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Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Narenji ("Orange") was Iran's top website for gadget news, edited daily by a team of tech bloggers who worked from a cramped office in the country's city of Kerman. The site was targeted at Iran's growing audience of technology enthusiasts. Like Gizmodo or Engadget in the United States, it had a simple but popular formula: mixed reviews of the latest Android and iPhones, summaries of new Persian-language apps and downloads, as well as the latest Internet memes (such as the ever-popular "An Incredible Painted Portrait of Morgan Freeman Drawn with a Finger on the iPad").
But now it’s gone. Narenji's front page is stuck in time as it was on December 3, when the entire Narenji team was rounded up by Iran's Revolutionary Guard and thrown into jail. Frozen, too, are Narenji's sister sites—Nardebaan and Negahbaan—that the start-up was beginning to build from Narenji's earlier success.
Narenji's founder, Aliasghar Honarmand, and senior editor Abbas Vahedi, had some reason to be excited for the future. The current President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has made encouraging tech entrepreneurism as part of his government's platform, with a $1 billion innovation fund for developing the "knowledge economy." His government has also worked hard to negotiate to lift Western sanctions against the country, boosting the economy and allowing more gadgets to reach Iran's middle class.
Here's the video, broadcast on Iranian state television, of the Narenji team being detained:
The report stated that the bloggers had been funded and trained by "espionage networks…aiming for a 'soft overthrow' of the Iranian regime."
It seems that the Iranian prosecutors believed that one or more of the team had received journalistic training from the BBC while in London, and this was enough to trigger the crackdown. While other bloggers in the same round-up have been released, the majority of Narenji's team are still behind bars, including:
* Aliasghar Honarmand (Founder of Narenji & Owner of Paat Shargh Govashir, the company which owns Narenji)
* Abbas Vahedi (Editor of Narenji)
* Hossein Nozari (Director of Paat Shargh Govashir)
* Reza Nozari (Tech blogger of Nardebaan, sister website of Narenji)
* Ehsan Paknejad (Tech blogger on Narenji)
(The Guardian reported a slightly different list of names: Aliasghar Honarmand, Abbas Vahedi, Alireza Vaziri, Nasim Nikmehr, Malihe Nakhaie, Mohammadhossein Mousavizadeh and Sara Sadjadpour.)
Of these, only Vahedi and Nozari were recently released on bail, with the expectation that they and the others will face a court hearing next month.
The Narenji team's treatment is another example of how technologists are targeted by governments worldwide as a result of their work. It doesn't matter if you're writing a blog about Android development or distributing anti-censorship proxies: to many governments, simply being well-known online or having a latent power to influence or change society through your technical knowledge can quickly turn you into an unacceptable threat to the social order.
Popular but apolitical bloggers like Narenji’s also risk being caught in internecine battles over which they have no control. Iranian political experts we've spoken to consider that Narenji's arrest by the local Kermani Revolutionary Guard may be a deliberate response by local radicals against the Rouhani administration's encouragement of tech entrepreneurs: a signal that makes clear that Tehran should not go too far in its moderation. Narenji's high visibility may not have given them protection against the Revolutionary Guard; rather, it may have made them more of a target.
Predations on the technical community have a long, sad, history. EFF's own birth began with an ignorant and fearful crackdown marshalled against hackers in the United States; politically-motivated prosecutions of techno-activists like Aaron Swartz continue to this day. If we're to stop them from taking place anywhere, whether in the United States, Iran, or Russia, we need to unite to protect and publicize the unjust detention and intimidation of technologists everywhere.
You can help by signing this petition to the Iranian government to release the Narenji team, or raise awareness of their case on social media, using the hashtags #Narenji and #نارنجی. More importantly, spread the word of their case among your own community. The more publicity Narenji gains from ordinary people, the greater the likelihood they will be kept safe in jail, and treated quickly.
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In an era when email and messaging services are being regularly subject to attacks, surveillance, and compelled disclosure of user data, we know that many people around the world need secure end-to-end encrypted communications tools so that service providers and governments cannot read their messages. Unfortunately, the software that has traditionally been used for these purposes, such as PGP and OTR, suffers from numerous usability problems that make it impractical for many of the journalists, activists and others around the world whose lives and liberty depend on their ability to communicate confidentially.
