Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.

Tag Archives: User Consent

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Big Brother on wheels: Why your car company may know more about you than your spouse

“Though drivers may not realize it, tens of millions of American cars are being monitored,” reports The Washington Post, “and the number increases with nearly every new vehicle that is leased or sold. The result is that carmakers have turned on a powerful spigot of precious personal data, often without owners’ knowledge, transforming the automobile from a machine that helps us travel to a sophisticated computer on wheels that offers even more access to our personal habits and behaviors than smartphones do.”

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Google has been collecting Android users’ locations even when location services are disabled

“Many people realize that smartphones track their locations. But what if you actively turn off location services, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even inserted a carrier SIM card? Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet, a Quartz investigation has revealed.”

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Facebook says it shouldn’t have to stay mum when government seeks user data

“Major technology companies and civil liberties groups have joined Facebook in a closed courtroom battle over secret government access to social media records,” reports The Washington Post’s Ann Marimow.

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Why one Republican voted to kill privacy rules: “Nobody has to use the Internet”

Today in Republican idiocy, we present a ridiculous statement by Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who is sadly lacking any sense.

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Montana, other states working on legislation to protect broadband internet privacy

“States have started writing their own legislation to protect broadband privacy after Congress voted to repeal regulations that would have required internet providers to obtain their customers’ consent before collecting their personal information,” reports Matt Volz for The Associated Press.

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Edward Snowden says Hillary Clinton’s bogus statements show a “lack of political courage”

“Hillary Clinton twice this week has insisted, contrary to the facts, that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden could have accomplished his goals and avoided punishment if he’d raised his concerns through the proper channels,” writes The Intercept‘s Jenna McLaughlin.


I can think of nothing that has done more harm to the Internet than ad tech… It interferes with everything we try to do on the Web. It has cheapened and debased advertising and spawned criminal empires.

— Bob Hoffman, a veteran ad executive, industry critic, and author of the blog the Ad Contrarian, who recently spoke to Bloomberg Businessweek for its feature The fake traffic schemes that are rotting the Internet.

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NSA spying relies on AT&T’s ‘extreme willingness to help’

“The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T,” reports ProPublica in a new investigative expose published jointly with The New York Times.

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Leading cryptographers oppose FBI’s desire for built-in backdoor to bypass encryption

A group of elite cryptographers today released a paper concluding that any laws requiring that the United States and British governments be able to break into encrypted systems by way of a legally-mandated backdoor would be incredibly dangerous to the security of critical infrastructure and would defeat the purpose of encryption.

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When a company is put up for sale, in many cases, your data is, too

Some Internet companies claim they will not sell users’ data, but certain clauses found in their terms of service allow them to transfer user data if a merger occurs. The New York Times explains.

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The great SIM heist: How spies stole the keys to the encryption castle

Using documents provided by Edward Snowden, The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley explain how the National Security Agency and its British counterpart hacked into the computers of the world’s largest Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card manufacturer in the world to steal the encryption keys used to secure mobile to mobile communications.

Chat Transcript

Re/Code’s Kara Swisher talks with Barack Obama about encryption becoming a default

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Where there is a situation in which we’re trying to get a specific case of a possible national security threat — is there a way of accessing it? If it turns out it’s not, then we’re really gonna have to have a public debate. And, you know, I think some in Silicon Valley would make the argument — which is a fair argument, and I get — that the harms done by having any kind of compromised encryption are far greater …

KARA SWISHER: That’s an argument you used to make.


KARA SWISHER: You would have made. Has something changed with…

BARACK OBAMA: No, I still make it. It’s just that I am sympathetic to law enforcement.

KARA SWISHER: Because years [ago], you were much stronger on civil liberty.

BARACK OBAMA: I’m as strong as I have been. I think the only concern is our law enforcement is expected to stop every plot. Every attack. Any bomb on a plane. The first time that attack takes place in which it turns out that we had a lead and we couldn’t follow up on it, the public’s going to demand answers.

— Re/Code’s Kara Swisher talks with Barack Obama about encryption becoming a default (Dialogue from the full transcript of their conversation).

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Shades of Orwell’s 1984: Samsung reveals its SmartTV is always listening

The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris reports, “You may be loving your new Internet-connected television and its convenient voice-command feature—but did you know it’s recording everything you say and sending it to a third party?”


That we can identify government officials, journalists and politicians with the help of a wireless network and their less thoughtful use of online services demonstrates the tremendous power available in controlling the Internet.

— Swedish Pirate Party youth wing chairman Gustav Nipe (Activist pulls off clever Wi-Fi honeypot to protest surveillance state)


With Chrome, you give up a lot of control over your own security.

— Blogger Chris Travers, who works on the LedgerSMB project, explaining that it’s problematic to trust Google (or any other large company) as the “middle man” in the flawed secure certificate system. (From is Is Firefox in a fix?)

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Supreme Court of Canada delivers huge victory for Internet privacy

Blogger Michael Geist breaks down the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v Spencer, in which the court unanimously found that users have a right to privacy and that a request for subscriber information from an Internet service provider by the police constitutes a search.


The privacy announcements today are a political smokescreen to enable Facebook to engage in more data gathering… They claim to protect user privacy at the same time as they work to undermine it.

— Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, explaining to the New York Times that Facebook’s announcement that it will allow users to see and alter what’s in their advertising profile is a cover for the major expansion in “opt-out” tracking that the company has planned.

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Major technology companies building technical defenses against NSA

The New York Times reports that technology giants like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook are finally resisting the federal government’s massive surveillance regime on behalf of their users and customers, after having been quietly cooperative with the NSA and other intelligence agencies.

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NSA chief: Snowden “probably not” a Russian spy

The head of the National Security Agency has admitted the NSA doesn’t believe it likely that Edward Snowden is working on behalf of Vladimir Putin’s regime, or any other for that matter… despite baseless and unfounded suggestions by members of the Congress to the contrary.

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U.S. Marshals seize local cops’ spying records to keep them from ACLU

In a move that staff for the American Civil Liberties Union are calling “beyond the worst transparency violations” they’ve seen, the U.S. Marshals Service has seized documents belonging to the police department of Sarasota, Florida, merely to prevent the ACLU from looking at them. The documents pertain to a case in which the Sarasota police used a device that simulates a cell tower to locate and track smartphones without obtaining a probable cause warrant. The device, called a stingray, works by tricking mobiles into believing they’re connecting to a carrier’s tower.


When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government. The U.S. government should be the champion for the Internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.

— Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, expressing frustration that the NSA’s mass surveillance regime is undermining America’s technology industry and impeding damaging the nation’s credibility around the world. Zuckerberg should take his own advice and abandon Facebook’s “ask forgiveness, not permission” approach.