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White House To Authorise Phone Companies Hold Call Data

US media reported White House moves to legally transfer responsibility for the storage of call data to telephone companies from the practice today, where it is collected and held by National Security Agency.
Under the proposed system, NSA can access data from the companies if required. Phone companies are authorised to hold records up to 18 months unlike now where NSA holds records it collects up to five years.

“Both of these options pose difficult problems. Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns,” Associated Press (AP) reported President Barack Obama saying, Tuesday. The New York Timesfirst reported on the story, Monday.
Phone companies earlier balked at the proposal fearing they could be held liable if individuals sued them for providing data on NSA’s request. During discussions they insisted that legislation be put in place that allows them to transfer such data to the NSA upon request.
NSA’s bulk collection of phone data was revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden last year.
“Under the administration’s pending legislative proposal, officials would have to obtain phone records by getting individual orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Times report said. The new court orders would require companies to provide those records swiftly and to make available continuing data related to the order when new calls are placed or received,” AP said.
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Protecting Journalists And HRDs From Digital Surveillance

As new evidence emerged from documents collected by whistleblower Edward Snowden on how American and British spy agencies NSA and GCHQ had secretly monitored WikiLeaks and its founder Juian Assange after his site published classified information on the Afghan war, the New York-based Freedom House on Wednesday released a report on how journalists and human rights defenders (HRDs) could better protect themselves from secret surveillance.
The report, ‘What Next: The Quest to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Defenders in a Digital World’ also addressed how donors and international support groups defending human rights could collaborate to effectively prevent government surveillance of journalists and HRDs.

The report is the result of a two-day conference in Mexico City in November, “which brought together over 60 policymakers, donors, and activists to explore the full range of emerging threats and best strategies to overcome them; take an honest look at what is and is not working; and chart a path forward for more proactive and realistic solutions to build the resilience, sustainability, and relevance of HRDs and their movements.”
Freedom House’s key recommendations include:
  • Civil society groups should invest resources into a more holistic approach to security training and assistance that addresses HRDs’ physical, digital, psycho-social, and other vulnerabilities.
  • Human rights organizations, technologists and donors should incorporate security protocols into their own practices. For donors, this means forcefully espousing human rights principles as a core of foreign policy and development aid, and making them key talking points when engaging with repressive regimes.
  • Donors, technologists and human rights organizations should focus less on funding new digital security tools and more on training HRDs in the use of existing tools, to emphasize changing behaviors that put them at risk and focusing on contingency planning and security protocols.
  • Donors should use coordinated engagements with countries in which HRDs and other targeted populations are under attack to stress the state’s responsibility to protect these populations. Foreign assistance to these countries should be conditioned on, and provide support for, their implementation of measures to protect targeted populations.
 Meanwhile, speaking on the documents on the WikiLeaks site, the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RWB/RSF) said, “The NSA’s surveillance, the US government’s attempts to bring judicial proceedings against WikiLeaks and the criminalization of the website’s publisher, Julian Assange, constitute a violation of freedom of information.
WikiLeaks cannot be prosecuted for exercising the right to gather and publish information, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
RSF said there were three secret documents, collected by Snowden and published by Glenn Greenwald and Ray Gallagher, on the surveillance. The first detailed how GCHQ had monitored visitors to the site using the programme TEMPORA, after entering it by secretly acquiring IP addresses of visitors.
The second document revealed efforts by the US to treat Assange as a criminal. “The document reveals that, after WikiLeaks published the Afghan War Logs, ‘the United States on August 10 urged other nations with forces in Afghanistan, including Australia, United Kingdom, and Germany, to consider filling criminal charges against Julian Assange,'” said RSF.
“According to a third classified document, the US government considered designating WikiLeaksas a ‘malicious foreign actor,’ which would allow it to be subjected to much more extensive electronic surveillance,” said RSF.

