The Web is 25 today, and its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, has called for a "Magna Carta" for the Web, through which the people of the world will articulate how they want to curtail their governments' adversarial attacks on Internet freedom. Berners-Lee is particularly concerned with the Edward Snowden revelations about mass surveillance and systematic government sabotage of Internet security.
I'm delighted to see Berners-Lee tackling this. Everything we do today involves the Web and everything we do tomorrow will require it; getting Web policy right is the first step to getting everything else right.
I hope that this also signals a re-think of Berners-Lee's endorsement of the idea of standardizing "digital rights management" technology for Web browsers through the W3C. The majority of the Web's users live in a country in which it is illegal to report on vulnerabilities in DRM, because doing so might help to defeat the DRM's locks. The standardization of DRM in the deep structures of the Web means that our browsers will become reservoirs of long-lived, critical bugs that can be used to attack Web users -- just as Web users are massively expanding the activities that are mediated through their browsers.
If we are to have a Web that is fit for a free and fair world, it must be a Web where researchers are free to warn users about defects in their tools. We wouldn't countenance a rule that banned engineers from telling you if your house was structurally unsound. By standardizing DRM in browsers, the W3C is setting in place rules that will make it virtually impossible to know if your digital infrastructure is stable and secure. Read the rest
The ACLU and SXSW will host a video chat with Edward Snowden on Monday, during the day's civil-liberties-focused program track. I'll be speaking immediately before Snowden, with Barton Gellman, and we will be staying for the Snowden event. Snowden will be interviewed by ACLU technologist Christopher Soghoian, and the event is moderated by the ACLU's Ben Wizner. I hope to see you there -- it's why I'm flying to Austin. Read the rest
The ACLU has produced a video based on its Meet Jack. Or, What The Government Could Do With All That Location Data slide presentation from 2013. It's a chilling and sometimes funny look at the way that location data can be used to compromise you in ways large and small. As Josh from the ACLU notes, "It's especially interesting after the news yesterday about the DHS plan for a national license plate location history database (which got scrapped after it was exposed)."
Bruce Sterling's keynote at the Transmediale conference in Berlin is one of his best-ever outings (and I say that as a person who dropped out of university and totally upended his life after reading a transcript of one of Bruce's speeches). Sterling addresses the bankruptcy of tech giants, who have morphed themselves into intrusive presences that carry water for the surveillance industry, and lays out a credible case for a future where they are forgotten footnotes in our history.
In particular, I was impressed by this speech because it corrected some serious errors from Sterling's essay "The Ecuadorian Library," which, as Danny O'Brien pointed out completely misattributed a kind of optimistic naivete to technology activists past and present.
In this speech, Sterling revisits the origins and ongoing reality of the project to remake technology as a force for freedom, and corrects the record. As Sterling says, John Perry Barlow didn't write the Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace because he thought the cops couldn't or wouldn't try to take over the Internet: he wrote it because the cops were trying to take it over, and he was "shouting through a megaphone" at them.
There's a species of bottom-feeding contrarian that has sprung up in this century to decry the Internet as a system of oppression. Most of these men are people with some passing connection to the entertainment industry, which has spent the past 20 years demanding systems of Internet censorship and surveillance to help with copyright enforcement. These critics -- who get a lot of press from the news-media, who love mud-slinging as much as they fear disruptive technology -- have somehow hit upon groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation as villains in their narratives. Read the rest
Ed from the UK Open Rights Group writes, "In the next month Open Rights Group will be recruiting a Legal Director to help us intervene in crucial digital rights court cases and bring real legal expertise to our work. We can't let government and big web companies go unchallenged in the courts. We already have the funding to take on a part-time Legal Director. But to bring in a full-time experienced lawyer who can drive ambitious legal projects we're relying on lots of new supporters joining ORG." Read the rest
Remember David Eckert, the New Mexico man who got multiple anal probes after a cop decided he must be hiding drugs because a dog "alerted" on him? Well, he's gotten $1.3 million out of the city and county. He's still suing the hospital for its role in his nonconsensual, warrantless enemas, colonoscopy, X-ray, and forced public defecation. If they won't settle, he's prepared to go to a jury trial. You get the impression that Eckert is out to make a point here: if your town cops and/or doctors participate in illegal, sadistic war-on-drugs torture, the victims will take all your money and destroy you, so cut it the fuck out. Techdirt's Tim Cushing has more: Read the rest
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted its annual holiday wishlist of policy initiatives, business practices, and action by individuals. It's a kind of beautiful dream, and I long for the day that we attain it. And remember: everyone falls short of their ideals, but these are the best ideals to fall short of. I've included some of the wishes after the jump, but go read the full list. Read the rest
Richard from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "EFF's Power Up Your Donation matching campaign starts today. Anyone who donates to the campaign in the next week will have their gift matched from a pool of challenge grants. If you've appreciated EFF's legal challenges to NSA surveillance, battling patent and copyright trolls, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and fighting for fair use, now's a great time to become a EFF member!"
