Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

First POST: Profanity

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, October 31 2013


  • Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani break open a whole new layer of the NSA surveillance scandal, reporting in the Washington Post that the agency "has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials." The agency collects millions of records a day, ranging from metadata to the content of emails, audio and video.

  • As Gellman and Soltani note, "The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process." Both companies responded with dismay.

  • Shown an NSA presentation slide on "Google Cloud Exploitation," two engineers close to the company "exploded in profanity," their story notes.

  • The cryptographers behind Silent Circle and Lavabit are working on a new secure email system that will automatically use peer-to-peer encryption, Slate reports.

  • The Italian magazine Panorama reports that the NSA was eavesdropping on the Vatican's phone calls.

  • Carne Ross, author of The Leaderless Revolution and founder of Independent Diplomat, argues in the Guardian that we shouldn't rely on national legislatures like Congress to fix the problems raised by the NSA scandal. In a networked age, he says, "We need a rebalanced contract between people, companies and state, where all make and supervise commitments to privacy, transparency and collective safety: a new social contract, but not between government and us, but between all and all, self-government and regulation that conforms to the nature of the internet itself."

  • The Obama Administration has committed, yet again, to upgrade its administration of the Freedom of Information Act, as part of its commitments at this week's second annual meeting of the international Open Government Partnership in London, Alex Howard reports for techPresident.

  • Edward Snowden is about to start a job working for a major internet company in Russia, his lawyer says.

  • Meanwhile, Firedoglake's Kevin Cosztola reports that attorneys in Germany are working with left-wing politicians there to bring Snowden to testify on the spying allegations currently roiling the country, and in exchange received asylum.

  • While almost nothing moves through Congress these days, state legislatures are starting to pass an assortment of new privacy laws addressing everything from drone usages to how much schools can collect student data, The New York Times reports.

In other news around the web:

  • Building on a recent public conversation that she had with Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, Joan Blades, co-founder of, has started a petition calling on MoveOn members and other Americans to "pledge to help our leaders and our communities to engage in respectful dialogue and to look for ways to solve problems cooperatively."

  • The Economist explores "The Omidyar way of giving."

  • From Pew's Stateline: "Why States Need Social Media Policies."

  • The New York Times picks up on yesterday's Rand Paul plagiarism stories.

News Briefs

RSS Feed tuesday >

First POST: Company

The global "Snowden effect" is huge; how many consumer-facing online services fail the user privacy test; the Dems' 2016 digital to-do list; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Mood Slime

The Sony email leak reveals the MPAA's campaign against Google; how Uber is lobbying in local markets; mapping the #MillionsMarchNYC; and much, much more. GO

friday >

First POST: Cloudy

What the Internet is not; new analysis of public opinion on net neutrality; how cloud backup apparently foiled a police coverup; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Records

Is the future of citizen journalism vigilantism?; one tech mogul's vocal support for CIA torture; a cri de couer from the founder of the Pirate Bay; and much, much more. GO

Web Index Sees Impact of Net Neutrality, Surveillance and Copyright Laws

Denmark, Finland, Norway, the United Kingdom and Sweden have come out on top of the Web Index, a ranking of the Web Foundation measuring the economic, social and political benefit that countries gain from the web. The United States is at number six. For the authors of the report accompanying the index, the results reflect how inequality has an impact on access to the web. "Nordic policy-makers have been quick to adopt and promote the free Internet - and open access to information - as a 21st century public good," the report states. " Others, as this year's findings show, need to move fast to catch up." The report attributes the Scandinavian countries' advantage to the countries' broader efforts to invest in public goods and establish a welfare and acting against " excess concentrations of wealth and power." With the lower inequality in those countries than in others, "the skills, means and freedoms to benefit from new technologies are widespread, which helps to explain why Scandinavian countries score highly on the political, social and economic impact of the Web GO