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Gary Edwards

Meteor: The NeXT Web - 0 views

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    "Writing software is too hard and it takes too long. It's time for a new way to write software - especially application software, the user-facing software we use every day to talk to people and keep track of things. This new way should be radically simple. It should make it possible to build a prototype in a day or two, and a real production app in a few weeks. It should make everyday things easy, even when those everyday things involve hundreds of servers, millions of users, and integration with dozens of other systems. It should be built on collaboration, specialization, and division of labor, and it should be accessible to the maximum number of people. Today, there's a chance to create this new way - to build a new platform for cloud applications that will become as ubiquitous as previous platforms such as Unix, HTTP, and the relational database. It is not a small project. There are many big problems to tackle, such as: How do we transition the web from a "dumb terminal" model that is based on serving HTML, to a client/server model that is based on exchanging data? How do we design software to run in a radically distributed environment, where even everyday database apps are spread over multiple data centers and hundreds of intelligent client devices, and must integrate with other software at dozens of other organizations? How do we prepare for a world where most web APIs will be push-based (realtime), rather than polling-driven? In the face of escalating complexity, how can we simplify software engineering so that more people can do it? How will software developers collaborate and share components in this new world? Meteor is our audacious attempt to solve all of these big problems, at least for a certain large class of everyday applications. We think that success will come from hard work, respect for history and "classically beautiful" engineering patterns, and a philosophy of generally open and collaborative development. " .............. "It is not a
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    "How do we transition the web from a "dumb terminal" model that is based on serving HTML, to a client/server model that is based on exchanging data?" From a litigation aspect, the best bet I know of is antitrust litigation against the W3C and the WHATWG Working Group for implementing a non-interoperable specification. See e.g., Commission v. Microsoft, No. T-167/08, European Community Court of First Instance (Grand Chamber Judgment of 17 September, 2007), para. 230, 374, 421, http://preview.tinyurl.com/chsdb4w (rejecting Microsoft's argument that "interoperability" has a 1-way rather than 2-way meaning; information technology specifications must be disclosed with sufficient specificity to place competitors on an "equal footing" in regard to interoperability; "the 12th recital to Directive 91/250 defines interoperability as 'the ability to exchange information and mutually to use the information which has been exchanged'"). Note that the Microsoft case was prosecuted on the E.U.'s "abuse of market power" law that corresponds to the U.S. Sherman Act § 2 (monopolies). But undoubtedly the E.U. courts would apply the same standard to "agreements among undertakings" in restraint of trade, counterpart to the Sherman Act's § 1 (conspiracies in restraint of trade), the branch that applies to development of voluntary standards by competitors. But better to innovate and obsolete HTML, I think. DG Competition and the DoJ won't prosecute such cases soon. For example, Obama ran for office promising to "reinvigorate antitrust enforcement" but his DoJ has yet to file its first antitrust case against a big company. Nb., virtually the same definition of interoperability announced by the Court of First Instance is provided by ISO/IEC JTC-1 Directives, annex I ("eye"), which is applicable to all international standards in the IT sector: "... interoperability is understood to be the ability of two or more IT systems to exchange information at one or more standardised interfaces
Paul Merrell

US websites should inform EU citizens about NSA surveillance, says report - 0 views

  • All existing data sharing agreements between Europe and the US should be revoked, and US web site providers should prominently inform European citizens that their data may be subject to government surveillance, according to the recommendations of a briefing report for the European Parliament. The report was produced in response to revelations about the US National Security Agency (NSA) snooping on internet traffic, and aims to highlight the subsequent effect on European Union (EU) citizens' rights.
  • The report warns that EU data protection authorities have failed to understand the “structural shift of data sovereignty implied by cloud computing”, and the associated risks to the rights of EU citizens. It suggests “a full industrial policy for development of an autonomous European cloud computing capacity” should be set up to reduce exposure of EU data to NSA surveillance that is undertaken by the use of US legislation that forces US-based cloud providers to provide access to data they hold.
  • To put pressure on the US government, the report recommends that US websites should ask EU citizens for their consent before gathering data that could be used by the NSA. “Prominent notices should be displayed by every US web site offering services in the EU to inform consent to collect data from EU citizens. The users should be made aware that the data may be subject to surveillance by the US government for any purpose which furthers US foreign policy,” it said. “A consent requirement will raise EU citizen awareness and favour growth of services solely within EU jurisdiction. This will thus have economic impact on US business and increase pressure on the US government to reach a settlement.”
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  • Other recommendations include the EU offering protection and rewards for whistleblowers, including “strong guarantees of immunity and asylum”. Such a move would be seen as a direct response to the plight of Edward Snowden, the former NSA analyst who leaked documents that revealed the extent of the NSA’s global internet surveillance programmes. The report also says that, “Encryption is futile to defend against NSA accessing data processed by US clouds,” and that there is “no technical solution to the problem”. It calls for the EU to press for changes to US law.
  • “It seems that the only solution which can be trusted to resolve the Prism affair must involve changes to the law of the US, and this should be the strategic objective of the EU,” it said. The report was produced for the European Parliament committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, and comes before the latest hearing of an inquiry into electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens, due to take place in Brussels on 24 September.
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    Yee-haw! E.U. sanctuary and rewards for NSA whistle-blowers. Mandatory warnings for customers of U.S. cloud services that their data may be turned over to the NSA. Pouring more gasoline on the NSA diplomatic fire. 
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Digital Content Online Should Be Free, Children Say | TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " Andy on June 20, 2014 C: 67 Breaking A new survey of young children and adults has found consensus on what should be charged for content online. In both groups, 49% said that people should be able to download content they want for free, with a quarter of 16-24 year olds stating that file-sharing was the only way they could afford to obtain it."
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    " Andy on June 20, 2014 C: 67 Breaking A new survey of young children and adults has found consensus on what should be charged for content online. In both groups, 49% said that people should be able to download content they want for free, with a quarter of 16-24 year olds stating that file-sharing was the only way they could afford to obtain it."
Paul Merrell

