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Paul Merrell

Bulk Collection Under Section 215 Has Ended… What's Next? | Just Security - 0 views

  • The first (and thus far only) roll-back of post-9/11 surveillance authorities was implemented over the weekend: The National Security Agency shuttered its program for collecting and holding the metadata of Americans’ phone calls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. While bulk collection under Section 215 has ended, the government can obtain access to this information under the procedures specified in the USA Freedom Act. Indeed, some experts have argued that the Agency likely has access to more metadata because its earlier dragnet didn’t cover cell phones or Internet calling. In addition, the metadata of calls made by an individual in the United States to someone overseas and vice versa can still be collected in bulk — this takes place abroad under Executive Order 12333. No doubt the NSA wishes that this was the end of the surveillance reform story and the Paris attacks initially gave them an opening. John Brennan, the Director of the CIA, implied that the attacks were somehow related to “hand wringing” about spying and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced a bill to delay the shut down of the 215 program. Opponents of encryption were quick to say: “I told you so.”
  • But the facts that have emerged thus far tell a different story. It appears that much of the planning took place IRL (that’s “in real life” for those of you who don’t have teenagers). The attackers, several of whom were on law enforcement’s radar, communicated openly over the Internet. If France ever has a 9/11 Commission-type inquiry, it could well conclude that the Paris attacks were a failure of the intelligence agencies rather than a failure of intelligence authorities. Despite the passage of the USA Freedom Act, US surveillance authorities have remained largely intact. Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act — which is the basis of programs like PRISM and the NSA’s Upstream collection of information from Internet cables — sunsets in the summer of 2017. While it’s difficult to predict the political environment that far out, meaningful reform of Section 702 faces significant obstacles. Unlike the Section 215 program, which was clearly aimed at Americans, Section 702 is supposedly targeted at foreigners and only picks up information about Americans “incidentally.” The NSA has refused to provide an estimate of how many Americans’ information it collects under Section 702, despite repeated requests from lawmakers and most recently a large cohort of advocates. The Section 215 program was held illegal by two federal courts (here and here), but civil attempts to challenge Section 702 have run into standing barriers. Finally, while two review panels concluded that the Section 215 program provided little counterterrorism benefit (here and here), they found that the Section 702 program had been useful.
  • There is, nonetheless, some pressure to narrow the reach of Section 702. The recent decision by the European Court of Justice in the safe harbor case suggests that data flows between Europe and the US may be restricted unless the PRISM program is modified to protect the information of Europeans (see here, here, and here for discussion of the decision and reform options). Pressure from Internet companies whose business is suffering — estimates run to the tune of $35 to 180 billion — as a result of disclosures about NSA spying may also nudge lawmakers towards reform. One of the courts currently considering criminal cases which rely on evidence derived from Section 702 surveillance may hold the program unconstitutional either on the basis of the Fourth Amendment or Article III for the reasons set out in this Brennan Center report. A federal district court in Colorado recently rejected such a challenge, although as explained in Steve’s post, the decision did not seriously explore the issues. Further litigation in the European courts too could have an impact on the debate.
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  • The US intelligence community’s broadest surveillance authorities are enshrined in Executive Order 12333, which primarily covers the interception of electronic communications overseas. The Order authorizes the collection, retention, and dissemination of “foreign intelligence” information, which includes information “relating to the capabilities, intentions or activities of foreign powers, organizations or persons.” In other words, so long as they are operating outside the US, intelligence agencies are authorized to collect information about any foreign person — and, of course, any Americans with whom they communicate. The NSA has conceded that EO 12333 is the basis of most of its surveillance. While public information about these programs is limited, a few highlights give a sense of the breadth of EO 12333 operations: The NSA gathers information about every cell phone call made to, from, and within the Bahamas, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines, and Afghanistan, and possibly other countries. A joint US-UK program tapped into the cables connecting internal Yahoo and Google networks to gather e-mail address books and contact lists from their customers. Another US-UK collaboration collected images from video chats among Yahoo users and possibly other webcam services. The NSA collects both the content and metadata of hundreds of millions of text messages from around the world. By tapping into the cables that connect global networks, the NSA has created a database of the location of hundreds of millions of mobile phones outside the US.
  • Given its scope, EO 12333 is clearly critical to those seeking serious surveillance reform. The path to reform is, however, less clear. There is no sunset provision that requires action by Congress and creates an opportunity for exposing privacy risks. Even in the unlikely event that Congress was inclined to intervene, it would have to address questions about the extent of its constitutional authority to regulate overseas surveillance. To the best of my knowledge, there is no litigation challenging EO 12333 and the government doesn’t give notice to criminal defendants when it uses evidence derived from surveillance under the order, so the likelihood of a court ruling is slim. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is currently reviewing two programs under EO 12333, but it is anticipated that much of its report will be classified (although it has promised a less detailed unclassified version as well). While the short-term outlook for additional surveillance reform is challenging, from a longer-term perspective, the distinctions that our law makes between Americans and non-Americans and between domestic and foreign collection cannot stand indefinitely. If the Fourth Amendment is to meaningfully protect Americans’ privacy, the courts and Congress must come to grips with this reality.
Paul Merrell

