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Paul Merrell

U.S. knocks plans for European communication network | Reuters - 0 views

  • The United States on Friday criticized proposals to build a European communication network to avoid emails and other data passing through the United States, warning that such rules could breach international trade laws. In its annual review of telecommunications trade barriers, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said impediments to cross-border data flows were a serious and growing concern.It was closely watching new laws in Turkey that led to the blocking of websites and restrictions on personal data, as well as calls in Europe for a local communications network following revelations last year about U.S. digital eavesdropping and surveillance."Recent proposals from countries within the European Union to create a Europe-only electronic network (dubbed a 'Schengen cloud' by advocates) or to create national-only electronic networks could potentially lead to effective exclusion or discrimination against foreign service suppliers that are directly offering network services, or dependent on them," the USTR said in the report.
  • Germany and France have been discussing ways to build a European network to keep data secure after the U.S. spying scandal. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone was reportedly monitored by American spies.The USTR said proposals by Germany's state-backed Deutsche Telekom to bypass the United States were "draconian" and likely aimed at giving European companies an advantage over their U.S. counterparts.Deutsche Telekom has suggested laws to stop data traveling within continental Europe being routed via Asia or the United States and scrapping the Safe Harbor agreement that allows U.S. companies with European-level privacy standards access to European data. (www.telekom.com/dataprotection)"Any mandatory intra-EU routing may raise questions with respect to compliance with the EU's trade obligations with respect to Internet-enabled services," the USTR said. "Accordingly, USTR will be carefully monitoring the development of any such proposals."
  • U.S. tech companies, the leaders in an e-commerce marketplace estimated to be worth up to $8 trillion a year, have urged the White House to undertake reforms to calm privacy concerns and fend off digital protectionism.
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    High comedy from the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The USTR's press release is here along with a link to its report. http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/press-releases/2014/March/USTR-Targets-Telecommunications-Trade-Barriers The USTR is upset because the E.U. is aiming to build a digital communications network that does not route internal digital traffic outside the E.U., to limit the NSA's ability to surveil Europeans' communications. Part of the plan is to build an E.U.-centric cloud that is not susceptible to U.S. court orders. This plan does not, of course, sit well with U.S.-based cloud service providers.  Where the comedy comes in is that the USTR is making threats to go to the World Trade organization to block the E.U. move under the authority of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). But that treaty provides, in article XIV, that:  "Subject to the requirement that such measures are not applied in a manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where like conditions prevail, or a disguised restriction on trade in services, nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to prevent the adoption or enforcement by any Member of measures: ... (c)      necessary to secure compliance with laws or regulations which are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Agreement including those relating to:   ... (ii)     the protection of the privacy of individuals in relation to the processing and dissemination of personal data and the protection of confidentiality of individual records and accounts[.]" http://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/26-gats_01_e.htm#articleXIV   The E.U., in its Treaty on Human Rights, has very strong privacy protections for digital communications. The USTR undoubtedly knows all this, and that the WTO Appellate Panel's judges are of the European mold, sticklers for protection of human rights and most likely do not appreciate being subjects o
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

OFE: 'Continued discrimination in IT procurement' | Joinup - 0 views

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    "Submitted by Gijs Hillenius on July 16, 2014 ( Cancel rating Poor Okay Good Great Awesome ) 5/5 | 1 votes | 63 reads | Public administrations across Europe continue to discriminate in their IT calls for tender by asking for specific brands and products, concludes OpenForum Europe, and organisation advocating for an open, competitive ICT market. "Thousands of small IT firms are excluded from competing in the public procurement process by restrictions such as the naming of trademarks in calls for tender", said Graham Taylor, OFE's CEO, in a press statement."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

GNU's Framework for Secure Peer-to-Peer Networking GNU's Framework for Secure Peer-to-Peer Networking | Philosophy | GNUnet - 0 views

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    "Philosophy The foremost goal of the GNUnet project is to become a widely used, reliable, open, non-discriminating, egalitarian, unfettered and censorship-resistant system of free information exchange. We value free speech above state secrets, law-enforcement or intellectual property. GNUnet is supposed to be an anarchistic network, where the only limitation for peers is that they must contribute enough back to the network such that their resource consumption does not have a significant impact on other users. GNUnet should be more than just another file-sharing network. The plan is to offer many other services and in particular to serve as a development platform for the next generation of decentralized Internet protocols."
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    "Philosophy The foremost goal of the GNUnet project is to become a widely used, reliable, open, non-discriminating, egalitarian, unfettered and censorship-resistant system of free information exchange. We value free speech above state secrets, law-enforcement or intellectual property. GNUnet is supposed to be an anarchistic network, where the only limitation for peers is that they must contribute enough back to the network such that their resource consumption does not have a significant impact on other users. GNUnet should be more than just another file-sharing network. The plan is to offer many other services and in particular to serve as a development platform for the next generation of decentralized Internet protocols."
Paul Merrell

