The leadership of the major UK political parties are set to ram through a sweeping surveillance bill without debate or study. It’s a perfect storm of cowardice and arrogance, and it comes at a price. Cory Doctorow wants you to do something about it.Read the rest
The European Court of Justice, the highest court in the EU, has invalidated the European Parliament's Data Retention Directive, which required phone companies and ISPs to store your clicks, email subjects and to/from info, your location data, and other sensitive "metadata" for up to two years. The ECJ cited the UN Human Rights Committee's condemnation of this sort of data-retention and its call for the USA to halt its surveillance. We have Digital Rights Ireland and AK Vorrat Austria to thank for the ruling.
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Earlier this week, EFF published a scorecard for rating Obama's NSA reforms. Now that the reforms have been announced, it's time to measure them up. They don't fare well, I'm afraid. Here's a roundup of commentary from privacy leaders around the world, expressing disappointment (if not surprise) at Obama's half-hearted reining in of the surveillance state.
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Tim Hardy: "UK border police have the power to seize all your personal data without reasonable suspicion and keep it effectively forever even if you are not charged with or suspected of a crime."
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Britain's Communications Data Bill -- AKA the Snooper's Charter -- would effectively eliminate private communications in the UK, giving government and the police the power to spy on virtually everything you do online (which is rapidly merging with everything you do, full stop). The major ISPs in the UK have apparently been turned to the government's cause, and have been quietly supporting the bill, which strips their customers of any semblance of privacy.
The government defends this proposal by saying that they're not intercepting "messages," only "envelopes." That is, they'll get the subject lines, social graph data, who is talking, where, how often, and who replies, how long the messages are, and so on. I like to imagine Alan Turing taking this approach to informational significance: "Mr Churchill, I'm sorry, there's no point in what you're asking us to do: all we can decode from the Nazis is who is sending messages, who receives them, what they're about, where they're sent from, how often they're sent, and how long they are. Nothing compromising." (Then I imagine the ghost of Turing haunting Home Secretary Teresa May, who claims that none of that kind of data compromises Britons' privacy).
In an open letter to the major ISPs, the Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch, and Privacy International accuse the ISPs of entering into a conspiracy of silence on the surveillance system:
It has become clear that a critical component of the Communications Data Bill is that UK communication service providers will be required by law to create data they currently do not have any business purpose for, and store it for a period of 12 months.
Plainly, this crosses a line no democratic country has yet crossed – paying private companies to record what their customers are doing solely for the purposes of the state.
These proposals are not fit for purpose, which possibly explains why the Home Office is so keen to ensure they are not aired publicly.
There has been no public consultation, while on none of your websites is there any reference to these discussions. Meetings have been held behind closed doors as policy has been developed in secret, seemingly the same policy formulated several years ago despite widespread warnings from technical experts.
That your businesses appear willing to be co-opted as an arm of the state to monitor every single one of your customers is a dangerous step, exacerbated by your silence
Consumers are increasingly concerned about their privacy, both in terms of how much data is collected about them and how securely that data is kept. Many businesses have made a virtue of respecting consumer privacy and ensuring safe and secure internet access.
Sadly, your customers have not had the opportunity to comment on these proposals. Indeed, were it not for civil society groups and the media, they would have no idea such a policy was being considered.
We believe this is a critical failure not only of Government, but a betrayal of your customers' interests. You appear to be engaged in a conspiracy of silence with the Home Office, the only concern being whether or not you will be able to recover your costs.
CISPA: Congress wants to create unlimited Internet spying powers - KILL THIS BILL! KILL IT WITH FIRE!
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 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.
Australian Attorney General says that public scrutiny of spying bill would not be in the public interest
The Australian government is following the UK, US and Canadian governments' examples and establishing a secretive, no-holds-barred snooping regime. The "data retention" bill that's been prepared by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department requires ISPs to store all communications for two years, and grants wide access to those stored records, as well as allowing snooping on residents' social networking activities. What's more, the Attorney General has denied a Freedom of Information request for a look at the draft legislation from the Pirate Party, saying that public scrutiny of spying laws is "not in the public interest" and would be prejudicial to the decision-making process.
The Pirate Party, which is an activist and political organisation which lobbies to maintain and extend Australians’ digital rights and freedoms, issued a media release this morning noting that it had filed a Freedom of Information request with the department, seeking draft national security legislation which had been prepared in 2010 with respect to the current proposal. The draft legislation had been mentioned by the Sydney Morning Herald in an article in August.
However, the Attorney-General’s Department wrote back to the organisation this week, noting that the request had been denied. Logan Tudor, a legal officer with the department, wrote that he had decided that the draft legislation was exempted from being released because it contained material which was being deliberated on inside the department. “… the release of this material would, in my view, be contrary to the public interest,” Tudor wrote.
In the Pirate Party’s statement, its treasurer Rodney Serkowski described the response by the Attorney-General’s Department as “disgraceful and troubling”.
“They have completed draft legislation, prior to any transparent or consultative process, and are now denying access to that legislation, for reasons that are highly dubious and obviously politically motivated,” wrote Serkowski. “The Department is completely trashing any semblance or notion of transparency or participative democratic process of policy development.”