Edward Snowden Explains How To Reclaim Your Privacy - 0 views

  • Micah Lee: What are some operational security practices you think everyone should adopt? Just useful stuff for average people. Edward Snowden: [Opsec] is important even if you’re not worried about the NSA. Because when you think about who the victims of surveillance are, on a day-to-day basis, you’re thinking about people who are in abusive spousal relationships, you’re thinking about people who are concerned about stalkers, you’re thinking about children who are concerned about their parents overhearing things. It’s to reclaim a level of privacy. The first step that anyone could take is to encrypt their phone calls and their text messages. You can do that through the smartphone app Signal, by Open Whisper Systems. It’s free, and you can just download it immediately. And anybody you’re talking to now, their communications, if it’s intercepted, can’t be read by adversaries. [Signal is available for iOS and Android, and, unlike a lot of security tools, is very easy to use.] You should encrypt your hard disk, so that if your computer is stolen the information isn’t obtainable to an adversary — pictures, where you live, where you work, where your kids are, where you go to school. [I’ve written a guide to encrypting your disk on Windows, Mac, and Linux.] Use a password manager. One of the main things that gets people’s private information exposed, not necessarily to the most powerful adversaries, but to the most common ones, are data dumps. Your credentials may be revealed because some service you stopped using in 2007 gets hacked, and your password that you were using for that one site also works for your Gmail account. A password manager allows you to create unique passwords for every site that are unbreakable, but you don’t have the burden of memorizing them. [The password manager KeePassX is free, open source, cross-platform, and never stores anything in the cloud.]
  • The other thing there is two-factor authentication. The value of this is if someone does steal your password, or it’s left or exposed somewhere … [two-factor authentication] allows the provider to send you a secondary means of authentication — a text message or something like that. [If you enable two-factor authentication, an attacker needs both your password as the first factor and a physical device, like your phone, as your second factor, to login to your account. Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, GitHub, Battle.net, and tons of other services all support two-factor authentication.]
  • We should armor ourselves using systems we can rely on every day. This doesn’t need to be an extraordinary lifestyle change. It doesn’t have to be something that is disruptive. It should be invisible, it should be atmospheric, it should be something that happens painlessly, effortlessly. This is why I like apps like Signal, because they’re low friction. It doesn’t require you to re-order your life. It doesn’t require you to change your method of communications. You can use it right now to talk to your friends.
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  • Lee: What do you think about Tor? Do you think that everyone should be familiar with it, or do you think that it’s only a use-it-if-you-need-it thing? Snowden: I think Tor is the most important privacy-enhancing technology project being used today. I use Tor personally all the time. We know it works from at least one anecdotal case that’s fairly familiar to most people at this point. That’s not to say that Tor is bulletproof. What Tor does is it provides a measure of security and allows you to disassociate your physical location. … But the basic idea, the concept of Tor that is so valuable, is that it’s run by volunteers. Anyone can create a new node on the network, whether it’s an entry node, a middle router, or an exit point, on the basis of their willingness to accept some risk. The voluntary nature of this network means that it is survivable, it’s resistant, it’s flexible. [Tor Browser is a great way to selectively use Tor to look something up and not leave a trace that you did it. It can also help bypass censorship when you’re on a network where certain sites are blocked. If you want to get more involved, you can volunteer to run your own Tor node, as I do, and support the diversity of the Tor network.]
  • Lee: So that is all stuff that everybody should be doing. What about people who have exceptional threat models, like future intelligence-community whistleblowers, and other people who have nation-state adversaries? Maybe journalists, in some cases, or activists, or people like that? Snowden: So the first answer is that you can’t learn this from a single article. The needs of every individual in a high-risk environment are different. And the capabilities of the adversary are constantly improving. The tooling changes as well. What really matters is to be conscious of the principles of compromise. How can the adversary, in general, gain access to information that is sensitive to you? What kinds of things do you need to protect? Because of course you don’t need to hide everything from the adversary. You don’t need to live a paranoid life, off the grid, in hiding, in the woods in Montana. What we do need to protect are the facts of our activities, our beliefs, and our lives that could be used against us in manners that are contrary to our interests. So when we think about this for whistleblowers, for example, if you witnessed some kind of wrongdoing and you need to reveal this information, and you believe there are people that want to interfere with that, you need to think about how to compartmentalize that.
  • Tell no one who doesn’t need to know. [Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s girlfriend of several years, didn’t know that he had been collecting documents to leak to journalists until she heard about it on the news, like everyone else.] When we talk about whistleblowers and what to do, you want to think about tools for protecting your identity, protecting the existence of the relationship from any type of conventional communication system. You want to use something like SecureDrop, over the Tor network, so there is no connection between the computer that you are using at the time — preferably with a non-persistent operating system like Tails, so you’ve left no forensic trace on the machine you’re using, which hopefully is a disposable machine that you can get rid of afterward, that can’t be found in a raid, that can’t be analyzed or anything like that — so that the only outcome of your operational activities are the stories reported by the journalists. [SecureDrop is a whistleblower submission system. Here is a guide to using The Intercept’s SecureDrop server as safely as possible.]
  • And this is to be sure that whoever has been engaging in this wrongdoing cannot distract from the controversy by pointing to your physical identity. Instead they have to deal with the facts of the controversy rather than the actors that are involved in it. Lee: What about for people who are, like, in a repressive regime and are trying to … Snowden: Use Tor. Lee: Use Tor? Snowden: If you’re not using Tor you’re doing it wrong. Now, there is a counterpoint here where the use of privacy-enhancing technologies in certain areas can actually single you out for additional surveillance through the exercise of repressive measures. This is why it’s so critical for developers who are working on security-enhancing tools to not make their protocols stand out.
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    Lots more in the interview that I didn't highlight. This is a must-read.
Gary Edwards

Clouds Should Be Open, Not Proprietary - 0 views

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    The nine essential considerations of cloud computing. This may be the best article yet written about cloud computing. A must read! ,,, ""What sort of cloud computer(s) should we be building or expecting from vendors? Are there issues of lock-in that should concern customers of either SaaS clouds or PaaS clouds? I've been thinking about this problem as the CEO of a PaaS cloud computing company for some time. Clouds should be open. They shouldn't be proprietary. More broadly, I believe no vendor currently does everything that's required to serve customers well."
Paul Merrell

Cy Vance's Proposal to Backdoor Encrypted Devices Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities | Jus... - 0 views