Proposed changes to US data collection fall short of NSA reformers' goals | US news | The Guardian - 0 views

  • The US intelligence community has delivered a limited list of tweaks to how long it can hold information on ordinary citizens and hide secret trawls for data, responding to Barack Obama’s call for reform of its surveillance practices in the wake of revelations about NSA practices. Published by the office of the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, just six days before a recently announced visit to Washington by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the report is the culmination of a year-long effort to respond to revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
  • But the report does not appear to address the role of telecommunications companies in collecting metadata and the use of encryption to prevent hacking, and privacy critics were quick to pounce on a year of promises with little reform to show. “It’s hard to see much ‘there’ there,” Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement. “When it comes to reforming intelligence programs and protecting Americans’ privacy, there is much, much more work to be done.” The outline from the intelligence community also appears to fall short of the legislative changes attempted by campaigners in Congress, focusing instead on measures to tighten internal guidelines and provide foreigners with some of the protections allowed for US citizens. These measures include:
  • Other measures outlined in the new report include steps to clarify the protection given to whistleblowers if they follow internal rules and a requirement that “any significant compliance incident involving personal information, regardless of the person’s nationality” be reported to Clapper.
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  • Limiting how long personal data gathered from non-US citizens can be held to five years, so long as it is deemed not relevant to ongoing intelligence investigations. Asking Congress to provide some foreign nationals access to legal redress if their private information has been wilfully disclosed by US intelligence agencies. Limiting to three years how long the FBI can prevent disclosure of its surveillance activities using so-called national security letters, unless a special agent deems otherwise.
  • The official results of Obama’s call for surveillance reform also appear to have failed to address encryption. The FBI director, James Comey, and other officials have been highly critical of the use of encryption by tech companies such as Apple to protect their users’ information. Comey has argued that stronger encryption, baked in to some technology after the Snowden revelations, will aid criminals and terrorists and shut out law enforcement.
  • The intelligence report itself acknowledges that further reforms called for by the president, such as ending the collection of bulk data by the government, have not been implemented, possibly due to stalled legislative efforts in Congress.
Paul Merrell

USA Freedom Act Passes House, Codifying Bulk Collection For First Time, Critics Say - The Intercept - 0 views

  • After only one hour of floor debate, and no allowed amendments, the House of Representatives today passed legislation that opponents believe may give brand new authorization to the U.S. government to conduct domestic dragnets. The USA Freedom Act was approved in a 338-88 vote, with approximately equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans voting against. The bill’s supporters say it will disallow bulk collection of domestic telephone metadata, in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has regularly ordered phone companies to turn over such data. The Obama administration claims such collection is authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which is set to expire June 1. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently held that Section 215 does not provide such authorization. Today’s legislation would prevent the government from issuing such orders for bulk collection and instead rely on telephone companies to store all their metadata — some of which the government could then demand using a “specific selection term” related to foreign terrorism. Bill supporters maintain this would prevent indiscriminate collection.
  • However, the legislation may not end bulk surveillance and in fact could codify the ability of the government to conduct dragnet data collection. “We’re taking something that was not permitted under regular section 215 … and now we’re creating a whole apparatus to provide for it,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said on Tuesday night during a House Rules Committee proceeding. “The language does limit the amount of bulk collection, it doesn’t end bulk collection,” Rep. Amash said, arguing that the problematic “specific selection term” allows for “very large data collection, potentially in the hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions.” In a statement posted to Facebook ahead of the vote, Rep. Amash said the legislation “falls woefully short of reining in the mass collection of Americans’ data, and it takes us a step in the wrong direction by specifically authorizing such collection in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”
  • “While I appreciate a number of the reforms in the bill and understand the need for secure counter-espionage and terrorism investigations, I believe our nation is better served by allowing Section 215 to expire completely and replacing it with a measure that finds a better balance between national security interests and protecting the civil liberties of Americans,” Congressman Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said in a statement explaining his vote against the bill.
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  • Not addressed in the bill, however, are a slew of other spying authorities in use by the NSA that either directly or inadvertently target the communications of American citizens. Lawmakers offered several amendments in the days leading up to the vote that would have tackled surveillance activities laid out in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Executive Order 12333 — two authorities intended for foreign surveillance that have been used to collect Americans’ internet data, including online address books and buddy lists. The House Rules Committee, however, prohibited consideration of any amendment to the USA Freedom Act, claiming that any changes to the legislation would have weakened its chances of passage.
  • The measure now goes to the Senate where its future is uncertain. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declined to schedule the bill for consideration, and is instead pushing for a clean reauthorization of expiring Patriot Act provisions that includes no surveillance reforms. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have threated to filibuster any bill that extends the Patriot Act without also reforming the NSA.
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    Surprise, surprise. U.S. "progressive" groups are waging an all-out email lobbying effort to sunset the Patriot Act. https://www.sunsetthepatriotact.com/ Same with civil liberties groups. e.g., https://action.aclu.org/secure/Section215 And a coalition of libertarian organizations. http://docs.techfreedom.org/Coalition_Letter_McConnell_215Reauth_4.27.15.pdf
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Elements for the reform of copyright and related cultural policies | La Quadrature du Net - 0 views

