Category Archives: Privacy

NSA PRISM, Writs of Assistance, Rattlesnakes, and the Fourth Amendment

British Crown dragnets of information against smuggling led to the U.S. Fourth Amendment, and U.S. defense against those dragnets was the origin of the Gadsden rattlesnake flag. Those colonial Writs of Assistance were much like that FISA court order for Verizon call logs and the NSA PRISM wide-range domestic communications dragnet, while Senators Feinstein and Chambliss act like the colonial royal governors who issued those Writs.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

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

Senators Feinstein and Chambliss admit there is no probable cause, and no particular description of the place to be searched or the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourth Amendment was proposed because of things very like that FISA court order to Verizon back in colonial times, namely writs of assistance to stop smuggling:

In 1760, governor [Francis] Bernard of Massachusetts authorized the use by revenue officers of writs of assistance. Writs of assistance were Continue reading

Senators Feinstein and Chambliss shuffle their feet about FISA

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) lamely tried to defend the Verizon call log wiretapping, which they full well know is actually part of a dragnet of all U.S. communications. Ed O’Keefe wrote for the Washingtohn Post yesterday, Transcript: Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss explain, defend NSA phone records program,

Dianne Feinstein:

As far as I know, this is the exact three month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the FISA Court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore, it is lawful.

It has been briefed to Congress and the letters that we have distributed — and you’ll note on the dates, this is prior to the Patriot Act amendments coming before the body, each of those. As you know, this is just Continue reading

NSA domestic spying: we stopped it in 1977 and we can stop it again

After seven years or more, it’s good people are finally noticing the NSA spying program: now maybe enough people will do something about it like we did in 1977.

Don’t believe it’s just limited to who calls who: since at least 2005, AT&T (and most likely all the other telcos) has been sending all telecommunications to NSA. This stuff started after 9/11 and was legalized by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Before 9/11 NSA respected a rigorous wall between it and domestic spying. Time to put that wall back up. Bruce Schneier wrote 29 December 2005, Project Shamrock,

Decades before 9/11, and the subsequent Bush order that directed the NSA to eavesdrop on every phone call, e-mail message, and who-knows-what-else going into or out of the United States, U.S. citizens included, they did the same thing with telegrams. It was called Project Shamrock, and anyone who thinks this is new legal and technological terrain should read up on that program.

Project SHAMROCK…was an espionage exercise that involved the accumulation of all telegraphic data entering into or exiting from the United States. The Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) and its successor NSA were given direct access to daily microfilm copies of all incoming, outgoing, and transiting telegraphs via the Western Union and its associates RCA and ITT. Operation Shamrock lasted well into the 1960s when computerized operations (HARVEST) made it possible to search for keywords rather than read through all communications.

Project SHAMROCK became so successful that in 1966 Continue reading

Liveblogging from NANOG Net Neutrality Panel

The subtitle is The Regulators Meet the Operators, at NANOG 48, Austin, Texas, 22 Feb 2010. The ground rules of the panel are that it’s not about politics or policy. It assumes there will be net neutrality, and it’s about getting actual network engineers and architects involved in implementing it. Prior reading: pages 41-51 of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). I’d actually recommend starting at page 37, which is where the NPRM discusses codifying the existing four Internet principles (see below).

A huge number of comments have been received already, by Jan 15 deadline. More comments are solicited. See also

The general idea is to take six proposed principles and turn them into rules that are enforceable and not unreasonable:

Proposed Rules: 6 Principles

  • Access to Content
  • Access to Applications and Services
  • Connect Devices to the Internet
  • Access to Competition
  • Nondiscrimination
  • Transparency
The first four principles have been around for several years. The last two, nondiscrimination and transparency, are the same as the ones Scott Bradner’s petition recommended back in June 2009. Back then I mentioned as I always do that the FCC could also stop talking about consumers and talk about participants. Interestingly, their slide at this talk did not use the word “consumer”, so maybe they’ve gotten to that point, too.

The FCC is also making a distinction between broadband and Internet. There are existing rules regarding “managed” vs. “specialized services” for broadband Internet access, but for net neutrality in general, maybe different rules are needed. Continue reading

Panopticon Click: NYTimes and Wapo Catch on to Packet Privacy

Panopticon.jpg When both the New York Times and the Washington Post catch on, the idea of online privacy protection from ISPs must be catching on:
It’s not paranoia: they really are spying on you.

The Already Big Thing on the Internet: Spying on Users, By ADAM COHEN, New York Times, Published: April 5, 2008

Some specifics:
The online behavior of a small but growing number of computer users in the United States is monitored by their Internet service providers, who have access to every click and keystroke that comes down the line.

Every Click You Make: Internet Providers Quietly Test Expanded Tracking of Web Use to Target Advertising By Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, April 4, 2008; Page D01

Some say privacy is only distant nostalgia; I say we need to do something about it. We need packet privacy.

Laissez faire won’t get ‘er done. As Cohen writes: Continue reading

Packet Privacy and Net Neutrality

privacy_covert-surveillance.jpg Everybody’s familiar with consumer identity privacy, as in protecting passwords and social security numbers and complying with HIPAA, GLBA, SOX, PIPEDA, et al. But what about packet privacy?
Never mind net neutrality, I want my privacy. As in packet privacy. The telcos say they need to sell non-neutral routing of traffic to recover the cost of building broadband networks. Moving from the Internet, where a packet-is-a-packet, to something that looks suspiciously like the 20th century telephone network requires remarrying the content and connectivity that TCP/IP divorced. It requires deep packet inspection. It requires looking at the content of communication.

AT&tT does not plan to roll out two physical pipes to every end point in order to sell Google enhanced access. The new telco plan calls for content-based routing to separate traffic into media and destination specific VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). Laws exist to address the substantial privacy threats created by the fact telephone companies know Mr. Smith called Mr. Jones, but the privacy risks associated with “content routing” replacing “end point routing” enter an different realm.

Forget Neutrality — Keep Packets Private, by Daniel Berninger, GigaOm, Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 8:30 PM PT

Despite Berninger’s phrasing, packet privacy isn’t something separate from net neutrality: it’s one of the key features of it. The point is that net neutrality isn’t just about pricing policies or technical means of content routing: it’s about privacy. And privacy is an issue that everybody understands. Stifling, throttling, or disconnecting without announced limits, censoring, wiretapping, and espionage: these are all violations of packet privacy.


Privacy: U.S. Government Taking the Gloves Off

PH2005090102080.jpg In a previous job, Donald Kerr said he was concerned about
the “hollowing out” of U.S. manufacturing of satellite components. Although he said the design capability for the vehicles has remained in this country, “so much production has moved offshore that potentially has left us weaker.”

Reconnaissance Office Role to Be Reviewed, Satellite Agency’s Place Is Uncertain, By Walter Pincus, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, September 2, 2005; Page A27

In his current job as deputy director of national intelligence, what he’s recommending will drive more production offshore, because fewer qualified people will want to work in the U.S. Plus a government that wants to know everything about everyone online is not a government that will facilitate competition among ISPs, so the U.S. will continue to fall farther behind in Internet access, speed, and applications.
Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.

Intel official: Expect less privacy By Pamela Hess, Associated Press Writer, Updated: 11/11/07 11:47 PM

The article is full of bad arguments by Kerr. I suppose real arguments don’t matter when you’re taking the gloves off and revealing the true hand of government intervention in private matters. Continue reading