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Paul Merrell

Most Agencies Falling Short on Mandate for Online Records - 1 views

  • Nearly 20 years after Congress passed the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA), only 40 percent of agencies have followed the law's instruction for systematic posting of records released through FOIA in their electronic reading rooms, according to a new FOIA Audit released today by the National Security Archive at www.nsarchive.org to mark Sunshine Week. The Archive team audited all federal agencies with Chief FOIA Officers as well as agency components that handle more than 500 FOIA requests a year — 165 federal offices in all — and found only 67 with online libraries populated with significant numbers of released FOIA documents and regularly updated.
  • Congress called on agencies to embrace disclosure and the digital era nearly two decades ago, with the passage of the 1996 "E-FOIA" amendments. The law mandated that agencies post key sets of records online, provide citizens with detailed guidance on making FOIA requests, and use new information technology to post online proactively records of significant public interest, including those already processed in response to FOIA requests and "likely to become the subject of subsequent requests." Congress believed then, and openness advocates know now, that this kind of proactive disclosure, publishing online the results of FOIA requests as well as agency records that might be requested in the future, is the only tenable solution to FOIA backlogs and delays. Thus the National Security Archive chose to focus on the e-reading rooms of agencies in its latest audit. Even though the majority of federal agencies have not yet embraced proactive disclosure of their FOIA releases, the Archive E-FOIA Audit did find that some real "E-Stars" exist within the federal government, serving as examples to lagging agencies that technology can be harnessed to create state-of-the art FOIA platforms. Unfortunately, our audit also found "E-Delinquents" whose abysmal web performance recalls the teletype era.
  • E-Delinquents include the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, which, despite being mandated to advise the President on technology policy, does not embrace 21st century practices by posting any frequently requested records online. Another E-Delinquent, the Drug Enforcement Administration, insults its website's viewers by claiming that it "does not maintain records appropriate for FOIA Library at this time."
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  • "The presumption of openness requires the presumption of posting," said Archive director Tom Blanton. "For the new generation, if it's not online, it does not exist." The National Security Archive has conducted fourteen FOIA Audits since 2002. Modeled after the California Sunshine Survey and subsequent state "FOI Audits," the Archive's FOIA Audits use open-government laws to test whether or not agencies are obeying those same laws. Recommendations from previous Archive FOIA Audits have led directly to laws and executive orders which have: set explicit customer service guidelines, mandated FOIA backlog reduction, assigned individualized FOIA tracking numbers, forced agencies to report the average number of days needed to process requests, and revealed the (often embarrassing) ages of the oldest pending FOIA requests. The surveys include:
  • The federal government has made some progress moving into the digital era. The National Security Archive's last E-FOIA Audit in 2007, " File Not Found," reported that only one in five federal agencies had put online all of the specific requirements mentioned in the E-FOIA amendments, such as guidance on making requests, contact information, and processing regulations. The new E-FOIA Audit finds the number of agencies that have checked those boxes is now much higher — 100 out of 165 — though many (66 in 165) have posted just the bare minimum, especially when posting FOIA responses. An additional 33 agencies even now do not post these types of records at all, clearly thwarting the law's intent.
  • The FOIAonline Members (Department of Commerce, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Labor Relations Authority, Merit Systems Protection Board, National Archives and Records Administration, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Department of the Navy, General Services Administration, Small Business Administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Federal Communications Commission) won their "E-Star" by making past requests and releases searchable via FOIAonline. FOIAonline also allows users to submit their FOIA requests digitally.
  • THE E-DELINQUENTS: WORST OVERALL AGENCIES In alphabetical order
  • Key Findings
  • Excuses Agencies Give for Poor E-Performance
  • Justice Department guidance undermines the statute. Currently, the FOIA stipulates that documents "likely to become the subject of subsequent requests" must be posted by agencies somewhere in their electronic reading rooms. The Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy defines these records as "frequently requested records… or those which have been released three or more times to FOIA requesters." Of course, it is time-consuming for agencies to develop a system that keeps track of how often a record has been released, which is in part why agencies rarely do so and are often in breach of the law. Troublingly, both the current House and Senate FOIA bills include language that codifies the instructions from the Department of Justice. The National Security Archive believes the addition of this "three or more times" language actually harms the intent of the Freedom of Information Act as it will give agencies an easy excuse ("not requested three times yet!") not to proactively post documents that agency FOIA offices have already spent time, money, and energy processing. We have formally suggested alternate language requiring that agencies generally post "all records, regardless of form or format that have been released in response to a FOIA request."
  • Disabilities Compliance. Despite the E-FOIA Act, many government agencies do not embrace the idea of posting their FOIA responses online. The most common reason agencies give is that it is difficult to post documents in a format that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, also referred to as being "508 compliant," and the 1998 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act that require federal agencies "to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities." E-Star agencies, however, have proven that 508 compliance is no barrier when the agency has a will to post. All documents posted on FOIAonline are 508 compliant, as are the documents posted by the Department of Defense and the Department of State. In fact, every document created electronically by the US government after 1998 should already be 508 compliant. Even old paper records that are scanned to be processed through FOIA can be made 508 compliant with just a few clicks in Adobe Acrobat, according to this Department of Homeland Security guide (essentially OCRing the text, and including information about where non-textual fields appear). Even if agencies are insistent it is too difficult to OCR older documents that were scanned from paper, they cannot use that excuse with digital records.
  • Privacy. Another commonly articulated concern about posting FOIA releases online is that doing so could inadvertently disclose private information from "first person" FOIA requests. This is a valid concern, and this subset of FOIA requests should not be posted online. (The Justice Department identified "first party" requester rights in 1989. Essentially agencies cannot use the b(6) privacy exemption to redact information if a person requests it for him or herself. An example of a "first person" FOIA would be a person's request for his own immigration file.) Cost and Waste of Resources. There is also a belief that there is little public interest in the majority of FOIA requests processed, and hence it is a waste of resources to post them. This thinking runs counter to the governing principle of the Freedom of Information Act: that government information belongs to US citizens, not US agencies. As such, the reason that a person requests information is immaterial as the agency processes the request; the "interest factor" of a document should also be immaterial when an agency is required to post it online. Some think that posting FOIA releases online is not cost effective. In fact, the opposite is true. It's not cost effective to spend tens (or hundreds) of person hours to search for, review, and redact FOIA requests only to mail it to the requester and have them slip it into their desk drawer and forget about it. That is a waste of resources. The released document should be posted online for any interested party to utilize. This will only become easier as FOIA processing systems evolve to automatically post the documents they track. The State Department earned its "E-Star" status demonstrating this very principle, and spent no new funds and did not hire contractors to build its Electronic Reading Room, instead it built a self-sustaining platform that will save the agency time and money going forward.
Paul Merrell

