Monday, August 15, 2011

Facebook, Privacy, wikileaks, anonymous 3a

Are the statements that Assange from wikileaks made about Facebook true?  Is it a spying machine?
Assange from wikileaks made this comment about Facebook:
Facebook, in particular, is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, their communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo – all these major US organizations have built-in interfaces for US intelligence. It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena – they have an interface that they have developed for US intelligence to use.
Assange went on to clarify:
Now, is it the case that Facebook is actually run by US intelligence? No, it’s not like that. It’s simply that US intelligence is able to bring to bear legal and political pressure to them. And it’s costly for them to hand out records, one by one, so they have automated the process. Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States’ intelligence agencies, in building this database for them.
Facebook made the following response to this statement:
We don’t respond to pressure, we respond to compulsory legal process...There has never been a time we have been pressured to turn over data — we fight every time we believe the legal process is insufficient. The legal standards for compelling a company to turn over data are determined by the laws of the country, and we respect that standard.
So what is the truth?  We shall investigate.  We post the video of this interview with Assange.  If you cannot see the embedded video here is the link:

There are certain things that we know the Federal government is doing to at least make it easier for them to read emails, posts and other kinds of electronic communications.  With the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) passed in 1994, gave law enforcement wide powers to wiretap and intercept all kinds of communications. There is an excellent review of this whole legislation done by the Electronic Freedom Foundation.  Part of this report states that,
Law enforcement agencies convinced the FCC that CALEA needed to be expanded in order to maintain the status quo. Because wiretapping has gotten so much more complex in the Internet age, they argued, it's just too hard for them to intercept all the communications that they need. Without structural changes to the Internet, they won't be able to conduct the same quality of investigations that they did ten years ago.
What law enforcement is seeking is the ability to make it very easy to tap into any persons IMs, text messages, VOIP conversations, etc.  Already the government has these powers but, according to the EFF report,
The FBI used the "tappability principle" to justify the demands in its petition. This principle holds that if something is legally searchable sometimes, it should be physically searchable all the time. But there is a vast difference between a computer network switch created precisely to be tappable and one that can be tapped with the right tools under the right circumstances. If we applied the FBI's logic to the phone system, it would state that every individual phone should be designed with built-in bugs. Consumers would simply have to trust law enforcement or the phone companies not to activate those bugs without just cause.
"The Patriot Act mandates that companies transform themselves into surrogate agents for the government." ACLU Report The Surveillance Industrial Complex
According to the EFF report, consumers would be asked to foot the bill for their own surveillance since this would cost millions in modifications to the internet service provider's systems.  These demands would also slow down innovation in development of faster and futuristic services since all equipment would have to be "CALEA compliant."  The EFF also thinks these systems would make the internet less secure.  The American Civil Liberties Union has coined a new phrase the Surveillance Industrial Complex.  It has produced a report titled, The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Business and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society.  This report cites some of the abuses or power on the part of the government in the late 20th century and onwards.

Project SHAMROCK & Project MINARET
According to the ACLU report, during the Cold War 
During the Cold War, for example, the major telegraph companies – Western Union, RCA and ITT – agreed to provide the federal government with copies of all cables sent to or from the United States every day – even though they knew it was illegal. The program, codenamed “Operation Shamrock,” continued for decades, coming to an end only with the intelligence scandals of the 1970s.
"It is the constitutional equivalent of the government requiring that all new homes be built with a peephole for law enforcement to look through." ACLU Report The Surveillance-Industrial Complex
These activities, code named, Project SHAMROCK accumulated 150,000 messages a month that were analyzed by the National Security Agency.  Another project code named, MINARET, collected the "electronic communications" of over 5,925 foreigners, 1,690 organizations and US citizens between 1967-1973.  These two abuses of power, are what brought on the creation of the FISA court in 1978.  Which since then has been eroded by legislation of the Patriot Act on the part of the Bush administration and renewed by the Obama administration, which have both encouraged wireless surveillance.  For a good CNN report on the issues of privacy you can go here.  We were not permitted to embed it in our blog.  We include, a video related to this issue, if you cannot the embedded video, here is the link:

The United Kingdom, is the leader of this surveillance revolution.  Here is a video for your perusal.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

In the ACLU report, it also confirms the additional rights law enforcement is seeking.
Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (CALEA), which forced telecommunications providers to design their equipment according to the FBI’s specifications in order to make eavesdropping easier and more convenient – in effect, requiring the architects of the nation’s newest communications networks to twist those networks into designs that they would not otherwise take, simply to preserve the government’s ability to eavesdrop. It is the constitutional equivalent of the government requiring that all new homes be built with a peephole for law enforcement to look through.
There are so many examples of ways in which the government can get information on its citizens that it is dizzying. The Pentagon's "Total Information Awareness" program was defunded by the Congress because of it flagrant violations of civil rights.  But parts of the program live on in black budget programs of the Defense Department.  One of these programs still in operation is the CIA's data mining program called "Quantum Leap."  According to the ACLU report it,
...enables an analyst to get quick access to all the information available – classified and unclassified – about virtually anyone.” (The CIA’s deputy chief information officer told a reporter that the technology is “so powerful it’s scary” and “could be Big Brother.”
We could go on, 
The amount of information that is available about a person once you have his or her name and address is stunning. A market ing brochure published by the data company and credit rating giant Experian provides a snapshot of the kind of practices that have become common.  The brochure describes how Experian helped the electronics retailer Best Buy "develop a 360-degree view of their customers."  Having gathered basic information about its customers from a"19 customer touch-points."  Best Buy "enhanced over 50 million customer records" with data compiled by Experian.  That data came from "more than 3,500 public and proprietary data sources," and includes age, estimated income, occupation, "lifestyle data" and data about individuals's product purchases "such as PC ownership and others."  It is unclear whether Experian was allowed to keep the purchase records of Best Buy's customers as part of this deal.  It is clear,m however, that many companies are betraying their customers by sharing the details of their transactions with data companies that adde them to the dossiers they maintain about us.
What about warrants for searches on the internet?  Are they needed or required by law?  We will let this Washington Post article speak for itself. 
The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation. The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the "content" of e-mail or other Internet communication.
 Based on the research we have been able to gather, Assange is essentially correct.  What is to be done about all of this?  We shall post our suggestions in our next article in this series.

No comments: