Technologists To NSA Review Group: Don't Forget About The Interests Of Non-US Persons

from the because-that-matters-too dept

We’ve been arguing about why the tech industry should be furious and a hell of a lot more vocal about the NSA’s spying. One of the big issues is that it’s leading to tremendous trust issues with anyone using US-based internet services. In an age where so many internet companies are looking at a global audience, these revelations put them at a significant disadvantage. And, unfortunately, in most of the discussions about all of this spying, the focus has been mainly on whether or not the actions by the NSA have been targeted at US persons. This is important — because the nature of FISA is that it’s supposed to limit NSA activities on US persons — and there’s basically no limit towards what it can do when it comes to non-US persons. That’s the nature of the law (and the fact that non-US persons aren’t actually under the jurisdiction of the US Constitution in the first place). But that’s the legal side of things, not the practical realities. We shouldn’t just assume that the issue of spying on non-US persons can be ignored as “perfectly legal.” For companies, it can be a complete disaster if non-US persons won’t use their services.

Thus, it’s good to see that when a group of prominent US technologists, academics and activists sent a letter to the NSA Review Group, that (beyond some other key points) includes a discussion of how the impact on non-US persons should not be ignored:

Part of the Review Group’s charge is to evaluate the extent to which the NSA surveillance programs respect “our commitment to privacy and civil liberties.” In an increasingly global information environment, these commitments undoubtedly extend to non-U.S. persons. The United Nation’s Human Rights Council has resolved that, “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.” If U.S. providers of services must ignore the rights of non-U.S. persons due to domestic surveillance obligations, the free flow of information that Internet activities depend upon will stagnate. On the contrary, if jurisdictions accept — as the United States does at the UN — that all users have some rights to privacy regardless of a user’s location, this sets a necessary condition for people of the world to feel comfortable engaging in cross-border Internet activities, upon which the promise of a global connected society rests.

While I doubt any review, or even any legislative attempt to roll back the NSA’s efforts will address this, it’s going to become an increasingly important issue. At the very least, it seems like the tech industry should be addressing this head on, rather than letting the NSA and the intelligence community set the frame for the debate.

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Comments on “Technologists To NSA Review Group: Don't Forget About The Interests Of Non-US Persons”

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Duarte says:

From 8-10 years ago my “USA” dream started to vanish with the US invading Afghanistan.

Now if I had a job offer to go to the US I would refuse.

The US right now regarding to people from the middle east, are acting Germany did with the jews during the Nazi era, with the news they they basically say that every mosque is a terrorist group, and every muslim must have a bomb under their beard.

I believe the US is going in a bad direction and is attracting a lot of bad attention.

I don’t understand how Americans just don’t do anything about what’s happening, you guys don’t protest, it looks like you are the government’s little minions…

If they passed a law that made it illegal to walk on the street at night, I bet everyone would be like “yeah we don’t like it” but noone would do a thing.

Start protests, turn cars around if necessary (i’m against violence but look at the french, their government is affraid of going against the people, or they start rioting and burning the city)

Do something

jameshogg says:

Re: Re:

“The US right now regarding to people from the middle east, are acting Germany did with the jews during the Nazi era, with the news they they basically say that every mosque is a terrorist group, and every muslim must have a bomb under their beard.”

Read what you just wrote. Seriously. Read it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Dear Duarte:

I will tell you what I was told once by a Brazilian, it is your interest not mine so it is your responsibility not mine. Harsh I know but true, the American people is in pain for a lot of other issues, they won’t defend the right of others when their own are in mortal peril, they don’t have the time. is practicality that is an issue, the responsibility everyone has for their own interests is theirs, is up to others to make things hard for the US government and make it unpalatable.

Here is an example from Brazil.

While President Dilma Rousseff is an ex-freedom fighter(aka terrorist) that was jailed and tortured, suffering enormously at the hands of the Brazilian military. She still found the time to pass the new law forcing every Brazilian to install GPS/RFID tags on their cars that will generate, location, dates, model, owner’s name and more.

new world order brazil: Brazilians will be forced to use RFID chips and GPS trackers in their cars

SINIAV High-Speed Vehicle Identification Trials at Brazilian Test Site …

Brazilians protest but most protests got unnoticed, frankly I don’t see the point a better protest is to do something about it, something everyone can do and there are cases where people don’t do anything about it in public at all like in the case of police brutality.