Particularly in the post-Snowden era, there has been an wave of interest in solving the usability problems inherent in end-to-end encryption: the need to verify the identities and public keys of the people one communicates with; the need to support conversation from multiple laptops, phones and other devices; the need to offer users both a way of keeping logs and reading history – but also performing secure deletion of those logs – from multiple devices; the need to negotiate keys and sessions with other parties even if they are offline.
We are optimistic that, with a carefully thought-out modern design, it should be possible to produce a next-generation secure messaging tool that lets most humans communicate securely without dedicated IT support. But we don't yet know which of the many designs is the best route forward.
To that end, EFF is evaluating the feasibility of offering a prize for the first usable, secure, and private end-to-end encrypted communication tool. We believe a prize based on objective usability metrics (such as the percentage of users who were able to install and start using the tool within a few minutes, and the percentage who survived simulated impersonation or man-in-the-middle attacks) might be an effective way to determine which project or projects are best delivering communication security to vulnerable user communities; to promote and energize those tools; and to encourage interaction between developers, interaction designers and academics interested in this space.
Before moving forward with a prize, we are co-organizing a workshop at the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS) this July in Silicon Valley. The aim of the workshop will be to share knowledge amongst the projects that are trying to build usable encrypted communications tools, and determine what a metrics-based prize for progress in that field might look like. We encourage interested software developers, usability researchers and UX designers to submit proposals to the workshop. We may be able to provide a limited number of travel stipends for meritorious submissions. You can find further details about the workshop and how to send a proposal here.Related Issues: EFF Software ProjectsPrivacySecurity
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Dr. Moore joined us with her colleague Leanne and badge system consultant Dr. Karen Jeffrey to talk about the work being done in the Corona-Norco Unified School District with badges. We heard a brief overview from her team back in November (read more here), and returned for a deep-dive discussion of their work on this week’s Research and Badge System Design Call.
When we heard from April in November, the Corona-Norco Unified School District (CNUSD) offered 12 initial badges, split between the elementary, middle and high school levels. The badge system is now fully operational for Riverside County’s 54,000 students, and the district has issued more than 300,000 badges. (Wow!)
The system was developed in partnership with ForAllBadges to allow for flexibility between the district’s schools, to allow instructors to develop badges for school-specific programs that recognize different skills and behaviors across grades K-12.
While elementary students can earn badges for attendance and behavior, middle schoolers are earning badges for meeting formal standards within specific subjects, as well as developing career or college plans. Once in high school, students can earn badges for fulfilling entrance requirements for colleges and for exemplary scores on the exit exam as they leave school. The district is using a “Passport to Success" to track these achievements, complementing a college readiness program.
The Passport to Success platform and badging system was developed with the primary focus of preparing students for further education, career and beyond, exploring badge pathways that connect students’ various learning experiences and making connections with local institutions of further education. They are even starting to work towards guaranteed admission to local community college for completion of the Passport to Success 12 core badges.
Due to COPPA's age restrictions on the badge backpack, the CNUSD badge system has been designed with students' privacy and confidentiality at the forefront. Once students are over 13 years of age, they can (choose to) push their badges to the Mozilla backpack and share them publicly from there.
Motivation and education
Throughout the badge system design and implementation process, April and her team have been looking at how the badges impact students motivation across the district, and they feel like they are beginning to achieve the motivational potential of badges.
Their initial research on student awareness and motivation in relation to badges looked at a sample pool of 112 students (50% female and 50% male) from 8th & 9th grade at JFK Middle College High School. They found that many students hadn’t heard about badges or the Passport to Success program before participating, though each of the schools in the district are at a different stage in their implementation (e.g. some are focusing on staff awareness before expanding to students.)
When students logged in to the badging platform, some saw they had already been awarded badges, which got a number of students excited to earn more, according to April. Karen Jeffrey said that “rather than starting with a completely open slate, it helps to have a few badges” ready for students when they log in to kick-start the process and give them an idea of how to earn badges and what they can do with them.
The CNUSD team is now working with local schools to allow redemption of “points” earned within the badge system, as well as looking at opening a “points store” where students can redeem tangible rewards for their achievements.
