Wednesday, October 25, 2006


The need to gather and intercept personal communication services delivered via emerging digital technologies and even collect voice and data calls and then process and display the intercepted information seemed justified under the guise of security. In US, the Government left no stone unturned in it efforts to counter terrorist activities by getting the “chatter” it gleans from the net and the mobile phone telecommunications network so as to be one step ahead of them”. And in he process, the privacy of its citizens is compromised. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is fighting back and demands the FBI to release what information is collected and under what circumstance. And in the local scene, all the ISPs have the basic tools to monitor the entire internet going on. And when the Police demand it, we are all exposed. Reduce your risks; use TOR, the free anonymyiser.

Download available here about 5MB
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EFF has also initiated the FLAG Project and has filed its first lawsuit against the Department of Justice after the FBI failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records concerning DCS-3000 and Red Hook – the sophiscated tools use to for electronic surveillance of personal communications.

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CNN Report via AP
Can people really tell what I search for over the Internet? You may be searching from the privacy of your home, but when it comes to just about anything online, there's no guarantee of privacy. Your Internet service provider may know about the controversial group you just researched. Your search engine may know about the divorce you're contemplating. And if you're surfing from work, your boss may know about the disease you just looked up. Some advice from Lauren Weinstein, a veteran computer scientist and privacy advocate: "Assume that everything you put into those search engines is being saved and might be handed out to somebody, someday, perhaps linked to your identity."All of the major search engines, which sometimes keep data for months or even years, acknowledge that they will hand over records when served with a court order, search warrant or subpoena, although Google Inc. earlier this year successfully fought to limit the scope of a Justice Department request.Short of demanding that companies erase all data immediately or that Congress strengthen privacy laws, consumers can't be assured of any privacy, Weinstein said.But Peter Eckersley, staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation,(EFF) said there are measures consumers can take to reduce the risks:
· Be careful what you type in. Avoid putting in personal information such as your name or credit card number. If you truly want to know what's being said about you online, do a "vanity search" for your name from a different computer so it's not tied to your other searches.

· Don't use the search engine provided by your Internet service provider, because searches then can be potentially tied to customer records.

· If you use e-mail or other services that require logging in, use a search engine from a different company or use a different browser to avoid data linkage. For instance, if you use Microsoft Corp.'s Hotmail, be careful when searching through the company's MSN search.

· Configure your browser to block data files called "cookies," or when that's not possible, periodically clear existing cookies from your browser. Cookies often have a unique identifier that can link your searches from one session to the next.

Even if consumers take all of those steps, searches can still be tied to a computer's numeric Internet Protocol, or IP, address, which can be traced back to you with a service provider's cooperation. That's less of a worry for dial-up users, because the address changes every time. High-speed users may need to reset their modems now and then, assuming they hadn't been assigned a permanent, or static, IP address.

The ultimate protection, Eckersley said, is to use anonymizer services such as Tor,(see below ban in Germany) whose development was partly funded by the EFF. With the free service, traffic gets routed through a number of computers, and no single one knows fully the path a packet of data takes. The search engine would only record the last computer relaying the information, not the user's real computer. Using anonymizers, however, can slow down performance, and you're trusting that the system works as promised. It may be possible with some poorly configured anonymizers for law-enforcement authorities to simply go to their operators with a subpoena, said Ari Schwartz, deputy director with the Center for Democracy and Technology. Although they aren't supposed to retain data, they can be asked to store information on a particular customer from a given point forward, he said. For those reasons, Weinstein shuns anonymizers completely. "All those things you do are chipping away at the edges of the problem, and the problem is still there glaring at us," he said. "That information is being collected, and the IP numbers are there with varying degrees of ease for tracking down."
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EFF Sues for Information on Huge FBI Database of Personal Information;October 17, 2006

'Investigative Data Warehouse' Includes Hundreds of Millions of Entries
Washington, D.C. - The FLAG Project at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Justice today, asking for records concerning the FBI's "Investigative Data Warehouse" (IDW) -- a huge database that contains hundreds of millions of entries of personal information. According to the FBI, the IDW was developed to collect a wide swath of personal information -- like "photographs, biographical information, physical location information, and financial data" -- for use in anti-terrorism investigations. The FBI said earlier this year that there were over 560 million items in the IDW, and that nearly 12,000 law enforcement agents had access to the information. EFF filed its suit after the FBI failed to respond to two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for records disclosing the criteria for inclusion in the database and the current privacy policy protecting this sensitive information, among other critical issues.

