The FBI’s new unit is on an aggressive mission to secure technology to prevent the government from “going dark” in regards to surveillance of internet and wireless communications, reports cnet. The FBI wants companies not to oppose a law that would give government a “back door” for monitoring social networks, email, instant messaging, and VOIP providers.
New FBI Unit’s Mission To Spy on Americans, NSA’s Surveillance Power Expands, Google’s Info Gold Mine27 May
Image from vancouversun.com
Google’s brilliant Street View has been appreciated as an innovative resource, as well as invasive foe, and it’s looking like it’s “accidental” disregard for the Fourth Amendment may not have been so accidental.
The project was supposed to be for the betterment of mankind, or something along those lines. But Google’s altruism has been called into question when it was revealed that it was using its wired Street View vehicles as warwagons to troll unsecured wireles connection connections. Further, the Google cars were discovered to be intercepting unsecured email and SMS traffic, data mining peoples’ private conversations.
Google cast this hidden capability as a “bug” in the Street View code, created by a misguided engineer. But according to the FCC while Google appears to have broken no laws in spying on people on unsecured lines, emails between the engineer in charge of the program and two other employees — including a senior manager — indicate that the program was not a rogue effort. It was in fact on the radar of at least some members of Google’s senior staff.
The FCC did dock Google $25K — essentially a slap on the wrist for the multi-billion dollar tech firm — for impeding its investigation. But Google claims it has nothing to hide and is publishing the emails described by the FCC, with the engineers and manager’s names redacted.
Google now admits that five of its engineers were involved in the effort, but it denies knowingly playing unwelcome house guest on home internet connections across North America and Europe.
The internet firm categorizes the snooping as “minimal” and says that the program was not even big enough to be reviewed by the company’s legal staff. The program was launched in Oct. 2006 by “Engineer Doe” and was pre-approved by at least one manager who devoted resources to the project.
Read full article: FCC Knowingly Used Street View Cars to Snoop On Emails, Texts
Related story: Google Street View Car Catches People in the Act
It sounds like the claims of a paranoid schizophrenic, or a modernization of 1984, but it is reality in New Zealand, where the average person is digitally recorded about 12 times a day. It was revealed at a privacy forum in Wellington on May 2nd that police had used these high-powered cameras to monitor The Rugby World Cup. Superintendent Grant O’Fee expressed to the forum the reality of such capabilities when one camera operator zoomed in on a spectator’s text message, revealing their complaints about the rugby game.
“He was actually texting about the poor quality of the game of rugby. But it did occur to me that there was an issue there – had he been texting something that was of some consequence to us, there may have been privacy issues.”
He confirmed later that the level of monitoring used during the World Cup would continue for all big test matches.
The system, CCTV, now operates 11 cameras in Wellington city centre, recording 24 hours a day in many buildings including hospitals, grocery stores, and around public toilets.
“It’s quite worrying when we, by default, move to some sort of Orwellian 1984 where the state or Big Brother watches your every move. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and we don’t realise what we are giving up when we give the state the power to monitor our private lives.”
Shroff said that, although reading someone’s text messages in public could cause concern, the legitimacy of the action depended on what it was used for.
The Big Brother theme is now so prevalent in society, that this statement will most likely not shock people. Imagine what outrage this would have ignited in the 1960s. It’s quite a contrast to one of the common responses to such violations of privacy repeated today, “Oh I know, it’s messed up. Hey, wanna see my new iPhone?” The other common response was delivered by former detective Trevor Morley, showing a very flawed and dangerous mindset in law enforcement:
The only people who need to be concerned about these advances in technology that the police are using are the people who are abusing it, or the people who are acting in an anti-social manner.”
If that isn’t unnerving enough, here are some more reasons to feel like you are being watched:
Your digital footprint
An average person is digitally recorded about a dozen times a day, and more if they use email and social media frequently.
There are 11 CCTV cameras throughout Wellington city centre, recording 24 hours a day.
Movement can be tracked through mobile phones and computers.
Work access cards can be used to track your location.
CCTV operates inside many buildings, including hospitals, supermarkets, malls, and around public toilets.
Any online search, online purchase, eftpos or credit card transaction, or smartcard used for car parking is recorded.
Social media usage is tracked and used for marketing and advertising.
Any information put online is there forever.
Some smart electricity systems track usage.
See full story here: FBI: We Need Wiretap-Ready Web Sites – Now
“CNET learns the FBI is quietly pushing its plan to force surveillance backdoors on social networks, VoIP, and Web e-mail providers, and that the bureau is asking Internet companies not to oppose a law making those backdoors mandatory.”
“The FBI’s proposal would amend a 1994 law, called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, that currently applies only to telecommunications providers, not Web companies. The Federal Communications Commission extended CALEA in 2004 to apply to broadband networks.”
“In February 2011, CNET was the first to report that then-FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni was planning to warn Congress of what the bureau calls its “Going Dark” problem, meaning that its surveillance capabilities may diminish as technology advances. Caproni singled out “Web-based e-mail, social-networking sites, and peer-to-peer communications” as problems that have left the FBI “increasingly unable” to conduct the same kind of wiretapping it could in the past.”
“In addition to the FBI’s legislative proposal, there are indications that the Federal Communications Commission is considering reinterpreting CALEA to demand that products that allow video or voice chat over the Internet — from Skype to Google Hangouts to Xbox Live — include surveillance backdoors to help the FBI with its “Going Dark” program . CALEA applies to technologies that are a “substantial replacement” for the telephone system.”
“Ross Schulman, public policy and regulatory counsel at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, adds: “New methods of communication should not be subject to a government green light before they can be used.”
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