If you want to learn more about the Corona-Norco Unified School District badging system and the Passport to Success, click here: http://pathways.forallbadges.com/
Hace un tiempo un conocido me dijo que se compró una laptop nueva mediante OLX clasificados gratis, él vive en Costa Rica. La misma no traía Windows8, sino que venía con Windows7 pues no es de las últimas que se andan vendiendo. Me dijo que obviamente, había particionado el HDD e instalado Linux dejando un dual-boot (Windows y Linux) en el ordenador. Pasaron los días y me escribe de nuevo, preguntándome cómo eliminar Windows del ordenador.
Aquí les mostraré cómo eliminar completamente Windows de su ordenador usando GParted, un editor de particiones similar al Partition Magic de Windows, no necesitarán reinstalar Linux, no necesitarán hacer nada complejo.Instalación de GParted
1. Primero debemos instalar gparted en caso de que no esté instalado, para ello busquen e instalen el paquete gparted de su repositorio.
En distros como Debian, Ubuntu y derivados sería:
sudo apt-get install gparted
En ArchLinux y similares:
sudo pacman -S gpartedEliminar Windows con GParted
2. Luego lo abrimos, pueden buscar y abrir GParted mediante el Menú de Aplicaciones o simplemente abrirlo con la terminal:
sudo gpartedEn caso de que les muestre un error y no se abra, lean acá la posible solución.
3. Una vez abierto se les mostrará algo como esto:
Como pueden apreciar, aquí se les muestran las particiones que tiene su disco duro, bien gráficamente mediante rectángulos o con texto un poco más abajo.
4. Simplemente deben hacer clic derecho sobre la partición de Windows y seleccionar la opción de Formatear como NTFS (o ext4, lo que prefieran):
5. Luego deben hacer clic en el botón Aplicar que está en la barra principal de opciones.
6. Listo, ahora deben esperar unos instantes a que se formatee la partición.Refrescando el Grub
El Grub es esa aplicación que nos muestra las opciones, los sistemas operativos que tenemos instalados en el ordenador y nos permite cuando lo encendemos, acceder a uno u otro. Debemos decirle que ya Windows no se encuentra, que ya no es una opción, que vuelva a leer el listado de sistemas operativos disponibles.
Para ello ejecutemos el siguiente comando:
En caso de que el sistema te diga que no encuentra ese comando, que no lo reconoce, entonces la solución es ejecutar este otro:
sudo grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg
Ya solo queda reiniciar y notar que Windows no se encuentra más, que ahora esos GBs los podemos usar de almacenamiento o como mejor nos parezca.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
- Doug Belshaw, Web Literacy Lead at Mozilla
This week we were joined by our former Badges + Skills Lead Doug Belshaw, who is now the Web Literacy Lead, and a mentor, on the Webmaker team. Doug still writes about badges from time to time, but spends most of his days working on web literacy awesomeness - most notably the Web Literacy Map.
The Web Literacy Map is a collection of the skills and competencies that the Mozilla community believe it’s important to pay attention to if you want to get better at reading, writing and participating on the web: https://webmaker.org/literacy
Badging those who teach others to teach others…
Mozilla launched the first set of Webmaker badges at the 2012 Mozilla Festival. Since then, the makers and mentors on the Webmaker team have been working to develop badges to recognize both those who contribute to the community, and those learning new skills and competencies that allow them to participate in the Web. These efforts are part of a Mozilla-wide commitment to award badges to our contributors and learners.
Mozilla’s goal this year is to encourage 10,000 new contributors in 2014. The Webmaker team’s role includes helping people becoming Webmaker mentors with the knowledge and skills to be able to teach the web. They are currently developing a set of open badges to recognize contribution to these efforts, starting with the ‘Super Mentors' in the coming weeks. Super Mentors are well-known web mentors in the global community; they are the ones who teach others how to teach others….how to teach the Web! If you’re confused, this handy graphic explains it:
The team plans to follow the Super Mentor badges with Mentor badges (see above) and then Web Literacy and privacy-related badges. Through the Webmaker Training platform (which is currently being tested) the team at Mozilla will work with Super Mentors to badge Mentors. These Mentors will then be able to issue Web Literacy competency badges.
To check out the Webmaker Training platform and provide feedback, go to https://redpen.io/qz0c910b8a39de7cb4
“¡Hola Nueva York! Gracias por venir hoy”. Así es como entró el robot de Honda, ASIMO, en una demostración que hizo la propia compañía hace unos días en la Gran Manzana. Dicho evento se convocó precisamente para dar a conocer las novedades introducidas en esta nueva versión. Con estas mejoras, Honda pretende seguir progresando en la idea de ayudar, en un futuro, a las personas que lo necesiten, como pueden ser ancianos, gente con problemas de movilidad, etc. “Honda cree que las mejoras del nuevo ASIMO nos acercan un paso más a nuestro objetivo de ser capaces de ayudar a todo tipo de personas que lo necesiten”, dijo Satosi Shigemi, ingeniero jefe en Investigación y Desarrollo de Honda y responsable del sector de Robótica Humanoide.
Honda, que ya tiene una experiencia de 14 años en robótica, ya que fue en el año 2000 cuando se presentó una primera versión de ASIMO, ya ha fabricado tres versiones de este robot.Características del nuevo ASIMO
ASIMO mide 130 centímetros de altura, lleva un “traje blanco” y casco, a través del cual pueden verse dos grandes ojos y una sonrisa. Su aspecto es, por tanto, el de un robot combinado con un astronauta.
Este nuevo modelo realizado con una aleación de magnesio, resina plástica y otros materiales tiene un peso de 50 kilos. Funciona con una batería recargable de litio con una autonomía de unos 40 minutos,. Además, el robot está capacitado para que, cuando se vea bajo de batería, vaya a su sitio de carga y se conecte él solo.
Su voz está grabada en inglés, y es de un chico de 16 años, aunque también se puede comunicar en japonés. Otra de sus funciones, que en este caso es una novedad muy en línea con el objetivo de Honda de dirigir el robot a discapacitados, es que se puede expresar mediante el lenguaje de señas.
En versiones anteriores ya tenía la capacidad de caminar, correr, subir y bajar escaleras, evitar objetos y reconocer rostros, pero todas estas capacidades se han mejorado a base de sensores. Por ejemplo, tiene mayor destreza en las manos, llega incluso a reconocer una botella, abrirla y verter el líquido en un vaso hasta que éste se llena, corre en dos velocidades alcanzando incluso los 9 kilómetros por hora, sube escaleras con mayor facilidad y salta con las dos piernas o con una solamente.
Gracias a la mejora de los sensores puede realizar cada vez más acciones y moverse con mayor agilidad. Un ejemplo de ello es la capacidad que tiene para golpear un balón tomando una carrera de dos pasos para que la fuerza sea mayor.
Pero para hacernos una idea de cómo es ASIMO, lo mejor es ver este vídeo grabado por Wired:Limitaciones de ASIMO
“ASIMO necesita adaptarse a la gente, a cualquier tipo de situación y distinguir el movimiento de la gente. Ese es nuestro desafío. Necesitamos trabajar en esa función”, explicó Satosi Shigemi. Y es que la capacidad de ser un auxiliar en el hogar para personas con dificultades motrices o en lugares públicos aún va a tardar “varios años”, admitió Shigemi.
El ejemplo claro que puso el responsable de Honda de dichas limitaciones del robot fue la capacidad que aún no tiene de detectar si una persona se le acerca para interactuar con él o simplemente porque está pasando a su lado.
EFF recently filed comments with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) concerning Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FAA), one of the key statutes under which the government claims it can conduct mass surveillance of innocent people's communications and records from inside the US. EFF maintains that the government's activities under Section 702 that we know about are unconstitutional, not supported by the statutory language, and violate international law.1
The PCLOB, created as a result of recommendations by the 9/11 Commission, is an agency charged with ensuring privacy and civil liberties are included in the White House's counterterrorism activities. After a long delay, the board became operational in February 2012. Their first report, issued in January 2014, reviewed the government's use of the Patriot Act to collect all Americans' calling records. The report largely agreed with our concerns about that program, carefully described how it is illegal and recommended the government stop the program. In our recent comments, we urge the PCLOB to take the same careful approach to the government's activities under Section 702.
Specifically, we urge the PCLOB to work on:
1) Transparency: The PCLOB should push for more disclosures about surveillance conducted under Section 702, especially as it impacts innocent people in the US and around the world. The comments outline what is known about two types of spying the government has said are authorized by Section 702: the PRISM program and “upstream” collection. We also point out key information needed to have a real public debate on these issues, including specifics about the programs that have no reasonable harm to national security such as the number of orders sent and the number of US person communications collected. Throughout the comments, we offer specific suggestions about additional technical and policy information that should be made publicly available. This includes whether any of these programs limit or restrict the architecture or technology of private-sector systems. The information will help innocent people around the world understand whether and how their non-suspect communications are being collected, analyzed, used, and retained by the US government.
