Archive | July, 2015

Mass surveillance creates a suspicious society

Society is getting more and more complex. The number of rules and laws is enormous, beyond the point where you reasonably can be expected have a grasp of what you may and may not do. And far from all rules are reasonable or intuitive. There are laws based on very subjective moral grounds, laws that creates crimes without victims and laws that are there for no apparent reason at all.

Most likely most of us are unknowingly breaking some laws every day. (And some knowingly.)

And where you have rules, you always have smug and self-righteous people acting as some sort of sentinels — telling others how to behave and ratting on people.

This happens in all sorts of groups and societies. But it has been especially noticeable in authoritarian societies. Ratting on others is perceived to prove to people in power that you are on their side — and it shifts focus away from looking closer at you and your behaviour. Sadly, this is a rather rational behaviour under certain circumstances.

So, what happens when you add mass surveillance to the equation? Everyone has something to hide. And when the authorities are able to scrutinise the lives, communications and actions of everybody — there are even stronger incentives for people to sell out others (by the same reasons as mentioned above).

Mass surveillance creates a suspicious society, where you cannot trust other people.

It’s easy for governments to exploit the publics fear of terrorism and crime — and rather difficult to get people to understand the dangers of a society where trust between people is being eroded.



TTIP — What to expect when it comes to Internet related issues

Just before summer recess the European Parliament adopted a resolution regarding the EU-US trade agreement, the TTIP. It was generally positive to an agreement — even though the actual content of the TTIP still is unknown, in large parts.

Free trade as in free trade is a positive thing. But is this what the TTIP is about? Some would say it’s more about regulations. But we cannot tell for sure. The negotiations are conducted behind closed doors and the legislators in the European Parliament will probably not be allowed to see the entire text until negotiations are over. And then it will be to late to change anything. At that point all they can do is to to adopt or reject the whole package.

That was what happened with the ACTA agreement. It was also negotiated in secret. And it was also a package deal, impossible to change. Due to (among other things) possible limitations to a free and open Internet — the European Parliament surprised everyone by rejecting the deal.

So what’s in store when it comes to “intellectual property” and the Internet in TTIP? We still don’t really know. Some documents have been released (link»). But they are of a rather general nature and reveal very little when it comes to Internet related issues. But we have some indications.

This spring the European Parliaments legal affairs committee made a strong recommendation to exclude Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) from the TTIP (link»). However, in its’ recent resolution the EP failed to follow up on this recommendation (link»).

And we have the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, the TPP. One TPP document leaked by Wikileaks (link») suggests the following…

The 95-page, 30,000-word IP Chapter lays out provisions for instituting a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states. The Chapter’s subsections include agreements relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design.

The longest section of the Chapter – ’Enforcement’ – is devoted to detailing new policing measures, with far-reaching implications for individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, internet service providers and internet privacy, as well as for the creative, intellectual, biological and environmental commons. Particular measures proposed include supranational litigation tribunals to which sovereign national courts are expected to defer, but which have no human rights safeguards. The TPP IP Chapter states that these courts can conduct hearings with secret evidence. The IP Chapter also replicates many of the surveillance and enforcement provisions from the shelved SOPA and ACTA treaties.

It is expected that the TTIP will include something similar.

This suggests that TTIP will be ACTA all over again — when it comes to IPR, Internet related issues and civil rights.

The TTIP has already been heavily criticised when it comes to the “investor state dispute settlement” chapter, ISDS. But due to lack of substantial information civil society, activists and the media have yet not had any opportunity to react to any IPR and Internet related issues.

This might be a lesson the EU and US administrations have learned from ACTA — to play their cards close to their chest. The later this information is released, the harder it will be to build momentum for a campaign like the one that took down ACTA.

However, this is a weak plan. We know that there will be something. And we have some indications about what to expect. We are ready to take on the TTIP in full force and with short notice — to defend a free and open Internet. Like we did with ACTA.

I most strongly do recommend the EU and US administrations to follow the European Parliaments legal affairs committees recommendation to exclude IPR (and Internet related issues) from TTIP if they want this agreement to come true.