US judge slams surveillance requests as "repugnant to the Fourth Amendment" - World Soc... - 0 views

  • Federal Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola denied a US government request earlier this month for a search and seizure warrant, targeting electronic data stored on Apple Inc. property. Facciola’s order, issued on March 7, 2014, rejected what it described as only the latest in a series of “overbroad search and seizure requests,” and “unconstitutional warrant applications” submitted by the US government to the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Facciola referred to the virtually unlimited warrant request submitted by the Justice Department as “repugnant to the Fourth Amendment.” The surveillance request sought information in relation to a “kickback investigation” of a defense contractor, details about which remain secret. It is significant, however, that the surveillance request denied by Facciola relates to a criminal investigation, unrelated to terrorism. This demonstrates that the use by the Obama administration of blanket warrants enabling them to seize all information on a person's Internet accounts is not limited to terrorism, as is frequently claimed, but is part of a program of general mass illegal spying on the American people.
  • Facciola’s ruling states in no uncertain terms that the Obama administration has aggressively and repeatedly sought expansive, unconstitutional warrants, ignoring the court’s insistence for specific, narrowly targeted surveillance requests. “The government continues to submit overly broad warrants and makes no effort to balance the law enforcement interest against the obvious expectation of privacy email account holders have in their communications…The government continues to ask for all electronically stored information in email accounts, irrespective of the relevance to the investigation,” wrote Judge Facciola. As stated in the ruling, the surveillance requests submitted to the court by the US government sought the following comprehensive, virtually limitless list of information about the target: “All records or other information stored by an individual using each account, including address books, contact and buddy lists, pictures, and files… All records or other information regarding the identification of the accounts, to include full name, physical address, telephone numbers and other identifies, records of session times and durations, the date on which each account was created, the length of service, the types of service utilized, the Internet Protocol (IP) address used to register each account, log-in IP addresses associated with session times and dates, account status, alternative email addresses provided during registration, methods of connecting, log files, and means of payment (including any credit or bank account number).”
  • Responding to these all-encompassing warrant requests, Judge Facciola ruled that evidence of probable cause was necessary for each specific item sought by the government. “This Court is increasingly concerned about the government’s applications for search warrants for electronic data. In essence, its applications ask for the entire universe of information tied to a particular account, even if it has established probable cause only for certain information,” Facciola wrote. “It is the Court’s duty to reject any applications for search warrants where the standard of probable cause has not been met… To follow the dictates of the Fourth Amendment and to avoid issuing a general warrant, a court must be careful to ensure that probable cause exists to seize each item specified in the warrant application… Any search of an electronic source has the potential to unearth tens or hundreds of thousands of individual documents, pictures, movies, or other constitutionally protected content.” Facciola also noted in the ruling that the government never reported the length of time it would keep the data, or whether it planned to destroy the data at any point.
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  • Facciola’s ruling represents a reversal from a previous ruling, in which a Kansas judge allowed the government to conduct such unlimited searches of Yahoo accounts.
  • In testimony, De and his deputy Brad Wiegmann rejected the privacy board’s advice that the agency limit its data mining to specific targets approved by specific warrants. “If you have to go back to court every time you look at the information in your custody, you can imagine that would be quite burdensome,” said Wiegmann. De further said on the topic, “That information is at the government’s disposal to review in the first instance.” As these statements indicate, the intelligence establishment rejects any restrictions on their prerogative to spy on every aspect of citizens lives at will, even the entirely cosmetic regulations proposed by the Obama administration-appointed PCLOB.
Paul Merrell

Popular Security Software Came Under Relentless NSA and GCHQ Attacks - The Intercept - 0 views

