAST, and a department representative declined to answer questions that CNET posed two days ago.
Elsewhere in the document, FAST program manager Robert Middleton Jr. refers to a “limited” initial trial using DHS employees as test subjects. Middleton says that FAST “sensors will non-intrusively collect video images, audio recordings, and psychophysiological measurements from the employees,” with a subgroup of employees singled out, with their permission, for more rigorous evaluation.
Peter Boogaard, the deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, provided a statement to CNET that said:
The department’s Science and Technology Directorate has conducted preliminary research in operational settings to determine the feasibility of using non-invasive physiological and behavioral sensor technology and observational techniques to detect signs of stress, which are often associated with intent to do harm. The FAST program is only in the preliminary stages of research and there are no plans for acquiring or deploying this type of technology at this time.
FAST is designed to track and monitor, among other inputs, body movements, voice pitch changes, prosody changes (alterations in the rhythm and intonation of speech), eye movements, body heat changes, and breathing patterns. Occupation and age are also considered. A government source told CNET that blink rate and pupil variation are measured too.
A field test of FAST has been conducted in at least one undisclosed location in the northeast. “It is not an airport, but it is a large venue that is a suitable substitute for an operational setting,” DHS spokesman John Verrico told Nature.com in May.
Although DHS has publicly suggested that FAST could be used at airport checkpoints–the Transportation Security Administration is part of the department, after all–the government appears to have grander ambitions. One internal DHS document (PDF) also obtained by EPIC through the Freedom of Information Act says a mobile version of FAST “could be used at security checkpoints such as border crossings or at large public events such as sporting events or conventions.”
It also says that the next field trial of FAST will involve members of the public who “have food service experience” and are paid “to work at a one day VIP event.” Most of the document is redacted, but each person is apparently told to act normally or to do something demonstrating “mal-intent,” such as being told to smuggle a recording device into the VIP event. The trick, then, is to see if FAST can detect which is which.
It’s not clear whether these people were informed that they’re participating in a FAST study.
McCall, the EPIC attorney who has been pressing the department to obtain these internal documents, said it’s time for the DHS Privacy Office to review the current state of the FAST project. What appears to be the most recent privacy analysis (PDF) was completed in December 2008 and contemplates using “volunteer participants” who have given their “informed consent.”
“They should do a privacy impact assessment,” McCall said.
DHS is being unusually secretive about FAST. A February 2010 contract (PDF) with Cambridge, Mass.-based Draper Laboratory to build elements of the “pre-crime” system has every dollar figure blacked out (a fleeting reference to an “infrared camera” remained).
Relying on ambiguous biological factors to predict mal-intent is worrisome, says McCall. “Especially if they’re going to be rolling this out at the airport. I don’t know about you, but going to an airport gives me a minor panic attack, wondering if I’m going to get groped by a TSA officer.”
Update 2:12 p.m. PT: A Homeland Security spokesman has just provided this additional statement to CNET: “The FAST program is entirely voluntary and does not store any personally-identifiable information (PII) from participants once the experiment is completed. The system is not designed to capture or store PII. Any information that is gathered is stored under an anonymous identifier and is only available to DHS as aggregated performance data. It is only used for laboratory protocol as we are doing research and development. It is gathered when people sign up as volunteers, not by the FAST system. If it were ever to be deployed, there would be no PII captured from people going through the system.” (The DHS Privacy Office has said that the system does contain personally-identifiable information and that FAST “is a privacy sensitive system.” DHS defines a privacy sensitive system as “any system that collects, uses, disseminates, or maintains” personally-identifiable information.)