The NSA Wants a Skeleton Key to Everyone’s Encrypted Data 

Francisco Seco/AP - In this October 2013 file photo, a man looks at his cellphone as he walks on the street in downtown Madrid. The NSA’s ability to crack cellphone encryption used by the majority of cellphones in the world offers it wide-ranging powers to listen in on private conversations.

Encryption can protect personal data from government intrusion, which means the government wants the key to break it.

reports: Like it or not, you are your data. In this day and age, your receipts, social media activity, public records, GPS data, and internet search history are the proof of who you are. And while you may have thought you had secrets, the Federal Government would like the rest of them.

The seemingly innocuous pieces of information we trade away every day create a detailed mosaic of our lives used to target advertising and create personality profiles that are exploited by the FBI, political operatives like Cambridge Analytica, and Russian propagandists.

And those are just the legal shenanigans! Instances of malicious hacking that jeopardize social security numbers and other important data are on the rise as well.

But all hope is not lost! There is but one meaningful defense against such intrusions, one used by whistleblowers, banks, the government (often poorly), and college students: encryption.

Encryption, to oversimplify, is the process of putting your data in a combination locked safe, and it’s becoming more popular. Like all passcodes, these combinations are best stored non-electronically.

Automatically encrypted search engines and internet services simplify the process for users. They protect individuals’ data from hacking, theft, and even the government, but they also retain a repository for all the combinations they use to lock data up.

This is the Trojan horse the NSA means to use to gain access to your private data even when it is encrypted.

But that may soon change.

If the executive agencies have their way, the NSA will have a record of every lock combination in use by every company—a skeleton key, if you will, to gain access to your digital home, papers, effects, and aspects of your person without warrant or probable cause—effectively mandating that companies hand over skeleton keys to the locks that they provide to their users, at any time: what they call “exceptional access.” Read the rest of this entry »


Bonesteel v. City of Seattle: Pacific Legal Foundation Sues Seattle Bureaucrats Who Want to Snoop Through Your Trashcans

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“A person has a legitimate expectation that the contents of his or her garbage cans will remain private and free from government inspection.”

PLF sued the City of Seattle this morning in Bonesteel v. City of Seattle to challenge sweeping surveillance of residents and businesses. The City’s zeal for bumping its recycling rate bypassed constitutional boundaries when Seattle decided to have trash collectors and inspectors poke around for compostable contraband, such as pizza crusts, chicken bones, or those evil red velvet cakes.

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Authorized? The Pacific Legal Foundation doesn’t think so.

The Washington State Constitution contains a robust right to privacy. The state Supreme Court has held that the state’s privacy right prohibits trash inspections without suspicion or a warrant. PLF’s complaint also challenges the composting mandate’s failure to provide any avenue to challenge the trash collector’s estimate that you throw out too much food. Regardless of its intentions, Seattle needs a reminder that composting doesn’t trump the Constitution.

“The law makes garbage collectors the judges and the juries.”

— Brian Hodges, Pacific Legal Foundation’s principal attorney

Check out the video below and the case web page to learn more.

For the Seattle Times reports:

Privacy advocates say Seattle is violating residents’ privacy “on a massive scale” by having garbage haulers look through people’s trash to make sure food scraps are going into the yard waste, not the garbage.

Privacy advocates say Seattle is violating residents’ privacy “on a massive scale” by having garbage haulers look through people’s trash to make sure food scraps are going into the yard waste, not the garbage.

A group of privacy advocates is suing the city of Seattle, arguing that having garbage collectors look through people’s trash — to make sure food scraps aren’t going into the garbage — “violates privacy rights on a massive scale.”

