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September 12, 2013

NSA admits to illegal surveillance to obtain probable cause to justify illegal surveillance

This is exactly like the cops breaking into your house, rummaging through everything you own and looking through your computer in search of some reason to break into your house. This is exactly what the 4th Amendment was designed to protect against. Yet Another NSA Violation
The latest NSA abuses involve the database of phone calls made by Americans compiled by the NSA. Phone companies have been ordered to turn over "metadata" about the calls made by their customers. The NSA keeps five years of this metadata on file at any given time. When the agency makes queries into the database, however, it is required by the FISA court to have a "reasonable articulable suspicion" that the call involves communication with a terrorist suspect or some other connection with terrorism. The opinion released this week showed that "of the 17,835 phone numbers checked against phone records," in a three-year period beginning in 2006, "only 1,935 were based on that reasonable-suspicion standard." The fact that only roughly 11 percent of the database queries made by the NSA during this period conformed with legal requirements is particularly remarkable given the relative weakness of the standard. The standard for obtaining a search warrant under the Fourth Amendment is "probable cause." A "reasonable suspicion" standard—similar language governs the constitutionality of "stop and frisk" searches—places substantially less of a burden on the state when it seeks to justify a search. So, as with New York's City's stop-and-frisk policy, it is particularly damning that for three years, the overwhelming majority of the NSA's database queries could not even meet that standard. The NSA's response, as reported by Wired, is essentially that it was all just too complicated so they shouldn't be held responsible: “Incredibly, intelligence officials said today that no one at the NSA fully understood how its own surveillance system worked at the time so they could not adequately explain it to the court,” says EFF activist Trevor Timm. “This is a breathtaking admission — the NSA’s surveillance apparatus, for years, was so complex and compartmentalized that no single person could comprehend it.” Intelligence Director James Clapper, in a blog post today, blamed the unlawful spying in part on “the complexity of the technology employed in connection with the bulk telephony metadata collection program,” and said it was not done deliberately.

August 15, 2013

Google admits they read your email

Google: Of Course We’re Going To See What’s In Emails Sent To Gmail Addresses, Don’t Be Silly – Consumerist
Raise your hand if you use Gmail. Now look around at your pals, who are ostensibly reading this with you and are perhaps one of 425 million Gmail users. Anyone sending email to those people apparently have no “reasonable expectation” that those communications are confidential, according to a court filing submitted by Google. Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog is calling the filing a “stunning admission,” as noted by The Guardian. This, after Google and others in the industry have come under intense scrutiny in the blowback from the National Security Agency’s surveillance tactics. “Google has finally admitted they don’t respect privacy,” said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director. “People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents’ privacy, don’t use Gmail.” The filing came about during an attempt by Google to dismiss a class action lawsuit that accuses it of breaking wire tap laws when scanning email sent from non-Google accounts, all with the aim of targeting ads to Gmail users. Which is why when I get a shipping notification that my order of vintage Sweet Valley High novels is on its way, I get an ad from eBay displaying Sweet Valley High DVDs (the TV show was crap, eBay, but thanks). According the suit, Google “unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people’s private email messages.” . . .

August 10, 2013

Pirate Bay Releases ‘Pirate Browser’ to Thwart Censorship

Pirate Bay Releases ‘Pirate Browser’ to Thwart Censorship | TorrentFreak
The Pirate Bay is arguably the most censored website on the Internet. Courts in the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and elsewhere have ordered Internet providers to block subscriber access to the torrent site, and more are expected to follow. Up until now The Pirate Bay has encouraged users affected by the blackout to use proxy sites. However, on its 10th anniversary they are now releasing a special “PirateBrowser” which effectively bypasses any ISP blockade. “It’s a simple one-click browser that circumvents censorship and blockades and makes the site instantly available and accessible. No bundled ad-ware, toolbars or other crap, just a Pre-configured Firefox browser,” The Pirate Bay explains. The browser is based on Firefox 23 bundled with a Tor client and some proxy configurations to speed up loading. It is meant purely as a tool to circumvent censorship and unlike the Tor browser it doesn’t provide any anonymity for its users. “This browser is just to circumvent censorship, to remove limits on accessing sites governments don’t want you to know about,” The Pirate Bay notes. PirateBrowser works like any other web browser and comes pre-loaded with several bookmarks for blocked sites, which aside from The Pirate Bay includes EZTV, KickassTorrents, Bitsnoop and H33T. . . .