  • Less than a week after the attacks in Paris — while the public and policymakers were still reeling, and the investigation had barely gotten off the ground — Cy Vance, Manhattan’s District Attorney, released a policy paper calling for legislation requiring companies to provide the government with backdoor access to their smartphones and other mobile devices. This is the first concrete proposal of this type since September 2014, when FBI Director James Comey reignited the “Crypto Wars” in response to Apple’s and Google’s decisions to use default encryption on their smartphones. Though Comey seized on Apple’s and Google’s decisions to encrypt their devices by default, his concerns are primarily related to end-to-end encryption, which protects communications that are in transit. Vance’s proposal, on the other hand, is only concerned with device encryption, which protects data stored on phones. It is still unclear whether encryption played any role in the Paris attacks, though we do know that the attackers were using unencrypted SMS text messages on the night of the attack, and that some of them were even known to intelligence agencies and had previously been under surveillance. But regardless of whether encryption was used at some point during the planning of the attacks, as I lay out below, prohibiting companies from selling encrypted devices would not prevent criminals or terrorists from being able to access unbreakable encryption. Vance’s primary complaint is that Apple’s and Google’s decisions to provide their customers with more secure devices through encryption interferes with criminal investigations. He claims encryption prevents law enforcement from accessing stored data like iMessages, photos and videos, Internet search histories, and third party app data. He makes several arguments to justify his proposal to build backdoors into encrypted smartphones, but none of them hold water.
  • Before addressing the major privacy, security, and implementation concerns that his proposal raises, it is worth noting that while an increase in use of fully encrypted devices could interfere with some law enforcement investigations, it will help prevent far more crimes — especially smartphone theft, and the consequent potential for identity theft. According to Consumer Reports, in 2014 there were more than two million victims of smartphone theft, and nearly two-thirds of all smartphone users either took no steps to secure their phones or their data or failed to implement passcode access for their phones. Default encryption could reduce instances of theft because perpetrators would no longer be able to break into the phone to steal the data.
  • Vance argues that creating a weakness in encryption to allow law enforcement to access data stored on devices does not raise serious concerns for security and privacy, since in order to exploit the vulnerability one would need access to the actual device. He considers this an acceptable risk, claiming it would not be the same as creating a widespread vulnerability in encryption protecting communications in transit (like emails), and that it would be cheap and easy for companies to implement. But Vance seems to be underestimating the risks involved with his plan. It is increasingly important that smartphones and other devices are protected by the strongest encryption possible. Our devices and the apps on them contain astonishing amounts of personal information, so much that an unprecedented level of harm could be caused if a smartphone or device with an exploitable vulnerability is stolen, not least in the forms of identity fraud and credit card theft. We bank on our phones, and have access to credit card payments with services like Apple Pay. Our contact lists are stored on our phones, including phone numbers, emails, social media accounts, and addresses. Passwords are often stored on people’s phones. And phones and apps are often full of personal details about their lives, from food diaries to logs of favorite places to personal photographs. Symantec conducted a study, where the company spread 50 “lost” phones in public to see what people who picked up the phones would do with them. The company found that 95 percent of those people tried to access the phone, and while nearly 90 percent tried to access private information stored on the phone or in other private accounts such as banking services and email, only 50 percent attempted contacting the owner.
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  • Vance attempts to downplay this serious risk by asserting that anyone can use the “Find My Phone” or Android Device Manager services that allow owners to delete the data on their phones if stolen. However, this does not stand up to scrutiny. These services are effective only when an owner realizes their phone is missing and can take swift action on another computer or device. This delay ensures some period of vulnerability. Encryption, on the other hand, protects everyone immediately and always. Additionally, Vance argues that it is safer to build backdoors into encrypted devices than it is to do so for encrypted communications in transit. It is true that there is a difference in the threats posed by the two types of encryption backdoors that are being debated. However, some manner of widespread vulnerability will inevitably result from a backdoor to encrypted devices. Indeed, the NSA and GCHQ reportedly hacked into a database to obtain cell phone SIM card encryption keys in order defeat the security protecting users’ communications and activities and to conduct surveillance. Clearly, the reality is that the threat of such a breach, whether from a hacker or a nation state actor, is very real. Even if companies go the extra mile and create a different means of access for every phone, such as a separate access key for each phone, significant vulnerabilities will be created. It would still be possible for a malicious actor to gain access to the database containing those keys, which would enable them to defeat the encryption on any smartphone they took possession of. Additionally, the cost of implementation and maintenance of such a complex system could be high.
  • Privacy is another concern that Vance dismisses too easily. Despite Vance’s arguments otherwise, building backdoors into device encryption undermines privacy. Our government does not impose a similar requirement in any other context. Police can enter homes with warrants, but there is no requirement that people record their conversations and interactions just in case they someday become useful in an investigation. The conversations that we once had through disposable letters and in-person conversations now happen over the Internet and on phones. Just because the medium has changed does not mean our right to privacy has.
  • In addition to his weak reasoning for why it would be feasible to create backdoors to encrypted devices without creating undue security risks or harming privacy, Vance makes several flawed policy-based arguments in favor of his proposal. He argues that criminals benefit from devices that are protected by strong encryption. That may be true, but strong encryption is also a critical tool used by billions of average people around the world every day to protect their transactions, communications, and private information. Lawyers, doctors, and journalists rely on encryption to protect their clients, patients, and sources. Government officials, from the President to the directors of the NSA and FBI, and members of Congress, depend on strong encryption for cybersecurity and data security. There are far more innocent Americans who benefit from strong encryption than there are criminals who exploit it. Encryption is also essential to our economy. Device manufacturers could suffer major economic losses if they are prohibited from competing with foreign manufacturers who offer more secure devices. Encryption also protects major companies from corporate and nation-state espionage. As more daily business activities are done on smartphones and other devices, they may now hold highly proprietary or sensitive information. Those devices could be targeted even more than they are now if all that has to be done to access that information is to steal an employee’s smartphone and exploit a vulnerability the manufacturer was required to create.
  • Vance also suggests that the US would be justified in creating such a requirement since other Western nations are contemplating requiring encryption backdoors as well. Regardless of whether other countries are debating similar proposals, we cannot afford a race to the bottom on cybersecurity. Heads of the intelligence community regularly warn that cybersecurity is the top threat to our national security. Strong encryption is our best defense against cyber threats, and following in the footsteps of other countries by weakening that critical tool would do incalculable harm. Furthermore, even if the US or other countries did implement such a proposal, criminals could gain access to devices with strong encryption through the black market. Thus, only innocent people would be negatively affected, and some of those innocent people might even become criminals simply by trying to protect their privacy by securing their data and devices. Finally, Vance argues that David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Opinion, supported the idea that court-ordered decryption doesn’t violate human rights, provided certain criteria are met, in his report on the topic. However, in the context of Vance’s proposal, this seems to conflate the concepts of court-ordered decryption and of government-mandated encryption backdoors. The Kaye report was unequivocal about the importance of encryption for free speech and human rights. The report concluded that:
  • States should promote strong encryption and anonymity. National laws should recognize that individuals are free to protect the privacy of their digital communications by using encryption technology and tools that allow anonymity online. … States should not restrict encryption and anonymity, which facilitate and often enable the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Blanket prohibitions fail to be necessary and proportionate. States should avoid all measures that weaken the security that individuals may enjoy online, such as backdoors, weak encryption standards and key escrows. Additionally, the group of intelligence experts that was hand-picked by the President to issue a report and recommendations on surveillance and technology, concluded that: [R]egarding encryption, the U.S. Government should: (1) fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards; (2) not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial software; and (3) increase the use of encryption and urge US companies to do so, in order to better protect data in transit, at rest, in the cloud, and in other storage.
  • The clear consensus among human rights experts and several high-ranking intelligence experts, including the former directors of the NSA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and DHS, is that mandating encryption backdoors is dangerous. Unaddressed Concerns: Preventing Encrypted Devices from Entering the US and the Slippery Slope In addition to the significant faults in Vance’s arguments in favor of his proposal, he fails to address the question of how such a restriction would be effectively implemented. There is no effective mechanism for preventing code from becoming available for download online, even if it is illegal. One critical issue the Vance proposal fails to address is how the government would prevent, or even identify, encrypted smartphones when individuals bring them into the United States. DHS would have to train customs agents to search the contents of every person’s phone in order to identify whether it is encrypted, and then confiscate the phones that are. Legal and policy considerations aside, this kind of policy is, at the very least, impractical. Preventing strong encryption from entering the US is not like preventing guns or drugs from entering the country — encrypted phones aren’t immediately obvious as is contraband. Millions of people use encrypted devices, and tens of millions more devices are shipped to and sold in the US each year.
  • Finally, there is a real concern that if Vance’s proposal were accepted, it would be the first step down a slippery slope. Right now, his proposal only calls for access to smartphones and devices running mobile operating systems. While this policy in and of itself would cover a number of commonplace devices, it may eventually be expanded to cover laptop and desktop computers, as well as communications in transit. The expansion of this kind of policy is even more worrisome when taking into account the speed at which technology evolves and becomes widely adopted. Ten years ago, the iPhone did not even exist. Who is to say what technology will be commonplace in 10 or 20 years that is not even around today. There is a very real question about how far law enforcement will go to gain access to information. Things that once seemed like merely science fiction, such as wearable technology and artificial intelligence that could be implanted in and work with the human nervous system, are now available. If and when there comes a time when our “smart phone” is not really a device at all, but is rather an implant, surely we would not grant law enforcement access to our minds.
  • Policymakers should dismiss Vance’s proposal to prohibit the use of strong encryption to protect our smartphones and devices in order to ensure law enforcement access. Undermining encryption, regardless of whether it is protecting data in transit or at rest, would take us down a dangerous and harmful path. Instead, law enforcement and the intelligence community should be working to alter their skills and tactics in a fast-evolving technological world so that they are not so dependent on information that will increasingly be protected by encryption.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Software Should Be Free: The FSF's first Annual Report - Free Software Foundation - wor... - 1 views

