Big Brother In Mother Russia: Putin's New Anti-Terror Bill Wants ALL The Data

Oh, Vlad.  Just when the rest of the world is getting really good at pretending we want to value human rights and raise awareness, you have to go and sign into law an anti-"terrorism" bill so rights-infringey, even some of the pro-Kremlin crowd thinks it goes too far…


Big Comrade is watching you...
(Image courtesy thetimes.co.uk.)


The new Russian law, which theantimedia.com reported Edward Snowden openly decrying as the “Big Brother Law”, gives a pervasive proliferation of powers to the Putin reign.  The legislation, as summarized by the BBC, includes the following edicts:

"1) telecoms companies must keep copies of customers’ phone calls and text messages for six months;
2) phone and text records (but not the messages themselves) must be kept for three years;
3) online services (such as social networks) must keep message records for one year;
4) online services that encrypt data must help security services decrypt any message sent by users, or face a fine;
5) failing to report knowledge of a crime will become a criminal offence – punishable by up to a year in prison;
6) inciting or expressing approval of terrorism online will be regarded as publishing such comments in mass media – punishable by up to seven years in prison; and
7) children aged over 14 can be held criminally liable for 10 new charges such as taking part in terrorism."

If that doesn’t sound ominous enough, the law also demands criminal liability for keeping silent regarding knowledge of any crime that someone “has been planning, is perpetrating, or has perpetrated.”


Careful, Vlad, your KGB roots are showing.
Oh wait...you're proud of that.
(Image courtesy truthrevolt.org.)

And don’t think the persecution stops at freedom of phones and online data.  New restrictions have been proposed against missionary work, relegating such good deeds to be carried out exclusively at approved locations, and only by officially-sanctioned organizations.

The law is different from the Western model, if not in spirit then in letter, regarding how the data is collected.  Advocates of the bill argue that the blanket collection of data would make it less targeted than American law, which requires warrants to specifically seek out data for prosecution (although come on, we all know they’re hanging on to all of it anyway.)


After passing the law, Putin emailed this image
to the White House, bearing the caption,
"Suck it, Obama.  My surveillance state's bigger than yours."
(Image courtesy balkanist.org.)


Also, this.
(Image courtesy putin-being-badass.tumblr.com.)

Russian companies, particularly those requiring updated data storage, have already opposed the bill due to its economic (if not humane) stressors, and many have written to Russia’s upper house of Parliamentdeclaring the laws “technically and economically unfeasible.”  The Russian VPN service Private Internet Access claims it will leave the market due to the new laws, as the new storage necessities alone could bankrupt even a major provider. 


But hey, Putin’s approval rating is still apparently somewhere around 80%...and if you think it should be otherwise, best not to talk about it on the phone…or internet…or around anyone who uses those things…

"No, seriously, please speak out against the state...
...these guys are getting the munchies."
(Image courtesy funnyordie.com.)



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Independence Day For The Internet! New U.N. Resolution Expands E-Freedoms

Congratulations!  If you are reading this right now, you are exercising one of the most recently-expanded universal human rights!  As of July 1st, by order of the United Nations, access to the internet (which had been considered a basic human right since 2011) has been supported even more thoroughly by the organization, who condemned any “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online.”

In grand internet tradition, a cat meme seemed the best way to celebrate.
(Image courtesy funnyjunk.com.)

The edict was a huge blow to nations who would attempt to "SHUT.  DOWN.  EVERYTHING!", including the internet, in times of political, social, or economic strife.  The U.N.'s recognizance of this liberty to freely announce one's situations, hopes, fears, and lunch plans on the internet, particularly social media, is a massive help to those who might otherwise not have their voices heard.

According to Popular Science, this resolution also includes expanded security protocols to protect freedom of internet expression, accountability measures to be taken against those who would impinge on these freshly-declared freedoms, stronger attempts to provide internet access to the disabled, and even updated efforts to provide internet service in locations where it may currently be unavailable.


"Herding hard all day!  But first, a selfie!
#YaHerd?"
(Image courtesy foodtank.com.)

The official resolution builds on the U.N.'s established Article 19 of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, which extols, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

It further elucidates a 2012 ruling that announced, "the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.”

Protesting in person is still the best,
but the U.N.'s covering for all the rest!
(Image courtesy newslaundry.com.)