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    " copyright creative contribution LQDN's proposals mutualised funding Net neutrality proposal Printer-friendly version Send by email Français Now that the ACTA treaty has been rejected by the European Parliament, a period opens during which it will be possible to push for a new regulatory and policy framework adapted to the digital era. Many citizens and MEPs support the idea of reforming copyright in order to make possible for all to draw the benefits of the digital environment, engage into creative and expressive activities and share in their results. In the coming months and years, the key questions will be: What are the real challenges that this reform should address? How can we address them?"
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Copyright Reform: The European Parliament Must Follow the Reda Report! | La Quadrature du Net * - 0 views

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    "Submitted on 26 Jan 2015 - 11:47 copyright creative contribution Andrus Ansip Günther Oettinger press release Printer-friendly version Send by email Français Paris, January 26, 2015 - Yesterday, MEP Julia Reda presented in the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) of the European Parliament a report on the harmonization of copyright in Europe. She tables modest but welcome proposals for a reform of copyright, several of which have been supported by La Quadrature du Net." [# ! And You can still take part... https://www.discuto.io/en/consultation/6240?page=2]
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    "Submitted on 26 Jan 2015 - 11:47 copyright creative contribution Andrus Ansip Günther Oettinger press release Printer-friendly version Send by email Français Paris, January 26, 2015 - Yesterday, MEP Julia Reda presented in the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) of the European Parliament a report on the harmonization of copyright in Europe. She tables modest but welcome proposals for a reform of copyright, several of which have been supported by La Quadrature du Net." [# ! And You can still take part... https://www.discuto.io/en/consultation/6240?page=2]
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    "Submitted on 26 Jan 2015 - 11:47 copyright creative contribution Andrus Ansip Günther Oettinger press release Printer-friendly version Send by email Français Paris, January 26, 2015 - Yesterday, MEP Julia Reda presented in the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) of the European Parliament a report on the harmonization of copyright in Europe. She tables modest but welcome proposals for a reform of copyright, several of which have been supported by La Quadrature du Net." [# ! And You can still take part... https://www.discuto.io/en/consultation/6240?page=2]
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Copyright in Europe: Minimal Reform to Avoid Crucial Questions | La Quadrature du Net [# ! Note...] - 0 views

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    "Submitted on 9 Dec 2015 - 18:17 copyright creative contribution free speech Net filtering Andrus Ansip Günther Oettinger press release Printer-friendly version Français Paris, 9 December 2015 - Today, the European Commission has presented its proposal to reform copyright law in the European Union. This package includes a proposal for a regulation on portability of online services, as well as a communication to announcing future reforms to follow in 2016. The European Commission has thus confirmed that it does not wish to reopen the file on the InfoSoc directive 1, reflecting its reluctance and lack of ambition on this issue."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Patent Reform Bill A Good Step, But Still Falls Way Short Of Fixing A Broken System | Techdirt - 0 views

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    "from the it's-a-start dept As was widely expected, earlier this week, a bunch of high-profile Senators introduced a big patent reform bill, known as the Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship (PATENT) Act. It's backed by Senators Chuck Grassley, Patrick Leahy, Chuck Schumer and John Cornyn, and has a decent chance of becoming law."
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    "from the it's-a-start dept As was widely expected, earlier this week, a bunch of high-profile Senators introduced a big patent reform bill, known as the Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship (PATENT) Act. It's backed by Senators Chuck Grassley, Patrick Leahy, Chuck Schumer and John Cornyn, and has a decent chance of becoming law."
Paul Merrell

The Newest Reforms on SIGINT Collection Still Leave Loopholes | Just Security - 0 views

