Monday, 10 June 2013

'I don't want to live in a world where everything I do is recorded,' says America's most wanted man as he comes out of hiding to reveal why he blew the whistle on US online spying

  • Edward Snowden, a former CIA technical assistant, has fled to Hong Kong
  • He wants Hong Kong's free speech laws to save him from extradition
  • Leaked details of Prism, which he says harvests personal data from web
  • 'What they're doing (poses) a threat to democracy,' Snowden says
  • Spies at GCHQ in UK accused of using it, bypassing British legal checks
  • William Hague to give statement to Commons on alleged links to Prism
  • U.S. National Intelligence director says surveillance keeps America safe

Whistleblower: Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA technical assistant, revealed he had passed classified information on Prism to the media and then fled to Hong Kong
Whistleblower: Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA technical assistant, revealed he had passed classified information on Prism to the media and then fled to Hong Kong
America’s most wanted man has broken cover to reveal why he decided to leak documents from one of the world’s most notorious spy organisations.
Former CIA worker Edward Snowden admitted he would be ‘made to suffer’ after triggering shockwaves across the globe by handing over top-secret files from the US National Security Agency (NSA).
The 29-year-old whistleblower, who earned £130,000 a year ($200,000), exposed chilling details of how the covert agency, based in Maryland, gathers private information from people around the world – including in Britain – using a programme called Prism.
Revealing why he blew the whistle he said: 'I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.'
The Prism system gives officials easy access to data held by nine of the world’s top internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Skype.
Mr Snowden, who is currently hiding in Hong Kong, acted after becoming convinced the US government’s bid to harvest personal information from millions of individuals was a ‘threat to democracy’.
And he described how he fears he will be kidnapped and returned to America to face espionage charges and possible life in prison – or even murdered on Washington’s orders.

'I do not expect to see home again,' he said.
Mr Snowden could face decades in jail if he is extradited from Hong Kong, said Mark Zaid, a lawyer who represents whistleblowers. And Senator Peter King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, called for Mr Snowden to be ‘extradited from Hong Kong immediately . . . and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law’. He added: ‘I believe the leaker has done extreme damage to the US and to our intelligence operations.’
Mr Snowden spoke to The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers from a hotel room in Hong Kong where he is on the run after making one of the most significant leaks in US history – on a par with Wiki-Leaks whistleblower Bradley Manning.
He said he would ‘ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimisation of global privacy’.

Empty: A real estate sign stands in front of a home in Waipahu, Hawaii on Sunday where Edward Snowden, source of disclosures about the U.S. government's secret surveillance programs, lived with his girlfriend until recently
Empty and on the market: Edward Snowden's former home in Waipahu, Hawaii, which he fled last month for Hong Kong so he could leak details about the U.S. government's secret surveillance programs

Secrets: A neighbor said today that the garage at the home had boxes stacked floor to ceiling
Secrets: A neighbour said today that the garage at the home had boxes stacked floor to ceiling when Snowden was planning his escape
Mr Snowden had been working at the NSA for the past four years as an employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton after working for the CIA as a technical assistant, specialising in computer security. His role allowed him access to classified material.
And today Booz Allen branded his alleged actions 'shocking', promising to conduct a full investigation into the matter.
In a statement, the firm said: 'Edward Snowden, 29, has been an employee of our firm for less than three months, assigned to a team in Hawaii.
'News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter.'
However, Snowden said he had raised his concerns with his superiors, but had been ignored.
He said: ‘I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong. I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions but I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.
‘My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.
'What they're doing (poses) an existential threat to democracy,' he added. 