Although the usual oppressive suspects (seriously, Russia/Cuba/China?) tried to quash the proceedings, some 70 nations banded together to ensure that status updates, political declarations, cat pictures, fail videos, and relentless selfies (with or without critical flag overlays) could flow freely through the intertubes for all.

A full account of the resolution, including oral arguments, is available thanks to Article19.org.

Now, don't let us distract you...go surf the mighty waves of internet freedom, from e-sea to shining e-sea!

Go ye forth and conquer!
Don't forget to tag us in the pics!
(Image courtesy memesvault.com.)

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ACLU: None Of NSA's Phone Surveillance Stopped "A Single Terrorist Attack"


While the NSA has been monitoring all of our phone calls, it seems they've been phoning it in regarding any hint of actually stopping terrorism.  According to a report released by the ACLU this week, none of the NSA's "intelligence gathering" via phone records have helped to thwart a single terrorist attack...




It's not particularly surprising that the overabundant, smothering version of surveillance the NSA practices has not yielded any quantifiable results proving its worth.  What is surprising is national intelligence director James Clapper's insistence that the programs be continued, despite their flagrant failure.  Proven ineffective by both the president's own review as well as a report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, in ten years the program has never once substantially aided a counterterrorist investigation, identified a terrorist suspect, or silenced a single terrorist act.

That small slice of phone-detection data then proved useless.  Good job, NSA.
(Image courtesy kitguru.net.)

None of this matters to Clapper, who maintains that, "If that tool is taken away from us... and some untoward incident happens that could have been thwarted if we had had it, I hope that everyone involved in that decision assumes the responsibility." Uh, ok. Because apparently if you can't keep us safe using means that don't infringe on the privacy of millions of citizens worldwide, it's somehow the victims' fault.  Really nice sentiment there, Claptrap.

Despite having overtly lied before Congress,
Clapper was given the job of keeping the NSA "transparent."
 Wait, what?
(Image courtesy thedailygouge.com.)

In under three months, Section 215 of the Patriot Act will expire, and will hopefully take its massive governmental surveillance initiatives with it when it goes.  However, should Congress decide to extend the life of Section 215 (possibly at the bleating behest of the intelligence community), we'll still be as bugged as ever, and for no good reason.  At a time when Clapper claims, “we have been beset by more crises and challenges around the world”, maybe it'd be a good idea to keep things a little less hotheaded on the homefront until it's proven they're an improvement.

Big Brother needs a time-out...permanently.
(Image courtesy throneinthepit.files.wordpress.com.)

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Positively Fourth Amendment: The Department Of Justice Wants In On Your Info, Anywhere


Thanks to a new initiative to amend the Constitutionally-sound rules regarding search and seizure, the United States Department of Justice seems to want to practice anything but.  Currently the D.O.J. is seeking  the authority to hack computers anywhere in the world...

This isn't cool and never will be, regardless of what the Department of "Justice" thinks.
(Image courtesy watchdog.org.)



In what appears to be a gross infringement attempt on privacy rights, the U.S. D.O.J. wants to watch your computer wherever it wants, worldwide.  According to techdirt.com, if the D.O.J. gets their way, magistrate judges could grant warrants to enable the capture of remote data, at any time for the past or future.  The computer searches, they claim, are technically legal.  All they want to do now is be able to rifle through your info regardless of where you hang your white, black, or grey hat.

The specific rule that the D.O.J. seeks to amend is Federal Criminal Procedure Rule 41, which would allow magistrate judges to issue warrants for data without knowing which district it is or was situated in.  This skirts dangerously close to violating the Constitution's 4th amendment concerning search and seizure practices, which offers safety against random and unspecific violations of your person, papers, and data.

You're being profiled in enough ways already.  Now the D.O.J. is just being lazy.
(Image courtesy arstechnica.com.)

The specific verbiage of the proposed amendment to Rule 41 can be found on page 338 of this document.

Google has championed against this idea, stating, "Although the proposed amendment disclaims association with any constitutional questions, it invariably expands the scope of law enforcement searches, weakens the Fourth Amendment's particularity and notice requirements, opens the door to potentially unreasonable searches and seizures, and expands the practice of covert entry warrants."