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    "by Georgia Young - Published on Aug 11, 2016 03:58 PM The Free Software Foundation has been fighting for user freedom for more than thirty years with your support. FY2015 Annual Report cover - Software should be free as in freedom Now we are publishing our first Annual Report, which covers the 2015 fiscal year of October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015. The report offers a look at the Foundation's activities, accomplishments, and financial picture. You will also read about the impact of our programs and FY2015's major events, including LibrePlanet and our thirtieth anniversary. A high resolution version is also available."
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    "by Georgia Young - Published on Aug 11, 2016 03:58 PM The Free Software Foundation has been fighting for user freedom for more than thirty years with your support. FY2015 Annual Report cover - Software should be free as in freedom Now we are publishing our first Annual Report, which covers the 2015 fiscal year of October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015. The report offers a look at the Foundation's activities, accomplishments, and financial picture. You will also read about the impact of our programs and FY2015's major events, including LibrePlanet and our thirtieth anniversary. A high resolution version is also available."
Paul Merrell

What to Do About Lawless Government Hacking and the Weakening of Digital Security | Ele... - 0 views

  • In our society, the rule of law sets limits on what government can and cannot do, no matter how important its goals. To give a simple example, even when chasing a fleeing murder suspect, the police have a duty not to endanger bystanders. The government should pay the same care to our safety in pursuing threats online, but right now we don’t have clear, enforceable rules for government activities like hacking and "digital sabotage." And this is no abstract question—these actions increasingly endanger everyone’s security
  • The problem became especially clear this year during the San Bernardino case, involving the FBI’s demand that Apple rewrite its iOS operating system to defeat security features on a locked iPhone. Ultimately the FBI exploited an existing vulnerability in iOS and accessed the contents of the phone with the help of an "outside party." Then, with no public process or discussion of the tradeoffs involved, the government refused to tell Apple about the flaw. Despite the obvious fact that the security of the computers and networks we all use is both collective and interwoven—other iPhones used by millions of innocent people presumably have the same vulnerability—the government chose to withhold information Apple could have used to improve the security of its phones. Other examples include intelligence activities like Stuxnet and Bullrun, and law enforcement investigations like the FBI’s mass use of malware against Tor users engaged in criminal behavior. These activities are often disproportionate to stopping legitimate threats, resulting in unpatched software for millions of innocent users, overbroad surveillance, and other collateral effects.  That’s why we’re working on a positive agenda to confront governmental threats to digital security. Put more directly, we’re calling on lawyers, advocates, technologists, and the public to demand a public discussion of whether, when, and how governments can be empowered to break into our computers, phones, and other devices; sabotage and subvert basic security protocols; and stockpile and exploit software flaws and vulnerabilities.  
  • Smart people in academia and elsewhere have been thinking and writing about these issues for years. But it’s time to take the next step and make clear, public rules that carry the force of law to ensure that the government weighs the tradeoffs and reaches the right decisions. This long post outlines some of the things that can be done. It frames the issue, then describes some of the key areas where EFF is already pursuing this agenda—in particular formalizing the rules for disclosing vulnerabilities and setting out narrow limits for the use of government malware. Finally it lays out where we think the debate should go from here.   
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    "In our society, the rule of law sets limits on what government can and cannot do, no matter how important its goals. "
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    It's not often that I disagree with EFF's positions, but on this one I do. The government should be prohibited from exploiting computer vulnerabilities and should be required to immediately report all vulnerabilities discovered to the relevant developers of hardware or software. It's been one long slippery slope since the Supreme Court first approved wiretapping in Olmstead v. United States, 277 US 438 (1928), https://goo.gl/NJevsr (.) Left undecided to this day is whether we have a right to whisper privately, a right that is undeniable. All communications intercept cases since Olmstead fly directly in the face of that right.
Gary Edwards

