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Snooper's Charter IPB - 21st C version of Nazi surveillance

 
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 8:12 pm    Post subject: Snooper's Charter IPB - 21st C version of Nazi surveillance Reply with quote

Press freedom
The government is using terrorism as an excuse to spy on journalists
Michelle Stanistreet
The investigatory powers bill – or ‘snoopers’ charter’ – endangers press freedom, and offers no protection for sources or whistleblowers
http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/mar/14/government-terrorism-jour nalists-investigatory-powers-bill-snooper-charter

Theresa May has been accused of rushing through the investigatory powers bill or ‘snoopers’ charter’.
Theresa May has been accused of rushing through the investigatory powers bill or ‘snoopers’ charter’. Photograph: James Gourley/Rex/Shutterstock
Monday 14 March 2016 09.59 GMT Last modified on Monday 14 March 2016 12.04 GMT

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The investigatory powers bill, which will receive its second reading in parliament on Tuesday, contains a range of surveillance powers available to the security services, police and other public bodies.

The first draft last year raised alarm bells, including amongst the three cross-party parliamentary committees that voiced serious concerns. Yet it took the Home Office just two weeks to cobble together this re-draft that in no way resolves the bill’s serious flaws.

Farcically, concerns about privacy have been addressed by inserting one word into a heading. Part one of the investigatory powers bill was called “general protections” and is now called “general privacy protections”. This is how the government has responded to the parliamentary intelligence committee recommendation that “privacy protections should form the backbone of the draft legislation”.


Snooper's charter: wider police powers to hack phones and access web history
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The NUJ has been campaigning for improved laws and protections since a police report in 2014 revealed the Sun’s political editor’s mobile phone records and call data from the newsdesk had been seized in secret by police. When the British state has a total disregard for the protection of sources and whistleblowers then there are severe consequences for all journalists and press freedom.

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Not least will be the impact on journalists’ safety. Reporters who work in dangerous environments – in a war zone or when investigating organised crime – are already targeted. Being seen as agents of the state, or a conduit to information about their sources, will make their work fraught with greater dangers. The independence of journalists, and the very notion of press freedom, is something that is critical to our collective safety and credibility.

In its essence, this bill is exploiting public concerns about terrorism and national security as an excuse to spy on journalists.


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One section of the bill allows for “equipment interference”, enabling the authorities to access computers and electronic equipment. This interference includes hacking computers to gain access to passwords, documents, emails, diaries, contacts, pictures, chat logs and location records. Microphones or webcams could be turned on and items stored could be altered or deleted. Under the bill, journalists have no right to challenge this type of surveillance – in fact it is highly unlikely they would ever find out it has happened.

If journalists don’t know their work and their sources are being compromised then it becomes practically impossible to uphold our ethical principle to protect sources and whistleblowers.

The NUJ has a long and proud record of defending members from having to identify their sources, including backing a legal case in 1996 that fixed the journalists’ “right to silence” in European law.

That’s only possible if there is a transparent mechanism to challenge such demands for information on sources – if the state can get their hands on that information without a journalist ever knowing, how can we support the countless individuals who are brave enough to blow the whistle on information they believe the public needs to know about?

In 2015 a report by the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office revealed that 19 police forces had made 608 applications for communications data to find journalistic sources over a three-year period. Applications made and considered in secret.

Analysis Technology firms' hopes dashed by 'cosmetic tweaks' to snooper's charter
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In response the previous culture secretary, Sajid Javid, said “journalism is not terrorism” and the government promised to introduce safeguards. Despite a series of interim measures being put in place, none of the key ones are in this new bill. The cross-party parliamentary joint committee said that the “protection for journalistic privilege should be fully addressed by way of substantive provisions on the face of the bill”. Yet this government has turned its face and ignored the recommendation.

The bill also introduces legislative anomalies – there is no adherence to standards already established in legislation such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and Terrorism Act 2000. The bill contains no requirement to notify a journalist, media organisation or their legal representatives when the authorities intend to put journalists under surveillance or hack into their electronic equipment. There is no right to challenge or appeal and the entire process takes place in secret. The oversight measures do not involve any media experts who can advocate on behalf of journalists and press freedom. This is an outrageous abuse of press freedom in the UK.

The NUJ is not alone in having grave concerns about this latest version of the bill – we are joined by others in the media industry, trade unions, legal experts, and privacy and human rights campaigners. These extremely intrusive and unnecessary surveillance powers trample over the very principles of journalism and will be a death knell for whistleblowers of the future. There are a growing number of politicians waking up to the dangers in this bill and we hope others will think hard before they cast their vote on Tuesday.

_________________
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'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
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http://aanirfan.blogspot.com
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Any computer connected to the internet can be hacked by the US Government without a warrant, court rules
Privacy International says the ruling will have 'astounding implications for privacy and security'

Harriet Agerholm @HarrietAgerholm Friday 1 July 20160 comments
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/computer-internet-hac ked-us-government-privacy-international-a7113906.html

If a computer has a connection to the internet means no warrant is required for the US government to hack it, a Virginia court has ruled.

The judge angered privacy campaigners by reasoning that since no connected computer "is immune from invasion”, no user should ever expect their their activity to remain secret.

The decision was part of a case brought after an investigation into “Playpen”, a child porn website on the dark web, which the FBI hacked to find offenders.

Following the investigation, hundreds were prosecuted for offences relating to indecent imagery.

But despite the unsympathetic defendants in these cases, privacy campaigners warned the ruling had wider implications.

Scarlet Kim, legal officer at Privacy International, told The Independent the verdict would have "astounding implications for the privacy and security of anyone who owns an electronic device".

"The district court’s dangerous evisceration of a core constitutional protection would render all our personal digital devices susceptible to warrantless search or seizure by the government," she said.

"The justification that the rise in hacking destroys a reasonable expectation of privacy in these devices is illogical and absurd.

"Just because lock-picking is a well-known technique for breaking into homes hardly eliminates our expectation of privacy in that sphere."

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According to court documents, Playpen had over 150,000 members. Over two weeks, the FBI hacked into over 1,000 computers using a single warrant.

Senior District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr upheld the use of the warrant.