Meanwhile a top Hong Kong politician today urged Snowden to leave the city and face justice.
Regina Ip, formerly the city's top official overseeing security, told reporters the city's administration was 'obliged to comply with the terms of agreements' with the US government, which included the extradition of fugitives.
'It's actually in his best interest to leave Hong Kong,' she said, adding that she did not know whether the government had yet received an extradition request. 'I doubt it will happen so quickly,' she added.
Damagingly for the British security services at GCHQ, Snowden claims that they compiled dossiers using Prism research on almost 200 occasions.
Foreign Secretary William Hague will give a statement to the Commons on the issue this afternoon.
Tory Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the committee of MPs and peers which oversees the work of the security services, said GCHQ would need authority for any request to monitor the emails of a UK citizen, even if the surveillance was carried out by the US agencies.
Sir Malcolm told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'One of the big questions that's being asked is if British intelligence agencies want to seek to know the content of emails, can they get round the normal law in the UK by simply asking an American agency to provide that information?
'The law is actually quite clear: if the British intelligence agencies are seeking to know the content of emails by people living in the UK, then they actually have to get lawful authority. Normally that means ministerial authority.'
  • Video interview courtesy of Glenn Greernwald and Laura Poitras at The Guardian 
Message: ¿I can¿t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world,' Edward Snowden says
Message: 'I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world,' Edward Snowden says
Sir Malcolm's Intelligence and Security Committee will carry out a visit to Washington this week to meet representatives from the CIA and NSA, which was arranged before the Prism disclosures.
The former foreign secretary said it was 'perfectly well known' that 'in order to protect the public that does require, as President Obama said in Washington, some intrusion on privacy in certain circumstances'.
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander told Today it was 'vital' that the public had confidence that the security and intelligence services were 'operating within a framework of accountability and legality'.
He said Mr Hague 'does need to seek to give assurances to Parliament about the laws and procedures that are in place, in particular in relation to our vital information-sharing relationship with the United States'.
Mr Alexander said: 'Of course we want information sharing. The people who want to do harm to the UK operate internationally and those who are trying to keep us safe need to operate internationally as well.
'But on the other hand, in terms of the character and the nature and the timing of the requests that are made by the UK to the US, potentially involving UK citizens as well as international citizens, that needs to be conducted on the basis of the legal framework set out by Parliament.'

Across the Atlantic, the first call for Snowden's prosecution came from Republican Peter King, the chairman of a House Homeland Security subcommittee and a member of the Intelligence Committee.
'If Edward Snowden did in fact leak the NSA data as he claims, the United States government must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law and begin extradition proceedings at the earliest date,' King said in a written statement. 'The United States must make it clear that no country should be granting this individual asylum. This is a matter of extraordinary consequence to American intelligence.'
US security chief, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, has launched an aggressive defense of a secret government data collection program.
Clapper blasted what he called 'reckless disclosures' of the highly classified spy agency project code-named PRISM by Snowden.
'Over the last week we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe,' he said.
Snowden's decision to flee to Hong Kong is a gamble, but its free speech laws mean he does have a slim chance of avoiding being swept back to America.

Hong Kong signed an extradition treaty with the United States in 1997, just before Britain handed it back to China.
Row: A security guard stands outside the US consulate in Hong Kong today, where inside officials will be trying to extradite Snowden back to the United States
Row: A security guard stands outside the US consulate in Hong Kong today, where inside officials will be trying to extradite Snowden back to the United States

In it both agreed to send fugitives back and forth in the majority of cases, but there were also political exemptions negotiated at the time.

Hong Kong has the 'right of refusal when surrender implicates the "defense, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy'' of the People's Republic of China'.
China itself has no extradition treaty with America at all.

Hong Kong officials also have the right to say no to extradition if they believe that the attempt is 'politically motivated'. This means that they will protect free speech if a person is being arrested just for their political opinions.

The United States may have already approached Interpol or its consulate in Hong Kong to start proceedings. They will use the Espionage Act to gain warrants for his arrest.

Hong Kong’s authorities can hold Snowden for 60 days, following a U.S. request that includes probable cause, while Washington prepares a formal extradition request.

