What the Republican [screw your] online privacy bill will do

Republicans always celebrate screwing over your privacy

❝ The new Republican Congress hasn’t gotten much done in its first three months, but one thing it has accomplished is rolling back internet privacy regulations passed in the waning days of the Obama administration.

The regulations, if they had gone into effect, would have prohibited internet service providers from selling information about your online activities to advertisers. But…the House of Representatives blocked the move. Companion legislation has already passed the Senate, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill.

❝ That has sparked a backlash from Democrats and many privacy advocates. Michael Copps, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission, called the bill a “perversion of what the internet was supposed to be.” And many ordinary internet users wondered what they should do to protect their online privacy.

❝ The good news is that nothing is going to change right away. The Obama regulations weren’t scheduled to take effect until later this year, so the Republican bill simply preserves the status quo, which allows ISPs to sell customer data to advertisers. And while the law currently allows ISPs to do this, most aren’t currently doing it.

What the bill does do, however, is open the door for ISPs to sell customer data to advertisers in the future. Which means that customers who don’t want their ISPs sharing this kind of information with advertising networks are going to have to do some extra work to opt out of any programs their ISPs eventually put into place.

The bill has all the things wrong that are basic to opt-out regulations. The default setting = you are screwed unless you notice you are being screwed and hollering sets you free. The Republicans thought of that and opting-out will only be an option if your service provider feels like it. They won’t have to respect your privacy – which would have been required by Obama’s regs.

They will have the right to sell your metadata without your permission. So, if you think you can trust your ISP, cross your fingers and keep voting Republican. BTW, I have a bridge in Brooklyn going up for sale, next month. I’ll give you first bid.

Brits’ new Surveillance Law will be a global model – for repression

Civil rights advocates are up in arms over a sweeping new digital surveillance law in the United Kingdom, and not just because they say it intrudes on the privacy of people in the U.K. Some worry that the law sets an example other democratic nations will be tempted to follow.

The legislation…is called the Investigatory Powers Act (or, by its critics, the “Snooper’s Charter”). It enshrines broad new authority for U.K. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to conduct online surveillance, hack into devices deemed relevant to investigations, and make technology companies provide access to data about their users — even by forcing them to change the design of products. It also gives investigators the authority to use these powers in “bulk,” meaning they can access large data sets that may include information about people not relevant to investigations. They can even hack into devices owned by people who are not suspects in a crime.

…The most high-profile fight is over a new authority for the government to compel Internet service providers to retain “Internet connection records”—including websites visited or mobile apps used, the times they were accessed, and the duration of use — for up to 12 months for all their customers. Investigators won’t need a warrant from a judge to access this data. “There is no state in the Western democratic world that has anything similar,” says Eric King…former deputy director of Don’t Spy on Us, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations that advocates for surveillance reform…

Brazil and Australia have also recently instituted data retention laws. The U.S. has not, but the U.S. Department of Justice has advocated for mandatory data retention before, as have members of Congress. After the Snowden revelations, President Obama issued a policy directive limiting bulk data collection by the federal government itself. But Donald Trump could rescind that or work with Congress to require Internet service providers to retain data so investigators could access it later—a step that would be modeled on the U.K. legislation. “If the Trump administration wants to expand its surveillance powers, or seek sanction for more aggressive use of its existing powers, it could unfortunately point to the U.K.’s new law as precedent,” says Camilla Graham Wood, Privacy International’s legal officer.

RTFA for a peek at the brave new world brought to us in part by fools who vote for phonies like Donald Trump. That doesn’t exempt the chickenshit Establishment of Democrats and Republicans who roll over and stick all four feet into the air every time some surveillance pimp prattles about fear.

Net neutrality gets a big win in federal court

Just the beginning, folks

An appeals court upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules…requiring internet providers to treat all web traffic equally.

The three-judge panel’s 2-1 decision is another victory for consumer advocates, the regulator and the Obama administration who have campaigned for years to protect an open internet.

While it is a major setback for the cable companies and other internet service providers that lined up to oppose the rule-making, it is unlikely to be the last time the rules are challenged; both sides expect the case to eventually land before the supreme court.

What? Did anyone expect these greedy bastards to accept any ruling that limits the number of zeros they already lie about on their tax returns.

The rules, which change the FCC’s classification of internet service providers by treating them like a public utility, attempt to prevent companies that provide internet connections from privileging traffic from one source over another.

An army of internet activists fought for the net neutrality rules passed by the FCC in 2015…

The FCC recorded over 4 million comments from ordinary human beings. Consumers. Folks who pay the bill.

The FCC argued that the rules are crucial for allowing customers to go anywhere on the internet without a provider favoring its own service over that of other competitors.

The FCC’s move to reclassify broadband came after Barack Obama publicly urged the commission to protect consumers by regulating internet service as it does other public utilities.