But they won’t.



EU & mass surveillance: Business as usual

I took some time looking trough some of my Youtube-clips on the European Parliaments hearings om mass surveillance during the last legislature (2009-14).

It’s amazing. Everything was laid out in front of the MEP:s. But all the EP could come up with was some half-lame resolution (an opinion, not legislation). And thats it. The new parliament (2014-19) has so far done nothing to follow up on this.

You really should look trough this hearing, with the late Caspar Bowden. He served the MEP:s everything on a silver plate. (If you don’t have the time, give it at least ten minutes.)

Youtube »

Did they read the paper? Nah. Did they act on the information? Not really. Did they care? I don’t think so.

Today it’s business as usual. Nothing of substance has been done when it comes to the EU acting on US mass surveillance. The British and the French (and many others) have — if anything — learned from NSA, now collecting everything. NSA partners (such as the Swedish FRA) carries on as usual. And the European Commission has failed to act on the few recommendations the EP actually gave.

Somehow, I get the impression that our political leaders don’t care. Or don’t want to know. Or maybe… they are not on our side.

We really should elect better politicians.



European Parliament pushing forward with registration of travel data

Wednesday, 15 July, key committees in the European Parliament will push forward with registration of our travel data (PNR).

EDRi writes…

“The question is simple. In the absence of any evidence of necessity, of usefulness, of proportionality, is it acceptable to treat every citizen as a potential serious criminal? Is it acceptable to indiscriminately collect individual’s information, storing it in stockpiles of data which will become a security risk in their own right? Is it acceptable that, having made this mistake with telecommunications data retention, the European Parliament looks set to make this mistake again?”

Read more »


Caspar Bowden in Memoriam

We have lost the well known and well respected privacy advocate Caspar Bowden to cancer. How very sad.

Caspar Bowden was one of those rare activists on privacy and pan-european data protection who knew… maybe not everything, but more than almost everybody else.

I met him a few times, even though I didn’t knew him personally. He was very important to our cause when I used to work for the Swedish Pirate Party in the European Parliament. He was there for you when you needed hard facts and the bigger picture.

To give you an image of Caspar Bowdens expertise, he predicted many of the NSA activities revealed by Edward Snowden years before these finally where exposed.

Now it’s up to us to carry on Caspar Bowdens work. We must do more, know more and dare more.

A few video clips:
Caspar Bowden forsees PRISM in October 2012 »
Caspar Bowden, NSA Hearing LIBE European Parliament, 24 Sept. 2013 »
Caspar Bowden on Cloud Computing and Surveillance (FISA) »

The Guardian:
Outspoken privacy campaigner Caspar Bowden dies after battle with cancer »

Wall Street Journal » | Techcrunch » | The Register »

Caspar Bowden will be sadly missed. And kept in light memory.

Update: According to his family, Caspar Bowdens funeral will be podcasted.



Enemies of the State, unite!

Have you noticed that they kill people based on meta data? Not in the US and Europe. But people far away. With drones, the targets selected from among other things: meta data from telecommunications.

So… what phone calls did you make yesterday? Last week?

They can. They do. Maybe not where you live. But it is only a matter of time.

But you have nothing to hide — and for that reason nothing to fear, right? (Really? Nothing?)

First of all, it may be up to a machine to decide on that. Without involvement of human reason. Doesn’t your communication patterns appear to be a little… odd?

Frankly, everyones communication patterns look odd — if you look into them in detail and add this with information from other social charts. You almost certainly are only a few common friends away from some seriously bad people. (Phone books are gold mines for people who draw lines between the dots.)

And there are plenty of laws around to make something stick to you. You don’t have to be guilty. But legal trouble can incapacitate you for years and drain all your money away. (The wars on terrorism, drugs and “piracy” can be very useful for the government, in this regard.)

In the US, apparently the Obama administration use the IRS to make life hell for anti-Obama activists. (Link») Captivating.

But it dosen’t have to be party political. You can become an Enemy of the State just by telling the people what their governments and officials really are up to. (Manning, Assange, Snowden, Brown & Co.)