Extra judicial killings are routine in Brazil so routine that if you type “Brazilian police brutality” in Youtube you can find snuff videos of that police force killing people in broad day light, in America that would be shocking in Brazil is just another day.

WSJ: As Crime Rattles Brazil, Killings by Police Turn Routine

HRW: Brazil: Curb Police Violence in Rio, S?o Paulo

Why Brazilians don’t complain?

Put simply is not that people don’t care, is that most of them have a lot on their minds and have their very own serious issues too closer to home, they don’t have the time or means to think about what happens in other places let alone around the globe.

So don’t expect Americans to rise up for the rights of the world, they can’t, more than half are living from paycheck to paycheck long gone are the good ol’days.

That doesn’t mean the world can’t protect itself, Brazilians could use more bicycles, project cities to encourage walking instead of driving and continue to document the brutal reality of Brazilian streets, Americans will still continue to fight for their privacy tooth and nail too.

The Tor Project guys probably have a big grin on their faces after seeing the NSA slides and some of them are Americans, this is not the Brazilian people against the American people or the Peruvian people or the Chilean or the Spanish or the Russian not even the Muslims, this is governments against their own peoples we are weak individually, and we all have our own problems to deal with a better protest is to find ways to deal with them and spread the world so each and everyone of us can do their little part, big protests on the streets change nothing, the occupy movement tried and changed little it may be a form of stress release but that is all.

Going back to the beginning the responsibility for your own privacy is yours. What can you do?

Donate time, expertise and money to people working on the tools legal, technical, etc. Have you donated money to the Tor Project? or the I2P project if you don’t want to give money to American developers? there are open hardware companies have you tried to learn what they offer that can increase your privacy?

After you have gone on that path, teach others how to do it, that is a more effective protest, you develop and create the things you need to counter the abuse and of course keep reading Techdirt and the like because they are beacons that shine light on those issues.

What I do, I use TOR for everything, and other P2P(aka distributed) forms of communication, VPN’s, proxies with central servers are not secure, they can’t do anything against the authorities, they have humans that can be target and forced to comply don’t use that, use decentralized tools, encryption is important too, I take my time to create my own keys and encrypt everything, you can even use Facebook encrypted, Facebook won’t do it for you of course but you can encrypt all your text and post it encrypted.

Here try it manually first to see how it works.

1. – Find any online text encryption like this one.
2. – Find and online ID generator.
3. – Encrypt the ID you made it with the online encryption tool.
4. – Create an account somewhere.


5. – Create or ask someone to create a script that fetches the data from somewhere and decrypt it.

See you can have public profiles that will all be visible but nobody will be able to read it, that is one way there are others, you can also use Diaspora and donate to them.

Think of donations not as donations but as taxes but instead of paying them to a government that will lie and cheat this one will go to some place where you actually will get some benefit from it, and it is not a one off either you have to commit, you chose the projects you like and pay them to work so they can keep working, but in the case of open source you have the ability to pay what you can.

It is your responsibility to keep your data safe, it is your responsibility and yours alone to do the best you can to protect your privacy.

About the Brazilian SINIAV I wonder how long till RFID clonning becomes widespread.

Brazenly anonymous says:

Who they come for

Anyone who doesn’t think targeting non-US citizens is a problem is rationalizing the targeting as being correct. As Maurice Ogden’s “The Hangman,” written immediately following the Red Scare, puts it “That’s a thing I do to stretch the rope when the rope is new.”

Protecting all groups, no matter who they are, from government excess is ultimately necessary to avoid those same excesses being turned on oneself. The system is dynamic, if not forced to shut down, the program only grows. Any secret system is spared criticism and will come to think it is far more capable than it really is, leading to grievous mistakes.

These mass-information gathering apparatuses of the NSA need to be shut down.

JeroenW (profile) says:

I work for a global company and wouldn’t have the luxury of refusing if I was ever sent to the USA.