“A person has a legitimate expectation that the contents of his or her garbage cans will remain private and free from government inspection,” argues the lawsuit filed Thursday in King County Superior Court by the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Since January, Seattle residents have been directed to place food scraps in the same bins as their yard waste, so that the material can be composted, instead of into garbage cans, where it would end up in a landfill. Read the rest of this entry »


Congress Passes NSA Phone-Records Bill

 

Rand Paul

The final vote divided Senate Republicans, with 23 voting ‘yes’ and 30 voting ‘no,’ and senators seeking re-election in 2016 split on the issue

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress approved sweeping changes Tuesday to surveillance laws enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks, eliminating the National Security Agency’s disputed bulk phone-records collection program and replacing it with a more restrictive measure to keep the records in phone companies’ hands.

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“This is a step in the wrong direction…does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool form our warfighters at exactly the wrong time.”

— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Two days after Congress let the phone-records and several other anti-terror programs expire, the Senate’s 67-32 vote sent the legislation to President Barack Obama, who said he would sign it promptly.

“This legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs,” Obama said in a statement. The bill signing could happen late Tuesday or early Wednesday, but officials said it could take at least several days to restart the collection.

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The legislation will revive most of the programs the Senate had allowed to lapse in a dizzying collision of presidential politics and national security policy. But the authorization will undergo major changes, the legacy of agency contractor Edward Snowden‘s explosive revelations two years ago about domestic spying by the government.panic-betty

“I applaud the Senate for renewing our nation’s foreign intelligence capabilities, and I’m pleased this measure will now head to the president’s desk for his signature.”

— House Speaker John Boehner

In an unusual shifting of alliances, the legislation passed with the support of Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, but over the strong opposition of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell failed to persuade the Senate to extend the current law unchanged, and came up short in a last-ditch effort Tuesday to amend the House version, as nearly a dozen of his own Republicans abandoned him in a series of votes.

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“This is a step in the wrong direction,” a frustrated McConnell said on the Senate floor ahead of the Senate’s final vote to approve the House version, dubbed the USA Freedom Act. He said the legislation “does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking obamaorwellone more tool form our warfighters at exactly the wrong time.”

“Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”

— George Orwell

The legislation remakes the most controversial aspect of the USA Patriot Act — the once-secret bulk collection program that allows the National Security Agency to sweep up Americans’ phone records and comb through them for ties to international terrorists. Over six months the NSA would lose the power to collect and store those records, but the government still could gain court orders to obtain data connected to specific numbers from the phone companies, which typically store them for 18 months.

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It would also continue other post-9/11 surveillance provisions that lapsed Sunday night, and which are considered more effective than the phone-data collection program. These include the FBI’s authority to gather business records in terrorism and espionage investigations and to more easily eavesdrop on suspects who are discarding cellphones to avoid surveillance.

In order to restart collection of phone records, the Justice Department will need to obtain a new order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Read the rest of this entry »


Court Documents Reveal DEA Secretly Tracked Americans’ Calls for Over a Decade

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Washington Times


Judge Rules Suspect Can Be Required To Unlock Phone With Fingerprint

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Apple and Google have taken steps recently to let users protect information stored on smartphones – even from law enforcement. It turns out there may be a fingerprint-sized gap in that plan.

A Virginia Circuit Court judge ruled Tuesday that police officers cannot force criminal suspects to divulge cellphone passwords, but they can force them to unlock the phone with a fingerprint scanner.detached-digits

If applied by other courts, the ruling could become important as more device makers incorporate fingerprint readers that can be used as alternatives to passwords. Apple introduced the technology last year in its iPhone 5S and Samsung included it in its Galaxy S5.

When those phones arrived, lawyers said users might be required to unlock the phones with their fingerprints. More recently, Apple and Google said they had changed the encryption scheme on the newest phones using their operating systems so that law enforcement can’t retrieve the data. FBI Director James Comey criticized the companies, saying were allowing users to “place themselves above the law.”

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives people the right to avoid self-incrimination. Read the rest of this entry »


The FBI and NSA Hate Apple’s Plan to Keep Your iPhone Data Secret

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Pop-Mech Auto-Focus: Now That Cars Have Black Boxes, Am I Being Tracked?

Who gets access to the info in your vehicle’s event data recorder?

A black box, formally known as an event data recorder (EDR), and informally known as a narc-in-the-box, logs a variety of data regarding the operation of the vehicle in which it’s installed. The good news is that event-data-recorder-0914-mdnEDRs do not (yet) track your location, nor do they beam real-time information to feds, cops, carmakers, or mothers-in-law. That’s what your smartphone is for.

EDRs, standard these days in 96 percent of new cars, do, however, take note of how fast you’re going and whether you’re wearing your seat belt, along with details like the status of your car’s throttle and brakes at any given moment. This is the sort of data most likely to have legal implications, particularly in the event of an accident. Police and lawyers can indeed subpoena the data from your car’s EDR and use it against you. The info can also make its way into the hands of your insurance company, which might join authorities in taking a dim view of the fact that you thought to apply the brakes only after you’d sailed off the end of the pier toward that passing barge hauling kittens and dynamite…(read more)

Popular Mechanics


The Private Self(ie)

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No Snooping: Supreme Court Bans Warrantless Cell Phone Searches, Updates Privacy Laws

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Major ruling updates privacy laws for 21st century

For the Washington TimesStephen Dina writes: The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police cannot go snooping through people’s cell phones without a warrant, in a unanimous decision that amounts to a major statement in favor of privacy rights.

Police agencies had argued that searching through the data on cell phones was no different than asking someone to turn out his pockets, but the justices rejected that, saying a cell phone is more fundamental.

The ruling amounts to a 21st century update to legal understanding of privacy rights.

“The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the unanimous court. Read the rest of this entry »


‘I Think A Lot Of The Privacy People Don’t Understand That We Still Occupy The Role Of The Great Satan’

captain-satan

From NRO’s The CornerBetsy Woodruff  writes:  Dianne Feinstein decried NSA critics on Meet the Press this morning, saying the government is much less intrusive than corporations and that privacy advocates don’t understand the extent of the threat that terrorism poses to the United States.

Read the rest of this entry »


Stop Spying on Santa! Reform Privacy Law

The Center for Democracy & Technology is a champion of global online civil liberties and human rights, dedicated to driving policy outcomes that keep the Internet open, innovative and free.

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To the government, Santa may look suspicious. He travels all over the world. He has multiple aliases. And he has a long history of breaking and entering.

But Santa isn’t the only one the government can snoop on. Did you know an absurdly outdated law says that police, the IRS, and hundreds of other agencies can read your email and other electronic communications without a warrant?

If you think it’s time for an update, check out this petition calling on the White House to support privacy reform. We have one day left to reach our goal of 100k signatures, and we’re getting close! Help us get there by signing and sharing this petition today:

http://stopspyingonsanta.com

Reform Privacy Law


CHILL: Inside America’s Plan to Kill Online Privacy Rights Everywhere

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The United States and its key intelligence allies are quietly working behind the scenes to kneecap a mounting movement in the United Nations to promote a universal human right to online privacy, according to diplomatic sources and an internal American government document obtained by The Cable.

The diplomatic battle is playing out in an obscure U.N. General Assembly committee that is considering a proposal by Brazil and Germany to place constraints on unchecked internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services. American representatives have made it clear that they won’t tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network. The stakes are high, particularly in Washington — which is seeking to contain an international backlash against NSA spying — and in Brasilia, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is personally involved in monitoring the U.N. negotiations.

Read the rest of this entry »


Another Internet Privacy Company Ends Service To Avoid Government Surveillance

bigbroposters

 writes:  Remember Lavabit and Silent Circle, the encrypted email providers that closed their doors because they faced government pressure to enable government snooping on their customers (Silent Circle still offers other privacy CryptoSealservices)? Well, you can addCryptoSeal to the mix. The company has ended its CryptoSeal Privacy virtual private network (VPN) service (it still offers enterprise-lever services), which was advertised as “keeps prying eyes off of your internet usage while you’re at home, in a coffee shop or even another country,” also over concerns about the legal environment and government snooping.

