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Government Tries to Alter Court Transcript in EFF NSA Spying Case

By: Tuesday August 5, 2014 5:24 pm

NSAThis is one of the crazier things I’ve seen in a while, and as someone who works with a lot of whistleblowers, that’s saying something.

The EFF is suing the NSA and other government agencies  in the case Jewel v. NSA, attempting to stop illegal dragnet surveillance. According to EFF there was a hearing on June 6 in a crowded courtroom, but after it was over the government asked to have “classified information” that they had presented in open court removed from the court transcript. And they wanted to do so in secret so it would never be a matter of public record.

Moreover, EFF was under a gag order not to speak about it until today when the judge granted their motion to unseal the court order:

The Court allowed the government a first look at the transcript and indicated that it was going to hold the government to a very high standard and would not allow the government to manufacture a misleading transcript by hiding the fact of any redactions. Ultimately, the government said that it had *not* revealed classified information at the hearing and removed its request. But the incident speaks volumes about the dangers of allowing the government free rein to claim secrecy in court proceedings and otherwise.

As the EFF notes, “federal law governing court reporting requires that ‘each session of the court’ be ‘recorded verbatim’ and that the transcript be certified by the court reporter as ‘a correct statement of the testimony taken and the proceedings had.’ 28 U.S.C. § 753(b).”  Did the government lawyers not know this?

According to EFF, “The government’s attempt to change this history was unprecedented. We could find no example of where a court had granted such a remedy or even where such a request had been made.”

I’m bored with both reading and writing “most transparent administration ever” so insert your own joke here.

EU Group Launches Class Action Suit Against Facebook For Privacy Violations, Including Support for PRISM

By: Monday August 4, 2014 1:42 pm
Facebook class action

The app that lets you become part of the Facebook class action suit lets you sign on with … yes, Facebook.

Viennese lawyer and privacy activist Max Schrems has filed a class action suit with the Commercial Court for Vienna against the Irish subsidiary of Facebook for violation of European data protection laws.

The Europe v Facebook website has an app that allows EU residents to become part of the suit. So far the organization is reporting that 11,000 people have signed on.

The suit alleges the following complaints against Facebook:

  • Data use policy which is invalid under EU law
  • The absence of effective consent to many types of data use
  • Support of the NSA’s ‘PRISM’ surveillance programme
  • Tracking of Internet users on external websites (e.g. through Like buttons)
  • Monitoring and analysis of users through big data systems
  • Unlawful introduction of Graph Search
  • Unauthorised passing on of user data to external applications

Boy that PRISM program is just winning friends the world over, isn’t it?

European data law says that Facebook must provide all the data they have on individual users within 40 days if the user requests it, but the EVF says Facebook basically ignores these requests. In fact, Facebook has oh-so-helpfully removed the form used to request data from their website.

So the EVF website also has a place to register a complaint with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner about Facebook’s non-compliance, but since they’re not doing anything there is also a way to protest the Irish authority sitting on their hands to the European Commission.

And if the whole thing sounds like a clusterfuck, just remember — US data privacy laws are far inferior to EU laws, and unlikely to get any better.

Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg Converse at HopeX

By: Monday July 21, 2014 11:19 am
Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden gets a standing ovation at HopeX

This weekend Kevin Gosztola and I attended the HopeX (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference in New York.

We went in large part because Daniel Ellsberg, Jessalyn Raddack, Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden were all speaking at the event. But I have to give the conference high marks overall; the panels and talks were extremely well coordinated and really interesting. And surprisingly political.

The crowd on hand to see Snowden and Ellsberg was insane, to put it mildly.  The conference had taken over the entire 18th floor of the Hotel Pennsylvania for the event, which took place in the main hall and was broadcast via closed circuit to all the other rooms.

The 18th floor was closed to further traffic due to overcrowding about an hour before the event began, and re-directed to the 6th floor.  The 6th floor also quickly filled up, and the first floor and mezzanine became the overflow rooms.  By the time the event actually started there were people spilling out onto the street trying to see what was happening.

The actual conversation between Snowden and Ellsberg was fascinating.  The two had never spoken publicly before, although Ellsberg told me they had a 4 hour private conversation last week.  Ellsberg gave Snowden credit for giving him “the best pubilcity I’ve had in 20 years” from people who used to want him in jail.  He also managed to drop two expletives, one for people like John Kerry who said Snowden was no Daniel Ellsberg (“bullshit”); the other for Hillary Clinton who said that if Snowden came back to the US he’d be able to tell his story publicly in court (also “bullshit”).

A large percentage of the presentations at HopeX discussed the urgent need for encryption security that is easy to use, and one panelist said that it was an “epic fail” on the part of the tech community that a year had passed since the Snowden revelations and no reliable alternatives have been developed to clunky programs like GPG.

