By Sally Adee for New Scientist. WELCOME to the new normal. Even before Donald Trump was elected, the US was already in a “golden age of surveillance“. As Edward Snowden revealed in 2013, the US government’s surveillance powers had expanded dramatically under the Obama administration. Trump has repeatedly signalled that he intends to make much greater use of these capabilities – perhaps inspired by British legislation that has given the UK government unprecedented power to snoop on its citizens. In both cases, such powers were ostensibly introduced to combat terrorism. But there’s very little evidence that greater spying powers actually catch terrorists, many of whom already know how to evade spooks. On the other hand, there is mounting concern among privacy advocates and human rights campaigners that such powers will stifle domestic dissent and enable political witch-hunts.
By Cora Currier for The Intercept. New York City – Earlier this month, on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the lower tip of Manhattan was thronged with soldiers in uniform, firefighters marching with photos of lost friends pinned to their backpacks, and tourists bumbling around the new mall at the World Trade Center. Firetrucks and police cars ringed Zuccotti Park and white ribbons adorned the iron fence around the churchyard on Broadway. Trash cans were closed up, with signs announcing “temporary security lockdown.” So it felt a bit risky to be climbing up a street pole on Wall Street to closely inspect a microwave radar sensor, or to be lingering under a police camera, pointing and gesturing at the wires and antenna connected to it. Yet it was also entirely appropriate to be doing just that…
By Sam Sacks for The District Sentinel – For the second time in two weeks, legislation to update a thirty-year old digital privacy law was yanked from consideration by a Senate panel—a sign that the bill, which passed the House 419-0, is dead in the upper chamber. The ECPA Amendments Act was slated to be marked up and voted on in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but its co-sponsors withdraw the measure after fellow senators continued efforts to weigh it down with controversial amendments.
By Jennifer Lynch for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Since 2008, the FBI has been assembling a massive database of biometric information on Americans. This database, called Next Generation Identification (NGI), includes fingerprints, face recognition, iris scans and palm prints—collected not just during arrests, but also from millions of Americans for non-criminal reasons like immigration, background checks, and state licensing requirements. NGI contains well over 100-million individual records that include multiple forms of biometric data as well as personal and biographic information. Although many people assume the FBI’s files only include fingerprints and other data associated with criminal activity, much of these records—nearly 50-million individual files—contain data collected for non-criminal purposes. Now the FBI wants to exempt this vast collection of data from basic requirements guaranteed under the federal Privacy Act—and it’s giving you only 21 business days to object. EFF, along with 44 other privacy, civil liberties, and immigrants’ rights organizations, sent a letter to the FBI demanding more time to respond.
By William Turton for Gizmodo – You probably think the US government needs a warrant if they want to dig through your old emails, texts, and instant messages, right? Well, you’re wrong! That may change soon with the Email Privacy Act, which was just passed in the House by a vote of 419 to 0. The law that currently governs how police can pry into your digital life is theElectronic Communications Privacy Act, which was originally passed in 1986.
By Spencer Ackerman for The Guardian – The FBI has quietly revised its privacy rules for searching data involving Americans’ international communications that was collected by the National Security Agency, US officials have confirmed to the Guardian. The classified revisions were accepted by the secret US court that governs surveillance, during its annual recertification of the agencies’ broad surveillance powers. The new rules affect a set of powers colloquially known as Section 702, the portion of the law that authorizes the NSA’s sweeping “Prism” program to collect internet data.
Evan Greer for Fight For The Future. The FBI just got a judge to order Apple to create a backdoor into the iPhone — putting all of our safety at risk by exposing personal information to hackers, criminals, terrorists, and government spies. The FBI has been trying this for years, but now they’re exploiting the tragedy in San Bernardino to push their reckless agenda. Our basic safety and security is at stake. So on Tuesday, February 23rd we will gather at Apple stores nationwide with one simple message: “Don’t Break Our Phones!” This isn’t just about the iPhone, because once the government is able to order companies to unlock their devices and build in backdoors, none of our data will be safe, because courts will be able to issue similar orders for Androids, PCs, and every other device out there. Ultimately, breaking the security features of our phones puts all of our safety at risk. Once a backdoor is built, anyone who finds it can use it. That means it won’t only be used by governments or law enforcement. It’s only a matter of time until someone else finds it, enabling malicious hackers, foreign governments, terrorists, thieves and stalkers to use our data against us.
By Shahid Buttar for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. February 9, 2016 – This morning, the White House announced an Executive Order establishing a federal interagency privacy council composed of senior privacy officials from two dozen federal agencies. While seeming to offer some promise, however, the council has a limited mandate, and ultimately represents an overdue nod to privacy principles the administration has repeatedly abused in practice. If the Obama administration wants to support privacy, it can start by finally offering straight answers to Congress on surveillance and intelligence practices that offend privacy. Instead, Congress has legislated surveillance policy in the dark while enduring a long series of executive misrepresentations.
By Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson for Bloomberg Business – Silicon Valley celebrated last fall when the White House revealed it would not seek legislation forcing technology makers to install “backdoors” in their software — secret listening posts where investigators could pierce the veil of secrecy on users’ encrypted data, from text messages to video chats. But while the companies may have thought that was the final word, in fact the government was working on a Plan B. In a secret meeting convened by the White House around Thanksgiving, senior national security officials ordered agencies across the U.S. government to find ways to counter encryption software…
By Elizabeth Weise for USA Today – SAN FRANCISCO — Privacy and security supporters held a rally outside Apple’s San Francisco store Wednesday to protest the U.S. government’s demand that Apple give the FBI a backdoor to hack into an iPhone recovered from Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the attackers in the December San Bernardino, Calif., shooting that killed 14 people. “We want to show Apple that people are standing with them,” said Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based cyber-liberties group.
By Cecilia Reyes for Pro Publica and WNYC – On the coldest morning New York City has seen this winter, a stream of teenage students hit a bottleneck at the front of a Brooklyn school building. They shed their jackets, gloves and belts, shivering as they wait to pass through a metal detector and send their backpacks through an x-ray machine. School safety agents stand nearby, poised to step in if the alarm bleats. It’s an everyday occurrence for more than 100,000 middle and high school students across the city. On this morning, as on every school day, senior Justin Feldeo prepares to be pulled aside for separate screening by a hand wand. Feldeo is studying to be a firefighter and the boots he wears for class trigger the metal detectors.
By Jessica Murphy for The Guardian – Opponents of Canada’s sweeping new anti-terror law are planning a major campaign to pressure the Liberal government to launch broad public consultations before overhauling the controversial legislation. Civil society groups, legal scholars and labour unions are calling on the government to hold a public debate on reforms for the legislation – known as C-51 – which they say are necessary to protect Canadian civil liberties, freedoms and personal privacy. “We know very little about the government’s plans for C-51, so our hope is they are going to listen to the huge number of Canadians who expressed deep, deep concerns about this bill when it was passed,” British Columbia Civil Liberties Association executive director Josh Paterson says.