  • The National Security Agency and its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, have worked to subvert anti-virus and other security software in order to track users and infiltrate networks, according to documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The spy agencies have reverse engineered software products, sometimes under questionable legal authority, and monitored web and email traffic in order to discreetly thwart anti-virus software and obtain intelligence from companies about security software and users of such software. One security software maker repeatedly singled out in the documents is Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, which has a holding registered in the U.K., claims more than 270,000 corporate clients, and says it protects more than 400 million people with its products. British spies aimed to thwart Kaspersky software in part through a technique known as software reverse engineering, or SRE, according to a top-secret warrant renewal request. The NSA has also studied Kaspersky Lab’s software for weaknesses, obtaining sensitive customer information by monitoring communications between the software and Kaspersky servers, according to a draft top-secret report. The U.S. spy agency also appears to have examined emails inbound to security software companies flagging new viruses and vulnerabilities.
  • The efforts to compromise security software were of particular importance because such software is relied upon to defend against an array of digital threats and is typically more trusted by the operating system than other applications, running with elevated privileges that allow more vectors for surveillance and attack. Spy agencies seem to be engaged in a digital game of cat and mouse with anti-virus software companies; the U.S. and U.K. have aggressively probed for weaknesses in software deployed by the companies, which have themselves exposed sophisticated state-sponsored malware.
  • The requested warrant, provided under Section 5 of the U.K.’s 1994 Intelligence Services Act, must be renewed by a government minister every six months. The document published today is a renewal request for a warrant valid from July 7, 2008 until January 7, 2009. The request seeks authorization for GCHQ activities that “involve modifying commercially available software to enable interception, decryption and other related tasks, or ‘reverse engineering’ software.”
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  • The NSA, like GCHQ, has studied Kaspersky Lab’s software for weaknesses. In 2008, an NSA research team discovered that Kaspersky software was transmitting sensitive user information back to the company’s servers, which could easily be intercepted and employed to track users, according to a draft of a top-secret report. The information was embedded in “User-Agent” strings included in the headers of Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, requests. Such headers are typically sent at the beginning of a web request to identify the type of software and computer issuing the request.
  • According to the draft report, NSA researchers found that the strings could be used to uniquely identify the computing devices belonging to Kaspersky customers. They determined that “Kaspersky User-Agent strings contain encoded versions of the Kaspersky serial numbers and that part of the User-Agent string can be used as a machine identifier.” They also noted that the “User-Agent” strings may contain “information about services contracted for or configurations.” Such data could be used to passively track a computer to determine if a target is running Kaspersky software and thus potentially susceptible to a particular attack without risking detection.
  • Another way the NSA targets foreign anti-virus companies appears to be to monitor their email traffic for reports of new vulnerabilities and malware. A 2010 presentation on “Project CAMBERDADA” shows the content of an email flagging a malware file, which was sent to various anti-virus companies by François Picard of the Montréal-based consulting and web hosting company NewRoma. The presentation of the email suggests that the NSA is reading such messages to discover new flaws in anti-virus software. Picard, contacted by The Intercept, was unaware his email had fallen into the hands of the NSA. He said that he regularly sends out notification of new viruses and malware to anti-virus companies, and that he likely sent the email in question to at least two dozen such outfits. He also said he never sends such notifications to government agencies. “It is strange the NSA would show an email like mine in a presentation,” he added.
  • The NSA presentation goes on to state that its signals intelligence yields about 10 new “potentially malicious files per day for malware triage.” This is a tiny fraction of the hostile software that is processed. Kaspersky says it detects 325,000 new malicious files every day, and an internal GCHQ document indicates that its own system “collect[s] around 100,000,000 malware events per day.” After obtaining the files, the NSA analysts “[c]heck Kaspersky AV to see if they continue to let any of these virus files through their Anti-Virus product.” The NSA’s Tailored Access Operations unit “can repurpose the malware,” presumably before the anti-virus software has been updated to defend against the threat.
  • The Project CAMBERDADA presentation lists 23 additional AV companies from all over the world under “More Targets!” Those companies include Check Point software, a pioneering maker of corporate firewalls based Israel, whose government is a U.S. ally. Notably omitted are the American anti-virus brands McAfee and Symantec and the British company Sophos.
  • As government spies have sought to evade anti-virus software, the anti-virus firms themselves have exposed malware created by government spies. Among them, Kaspersky appears to be the sharpest thorn in the side of government hackers. In the past few years, the company has proven to be a prolific hunter of state-sponsored malware, playing a role in the discovery and/or analysis of various pieces of malware reportedly linked to government hackers, including the superviruses Flame, which Kaspersky flagged in 2012; Gauss, also detected in 2012; Stuxnet, discovered by another company in 2010; and Regin, revealed by Symantec. In February, the Russian firm announced its biggest find yet: the “Equation Group,” an organization that has deployed espionage tools widely believed to have been created by the NSA and hidden on hard drives from leading brands, according to Kaspersky. In a report, the company called it “the most advanced threat actor we have seen” and “probably one of the most sophisticated cyber attack groups in the world.”
  • Hacks deployed by the Equation Group operated undetected for as long as 14 to 19 years, burrowing into the hard drive firmware of sensitive computer systems around the world, according to Kaspersky. Governments, militaries, technology companies, nuclear research centers, media outlets and financial institutions in 30 countries were among those reportedly infected. Kaspersky estimates that the Equation Group could have implants in tens of thousands of computers, but documents published last year by The Intercept suggest the NSA was scaling up their implant capabilities to potentially infect millions of computers with malware. Kaspersky’s adversarial relationship with Western intelligence services is sometimes framed in more sinister terms; the firm has been accused of working too closely with the Russian intelligence service FSB. That accusation is partly due to the company’s apparent success in uncovering NSA malware, and partly due to the fact that its founder, Eugene Kaspersky, was educated by a KGB-backed school in the 1980s before working for the Russian military.
  • Kaspersky has repeatedly denied the insinuations and accusations. In a recent blog post, responding to a Bloomberg article, he complained that his company was being subjected to “sensationalist … conspiracy theories,” sarcastically noting that “for some reason they forgot our reports” on an array of malware that trace back to Russian developers. He continued, “It’s very hard for a company with Russian roots to become successful in the U.S., European and other markets. Nobody trusts us — by default.”
  • Documents published with this article: Kaspersky User-Agent Strings — NSA Project CAMBERDADA — NSA NDIST — GCHQ’s Developing Cyber Defence Mission GCHQ Application for Renewal of Warrant GPW/1160 Software Reverse Engineering — GCHQ Reverse Engineering — GCHQ Wiki Malware Analysis & Reverse Engineering — ACNO Skill Levels — GCHQ
Paul Merrell