The FCC is about to kill the free Internet | PandoDaily - 0 views

  • The Federal Communications Commission is poised to ruin the free Internet on a technicality. The group is expected to introduce new net neutrality laws that would allow companies to pay for better access to consumers through deals similar to the one struck by Netflix and Comcast earlier this year. The argument is that those deals don’t technically fall under the net neutrality umbrella, so these new rules won’t apply to them even though they directly affect the Internet. At least the commission is being upfront about its disinterest in protecting the free Internet.
  • The Verge notes that the proposed rules will offer some protections to consumers: The Federal Communication Commission’s proposal for new net neutrality rules will allow internet service providers to charge companies for preferential treatment, effectively undermining the concept of net neutrality, according to The Wall Street Journal. The rules will reportedly allow providers to charge for preferential treatment so long as they offer that treatment to all interested parties on “commercially reasonable” terms, with the FCC will deciding whether the terms are reasonable on a case-by-case basis. Providers will not be able to block individual websites, however. The goal of net neutrality rules is to prevent service providers from discriminating between different content, allowing all types of data and all companies’ data to be treated equally. While it appears that outright blocking of individual services won’t be allowed, the Journal reports that some forms of discrimination will be allowed, though that will apparently not include slowing down websites.
  • Re/code summarizes the discontent with these proposed rules: Consumer groups have complained about that plan because they’re worried that Wheeler’s rules may not hold up in court either. A federal appeals court rejected two previous versions of net neutrality rules after finding fault in the FCC’s legal reasoning. During the latest smackdown, however, the court suggested that the FCC had some authority to impose net neutrality rules under a section of the law that gives the agency the ability to regulate the deployment of broadband lines. Internet activists would prefer that the FCC just re-regulate Internet lines under old rules designed for telephone networks, which they say would give the agency clear authority to police Internet lines. Wheeler has rejected that approach for now. Phone and cable companies, including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, have vociferously fought that idea over the past few years.
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  • The Chicago Tribune reports on the process directing these rules: The five-member regulatory commission may vote as soon as May to formally propose the rules and collect public comment on them. Virtually all large Internet service providers, such as Verizon Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable Inc., have pledged to abide by the principles of open Internet reinforced by these rules. But critics have raised concerns that, without a formal rule, the voluntary pledges could be pulled back over time and also leave the door open for deals that would give unequal treatment to websites or services.
  • I wrote about the European Union’s attempts to defend the free Internet: The legislation is meant to provide access to online services ‘without discrimination, restriction or interference, independent of the sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application.’ For example, ISPs would be barred from slowing down or ‘throttling’ the speed at which one service’s videos are delivered while allowing other services to stream at normal rates. To bastardize Gertrude Stein: a byte is a byte is a byte. Such restrictions would prevent deals like the one Comcast recently made with Netflix, which will allow the service’s videos to reach consumers faster than before. Comcast is also said to be in talks with Apple for a deal that would allow videos from its new streaming video service to reach consumers faster than videos from competitors. The Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality laws don’t apply to those deals, according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, so they are allowed to continue despite the threat they pose to the free Internet.
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    Cute. Deliberately not using the authority the court of appeals said it could use to impose net neutrality. So Europe can have net neutrality but not in the U.S.
Paul Merrell

Joint - Dear Colleague Letter: Electronic Book Readers - 0 views

  • U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights
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    June 29, 2010 Dear College or University President: We write to express concern on the part of the Department of Justice and the Department of Education that colleges and universities are using electronic book readers that are not accessible to students who are blind or have low vision and to seek your help in ensuring that this emerging technology is used in classroom settings in a manner that is permissible under federal law. A serious problem with some of these devices is that they lack an accessible text-to-speech function. Requiring use of an emerging technology in a classroom environment when the technology is inaccessible to an entire population of individuals with disabilities - individuals with visual disabilities - is discrimination prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) unless those individuals are provided accommodations or modifications that permit them to receive all the educational benefits provided by the technology in an equally effective and equally integrated manner. ... The Department of Justice recently entered into settlement agreements with colleges and universities that used the Kindle DX, an inaccessible, electronic book reader, in the classroom as part of a pilot study with Amazon.com, Inc. In summary, the universities agreed not to purchase, require, or recommend use of the Kindle DX, or any other dedicated electronic book reader, unless or until the device is fully accessible to individuals who are blind or have low vision, or the universities provide reasonable accommodation or modification so that a student can acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students with substantially equivalent ease of use. The texts of these agreements may be viewed on the Department of Justice's ADA Web site, www.ada.gov. (To find these settlements on www.ada.gov, search for "Kindle.") Consisten
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Europe Has One Last Shot To Ensure Its Net Neutrality Rules Actually Work | Techdirt - 0 views

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    "from the closing-the-loopholes dept As we noted last October, Europe passed net neutrality rules that not only don't really protect net neutrality, but actually give ISPs across the EU's 28 member countries the green light to violate net neutrality consistently -- just as long as ISPs are relatively clever about it. Just like the original, overturned 2010 net neutrality rules in the States, Europe's new rules (which took effect April 30) are packed with all manner of loopholes giving exemption for "specialized services" and "class-based discrimination," as well as giving the green light for zero rating. "
Paul Merrell