Eric Crinnian, a lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri, says that a police officer threatened to destroy his possessions and shoot his dog unless he was permitted to enter Crinnian's home without a warrant. The officer was apparently seeking two men who'd violated their parole; when Crinnian said he'd never heard of the men, the officer asked to come inside to verify that they weren't there. Crinnian told him to go get a warrant, and the officer said that, in serving such a warrant, he would be sure to destroy Crinnian's possessions and kill his pets.
Making such a threat is apparently legal in Missouri, if you are a police officer. Read the rest
New provisions of the UK Protection of Freedom Act 2012 went into effect this September, which strictly limits the gathering of biometric information from children. Under the law, kids have the right to opt out of biometric collection (including fingerprinting, which is in widespread use in UK schools). Kids have this right even if their parents or school insist upon their submission to biometric collection. Needless to say, schools have done pretty much nothing to accommodate this legal right, and as Jon Baines points out, this is a great teachable moment for privacy conscious kids (in that they could teach their educators that privacy is worth something, even if you're just a kid). Read the rest
Here's a guide to the charities the Boingers support in our own annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!
Electronic Frontier Foundation Could there be a year that's more relevant to the EFF? As Edward Snowden has made abundantly clear, there is a titantic, historic battle underway to determine whether the Internet is there to liberate us or to enslave us. EFF's on the right side of history, and I figure giving them all I can afford is a cheap hedge against the NSA's version of the future. —CD
Creative Commons CC continues to make a difference -- this year, they released the 4.0 version of their flexible licenses, a major milestone. More than anyone else, CC has reframed the way we talk about creativity and copyright in the Internet era, providing practical, easy-to-use tools to make it possible for creators and audiences to work together in a shared mission of creating and enjoying culture.—CD
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is hiring an activist! This is a job that I once had myself, and I can attest that there are few things more rewarding, challenging, and stimulating that working as an EFF activist. They're looking for someone fast, with good writing skills, a good grasp of the issues, and some background in tech, journalism, A/V production, organizing, policy issues. It's a full-time job, based in San Francisco, and they start reviewing resumes on the 10th of December. Read the rest
Sandra from the ACLU writes, "As the scope and depth of the NSA's spying continues to grow, we cannot forget about similar privacy violations committed by state and local police. The primary law protecting against such violations -- The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) -- was passed in 1986. Technology has evolved quite a bit since then, as you may have noticed. ECPA, unfortunately, has not, allowing local, state, and federal law enforcement to access our sensitive data in the cloud without a warrant." Read the rest
The ACLU is representing a New Mexico woman in her fifties who was subjected by federal agents to a two-handed (!) vaginal and anal examination, an involuntary X-ray and CAT scan, and was forced to defecate in front of strangers. The woman was suspected of being in possession of drugs, on the basis of a drug-dog alert at the Juarez/El Paso border-crossing. No drugs were found. The federal agents -- it's not clear what agency they were with -- did not obtain a warrant. The doctors at University Medical Center in El Paso performed the procedures without the victim's consent, including the CT scan, which subjects people to a high dose of potentially harmful radiation.
Since last Hallowe'en, a woman in Oregon has been circulating a letter she found in a box of decorative tombstones she bought at Kmart. The letter was written by a prisoner in a forced labor camp in China's Masanjia camp; he was imprisoned for practicing Falun Gong, a banned religion whose members have long been targetted for brutal suppression by the Chinese state. CNN located the ex-prisoner and interviewed him as he narrated a story of "inhumane torture" at the camp. Read the rest