The FBI has failed to file a public notice describing the database and the criteria for including personal information, as required by the Privacy Act of 1974. "Americans deserve to know what information is collected under what circumstances, and who has access to it," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel, the director of the FLAG Project. "And what if this database contains false information about you? How would you correct that? These are serious questions that the FBI needs to answer." EFF's FLAG Project, launched last month, uses FOIA requests and litigation to expose the government's expanding use of technologies that invade privacy. A lawsuit filed earlier this month demanded that the FBI release records concerning DCS-3000 and Red Hook -- tools the FBI has spent millions of dollars developing for electronic surveillance of personal communications. "The public needs as much information as possible to evaluate tools that put our privacy at risk," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "The Department of Justice must abide by the law and publicly release information about these surveillance programs."

EFF Sues for Information on Electronic Surveillance Systems;

October 03, 2006; Posted at 11:34 AM
FBI Withholds Records on Tools to Intercept Personal Communications

Washington, D.C. - The FLAG Project at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed its first lawsuit against the Department of Justice Tuesday after the FBI failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records concerning DCS-3000 and Red Hook -- tools the FBI has spent millions of dollars developing for electronic surveillance. DCS-3000 is an interception system that apparently evolved out of "Carnivore," a controversial surveillance system the FBI used several years ago to monitor online traffic through Internet service providers. One Department of Justice report said DCS-3000 was developed to "intercept personal communication services delivered via emerging digital technologies" and that it was used "as carriers continue to introduce new features and services." According to the same report, Red Hook is a system to "collect voice and data calls and then process and display the intercepted information." The FLAG Project first filed its FOIA request for information about the surveillance systems on August 11, 2006. The FBI acknowledged receipt of the request, but the agency has not responded within the time limit required by law.

"Recent allegations of domestic spying by the U.S. government already have both lawmakers and the general public up in arms. Americans have a right to know whether the FBI is using new technology to further violate their privacy," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "The Department of Justice needs to abide by the law and publicly release information about these surveillance tools." EFF's FLAG Project, launched last month, uses FOIA requests and litigation to expose the government's expanding use of technologies that invade privacy. "Transparency is critical to the functioning of our democracy, especially when the government seeks to hide activities that affect the rights of citizens," EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel, who directs the FLAG Project. "We have recently seen numerous instances where federal agencies have sought to conceal surveillance activities that raise serious legal issues."

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Go here For the FOIA complaint filed against the Department of Justice

Go here For the full FOIA suit filed against the Department of Justice:

Go here For more on the FLAG Project:

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and in Germany, there is a “Crackdown” on use of ANONMYSIER

TOR servers seized in Germany ;13 September, 2006

Freedom of speech

The public prosecutor's office of Konstanz, Germany raided, during the last weekend some computing centres and seized several servers that were running copies of TOR, a well known software used for the anonymisation of the Internet usage. The action was related to a child pornography case, and, apparently, the IP addresses of the servers were found in a chat room where these kinds of images were traded. Those servers were probably configured as TOR Exit-Nodes. No charges have been brought against any of the owners of the servers - at least for now. Moreover, according to one of the persons whose servers were seized, a prosecutor told him that it was legal to run TOR servers in Germany. According to some, this might be one of the results of the last month declarations of the German officials that combating terrorism has become a much more important objective than respecting privacy and the right to anonymity on the Internet. Shava Nerad, the executive director of the TOR project, has confirmed that six TOR servers were seized during the investigation, among others. He also pointed out that: "This is not a "crackdown" on TOR, as has been widely reported. We expect and hope that the volunteer TOR server operators in Germany will get their equipment back after this has blown over, and there will be no action against TOR."

Go here: For Germany: Crackdown on TOR-node operators (10.09.2006)

Go here: For German police seize TOR servers (11.09.2006)

Go here: For German Computer Confiscations NOT an Attack on TOR (11.09.2006)

Go here: For EDRi-gram : German Minister of Justice wants limits to the anonymiser service (30.09.2006)

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