Rights

‘A Sense of Dread’ for Civil Servants Shaken by Trump Transition

Across the vast federal bureaucracy, Donald J Trump’s arrival in the White House has spread anxiety, frustration, fear and resistance among many of the two million nonpolitical civil servants who say they work for the public, not a particular president.

At the Environmental Protection Agency, a group of scientists strategized this past week about how to slow-walk President Trump’s environmental orders without being fired.

At the Treasury Department, civil servants are quietly gathering information about whistle-blower protections as they polish their résumés.

At the United States Digital Service — the youthful cadre of employees who left jobs at Google, Facebook or Microsoft to join the Obama administration — workers are debating how to stop Mr Trump should he want to use the databases they made more efficient to target specific immigrant group.

It’s almost a sense of dread, as in, what will happen to us, said Gabrielle Martin, a trial lawyer and 30-year veteran at the Denver office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where colleagues now share daily, grim predictions about the fate of their jobs under Mr Trump’s leadership.

It’s like the movie music when the shark is coming, Ms Martin said, referring to Jaws, the 1975 thriller. People are just wary — is the shark going to come up out of the water? — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights

Refugee Policy Should Be Based on Facts, Not Fear

Refugees are men, women and children caught in the fury of war, or the cross hairs of persecution. Far from being terrorists, they are often the victims of terrorism themselves.

I’m proud of our country’s history of giving shelter to the most vulnerable people. Americans have shed blood to defend the idea that human rights transcend culture, geography, ethnicity and religion. The decision to suspend the resettlement of refugees to the United States and deny entry to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries has been met with shock by our friends around the world precisely because of this record.

The global refugee crisis and the threat from terrorism make it entirely justifiable that we consider how best to secure our borders. Every government must balance the needs of its citizens with its international responsibilities. But our response must be measured and should be based on facts, not fear.

As the mother of six children, who were all born in foreign lands and are proud American citizens, I very much want our country to be safe for them, and all our nation’s children. But I also want to know that refugee children who qualify for asylum will always have a chance to plead their case to a compassionate America. And that we can manage our security without writing off citizens of entire countries — even babies — as unsafe to visit our country by virtue of geography or religion — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights

Squatters turn oligarch’s empty London property into homeless shelter

A veteran group of squatters has occupied an empty £15m central London property purchased by a Russian oligarch in 2014 and opened it as a homeless shelter.

The extensive, five-storey Grade ll-listed Eaton Square property was bought by Andrey Goncharenko, a little-known oligarch who has bought a number of luxury properties in London in recent years.

The squatters — Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians, known as ANAL — said they entered the building through an open window on 23 January and have accommodated about 25 homeless people so far, many of whom had been sleeping rough around Victoria station.

Tom Fox, 23, one of the squatters, said: It is criminal that there are so many homeless people and at the same time so many empty buildings. Our occupation is highlighting this injustice.

New rough sleeper figures published this week have revealed an increase of 16% from last year, to more than 4,000.

More than 200,000 homes have been empty for more than six months, according to new government figures — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights

Punch a Nazi / Warren Ellis

I understand there’s been some confusion online as to whether it’s ever right to punch a Nazi in the face.  There is a compelling argument that all speech is equal and we should trust to the discourse to reveal these ideas for what they are and confidently expect them to be denounced and crushed out by the mechanisms of democracy and freedom.

All I can tell you is, from my perspective as an old English socialist and cultural liberal who is probably way to the woolly left from most of you and actually has a medal for services to free speech — yes, it is always correct to punch Nazis. They lost the right to not be punched in the face when they started spouting genocidal ideologies that in living memory killed millions upon millions of people. And anyone who stands up and respectfully applauds their perfect right to say these things should probably also be punched, because they are clearly surplus to human requirements. Nazis do not need a hug. Nazis do not need to be indulged. Their world doesn’t get better until you’ve been removed from it. Your false equivalences mean nothing. Their agenda is always, always, extermination. Nazis need a punch in the face.

(And the argument that such assaults allow Nazis to get more attention doesn’t work so well when they were already going live on a national television network, because this is where we are now. This is how normalised their presence in our culture is.)

Glad we got that cleared up — via Orbital Operations Transdimensional Distribution

Rights

How the town of Whitefish defeated its neo-Nazi trolls — and became a national model of resistance

If you were to judge the small, northwestern Montana town of Whitefish solely on the national media frenzy that has descended upon it in recent weeks, like a blizzard that blots out everything else, then you’d probably write it off as a frightening place — an intolerant place, an unwelcoming place, a place where the worst of the United States has taken hold.

But what if the opposite were true? What if, at a moment of mounting political anxiety and creeping Internet thuggery, of fear and loathing and all the rest of it, Whitefish has, in fact, been demonstrating how America, at its best, can defeat such ugliness in the months and years ahead?

Because that’s what I found when I actually bothered to spend some time there. In the first weeks of January, I made two extended trips to Whitefish. I got to know dozens of locals — activists and actors, skiers and shopkeepers, loggers and L.A. transplants. What I found was a story that was a lot more interesting — and inspiring — than the one I had been reading about on the Internet — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights

China’s factories in Shenzhen can copy products at breakneck speed—and it’s time for the rest of the world to get over it

China’s knockoffs come in many different forms, and can affect businesses large and small.

In some cases, factories will make products that physically resemble ones made by prominent brands. Quality may vary—an Android phone with rounded edges and a stamped-on Apple logo will never come close to replicating the feel of an iPhone. But a counterfeit Gucci bag might easily pass for the real thing.

Sometimes, as was the case with Stikbox and the hoverboard, a factory or design team will spot a fledgling new product on the internet, figure out how it’s made, and start churning out near-identical products. Other times, a Chinese partner factory will produce extra units of a product they agreed to make for another company, and sell the surplus items themselves online or to other vendors.

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, drew criticism when he told investors in June that fake goods are of better quality and of better price than the real names and come from exactly the same factories as authentic goods. But there’s some truth to his comments — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

FBI Wants Biometric Database Hidden From Privacy Act

The FBI is working to keep information contained in a key biometric database private and unavailable, even to people whose information is contained in the records.

