Battles for Democracy. Week 12

Battles for Democracy. Week 12

A weekly summary of the battles for democracy we couldn’t write about.

Citizens Losing

Citizens abused or killed, liberties and rights cut.

New Law Means Photographers In Hungary Must Ask Permission First. The new civil code outlaws taking pictures without the permission of everyone in the photograph. The real danger is that private security companies or the police will try to keep reporters and photojournalists out of certain areas, or prevent them and members of the public from taking photographs of their actions.

US License-Plate Tracking Databases. Several already exist, giving the ability to monitor the movements of tens of millions of drivers. They are owned by different private companies, and extensively used by law enforcement agencies for years. In this case, unlike the telecommunications sector, it’s not the federal government with the “collect it all” mentality; it’s the private sector, arguably doing an even better and more thorough job than the government ever could, potentially with even fewer scruples.

NSA surveillance program reaches ‘into the past’ to retrieve, replay phone calls. The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.

Inside the NSA’s Secret Efforts to Hunt and Hack System Administrators. According to a secret document provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the agency tracks down the private email and Facebook accounts of system administrators, before hacking their computers to gain access to the networks they control. “Who better to target than the person that already has the ‘keys to the kingdom’?”

Orange Gives All Of Its Data To France’s NSA. Orange has been cooperating allegedly illegally for years with France’s main intelligence agency (the DGSE). According to a newly found report by Edward Snowden and an investigation by Le Monde, the DGSE was given access to all of Orange’s data (not just metadata).

Turkey strengthens Twitter ban, institutes IP level block. When the block was first implemented, most Internet Service Providers appeared to be using DNS redirects to show users inside Turkey a page citing various court orders. But this redirection could be circumvented by changing the record manually and relying on a different DNS server. Now, researchers are reporting that Twitter is blocked at the IP level within Turkey.

Saudi Arabia’s new law will give you 10 years prison for a re-tweet. On  10March, the Saudi Press Agency reported the conviction of a man, with a 10-year prison sentence and a 100,000 riyal fine ($26,600), for “engaging in following, saving, and resending inciting tweets on the social networking site (Twitter) against the rulers, religious scholars, and government agencies and his connection to people who call themselves reformists…” The basis for this is the new terrorism law and a series of related royal decrees to criminalize virtually all dissident thought or expression as terrorism.

Citizens Winning

Citizens unite, react and take action, institutions support them

Edward Snowden’s TED Talk: Here’s how we take back the Internet. Some excerpts:

  • 10:00 – “All companies should move to encrypted browsing by default. That will increase the privacy and rights that people enjoy worldwide”
  • 10:52 – “The NSA was previously asked by Congress to give a rough ballpark estimate of the amount of American communications being intercepted. They said they don’t track those stats: we can’t track those stats, we can’t tell you how many communications we’re intercepting. Because to tell you that would be to invade your privacy.”
  • 11:30 – “More communications are being intercepted in America about Americans than there are in Russia about Russians.”
  • 12:00 – “In another event, they intercepted all the calls in Washington DC — by accident”
  • 26:02 – “This is not a left/right issue. Our basic freedoms — and by our, I don’t just mean Americans, but people around world — is not a partisan issue. These are things all people believe and it’s up to all of us to protect it. For people who’ve seen and enjoy the open internet, it’s up to us to preserve that for the next generation to enjoy. And if we don’t change things, if we don’t stand up to make the changes we need to do to make the Internet safe for us and everyone, we’re gonna lose that. That would be a tremendous loss for us and for the world.”
  • 34:15 – “I would say the last year has been a reminder that democracy may die behind closed doors. […] We don’t have to give up privacy to have good government, we don’t have to give up liberty to have security. […] By working together we can have open government and private lives. I look forward to working with everyone around the world to see that happen.”

Many organisations support the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) NSA call-tracking lawsuit. One week after the ACLU filed the first an appellate brief challenging the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, prominent and diverse organizations filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the challenge, which is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York.

EU ombudsman calls for independent watchdog on ‘revolving doors’. Decisions on whether EU officials taking lobbying jobs dealing with issues they had previously worked on could in future be made by a new independent body, European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly told MEPs.  She warned that “there may be a case for taking the assessment of conflicts outside the institutions, and to set up an independent body to decide on conflict of interest … if they [the Commission] won’t impose sanctions.”

Numerous ‘Dignity Marches’ coming from different points of Spain joined in Madrid (in Spanish) after a banner with the word ‘dignity’ in all languages to express their anger with the social, economic and political situation in the country.

Far from succumbing to ‘the ban’, Twitter usage SOARS in Turkey. The number of active Twitter users, as well as tweets posted, has soared since the Turkish government blocked access to the popular social media platform.

Tools For Democracy

Tails. The Amnesic Incognito Live System. Tails is a live operating system, that you can start on almost any computer from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card. It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you to: (1) use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship; all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network; (2) leave no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly; (3) use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.

The 2014 EU Justice Scoreboard is an information tool that provides objective data on the quality, independence and efficiency of justice systems in all Member States. It compares indicators such as  the following across EU Member States: (1) Time needed to resolve litigious civil and commercial cases; (2) Rate of resolving litigious civil and commercial cases; (3) Number of litigious civil and commercial pending cases (4) Perceived judicial independence.

SecureDrop is an open-source whistleblower submission system managed by Freedom of the Press Foundation that media organizations use to securely accept documents from anonymous sources. It was originally coded by the late Aaron Swartz.

The Gini index measures the extent to which the distribution of income or consumption expenditure among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. A Gini index of 0 represents perfect equality, while an index of 100 implies perfect inequality.