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Google Asks Government For More Transparency, Other Groups Push Back Against NSA 323

Posted by Soulskill
from the do-not-go-gentle dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "In an open letter addressed to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and FBI director Robert Mueller, Google chief legal officer David Drummond again insisted that reports of his company freely offering user data to the NSA and other agencies were untrue. 'However,' he wrote, 'government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.' In light of that, Drummond had a request of the two men: 'We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope.' Apparently Google's numbers would show 'that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made.' Google, Drummond added, 'has nothing to hide.'" Another open letter was sent to Congress from a variety of internet companies and civil liberties groups (headlined by Mozilla, the EFF, the ACLU, and the FSF), asking them to enact legislation to prohibit the kind of surveillance apparently going on at the NSA and to hold accountable the people who implemented it. (A bipartisan group of senators has just come forth with legislation that would end such surveillance.) In addition to the letter, the ACLU sent a lawsuit as well, directed at President Obama, Eric Holder, the NSA, Verizon and the Dept. of Justice (filing, PDF). They've also asked (PDF) for a release of court records relevant to the scandal. Mozilla has also launched Stopwatching.us, a campaign to "demand a full accounting of the extent to which our online data, communications and interactions are being monitored." Other reactions: Tim Berners-Lee is against it, Australia's Foreign Minister doesn't mind it, the European Parliament has denounced it, and John Oliver is hilarious about it (video). Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked the information about the NSA's surveillance program, is being praised widely as a hero and a patriot. There's already a petition on Whitehouse.gov to pardon him for his involvement, and it's already reached half the required number of signatures for a response from the Obama administration.
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Google Asks Government For More Transparency, Other Groups Push Back Against NSA

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  • by Faizdog (243703) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @05:02PM (#43979083)

    One of the best comments was from John Oliver on the Daily Show. In response to Obama's defense that there is the FISA court overseeing this and that member's of congress are briefed, he said great, so it's not just one branch of government acting improperly, all 3 are! That's supposed to be better (me paraphrasing). It's not that these programs aren't illegal, it's the very fact that they aren't that's a problem! (Or aren't considered illegal by the government, many would argue they are illegal in sight of the Constitution).

    I'm usually a big government, bleeding heart liberal, but not in the areas of governmental police powers (monitoring citizens, etc). Basically, if the government is helping it's citizens, I support that (healthcare, etc) but if it's looking at it's citizens to protect itself, I don't like that at all.

    Here are 2 quotes that were on /. yesterday:
    "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government."
    -Patrick Henry

    "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."
    Patrick Henry

  • by vettemph (540399) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @05:37PM (#43979419)

    And why does traceroute show that EVERYTHING I ever trace goes through Washington, Ashburn VA. or McLean VA.

      I usually use the 'mtr' command (linux). I've been seeing this for years and have always been suspicious about it.
      The FBI wants us to report suspicious activity in case of terrorists. Well, I find this suspicious.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @05:43PM (#43979461)

    I'm not excusing the behavior. Those are your words. I'm nobody. You're paranoid.
    This story is old, like I said, about a decade old.

    The current media barrage includes the MSM. Lots of outrage is being manufactured. It's being spewed all over the social media landscape. All the earmarks of a social media manipulation campaign are here.

    It's nice that you feel strongly about this issue, and it is a just cause. Just don't forget in your passion that you might be manipulated.

    While it's nice that this is out in the open all of a sudden, people really should have being paying attention a decade ago. Instead they called me a terrorist lover and un-american. Today I shrug and say "Told you so".. And then you spit in my face when I tell you about the next way you're being conned. Oh well. I'm used to it.

    If I were to guess at the real meaning of recent events.. I'd say it's an attempt to create a feeling of big govt paranoia and mistrust among conservatives. This, Benghazi (or however its spelled), the IRS non-story, are a planed sequence of events to attempt to rile up the teapartiers and company for the coming elections. Nothing more.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @06:07PM (#43979685)

    What they do most likely have, is a tap point on Facebook's and Google's networks

    You're way over-thinking this. The NSA just sends their DBA's over to google with fake credentials. They get hired based on their stellar work history. Then they create accounts with full access to Googles APIs and hand them over to the NSA. The NSA can run any query they want against googles data. They can even CHANGE it. It would be a trivial thing to do and would only be noticed if the traffic was excessive. I doubt there's any query that Google would even bat an eyelash at given their size.

  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @06:17PM (#43979771) Journal

    Also, I'm sick of the word "snooping." This is not snooping.

    Snooping is what you do when you're 8 and you look in your parents' closet for your Christmas presents.

    Snooping is what you do when you ask around if the cute girl in school has a boyfriend and if she just "likes" you or if she "like likes" you.

    This is spying. This is invading. This is tracking, watching, monitoring, recording everything you, your mom and your kid sister do and storing it forever.

    And what's scarier than that revelation? CNN. I always knew the media in the US was "US centric." The reporters are Americans, so of course they're going to be more forgiving of stuff the government does to foreigners. But I rejected the "conspiracy theory" that what they report is dictated by the government, as they're for-profit companies. And they're lazy, so the horse race, talking heads reporting was just what lazy companies do.