The database is known as the Next Generation Identification System, and it is an amalgamation of biometric records accumulated from people who have been through one of a number of biometric collection processes. That could include convicted criminals, anyone who has submitted records to employers, and many other people. The NGIS also has information from agencies outside of the FBI, including foreign law enforcement agencies and governments. Because of the nature of the records, the FBI is asking the federal government to exempt the database from the Privacy Act, making the records inaccessible through information requests.

The bureau says in a proposal to exempt the database from disclosure that the NGIS should be exempt from the Privacy Act for a number of reasons, including the possibility that providing access could compromise sensitive law enforcement information, disclose information which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of another’s personal privacy; reveal a sensitive investigative technique; could provide information that would allow a subject to avoid detection or apprehension; or constitute a potential danger to the health or safety of law enforcement personnel, confidential sources, and witnesses — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Politics, Rights, Technology

61 agencies after warrantless access to Australian telecommunications metadata

The names of 57 agencies that are seeking to gain access to telecommunications metadata stored on Australian residents without a warrant have been released under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The names of four agencies have been redacted, with the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) previously saying that disclosing the names of these agencies would be contrary to the public interest.

The FOI request originally asked for correspondence from organisations seeking to gain access to stored telecommunications metadata. The department denied this request on practical grounds, stating that 2,661 pages spread across 288 documents were related to such a request, and that 45 third parties needed to be consulted before the information could be released.

Eventually, the request was narrowed down to merely a list of agencies looking to be declared as an enforcement agency as defined under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act.

Agencies objected to disclosure on the basis that it would compromise the trust they place in the Commonwealth, AGD said last week. During consultation, these four agencies clearly indicated that disclosure of this information would damage the relationship between the department and the relevant agencies, and could affect any future cooperation with the department
— via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Error 451: The new HTTP code for censorship

Governments will not always be able to disguise which content they restrict across the Web thanks to a new error code which will warn users of content restricted through censorship.

On Friday, the group responsible for Internet standards, the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), approved a new HTTP code to differentiate between Web pages which cannot be shown for technical reasons and others which are unavailable for non-technical reasons, such as governmental censorship.

Status codes, available within the 100s to 500s, are most commonly encountered when something goes wrong — such as a server downtime, for example, which prevents a user from accessing a Web page. The common 404 error tells users a page has not been found, but now 451 is coming into its own as a way to track other restrictions.

Online censorship is on the rise. Governments in the European bloc force ISPs to restrict access to websites linking to pirated content, China has its ever-famous “Great Firewall” which heavily restricts the Web, and countries including Russia and South Korea are also cracking down on access.

It isn’t always easy to work out whether a Web page is down because of technical reasons or governmental meddling. However, a new Internet protocol could change that.

Mark Nottingham, chair the IETF HTTP Working Group — developers of the Internet’s core HTTP protocol — explained in a blog post while the 403 error status code says “Forbidden,” it does not specify if there are legal reasons for restricting content.

However, status code 451 — a hat tip to Fahrenheit 451 — can now be used to distinguish pages unavailable due to censorship — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Rights, World

Britain Prunes Silly Laws on Salmon Handling and Armour Wearing

It is not a great idea to carry a plank of wood down a busy sidewalk. Nor should you ride a horse while drunk, or handle a salmon under suspicious circumstances.

But should such antics be illegal? Still?

Thanks to centuries of legislating by Parliament, which bans the wearing of suits of armor in its chambers, Britain has accumulated many laws that nowadays seem irrelevant, and often absurd.

So voluminous and eccentric is Britain’s collective body of 44,000 pieces of primary legislation that it has a small team of officials whose sole task is to prune it.

Their work is not just a constitutional curiosity, but a bulwark against hundreds of years of lawmaking running out of control.

Over the centuries, rules have piled up to penalize those who fire a cannon within 300 yards of a dwelling and those who beat a carpet in the street — unless the item can be classified as a doormat and it is beaten before 8.00am.

To have a legal situation where there is so much information that you cannot sit down and comprehend it, does seem to me a serious problem, said Andrew Lewis, professor emeritus of comparative legal history at University College London. I think it matters dreadfully that no one can get a handle on the whole of it.

Yet, as Professor Lewis also noted, many old laws have survived because crime and bad behaviour have, too.

One reason is that human nature doesn’t change much, Professor Lewis said, though of course the institutions which we develop to protect, organize, and govern ourselves do change, and then it becomes necessary to adjust the existing law to practice — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Labor’s Tim Watts Smokes Anti-Muslim MPs For ‘Hijacking National Security Debate’

Malcolm Turnbull has dialled down the terror-scare rhetoric since taking the reins from Tony Abbott — and some in his party are not liking it one bit.

A number of MPs have been speaking out with cabinet member Josh Frydenberg and the member for Canning Andrew Hastie leading the charge this weekend, doing their bit for social cohesion by arguing there is an intrinsic link between terror and Islam.

In an interview with Murdoch tabloid the Herald Sun Hastie said modern Islam needs to cohere with the Australian way of life, our values and institutions. In so far as it doesn’t, it needs reform, in an article title ‘Islam must change: War hero MP Andrew Hastie leads radical push’.

Frydenberg reiterated criticisms Australia’s Grand Mufti, while MP Michael Sukkar said Islam had not reformed as Christianity had.

George Christensen, the Nationals MP who appeared at a Reclaim Australia rally earlier this year, moved a motion in Parliament today which, among other things, calls for continued action in countering violent extremism and in particular, radical Islam within Australia in order to prevent further acts of terrorism within our borders.

Somewhere along the way Labor MP Tim Watts — who has previously taken aim at the Reclaim Australia movement — decided enough was enough.

In four minutes and 58 seconds flat the Member for Gellibrand shredded the dissenting Coalition MPs in Parliament — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Politics, Rights, Technology

TPP: ISPs will hand over copyright infringer details

Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) member states will force internet service providers (ISPs) to give up identification details of alleged copyright infringers so that rights holders can protect and enforce their copyright through criminal and civil means with few limitations, according to the full text of the agreement.

The TPP, the full text of which has been published on the website for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade a month after reaching agreement, will regulate trade between Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile.