“Here, the court finds that defendant possessed no reasonable expectation of privacy in his computer's IP address, so the Government's acquisition of the IP address did not represent a prohibited Fourth Amendment search," the judge wrote in his ruling.

“Generally, one has no reasonable expectation of privacy in an IP address when using the Internet."

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'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
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Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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Whitehall_Bin_Men
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 8:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brits blindly walking into Orwellian surveillance state, survey suggests
Published time: 20 Apr, 2016 17:16
https://www.rt.com/uk/340411-big-brother-surveillance-state/
Britain is sleep-walking into an Orwellian surveillance state, with most of its citizens unaware of or disinterested in the far-reaching implications of the government’s Investigatory Powers (IP) Bill, a new survey suggests.
A poll conducted by broadband comparison site Broadband Genie reveals the widespread confusion many Brits are experiencing with respect to the soon-to-be-implemented legislation.
Known to its opponents as the “snoopers’ charter,” the bill will give UK law enforcement bodies unprecedented access to citizens’ online activities.
It will allow them to force broadband providers such as BT and Virgin to store people’s internet browsing history and hand over this data to the state in the absence of judicial oversight.
Intelligence agencies and government bodies such as the National Crime Agency (NCA) will also be allowed to hack citizens’ internet networks, personal computers and other devices.
While the government says the legislation is vital to combating organized crime and terrorism, privacy rights advocates say it goes too far. They argue unlimited access to citizens’ private communications and devices should be a real concern for British people.
Of 1,600 respondents surveyed by Broadband Genie, 75 percent said they had not heard of the IP Bill. Asked if they backed the government’s plans to ramp up mass surveillance in Britain, a third said they didn’t care either way.
Fifty percent of those surveyed said law enforcement agencies should not have access to citizens’ encrypted communications and devices.
Privacy International (PI), which specializes in the field of mass surveillance and privacy rights, says the IP Bill will give police deeply intrusive snooping powers, allowing for the installation of malware on citizens’ computers.
Such a move would empower UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies to spy on citizens by activating their microphones and webcams. PI also warns the draft legislation would allow UK authorities to remotely gain access to files on citizens’ computers and erode data security on their personal devices, without them knowing.
It currently remains unclear who will pay for the implementation and maintenance of the infrastructure needed to accompany these legislative changes. Experts suggest the cost could spiral into billions of pounds.
Home Secretary Theresa May originally pushed for a similar bill to come into force in 2014. However, then-Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg withdrew his support in April 2013. His party, the Liberal Democrats, subsequently blocked it from being reintroduced while they remained part of a coalition government with the Conservative Party.
Soon after the Conservatives secured a majority in the May 2015 general election, however, the Home Secretary vowed to introduce broad-ranging new surveillance powers in 2016.
By November 2015, she had announced a new draft IP Bill similar to the one previously put forward, but with an added dimension of oversight that has been sharply criticized by observers.
PI has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the implications of the IP Bill. Among the charity's chief concerns, is the argument that police hacking will make citizens less safe because the very technology these people use on a daily basis will become more vulnerable to cybercriminals.
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https://www.rt.com/uk/340411-big-brother-surveillance-state/

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'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
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http://aanirfan.blogspot.com
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bulk data collection vital to preventing terrorism, says watchdog
‘Proven operational case’ for tapping communications data adds support to ‘snoppers’ charter’
https://www.ft.com/content/b40ddf86-6620-11e6-8310-ecf0bddad227

YESTERDAY by: Sam Jones, Defence and Security Editor
Controversial surveillance measures that allow Britain’s spies to tap into global communications networks and hoover up data play a “vital” role in preventing terrorism, child abuse and organised crime, the UK’s independent terrorism watchdog has said.

A 200-page review by David Anderson, the lawyer entrusted with scrutinising terrorism legislation in the UK, said on Friday there is a “proven operational case” for so-called “bulk powers” to collect communications data.

Bulk data gathering by British intelligence agencies was instrumental in rapidly identifying individuals connected to the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks who posed a threat to the UK, the report said, after French and Belgian authorities passed on 1,600 leads.

It allowed the government to work out the identities of jihadis — including several Britons — from 20,000 Isis registration documents obtained from the terrorist group in March this year.

In Afghanistan, bulk data collection programmes were vital to finding hostages held by the Taliban and gaining knowledge of the extremists’ intent to execute them — an intelligence lead that triggered an immediate rescue operation authorised by the prime minister.

Mr Anderson’s review is the first, independent of parliament, to assess directly the controversial eavesdropping activities of GCHQ, the Cheltenham-based spy agency, and its peers, MI6 and MI5, which were exposed by the Edward Snowden revelations in 2013.

It comes just weeks before sweeping new legislation is due before parliament to codify the existing laws governing the UK’s spies in one place, and to extend significant new powers to them, in a bill critics have dubbed the “snoopers’ charter”.

The battle over electronic surveillance and civil liberties has raged fiercely for the past three years on both sides of the Atlantic, though in the UK it has rarely resonated as an issue of significant concern with the public.

Mr Snowden, a former US defence contractor, triggered the debate after he stole and leaked a hoard of top-secret documents detailing the vast electronic cable-tapping and hacking activities of the US National Security Agency and GCHQ, its closest partner, accusing them of grossly infringing civil liberties.

Liberty, the British advocacy group, which had lobbied for the Anderson bulk powers review, criticised his conclusions as “flawed” and “rushed”.

“[We] called for an impartial, independent and expert inquiry into these intrusive powers — yet sadly this rushed review failed on all three counts,” said Bella Sankey, policy director at the organisation.

Ms Sankey said Mr Anderson was biased and his panel of co-reviewers were “effectively asked to mark their own homework” because they had previously worked for the UK’s spy agencies.

On the three-person panel assisting Mr Anderson were Bob Nowill, a security consultant and former director of assurance at BT, who worked for GCHQ until 2005; Gordon Meldrum, director of intelligence at the National Crime Agency until 2015; and Cathryn McGahey, a barrister who has previously acted to defend individuals in intelligence-led cases brought by the government on national security grounds.

Mr Anderson said his team was given unfettered access to Britain’s three intelligence agencies to review documents and procedures — a privilege previously granted only to vetted MPs who sit on parliament’s intelligence and security committee.

He was entrusted with assessing the utility of three intelligence-gathering areas — bulk interception, bulk acquisition of communications and bulk personal data sets — for safeguarding national security and fighting crime. The review did not address the extent to which these measures may infringe human rights.

“After close examination of numerous case studies, the review concluded that other techniques could sometimes, though not always, be used to achieve these objectives: but that they would often be less effective, more dangerous, more resource-intensive, more intrusive or slower,” Mr Anderson said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

_________________
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'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
http://aangirfan.blogspot.com
http://aanirfan.blogspot.com
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2016 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Second hour: Investigative reports: Kevin Cahill, author and journalist, joins Tony and Martin to review news. History of Michael Flynn, new National Security Advisor, and James Clapper, who has just resigned as US Director of National Intelligence. Trump backs moving capital of Israel from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem – Sheldon Adelson, Casino Magnate, biggest funder of US politics and massive Trump donor. Trump talking about pulling out of NATO unless others pay up – but US makes money from arms deals with NATO countries. Israelis 'Mezzuin Bill' to ban Muslim call to prayer, so Jerusalemites recite call to prayer from their rooftops. Russia pulls out of Hague International Criminal Court (ICC) because they have rejected verdict of pro-Russian referendum in Crimea. Trump donated $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation – Trump family and Clinton family are friends. Surveillance - Snooper's Charter, which makes GCHQ's multiple present illegal activities legal, has been passed into law: bill is 283 pages long; surveillance by tech companies, telecommunications firms and intelligence – not by Police; Andrew 'Nosey' Parker, MI5 Director General and stories in media; PRISM; GHOSTHUNTER; GHOSTWOLF; MOONPENNY; Snowden revelations – RAF Molesworth and war crimes, illegal drone targeting. Global Peace Award goes to murdered MP Jo Cox and White Helmet but would Jo Cox endorse White Helmets' terrorism support role? Geopolitics story copied up and written by Lucy Pasha Robinson ... who is a food writer. Bilderberg firms, Google Deep Mind and Palantir's 'Gotham', will help you with your databases – Edwin Black, author of 'IBM and the Holocaust', discusses the huge database of Jewish people IBM developed for the Nazis in WW2. Threat of cyber attacks.#

https://politicsthisweek.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/bcfms-weekly-politic s-show-presented-by-tony-gosling-55/

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2016 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Extreme surveillance' becomes UK law with barely a whimper:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/19/extreme-surveillance-bec omes-uk-law-with-barely-a-whimper

'A bill giving the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world has passed into law with barely a whimper, meeting only token resistance over the past 12 months from inside parliament and barely any from outside.

The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday, legalises a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.

The security agencies and police began the year braced for at least some opposition, rehearsing arguments for the debate. In the end, faced with public apathy and an opposition in disarray, the government did not have to make a single substantial concession to the privacy lobby.
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US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”

Snowden in 2013 revealed the scale of mass surveillance – or bulk data collection as the security agencies prefer to describe it – by the US National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ, which work in tandem.

But, against a backdrop of fears of Islamist attacks, the privacy lobby has failed to make much headway. Even in Germany, with East Germany’s history of mass surveillance by the Stasi and where Snowden’s revelations produced the most outcry, the Bundestag recently passed legislation giving the intelligence agencies more surveillance powers.

The US passed a modest bill last year curtailing bulk phone data collection but the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election is potentially a major reverse for privacy advocates. On the campaign trail, Trump made comments that implied he would like to use the powers of the surveillance agencies against political opponents.

The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Strasburger, one of the leading voices against the investigatory powers bill, said: “We do have to worry about a UK Donald Trump. If we do end up with one, and that is not impossible, we have created the tools for repression. If Labour had backed us up, we could have made the bill better. We have ended up with a bad bill because they were all over the place.
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“The real Donald Trump has access to all the data that the British spooks are gathering and we should be worried about that.”

The Investigatory Powers Act legalises powers that the security agencies and police had been using for years without making this clear to either the public or parliament. In October, the investigatory powers tribunal, the only court that hears complaints against MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, ruled that they had been unlawfully collecting massive volumes of confidential personal data without proper oversight for 17 years.

One of the negative aspects of the legislation is that it fails to provide adequate protection for journalists’ sources, which could discourage whistleblowing.

One of the few positives in the legislation is that it sets out clearly for the first time the surveillance powers available to the intelligence services and the police. It legalises hacking by the security agencies into computers and mobile phones and allows them access to masses of stored personal data, even if the person under scrutiny is not suspected of any wrongdoing.

Privacy groups are challenging the surveillance powers in the European court of human rights and elsewhere.

Jim Killock, the executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy. The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity.”

Renate Samson, the chief executive of Big Brother Watch, said: “The passing of the investigatory powers bill has fundamentally changed the face of surveillance in this country. None of us online are now guaranteed the right to communicate privately and, most importantly, securely.”

Trump’s victory started speculation that, given his warm words for Vladimir Putin, he might do a deal with the Russian president to have Snowden sent back to the US where he faces a long jail sentence. Snowden has lived in Russia since leaking tens of thousands of documents to journalists in 2013.

But Bill Binney, a former member of the NSA who became a whistleblower, expressed scepticism: “I am not sure if the relationship a President Trump would have with President Putin would be bad for Snowden.

“In Russia, he would still be an asset that maybe Putin would use in bargaining with Trump. Otherwise, Snowden does have a large support network around the world plus in the US and Trump may not want to disturb that. Also, I think any move to get Snowden out of Russia and into US courts would also open up support for at least three other lawsuits against the US government’s unconstitutional surveillance.”

This article was amended on 19 November 2016. The act has not yet received royal assent, as stated in an earlier version.'

Where were the Bliarite 'Labour'?

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2016 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Britain has passed the 'most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy'
The law forces UK internet providers to store browsing histories -- including domains visited -- for one year, in case of police investigations.
By Zack Whittaker for Zero Day | November 17, 2016
http://www.zdnet.com/article/snoopers-charter-expansive-new-spying-pow ers-becomes-law/

We operate and continue to build an expansive global fiber network. From that vantage point, our state-of-the-art Security Operations Centers (SOC) monitor the complete threat landscape. Network-based security from Level 3 wraps your data, and with...

