Wednesday, July 10, 2013

If not, what would they have to be doing to violate the constitution? (and why don't US news organizations ask these questions any more?)
Alison Frankel writes:
The more we find out about the mostly secret inner workings of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the more questions we should all have about the intersection of national security and Fourth Amendment restrictions on unreasonable searches by government authorities. Based on recent comments by U.S. Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, the court is primed for an inevitable constitutional review of the National Security Agency’s program of gathering phone and Internet data from foreign suspects and U.S. citizens alike under provisions of the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That debate will surely center on the Fourth Amendment, but a lesser-known argument that has popped up in some cases challenging FISA wiretaps raises different constitutional objections to the NSA’s widespread data collection. And just as it was in California’s ban on gay marriage, Article III of the Constitution could be the linchpin of any Supreme Court decision on the legality of the NSA program.
Read more on Reuters.

(Related) “We gotta do something?”
If you didn’t watch the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) workshop yesterday, there will be a transcript of it. Some of the most interesting comments came from a now-retired FISC judge who seemed stunned at the direction the court has taken since his retirement. Dan Roberts reports:
James Robertson, who retired from the District of Columbia circuit in 2010, was one of a select group of judges who presided over the so-called Fisa courts, set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which are intended to provide legal oversight and protect against unnecessary privacy intrusions.
But he says he was shocked to hear of recent changes to allow more sweeping authorisations of programmes such as the gathering of US phone records, and called for a reform of the system to allow counter-arguments to be heard.
Speaking as a witness during the first public hearings into the Snowden revelations, Judge Robertson said that without an adversarial debate the courts should not be expected to create a secret body of law that authorised such broad surveillance programmes.
Read more on The Guardian. Not reported in Roberts’ story were statements made by Greg Nojeim of CDT, who in a soft-spoken voice, politely told the PCLOB members that Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act should just flat-out be repealed. The board, however, did not seem particularly interested in any such sweeping recommendations but seemed more receptive to ideas about introducing an adversarial component into the FISC process and learning more about the difficulties in determining whether someone is a US person or not, or where they are located for Section 702 purposes.

(Related)
Monica Ermert writes:
Judges of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on 9 July 2013 adamantly asked for proof of the necessity and efficiency of the EU Data Retention Directive.
While the representatives of the EU member states, the Council, the Commission and the Parliament had to acknowledge a lack of statistical evidence, they still demanded the Court to reject the complaints from Digital Rights Ireland, the working group AK Data Retention Austria (who were joined by over 11,000 citizens in their legal action) and individual complainant Michael Seitlinger, an Austrian IT expert.
Read more on Internet Policy Review. (via @TJMcIntyre)
@DaraghObrien also points us to this earlier piece by Glyn Moody that provides more background on the case.


“We looked. We couldn't figure it out either.”
CRS – NSA Surveillance Leaks: Background and Issues for Congress
NSA Surveillance Leaks: Background and Issues for Congress. Marshall Curtis Erwin, Analyst in Intelligence and National Security; Edward C. Liu, Legislative Attorney. July 2, 2013
“Recent attention concerning National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance pertains to unauthorized disclosures of two different intelligence collection programs. Since these programs were publicly disclosed over the course of two days in June, there has been confusion about what information is being collected and what authorities the NSA is acting under. This report clarifies the differences between the two programs and identifies potential issues [Not so much Bob] that may help Members of Congress assess legislative proposals pertaining to NSA surveillance authorities. One program collects in bulk the phone record —specifically the number that was dialed from, the number that was dialed to, and the date and duration of the call—of customers of Verizon Wireless and possibly other U.S. telephone service providers. It does not collect the content of the calls or the identity of callers… The other program collects the electronic communications, including content, of foreign targets overseas whose communications flow through American networks. The Director of National Intelligence has acknowledged that data are collected pursuant to Section 702 of FISA. As described, the program may not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States, [So should we add 'location' to the data collected? Bob] which is prohibited by Section 702. Beyond that, the scope of the intelligence collection, the type of information collected and companies involved, and the way in which it is collected remain unclear.”


Hello. What rock have you been sleeping under?
A research letter in JAMA is getting some attention in the news:
New research has raised alarm about threats to privacy posed by patients searching for health-related information on the internet.
Marco Huesch, a researcher at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, searched for “depression,” “herpes” and “cancer” on various health-related websites and observed that the data was being tracked.
“Confidentiality is threatened by the leakage of information to third parties” through trackers on the websites themselves or on consumers’ computers, he wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Read more on Sydney Morning Herald.
You can find Huesch’s research letter here (subscription required).


This could be wild...
Apple found guilty of e-books price fixing
In a quick decision, the Southern District of New York has ruled that Apple violated antitrust laws in government's e-book price-fixing case against the computing giant, according to the judge's decision Wednesday.
"This Court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that Apple conspired to restrain trade," Judge Denise Cote said in a 160-page opinion.


An Infographic for my TL;DR students...
Tech-savvy burglars use publicly-obtainable information e.g. Foursquare check-ins, location-based Facebook updates, and metadata from shared images to locate potential victims. To illustrate the risk of over-sharing on social media, Distinctive Doors designed this infograph explaining how they do it, and what you can do to protect yourself.

(Related)
Here is a little warning – if you are not too careful with what you post on your social media accounts, it may come back one day to haunt you. This is especially true with companies checking their applicants’ social networking pages for background checks. SimpleWash, formerly known as Facewash, is a web app that can help you ensure that your online public presence is clean and free from incriminating content. It can scan your Facebook and Twitter timelines for content that you probably want to hide from potential employers or family members.
Similar Tools: Export.ly and ArchivedBook.


Free stats for my students.
Now Free – Vital Statistics on Congress
“That essential Congressional reference book, American Enterprise Institute/Brookings’ Vital Statistics on Congress is now free and online – as downloadable Excel & PDF files.” [via Jennifer Manning]


For my Math students.
I continue to be amazed by Wolfram Alpha and the way it crunches numbers around openly available data. The result – it shows us the world in a far more inter-connected and interesting way. You can put Wolfram Alpha to use every day using the simplest method possible i.e. with a natural language query.
… Before you set off having fun here, here’s Ryan’s crash course on how to set up search queries on Wolfram Alpha and lay your hands on all the power behind it.
… Get the Statistics for Every NFL Team, Game, and Player from the Past 25 Years
… Check Your Hand of Poker
Solve Word Puzzles


For all my students
Many good-willed organizations out there release educational material for free, and some of it is actually very interesting and entertaining. The real question is, what is the best way to view this content?
Well, if you’re fine sitting at a computer, we have 5 websites that will expand your mind and 3 websites to get a University level education for free. With an iOS device, you can even get an official Khan Academy app. But what is a poor ol’ Android user to do? Read on to find out.
This relatively new app, released in March of this year by Mobispectra Technologies, is fantastic. If you want to organize all your educational videos in one place, Grace is the app to do it. Seriously, go download it right now.
… this one allows you to download videos to your Android device for offline viewing. Grace can’t do that.
… If you read a book that they have a study guide for, go through and read the study guide when you’re done. You’ll learn so much about the book. You can even go through the Harry Potter study guides if you’re a big enough nerd. Get the Android app here.


How the Computer Science, IT, and Math faculty shares knowledge
… Here’s a guide that will talk you through all the finer points of online meetings, including scheduling, writing agendas, video conferencing tools, minute-taking, brainstorming, and more.

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