Section J of the Intellectual Property chapter [PDF] covers ISPs, with Article 18.82(7) stating that member states must enable copyright holders to access the details of alleged copyright infringers through ISPs.

Each party shall provide procedures, whether judicial or administrative, in accordance with that party’s legal system, and consistent with principles of due process and privacy, that enable a copyright owner that has made a legally sufficient claim of copyright infringement to obtain expeditiously from an internet service provider information in the provider’s possession identifying the alleged infringer, in cases in which that information is sought for the purpose of protecting or enforcing that copyright, the text says.

The full text of the intellectual property chapter ties in with leaks last month from WikiLeaks revealing that ISPs would be forced to give up copyright infringer details — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

CISA blowup: Web giants sharing private info isn’t about security

There were sharp words on the floor of the US Senate on Wednesday as lawmakers debated the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) and its amendments.

The bill, proposed by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would allow internet giants and other companies to share people’s personal information with the US government so it can be analyzed for signs of lawbreaking – be it computer related or not.

In return, the companies would get legal immunity from angry customers, although legal action is unlikely because the businesses and the government don’t have to reveal what they have shared, even with a freedom of information request.

The proposed legislation has been criticized by internet rights groups, and also by technology firms. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and others published an open letter calling for the legislation to be rewritten, and since then Apple, Salesforce.com, Yelp, and Wikipedia have joined them in opposing the draft law.

Feinstein said organizations won’t be forced to reveal citizens’ private lives to Uncle Sam: it won’t be mandatory for businesses to hand over people’s private records, she claimed.

If you don’t like the bill, you don’t have to do it, Feinstein said.

So it’s hard for me to understand why we have companies like Apple and Google and Microsoft and others saying they can’t support the bill at this time. You have no reason, because you don’t have to do anything, but there are companies by the hundreds if not thousands that want to participate in this.

Her colleague Burr said on the floor that he couldn’t understand the opposition to CISA. Businesses against the new law will put their users at risk, he said, because by not sharing people’s personal information, they will not be given intelligence and heads up on attacks from the Feds.

When the companies who are against this get hacked, they are going to be begging to cooperate with the federal government, he opined — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights

Al Jazeera retrial: Egypt pardons journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has pardoned jailed Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, along with 100 prisoners, the presidency and official media reported.

Presidency spokesman Alaa Youssef said the two Al-Jazeera colleagues were among the pardoned group, which also included women activists Sana Seif and Yara Sallam.

Fahmy, Mohamed and their Australian colleague Peter Greste were sentenced in a retrial last month for broadcasting false news that harmed Egypt and aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Fahmy and Mohamed were released from prison within hours of their presidential pardon being announced.

Greste was deported in February through a presidential decree and his name did not appear on the list of those pardoned. It is not clear whether the pardon will also apply to him.

The pardons came on the eve of the Muslim holidays of Eid, when prisoner releases often take place in Muslim countries — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Government exploit vendor hacked, client data exposed

One of the world’s most notorious providers of offensive information technology to governments has had its internal systems breached and customer documentation dumped on the open internet.

Hacking Team, founded in 2003 and based in Milan, Italy, provides surveillance software and intrusion tools to law enforcement agencies around the world.

On its website it boasts clients across the US, Europe and the Asia Pacific, assisted by more than 50 employees providing all aspects of offensive IT tools.

The company’s primary surveillance tool – dubbed Da Vinci – earned it a spot on the Reporters Without Borders Enemies of the Internet list.

Its products allow governments to monitor online communications, record voice-over-IP (VoIP) sessions, remotely activate microphones and cameras, and break encrypted files and emails.

The company’s Twitter account was today compromised, and around 400GB of internal emails, files and source code were leaked to the internet, and spread via social media.

The attackers also posted screenshots of the compromised data from the leaked file to Twitter, and defaced the company’s logo and biography.

Earlier this afternoon — before his own Twitter account appeared to be hacked — Hacking Team engineer Christian Pozzi confirmed the breach and said the company was notifying affected customers and working with police.

According to the leaked data, Hacking Team counts customers from South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and Mongolia. The company has long maintained it does not sell to oppressive governments — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights

The sound of silence stifles our freedom

So you think you’re free to speak your mind? Think again. We are, all of us, increasingly bubble-wrapped in the sounds of silence.

Silencing the intelligentsia has always been totalitarianism’s tool of choice. But there’s only so much you can achieve with prisons and pig-farms. Now, as public intelligence shrinks to a hoarse whisper, it seems corporatised culture may succeed where more gun-pointed regimes have failed.

The mindless din that now passes for civil debate is generally attributed to populism of one kind or another — the internet, the market, democracy itself. But perhaps that’s wrong. Perhaps the silence is coming from the top.

It’s not just scholars and academics, increasingly silenced by ludicrous administrative burdens, vanishing tenure, a casualising workforce and despair at the commodification of what we still call higher education. In a way, that’s the least of it. Across journalism, politics, agriculture, medicine, law, human rights and teaching, the gags are growing in size, number and efficacy — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights

The sound of silence stifles our freedom

So you think you’re free to speak your mind? Think again. We are, all of us, increasingly bubble-wrapped in the sounds of silence.

Silencing the intelligentsia has always been totalitarianism’s tool of choice. But there’s only so much you can achieve with prisons and pig-farms. Now, as public intelligence shrinks to a hoarse whisper, it seems corporatised culture may succeed where more gun-pointed regimes have failed.

The mindless din that now passes for civil debate is generally attributed to populism of one kind or another — the internet, the market, democracy itself. But perhaps that’s wrong. Perhaps the silence is coming from the top.

It’s not just scholars and academics, increasingly silenced by ludicrous administrative burdens, vanishing tenure, a casualising workforce and despair at the commodification of what we still call “higher” education. In a way, that’s the least of it. Across journalism, politics, agriculture, medicine, law, human rights and teaching, the gags are growing in size, number and efficacy — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Glenn Greenwald says Australia is ‘one of most aggressive’ in mass surveillance

Australia is one of the most aggressive countries in the world in terms of mass surveillance and its techniques could be the subject of future leaks, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first reported on the Edward Snowden revelations for the Guardian, has said.

