Category Archives: Privacy

The Most Secure Way to Communicate? An iPod Touch | WIRED

This isn’t a bad idea, actually. Most of the day I’m covered by WiFi which should allow me to use Facetime or Skype to talk to anyone I need to talk to. Email and text is also possible. For the paranoid and just careful this could be the answer.

You don’t actually need fancy, dedicated hardware to communicate securely.

Source: The Most Secure Way to Communicate? An iPod Touch | WIRED

Free speech, grand juries and asshats

There are right ways and wrong ways to spout off about government officials. You can say:

I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman.

Or you can say:

Metaphorically speaking, I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible public official on whom I am entitled to comment, purely as hyperbole, on a matter of public concern under my First Amendment rights to free speech and to petition the Government for redress of grievances. Cf: The Screwtape Letters, an allegorical series of essays in which C. S. Lewis used Hell as a literary device for comment upon matters of spiritual and political concern.

Source: Department Of Justice Uses Grand Jury Subpoena To Identify Anonymous Commenters on a Silk Road Post at | Popehat

The first might get you summoned to appear before a grand jury costing you thousands upon thousands of dollars in legal fees along with untold hours of lost wages. The last will make you look like a moron with no backbone but at least you’ve had your say and you’ve kept your bank account intact.

Patriot Act That Dennis Hastert Passed Led To His Indictment

Then House Speaker Dennis Hastert with President Bush celebrating the passing of The Patriot Act

Dennis Hastert laid claim to The Patriot Act as a personal achievement of his. Little did he know how this would lay the groundwork for his ultimate demise. Evidently Speaker Hastert had his own little secrets that he was willing to pay millions to keep from coming to light. Paying those millions is what brought him down.

The indictment suggests that law enforcement officials relied on the Patriot Act’s expansion of bank reporting requirements to snare Hastert. As the IRS notes, “the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 increased the scope” of cash reporting laws “to help trace funds used for terrorism.” The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, which was amended by the Patriot Act, had already required banks to report suspicious transactions.

Source: Patriot Act That Dennis Hastert Passed Led To His Indictment

For now Hastert’s secret is remaining secret, at least to the general public. I’m just finding a lot of irony in his arrest.

New ACLU Cellphone App Automatically Preserves Video of Police Encounters | The Nation

The ACLU has released an app that streams video you are taking to their server for preservation should the police confiscate your phone and destroy the video you have taken. I see a real need for an app like this and I might download it except for one thing, the video is sent to an ACLU server and not a server under my control or at least under the control of someone of my choice.

The app features a large red “Record” button in the middle of the screen. When it’s pressed, the video is recorded on the phone and a duplicate copy is transmitted simultaneously to the ACLU server. When the “stop” button is pressed, a “Report” screen appears, where information about the location of the incident and the people involved can also be transmitted to the ACLU. The video and the information are treated as a request for legal assistance and reviewed by staff members. No action is taken by the ACLU, however, unless an explicit request is made, and the reports are treated as confidential and privileged legal communications. The videos, however, may be shared by the ACLU with the news media, community organizations or the general public to help call attention to police abuse.

Source: New ACLU Cellphone App Automatically Preserves Video of Police Encounters | The Nation

And this is all great if the only reason you might have for moving video to a safe place as you are taking it is to document civil liberties abuse but what if I’m wanting to document a dispute between two private entities and the person who I’m having the dispute with grabs and destroys my phone? I like the app but how about someone coming up with one that will save it to my server or to the service of my choice?

Edward Snowden statue installed by artists in Brooklyn removed by park officials

I fully understand the park officials removing an unsanctioned piece of art but……

The NYPD says its intelligence division is investigating the statue and will be searching for DNA or other clues that may bring up a suspect. It’s not clear what charges are possible, NBC continues to report.

via Edward Snowden statue installed by artists in Brooklyn removed by park officials |

Why go to this expense to prosecute the artists responsible?

Why Protect a Drug Dealer’s Rights?

Microsoft has been asked to hand over emails of a suspected drug dealer stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland. They are refusing:

The company has challenged the government’s search warrant as illegal, saying it involves the search and seizure of e-mails stored exclusively in another country, outside US jurisdiction. Microsoft argues the content in question is covered under Irish law and any request for the data needs to be made through that country.

via How Microsoft’s battle with the Justice Department could reshape privacy laws +video –

Now why, you may ask, should anyone care about a drug dealer’s privacy rights? Well, it’s because government has only specified authority. If you allow government too extend it’s authority beyond where we have granted it to go after a drug dealer then government no longer needs us, the citizens, to grant it any authority. We the people lose our authority over government.

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Dropout Jeep Isn’t An SUV That Didn’t Finish School.

