How Big Tech Convinced Us to Become Our Own Informants

In exchange for the digital goods we crave, we willingly give Google, Facebook and others access to our entire private lives. In 1992, two years after East and West Germany reunited, the new government made an unprecedented gesture in response to demands from the people: It released the archives of East Germany’s former security administration, the dreaded Stasi. Probing the vast files, German artist Simon Menner compiled a collection of the Stasi’s photographs which he published in 2013, affording a voyeuristic glance at the former voyeurs. Or as the artist puts it, giving us a look at what Big Brother “gets to see when he’s watching us.” Some of the photos are frankly hilarious. We’re privy to a seminar on disguises—basically, pics of men with dad bods wearing fake mustaches. The agents of the notorious surveillance state look oddly harmless with their double chins and 1980s turtlenecks. Other images are […] Read More

Public School Students Are the New Inmates in the American Police State

“Every day in communities across the United States, children and adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours in schools that have increasingly come to resemble places of detention more than places of learning. From metal detectors to drug tests, from increased policing to all-seeing electronic surveillance, the public schools of the twenty-first century reflect a society that has become fixated on crime, security and violence.”—Investigative journalist Annette Fuentes In the American police state, you’re either a prisoner (shackled, controlled, monitored, ordered about, limited in what you can do and say, your life not your own) or a prison bureaucrat (police officer, judge, jailer, spy, profiteer, etc.). Indeed, at a time when we are all viewed as suspects, there are so many ways in which a person can be branded a criminal for violating any number of laws, regulations or policies. Even if you haven’t knowingly violated any laws, […] Read More

Warrant now required for federal ‘Stingray’ surveillance use – DoJ

US Department of Justice agents now have to acquire a search warrant before utilizing a cell-site simulator, the department said, though the new policy allows for exceptions. The devices, known as ‘Stingrays,’ trick phones into connecting to them. The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Thursday that while the department’s agents have followed “appropriate legal authorizations” for cell-site simulators in the past, effective immediately, federal agencies must now get a search warrant supported by probable cause before using a cell-site simulator. The Harris Corporation’s ‘Stingray’ is the most well-known brand of the controversial spying technology, used by the FBI, the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and many state and local police agencies. By impersonating cell towers, the suitcase-sized devices force phones in the area to broadcast information that can be used to identify and locate users. The devices are able to indiscriminately collect and intercept data from hundreds […] Read More

Federal court rules in favor of NSA bulk snooping, White House happy

Despite the opposition of the US public and lawmakers to NSA surveillance, the courts keep handing the Obama administration the license to snoop. A US appeals court just threw out a 2013 verdict against the NSA, to White House approval. The decision vindicates the government’s stance that NSA’s bulk surveillance programs are constitutional, the White House said Friday. Three judges at the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the plaintiffs, Larry Klayman and Charles Strange, had no standing to file the original claim, since they could not prove the NSA actually collected any of their records. While Klayman and Strange objected that the NSA refused to provide the evidence, the judges said that was working as intended. “Plaintiffs complain that the government should not be allowed to avoid liability simply by keeping the material classified. But the government’s silence regarding the scope of bulk […] Read More

FBI chief pushes for encryption ‘back door’ despite tech experts’ opposition

Encryption is a threat to public safety, the FBI director argued before testifying at a Senate hearing. Crypto experts and the tech industry oppose demands by US officials for “back door” keys to encrypted software as both harmful and impractical. In a guest post on the Lawfare blog, FBI Director James Comey argued that “to protect the public, the government sometimes needs to be able to see an individual’s stuff,” though only “under appropriate circumstances and with appropriate oversight.” Encryption denies the government that ability, which “will affect public safety,” Comey wrote, citing the example of Islamic State “operators in Syria” using encrypted chats to recruit “dozens of troubled Americans to kill people.” “I really am not a maniac (or at least my family says so). But my job is to try to keep people safe,” he wrote, calling for a “robust debate” to resolve the conflict between privacy […] Read More

NSA says it will keep phone records even if surveillance program ends

The National Security Agency has said it will lock down and mothball its archive of US citizens’ phone records if its legal authority to go on collecting the metadata expires as it is due to this Sunday. The political and legal dispute will come to a head on Sunday when the Republican controlled Senate will seek a resolution before the law authorizing the controversial NSA spying program expires at 11:59pm. The debate has pitted the Obama administration’s national security team against those who say the surveillance program, which was revealed to the American public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, infringes civil liberties and the US Constitution. The hours leading up to midnight will see a jump in activity at US phone companies and at the NSA as engineers take down servers, monitoring software and hardware from the main optic cables of telephone data traffic, according to […] Read More

‘We Are Always Listening’: Pranksters plant recording devices across NYC

A group of anti-NSA pranksters have planted recording devices in public places across New York, saying that they are “gathering information to help win the war on terror.” The devices can be found everywhere in New York – in cafes, under benches, in shops, restaurants and bars. “Eavesdropping on the population has revealed many saying, ‘I’m not doing anything wrong so who cares if the NSA tracks what I say and do?’” the group, dubbed “We Are Always Listening,” wrote on its website. According to anti-NSA activists, the citizens “don’t seem to mind this monitoring.” “[So] we’re hiding recorders in public places in hopes of gathering information to help win the war on terror. We’ve started with NYC as a pilot program, but hope to roll the initiative out all across The Homeland.” The pranksters say they are “declassifying excerpts from the recordings and highlighting” where some devices are […] Read More

Numerous Ways Big Brother Is Watching You

Privacy as we once knew it is dead. We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology—specifically the technology employed by the government against the American citizenry. As a result, warns John W. Whitehead in this week’s vodcast, we are becoming a nation where even the most virtuous citizen risks becoming an outlaw. Copyright © 2015 The Rutherford Institute