(Photo by Roger Tooth)
In the Guardian, Julian Borger follows up on Monday's account of the raid on the newspaper's office by British spooks from GCHQ that culminated with government agents smashing a laptop into tiny pieces on the grounds it contained one of many, many copies of the Edward Snowden leaks. It's not clear whether the spooks were incompetent enough to believe that this would have any practical effect on the continued publication of secrets regarding dragnet surveillance, or whether it was a purely symbolic gesture.
But the evidence favours intimidation. Borger tells a tale of increased pressure on the Guardian, a series of ever-more-intense calls and visits, dropped hints of a secret injunction or a full-on raid. It culminated with the farcical destruction of the tainted computer, which had been infected by its proximity to embarrassing revelations of government lies and criminality, in which Guardian employees, top spooks, and stern government ministers reduced the computer to scraps by means of angle grinders and drills. The spies took lots of pictures, but let the Guardian keep the scraps. Read the rest
The "Guaranteed takedowns in 5 hours or less" that web-watching outfit Cyveillance promises aren't so guaranteed when they're illegal: a lesson in the Streisand Effect having just been dealt to its client, Comcast, by a particularly ill-advised attempt to bully TorrentFreak into removing public court documents.
But it's not their first rodeo, and Cyveillance has always been as trivially sleazy about it as they are now. Here's a blog entry from 2003 complaining about its efforts to hide what it does. Read the rest
Bruce Schneier has advice for America's tech companies: when the NSA comes to you and asks you to spy on your users, say NO. They'll promise you that no one will ever find out that you were helping them break the law, but they can't keep that promise. They'll put your company's name in PowerPoint presentations that they show to thousands of employees and contractors and suppliers, and the next whistleblower will out you for your cowardly complicity -- just like Snowden did for Microsoft, Apple, Google, and so many others. If you think not complying with the NSA will cost you the business, recognize that complying with them could also destroy you. Read the rest
Stickonspy sells die-cut stickers that go around your laptop's webcam to remind yourself -- and others -- that spooks from western governments have made a practice of using spyware that allows them to covertly switch on laptop and mobile phone cameras and microphones to spy on their owners. $3 for one, $10 for 6. We used to sell a variation on these in the old Boing Boing Bazaar. Just remember to trim away enough of the sticker that you can see if the webcam light is lit, which will prevent some of the less-subtle attacks, and also inadvertent embarrassment.
How Much Will PRISM Cost the U.S. Cloud Computing Industry? [PDF], a report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation -- a highly regarded DC think-tank -- estimates that the US cloud computing companies will lose $22-$35 billion as a result of customers' nervousness about PRISM and other spying programs. The US had been leading the world in cloud computing, but analysts are seeing a rush to European cloud providers that are (presumably) out of reach on the NSA and in jurisdictions with tighter rules on government spying. Read the rest
Tom Scott (who created last year's EULAs for the Afterlife video) has made a terrific and terrifying video called "Oversight: Thank you for volunteering, citizen;" a horribly plausible look at what the future of crowdsourced, privatised ubiquitous surveillance might look for. As always, Scott nails the weirdly upbeat and blandly evil voice of global corporatism and produces something that is chillingly convincing.
"Überwachungsstaat - Was ist das?" is a short animation narrated in German (with English subtitles) that does a very good job of explaining the evils of mass surveillance. Being German, the narrator is allowed to make comparisons to the Nazis without invoking Godwin's Law, which turns out to be surprisingly useful.
Noted perjuror and NSA Director Keith Alexander appeared onstage at the Black Hat security conference today, where he was heckled by audience members, notably a 30-year-old security consultant named Jon McCoy, who shouted things like "Freedom!" and "Bullshit!" and then got into some more substantive points. Read the rest
As Xeni wrote, yesterday's vote to de-fund the NSA's warrantless dragnet surveillance came within a whisker of passing. 205 Reps voted in favor of asserting innocent Americans' right not to be spied upon; 217 voted against, and 12 abstained -- enough to have carried the day. Who were these heroes and villains and absentees? Here are their names from the full roll call.
