Sunday, November 22, 2015

Social Media Surveillance

The attacks in Paris and Beirut have all of us looking for answers. What can we do to stop this violence?
But while people around the world are grappling with that question, government officials are instead seizing the opportunity to renew their attacks on our most basic freedoms, even though they know it won’t make us safer from attacks.
Specifically, officials in the U.S. and Europe are pushing to ban strong encryption technology. (2) They want every type of Internet security to have a “backdoor” so that governments can access literally everything. Here’s the problem: weakening encryption will actually make us all less safe. Even if you trust governments to never abuse this system and only use it in the most extreme circumstances, once a backdoor exists, it can be used by anyone who can find it, including criminals, other governments, and yes, even terrorists. (3)
Fortunately, we’ve done a mountain of work over the last year educating the public and fighting this kind of misinformation, so more people than ever before know what’s really going on. Security experts agree that putting backdoors in encryption technology and letting the government collect even more of our personal information won’t prevent attacks like the ones we saw last week.
The battle lines are being drawn, but some powerful voices have been listening and are weighing in on the side of freedom and logic. The influential New York Times editorial board just came out swinging with the headline: “Mass surveillance is not the answer to fighting terrorism.” This is exactly the message leaders need to hear right now.
The details from Paris and Beirut are still emerging. The latest evidence suggests that the attackers were using totally unencrypted SMS messages. (4) The facts haven’t stopped politicians and pundits from demonizing encryption, but the reality is that it’s still not clear exactly how this happened, or how it could have been prevented.
What is clear is that now is not the time to make hasty decisions and rush to pass laws we’ve barely read. That path has failed us time and again. (5) Now is the time for informed, thoughtful, discussion about the causes of this violence and the real solutions to address it.
Weakening the encryption that protects our hospitals, power plants, airports, and personal information isn’t going to make us safer.
Collecting a giant haystack of data about hundreds of millions of innocent people is not going to stop the next attack.
We need real answers and solutions, not politicians scrambling spin this terrible situation to grab more power.
These decisions about encryption and mass surveillance will determine the type of world our children and our children’s children will live in. We shouldn’t let them be made for us by opportunistic politicians or violent attackers.
Yours for freedom and a better world, 
~ Fight for the Future
P.S. Here’s a link directly to the New York Times editorial. Please share it widely!
P.P.S. This is probably the only time you’ll see us rallying behind an NYT editorial. Savor the strangeness.

1. New York Times editorial board. “Mass Surveillance is Not The Answer to Fighting Terrorism” 
2. Huffington Post. “It’s Unclear if Paris Attackers Relied on Encryption. Lawmakers are Attacking it Anyway.” 
3. The Guardian. “Academics criticize NSA and GCHQ for weakening online encryption.” 
4. Techdirt. “After endless demonization of encryption, police find Paris attackers coordinated via unencrypted SMS” 
5. The Intercept. “From Paris to Boston, Terrorists Were Already Known to Authorities.”

Published time: October 04, 2013 00:47

Improved surveillance, takedown of opposition websites for “illegal content” and paid pro-government commentators are among the increasingly sophisticated tools used by authorities to restrict internet freedom, a new report claims.
The 2013 Freedom on the Net report, compiled by non-profit Freedom House, says that 34 out of the 60 countries it surveyed suffered a falloff in internet freedom over the past year.

Iran, Cuba, China and Syria were ranked as countries with the greatest restrictions. China, which blocks millions of websites and employs thousands-strong armies of censors, “led the way in expanding an elaborate technological apparatus for system internet censorship, while further increasing offline coercion and arrests to deter freedom of expression online.”

Iceland, Estonia and Germany took the podium places in the ranking, followed by the United States.

Nonetheless, the US was castigated for a “troubling decline” in internet freedom, largely as a result of wide-ranging surveillance practices revealed through Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks.

Critics have raised concern that the secret NSA programs may violate the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects people inside the US (citizens and non-citizens alike) from unreasonable search and seizure, as well as human rights enshrined in international agreements,” stated the report.
In 35 of the 60 countries examined, the government has “either obtained more sophisticated surveillance technology, increased the scope of people monitored, or passed a new law giving it greater monitoring authority.”

Researchers from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands have condemned the United States for allowing the controversial Patriot Act to bypass foreign laws and let Americans intercept data from persons internationally.

In a just published study, Cloud Computing in Higher Education and Research Institutions and the USA Patriot Act, researchers from the school’s Institute for Information Law say that legislation enacted to allegedly protect the security of US citizens has in the process eroded privacy protections on a global scale.
As more and more companies and individuals across the world begin relying on cloud computing to store information digitally on remote servers, the Dutch researchers warn that the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allow for those files to be fed into the US intelligence community, disregarding privacy safeguards in place for others around the globe.

Britain's so-called "snooper's charter" bill is heating up debates among MPs as parliamentary reports on it are being prepared. The bill's initiator has just released an emotional verbal offensive against the opponents, equaling them to criminals. READ MORE

The FBI has got tired of monitoring social media sites manually and wants to reinvent the process. So, soon your posts may instantly light up on a map as a big red dot if considered suspicious, marking the location of the ‘bad actor.’

­"Social media has become a primary source of intelligence because it has become the premier first response to key events and the primal alert to possible developing situations," says the Request for Information published by FBI on January 19.

The FBI’s ‘market research’ shows that the bureau is planning to monitor all ‘publicly available’ data on social media sites through a new game-changing system.

The bureau is looking for a company which is interested in and capable of building such a system and has published a list of requirements for it.

The enquiry says that the system should provide an automated search and scrape capability of both social networking sites and open source news sites for breaking events, crises, and threats that meet the search parameters defined by the FBI.

It should also be capable of automated filtering of the data and of providing the operator with instant notification of breaking events and emerging threats.

The FBI places strong emphasis on the fact that the system should access only ‘publicly available’ data, taking every occurrence of this phrase in quotes throughout the whole document.

But most people do not realize that the data they are sharing with their friends on social networking sites is in fact publicly available.

The average user believes that only a narrow circle of close friends and relatives are reading his or her blog, and this gives them "the sense of freedom to say what they want without worrying too much about recourse," says Jennifer Lynch at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as cited by "But these tools that mine open source data and presumably store it for a very long time do away with that kind of privacy. I worry about the effect of that on free speech in the US."

All the collected data will be stored in the FBI database and conveniently displayed on a map upon request (by the way, FBI prefers Google, ESRI, and Yahoo maps to any other service). Of course the functionality of the map will be increased beyond the limits set for the common user.

The interactive map will have additional layers, such as US domestic and worldwide terror data, US embassies and military installations around the world, weather conditions and forecasts, and video feeds from surveillance and traffic cameras.

The revelation of the FBI’s ‘market research’ raises even more concerns about the aspects of private data safety on the Internet, as more and more data about the users is being collected and stored – for different reasons – in numerous databases around the globe.

Collecting the information in not a challenge anymore, but analyzing the data is. But there are companies, for example Google, which can crack such a problem.

Recently Google announced plans to bring all data collected from users’ separate accounts on its sites into a combined profile. Google is seeking ways of creating a simpler product experience and providing better services to its clients. But that move has triggered a lot of outrage and raised more questions about privacy on the Internet.

No comments:

Post a Comment