2) A Constitutional Analysis: As it did concerning the telephone records collection program, we urge the PCLOB to perform a serious Constitutional analysis of the government's activities under Section 702. Section 702 is being used to authorize modern-day general warrants inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment. The comments discuss how the founders specifically rejected the so-called “hated writs” on the grounds, among others, that the writs did not require judicial approval, particularity, and a finding or probable cause prior to seizure and search of the "papers and effects." The comments urge the PCLOB to consider the serious threats to privacy including:
- Searches done "about" a target of surveillance, which collect the content of Americans and trigger Fourth Amendment requirements;
- "Backdoor searches," which are searches of potentially innocent communications sucked into the NSA's databases containing phone calls and emails collected under Section 702;
- The mass collection and analysis of millions of Americans' communications, both domestic and international, which the government claims were merely "incidentally" collected;
- The court review limited to "procedures" for targeting and minimization rather than the actual seizure and searches. This abstract approval is not a sufficient substitute for the Fourth Amendment's requirement of a "neutral and detached" magistrate, especially when the NSA is seizing millions of complicated communications, like "multiple communications transactions" and nested messages including those of innocent users.
- Filtering only by IP address, which is what the government says it does to protect Americans. IP filtering cannot tell what passport a person holds and is grossly insufficient as a way to ensure that only the communications of foreigners abroad are ultimately analyzed. EFF notes specifically that many American websites (including the House of Representatives website) load content from foreign websites with foreign IP addresses and that many Americans use VPNs and other common technological processes which result in Americans having foreign IP addresses.
3) A Statutory Analysis: We also urge the PCLOB to engage in a statutory analysis of Section 702 and note, as it did for Section 215, that the statutory language does not provide for bulk collection. Instead, the statute forbids the government from "intentionally acquiring" fully domestic communications and requires "reasonably designed" procedures. We write: "it strains credulity to think that mass collection from the fiber optic cables located inside the US. is either 'reasonably designed' to ensure that acquisition is limited to persons believed to be outside the US," especially given that the cables carry both international and domestic traffic.
4) An International Analysis: We point out that Section 702 violates international human rights law, as explained in detail in the Necessary and Proportionate Principles. Section 702's mass surveillance is inherently disproportionate and is improperly discriminatory in ignoring the privacy rights of innocent foreigners.
5) Recommending Fixes: We urge the PCLOB to suggest legislative fixes to, or repeal of, Section 702. This includes narrowing definitions in the statute, like "foreign intelligence information;" ensuring a judge approves specific targets; and ensuring more information is released about the programs.
A full copy of the comments can be found here.
- 1. We say "that we know about" because there is still much we don't know about the government's actual use of the statute or its legal interpretations of it. In fact, throughout the paper we identify specific areas where the PCLOB could demand more transparency about government surveillance activities under Section 702, especially as it impacts innocent people worldwide.
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Across the Arab world, LGBTQ communities still struggle to gain social recognition, and individuals still face legal penalties for consensual activities. In Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iraq, homosexuality is punishable by death. In 2001, 52 men were arrested for being gay in Cairo. And in Syria, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates, being outed as homosexual means facing years in prison. While activists in some countries, such as Lebanon, have made progress toward greater rights, personal security remains an imperative.
In countries where homosexuality remains taboo or punishable by law, it makes sense for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, and other queer-identifying (LGBTQ) people to explore their sexual identity online. But the Internet is increasingly becoming a risky place for exploration. More and more governments in the region are using digital surveillance to entrap, arrest, detain, and harass individuals who visit LGBTQ websites or chat rooms, or who use social media to protest homophobic laws and social stigmas. Meanwhile, nationwide filtering and complicit Internet search companies have censored content relating to homosexuality by blocking websites and restricting keyword searches in countries like Sudan, Yemen, and across the Gulf region.
Fear and self-censorship
In Saudi Arabia, religious police have outed individuals, resulting in their incarceration. One man in the kingdom was arrested by the religious police for using Facebook to find and date other men. This happens often, but it is extremely difficult to collect details of cases, since being publicly accused of homosexuality can ruin one's life. Outed homosexuals may be permanently ostracized from their families, lose all job prospects, and destroy the reputation of their social networks.
