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First POST: Battle Lines

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, January 15 2014

Battle Lines

  • The New York Times Peter Baker and Charlie Savage preview President Obama's Friday speech on NSA reformreporting that he "trying to straddle a difficult line in hopes of placating foreign leaders and advocates of civil liberties without a backlash from national security agencies." If their report proves accurate, Obama's changes will probably satisfy no one, least of all the civil liberties community.

  • On the storage of bulk data, Obama is reportedly going to leave it in NSA hands for now, but ask Congress to weigh in. Worse, he is considering reducing the number of "hops" that the NSA can take when examining the connections and records of a target, from three to…two.

  • Since the NSA argues that storing Americans phone records can't be done efficiently unless held by one party rather than several, and no independent entity to do so currently exists, Baker and Savage report that "he will ask Congress to work with him to determine the best way to store the data."

  • This should go about as well as the plan to close Guantanamo.

  • Also roiling the waters, a former chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court wrote to the congressional oversight committees to express opposition to the creation of an independent public advocate that could argue against the Justice Department in secret proceedings (which are currently completely one-sided.).

  • Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and member of his NSA review panel, responded, “We respectfully disagree with that one, on the ground that the judge sometimes is not in the ideal position to know whether a particular view needs representation and that in our tradition, standardly, the judge doesn’t decide whether one or another view gets a lawyer.”

  • Members of President Obama's NSA review panel testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday questioning the justification for the mass collection of phone metadata.

  • The NSA has bugged 100,000 computers around the world and devised methods to use radio to spy on computers not connected to the Internet, the New York Times David Sanger and Thom Shanker report. Their story expands on Dutch and German reporting on the NSA spy program and the hardware it uses.

  • Notably, Sanger and Shanker reveal that the Times "withheld some of those details, at the request of American intelligence officials, when it reported, in the summer of 2012, on American cyberattacks on Iran."

  • Edward Snowden is joining the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, formally aligning himself with fellow board members Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Daniel Ellsberg.

Whither Net Neutrality

  • Ruling for Verizon, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the FCC's "open internet" rule.

  • Is "sponsored data" the future post-net-neutrality? That is, you get "free" data services but only because certain providers of content are subsidizing the cost in exchange for preferential treatment by the pipe owners? BuzzFeed's John Herrman explains.

  • On Reddit, net freedom advocates Josh Levy, Tim Wu, Susan Crawford and Marvin Ammori explained what the DC court's decision in the Verizon case means for the future of net neutrality. What's needed next? They say the FCC needs to assert its authority and reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service (not an information service) under Title II of the Communications Act and insist that common carrier rules apply.

  • In Slate, Ammori blames former FCC chair Julius Genachowski for the loss in court, comparing him to the coward Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter novels, who makes a deal with Voldemort.

  • Columbia law professor Tim Wu, author of the term "net neutrality" tells Brian Fung of the Washington Post that the FCC "blew it on the legal strategy…It's like, FEMA-level fail."

  • TechFreedom senior fellows Geoffrey Manne and Berin Szoka disagree, and say the court gave the FCC new and broad powers to regulate the Internet, just as long as it doesn't treat broadband providers as common carriers.

  • Senator Al Franken told TechCrunch the court's decision was worrying.

  • The only silver lining in the court's ruling: it upheld the FCC's power to insist on transparency from carriers, so customers may know who is blocking content or tilting their network's speed.

  • The man who said in 2008 said that he would "take a back seat to no one" in his support for net neutrality did not make a comment on the court's ruling.

    In other news around the web:

  • "It seems like they don't use Facebook anymore." That's President Obama talking with a group of 20-somethings in a Washington cafe, as overheard by Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic.

  • The winners of the New Media Ventures Innovation Fund have been announced. They include (which we covered not long ago on techPresident), Hollaback and OPEN (the global network of nation-based digital campaigning organizations.

  • The Knight News Challenge Health winners were also announced. They include DoSomething's Crisis Text Line (which Nancy Lublin previewed at last year's Personal Democracy Forum), Public Lab's Homebrew Sensing Project, and the Ohana API from Code for America.

  • The Washington Post's Erik Wemple continues his critique of Politico's Mike Allen, noting that Allen's extensive excerpting of Gabriel Sherman's new critical biography of Fox's Roger Ailes left out all the critical parts.

  • Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

    In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.


    wednesday >

    Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

    On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.


    The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

    The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.


    tuesday >

    Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

    A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

    Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

    The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.


    Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

    Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.


    monday >

    Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

    In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.


    friday >

    In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO