Navi Pillay, the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights, argues in a draft report that digital privacy is a human right, the Washington Post reports. Wide-ranging surveillance by the National Security Agency and the United Kingdom's General Communications Headquarters undermine that right, Pillay argues. Pillay's draft report argues "'the best remedy of all is to establish strong legal protections to ensure that such violations do not happen in the first place,'" the Post concludes.
Microsoft is making the first-ever challenge to a domestic search warrant seeking a customer's email stored in an Irish data center, the New York Times' Steve Lohr reports. Microsoft argues that having to turn over the email “would violate international law and treaties, and reduce the privacy protection of everyone on the planet.” But U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara argues that Internet firms can't avoid search warrants “simply by storing the data abroad.”
The FBI and the Justice Department are seeking to change criminal rules to make it easier for law enforcement to hack into suspects' computer "for evidence when the "computer’s physical location is unknown — a problem that officials say is increasing as more and more crime is conducted online with tools to conceal identity," The Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima reports.
Federal officials say that the rule change would not allow searches that aren't already permitted by law, the Post further reports.
Navi Pillay, the United Nations human rights chief who has been asked by the international membership organization to prepare a report on protection of the right to privacy, said that international action led to the end of apartheid in South Africa and that it can again lead to the end of massive surveillance of online activity, The Guardian reports. The experience of international action on apartheid "inspires me to go on and address the issue of internet [privacy], which right now is extremely troubling because the revelations of surveillance have implications for human rights … People are really afraid that all their personal details are being used in violation of traditional national protections," Pillay said.
Philip Alston, writing in Just Security, asks if the United Nations let the United States off the hook regarding Internet privacy. While the language of a United Nations resolution was watered down at American urging, Alston argues that there is good news in a resolution that is set to be adopted by the full UN this month. Among other good points, "by basing itself on the formulations of the right to privacy included in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the resolution implicitly rejects the US line that privacy rights derive only from a specific treaty which the US in turn insists has no extra-territorial implications," Alston writes.
The Washington Post reports on how the National Security Agency is sweeping up contacts lists in Americans' e-mail accounts and instant messaging accounts. For example, "during a single day last year, the NSA’s Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation," The Post reported. Over the course of a year, that would be millions of accounts. Is this contact information being paired with the already-revealed collection of nearly every record of phone calls made in the United States?
Even Americans who aren't living or working abroad are having their contact information collected because "data crosses international boundaries even when its American owners stay at home. Large technology companies, including Google and Facebook, maintain data centers around the world to balance loads on their servers and work around outages," The Post also reported.
On an amusing note, spam is just as annoying for spies as it is for the rest of us. "Spam has proven to be a significant problem for the NSA — clogging databases with information that holds no foreign intelligence value," The Post also reports.
The Recorder reports on a couple problems that arise out of large privacy class actions:
One, the classes are so large that, even though claimaints in class actions typically only are entitled to a small amount per person, they are too large to settle because they require settlement funds worth billions of dollars.
Two, the people whose privacy was invaded aren't known to the class-action lawyers and to the court and it requires further invasion of their privacy to identify them to give them notice of the class action.
Three, giving unclaimed, or cy pres, funds to legal charities is increasingly coming under attack.
Ladar Levison, founder of the now-shuttered secure Lavabit email service, is finally free to talk about the federal government's electronic pursuit of his most famous customer, leaker Edward Snowden, after a court unsealed documents in the case. Levinson told The New York Times that he closed down his business rather than cooperate because law enforcement didn't just want access to Snowden's communications but such broad access that they could have gotten to all of his patrons. According to The Times, "they wanted more, he said: the passwords, encryption keys and computer code that would essentially allow the government untrammeled access to the protected messages of all his customers. That, he said, was too much 'You don’t need to bug an entire city to bug one guy’s phone calls,'" Levison said.
Tech firms, including Yahoo and Facebook, want to be able to disclose more on the requests they receive from the government for Internet surveillance of Americans. The reason for not doing more earlier, the Yahoo CEO said, was the risk of committing treason and being imprisoned for it. In court, Yahoo is arguing that not being allowed to engage in the dialogue on surveillance or respond on the specifics of what it has been asked to do is a prior restraint on its free speech. Historically, governmental retraint on speech prior to publication or utterance has been extremely frowned upon and tends to get struck down by judges. That argument may be a stronger one for Yahoo to prosecute in the FISA court.