Monthly Archives: March 2014

March 31, 2014 | News, Statements

THE INTERNET ASSOCIATION STATEMENT ON WHITE HOUSE BIG DATA FILED COMMENTS

Today, Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of The Internet Association, issued the following statement about The Internet Association’s filed comments with the White House Office of Science and Technology in response to its Request for Information on “Big Data:”

“The Internet Association believes U.S. policy framework is effective in protecting consumers while allowing for innovation. As the Administration examines these important issues, it is critical to focus on government surveillance reform. Additionally, more resources should be expended on making government data available, researching emerging technologies, and determining new ways to educate users on data practices.”

March 19, 2014 | News, Press Releases

THE INTERNET ASSOCIATION OPENS SACRAMENTO OFFICE

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Internet Association, the trade association representing the leading global Internet companies, today announced the opening of an office in Sacramento and the appointment of Robert Callahan as California Executive Director.

“California is the central hub of the knowledge economy. The Internet industry is creating jobs, delivering economic growth and increased prosperity throughout the Golden state. That’s a story that needs to be told and it’s why the Internet Association is pleased to announce the opening of our Sacramento office,” said Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman.

For nearly two years, The Internet Association has served as the unified voice of the Internet economy in the nation’s capital, working with Congress and the Administration to craft sensible Internet policies for the federal government. As the nation looks to California for lessons and leadership in growing the Internet economy in their own states, The Internet Association will provide a vital public policy resource to the California Legislature advocating for an open and free Internet and a light touch regulatory approach.

“The Internet has become one of the greatest engines for economic growth and prosperity the world has ever known. In the modern California economy, Internet jobs are no longer confined to Silicon Valley start-ups; Internet-enabled help wanted signs are springing up in every business sector and every region across the state,” said Beckerman.

“The Internet Association is putting boots on the ground in Sacramento and stands ready to assist California legislators who are on the front lines of the knowledge economy’s impact on government and society.”

Robert Callahan has been named Executive Director of the California office and will lead the association’s advocacy team in Sacramento.

“Robert Callahan’s policy expertise and advocacy experience are assets that will help us advance public policy solutions to strengthen and protect Internet freedom, foster innovation and economic growth while relentlessly representing this vital economic sector,” said Beckerman.

Prior to joining The Internet Association, Robert Callahan served as TechAmerica’s director of state government affairs in California. In this role, he was a leading voice for the tech industry in California on numerous high-profile issues from privacy legislation to environmental protection. Callahan played an instrumental role in advocacy efforts surrounding online issues, including e-commerce transactions, privacy policies, data breach, social media and others. Previous to his tenure at TechAmerica, Callahan worked for six years at the California Chamber of Commerce.

Callahan is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, and received his law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.

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March 19, 2014 | News, Op-Eds

Michael Beckerman: The Golden State On the Front Lines of Internet Policy-The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
The Golden State: On the Front Lines of Internet Policy
Posted: 03/18/2014 5:59 pm EDT

All over the world, in every sector of the economy, Internet companies are emerging at a staggering pace, offering an astonishing array of products, services and conveniences. They are creating jobs and opportunities, while reshaping traditional and sometime stagnant industries by bringing them into the mobile, on-demand world of 21st Century e-commerce. Despite the global nature of this explosion of entrepreneurial activity, California remains at its epicenter, both culturally and economically.

With California situated as the central hub of the knowledge economy, its citizens and its government are frequently the first to grapple with the intersection of technological innovation and its effects on society. But California is not alone; all across America, lawmakers are dealing with the rapid changes to our society and economy created by the Internet. As these complex technological issues are debated in public squares around the country, California lawmakers can provide valuable leadership by encouraging technology-friendly policies that do not dampen our innovation economy’s unmatched growth potential.

The governing philosophy behind local, state and national laws must be flexible enough for the Internet era. The unique nature of the Internet — free from government control and governed by multiple stakeholders — has unleashed unprecedented entrepreneurialism, creativity and innovation, far beyond imagination. These principles must be embodied in our nation’s laws and in our elected leaders’ approach to technology policy. Nowhere in the country is this leadership more important, or more appropriate, than in the Golden State where a flourishing Internet and technology sector has produced immense societal and economic benefits.