Explaining why he chose to go there Snowden, whose exact location in the city remains a mystery, said : 'Mainland China does have significant restrictions on free speech but the people of Hong Kong have a long tradition of protesting in the streets, making their views known.
'I believe that the Hong Kong government is actually independent in relation to a lot of other leading Western governments'.
But in recent years several people have been extradited to the United States for a variety of alleged crimes, and there is only one case where they refused.
Defensive: Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper said in a statement Saturday that disclosures on intelligence gathering practices were 'reckless'
Defensive: Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper said in a statement Saturday that disclosures on intelligence gathering practices were 'reckless'
Mr Snowden has said he was content to sever his ‘very comfortable life’, which included a six-figure salary, a girlfriend, a home in Hawaii and his family, to shine a light on the NSA’s widening surveillance net.
He said: ‘I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.’
NSA chiefs were ‘intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them,’ he said.
‘I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity. The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to.’
A Hawaii real estate agent said on Sunday that Snowden and his girlfriend moved out of their home in a quiet neighborhood near Honolulu on May 1, leaving nothing behind.

The Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper responded Saturday to the disclosure of classified government surveillance programs as a new report sheds light on the gathering system 'Boundless Informant' Informant: The Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper released a statement on PRISM, which is reported to have been used to gather information from Internet companies like Facebook
Informant: The Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper, left, released a statement on PRISM, which is reported to have been used to gather information from the servers of companies like Facebook
Century 21 real estate agent Kerri Jo Heim said that the owner of the house wanted the couple out so that the home could be sold.
Heim says police came by on Wednesday to ask where the couple went. She told them she didn't know.
Carolyn Tijing, who lived across the street from Snowden, says the couple had moving boxes lining their garage from floor to ceiling before leaving the neighborhood suddenly.
According to The Guardian, Snowden copied the final set of documents he intended to disclose three weeks ago. 
He then told his boss and his girlfriend that he'd be away for a few weeks, keeping the reasons vague as only someone working in intelligence can, and on May 20, he boarded a plane to Hong Kong, where he remains in hiding.
'Necessary': The top intelligence official, James R Clapper, said the NSA's intelligence measures disclosed in recent reports were 'used to keep Americans safe'
'Necessary': The top intelligence official, James R Clapper, said the NSA's intelligence measures, carried out at sites like this one in Maryland, were 'used to keep Americans safe'
He said the former UK colony, now part of China, would resist any demands from the White House.
He believes the US could begin extradition proceedings and he might be bundled on to a plane bound for the States – and certain imprisonment – or that he could be killed. He also thinks the Chinese government might seize him.
Before making the leak three weeks ago, he told bosses he needed time off and his girlfriend that he was going away for work.
Since arriving in Hong Kong he has left his hotel room just three times, but his location remains a mystery.
The high level security clearance sparked his concern for the intense surveillance the NSA was carrying out among millions of Americans and hundreds of millions across the world.
He told The Guardian of one incident where CIA operatives got a Swiss banker drunk in an effort to recruit him as an informant to obtain secret banking information.
He said they encouraged him to drive home intoxicated and when he was arrested for DUI, the undercover agents offered to help, managing to recruit the banker on the back of the favour.
Snowden said this and other things he witnessed in Geneva disillusioned him about how his government worked and how this in turn impacted the world.
'I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good,' he said.
He said he was disappointed President Obama advanced the policies he was hoping the newly elected President was stamp out and that 'hardened' him.
Hide out: Snowden boarded a plane to Hong Kong, pictured, on May 20 and has been there since
Hide out: Snowden boarded a plane to Hong Kong, pictured, on May 20, to try to claim asylum
No longer could he wait around for someone else to act, and after spending three years learning just how 'intent' the NSA was at making every conversation and behavior in the world known to them he took the leap.