FCC Chairman Moves Toward Real Net Neutrality Protections | Free Press - 0 views

  • In an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler indicated that he will move to protect Net Neutrality by reclassifying Internet access under Title II of the Communications Act. The chairman plans to circulate a new rule in early February. The agency is expected to vote on it during its Feb. 26 open meeting. Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement: “Chairman Wheeler appears to have heard the demands of the millions of Internet users who have called for real Net Neutrality protections. The FCC’s past decisions to put its oversight authority on ice resulted in Net Neutrality being under constant threat. Wheeler now realizes that it’s best to simply follow the law Congress wrote and ignore the bogus claims of the biggest phone and cable companies and their well-financed front groups. “Of course the devil will be in the details, and we await publication of the agency's final decision. But it’s refreshing to see the chairman firmly reject the industry’s lies and scare tactics. As we’ve said all along, Title II is a very flexible, deregulatory framework that ensures investment and innovation while also preserving the important public interest principles of nondiscrimination, universal service, interconnection and competition.”
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    Title II is for "common carriers." See http://transition.fcc.gov/Reports/1934new.pdf pg. 35. Under Section 202: "(a) It shall be unlawful for any common carrier to make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services for or in connection with like communication service, directly or indirectly, by any means or device, or to make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, class of persons, or locality, or to subject any particular person, class of persons, or locality to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage. (b) Charges or services, whenever referred to in this Act, include charges for, or services in connection with, the use of common carrier lines of communication, whether derived from wire or radio facilities, in chain broadcasting or incidental to radio communication of any kind. (c) Any carrier who knowingly violates the provisions of this section shall forfeit to the United States the sum of $6,000 for each such offense and $300 for each and every day of the continuance of such offense. 
Paul Merrell

Bloomberg.com: News - 0 views

  • Christine A. Varney, nominated by President Barack Obama to be the U.S.’s next antitrust chief, has described Google Inc. as a monopolist that will dominate online computing services the way Microsoft Corp. ruled software.
  • Varney, 53, lobbied the Clinton administration on behalf of Netscape Communications Corp. to urge antitrust enforcers to sue Microsoft.
  • Still, Google is “quickly gathering market power in what I would call an online computing environment in the clouds,” she said, using a software industry term for software that is based on the Internet rather than in individual personal computers. “When all our enterprises move to computing in the clouds and there is a single firm that is offering a comprehensive solution,” Varney said, “you are going to see the same repeat of Microsoft.”
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  • As in the Microsoft case, “there will be companies that will begin to allege that Google is discriminating” against them by “not allowing their products to interoperate with Google’s products,” Varney said.
Paul Merrell

Editorial - Mr. Obama's Internet Agenda - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • President-elect Barack Obama recently announced an ambitious plan to build up the nation’s Internet infrastructure as part of his proposed economic stimulus package.
  • The United States has long been the world leader in technology, but when it comes to the Internet, it is fast falling behind. America now ranks 15th in the world in access to high-speed Internet connections. A cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s agenda is promoting universal, affordable high-speed Internet.
  • In a speech this month about his economic stimulus plan, he said that he intends to ensure that every child has a chance to get online and that he would use some of the stimulus money to connect libraries and schools.
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  • Mr. Obama has also been a strong supporter of “network neutrality,” the principle that Internet service providers should not be able to discriminate against any of the information that they carry.
  • “This is the Eisenhower Interstate highway moment for the Internet,” argues Ben Scott, policy director of the media reform group Free Press.
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    Whether this is in fact an Eisenhower Interstate Highway moment for the Internet will depend mightily on the long-term spending commitment to infrastructure construction, maintenance, and improvement. The Interstate Highway system was a Cold War initiative under Eisenhower to develop a comprehensive and expansive national highway freeway system, heavily underwritten by Defense Department spending reflected in its design. E.g., highways capable of serving not only for rapid transport of military supplies, but also as aircraft landing fields, "rest stops" to provide the core for troop garrisons in the event of an invasion, etc. In other words, to achieve lasting benefits, Congress will need to be brought on board. The extent to which such funding will be spent on "bail-out" temporary rescues of failing companies rather than fueling economic growth will be another major factor.
Paul Merrell

Civil Rights Coalition files FCC Complaint Against Baltimore Police Department for Illegally Using Stingrays to Disrupt Cellular Communications | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • This week the Center for Media Justice, ColorOfChange.org, and New America’s Open Technology Institute filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission alleging the Baltimore police are violating the federal Communications Act by using cell site simulators, also known as Stingrays, that disrupt cellphone calls and interfere with the cellular network—and are doing so in a way that has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Stingrays operate by mimicking a cell tower and directing all cellphones in a given area to route communications through the Stingray instead of the nearby tower. They are especially pernicious surveillance tools because they collect information on every single phone in a given area—not just the suspect’s phone—this means they allow the police to conduct indiscriminate, dragnet searches. They are also able to locate people inside traditionally-protected private spaces like homes, doctors’ offices, or places of worship. Stingrays can also be configured to capture the content of communications. Because Stingrays operate on the same spectrum as cellular networks but are not actually transmitting communications the way a cell tower would, they interfere with cell phone communications within as much as a 500 meter radius of the device (Baltimore’s devices may be limited to 200 meters). This means that any important phone call placed or text message sent within that radius may not get through. As the complaint notes, “[d]epending on the nature of an emergency, it may be urgently necessary for a caller to reach, for example, a parent or child, doctor, psychiatrist, school, hospital, poison control center, or suicide prevention hotline.” But these and even 911 calls could be blocked.
  • The Baltimore Police Department could be among the most prolific users of cell site simulator technology in the country. A Baltimore detective testified last year that the BPD used Stingrays 4,300 times between 2007 and 2015. Like other law enforcement agencies, Baltimore has used its devices for major and minor crimes—everything from trying to locate a man who had kidnapped two small children to trying to find another man who took his wife’s cellphone during an argument (and later returned it). According to logs obtained by USA Today, the Baltimore PD also used its Stingrays to locate witnesses, to investigate unarmed robberies, and for mysterious “other” purposes. And like other law enforcement agencies, the Baltimore PD has regularly withheld information about Stingrays from defense attorneys, judges, and the public. Moreover, according to the FCC complaint, the Baltimore PD’s use of Stingrays disproportionately impacts African American communities. Coming on the heels of a scathing Department of Justice report finding “BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law,” this may not be surprising, but it still should be shocking. The DOJ’s investigation found that BPD not only regularly makes unconstitutional stops and arrests and uses excessive force within African-American communities but also retaliates against people for constitutionally protected expression, and uses enforcement strategies that produce “severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans.”
  • Adding Stingrays to this mix means that these same communities are subject to more surveillance that chills speech and are less able to make 911 and other emergency calls than communities where the police aren’t regularly using Stingrays. A map included in the FCC complaint shows exactly how this is impacting Baltimore’s African-American communities. It plots hundreds of addresses where USA Today discovered BPD was using Stingrays over a map of Baltimore’s black population based on 2010 Census data included in the DOJ’s recent report:
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  • The Communications Act gives the FCC the authority to regulate radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable communications in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. This includes being responsible for protecting cellphone networks from disruption and ensuring that emergency calls can be completed under any circumstances. And it requires the FCC to ensure that access to networks is available “to all people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.” Considering that the spectrum law enforcement is utilizing without permission is public property leased to private companies for the purpose of providing them next generation wireless communications, it goes without saying that the FCC has a duty to act.
  • But we should not assume that the Baltimore Police Department is an outlier—EFF has found that law enforcement has been secretly using stingrays for years and across the country. No community should have to speculate as to whether such a powerful surveillance technology is being used on its residents. Thus, we also ask the FCC to engage in a rule-making proceeding that addresses not only the problem of harmful interference but also the duty of every police department to use Stingrays in a constitutional way, and to publicly disclose—not hide—the facts around acquisition and use of this powerful wireless surveillance technology.  Anyone can support the complaint by tweeting at FCC Commissioners or by signing the petitions hosted by Color of Change or MAG-Net.
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    An important test case on the constitutionality of stingray mobile device surveillance.
Paul Merrell

FCC's Wheeler Promises Net Neutrality Action 'Shortly' | Adweek - 0 views

  • he pressure is mounting on the Federal Communications Commission to revisit how it will regulate net neutrality in the wake of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision that tossed the rules back in the regulator's lap.
  • More than 1 million people signed the petition urging the FCC to "reassert its clear authority over our nation's communications infrastructure" and classify the transmission component of broadband Internet as a telecommunications service. While the court struck down the non-discrimination and no-blocking rules, it also ruled the FCC had the authority to regulate the Internet. That decision leaves the FCC with a thorny legal choice about whether it regulates by classifying the Internet as a telecommunications service or as an information service. In seeking to reassure the petitioners, Wheeler affirmed the commission's commitment to preserve and protect the open Internet. "We interpret the court decision as an invitation and we will accept that invitation," Wheeler said in a press conference following Thursday's meeting. "One of the great things about what the Internet does and why it needs to stay open, it enables people to organize and express themselves. A million people? That's boffo."
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    Over a million signed the petition. Wow! But note that the battle is not over. The FCC could reimplement net neutrality now if it reclassified broadband internet as a telecommunications service. That the FCC has not already set this in motion raises danger flags. All it takes is for a few contracts to be signed to give the ISPs 5th Amendment taking clause claims for damages against the government for reimplementing net neutrality the right way, A "reasonable investment-backed expectation" is the relevant 5th Amendment trigger. 
Paul Merrell