Less than two years ago, the biggest names in the Internet economy joined forces to launch The Internet Association, an organization that strives to give the knowledge economy a unified voice. These leading companies, who form the backbone of the Internet economy, recognized that the shared fundamental values and principles that allowed their companies to grow and flourish were under threat. Now, over 20 major global Internet companies are members of The Internet Association, and we are working to advance public policy solutions to strengthen and protect an open, innovative and free Internet while relentlessly representing this vital economic sector on the critical public policy issues of the day.

In a remarkably short time, the Internet has grown into one of the greatest engines for economic growth, freedom and prosperity the world has ever known. Everyone intuitively understands that the Internet has changed the way we work, play, create and share. What is less understood is just how broadly and democratically the benefits of this technological revolution have been distributed. Consumers, entrepreneurs, small businesses and start-ups are among the greatest beneficiaries of the Internet’s sweeping influences.

Not since the Ford Model T or the telephone has an innovation done more to bring consumers and businesses closer together. The barriers to entry in hundreds of business sectors have come crashing down, increasing competition, driving economic growth and job creation. In the modern California economy, Internet jobs are no longer confined to Silicon Valley; Internet-enabled help wanted signs are springing up in every business sector and every region across the state.

A recent Progressive Policy Institute study of the California economy brought the Internet’s impact on jobs into focus. The researchers documented that California’s Internet-based job growth continues to outpace the rest of the United States. Perhaps of more significance to lawmakers in Sacramento, it found those jobs are more evenly distributed than in past recoveries. Internet-based jobs are not only driving California’s economic recovery, but the prosperity is shared throughout the Golden State.

The Internet Association, our member companies, their employees and tens of millions of Internet users will continue to drive economic growth and job creation, improve lives and bring people closer together. Along with California’s Internet users and employees, we will be on the ground in Sacramento to assist legislators in navigating these vexing and vitally important public policy issues.

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March 14, 2014 | Statements

Statement on NTIA’s Announcement to End Formal Relationship With ICANN

 

Washington, DC — Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of The Internet Association, released the following statement in response to the NTIA’s announcement tonight that it will end its formal relationship with ICANN in 2015:

“The Internet’s decentralized model is key to growth, innovation, freedom, and openness. The continued success of the Internet relies on a borderless platform for communication and information exchange.”

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March 14, 2014 | Statements

Statement on Senator Feinstein’s Introduction of The Patent Fee Integrity Act

 

Statement of Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of the Internet Association, on Senator Feinstein’s Introduction of The Patent Fee Integrity Act:

“The Internet Association commends Senator Feinstein’s introduction of the Patent Fee Integrity Act, which would provide the Patent and Trademark Office with adequate funding and resources to improve overall patent quality. Improving patent quality is an essential step in improving the entire patent ecosystem by shutting off the supply of low-quality patents that fuel litigation by patent trolls. That is why The Internet Association also supports an expanded review of the covered business method patent program to eliminate patents that never been granted in the first instance. An expanded review program, coupled with strong fee shifting and discovery provisions, make up the necessary components of a meaningful response to the patent troll epidemic. We look forward to working with Senator Feinstein and Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as they prepare to address these important issues in the coming weeks.”

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March 13, 2014 | News, Statements

STATEMENT ON HOUSE JUDICIARY HEARING COVERING SECTION 512 OF DMCA

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of the Internet Association, released the following statement regarding today’s hearing entitled, “Section 512 of Title 17” conducted by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet:

“The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a key reason for the success of and innovation on the Internet. Enacted shortly after the launch of the commercial Internet, the DMCA has withstood the test of time. As with all statutes, the DMCA is not perfect. Its notice-and-takedown system has been abused by those seeking to influence political speech and gain unfair advantage of commercial competitors. And, it does not serve as a panacea that eliminates all illegally distributed content on the Internet. Its balanced framework, however, has served rightsholders, innovators, and users well.”

