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Surveillance, Edit, 550
Mon Aug 8, 2016 04:06
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By Jonathan Stribling-Uss

Newly leaked guidelines for the use of National Security Letters (NSLs) have finally opened a window in to how little control third parties, from Google, to Facebook to the phone company, have over the data of their users. NSLs allow for an FBI agent to request any type of data from a third-party provider, and then use a gag order to prevent the provider from speaking about the fact that the data has ever been requested. Sixteen thousand NSLs are issued annually and the leaked guidelines show they are authorized without any review by a judge as is the case with regular search warrants. The letters only require the signature of a unit director at the FBI to obtain data from any provider, and are used for investigations that have nothing to do with national security including “fishing expeditions” carried out against activists who espouse views that displease the government.

What can activists or concerned citizens do to stop this overwhelming surveillance and broad attack on freedom of speech and association? On the legal side, there are groups such as the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union that work on specific types of legal strategies. But on a more Individual level people need to understand that from a law enforcement perspective social media is public space. Although you may have privacy settings that can stop your mom or ex-partner from reading your posts, as far as federal law enforcement is concerned every page, post, mail, like or click on Facebook, Twitter, or Google can be used as evidence against you in a court of law.

To thwart these overbearing snoops there are a number of excellent organizations who work to take user privacy seriously, don't collect data and refuse to comply with federal government requests for NSL information. For activist work where you want people to develop ideas and debate difficult topics freely it is important to protect everyone’s free expression, even when they say things that you may not agree with. There are a number of long running projects that exist to support activists maintain their constitutional rights while using digital communications. Two of special significance are Riseup.net and Mayfirst.org.

Riseup has been active since after the Seattle WTO protests in 1999, they run an email service, a groupware network for organizing, pastebins for exchanging large files, a “google docs” type collaborative document writing and all of these are maintained by ensuring no data is saved. They have a warrant canary that they publish and update regularly, which will alert users if they ever get significant requests for data or information from law enforcement. They also offer a VPN and allow people to sign up for and use services over Tor network to preserve their anonymity (something that Google, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter, don't allow.) Riseup is a non-profit collective that relies on individual donations to survive.

May first/Peoples link “engages in building movements by advancing the strategic use and collective control of technology for local struggles, global transformation, and emancipation without borders”. They redefines the concept of “Internet Service Provider” in a collective and collaborative way as a democratic membership organization with an elect a Leadership Committee and coop model where everyone pay dues collectively manage websites, email, email lists, and more.

  • Righting Surveillance, Jonathan Stribling-Uss, 1320 - jt.indypendent, Fri Jul 29 09:17
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    • Surveillance, Edit, 550 - jt.indypendent, Mon Aug 8 04:06
      • Surveillance, 742 - jt.indypendent, Mon Aug 8 19:35
        By Jonathan Stribling-Uss Newly leaked FBI guidelines for the use of National Security Letters (NSLs) have finally opened a window in to how little control third parties, from Google, to Facebook to... more
        • Surveillance, 744 - jt.indypendent, Tue Aug 9 15:58
          By Jonathan Stribling-Uss Newly leaked FBI guidelines for the use of National Security Letters (NSLs) have finally opened a window into how little control third parties, from Google, to Facebook to... more
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