from the though,-that-should-have-been-known-already dept
Way back in the beginning of 2008, we wrote about how the Indian government was demanding that various mobile suppliers provide backdoors so it could intercept emails and text messages. In 2010, we wrote about further demands to spy on Gmail and Skype. Finally, at the end of 2010, the fact that various providers were providing backdoors to the Indian government was effectively revealed when the government complained that RIM's backdoor didn't really reveal everything. So, I'm not entirely sure why people are surprised that a leaked memo has revealed that at least Apple, Nokia and RIM all provided the Indian government with backdoors, and those are being used regularly in a surveillance dragnet.
Where it gets potentially more interesting is the report that the government then used such access to intercept emails from US government officials, including the "US-China Economic and Security Review Commission" -- "a U.S. government body with a mandate to monitor, investigate and report to Congress on 'the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship' between the U.S. and China." Kinda says something when the US commission on security issues can't even secure their own email from snooping foreign governments, huh?
A couple years ago, the Indian government started demanding that RIM give them a backdoor to read encrypted Blackberry email messages. At the time, RIM insisted that was technically impossible due to end-user encryption (something that's been called into question due to RIM's agreements with other countries, such as Saudi Arabia). A few months after that exchange, India announced that it didn't matter any more because it had cracked the encryption, and could spy on messages at will.
The telecom department has rejected the interception solution offered by Canada's (RIM) for its secure corporate email service. What's more is that it has spurned RIM's technical solution for decoding all chat communication on the popular BlackBerry Messenger service...
In an internal note, dated September 28, reviewed by ET, the telecom department's security wing claims security agencies have been unable to intercept or monitor secure email communication made through the (BES) in readable format. "RIM maintains that it does not have the keys that can be offered to security agencies for converting secure corporate email into readable format," said a senior DoT official with direct knowledge of the matter. The DoT internal note claims law enforcement agencies have failed to intercept chats on the BlackBerry Messenger platform, which runs counters to the home ministry's recent position that it is satisfied with the interception solution offered by RIM.
Reading between the lines, it sounds like RIM is still sticking to the fact that, thanks to end-user encryption, it simply can't reveal the message contents -- but it sounds like it agreed to offer access to other information, which the Indian government feels is not enough. Of course, for all of India's rather public admission that it wants to spy on all sorts of communications, it doesn't seem to recognize that it's scaring companies away from doing business in India, as the threat of having communications spied upon is too big a risk.
Last year, we covered a really bad ruling in Nebraska, involving a student who sent some angry, obnoxious, profanity-laden emails to a professor he disagreed with politically, accusing him of being a traitor and threatening to fight him. Beyond being the student's political science professor, he was also running for political office at the time. After a short back-and-forth, the professor told the student he was offended and asked him to stop emailing. In response, the student actually sent a long apology, saying he really liked the professor and just wanted to debate the issue with someone smart, but with a different view.
A few months went by, and the professor received two anonymous emails from a Yahoo address that used the professor's name as a part of the email address (the professor's last name was Avery, and the email username was averylovesalqueda). The emails were tracked back to the student, and he was charged with disturbing the peace. A state district court convicted him of that, and the appeals court upheld it. Yes, "disturbing the peace," for sending an angry email to one person. The court said that there was no First Amendment protections because the emails were "fighting words." While it was true that some of the earlier emails did say the student wanted to fight the professor, the two emails that resulted in the charges did not. They were just the standard insulting, poorly-worded, politically-tinged emails, not all that different than what you'd probably find on a political forum online. The ruling seemed pretty troubling for a variety of reasons... but thankfully, it looks like a higher court also found it problematic.
Michael Scott points us to the news that the Nebraska Supreme Court has overturned the lower court ruling and has said that the emails had First Amendment protections. The court has an interesting discussion of what constitutes "fighting words," and it's pretty clear these emails did not qualify for the kind of "fighting words" that get past First Amendment considerations. Specifically: "to fall within the First Amendment exception for fighting words, speech must be 'shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest.'"
The court also (thankfully) recognized the context of the speech, which was an angry political discussion:
The context of Drahota's speech was an ongoing political debate, not random
obscenities directed at small children, which could likely provoke a response from nearby adults. Here, Drahota and Avery had corresponded for months on political issues. And both had made provocative statements during that dialog without
incident. The First Amendment encourages robust political
debate, particularly the right to criticize public officials and measures
Always nice to see a court recognize free speech rights -- even when the content may come across as offensive to some. Below is the full ruling:
Christopher Best: He was a disturbed individual, and a disgruntled software developer. There's explicit tax law that treats software developers very unfairly if they try to work as independent contractors... yaga: that's very true CB Alana: AJ Seriously just compared arguments against copyright infringment to rape. ... Yeah, nobody should take him seriously at this point. err, against copyright* silverscarcat: seriously? Jay: Glenn Beck asking for a 9/12 movement isn't the least bit suspicious? Along with all of the other issues with the IRS right now? Ninja: I am honestly amused that the community is marking the comments of that "horse" guy as funny silverscarcat: Who takes Glenn Beck seriously? Jeff: did the 'new' comment color bars go away? dennis deems: ya I hadn't noticed until you said that. I don't recall seeing them the last couple days. Mike Masnick: new color bars ran into some big technical problems. :) we took them down while we fix them. fix is currently going through testing and should be back (and better than before) soon. dennis deems: yay! the color bars rule! Jeff: whew! Thought I was going... wait for it... "Color Blind" thanks! I'll be here all day... :-) Jay: @ssc I'm talking more in 2011 at the peak of TP hysteria TheResidentSkeptic: @mike - mod for your business model - CwF+RtB+DoP..too many miss the "Deliver On Promises" silverscarcat: Piracy will destroy software! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlniehU08ks Back in 1985