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March 4, 2014 | ICYMI, News

ICYMI- Peter Van Buren, The Next Battleground in the War on Whistleblowers

Tom Dispatch
Peter Van Buren, The Next Battleground in the War on Whistleblowers
Posted 8:00am, March 4, 2014

Who can keep up?  The revelations — mainly thanks to the documents Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency — are never-ending.  Just this week, we learned that GCHQ, the British intelligence agency whose activities are interwoven with the NSA’s, used a program called Optic Nerve to intercept and store “the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing” (including Americans).  As the Guardian reported, “In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery — including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications — from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.”  Yahoo is now outraged; the Internet Association, a trade group for the giants of the industry, has condemned the program; and three U.S. senators announced an investigation of possible NSA involvement.

At about the same time, Glenn Greenwald revealed that GCHQ was engaging in “extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction.”  These included “‘false flag operations’ (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting ‘negative information’ on various forums.” Again, this was evidently happening with the knowledge, if not collusion, of the NSA.

Meanwhile, with Washington entering a self-proclaimed era of “reform” when it comes to spying on Americans, we just got a striking you-can’t-win-for-losing Catch-22 message from the front lines of the surveillance wars. Claiming that recent pending lawsuits make it necessary, the Obama administration has requested permission to hang on to phone metadata “on billions of U.S. phone calls indefinitely instead of destroying it after five years.” Hmmm… this may be the only example we have of the U.S. intelligence community fighting tooth and nail to stick to the letter of the law.

And mind you, that’s just dipping a toe in the positively oceanic global surveillance waters.  It’s been nine months since the Snowden revelations began and who can keep it all straight?  Nonetheless, it’s possible to put everything we know so far into a simple message about our American world-in-the-making: the surveillance part of the national security state has, in its own mind, no boundaries at all. As a result, there is no one, nor any part of communications life on this planet, that is out of bounds to our surveillers.

Given what we now know, it’s easy to ignore what we don’t know about how our government is acting in our name. That’s why the figure of the whistleblower — and the Obama administration’s urge to suppress whistleblowing of any sort — remains so important. How are we ever to know anything about the workings of that secret state of ours if someone doesn’t tell us? As a result, TomDispatch remains dedicated to documenting the Obama administration’s ongoing war against those who have the urge to bring the secret workings of the national security state to our attention — especially in cases like Robert MacLean’s, where otherwise little notice is paid in the mainstream media.  So today, we’re publishing a follow-up to our earlier story about MacLean, again by TomDispatch regular Peter Van Buren. Himself a State Department whistleblower, Van Buren takes another deep dive into the dark territory he has dubbed post-Constitutional AmericaTom

Silencing Whistleblowers Obama-Style

Supreme Court Edition?
By Peter Van Buren

The Obama administration has just opened a new front in its ongoing war on whistleblowers. It’s taking its case against one man, former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Air Marshal Robert MacLean, all the way to the Supreme Court. So hold on, because we’re going back down the rabbit hole with the Most Transparent Administration ever.

Despite all the talk by Washington insiders about how whistleblowers like Edward Snowden should work through the system rather than bring their concerns directly into the public sphere, MacLean is living proof of the hell of trying to do so. Through the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice (DOJ) wants to use MacLean’s case to further limit what kinds of information can qualify for statutory whistleblowing protections. If the DOJ gets its way, only information that the government thinks is appropriate — a contradiction in terms when it comes to whistleblowing — could be revealed. Such a restriction would gut the legal protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act and have a chilling effect on future acts of conscience.

Having lost its case against MacLean in the lower courts, the DOJ is seeking to win in front of the Supreme Court. If heard by the Supremes — and there’s no guarantee of that — this would represent that body’s first federal whistleblower case of the post-9/11 era. And if it were to rule for the government, even more information about an out-of-control executive branch will disappear under the dark umbrella of “national security.”

On the other hand, should the court rule against the government, or simply turn down the case, whistleblowers like MacLean will secure a little more protection than they’ve had so far in the Obama years. Either way, an important message will be sent at a moment when revelations of government wrongdoing have moved from the status of obscure issue to front-page news.