What is the row all about?
Spies at GCHQ are accused of receiving information from a US surveillance programme that monitors the internet activity of millions. The US National Security Agency uses a system called Prism, which harvests personal information from people outside the US.
How does this involve GCHQ?
Leaked documents show that on at least 197 occasions GCHQ agents compiled intelligence dossiers on UK citizens based on information from the US spying project.
Why the furore?
Requesting intercept data gathered by Prism allows GCHQ to bypass legal checks on obtaining personal material, such as emails, from internet firms outside the UK. Usually spy chiefs would need a warrant or court order.
Why do they need this data?
William Hague refused to confirm or deny details of the agency’s links to Prism, let alone whether he or other ministers had authorised spy chiefs to use it. But he insisted GCHQ was  subject to ‘strict legal scrutiny’.
However, it is no secret the Government believes monitoring citizens’ online activity could help thwart terror plots in Britain.
How have critics reacted?
Angrily. Privacy campaigners have claimed the revelations suggest the creation of a ‘snoopers’ charter by the back door’. MPs will today get the chance to grill Mr Hague on the issue.
What do Google and Microsoft say?
Both firms have strongly denied allowing the US government and NSA to access their servers.
According to Snowden, he carefully evaluated every document he disclosed to ensure it was legitimately in the public interest.
'There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is,' he said.
Given the Obama administration's track record at prosecuting whistle-blowers, he fully expects to get the same treatment. But he insists he is not afraid of what lies ahead because 'this is the choice I've made,' he told The Guardian.
According to the newspaper, he broke down just once during the series of interviews, when he was discussing the impact his actions would have on his family, many of whom work in government agencies or departments. He said these fears for his family's welfare kept him up at night.
Snowden's ability to get to the center of the NSA is impressive given he attended community college in Maryland, where his family relocated when he was a teen, to obtain his high school diploma but dropped out before completing.
In 2003, he enlisted in the army and began a training program to join the Special Forces, explaining to The Guardian that he wanted to fight in the Iraq war because he felt he had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression - the same reason he is giving to justify his leaks.
But he broke both his legs in a training accident and was discharged.
He got his first NSA job working as a security guard at one of the agency's facilities at the University of Maryland before moving to the CIA to work on IT security. There, he rose quickly.
He was given more and more access to top-secret documents as he climbed the ranks. Then in 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was responsible for maintaining computer network security and privy to more secrets than ever before.
Snowden has good reason to be concerned. The NSA - the most powerful and secretive organization in the world - is hunting him down, having visited his home in Hawaii twice and already contacted his girlfriend.


1978: In response to outrage over spying on activists and other U.S. citizens, Congress passes the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It creates a secret court to monitor spying within the United States. Known as the FISA court, its judges sign off on wiretapping and search warrants used against foreign agents and suspected spies and terrorists and Americans involved with them.

September 2001: The shock of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington pushes George W. Bush's administration to seek new powers to improve intelligence-gathering and prevent terrorism.
October 2001: Congress and Bush rush the USA Patriot Act into law. It gives the government unprecedented authority to search, seize, detain or eavesdrop in pursuit of suspected terrorists. Because of privacy concerns, lawmakers make the eavesdropping provisions and other controversial aspects temporary, requiring renewal by Congress.
December 2005: The New York Times reports that the National Security Agency is secretly eavesdropping on telephone calls and emails of Americans communicating with people outside the United States, without seeking warrants from the FISA court. What becomes known as 'warrantless wiretapping' began in 2002 under a presidential order. Critics call it unconstitutional, but the Bush administration says it's legal.
March 2006: Congress votes to renew the Patriot Act, although lawmakers voice concerns about the government's broad powers to conduct surveillance and collect data.
May 11, 2006: USA Today reports that the NSA is secretly collecting phone records of millions of Americans in a giant database. Some of the phone companies cited dispute the story.
August 2006: A federal judge in Detroit rules that the NSA's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional because it infringes on free speech, privacy and the separation of powers. The program continues as the case is appealed.
January 2007: Responding to the court challenge and lawmakers' concerns, Bush suddenly changes course. His administration announces it will begin seeking approval from the FISA court when eavesdropping on telephone calls between the U.S. and other countries in pursuit of terrorists.
August 2007: Congress approves changes sought by the Bush administration to the FISA Act, officially allowing NSA eavesdropping on communications between an American and a suspect foreigner, without a FISA judge's approval.

May 2011: Congress passes and Obama signs a four-year extension of Patriot Act provisions on record searches and roving wiretaps. Some lawmakers complain that the law doesn't do enough to protect Americans' privacy and the disagreement forces the renewal to the last minute.

June 5, 2013: A British newspaper, The Guardian, reports that the NSA is collecting the telephone records of millions of American customers of Verizon under a top secret court order. Security experts say the records of other phone companies are also involved.