Greenwald, who now works for The Intercept, told ABC’s Lateline program on Thursday night that Australia is probably the country that has gotten away with things the most in terms of the Snowden revelations.

There are interesting documents about what Australia is doing to privacy rights — not just to their own citizens Glenn Greenwald

Australia is one of the most aggressive countries that engage in mass surveillance as a member of the Five Eyes partnership, he said, referring to a security sharing arrangement between the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

There has been less reporting on Australia than the other four countries. We intend to change that.

We are working on the reporting, he continued. We will definitely get that done as soon as we can — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Google slams Australian piracy site-blocking legislation

Google has said that cutting off advertising from piracy sites is much more effective than censoring the sites from access.

The Australian government last month introduced legislation that would allow rights holders to get an injunction placed on internet service providers (ISPs) to force telcos to block specific overseas piracy websites from access by Australian users.

The rights holders would need to demonstrate that the primary purpose of a website is for the infringement of copyright before the Federal Court will order ISPs to block it. Latest Australian news

The move has been welcomed by rights holders, but faces opposition from Google, which told the parliamentary committee looking into the legislation that site blocking is not the most effective means of stopping piracy.

A recent study of the piracy ecosystem­ in which the authors conducted a detailed analysis of the effectiveness of various anti-­piracy measures found that anti­-piracy efforts directed towards blocking access to pirated content have not been successful, Google said in its submission.

Google said that more effective measures include providing legitimate content that is more attractive to consumers than piracy, and cutting off advertising to piracy websites. The introduction of site blocking could have unintended consequences, Google warned.

Site blocking also has the potential to be used in ways that were unintended, included by blocking legitimate content.

Google said that legislation allowing sites that facilitate access to infringing copyright content to be blocked could lead to virtual private network (VPN) services being blocked.

VPNs also have many other legitimate purposes, including privacy and security, Google stated.

The court should be forced to consider the impact on freedom of speech when blocking sites, the company said — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Google slams Australian piracy site-blocking legislation

Google has said that cutting off advertising from piracy sites is much more effective than censoring the sites from access.

The Australian government last month introduced legislation that would allow rights holders to get an injunction placed on internet service providers (ISPs) to force telcos to block specific overseas piracy websites from access by Australian users.

The rights holders would need to demonstrate that the primary purpose of a website is for the infringement of copyright before the Federal Court will order ISPs to block it. Latest Australian news

Dallas Buyers Club wants alleged infringer details by May 6 The censorship end game of the piracy site-blocking Bill Mandatory data-retention funding to be a Budget surprise Google slams Australian piracy site-blocking legislation NBN Co predicts up to 370,000 premises need work on HFC

The move has been welcomed by rights holders, but faces opposition from Google, which told the parliamentary committee looking into the legislation that site blocking “is not the most effective means of stopping piracy”.

A recent study of the piracy ‘ecosystem’­ in which the authors conducted a detailed analysis of the effectiveness of various anti-­piracy measures found that anti­-piracy efforts directed towards blocking access to pirated content have not been successful, Google said in its submission.

Google said that more effective measures include providing legitimate content that is more attractive to consumers than piracy, and cutting off advertising to piracy websites. The introduction of site blocking could have unintended consequences, Google warned.

Site blocking also has the potential to be used in ways that were unintended, included by blocking legitimate content.

Google said that legislation allowing sites that facilitate access to infringing copyright content to be blocked could lead to virtual private network (VPN) services being blocked.

VPNs also have many other legitimate purposes, including privacy and security, Google stated.

The court should be forced to consider the impact on freedom of speech when blocking sites, the company said — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

The censorship end game of the piracy site-blocking Bill

Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has barely even finished introducing piracy site-blocking legislation into the parliament, and already the Helen Lovejoys of the world are trying to get it expanded into a much larger internet censorship scheme.

The legislation introduced into parliament in March would allow film studios, TV companies, and other copyright holders to apply to the court to get specific sites hosted outside of Australia and alleged to be primarily for the purpose of copyright infringement blocked by Australian internet service providers (ISPs).

The court will ideally examine the sites involved, and ensure that they meet all the conditions before ordering a block, though this is not guaranteed at this point.

If the ISPs are ordered to block a site, they can do so in a number of ways — through DNS, IP address blocking, or URL blocking. The exact method, too, has yet to be determined.

Turnbull has stressed that because the court must approve sites being blocked, it is not an internet filter.

It will be a court, not the government, that will determine which sites are blocked. Moreover, this is not an automatic process, but determined by a court with all of the normal protections of legal due process. In other words, a judge will make the decision, after hearing evidence and argument, not an algorithm in the software operating a router, he said.

The lack of an automated process of filtering types of sites means it is not a filter, according to the minister.

Others seem to disagree, however.

Far be it for me to allow the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) to define the meaning of anything ever, but it has described the scheme as an internet piracy filter and called on the government to look at implementing a default clean feed to protect children — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

What’s Scarier: Terrorism, or Governments Blocking Websites in its Name?

The French Interior Ministry on Monday ordered that five websites be blocked on the grounds that they promote or advocate terrorism. I do not want to see sites that could lead people to take up arms on the Internet, proclaimed Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

When the block functions properly, visitors to those banned sites, rather than accessing the content of the sites they chose to visit, will be automatically redirected to the Interior Ministry website. There, they will be greeted by a graphic of a large red hand, and text informing them that they were attempting to access a site that causes or promotes terrorism: you are being redirected to this official website since your computer was about to connect with a page that provokes terrorist acts or condones terrorism publicly.

No judge reviews the Interior Ministry’s decisions. The minister first requests that the website owner voluntarily remove the content he deems transgressive; upon disobedience, the minister unilaterally issues the order to Internet service providers for the sites to be blocked. This censorship power is vested pursuant to a law recently enacted in France empowering the interior minister to block websites.

Forcibly taking down websites deemed to be supportive of terrorism, or criminalizing speech deemed to advocate terrorism, is a major trend in both Europe and the West generally. Last month in Brussels, the European Union’s counter-terrorism coordinator issued a memo proclaiming that Europe is facing an unprecedented, diverse and serious terrorist threat, and argued that increased state control over the Internet is crucial to combating it — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

A Police Insider Says Data Retention Could Be Used To Catch Pirates

Concerned about the scope of the currently proposed data retention legislation currently being considered by Parliament? An ex-police officer says that one day, your metadata could be used to identify whether you’ve been downloading TV shows and movies illegitimately.

