surveillance | MIT Center for Civic Media

Forbidden Research liveblog: Against the law: countering lawful abuses of digital surveillance

With bunnie huang, Author, Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering and Edward Snowden. Liveblog by Sam Klein, Erhardt Graeff, and myself.

Introduction and overview from Snowden

This is my first time giving an academic talk, and I think it's the first time a US exile is presenting research at a US academic institution. One of the great things about Cory's talk is that we don't talk enough about how laws are a weak guarentee of outcome. theft, murder, etc still happen.

The Effects of Surveillance and Copyright Law on Speech: Jon Penney at Berkman

What effects do laws and surveillance have on the exercise of freedoms online?

Today, the Berkman Center welcomed Jon Penney (@jon_penney), who is finishing his D.Phil at the University of Oxford, to talk about his dissertation research on chilling effects. Jon is a lawyer, Oxford researcher, and a research fellow at the the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab.

What is a chilling effect? The idea, theorized in a US context by Schauer in 1978, was that laws might have an effect on legal, protected, and desired activities. Judges have been skeptical about this idea. In Laird v Tatum, judges claimed that chilling effects were not a 'cognizable' injury. In response to recent NSA cases, chilling effects were dismissed as too speculative. Scholars agree. Kendrick argued that chilling effects have a "flimsy" empirical basis. Many open questions remain, including the magnitude of chilling effects and their reach. In his dissertation, Jon set out to answer some of those questions.

HOPE X: Themes and Reflections


Image by Willow Brugh.

Over the weekend, I attended HOPE X, the 10th Hackers on Planet Earth conference, organized by 2600 Magazine. HOPE is my favorite hacker conference, and a strong contender for my favorite conference overall, because although content is tech-heavy, it's not really about technology. HOPE is a conference by and for those interested in the hacker ethos of free information, understanding the world, and empowerment to fix what is broken— including keynote speakers Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg. So HOPE is a great place to think about the intersection of technology, journalism, and activism. Throughout the conference, I noticed several recurring themes.

Code Is Not Enough

HOPE X: Ethical Questions and Best Practices for Service Providers in the Post-Snowden Era

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Nicholas Merrill, Calyx Internet Access, @nickcalyx
Ladar Levison, Lavabit
Declan McCullagh, @declanm

FBI Agents asked Ladar to turn over his SSL key. This meant 1. that the SSL key belonged to the provider, not the user; 2. that they would need to decrypt everyone's communication to find what they wee looking for; 3. that was beyond what he felt he could morally do. It was even worse, that he was prevented from telling anyone about the request.

Question: Could you talk to an attorney?

Ladar: Because the request was tied to criminal investigation, I was able to consult an attorney. If it's a classified warrant you need permission from the FBI before contacting a lawyer. He wanted to talk to others to get more information about these types of requests, but he couldn't.

Question: If you start a big company. What do you do when a government agency asks to tap your metadata, you appeal and you lose?

HOPE X: Ask the EFF - This Year On the Internet

Liveblogged at HOPE X. The speakers have cautioned that this talk is not legal advice.


Nate Cardozo, Attorney
Kurt Opsahl, Attorney
Adi Kamdar, Activist
Peter Eckersley, Technology Projects Director
Eva Galperin, Global Policy Analyst

It's been a busy year at the EFF. They've been focusing a lot on the national security space over the last year.

Kurt Opsahl works on NSA cases. Jewel v. NSA has been going on since 2008, related to AT&T's involvement with NSA wiretapping. First Unitarian v. NSA is focused on the right of association, and your right to anonymity in who you associate with. Just earlier this week, the EFF and ACLU joined Smith v. Obama. Kurt also works on a case arguing that National Security Letters are unconstitutional and is defending the decision against appeal.

Codesign Studio: Mar 1-2 CounterSurveillance DiscoTech

Our Spring 2014 Codesign Studio (codesign.mit.edu) has begun. This semester, we're experimenting with a few new pieces:

  • Surveillance theme - all of our partnerships are with partners who are organizing and creating around issues of surveillance
  • Distributed partnerships - partners this semester are not just Boston-based
  • DiscoTech/Hackathon - we're supporting a distributed DiscoTech (discovering technology) event, which is a sort of "inclusive" hackathon.

codesignpo2-600

Partners!
As always, our partners and students are amazing. Here's a link to the recorded live stream of all of the partner presentations.

ICU Oakland: Surveillance Camera Walking Tours and Anti-Surveillance Community Organizing

contributors: Sarah Reilly (Design Action Collective), Salima Hamirani, Jesse Strauss (Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant), Bex Hurwitz (RAD/MIT Center for Civic Media), Mark Burdett (EFF), Emi Kane (Allied Media Projects)
orig post date: Oct 2013

UPDATE: Check out Oakland Privacy Group's post for the latest about the DAC! https://oaklandprivacy.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/177/


Surveillance Camera Map made from walking tour in Oakland CA.
Surveillance Camera Map made from walking tour in Oakland CA.

 

The Government is Profiling You: William Binney (former NSA)

CORRECTIONS via Deborah Hurley: The organizers of the event were Deborah Hurley and Ron Rivest. The event was co-sponsored by MIT Cryptography and Information Security Group and the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference (cfp.org). I invited Bill Binney to give his talk and invited Carol Rose, ACLU of Massachusetts, to serve as discussant to Bill's talk. The talk was subsequently posted at: http://techtv.mit.edu/genres/49-technology/videos/21783-the-government-i.... Following the recent revelations, I learned (yesterday) that someone had posted it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB3KR8fWNh0. Although the MIT techtv version was fine initially, it does seem to have developed some audio/video problems.

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The magic, terror and potential of world webcams

I have recently become obsessed with Google's world webcam widget, which I have embedded on my iGoogle page. There's also a main page, hosted by a partnered for-profit company (Catfood Software) where you can check out some of the 800+ webcams set up around the world.

What's cool/horrifying about this is that it doesn't just show you a webcam; it lets you control the camera. You can zoom in and out, up and down. You can jump to a drop-down menu of locations (city center, famous church, boardwalk) set up by the camera owner. You can follow people as they walk down the street, and even take a still photo. This is equal parts terrifying and amazing. How can we reappropriate this surveillance for artistic, political or civic purposes? Wouldn't it be more powerful if people knew of the existence of said webcams and were willing and engaged participants in the virtual interaction between a stranger's computer screen and their beamed image?