June 6, 2013: The Guardian and The Washington Post report that the NSA and the FBI are tapping into U.S. Internet companies, including Google and Facebook, scooping out emails, photos and videos to track foreign nationals who are suspected of terrorism or espionage.
That night, in a rare disclosure, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reveals some information about the programs to counter what he says is the 'misleading impression' created by news coverage.
Clapper says the government is prohibited from 'indiscriminately sifting' through the data and can only review it when the query involves a reasonable suspicion that a foreign terrorist organization is involved. Clapper says articles about the Internet program 'contain numerous inaccuracies' but does not specify what those might be.

June 7, 2013: Obama defends the programs, saying he came into office with 'healthy skepticism' about them and has increased some safeguards to protect privacy. But he offers assurances that 'nobody is listening to your telephone calls' or reading citizens' emails. Obama says privacy must be balanced with security: 'We're going to have to make some choices as a society.'

June 8, 2013: For the second time in three days, Clapper takes the unusual step of declassifying some details of an intelligence program in response to media reports. He says the government program for tapping into Internet usage is authorized by Congress, falls under strict supervision of a secret court and cannot intentionally target a U.S. citizen.
Clapper says the data collection had the approval of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court and was done with the knowledge of Internet service providers. He says media revelations of government intelligence-gathering programs are reckless and give America's enemies a 'playbook' on how to avoid detection.

June 9, 2013: Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old contractor who claims to have worked at the National Security Agency and the CIA allows himself to be revealed as the source of disclosures about the U.S. government's secret surveillance programs. Snowden tells The Guardian newspaper his 'sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.'
Source: Associated Press

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Friday, 7 June 2013

Fear the cyber enemy within or without?

Robert Peston Business editor (BBC) 

Verizon store
The National Security Agency collects records of phone calls
What is more troubling - governments that apparently disregard the privacy of our phone calls and online activity in the interests of national security, or governments that seem to put a higher priority on hi-tech inward investment than on protecting national security?

In the past 24 hours, we have had alleged examples of both.

There have been the reports in the Guardian that America's National Security Agency (NSA) has been secretly collecting customer phone records by the million from the telecoms giant Verizon and that it has direct access to the systems of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Skype, Facebook and YouTube, inter alia. (More on this from technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.)

Although many are outraged by what they see as a Big Brother impingement on citizens' right to privacy, for others it is a "dog bites man" story.

We might loathe the idea, but we probably expect our security services to be eavesdropping and trampling on our civil liberties.

“20% of detected cyber attacks against UK interests demonstrate levels of sophistication which indicate they are more likely to be state-sponsored”

Intelligence and Security Committee

Which is certainly not to downplay the significance of the NSA trawling through big data on all of us. There is an important question about whether fundamental freedoms are threatened (though no one seems to be suggesting that the US government is breaking the law).

Perhaps the more surprising revelation on Thursday was by the UK's Intelligence and Security Committee, chaired by the former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind - because it revealed a mixture of complacency and extraordinary bungling by the British government over the purchasing of what the committee calls "critical national infrastructure" from a Chinese telecoms giant with "perceived links to the Chinese state".

The infrastructure is BT's telecoms network, which was upgraded a few years ago as part of what was called the 21st Century Network Project. As part of this massive investment, BT bought transmission and access equipment, including routers, from China's Huawei, the world's second largest telecoms equipment company.

As the committee says, it is the alleged links between Huawei and the Chinese state that are "concerning", as they "generate suspicion as to whether Huawei's intentions are strictly commercial or are more political".

The committee also points out that "20% of detected cyber attacks against UK interests demonstrate levels of sophistication which indicate they are more likely to be state-sponsored" and "China is suspected of being one of the main perpetrators of state-sponsored attacks".

“I'm of the view that life is too short to worry about whether the FBI is reading my emails, or scanning my Facebook updates”

Now the committee does not prove that Huawei has unhealthy links to the Chinese government. It points out that Huawei itself categorically denies direct links with China's government or military. But the committee regards these denials as surprising and can't verify them, so says that the British government should be vigilant, in case the links are real.