Another man in Saudi Arabia was jailed for three years and tortured with 150 lashes after a police officer entrapped him in a public chatroom and asked to meet in person with all of his makeup and drag outfits in tow. Men who are arrested are often detained in a cell designated for gay men in Braiman Prison in Jeddah, where anywhere between 50-75 men have been reported to be packed into a single cell. Men detained in the designated cell have reported that they were entrapped by police while using chat and hook-up sites like Hornet, U4Bear, and WhosHere.
Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country utilizing these tactics. In the United Arab Emirates, where male homosexuality is punishable by death, men have been detained for looking for sex partners in chat rooms (presumably ensnared by covert police officers). And in neighboring Iran, a massive Internet entrapment campaign a few years ago put dozens of men in jail, many of whom were subject to public torture.
Tactics like entrapment—and the severe consequences that follow—undoubtedly lead to self-censorship, as those looking for moral support or partnership online may fear that doing so could ruin their lives.
A range of threats
It’s not just individuals doing the censoring. State censorship of sexual content abounds online, and LGBTQ content in particular is frequently a target. Support and health websites, and LGBTQ publications are regularly shut down or become inactive. As journalist Anna Lekas Miller recently wrote, the Syrian Same Sex Society Network now renders a blank page, while an Egyptian online publication was recently shut down on “security” grounds.
Other countries are known to filter LGBTQ sites nationwide, and U.S. search engine companies have been complicit. Microsoft's Bing service has been found to censor gay and lesbian sites in Arabic countries. A 2010 study revealed that a search for the world “lesbian” on Bing with Arab country settings turned on resulted in the message, “Your country or region requires a strict Bing Safe Search setting, which filters out results that might return adult content.”
LGBTQ individuals and communities are right to be cautious. Combined with the usual range of risks faced by Internet users in the region, these additional threats mean that such communities are particularly vulnerable. Fortunately, there are tools available to help users stay safe online and circumvent censorship.
Our friends at the Tactical Technology Collective have put together a set of digital security tools and tactics for LGBT groups in the Arab world available in both English and Arabic. Written in collaboration with LGBTQ activists from the Arab world, the guide is a prelude to Security in a Box and offers specific advice for the regional context. Today, many privacy-enhancing technologies—such as TextSecure and Tor—are available in Arabic as well. With increased awareness of online threats (thanks to Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA spying), it's become easier than ever to find tools and tactics for staying safe online.Related Issues: Free SpeechAnonymityBloggers Under FireInternational
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All too often bills are proposed and laws are passed in the United States that are in grave violation of the United States' obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. And all too rarely does U.S. domestic policy get spoken about in terms of human rights laws. A case in point: the recent spate of bills responding to the unlawful mass surveillance conducted by the NSA revealed in the flood of disclosures from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The NSA's actions are fundamentally at odds with the human rights to privacy, free expression, freedom of information, as well as the basic right to assemble and organize for change. Yet none of the current Congressional legislative proposals, or the expected legislation to be sponsored by President Obama, are good enough to fully comply with the United States' human rights obligations.
To help provide a framework to talk about mass government surveillance in terms of international human rights obligations, EFF worked with a broad spectrum of organizations across the world to craft the 13 International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. The Principles are firmly rooted in well-established human rights law, drawing on the rights to privacy, freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of association.
Our friends at AccessNow measured how the four legislative proposals stack up against the 13 Principles. Unfortunately, none of the proposed solutions fully bring the NSA back within the bounds of human rights laws. But one in particular, the USA FREEDOM Act, is in closest concordance with the Principles.
Two of the bills proposed in Congress, if passed, would actually move the United States in the wrong direction, driving the U.S. further away from the 13 Principles. By far, the worst proposed reform was introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein: the FISA Improvements Act, and it seeks to codify some of the worst aspects of NSA spying into law. Particularly, it attempts to legalize bulk collection, an inherently disproportionate activity that treats everyone who uses communications technology as worthy of surveillance, and without proper judicial review.The wrong reforms
Feinstein’s fake fix is a violation of international law and would more permanently position U.S. surveillance in direct contradiction with the requirements of international law, such as legality, legitimate aim (the idea that surveillance should only occur if there is a well defined legal interest in doing so), and proportionality, all spelled out in the 13 Principles. The NSA’s “collect it all” strategy— which gathers information regardless of whether it pertains to individuals who likely committed a crime—is against international law, which, as the Principles outline, requires that restrictions on human rights be both “necessary” and “proportionate” and subject to meaningful and timely judicial review. The FISA Improvements Act aims to bestow Congressional approval upon the NSA’s bulk collection practices. It’s a terrible bill, and we must not let it pass.
