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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Privacy and Government Power

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
Slate reports:
Recently, the FBI has been attacking the “going dark” problem—that is, its inability to read all electronic communications—from both legal and technological angles. It wants to be able to fine communications companies for refusing to comply with subpoena requests for the content of customers’ emails and chats. It’s also trying to create ways of decrypting any communication sent via a Web service, like Gmail messages Facebook chats, or Twitter direct messages. It believes it can work with companies to build secure methods for lawfully intercepting communications on the Web.
But a report released last week by the Center for Democracy and Technology and some of the top names in computer security points out that building so-called "back doors" in to these Web services will also increase the risk that bad actors will gain access to the communications content of all users of these services. Creating a back door in software is like creating a lock to which multiple people hold the keys. The more people who have a key, the higher the likelihood that one will get lost. But this is precisely the power that would be granted by proposed extensions to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA II).
AP reports:
U.S. border agents should continue to be allowed to search a traveler's laptop, cellphone or other electronic device and keep copies of any data on them based on no more than a hunch, according to an internal Homeland Security Department study. It contends limiting such searches would prevent the U.S. from detecting child pornographers or terrorists and expose the government to lawsuits.
The 23-page report, obtained by The Associated Press and the American Civil Liberties Union under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, provides a rare glimpse of the Obama administration's thinking on the long-standing but controversial practice of border agents and immigration officers searching and, in some cases holding for weeks or months, the digital devices of anyone trying to enter the U.S.
AP reports on Maryland v. King:
A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday said police can routinely take DNA from people they arrest, equating a DNA cheek swab to other common jailhouse procedures like fingerprinting.
“Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court’s five-justice majority.
But the four dissenting justices said that the court was allowing a major change in police powers.
“Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said in a sharp dissent which he read aloud in the courtroom. “This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA when you fly on an airplane — surely the TSA must know the ‘identity’ of the flying public. For that matter, so would taking your children’s DNA when they start public school.”