What the committee argues is that the UK government has been anything but vigilant.

Although BT first told government officials in 2003 of Huawei's interest in the network contract, it wasn't till 2006 that civil servants informed ministers - and that was a year after the contract had been signed.

As the committee says, "there is no proper process of ensuring ministers are informed or consulted" which is "extraordinary given the seriousness of the issue".

And, the committee adds, there is "a surprising lack of clarity as to which minister would be responsible for such decisions".

In the event, the Home Secretary was eventually informed about the security implications, although the body that provided technical advice reports to the foreign secretary and the formal powers seem to rest with the culture media and sport secretary. It is a muddle.

“GCHQ said that it has confidence in BT's management of the network”

Nor is it clear whether the government has the formal power to intervene, should it choose to do so.

Anyway, what's done is done. The provision of equipment by Huawei has been made.

And, what's more, it seems to have been a stepping stone to a significant £1.2bn research investment by Huawei in the UK - which, in the light of Britain's economic woes, has been welcomed by the government.

But the question remains whether British national security is at risk as a consequence of the Huawei contributions to BT's network.

Again, the committee is not reassured or reassuring - even though one of Britain's intelligence agencies, GCHQ, said that it has confidence in BT's management of the network.

The committee said: "The software that is embedded in telecommunications equipment consist of 'over a million lines of code' and GCHQ has been clear from the outset that 'it is just impossible to go through that much code and be absolutely confident you have found everything'."

In 2010, the UK government raised its security concerns with Huawei, which agreed to establish a Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, called the Cell - which is supposed to verify that there are no security risks when Huawei equipment is sold to British businesses.

However, the committee has a number of concerns about the Cell, namely that it has taken too long to be fully functional, that it is run by Huawei and it is staffed by Huawei people, albeit vetted by the British security services.

“The committee calls on the government to set up an effective early warning system for when there is foreign investment in critical national infrastructure”

The committee says "we remain concerned that a Huawei-run Cell is responsible for providing assurance about the security of Huawei products... A self-policing arrangement is highly unlikely to provide, or to be seen to be providing, the required levels of security assurance".

There is a wider issue here for the committee, which is that there have not existed robust arrangements in government to vet procurement by private sector companies of all manner of equipment relating to critical national infrastructure projects.

As the committee puts it, "where there is a privately owned company answerable to shareholders, many of whom may be based abroad, there will almost certainly be a tension with national security concerns".

Or to put it another way, the imperative for a British public company will be to buy the best equipment at the lowest price. But the cheapest equipment may be the kit that is most vulnerable to cynical exploitation by a foreign government or other overseas interests with malign intentions.

So the committee calls on the government to set up an effective early warning system for when there is foreign investment in critical national infrastructure and a procedure for assessing the immediate and longer term risks,

As it happens, the government claims it has now developed just such a set of processes. But the committee caustically concludes that "whether these processes are sufficiently robust remains to be seen".

Thursday, 19 April 2012

To protect Internet freedom

Birgitta Jónsdóttir,
Wednesday 18 April 2012 10.00 BST
Political consultant Naomi Wolf speaks at a news
conference in New York last month announcing a lawsuit against indefinite
detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act. Photograph:
viewpress Vp/Demotix/Corbis
Freedom for most people is something sacred, and
many have been willing to sacrifice their lives for it. It is not just another
word, for we measure the health of our democracies by the standard of freedom.
We use it to measure our happiness and prosperity. Sadly, freedom of
information, expression and speech is being eroded gradually without people paying much attention to it.
Freedom of movement is permitted within certain zones, freedom of reading is disappearing, and the right to privacy is
dwindling with the increased surveillance of our every move.
When the world wide web came into being, it was an
unrestricted, free flowing world of creativity, connectivity and close
encounters of the internet kind. It was as if the collective consciousness had
taken on material (yet virtual!) form and people soon learned to use it to
work, play and gather. Today's social and democratic reform is born and bred
online where people can freely exchange views and knowledge. Some of us
old-school internet freedom fighters understood this value way before the web
became such a part of our daily lives. One of them is John Perry Barlow, who in
1996 wrote a Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace in a response to an
attempt to legalise restrictions on this brand new world. In it he declares:
"Governments of the industrial world, you weary giants of flesh and steel,
I come from Cyberspace, the new home of mind. On behalf of the future, I ask
you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no
sovereignty where we gather."
Barlow inspired me and others to create the
Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI),
a parliamentary proposal unanimously approved by the Icelandic parliament in
2010, tasking the government to make Iceland a safe haven for freedom of
information and expression, where privacy online would be as sacred and guarded
as it is in the real world. The spirit of IMMI is in stark contrast with the
serious attacks we are currently faced with. We have legal monsters like Acta, Sopa, Pipa and
now Cispa; we
have anti-terrorist acts abused to tear these liberties apart; we have armies
of corporate lawyers scrutinising every bit of news prior to it getting out to
us before we ever get to know the real stories that should remain in the public
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The US
government legally hacks into other nations' parliamentary
private social media data because it is stored on servers originating in the
US, as in my Twitter case. The infamous EU data retention law is making us all
into terrorist subjects by default, and now we have the newest addition in a
dangerous cocktail of erosion of civil liberties online with the offline
reality: meet the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), also known
as the Homeland Battlefield Act. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
describes it thus:
"For the first time in American history, we
have a law authorising the worldwide and indefinite military detention of
people captured far from any battlefield. The NDAA has no temporal or
geographic limitations. It is completely at odds with our values, violates the
constitution, and corrodes our nation's commitment to the rule of law."
Since the US department of justice is ploughing my private data and WikiLeaks (whom I volunteered for in
2010 by co-producing Collateral Murder) are defined by the US vice-president as
cyberterrorists, I felt under direct threat when NDAA was passed. I have not
been able to travel to the US for more than a year under advice from the
Icelandic state department. The only way for me to go is on a UN visa (the same
kind as Gaddafi and Hussein got when going to the UN) when I plan to attend the
UN assembly later this year. Basically what NDAA means is that the US military
can put anyone, anywhere under the suspicion of being a terror threat or an
associate and detain you for ever, without you having access to a lawyer or a
court. So I joined Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg and other
activists in suing the United States government to stop the implementation of
the NDAA. Naomi Wolf was kind enough to read my testimony
at a US court last month, since I could not be there in person.
The good news is that cyberspace is full of hacktivists and our
offline world has a growing Occupy movement,
inspiring all of us into action, co-creating a different reality in the spirit
of a true online and offline freedom.
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its
affiliated companies.

Guardian News link:

How Internet firms are reading your texts and emails and even looking at your pictures by spying through downloaded smartphone apps

By Damien Gayle
The small print included with many mobile phone apps is
giving their developers the right to rifle through users' phone books, text
messages and emails.

By agreeing to little-read terms and conditions documents,
phone users are giving developers the right to inspect their personal
information and even find out who they are talking to.

In many shocking cases, users are even giving apps the right
to collect whatever images the camera happens to be seeing, as well as the
phone's location.
Privacy risk: Smartphone
app developers have the right to access incredible amounts of users' personal
data thanks to provisions in little-read terms and conditions documents
Facebook, Yahoo!, Flickr and Badoo all admitted to reading
users' text messages through their Android smartphone apps, the Sunday Times
And many other apps from less well-known developers, many of
them available for free, are also including the rights to access your personal
data in their terms and conditions.
Think before you
text: Divorce lawyers warn of the powerful evidence of a simple SMS message or
Facebook post
Smartphones replace
newspapers as choice of reading material... for men in the toilet
Android leaps over
iPhone in UK with 2.5million more users as majority now own a smartphone

Academics are now warning the many apps are little more than
'fronts' to allow companies to hoover up personal data and pass them on to
advertisers for a fee.

But the revelations also make clear that the wealth of data
collected by the new generation of smartphones could pose a serious risk to
users' privacy.


