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Privacy Watch: Latest Stories

Posted in Action at 5:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: News regarding privacy from the weekend and so far this week

  • Google begins to merge Google+, Gmail contacts
  • Google links social network contacts to Gmail
  • Man Jailed for Gmail Invite to Ex-Girlfriend
  • Stephen Colbert urged to cancel speech for NSA-linked privacy firm RSA

    Privacy rights groups are calling on comedian Stephen Colbert to cancel his guest speaker appearance at a conference organised by RSA, the security firm accused of accepting millions from the National Security Agency to weaken encryption software.

  • Ron Wyden: the future of NSA programs is being determined now

    A key US senator left one meeting at the White House with the impression that President Obama has yet to decide on specific reforms. “The debate is clearly fluid,” senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a longtime critic of bulk surveillance, told the Guardian after the meeting. “My sense is the president, and the administration, is wrestling with these issues,” Wyden said.

  • Advocacy groups plan day of protest against NSA surveillance

    The protest, called the Day We Fight Back, comes a month after the anniversary of Internet activist Aaron Swartz’s death. Swartz committed suicide last January while facing a 35-year prison sentence for hacking into a Massachusetts Institute of Technology network and downloading research articles.

    Among the organizations participating in the protest are Demand Progress, an activist group Swartz co-founded, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, Reddit and Mozilla.

  • Introducing the TGM SecureDrop Vault

    Today The Global Mail introduces a new, secure way for sources to work with our journalists to expose wrongdoing. The TGM Vault is powered by SecureDrop, “an open-source whistleblower submission system”, managed by Freedom of the Press Foundation. The Vault is a discreet, private place to share information the public has a right to know about; think of it as the digital age equivalent of the parking garage where Bob Woodward met Deep Throat. It’s the most sophisticated of many ways sources can communicate with The Global Mail.


    The code for SecureDrop was originally written by the late Aaron Swartz, a 26-year-old computer programmer and open-government activist who – facing prosecution for downloading paywalled academic research articles – committed suicide a year ago today, January 11, 2013. In creating SecureDrop, Swartz was assisted by Wired editor Kevin Poulsen and security expert James Dolan, who has continued to refine the program’s code with the Freedom of the Press Foundation. The Foundation continually audits and tests SecureDrop’s security.

  • Hacking of MIT website marks first anniversary of Aaron Swartz’s death

    Saturday marked one year since the death of the internet activist Aaron Swartz. The 26-year-old, who was one of the builders of Reddit, killed himself in New York City on Friday 11 January 2013.

    At the time of his death, Swartz was facing trial over charges of hacking arising from the downloading of millions of documents from the online research group JSTOR. He faced up to 50 years in prison.

    On Saturday, the home page of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was hacked, reportedly by the Anonymous group. Last year Swartz’s family accused MIT and government prosecutors of being complicit in his death.

  • White House meets with privacy advocates to discuss NSA surveillance
  • EU report reveals massive scope of secret NSA surveillance
  • MEPs seek video link with Snowden for NSA spying probe
  • NSA spy scandal dissuading firms from using the US cloud
  • Snowden NSA Leaks: India’s Election Commission Dumps Google
  • Former NSA Officials Detail Failures of Agency Programs in Memo to Obama

    The details of the THINTHREAD development and the decision by senior NSA officials eventually to discard it are part of a new memo sent to President Barack Obama by a group of former agency officials, some of whom were directly involved in the system’s development. The memo, signed by William Binney, Thomas Drake, Edward Loomis and J. Kirk Wiebe, asks Obama to meet with the former intelligence officers to discuss the recent NSA revelations and the recommendations of the president’s own review group on how to fix the agency.

  • NSA makes final push to retain most mass surveillance powers
  • Privacy as last line of defense: Snowden’s revelations changed the world in 2013

    For the actions of Snowden have indeed laid bare the fact that we are living in a global crisis of civilization. To date it is estimated that we have only seen about 1 percent of the documents he disclosed – the merest hint of the tip of a monstrous iceberg. What further horrors await us in 2014 and beyond?

  • France Inter radio interview at CCC
  • FBI Director ‘Confused’ By Reports Calling Snowden A Hero

    FBI Director Jim Comey says he’s “confused” by reports that characterize NSA contractor Edward Snowden as a “whistleblower” or a “hero” because, he says, all three branches of America’s government have approved the bulk collection of U.S. phone records, one of the most important revelations in Snowden’s cascade of leaks.

