Melon Farmers Original Version

US Internet Snooping Post Snowden

Internet snooping continues in the US


Surveillance in the name of child safety...

The USA takes the lead from the UK Online 'Safety' Bill with its own 1984 snooping bill

Link Here 22nd April 2023
Full story: US Internet Snooping Post Snowden...Internet snooping continues in the US

The EARN IT Bill Is Seeking To Scan Our Messages and Photos.

In a free society, people should not have their private correspondence constantly examined. U.S. lawmakers, we would hope, understand that individuals have the right to a private conversation without the government looking over their shoulder.

So it's dismaying to see a group of U.S. Senators attempting for a third time to pass the EARN IT Act (S. 1207)--a law that could lead to suspicionless scans of every online message, photo, and hosted file. In the name of fighting crime, the EARN IT Act treats all internet users like we should be in a permanent criminal lineup, under suspicion for child abuse.

What The New "EARN IT" Does

The EARN IT Act creates an unelected government commission, stacks it with law enforcement personnel, and then tasks it with creating "best practices" for running an internet website or app. The act then removes nearly 30-year-old legal protections for users and website owners, allowing state legislatures to encourage civil lawsuits and prosecutions against those who don't follow the government's "best practices."

As long as they somehow tie changes in law to child sexual abuse, state lawmakers will be able to avoid longstanding legal protections, and pass new rules that allow for criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits against websites that don't give police special access to user messages and photos. Websites and apps that use end-to-end encryption to protect user privacy will be pressured to remove or compromise the security of their services, or they'll face prosecutions and lawsuits.

If EARN IT passes, we're likely to see state lawmakers step in and mandate scanning of messages and other files similar to the plan that Apple wisely walked away from last year.

There's no doubt the sponsors intend this bill to scan user messages, photos, and files, and they wrote it with that goal in mind. They even suggested specific scanning software that could be used on users in a document published last year. The bill also makes specific allowances to allow the use of encryption to constitute evidence in court against service providers.

Bill Language Purporting To Protect Encryption Doesn't Do The Job

Under pressure, the bill sponsors did add language that purports to protect encryption. But once you take a closer look, it's a shell game. The bill clearly leaves room to impose forms of "client-side scanning," which is a method of violating user privacy by sending data to law enforcement straight from user devices, before a message is encrypted. EFF has long held that client-side scanning violates the privacy promise of end-to-end encryption , even though it allows the encryption process to proceed in a narrow, limited sense. A 2021 paper by 10 leading technologists held that client-side scanners are a danger to democracy, amounting to " bugs in our pockets ."

The Chat-Scanning Software Being Pushed By This Bill Doesn't Work

But the available evidence shows that scanning software that looks for Child Sexual Abuse Material, or CSAM, is far from perfect. Creators of scanning software say they can't be fully audited, for legal and ethical reasons. But here's the evidence so far:

  • Last year, a New York Times story showed how Google's CSAM scanners falsely accused two fathers of sending child pornography . Even after the dads were explicitly cleared by police, Google kept their accounts shut down.

  • Data being sent to cops by the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)--the government agency that will be tasked with analyzing vastly more user data if EARN IT passes--is far from accurate. In 2020, the Irish police received 4,192 reports from NCMEC. Of those, only 852 (20.3%) were confirmed as actual CSAM . Only 9.7% of the reports were deemed to be "actionable."

  • A Facebook study found that 75% of the messages flagged by its scanning system to detect child abuse material were not "malicious," and included messages like bad jokes and memes.

  • LinkedIn reported 75 cases of suspected CSAM to EU authorities in 2021. After manual review, only 31 of those cases --about 41%--involved confirmed CSAM.

The idea of subjecting millions of people to false accusations of child abuse is horrific. NCMEC will export those false accusations to vulnerable communities around the world, where they can be wielded by police forces that have even less accountability than law enforcement in the United States. False accusations are a price that EARN IT supporters seem willing to pay.

We need your support to stop the EARN IT Act one more time. Digital rights supporters sent more than 200,000 messages to Congress to kill earlier versions of this bill. We've beaten it twice before, and we can do it again.

There are currently dangerous proposals that could mandate client-side scanning schemes in the U.K. and European Union , as well. But we don't need to resign ourselves to a world of constant surveillance. In democratic nations, supporters of a free, secure, and private internet can win--if we speak up now.



Opening a book on surveillance...

The US government is considering using 3rd party firms for surveillance of private Facebook groups to work around legal restrictions on snooping

Link Here 4th May 2021
Full story: US Internet Snooping Post Snowden...Internet snooping continues in the US
The Biden administration is considering using outside firms to track social media chatter by Americans online, an effort that would expand the government's ability to gather intelligence but could draw criticism over surveillance of US citizens.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is legally limited in how it can monitor citizens online without justification and is banned from activities like assuming false identities to gain access to private messaging apps used by extremist groups. Instead, federal authorities can only browse through unprotected information on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and other open online platforms. A source familiar with the effort said it is not about decrypting data but rather using outside entities who can legally access these private groups to gather large amounts of information that could help DHS identify key narratives as they emerge.