F.C.C. Backs Opening Net Rules for Debate - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to open for public debate new rules meant to guarantee an open Internet. Before the plan becomes final, though, the chairman of the commission, Tom Wheeler, will need to convince his colleagues and an array of powerful lobbying groups that the plan follows the principle of net neutrality, the idea that all content running through the Internet’s pipes is treated equally.While the rules are meant to prevent Internet providers from knowingly slowing data, they would allow content providers to pay for a guaranteed fast lane of service. Some opponents of the plan, those considered net neutrality purists, argue that allowing some content to be sent along a fast lane would essentially discriminate against other content.
  • “We are dedicated to protecting and preserving an open Internet,” Mr. Wheeler said immediately before the commission vote. “What we’re dealing with today is a proposal, not a final rule. We are asking for specific comment on different approaches to accomplish the same goal, an open Internet.”
  • Mr. Wheeler argued on Thursday that the proposal did not allow a fast lane. But the proposed rules do not address the connection between an Internet service provider, which sells a connection to consumers, and the operators of backbone transport networks that connect various parts of the Internet’s central plumbing.That essentially means that as long as an Internet service provider like Comcast or Verizon does not slow the service that a consumer buys, the provider can give faster service to a company that pays to get its content to consumers unimpeded
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  • The plan will be open for comment for four months, beginning immediately.
  • The public will have until July 15 to submit initial comments on the proposal to the commission, and until Sept. 10 to file comments replying to the initial discussions.
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    I'll need to read the proposed rule, but this doesn't sound good. the FCC majority tries to spin this as options still being open, but I don't recall ever seeing formal regulations changed substantially from their proposed form. If their were to be substantial change, another proposal and comment period would be likely. The public cannot comment on what has not been proposed, so substantial departure from the proposal, absent a new proposal and comment period, would offend basic principles of public notice and comment rulemaking under the Administrative Procedures Act. The proverbial elephant in the room that the press hasn't picked up on yet is the fight that is going on behind the scenes in the Dept. of Justice. If the Anti-trust Division gets its way, DoJ's public comments on the proposed rule could blow this show out of the water. The ISPs are regulated utility monopolies in vast areas of the U.S. with market consolidation at or near the limits of what the anti-trust folk will tolerate. And leveraging one monopoly (service to subscribers) to impose another (fees for internet-based businesses to gain high speed access) is directly counter to the Sherman Act's section 2.   http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/2
Paul Merrell

UN Report Finds Mass Surveillance Violates International Treaties and Privacy Rights - The Intercept - 0 views