  • Jesse ‘The Mind’ Ventura: Snowden A Patriot, Hero

    Edward Snowden is a hero and a patriot says ex-Minnesota governor and wrestling star Jesse Ventura.

  • E.U. Panel Invites Snowden to Testify on Privacy Breaches

    A European Parliament committee has invited Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has leaked classified government documents and is now in hiding in Russia, to testify via video link as part of an investigation into how to protect the privacy of European citizens.

  • Hackers gain ‘full control’ of critical SCADA systems
  • GPG, subkeys, the genius of it!
  • Opinion: Social security without the surveillance

    This past year has been the one when it finally came out in the open that we’re all under surveillance – on the internet, on the phone – 24 hours a day.

  • Two decades on, we must preserve the internet as a tool of democracy

    Some 25 years after Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote his proposal, the challenge is to protect rights to privacy and freedom of opinion online

  • EU Parliament committee report
  • European Parliamentary rapporteur denounces NSA/GCHQ spying as illegal
  • NSA Snooping Triggers Foreign Business Flight From US Cloud Services

    A survey conducted by Vancouver, British Columbia-based web hosting service PEER 1 finds that a quarter of Canadian and UK businesses are looking outside of US borders for data storage. Companies outside of the US are leery of using data services hosted in the country due to the spying activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA).

  • Obama legacy on line with NSA
  • Internet chieftains press Obama over NSA spy swoops

    Bosses from Internet giants including Twitter and Facebook Tuesday pressed President Barack Obama for reforms of US spy agency snooping, adding to rising heat from the courts and American allies.

  • The Gang Of Eight: Chris Hedges and William Binney on Obama NSA Guidelines

    Chris Hedges and NSA whistle-blower William Binney tell Paul Jay, in his “Reality Asserts Itself” program, that there should be accountability, including the President himself, for the criminal practices used by the NSA against the American people.

  • Aaron Swartz’s spirit animates NSA protest movement a year after his death

    One year ago today, internet activist and technologist Aaron Swartz ended his life. For over a year, Swartz had been fighting a brutal federal case stemming from his sneaky placement of a laptop in an MIT wiring closet, which pilfered stores of academic articles from the JSTOR database. The goal: give 4.8 million scholarly articles to the masses, which Swartz argued was humanity’s birthright in his “Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto“:

  • Goodman: The FBI, the NSA and a long-held secret revealed

    This week, more news emerged about the theft of classified government documents, leaked to the press, that revealed a massive, top-secret surveillance program. No, not news of Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency, but of a group of anti-Vietnam war activists who perpetrated one of the most audacious thefts of government secrets in U.S. history, and who successfully evaded capture, remaining anonymous for more than 40 years. Among them: two professors, a day-care provider and a taxi driver.

  • RSA Show Boycott Spreads in Wake of NSA Allegations
  • NSA Leaks Continue to Pose Challenges for U.S. Firms

    One nation asks for new parts on two satellites for fear of U.S. eavesdropping. Other companies spend money to show that their products do not contain “spycraft.”

  • Letter: Edward Snowden is a whistleblower

    Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA routinely lied to Congress, which is a serious federal crime. These revelations make him a whistleblower who should be protected under U.S. law.

  • Former NSA worker whistleblower in finest U.S. tradition

    Snowden is by definition a whistleblower because his revelations have inspired widespread public ire, curiosity, debate and political action. It appears that citizens needed to know what the NSA was hiding. Snowden is simply more famous than the nuclear plant workers and the documents he leaked were more highly classified. He is also more vulnerable to severe punishment because he worked in the U.S. intelligence industry.


    My wish is for the custodians of these documents to deliver bundles – or megabytes – to good reporters.

  • Aaron Swartz documentary clip reveals his thoughts on the ‘spying program’ & the NSA (video)

    One year after the death of Aaron Swartz, a group of Internet activists joined up to protest against what they call “mass suspicionless surveillance.”

  • Spying on Congress

    Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wrote to Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, and asked plainly whether the NSA has been or is now spying on members of Congress or other public officials.

    The senator’s letter was no doubt prompted by the revelations of Edward Snowden to the effect that the federal government’s lust for personal private data about all Americans and many foreigners knows no bounds and its respect for the constitutionally protected and statutorily enforced right to privacy is nonexistent.

  • Snowden evidence to European Parliament risks damaging EU-US relations

    The decision by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties to invite ex-CIA worker Edward Snowden to give evidence by video link from Moscow on the US National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance of EU citizens has divided MEPs amid fears of damaging US-EU relations.

