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Paul Merrell

Tech firms and privacy groups press for curbs on NSA surveillance powers - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • The nation’s top technology firms and a coalition of privacy groups are urging Congress to place curbs on government surveillance in the face of a fast-approaching deadline for legislative action. A set of key Patriot Act surveillance authorities expire June 1, but the effective date is May 21 — the last day before Congress breaks for a Memorial Day recess. In a letter to be sent Wednesday to the Obama administration and senior lawmakers, the coalition vowed to oppose any legislation that, among other things, does not ban the “bulk collection” of Americans’ phone records and other data.
  • We know that there are some in Congress who think that they can get away with reauthorizing the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act without any reforms at all,” said Kevin Bankston, policy director of New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, a privacy group that organized the effort. “This letter draws a line in the sand that makes clear that the privacy community and the Internet industry do not intend to let that happen without a fight.” At issue is the bulk collection of Americans’ data by intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency. The NSA’s daily gathering of millions of records logging phone call times, lengths and other “metadata” stirred controversy when it was revealed in June 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The records are placed in a database that can, with a judge’s permission, be searched for links to foreign terrorists.They do not include the content of conversations.
  • That program, placed under federal surveillance court oversight in 2006, was authorized by the court in secret under Section 215 of the Patriot Act — one of the expiring provisions. The public outcry that ensued after the program was disclosed forced President Obama in January 2014 to call for an end to the NSA’s storage of the data. He also appealed to Congress to find a way to preserve the agency’s access to the data for counterterrorism information.
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  • Despite growing opposition in some quarters to ending the NSA’s program, a “clean” authorization — one that would enable its continuation without any changes — is unlikely, lawmakers from both parties say. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a leading opponent of the NSA’s program in its current format, said he would be “surprised if there are 60 votes” in the Senate for that. In the House, where there is bipartisan support for reining in surveillance, it’s a longer shot still. “It’s a toxic vote back in your district to reauthorize the Patriot Act, if you don’t get some reforms” with it, said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). The House last fall passed the USA Freedom Act, which would have ended the NSA program, but the Senate failed to advance its own version.The House and Senate judiciary committees are working to come up with new bipartisan legislation to be introduced soon.
  • The tech firms and privacy groups’ demands are a baseline, they say. Besides ending bulk collection, they want companies to have the right to be more transparent in reporting on national security requests and greater declassification of opinions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
  • Some legal experts have pointed to a little-noticed clause in the Patriot Act that would appear to allow bulk collection to continue even if the authority is not renewed. Administration officials have conceded privately that a legal case probably could be made for that, but politically it would be a tough sell. On Tuesday, a White House spokesman indicated the administration would not seek to exploit that clause. “If Section 215 sunsets, we will not continue the bulk telephony metadata program,” National Security Council spokesman Edward Price said in a statement first reported by Reuters. Price added that allowing Section 215 to expire would result in the loss of a “critical national security tool” used in investigations that do not involve the bulk collection of data. “That is why we have underscored the imperative of Congressional action in the coming weeks, and we welcome the opportunity to work with lawmakers on such legislation,” he said.
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    I omitted some stuff about opposition to sunsetting the provisions. They  seem to forget, as does Obama, that the proponents of the FISA Court's expansive reading of section 215 have not yet come up with a single instance where 215-derived data caught a single terrorist or prevented a single act of terrorism. Which means that if that data is of some use, it ain't in fighting terrorism, the purpose of the section.  Patriot Act § 215 is codified as 50 USCS § 1861, https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/1861 That section authorizes the FBI to obtain an iorder from the FISA Court "requiring the production of *any tangible things* (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items)."  Specific examples (a non-exclusive list) include: the production of library circulation records, library patron lists, book sales records, book customer lists, firearms sales records, tax return records, educational records, or medical records containing information that would identify a person." The Court can order that the recipient of the order tell no one of its receipt of the order or its response to it.   In other words, this is about way more than your telephone metadata. Do you trust the NSA with your medical records? 
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Big media fails to turn ISPs into copyright cops | Media Maverick - CNET News - 1 views

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    [Last month marked the second anniversary since the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group representing the four largest music labels, stopped filing copyright lawsuits against people suspected of illegal file sharing. The RIAA said ISPs would ride in to save the day on illegal file sharing but they've yet to show up. RIAA CEO Mitch Bainwol in a file photo. (Credit: Declan McCullagh/CNET ) At the time, the RIAA said it would seek help in copyright enforcement efforts from Internet service providers, the Web's gatekeepers, which are uniquely positioned to act as copyright cops. ... ]
Paul Merrell

Study: Surveillance will cost US tech sector more than $35B by 2016 | TheHill - 0 views

  • A new study says that the U.S. tech industry is likely to lose more than $35 billion from foreign customers by 2016 because of concerns over government surveillance.“In short, foreign customers are shunning U.S. companies,” the authors of a new study from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation write.ADVERTISEMENT“The U.S. government’s failure to reform many of the NSA’s surveillance programs has damaged the competitiveness of the U.S. tech sector and cost it a portion of the global market share,” they said.The think tank’s report found that the cost to the tech sector associated with ongoing concerns over surveillance programs run out of the U.S. was likely to “far exceed” $35 billion by 2016, an earlier estimate set by the group.
  • The group said that lawmakers must enact additional reforms to surveillance policy if they wish to help the tech sector regain the trust of foreign customers. That includes opposing “backdoors,” which allow law enforcement to access otherwise encrypted data, and signing off on trade agreements, including the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, that “ban digital protectionism.”The study’s authors found that the revelations about broad U.S. surveillance programs acted as a justification for foreign policymakers to enact protectionist policies aimed at aiding their own domestic technology sectors.Foreign companies have also used the information about U.S. surveillance programs to their advantage.“Some European companies have begun to highlight where their digital services are hosted as an alternative to U.S. companies,” the authors write.
  • American companies, they found, have lost contracts to foreign competitors over fears about mass surveillance.Earlier this month, President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act, a bill that reformed the three Patriot Act provisions that authorized the bulk, warrantless collection of Americans’ phone records. The bill was widely supported by technology companies, including giants like Apple and Google.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

'No Suicide' Ruled In Grooveshark Founder's DeathDigital Music News - 0 views

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    "Despite incredibly suspicious circumstances, the death of Grooveshark co-founder Josh Greenberg has been ruled a 'no suicide' by coroners. In an autopsy report leaked Tuesday afternoon to Digital Music News, Greenberg's abrupt death was mysteriously identified as 'Undetermined,' with no abnormal concentrations of toxins or other unusual post-mortem conditions found."
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