This perverted system is already connected to the killing machines. I sure hope all our leaders are wise, honest and fair people. Always.



Experts: No to encryption back doors

From the New York Times

“An elite group of security technologists has concluded that the American and British governments cannot demand special access to encrypted communications without putting the world’s most confidential data and critical infrastructure in danger.”

“Such access will open doors through which criminals and malicious nation-states can attack the very individuals law enforcement seeks to defend,” the report said. “The costs would be substantial, the damage to innovation severe and the consequences to economic growth hard to predict. The costs to the developed countries’ soft power and to our moral authority would also be considerable.”

Raed more:

Security Experts Oppose Government Access to Encrypted Communication »

Computer Security Experts Release Report Slamming Proposals To Backdoor Encryption, As FBI Makes Latest Push »


Is the German government on Germanys side?

The news that the American spy organisation NSA has targeted the major German magazine Der Spiegel are serious and disturbing. But it is just the tip of the iceberg.

As it turns out the German government knew. But it did nothing to stop it. It didn’t report the issue to relevant democratic oversight bodies. And even worse — it lied about the matter to the German parliament.

To make things even worse it’s still unclear if the NSA obtained it’s information by spying on the newspaper, the Chancellors Office or the entire German political apparatus.

Der Spiegel writes…

“It remains unclear just who US intelligence originally had in its scopes. The question is also unlikely to be answered by the parliamentary investigative committee, because the US appears to have withheld this information from the Chancellery. Theoretically, at least, there are three possibilities: The Chancellery — at least in the person of Hans Josef Vorbeck. SPIEGEL journalists. Or blanket surveillance of Berlin’s entire government quarter. The NSA is capable of any of the three options. And it is important to note that each of these acts would represent a violation of German law.”

In Germany the constitution and the freedom of the press is taken seriously. What has been going on is in direct conflict with principles clearly laid out by the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.

“If it is true that a foreign intelligence agency spied on journalists as they conducted their reporting in Germany and then informed the Chancellery about it, then these actions would place a huge question mark over the notion of a free press in this country. Germany’s highest court ruled in 2007 that press freedom is a “constituent part of a free and democratic order.” The court held that reporting can no longer be considered free if it entails a risk that journalists will be spied on during their reporting and that the federal government will be informed of the people they speak to.”

This affair is now snowballing, putting the Chancellors Office under serious pressure. In a special editors note, Der Spiegel notes…

“The fact that the press no longer has a special protected status and can be spied upon in the same way as corporations, associations or government ministries, lends a new quality to the spying scandal. That the press appears to have been betrayed by its own government is outrageous. For this reason, SPIEGEL decided this week to file a complaint with the Federal Prosecutor’s Office on suspicion of intelligence agency activity.”

It seems that the German intelligence services and the Chancellors Office have neglected both democratic and judicial requirements to keep good working relations with the Americans.

This leading up to a situation where leading German officials appears to have sided with US intelligence services — rather than with the German constitution, German law, the German parliament and the German people.

Read more: An Attack on Press Freedom: SPIEGEL Targeted by US Intelligence »



UK: Cameron sticks to a ban on encryption

In the House of Commons, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has reaffirmed his commitment to ban encryption.

Or, at least, to demand “back doors” to all encrypted communication tools.

Is this political posturing or genuine ignorance?

Practically everyone who knows anything about encryption can tell you that “back doors”  to encrypted communications is a contradiction in terms. Either you have encryption where only end users with proper keys can read our messages. Or you have non secure systems where not only the government but also foreign governments, criminals, corrupt officials and terrorists will be able to interfere with peoples communications.

And how would the British government enforce a ban on encryption? They would need to scrutinise and pre-approve all communication tools and apps on the market. Even non UK ones. And they would need to scan everything to make sure no one uses stand alone encryption tools in combination with ordinary communication tools such as e-mail.

The only way to uphold a ban on encryption is to control all our electronic communications. And even that will not work.

Furthermore, a ban on encryption would need to be world wide.

Link: David Cameron is going to try and ban encryption in Britain »