There’s no way to stop Americans — particularly those engaged in criminal activity and at risk from law enforcement — from running crypto without locking all computers, Ipad-style, so that they only run software from a government-approved “app-store.” The world teems with high quality, free, open crypto tools. Simply banning their integration into US products will do precisely nothing to stop criminals from getting their code from outside non-US vendors or projects. Only by attacking the fundamental nature of computing itself can the NSA hope to limit its adversaries’ use of crypto.
Apple catalyzed the public debate in September when it announced that one of the world’s most popular smartphones would come equipped with a unique digital key that can be used only by its owner. Even if presented with a warrant, Apple could no longer unlock an iPhone that runs its latest operating system.
Big Brother is watching you, listening to you, and tracking your every interaction.
Stingrays work by tricking cell phones into contacting them as if they were cell towers. This makes it easy for law enforcement to snag metadata, such as numbers dialed and how long conversations were, as well as the location of the phone itself. Stingrays do this indiscriminately to phones in an area, such as an apartment block. They also disrupt phone service for large numbers of people. US Marshals have even taken Stingrays (or devices that achieve a similar effect) to the air, which involves still more indiscriminate data being sucked up. (The CIA played a role in setting that one up.) Privacy advocates at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) call Stingray-style searches general warrants for the digital age, meaning they are at their core unconstitutional.
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
The US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Privacy Impact Assessment for the Border Searches of Electronic Devices outlines the finer points of border officials’ authority to search the electronic devices of citizens and non-citizens alike crossing the US border. What becomes clear is that this authority has been broadly interpreted to mean that any device brought into or out of the country is subject to the highest level of scrutiny, even when there is no explicit probable cause.
It’s a step in the right direction, and a good indication that the Republicans are finally getting their act together over this unconstitutional dragnet surveillance. Maybe.
Or, more specifically, an “NSA spy cam blocker,” which retails for $15 and comes with a giant “RAND” logo. “That little front-facing camera on your laptop or tablet can be a window for the world to see you—whether you know it or not!” the listing’s description reads. The 1.5 mm-thick item, which is “made with high-grade plastic,” is advertised as ideal for your laptop, smart TV, and Xbox Kinect, and it includes a plastic slider so that users can temporarily get Paul’s face out of the way for a Facetime call. However, it doesn’t include any accessories to dampen or block your device’s microphone; perhaps Ted Cruz can fill that fundraising-tchotchke gap in the near future.
To show how hard phone privacy can be, one artist examined the CIA, consulted hackers, and went far off the map (with a stop at Rite Aid).