Archive for the ‘privacy’ Tag

A Choice for Liberty   4 comments

I don’t really want to call Pavel Durov a hero, but I admire the courage of his stance.

The Open Book Blog Hop is still discussing Courage in all its many forms. You can join us —

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If you’ve never heard of Durov he is the elusive founder behind Telegram, an app that is now at the center of the encryption debate.

If you’ve been living in a cave since the Paris attacks, you may be unaware that international investigators have discovered terrorists used encrypted apps, including WhatsApp and Telegram to hide plotting for the attacks. You may also not be aware that the FBI wants Apple to unlock the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Here’s the problem in brief – technology companies are increasingly using encryption to protect our data. Encryption keeps your data out of the watchful eyes of hackers and … you guessed it, government data collectors. Terrorists use encryption to “go dark” so police can’t monitor those messages. What’s more, the phones themselves have passcodes that prevent anyone who doesn’t know the code from accessing the phone’s contents. When police obtain a court-authorized search warrant to seize evidence, they approach a tech company with a demand to see a customer’s information. Encryption largely makes those court orders worthless because many tech companies cannot unlock their customers’ data even if they want to. Customers hold the access key because Apple doesn’t know or store the password.

The FBI is demanding that tech companies like Apple and Microsoft design a second set of keys for law enforcement. The worlds’s top cryptographers call the FBI’s “suggestion” a really bad idea. Data is either secured against everyone or it’s not against anyone with skills. If the FBI can access your phone by a second access key, hackers can exploit that backdoor and use that “just in case” key to access your personal information … like, you know, your bank information, your social security number, and your private thoughts on whatever you have private thoughts on. Basically, everything on your phone can become public knowledge if hackers get hold of the secondary key code.

Which brings us back to Pavel Durov, who explains that encryption is software. Much of it is free and almost all of it is easy to replicate and share. Law enforcement could get the extra access it seeks, but terrorists could just use software with encryption law enforcement doesn’t have a backdoor for. They could create their own if they wanted to.

Durov’s Telegram is the Berlin-based competitor to Facebook’s WhatsApp. Using two layers of encryption, the app claims to be “faster and more secure” than other messaging services. Users can message and send files to friends, create group chats with up to 200 members, or opt for “special secret chats” where messages self-destruct after a user-defined period. Of course, ISIS terrorists use encrypted apps like Telegram to communicate. It’s the new hot trend among jihadis … or anyone who values their privacy.

For the record, I do not support jihadists, but I do support liberty and my right to keep my personal information and communication away from anyone, including the government, which is why I consider Durov to be courageous.

The 31-year-old Durov, who is often referred to as the “Mark Zuckerberg of Russia”, founded the popular Russian social media Vkontakte (called VK) in 2006. When Russian granted Edward Snowden temporary asylum in 2013, Durov proposed Snowden work as a security software developer for VK. Then in 2014, he opted to flee his home country, refusing to comply with requests from the Russian government to turn over data on Ukrainian Vkontakte users.

In other words, this 31-year-old libertarian understands that the privacy that terrorists use to hide their activities is also used by legitimate dissidents. If the government can use encryption backdoors to neutralize terrorists, it can also use them to deny you and I the right to protest the activities of our government or Ukranian citizens to stand against the Russian government’s interference in the internal affairs of the Ukraine.

Simply put, Durov is more concerned with privacy threats than terrorist plots.

“If you look at the situation statistically and get rid of emotion for a second … the probability that you or me will die as a result of terrorism is almost zero,” Durov told CNN’s Erin Mclaughlin. “The probability that we will get into a car accident is a million times higher than the probability we will suffer as a result of terrorist act.”

He thinks the benefit of providing private communications outweighs the costs, although Telegram did block 28 ISIS-related channels across 12 languages following reports that ISIS was using Telegram to communicate. This did not impact private communications at all, which is a separate system that Telegram cannot access.

Durov says this doesn’t mean that encryption is bad.

“We think that providing this kind of secure private means of communication for the masses for 99.999 percent of people that have nothing to do with terrorism means more than the threat that we see from the other side,” Durov told Mclaughlin. He explained that it is impossible to limit encryption from spreading.

“Terrorists will always find a means of secure communication,” he said.


Posted March 24, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Thankful Thursday

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They’ll Be Watching You   15 comments

It happened almost without our realizing it. How did it start? Who authorized it? How do we get rid of it? Should we get rid of it?

I’m talking about the Surveillance State or, as I like to call it, institutional stalking. So are my fellow authors on the Open Book Blog Hop. Check out what Kelli Williams has to say on her blog and while you’re at it, maybe pick up a great book to read.

We’re interested in your opinion as well, so if you want to join us for the blog hop, click the links below.

