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A huge privacy story broke today on The Guardian, revealing that the FBI and NSA are collecting all call information from Verizon users in the US. This is blanket surveillance that affects everyone, regardless of whether they’re suspected of any wrongdoing. Odds are extremely high that this is happening for other wireless providers too.Almost all of these orders contain a gag order, which means that no one can talk about the order, despite the massive privacy violations it enables. The only reason we know about this one is because someone leaked it to The Guardian (read the full order here). In this case, Verizon couldn’t say anything about it; they just had to comply. Even US Senators couldn’t talk about it to the public; they could only hint at the privacy abuses going on.The order requires “ongoing, daily” access to all call detail records for US Verizon users, whether they’re calling others in the US or people outside the country. The only calls exempt are those from foreigners to other foreigners.What do they get? Enough to draw a detailed picture of who you called and where you were at the time: Your phone number The number of the person you’re calling Location data Unique identifiers, like your International Mobile Subscriber Identity number Phone calling card numbers Time and duration of all calls...This sort of blanket surveillance became possible after 9/11 because of the Patriot Act, specifically the “business records” provision that allows the FISA court warrants for records without proving that those records are connected to terrorism. An attack on our country paved the way for our government to invade its own people’s privacy rights without restriction.This news powerfully illustrates how ingrained private companies have become in government surveillance. These companies–companies you depend on for services–mine your data and hand it over to the government. They don’t even have a say in whether they do it because the laws are so restrictive. They can’t even talk about it.Remember that the 4th Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures, and this search seems pretty unreasonable. American people should be shocked. Current privacy laws just aren’t enough to protect people, and they need to change. Sign petitions, write your members of Congress, tell your friends, tell your wireless provider…go make a stink. This is unacceptable.
In response to the Guardian report that major Internet companies including Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Google, YouTube, Skype, Yahoo, PalTalk, and AOL, have apparently been providing sensitive user data to the National Security Agency (NSA), FSF executive director John Sullivan made the following statement: QuoteMassive privacy intrusions like this are to be expected when people shift from storing their media locally and using local software, to storing them on other people's servers and using hosted (Web) applications. Giants like Microsoft, Facebook and Google are vulnerable to government requests for user data, and there are better, more secure ways to share information online. Free software projects like GNU MediaGoblin, StatusNet, Diaspora, pump.io, Tahoe-LAFS, FreedomBox and SparkleShare are hard at work creating a less centralized world where users retain control over both their media and the software used to access it, while still getting the social and convenience benefits of the giant centralized -- and compromised -- services.
Massive privacy intrusions like this are to be expected when people shift from storing their media locally and using local software, to storing them on other people's servers and using hosted (Web) applications. Giants like Microsoft, Facebook and Google are vulnerable to government requests for user data, and there are better, more secure ways to share information online. Free software projects like GNU MediaGoblin, StatusNet, Diaspora, pump.io, Tahoe-LAFS, FreedomBox and SparkleShare are hard at work creating a less centralized world where users retain control over both their media and the software used to access it, while still getting the social and convenience benefits of the giant centralized -- and compromised -- services.
At a press conference in California on Friday, President Barack Obama took questions and gave a forceful defense of the PRISM program. PRISM was revealed yesterday by two newspapers who showed that several American tech companies have been complicit in providing the government with access to their systems. In addition, Obama also responded to the disclosure of a secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over metadata to the National Security Agency.“When I came into this office, I made two commitments that are more important than any other,” he said, according to The Guardian, one of the two news outlets that revealed the secret program.“Number one, to keep the American people safe. And number two, to uphold the constitution and constitutional rights to privacy and to civil liberties. These programs are secret in the sense that they're classified. But they're not secret in the sense that—when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed.""I think it's important to recognize you can't have 100 percent security and also 100 percent privacy, and also zero inconvenience. We're going to have to make some choices as a society."Earlier this week, The Guardian detailed a court order requiring Verizon to hand over millions of phone records every day. However, the PRISM program appears to entail direct access to digital services by the FBI and the National Security Administration—and not phone calls.“When it comes to telephone calls: Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” the president continued. “That's not what this program's about. What the intelligence community is doing is identifying, looking at phone numbers and durations of calls. They are not looking at people's names, and they're not looking at content. But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may find potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism. If they want to actually listen to a phone call, they have to go back to a federal judge. I want to be very clear. Some of what we've been hearing the last day or so—nobody's listening to the content of your phone calls. This program is overseen... not only by Congress but by a special [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court.”