Tag Archives | Privacy

How to Protect Ourselves on Social Networks and from Data Collection Systems of Governments and Corporations

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I. What’s Going On

Online, we are both a product for corporations and a person of interest to governments (2, 3).

Corporations are taking advantage of these times by changing their privacy policies so that they can track us, use us, and sell us whatever their algorithms decide that we need or want based on data they have acquired about our movements, contacts, desires, fantasies, or kinks. Governments on the other hand are using our data to make sure that we will never acquire enough power to change any policies that we deem to be a threat to our happiness, livelihood, or survival. In essence, we are at war with these organizations and we should act as such:

“…this is truly unprecedented in history. And what we’re seeing is secrecy and surveillance are completely subverting security and liberty, not just in the United States, but for many, many citizens around the world.”

This corporate misconduct and government surveillance is threatening the internet (2, 3), the original purpose of which was to create an “open architecture networking” system where “a globally interconnected set of computers” would allow “everyone” to “quickly access data and programs from any site”.

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The Manufacture of “Surveillance by Consent” Part 2 – Is Mass Surveillance So Bad If You Can’t See It?

One nation under CCTV
Image by T.J.Blackwell

In the dark ages known as the twentieth century, mass surveillance of entire populations was a sport practised only by elitist totalitarian states . Those unlucky enough to live in a what was then termed a “free country”, had to sit on the sidelines and simply imagine what it was like to be subject to constant state intrusion.

But times change, and after several wars of the twentieth century (including the war to end all wars) mass surveillance was finally liberated. The liberators of surveillance even adopted a snappy slogan to help spread their evangelic message, which today is more commonly used than that one about washing up liquid – “nothing to hide, nothing to fear”. Don’t bother de-constructing this slogan in any way – just marvel at its symmetry and its almost Shakespearean rhythm.

You see the secret to success of the architects of “surveillance for all” was they spotted that surveillance is so much easier to sell to the masses when it’s invisible.… Read the rest

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Surveillance State Hurts U.S. Economy: Lavabit Likely to Move Overseas

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CaptureIn a sign of things to come for the U.S. tech industry, Ladar Levison, the owner of Lavabit, the secure private encrypted email provider that shut down after 10 years of operation (2, 3) because he decided not to abide by the demands made by the United States government to spy on their 400,000 plus users, explains that if he loses his case against the U.S. government he will most likely hand over his company to someone overseas and let them run it. It’s important to note that the U.S. government already new that this would be the end result, that revelations about NSA’s PRISM program would hurt American Technology companies, but they didn’t really care.

Levison clarifies his position in the following interview on Democracy Now!. The segment in which he makes these comments occurs at approximately the 11 minute mark, but the whole interview is well worth watching, especially the part just before these comments where he explains how the U.S.Read the rest

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The NSA Is Watching Your Online Dating Profile

unsplash1Are you a match? From an NPR piece on surveillance, corporations and the government absorbing data from dating sites in order to reveal the real you:

Examples from the series include online dating sites, like OKCupid.com. The report shows how profile questions on the site about things like drug use, religious beliefs and more were transmitted to a data tracking company, along with the user’s IP address.

When you log in with a username and password to sites like Gmail, Amazon or OKCupid, your behavior can be linked to your real name or email address. Software privacy specialist Ashkan Soltani said personally identifying information also can unintentionally “leak” to third parties, even if companies say they have no need for such data; it’s not clear what happens to the information once it falls into their hands.

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The Police And Fingerprint-Based Security

fingerprintThe Chaos Computer Club on why authorities are in love with biometrically unlockable devices:

“It is plain stupid to use something that you can’t change and that you leave everywhere every day as a security token”, said Frank Rieger, spokesperson of the CCC. “The public should no longer be fooled by the biometrics industry with false security claims. Biometrics is fundamentally a technology designed for oppression and control, not for securing everyday device access.” Fingerprint biometrics in passports has been introduced in many countries despite the fact that no security gain can be shown.

iPhone users should avoid protecting sensitive data with their precious biometric fingerprint not only because it can be easily faked, as demonstrated by the CCC team. You can easily be forced to unlock your phone against your will when being arrested. Forcing you to give up your passcode is much harder under most jurisdictions than just casually swiping your phone over your handcuffed hands.

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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

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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

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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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