Summary of Findings
Privacy evokes a constellation of concepts for Americans—some of them tied to traditional notions of civil liberties and some of them driven by concerns about the surveillance of digital communications and the coming era of “big data.” While Americans’ associations with the topic of privacy are varied, the majority of adults in a new survey by the Pew Research Center feel that their privacy is being challenged along such core dimensions as the security of their personal information and their ability to retain confidentiality.
When Americans are asked what comes to mind when they hear the word “privacy,” there are patterns to their answers. As the above word cloud illustrates, they give important weight to the idea that privacy applies to personal material—their space, their “stuff,” their solitude, and, importantly, their “rights.” Beyond the frequency of individual words, when responses are grouped into themes, the largest block of answers ties to concepts of security, safety, and protection. For many others, notions of secrecy and keeping things “hidden” are top of mind when thinking about privacy.
More than a year after contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents about widespread government surveillance by the NSA, the cascade of news stories about the revelations continue to register widely among the public. Some 43% of adults have heard “a lot” about “the government collecting information about telephone calls, emails, and other online communications as part of efforts to monitor terrorist activity,” and another 44% have heard “a little.” Just 5% of adults in our panel said they have heard “nothing at all” about these programs.
Perhaps most striking is Americans’ lack of confidence that they have control over their personal information. That pervasive concern applies to everyday communications channels and to the collectors of their information—both in the government and in corporations.
RTFA for details and conclusions.
The folks at Pew recently asked me why I use their studies, surveys and analysis. Prime – from my perspective – is integrity. They consider the standards inherent in our Constitution inviolable. A group of ideals advanced not only for their time; but, for today. And they would wish, I believe, to carry the standards forward into the future we must all fight for.
I admit to being blasé about the questions we confront in this study. I haven’t had the privacy Pew strives to address as a standard since the very first days I stood up against oppression and racism in this the land of my birth.
On the way to my first sit-in in the civil rights movement, crammed into a VW Kombi owned by the college student driving our very mixed bag of black and white, town and gown, to Virginia – hoping to survive sharing a Coke at some drugstore soda fountain – we were spotted and tailed by the Virginia State Police the instant we crossed their border. Which meant local coppers, FBI, had recorded our departure from New Haven and passed the word along.
Before the 1950′s were out I had my first confrontation with FBI agents who waited outside the factory where I worked. I was the chairman of the union’s COPE committee. The Committee On Political Education – which mostly concentrated on issues and platform questions in local and national elections.
Nothing much to say about it. A standard intimidation tactic back then. It never matters what they say they want to talk to you about. They usually try to sound like they’re really concerned about helping you. Which is a crock. The point they’re making is that they know who you are and what you say.
I told them to stick it where the sun don’t shine and walked away. That all happened before I made it to 1963. Ain’t much changed since as far as privacy in my life is concerned. Laws change. Politicians change a very little. Establishment, government lies about protecting the people haven’t changed a jot.
Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play Edward Snowden in a movie directed by Oliver Stone about the former National Security Agency contractor who blew the whistle on the US government’s mass surveillance programs, the film’s backers said on Monday.
Stone, who won best director Oscars for Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, has written the screenplay based on two books – The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena.
The still untitled film goes into production in Munich in January, said independent studio Open Road Films and production and financing company Endgame Entertainment.
Producer Moritz Borman said in a statement that he and Stone chose Open Road and Endgame because “this film needs an independent in the true sense, where political pressures will not come into play…”
Snowden leaked tens of thousands of classified intelligence documents to the media in 2013 and sparked a firestorm over the NSA’s gathering of data from the Internet activities and phones of millions of ordinary Americans and dozens of world leaders.
He is wanted by the United States on charges including theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and wilful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person…and believing in the US Constitution.
Trade groups representing Facebook, Microsoft and Apple are pushing the Senate to pass legislation limiting National Security Agency spying before the Republican majority takes control of the chamber.
A coalition of Internet and technology companies, which also include Google and Twitter, support a bill the Senate plans to vote on Nov. 18 to prohibit the NSA from bulk collection of their subscribers’ e-mails and other electronic communications. Many of the companies opposed a Republican-backed bill the House passed in May, saying a “loophole” would allow bulk collection of Internet user data.
Members of the Consumer Electronics Association “have already lost contracts with foreign governments worth millions of dollars,” in response to revelations about U.S. spying, Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of the group that represents Apple, Google and Microsoft, wrote in a letter sent to all senators yesterday.
The clock is ticking. If a final bill isn’t reached this year, the process for passing legislation would begin over in January under a new Congress controlled by Republicans, many of whom support government surveillance programs.