Net neutrality comment fraud will be investigated by government | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) will investigate the use of impersonation in public comments on the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality repeal. Congressional Democrats requested the investigation last month, and the GAO has granted the request. While the investigation request was spurred by widespread fraud in the FCC's net neutrality repeal docket, Democrats asked the GAO to also "examine whether this shady practice extends to other agency rulemaking processes." The GAO will do just that, having told Democrats in a letter that it will "review the extent and pervasiveness of fraud and the misuse of American identities during federal rulemaking processes."
  • The GAO provides independent, nonpartisan audits and investigations for Congress. The GAO previously agreed to investigate DDoS attacks that allegedly targeted the FCC comment system, also in response to a request by Democratic lawmakers. The Democrats charged that Chairman Ajit Pai's FCC did not provide enough evidence that the attacks actually happened, and they asked the GAO to find out what evidence the FCC used to make its determination. Democrats also asked the GAO to examine whether the FCC is prepared to prevent future attacks. The DDoS investigation should happen sooner than the new one on comment fraud because the GAO accepted that request in October.
  • The FCC's net neutrality repeal received more than 22 million comments, but millions were apparently submitted by bots and falsely attributed to real Americans (including some dead ones) who didn't actually submit comments. Various analyses confirmed the widespread spam and fraud; one analysis found that 98.5 percent of unique comments opposed the repeal plan.
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  • The FCC's comment system makes no attempt to verify submitters' identities, and allows bulk uploads so that groups collecting signatures for letters and petitions can get them on the docket easily. It was like that even before Pai took over as chair, but the fraud became far more pervasive in the proceeding that led to the repeal of net neutrality rules. Pai's FCC did not remove any fraudulent comments from the record. Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called for a delay in the net neutrality repeal vote because of the fraud, but the Republican majority pushed the vote through as scheduled last month. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating the comment fraud and says the FCC has stonewalled the investigation by refusing to provide evidence. Schneiderman is also leading a lawsuit to reverse the FCC's net neutrality repeal, and the comment fraud could play a role in the case. "We understand that the FCC's rulemaking process requires it to address all comments it receives, regardless of who submits them," Congressional Democrats said in their letter requesting a GAO investigation. "However, we do not believe any outside parties should be permitted to generate any comments to any federal governmental entity using information it knows to be false, such as the identities of those submitting the comments."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

28% of Piracy Takedown Requests Are "Questionable" - TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " Ernesto on March 31, 2016 C: 13 Breaking A new study published by researchers from Columbia University's American Assembly and Berkeley reveals that more than 28% of the takedown requests received by Google are "questionable." Nearly five percent of the takedown notices that were reviewed did not target the supposed infringing content, while another 24 percent raised other concerns, including fair use. "
Paul Merrell

The All Writs Act, Software Licenses, and Why Judges Should Ask More Questions | Just S... - 0 views