  • Director of National Intelligence James Clapper this morning released a report detailing new rules aimed at reforming the way signals intelligence is collected and stored by certain members of the United States Intelligence Community (IC). The long-awaited changes follow up on an order announced by President Obama one year ago that laid out the White House’s principles governing the collection of signals intelligence. That order, commonly known as PPD-28, purports to place limits on the use of data collected in bulk and to increase privacy protections related to the data collected, regardless of nationality. Accordingly, most of the changes presented as “new” by Clapper’s office  (ODNI) stem directly from the guidance provided in PPD-28, and so aren’t truly new. And of the biggest changes outlined in the report, there are still large exceptions that appear to allow the government to escape the restrictions with relative ease. Here’s a quick rundown.
  • National security letters (NSLs). The report also states that the FBI’s gag orders related to NSLs expire three years after the opening of a full-blown investigation or three years after an investigation’s close, whichever is earlier. However, these expiration dates can be easily overridden by by an FBI Special Agent in Charge or a Deputy Assistant FBI Director who finds that the statutory standards for secrecy about the NSL continue to be satisfied (which at least one court has said isn’t a very high bar). This exception also doesn’t address concerns that NSL gag orders lack adequate due process protections, lack basic judicial oversight, and may violate the First Amendment.
  • Retention policy for non-U.S. persons. The new rules say that the IC must now delete information about “non-U.S. persons” that’s been gathered via signals intelligence after five-years. However, there is a loophole that will let spies hold onto that information indefinitely whenever the Director of National Intelligence determines (after considering the views of the ODNI’s Civil Liberties Protection Officer) that retaining information is in the interest of national security. The new rules don’t say whether the exceptions will be directed at entire groups of people or individual surveillance targets.  Section 215 metadata. Updates to the rules concerning the use of data collected under Section 215 of the Patriot Act includes the requirement that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (rather than authorized NSA officials) must determine spies have “reasonable, articulable suspicion” prior to query Section 215 data, outside of emergency circumstances. What qualifies as an emergency for these purposes? We don’t know. Additionally, the IC is now limited to two “hops” in querying the database. This means that spies can only play two degrees of Kevin Bacon, instead of the previously allowed three degrees, with the contacts of anyone targeted under Section 215. The report doesn’t explain what would prevent the NSA (or other agency using the 215 databases) from getting around this limit by redesignating a phone number found in the first or second hop as a new “target,” thereby allowing the agency to continue the contact chain.
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  • The report also details the ODNI’s and IC’s plans for the future, including: (1) Working with Congress to reauthorize bulk collection under Section 215. (2) Updating agency guidelines under Executive Order 12333 “to protect the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. persons.” (3) Producing another annual report in January 2016 on the IC’s progress in implementing signals intelligence reforms. These plans raise more questions than they answer. Given the considerable doubts about Section 215’s effectiveness, why is the ODNI pushing for its reauthorization? And what will the ODNI consider appropriate privacy protections under Executive Order 12333?
Paul Merrell

Tell Congress: My Phone Calls are My Business. Reform the NSA. | EFF Action Center - 3 views

  • The USA PATRIOT Act granted the government powerful new spying capabilities that have grown out of control—but the provision that the FBI and NSA have been using to collect the phone records of millions of innocent people expires on June 1. Tell Congress: it’s time to rethink out-of-control spying. A vote to reauthorize Section 215 is a vote against the Constitution.
  • On June 5, 2013, the Guardian published a secret court order showing that the NSA has interpreted Section 215 to mean that, with the help of the FBI, it can collect the private calling records of millions of innocent people. The government could even try to use Section 215 for bulk collection of financial records. The NSA’s defenders argue that invading our privacy is the only way to keep us safe. But the White House itself, along with the President’s Review Board has said that the government can accomplish its goals without bulk telephone records collection. And the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said, “We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which [bulk collection under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act] made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.” Since June of 2013, we’ve continued to learn more about how out of control the NSA is. But what has not happened since June is legislative reform of the NSA. There have been myriad bipartisan proposals in Congress—some authentic and some not—but lawmakers didn’t pass anything. We need comprehensive reform that addresses all the ways the NSA has overstepped its authority and provides the NSA with appropriate and constitutional tools to keep America safe. In the meantime, tell Congress to take a stand. A vote against reauthorization of Section 215 is a vote for the Constitution.
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    EFF has launched an email campagin to press members of Congress not to renew sectiion 215 of the Patriot Act when it expires on June 1, 2015.   Sectjon 215 authorizes FBI officials to "make an application for an order requiring the production of *any tangible things* (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution." http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/1861 The section has been abused to obtain bulk collecdtion of all telephone records for the NSA's storage and processing.But the section goes farther and lists as specific examples of records that can be obtained under section 215's authority, "library circulation records, library patron lists, book sales records, book customer lists, firearms sales records, tax return records, educational records, or medical records."  Think of the NSA's voracious appetite for new "haystacks" it can store  and search in its gigantic new data center in Utah. Then ask yourself, "do I want the NSA to obtain all of my personal data, store it, and search it at will?" If your anser is "no," you might consider visiting this page to send your Congress critters an email urging them to vote against renewal of section 215 and to vote for other NSA reforms listed in the EFF sample email text. Please do not procrastinate. Do it now, before you forget. Every voice counts. 
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Call for Papers | thinktwice.com | Creativity, Human Rights, Hacktivism [# Via FB's Francisco George x Arif Yıldırım] Deadline July 18th 2014 - 0 views