    But that's not the case here. If they're just lazy...fuck, this should be easy. Massive government scandal. McCarthy/Watergate/Pentagon Papers all rolled into one. A reporter and a news agency could make a career, an empire out of this! Don't journalism students want to be Bob Woodward?

    And what's on the front page of CNN right now? I just looked. A picture of George W. Bush and a headline "Miss me yet?" about a poll. Another story "Second term blues for Obama." The same "hero or traitor?" op-ed everybody else has wherein "security experts" call him a traitor and then they find misspelled quotes from stoners about him, like, tellin' off the man and stuff, man.

    "Hero or traitor? Who can say!" Ummmmm...you can, CNN. That's your fucking job. It is literally the divide and conquer bullshit from Goebbels. Confirmation that both parties are totally fine with spying on every American citizen, and that's "second term blues?" SECOND TERM BLUES?! Completely unconscionable, unconstitutional, straight-up evil actions at the highest levels of the land, and that's "the blues?" No, CNN, that's not the blues. "Aw, shucks, I missed the bus and spilled coffee on my shirt" is the blues. This shit...this shit is not the blues. And the cure for the blues is the poll on the other story about electing a Republican next time, because that'll fix it, right?

    They're really complicit in feeding the red vs blue bullshit machine, when it would be easier, and more profitable to investigate the whole system.

    My dad always told me, "never attribute to malice what's just as likely ignorance." I thought CNN and the MSM were just lazy and inept, but...this isn't lazy or inept. This is directed. There's no other explanation.

    I want my mommy.

  • by Frobnicator (565869) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @06:44PM (#43979979) Journal

    And remember...they didn't do anything illegal, and it's only bad if it's illegal.

    That is where it gets tricky.

    It is easy to jump to conclusions, but just like any other technical field, you need to pay attention to the legal details.

    Technically what they did is legal. It is a loophole that has been in place for two centuries, ever since the Bill of Rights came into effect.

    Police found early on that they cannot compel the person to give up their own records, so they went for business records on the people. For example, if you want to get evidence of tax evasion you don't audit the individual, you get their bank records and other business records. The individual's own records are of very little value to the government. Other examples are your credit report (it is not your data, it is the credit bureau's data), and medical history (it is not your data, it is the hospital's data). They followed the legal steps to compel businesses to give up information about you.

    In that respect, they did follow the law. The spy organizations went to the courts, got a court order demanding business records, and executed the order. The codified law allows those requests, and the individual requests are legal. Congress knew about it, they made it legal. The courts knew about it, they have ruled on it many times. The spy agencies knew about it, they helped craft the laws. That is the law, and they followed it.

    So leads to the difficulty.

    Collecting some records is normally fine. That is how government has operated for two centuries now: Go to the courts, get a rubber stamp, get data from a business. For example, phone records may tie you (or your phone) to a crime. Police get a court's rubber stamp, get the record of an individual call from the phone company and proceed with their investigation. This is a long-established acceptable pattern.

    The law allows for collection of all kinds of data. Collecting all records in aggregate CAN mean something different than individual records. Collecting every record means you CAN track associations and assembly (First Amendment) and your general security (Fourth Amendment). It is a little shaky because they didn't directly interfere with the rights of the individual. The aggregate data MAY be used that way. But just because something CAN happen and MAY be done, but so far nobody can PROVE they were used to actually violate either set of constitutional rights.

    Without that proof, this is a very broad but still perfectly legal demand for data. Hence the difficulty under the law.

    Although I can easily argue that mass collection of data violates the First and Fourth, I am unable to draw a line between where obtaining some records is legal (and it needs to be legal for the system to work) and where it is enough that it violates the constitution. That line needs to be figured out.

  • Soooo... In other words, we should trust our government.... to always be doing bad in everything they do.

    I completely agree. How about this: Science. They make a claim some bill is good for us, we actually test the hypothesis and either keep or repeal the acts and laws if they are not beneficial, i.e. if there's no appreciable difference, then they get repealed because: Less rules = easier to understand system. We need to do this for every law on the book. Seems like what we need is science. I would start with three lettered agencies, followed by copyrights and patents. We have Zero evidence that they are beneficial. It would be irresponsible to continue running the wold on untested unproven hypotheses.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @09:16PM (#43981081)

    Vote these people out.

    I'm getting tired of hearing this. We did "vote these people out" and got Barack Obama. [cnet.com] The guy flat out lied. He lied about warrentless wiretaps. He lied about closing gitmo. He lied about ending the Iraq war. The solution isn't vote him out. The solution is throw him out. Impeach the son of a bitch.

  • by Patch86 (1465427) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @03:24AM (#43982741)

    Are you implying that you're OK with your government massively invading MY privacy (as a UK citizen), as long as you're alright Jack? Nice to know that this isn't a moral issue of Orwellian abuse for you, but just a selfish desire to keep the thugs from your own front door.

    I also hope you're OK with foreign governments returning the favour and monitoring your very move. Your definitely won't be complaining about having your rights violated if it's a British or Chinese agency reading your every email and logging your every phone call, right?

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