For all the claptrap from politicians and corporate pimps about capitalist competition a great many Americans have little or no choice when it comes to accessing the Web. I have two. I get a decent speed from my cable provider – for way too much money. One friend in San Francisco gets four times my download speed for less than my monthly charge.

Like most rural Americans [and Canadians] there are friends of this blog still dealing with not much more than dial-up speeds even though copper is capable of a lot more.

The United States isn’t in the Top Ten for average internet speeds.

Internet’s bad neighborhoods aren’t big – just home to the worst creeps!


About 50% of all junk mail on the net emerges from just 20 internet service providers (ISPs)…

The survey of more than 42,000 ISPs tried to map the net’s “bad neighbourhoods” to help pinpoint sources of malicious mail…The survey by a researcher in Holland found that, in many cases, ISPs specialise in particular threats such as spam and phishing…

The large-scale study was carried out to help fine-tune computer security tools that scrutinise the net addresses of email and other messages to help them work out if they are junk or legitimate. Such tools could make better choices if they were armed with historical information about the types of traffic that emerge from particular networks…

Of the 42,201 ISPs studied about 50% of all junk mail, phishing attacks and other malicious messages came from just 20 networks, Giovane Cesar Moreira Moura found. Many of these networks were concentrated in India, Vietnam and Brazil. On the net’s most crime-ridden network – Spectranet in Nigeria – 62% of all the addresses controlled by that ISP were seen to be sending out spam.

Networks involved in malicious activity also tended to specialise in one particular sort of malicious message or attack, he discovered. For instance, the majority of phishing attacks came from ISPs based in the US. By contrast, spammers tend to favour Asian ISPs. Indian ISP BSNL topped the list of spam sources in the study…

The data gathered for the study is helping to create analysis tools that will do a better job of assessing whether traffic coming from sources never seen before is good or bad. In the same way that people avoid walking through parts of towns and cities known to be dangerous, security tools can start to filter traffic from ISPs known as historical sources of malicious messages.

Even if you’re gambling with friends, you cut the cards. If you’re playing with strangers, it helps to have ground rules founded in history. ISPs which consistently dispense criminal attacks lose the excuse of ignorance after a while.

Which companies protect your data from the government — and which don’t?

When you use the Internet, you entrust your online conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos, and more to companies like Google, AT&T and Facebook. But what happens when the government demands that these companies to hand over your private information? Will the company stand with you? Will it tell you that the government is looking for your data so that you can take steps to protect yourself?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation examined the policies of 18 major Internet companies — including email providers, ISPs, cloud storage providers, and social networking sites — to assess whether they publicly commit to standing with users when the government seeks access to user data….We also examined their track record of fighting for user privacy in the courts and whether they’re members of the Digital Due Process coalition, which works to improve outdated communications law. Finally, we contacted each of the companies with our conclusions and gave them an opportunity to respond and provide us evidence of improved policies and practices…

We are pleased to see that service providers across the board are increasingly adopting the best practices we’ve been highlighting in this campaign. We first published this report last year to recognize exemplary practices that at least one service provider was engaging in for each category we measured. This year, it appears that publishing law enforcement guidelines, formally promising to give users notice when possible, and publishing transparency reports are on their way to becoming standard practices for industry leaders, and several more service providers are pushing for privacy protections in the courts and on Capitol Hill.

We’re also happy to report that several of the companies included in last year’s report have stepped up their game. Facebook, Dropbox and Twitter have each upgraded their practices in the past year and earned additional stars. Comcast drew our attention to a case in which they went to bat for user privacy, and so it earned a star, too.

Some of the new companies we’ve added to the report are neck-and-neck with the competition. LinkedIn and SpiderOak, like Dropbox, have each earned recognition in three categories: promising to inform users about government access requests, transparency about how and when data goes to the government, and standing up for user privacy in Congress. None of them has a publicly available record of standing up in court for users. However, that’s not something that all companies have had the opportunity to do, and sometimes companies will defend users in court but be prevented from publicly disclosing this fact.

We are especially pleased to recognize the first company to ever receive a full gold star in each of the categories measured by the privacy and transparency report: Sonic.net, an ISP based in Santa Rosa, California.

You know I sometimes disagree with the EFF. When they climb onto their Open Source Religion hobby horse, those rare occasions when they start to behave like Greenpeace on a fundraising drive – patting themselves on the back. But, in general, they act like a cyber-ACLU and that’s OK by me. We all need someone dedicated to protecting our online speech and privacy. This report is another example of the electronic Frontier Foundation doing a terrific job.

RTFA for graphic results.

The Queen introduces a bill to aid online spying — on you!

The Queen has formally announced plans to greatly increase surveillance of the internet by intelligence agencies and the police, in plans that are being labelled a “snooper’s charter” by civil liberties groups.

She said the government would introduce “measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public”.

