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By the end of 2012, everything you do on the Web will be under increasing scrutiny without the legal protection afforded to you in the Courts. Before you casually wave aside your rights as a U.S. citizen, ask yourself, Is this really the America I want to support and advocate for?
[The Copyright Alert System], this fatally flawed system, created via a backroom deal with no subscriber input, will start spying on U.S. subscribers’ Internet usage, and sending out warnings and punishments, before the end of 2012. (Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Protecting your privacy and what you do on the Internet has never been more important. Consider the increases of government intrusion on what you do (Source: C-Net):
A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans’ e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law, CNET has learned.
Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns, according to three individuals who have been negotiating with Leahy’s staff over the changes. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail, is scheduled for next week.
Revised bill highlights
✭ Grants warrantless access to Americans’ electronic correspondence to over 22 federal agencies. Only a subpoena is required, not a search warrant signed by a judge based on probable cause.
✭ Permits state and local law enforcement to warrantlessly access Americans’ correspondence stored on systems not offered “to the public,” including university networks.
✭ Authorizes any law enforcement agency to access accounts without a warrant — or subsequent court review — if they claim “emergency” situations exist.
✭ Says providers “shall notify” law enforcement in advance of any plans to tell their customers that they’ve been the target of a warrant, order, or subpoena.
✭ Delays notification of customers whose accounts have been accessed from 3 days to “10 business days.” This notification can be postponed by up to 360 days.
Leahy’s rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans’ e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge.
Folks, warrantless search is just plain wrong….
In the United States, warrantless searches are restricted under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, which provides that “The right of the people to be secure…against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (Source: Wikipedia)
I’ve heard too often the statement, “But I’m not doing anything wrong so it’s no big deal.” Every time I hear that, a part of me cringes as we yield up our rights as Americans. And, these kinds of intrusions are on the rise!
The United States Demands User Data More Often Than Any Other Country
The most recent report, disclosing information requests fielded in the six-month period ending in June of 2012, is in keeping with an alarming trend. On the whole, requests for user data are on the rise. In the first half of 2012, a total of 20,938 inquiries flooded into Google from government entities around the world. The requests pertained to about 34,614 accounts. (To get a sense of the big picture, check out this interactive map charting data requests by country.) (Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation)
While you can certainly take the usual steps to advocate against the kind of legislation proposed by Leahy, you can also take steps to protect and encrypt your private data:
- Encrypt your email (Gmail) transmissions. Here are some specific suggestions:
- Give AESCrypt.com a try. This is my favorite solution for quickly encrypting files, especially on Windows since it has right-click possibilities. Unfortunately, you will have to use the command line on Linux and Mac…as such, Mac users clinging to their precious GUI 😉 may want to stick with Keka or Truecrypt.
- On Windows, use 7zip.org compression tool.
- On Macintosh, use Keka, a wonderfully “new” 7zip tool for Macintosh that should replace your compression utilities.
- Use Enlocked to easily encrypt your email transmissions.
- Encrypt stored files you save in the cloud with:
- AESCrypt for Windows, Linux, and Mac
- Keka/7zip with AES encryption
- Use TrueCrypt.org to create a “locked” box of any size you wish. Into this locked box, you can place sensitive files and protect them. This works for Windows, Macintosh and Linux.
Get into the habit of encrypting your work and your email transmissions. Teach others how to do this. There’s no reason why you should fail to take these steps and still obtain the benefits of cloud-based email and storage.
INCREASING SCRUTINY OF WHAT YOU DO
Another danger that is looming is increasing scrutiny of what you do on the Internet.
The “Copyright Alert System” – an elaborate combination of surveillance, warnings, punishments, and “education” directed at customers of most major U.S. Internet service providers – is poised to launch in the next few weeks, as has been widely reported. The problems with it are legion. Big media companies are launching a massive peer-to-peer surveillance scheme to snoop on subscribers. Based on the results of that snooping, ISPs will be serving as Hollywood’s private enforcement arm, without the checks and balances public enforcement requires. Once a subscriber is accused, she must prove her innocence, without many of the legal defenses she’d have in a courtroom. The “educational” materials posted for subscribers thus far look more like propaganda, slanted towards major entertainment companies’ view of copyright. And all of this was set up with the encouragement and endorsement of the U.S. government. (Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation)
No matter what you do on the Internet, consider taking advantage of free The Onion Router (TOR) to mask what you do. Although you should manage your digital footprint, it’s also important to stand up for your rights rather than cede power to others.
Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. It also enables software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features. Tor provides the foundation for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.
Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers. Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses.(Source: https://www.torproject.org/about/overview.html.en)
You can also take advantage of other privacy resources:
- Privacy Resources
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) ; other VPN Solutions
- Use BTGuard type solution or these approaches