Joyeur: Cloud Nine: Specification for a Cloud Computer. A Call to Action. - 0 views

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    what is the cloud? What sort of cloud computer(s) should we be building or expecting from vendors? Are there issues of lock-in that should concern customers of either SaaS clouds or PaaS clouds? I've been thinking about this problem as the CEO of a PaaS cloud computing company for some time. Clouds should be open. They shouldn't be proprietary. More broadly, I believe no vendor currently does everything that's required to serve customers well. What's required for such a cloud? I think an ideal PaaS cloud would have the following nine features:
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    Most quality online stores. Know whether you are a trusted online retailer in the world. Whatever we can buy very good quality. and do not hesitate. Everything is very high quality. Including clothes, accessories, bags, cups. Highly recommended. This is one of the trusted online store in the world. View now www.retrostyler.com
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

#irespectmusic says 100 Years is Long Enough: The Danger of Pie-ism for All Creators - 0 views

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    [# ! Is not copyright to promote creation? so, it should we enough -for the 'creators' to hold the rights DURING Author's Life...? Everything beyond is a swindle...] Baiting the Pie Last year's hearings on music licensing at the House Judiciary Committee's IP Subcommittee revealed an old argument from broadcasters and a new twist on that argument adopted by webcasters. We already pay for music-you people go fight over that pie.
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    # ! copyright is not to promoe creation? so, it should we enough to hold the rightss DURING Author's Life? Everything beyond is a swindle... Baiting the Pie Last year's hearings on music licensing at the House Judiciary Committee's IP Subcommittee revealed an old argument from broadcasters and a new twist on that argument adopted by webcasters. We already pay for music-you people go fight over that pie.
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    [# ! Is not copyright to promote creation? so, it should we enough -for the 'creators' to hold the rights DURING Author's Life...? Everything beyond is a swindle...] Baiting the Pie Last year's hearings on music licensing at the House Judiciary Committee's IP Subcommittee revealed an old argument from broadcasters and a new twist on that argument adopted by webcasters. We already pay for music-you people go fight over that pie.
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    [# ! Is not copyright to promote creation? so, it should we enough -for the 'creators' to hold the rights DURING Author's Life...? Everything beyond is a swindle...] Baiting the Pie Last year's hearings on music licensing at the House Judiciary Committee's IP Subcommittee revealed an old argument from broadcasters and a new twist on that argument adopted by webcasters. We already pay for music-you people go fight over that pie.
Paul Merrell

BitTorrent Sync creates private, peer-to-peer Dropbox, no cloud required | Ars Technica - 6 views