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    "Call for Papers CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS We are looking for session submissions from Pirates, NGOs and Academia to following tracks: (other topics are allowed as well) Creativity: copyrights, patents, collaboration, citizen journalism, media, DRM, open access, FOI, public licensing, policy reform, education, etc… Human Rights: security, data protection, surveillance, FOI, basic income, emigration, voting rights, drones, non-proliferation, dual use technology, encryption, anonymity, transparency, net neutrality, open data, egovernment, society, whistle blowing, political science, etc… Activism|Hacktivism: Future, innovation, liquid democracy, transhumanism, cyborgs, startups, vision, 3d-printing, crowdsourcing, big data, participation, pirate parties, artificial intelligence, globalization, space travel, social networks, freemanning, freehammond, hacktivism, activism, civil disobedience, hacker culture, cyberpunk, cypherpunk, wikileaks, surveillance, digital activism, etc..."
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    "Call for Papers CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS We are looking for session submissions from Pirates, NGOs and Academia to following tracks: (other topics are allowed as well) Creativity: copyrights, patents, collaboration, citizen journalism, media, DRM, open access, FOI, public licensing, policy reform, education, etc… Human Rights: security, data protection, surveillance, FOI, basic income, emigration, voting rights, drones, non-proliferation, dual use technology, encryption, anonymity, transparency, net neutrality, open data, egovernment, society, whistle blowing, political science, etc… Activism|Hacktivism: Future, innovation, liquid democracy, transhumanism, cyborgs, startups, vision, 3d-printing, crowdsourcing, big data, participation, pirate parties, artificial intelligence, globalization, space travel, social networks, freemanning, freehammond, hacktivism, activism, civil disobedience, hacker culture, cyberpunk, cypherpunk, wikileaks, surveillance, digital activism, etc..."
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    "Call for Papers CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS We are looking for session submissions from Pirates, NGOs and Academia to following tracks: (other topics are allowed as well) Creativity: copyrights, patents, collaboration, citizen journalism, media, DRM, open access, FOI, public licensing, policy reform, education, etc… Human Rights: security, data protection, surveillance, FOI, basic income, emigration, voting rights, drones, non-proliferation, dual use technology, encryption, anonymity, transparency, net neutrality, open data, egovernment, society, whistle blowing, political science, etc… Activism|Hacktivism: Future, innovation, liquid democracy, transhumanism, cyborgs, startups, vision, 3d-printing, crowdsourcing, big data, participation, pirate parties, artificial intelligence, globalization, space travel, social networks, freemanning, freehammond, hacktivism, activism, civil disobedience, hacker culture, cyberpunk, cypherpunk, wikileaks, surveillance, digital activism, etc..."
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    [# Via FB's Francisco George x Arif Yıldırım] Deadline July 18th 2014 "Call for Papers CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS We are looking for session submissions from Pirates, NGOs and Academia to following tracks: (other topics are allowed as well) Creativity: copyrights, patents, collaboration, citizen journalism, media, DRM, open access, FOI, public licensing, policy reform, education, etc… Human Rights: security, data protection, surveillance, FOI, basic income, emigration, voting rights, drones, non-proliferation, dual use technology, encryption, anonymity, transparency, net neutrality, open data, egovernment, society, whistle blowing, political science, etc… Activism|Hacktivism: Future, innovation, liquid democracy, transhumanism, cyborgs, startups, vision, 3d-printing, crowdsourcing, big data, participation, pirate parties, artificial intelligence, globalization, space travel, social networks, freemanning, freehammond, hacktivism, activism, civil disobedience, hacker culture, cyberpunk, cypherpunk, wikileaks, surveillance, digital activism, etc..."
Gary Edwards

The True Story of How the Patent Bar Captured a Court and Shrank the Intellectual Commons | Cato Unbound - 1 views