  • Pending before federal magistrate judge James Orenstein is the government’s request for an order obligating Apple, Inc. to unlock an iPhone and thereby assist prosecutors in decrypting data the government has seized and is authorized to search pursuant to a warrant. In an order questioning the government’s purported legal basis for this request, the All Writs Act of 1789 (AWA), Judge Orenstein asked Apple for a brief informing the court whether the request would be technically feasible and/or burdensome. After Apple filed, the court asked it to file a brief discussing whether the government had legal grounds under the AWA to compel Apple’s assistance. Apple filed that brief and the government filed a reply brief last week in the lead-up to a hearing this morning.
  • We’ve long been concerned about whether end users own software under the law. Software owners have rights of adaptation and first sale enshrined in copyright law. But software publishers have claimed that end users are merely licensees, and our rights under copyright law can be waived by mass-market end user license agreements, or EULAs. Over the years, Granick has argued that users should retain their rights even if mass-market licenses purport to take them away. The government’s brief takes advantage of Apple’s EULA for iOS to argue that Apple, the software publisher, is responsible for iPhones around the world. Apple’s EULA states that when you buy an iPhone, you’re not buying the iOS software it runs, you’re just licensing it from Apple. The government argues that having designed a passcode feature into a copy of software which it owns and licenses rather than sells, Apple can be compelled under the All Writs Act to bypass the passcode on a defendant’s iPhone pursuant to a search warrant and thereby access the software owned by Apple. Apple’s supplemental brief argues that in defining its users’ contractual rights vis-à-vis Apple with regard to Apple’s intellectual property, Apple in no way waived its own due process rights vis-à-vis the government with regard to users’ devices. Apple’s brief compares this argument to forcing a car manufacturer to “provide law enforcement with access to the vehicle or to alter its functionality at the government’s request” merely because the car contains licensed software. 
  • This is an interesting twist on the decades-long EULA versus users’ rights fight. As far as we know, this is the first time that the government has piggybacked on EULAs to try to compel software companies to provide assistance to law enforcement. Under the government’s interpretation of the All Writs Act, anyone who makes software could be dragooned into assisting the government in investigating users of the software. If the court adopts this view, it would give investigators immense power. The quotidian aspects of our lives increasingly involve software (from our cars to our TVs to our health to our home appliances), and most of that software is arguably licensed, not bought. Conscripting software makers to collect information on us would afford the government access to the most intimate information about us, on the strength of some words in some license agreements that people never read. (And no wonder: The iPhone’s EULA came to over 300 pages when the government filed it as an exhibit to its brief.)
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  • The government’s brief does not acknowledge the sweeping implications of its arguments. It tries to portray its requested unlocking order as narrow and modest, because it “would not require Apple to make any changes to its software or hardware, … [or] to introduce any new ability to access data on its phones. It would simply require Apple to use its existing capability to bypass the passcode on a passcode-locked iOS 7 phone[.]” But that undersells the implications of the legal argument the government is making: that anything a company already can do, it could be compelled to do under the All Writs Act in order to assist law enforcement. Were that the law, the blow to users’ trust in their encrypted devices, services, and products would be little different than if Apple and other companies were legally required to design backdoors into their encryption mechanisms (an idea the government just can’t seem to drop, its assurances in this brief notwithstanding). Entities around the world won’t buy security software if its makers cannot be trusted not to hand over their users’ secrets to the US government. That’s what makes the encryption in iOS 8 and later versions, which Apple has told the court it “would not have the technical ability” to bypass, so powerful — and so despised by the government: Because no matter how broadly the All Writs Act extends, no court can compel Apple to do the impossible.
Paul Merrell

ACLU Demands Secret Court Hand Over Crucial Rulings On Surveillance Law - 0 views

  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a motion to reveal the secret court opinions with “novel or significant interpretations” of surveillance law, in a renewed push for government transparency. The motion, filed Wednesday by the ACLU and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, asks the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, which rules on intelligence gathering activities in secret, to release 23 classified decisions it made between 9/11 and the passage of the USA Freedom Act in June 2015. As ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Patrick Toomey explains, the opinions are part of a “much larger collection of hidden rulings on all sorts of government surveillance activities that affect the privacy rights of Americans.” Among them is the court order that the government used to direct Yahoo to secretly scanits users’ emails for “a specific set of characters.” Toomey writes: These court rulings are essential for the public to understand how federal laws are being construed and implemented. They also show how constitutional protections for personal privacy and expressive activities are being enforced by the courts. In other words, access to these opinions is necessary for the public to properly oversee their government.
  • Although the USA Freedom Act requires the release of novel FISA court opinions on surveillance law, the government maintains that the rule does not apply retroactively—thereby protecting the panel from publishing many of its post-9/11 opinions, which helped create an “unprecedented buildup” of secret surveillance laws. Even after National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the scope of mass surveillance in 2013, sparking widespread outcry, dozens of rulings on spying operations remain hidden from the public eye, which stymies efforts to keep the government accountable, civil liberties advocates say. “These rulings are necessary to inform the public about the scope of the government’s surveillance powers today,” the ACLU’s motion states.
  • Toomey writes that the rulings helped influence a number of novel spying activities, including: The government’s use of malware, which it calls “Network Investigative Techniques” The government’s efforts to compel technology companies to weaken or circumvent their own encryption protocols The government’s efforts to compel technology companies to disclose their source code so that it can identify vulnerabilities The government’s use of “cybersignatures” to search through internet communications for evidence of computer intrusions The government’s use of stingray cell-phone tracking devices under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) The government’s warrantless surveillance of Americans under FISA Section 702—a controversial authority scheduled to expire in December 2017 The bulk collection of financial records by the CIA and FBI under Section 215 of the Patriot Act Without these rulings being made public, “it simply isn’t possible to understand the government’s claimed authority to conduct surveillance,” Toomey writes. As he told The Intercept on Wednesday, “The people of this country can’t hold the government accountable for its surveillance activities unless they know what our laws allow. These secret court opinions define the limits of the government’s spying powers. Their disclosure is essential for meaningful public oversight in our democracy.”
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