  • BitTorrent today released folder syncing software that replicates files across multiple computers using the same peer-to-peer file sharing technology that powers BitTorrent clients. The free BitTorrent Sync application is labeled as being in the alpha stage, so it's not necessarily ready for prime-time, but it is publicly available for download and working as advertised on my home network. BitTorrent, Inc. (yes, there is a legitimate company behind BitTorrent) took to its blog to announce the move from a pre-alpha, private program to the publicly available alpha. Additions since the private alpha include one-way synchronization, one-time secrets for sharing files with a friend or colleague, and the ability to exclude specific files and directories.
  • BitTorrent Sync provides "unlimited, secure file-syncing," the company said. "You can use it for remote backup. Or, you can use it to transfer large folders of personal media between users and machines; editors and collaborators. It’s simple. It’s free. It’s the awesome power of P2P, applied to file-syncing." File transfers are encrypted, with private information never being stored on an external server or in the "cloud." "Since Sync is based on P2P and doesn’t require a pit-stop in the cloud, you can transfer files at the maximum speed supported by your network," BitTorrent said. "BitTorrent Sync is specifically designed to handle large files, so you can sync original, high quality, uncompressed files."
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    Direct P2P encrypted file syncing, no cloud intermediate, which should translate to far more secure exchange of files, with less opportunity for snooping by governments or others, than with cloud-based services. 
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    Hey Paul, is there an open source document management system that I could hook the BitTorrent Sync to?
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    More detail please. What do you want to do with the doc management system? Platform? Server-side or stand-alone? Industrial strength and highly configurable or lightweight and simple? What do you mean by "hook?" Not that I would be able to answer anyway. I really know very little about BitTorrent Sync. In fact, as far as I'd gone before your question was to look at the FAQ. It's linked from . But there's a link to a forum on the same page. Giving the first page a quick scan confirms that this really is alpha-state software. But that would probably be a better place to ask. (Just give them more specific information of what you'd like to do.) There are other projects out there working on getting around the surveillance problem. I2P is one that is a farther along than BitTorrent Sync and quite a bit more flexible. See . (But I haven't used it, so caveat emptor.)
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    There is a great list of PRISM Proof software at http://prism-break.org/. Includes a link to I2P. I want to replace gmail though, but would like another Web based system since I need multi device access. Of course, I need to replace my Google Apps / Google Docs system. That's why I asked about a PRISM Proof sync-share-store DMS. My guess is that there are many users similarly seeking a PRISM Proof platform of communications, content and collaborative computing systems. BusinessIndiser.com is crushed with articles about Google struggling to squirm out from under the NSA PRISM boot-on-the-back-of-their-neck situation. As if blaming the NSA makes up for the dragnet that they consented/allowed/conceded to cover their entire platform. Perhaps we should be watching Germany? There must be tons of startup operations underway, all seeking to replace Google, Amazon, FaceBook, Microsoft, Skype and so many others. It's a great day for Libertyware :)
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    Is the NSA involvement the "Kiss of Death"? Google seems to think so. I'm wondering what the impact would be if ZOHO were to announce a PRISM Proof productivity platform?
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    It is indeed. The E.U. has far more protective digital privacy rights than we do (none). If you're looking for a Dropbox replacement (you should be), for a cloud-based solution take a look at . Unlike Dropbox, all of the encryption/decryption happens on your local machine; Wuala never sees your files unencrypted. Dropbox folks have admitted that there's no technical barrier to them looking at your files. Their encrypt/decrypt operations are done in the cloud (if they actually bother) and they have the key. Which makes it more chilling that the PRISM docs Snowden link make reference to Dropbox being the next cloud service NSA plans to add to their collection. Wuala also is located (as are its servers) in Switzerland, which also has far stronger digital data privacy laws than the U.S. Plus the Swiss are well along the path to E.U. membership; they've ratified many of the E.U. treaties including the treaty on Human Rights, which as I recall is where the digital privacy sections are. I've begun to migrate from Dropbox to Wuala. It seems to be neck and neck with Dropbox on features and supported platforms, with the advantage of a far more secure approach and 5 GB free. But I'd also love to see more approaches akin to IP2 and Bittorrent Sync that provide the means to bypass the cloud. Don't depend on government to ensure digital privacy, route around the government voyeurs. Hmmm ... I wonder if the NSA has the computer capacity to handle millions of people switching to encrypted communication? :-) Thanks for the link to the software list.
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    Re: Google. I don't know if it's the 'kiss of death" but they're definitely going to take a hit, particularly outside the U.S. BTW, I'm remembering from a few years back when the ODF Foundation was still kicking. I did a fair bit of research on the bureaucratic forces in the E.U. that were pushing for the Open Document Exchange Formats. That grew out of a then-ongoing push to get all of the E.U. nations connected via a network that is not dependent on the Internet. It was fairly complete at the time down to the national level and was branching out to the local level and the plan from there was to push connections to business and then to Joe Sixpack and wife. Interop was key, hence ODEF. The E.U. might not be that far away from an ability to sever the digital connections with the U.S. Say a bunch of daisy-chained proxy anonymizers for communications with the U.S. Of course they'd have to block the UK from the network and treat it like it is the U.S. There's a formal signals intelligence service collaboration/integration dating back to WW 2, as I recall, among the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Don't remember its name. But it's the same group of nations that were collaborating on Echelon. So the E.U. wouldn't want to let the UK fox inside their new chicken coop. Ah, it's just a fantasy. The U.S. and the E.U. are too interdependent. I have no idea hard it would be for the Zoho folk to come up with desktop/side encryption/decryption. And I don't know whether their servers are located outside the reach of a U.S. court's search warrant. But I think Google is going to have to move in that direction fast if it wants to minimize the damage. Or get way out in front of the hounds chomping at the NSA's ankles and reduce the NSA to compost. OTOH, Google might be a government covert op. for all I know. :-) I'm really enjoying watching the NSA show. Who knows what facet of their Big Brother operation gets revealed next?
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    ZOHO is an Indian company with USA marketing offices. No idea where the server farm is located, but they were not on the NSA list. I've known Raju Vegesna for years, mostly from the old Web 2.0 and Office 2.0 Conferences. Raju runs the USA offices in Santa Clara. I'll try to catch up with him on Thursday. How he could miss this once in a lifetime moment to clean out Google, Microsoft and SalesForce.com is something I'd like to find out about. Thanks for the Wuala tip. You sent me that years ago, when i was working on research and design for the SurDocs project. Incredible that all our notes, research, designs and correspondence was left to rot in Google Wave! Too too funny. I recall telling Alex from SurDocs that he had to use a USA host, like Amazon, that could be trusted by USA customers to keep their docs safe and secure. Now look what i've done! I've tossed his entire company information set into the laps of the NSA and their cabal of connected corporatists :)
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Outernet Product Test Location - 0 views

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    [https://www.outernet.is/] "Please tell us where you think Outernet should be switched on first. Remember, Outernet plans to eventually make service available everywhere and always for free. In addition to thinking about what might be a preference for your own local Outernet service, also consider the need to make Outernet as effective as possible from the outset. Think about the greatest impact Outernet could have in radical change as well as how many hypotheses about Outernet could be tested and what aspects of information freedom can be altered. The product test will take place over Ku band and come online in late summer 2014."
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    [https://www.outernet.is/] "Please tell us where you think Outernet should be switched on first. Remember, Outernet plans to eventually make service available everywhere and always for free. In addition to thinking about what might be a preference for your own local Outernet service, also consider the need to make Outernet as effective as possible from the outset. Think about the greatest impact Outernet could have in radical change as well as how many hypotheses about Outernet could be tested and what aspects of information freedom can be altered. The product test will take place over Ku band and come online in late summer 2014."
Paul Merrell