It's 2016 going on 1984.

The UK has just passed a massive expansion in surveillance powers, which critics have called "terrifying" and "dangerous".

The new law, dubbed the "snoopers' charter", was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012, and took two attempts to get passed into law following breakdowns in the previous coalition government.

Four years and a general election later -- May is now prime minister -- the bill was finalized and passed on Wednesday by both parliamentary houses.

But civil liberties groups have long criticized the bill, with some arguing that the law will let the UK government "document everything we do online".

It's no wonder, because it basically does.

The law will force internet providers to record every internet customer's top-level web history in real-time for up to a year, which can be accessed by numerous government departments; force companies to decrypt data on demand -- though the government has never been that clear on exactly how it forces foreign firms to do that that; and even disclose any new security features in products before they launch.

Not only that, the law also gives the intelligence agencies the power to hack into computers and devices of citizens (known as equipment interference), although some protected professions -- such as journalists and medical staff -- are layered with marginally better protections.


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In other words, it's the "most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy," according to Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group.

The bill was opposed by representatives of the United Nations, all major UK and many leading global privacy and rights groups, and a host of Silicon Valley tech companies alike. Even the parliamentary committee tasked with scrutinizing the bill called some of its provisions "vague".

UK government "complicit" in NSA's PRISM spy program
UK government "complicit" in NSA's PRISM spy program

Britain allegedly bypassed international intelligence-sharing treaties.

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And that doesn't even account for the three-quarters of people who think privacy, which this law almost entirely erodes, is a human right.

There are some safeguards, however, such as a "double lock" system so that the secretary of state and an independent judicial commissioner must agree on a decision to carry out search warrants (though one member of the House of Lords disputed that claim).

A new investigatory powers commissioner will also oversee the use of the powers.

Despite the uproar, the government's opposition failed to scrutinize any significant amendments and abstained from the final vote. Killock said recently that the opposition Labour party spent its time "simply failing to hold the government to account".

But the government has downplayed much of the controversy surrounding the bill. The government has consistently argued that the bill isn't drastically new, but instead reworks the old and outdated Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). This was brought into law in 2000, to "legitimize" new powers that were conducted or ruled on in secret, like collecting data in bulk and hacking into networks, which was revealed during the Edward Snowden affair.

Much of those activities were only possible thanks to litigation by one advocacy group, Privacy International, which helped push these secret practices into the public domain while forcing the government to scramble to explain why these practices were legal.

The law will be ratified by royal assent in the coming weeks.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

U.K. Parliament Approves Unprecedented New Hacking And Surveillance Powers
https://theintercept.com/2016/11/22/ipbill-uk-surveillance-snowden-par liament-approved/
Ryan Gallagher November 22 2016, 5:51 p.m.

A FEW YEARS AGO, it would have been unthinkable for the British government to admit that it was hacking into people’s computers and collecting private data on a massive scale. But now, these controversial tactics are about to be explicitly sanctioned in an unprecedented new surveillance law.

Last week, the U.K.’s Parliament approved the Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed the “Snoopers’ Charter” by critics. The law, which is expected to come into force before the end of the year, was introduced in November 2015 after the fallout from revelations by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden about extensive British mass surveillance. The Investigatory Powers Bill essentially retroactively legalizes the electronic spying programs exposed in the Snowden documents ­ and also expands some of the government’s surveillance powers.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the new law is that it will give the British government the authority to serve internet service providers with a “data retention notice,” forcing them to record and store for up to 12 months logs showing websites visited by all of their customers. Law enforcement agencies will then be able to obtain access to this data without any court order or warrant. In addition, the new powers will hand police and tax investigators the ability to, with the approval of a government minister, hack into targeted phones and computers. The law will also permit intelligence agencies to sift through “bulk personal datasets” that contain millions of records about people’s phone calls, travel habits, internet activity, and financial transactions; and it will make it legal for British spies to carry out “foreign-focused” large-scale hacks of computers or phones in order to identify potential “targets of interest.”

“Every citizen will have their internet activity ­ the apps they use, the communications they send, and to who ­ logged for 12 months,” says Eric King, a privacy expert and former director of Don’t Spy On Us, a coalition of leading British human rights groups that campaigns against mass surveillance. “There is no other democracy in the world, possibly no other country in the world, doing this.”
“There is no other democracy in the world, possibly no other country in the world, doing this.”

King argues that the new law will cause a chilling effect, resulting in fewer people feeling comfortable communicating freely with one another. He cites a Pew surveypublished in March 2015 that found that 30 percent of American adults had altered their phone or internet habits due to concerns about government surveillance. “It’s going to change how people communicate and express their thoughts,” King says. “For a society that’s supposed to be progressive, that encourages open debate and dialogue, it’s awful.”

Other civil liberties advocates are concerned that the new law will be viewed by governments across the world as a green light to launch similar sweeping surveillance regimes. “The passing of the IP Bill will have an impact that goes beyond the U.K.’s shores,” says Jim Killock, executive director of the London-based Open Rights Group. “It is likely that other countries, including authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, will use this law to justify their own intrusive surveillance powers.”

Despite the broad scope of the Investigatory Powers Bill, it generated little public debate in the U.K., and did not receive a great deal of coverage in the mainstream press. One reason for this was undoubtedly the U.K.’s shock vote in June to leave European Union ­ known as Brexit ­ which has dominated news and discussion in recent months. But there was another major factor for the swift passage of the law in the face of little backlash. The Labour Party, the U.K.’s leading opposition political party, had pledged to fight back against “unwarranted snooping,” but ended up supporting the government and voting in favor of the new surveillance law. “Blame has to be fixed on the Labour Party,” says Killock. “They asked for far too little and weren’t prepared to strongly challenge many of the central tenets of the bill.”

In an effort to placate some of its critics, the government has agreed to strengthen oversight of the surveillance. The Investigatory Powers Bill introduces for the first time a “judicial commissioner” ­ likely a former senior judge ­ who will have the authority to review spying warrants authorized by a government minister. It also bolsters provisions relating to how police and spy agencies can target journalists in a bid to identify their confidential sources. New safeguards will mean the authorities will have to seek approval from the judicial commissioner before obtaining a journalist’s phone or email records; previously they could obtain this data without any independent scrutiny.

The U.K.’s National Union of Journalists, however, believes that the law does not go far enough in protecting press freedom. The union is particularly alarmed that any potential surveillance of media organizations will be kept completely secret, meaning they will not be afforded the chance to challenge or appeal any decisions relating to them or their sources. “The bill is an attack on democracy and on the public’s right to know and it enables unjustified, secret, state interference in the press,” the union blasted in a statement last week, adding that “the lack of protection for sources has an impact on journalists working in war zones or those investigating organized crime or state misconduct.”

Other issues relating to how the law will be applied remain unclear. It contains a provision, for instance, allowing the government to serve a company with a “technical capability notice,” which can include “obligations relating to the removal by a relevant operator of electronic protection applied by or on behalf of that operator to any communications or data.” Earlier this year, technology giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo criticized this power, expressing concerns that it could be used by the government to force companies to weaken or circumvent encryption technology used to protect the privacy of communications and data.

In practice, if the law is used to undermine encryption, it may never come to light. The government included a section in the law that criminalizes “unauthorized disclosures” of any information related to its surveillance orders, which could potentially deter any whistleblowers or leakers from coming forward. The punishment for breaches is a prison sentence of up to 12 months, a fine, or both.

Though the Investigatory Powers Bill will soon to come into force, it is likely to face several lawsuits. There are at least three ongoing cases that could result in changes to some of its provisions. One of these cases is a major challenge in the European Court of Human Rights, which could potentially rule the government’s mass collection and retention of data to be illegal. (Judgments from the European Court of Human Rights remain binding in the U.K., despite its vote to leave the European Union.)

Either way, some are not willing to leave it up to the courts to determine how much of their data the government can vacuum up. One recently established British nonprofit company, calling itself Brass Horn Communications, says it is planning to build a new internet provider that is based on Tor ­ a tool used to browse the internet anonymously ­ in an effort to help people protect themselves from the spying. “We should be able to research an embarrassing medical condition, or ask questions on Google, without having to worry about it being stored on a permanent internet record somewhere,” says a spokesperson for the company. “The government has decided that everyone is a suspect, but you can’t treat an entire society as criminal.”


RELATED


U.K. Parliament Debates “Snoopers’ Charter”


Seven Major Takeaways From the U.K.’s Proposed Surveillance Rules

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2016 2:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Petition to repeal the legislation:

Repeal the new Surveillance laws (Investigatory Powers Act)
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/173199

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Watchdog questions need for new counter-terrorism powers
Max Hill says police and security services have sufficient powers but there is a case for increased use of Tpims

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/13/watchdog-questions-nee d-for-new-counter-terrorism-powers

Alan Travis Home affairs editor
Tuesday 13 June 2017 12.14 BST Last modified on Tuesday 13 June 2017 12.32 BST

The official reviewer of terrorism laws has cast doubt on the necessity of Theresa May’s proposal to levy fines against tech companies for failing to remove extremist content.

Max Hill QC, who has prosecuted in many of the most significant terror trials of the past decade, also questioned whether there was a need to “beef up” Tpims, the measures used to restrict terror suspects’ movements, but said there was a case for their increased use.

In an interview with the BBC, Hill questioned whether the police and security services needed new laws or powers in the wake of the Manchester and London Bridge attacks

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He said: “It’s perfectly natural that we should all feel that we must do more, we must do something to combat what we are facing. My view coming into the scrutiny which we are told the prime minister wants to conduct is that we do have the appropriate laws in place, and that essentially the police and security services, and those whose job it is to keep us safe, do have the powers at their disposal.”


He pointed out that Tpims – terrorism prevention and investigation measures – had been strengthened in 2015 to include powers to require a suspect to move up to 200 miles away from their homes and families.

Hill said it was right that the spotlight should fall on tech companies, but he had seen the police unit that identified extremist material online in action and witnessed the cooperation it received from the tech companies in getting the material taken down. “It is a question of the bulk of the material rather than any lack of co-operation in dealing with it,” he said.

In questioning the need for moves to strengthen Tpims and legal action against tech companies, Hill has quietly challenged two parts of May’s four-point plan to tackle extremism that she announced in the aftermath of the London Bridge attack and which she has said will form a key part of next week’s Queen’s speech.

May has announced before talks with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, a plan to create a new legal liability for tech companies to remove extremist content, backed up by fines if they fail to act.

“Today I can announce that the UK and France will work together to encourage corporations to do more and abide by their social responsibility to step up their efforts to remove harmful content from their networks, including exploring the possibility of creating a new legal liability for tech companies if they fail to remove unacceptable content,” she said.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper, a former chair of the Commons home affair select committee, welcomed the move. “Social media companies like YouTube have been getting away with a dangerous and irresponsible approach to extremism for too long. Still today YouTube is showing illegal propaganda videos for banned jihadi and neo-Nazi extremists. They have a disgraceful disregard for the law,” she said.

“The cross-party home affairs select committee called for a system of fines and stronger legislation. So if that is what the British and French governments are working on now, that is really welcome. They need to make rapid progress, because online radicalisation is a very serious threat, and this problem has been growing for a long time.”

The Open Rights Group expressed strong doubts. Its director, Jim Killock, said: “To push on with these extreme proposals for internet clampdowns would appear to be a distraction from the current political situation and from effective measures against terror.

“The government already has extensive surveillance powers. Conservative proposals for automated censorship of the internet would see decisions about what British citizens can see online being placed in the hands of computer algorithms, with judgments ultimately made by private companies rather than courts. Home Office plans to force companies to weaken the security of their communications products could put all of us at a greater risk of crime.”

He said both proposals could result in terrorists and extremists switching to platforms and services that were more difficult for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor.