Google went on to list a number of judicial precedents that had been allowed to obtain the data via various methods the D.O.J. might implement, with one crucial fact included:  these were all granted thanks to acts of Congress.  Any further attempts to infringe on freedom should attempt the same route.  Amie Stepanovich, senior policy counsel with the Access digital freedom group, noted how this was only fair, stating, "...when you have us resorting to Congress to get increased privacy protections, we would also like to see the government turn to Congress to get increased surveillance authority."

This proposed amendment runs the inherent risk of not only massive abuses of extraterritorial power, but also to make such powers view anonymous or proxy-encrypted computers as suspicious and thus worthy of extra attention (or worse, infiltration.)  Honestly, it's probably already happening.  Retroactively, it's a good idea to make sure it's legally curtailed before it gets any worse.

You are not suspicious for staying anonymous.  They are suspicious for trying to out you.
(Image credit spectrum.ieee.org.)

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Keeping Quiet? Better Buy It. AT&T To Charge For Online Surveillance Opt-Out


So it's come to this.  We're now "afforded" the option to bribe companies out of spying on us...




As internet speeds grow faster, so does the transfer of your personal information.  It seems that not only are Americans willing to give up privacy for a little security, we're also willing to give it up just for quicker downloads of stupid cat videos.

As reported by techsmash.com, AT&T is now charging $70 for high-speed Gigabit internet, and another $29 if you don't want them to track you during your adventures on said internet.  While other companies offer this opt-out service for free, AT&T apparently decided to parlay the value of privacy into a moneymaking scheme.


Great, now they're tracking me for googling "internet gulag."
(Image courtesy quickmeme.com.)

AT&T's website states that they monitor, "The web pages you visit, the time you spend on each, the links or ads you see and follow, and the search terms you enter."  Well, that's not going to paint a pretty picture.  But at least they are sure to follow that statement with a patronizing, "We will not collect information from secure (https) or otherwise encrypted sites, such as when you enter your credit card to buy something online or do online banking on a secure site."  Gee thanks for, you know, not committing major financial fraud?

Since we as internet users have little choice in the matter, how can it be considered ethical to try to financially deter us from surfing safely and secretly?  Privacy shouldn't come with penalties, particularly not payoffs.  If this is how we expect to be treated at the world's nexus of knowledge, how far are we going to let it go in real life?

The next generation of secret police don't even need the "secret" prefix anymore.
Oppression is now overt, and pay-for-privacy is a perturbing part of that.
(Image courtesy consumerwatchdog.org.)

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The Question Of Invisibility: Google's Yearly Content Removal Request Report

The thing about dealing with information supergiants is that they not only have power over who sees your secrets and how, but they'll also discuss them when comprehensively covering what dirtier deeds than your own were begged to be scrubbed from the internet.

Such is the nature of Google's semiannual transparency report, another installation of which was released today.  For the first time, this report included some 30 examples of material that had been expressly asked (mostly by government operatives) to vanish from the common knowledge, as though what was reported on was really actually bad enough to transcend the public's millisecond-length attention span.

There's a lot of skullduggery out there...removing the evidence is kind of a big job.
(Image courtesy betanews.com.)

According to newsweek.com, some of it really WAS bad enough that it could ruin lives simply by remaining in the public eye.  Prison inmate abuse, serious sexual accusations, and purported "defamation" of numerous police officers were all included in the materials requested for removal.  None of these requests were granted.

By Google's anaylsis, nearly 8,000 requests were made for information removal during 2013.  These covered the e-extraordinary rendition of some 14,367 pieces of information.  Requests were up 60% from 2012 to have one's secrets permanently kept that way (at least from the eyes of the internet.)  The full transparency report including cases and actions taken is available for analysis.

The specific offending material varied, with governments making 1,066 requests for content be removed from blogs, 841 requests for removal from Google searches, and 765 requests to never again grace the screens of YouTube. These requests comprised the time period between July and December 2013 alone.

Unsurprisingly, people said and did a bunch of dumb stuff caught on Twitter too.
(Image courtesy transparency.twitter.com.)


The most cited reason for the prospective purge was explained as "defamation" (36%), with nudity/obscenity (16%) and security (11%) also making excuses. Google was quick to admit that their report is not a full account of possible online censorship, but is a good metric in that "it does provide a lens on the things that governments and courts ask us to remove, underscoring the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests.”

You can run, and you can rant, and sling all the press and televised mess you want, but you can't hide from the internet. Little Brother has just as many cameras and ears as Big Brother. The "embarrassing" (and maybe appropriately defamatory) results are more than elements of evidence: they are mirrors to our very society. A stark and honest appraisal of that image requires the full picture of our actions, no matter how ugly.

