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Privacy, public health and the moral hazard of surveillance

My new Guardian column, "Privacy, public health and the moral hazard of surveillance," discusses the way that the governments' reliance on social networks for intelligence purposes means that they can't intervene to help their populations get better at trading their privacy for services.

That's a crisis. If online oversharing is a public health problem, then the state's decision to harness it for its own purposes means that huge, powerful forces within government will come to depend on oversharing. It will be vital to their jobs – their pay-packets will literally depend on your inability to gauge the appropriateness of your online disclosure.

They will be on the same side as the companies that profit from oversharing, because they will, effectively, be just another firm that benefits from oversharing.

It's as though Scotland Yard decreed that obesity was critical to its ability to catch slow-moving, easily winded suspects. It's as though the NHS announced it would cope with the expense of an aging population by encouraging chain-smoking. The dangers of oversharing are hard enough to manage when it's just the private sector that benefits from them.

Privacy, public health and the moral hazard of surveillance

CISPA is not dead! It's coming back -- get ready!


Evan from Fight for the Future sez, "All of your phone calls, emails, petition signatures, and tweets are working. The privacy-killing back-from-the-dead zombie bill CISPA is a bit stalled in the Senate, with over $605 million in lobbying spent on it already, it's bound to be back to haunt us in some form soon. So we made an infographic to get everyone up to speed. This Spring, we'll be organizing the largest online privacy protest in history, to send this bill back where it belongs. Join us?"

Read the rest

CISPA is dead! (again) (for now)

After months of activist agitation and a crushing disappointment from the cowards in the House of Representatives, the US senate has effectively killed CISPA, a sweeping Internet surveillance proposal. This is astoundingly great news! But CISPA died once before, and came back from the dead, and it will not likely stay dead this time around either. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, etc etc etc:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said in a statement on April 18 that CISPA's privacy protections are "insufficient."

A committee aide told ZDNet on Thursday that Rockefeller believes the Senate will not take up CISPA. The White House has also said the President won't sign the House bill.

Staff and senators are understood to be "drafting separate bills" that will maintain the cybersecurity information sharing while preserving civil liberties and privacy rights.

Rockefeller's comments are significant as he takes up the lead on the Commerce Committee, which will be the first branch of the Senate that will debate its own cybersecurity legislation.

Michelle Richardson, legislative council with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the publication she thinks CISPA is "dead for now," and said the Senate will "probably pick up where it left off last year."

CISPA 'dead' in Senate, privacy concerns cited [Zack Whittaker/ZDNet]

Let's Bring Digital Liberties into the Big Conversation


Photo: Shutterstock

We've been CISPA'd again.

For a second year the US House has passed the embarrassingly vague Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a bill that could scatter your personal information like a tornado hitting a trailer park. Echoing last year, the Obama administration has threatened to veto CISPA if it fails to incorporate privacy controls, but we shouldn't have to rely on presidential intervention or the Senate's questionable wisdom to save us. Though Congress is gifted in the arts of incompetence and believes digital liberties only matter to basement-dwelling teens, we cannot entirely vilify the House, either. If there's one thing our representatives actually represent about us, it is our ignorance of technology.

Read the rest

CISPA: Congress wants to create unlimited Internet spying powers - KILL THIS BILL! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

CISPA is the latest Congressional proposal to do something unbelievably horrible with the Internet -- this time, it's letting US law enforcement and intelligence service raid all of your data, all the time, without letting you know, regardless of your service provider's privacy policy, in the name of preventing "cyberattacks," whatever they are.

It's about as horrible as it can be: the House Rules Committee won't even allow privacy-protecting amendments on the agenda; the bill's sponsor Rep. Mike Rogers dismisses people who oppose CISPA as 14-year-olds in their parents' basements; and a bunch of tech companies are lobbying in favor of CISPA because the bill cannily immunizes them from liability for firehosing your personal, sensitive information all over the place.

The sole bright light is this: the Obama White House has taken an uncharacteristically progressive stance on privacy this time around, and has threatened to veto the bill.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is, as always, the best place to go to find things you can (and should, and MUST) do to kill this insane proposal.

Reddit co-founder calls Larry Page to get Google to join the anti-CISPA fight -- your help needed too!

Evan from Fight for the Future sez, "In the hours before the House Intelligence Committee's secretive, closed-door markup on privacy killing bill, CISPA, we had to unleash our secret weapon. CISPA threatens to invalidate every privacy law on the books and give companies full legal immunity when they share our private data with the government. That's why the tech giants that stood with us during SOPA (Google, Facebook, and Twitter) haven't said much about CISPA. Our chief Internet Defender, Reddit-Cofounder Alexis Ohanian, helped us make this video of him calling Google and asking to speak to CEO Larry Page about that fact that if CISPA passes, every privacy policy on the web will be a total joke."

Sign the petition, kill CISPA, save the Internet (again!).

