We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Interesting developments on the privacy front…

Two coms companies, Lavabit and Silent Circle, are working to make e-mail rather harder for the likes of the NSA to snoop on.

I would be interested to hear from our more tech savvy readers what they think of the proposals when they get more details.

Samizdata quote of the day

Enjoyable as it is to read Huhne’s opinions on law, order, liberty and privacy, funny he never felt so strongly about the activities of our security services while he was in power and could actually do something about it.

Guido Fawkes

Samizdata quote of the day

This lack of information, and therefore accountability, is a warning that the supervision of our intelligence services needs as much updating as their bugging techniques. The state should not feel itself entitled to know, see and memorise everything that the private citizen communicates. We cannot even rely on incompetence as a bulwark for our freedoms. The state increasingly has the capability to retain everything as the cost of computer memory collapses.

I have been shocked but also mystified by Snowden’s revelations. Throughout my time in parliament, the Home Office was trying to persuade politicians to invest in “upgrading” Britain’s capability to recover data showing who is emailing and phoning whom. Yet this seems to be exactly what GCHQ was already doing. Was the Home Office trying to mislead?

Chris Huhne

If you think what Snowden did was wrong, read this…

If you think what Edward Snowden did was wrong, read this article by John Lanchester.

Samizdata quote of the day

What moved Americans about Snowden was not just the scale of NSA hoovering of data – though polls indicate strong aversion – but the lying to Congress. Snowden, a Republican former soldier, was simply shocked at the clear collapse of congressional and judicial oversight. The US had lurched into aping precisely the totalitarian regimes it professed to guard against (…) Yet none of this seems to turn a hair in London. While Washington has been tearing itself apart, dismissive remarks by William Hague in the Commons and Lady Warsi in the Lords could have passed muster in Andropov’s supreme soviet. Hague said merely that everything was “authorised, necessary, proportionate and targeted”. National security was not for discussion. British oversight was “probably the strongest … anywhere in the world”. This remark – contradicted by GCHQ itself – went unchallenged.

Meanwhile Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, head of the intelligence and security committee and supposed champion of citizens against state intrusion, positively grovelled towards GCHQ. He said we should all defer to “those involved in intelligence work”. He even cancelled a public hearing with the security chiefs for fear of embarrassing them.

For Labour, Yvette Cooper claimed obscurely she “long believed in stronger oversight” but she was drowned by a dad’s army of former defence and home secretaries, such as Lord Reid, Lord King and Jack Straw. All rallied to the securocrats’ banner in shrill unison. I sometimes think these people would bring back the rack, the whip and the gallows if “vital for national security”.

Simon Jenkins

The future will be Open Source… and it will probably be illegal

There is an interesting article in the Guardian titled US and UK spy agencies defeat privacy and security on the internet:

  • NSA and GCHQ unlock encryption used to protect emails, banking and medical records
  • $250m-a-year US program works covertly with tech companies to insert weaknesses into products
  • Security experts say programs ‘undermine the fabric of the internet’

The second point is to me the most interesting as it suggest that open source is really the only way to fight back against this and as a result, I fully expect Open Source to eventually become illegal in the more panoptic parts of the world.

The first point however will be the driver of effective and widespread counter measures. The internet is simply too important to too many economic interests to allow the US and UK governments to have the ability to embed what will be catastrophic weaknesses in its underpinning architecture

Discuss.

Samizdata quote of the day

“I’d be seriously dubious about any “special relationship” with someone who habitually read all my emails, to be honest.”

– A quote I saw via Facebook.

How true…

From Paul Bernal

Curiouser and curiouser…

Edward Snowdon’s designated media conduit, Glenn Greenwald, has yet again played his hand with skill in a game that in theory is completely stacked against him. In response to information released by The Independent that purported come from Snowdon via him:

I have never spoken with, worked with, or provided any journalistic materials to the Independent. The journalists I have worked with have, at my request, been judicious and careful in ensuring that the only things disclosed are what the public should know but that does not place any person in danger. People at all levels of society up to and including the President of the United States have recognized the contribution of these careful disclosures to a necessary public debate, and we are proud of this record.

“It appears that the UK government is now seeking to create an appearance that the Guardian and Washington Post’s disclosures are harmful, and they are doing so by intentionally leaking harmful information to The Independent and attributing it to others. The UK government should explain the reasoning behind this decision to disclose information that, were it released by a private citizen, they would argue is a criminal act.”

How very very interesting.

Read this Greenwald article for the whole story. Might GCHQ be in the process of outsmarting themselves spectacularly?

Samizdata quote of the day

The spooks are not stupid. There are two ways they can respond to this in a manner consistent with their current objectives. They can try to shut down the press — a distinct possibility within the UK, but still incredibly dangerous — or they can shut down the open internet, in order to stop the information leakage over that channel and, more ambitiously, to stop the public reading undesirable news.

I think they’re going for the latter option, although I doubt they can make it stick. Let me walk you through the early stages of what I think is going to happen.

In the UK it’s fairly obvious what the mechanism will be. Prime Minister David Cameron has thrown his weight behind mandatory opt-out porn filtering at an ISP level, to protect our children from a torrent of filth on the internet. (He’s turned to Chinese corporation Huawei for the tool in question.) All new domestic ISP customer accounts in the UK will be filtered by default, unless the owner opts out. There’s also the already-extant UK-wide child pornography filter operated by the Internet Watch Foundation, although its remit is limited to items that are probably illegal to possess (“probably” because that’s a determination for a court of law to make). And an existing mechanism — the Official Secrets Act — makes it an offense to possess, distribute, or publish state secrets. Traditionally newspapers were warned off certain state secrets by a process known as a Defense Advisory Notice, warning that publication would result in prosecution. It doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to foresee the creation of a law allowing for items subject to a DA-Notice to be filtered out of the internet via a national-level porn filter to protect the precious eyeballs of the citizenry from secrets that might trouble their little heads.

On the other hand, the UK may not have a First Amendment but it does have a strong tradition of press freedom, and there are signs that the government has already overreached itself. We’ll know things are really going to hell in a handbasket when The Guardian moves its editorial offices to Brazil …

Charlie Stross

“Overpopulation” as an excuse, or justification, for state spying

I won’t name the guy – he was talking to me in a private setting and such things should remain private – but a friend of mine came up with this rather bizarre defence of the recent fact, as unearthed by Snowden et al, that the US and other powers engage in massive, unauthorised spying on their citizens:

Governments have always done this, so why the fuss now? Accept it and pour yourself a beer.

The world is “massively overpopulated, so with all these ghastly people infesting the planet, governments need to, and will find it easier to, spy on them.

Spying on people, even in ways we find scary, is inevitable, so relax and stop getting oxidised about it.

The second of the arguments interests me because it blends the Malthusian panic about too many humans (and begging the question of what “should be done” about them), pessimism about the inevitability of spying and other outrages, and a sort of world-wearying acceptance of big government. Quite an achievement.

Of course, it maybe that the person making this argument was just trying to be a knob and wind me up (he is familiar with my libertarian views and regards them, patronisingly, as a sort of jolly enthusiasm). But his opinions are probably quite wildely held out there among people who consider themselves to be “realists” and “sophisticated”.

Samizdata quote of the day

All suspicions which have been raised have been dispelled

German interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, referring to reassurances that British and US intelligence agencies “had observed German laws in Germany”.

It is compulsory to recite this quote in the voice of Cecil Baldwin from Welcome to Night Vale.
Dogs are not allowed in the dog park.
People are not allowed in the dog park.
All suspicions which have been raised have been dispelled.
Do not approach the dog park.