U.S. Internet and technology companies are confronting a domestic and international backlash against government spying that may cost them as much as $180 billion in lost business…
The issue emerged in June 2013 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed a program under which the U.S. uses court orders to compel companies to turn over data about their users. Documents divulged by Snowden also uncovered NSA hacking of fiber-optic cables abroad and installation of surveillance tools into routers, servers and other network equipment…
The Senate bill, S. 2685, would end one of the NSA’s most controversial domestic spy programs, through which it collects and stores the phone records of millions of people not suspected of any wrongdoing. In addition to curbing data collection, the legislation would allow companies to publicly reveal the number and types of orders they receive from the government to hand over user data.
RTFA for all the gory economic details. No, you won’t see any participation from tech companies dedicated to skimming the cream off the vat of money tied to the military-industrial complex. And you won’t find a clot of Blue Dog Democrats standing in line to vote for privacy.
Like their peers in today’s Republican Party, conservative Democrats aren’t likely to fight for the personal liberty they all blather about. The concept of “Libertarian” in Congressional politics is thrown around a lot. Mostly by hustlers who read one or two books by Ayn Rand. Perish the thought they stand up to be counted alongside ordinary citizens.
With their thousands of software engineers, huge resources and myriad databases, the Googles, Amazons and Facebooks may seem to inhabit an alternative IT universe.
But what the big web services firms are doing today with data volumes and data types will soon be the common experience for many businesses, according to Neo Technology CEO Emil Eifrem…
“If you’re interested in seeing the future of how data-oriented architectures are likely to evolve, the future is already here — just unevenly distributed,” Eifrem said.
“What that means is if you look at some of the big web services — the Googles and the Amazons of the world — they are already today dealing with the volume and shape of data that everyone else will be working on in five years from now…”
And our government – courtesy of their pat 3-letter agencies – is even bigger.
“When you receive an email in your Gmail account, that’s going to be chopped up into various forms and stored as a simple log over here in maybe the equivalent of a document database. But then over here all the contacts and the keywords are going to be stored in a graph database. Then they have really awesome systems for keeping all that data in sync,” he said.
“It’s not perfect and it’s a lot of hard work. But it’s the reality that we’re all going to face and a lot of people are already facing it today.”
Eifrem said companies are already past the point where a single database is capable of managing all data workloads — and it’s misleading for any vendor to suggest it has the answer to all an enterprise’s database problems…
“If you don’t go to the pains of choosing that technology and getting that thousand times improvement, then someone else in your vertical will. They’re just going to build a much better product and glean so much better insights that they’re going to outperform you…
“Every single dataset today or tomorrow is going to be big. So the role of the data architect in the future is going to be to look at my big dataset and then identify parts of it that are shaped as tables and say, ‘That fits really well in my trusted old relational database from Oracle or IBM or whatever,’” Eifrem said.
RTFA and keep this fact in the front of your brain: the dataset being discussed is you.
Eifrem sells products which perform best at slicing and dicing all the information available about your life and how you live — to sell you something and make a profit. That’s not what Uncle Sugar does with the same or similar software.
The government we confront – through Congress, through a compliant Supreme Court, led by whoever is in the White House from the Age of Reagan forward – compiles every speck of information on you, me and the dog to assure themselves that we’re going to stay in line. Or be kept in line. Some geeks will revolt! Some will accept a paycheck – and cooperate
Regardless of how often and how loudly they lie, the two qualities our government fears the most are transparency and democracy.
An agency of the U.S. Justice Department is gathering data from thousands of cell phones, including both criminal suspects and innocent Americans, by using fake communications towers on airplanes, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The program run by the U.S. Marshals Service began operations in 2007 and uses Cessna planes flying from at least five major airports and covering most of the U.S. population, the newspaper said…
The planes use devices made by Boeing Co that mimic the cell phone towers used by major telecommunications companies and trick mobile phones into revealing their unique registration data, the report said.
The devices, nicknamed “dirtboxes,” can collect information from tens of thousands of cell phones in a single flight, which occur on a regular basis…
The program is similar to one used by the National Security Agency which collects the phone records of millions of Americans in order to find a single person or a handful of people.
It smells just as bad.
The Journal cited the people familiar with the program as saying that the device used in the program decides which phones belong to suspects and “lets go” of non-suspect phones…
It also bypasses telephone companies, allowing authorities to locate suspects directly, people with knowledge of the program said.
The Journal quoted Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, as calling it “a dragnet surveillance program. It’s inexcusable and it’s likely, to the extent judges are authorizing it, they have no idea of the scale of it.”
The program stinks on ice.
Even if tame judges authorize fishing expeditions involving everyone’s phones – that doesn’t make the procedure any less of an invasion of privacy. Whether authorizing the NSA or US Marshals Service it is simply one more instance of our government corrupting the constitutional standing of our individual rights.
The excuses are the same as ever. Still invalid. Still contemptible.
