by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 10th 2014 3:38am
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Jan 30th 2014 11:59pm
French Surveillance Programs Eerily Echo The NSA's, Right Down To Codifying Unconstitutional Collections
from the take-all-you-can,-give-nothing-back dept
As the NSA leaks have expanded to detail spying activities in other countries, those governments affected have had a variety of reactions. In some cases, legitimately questionable tactics were exposed (potential economic espionage in Brazil, tapping German chancellor Angela Merkel's phone) and the responses were genuinely outraged. In other cases, the outrage was temporary and somewhat muted, suggesting these countries were allowing the NSA to take the heat for their own questionable surveillance programs aimed at their citizens.
When news broke of the NSA acquiring millions of metadata records from French phone companies, the response from the French government seemed like little more than an attempt to shift the focus off its own PRISM-esque collection programs. In response, the ODNI delivered a statement that rebutted the word salad created by an algorithmic translation of the original French article. Plausible deniability via translation tech. The NSA couldn't have asked for a better setup.
But the story swiftly faded into the background. The minimal outrage failed to sustain itself and was soon swept away by the exposure of more NSA documents. One French telco, Orange, has declared its intentions to sue the NSA for tapping its undersea cables, but further reaction from the government has remained almost nonexistent.
That the heat failed to stay on the NSA may prove to be a problem as more details have surfaced suggesting the French government respects its citizens no more than the US government does. Making things a bit messier is the fact that the French intelligence agencies' actions aren't subject to judicial control but rather answer solely to the executive branch (as it were) directly. While our judicial oversight may be more "rubber stamp" than "check and balance," it at least helps prevent agencies from operating completely under the cover of executive decisions.
But the limits, or lack thereof, are nearly identical to those of the NSA. According to its 2006 anti-terrorist law, agencies do not need warrants to access data or perform investigations that fall under the scope of the anti-terrorism legislation. Needless to say, the law has since expanded to cover even more data and content.
In this context, the new legislation was supposed to extend the intelligence services powers, including new warrantless access to criminal indices and ID databases. They can also receive the PNR (Personal Name Records) of all passengers boarding an international flight, even if the PNR EU Directive is not yet adopted. It also changed the warrantless access by intelligence agents to the data retained by electronic communication providers, Internet access providers, Internet services providers and hosting providers (article 20, former article 13 of the Bill), including geolocation in real time.If this all sounds very familiar, it's because intelligence agencies worldwide have roughly the same capabilities when it comes to data harvesting. The data they seek is already compiled by the companies themselves. All the intelligence agencies have to do is route it to their servers. And much like our current situation in the US, these collections were aided greatly by an outdated law with a misleading name.
The interceptions of electronic communications framework have legally existed since the 1991 Secrecy of Correspondence Act. Despite its name, this act allows intelligence agencies to tap telephone call traffics and, by extension, cellphone call traffics and Internet traffics.These interceptions are authorized by the French prime minister for rolling four-month periods (ours run three months, but have basically been approved for several years in a row now, barring a one-time stoppage in 2009). The 2006 law allowed these agencies to gather data from providers, something that wasn't allowed under the 1991 law. (Another coincidence? The NSA's bulk metadata collections were authorized in 2006 as well.)
However, the new legislation extends the roles, allowing the intelligence agencies to access the data retained by communication, Internet and hosting providers. With the new law, they can access the data to protect national security, to preserve France’s strategic (scientific and economical) elements, and to fight against terrorism, organized crimes and groups constituting threats to the national security.Like the NSA, the French agencies' access to the database is controlled by a small number of supervisors who approve searches of the records. These records are handed over by service providers to French intelligence, which presumably retains them for an extended period of time.
The bottom line is virtually identical: these programs are, for all intents and purposes, legal. What may have seemed to skirt the protections of the French constitution have been codified into law. It may seem illegal to surveill your own citizens, but if legislation is passed making the previously illegal legal, then the legality issue vanishes. Unlike what's currently happening in the US, the French government has yet to ask the French constitutional court to review the constitutionality of these collections. And if it hasn't done it yet, it seems unlikely to do in the future unless prompted by multiple lawsuits by surveilled citizens and entities.
At this point, the French government needs to ask itself a few questions, much like ours did recently. (Unfortunately, it ignored nearly all of the answers it received…) Because sooner or later, the public will start demanding answers.
French people have to think about what they want for their intelligence agencies, which is acting under government supervision.That's the crux of the matter. We're at the point where the constitutionality of these programs is being challenged by a federal judge, which is a welcome development. Without the leaks, it's highly doubtful federal courts would have entertained these cases, much less looked into the underlying framework of the collection programs. If French citizens are going to have any luck rolling back these programs, they may need to take another page from the US surveillance book and find a Snowden of their own.
