Advancing Encryption for the Masses

Advancing Encryption for the Masses:

The work of WhatsApp, Facebook, Open Whisper Systems, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and that other members of the ‘Let’s Encrypt’ initiative can massively reduce the challenges people face when trying to communicate more responsibly. And the initiatives demonstrate how the cryptographic and communications landscape is shifting in the wake of Snowden’s revelations concerning the reality of global-scale surveillance. While encryption was ultimately thrown out of the original design specifications for the Internet it’s great to see that cryptography is starting to get bolted onto the existing Internet in earnest.



Ubuntu’s Privacy FUBAR

The EFF has a particularly good accounting of how the most recent changes to Ubuntu are intensely problematic from a privacy perspective. Specifically, performing local searches will (and does) leak information to third-parties such as Facebook and Amazon. Though not explicitly mentioned, remember that in many jurisdictions if you ‘give up’ or ‘abandon’ information to third-parties then you often lose considerable (legal) privacy protections. As such, Ubuntu’s decision to leak data to third-parties whenever users perform local searches on their computer could have significant implications for Ubuntu users’ legal protections concerning personal search information. If Microsoft or Apple did something similar then there would almost certainly be complaints filed to federal bodies: will similar reactions emerge from the Linux and Ubuntu communities?

Question to SCOTUS: Can we even bring legal action over warrantless spying?

The EFF continues it’s long slog to challenge the US government’s warrantless wiretapping. At this point a series of cases have been dismissed, though the Supreme Court is now hearing a case to ascertain whether those who have been affected by the dragnet surveillance – lawyers, journalists, human rights lawyers – can challenge the statute given that it “prevents them from doing their job without taking substantial measures when communicating to overseas witnesses, sources and clients.”

This is an incredibly serious case. The outcome will not decide the legality of the statute itself but just whether it can be challenged. By anyone. A dismissal of the case – that is, a decision declaring that no one clearly has standing to challenge the statute – would prevent the existing intelligence operations from ever being challenged so long as the government avoids bringing warrantlessly-accessed data into a trial as evidence.

Watch this case; if it goes sideways then the American government will have (effectively) been given license by the highest court in the land to surveil Americans, without warrant, and without an effective means to prevent the surveillance.