The White House has also indicated that it will offer legislation to reform the NSA’s bulk surveillance, although the details of this proposal have not been revealed. Until the proposed legislation is released, it will be hard to tell if Obama’s reforms would legally protect the right to privacy as required by international law. But the proposals he outlined do contain increased protections for U.S. persons whose call records metadata is unconstitutionally collected, as well as various ways of minimizing how much is collected by limiting the scope of what is searched through when the NSA queries its database of collected call records.
Unfortunately, it appears that the President’s plan will be lacking other features required by the Principles. Obama’s proposals fall silent on the need for increased transparency of the FISA Court, the secret court that’s been making secret interpretations of the law to enable U.S. global surveillance. The White House proposals also offer no details on how non-U.S. persons will be protected from American surveillance. Individuals should not be denied privacy rights simply because they live in another country from the one that is surveilling them.
There’s also the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act, a bill that might look pretty good on its face, in that it pretends to be an attempt to end NSA’s bulk collection of call records. But in truth, it’s an awful bill that actually contains a provision to create an entirely new government "authority" to collect other electronic data that doesn’t require judges to specifically approve the person who is spied on. This bill is a step backwards, and if passed, would put the US further at odds with our international human rights obligations by permitting the collection, retention, and searching of communications records as long as they are considered useful “foreign intelligence information”. That has been interpreted in the past to mean almost “everything” and is totally antithetical to the 13 Principles: governments should only conduct communication surveillance that is legitimate in aim, proportionate to the needs of an investigation, and approved by a competent judicial authority. The FISA Transparency and Modernization Act is just another way to entrench current NSA practices into law.Back on track
Luckily, the USA FREEDOM Act is not so weak, and we think it’s an important first step in putting an end to overbroad and illegal mass surveillance. If passed and interpreted correctly, the bill should put the brakes on the NSA’s bulk collection of call records and (the allegedly discontinued) collection of Internet records. The USA FREEDOM Act, would require that any records collected be relevant to an existing investigation and pertain to the activities of agents of a foreign power. Although, we are very nervous that this language might leave too much room for a broad interpretation, it could signal an improvement.
The USA FREEDOM Act would also bring new levels of transparency to the secret FISA court by requiring all significant decisions made by the court to be disclosed or thoroughly described by the Attorney General. The bill further proposes to assign a special advocate to champion civil liberties in the FISA court and would carve out a route for judicial review of gag orders placed on companies when the federal government compels them to hand over user data. This would be a major step towards restoring due process.
Ending bulk collection of call records and Internet records would move the NSA surveillance activities closer to compliance with international human rights law. The 13 Principles help to define a basic standard of what it means to conduct communications surveillance that is proportionate: for one, any government surveillance should be relevant to the context of an investigation, and the USA FREEDOM Act goes a long way towards meeting a basic standard, in that any government surveillance should be limited to gathering information that is relevant to a specified authorized investigation.
It’s going to be a long road to reform, and we’re still a great distance away from seeing U.S. intelligence gathering practices promote and protect human rights. The USA FREEDOM Act isn't an ideal model for surveillance reform, but passing the bill would be a serious victory and point Congress towards reforms that would help to restore our basic right to privacy, add new levels of transparency to secret legal processes, and help Americans regain a sense of trust in our government.
It's a disservice to our globally connected world and the potential of a borderless Internet to only speak of the NSA's unlawful activities in terms of U.S. law and its effects on U.S. persons. Refusing to talk about mass global surveillance within a framework of international human rights law perpetuates the myth that the United States is not a perpetrator of human rights abuses. That’s why it’s so important to rearticulate U.S. reforms and laws in terms of international human rights. This fantastic graphic from our friends at AccessNow illustrates how far we have to go, but it’s clear that the USA FREEDOM Act is the best option now and a good starting point to truly put an end to illegal NSA surveillance.SIGN THE PETITION TO SUPPORT THE 13 PRINCIPLES AND DEMAND AN END TO MASS SURVEILLANCE
Related Issues: InternationalInternational Privacy StandardsNSA Spying
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