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Jan 16th 2014 12:11am
from the guilt-by-association dept
Techdirt has already noted how the NSA's massive spying programs around the world are costing US companies money through lost business -- and are likely to cost them even more in the future. But it seems that the fallout is even wider, as this story from The Voice of Russia makes clear:
The sale of two intelligence satellites by France to the UAE [United Arab Emirates] for nearly $1bln could go bust after the satellites were found to contain US technology designed to intercept data transmitted to the ground station.
As a result, the UAE might do a deal with the Russians instead:
A top UAE defence source said that the satellites contain specific US-made components designed to intercept the satellites' communication with their accompanying ground station.
An unnamed UAE defence source said that it is not clear if the US equipment can be taken off the French satellites, so the incident has resulted in an increase of talks with Moscow, which, along with Beijing, has also been a frequent defence technology supplier to the Emirates.
So it seems likely that not only will US companies find it hard to sell their wares directly to nations that are worried about possible surveillance, but foreign manufacturers will also be reluctant to include certain types of US technology in their own products, since that might cost them contracts. The price being paid by US businesses for the NSA's "collect it all" approach continues to rise.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Dec 2nd 2013 3:27am
from the wave-that-magic-wand dept
As we noted last week, this SOPAfication of the world is increasingly the goal of the entertainment industries, and they've been having a lot of success in Europe, where sympathetic lawmakers and courts don't seem to recognize how they're propping up an industry that doesn't want to adapt, while striking a blow against two important things: disruptive new innovations and the concept of secondary liability.
Search engines aren't there to help people find what the legacy industries want them to find. They're designed to help the searcher find what that searcher wants. Telling those search engines they can't do that, and that they have to point to what some other industry wants, sets a very dangerous precedent. Letting legacy industries effectively program search engines to their liking pretty much guarantees limited innovation, both by stopping those innovative new platforms from gaining traction, while at the same time convincing the legacy players that they can continue to rest on their laurels.
by Tim Cushing
Fri, Nov 22nd 2013 7:38am
French Stock Market Regulator Hits US Blogger With $10K Fine For Publishing Opinion On French Bank's Leverage Ratio
from the France-still-not-making-much-effort-to-shrug-off-the-'crazy'-tag dept
Everyone gather 'round as I regale you with a tale of stock exchange regulation and global finance bloggers!
Wait! Come back!
I'm sorry. Before your eyes glaze over again, let me entice you with a better opening sentence.
An American market blogger found himself on the receiving end of a 8,000 euro fine for quoting another blogger. In real money, that works out to an almost $11,000 fine. And all for quoting another blogger's best guess on a French bank's leverage ratio.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock is a US blogger who covers global markets and his story begins this way.
On August 15, 2011, I posted BNP Paribas leveraged 27:1; Société Générale Leveraged 50:1; Sorry State of Affairs of U.S. Banks; Global Financial System is BankruptChevallier revamped his math after SG's initial noisemaking and Shedlock issued an addendum to his own post.
In that post I quoted Jean-Pierre Chevallier on his Business économiste monétariste béhavioriste blog, that BNP Paribas leveraged: 27!
I also cited Chevallier's Société Générale leveraged: 50!
Société Générale took exception to the numbers and came up with its own set of numbers. According to SG, its leverage was 9.3%.
Société Générale disputes the numbers and new calculations using the banks' numbers are 28:1 or perhaps 23:1 not 50:1 as noted on Forex Crunch.
My position has not changed much. Something is seriously wrong at Société Générale. Banks do not plunge out of the blue on rumors. I do not know the precise leverage, but shares are acting as if Société Générale has severe capital constraints (which of course they will deny) and/or other major problems.That only seemed to irritate SG more. It contacted the SEC and basically informed the American regulatory body that whatever numbers it's presented were to be taken as fact. The SEC passed this complaint on to Shedlock, adding (paraphrased by Shedlock) "French banks [are] notorious about filing frivolous complaints."
Shedlock received a few more letters (in French) which urged him to respond to the complaints (but only in French), which he duly ignored. Later, a French blogger compiling his own post on the issue (entitled: Gross Delirium: The AMF sanctions bloggers rather than financial corporations!) contacted Shedlock and offered his assistance. One of Shedlock's friends broke down the French bank's complaints into plain English.