The issues in the MacLean case — who is entitled to whistleblower protection, what use can be made of retroactive classification to hide previously unclassified information, how many informal classification categories the government can create bureaucratically, and what role the Constitution and the Supreme Court have in all this — are arcane and complex. But stay with me.  Understanding the depths to which the government is willing to sink to punish one man who blew the whistle tells us the world about Washington these days and, as they say, the devil is in the details.

Robert MacLean, Whistleblower

MacLean’s case is simple — and complicated.

Here’s the simple part: MacLean was an air marshal, flying armed aboard American aircraft as the last defense against a terror attack. In July 2003, all air marshals received a briefing about a possible hijacking plot. Soon after, the TSA, which oversees the marshals, sent an unencrypted, open-air text message to their cell phones cancelling several months of missions for cost-cutting reasons. Fearing that such cancellations in the midst of a hijacking alert might create a dangerous situation for the flying public, MacLean worked his way through the system. He first brought his concerns to his supervisor and then to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.  Each responded that nothing could be done.

After hitting a dead end, and hoping that public pressure might force the TSA to change its policy, MacLean talked anonymously to a reporter who broadcast a critical story. After 11 members of Congress pitched in, the TSA reversed itself. A year later, MacLean appeared on TV in disguise to criticize agency dress and boarding policies that he felt made it easier for passengers to recognize marshals who work undercover. (On your next flight keep an eye out for the young man in khakis with a fanny pack and a large watch, often wearing a baseball cap and eyeing boarders from a first class seat.) This time the TSA recognized MacLean’s voice and discovered that he had also released the unclassified 2003 text message. He was fired in April 2006.

When MacLean contested his dismissal through internal government channels, he discovered that, months after firing him, the TSA had retroactively classified the text message he had leaked. Leaking classified documents is more than cause enough to fire a federal worker, and that might have been the end of it. MacLean, however, was no typical cubicle-dwelling federal employee. An Air Force veteran, he asserted his status as a protected whistleblower and has spent the last seven years marching through the system trying to get his job back.

How Everything in Government Became Classified

The text message MacLean leaked was retroactively classified as “security sensitive information” (SSI), a designation that had been around for years but whose usage the TSA only codified via memo in November 2003. When it comes to made-up classifications, that agency’s set of them proved to be only one of 28 known versions that now exist within the government bureaucracy. In truth, no one is sure how many varieties of pseudo-classifications even exist under those multiple policies, or how many documents they cover as there are no established reporting requirements.

By law there are officially only three levels of governmental classification: confidential, secret, and top secret. Other indicators, such as NOFORNand ORCON, seen for instance on some of the NSA documents Edward Snowden released, are called “handling instructions,” although they, too, function as unofficial categories of classification. Each of the three levels of official classification has its own formal definition and criteria for use. It is theoretically possible to question the level of classification of a document.  However much they may be ignored, there are standards for theirdeclassification and various supervisors can also shift levels of classification as a final report, memo, or briefing takes shape. The system is designed, at least in theory and occasionally in practice, to have some modicum of accountability and reviewability.

The government’s post-9/11 desire to classify more and more information ran head on into the limits of classification as enacted by Congress. The response by various agencies was to invent a proliferation of designations like SSI that would sweep unclassified information under the umbrella of classification and confer on ever more unclassified information a (sort of) classified status. In the case of the TSA, the agency even admits on its own website that a document with an SSI stamp isunclassified, but prohibits its disclosure anyway.

Imagine the equivalent at home: you arbitrarily establish a classification called Spouse Sensitive Information that prohibits your partner from seeing the family bank statements. And if all this is starting to make no sense, then you can better understand the topsy-turvy world Robert MacLean found himself in.

MacLean Wins a Battle in Court

In 2013, after a long series of civil service and legal wrangles, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit handed down a decision confirming the government’s right to retroactively classify information. This may make some sense — if you squint hard enough from a Washington perspective. Imagine a piece of innocuous information already released that later takes on national security significance. A retroactive classification can’t get the toothpaste back in the tube, but bureaucratically speaking it would at least prevent more toothpaste from being squeezed out. The same ruling, of course, could also be misused to ensnare someone like MacLean who shared unclassified information.