  • The change in the law wrought by the Federal Circuit can also be viewed substantively through the controversy over software patents. Throughout the 1960s, the USPTO refused to award patents for software innovations. However, several of the USPTO’s decisions were overruled by the patent-friendly U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, which ordered that software patents be granted. In Gottschalk v. Benson (1972) and Parker v. Flook (1978), the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, holding that mathematical algorithms (and therefore software) were not patentable subject matter. In 1981, in Diamond v. Diehr, the Supreme Court upheld a software patent on the grounds that the patent in question involved a physical process—the patent was issued for software used in the molding of rubber. While affirming their prior ruling that mathematical formulas are not patentable in the abstract, the Court held that an otherwise patentable invention did not become unpatentable simply because it utilized a computer.
  • In the hands of the newly established Federal Circuit, however, this small scope for software patents in precedent was sufficient to open the floodgates. In a series of decisions culminating in State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group (1998), the Federal Circuit broadened the criteria for patentability of software and business methods substantially, allowing protection as long as the innovation “produces a useful, concrete and tangible result.” That broadened criteria led to an explosion of low-quality software patents, from Amazon’s 1-Click checkout system to Twitter’s pull-to-refresh feature on smartphones. The GAO estimates that more than half of all patents granted in recent years are software-related. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court continues to hold, as in Parker v. Flook, that computer software algorithms are not patentable, and has begun to push back against the Federal Circuit. In Bilski v. Kappos (2010), the Supreme Court once again held that abstract ideas are not patentable, and in Alice v. CLS (2014), it ruled that simply applying an abstract idea on a computer does not suffice to make the idea patent-eligible. It still is not clear what portion of existing software patents Alice invalidates, but it could be a significant one.
  • Supreme Court justices also recognize the Federal Circuit’s insubordination. In oral arguments in Carlsbad Technology v. HIF Bio (2009), Chief Justice John Roberts joked openly about it:
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  • The Opportunity of the Commons
  • As a result of the Federal Circuit’s pro-patent jurisprudence, our economy has been flooded with patents that would otherwise not have been granted. If more patents meant more innovation, then we would now be witnessing a spectacular economic boom. Instead, we have been living through what Tyler Cowen has called a Great Stagnation. The fact that patents have increased while growth has not is known in the literature as the “patent puzzle.” As Michele Boldrin and David Levine put it, “there is no empirical evidence that [patents] serve to increase innovation and productivity, unless productivity is identified with the number of patents awarded—which, as evidence shows, has no correlation with measured productivity.”
  • While more patents have not resulted in faster economic growth, they have resulted in more patent lawsuits.
  • Software patents have characteristics that make them particularly susceptible to litigation. Unlike, say, chemical patents, software patents are plagued by a problem of description. How does one describe a software innovation in such a way that anyone searching for it will easily find it? As Christina Mulligan and Tim Lee demonstrate, chemical formulas are indexable, meaning that as the number of chemical patents grow, it will still be easy to determine if a molecule has been patented. Since software innovations are not indexable, they estimate that “patent clearance by all firms would require many times more hours of legal research than all patent lawyers in the United States can bill in a year. The result has been an explosion of patent litigation.” Software and business method patents, estimate James Bessen and Michael Meurer, are 2 and 7 times more likely to be litigated than other patents, respectively (4 and 13 times more likely than chemical patents).
  • Software patents make excellent material for predatory litigation brought by what are often called “patent trolls.”
  • Trolls use asymmetries in the rules of litigation to legally extort millions of dollars from innocent parties. For example, one patent troll, Innovatio IP Ventures, LLP, acquired patents that implicated Wi-Fi. In 2011, it started sending demand letters to coffee shops and hotels that offered wireless Internet access, offering to settle for $2,500 per location. This amount was far in excess of the 9.56 cents per device that Innovatio was entitled to under the “Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory” licensing promises attached to their portfolio, but it was also much less than the cost of trial, and therefore it was rational for firms to pay. Cisco stepped in and spent $13 million in legal fees on the case, and settled on behalf of their customers for 3.2 cents per device. Other manufacturers had already licensed Innovatio’s portfolio, but that didn’t stop their customers from being targeted by demand letters.
  • Litigation cost asymmetries are magnified by the fact that most patent trolls are nonpracticing entities. This means that when patent infringement trials get to the discovery phase, they will cost the troll very little—a firm that does not operate a business has very few records to produce.
  • But discovery can cost a medium or large company millions of dollars. Using an event study methodology, James Bessen and coauthors find that infringement lawsuits by nonpracticing entities cost publicly traded companies $83 billion per year in stock market capitalization, while plaintiffs gain less than 10 percent of that amount.
  • Software patents also reduce innovation in virtue of their cumulative nature and the fact that many of them are frequently inputs into a single product. Law professor Michael Heller coined the phrase “tragedy of the anticommons” to refer to a situation that mirrors the well-understood “tragedy of the commons.” Whereas in a commons, multiple parties have the right to use a resource but not to exclude others, in an anticommons, multiple parties have the right to exclude others, and no one is therefore able to make effective use of the resource. The tragedy of the commons results in overuse of the resource; the tragedy of the anticommons results in underuse.
  • In order to cope with the tragedy of the anticommons, we should carefully investigate the opportunity of  the commons. The late Nobelist Elinor Ostrom made a career of studying how communities manage shared resources without property rights. With appropriate self-governance institutions, Ostrom found again and again that a commons does not inevitably lead to tragedy—indeed, open access to shared resources can provide collective benefits that are not available under other forms of property management.
  • This suggests that—litigation costs aside—patent law could be reducing the stock of ideas rather than expanding it at current margins.
  • Advocates of extensive patent protection frequently treat the commons as a kind of wasteland. But considering the problems in our patent system, it is worth looking again at the role of well-tailored limits to property rights in some contexts. Just as we all benefit from real property rights that no longer extend to the highest heavens, we would also benefit if the scope of patent protection were more narrowly drawn.
  • Reforming the Patent System
  • This analysis raises some obvious possibilities for reforming the patent system. Diane Wood, Chief Judge of the 7th Circuit, has proposed ending the Federal Circuit’s exclusive jurisdiction over patent appeals—instead, the Federal Circuit could share jurisdiction with the other circuit courts. While this is a constructive suggestion, it still leaves the door open to the Federal Circuit playing “a leading role in shaping patent law,” which is the reason for its capture by patent interests. It would be better instead simply to abolish the Federal Circuit and return to the pre-1982 system, in which patents received no special treatment in appeals. This leaves open the possibility of circuit splits, which the creation of the Federal Circuit was designed to mitigate, but there are worse problems than circuit splits, and we now have them.
  • Another helpful reform would be for Congress to limit the scope of patentable subject matter via statute. New Zealand has done just that, declaring that software is “not an invention” to get around WTO obligations to respect intellectual property. Congress should do the same with respect to both software and business methods.
  • Finally, even if the above reforms were adopted, there would still be a need to address the asymmetries in patent litigation that result in predatory “troll” lawsuits. While the holding in Alice v. CLS arguably makes a wide swath of patents invalid, those patents could still be used in troll lawsuits because a ruling of invalidity for each individual patent might not occur until late in a trial. Current legislation in Congress addresses this class of problem by mandating disclosures, shifting fees in the case of spurious lawsuits, and enabling a review of the patent’s validity before a trial commences.
  • What matters for prosperity is not just property rights in the abstract, but good property-defining institutions. Without reform, our patent system will continue to favor special interests and forestall economic growth.
  •  
    "Libertarians intuitively understand the case for patents: just as other property rights internalize the social benefits of improvements to land, automobile maintenance, or business investment, patents incentivize the creation of new inventions, which might otherwise be undersupplied. So far, so good. But it is important to recognize that the laws that govern property, intellectual or otherwise, do not arise out of thin air. Rather, our political institutions, with all their virtues and foibles, determine the contours of property-the exact bundle of rights that property holders possess, their extent, and their limitations. Outlining efficient property laws is not a trivial problem. The optimal contours of property are neither immutable nor knowable a priori. For example, in 1946, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the age-old common law doctrine that extended real property rights to the heavens without limit. The advent of air travel made such extensive property rights no longer practicable-airlines would have had to cobble together a patchwork of easements, acre by acre, for every corridor through which they flew, and they would have opened themselves up to lawsuits every time their planes deviated from the expected path. The Court rightly abridged property rights in light of these empirical realities. In defining the limits of patent rights, our political institutions have gotten an analogous question badly wrong. A single, politically captured circuit court with exclusive jurisdiction over patent appeals has consistently expanded the scope of patentable subject matter. This expansion has resulted in an explosion of both patents and patent litigation, with destructive consequences. "
  •  
    I added a comment to the page's article. Patents are antithetical to the precepts of Libertarianism and do not involve Natural Law rights. But I agree with the author that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit should be abolished. It's a failed experiment.
Paul Merrell