I’m sitting here reading an article about “Dropout Jeep” which has me staring at the iPhone laying here on my desk. It seems the NSA has developed a piece of malware that they can install onto any iPhone which will then give them complete control of the phone. This includes reading any iMessage delivered or sent by the phone, transfer any file on the phone, read any e-mail on the phone and turn on the microphone and the camera.

And here’s the thing, they are saying this malware can be installed on any iPhone at any time, any where.

They also claim the ability to always inject these commands and obtain the information with 100% success all the time, every time.

That’s a pretty big brag. I can’t imagine how they could have done this without Apple’s help. I also can’t imagine them being able to do this with an iPhone and not an Android or Windows phone.

UPDATE: Apple says they had nothing to do with this.

News or Propaganda?

Tech firms have seen a slump of at least $1.7bn in sales this year due mostly to Asian countries losing confidence in the tech firms ability to handle sensitive data without the data being compromised.

An analysis of financial filings from technology giants IBM and Cisco by The Independent on Sunday reveals the two businesses have seen sales slump by more than $1.7bn £1.03bn year-on-year in the important Asia-Pacific region since Mr Snowden revealed in June that US companies had been compromised by the NSA‘s intelligence-gathering in the clandestine Prism programme.“US companies have seen some of their business put at risk because of the NSA revelations,” said James Kelleher of equity research firm Argus Research.

via IT firms lose billions after NSA scandal exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

There are two ways of looking at this. The tech firms have lost this business because they are not trustworthy or the tech firms lost the business because of Edward Snowden’s leaking of sensitive documents. One perspective is gained from reading the news while the other is the result of propaganda released as news.

Groklaw has shutdown

Groklaw has shut down. PJ explains why.

In her explanation she made a statement that I believe we all need to read and think on:

Harvard’s Berkman Center had an online class on cybersecurity and internet privacy some years ago, and the resources of the class are still online. It was about how to enhance privacy in an online world, speaking of quaint, with titles of articles like, “Is Big Brother Listening?”

And how.

You’ll find all the laws in the US related to privacy and surveillance there. Not that anyone seems to follow any laws that get in their way these days. Or if they find they need a law to make conduct lawful, they just write a new law or reinterpret an old one and keep on going. That’s not the rule of law as I understood the term.

If nothing else the rule of law should be consistent. As PJ has pointed out above it isn’t. Not when the law is constantly being reinterpreted or changed.

Only The First Domino

Lavabit seems to be only the first of the dominos to fall. The people over at Silent Circle are dropping their secure email service after considering for a while whether or not email using standard internet protocols can even be secure and considering Lavabit’s plight.

We’ve been thinking about this for some time, whether it was a good idea at all. Today, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system lest they “be complicit in crimes against the American people.” We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now.

via To Our Customers | Silent Circle Blog.

If our country is to remain free we have to have a guarantee of a high degree of privacy. It seems to me that our government is of the impression that privacy is a bad thing and are doing everything they can to ensure we have none.

Lavabit Shutting Down

Boing Boing is reporting that Ladar Levison is shutting down Lavabit. Lavabit offered an email service with better privacy than the free email services such as Gmail and Yahoo! offer and it is also the email service used by Edward Snowden.

Evidently Snowden’s problems have sloshed over onto Mr. Levison. Here’s the letter he posted on

My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.


Ladar Levison

Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

Our government isn’t suppose to be our enemy. I’m saddened by this evidence that it is.

Michael Hayden and the Fourth Amendment

Y’all are familiar with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Right? The one that says:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In other words, the government can’t go looking through my stuff except for something specific that they have good reason (probable cause) to believe they are going to find. Y’all knew that. Right?

Well, apparently Michael Hayden, the former director of the NSA didn’t know this.

What Can Go Wrong?

The government wants us to believe that whatever data the NSA is collecting on private citizens is safe from abuse because of a number of checks and balances they have in place to prevent their data from being stolen or misused. They tell us this in response one of their contractors allegedly stole and misused their data in an attempt to warn us of the NSA spying on us.

That’s bad enough but it actually gets worse:

The AP reports that “authorities have accused a Memphis police officer of using the NCIC database to leak information to a confidential informant about a watch dealer who the informant believed had stolen a Rolex; a reserve patrolman in Clarkston, Ga., of running names and license plates for marijuana dealers; a Montgomery County, Md., officer of running checks on cars belonging to a woman who later reported that the vehicles had been vandalized; and a Hartford, Conn., police sergeant of supplying database records to a woman who used them to harass her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend.”

via Here’s what can go wrong when the government builds a huge database about Americans.

And it goes on and on. I think every one of us can think of a news report about people with access to the NCIC files misusing their access for their own gain. How can we trust such a system not to be abused when it is going to be run by humans?