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2012: July-Sept

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Clean IT...

Leak shows plans for large-scale, undemocratic surveillance of all communications

Link Here25th September 2012

A leaked document from the CleanIT project shows just how far internal discussions in that initiative have drifted away from its publicly stated aims, as well as the most fundamental legal rules that underpin European democracy and the rule of law.

The European Commission-funded CleanIT project claims that it wants to fight terrorism through voluntary self-regulatory measures that defends the rule of law.

The initial meetings of the initiative, with their directionless and ill-informed discussions about doing something to solve unidentified online terrorist problems were mainly attended by filtering companies, who saw an interesting business opportunity. Their work has paid off, with numerous proposals for filtering by companies and governments, proposals for liability in case sufficiently intrusive filtering is not used, and calls for increased funding by governments of new filtering technologies.

The leaked document contradicts a letter sent from CleanIT Coordinator But Klaasen to Dutch NGO Bits of Freedom in April of this year, which explained that the project would first identify problems before making policy proposals. The promise to defend the rule of law has been abandoned. There appears never to have been a plan to identify a specific problem to be solved – instead the initiative has become little more than a protection racket (use filtering or be held liable for terrorist offences) for the online security industry.

CleanIT wants binding engagements from internet companies to carry out surveillance, to block and to filter (albeit only at end user - meaning local network - level). It wants a network of trusted online informants and, contrary to everything that they have ever said, they also want new, stricter legislation from Member States.

CleanIT (terrorism), financed by DG Home Affairs of the European Commission is duplicating much of the work of the CEO Coalition (child protection), which is financed by DG Communications Networks of the European Commission. Both are, independently and without coordination, developing policies on issues such as reporting buttons and flagging of possibly illegal material. Both CleanIT and the CEO Coalition are duplicating each other's work on creating voluntary rules for notification and removal of possibly illegal content and are jointly duplicating the evidence-based policy work being done by DG Internal Market of the European Commission, which recently completed a consultation on this subject. Both have also been discussing upload filtering, to monitor all content being put online by European citizens.

Key measures being proposed:

  • Removal of any legislation preventing filtering/surveillance of employees' Internet connections
  • Law enforcement authorities should be able to have content removed without following the more labour-intensive and formal procedures for 'notice and action'
  • Knowingly providing links to terrorist content (the draft does not refer to content which has been ruled to be illegal by a court, but undefined terrorist content in general) will be an offence just like the terrorist
  • Legal underpinning of real name rules to prevent anonymous use of online services
  • ISPs to be held liable for not making reasonable efforts to use technological surveillance to identify (undefined) terrorist use of the Internet
  • Companies providing end-user filtering systems and their customers should be liable for failing to report illegal activity identified by the filter
  • Customers should also be held liable for knowingly sending a report of content which is not illegal
  • Governments should use the helpfulness of ISPs as a criterion for awarding public contracts
  • The proposal on blocking lists contradict each other, on the one hand providing comprehensive details for each piece of illegal content and judicial references, but then saying that the owner can appeal (although if there was already a judicial ruling, the legal process would already have been at an end) and that filtering such be based on the output of the proposed content regulation body, the European Advisory Foundation
  • Blocking or warning systems should be implemented by social media platforms -- somehow it will be both illegal to provide (undefined) Internet services to terrorist persons and legal to knowingly provide access to illegal content, while warning the end-user that they are accessing illegal content
  • The anonymity of individuals reporting (possibly) illegal content must be preserved... yet their IP address must be logged to permit them to be prosecuted if it is suspected that they are reporting legal content deliberately and to permit reliable informants' reports to be processed more quickly
  • Companies should implement upload filters to monitor uploaded content to make sure that content that is removed -- or content that is similar to what is removed -- is not re-uploaded
  • It proposes that content should not be removed in all cases but blocked (i.e. make inaccessible by the hosting provider -- not blocked in the access provider sense) and, in other cases, left available online but with the domain name removed.



Update: The UK is the New Iran...