The call to arms really came from Snowden himself, however, who said during his talk that the people in this room had the ability to create technology which could make it safer for whistleblowers to come forward (while acknowledging that it will never be possible to be 100% safe).  He said this was the task that he hoped to devote the rest of his life to.

He also expressed his belief that when governments discover their actions will become public it will “change the world.”

As for the rest of the conference, I went there thinking that 50% of the presentations would be extremely technical and go way over my head, but that didn’t happen. Among the programs that I attended:

  • Barrett Brown and Anonymous: Persecution of Information Activists with Gabriella Coleman, Kevin Gallagher and Brown’s attorney Ahmed Ghappour.
  • Community Owned and Operated Cellular Networks in Rural America with Peter Bloom and Maka Munoz
  • Building an Open Source Cellular Network at Burning Man with Johnny Diggz and Willow Brugh
  • Darkmail:  A preview of the new encrypted email program being developed by Ladar Levinson (Lavabit) and Stephen Watt, which will attempt to encrypt metadata
  • Unmasking a CIA Criminal, Alfreda Frances Bikowsky: A really fascinating presentation by Ray Nowosielski about a largely unknown figure inside the CIA who may have been responsible for epic screw-ups ranging from hoarding data about Al Quada prior to 9/11 to the distorting the truth of the efficacy of torture
  • SecureDrop: A Wikileaks in Every Newsroom with William Budington, Garrett Robinson and Yan Zhu
  • When You Are the Adversary: Discussion of the infosec needs of the 99% with Quinn Norton
  • Biohacking and DIYbiology North of the 45th Parallel with Kevin Chen and Connor Dickie
  • Codesigning Countersurveillance: Projects of the MIT Civic Media Codesign Studio which develops civic media projects with community-based organizations

Normally I probably wouldn’t got to that many presentations at a conference but by and large they were all really interesting and many dealt with subjects (like building open source cellular networks and biohacking) that I previously knew nothing about.

If I had any doubt before that the tech/hacker world was one of the most dynamic and invigorated political spaces, it was dispelled by the time I left.

While political parties and professional activists busy themselves trying to brand and market “the next big thing” that never seems to be anything more than the status quo with a new set of tires and a fresh coat of paint, there are people out there with the desire and the means to use technology to actually change things. It was really exciting to be among them.

Audio of the Snowden/Ellsberg talk can be found here

Congress Has a Crypto Party

By: Monday June 23, 2014 10:19 am

This morning Congressman Alan Grayson and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren are sponsoring a crypto party on the Hill.

Tracking Detroit’s Urban Decay Using Google and Bing Streetviews

By: Friday June 6, 2014 12:49 pm

Alex Asup, a chief product officer at LOVELAND Technologies has produced a fascinating documentation of the decay of Detroit neighborhoods using Google and Bing Streetviews.
The most shocking thing about the photos is that the decay he documents takes place in such a short period of time, between 2009 and 2013.

Colorado Legislature Becomes First to Authorize Uber, but Problems are Far from Over

By: Friday June 6, 2014 9:52 am

Yesterday Colorado’s legislature passed the first bill in the country to authorize and regulate Uber and Lyft, two of the new technology companies that have recently sprung up that connect drivers with passengers. Ridesharing has been available in Colorado since September of last year, when Lyft officially began offering services in Denver.

In theory the two companies merely provide apps connecting supply with demand. But in practice they have been able to act as unregulated cab companies, without being required to follow the laws and regulations (and subsequent overhead costs) that apply to cabs.

Ebay Hacked – Change Your Password

By: Wednesday May 21, 2014 10:19 am

Ebay announced today that it’s the latest megalith online site to be hacked, and is asking users to change their passwords:

Hachette Says Amazon Delaying Book Shipments to Monopolistically Squeeze Profits

By: Friday May 9, 2014 11:30 am

Amazon controls roughly one third of the book market in the United States, giving it considerable muscle to extract favorable sales and payment terms. And according to Hachette Books, one of the largest New York publishing groups, Amazon is monopolistically delaying shipment of hard cover books 2-4 weeks by authors like Stephen Colbert and Malcolm [...]

Amazon Dash Shopping Wand – Amazingly Convenient or A Little Creepy?

By: Monday April 7, 2014 5:23 pm

As part of Amazon’s new AmazonFresh grocery service, the online giant is introducing Amazon Dash, a wifi-enabled barcode scanner you can simply wave at items you want to replenish. You can also just say the name into a microphone on the device.

Game of Thrones Premiere Sets New Piracy Record

By: Monday April 7, 2014 2:10 pm

HBO apparently didn’t learn their lesson over the True Detective finale, and the HBO GO service crashed due to Game of Thrones subscriber demand.

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