CPJ’s Publication On Attacks On Journalists And The Media

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has published the 2014 edition of Attacks on the Press: Journalism on the World’s Front Lines. The 240-page study contains both country reports with concise accounts on assaults on media freedom and the freedom of information, and thematic studies on impunity, surveillance, media and markets, censorship, global development, the internet, security and nations at risk.
The thematic studies are the following. Impunity: When Journalists Are Killed, Witnesses May Be Next by Elisabeth Witchel; surveillance: The NSA Puts Journalists under a Cloud of Suspicion by Geoff King; media and markets: Without Stronger Transparency, More Financial Crises Loom by Michael J. Casey; censorship: Would-Be Repressors Brandish ‘Ethics’ as Justification by Jean-Paul Marthoz: global development: Putting Press Freedom at the Heart of Anti-Poverty Efforts by Rob Mahoney; the internet: How the United States’ Spying Strengthens China’s Hand by Joel Simon; security: Finding the Courage to Cover Sexual Violenceby Frank Smyth; nations at risk: CPJ Risk List: Where Press Freedom Suffered by Maya Taal.
“Every day, journalists around the world face incredible risks – from imprisonment and assassination to simply just ‘disappearing’ – all for the ethical practice of their profession. Caught between wars and uprisings and corrupt police and drug cartels, as well as increasingly oppressive censorship laws, they find themselves in some of the most dangerous situations imaginable,” says CPJ.
More Information About this Book

Rise Of The Surveillance State From Kiev To Washington

Clashes in Kiev last week  (Pic courtesy

If this blog posted yesterday the confident prediction by Turkish author and playwright Meltem Arikan that the world turning digital from analogue would lead to the downfall of patriarchy, political oppression and police violence, think again! Not that Arikan, activist and survivor of police brutality at Gezi Park did not envisage pitfalls on the road to that ideal, but there was certainly a note of optimism in her tone.

 But the Ukrainian government’s sophisticated use of surveillance technology to track down protestors in Kiev appears quite unlike the fumbling efforts of the Erdogan government last year in Istanbul. President Yanukovych’s regime’s monitoring of electronic devices of Euromaidan dissidents was so systematic that “Many people in Kiev awoke Tuesday (January 21) morning to a frightening text message on their phones. ‘Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.'”
The rise of the ‘surveillance state’ from Washington to Kiev is described by Timothy Karr in an article for the Free Press as an “information counterrevolution.” A ‘surveillance state’ is collaboration between tech companies and governments that use data in their possession to control citizens by spying on them. But that is not all: companies too control the public by limiting and/or denying their access to information – and thereby overturning the concept of net neutrality – which was recently demonstrated in the verdict in Verizon vs. FCC.
“In 2014, we’re experiencing a new age of ‘strategic data,’ says Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, which earlier this month released its annual list of the top political risks worldwide,” writes Karr.
“‘It’s about states using data to engage in surveillance on their populations domestically and internationally.’ It’s top-down, and it’s not only about official use of personal data to protect national security. Governments and corporations are mining our data for more benign practices, too, like predicting traffic patterns or monitoring the spread of diseases,” Karr explains.
You can read the article here

World According To Obama: Praise King But Beef Up NSA

                 (Pic Courtesy PEN America)

President Barack Obama’s statement last Friday on the reforms on National Security Agency spying on US citizens and people overseas through mass metadata gathering of phone calls and internet content has had mixed reactions. 
While some believed it was that was a significant step forward in a tightly contested environment between national security and civil liberties, proponents of media freedom and human rights disagree. They say the reforms were far from adequate.
‘King Obama and Surveillance Today’ looks at media freedom in the context of another event that held the attention of American this week: Martin Luther King Day. Obama is a self-confessed admirer and votary of King. Yet King stood for universal and indivisible human rights. Further, he was the subject of FBI Director Edgar J. Hoover’s undying hatred and as such subject of surveillance of the Bureau.
“Obama specifically referred to the FBI’s war on King in his speech on Friday detailing surveillance reforms. But it makes little sense for the president to open the door on the deeply flawed surveillance program that plagued King while making cosmetic reforms to his own far-flung surveillance program,” writes Deji Olukotun in his blog post to PEN America.
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