According to a note on the CryptoSeal site:

With immediate effect as of this notice, CryptoSeal Privacy, our consumer VPN service, is terminated.  All cryptographic keys used in the operation of the service have been zerofilled, and while no logs were produced (by design) during operation of the service, all records created incidental to the operation of the service have been deleted to the best of our ability.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Real Privacy Problem

Our Privacy Problem is a Democracy Problem in Disguise

Our Privacy Problem is a Democracy Problem in Disguise                   Illustration by Steve Powers

For MIT Technology Review,  Evgeny Morozov  writes:  In 1967, The Public Interest, then a leading venue for highbrow policy debate, published a provocative essay by Paul Baran, one of the fathers of the data transmission method known as packet switching. Titled “The Future Computer Utility,” the essay speculated that someday a few big, centralized computers would provide “information processing … the same way one now buys electricity.”

Our home computer console will be used to send and receive messages—like telegrams. We could check to see whether the local department store has the advertised sports shirt in stock in the desired color and size. We could ask when delivery would be guaranteed, if we ordered. The information would be up-to-the-minute and accurate. We could pay our bills and compute our taxes via the console. We would ask questions and receive answers from “information banks”—automated versions of today’s libraries. We would obtain up-to-the-minute listing of all television and radio programs … The computer could, itself, send a message to remind us of an impending anniversary and save us from the disastrous consequences of forgetfulness.

It took decades for cloud computing to fulfill Baran’s vision. But he was prescient enough to worry that utility computing would need its own regulatory model. Here was an employee of the RAND Corporation—hardly a redoubt of Marxist thought—fretting about the concentration of market power in the hands of large computer utilities and demanding state intervention. Baran also wanted policies that could “offer maximum protection to the preservation of the rights of privacy of information”:

Highly sensitive personal and important business information will be stored in many of the contemplated systems … At present, nothing more than trust—or, at best, a lack of technical sophistication—stands in the way of a would-be eavesdropper … Today we lack the mechanisms to insure adequate safeguards. Because of the difficulty in rebuilding complex systems to incorporate safeguards at a later date, it appears desirable to anticipate these problems.

Sharp, bullshit-free analysis: techno-futurism has been in decline ever since.

Read the rest of this entry »


In The Very Best Hands

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Taiwan playboy Justin Lee sentenced to 22 years for non-consensual sex and privacy violation

Taiwan playboy Justin Lee sentenced to 22 years for non-consensual sex and privacy violation

Justin Lee (left)                                                              PHOTO: APPLE DAILY

Justin Lee, the man at the centre of the most notorious sex scandal seen in Taiwan in years, has been sentenced to a total of 22 years and four months’ jail on nine counts of non-consensual sex and 15 counts of privacy violation for filming himself having sex with multiple women including celebrities.

The 28-year-old socialite was found not guilty of more serious charges of aggravated rape by the panel of judges at the Taipei District Court, where the sentence was read out this morning, due to lack of evidence.

Lee was also ordered to pay NT$14.25 million (S$611,587) to 12 of his victims, who had sued him for a total of NT$75 million in damages.

Read the rest of this entry »


What We Lose if We Give Up Privacy

A civil libertarian reflects on the dangers of the surveillance state

By PEGGY NOONAN

What is privacy? Why should we want to hold onto it? Why is it important, necessary, precious?

Is it just some prissy relic of the pretechnological past?

We talk about this now because of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency revelations, and new fears that we are operating, all of us, within what has become or is becoming a massive surveillance state. They log your calls here, they can listen in, they can read your emails. They keep the data in mammoth machines that contain a huge collection of information about you and yours. This of course is in pursuit of a laudable goal, security in the age of terror.

Is it excessive? It certainly appears to be. Does that matter? Yes. Among other reasons: The end of the expectation that citizens’ communications are and will remain private will probably change us as a people, and a country.

Read the rest of this entry »