A former police officer who has previous experience with metadata and its potential applications has told ABC Radio National’s Download This Show that the oversight that currently exists over even currently retained metadata is minimal, and is ripe for abuse.

Using the example of an officer or other accredited agency user accessing metadata to check up on their ex-girlfriend, the insider told the program that he had never seen a metadata request denied on the basis of its legitimacy, but only cost. He also said that the agency officials talking up the potential of metadata at the moment, and petitioning for more widespread access, have no hands-on experience: …mobiles weren’t invented when they walked the beat.

The extent of even something as basic as smartphone location metadata can be extremely detailed and granular; the huge amount of data that anyone with any kind of online or digital profile generates would be exponentially more useful for any agency with access to the proposed metadata retention regime. Unless there is enough oversight baked into the legislation and restraint exercised in its scope, the potential for abuse is there — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights

The Dark Power of Fraternities

One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him — under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself — to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.

Also on the deck, and also in the thrall of the night’s pleasures, was one Louis Helmburg III, an education major and ace benchwarmer for the Thundering Herd baseball team. His response to the proposed launch was the obvious one: he reportedly whipped out his cellphone to record it on video, which would turn out to be yet another of the night’s seemingly excellent but ultimately misguided ideas. When the bottle rocket exploded in Hughes’s rectum, Helmburg was seized by the kind of battlefield panic that has claimed brave men from outfits far more illustrious than even the Thundering Herd. Terrified, he staggered away from the human bomb and fell off the deck.

Fortunately for him, and adding to the Chaplinesque aspect of the night’s miseries, the deck was no more than four feet off the ground, but such was the urgency of his escape that he managed to get himself wedged between the structure and an air-conditioning unit, sustaining injuries that would require medical attention, cut short his baseball season, and—in the fullness of time—pit him against the mighty forces of the Alpha Tau Omega national organization, which had been waiting for him — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights

Australian government blames Snowden for data retention

The Australian Attorney-General’s Department has pushed back at industry and privacy advocate concerns over mandatory data-retention legislation, stating that the leaks on the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance operations by whistleblower Edward Snowden have hastened the need for the regime.

Under legislation currently before the parliament, Australian telecommunications companies would be required to retain an as-yet-undefined set of customer data for two years, not limited to but including call records, address information, email addresses, and assigned IP addresses.

The legislation is being backed up by Australian law-enforcement agencies, which claim that access to the data without a warrant is vital to almost every criminal investigation. Telecommunications companies and privacy advocates, however, warn that the scheme would be a major intrusion on the lives of every Australian, and that the costs of running the scheme will lead to higher prices for internet and phone services.

Telcos have suggested that existing preservation notices, which agencies can send to carriers, to retain the data for a specific individual under investigation would be much more appropriate than a wide-ranging mandatory data-retention regime.

The Attorney-General’s Department, however, claims in its submission to the parliamentary committee investigating the legislation that there are no practical alternatives to a legislated mandatory data-retention regime — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Secret Malware in European Union Attack Linked to US and British Intelligence

Complex malware known as Regin is the suspected technology behind sophisticated cyberattacks conducted by US and British intelligence agencies on the European Union and a Belgian telecommunications company, according to security industry sources and technical analysis conducted by The Intercept.

Regin was found on infected internal computer systems and email servers at Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian phone and internet provider, following reports last year that the company was targeted in a top-secret surveillance operation carried out by British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, industry sources told The Intercept.

The malware, which steals data from infected systems and disguises itself as legitimate Microsoft software, has also been identified on the same European Union computer systems that were targeted for surveillance by the National Security Agency.

The hacking operations against Belgacom and the European Union were first revealed last year through documents leaked by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. The specific malware used in the attacks has never been disclosed, however.

The Regin malware, whose existence was first reported by the security firm Symantec on Sunday, is among the most sophisticated ever discovered by researchers. Symantec compared Regin to Stuxnet, a state-sponsored malware program developed by the U.S. and Israel to sabotage computers at an Iranian nuclear facility. Sources familiar with internal investigations at Belgacom and the European Union have confirmed to The Intercept that the Regin malware was found on their systems after they were compromised, linking the spy tool to the secret GCHQ and NSA operations.

Ronald Prins, a security expert whose company Fox IT was hired to remove the malware from Belgacom’s networks, told The Intercept that it was “the most sophisticated malware” he had ever studied.

Having analysed this malware and looked at the [previously published] Snowden documents, Prins said, I’m convinced Regin is used by British and American intelligence services — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology, World

Berlin’s digital exiles: where tech activists go to escape the NSA

It’s the not knowing that’s the hardest thing, Laura Poitras tells me. Not knowing whether I’m in a private place or not. Not knowing if someone’s watching or not. Though she’s under surveillance, she knows that. It makes working as a journalist hard but not impossible. It’s on a personal level that it’s harder to process. I try not to let it get inside my head, but… I still am not sure that my home is private. And if I really want to make sure I’m having a private conversation or something, I’ll go outside.

Poitras’s documentary about Edward Snowden, Citizenfour, has just been released in cinemas. She was, for a time, the only person in the world who was in contact with Snowden, the only one who knew of his existence. Before she got Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian on board, it was just her — talking, electronically, to the man she knew only as Citizenfour. Even months on, when I ask her if the memory of that time lives with her still, she hesitates and takes a deep breath: It was really very scary for a number of months. I was very aware that the risks were really high and that something bad could happen. I had this kind of responsibility to not fuck up, in terms of source protection, communication, security and all those things, I really had to be super careful in all sorts of ways.

Bad, not just for Snowden, I say? Not just for him, she agrees. We’re having this conversation in Berlin, her adopted city, where she’d moved to make a film about surveillance before she’d ever even made contact with Snowden. Because, in 2006, after making two films about the US war on terror, she found herself on a watch list. Every time she entered the US — and I travel a lot — she would be questioned. It got to the point where my plane would land and they would do what’s called a hard stand, where they dispatch agents to the plane and make everyone show their passport and then I would be escorted to a room where they would question me and often times take all my electronics, my notes, my credit cards, my computer, my camera, all that stuff. She needed somewhere else to go, somewhere she hoped would be a safe haven. And that somewhere was Berlin.