The French authorities accuse Chevallier of 'knowingly disseminating false information' about SocGen and you to have disseminated it further on 'Chevallier's urging', although you should have known better and it was your duty to check if his numbers were right (that is the basis for fining him 10,000 and you 8,000 euros).The French blogger's post pointed out that Chevallier didn't "falsify" anything. He merely used a standard calculation for leverage ratios, one that disregarded "risk weighting" of various assets. Shedlock himself found a Wall Street Journal article that put SG's leverage ratio at 23-24 times its equity, still considerably higher than SG's own figures.
None of this mattered to the French bank, which accused the bloggers' calculations of possibly "influencing" its share price. While the SEC may have passed on the complaint with an eyeroll, the AMF, which regulates the French stock market, took the accusations at face value and issued fines to both bloggers. Not that the AMF is going to have much luck collecting these fines. Chevallier is appealing the verdict and suing AFP (France's largest newspaper) for making "false and defamatory accusations." Shedlock, conversely, is doing nothing.
The Witch hunt is now over and I was fined nearly as much as Chevallier. It's absurd enough to fine someone for a quote, and even more so when the facts are accurate.Good idea, considering French law apparently provides regulatory bodies with the power to fine bloggers for publishing their opinions on French banks, even when these opinions are backed up by reasonable calculations. And Shedlock is almost certainly protected under the SPEECH Act, which protects Americans against foreign judgments that would violate the First Amendment here. There doesn't seem to be much "regulation" going on in this situation. (And any French legislation that touches on the internet is routinely terrible.) Conceivably, SG could leverage itself Lehman-style and financially beat into submission anyone who points out this fact by running and complaining to the nearest subservient "authority."
The AFM has no jurisdiction over me, so they won't collect. As a US citizen living in the US, I am not subject to the absurdities of French laws, or French witch hunts. All they get from me is a vow to never go to France.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 19th 2013 11:50pm
from the a-bit-of-history dept
Of course, it shouldn't be a surprise to find out that such discussions didn't just take place in the Netherlands, but elsewhere as well. Via Stephan Kinsella and David Koepsell comes the discovery of a book from 1869 concerning Recent Discussions on the Abolition of Patents for Inventions, and covering examples of such discussions in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands (for what it's worth, Germany also had no patent system until 1877). The book's subtitle also notes: "With suggestions as to international arrangements regarding inventions and copyright."
The entire work has been helpfully scanned by Google, and since it's well into the public domain, can be displayed in its entirety. In fact, the book (quite interestingly!) has a "no rights are reserved" notice in the beginning. So even if it had been published more recently, it would have been considered in the public domain. Nice to see that even back in 1869 authors were willing to support the public domain by choice.
What's quite incredible as you read through the various letters, speeches and writings in the book is how many of them could fit into today's debate. Right from the beginning, the points sound similar to what the debates today are about:
The fact is, no one, I presume wishes to say that an inventor is undeserving and should go unrewarded. All that the opponents of the Patent system do say is, that the present machinery gives minimum advantage to the inventor, and inflicts maximum disadvantage on the public. Besides, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the patentee is only a simultaneous inventor with a number of others, who lose their labour and ingenuity because one man happens to get in first....That sounds mighty familiar. Other pieces point out that patents are incompatible with free trade and, there are regular points about how independent or simultaneous invention is happening in most of these cases, rather than anyone "copying" ideas from one another. There's also a discussion on how patents create fuzzy boundaries, which make it terrible if anyone is comparing it to any sort of actual "property right."
The more you look, the more you'll find lines that sound so familiar:
We acknowledge that the man who first constructed a hut was perfectly right in making good his claim against those who would have deprived him of it, and that he was justified in vindicating his claim by force. He had employed his time and strength in building this hut; it was undoubtedly his, and his neighbours acted up to their natural rights and in their own interests in helping him to oppose the intruder. But there ended both the right of the individual and that of the community.There are plenty more quotes. Take a look through the collection and enjoy -- or be horrified that we're still having these debates 150 years later, and the situation has become worse, not better.
If this first man, not content with claiming his hut had pretended that the idea of building it belonged exclusively to him, and that consequently no other human being had a right to build a similar one, the neighbours would have revolted against so monstrous a pretension, and never would have allowed so mischievous an extension of the right which he had in the produce of his labour....
And if, in our day, imitation of an invention is not generally considered as guilty an act as robbery of tangible property, it is because every one understands the difference between an idea and a thing made or done.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Nov 19th 2013 7:44am
from the good-idea,-severely-flawed-targeting-and-execution dept
For a moment, it looked as though France might utilize its tax system to make a point about how much DRM devalues electronic goods. A few months ago, an initiative surfaced seeking to amend tax laws in order to hit DRM-laced ebooks with a higher VAT. (Or, more accurately, lower the VAT on non-DRMed ebooks.)