Google, Twitter, & Facebook: What's your privacy policy? (Thanks, Evan)

Congressman boasts on Twitter about the money he got to support CISPA, then thinks better of it


CISPA is a bill before Congress that will radically increase the ease with which the government and police can spy on people without any particular suspicion. It is being rammed through by people like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), who received a small fortune in funding from the companies that stand to get rich building the surveillance tech CISPA will make possible.

What's more, Rogers admits it, and even tweets about it! Nicko Margolies from the Sunlight Foundation writes,

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), a co-sponsor and major supporter of the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), deleted a retweet of an analysis of contributions to lawmakers from pro-CISPA companies. MapLight looked at the powerful House Intelligence Committee, where Rep. Rogers serves as Chairman, and followed campaign contributions to the members who are currently considering the bill that would allow companies to share more information on Internet traffic and users with the U.S. government.

Rep. Rogers, or possibly a member of his staff, retweeted the story that identified that members of the House Intelligence Committee "have received, on average, 15 times more money in campaign contributions from pro-CISPA organizations than from anti-CISPA organizations." He retweeted MapLight's tweet of this information from his iPhone and after 23 minutes thought better of it and removed it. Fortunately the Sunlight Foundation's Politwoops project caught it and archived this change of message and of heart. According to the MapLight piece, Rep. Rogers received $214,750 from interest groups that support CISPA.

The EFF has more info on CISPA, and ways you can help kill it.

Pro-CISPA Lawmaker Deletes Retweet about Money Received from Pro-CISPA Groups (Thanks, Nicko!)

Track CISPA's every move in Congress with the Sunlight Foundation's Scout alert service

Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez, "Since the reintroduction of the controversial CISPA bill, I imagine many in the Boing Boing community will be interested to follow the latest developments on the legislation. The Sunlight Foundation's Scout alert service will send anyone an email or text message for any official activity and votes on the bill including notices of upcoming hearings and when it's coming to the floor. I've created a collection of alerts about CISPA so you can follow speeches in Congress that use the phrase 'Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act' or 'CISPA' and, for those interested in wider coverage, there are alerts for any mentions of 'Cybersecurity' in federal regulations and state-level bills. It's just a few clicks to follow the full collection of CISPA alerts, cherry-pick favorites or create your own custom ones with Scout." Cory

Internet Voter Registration Day: pledge to vote, and get your friends to pledge, and scare the piss out of SOPA-loving DC insiders

Tiffiniy from the SOPA-killing activist group Fight for the Future sez,

Remember when we worked together and beat back internet censorship and SOPA, and changed the world earlier this year? 2012 is a historic year for our basic rights on the web - the year the internet came alive and fought for free speech and freedom. Sites like Boing Boing depend on an open and free web, and so doesn't much of what you love and do on the web.

Unfortunately, Congress still only cares about the opinions of likely voters. If everyone who cares about internet freedom stays at home this election, Congress will bring back SOPA. That's why we've been working on a campaign to turn out a massive number of internet users at the polls, and we're asking people to join us tomorrow for Internet Voter Registration Day, right before a bunch of state deadlines, by pledging that you'll vote, and register if you need to: internetvotes.org.

Washington insiders thought SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA were all 'certain to pass.' How did the internet win against those bills? Because people stood up to protect free speech and the transformative power of the internet in their lives.

Let's dramatically increase the number of people egging each other on to vote, which has shown to get people to the polls. The first thing we're asking people to do is to get our friends to pledge and register to vote starting Tuesday, National Voter Registration Day (right before a bunch of state deadlines with time to send in your forms). Then we'll work together to mobilize millions of internet users to get to the polls. People can use our tools to see which of their friends are voting and registered, mobilize their audiences into voting blocks for their cause, site, or group, get important voting information, and make sure their friends go vote.

Promise to vote for the internet in 2012 (Thanks, Tiffiniy!)

Vote against CISPA, SOPA and PIPA in 2012

A reader writes, "The Bill of Rights Defense Committee has a list of candidates who are running for Congress who strongly oppose indefinite detention of American citizens and SOPA/CISPA. The link also mentions current incumbents who are working to defend the Internet." Cory

Call your Senator today and stop the Cyber Security Act of 2012: it legalizes spying on your email, chats, photos, social behavior, and location for any purpose


Tiffiny from champion SOPA-fighters Fight for the Future says:

This year, grassroots movements defeated SOPA in the US and ACTA in Europe. We might be able to make another bad-idea bill, CISPA, go down in flames too (or get the privacy protections we've been fighting for). CISPA-- which already passed the House -- would give government access to all your personal data with no restrictions on what they could do with it. The Senate version of CISPA, which is slightly better but could be made much, much worse is going to final vote today.

If you have a secret --

Or think it's creepy that the government listens in on your cell phone calls, knows your location right now, reads your emails, all without a warrant? A bill going to vote today in Congress would make all of this government spying legal.

Millions of us aren't aware of this bill or don't realize how far they go.

That's why we're sharing this link: doyouhaveasecret.org

We took some time to try to capture exactly what's so dangerous and disturbing about having secrets at all.

This year, grassroots movements defeated SOPA in the US and ACTA in Europe. We might be able to make another bad-idea bill go down in flames too (or get the privacy protections we've been fighting for).