MPAA Ducks Censorship Battle With Google, Twitter and Facebook - TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " By Ernesto on August 18, 2015 C: 28 Breaking The MPAA has dropped its request for a preliminary injunction that would require search engines, ISPs and hosting companies to stop linking or offering services to MovieTube. The decision comes a few days after prominent tech firms including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Yahoo branded the request as a broad censorship attempt."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Director Wants His Film on The Pirate Bay, Pirates Deliver... | TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " Ernesto on July 24, 2014 C: 38 News A few days ago a Dutch movie director asked people to upload a copy of one of his older films onto The Pirate Bay. The filmmaker had become fed up with the fact that copyright issues made his work completely unavailable through legal channels. To his surprise, pirates were quick to deliver. suzyDutch movie director Martin Koolhoven sent out an unusual request on Twitter a few days ago. "
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    " Ernesto on July 24, 2014 C: 38 News A few days ago a Dutch movie director asked people to upload a copy of one of his older films onto The Pirate Bay. The filmmaker had become fed up with the fact that copyright issues made his work completely unavailable through legal channels. To his surprise, pirates were quick to deliver. suzyDutch movie director Martin Koolhoven sent out an unusual request on Twitter a few days ago. "
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    " Ernesto on July 24, 2014 C: 38 News A few days ago a Dutch movie director asked people to upload a copy of one of his older films onto The Pirate Bay. The filmmaker had become fed up with the fact that copyright issues made his work completely unavailable through legal channels. To his surprise, pirates were quick to deliver. suzyDutch movie director Martin Koolhoven sent out an unusual request on Twitter a few days ago. "
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Movie Studios Want to Copy Megaupload's Servers - TorrentFreak [# ! N ] - 0 views

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    "Hollywood's major movie studios are protesting a request from Megaupload's legal team to put their civil lawsuit on hold for another six months. The movie studios will only agree to the request if they can get copies of the Megaupload servers stored at Cogent, something the defunct cloud-hosting service fiercely objects to."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Google Is Now Under Attack by 'Robo DMCA' Takedown Requests - 0 views

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    "Google is now getting deluged by tens of millions of DMCA takedown requests a day. It's all part of a plan by major media companies to beat the search giant into submission. Will it work?"
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Appeals Court Tells Government It Must Extend Educational Institution FOIA Fee Price Br... - 0 views

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    "The perennial FOIA Reform Masquerade Ball is again under way, with legislators attempting to dodge blustery requests to "cut in" by administration officials and similarly-motivated federal agencies. The dance usually ends with Congressional committee chairmen yanking needles from records and booting everyone out of the dancehall. Meanwhile, limited headway is being made in another branch of the government, far from the muffled protests of overwhelming majorities who have been shouted down by parties of one. The DC Appeals Court has just ruled that the government must extend its FOIA fee discounts to students at educational institutions, rather than just to instructors and administration. "
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    "The perennial FOIA Reform Masquerade Ball is again under way, with legislators attempting to dodge blustery requests to "cut in" by administration officials and similarly-motivated federal agencies. The dance usually ends with Congressional committee chairmen yanking needles from records and booting everyone out of the dancehall. Meanwhile, limited headway is being made in another branch of the government, far from the muffled protests of overwhelming majorities who have been shouted down by parties of one. The DC Appeals Court has just ruled that the government must extend its FOIA fee discounts to students at educational institutions, rather than just to instructors and administration. "
Paul Merrell

Gmail blows up e-mail marketing by caching all images on Google servers | Ars Technica - 1 views

  • Ever wonder why most e-mail clients hide images by default? The reason for the "display images" button is because images in an e-mail must be loaded from a third-party server. For promotional e-mails and spam, usually this server is operated by the entity that sent the e-mail. So when you load these images, you aren't just receiving an image—you're also sending a ton of data about yourself to the e-mail marketer. Loading images from these promotional e-mails reveals a lot about you. Marketers get a rough idea of your location via your IP address. They can see the HTTP referrer, meaning the URL of the page that requested the image. With the referral data, marketers can see not only what client you are using (desktop app, Web, mobile, etc.) but also what folder you were viewing the e-mail in. For instance, if you had a Gmail folder named "Ars Technica" and loaded e-mail images, the referral URL would be "https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#label/Ars+Technica"—the folder is right there in the URL. The same goes for the inbox, spam, and any other location. It's even possible to uniquely identify each e-mail, so marketers can tell which e-mail address requested the images—they know that you've read the e-mail. And if it was spam, this will often earn you more spam since the spammers can tell you've read their last e-mail.
  • But Google has just announced a move that will shut most of these tactics down: it will cache all images for Gmail users. Embedded images will now be saved by Google, and the e-mail content will be modified to display those images from Google's cache, instead of from a third-party server. E-mail marketers will no longer be able to get any information from images—they will see a single request from Google, which will then be used to send the image out to all Gmail users. Unless you click on a link, marketers will have no idea the e-mail has been seen. While this means improved privacy from e-mail marketers, Google will now be digging deeper than ever into your e-mails and literally modifying the contents. If you were worried about e-mail scanning, this may take things a step further. However, if you don't like the idea of cached images, you can turn it off in the settings. This move will allow Google to automatically display images, killing the "display all images" button in Gmail. Google servers should also be faster than the usual third-party image host. Hosting all images sent to all Gmail users sounds like a huge bandwidth and storage undertaking, but if anyone can do it, it's Google. The new image handling will rollout to desktop users today, and it should hit mobile apps sometime in early 2014. There's also a bonus side effect for Google: e-mail marketing is advertising. Google exists because of advertising dollars, but they don't do e-mail marketing. They've just made a competitive form of advertising much less appealing and informative to advertisers. No doubt Google hopes this move pushes marketers to spend less on e-mail and more on Adsense.
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    There's an antitrust angle to this; it could be viewed by a court as anti-competitive. But given the prevailing winds on digital privacy, my guess would be that Google would slide by.
Paul Merrell