Location data
Internet history Text messages Contact book Online account IDs Who you are
calling May intercept calls Can access camera
Twitter: The site admitted that its smartphone application
transmitted data from users' private address books
Daniel Rosenfield, director of Sun Products, a successful
app business whose products are downloaded at a rate of 5,000 a day, said the
information was requested by advertisers.

'You can sell your app but the revenue you get from selling
your apps doesn't touch the revenue you get from giving your apps away for free
and just loading them with advertisements,' he told the Sunday Times.

Unlike Android apps, Apple iPhone apps are covered by a
general terms and conditions policy, which runs to astonishing 17,000 words.

However, the company also faced embarrassment earlier this
month when it emerged some companies with iPhone apps were harvesting contact
lists from customers mobile phone address books without telling them.

Twitter admitted that it copied lists of email addresses and
phone numbers from those who used its smartphone application and stored them on
its servers without asking users' permission.

Steve Jobs, Apple's late founder and the mastermind behind
the iPhone, himself spoke of the dangers of instrusive apps in 2007, warning
that many 'want to take a lot of your personal data and suck it up.'

Chris Brauer, co-director of the centre for Creative and
Social Technology at Goldsmiths, University of London, echoed the concerns.

He warned that the ubiquitous smartphones have become 'a
source for incredibly rich information about people's lives.

'A lot of apps are fronts for various companies who are now
capturing this data.'
"Someone need to develop an app that avoids the leaking
of information" Yes the app is called stop using open to all Android and
use a windows phone or an iphone. Apple, Microsoft and Blackberry have more strict
controls of what apps go to their store.


Location data

Internet history

Text messages

Contact book

Online account IDs

Who you are calling

May intercept calls

Can access camera







































Angry Birds



Yahoo! Messenger








My Fitness Pal




My Remote Lock




Friday, 4 December 2009

Media Effect Theories Relating Violent Video Games to Violent Behaviour

From the Hypodermic Needle Theory otherwise known as the silver bullet approach to the Uses and Gratification Theory and the Limited Effects Model researches concerned with determining the link between media content and behaviour in viewers goes back in time -to the early 1930s perhaps. As it relates to Video games, these theories have been hailed as well as flawed in interpreting the social behaviours of game players.

In the first book uniting empirical research on and public policy options for violent video games; 'Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents' by Anderson, Gentile, and Buckley updated the traditional General Aggression Model to focus on both developmental processes and how media-violence exposure aggravated the likelihood of aggressive and violent behaviour in both short- and long-term contexts. Anderson et al. describe the reaction of the games industry to scientific findings that exposure to violent video games and other forms of media violence constitutes a significant risk factor for later aggressive and violent behavior. They argue that society should begin a more productive debate about whether to reduce
the high rates of exposure to media violence, and delineate the public policy options that are likely be most effective Anderson and Dill (2000:1) developed facts after a study that real-life violent video game play was positively related to aggressive behaviour and delinquency. Also, the study said graphically violent video games increased aggressive thoughts and behaviour.
However, sceptics built up a contrary school of thought which held that the approaches used were flawed and
suggested that gamers who prejudiced . Mackay (2002: 48) described those studies as weak and inaccurate.
According to Karen Sternheimer, sociologist at the University of Southern California games like Grand Theft Auto and Gears of War do not in any way cause youthf
ul players to commit real-life violence. 'Politicians and other moral crusaders frequently create “folk devils,” individuals or groups defined as evil and immoral. Folk devils allow us to channel our blame and fear... Video games... have become contemporary folk devils because they seem to pose a threat to children,' she said.

*This graph shows that as video game sales increased, the total number of violent crimes went down drastically.

Anderson, C. & Dill, K. (2000) : 'Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviour in the Laboratory and Life.' Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 78, no.4

Mackay, H. (2002): 'Media mania: why our fear of modern media is misplaced.' Sydney: University of New South Wales

Duke Ferris (2009): 'Caution Children at Play: The truth About Violent Youths and Video Games.' Available at (Accessed on December 4, 2009)

Violent Game Don't Cause Youth Violence Sayd USC Siociologist' (2007). Available at (accessed on December 4, 2009)