Edward Snowden speaks to a European Council parliamentary hearing
U.S. technology companies have a lot to fear from the fallout over the widespread spying by the National Security Agency. Corporate customers ripping out their products from data centers around the world isn’t one of them.
The real threat? Projects just getting off the ground. A $185-million submarine data cable that Brazil is building to Europe – which the country says can be built without U.S. technologies – offers one example, which we reported on today.
The cable illustrates a bigger problem facing Silicon Valley and the rest of the U.S. tech industry: Emerging markets are spending more on information technology and taking a bigger share of the global market, as growth rates from developed countries are slowing down.
If the Brazil-to-Europe cable is built as planned, and U.S. tech firms are passed over in favor of European, Asian or local suppliers, it would be a sign that when it comes to international tech projects, the Snowden Effect will be as widespread as the NSA’s surveillance.
The dummies in Congress continue to maintain the Cold War mentality which has ballooned since 9/11. On one hand you have the wholesale handover of American privacy into the disdainful care of the NSA and FBI. They couldn’t care less about our rights.
On the other hand, you have populist politicians who attack furriners – especially China – as the Red Menace which sleeps in the closet opposite your bed – while terrorists sleep underneath. So, Huawei – which built the broadband infrastructure for France and a chunk of the UK, as examples – is banned from doing business in the United States. Does anyone think that constitutes a negative in the eyes of nations already put off by US militarism, snoops and profiteers? If Uncle Sugar is afraid of this company they must be doing something right.
Huawei may or may not get a piece of the Brazilian project; but, Cisco doesn’t stand a chance.
Newly disclosed National Security Agency documents suggest a closer relationship between American companies and the spy agency than has been previously disclosed.
The documents, published last week by The Intercept, describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as the fact that the NSA has “under cover” spies working at or with some U.S. companies.
While not conclusive, the material includes some clear suggestions that at least some American companies are quite willing to help the agency conduct its massive surveillance programs.
The precise role of U.S. companies in the NSA’s global surveillance operations remains unclear. Documents obtained by Edward Snowden and published by various news organizations show that companies have turned over their customers’ email, phone calling records and other data under court orders. But the level of cooperation beyond those court orders has been an open question, with several leading companies, such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, asserting that they only turn over customer information that is “targeted and specific” in response to legal demands.
Apple’s public acknowledgement of device encryption making it impossible to cooperate with federal snoops has truly pissed off our lazyass spy bureaucrats.
The documents do not identify any specific companies as collaborating with the NSA. The references are part of an inventory of operations, of which the very “fact that” they exist is classified information. These include the:
Contractual Relationships (pg 7)
Backdoors in US Encryption Systems (pg 9)
Whipgenie collecting US communications (pg 7)
NSA going under cover in US companies (pg 7)
Predictably, our elected flunkies who head up Congressional Intelligence committees didn’t have any comment. They’re too busy being obedient, unquestioning.
The mystery of the whereabouts of Edward Snowden’s long-time girlfriend is solved in a documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night: she has been living with the national security whistleblower in Russia since July.
The surprise revelation in the documentary, filmed by Laura Poitras, upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US.
Since Snowden, a former NSA contractor, outed himself last year as being behind the biggest leak in US intelligence history, Mills has remained silent, giving no interviews or any hints of her feelings on the subject of her boyfriend or his actions.
The two-hour long documentary, Citizenfour, shows Mills living in Russia with Snowden…
Citizenfour offers a fly-on-the wall account of Snowden. Poitras filmed him at the Mira hotel in Hong Kong last year during interviews with journalists that resulted in a series of stories in the Guardian about the extent of surveillance by the US and British intelligence agencies as well as the internet and telecom companies. The revelations started a worldwide debate about the balance between surveillance and privacy.
Poitras captures the tension in his room at the Mira – where then-Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and I interviewed him – and in his final minutes at the hotel before he fled after being tipped off that hordes of media were about to arrive. She also filmed at the Guardian in London ahead of publication of one of the most explosive of the stories arising from Snowden’s revelations, and in Moscow, where Snowden is now in exile.
Snowden has been reluctant to talk about his personal life, preferring the media focus to be on wider debate about surveillance rather than him. But Poitras’s portrayal is both personal and sympathetic.
In his first comment about the documentary, which Poitras had shown to him in advance, Snowden told the Guardian: “I hope people won’t see this as a story about heroism. It’s actually a story about what ordinary people can do in extraordinary circumstances.”
I wish more Americans had the courage of Edward Snowden. I’ve known a few, folks who became left-wing activists on behalf of civil rights, peace and national liberation BITD. Two in particular who worked for military intelligence, who left the military and returned to the United States to become active in very different ways. Like Snowden, revulsion at the lies and deceit of our government, our “leaders” patronizing attitude towards the American people, lies in support of an imperial foreign policy – turned them into activists against political corruption.
