Monthly Archives: January 2014

Guess Which Fine News Source

Here’s the quote from the leed,

Online retail giant Amazon says it knows its customers so well it can start shipping even before orders are placed.

Guess where this appeared. Link after the jump.
Continue reading

Posted in Shopping | 3 Comments

Browser Extension Spyware

Only a matter of time: Warning: Your Browser Extensions Are Spying On You.

Bonus: Adware Vendors Buy and Abuse Chrome Extensions

Double bonus: Chrome Protector Notifies You If You’re Running an Adware Extension

Posted in Software | 1 Comment

Early Returns: NSA Surveillance Reforms are Not Impressive

EFF tries to strike a note of cautious optimism about President Obama’s NSA reform package, Obama Takes First Steps Toward Reforming NSA Surveillance, but Leaves Many Issues Unaddressed, even though by my reading Obama’s reforms, such as they are, don’t do very well on yesterday’s EFF scorecarrd.

Simon Davis is more pessimistic:

US privacy advocates are right to conditionally welcome some of Obama’s reforms, but they should take into account two critically important implications that the President avoided.

The first of these is the NSA’s intimate operational partnership with Britain’s SIGINT agency, GCHQ. Nothing in his reform package indicates a brake on the current arrangements which allow GCHQ to collect information on US persons.

The second key element is that the proposals appear to merely shift the current collection and retention of metadata from a centralised NSA operation to more of a European-style communications data arrangement that requires commercial entities to maintain a distributed retention. That arrangement in Europe has been deemed unlawful, but there is every chance the US will adopt it.

All things considered, the prospects for genuine intelligence reform at the global level are more bleak than they were 24 hours ago.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Law: Privacy, National Security | 2 Comments

Obama Limitation on Bulk Collection of E-Data Amounts to ‘Trust Us’

I’m underwhelmed by President Obama’s new Presidential Policy Directive/Ppd-28 on Signals Intelligence.

As I read it, the document announces various fine principles for how drift-net collection of email and telephone and other computer data will be used, but says nothing about collecting any less of it. The memo purports to define “why, whether, and how” this data will be collected; in fact it has a lot more to say about limitations on use than collection, most of it pretty good.1

Unfortunately the collection section, section 3, is the shortest and, on first reading, the worst. Here it is in full:

Sec. 3. Refining the Process for Collecting Signals Intelligence.

U.S. intelligence collection activities present the potential for national security damage if improperly disclosed. Signals intelligence collection raises special concerns, given the opportunities and risks created by the constantly evolving technological and geopolitical environment; the unique nature of such collection and the inherent concerns raised when signals intelligence can only be collected in bulk; and the risk of damage to our national security interests and our law enforcement, intelligence-sharing, and diplomatic relationships should our capabilities or activities be compromised. It is, therefore, essential that national security policymakers consider carefully the value of signals intelligence activities in light of the risks entailed in conducting these activities.

To enable this judgment, the heads of departments and agencies that participate in the policy processes for establishing signals intelligence priorities and requirements shall, on an annual basis, review any priorities or requirements identified by their departments or agencies and advise the DNI whether each should be maintained, with a copy of the advice provided to the APNSA.

Additionally, the classified Annex to this directive, which supplements the existing policy process for reviewing signals intelligence activities, affirms that determinations about whether and how to conduct signals intelligence activities must carefully evaluate the benefits to our national interests and the risks posed by those activities. (footnote omitted)

I read that to mean … “trust us”. Am I wrong?

  1. There is one odd footnote, footnote 5, that I don’t fully understand:

    The limitations contained in this section do not apply to signals intelligence data that is temporarily acquired to facilitate targeted collection. References to signals intelligence collected in “bulk” mean the authorized collection of large quantities of signals intelligence data which, due to technical or operational considerations, is acquired without the use of discriminants (e.g., specific identifiers, selection terms, etc.).


Posted in Civil Liberties, Law: Privacy, National Security | Leave a comment

Osamudia James Wins Derrick A. Bell Jr. Award

thumb-2701aCongrats to my colleague Osamudia James who recently won the Derrick A. Bell, Jr. Award:

Professor Osamudia James was named a co-recipient of the 2014 Derrick A. Bell, Jr. Award. Awarded annually by the American Association of Law Schools Minority Groups Section, the Derrick A. Bell, Jr. Award recognizes a junior faculty member who, through activism, mentoring, colleagueship, teaching, and scholarship, has made an extraordinary contribution to legal education, the legal system, or social justice. The Award is named in honor of Professor Bell, who was the first tenured African American Law Professor at Harvard Law and a co-founder of Critical Race Theory.

James writes and teaches in the areas of Education Law, Race and the Law, Administrative Law, and Torts. Some of her more recent work includes “White Like Me: The Diversity Rationale’s Negative Impact on White Identity Formation,” which will be published in the New York University Law Review; “Opt-Out Education: School Choice as Racial Subordination,” to be published in the Iowa Law Review; “Predatory Ed: The Conflict Between Public Good and For-Profit Higher Education;” and “Dog Wags Tail: The Continuing Viability of Minority-Targeted Aid in Higher Education.”

James shared the award with Stephen Lee, University of California Irvine School of Law. Past winners of the Derrick A. Bell, Jr. Award include Professor Mario Barnes, who won in 2008 while a professor at Miami Law.

Undoubtedly well deserved.

Posted in U.Miami | Leave a comment

Big Win in No-Fly Case — But You Can’t Read the Decision, It’s Secret

Dr. Rahinah Ibrahim won her case against the DHS for erroneously putting her on the no-fly list (see No Fly List on Trial for background). The case was characterized by plausible allegations of various government shenanigans designed to keep Dr. Ibrahim’s US citizen daughter from attending the trial.1 And of course Dr. Ibrahim herself couldn’t come either since she couldn’t fly there.

Rather than issue a public decision, the court issued a “public notice” stating that “findings of fact and conclusions of law” have been issued but would not be published. I’ve never seen one of those before. Usually courts that feel a need to redact things issue decisions with the secret parts whited out – even if they go for pages.

In any case, the short notice tells us the outcome: a win on the key aspects of the merits.

Interstingly, publication of the full opinion is stayed until April 15, 2014, pending a ruling by the Court of Appeals on the secrecy. If, as I assume, this is a CIPA case, I think this date means the trial judge wanted to publish the opinion and the government objected. That would give the government the right to an urgent interlocutory appeal on the issue — the only way I can see the Court of Appeals ruling on anything relating to this matter anywhere near that quickly.

  1. Note that I exclude from the category of shenanigans the denial of access to plaintiff’s counsel of classified info. If the court’s account of the conditions the lawyers demanded, which included discussing the material with their client, was accurate, the court had no choice but to deny the request since the law simply does not allow that. []
Posted in Law: Right to Travel, National Security | 4 Comments