If you live in the district of a Congresscritter who voted in favor of defunding the NSA, please call her or him and say thank you. If your Congresscritter voted in favor of you being spied upon at all times and in every way forever, call that person up and do some shouting. The anti-NSA side was thoroughly bipartisan. There are undoubtably some "no" voters who can be persuaded to switch to a yes if they think that their constituents really care about it. We are so close.
Same goes for abstainers -- if those 12 had bothered to show up for work yesterday and voted with the Constitution they've sworn to uphold, the day would have been carried.
A coalition of European privacy, free speech and civil liberties groups have started a petition to the leaders of the EU, calling on them to stop governments from carrying out programs of mass, suspicionless, warrantless dragnet surveillance like Prism and Tempora (the US and UK programs revealed in Edward Snowden's NSA leaks). They need your signature, too:
We, the undersigned, call on our Heads of Government to clearly and unambiguously state their opposition to all systems of mass surveillance including the US's NSA PRISM system and similar systems in several countries in Europe. Europe’s leaders have not yet taken any action to stop this abuse of our right to privacy and freedom of expression.
We call on Europe’s leaders to place this issue firmly on the agenda for the next European Council Summit in October. They need to make it clear that they will do so.
They must take action to stop this abuse of our human rights.
The inaugural signatories include Index on Censorship, English PEN, Article 19, Privacy International, Open Rights Group and Liberty.
Congress is voting tomorrow on a bill that would defund the NSA's program of warrantless, mass, illegal spying on innocent Americans. You -- YES YOU -- need to hit the link below, enter your ZIP code, get contact details for your congresscritter and call that number and give the staffer who answers a firm, polite, serious piece of your mind. This is a great chance to make an important change in the world. Do it.
A critical vote is happening tomorrow, July 24th, on the Defense Appropriations Bill in the House of Representatives. The bill gives taxpayer money to fund defense programs, including NSA surveillance.
Yesterday, an important bipartisan amendment to that bill was green-lighted to be voted on tomorrow. Proposed by Rep. Justin Amash (MI), the amendment would remove funding for blanket collection of phone records and metadata from cell phone service providers.
The summary of the amendment on the House of Representatives website reads:Ends authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. Bars the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215.
The vote on this bill is critical. We need to flood Congress with calls in support of the amendment, and hold our representatives accountable.
CNet's Declan McCullagh reports on a rumor that Google is testing a system for encrypting its users' files on Google Drive; they are reportedly considering the move as a means of making it harder for government spies to harvest user-data. There are lots of things this could mean: if Google encrypts the files but retains the keys, it would mean that any government spying would be more visible within the company, since it would require the government requesting access to the keys before it could snoop on users. On the other hand, it might mean that Google would encrypt its files in a way that even it can't encrypt it -- called "zero-knowledge encryption" -- which would be much more robust against spying. McCullagh talks about companies that do similar things:
Some smaller companies already provide encrypted cloud storage, a concept that's sometimes called "host-proof hosting." SpiderOak says its software, available for Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android, and Nokia N900 platforms, uses "zero-knowledge" encryption techniques that allow it to store data that's "readable to you alone." SpiderOak also offers a Web access option because of "overwhelming customer demand," but suggests the client application is more secure.
Wuala is an application for Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, and Android created by Zurich-based LaCie AG that also uses client-side encryption. "LaCie employees have very limited access to your data," the company says. "They can only see how many files you have stored and how much storage space they occupy."
Bruce Schneier has a great essay about the fact that NSA spying apologists say that dragnet surveillance is limited to cases of terrorism: but "terrorism" is now synonymous with "whatever it is people we want to spy on are doing."
Back in 2002, the Patriot Act greatly broadened the definition of terrorism to include all sorts of "normal" violent acts as well as non-violent protests. The term "terrorist" is surprisingly broad; since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it has been applied to people you wouldn't normally consider terrorists.
The most egregious example of this are the three anti-nuclear pacifists, including an 82-year-old nun, who cut through a chain-link fence at the Oak Ridge nuclear-weapons-production facility in 2012. While they were originally arrested on a misdemeanor trespassing charge, the government kept increasing their charges as the facility's security lapses became more embarrassing. Now the protestors have been convicted of violent crimes of terrorism -- and remain in jail.
Meanwhile, a Tennessee government official claimed that complaining about water quality could be considered an act of terrorism. To the government's credit, he was subsequently demoted for those remarks.