The plans were “subject to scrutiny of draft clauses”, the Queen added, caveat understood to have been inserted in her speech at the insistence of Libs Dems. They are concerned by the impact the Communications Data Bill will have on individual freedom and privacy, and feared detailed debate would be steamrollered in Parliament.

The Government did not reveal any technical details about its plans, which are designed to make it easier to discover who has contact whom, when and where, via internet services such as Facebook, Gmail and Skype. But a document released alongside the Queen’s Speech makes it clear that internet and mobile providers will be expected to intercept and store the relevant data for 12 months

Liberty, the human rights group, said it would campaign against the proposals, which it branded a “snooper’s charter”…

The Home Office said that the new system would offer “a proper avenue of complaint” for those who think they have been unlawfully spied upon.

I’m not entirely certain what that means in the UK – but, out here in the [former] colonies it means the government is telling you to go screw yourself and the horse you rode into town on. You have no rights.

Is your Congress-critter supporting Leahy’s privacy bill?

Now who would want to see my email?
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) has proposed sweeping digital privacy protections that would require the government, for the first time, to get a probable-cause warrant to obtain e-mail and other content stored in the cloud.

Leahy’s proposal (.pdf) would nullify a provision of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act that allows the government to acquire a suspect’s e-mail or other stored content from an internet service provider without showing probable cause that a crime was committed, as long as the content has been stored on a third-party server for 180 days or more. The government had only needed to show that it has “reasonable grounds to believe” the information would be useful in an investigation…

“We think this is the beginning of the discussion. This is a very positive step,” Chris Calabrese, legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said by telephone…

But the Leahy bill, which has not been sent to committee for review, is a give-and-take of sorts when it comes to other forms of electronic privacy…

The measure would also expand, or at least clarify, the information the government may obtain with so-called National Security Letters. They allow the FBI, without a court order, to obtain telecommunication, financial and credit records relevant to a government investigation. The Leahy bill adds “electronic communication identifiable information” and strikes “electronic communication transactional records.”

“It is not appropriate for the government to be able to get detailed information on everybody who you communicated with,” Kevin Bankston, a privacy lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said by telephone.

That said, the bill is “a great leap forward,” Bankston said.

The struggle takes us all the way back to the founding of this nation. There have always been those who are committed to the power of the government over the rights of individuals. And some libertarians who refused to consider the question of benefits to the common good superseding any individual’s rights.

Most educated folks come down on the side which support individual freedoms within history’s context. Those who are tied emotionally for one reason or another to the extremes of history and government end up stuck into the disparate worlds of anarchist or fascist. Although they occasionally share rationales. :}

I wish Senator Leahy well with his attempt and will zap off an email via www.congress.org to my elected representatives suggesting they support the bill, too.

Egypt turned off the Internet one phone call at a time

Egypt’s shutdown of the Internet within its borders is an action unlike any other in the history of the World Wide Web and it might have only taken a few phone calls to do it.

“It’s something I’ve never seen; it’s totally unprecedented,” said James Cowie, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Renesys, an IT company in New Hampshire that helps Internet service providers monitor the security of Web networks and infrastructure.

“Over a period a period of about 20 minutes, it’s as if each of the primary service providers started pulling the routes that lead to them. It wasn’t like a simultaneous withdrawal.

“Nobody flipped an off switch or hit a big red button. It was one by one until they were all gone.”

The Egyptian government cut off nearly all online services between midnight and 12:30 a.m., Egyptian time, on Friday, Cowie said — something he noted on his company’s blog as he witnessed the blackout…

“Egypt is a modern country; the government doesn’t own the Internet,” Cowie said. “There are private companies of varying sizes that own and operate their own infrastructure. But it seems that they got a call and so they turned it off.”

This is perfectly legal according to the laws of some countries. And if ISPs wish to do business in such countries they will sign contracts that agree to the laws of the land.

We don’t have laws like this in the United States. Yet.

Some members of Congress are trying to change that.

‘Rogue’ internet firm 3FN shut down

An internet firm linked to many of the internet’s criminal gangs has been shut down.

The US Federal Trade Commission said Belize-based 3FN aided gangs that ran botnets, carried out phishing attacks and traded in images of child abuse.

The servers and net hardware of 3FN have been seized and are due to be sold off as the firm is dismantled.

The operators of 3FN must also pay back $1.08 million they are reputed to have made by hosting criminal sites…

It was involved in distributing spyware, viruses and trojans, had a hand in many phishing schemes and helped gangs sell illegal images. It also acted as a discussion forum for many spammers.

In particular, said the FTC, the net firm worked with fraudsters who run botnets and helped them steal data by seeding hijacked computers with keyloggers. It maintained a library of more than 4500 malicious programs that could pilfer data from hijacked PCs.

In June last year, the FTC used an injunction to cut 3FN off from other hosting providers and sever its connections to the net.

Now the FTC has gone a step further and won a court order that will see the company stop trading and its hardware confiscated. The FBI has been ordered to carry out the shut down and seizure operation.