Archive | April, 2015

PayPal joins the Dark Side?

PayPal just updated their User Agreement – and went barking mad.

The new paragraph at section 1.3 reads as follows:

“When providing us with content or posting content (in each case for publication, whether on- or off-line) using the Services, you grant the PayPal Group a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise any and all copyright, publicity, trademarks, database rights and intellectual property rights you have in the content, in any media known now or in the future. Further, to the fullest extent permitted under applicable law, you waive your moral rights and promise not to assert such rights against the PayPal Group, its sublicensees or assignees. You represent and warrant that none of the following infringe any intellectual property right: your provision of content to us, your posting of content using the Services, and the PayPal Group’s use of such content (including of works derived from it) in connection with the Services.”


And what is “content” supposed to be? PayPal is a payment service. So the only content there is, is the online stuff people and companies sell using PayPal as payment provider. Did PayPal just claim control over all of that?


• Bitcoin is the Future: PayPal Changes Terms of Service to Take Your Content
• PayPal


The Intelligence Community and Democracy

In many ways, Germany seems to be an OK country. At a glance.

The Germans have learned their lessons, after Nazi and Communist rule. They have a reasonably functional Constitutional Court and a reasonably decent constitution. The German parliament, Die Bundestag, is the only European national parliament looking into the Snowden files in a serious way. And German politicians will not accept having other countries spying on them, not even the US.

But, does it matter?

This is the German Federal Intelligence headquarters, the Bundesnachrictendienst (BND).


Somehow, it reminds me of the ad tag line for that German chocolate Ritter: Kvadratisch. Practich. Gut.

Well, the “Gut” thing… I’m not so sure.

Today Der Spiegel reported that the BND has targeted politicians in friendly European nations and inside Germany for surveillance on behalf of the US National Security Agency (NSA). reports, in English…

Der Spiegel reported that the US spy agency sent Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrictendienst (BND), huge numbers of “selectors” – computer addresses, mobile phone numbers and other identifying information – which are used to target people’s digital communications.

Die Zeit reported that the NSA asked for a total of 800,000 people to be targeted for surveillance.

This underlines a universal problem. What good are laws, constitutions, enquiries, democratic oversight and politicians who care for real – if the intelligence community does whatever it wants, without asking for permission or telling anyone?

But the true extent of the scandal wasn’t revealed until the Bundestag’s (German parliament) NSA Inquiry Committee submitted a request for evidence to the BND. (…)

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office, to which the BND is directly responsible, was not informed about the spying on friendly targets until after that parliamentary question was asked, in March 2015.

The intelligence services simply doesn’t give a fuck. They do whatever they want. And no matter what is going on in politics – they keep their close bonds with their Mothership, the US intelligence community.

Some might argue that we (the western world) must stick together in these matters. Maybe. Maybe not. But if we should, we ought to be open with it.

And all those intelligence agencies must be under some sort of democratic control. I understand the need for a certain level of secrecy. But, in the end, they are tools for the benefit of our democratic societies. Not the other way around.



Sony & MPAA to use trade agreements to stop copyright reform

Some days ago Wikileaks released the “dump” from the Sony hack. Among other things, we can find this piece of information…

“Finally, in regard to trade, the MPAA/MPA with the strong support of your studios, continue to advocate to governments around the world about the pressing the need for strong pro-IP trade policies such as TPP and the proposed EU/US trade agreement (TTIP).”

i) This might refer to the ISDS article of TTIP, allowing companies to sue countries who are changing laws in ways that may limit these companies future profits. In this case, suing the EU if it would reform its legal framework on copyright.

ii) It might also be a signal that TTIP will be yet another attempt to limit the freedom of the Internet — and to force Internet Service Providers to police (and be responsible for) everything their customers are up to. (Like in the ACTA treaty, that was voted down by the European Parliament.)

Probably both.

Today, copyright and “intellectual property” are concepts that are used in ways they where never intended to. They have become arguments for limiting free flow of information and free speech. They have become arguments for mass surveillance and control. And they are suffocating the free market.

Copyright must be reformed and adopted to todays markets and todays technology. But apparently Big Entertainment is doing all in its power to stop such a reform.

Finally, I love free trade. But I’m not so sure that is what trade agreements like TTIP is about. It looks more like regulations and restrictions, in many areas. And you don’t need trade agreements to have free trade. All you have to do is to open up your borders.



Big Entertainment and Big Media declaring war on VPN

TorrentFreak reports from New Zeeland…

“A pair of Internet providers who defied TV company demands to switch off their VPN services will be sued in the coming days. CallPlus and Bypass Network Services face legal action from media giants including Sky and TVNZ for allowing their customers to use a VPN to buy geo-restricted content.”

This was somehow expected. The copyright industry is very annoyed when it comes to VPN services.

There is reason to believe that the New Zeeland cases will be the start of a series of similar court cases around the world. The entertainment and media industries are essentially multinational. Most likely, this is just a pilot case.

Once again Big Business wants to shut down legitimate Internet services, just to protect their outdated business models. But they can never win. Instead, they should accept and embrace the simple fact that the Internet provides one global media market.