What’s remarkable is that my conversation with Poitras will be the first of a whole series of conversations I have with people in Berlin who either are under surveillance, or have been under surveillance, or who campaign against it, or are part of the German government’s inquiry into it, or who work to create technology to counter it. Poitras’s experience of understanding the sensation of what it’s like to know you’re being watched, or not to know but feel a prickle on the back of your neck and suspect you might be, is far from unique, it turns out. But then, perhaps more than any other city on earth, Berlin has a radar for surveillance and the dark places it can lead to.

There is just a very real historical awareness of how information can be used against people in really dangerous ways here, Poitras says. There is a sensitivity to it which just doesn’t exist elsewhere. And not just because of the Stasi, the former East German secret police, but also the Nazi era. There’s a book Jake Appelbaum talks a lot about that’s called IBM and the Holocaust and it details how the Nazis used punch-cards to systemise the death camps. We’re not talking about that happening with the NSA [the US National Security Agency], but it shows how this information can be used against populations and how it poses such a danger. — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Australian government warrantless data requests pass 500,000

Requests from government agencies for Australian telecommunications customers’ phone, internet, and address data surpassed 500,000 in the last financial year, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The figure was revealed in the ACMA’s annual report (PDF) released this month. It says that there were 563,012 authorisations granted to government agencies for access to telecommunications metadata in the 2013-14 financial year.

Under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, government agencies can force telecommunications companies to hand over details about their customers, including address, phone number, IP address, call data, SMS data, and other held information without a warrant for the purpose of enforcing the law.

The ACMA recorded that total disclosures amounted to 748,079 for the financial year including to law enforcement for a range of reasons, such as to avert a threat to life, assist the ACMA, or enforce the criminal law of a foreign country.

The number of requests by far exceeds the more than 300,000 requests made in the 2012-13 financial year reported by the Attorney-General’s Department in its Telecommunications (Interception and Access) report last year. The report for this year has yet to be tabled in parliament.

A spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s Department had not responded to a request for comment on the disparity at the time of writing; however, security agencies such as the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) are not required to publicly report the number of metadata access requests they make.

The department told The Guardian that the difference between the two figures was due to the department only counting the authorisation for a particular person’s details. So if the request is made to multiple telcos for that one person’s information, the access request is only counted as one from that particular government agency. The ACMA has compiled its report based on data from the telcos themselves, leading to the higher figure — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Rights
Frank Serpico by Antonino D’Ambrosio

The Police Are Still Out of Control

Forty-odd years on, my story probably seems like ancient history to most people, layered over with Hollywood legend. For me it’s not, since at the age of 78 I’m still deaf in one ear and I walk with a limp and I carry fragments of the bullet near my brain. I am also, all these years later, still persona non grata in the NYPD. Never mind that, thanks to Sidney Lumet’s direction and Al Pacino’s brilliant acting, Serpico ranks No 40 on the American Film Institute’s list of all-time movie heroes, or that as I travel around the country and the world, police officers often tell me they were inspired to join the force after seeing the movie at an early age.

In the NYPD that means little next to my 40-year-old heresy, as they see it. I still get hate mail from active and retired police officers. A couple of years ago after the death of David Durk — the police officer who was one of my few allies inside the department in my efforts to expose graft — the Internet message board NYPD Rant featured some choice messages directed at me. Join your mentor, Rat scum! said one. An ex-con recently related to me that a precinct captain had once said to him, If it wasn’t for that fuckin’ Serpico, I coulda been a millionaire today. My informer went on to say, Frank, you don’t seem to understand, they had a well-oiled money making machine going and you came along and threw a handful of sand in the gears.

In 1971 I was awarded the Medal of Honor, the NYPD’s highest award for bravery in action, but it wasn’t for taking on an army of corrupt cops. It was most likely due to the insistence of Police Chief Sid Cooper, a rare good guy who was well aware of the murky side of the NYPD that I’d try to expose. But they handed the medal to me like an afterthought, like tossing me a pack of cigarettes. After all this time, I’ve never been given a proper certificate with my medal. And although living Medal of Honor winners are typically invited to yearly award ceremonies, I’ve only been invited once — and it was by Bernard Kerick, who ironically was the only NYPD commissioner to later serve time in prison. A few years ago, after the New York Police Museum refused my guns and other memorabilia, I loaned them to the Italian-American museum right down street from police headquarters, and they invited me to their annual dinner. I didn’t know it was planned, but the chief of police from Rome, Italy, was there, and he gave me a plaque. The New York City police officers who were there wouldn’t even look at me — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Photo credit: Antonino D’Ambrosio

Politics, Rights

Call that a sword? This is a joke

tephen King once wrote that horror and humour were two of the most difficult story forms to master, because funny gone wrong is almost always horrifying, while a bungled horror story runs the risk of eliciting shrieks of laughter in place of terror.

It didn’t take long for the narrative threads of Death Cult in the Suburbs to unravel and the snickering to begin. And so we find, a few weeks after September’s terror raids, that the mystery sword that featured so prominently in everybody’s fever dreams of jihad come to Martin Place was not in fact the mighty blade of slashening; woe be unto the infidel. It was just a plastic toy, according to its owner. A replica artefact, as common in Shiite Muslim households as sun-faded happy snaps of Pope St John Paul II in the homes of Polish Catholics.

I guess it’s a lucky thing the raids only turned up a plastic sword then. What if those 800 cops had found a toy light sabre? The headlines would have screamed ISIS develops terrifying Stars Wars capability. The SAS might have been despatched to Tatooine.

There was always something dodgy about the scale of those raids, especially given the thin pickings they seemed to turn up. Very few arrests and now a prime piece of evidence negated.

Note the air quotes around the term evidence, though. The sword, which promised such horror in so many published, shared and retweeted photos, never made it into court.