  • More DHS-funded Police Surveillance Cameras; No Drop in Crime

    Thousands of surveillance cameras are showing up in cities across the country without a corresponding reduction in crime. Citizens are taking notice of this fact of the federal takeover of local police, and they are speaking out.

    On January 8, for example, the Texas Civil Rights Project-Houston issued a statement on its Facebook page criticizing their city’s participation in the construction of the surveillance state.

  • The Source of the Section 702 Limitations: Special Needs?
  • The EU Parliamentary Inquiry’s Report on Mass Surveillance

    After about five months of hearings and investigating, the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee has published its report on the revelations about mass surveillance leaked by the American former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

  • NSA Phone Spying is Useless in Preventing Terrorist Attacks, Study Says

    As you probably suspected, the NSA’s massive phone record collection “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism,” according to a new study. In fact—and perhaps more interestingly—the agency’s real problem isn’t a lack of information. It’s an excess of secrecy.

  • NSA snooping fails to prevent terrorist attacks, watchdog group says
  • Here’s Another Analysis of How Useless the NSA’s Metadata Collection Program Is
  • NSA mass surveillance pretty useless in battle against terrorism – research
  • NSA Surveillance Rarely Useful, Study Shows
  • NSA ‘Spying Stopped Terrorism’ Claims ‘Overblown and Misleading’

    The NSA’s controversial spying programs have had “no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism,” a new study by the New America Foundation has claimed.

  • John McCain seeks congressional investigation into ‘broken’ NSA
  • Edward Snowden worked at US Embassy in Delhi as NSA contractor: Report

    He stayed there till September 9 while he took classes, and then returned for one more night at the Hyatt before leaving India on September 11, the school was quoted as saying.

  • Revealed: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden worked at U.S. embassy in India
  • Researcher describes ease to detect, derail and exploit NSA’s Lawful Interception
  • NSA Goes From Saying Bulk Metadata Collection ‘Saves Lives’ To ‘Prevented 54 Attacks’ To ‘Well, It’s A Nice Insurance Policy’
  • MLK: Also a victim of NSA surveillance

    Martin Luther King Jr. day is being celebrated on January 20th 2014 amid heated debate on massive dragnet surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA). Ironically, he was himself a victim of NSA surveillance as unveiled by declassified documents in September last year. Dr. King’s status as an NSA target has been known since the 1970s; nevertheless, this was probably the first time that the U.S. government had declassified it.

  • EU parliamentary inquiry finds NSA and GCHQ snooping activities ‘illegal’

    The investigation ruled that activities of NSA and GCHQ have ‘profoundly shaken’ the faith between countries that believed themselves supporters.

  • I Spent Two Hours Talking With the NSA’s Bigwigs. Here’s What Has Them Mad

    My expectations were low when I asked the National Security Agency to cooperate with my story on the impact of Edward Snowden’s leaks on the tech industry. During the 1990s, I had been working on a book, Crypto, which dove deep into cryptography policy, and it took me years — years! — to get an interview with an employee crucial to my narrative. I couldn’t quote him, but he provided invaluable background on the Clipper Chip, an ill-fated NSA encryption runaround that purported to strike a balance between protecting personal privacy and maintaining national security.


    Why the turnaround? Apparently, the rep told me, Crypto has some fans at Fort Meade. But my professional credentials were obviously not the sole reason for the invite. The post-Snowden NSA has been forced to adopt a more open PR strategy. With its practices, and even its integrity, under attack, its usual Sphinx-like demeanor would not do.

  • Congress Defers to President on NSA Reform

    Congress’s decline from the Founders’ vision as “first among equals” in government to an echo chamber of the unitary executive, has been a slow but steady process. In the process we have seen a steady stream of unconstitutional wars and civil liberties abuses at home. Nowhere is this decline more evident than in the stark contrast between the Congressional response to intelligence agencies’ abuses during the post-Watergate era and its response to the far more serious NSA abuses uncovered in recent years.

  • NSA revelations prompt Canadian, UK businesses to reconsider US cloud

    As revelations of the US’s widespread digital intelligence gathering techniques continue to populate headlines worldwide, non-US businesses’ trust in American providers of cloud services continues to plummet. A study published at the end of last week suggests one in four Canadian and UK businesses are moving their data outside the US in a bid to evade the NSA’s watchful eye, a significant increase on results reported just six months ago.