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So, first, “nanny” spying. It wasn’t an option when my kids were little, so I had to rely on this quaint old-fashioned value called trust. Before I left my kids with someone, I got to know them a bit, so that I came to trust them with these precious humans. I turned down some people I knew pretty well because something in my gut said “No.” If I’d had a camera, maybe I wouldn’t have done that and I don’t think that would necessarily have been a good thing. I’m not sure our world is improved by the lack of trust and, generally, these nanny cams seem to mostly end the owners’ marriages, which makes me wonder who it is the installers are not trusting.

I used to work for a mental health agency that hired a paranoid supervisor who installed cameras in the residences to spy on the workers. They were absolutely no good for catching the client who murdered our coworker because they were all in the office focused on the workers. I was asked once to go through the tapes. What did I find?

Nothing! My coworkers were boring. They did their jobs. I learned that I am not a stalker at nature and that I have no desire to ever waste a day going through surveillance tapes again. Ever! I also solidified a vague feeling that I had that I don’t like this technology.

Ah, but these cameras and other surveillance catch criminals and terrorists! Do they?

Most Americans are deeply suspicious when government tells us that we should trust it with our privacy because “they” know what is best for us. That’s what the Obama administration tries to tell us as deep in the Utah desert, the National Security Agency (NSA) has built a $1.5 billion complex to collect and analyze data from the Internet. This complex quite literally could withstand a nuclear war, so our petty protests mean nothing to it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah — the Patriot Act is no more … but that didn’t stop the stalking. Stalkers don’t stop when you tell them to because they don’t care about you. And all of the changes in law will not affect their behavior.

To a certain extent, some of this is our own fault. We all give up a great deal of privacy whenever we choose to go out on the Net. Google keeps massive amounts of data on all of us and a good many of us have voluntarily allowed Facebook and other social media sites to pretty much track our every movement.

For the record, I might tell you I live in Fairbanks, Alaska, but I have my location blocked because it’s nobody’s business where I am at any given moment. Not Google’s … or Amazon’s … or the NSA’s. I may never fire a shot in a bloody revolution, but I will exercise my liberty to the fullest extent that I can within my capabilities of doing so. Every time Google or Facebook or whatever says “Let us know your location so we can serve you better”, I click the box that says “Block location”. I don’t have a GPS on my car or my cell phone. Nobody needs to know where I am!

Big Brother is watching you and just because it’s the government does not make it any less creepy than any other stalker. Just because Facebook asks permission does not mean you should comply. If a flesh-and-blood stalker asked you for permission to stalk you, would you say “since you asked, oh, sure”? I doubt it. So why do you allow these companies to do it?

Where I believe the surveillance state should exist is exactly where it hasn’t existed. Body cameras on cops and government officials would get my vote. They’re our employees and besides, if they want to watch everything we do, why shouldn’t we return the favor? It might curb their tendency to shoot unarmed civilians and generally tyrannize any citizen they come in contact with. Of course, some government officials may struggle with paying their bills when they can no longer take bribes. And, yes, I would stick body cameras on Senators and Presidents, make them wear them 24/7 and make the footage available to the public online. Fair is fair and they are ALL our government employees. If they want their privacy, they don’t have to take the job. I’m giving them far more choice in the matter than they have given us.

This philosophy undergirds much of my book Life As We Knew It and the series Transformation Project. The surveillance state is all over the book to where my main character even asks “Is there really anything resembling privacy anymore?” He is told that, no, there really isn’t.

And THEN terrorists blow up the world.

OP-DEC: Operation DeceitNo, I don’t believe the surveillance state keeps us safe. There are cameras everywhere in the United States and Europe and it didn’t stop the Boston Bombing or the Paris terrorist attacks. The invasion of privacy hasn’t stopped school shootings or mall mayhem. About all it does do is make it easier for law enforcement to issue speeding tickets. Maybe if the cameras were turned on the officials instead of the people, they would be effective. Otherwise … nope!

But wait! The day of drones is coming and that will just facilitate easier spying on we the people. So … what do we do about it?

No, that’s a question. What do you think we can do about it? Or do you think it’s a good idea to allow the government and Amazon to stalk our every move? Maybe you can convince me I’m wrong. Feel free to share. All opinions are welcome.

What Privacy Truly Means   Leave a comment

A video detection camera is seen at the Egan Drive and Mendenhall Loop Road intersection on Thursday. The camera, which doesn't take pictures or record video, is one of five at busy locations in the valley.  Michael Penn | Juneau EmpireTraffic cameras on Alaskan roads do not take film.

A camera that doesn’t record | Juneau Empire – Alaska’s Capital City Online Newspaper.

Posted September 19, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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TSA Creepy Stalker-Like Behavior   3 comments

Does anyone besides me feel as if the government just dug through their underwear drawer?

They thought they could present it as a convenience and then discovered that people really felt violated. Wow! You cannot make this stuff up!


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