When electronics retailer Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy, the chain proposed selling customers' personal data to raise cash and repay creditors. That's not gonna happen, and the news is seen as a win for the right to privacy. Read the rest
Karen from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "EFF is teaming up with groups in Latin America to take our 'Who Has Your Back' report international!" Read the rest
Torrentfreak has published its annual survey of privacy-oriented VPN services, digging into each one's technical, legal and business practices to see how seriously they take the business of protecting your privacy. Read the rest
Michael writes, "Watching Australia's Attorney-General try to explain why tracking Australians' web histories is not such a big deal resembles listening to a dirty joke told by a ten-year-old, i.e. it leaves one with the distinct impression the speaker is trying to seem like they understand something they've only heard about secondhand." Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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." Read the rest
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:
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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.
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 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.
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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”.