  • Out in the Open: An NSA-Proof Twitter, Built With Code From Bitcoin and BitTorrent

    When mass political protests erupted throughout Brazil in June, Miguel Freitas did what countless others did: He followed the news on Twitter. Tweets revealed information he couldn’t get anywhere else, including the mainstream media. “Brazilian media is highly concentrated,” says Freitas, an engineer based in Rio de Janeiro. “I have been able to read news that a lot of friends never heard about.”

  • Ten Myths About the NSA, Debunked
  • NSA apologists misunderstand true privacy

    Maintaining the public’s side of that equation means that the public must be in a continuing state of rebellion against the forces working against the public interest. That’s where whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden come in.

  • 500 Years of History Shows that Mass Spying Is Always Aimed at Crushing Dissent

    While the Fourth Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution] was most immediately the product of contemporary revulsion against a regime of writs of assistance, its roots go far deeper. Its adoption in the Constitution of this new Nation reflected the culmination in England a few years earlier of a struggle against oppression which had endured for centuries. The story of that struggle has been fully chronicled in the pages of this Court’s reports, and it would be a needless exercise in pedantry to review again the detailed history of the use of general warrants as instruments of oppression from the time of the Tudors, through the Star Chamber, the Long Parliament, the Restoration, and beyond.

  • Posting a child’s life for the world to see is a privacy issue
  • Top Secret NSA in 1953: We Need Better Spies, Please

    More than a half-century before Edward Snowden slipped out the door with the National Security Agency’s most closely held secrets, a panel convened by the then-fledgling agency warned of a Soviet nuclear attack and said there was a big vulnerability in the NSA’s ability to see it coming: its own people.

  • NSA phone data collection ‘not essential’, judiciary chair says – live
  • With NSA review ‘near completion,’ German media hold little hope of ‘no spy’ deal

    The White House has said that its review of NSA spying in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s revelations is “near completion,” but reports in Germany suggest several of Berlin’s demands are already off the table.

  • Germans abandon hope of US ‘no-spy’ treaty
  • Stalemate in US-Germany talks over ‘no spy’ agreement – report
  • Phone companies wary of change to NSA spying

    Telephone companies are quietly balking at the idea of changing how they collect and store Americans’ phone records to help the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. They’re worried about their exposure to lawsuits and the price tag if the U.S. government asks them to hold information about customers for longer than they already do.

  • You Had One Job to Do: The NSA Doesn’t Actually Stop Terrorism

    For supporters of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, the monitoring of American phone and web activity is a cheap price to pay for keeping our country safe from terrorist attacks. But how many terrorists attacks does the NSA’s eavesdropping actually prevent? Seeing as the intelligence organization is spending time and money listening to the German chancellor’s cell phone calls, it’s a little hard to believe that they are also shutting down terrorist cells around the globe.

  • Privacy Advocates Want Colbert to Cancel a Speech at an NSA-Linked Company

    Stephen Colbert has done tons of sarcastic and critical segments about the NSA (“The more I learn the safer I feel,” he said in October), but now he’s being called on to put those words into action. Colbert is scheduled to speak at an annual conference organized by security firm RSA, but privacy advocates are agitating for him to withdraw because of reports that the NSA paid RSA $10 million to weaken one of its own encryption algorithms.

  • If You Want Obama to Rein In the NSA, You’re About to Be Disappointed

    The president will embrace some surveillance reforms, but he’s not about to scale back the national security state.

  • The Presidential Task Force on the NSA, A Diversionary Tactic Not Meant to Uncover All The Wrongdoing

    What seems par for the course in America, after a serious trauma affects the nation such as the Kennedy assassination or 9/11 or now over revelations of government wrongdoing exposed by Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing of the NSA’s collection of electronic communications of just about everyone here and abroad, what usually happens is the president calls for a commission to investigate.

    Call it something to soothe the public’s anguish, (Kennedy and 9/11) or indignation over violation of people’s privacy rights (NSA) but in reality these commissions are a sideshow, a diversionary tactic where the investigation isn’t thorough and complete and the truth behind the wrongdoing is far from being discovered.

    As to the latest commission, a presidential task force looking into the NSA’s data mining operation, has recently concluded there is no evidence in any instance where the NSA’s snooping operations prevented a terrorist attack. None!

  • NSA official: mass spying has foiled one (or fewer) plots in its whole history

    During an NPR interview, the NSA’s outgoing deputy director John C Inglis — the top civilian official in the NSA hierarchy — admitted that the NSA’s mass surveillance program had foiled a total of one terrorist plot (an attempt to wire some money to al-Shabaab in Somalia) in its entire history. But he doesn’t want to get rid of his agency’s program of spying on everything every American does, because it’s an “insurance policy” in case someone tries the kind of terrorist attack that it might foil.