US pushing local cops to stay mum on surveillance - Yahoo News - 0 views

  • WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods, The Associated Press has learned. Citing security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment. Federal involvement in local open records proceedings is unusual. It comes at a time when President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance and called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified federal surveillance programs.
  • One well-known type of this surveillance equipment is known as a Stingray, an innovative way for law enforcement to track cellphones used by suspects and gather evidence. The equipment tricks cellphones into identifying some of their owners' account information, like a unique subscriber number, and transmitting data to police as if it were a phone company's tower. That allows police to obtain cellphone information without having to ask for help from service providers, such as Verizon or AT&T, and can locate a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message. But without more details about how the technology works and under what circumstances it's used, it's unclear whether the technology might violate a person's constitutional rights or whether it's a good investment of taxpayer dollars. Interviews, court records and public-records requests show the Obama administration is asking agencies to withhold common information about the equipment, such as how the technology is used and how to turn it on. That pushback has come in the form of FBI affidavits and consultation in local criminal cases.
  • "These extreme secrecy efforts are in relation to very controversial, local government surveillance practices using highly invasive technology," said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought for the release of these types of records. "If public participation means anything, people should have the facts about what the government is doing to them." Harris Corp., a key manufacturer of this equipment, built a secrecy element into its authorization agreement with the Federal Communications Commission in 2011. That authorization has an unusual requirement: that local law enforcement "coordinate with the FBI the acquisition and use of the equipment." Companies like Harris need FCC authorization in order to sell wireless equipment that could interfere with radio frequencies. A spokesman from Harris Corp. said the company will not discuss its products for the Defense Department and law enforcement agencies, although public filings showed government sales of communications systems such as the Stingray accounted for nearly one-third of its $5 billion in revenue. "As a government contractor, our solutions are regulated and their use is restricted," spokesman Jim Burke said.
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  • Local police agencies have been denying access to records about this surveillance equipment under state public records laws. Agencies in San Diego, Chicago and Oakland County, Michigan, for instance, declined to tell the AP what devices they purchased, how much they cost and with whom they shared information. San Diego police released a heavily censored purchasing document. Oakland officials said police-secrecy exemptions and attorney-client privilege keep their hands tied. It was unclear whether the Obama administration interfered in the AP requests. "It's troubling to think the FBI can just trump the state's open records law," said Ginger McCall, director of the open government project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. McCall suspects the surveillance would not pass constitutional muster. "The vast amount of information it sweeps in is totally irrelevant to the investigation," she said.
  • A court case challenging the public release of information from the Tucson Police Department includes an affidavit from an FBI special agent, Bradley Morrison, who said the disclosure would "result in the FBI's inability to protect the public from terrorism and other criminal activity because through public disclosures, this technology has been rendered essentially useless for future investigations." Morrison said revealing any information about the technology would violate a federal homeland security law about information-sharing and arms-control laws — legal arguments that that outside lawyers and transparency experts said are specious and don't comport with court cases on the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The FBI did not answer questions about its role in states' open records proceedings.
  • But a former Justice Department official said the federal government should be making this argument in federal court, not a state level where different public records laws apply. "The federal government appears to be attempting to assert a federal interest in the information being sought, but it's going about it the wrong way," said Dan Metcalfe, the former director of the Justice Department's office of information and privacy. Currently Metcalfe is the executive director of American University's law school Collaboration on Government Secrecy project. A criminal case in Tallahassee cites the same homeland security laws in Morrison's affidavit, court records show, and prosecutors told the court they consulted with the FBI to keep portions of a transcript sealed. That transcript, released earlier this month, revealed that Stingrays "force" cellphones to register their location and identifying information with the police device and enables officers to track calls whenever the phone is on.
  • One law enforcement official familiar with the Tucson lawsuit, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak about internal discussions, said federal lawyers told Tucson police they couldn't hand over a PowerPoint presentation made by local officers about how to operate the Stingray device. Federal officials forwarded Morrison's affidavit for use in the Tucson police department's reply to the lawsuit, rather than requesting the case be moved to federal court. In Sarasota, Florida, the U.S. Marshals Service confiscated local records on the use of the surveillance equipment, removing the documents from the reach of Florida's expansive open-records law after the ACLU asked under Florida law to see the documents. The ACLU has asked a judge to intervene. The Marshals Service said it deputized the officer as a federal agent and therefore the records weren't accessible under Florida law.
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    The Florida case is particularly interesting because Florida is within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has just ruled that law enforcement must obtain a search warrant from a court before using equipment to determine a cell phone's location.  
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