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Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2018 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What does the US government know about you?
Posted on February 17, 2018 By Dennis
by Dennis Anon
https://privacy.net/us-government-surveillance-spying-data-collection/

How much does the US government know about you? It’s not a question easily answered. The US government operates the largest and most advanced spying, surveillance, and data collection programs on the planet. It’s made up of multiple law enforcement and intelligence agencies, some of which operate in secret. The federal government, of course, consists more than two dozen major agencies that perform regular record keeping for operational purposes, such as the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Social Security Administration.
Aside from official government entities, third parties often comply with government requests for information. These include big tech companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook, all of which were shown by Edward Snowden to have cooperated with the NSA’s spying efforts. And while we’re thinking about Edward Snowden, recall that he was a private contractor at the NSA at the time and not a government employee. Contractors and private companies can collect information on behalf of the US government as well.
The amount and accuracy of information that the government varies from one person to the next. Someone who spends a lot of time online, sharing on social media, creating accounts at different services, and/or communicating with friends and relatives overseas will leave a much more clear trail of data than someone who shuns Facebook and takes proactive steps to protect their privacy. Government employees must undergo rigorous background checks, while someone getting paid under the table at a local restaurant can fly under the radar.
Attempting to cover all the information that the US government knows about any one person quickly becomes overwhelming and full of caveats. With all of this in mind, it’s clear we need to narrow down our parameters. To that end, we’ll create three typical archetypes–Alice, Bob, and Chris–who fit the following profiles:
Alice is:
A naturalized citizen (immigrant)
Middle aged
A private sector employee
A frequent online shopper
A tenant in a rented apartment
A college graduate
Bob is:
A US citizen from birth
Elderly
Retired from the public sector
Not very computer-literate and doesn’t spend much time online
A homeowner
Chris is:
A minor
A public school student
Active on social media
Applying for college
Doesn’t have a job
To narrow our scope a bit further, let’s assume none of these three people has a criminal record. They are all US citizens, either from birth or naturalized. None of them have served in the military or law enforcement. They do not collect welfare such as unemployment checks, food stamps, worker’s compensation, or disability benefits. Finally, we’ll only cover information that the government can legally collect without a court order.
We’ll categorize the types of information based on, in broad strokes, who originally collects it:
Non-law enforcement government agencies – Mostly routine information that the government needs to operate and is not collected for intelligence or law enforcement purposes
Intelligence and law enforcement agencies – Information swept up in government spying and surveillance programs
Non-government companies – Private companies, credit bureaus, public utilities, and other entities not operated by the government but that cooperate with government requests for information
Info collected by non-intelligence agencies
Some information is required for the US government to effectively operate and serve the public. This includes information that’s used collect taxes, dole out welfare, deliver mail, draw boundaries for congressional and school districts, and assess social and economic trends and make policy decisions.
taxes calculator
While we say this information is “routine”, once it’s all combined, one could actually formulate a fairly intimate depiction of a person’s life. The US government likely knows the following about all three of our hypothetical characters:
Name
Social security number
Permanent address and/or place of usual residence
Age, birth date
Place of birth
Prior place of residence and duration of residence
Ethnicity
Marital status
Household composition (family members and how they’re all related)
This information can be collected through various means, including tax forms, the postal service, and census data.
The decennial census in particular gathers a large amount of personal information. Individual information is kept private for 72 years; the latest census data available to the public is from 1940.
You might presume that intelligence and law enforcement agencies can access Census records whenever they want, but think again. The US Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the United States Code, guaranteeing confidentiality. The FBI and other government entities do not have the legal right to access this information. So the US government technically knows a lot about you through the Census and IRS, but, on paper, that information is locked away and only used in aggregate.
The IRS is a bit different. IRS.gov’s page on disclosure laws notes, “pursuant to court order, return information may be shared with law enforcement agencies for investigation and prosecution of non-tax criminal laws.” That means all the information in your tax return can be used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies with a court order. The IRS actually uses some of the same surveillance techniques as national intelligence agencies, including deployment of Stingrays to spy on cell phones.
Chris doesn’t have an income yet and thus doesn’t need to file his own taxes, but he is about to apply to college and thus will fill out a FAFSA to apply for federal student aid. He’s also a public school student, so it’s reasonable to assume the government knows the following about him:
Education level
What classes he takes
Where he goes to school
Parents’ income from their jobs and investments
Parents’ employment status
Alice holds down a full-time job and files taxes every year. She also participates in the census as required by law. It’s reasonable to assume the US government would know the following information about her:
Employment status
Occupation and industry
Income
Place of work
Education level
Student loan payment status
Bob is retired and own his own home. He earns a modest pension and collects social security. Medicare pays for the majority of his medical expenses. He’s also a bit of a philanthropist who regularly donates to charity. We can assume the government collects the following information about him in a given year:
Income
Current medicare and social security benefits, and estimate of future benefits
Employment status
Donations claimed on tax forms
Education level
Previous occupation and industry
Medical history, medications
Doctor(s) and hospital visits
Property tax and valuation info, including:
Value of home and land
How the property is used
Location
Size
Improvements and problems
Easements
Type of access
While we’re on the topic of social security, note that a regulation that required the SSA to to disclose information about certain people with mental illness to the national gun background check system. That regulation was nixed by President Trump in February 2017.
passport
All three fictional characters could conceivably have a driver’s license or passport. Driver’s licenses are administered at the state level, but the data about drivers is presumably accessible by the federal government. These types of official photo IDs contain information like
Name
Home address
Birth date
Photo
Sex
Height
Weight
Eye color
Signature
And don’t forget: a driver’s license means a driver’s record as well, including a record of any past infractions. Bob and Alice own their own vehicles, which are registered with the following information:
Make
Model
Year
Previous owners
License plate number
Government-accessible info collected by private companies
In this section, we’ll look at information collected by private entities, some backed by the government and others wholly private. These include internet service providers (ISPs), internet companies, utility companies and credit bureaus.
Info provided by ISPs and internet companies