This could be the year for internet freedom and the open internet to prevail above huge amounts of lobbying dollars. And racking up wins on SOPA, CISPA, ACTA -- that'd be unprecedented. Millions of people could help make that happen.

Do you have a secret? (Thanks, Tiffiniy)

Pro-wrestler boycotts WWE over SOPA support

Sean Morley, AKA Val Venis, a professional wrestler, has informed a fan via Twitter that "#WWE‬ asked me to appear but I just cannot do anything with them for as long as they continue their support of ‪#SOAP‬/#CISPA"

Kick ass, dude. From Techdirt:

While the WWE was never listed on the official Judiciary Committee list of supporters, the organization made many community sourced lists as a supporter of SOPA. Regardless of when and how the WWE came to be supportive of the unpopular bills, this shows that there is a long lasting bitter aftertaste left in the mouths of those who feel betrayed by organizations that supported SOPA and CISPA.

WWE Raw SuperShow One Wrestler Short Due To SOPA Support

CISPA—time to kill this sucker


Zak from Fight for the Future/Privacy is Awesome sez,:

It's only days before the Senate votes on its version of CISPA, and the SECURE IT Act. The bill would open all your data up to the government, no matter how personal. Good bye privacy, hello police state. Since the vote is soon, anything we do at this point has a big impact, so if you care about your privacy, stand with us and take these actions:

The first thing you can do is change your Facebook cover photo to show your friends the creepy records government will be keeping on us if CISPA passes.

There's another thing you can do to send your message even stronger. Visit a Senator's office and deliver this explanation of how CISPA and SECURE IT would trample our privacy, or mail it in if you can't visit in person. Tons of people will be doing this. It's the best way we can educate our senators; a disturbing number of them don't really understand what they're about to vote on.

Let's kill CISPA: America's universal surveillance law


Tiffiniy from Fight for the Future (standard-bearers in the fight against SOPA) sez,

Congressional hero of the SOPA wars, Senator Wyden, said about cyber security legislation (CISPA and Lieberman-Collins) that is expected to be taken up and passed in early June: "I believe these bills will encourage the development of an industry that profits from fear and whose currency is Americans' private data. These bills create a cyber industrial complex that has an interest in preserving the problem to which it is the solution."

Furthermore, privacy is awesome -- it lets you be yourself without fear of unjust scrutiny. But, these bills would end meaningful privacy and install meaningful surveillance. But, we can change the game: www.privacyisawesome.com.

CISPA passed the house recently. That seems like a blow, but unless a similar bill passes the Senate, that means nothing. We have one week to kill CISPA indefinitely. The playbook for this is rolling out today. If we can get senators to just stop and think for a minute before they vote on the bill, the clock will run out on it. To do that, we need to call Senate offices in the thousands requesting meeting at and information on Memorial Day events and during the Senators' recess, and get meetings in every state.

We're looking for people who can help keep building the movement for internet freedom, and who want to help stop CISPA.

Privacy is Awesome. Kill CISPA. (Thnaks, Tiffiniy)

Court records unsealed for dajaz1.com seizure, reveal that US Customs operated as hired thugs for the RIAA

Remember the seizure of Dajaz1.com, a hiphop blog that posted all kinds of music clips that record company promoters (and even CEOs) begged them to post? The one that was shut down for a year on a trumped-up copyright charge that was quietly dropped without explanation? Now we have an explanation.

Rebecca from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "After a year-long seizure and six more months of secrecy, the court records were finally released concerning the mysterious government takedown of Dajaz1.com -- a popular blog dedicated to hip hop music and culture. The records confirm that one of the key reasons the blog remained censored for so long is that the government obtained three secret extensions of time by claiming that it was waiting for 'rights holders' and later, the Recording Industry Association of America, to evaluate a 'sampling of allegedly infringing content' obtained from the website and respond to other 'outstanding questions.'"

Update: Mel from Dajaz1.com in the comments asks me to remind you that the site is back. It deserves your attention.

Now that the full court records are out, this seizure raises critical questions about the government’s use of its new powers to shut down lawful speech in the form of domain seizures for alleged copyright infringements. It also demonstrates the basic unfairness of the processes and secrecy invoked here and possibly in hundreds of other domain name seizures across the country. For nearly a year, the government muzzled Dajaz1.com – denying the blog’s author the right to speak and the public’s right to read what was published there – and then compounded matters by claiming extreme secrecy and blocking the Dajaz1 and the public’s access to information about the case.

Equally troubling, the records confirm what was already suggested by the initial affidavit used to obtain the seizure order: that ICE, and its attorneys, are effectively acting as the hired gun of the content industry at taxpayers' expense. Instead of relying on rightsholders to determine whether a seizure was appropriate, the government should have been conducting its own thorough investigation. If it had acted in anything like good faith, it could have determined that the site wasn't a proper target even before the seizure, or at least could have discovered and rectified the mistake before a year had passed.

Unsealed Court Records Confirm that RIAA Delays Were Behind Year-Long Seizure of Hip Hop Music Blog