The court also decided that, retrospective classification or not, MacLean was indeed entitled to protection under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. That act generally limits its protections to “disclosures not specifically prohibited by law,” typically held to mean unclassified material. This, the court insisted, was the category MacLean fit into and so could not be fired. The court avoided the question of whether or not someone could be fired for disclosing retroactively classified information and focused on whether a made-up category like SSI was “classified” at all.

The court affirmed that laws passed by Congress creating formal classifications like “top secret” trump regulations made up by executive branch bureaucrats. In other words, as the Constitution intended, the legislative branch makes the laws and serves as a check and balance on the executive branch. Congress says what is classified and that say-so cannot be modified via an executive branch memo. One of MacLean’s lawyers hailed the court’s decision as restoring “enforceability for the Whistleblower Protection Act’s public free speech rights. It ruled that only Congress has the authority to remove whistleblower rights. Agency-imposed restraints are not relevant for whistleblower protection rights.”

The ruling made it clear that the TSA had fired MacLean in retaliation for a legally protected act of whistleblowing. He should have been offered his job back the next day.

Not a Happy Ending But a Sad New Beginning

No such luck. Instead, on January 27, 2014, the Department of Justice petitionedthe Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s decision. If it has its way, the next time a troublesome whistleblower emerges, the executive need only retroactively slap a non-reviewable pseudo-classification on whatever information has been revealed and fire the employee. The department is, then, asking the Supreme Court to grant the executive branch the practical power to decide whether or not a whistleblower is entitled to legal protection. The chilling effect is obvious.

In addition, the mere fact that the DOJ is seeking to bring the case via a petition is significant. Such petitions, called writs of certiorari, or certs, ask that the Supreme Court overturn a lower court’s decision. Through the cert process, the court sets its own agenda. Some 10,000 certs are submitted in a typical year. Most lack merit and are quickly set aside without comment. Typically, fewer than 100 of those 10,000 are chosen to move forward for a possibly precedent-setting decision. However, only a tiny number of all the certs filed are initiated by the government; on average, just 15 in a Supreme Court term.

It’s undoubtedly a measure of the importance the Obama administration gives to preserving secrecy above all else that it has chosen to take such an aggressive stance against MacLean — especially given the desperately low odds of success. It will be several months before we know whether the court will hear the case.

This Is War

MacLean is simply trying to get his old air marshal job back by proving he was wrongly fired for an act of whistleblowing.  For the rest of us, however, this is about much more than where MacLean goes to work.

The Obama administration’s attacks on whistleblowers are well documented. It has charged more of them — seven — under the Espionage Act than all past presidencies combined. In addition, it recently pressured State Department whistleblower Stephen Kim into a guilty plea (in return for a lighter sentence) by threatening him with the full force of that act. His case was even more controversial because the FBI named Fox News’s James Rosen as a co-conspirator for receiving information from Kim as part of his job as a journalist. None of this is accidental, coincidental, or haphazard.  It’s a pattern.  And it’s meant to be.  This is war.

MacLean’s case is one more battle in that war.  By taking the extraordinary step of going to the Supreme Court, the executive branch wants, by fiat, to be able to turn an unclassified but embarrassing disclosure today into a prohibited act tomorrow, and then use that to get rid of an employee. They are, in essence, putting whistleblowers in the untenable position of having to predict the future. The intent is clearly to silence them before they speak on the theory that the easiest leak to stop is the one that never happens. A frightened, cowed workforce is likely to be one result; another — falling into the category of unintended consequences — might be to force more potential whistleblowers to take the Manning/Snowden path.

The case against MacLean also represents an attempt to broaden executive power in another way. At the moment, only Congress can “prohibit actions under the law,” something unique to it under the Constitution. In its case against MacLean, the Justice Department seeks to establish the right of the executive and its agencies to create their own pseudo-categories of classification that can be used to prohibit actions not otherwise prohibited by law. In other words, it wants to trump Congress. Regulation made by memo would then stand above the law in prosecuting — or effectively persecuting — whistleblowers. A person of conscience like MacLean could be run out of his job by a memo.