If all the world’s a stage, it was a prop and the hundreds of citizens whose homes were raided weren’t even players. They were extras. Not even bit players, like the sailor whose story of being attacked while in uniform, perhaps because he was in uniform, was revealed as a bizarre fantasy, but only after that story had turned the crank on tensions a few notches further.

There’s something at play here that isn’t as simple a narrative as good v evil. For instance, in the month that Daash killers cut the heads off three captives on the internet, our Saudi Arabian allies publicly decapitated eight for various crimes including adultery, apostasy and sorcery. Woe be unto you, Harry Potter.

Our particular malady is not even a politics as theatre, however. Although Tony Abbott and the media are playing the terror card for all it’s worth and more, there are legitimate security issues buried somewhere beneath the witless hysteria, fear-mongering and click bait.

It’s fraught and complex, and the pity of our current derangement is that it not only prevents us from seeing this and dealing with the threat, it aggravates the condition — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Adobe Spyware Reveals (Again) the Price of DRM: Your Privacy and Security

The publishing world may finally be facing its rootkit scandal. Two independent reports claim that Adobe’s e-book software, Digital Editions, logs every document readers add to their local library, tracks what happens with those files, and then sends those logs back to the mother-ship, over the Internet, in the clear. In other words, Adobe is not only tracking your reading habits, it’s making it really, really easy for others to do so as well.

And it’s all being done in the name of copyright enforcement. After all, the great promise of Digital Editions is that it can help publishers “securely distribute” and manage access to books. Libraries, for example, encourage their patrons to use the software, because it helps them comply with the restrictions publishers impose on electronic lending.

How big is the problem? Not completely clear, but it could be pretty big. First, it appears Adobe is tracking more than many readers may realize, including information about self-published and purchased books. If the independent reports are correct, Adobe may be scanning your entire electronic library. Borrowing a copy of Moby Dick from your public library shouldn’t be a license to scan your cookbook collection.

Adobe claims that these reports are not quite accurate. According to Adobe, the software only collects information about the book you are currently reading, not your entire library. It also collects information about where you are reading that book, how long you’ve been reading it, and how much you’ve read. Still disturbing, if you ask us.

Second, sending this information in plain text undermines decades of efforts by libraries and bookstores to protect the privacy of their patrons and customers. (Adobe does not deny transmitting the information unencrypted.) Indeed, in 2011 EFF and a coalition of companies and public interest groups helped pass the Reader Privacy Act, which requires the government and civil litigants to demonstrate a compelling interest in obtaining reader records and show that the information contained in those records cannot be obtained by less intrusive means. But if readers are using Adobe’s software, it’s all too easy for folks to bypass those restrictions.

Third and most depressing: this flaw may have been unintentional, but we probably should have seen it coming. As our friend Cory Doctorow has been explaining for years, DRM for books is dangerous for readers, authors and publishers alike. Whether or not Adobe actually intended to create this particular vulnerability, if your computer is collecting information about you, and then transmitting it in ways you can’t control, chances are you’ve got a security problem — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Australian Government Scrambles to Authorise Mass Surveillance

This week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott used recent terrorist threats as the backdrop of a dire warning to Australians that for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift. There may be more restrictions on some, so that there can be more protection for others.

This pronouncement came as two of a series of three bills effecting that erosion of freedoms made their way through Australia’s Federal Parliament. These were the second reading of a National Security Amendment Bill which grants new surveillance powers to Australia’s spy agency, ASIO, and the first reading of a Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill that outlaws speech seen as advocating terrorism. A third bill on mandatory data retention is expected to be be introduced by the end of the year.

Whilst all three bills in this suite raise separate concerns, the most immediate concern—because the bill in question could be passed this week — is the National Security Amendment Bill. Introduced into Parliament on 16 July, it endured robust criticism during public hearings last month that led into an advisory report released last week. Nevertheless the bill was introduced into the Senate this Tuesday with the provisions of most concern still intact.

In simple terms, the bill allows law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant to access data from a computer—so far, so good. But it redefines a computer to mean not only one or more computers but also one or more computer networks. Since the Internet itself is nothing but a large network of computer networks, it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that the bill may stealthily allow the spy agency to surveil the entire Internet with a single warrant.

Apart from allowing the surveillance of entire computer networks, the bill also allows the addition, deletion or alteration of data stored on a computer, provided only that this would not materially interfere with, interrupt or obstruct a communication in transit or the lawful use by other persons of a computer unless … necessary to do one or more of the things specified in the warrant. Given the broad definition of computer, this provision is broad enough to authorise website blocking or manipulation, and even the insertion of malware into networks targeted by the warrant — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology, World

New Zealand denies it was planning mass domestic spying

New Zealand was preparing to conduct national covert surveillance last year, a US investigative journalist has said.

The claims by former Guardian newspaper reporter Glenn Greenwald were denied by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

The report was based on information disclosed by former US National Security Authority (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, who said the government had planned to exploit new spying laws.

The revelations come just days ahead of a New Zealand general election — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

WikiLeaks names NSW Police as FinFisher malware customer

WikiLeaks has today released parts of the FinFisher surveillance suite, as well as a customer list that it claims includes the police forces of the Netherlands and New South Wales, and the intelligence arms of the Hungarian, Qatari, Italian, and Bosnian governments.

Based on the price list it released, WikiLeaks has estimated that FinFisher licence sales brought in between €48 to €98 million, with total revenue said to be higher with FinFly ISP licences not being counted, nor the costs for support.

Of the customers listed, the NSW Police is listed as having purchased €1.8 million in FinFisher software, as well as submitting support requests relating to wanting to categorise keylogged conversations to avoid hot water by intruding on legal privilege, asking for reporting features to meet warrant requirements, and problems with FinSpy updates — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Politics, Rights, Technology

Copyright infringement is terrorism, screech the revolution’s losers

You might have thought that Australia’s debate over online copyright infringement couldn’t get any sillier. But this week the journalists’ union came out as a fan of internet censorship, only to withdraw when they realised what they’d done. And Village Roadshow equated copyright infringement with terrorism and paedophilia, and came out in support of, oh, moonbats or something. Hard to say.

Village Roadshow’s submission (PDF) to the government’s copyright infringement discussion paper is the loopiest, with so much shouting and whining that it’s hard to take their hyperbole seriously.

The dangers posed by piracy are so great, the goal should be total eradication or zero tolerance. Just as there is no place on the internet for terrorism or paedophilia, there should be no place for theft that will impact the livelihoods of the 900,000 people whose security is protected by legitimate copyright, the submission says.

Oh get a grip.

The tone is clearly that of Village Roadshow’s co-CEO Graham Burke, whose manner at the best of times can most generously be described as eccentric. But to equate the abstract problem of a reduction in your profit margin with the damage done to the victims of child sexual abuse and the slaughter of innocents? That takes some chutzpah — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Android security mystery – ‘fake’ cellphone towers found in US

There have been many comments to this story from people who are assuming that these towers are physical installations. There’s no reason to assume this is the case: it’s far likelier that they are mobile installations of the kind used not only by law enforcement and government agencies, but also by scammers and other criminals — David Harley

Seventeen mysterious cellphone towers have been found in America which look like ordinary towers, and can only be identified by a heavily customized handset built for Android security — but have a much more malicious purpose, according to Popular Science.

The fake towers — computers which wirelessly attack cellphones via the baseband chips built to allow them to communicate with their networks, can eavesdrop and even install spyware, ESD claims. They are a known technology — but the surprise is that they are in active use — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Leaked paper reveals Australia’s obsessive metadata secrecy

Last Friday, the Australian Attorney-General’s Department sent internet service providers (ISPs) a confidential discussion paper — subsequently leaked to Fairfax Media — that attempts to clarify exactly what metadata they’ll be required to store under the government’s proposed mandatory data-retention scheme. The detailed requirements are presumably designed to feed into the statutory specification of metadata that will be included in legislation to be introduced to parliament in coming weeks.

Until now, the only official government description of metadata we’d seen — apart from that breathtakingly confused TV performance by Australia’s favourite Attorney-General Senator George Brandis QC — was the hilariously inadequate one-pager (PDF) that the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) tabled in Senate Estimates on October 15, 2012, after much prodding by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.

You might therefore think that the description of the government’s metadata needs in Friday’s document was a recent development.

You’d be wrong.

A confidential document obtained by ZDNet shows that even more detailed descriptions of the government’s data-collection ambitions had been discussed with ISPs as far back as early 2010.

The document, Carrier-Carriage Service Provider Data Set Consultation Paper version 1.0 (PDF), is a 16-page PDF file created on 9 March 2010, at 14:49. Its core sections are similar in structure to the nine-page document obtained by Fairfax Media this week, with the addition of tables of sample data to further illustrate the expected type of data to be retained for each specific retention requirement from the data set, discussion questions for industry to answer, and an introductory background section rather than an executive summary.

The 2010 version of the document was quite specific about the data to be collected. For mobile calls, for example, the data would include the IMSI and IMEI of both the calling party’s and called party’s devices, whereas the current version simply specifies the identifier(s) of the devices. This is in line with the government’s intention to make the legislation technology neutral.

References to web-browser sessions and file transfers that were in the 2010 version have vanished, too, in line with such ideas being dropped as the data-retention debate has evolved — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights

Al Jazeera journalists teargassed by security forces – in Ferguson, Missouri, USA

Here is a sentence that will be immediately familiar to anyone who has ever followed even a little news out of the Middle East:

Journalists from the Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera were attacked by state security forces today and blanketed in tear gas, as they attempted to film an ongoing protest; this is the latest in a string of attacks on journalists by security forces.

Now see if you can guess the country. It’s not Egypt. Not Tunisia.

Nope: this happened, exactly as described, in the United States of America on Wednesday night, in the Missouri town of Ferguson. Here is the video of Al Jazeera America journalists in Ferguson being clearly targeted with tear gas by Ferguson police (apologies for the poor quality) — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Crypto Daddy Phil Zimmerman says surveillance society is DOOMED

A killer combination of rapidly advancing technology and a desire for greater privacy among the public should condemn current surveillance state to an historical anachronism, according to PGP creator Phil Zimmermann.

In an extended talk at Defcon 22 in Las Vegas, Zimmermann said it might seem as though the intelligence agencies have the whip hand at the moment but mankind had faced this situation before. He also said the abolition of slavery and absolute monarchy, and the achievement for civil rights, also once looked unlikely but were achieved.

Zimmermann praised the release of information by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying his efforts have alerted the populace to the real state of affairs and made people much more concerned about privacy. The revelations had also forced the technology industry to up its game and provide products to meet that demand, he opined — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Brandis proposes website blocking and piracy crackdown

A leaked discussion paper from both Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has floated the possibility of websites being blocked, and measures to compel ISPs to take steps to prevent their customers infringing on copyright online.

Five months after first flagging a crackdown was on its way, Brandis appears to be pushing ahead with plans to crack down on Australians using programs such as BitTorrent to obtain copyright-infringing content such as TV shows, music, and films.

The discussion paper, leaked to Crikey, had been expected to be released this month, following Brandis meeting with representatives in the US and UK governments on their respective copyright infringement deterrence schemes.

It outlines a number of potential legislative measures the government can implement to deter what the paper said is a long standing issue with Australians having high illegal download rates.

The government states in the document that it believes even if an ISP doesn’t have a direct power to prevent its users from infringing on copyright, there are reasonable steps it can take to deter infringement.

In a move to undo the 2012 High Court judgment that iiNet did not authorise its users’ copyright infringement, the paper proposes amending the Copyright Act to extend authorisation of copyright infringement and the power to prevent infringement would just be one factor the courts would consider in determining whether an ISP was liable for infringement — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, World

High Court injunction blocks handover of 153 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka

The High Court has granted an interim injunction to block the handover of 153 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, just hours after the Government confirmed another vessel had been returned.

On Monday the court heard an urgent claim from barristers seeking to protect the group, which includes 32 women and 37 children and is believed to be under the Government’s control at sea.

We argued that the asylum seekers are entitled to have their allegations — claims against the Sri Lankan government — heard and processed in accordance with the law, solicitor George Newhouse said.

The Minister can’t simply intercept them in the night and disappear them — via redwolf.newsvine.com