The use of NSLs is far from new, dating back several decades. But their use was expanded greatly after 9/11 and NSLs are different from other tools in a number of ways, perhaps most importantly in the fact that recipients typically are prohibited from even disclosing the fact that they received an NSL. Successfully fighting an NSL is a rare thing, and privacy advocates have been after the government for years to release data on their use of the letters and the number of NSLs issued. Now, the ODNI is putting some of that information into the public record."
Activist groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Greenpeace launched the 135-foot thermal airship early Friday morning to protest the agency's mass surveillance programs and to announce the launch of Stand Against Spying, a website that rates members of Congress on their support or opposition to NSA reform. The full message on the blimp reads 'NSA: Illegal Spying Below' along with an arrow pointing downward and the Stand Against Spying URL."
It turns out there's a significant flaw in the approach. Because both the medallion and hack numbers are structured in predictable patterns, it was trivial to run all possible iterations through the same MD5 algorithm and then compare the output to the data contained in the 20GB file. Software developer Vijay Pandurangan did just that, and in less than two hours he had completely de-anonymized all 173 million entries.
He says, "If a sequence of conventional mathematical operations isn't patentable, then no software should enjoy patent protection. For example, the 'data compression' patents that Justice Kennedy wants to preserve simply claim formulas for converting information from one digital format to another. If that's not a mathematical algorithm, nothing is. This is the fundamental confusion at the heart of America's software patent jurisprudence: many judges seem to believe that mathematical algorithms shouldn't be patented but that certain kinds of software should be patentable. ... If a patent claims a mathematical formula simple enough for a judge to understand how it works, she is likely to recognize that the patent claims a mathematical formula and invalidate it. But if the formula is too complex for her to understand, then she concludes that it's something more than a mathematical algorithm and uphold it."