POGO Adds its Voice to Calls for Secret Law Oversight - 0 views

  • April 21, 2015 Dear Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, Chairman Grassley, and Ranking Member Leahy: We urge you to end mass surveillance of Americans. Among us are civil liberties organizations from across the political spectrum that speak for millions of people, businesses, whistleblowers, and experts. The impending expiration of three USA PATRIOT Act provisions on June 1 is a golden opportunity to end mass surveillance and enact additional reforms. Current surveillance practices are virtually limitless. They are unnecessary, counterproductive, and costly. They undermine our economy and the public’s trust in government. And they undercut the proper functioning of government. Meaningful surveillance reform entails congressional repeal of laws and protocols the Executive secretly interprets to permit current mass surveillance practices. Additionally, it requires Congress to appreciably increase transparency, oversight, and accountability of intelligence agencies, especially those that have acted unconstitutionally.
  • A majority of the House of Representatives already has voted against mass surveillance. The Massie-Lofgren amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act [i] garnered 293 votes in support of defunding “backdoor searches.” Unfortunately, that amendment was not included in the “CRomnibus"[ii] despite overwhelming support.  We urge you to act once again to vindicate our fundamental liberties.
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    Finally! A proposal for mass-surveillance reform that goes far beyond prior overly-modest proposals backed by ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation, etc., that were based on negotiation with members of Congress. This proposal is backed by a wide range of other organizations. A must-read.
Paul Merrell

Guest Post: NSA Reform - The Consequences of Failure | Just Security - 0 views

  • In the absence of real reform, people and institutions at home and abroad are taking matters into their own hands. In America, the NSA’s overreach is changing the way we communicate with and relate to each other. In order to evade government surveillance, more and more Americans are employing encryption technology.  The veritable explosion of new secure messaging apps like Surespot, OpenWhisper’s collaboration with WhatsApp, the development and deployment of open source anti-surveillance tools like Detekt, the creation of organizationally-sponsored “surveillance self-defense” guides, the push to universalize the https protocol, anti-surveillance book events featuring free encryption workshops— are manifestations of the rise of the personal encryption and pro-privacy digital resistance movement. Its political implications are clear: Americans, along with people around the world, increasingly see the United States government’s overreaching surveillance activities as a threat to be blocked.
  • The federal government’s vacuum-cleaner approach to surveillance—manifested in Title II of the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and EO 12333—has backfired in these respects, and the emergence of this digital resistance movement is one result. Indeed, the existence and proliferation of social networks hold the potential to help this movement spread faster and to more of the general public than would have been possible in decades past. This is evidenced by the growing concern worldwide about governments’ ability to access reams of information about people’s lives with relative ease. As one measure, compared to a year ago, 41% of online users in North America now avoid certain Internet sites and applications, 16% change who they communicate with, and 24% censor what they say online. Those numbers, if anywhere close to accurate, are a major concern for democratic society.
  • Even if commercially available privacy technology proves capable of providing a genuine shield against warrantless or otherwise illegal surveillance by the United States government, it will remain a treatment for the symptom, not a cure for the underlying legal and constitutional malady. In April 2014, a Harris poll of US adults showed that in response to the Snowden revelations, “Almost half of respondents (47%) said that they have changed their online behavior and think more carefully about where they go, what they say, and what they do online.” Set aside for a moment that just the federal government’s collection of the data of innocent Americans is itself likely a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Harris poll is just one of numerous studies highlighting the collateral damage to American society and politics from NSA’s excesses: segments of our population are now fearful of even associating with individuals or organizations executive branch officials deem controversial or suspicious. Nearly half of Americans say they have changed their online behavior out of a fear of what the federal government might do with their personal information. The Constitution’s free association guarantee has been damaged by the Surveillance State’s very operation.
  • ...1 more annotation...
  • The failure of the Congress and the courts to end the surveillance state, despite the repeated efforts by a huge range of political and public interest actors to effect that change through the political process, is only fueling the growing resistance movement. Federal officials understand this, which is why they are trying—desperately and in the view of some, underhandedly—to shut down this digital resistance movement. This action/reaction cycle is exactly what it appears to be: an escalating conflict between the American public and its government. Without comprehensive surveillance authority reforms (including a journalist “shield law” and ironclad whistleblower protections for Intelligence Community contractors) that are verifiable and enforceable, that conflict will only continue.
Paul Merrell

