Big Brother

Better encryption for online services could throw a wrench in NSA mass surveillance efforts

Craig Timberg at the Washington Post has an important story on efforts to keep online communications and user data safe from the prying eyes of Uncle Sam.

Timberg explains that in the arms race between government agencies like the NSA and big tech companies, giants such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others, have begun to implement more and better encryption practices for online services. And even though encryption isn’t an absolute defense, it makes it much more difficult for the government to run large-scale surveillance programs:

[E]ncryption — essentially converting data into what appears to be gibberish when intercepted by outsiders — complicates government surveillance efforts, requiring that resources be devoted to decoding or otherwise defeating the systems…security experts say the time and energy required to defeat encryption forces surveillance efforts to be targeted more narrowly on the highest-priority targets — such as terrorism suspects — and limits the ability of governments to simply cast a net into the huge rivers of data flowing across the Internet.

Read the full article here.

A version of this article was originally published on rstreet.org.

Big Brother Looking Out for Us or Just Looking at Us?

Mike Herrera is a songwriter and record producer from Bremerton, Washington. He hosts The Mike Herrera Hour every Friday night on IDOBI.com. You can catch more of Mike’s musings on Tumblr.

What if I told you that the government knows you are reading this? In an article on June 6, 2013 by Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian, more damning evidence surfaced that “NSA PRISM program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others. The top-secret PRISM program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Apple and Facebook.” However, one day before from Greenwald again, “NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily.” Did he say daily? With these two huge stories on top of all the recent White House scandals — including kill lists, Predator drones, and the IRS debacle — this could read as a racy Hollywood drama much like the aptly named TV show, Scandal.

The real life scandals are worse! I feel consciously detached from the fact that some if not all of us are being recorded by the government. Many US foreign policies and our ongoing policing of the world has made me nervous to be an American on foreign soil many times over. I’m suddenly hit from behind by the fact that a large majority of US citizens don’t have a clue and don’t really want to know that everything you search online is recorded, every email saved in a government file. Ignorance is bliss. But when it suddenly affects those individuals, it’s too late.

Why Should We Care? We Have Nothing to Hide…

The consistently principled Glenn Greenwald recently broke the story that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been secretly collecting phone records of millions of U.S. Verizon customers daily. Unsurprisingly, the usual Big Brother apologists chimed in with the rebuttal, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.”

Ah, yes. Civil libertarians are used to hearing the nothing-to-hide argument from people who are willing to trade privacy for security, or a false sense of it, anyway. When American citizens strongly opposed the Patriot Act that allows the government to wiretap phone lines without a warrant, we were told: “No secrets? No worries.” When we criticized the warrantless house-to-house raids in Boston following the Marathon bombing, we were told: “If you’re not housing the terrorists, what’s the big deal?”

Here’s the big deal: privacy isn’t simply the option to hide bad things. Privacy enables us to freely pursue the things that we enjoy, on our own terms. Maybe the Kardashian family enjoys putting their entire life out there for the world to see and harshly judge, but most of us like to keep some things to ourselves— and rightfully so!

Privacy is your right to control the flow of information about yourself. You choose what details to share, when, where, and with whom. There are likely parties from college that you do not want your employer to know about. You may not want your mother to know all the juicy details about your love life, or your friends to know the humiliating health questions you’ve searched on WebMD. When the government is snooping without your consent, they have taken away your right to a very important personal choice.

Spoof: Big Brother Helps You Order a Pizza

See Video

Ok, so it’s not really this bad… yet.  But if the incremental intrusions into our privacy aren’t stopped, a phone call like this isn’t so far-fetched for our future.

Big Brother Alert! Your neighbor could be an undercover federal agent.

Next Door Neighbor

Shocking revelations from “records and interviews” reveal at least 40 federal agencies are using undercover officers to infiltrate everyday scenarios including having them pose “as business people, welfare recipients, political protesters and even doctors or ministers to ferret out wrongdoing,” according to a New York Times report.

From the story:

At the Supreme Court, small teams of undercover officers dress as students at large demonstrations outside the courthouse and join the protests to look for suspicious activity, according to officials familiar with the practice.

At the Internal Revenue Service, dozens of undercover agents chase suspected tax evaders worldwide, by posing as tax preparers or accountants or drug dealers or yacht buyers, court records show.

At the Agriculture Department, more than 100 undercover agents pose as food stamp recipients at thousands of neighborhood stores to spot suspicious vendors and fraud, officials said.

