You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

First POST: Corrosion

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, August 9 2013

Complicity and Corrosion

  • Lavabit, a ten-year-old email service provider reportedly used by Edward Snowden, has decided to shut down rather than cooperate with a demand for user information. Its owner, Ladar Levison, says, “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. … What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company. This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.“

  • Late Thursday, Silent Circle, another encrypted email service provider, also announced it had destroyed its server and was shutting down. "We thought it was better to take flak from customers than be forced to turn it over," the company's CEO Mike Janke, told the New York Times. "Email is broken because govt can force us to turn over what we have," he told TechCrunch.

  • The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf takes a close look at the renewal of the Patriot Act as a study in "How Secrecy Has Already Corroded Our Democracy in Concrete Ways."

  • Rep. John Lewis now says he was misunderstood by the Guardian, and never "praised" Edward Snowden for acting in accordance with Gandhian principles.

  • Security expert Bruce Schneier doesn't mince words. After quickly detailing several of the most telling lies officials have been telling us about the NSA, he says:

    The NSA has gone rogue, and while it's probably not possible to prosecute people for what they did under the enormous veil of secrecy it currently enjoys, we need to make it clear that this behavior will not be tolerated in the future. Accountability also means voting, which means voters need to know what our leaders are doing in our name.
    This is the only way we can restore trust. A market economy doesn't work unless consumers can make intelligent buying decisions based on accurate product information. That's why we have agencies like the FDA, truth-in-packaging laws and prohibitions against false advertising.
    In the same way, democracy can't work unless voters know what the government is doing in their name. That's why we have open-government laws. Secret courts making secret rulings on secret laws, and companies flagrantly lying to consumers about the insecurity of their products and services, undermine the very foundations of our society.

  • Meanwhile, senior intelligence officials are pointing to the case of a Somali cab driver in San Diego who was spotted sending $8500 to the terrorist group al-Shabab as proof of the value of their dragnet approach to data surveillance.

  • "Despite President Obama's claim this week [to Jay Leno] that 'there is no spying on Americans,' the evidence shows that such spying is greater than the public ever knew," The New York Times editorial page thunders.

  • We'll be watching President Obama's afternoon press conference, scheduled for 3pm ET, when he will likely face questions about these issues.

In other news around the web:

  • Jesse Benton, Mitch McConnell's campaign manager, was recorded by a former Ron Paul campaign colleague, saying "Between you and me, I'm sorta holding' my nose for two years, cause what we're doing here is gonna be a big benefit to Rand [Paul] in 2016." Alec MacGillis explains why this bit of tape can't be good news for McConnell.

  • Our Miranda Neubauer takes a close look at how the candidates and the coders are using technology to try to boost turnout in New York City's upcoming elections.

  • This Sunday's NY Times Magazine has a long feature about a recent jaunt to Ethiopia for 40 tech moguls and assorted hangers-on organized by charity: water. While the cause is laudable, the story makes support for the organization sound mostly like ego therapy for over-worked entrepreneurs hungry for meaning, as well as a great way for the them to network with each other. The piece is full of details like this one: Upon arrive in rural Ethiopia, the group camped, "attended by a staff of 27 locals — porters, cooks, servants, musicians, dancers — and served a multicourse meal with a full bar." Read the whole article but be prepared to you throw up a little in your throat as you do.

  • "Social sharing" combined with "the ability to use data to test approaches and concretely measure success" is revolutionizing how causes work online now, say Jim Pugh and Colin Holtz.

  •, Mark Zuckerberg's political action organization, is going up with ads supporting former Republican VP nominee Congressman Paul Ryan.

  • John Tolva, Chicago's CTO, wants to see the fields of urban design and urban planning merge with "urban informatics [and] networked public space." [h/t Nancy Scola]

  • The New Yorker takes a long look at Pakistan's ongoing censorship of YouTube.

  • With just one word -- "Tank" -- linked to a hilarious car dashboard cam YouTube video, Russia expert Julia Ioffe completely demolishes MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell's credibility.