ISP Wants Court to Sanction Piracy Monitoring Firm | TorrentFreak - 1 views

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    " Ernesto on September 15, 2014 C: 11 Breaking After being challenged by Grande Communications, piracy monitoring outfit Rightscorp has withdrawn its request to identify the hundreds or thousands of customers who it earlier accused of piracy. The ISP is not letting Rightscorp walk away that easily though, and has asked the court for sanctions." [# ! #All vs @ll # ! … this is the only '#IP #Enforcement' is #getting: # ! To Establish a #Culture of #Clash. # ! It's this what '#They' really want…?]
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    " Ernesto on September 15, 2014 C: 11 Breaking After being challenged by Grande Communications, piracy monitoring outfit Rightscorp has withdrawn its request to identify the hundreds or thousands of customers who it earlier accused of piracy. The ISP is not letting Rightscorp walk away that easily though, and has asked the court for sanctions." [# all illegal...]
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

FCC refuses broadband industry demand to halt Title II classification | Ars Technica [#... - 0 views

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    "by Jon Brodkin - May 8, 2015 9:45 pm UTC [http://www.dailydot.com/politics/what-is-title-ii-net-neutrality-fcc/] Share Tweet 30 The Federal Communications Commission today denied the requests of five broadband industry trade groups that asked for an immediate halt to the reclassification of Internet service providers as common carriers subject to Title II regulation."
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    "by Jon Brodkin - May 8, 2015 9:45 pm UTC [http://www.dailydot.com/politics/what-is-title-ii-net-neutrality-fcc/] Share Tweet 30 The Federal Communications Commission today denied the requests of five broadband industry trade groups that asked for an immediate halt to the reclassification of Internet service providers as common carriers subject to Title II regulation."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Top 20 most popular Samsung Z1 Tizen Apps in April, 2015 - Tizen Experts [# ! CHK Tags...] - 0 views

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    "The Top 20 most popular Samsung Z1 apps to be downloaded from the Tizen store during April 2015 have been released. Many favourites are still there this month like WhatsApp, Opera Mini, McAfee AV, Trucaller and LockApps. Notable new ones are the highly requested MX Player and Speed Truck which made it to #3 position."
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    "The Top 20 most popular Samsung Z1 apps to be downloaded from the Tizen store during April 2015 have been released. Many favourites are still there this month like WhatsApp, Opera Mini, McAfee AV, Trucaller and LockApps. Notable new ones are the highly requested MX Player and Speed Truck which made it to #3 position."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

German Film Distributor Issues Takedown Request Falsely Targeting IMDb, Reddit And Tech... - 0 views

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    "And while it's rarely a concern for rights holders and content protection companies, they also owe it to the rest of the internet to do their best to avoid targeting legitimate URLs -- especially those that have absolutely nothing to do with the content being "protected" and are, as in the case of IMDb, sites that can actually increase sales. "
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Google Asked to Remove 18 'Pirate Links' Every Second - TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " Ernesto on August 2, 2015 C: 13 News Copyright holders continue to increase the number of copyright takedown requests they send to Google. As a result the company is currently asked to remove a record breaking 18 links to "pirate" pages from its search results every second, a number that is still increasing at a rapid pace."
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    " Ernesto on August 2, 2015 C: 13 News Copyright holders continue to increase the number of copyright takedown requests they send to Google. As a result the company is currently asked to remove a record breaking 18 links to "pirate" pages from its search results every second, a number that is still increasing at a rapid pace."
Paul Merrell

Obama lawyers asked secret court to ignore public court's decision on spying | US news ... - 0 views

  • The Obama administration has asked a secret surveillance court to ignore a federal court that found bulk surveillance illegal and to once again grant the National Security Agency the power to collect the phone records of millions of Americans for six months. The legal request, filed nearly four hours after Barack Obama vowed to sign a new law banning precisely the bulk collection he asks the secret court to approve, also suggests that the administration may not necessarily comply with any potential court order demanding that the collection stop.
  • But Carlin asked the Fisa court to set aside a landmark declaration by the second circuit court of appeals. Decided on 7 May, the appeals court ruled that the government had erroneously interpreted the Patriot Act’s authorization of data collection as “relevant” to an ongoing investigation to permit bulk collection. Carlin, in his filing, wrote that the Patriot Act provision remained “in effect” during the transition period. “This court may certainly consider ACLU v Clapper as part of its evaluation of the government’s application, but second circuit rulings do not constitute controlling precedent for this court,” Carlin wrote in the 2 June application. Instead, the government asked the court to rely on its own body of once-secret precedent stretching back to 2006, which Carlin called “the better interpretation of the statute”.
  • But the Fisa court must first decide whether the new bulk-surveillance request is lawful. On Friday, the conservative group FreedomWorks filed a rare motion before the Fisa court, asking it to reject the government’s surveillance request as a violation of the fourth amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. Fisa court judge Michael Moseman gave the justice department until this coming Friday to respond – and explicitly barred the government from arguing that FreedomWorks lacks the standing to petition the secret court.
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