Archive | March, 2015

Europol lobbying against encryption

The law enforcement lobbying campaign against encryption continues. Today it’s Europols director Rob Wainwright who is trying to make a case against privacy on BBC 5.

Europol chief warns on computer encryption »

This is the same man who told the European Parliament that Europol is not going to investigate the alleged NSA hacking of the SWIFT (international bank transfer) system. The excuse he gave was not that Europol didn’t know about it, because it did. Very much so. It was that there had been no formal complaint from any member state.

So the EU police agency happily turned a blind eye to ongoing crime — when possibly committed by the NSA.

That will give you an indication about where the Europols sympathies lies. That is, not with the general public.




The war on truth about… truth

One common practice when it comes to surveillance is to prohibit ISP:s, telecoms operators and tech companies to disclose that there is or has been any warrants or other demands for information from the authorities. (In the US this is known as national security letters.)

Some companies have worked their way around this by so called warrant canaries. In short this means that they state in e.g. their transparency or annual report that there has been no secret warrants. If they, the next year, leave that information out — they have communicated that there has been one or several secret warrants. But in an indirect, subtle way — without breaching the actual secret warrant in question.

This practice is now going to be illegal in Australia, when it comes to the government spying on journalists. BoingBoing explains…

Section 182A of the new law says that a person commits an offense if he or she discloses or uses information about “the existence or non-existence of such a [journalist information] warrant.” The penalty upon conviction is two years imprisonment.

This making it illegal… to or not to indicate to the public that… you are or are or are not not… telling the truth. Or a lie.

Orwell would have been amazed.

Or, in plain words: The Australian government does not appreciate the truth.



US tech gigants to Obama: End bulk collection mass surveillance

TechCrunch reports that US “technology companies, tech trade groups and privacy organizations sent a letter today to the President Barack Obama, various members of Congress, and governmental security officials, urging reform of the U.S. government’s surveillance practices.” From the letter…

“There must be a clear, strong, and effective end to bulk collection practices under the USA PATRIOT Act, including under the Section 215 records authority and the Section 2 214 authority regarding pen registers and trap & trace devices. Any collection that does occur under those authorities should have appropriate safeguards in place to protect privacy and users’ rights.”

TechCrunch: Tech Giants Call For “Clear, Strong And Effective End” To NSA’s Phone Metadata Surveillance »


The coming War on Cash

War on terror has become an convenient excuse for governments to start a war on cash.

Naturally, cash can be used by terrorists. But it will not mainly be terrorists who suffer from tighter control. It will be ordinary people.

One of the real reasons behind tighter cash regulations are convenient is quite obvious: taxation.

If you want support for this theory, take a look at the EU directive against money laundering. Where implemented strictly (like in Sweden) it makes handling of any substantial amount of cash almost impossible.

The latest is the French tightening the regulations on cash. From…

“These measures, which will be implemented in September 2015, include prohibiting French residents from making cash payments of more than 1,000 euros, down from the current limit of 3,000 euros. Given the parlous state of the stagnating French economy the limit for foreign tourists on currency payments will remain higher, at 10,000 euros down from the current limit of 15,000 euros. The threshold below which a French resident is free to convert euros into other currencies without having to show an identity card will be slashed from the current level of 8,000 euros to 1,000 euros. In addition any cash deposit or withdrawal of more than 10,000 euros during a single month will be reported to the French anti-fraud and money laundering agency Tracfin. French authorities will also have to be notified of any freight transfers within the EU exceeding 10,000 euros, including checks, pre-paid cards, or gold.”

The whole idea is based on the presumption that people are up to something suspicious. This seems to be the new default mode, replacing the presumption of innocence (that happens to be one of the fundaments of rule of law).

But this is not just about distrusting citizens with their own money. The common European currency, the Euro, is in a precarious state. Cash regulations can (and will) be used to stop people from rescuing their own money when the shit hits the fan. Just see what happened when the Euro-crisis overwhelmed Cyprus. The government confiscated money directly from peoples bank accounts — and most people had no possibility to rescue their savings.

“Coincidentally” mass surveillance is an excellent tool for governments to enforce financial regulations aimed at the general public…

Is this the moment when people finally will have to turn to free digital currencies in a big way? Is this the tipping point?



EU: Data retention – an up-to-date summary

In a few weeks Swedish national data retention laws (based on the EU data retention directive) will be tested in an administrative mid-level court. This is only one of many court appeals in the EU on the subject. Former Pirate MEP Amelia Andersdotter has made a time line (link, in Swedish »).

In the following countries data retention has been rejected by court: Lithuania, Bulgaria (several times), Romania (several times), Germany, Ireland (several times), Cyprus, Czech Republic, Austria, Finland (political decision), Slovakia, Slovenia and The Netherlands. Then there are some open court cases.

In April last year, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) invalidated the EU directive on data retention – for breach of human rights. And recently, the European Commission has declared that there will be no new directive.

It’s also worth noticing criticism against data retention from the EU Council lawyers, Germanys minister of justice, the EU Data Protection group, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN High Representative for Human Rights and Privacy in a Digital Age and others.

The Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe has made this statement…

“Suspicionless mass retention of communications data is fundamentally contrary to the rule of law, incompatible with core data-protection principles and ineffective. Member states should not resort to it or impose compulsory retention of data by third parties. /…/ Member states should stop relying on private companies that control the Internet and the wider digital environment to impose restrictions that are in violation of the state’s human rights obligations.”

But some countries — like the UK, France and Sweden — try hard to ignore all criticism and all concerns about human rights. They have no plans of giving up this kind of mass surveillance.


Link (in Swedish, about the Swedish court case, but with some helpful quotes in English): Amelia Andersdotter »


The worst of two worlds

For the sake of argument: Let’s assume that we are stuck with mass surveillance and Big Brotherism.

Such a society can be very unpleasant and very difficult to live in.

There is a trend among politicians and bureaucrats to regulate and micro manage more and more about our lives. Today, all western countries have more laws, regulations and rules than anyone can grasp and relate to. Every day most of us break the rules. Often several times every day.

Many of these rules are irrational, moralistic, prejudiced, paternalistic, subjective, stupid, unnecessary or malicious. Some laws creates crime where there is no victim. Some are outdated. Some are simply wrong.

In a total surveillance society this abundance of rules will lead to a situation where each and every one of us might be investigated, “corrected” and / or punished. Especially people in opposition, those who don’t fit in a “one size fits all” society and those who would like to live a free life (taking responsibility for their own actions). If people in power and their functionaries think that you are annoying — there will always be a reason for them to make an example of you, as a warning to others.

For a Big Brother society to be at all tolerable to live in — it must be open minded, tolerant and liberal. It must have fewer intrusive rules and more freedom.

But that is not the direction society is going, is it?

Today we live in a society where every day, we are under more surveillance, subject to more intrusive rules and under stricter control. That is a very toxic mix.



Meanwhile, in Washington…

In the US, yesterday was National Freedom of Information Day. This is how it was celebrated in Washington…

The White House is removing a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act, making official a policy under Presidents Bush and Obama to reject requests for records to that office.

Techdirt »