FCC 'very much' eyeing Web rules shakeup | TheHill - 0 views

  • The head of the Federal Communications Commission was quick to reassure lawmakers on Wednesday that his agency is seriously considering using the authority it has to regulate phone lines on Internet service providers.“Title II is very much on the table,” Chairman Tom Wheeler said during a House Small Business Committee hearing on Wednesday, referring to the section of the Communications Act that some have urged the agency to turn to for stronger rules.“I will assure you that Title II is very much a topic of conversation and on the table and something that’s we’ve specially asked for comment on,” he added.In its controversial proposal on net neutrality — the notion that Internet service companies like Comcast or Cox should be banned from slowing or block access to some websites — the agency specifically asked whether it should reclassify broadband Internet as a “telecommunications service” and open them up to Title II rules, instead of an “information service.”
  • The plan Wheeler proposed earlier this year would not rely on that authority, but would instead allow for companies to make “commercially reasonable” deals to speed up users’ service on a particular website. Critics have said that would lead to “fast lanes” on the Internet, with quicker speeds for wealthy companies and slower service everywhere else.Supporters of strong rules have told the FCC that the stronger legal backing is the best way to prevent companies from slowing users’ service or blocking their access to particular websites.Critics, however, have said that the rules were designed for telephone monopolies and would lead to utility-style regulation on the Internet. In their comments to the FCC, cable companies have said that reclassifying broadband service to use the tough rules would likely be a violation of the law, which could tie the new rules up in court for years to come.
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    Of course Comcast, et ilk don't want Title II regulation. "Hey, just because we've divvied up the turf so that we've got geographical monopolies doesn't mean we shouldn't be able to leverage our monopolies into new monopolies." But the big cable companies got where they are by buying up community-granted and regulated monopoly utility companies. As part of consolidating those markets, the soon-to-be-gnormous cable companies, lobbied to get community regulation weakened and here we are with the FCC, with the cable companies now acting as ISPs too, which is straightforward telecommunications provider service, and these guys want to be able to charge a premium to the big internet content companies for fast-service after their ISP customers have already paid for fast service? So they can slow down the competition for their own content services.  Heck, yes, FCC. No one forced Comcast and crew to become telecommunications providers. Make 'em live with telecommunications regulation like all the other telcos. They are government-created monopolies and they should be regulated as such.   
Gary Edwards

» 21 Facts About NSA Snooping That Every American Should Know Alex Jones' Inf... - 0 views

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    NSA-PRISM-Echelon in a nutshell.  The list below is a short sample.  Each fact is documented, and well worth the time reading. "The following are 21 facts about NSA snooping that every American should know…" #1 According to CNET, the NSA told Congress during a recent classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls… #2 According to U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez, members of Congress learned "significantly more than what is out in the media today" about NSA snooping during that classified briefing. #3 The content of all of our phone calls is being recorded and stored.  The following is a from a transcript of an exchange between Erin Burnett of CNN and former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente which took place just last month… #4 The chief technology officer at the CIA, Gus Hunt, made the following statement back in March… "We fundamentally try to collect everything and hang onto it forever." #5 During a Senate Judiciary Oversight Committee hearing in March 2011, FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted that the intelligence community has the ability to access emails "as they come in"… #6 Back in 2007, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell told Congress that the president has the "constitutional authority" to authorize domestic spying without warrants no matter when the law says. #7 The Director Of National Intelligence James Clapper recently told Congress that the NSA was not collecting any information about American citizens.  When the media confronted him about his lie, he explained that he "responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner". #8 The Washington Post is reporting that the NSA has four primary data collection systems… MAINWAY, MARINA, METADATA, PRISM #9 The NSA knows pretty much everything that you are doing on the Internet.  The following is a short excerpt from a recent Yahoo article… #10 The NSA is suppose
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

The 9 Best Linux Distros (alphabetically) - Datamation - 0 views

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    "The best Linux distro for you may not be the best Linux distro for another user. Many Linux users are distro-hoppers, regularly moving from distribution to distribution. Some may be looking for the perfect distro, while others are simply curious about the latest Linux developments. Which distributions should distro-hoppers be looking at? While that depends what they are looking for, those looking for reliable distros for everyday use should be looking at. Here are the best Linux distros, in alphabetical order. "
Paul Merrell

Data Transfer Pact Between U.S. and Europe Is Ruled Invalid - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Europe’s highest court on Tuesday struck down an international agreement that allowed companies to move digital information like people’s web search histories and social media updates between the European Union and the United States. The decision left the international operations of companies like Google and Facebook in a sort of legal limbo even as their services continued working as usual.The ruling, by the European Court of Justice, said the so-called safe harbor agreement was flawed because it allowed American government authorities to gain routine access to Europeans’ online information. The court said leaks from Edward J. Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency, made it clear that American intelligence agencies had almost unfettered access to the data, infringing on Europeans’ rights to privacy. The court said data protection regulators in each of the European Union’s 28 countries should have oversight over how companies collect and use online information of their countries’ citizens. European countries have widely varying stances towards privacy.
  • Data protection advocates hailed the ruling. Industry executives and trade groups, though, said the decision left a huge amount of uncertainty for big companies, many of which rely on the easy flow of data for lucrative businesses like online advertising. They called on the European Commission to complete a new safe harbor agreement with the United States, a deal that has been negotiated for more than two years and could limit the fallout from the court’s decision.
  • Some European officials and many of the big technology companies, including Facebook and Microsoft, tried to play down the impact of the ruling. The companies kept their services running, saying that other agreements with the European Union should provide an adequate legal foundation.But those other agreements are now expected to be examined and questioned by some of Europe’s national privacy watchdogs. The potential inquiries could make it hard for companies to transfer Europeans’ information overseas under the current data arrangements. And the ruling appeared to leave smaller companies with fewer legal resources vulnerable to potential privacy violations.
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  • “We can’t assume that anything is now safe,” Brian Hengesbaugh, a privacy lawyer with Baker & McKenzie in Chicago who helped to negotiate the original safe harbor agreement. “The ruling is so sweepingly broad that any mechanism used to transfer data from Europe could be under threat.”At issue is the sort of personal data that people create when they post something on Facebook or other social media; when they do web searches on Google; or when they order products or buy movies from Amazon or Apple. Such data is hugely valuable to companies, which use it in a broad range of ways, including tailoring advertisements to individuals and promoting products or services based on users’ online activities.The data-transfer ruling does not apply solely to tech companies. It also affects any organization with international operations, such as when a company has employees in more than one region and needs to transfer payroll information or allow workers to manage their employee benefits online.
  • But it was unclear how bulletproof those treaties would be under the new ruling, which cannot be appealed and went into effect immediately. Europe’s privacy watchdogs, for example, remain divided over how to police American tech companies.France and Germany, where companies like Facebook and Google have huge numbers of users and have already been subject to other privacy rulings, are among the countries that have sought more aggressive protections for their citizens’ personal data. Britain and Ireland, among others, have been supportive of Safe Harbor, and many large American tech companies have set up overseas headquarters in Ireland.
  • “For those who are willing to take on big companies, this ruling will have empowered them to act,” said Ot van Daalen, a Dutch privacy lawyer at Project Moore, who has been a vocal advocate for stricter data protection rules. The safe harbor agreement has been in place since 2000, enabling American tech companies to compile data generated by their European clients in web searches, social media posts and other online activities.
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    Another take on it from EFF: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/10/europes-court-justice-nsa-surveilance Expected since the Court's Advocate General released an opinion last week, presaging today's opinion.  Very big bucks involved behind the scenes because removing U.S.-based internet companies from the scene in the E.U. would pave the way for growth of E.U.-based companies.  The way forward for the U.S. companies is even more dicey because of a case now pending in the U.S.  The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is about to decide a related case in which Microsoft was ordered by the lower court to produce email records stored on a server in Ireland. . Should the Second Circuit uphold the order and the Supreme Court deny review, then under the principles announced today by the Court in the E.U., no U.S.-based company could ever be allowed to have "possession, custody, or control" of the data of E.U. citizens. You can bet that the E.U. case will weigh heavily in the Second Circuit's deliberations.  The E.U. decision is by far and away the largest legal event yet flowing out of the Edward Snowden disclosures, tectonic in scale. Up to now, Congress has succeeded in confining all NSA reforms to apply only to U.S. citizens. But now the large U.S. internet companies, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Dropbox, etc., face the loss of all Europe as a market. Congress *will* be forced by their lobbying power to extend privacy protections to "non-U.S. persons."  Thank you again, Edward Snowden.
Paul Merrell

