BY JOSH NADEAU
In November 2019, Russian parliament passed what’s become known as the “law against Apple.” The legislation will require all smartphone devices to preload a host of applications that may provide the Russian government with a glut of information about its citizens, including their location, finances, and private communications.
The Canada Revenue Agency has formally asked the CBC to hand over offshore tax-haven data from the massive Panama Papers leak, but the news organization is refusing. The commissioner of the agency, Andrew Treusch, sent an email on Friday to the president of the CBC asking for the data, saying the agency wants to begin work immediately on reviewing the information. CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said the corporation rebuffed a similar request from the CRA in 2013 for another massive cache of tax-haven data — and will do so again “Simply stated, CBC News does not reveal its sources and we’re not about to start now as a result of this request,” he said. Earlier this year, the Panama Papers were made available electronically to CBC News and other select news organizations around the world, and stories about the contents began to appear this month. The blockbuster revelations are having serious political repercussions in some countries, while others are looking at ways to stop the wealthy from stashing cash offshore to avoid paying taxes.
For the first time, a federal judge has thrown out evidence obtained by police without a warrant using the controversial “Stingray” device that mimics cell phone towers to trick nearby devices into connecting with them, revealing private information. U.S. District Judge William Pauley said the defendant’s rights were violated when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used a Stingray to figure out his home address during a drug investigation. Pauley rejected the evidence, writing, “The use of a cell-site simulator constitutes a Fourth Amendment search…. Absent a search warrant, the government may not turn a citizen’s cell phone into a tracking device.” The ACLU said it was the first time such a ruling has been issued and was a significant victory for privacy rights.
Blackberry’s CEO, John Chen, didn’t care for the fact that Apple was “locking” law enforcement out of its devices by providing customers with default encryption. As he saw it, Apple was placing profits ahead of Mom, Apple pie and American-made motorcars. For years, government officials have pleaded to the technology industry for help yet have been met with disdain. In fact, one of the world’s most powerful tech companies recently refused a lawful access request in an investigation of a known drug dealer because doing so would “substantially tarnish the brand” of the company. We are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good.
BY BRUCE SCHNEIER SCHNEIER.COM
In my book Data and Goliath, I write about the value of
privacy. I talk about how it is essential for political liberty and
justice, and for commercial fairness and equality. I talk about how it
increases personal freedom and individual autonomy, and how the lack of
it makes us all less secure. But this is probably the most important
argument as to why society as a whole must protect privacy: it allows
society to progress.
BY EMILY TAYLOR THE GUARDIAN
When Tim Wu published his influential book Master Switch in 2010, he powerfully argued that all communications markets began with a period of creative openness and experimentation, yet within 20 years settled into some sort of state-regulated oligopoly. The internet, Wu proclaimed hopefully, could be different because most internet giants “profess an awareness of their awesome powers and some sense of attendant duty to the public”. Five years on, and it is becoming increasingly obvious that the web is now ruled by oligopolies, and that attempted state intervention is heavier than ever. In technology markets it’s not so much a case of first mover advantage, but “winner takes it all”. Whether you’re in Austria or Yemen, Mexico or New Zealand, much of your online life is spent on three websites: Google, Facebook and YouTube.
BY DUSTIN VOLZ REUTERS
The U.S. National Security Agency will end its daily vacuuming of millions of Americans’ phone records by Sunday and replace the practice with more tightly targeted surveillance methods, the Obama administration said on Friday. As required by law, the NSA will end its wide-ranging surveillance program by 11:59 p.m. EST Saturday (4:59 a.m. GMT Sunday) and expects to have the new, scaled-back system in place by then, the White House said. The transition is a long-awaited victory for privacy advocates and tech companies wary of broad government surveillance at a time when national security concerns are heightened in the wake of the Paris attacks earlier this month. It comes two and a half years after the controversial program was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The move, mandated by a law passed six months ago, represents the greatest reduction of U.S. spying capabilities since they expanded dramatically after the Sept.
Earlier this year Facebook announced it would dip its toes into the pool of mobile payments by launching a system that allowed users to send money to friends via the Messenger app. Now it appears the company may take things a bit farther after receiving approval for a patent this week that would allow creditors to determine whether or not someone is worthy of a loan based on their circle of friends on the social networking site.
Edward Snowden has called for a global push to protect people’s rights to digital privacy, arguing that now the bare facts of mass data surveillance are known it is time to “assert our traditional and digital rights so that we can protect them”.
Speaking by video link from Russia where he has been granted asylum, the former National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower said efforts to protect privacy “will continue for many years”, culminating, he hoped, in a world in which governments could be relied upon to defend their citizens’ rights rather than “working against them”.
Snowden’s call for new international laws to protect data privacy was made at the launch in New York of the so-called “Snowden Treaty”, a fledgling campaign designed to apply pressure on governments around the world in the hope of generating new legal protections. The “treaty” idea, which is being disseminated with the help of the online campaigning network Avaaz, is intended to generate new safeguards both for personal data and for whistleblowers and journalists vulnerable to government prosecution.
A draft version of the putative treaty was circulated at the launch. It says governments signing up to the agreement would have to commit to ending mass surveillance and “the right to privacy in all future programs and policies. This will make the preservation of privacy a fundamental responsibility of governments, ensuring the protection of these fundamental human rights for generations to come.”
Snowden said in his video-link address that the debate sparked by his leaking of a vast hoard of NSA secret documents to journalist Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian had succeeded in changing public culture. “We can discuss things now that five years back would have gotten you labelled as a conspiracy theorist,” he said.
It was now established, he went on, that in the arena of basic individual liberties – what happens when we travel through a city, or talk to our friends, or browse for books online – we are being tracked and recorded. He said that whole populations were being “indexed into a sort of surveillance time machine that allows institutions, whether public or private, to empower themselves at the expense of the people.”
In the wake of his disclosures, Snowden said that there had been some legislative attempts to tighten up on privacy and rein in mass surveillance. But they were “just the first step – they don’t go anywhere near far enough”.
Meanwhile, countries were aggressively pressing to increase their surveillance powers. Not just traditional adversaries of the west such as Iran, China, Russia and North Korea, but also allies of the US such as Australia, Canada, the UK and France.
“What’s extraordinary is that in every case these policy proposals that work against the public are being billed as public safety programs. Yet mass surveillance has never made a concrete difference in any single terrorism investigation in the United States.”
The “Snowden Treaty” is the brainchild of David Miranda, who was detained and interrogated under the UK Terrorism Act at Heathrow airport for nine hours in August 2013 at the height of the Snowden leaks. Miranda, who is Greenwald’s partner, said that the new campaign was partly inspired by the efforts taken by big tech companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to offer encryption services to their users.
“This is not a dream. If corporations are taking moves to protect themselves, then why can’t we?” he said.
Miranda said that several governments had been approached around the world, but he declined to name any that were showing interest.
BY JENNA MCLAUGHLIN THE INTERCEPT
Testifying before two Senate committees on Wednesday about the threat he says strong encryption presents to law enforcement, FBI Director James Comey didn’t so much propose a solution as wish for one. Comey said he needs some way to read and listen to any communication for which he’s gotten a court order. Modern end-to-end encryption — increasingly common following the revelations of mass surveillance by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden — doesn’t allow for that. Only the parties on either end can do the decoding. Comey’s problem is the nearly universal agreement among cryptographers, technologists and security experts that there is no way to give the government access to encrypted communications without poking an exploitable hole that would put confidential data, as well as entities like banks and power grids, at risk.