However, every time central processing of sensitive data is discussed the first thing everyone always wants to know is “Is this data going to enter the USA at any time?”

It’s not that we have anything to hide, it’s just that the USA has such a bad reputation here in Europe…

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

That’s the nature of the law (and the fact that non-US persons aren’t actually under the jurisdiction of the US Constitution in the first place)

Perhaps this is an interpretation of the Constitution that needs to change. If you read through the US Constitution, it could be argued that most US Citizens don’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Constitution either. The U.S. Constitution, as written, applies to the government of the United States, not the citizens. The fourth amendment to the US Constitution starts out `The Right of the people`, so unless you are going to define non-US citizens as somehow not people, that clause pretty much has to apply to everyone. In the 1700`s when that constitution was written, that interpretation made sense, since if your papers were within the reach of US law enforcement, you were probably a US citizen living in the United States. In a world of global electronic communications, that assumption is no longer true.

Anonymous Coward says:

US information technology industries signed away their rights when they signed the PRISM agreement. US Gov has them under gag orders now.

What’s interesting is the US telco industries, who operate solely in the domestic market (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint) have been completely silent.

This makes sense, because they don’t have to worry about the rest of the world being pissed off at them, because they do a majority of their business on US soil.

Plus, they don’t have to worry about domestic customers being pissed at them, because they have a monopoly on the domestic market and there’s nowhere else those customers can go for cellphone service.

Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft on the other hand. Are competing in the global marketplace, and that’s why we hear them kicking and screaming over getting caught with their hands in the spy jar.

It now makes sense to me why the domestic telcos don’t give a damn about their image. They know they have monopoly on the domestic market and don’t have to compete against global competitors. They can flip the middle finger at American people, and they know there’s nowhere else we can go for cellphone service.

grabacontroller (profile) says:

The people cannot do anything peacefully to the government unless they are rich. If they could do anything about the NSA, they’d have to do it violently but they can’t with all of the weapons, bombs, drones, air planes, & nuclear war heads that they have. They don’t just have guns. Your vote doesn’t count ever. Over 50% of people don’t vote either. The money counts. Not your vote.

textibule (profile) says:

What's the Constitution got to do with it?

Yeah great document, the US Constitution, but let’s face it, in contemporary USA it’s become a sort of diaper for the otherwise morally and ethically incontinent. Using it to debate and analyze, then justify the treating of non-US citizens like shit, is worse than idiotic behavior, and if nothing changes, isn’t so far from being despicable.

So let’s stop using the Constitution as a crutch. Look in the mirror, folks, have a meaningful conversation with yourselves.


Gwiz (profile) says:

That’s the nature of the law (and the fact that non-US persons aren’t actually under the jurisdiction of the US Constitution in the first place).

Are you sure about this Mike?

I thought that the Constitution protected everyone regardless of citizenship with the parts that are worded with the term “people” instead of “citizen”. This would include the Bill of Rights. Obviously, other parts of the Constitution that are specifically worded with the term “citizen” wouldn’t apply to non-citizens.

Volokh argues this point here:

The EFF also alludes to this argument with this statement:

The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches whether or not you are a citizen. In particular, the exclusionary rule applies to all criminal defendants, including non-citizens. However, the exclusionary rule does not apply in immigration hearings, meaning that the government may introduce evidence from an illegal search or seizure in those proceedings. Source

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’ve been researching this a bit, and both you and Mike are correct. The Constitution mostly limits what the government can do, and those limits (should) apply regardless of whether the government is dealing with a citizen or not. There are exceptions, but those exceptions are written into the Constitution explicitly. So unless the Constitution says that something only applies with regards to a citizen or US person, it applies with regards to everybody on the planet.

Jake says:

Point of Clarification

Does the letter of the US constitution, as written, actually apply to anyone not a citizen of the US, actually standing on US soil or both? Serious question from someone who might actually have reason to care some day. (I’m married to a US citizen but not at present looking to move there.)

I realise it’s kind of academic given that large parts of it started being treated more like vague suggestions before it even reached its centenary, but nevertheless it would be interesting to know.

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