Google Desktop - Features - 0 views

  • You can also keep your Google Gadgets organized in your sidebar, a vertical bar on your desktop which basically functions as a control panel for your gadget. You can drag and drop any of your gadgets into or out of your sidebar, or move them up or down to arrange them in any order. The sidebar can be set to always stay on top of other screens, and we've re-designed it to blend better into your desktop.
  • With the Add Gadgets interface, finding new gadgets is fast and easy. Simply click on the "+" button at the top of your sidebar or select "Add gadgets" from the option menu to bring up this screen. From here, you can view gadgets by category by clicking on the titles on the left or search for specific gadgets by using the search box in the top right. Once you've found the gadget you want, just mouse over it and click the "Add" button.
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    Just noticed that Google is now bundling a "Google Gadgets Sidebar" with Google Desktop Search. I should have seen that one coming but didn't. It's a natural combination that should get Gadgets onto many desktops. Notably, now there is also an RSS feed for Gadgets, notifying users as new Gadgets are added to the very quickly growing collection of registered gadgets. It's an impressive blend of technology and market positioning, expanding from Google's core search market.
Paul Merrell

ExposeFacts - For Whistleblowers, Journalism and Democracy - 0 views

  • Launched by the Institute for Public Accuracy in June 2014, ExposeFacts.org represents a new approach for encouraging whistleblowers to disclose information that citizens need to make truly informed decisions in a democracy. From the outset, our message is clear: “Whistleblowers Welcome at ExposeFacts.org.” ExposeFacts aims to shed light on concealed activities that are relevant to human rights, corporate malfeasance, the environment, civil liberties and war. At a time when key provisions of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments are under assault, we are standing up for a free press, privacy, transparency and due process as we seek to reveal official information—whether governmental or corporate—that the public has a right to know. While no software can provide an ironclad guarantee of confidentiality, ExposeFacts—assisted by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and its “SecureDrop” whistleblower submission system—is utilizing the latest technology on behalf of anonymity for anyone submitting materials via the ExposeFacts.org website. As journalists we are committed to the goal of protecting the identity of every source who wishes to remain anonymous.
  • The seasoned editorial board of ExposeFacts will be assessing all the submitted material and, when deemed appropriate, will arrange for journalistic release of information. In exercising its judgment, the editorial board is able to call on the expertise of the ExposeFacts advisory board, which includes more than 40 journalists, whistleblowers, former U.S. government officials and others with wide-ranging expertise. We are proud that Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg was the first person to become a member of the ExposeFacts advisory board. The icon below links to a SecureDrop implementation for ExposeFacts overseen by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and is only accessible using the Tor browser. As the Freedom of the Press Foundation notes, no one can guarantee 100 percent security, but this provides a “significantly more secure environment for sources to get information than exists through normal digital channels, but there are always risks.” ExposeFacts follows all guidelines as recommended by Freedom of the Press Foundation, and whistleblowers should too; the SecureDrop onion URL should only be accessed with the Tor browser — and, for added security, be running the Tails operating system. Whistleblowers should not log-in to SecureDrop from a home or office Internet connection, but rather from public wifi, preferably one you do not frequent. Whistleblowers should keep to a minimum interacting with whistleblowing-related websites unless they are using such secure software.
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    A new resource site for whistle-blowers. somewhat in the tradition of Wikileaks, but designed for encrypted communications between whistleblowers and journalists.  This one has an impressive board of advisors that includes several names I know and tend to trust, among them former whistle-blowers Daniel Ellsberg, Ray McGovern, Thomas Drake, William Binney, and Ann Wright. Leaked records can only be dropped from a web browser running the Tor anonymizer software and uses the SecureDrop system originally developed by Aaron Schwartz. They strongly recommend using the Tails secure operating system that can be installed to a thumb drive and leaves no tracks on the host machine. https://tails.boum.org/index.en.html Curious, I downloaded Tails and installed it to a virtual machine. It's a heavily customized version of Debian. It has a very nice Gnome desktop and blocks any attempt to connect to an external network by means other than installed software that demands encrypted communications. For example, web sites can only be viewed via the Tor anonymizing proxy network. It does take longer for web pages to load because they are moving over a chain of proxies, but even so it's faster than pages loaded in the dial-up modem days, even for web pages that are loaded with graphics, javascript, and other cruft. E.g., about 2 seconds for New York Times pages. All cookies are treated by default as session cookies so disappear when you close the page or the browser. I love my Linux Mint desktop, but I am thinking hard about switching that box to Tails. I've been looking for methods to send a lot more encrypted stuff down the pipe for NSA to store. Tails looks to make that not only easy, but unavoidable. From what I've gathered so far, if you want to install more software on Tails, it takes about an hour to create a customized version and then update your Tails installation from a new ISO file. Tails has a wonderful odor of having been designed for secure computing. Current
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Apple on trial: Company execs say DRM was forced on them by record labels | Ars Technic... - 1 views

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.
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