In seeking to claim more power over whistleblowers, the executive also seeks to overturn another principle of law that goes by the term ex post facto. Laws are implemented on a certain day and at a certain time. Long-held practice says that one cannot be punished later for an act that was legal when it happened. Indeed,ex post facto criminal laws are expressly forbidden by the Constitution. This prohibition was written in direct response to the injustices of British rule at a time when Parliamentary laws could indeed criminalize actions retrospectively. While some leeway exists today in the U.S. for ex post facto actions in civil cases and when it comes to sex crimes against children, the issue as it affects whistleblowers brushes heavily against the Constitution and, in a broader sense, against what is right and necessary in a democracy.

When a government is of, by, and for the people, when an educated citizenry (in Thomas Jefferson’s words) is essential to a democracy, it is imperative that we all know what the government does in our name. How else can we determine how to vote, who to support, or what to oppose? Whistleblowers play a crucial role in this process. When the government willfully seeks to conceal its actions, someone is required to step up and act with courage and selflessness.

That our current government has been willing to fight for more than seven years — maybe all the way to the Supreme Court — to weaken legal whistleblowing protections tells a tale of our times. That it seeks to silence whistleblowers at a moment when their disclosures are just beginning to reveal the scope of ourunconstitutional national security state is cause for great concern. That the government demands whistleblowers work within the system and then seeks to modify that same system to thwart them goes beyond hypocrisy.

This is the very definition of post-Constitutional America where legality and illegality blur — and always in the government’s favor; where the founding principles of our nation only apply when, as, and if the executive sees fit. The devil is indeed in the details.

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March 1, 2014 | ICYMI, News

ICYMI- Post-Snowden: Webcams Spied on, with Intimate Results

Generation of New Technology
Post-Snowden: webcams spied on, with intimate results
Posted March 1st, 2014 – 05:48 am ET

A new scandal has been revealed through documents leaked by the previous NSA security consultant Edward Snowden. These revelations just don’t seem to end.

This time, the NSA was only providing technical support to their British counterparts at GCHQ who intercepted pictures from the webcams of thousands of users. These internet users were not even necessary suspected of committing crimes.

An article in The Guardian explains that between 2008 and 2010 the British spy agency implemented a program nicknamed Optic Serve which collected data from the cables that transported internet traffic. This spy program appeared to still be active in 2012.

In the first six months, Optic Serve was concentrating on pictures from the webcams of more than 1.8 millionYahoo Messenger users. A picture was saved every five minutes. It was the NSA who developed the tools that allowed the identification of webcam traffic from Yahoo and the collection and processing of the information with their XKeyscore search tool.

During the massive collection of this information, GCHQ appears to have realised that video’s taken with webcam’s were at time rather intimate. Between 3% and 11% of the webcam pictures collected contained nudity qualified as “undesirable” in a document.

With a certain degree of success, GCHQ decreed that such images couldn’t be viewed by their agents. A facial recognition solution was also used to try to censor offensive images. A process for cutting the metadata also allowed for targeted searches of the pictures.

While The Guardian indicates that a document was evaluated for the possibility of operating a similar surveillance program for the Xbox 360 Kinect, Yahoo has denied any knowledge of such a program, and has proclaimed that this was “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy.

The Internet Association, which groups together large internet company’s (Yahoo, Facebook, Google, Amazon, eBay…), are talking of “alarming practices undertaken by the British intelligence agency.”

These new revelations are certainly enough to infuriate users.

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March 1, 2014 | ICYMI, News

ICYMI- U.S. Senators Plan to Review NSA Role in British Webcam Spying

United Press International
U.S. senators plan to review NSA role in British webcam spying 
Posted March. 1, 2014 at 2:52 PM

British intelligence showed a “breathtaking lack of respect” for privacy by scooping on webcam transmissions, three U.S. senators said in a statement.

Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., all members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Thursday they will investigate whether the U.S. National Security Agency was involved, the Guardian reported.

The newspaper reported Thursday, based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British agency involved in electronic monitoring, used NSA computer programs to analyze screen grabs of webcam chats of Yahoo users.