A French deputy (Isabelle Attard) thinks that proprietary and DRM protected eBooks should not be legally considered books and should not benefit from the fiscal advantages enjoyed by books as cultural artifacts.This is a good point, but this deputy's suggestion wasn't based on the ongoing removal of "first sale" rights by the addition of DRM. Rather, her amendment looked to target the largest purveyors of ebooks.
Arguing that the real problem was not a question of pricing, but rather the vertical integration of platforms like those of Amazon, Apple and Google, Attard proposed to address the problem by offering a fiscal advantage in the form of reduced VAT to sellers offering open books that consumers can read on any platform.Although the targeting was off (and France's relationship with Amazon [in particular] can safely be described as "antagonistic"), the idea of punishing DRM-laden merchandise by hitting it with a higher tax rate appealed to many people, many of whom perhaps didn't share the same antipathy towards Apple, Amazon and Google.
Not that France wasn't already giving ebooks a cut rate on taxes. It's that this amendment would have excluded ebooks with DRM from that reduced rate, as Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader explains.
Under France’s [proposed] tax laws, DRMed ebooks will be taxed at a higher rate (currently 19.6%), while DRM-free ebooks will be taxed at the lower 5.5% rate.Attard's rationale for the rate change tracks with the proper application of the VAT by differentiating between DRM-laced ebooks ("services") and non-DRM ebooks ("goods") based on what DRM does to a product.
[E]books are already sold in France with a 5.5% VAT, or value added tax, bundled into the list price. Technically that is illegal under current EU regulation; ebooks are defined as a service and thus should have a higher VAT applied. But no penalty has been applied (so far) so at this point it is really a matter of opinion.
“Yes, everything that goes against interoperability, or imposes reading constraints would be subject to a VAT of 19.6%, in the capacity of services, and not sale of a book, therefore of a product."Unfortunately for anyone hoping France would open a discussion on the DRM issue, the amendment was shot down. Parsing this out from an iffy translation, the reasoning appears to be that while the French government feels it should make an effort to diffuse the power of "vertical markets" (Amazon, Apple, etc.), screwing with the VAT rate isn't the right approach. Furthermore, lowering the rate for non-DRM ebooks would likely subject the French government to further "condemnation" from the European Commission for "distorting" market activity.
In short: good idea, wrong tool.
But there's another factor in play as well. While Apple and Amazon sell many ebooks with DRM, they do so at the behest of publishers -- large publishers who would probably be none too thrilled to see any shrinkage in their market share thanks to a higher VAT rate, as a commenter at The Digital Reader pointed out.
[Y]ou can bet the major publishers, who license DRMed e-books for the most part and were caught unawares the first time, will not let it pass so easily this time round.So, an amendment that targeted Amazon (the publishers' worst enemy, according to entities like the Authors' Guild) should have been the publishers' best friend, except for the fact that it targeted DRM, another of the publishers' best friends. (The enemy of my friend is my enemy, even if the enemy of my enemy is my friend?)
If the publishers did help get this amendment kicked to the curb, they're probably fine with it slightly benefitting Amazon as well. And as for Amazon, France is still hard at work pushing through legislation specifically targeting the online giant.
French lawmakers on Thursday took aim at Amazon to protect local bookshops by voting through a law that bars online booksellers from offering free delivery to customers on top of a maximum 5 percent discount on books.Its rather telling that these actions have very little to do with protecting consumers and everything to do with protecting the status quo. The latest anti-Amazon law springs from a 1981 law passed to protect small bookstores from the encroachment of supermarket chains. Thirty years down the road, the same tactics are being deployed, which would indicate the past efforts haven't done much other than assure France's booksellers that they'll never have to make an effort to compete in the market, and that any detrimental effects of these laws will continue to be borne by French citizens.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 6th 2013 1:22pm
from the good-luck-with-that dept
Since then, Mosley has been on a campaign of censorship. He went to court trying to argue that newspapers should need to alert famous people before publishing anything about them, giving them a chance to try to block such stories. Thankfully, that failed. He also sought to influence the UK review of journalism (in the wake of that other, more well-known News of the World scandal, involving hacking into voicemails).
