We're suing the Justice Department over FBI’s secret rules for using National Security Letters on journalists


Freedom of the Press Foundation this week filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department over their unpublished rules for using National Security Letters and so-called informal “exigent letters” to conduct surveillance of journalists. Read the rest

Against the instrumental argument for surveillance

In my latest Guardian column, 'Cybersecurity' begins with integrity, not surveillance, I try to make sense of the argument against surveillance. Is mass surveillance bad because it doesn't catch "bad guys" or because it is immoral? There's a parallel to torture -- even if you can find places where torture would work to get you some useful information, it would still be immoral. Likewise, I've come to realize that the "it doesn't work" argument isn't one that I want to support anymore, because even if mass surveillance did work, it would still be bad.

One thing that parenting has taught me is that surveillance and experimentation are hard to reconcile. My daughter is learning, and learning often consists of making mistakes constructively. There are times when she is working right at the limits of her abilities – drawing or dancing or writing or singing or building – and she catches me watching her and gets this look of mingled embarrassment and exasperation, and then she changes back to some task where she has more mastery. No one – not even a small child – likes to look foolish in front of other people.

Putting whole populations – the whole human species – under continuous, total surveillance is a profoundly immoral act, no matter whether it works or not. There no longer is a meaningful distinction between the digital world and the physical world. Your public transit rides, your love notes, your working notes and your letters home from your journeys are now part of the global mesh of electronic communications.

Read the rest

Facebook "Likes" are protected speech, says court

Joe Palazzolo, at the WSJ: '“Liking” something on Facebook is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, reviving a closely watched case over the extent to which the Constitution shields what we say on social media.' Read the rest

No new public domain works for US until 2019

At The Economist, Glenn Fleishman laments the freezing of the public domain in America under relentless entertainment-industry lobbying, even as Europeans enjoy an annual movement of cultural history to it: "While much of the rest of the world may take cheer from mass migration of material to the public domain each year, America has not seen one since the 1970s, nor will it until 2019." Read the rest

EFF Power Up fundraiser: every dollar you give is matched 2-to-1

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is running a fundraising challenge called "Power Up Your Donation," where every dollar donated is matched two-to-one by a group of major donors. My family has put up part of the $140,000 matching fund, because we're living in a world where technology could go either way: it might end up continuing to empower us and improve our lives, or become the agent of an unimaginably invasive corporate surveillance state. Without EFF and groups like it, we don't stand a chance. I worked for EFF for many years, and I've never seen an organization watch the pennies more closely and make a dollar go further.

Power Up Your Donation | Electronic Frontier Foundation Read the rest

The coming civil war over general purpose computing

Even if we win the right to own and control our computers, a dilemma remains: what rights do owners owe users?

Internet freedom fighters listed

The Guardian picks its "Open 20" fighters for internet freedom. Included are Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Jacob Appelbaum, and anonymous. Read the rest

Lockdown: The coming war on general-purpose computing

Cory Doctorow on how the copyright wars clue us into an upcoming fight over the destiny of the general-purpose computer.

TSA defends cupcake confiscation

('Shoop-Illustration: Xeni Jardin)

On the TSA blog, a defense of the recent confiscation of a cupcake at Las Vegas International airport over concerns the tasty morsel was a terrorist threat. Cory blogged about the incident on Boing Boing, and pointed to a parody song about it here. The internet loves cupcakes and hates the TSA, so predictably, this one went very viral.

The federal agency's explanation for the incident focuses on the fact that the traveler's cupcake was transported in a jar:

I wanted to make it clear that this wasn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill cupcake. If you’re not familiar with it, we have a policy directly related to the UK liquid bomb plot of 2006 called 3-1-1 that limits the amount of liquids, gels and aerosols you can bring in your carry-on luggage. Icing falls under the “gel” category. As you can see from the picture, unlike a thin layer of icing that resides on the top of most cupcakes, this cupcake had a thick layer of icing inside a jar.

In general, cakes and pies are allowed in carry-on luggage, however, the officer in this case used their discretion on whether or not to allow the newfangled modern take on a cupcake per 3-1-1 guidelines. They chose not to let it go.

Read the rest here. It all makes perfect sense now.

Update: Rebecca Hains, the woman whose cupcake-in-a-jar is the tasty center of this international terror emergency, is not impressed with the agency's response. Read the rest