Google, ACLU call to delay government hacking rule | TheHill - 0 views

  • A coalition of 26 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Google, signed a letter Monday asking lawmakers to delay a measure that would expand the government’s hacking authority. The letter asks Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump voices confidence on infrastructure plan GOP leaders to Obama: Leave Iran policy to Trump GOP debates going big on tax reform MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidNevada can’t trust Trump to protect public lands Sanders, Warren face tough decision on Trump Google, ACLU call to delay government hacking rule MORE (D-Nev.), plus House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanTrump voices confidence on infrastructure plan GOP leaders to Obama: Leave Iran policy to Trump GOP debates going big on tax reform MORE (R-Wis.), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to further review proposed changes to Rule 41 and delay its implementation until July 1, 2017. ADVERTISEMENTThe Department of Justice’s alterations to the rule would allow law enforcement to use a single warrant to hack multiple devices beyond the jurisdiction that the warrant was issued in. The FBI used such a tactic to apprehend users of the child pornography dark website, Playpen. It took control of the dark website for two weeks and after securing two warrants, installed malware on Playpen users computers to acquire their identities. But the signatories of the letter — which include advocacy groups, companies and trade associations — are raising questions about the effects of the change. 
  •  
    ".. no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Fourth Amendment. The changes to Rule 41 ignore the particularity requirement by allowing the government to search computers that are not particularly identified in multiple locations not particularly identifed, in other words, a general warrant that is precisely the reason the particularity requirement was adopted to outlaw.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Fix Copyright! | Help us Reform Copyright - 0 views

  •  
    "01 DYSFUNCTIONAL & NOT FIT FOR THE DIGITAL WORLD Copyright reform is needed to adapt to the digital world we live in. Under the current system everything tends to fall under copyright unless it is covered by a specific exception in the law. The trouble is that these exceptions are narrow, specific and technologically outdated: the list was written in 2001! This was well before YouTube and Facebook were created. As a result, everyday habits of online users could be considered illegal today. A blogger linking to copyrighted content, a meme based on a copyrighted image, a video with some footage from an existing movie or a song: all of that could create issues for the user that posted them."
  •  
    "01 DYSFUNCTIONAL & NOT FIT FOR THE DIGITAL WORLD Copyright reform is needed to adapt to the digital world we live in. Under the current system everything tends to fall under copyright unless it is covered by a specific exception in the law. The trouble is that these exceptions are narrow, specific and technologically outdated: the list was written in 2001! This was well before YouTube and Facebook were created. As a result, everyday habits of online users could be considered illegal today. A blogger linking to copyrighted content, a meme based on a copyrighted image, a video with some footage from an existing movie or a song: all of that could create issues for the user that posted them."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

European Commission Public Consultation on Copyright: La Quadrature du Net's Answer | La Quadrature du Net - 0 views

  •  
    "Paris, 14 February 2014 - The European Commission's public consultation on copyright reform is open until 5 March [The European Commission extended the deadline by a month]. This consultation represents an important opportunity for European citizens to demand that access to culture and knowledge be recognised as their fundamental right. It also allows the interests of authors and creators to be defended against those of the cultural industries, major distributors and intermediaries, and heirs of rightholders who currently receive the greatest share of income from copyrighted works. La Quadrature du Net therefore calls on the maximum number of citizens and organisations to reply to the consultation and support a positive reform of copyright."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

P2P Book of the Year 2013 - P2P Foundation - 0 views

  •  
    "Contents 1 2013 1.1 Neoliberal vs. P2P Culture 1.2 How to Change the World 1.3 The New Politics 1.4 Protecting and Sustaining the Commons 1.5 Reforming Education 1.6 Reforming Money 1.7 Open Science 1.8 The New Media 1.9 The New Public Sphere 1.10 New Subjectivities 1.11 New cultures of work and leadership 1.12 Sound and other Urban Commons 1.13 The continuing copyright culture wars"
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.
  • ...3 more annotations...
  • 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.
  •  
    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.

Appeals Court Tells Government It Must Extend Educational Institution FOIA Fee Price Break To Students | Techdirt - 0 views

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

House Attacks Net Neutrality, Cable Box Reform With Sneaky Budget Rider | Techdirt - 0 views

  •  
    "from the dysfunction-junction dept As we've noted a few times, there's really only two ways the telecom sector can successfully destroy U.S. net neutrality rules."
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