So that's how that works!  Thanks, transparency!
(Image courtesy watchdog.org.)

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Dropping The Ball On Watching Us All: NSA's "Complex" Software Mysteriously Deletes Info Before Lawsuit

The National Security Agency, who have been arguing accusations of massive breaches of privacy due to their supposed care about protecting the very national security their name entails, have turned out to be rather insecure after all...thanks to the apparent complexity their own software.

The Washington Post reports that the NSA was told to retain information for a lawsuit from the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), intended to assess the depths of the NSA's invasive espionage efforts, but that the information was difficult to retain due to the need to shut down certain software elements where the data would be contained. Deputy director Richard Ledgett claimed that trying to safely retain all of the information required for the lawsuit would be deleterious to the agency, and would create "an immediate, specific, and harmful impact on the national security of the United States."

The EFF maintains that some of the information required for their lawsuit, which deals with the unlawful and downright creepy Big Brothering of American citizens, has already been destroyed. The NSA, meanwhile, maintains massive operational facilities' worth of workers and computer systems in which any of their valuable peeping-tom discoveries could have been "lost."


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Is Congress Planning a Major Assault Against Data Privacy and Digital Rights in April?

Tech Dirt reports on a new bill proposed in the House that would expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 (CFAA):
So, you know all that talk about things like Aaron's Law and how Congress needs to fix the CFAA? Apparently, the House Judiciary Committee has decided to raise a giant middle finger to folks who are concerned about abuses of the CFAA. Over the weekend, they began circulating a "draft" of a "cyber-security" bill that is so bad that it almost feels like the Judiciary Committee is doing it on purpose as a dig at online activists who have fought back against things like SOPA, CISPA and the CFAA. Rather than fix the CFAA, it expands it. Rather than rein in the worst parts of the bill, it makes them worse. And, from what we've heard, the goal is to try to push this through quickly, with a big effort underway for a "cyberweek" in the middle of April that will force through a bunch of related bills. You can see the draft of the bill here . . .
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The Revolving Door Between Congress and the Industry Lobbies, Chris Dodd Edition

Since leaving the US Senate in 2010, Chris Dodd has been whoring himself out for Hollywood as the head of the Motion Picture Association of America.  Tech Dirt deconstructs the stump speech in his campaign to save the dinosaurs of the entertainment industry:
Ever since the failure of SOPA, MPAA boss Chris Dodd has been making the rounds, giving the same damn stump speech over and over again. We've reported on it before, but he's done it again, this time at the National Press Club. As the transcript shows, it's the same old story . . .
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CISPA: Lawmakers Plan to Reintroduce Anti-Privacy Bill

Many Republicans and Democrats  are avowed enemies of the US Constitution, and of basic rights and liberties.  From The Hill:
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he plans to re-introduce the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) with Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) this year . . .

CISPA aimed to thwart cyberattacks by making it easier for private companies to share information about cyberthreats and malicious source code with the intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security. The bill enjoyed support from a broad swath of companies, including Facebook and AT&T, because they said legal hurdles slowed down information sharing about cyber threats between industry and government.

Civil liberties groups and privacy advocates launched online protests against the bill because they argued that it lacked sufficient privacy protections and would increase the pool of people's electronic communications flowing to the intelligence community and the secretive National Security Agency (NSA).
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Overcriminalization and the Criminal Congress

How many crimes do you commit every day?  It is probably way more than you imagine.  From Overcriminalized:
“Overcriminalization” describes the trend in America – and particularly in Congress – to use the criminal law to “solve” every problem, punish every mistake (instead of making proper use of civil penalties), and coerce Americans into conforming their behavior to satisfy social engineering objectives. Criminal law is supposed to be used to redress only that conduct which society thinks deserving of the greatest punishment and moral sanction.

But as a result of rampant overcriminalization, trivial conduct is now often punished as a crime.  Many criminal laws make it possible for the government to convict a person even if he acted without criminal intent (i.e., mens rea). Sentences have skyrocketed, particularly at the federal level.
Sound far fetched?  Consider the case of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.  From Tech News Daily:
The CFAA is a 1986 law, section 1030 of the federal criminal code, which makes any unauthorized access into a protected network or computer a federal crime and permits harsh penalties for those convicted.