And Lindsay Mills – I know nothing more than what little I read in newspapers like the GUARDIAN. Most of what appears here in the States, from the TIMES to TV talking heads, you can presume to be crap, lies and more crap. Mostly motivated by dedication and subservience to the Washington establishment. I accept her private life with Edward Snowden as her own.
I accept their life together as a reflection of the proto-existential dicho, “what is done out of love takes place beyond good and evil”. Snowden, for love of his country and its Constitution. Mills, for love of her man.
As the clock ticks down on the 113th Congress, time is running out for the USA Freedom Act, the first legislative attempt at reining in the National Security Agency during the 9/11 era. Unless the Senate passes the stalled bill in the brief session following November’s midterm elections, the NSA will keep all of its existing powers to collect US phone records in bulk, despite support for the bill from the White House, the House of Representatives and, formally, the NSA itself.
But supporters of the Freedom Act are warning that the intelligence agencies and their congressional allies will find the reform bill’s legislative death to be a cold comfort.
On 1 June 2015, Section 215 of the Patriot Act will expire. The loss of Section 215 will deprive the NSA of the legal pretext for its bulk domestic phone records dragnet. But it will cut deeper than that: the Federal Bureau of Investigation will lose its controversial post-9/11 powers to obtain vast amounts of business records relevant to terrorism or espionage investigations. Those are investigative authorities the USA Freedom Act leaves largely untouched.
Section 215’s demise can happen through sheer incompetence, a feature – not a bug – of a House of Representatives controlled by Do-Nothing Republicans.
“Senators obstructing passage of the USA Freedom Act risk losing Section 215 altogether,” Congressman James Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican and Freedom Act co-author – Chief NSA butt-kisser…
The FBI has for years argued that its Section 215 powers, which permit the bureau to collect “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation at standards lower than probable cause, are critical for protecting the US against shadowy threats.
If the USA Freedom Act, already criticised as an insufficient reform, cannot be passed, “falling back to the fourth amendment is not a bad outcome,” Democrat Zoe Lofgren said…
Lawyer-think argues the provisions allowing a touch of habeus corpus before the FISA Court, the kangaroo court that pays lip-service to diminishing constitutional rights, will be lost. In practice, they generate nothing more than set decoration for the rule of government police.
Do I hold any hope for papier-mache reform? I doubt even that bit of play-acting will happen until after the mid-term elections. I do not expect any success at returning to standards of constitutional government until and unless a Progressive backbone can be rebuilt inside the Democrat Party. The Republican Party remains as it has since neo-cons took it over in the run for George W Bush’s first campaign. Their amalgamation with America’s racist and reactionary underbelly is complete.
If the government wants to listen in on your phone calls, it can. That’s the crux of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, enacted in 1994: It requires wireless carriers to keep the possibility open of wiretapping their networks. In 2005, the act was expanded to include VoIP and broadband providers.
But Calea has never been expanded from phone networks to phones themselves, and now phone makers—first Apple (AAPL), then Android—are releasing handsets with encryption that makes it impossible for the handset maker to retrieve data from the phone, warrant or no. The government is not happy. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law,” FBI director James Comey said last week. But there’s not much he or other branches of law enforcement can do to stop it, absent some help from Congress…
The lawmakers may not be as accommodating as they once were. Revelations about National Security Agency spying have made sanctioned surveillance into a political hot potato: The FBI’s recent push for further technological backdoors in Internet communications seems to have died last year. “Something happened,” recounted Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU at the hacker conference Defcon this summer. “Calea 2, which is the D.C. nickname for this backdoor proposal, for now is dead. It is dead in the water; no politician wants to touch that kind of surveillance for now. So thank you very much, Edward Snowden.”
If the public reaction to Snowden and Operation Prism killed political momentum to expand government power, it also pushed companies such as Apple to develop stronger encryption security in the first place. Assurances that the legal system alone is sufficient to protect privacy seem less credible than they have in the past, and Silicon Valley doesn’t want its reputation to suffer by appearing not to stand up for its users. If government officials are unhappy about this latest turn of events, they have only themselves to blame.
That portion of Congress not entirely consumed with theocracy, bigotry, the John Wayne theory of history – remains governed by cowardice. Fence-sitters and papier mache liberals have always been easy targets for the arrogant superpatriot brigade to tip over like a drunken heifer. Today, maybe not so easy.
Both the nutball Right and please-please-reelect-me Left know their base is pissed off about the NSA, the track record of the last two presidents and their lack of defense on the playing field of constitutional protections for the 98%. Minority caucuses, bona fide peaceniks, the few legitimate progressives in Congress know from decades of assault from every quarter that they haven’t any rights. So, it looks possible for a spell that technology and principles might prevail over political opportunism.