The FBI and NSA perform their fair share of online surveillance, to be sure. But in many cases they might not be allowed to monitor who they want, when they want due to laws and regulations, particularly those about spying on US citizens. In many cases, however, intelligence and law enforcement agencies don’t even have to conduct their own surveillance. It’s much easier and more efficient to simply use data that private companies already have.
comcast
The FBI might ask for information regarding a particular redditor, like Chris, such as the IP address from which they access the site. The NSA might ask for the account names of everyone who typed in a particular search term in a certain period of time, e.g. Bob searching for information about his pain medication. The ATF could ask Amazon to set up an alert every time a customer purchases a specific book, such as if Alice buys a book about Islam. And the DEA could request your ISP hand over the browsing history of suspected drug dealers.
Internet companies earn revenue from the data they collect, so for many of them, more is better. How much they share with law enforcement without a court order depends on the company itself. Check the privacy policy and terms of service of your ISP or a website to see what types of information they collect, with whom they share it, and under what circumstances. Most major companies now state that they don’t hand over customer information without a court order. But when those court orders do come in, they often come paired with a gag order. Some guarantee no such protection and will cooperate with law enforcement, court order or no.
The information that websites and ISPs collect varies depending on the company and what you do online, but here’s a list of possibilities:
Browsing history
Search queries
Device name and unique ID
IP address and location
Videos watched, songs listened to
Purchases
Downloads
Social media posts
In 2017, Congress repealed an Obama-era FCC rule that prevented ISPs from sharing browsing data with third parties like advertisers. With that rule out of the way, ISPs that control your access to the internet are expected to start gathering more data than ever on their users. If you don’t want to be tracked by your ISP, we recommend signing up for a reputable VPN.
Library records and ebooks
48 states in the US have laws that protect library records from snoopers, and two have legal directives that serve a similar purpose. To access a person’s library records, a court order is usually necessary.
library
That’s more protection than you’ll find on Amazon when buying an ebook. Amazon and other ebook sellers usually have privacy policies stating they also only hand over reader’s private information with a court order, but there’s technically no law barring them from doing so. Furthermore, Amazon can keep much better track of what you’re reading and how you read on its Kindle devices and companion apps. Amazon can not only see what you read, but what page you’re on, when you read, highlighted passages, and any notes you’ve scribbled into the ereader.
Only four states have laws about protecting e-reader data in libraries, so you’re best checking out a physical book from your local library for maximum privacy.
Credit reporting agencies
All three of our hypothetical characters have credit reports maintained by one of the three major US credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. Creditors and government agencies can access your credit report for background checks and other purposes. Credit reporting agencies are overseen by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
A credit report contains the following information:
Name
Address
Social Security number
Date of birth
Trade lines (credit accounts)
Bank and credit cards
Auto loans
Mortgages
Date you opened each account
Credit limit or loan amount
Account balance
Payment history
Credit inquiries
A list of everyone who accessed your credit report in the last two years, both voluntary and involuntary. The latter occurs when lender order your report to send pre-approved credit offers
Public records and collections – Information on the public record aggregated from courts and collection agencies, including:
Overdue debt
Bankruptcies
Foreclosures
Suits
Wage garnishment
Liens
Of course, a hard lesson about keeping all of this information with just three companies was learned the hard way when Equifax was breached in 2017, leaking Social Security numbers and other details of more than 145 million Americans.
Other financial info
Most targeted surveillance on finances requires a court order, but that’s not always the case. Human Rights Watch explains:
“In investigations related to international terrorism or espionage, the FBI can also demand bank account statements and credit card histories using a national security letter, which doesn’t require a judge’s approval – and which often comes served with a gag order.”
For most of us, however, the government probably knows about accounts opened in your name, but not necessarily their contents or spending records.
If you invest in the stock market, then your investments are tracked by the Securities Exchange Commission and other official oversight bodies. Each state has its own blue sky law, which requires:
Registration of all securities offerings and sales
Stockbrokers
Brokerage firms
The laws are less clear when it comes to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. In late 2017, the IRS ordered the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase, to hand over information about all customers who made a transaction worth $20,000 or more between 2013 and 2015. That information includes:
Names
Birth dates
Addresses
Tax IDs
Transaction logs
Account invoices
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are often thought of as anonymous, but if you have an account with a major exchange, then that exchange most likely requires such identifying information—not to mention a credit card or bank account—to purchase cryptocurrencies with fiat currency. In addition to the blockchain, which tracks transactions of all transactions on a cryptocurrency’s network, following the paper trail is a simple matter.
Public utilities
Public utility companies, excluding telecommunications, require a minimum amount of information in order to deliver their services. Water, gas, and electricity companies can be private or public, but all companies classified as utilities undergo heavy government regulation because they are allowed to operate regional monopolies on the condition they serve the public. Utility companies know more about a household as a whole rather than specific people. The information they collect normally consists of:
Name
Address
Telephone number
Payment information (bank account and/or credit card number)
Technical information about equipment on the residence necessary to deliver a service
The adoption of a smart grid that began during the Obama administration aim to allow consumers to use energy resources more efficiently. In particular, the rollout of smart meters allow property owners to better monitor and control their consumption of electricity and gas. However, this also raises concerns about the flow of detailed information not only between customers and energy providers, but also between tenants and their landlords.
electricity meter
A public utility company that installs a smart meter at your household could, even without detailed knowledge of the appliances you own, determine with reasonable certainty when you cook, shower, sleep, and leave the house, among other activities. According to a 2009 report published by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission stated the following:
“A remarkable number of electric appliances can be identified by their load signatures, and with impressive accuracy. Researchers have all but mastered identification of the larger common household appliances such as water heaters, well pumps, furnace blowers, refrigerators, and air conditioners, with recognition accuracies approaching perfection. Ongoing work focuses now on the myriad smaller electric devices around the home such as personal computers, laser printers, and [different types of] light bulbs.”
The software algorithms and the smart meter hardware itself has likely gotten more advanced since then, so you can expect a commensurate increase in accuracy. In response to these concerns, a handful of states passed laws restricting how smart meter data can be used and by whom. These include California, New York, Ohio, and Colorado.
Info collected by law enforcement and intelligence agencies
Mass surveillance and metadata
In 2013, Edward Snowden shocked the world when he revealed a series of mass surveillance programs used to intercept communications of both Americans and non-Americans. The NSA and FBI argue that they do not record the contents of phone calls or emails without a court order and merely collected metadata about those calls.
The NSA, where Snowden worked as a contractor, collected data on millions of people’s phone records from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Phone call metadata includes:
Phone number of both parties making and receiving the call
How long the call lasted
When the call was made
Snowden said the NSA secretly gained direct access to servers at Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, among other companies that participated in the PRISM program. Those companies denied the allegations outright, saying they only hand over information on a case-by-case basis with a court order, and not in bulk.
cyber spying
However, The Guardian reported in 2013 that the Bush and Obama administrations collected email metadata on any communication between non-US citizens or communications in which at least one party is outside of the US, even if they are an American citizen. The email metadata does not include the contents of emails, which, like phone calls, would require a court order. Email metadata includes:
The email addresses of the sender and receiver
A timestamp of when the email was sent
An IP address used by people sending emails from inside the US
Location based on the IP address
In 2012, the Department of Homeland security revealed in a lawsuit that it monitored social networks like Facebook and Twitter by running searches for keywords for at least a year and a half. The information swept up in the surveillance includes the contents of social media posts and comments. Chris’ Facebook and Twitter posts could be swept up in such surveillance.
In short, the US government can legally obtain metadata about calls, messages, and emails, but not their actual contents. For that, a court order is necessary, although the person being investigated probably won’t be notified in such an event.
Most of these programs were conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and/or the Patriot Act. Those laws are officially restricted to spying on non-US citizens, but many Americans’ communications get swept up by bulk interception programs. Alice, a naturalized US citizen who has family in another country, would likely have her communications with them closely monitored by US intelligence agencies.
Spying on the contents of electronic communication typically requires a court order. Government agencies can and do collect metadata about emails, text messages, and phone calls, but not their actual content. The FBI or NSA can record the sender and receiver, time sent, call duration, and location of the correspondents without a warrant, but they’ll need a court order to actually listen in or read your messages.
Location
A home and work address is far from the only way the government can track someone’s location. Many of us now have at least one GPS-enabled device within at all times, likely a phone or vehicle with navigation capabilities. But GPS is a navigation system owned by the US government and operated by the US Air Force.
gps navigation
The law hasn’t kept up and isn’t entirely clear on whether law enforcement can use GPS data to track someone without a court order. A 2012 Supreme Court ruling states that law enforcement cannot place a GPS tracker on a suspect’s vehicle without a warrant. However, that ruling doesn’t take into account cars and smartphones with GPS already built in. We can assume that the government can hone in and record someone’s movements using a GPS signal that they voluntarily broadcast into public airspace.
Even if Chris turns the GPS on his phone off, his approximate location can still be tracked by analyzing nearby wifi networks and cell towers that his phone pings whenever its in range. All internet-connected devices also have a unique IP address that’s assigned in accordance with a specific region.
The government can access the flight records of anyone who has flown to or from an airport in the US.
Photos and videos taken from the air above your house and from the street are legal, including satellite and drone imagery.
Biometric information
More avant-garde surveillance focuses on information that can identify a person’s physical characteristics. Biometric analysis can be used to identify people based on a photo, fingerprint, or even a retina scan.
fingerprint
If you have a passport, driver’s license, or any other government-issued photo ID, then you can be identified by the FBI using facial recognition. In 2017, The Guardian reported about half of adult Americans’ photographs are stored in databases accessible to the FBI. About 80 percent of them are non-criminal entries.
The NSA, meanwhile, intercepts tens of thousands of images per day of people’s faces. Those images are swept up by bulk surveillance programs that collect the images from emails, messages, social media, video conferences, and other communications, according to a 2014 New York Times report.
Advanced security cameras can be placed in transportation hubs like airports and train stations in order to spot and track specific people. As with other forms of bulk surveillance in the US, government agencies are limited to intercepting communications with foreigners or US citizens living and traveling overseas. Domestic communications between American citizens within US borders are legally off limits.
Firearms
handgun firearm
The Firearm Owners Protection Act prohibits the US government from creating a national gun registry that keeps track of who owns what firearms. However, the ATF does keep some gun-related databases. These include:
Sales reports of specific firewarms with owner’s name and address
Guns suspected to be used for criminal purposes but not recovered by law enforcement
Traced gun records that include the retail purchaser and seller. These include registration records from out-of-business gun stores that incude name, address, make, model, serial number, and caliber
Guns reported as stolen to the ATF
Bargaining chips
The information age hasn’t really changed the types of information that government wants to get its hands on. It just created more vectors for government agencies to get that information, and the amount of information has increased to an exponential degree.
Recall that we’ve only outlined information that can be accessed without a court order. As you can see, all that info could be coalesced to form a reasonably accurate profile of a US citizen and their behavior. In her article, “A picture of you, in federal data,” Politico‘s Nancy Scola writes:
“Even if the blended data doesn’t contain a name or Social Security number, the image that comes into focus can quickly be so specific to plausibly belong to only one person, or a handful of people.”
But before you start wheezing into a paper bag, know that Big Brother isn’t as smart as he likes people to think. At least, not yet. All of this data is not part of one giant spreadsheet containing every American citizen. It’s messy, fractured, and jealously horded. In 2011, political scientist Alon Peled wrote about a top-down order by President Barack Obama to open up federal information caches to the public. The order floundered because, Peled said,
“Datasets are valuable assets which agencies labor hard to create, and use as bargaining chips in interagency trade, and are therefore reluctant to surrender these prized information assets for free.”
So the US government does know a lot about Alice, Bob, and Chris, but it hasn’t figured out a way to efficiently manage and utilize that information in cooperation with other agencies. At least, not for now. A single inter-agency searchable database could be a reality in the future.
In 1974, Senator Sam Ervin warned future Americans about surveillance overreach:
“When [the] quite natural tendency of government to acquire and keep and share information about citizens is enhanced by computer technology and when it is subjected to the unrestrained motives of countless political administrators,” he said. “The resulting threat to individual privacy makes it necessary for Congress to reaffirm the principle of limited, responsive government on behalf of freedom.”
Something I missed? Let me know about all my glaring omissions in the comments!

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One Comment on “What does the US government know about you?”
Roger Gallagher
May 27, 2018
And we thought we still live in a partial state of privacy. Think again.

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