Tag Archives | Privacy

Bruce Schneier On The Solution To Surveillance

PRISMVia the MIT Technology Review, the security expert on staying free from the NSA:

My five tips suck. They are not things the average person can use. One of them is to use PGP [a data-encryption program]. But my mother can’t use PGP. Maybe some people who read your publication will use my tips, but most people won’t.

Basically, the average user is screwed. You can’t say “Don’t use Google”—that’s a useless piece of advice. Or “Don’t use Facebook,” because then you don’t talk to your friends, you don’t get invited to parties, you don’t get laid. It’s like libertarians saying “Don’t use credit cards”; it just doesn’t work in the real world.

The Internet has become essential to our lives, and it has been subverted into a gigantic surveillance platform. The solutions have to be political. The best advice for the average person is to agitate for political change.

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Senator Raises Concern That The FBI Could Access iPhone Fingerprint Data

fingerThose who find Apple’s new fingerprint reader disturbing apparently include members of Congress. Ars Technica reports:

On Thursday, the Minnesota senator Al Franken, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, published a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

“Passwords are secret and dynamic; fingerprints are public and permanent,” wrote Sen. Franken. “If someone hacks your password, you can change it—as many times as you want. You can’t change your fingerprints. And you leave them on everything you touch; they are definitely not a secret. What’s more, a password doesn’t uniquely identify its owner—a fingerprint does.”

He also has specific questions for Cupertino:

Is it possible to convert locally stored fingerprint data into a digital or visual format that can be used by third parties?

Is it possible to extract and obtain fingerprint data from an iPhone? If so, can this be done remotely, or with physical access to the device?…

Under American intelligence law, the FBI can seek an order requiring the production of “any tangible thing (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items)” if they are deemed relevant to certain foreign intelligence investigations.

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U.S. government knew that revelations about NSA’s PRISM program would hurt American Technology companies, but they didn’t “really really care”, Bart Gellman

via chycho
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When details of NSA’s PRISM surveillance program were revealed, American technology companies shuttered in fear, not because they were concerned about criminal prosecution – both the Bush administration and the Obama administration had authorized the program – they shuttered in fear because they knew the revelations would negatively impact their business.

In the following interview on Democracy Now!, when Juan Gonzalez asks Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, the British newspaper that first reported on the Snowden affair (2), what his thoughts are on the impact of the revelations of the surveillance program on the world stage, Rusbridger replies (segments of interest occur at approximately 38:00 and 47:00 – emphasis added):

ALAN RUSBRIDGER [38:00]: Well, I think, the bit that is sometimes missing from the American debate, the President places great emphasis on the fact that America doesn’t spy on Americans in American territory, as if that was the only thing that mattered.

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The Surveillance State Killed BlackBerry, and the Same Fate Awaits Other Tech Giants

blackberry_deathvia chycho

Being from Canada, interested in technology and the markets, and a privacy advocate, BlackBerry, formerly known as Research In Motion (RIM), has been on my radar for a number of years, so I would like to add my two cents regarding its demise (2, 3, 4, 5).

The two most important things we need to keep in mind about the “timeline of the company from RIM to Blackberry” are that: first, “when phone systems failed in New York and DC on 9/11, it was the BlackBerry network that provided backup communication”; second, contrary to popular belief, apps were never meant to be the feature selling point for its products, it was its security and privacy, the way it encrypted communication across its network that made it the only game in town.

In 2010, when governments threatened to “block encrypted BlackBerry corporate e-mail and messaging services if its security agencies were not granted access to them”, BlackBerry’s reply was:

“RIM also said it has drawn a firm line by insisting that any capabilities it provides to carriers for ‘lawful’ access purposes be limited by four main principles: Such access has to be legal, it must not exceed access imposed on RIM’s competitors, it does not change the security architecture for Blackberry enterprise customers, and does not require a country-specific deal that does not conform to RIM’s global standard for lawful access.”

Unfortunately, I haven’t heard or read a single word about this from the pundits on mainstream media, that BlackBerry’s selling point was its guarantee to privacy, i.e., its network was so secure that even BlackBerry didn’t have access to its users emails, which made the company what it was.… Read the rest

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A List Of Online Encryption Tools That The NSA Has Already Foiled

encryption

Why even bother trying? The New York Times reveals:

The NSA is winning its long-running secret war on encryption. Below are encryption tools the agency has had some success in cracking, according to documents provided by Edward Snowden.

Virtual Private Networks – Commonly used by businesses to allow employees to access work networks from outside the office, via an encrypted “tunnel” through a public network.

Encrypted chat – Available with chat programs like Adium or with software added to programs like AOL Instant Messenger, providing “end to end” encryption, in which the data cannot be decrypted at any point along the transfer (even by the messaging service).

Encrypted Voice over Internet Protocol – Services like Microsoft’s Skype and Apple’s FaceTime allow users to make free, encrypted phone and video calls over the Internet. The documents suggest that the N.S.A. is working with some VoIP services to obtain pre-encryption access to such messages.

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OFF Pocket Takes Your Phone Off the Grid (Sorry NSA)

off pocketI imagine every disinfonaut will be wanting one of these… Josh Dzieza reports on the OFF Pocket for Daily Beast:

Haute couture usually makes you stand out, but Adam Harvey and Johanna Bloomfield imagine a future where it can help you hide.

The newest item designed by Harvey, an artist with a background in mechanical engineering, and Bloomfield, a fashion designer, is called OFF Pocket, a metallic-fiber pouch designed to block all wireless signals to your phone. Bloomfield calls it a “privacy accessory.” For the next month, it will sit alongside other examples of counter surveillance chic from Harvey’s company, PRVCM, in a “privacy gift shop” at New York’s New Museum.

Harvey and Bloomfield’s first collaborative project, Stealth Wear, a line of futuristic looking streetwear that shields the wearer from thermal imaging cameras, debuted this January at the fashion boutique Primitive London. Stealth Wear was more of a “provocation” than a consumer fashion line, Harvey says, designed to make people aware of how invasive thermal imaging could be, and the sort of counter-measures that would be required to block it.

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Click To Summon The NSA

Want to make your afternoon more interesting? A few keystrokes online can bring a hot pizza to your door, but what about delivering stone-faced FBI agents? There’s a new site for that called SUMMON THE NSA! (click through to actually hit the button):

Disclaimer: By clicking this button your browser will do a google search for a list of known words that the NSA monitors.

These searches will summon the police and FBI to your house because, just like everyone living in America today, all of your digital transactions are being monitored.

summon

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Against Tech Solutions To Our Surveillance Problems

solutionsVia Wired, Jathan Sadowski writes that “tech hacks” to shield our own privacy shouldn’t be the answer we are looking for:

The notion of tech-centric solutionism: what tech hack, device, or app can I turn to for a quick fix to my privacy troubles? There’s no shortage of articles and how-to guides for securing privacy, with headlines promising “Five ways to stop the NSA from spying on you.”

Here’s the thing, though: We shouldn’t resolve ourselves to a life where cyber-hygiene and an obsession with technological solutions fools us into thinking we’ve somehow preserved our privacy.

It’s always going to be a losing battle when going against a panoptic titan whose methods are wide-reaching, constantly evolving, and classified. Just look at the fates of Lavabit and Silent Circle, the two email services that shuttered last week.

The fundamental belief in technology’s ability to “fix” everything ignores the fact that not everything needs to be fixed in the first place.

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Two Lectures and One Interview: Eric R. Kandel on learning, memory, and individuality; Elon Musk on the Future of Energy and Transport; and Ladar Levison on Lavabit

via chycho

Two lectures and one interview well worth the watch:


I. Eric R. Kandel: The Molecular Biology of Memory Storage and the Biological Basis of Individuality
In my opinion and those of many others, the root cause of our society’s ills is how we deal with education, and the following lecture by Eric Kandel emphasizes this point. The argument is made that evolving, learning, memory; our humanity should be looked upon in a holistic manner. That our genes do not necessarily decide who we become; our culture, our methods of learning and teaching, our setting is what decides our individuality, and we, in large part, are in control of our future.


II. Elon Musk: the Future of Energy & Transport
Tesla Motors and Elon Musk have been all the rage lately, and rightfully so considering Tesla just blew away their quarterly earnings and Musk just revealed details of Hyperloop (pdf), a “hypothetical mode of high-speed transportation” which he has proposed.… Read the rest

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