  • The United Nations’ top official for counter-terrorism and human rights (known as the “Special Rapporteur”) issued a formal report to the U.N. General Assembly today that condemns mass electronic surveillance as a clear violation of core privacy rights guaranteed by multiple treaties and conventions. “The hard truth is that the use of mass surveillance technology effectively does away with the right to privacy of communications on the Internet altogether,” the report concluded. Central to the Rapporteur’s findings is the distinction between “targeted surveillance” — which “depend[s] upon the existence of prior suspicion of the targeted individual or organization” — and “mass surveillance,” whereby “states with high levels of Internet penetration can [] gain access to the telephone and e-mail content of an effectively unlimited number of users and maintain an overview of Internet activity associated with particular websites.” In a system of “mass surveillance,” the report explained, “all of this is possible without any prior suspicion related to a specific individual or organization. The communications of literally every Internet user are potentially open for inspection by intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the States concerned.”
  • Mass surveillance thus “amounts to a systematic interference with the right to respect for the privacy of communications,” it declared. As a result, “it is incompatible with existing concepts of privacy for States to collect all communications or metadata all the time indiscriminately.” In concluding that mass surveillance impinges core privacy rights, the report was primarily focused on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty enacted by the General Assembly in 1966, to which all of the members of the “Five Eyes” alliance are signatories. The U.S. ratified the treaty in 1992, albeit with various reservations that allowed for the continuation of the death penalty and which rendered its domestic law supreme. With the exception of the U.S.’s Persian Gulf allies (Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar), virtually every major country has signed the treaty. Article 17 of the Covenant guarantees the right of privacy, the defining protection of which, the report explained, is “that individuals have the right to share information and ideas with one another without interference by the State, secure in the knowledge that their communication will reach and be read by the intended recipients alone.”
  • The report’s key conclusion is that this core right is impinged by mass surveillance programs: “Bulk access technology is indiscriminately corrosive of online privacy and impinges on the very essence of the right guaranteed by article 17. In the absence of a formal derogation from States’ obligations under the Covenant, these programs pose a direct and ongoing challenge to an established norm of international law.” The report recognized that protecting citizens from terrorism attacks is a vital duty of every state, and that the right of privacy is not absolute, as it can be compromised when doing so is “necessary” to serve “compelling” purposes. It noted: “There may be a compelling counter-terrorism justification for the radical re-evaluation of Internet privacy rights that these practices necessitate. ” But the report was adamant that no such justifications have ever been demonstrated by any member state using mass surveillance: “The States engaging in mass surveillance have so far failed to provide a detailed and evidence-based public justification for its necessity, and almost no States have enacted explicit domestic legislation to authorize its use.”
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  • Instead, explained the Rapporteur, states have relied on vague claims whose validity cannot be assessed because of the secrecy behind which these programs are hidden: “The arguments in favor of a complete abrogation of the right to privacy on the Internet have not been made publicly by the States concerned or subjected to informed scrutiny and debate.” About the ongoing secrecy surrounding the programs, the report explained that “states deploying this technology retain a monopoly of information about its impact,” which is “a form of conceptual censorship … that precludes informed debate.” A June report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights similarly noted “the disturbing lack of governmental transparency associated with surveillance policies, laws and practices, which hinders any effort to assess their coherence with international human rights law and to ensure accountability.” The rejection of the “terrorism” justification for mass surveillance as devoid of evidence echoes virtually every other formal investigation into these programs. A federal judge last December found that the U.S. Government was unable to “cite a single case in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack.” Later that month, President Obama’s own Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies concluded that mass surveillance “was not essential to preventing attacks” and information used to detect plots “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional [court] orders.”
  • That principle — that the right of internet privacy belongs to all individuals, not just Americans — was invoked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden when he explained in a June, 2013 interview at The Guardian why he disclosed documents showing global surveillance rather than just the surveillance of Americans: “More fundamentally, the ‘US Persons’ protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%.” The U.N. Rapporteur was clear that these systematic privacy violations are the result of a union between governments and tech corporations: “States increasingly rely on the private sector to facilitate digital surveillance. This is not confined to the enactment of mandatory data retention legislation. Corporates [sic] have also been directly complicit in operationalizing bulk access technology through the design of communications infrastructure that facilitates mass surveillance. ”
  • The report was most scathing in its rejection of a key argument often made by American defenders of the NSA: that mass surveillance is justified because Americans are given special protections (the requirement of a FISA court order for targeted surveillance) which non-Americans (95% of the world) do not enjoy. Not only does this scheme fail to render mass surveillance legal, but it itself constitutes a separate violation of international treaties (emphasis added): The Special Rapporteur concurs with the High Commissioner for Human Rights that where States penetrate infrastructure located outside their territorial jurisdiction, they remain bound by their obligations under the Covenant. Moreover, article 26 of the Covenant prohibits discrimination on grounds of, inter alia, nationality and citizenship. The Special Rapporteur thus considers that States are legally obliged to afford the same privacy protection for nationals and non-nationals and for those within and outside their jurisdiction. Asymmetrical privacy protection regimes are a clear violation of the requirements of the Covenant.
  • Three Democratic Senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote in The New York Times that “the usefulness of the bulk collection program has been greatly exaggerated” and “we have yet to see any proof that it provides real, unique value in protecting national security.” A study by the centrist New America Foundation found that mass metadata collection “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism” and, where plots were disrupted, “traditional law enforcement and investigative methods provided the tip or evidence to initiate the case.” It labeled the NSA’s claims to the contrary as “overblown and even misleading.” While worthless in counter-terrorism policies, the UN report warned that allowing mass surveillance to persist with no transparency creates “an ever present danger of ‘purpose creep,’ by which measures justified on counter-terrorism grounds are made available for use by public authorities for much less weighty public interest purposes.” Citing the UK as one example, the report warned that, already, “a wide range of public bodies have access to communications data, for a wide variety of purposes, often without judicial authorization or meaningful independent oversight.”
  • The latest finding adds to the growing number of international formal rulings that the mass surveillance programs of the U.S. and its partners are illegal. In January, the European parliament’s civil liberties committee condemned such programs in “the strongest possible terms.” In April, the European Court of Justice ruled that European legislation on data retention contravened EU privacy rights. A top secret memo from the GCHQ, published last year by The Guardian, explicitly stated that one key reason for concealing these programs was fear of a “damaging public debate” and specifically “legal challenges against the current regime.” The report ended with a call for far greater transparency along with new protections for privacy in the digital age. Continuation of the status quo, it warned, imposes “a risk that systematic interference with the security of digital communications will continue to proliferate without any serious consideration being given to the implications of the wholesale abandonment of the right to online privacy.” The urgency of these reforms is underscored, explained the Rapporteur, by a conclusion of the United States Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that “permitting the government to routinely collect the calling records of the entire nation fundamentally shifts the balance of power between the state and its citizens.”
Paul Merrell

What's Scarier: Terrorism, or Governments Blocking Websites in its Name? - The Intercept - 0 views