The plan being discussed inside DHS, according to multiple sources, would, in effect, allow the department to circumvent those limits. The DHS has denied the claim saying it is not partnering with private firms to surveil suspected domestic terrorists online and it is blatantly false to suggest that the department is using outside firms to circumvent its legal limits.

However the DHS statement  said that the department has considered partnering with research firms who have more visibility in this space, though it has not done so to this point. If that ultimately happens, DHS could produce information that would likely be beneficial to both it and the FBI, which can't monitor US citizens in this way without first getting a warrant or having the pretext of an ongoing investigation.



Snoop on...

Senate bill to restrict snooping of people's browsing history fails by one vote

Link Here14th May 2020
Full story: US Internet Snooping Post Snowden...Internet snooping continues in the US
The US government continues to have the right to snoop on internet users' browsing histories, as well and also internet search histories. A bill that would have stripped the government of its right to conduct the searches with no warrant failed in the Senate.

The bipartisan bill, an amendment to a surveillance authority first established under the 2001 Patriot Act, was sponsored by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, and Montana Republican Steve Daines. But the amendment required 60 votes to move forward, and the final Senate vote was 59-37 in favor.



Update: America's listening...

Wikileaks reveals a new set of leaked information detailing CIA snooping and hacking technology

Link Here 8th March 2017
Full story: US Internet Snooping Post Snowden...Internet snooping continues in the US
WikiLeaks has begun a new series of leaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Code-named Vault 7 by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.

The first full part of the series, Year Zero , comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virgina. It follows an introductory disclosure last month of CIA targeting French political parties and candidates in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election .

Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized zero day exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.

Year Zero introduces the scope and direction of the CIA's global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of zero day weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.

Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force 204 its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency's hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA's hacking capacities.

By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally falls under the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other weaponized malware. Such is the scale of the CIA's undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its own NSA with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.

In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA's hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency. The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.

Once a single cyber weapon is loose it can spread around the world in seconds, to be used by rival states, cyber mafia and teenage hackers alike.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor stated that:

There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber 'weapons'. Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such 'weapons', which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade. But the significance of Year Zero goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective.

Wikileaks has carefully reviewed the Year Zero disclosure and published substantive CIA documentation while avoiding the distribution of armed cyberweapons until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA's program and how such weapons should analyzed, disarmed and published.

Wikileaks has also decided to redact and anonymise some identifying information in Year Zero for in depth analysis. These redactions include ten of thousands of CIA targets and attack machines throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States. While we are aware of the imperfect results of any approach chosen, we remain committed to our publishing model and note that the quantity of published pages in Vault 7 part one ( Year Zero ) already eclipses the total number of pages published over the first three years of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks.



Updated: Just correcting a typo...

Now the US authorities are working on getting their own snooper's charter

Link Here 23rd June 2016
Full story: US Internet Snooping Post Snowden...Internet snooping continues in the US
The latest surveillance battle gripping the technology industry is focused on a rewrite of US surveillance law that would mean the justice department would be able to access a citizen's web browsing history, location data and some email records without approval from a judge using a so-called national security letters (NSLs).

The FBI contends that such data is covered implicitly under current statute, which was written years ago and only explicitly covers data normally associated with telephone records.

Director James Comey now is lobbying Congress to extend the current definition to include internet data.

Technology companies including Google, Facebook and Yahoo have sent a letter warning Congress that they would oppose any efforts to rewrite law in the FBI's favor.

This expansion of the NSL statute has been characterized by some government officials as merely fixing a 'typo' in the law, the companies wrote:

In reality, however, it would dramatically expand the ability of the FBI to get sensitive information about users' online activities without court oversight.

Update: Censored whilst claiming to be uncensored

11th June 2016. See  article from

A sly attempt to grant the FBI warrantless access to people's browser histories in the US has been shot down by politicians.

Unfortunately, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Amendments Act of 2015, which would have brought in some privacy safeguards for Americans, was cut down in the crossfire.

The bill was halted because of an amendment tacked on by Senator John Cornyn on Tuesday that would allow the FBI to obtain someone's internet browsing history and the metadata of all their internet use without a warrant. If Cornyn's amendment was passed, the Feds would simply have to issue a National Security Letter (NSL) to get the information.

The bill's sponsors, Senators Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee, told a session of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary that Cornyn's amendment had wrecked years of careful bipartisan negotiations and would seriously harm US citizens' privacy. As such, they weren't prepared to let the bill go forward.

Update: And again

23rd June 2016. See  article from

The US Senate has struck down an amendment that would have allowed the FBI to track internet histories and communications without judicial oversight, but a re-vote could be called under Senate rules.

The amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act would have given the FBI the right to use National Security Letters (NSLs), which compel communications companies to hand over a customer's transactional records, including their browsing history, time spent online, and email metadata, but not the content of messages.

In addition, it would have made permanent a provision in the Patriot Act that would allow the same powers for those deemed to be individual terrorists to be treated as agents of foreign powers, a measure aimed at tracking so-called lone wolf operators.

It was introduced on Monday by Senators John McCain and Richard Burr. Senator John Cornyn has named the issue the FBI's top legislative priority and has tabled a further amendment to allow similar powers to law enforcement.

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