Undercover work, inherently invasive and sometimes dangerous, was once largely the domain of the F.B.I. and a few other law enforcement agencies at the federal level. But outside public view, changes in policies and tactics over the last decade have resulted in undercover teams run by agencies in virtually every corner of the federal government, according to officials, former agents and documents.

Today in Liberty: GOP Senator’s Obamacare lawsuit dismissed by a federal judge, Kevin McCarthy smears Rand Paul in Kentucky

“I used to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I thought being ‘patriotic’ and loving my country meant never questioning foreign wars. I was all rah rah America! show ‘em who is boss!…Boy…things change. I saw too many men in their early 20s who lost limbs in war. Their entire lives destroyed. Young 22 year olds dealing with post traumatic stress. Unable to live a normal life. Too many mothers crying over caskets. They will never be able to cope with losing their son or daughter at such a young age.”Julie Borowski

John Boehner just doesn’t get it: The difference between the Tea Party and ‘average’ Republicans is enormous

John Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) tried to downplay suggestions that there is discontent inside the Republican Party, telling reporters that he doesn’t think there’s much of a difference between the Tea Party and the “average conservative Republican” in Congress:

“I think the tea party has brought great energy to our political process,” he said in response to a question about Tuesday’s primaries, adding that he expects many Republican candidates will continue to adopt the tea party mantle in the future. But he disputed suggestions of a rift between traditional Republicans and upstart tea party-backed candidates.

“There’s not that big a difference between what you call the tea party and your average conservative Republican,” he said. “We’re against Obamacare, we think taxes are too high, we think government is too big. I wouldn’t continue to sing that same song.”

What’s this “we” stuff? This is the same John Boehner who derided and mocked conservative and Tea Party groups that opposed the Republican surrender on the sequester and his leadership team threatened principled conservatives who planned to vote against last year’s budget deal that authorized more deficit spending.

Colorado town to vote this fall on “drone hunting”

commercial drone

Who’s up for a little drone hunting? The sound of heading out doors to shoot down privacy invasive unmanned-vehicles flying in the sky above is actually appealing. That’s why some in a Colorado town are pushing a measure to be voted on this fall that will allow people to obtain “drone hunting” permits:

For the people of Deer Trail, Colo., November elections usually are reserved for electing town board members and state and federal lawmakers.

But in November, residents of the small town will decide whether to license the nation’s first official “drone hunters.”

On Tuesday night, the town board split evenly, with three members voting “yes” and three voting “no,” on an ordinance that would have made it legal for residents to apply for licenses and then shoot unmanned aerial vehicles out of the sky in exchange for a $100 cash reward.

The controversial measure now will appear on the November ballot, leaving the decision up to voters in the town of about 550 people.

Some Deer Trail officials and residents — along with many others across the nation — fear that the rapid rise of domestic drones poses grave new threats to personal privacy. Echoing the concerns of privacy groups, civil liberties activists and many state and federal lawmakers, those pushing the Deer Trail ordinance argue that citizens must resist the unprecedented surveillance capabilities brought by drones.

Federal agencies want access to NSA data

Big Brother

Well, this was completely inevitable. The New York Times reported over the weekend that a number of federal intelligence agencies want access to the surveillance tools used by the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect information on American citizens:

The National Security Agency’s dominant role as the nation’s spy warehouse has spurred frequent tensions and turf fights with other federal intelligence agencies that want to use its surveillance tools for their own investigations, officials say.

Agencies working to curb drug trafficking, cyberattacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement complain that their attempts to exploit the security agency’s vast resources have often been turned down because their own investigations are not considered a high enough priority, current and former government officials say.
[…]
The security agency’s spy tools are attractive to other agencies for many reasons. Unlike traditional, narrowly tailored search warrants, those granted by the intelligence court often allow searches through records and data that are vast in scope. The standard of evidence needed to acquire them may be lower than in other courts, and the government may not be required to disclose for years, if ever, that someone was the focus of secret surveillance operations.

Decisions on using the security agency’s powers rest on many complicated variables, including a link to terrorism or “foreign intelligence,” the type of surveillance or data collection that is being conducted, the involvement of American targets, and the priority of the issue.

ObamaCare is the next Big Brother threat

Not only are Americans dealing the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance and metadata collection, they will also be forced to contend with yet another big government database, brought via ObamaCare, that will gain access to their vital information through data-sharing with government and third-party records:

Would you trust thousands of low-level Federal bureaucrats and contractors with one-touch access to your private financial and medical information? Under Obamacare you won’t have any choice.

 


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