  • February 11 Will Be A Bad Day For The NSA But A Good Day For Freedom

    Edward Snowden revealed last summer that the U.S. is conducting mass surveillance of our internet activity, and now the internet is fighting back. On Feb. 11, a collection of popular sites and activist groups are staging a mass protest against the National Security Administration (NSA) and the blanket, warrantless spying that they do in the name of security.

  • NSA’s Preference for Metadata

    A slide from material leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden to the Washington Post, showing what happens when an NSA analyst ·tasks· the PRISM system for information about a new surveillance target.


    Former NSA Director Michael Hayden long ago made it clear that – given the rapid changes in networked communications and associated technologies – NSA needed to master the “net.” There was no mistaking the intent. He even said he consulted with large Internet companies and their experts in Silicon Valley.

  • NSA Snooping Had ‘Minimal’ Impact On Fighting Terrorism

    The US National Security Agency’s (NSA) dragnet that drew in masses of ordinary citizens’ communications data only supplied “minimal” assistance in catching terrorists, according to a report from the New America Foundation.

  • Did the NSA kill Hugo Chavez?

    Hugo Chavez was always a stone in the imperial shoe. Underestimated by analysts and consultants ‘Cold War mind’ in Washington, Chavez ended the influence and domination of the United States in Latin America in less than a decade. Transformed Venezuela from a dependent country and delivered to American culture and politics to be a sovereign, free, independent, dignified and proud of its roots, its history and its Indo-Afro-American culture.He rescued the control of strategic resources not only in Venezuela, but throughout Latin America, always with the banner of social justice. He promoted regional integration and the creation of organizations such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), among others. His stand against U.S. aggression hand gave an example and an inspiration to millions around the world, who viewed with hope the revolution in Venezuela and its regional expansion.

  • Did the NSA kill Hugo Chavez?

    The leaked documents from the NSA by Edward Snowden revealed that President Chavez and his government were on the list of the six main targets of U.S. intelligence since at least 2007. Just one year ago, the White House created a special intelligence mission to Venezuela that reported directly to the National Director of Intelligence, above the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies in the United States. A special mission was completely illegal, with great resources and capabilities. There were only two other missions that style: for Iran and North Korea. Venezuela include two enemy countries was held in Washington indicator of threat posed by Hugo Chavez to U.S. power.

  • Reddit, Mozilla And Others To Protest NSA Spying, Honor Aaron Swartz On ‘The Day We Fight Back’

    A coalition of Internet activist groups has announced a worldwide day of solidarity and activism opposing the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs and honoring the memory of open-Internet activist Aaron Swartz.

  • Brazilian hacker creates Twitter-like app shielded from NSA gaze
  • Debunking the “NSA Mass Surveillance Could Have Stopped 9/11″ Myth

    It’s something that we’re hearing a lot, both from NSA Director General Keith Alexander and others: the NSA’s mass surveillance programs could have stopped 9/11. It’s not true, and recently two people have published good essays debunking this claim.

  • Obama Would Have To Unveil ‘Black Budget’ For Spy Agencies Under New Bipartisan Bill
  • Dangerous Ruling In Virginia Allows Cleaning Company To Identify Anonymous Yelp Critics

    Last year, we wrote about a troubling case in Virginia, in which a cleaning company, Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, sued seven anonymous Yelp reviewers in an attempt to discover who they were. Hadeed did not dispute the contents of the negative reviews, but rather said that, comparing the information to their own database, they could not identify the reviewers, and thus believed that they might not actually have been customers. Thus, Hadeed claims, the reviews would be defamatory since they didn’t actually represent the experiences of actual customers. Yelp fought back on behalf of its users, pointing out that the First Amendment protects anonymous speech. Yelp pointed out that 11 different states had adopted the so-called Dendrite rules concerning the high bar necessary to force a company to reveal anonymous commenters. The basic idea is that you need to really show that the law has almost certainly been broken before you can identify the individuals.

  • Announcing Our New Freedom of the Press Foundation Board Member, Edward Snowden

    Edward Snowden said:

    It is tremendously humbling to be called to serve the cause of our free press. . . on FPF’s Board of Directors. The unconstitutional gathering of the communications records of everyone in America threatens our most basic rights, and the public should have a say in whether or not that continues. Thanks to the work of our free press, today we do, and if the NSA won’t answer to Congress, they’ll have to answer to the newspapers, and ultimately, the people.

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