  • Forcibly taking down websites deemed to be supportive of terrorism, or criminalizing speech deemed to “advocate” terrorism, is a major trend in both Europe and the West generally. Last month in Brussels, the European Union’s counter-terrorism coordinator issued a memo proclaiming that “Europe is facing an unprecedented, diverse and serious terrorist threat,” and argued that increased state control over the Internet is crucial to combating it. The memo noted that “the EU and its Member States have developed several initiatives related to countering radicalisation and terrorism on the Internet,” yet argued that more must be done. It argued that the focus should be on “working with the main players in the Internet industry [a]s the best way to limit the circulation of terrorist material online.” It specifically hailed the tactics of the U.K. Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), which has succeeded in causing the removal of large amounts of material it deems “extremist”:
  • In addition to recommending the dissemination of “counter-narratives” by governments, the memo also urged EU member states to “examine the legal and technical possibilities to remove illegal content.” Exploiting terrorism fears to control speech has been a common practice in the West since 9/11, but it is becoming increasingly popular even in countries that have experienced exceedingly few attacks. A new extremist bill advocated by the right-wing Harper government in Canada (also supported by Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau even as he recognizes its dangers) would create new crimes for “advocating terrorism”; specifically: “every person who, by communicating statements, knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general” would be a guilty and can be sent to prison for five years for each offense. In justifying the new proposal, the Canadian government admits that “under the current criminal law, it is [already] a crime to counsel or actively encourage others to commit a specific terrorism offence.” This new proposal is about criminalizing ideas and opinions. In the government’s words, it “prohibits the intentional advocacy or promotion of terrorism, knowing or reckless as to whether it would result in terrorism.”
  • If someone argues that continuous Western violence and interference in the Muslim world for decades justifies violence being returned to the West, or even advocates that governments arm various insurgents considered by some to be “terrorists,” such speech could easily be viewed as constituting a crime. To calm concerns, Canadian authorities point out that “the proposed new offence is similar to one recently enacted by Australia, that prohibits advocating a terrorist act or the commission of a terrorism offence-all while being reckless as to whether another person will engage in this kind of activity.” Indeed, Australia enacted a new law late last year that indisputably targets political speech and ideas, as well as criminalizing journalism considered threatening by the government. Punishing people for their speech deemed extremist or dangerous has been a vibrant practice in both the U.K. and U.S. for some time now, as I detailed (coincidentally) just a couple days before free speech marches broke out in the West after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Those criminalization-of-speech attacks overwhelmingly target Muslims, and have resulted in the punishment of such classic free speech activities as posting anti-war commentary on Facebook, tweeting links to “extremist” videos, translating and posting “radicalizing” videos to the Internet, writing scholarly articles in defense of Palestinian groups and expressing harsh criticism of Israel, and even including a Hezbollah channel in a cable package.
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  • Beyond the technical issues, trying to legislate ideas out of existence is a fool’s game: those sufficiently determined will always find ways to make themselves heard. Indeed, as U.S. pop star Barbra Streisand famously learned, attempts to suppress ideas usually result in the greatest publicity possible for their advocates and/or elevate them by turning fringe ideas into martyrs for free speech (I have zero doubt that all five of the targeted sites enjoyed among their highest traffic dates ever today as a result of the French targeting). But the comical futility of these efforts is exceeded by their profound dangers. Who wants governments to be able to unilaterally block websites? Isn’t the exercise of this website-blocking power what has long been cited as reasons we should regard the Bad Countries — such as China and Iran — as tyrannies (which also usually cite “counterterrorism” to justify their censorship efforts)?
  • s those and countless other examples prove, the concepts of “extremism” and “radicalizing” (like “terrorism” itself) are incredibly vague and elastic, and in the hands of those who wield power, almost always expand far beyond what you think it should mean (plotting to blow up innocent people) to mean: anyone who disseminates ideas that are threatening to the exercise of our power. That’s why powers justified in the name of combating “radicalism” or “extremism” are invariably — not often or usually, but invariably — applied to activists, dissidents, protesters and those who challenge prevailing orthodoxies and power centers. My arguments for distrusting governments to exercise powers of censorship are set forth here (in the context of a prior attempt by a different French minister to control the content of Twitter). In sum, far more damage has been inflicted historically by efforts to censor and criminalize political ideas than by the kind of “terrorism” these governments are invoking to justify these censorship powers. And whatever else may be true, few things are more inimical to, or threatening of, Internet freedom than allowing functionaries inside governments to unilaterally block websites from functioning on the ground that the ideas those sites advocate are objectionable or “dangerous.” That’s every bit as true when the censors are in Paris, London, and Ottawa, and Washington as when they are in Tehran, Moscow or Beijing.
Paul Merrell

Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments - 0 views

  • In September of last year, we noted that Facebook representatives were meeting with the Israeli government to determine which Facebook accounts of Palestinians should be deleted on the ground that they constituted “incitement.” The meetings — called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country. The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders
  • Facebook now seems to be explicitly admitting that it also intends to follow the censorship orders of the U.S. government.
  • What this means is obvious: that the U.S. government — meaning, at the moment, the Trump administration — has the unilateral and unchecked power to force the removal of anyone it wants from Facebook and Instagram by simply including them on a sanctions list. Does anyone think this is a good outcome? Does anyone trust the Trump administration — or any other government — to compel social media platforms to delete and block anyone it wants to be silenced? As the ACLU’s Jennifer Granick told the Times: It’s not a law that appears to be written or designed to deal with the special situations where it’s lawful or appropriate to repress speech. … This sanctions law is being used to suppress speech with little consideration of the free expression values and the special risks of blocking speech, as opposed to blocking commerce or funds as the sanctions was designed to do. That’s really problematic.
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  • As is always true of censorship, there is one, and only one, principle driving all of this: power. Facebook will submit to and obey the censorship demands of governments and officials who actually wield power over it, while ignoring those who do not. That’s why declared enemies of the U.S. and Israeli governments are vulnerable to censorship measures by Facebook, whereas U.S and Israeli officials (and their most tyrannical and repressive allies) are not
  • All of this illustrates that the same severe dangers from state censorship are raised at least as much by the pleas for Silicon Valley giants to more actively censor “bad speech.” Calls for state censorship may often be well-intentioned — a desire to protect marginalized groups from damaging “hate speech” — yet, predictably, they are far more often used against marginalized groups: to censor them rather than protect them. One need merely look at how hate speech laws are used in Europe, or on U.S. college campuses, to see that the censorship victims are often critics of European wars, or activists against Israeli occupation, or advocates for minority rights.
  • It’s hard to believe that anyone’s ideal view of the internet entails vesting power in the U.S. government, the Israeli government, and other world powers to decide who may be heard on it and who must be suppressed. But increasingly, in the name of pleading with internet companies to protect us, that’s exactly what is happening.
Paul Merrell

Senate and House Democrats Introduce Resolution to Reinstate Net Neutrality - U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts - 0 views

  • On the Net Neutrality National Day of Action, Senate and House Democrats introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) partisan decision on net neutrality. At a press conference today, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Congressman Mike Doyle (PA-14), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) announced introduction of House and Senate resolutions to fully restore the 2015 Open Internet Order. The Senate CRA resolution of disapproval stands at 50 supporters, including Republican Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine.). Rep. Doyle’s resolution in the House of Representatives currently has 150 co-sponsors.   The FCC’s Open Internet Order prohibited internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or discriminating against content online. Repealing these net neutrality rules could lead to higher prices for consumers, slower internet traffic, and even blocked websites. A recent poll showed that 83 percent of Americans do not approve of the FCC’s action to repeal net neutrality rules.  
  • A copy of the CRA resolution can be found HERE.   Last week, the FCC’s rule repealing net neutrality was published in the Federal Register, leaving 60 legislative days to seek a vote on the Senate floor on the CRA resolutions. In order to force a vote on the Senate resolution, Senator Markey will submit a discharge petition, which requires a minimum of 30 Senators’ signature. Once the discharge petition is filed, Senator Markey and Senate Democrats will demand a vote on the resolution.
Paul Merrell

Comcast asks the FCC to prohibit states from enforcing net neutrality | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • Comcast met with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai's staff this week in an attempt to prevent states from issuing net neutrality rules. As the FCC prepares to gut its net neutrality rules, broadband providers are worried that states might enact their own laws to prevent ISPs from blocking, throttling, or discriminating against online content.
  • Comcast Senior VP Frank Buono and a Comcast attorney met with Pai Chief of Staff Matthew Berry and Senior Counsel Nicholas Degani on Monday, the company said in an ex parte filing that describes the meeting. Comcast urged Pai's staff to reverse the FCC's classification of broadband as a Title II common carrier service, a move that would eliminate the legal authority the FCC uses to enforce net neutrality rules. Pai has said he intends to do just that, so Comcast will likely get its wish on that point. But Comcast also wants the FCC to go further by making a declaration that states cannot impose their own regulations on broadband. The filing said: We also emphasized that the Commission's order in this proceeding should include a clear, affirmative ruling that expressly confirms the primacy of federal law with respect to BIAS [Broadband Internet Access Service] as an interstate information service, and that preempts state and local efforts to regulate BIAS either directly or indirectly.
Paul Merrell

Comcast hints at plan for paid fast lanes after net neutrality repeal | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • For years, Comcast has been promising that it won't violate the principles of net neutrality, regardless of whether the government imposes any net neutrality rules. That meant that Comcast wouldn't block or throttle lawful Internet traffic and that it wouldn't create fast lanes in order to collect tolls from Web companies that want priority access over the Comcast network. This was one of the ways in which Comcast argued that the Federal Communications Commission should not reclassify broadband providers as common carriers, a designation that forces ISPs to treat customers fairly in other ways. The Title II common carrier classification that makes net neutrality rules enforceable isn't necessary because ISPs won't violate net neutrality principles anyway, Comcast and other ISPs have claimed. But with Republican Ajit Pai now in charge at the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast's stance has changed. While the company still says it won't block or throttle Internet content, it has dropped its promise about not instituting paid prioritization.
  • Instead, Comcast now vaguely says that it won't "discriminate against lawful content" or impose "anti-competitive paid prioritization." The change in wording suggests that Comcast may offer paid fast lanes to websites or other online services, such as video streaming providers, after Pai's FCC eliminates the net neutrality rules next month.
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