But 1986 was a long time ago. Today, any Web server can be defined as a protected computer, and almost anything can be defined as unauthorized access.  Use your roommate's Netflix account to watch movies on your iPad? You're violating the CFAA.  Trim the URLs of articles on the New York Times website so you can read them for free? You're breaking federal law.  Check your Facebook page at work, even if your employer forbids it? Better call your lawyer. . . . 
To Robert Graham, chief executive officer of Errata Security in Atlanta, the CFAA is "hopelessly out of date, and can be used to prosecute anybody for almost anything."
"The issue is 'authorization,'" Graham said. "Back in 1986, everyone had to be explicitly authorized to use a computer with an assigned username and password.

"But today, with the Web, we access computers with reckless abandon without knowing whether we are authorized or not," he added. "When you click on a URL, you are technically in violation of the law as it was designed."
Of course, these laws only apply to the people and are rarely if ever used to prosecute ruling elites.  The US Congress, for instance, is a hot bed of cyber criminality.  From the Guardian:
Employees of the US Congress were found to be downloading a host of television shows and movies illegally on congressional computers, according to a report by anti-piracy service ScanEye.

The report shared by US News and World Reports showed that since early October, congressional employees have downloaded movies and television shows including The Walking Dead, The Dark Knight Rises and 30 Rock.

The report demonstrates that even though Congress has found itself at the forefront of measures to stop piracy, including the much-maligned Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa), its staff do not always follow the legislators' lead. . . .

The blog TorrentFreak has found that IP addresses associated with the biggest players in the anti-piracy legislative campaign are used for illegal downloading. People at Hollywood studios, major record labels and the US department of homeland security have downloaded music, film and television on their employers' networks.

As TorrentFreak noted in a 2011 blogpost, Congress was illegally downloading television shows and self-help books around the same time some members were drafting Sopa.
It is time to put these criminals in prison and throw away the key.
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Governments "Threatened by Freedom and Openness of Expression" on Internet

From an interview with Vint Cerf in the Financial Post:
VC: The Internet is threatened by governments that want to control content and use of the network. All of us have gotten accustomed to freedom of expression and freedom of access to content on the net, but we have also gotten accustomed to something called permissionless innovation, which is a phrase I use to explain why it’s so important to keep the network relatively open and freely accessible. It’s so that anyone who wants to try a new application out can just do so.

We all have to appreciate that there are harms that occur on the net, no one who tells you otherwise should be believed, there’s viruses, worms, trojan horses and other kinds of technical attacks on the net turning your machine into a member of a botnet that generates spam or generates denial of service attacks or directly goes after content on your machine, there’s key loggers that go looking for passwords and account numbers. Those are bad.

The problem is that sometimes the proposed cure is worse than the disease, and in some cases it is to shut down the Internet or block websites or to interfere with our ability to make use of the system, and these harms and their remedies are used as an excuse to prevent political speech, to prevent people from sharing information from knowing what is going on, it’s to obscure transparent visibility of what the government is doing. Governments that are authoritarian are feeling threatened by the freedom and openness of expression and discovery of information on the Internet so they will use any excuse they can find to shut that network down. That’s what you’re seeing right now.
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The FBI Demands Back Door Internet Surveillance

The Republican-Democrat war on the fourth amendment continues apace.  From CNET:
The FBI is renewing its request for new Internet surveillance laws, saying technological advances hinder surveillance and warning that companies should be required to build in back doors for police. 
"We must ensure that our ability to obtain communications pursuant to court order is not eroded," FBI director Robert Mueller told a U.S. Senate committee this week. Currently, he said, many communications providers "are not required to build or maintain intercept capabilities." 
Mueller's prepared remarks reignite a long-simmering debate pitting the values of privacy, limited government, and freedom to innovate against law enforcement requests that often find a receptive audience on Capitol Hill. Two days ago, for instance, senators delayed voting on a privacy bill that would require search warrants for e-mail after sheriffs and district attorneys objected.  
In May, CNET disclosed that the FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a proposed law that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in back doors for government surveillance. The bureau's draft proposal would require that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.
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New Law Prepares Way for Massive Surveillance Program in Europe and Around the World