He's also been suing Google in various European countries, arguing that they need to somehow magically block out any instance of the photos of that orgy. Yes, Mosley thinks it's all Google's fault that these images still exist. He argues that:
if somebody were to stop the search engines producing the material, the actual sites don't really matter because without a search engine, nobody will find it, it would be just a few friends of the person who posts it. The really dangerous thing are the search engines.Of course, it's not the search engines "producing the material." It's the search engines finding the content that others have posted. Unfortunately, a French court has sided with Mosley and ordered Google to magically try to make those images disappear from the internet. This is both close to impossible technically, but also a restriction that will have significant unintended consequences. It will almost certainly block out legitimate content, including news coverage related to this story. For example, much of the news coverage of the lawsuits have included the images. Take, for example, this Gawker story. Under the ruling in France, Google will now be forced to figure out how to censor links to such legitimate journalistic stories.
Yes, it's perfectly reasonable for Mosley to be upset about how all of this went down. And he appears to have received a large sum of money from News of the World about this. But going on this crusade won't stop the pictures from appearing on the internet (in fact, each time there's news about this, it only calls more attention to it), and worse, it will inevitably lead to false positives that censor legitimate content.
Google has already announced its intent to appeal, noting that it's wrong to hold a search engine responsible for policing the work of others. While the release of the original images may be illegal, blaming Google for the fact that such images can be found is supremely misguided.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Oct 29th 2013 1:12pm
Intel Officials Says French And Spain Intelligence Agencies Did All The Dirty Work In Gathering Data On Millions Of Calls
from the so-many-twists,-from-so-many-twisted-entities dept
All that noise being made by French and Spanish officials over the NSA's collection of millions of phone records is turning out to be just that: noise. The Wall Street Journal reports that, while the NSA did end up with millions of foreign phone records, it didn't do the actual collection.
U.S. officials said the Snowden-provided documents had been misinterpreted and actually show phone records that were collected by French and Spanish intelligence agencies, and then shared with the NSA, according to officials briefed on those discussions.Rather than being a domestic collection, like the Section 215 program, the records gathered by Spanish and French intelligence agencies apparently only touched calls originating outside of these two nations.
U.S. intelligence officials studied the document published by Le Monde and have determined that it wasn't assembled by the NSA. Rather, the document appears to be a slide that was assembled based on NSA data received from French intelligence, a U.S. official said.
Based on an analysis of the document, the U.S. concluded that the phone records the French had collected were actually from outside of France, and then were shared with the U.S. The data don't show that the French spied on their own people inside France.While this all seems very above-board, both for the NSA and the foreign intelligence agencies, there's still a good chance that this isn't the entire picture. The NSA is still very leery of exposing methods and sources and, despite trying to defuse the current outrage, it will probably still hold some cards close to its chest. Officials are even admitting this sudden burst of clarity still leaves things uncovered.
U.S. intelligence officials haven't seen the documents cited by El Mundo but the data appear to come from similar information the NSA obtained from Spanish intelligence agencies documenting their collection efforts abroad, officials said.
U.S. officials said the European collection programs were part of long-standing intelligence sharing arrangements between the U.S. and its closest allies. Officials said the figures may not reflect the entirety of the phone records collected by France and Spain.So, while European officials may be playing this off as a horrible intrusion, the latest statements seem to indicate it isn't. There may still be a layer of intrusion as of yet uncovered and both countries are still presumably doing their own domestic spying. If so, there are undoubtedly more outrages to come, only in this case, the public, rather than officials, will be making the most noise. The NSA's many cozy relationships around the world are now backfiring, even when it's not directly to blame. Making friends with foreign intelligence agencies while alienating foreign officials is a hell of a way to fight terrorism.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 28th 2013 2:37pm
If All These Countries Are So Outraged By Revelations Of US Spying On Them, Why Aren't They Offering Snowden Asylum?
from the telling... dept
All of these governments keep saying how newsworthy these revelations are, how profound are the violations they expose, how happy they are to learn of all this, how devoted they are to reform. If that's true, why are they allowing the person who enabled all these disclosures – Edward Snowden – to be targeted for persecution by the US government for the "crime" of blowing the whistle on all of this?Of course, when put in the context of how it's really just about cutting off the power of American hypocrisy, this situation makes more sense, even as it highlights the hypocrisy of those other countries.
If the German and French governments – and the German and French people – are so pleased to learn of how their privacy is being systematically assaulted by a foreign power over which they exert no influence, shouldn't they be offering asylum to the person who exposed it all, rather than ignoring or rejecting his pleas to have his basic political rights protected, and thus leaving him vulnerable to being imprisoned for decades by the US government?
The reality is that none of these leaders expressing outrage are actually shocked by this. Everyone knew this was going on. They're reacting this way because it's all part of the theater, in which they have to act shocked and to condemn the US, but it's really just about the information being revealed. When looked at under that light, of course they have no interest in offering Snowden asylum. He's the one who created the "shock" by revealing this information which all those officials almost certainly knew about, while pretending not to.