It is ridiculous to believe that people all over the world would refrain from watching their favourite TV series and films if VPN services where to be shut down. It would only bring new life to traditional illegal file sharing.

One must remember that people using media services via VPN are not pirating. They are paying customers – only in another country. All Big Entertainment and Big Media might accomplish by going after VPN services is to turn these paying customers into non-paying pirates.

The fact that the copyright industry refuses to adopt to a global, connected market is nothing new. This seems to be a never ending story.

But VPN is not just about light entertainment. VPN is serious stuff. It is used by companies, organisations, governments and private individuals for security and privacy reasons. It is a way to get round censorship. It is a part of the toolbox that dissidents, opposition groups and activists  use to communicate securely.

There is no way Big Entertainment and Big Media should be allowed to shut down this important instrument of freedom, security and anonymity. Instead, they must learn to adapt to the real world market.

TorrentFreak: TV Companies Will Sue VPN Providers “In Days” »



Agent provocateur

The Intercept has a captivating piece on the new documentary film (T)ERROR.

Apparently, the FBI has some 15,000 informants — or domestic spies — in the US. Most of them are involved in counterterrorism stings. The purpose is to to find would-be terrorists before they attack. Which might be a good idea. In theory.

In practice, however, much of these activities seems only to create a police state — where it is more important to frame people rather than capturing any actual, real terrorists. It all bears resemblance to the old East German Ministry for State Security, the Stasi.

According to the film, FBI informants often provoke or even pay people to take part in suspect and illegal activities. Thus creating pseudo crimes, that would never have taken place otherwise.

In the main case of the film, due to pure incompetence, the FBI unknowingly alerts the person subject to such an entrapment about what is going on. Eager to clear his name, this man contacts lawyers and journalists — and happens to get in touch with the film crew.

Now, this story is being told from both sides…

“The documentary then becomes a house of mirrors, with each side of the FBI’s counterterrorism operation being reflected onto the other, revealing a mash-up of damaged people being exploited by overzealous government agents, with no sign at all of anything resembling terrorism or impending danger to the public.”

This is a disturbing, tragic side of surveillance and the war on terror that is hardly ever exposed.

The US government setting up operations aimed at provoking targets that poses no real threat to society is a waste of taxpayers money, draining resources from investigating real criminals and terrorists — and might actually radicalise the persons targeted, for real, by pissing them off.

Read the whole piece in The Intercept: The FBI Informant Who Mounted a Sting Operation Against the FBI »



Government and encryption: The split key approach

Governments are trying different approaches to circumvent encryption. While the British can send you to jail if you don’t give up your password, the US administration (restricted by the fifth amendment) is floating an alternative concept: the split key.

The idea is to gain access to smart phones and computers trough a unique “master key” for each unit, that is split in two — where the tech company in question has one part and the government has the other. By a court order the tech company could be ordered to hand over their part of the key to the government.

Keeping track of every new or used smartphone, tablet, laptop an PC and who is using it — pairing it with half a unique key — for sure will create a lot of new jobs in the public sector. And it will become a mess.

One central issue is how not to compromise user security. The Washington Post writes…

But some technologists still see difficulties. The technique requires a complex set of separate boxes or systems to carry the keys, recombine them and destroy the new key once it has been used. “Get any part of that wrong,” said Johns Hopkins University cryptologist Matthew Green, “and all your guarantees go out the window.”

How can we even trust that tech companies will not collaborate with the government behind their customers back? It has happened before. Would you bet on it never happening again? Ever?

And, is it necessary?

Neither Bitkower nor FBI Director James B. Comey, who also has been vocal about the problem, has been able to cite a case in which locked data thwarted a prosecution. But they have offered examples of how the data are crucial to convicting a person.

Should we really treat all citizens as potential criminals or terrorists? Will not the uncertainty about security breaches and fuck ups overshadow possible “benefits”? Do people have any reason to trust government any more than the government trusts them?

Somehow, this is no longer a question of security, law enforcement or even intelligence activities. It has become a matter of principle. The government demands to have access to all citizens all telecommunications and computers.

This is a red line that should never be crossed. Because if we do, it will be irreversible.

WP: As encryption spreads, U.S. grapples with clash between privacy, security »



EU: Should you be in control of your personal data or not?

The European Union is currently working on a new legal framework for data protection.

This process has been subject to massive lobbying from companies on both sides of the Atlantic – trying to water it down.

At the moment the dossier is dealt with at the European Council. There EU member states seems to be just as eager to undermine any substantial protection of citizens rights to their own data as the industry lobbyists.

This is a complex process, hidden behind a wall of documents and often carried out behind closed doors. It’s all so complicated that the media seems to choose to ignore it.

So, what is the conflict all about?

To put it simply: It’s about your right to control your own personal data.

The principle that lobbyists and member states refuse to accept is that it should be up to you to decide if and how your data is to be used. It’s a matter of consent.

The Big Business and Big Government approach is that there is no need for consent. That you should not be in control of how your personal information is used. That you and your rights are not important.

The usual suspects would like to keep us all as digital slaves.

This is about privacy. And it’s about your right to control your own life.