From Slate:
Europeans, take note: The U.S. government has granted itself authority to secretly snoop on you.
That’s according to a new report produced for the European Parliament, which has warned that a U.S. spy law renewed late last year authorizes “purely political surveillance on foreigners' data” if it is stored using U.S. cloud services like those provided by Google, Microsoft and Facebook. 
Europeans were previously alarmed by the fact that the PATRIOT Act could be used to obtain data on citizens outside the United States. But this time the focus is a different law—the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Amendments Act—which poses a “much graver risk to EU data sovereignty than other laws hitherto considered by EU policy-makers,” according to the recently published report, Fighting Cyber Crime and Protecting Privacy in the Cloud, produced by the Centre for the Study of Conflicts, Liberty and Security. 
The FISA Amendments Act was introduced in 2008, retroactively legalizing a controversial “warrantless wiretapping” program initiated following 9/11 by the Bush administration. Late last month, it was renewed through 2017. During that process, there was heated debate over how it may violate Americans’ privacy. But citizens in foreign jurisdictions have even greater cause for concern, says the report’s co-author, Caspar Bowden, who was formerly chief privacy adviser to Microsoft Europe. 
According to Bowden, the 2008 FISA amendment created a power of “mass surveillance” specifically targeted at the data of non-U.S. persons located outside America, which applies to cloud computing . . .
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Secret Laws, Secret Courts and Illegal Wiretapping

From Techdirt:
The folks over at the CATO Institute have put together a short five minute video onthe rush by the federal government to renew the FISA Amendments Act, with no changes, which effectively has sanctioned warrantless wiretapping on millions of Americans. Even though the plain language of the bill suggests it only should be used on foreigners, it's become clear that thanks to weasel language in the bill, and a "secret" interpretation by a secret court, the definition of "targeting" foreigners has been interpreted to mean any communication that might possibly somehow shed light on some sort of illegal activity that might possibly maybe involve foreigners sometimes in some manner. As such, it seems likely that the NSA, in particular, has used this bill and its secret interpretation to sweep up huge databases of information about Americans, even as most people (including many in Congress) believe the bill only is used to spy on foreigners.
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Michigan Law Prohibits Employers from Breaking into Online Accounts

You'd think that it would be self-evident that employers have no right to go through your private email, login to your Facebook page, or snoop through your various social media accounts.  Not in the United Surveillance States of America.  A new law in Michigan prohibits this practice, which has been raising eyebrows for what seems like a few years now.  From MLive:
Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation into law Friday that would prohibit employers from their asking workers for logins to their social media and internet accounts. 
The bill, introduced by state Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, bars companies and schools from asking employees and students for their usernames and passwords. 
“Cyber security is important to the reinvention of Michigan, and protecting the private internet accounts of residents is a part of that,” Snyder said in a press release. “Potential employees and students should be judged on their skills and abilities, not private online activity.”
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Senate Still Wants Warrantless Wiretapping

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

The Senate is about to vote on an extension of the controversial FISA Amendments Act—the unconstitutional law that allows the NSA to warrantless spy on Americans speaking to people abroad. Yet you wouldn't know it by watching CSPAN because the Senate isn't debating it.
When Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act in 2008, despite deep privacy concerns by Americans across the political spectrum, they included an expiration date of December 31, 2012 to ensure that the law would get a thorough review. Yet Senate leaders have so far refused to schedule any time on the Senate floor for debate or consideration of vital privacy-protecting amendments. Worse, they won't even tell the American public when they're going to vote on it. It's possible they may vote on this bill—with no privacy protective changes—without any debate at all, and we won't know until it is happening. 
Contact your Senators today to tell them how important this is.
The FISA Amendments Act continues to be controversial; key portions of it were challenged in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court this term. In brief, the law allows the government to get secret FISA court orders—orders that do not require probable cause like regular warrants—for any emails or phone calls going to and from overseas. 
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Instagram Stakes Claim to All Your Photos

From CNET:
Instagram said today that it has the perpetual right to sell users' photographs without payment or notification, a dramatic policy shift that quickly sparked a public outcry. 
Under the new policy, Facebook claims the perpetual right to license all public Instagram photos to companies or any other organization, including for advertising purposes, which would effectively transform the Web site into the world's largest stock photo agency. 
The new intellectual property policy, which takes effect on January 16, comes three months after Facebook completed its acquisition of the popular photo-sharing site. Unless Instagram users delete their accounts before the January deadline, they cannot opt out.
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