The program, given the title Optic Nerve, tried to use facial recognition software to find potential intelligence targets.

“We are extremely troubled by today’s press report that a very large number of individuals — including law-abiding Americans — may have had private videos of themselves and their families intercepted and stored without any suspicion of wrongdoing,” the senators said. “If this report is accurate it would show a breathtaking lack of respect for the privacy and civil liberties of law-abiding citizens.”

The Internet Association, a trade group that includes most of the major players, issued a statement Friday calling for changes in the monitoring of online activity.

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March 1, 2014 | ICYMI, News

ICYMI- US Senators Plan Probe into NSA’s Role in Yahoo Webcam Spying Scandal

Russia Today
US senators plan probe into NSA’s role in Yahoo webcam spying scandal
Posted March 01, 2014 11:42

Following the revelations that Britain’s spy agency intercepts Yahoo users’ private data, three outraged American senators plan to launch an investigation into the NSA’s involvement in the GCHQ operation.

The scandal with the British GCHQ intelligence agency collecting images of Yahoo users by secretly connecting to people’s webcams has made American lawmakers curious about whether their own National Security Agency has been cooperating with British intelligence in this respect.

Senators Martin Heinrich, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, all members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a joint statement Friday, stating that they were “extremely troubled” with the“breathtaking lack of respect for privacy and civil liberties” of the UK spy agency and said that “any involvement of US agencies in the alleged activities reported today will need to be closely scrutinized.”

“A very large number of individuals – including law-abiding Americans – may have had private videos of themselves and their families intercepted and stored without any suspicion of wrongdoing,” the statement said.

The senators acknowledged that the interrelatedness of global communications had “dramatically increased the likelihood of innocent Americans being swept up in intelligence collection nominally aimed at foreigners,” and called for US authorities “to ensure that ‘foreign’ intelligence collection does not intrude unnecessarily on the rights of law-abiding people or needlessly undermine the competitiveness of America’s leading industries.”

On Friday the Internet Association, representing industry giants such as Amazon, AOL, eBay, Google, Netflix and Twitter, also expressed alarm over the latest GCHQ revelations and called for reform of the intelligence agencies.

“Today’s revelations, about British intelligence practices, are alarming and reaffirm the need for greater transparency and reform of government surveillance,” the Internet Association’s CEO Michael Beckerman said in a statement.

The statement urged governments to “immediately act to reform the practices and laws regulating surveillance and collection of Internet users’ information,” and encouraged legislation “to limit governments’ authority to collect users’ information and increase transparency about government demands.”

According to documents disclosed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and published by The Guardian on Thursday, the UK’s GCHQ with the assistance of the NSA routinely intercepted and stored webcam images from private computers within the framework of secret Optic Nerve program started in 2008. The images and associated metadata was fed to NSA’s analytical tools such as Xkeyscore.

The documents obtained by the Guardian maintain that between 3 percent and 11 percent of the material stored by GCHQ under Optic Nerve program contain sexually explicit material.

The agency’s guidance to the program stressed that “Retrieval and or reference to such material should be avoided.”

Both NSA and GCHQ refused to give comments on the new portion of unpleasant revelations about agencies’ joint activities. The outgoing NSA director, four-star Army General Keith Alexander, simply walked away from a reporter who asked him about the NSA’s role in Optic Nerve. The GCHQ’s only comment has been that all its programs are operated in full accordance with UK law.

There are no UK laws either prohibiting a search for US citizens’ data without a warrant or legal ground to demand removal of personal data of American and British citizens from databases of intelligence agencies.

The major task of the ‘Optic Nerve’ program is identifying intelligence targets using multiple anonymous internet IDs with the help of facial recognition technology.

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Top Internet Business Leaders Confirmed To Speak At Internet Association’s Third Annual Virtuous Circle Summit BECKERMAN: “The value of the Virtuous Circle Summit is the conversations that take place when you bring together the leading voices in the internet innovation and policy space.” Washington, DC — Today, Internet Association announced its initial list of confirmed speakers Read more »

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