Wikipedia founder criticises the government's Snooper's Charter

Link Here6th September 2012

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has sharply criticised the government's snooper's charter , designed to track internet, text and email use of all British citizens, as technologically incompetent .

He said Wikipedia would move to encrypt all its connections with Britain if UK ISPs were mandated by the government to keep track of every single page accessed by UK citizens.

The entrepreneur said he was confident there would be a general move to encryption across the internet if British-based communication service providers were required to collect and store data for 12 months from overseas companies, such as Google and Facebook, for possible access by the police and security services.

He said the British government would have to resort to the black arts of hacking to break encryptions: It is not the sort of thing I'd expect from a western democracy. It is the kind of thing I would expect from the Iranians or the Chinese and it would be detected immediately by the internet industry, he told MPs and peers.



Extract: The new totalitarianism of surveillance technology...

24/7 tracking of citizens via biometrics

Link Here16th August 2012

A software engineer in my Facebook community wrote recently about his outrage that when he visited Disneyland, and went on a ride, the theme park offered him the photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy -- with his credit card information already linked to it. He noted that he had never entered his name or information into anything at the theme park, or indicated that he wanted a photo, or alerted the humans at the ride to who he and his girlfriend were -- so, he said, based on his professional experience, the system had to be using facial recognition technology. He had never signed an agreement allowing them to do so, and he declared that this use was illegal. He also claimed that Disney had recently shared data from facial-recognition technology with the United States military.

...Read the full article



Giving the Police the Finger...

West Midlands police get mobile fingerprint testing devices

Link Here14th August 2012

West Midlands police are now able to ID crime suspects on the street after hi-tech fingerprint devices have been rolled out across the force.

The scanners are satellite linked to the national fingerprint database and will instantly alert police if the scanned prints belong to a convicted criminal. Police will then be able to cross reference the information against the Police National Computer to find out if the person is wanted by the police or courts.

It is incredibly important that police officers using this technology have reasonable suspicion that an individual has committed a crime before they are stopped. This appears to be an extension of stop and search powers already held by police officers and it is a cause for concern that this could lead to an increase in innocent individuals being stopped by police.



Offsite Article: In Your Face!...

Link Here12th August 2012
Europe Already Has Draft Standard For Real-Time Government Snooping On Services Like Facebook And Gmail

See article from



Offsite Article: The Biggest New Spying Program You've Probably Never Heard Of...

Link Here 31st July 2012
The US quietly changes the rules to enable the creation of a central database of everything that the governments knows about people currently held in non centralised databases

See article from



Extract: Clearing The Air On Skype...

Most of what you read was inaccurate, but there are still reasons to worry

Link Here28th July 2012

Over the last few days there's been something of a firestorm of people claiming that Skype was letting police listen in on your calls.


So, to summarize:

  • Skype did make some infrastructure changes recently, but those changes likely were to increase the quality of the product, and had little to do with law enforcement/surveillance.

  • Skype has always had a program to provide available information to law enforcement if legally required to do so, but appears not to have made any major change to that program in quite some time. That program does not appear to include the ability to listen to calls.

  • Skype to phone (or phone to Skype) calls have always been tappable, because they touch the public telephone network, where they can be intercepted.

  • Skype to Skype calls remain encrypted, making it more difficult to tap them. However, because of the way Skype likely handles encryption keys, this does not mean that governments can't intercept the calls (or impersonate certain parties via Skype).

  • In the end, then, it appears that much of this discussion is a whole lot of fuss about nothing particularly new -- but it is worth noting that your Skype calls probably were never quite as secure as you thought they were, even if they're somewhat more secure than some other offerings with little or no encryption and a central server. But if you're looking for 100% secure communications, Skype isn't it -- but that's not because of any change. It's likely always been that way.

...Read the full article



Offsite Article: Mobile Phone Surveillance by the Numbers...

Link Here17th July 2012
US phone companies have hundreds of staff dedicated to serving snooping requests by the authorities.

See article from

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