One year ago, the “We the People” petition calling on President Obama to stand for strong encryption reached the 100,000 signature threshold that is supposed to trigger a response from the President. We never heard from him.
Today—one year later—Fight for the Future and 17 other groups are once again calling on the President to acknowledge and respond to the 100,000+ people that signed this petition. President Obama and the incoming president have a responsibility to
defend online security for everyone. We need to know where they stand on
this important issue.
Dear President Obama,
On September 29, 2015, Access Now, EFF, and a coalition that grew to nearly 50 organizations and companies initiated a petition using your “We the People” platform. The petition asked you to “[p]ublicly affirm your support for strong encryption,” and to “[r]eject any law, policy, or mandate that would undermine our security” online. It also asked you to encourage other governments worldwide to do the same. The petition, also available at SaveCrypto.org, garnered more than 100,000 signatures in fewer than 30 days.
According to the blog post announcing the creation of We The People, “if a petition gathers enough online signatures, it will be reviewed by policy experts and you’ll receive an official response.” At the time our petition was submitted the threshold for official response was (and currently is) 100,000 signatures within 30 days. Further, the website pledges an official response within 60 days of meeting that threshold.
It has been 365 days — a full year — since our petition exceeded 100,000 signatures, and while in December 2015 your administration created an online portal for signatories to offer more information, there has still been no substantive response.
Encryption tools enable journalists, whistleblowers, organizers, and regular people to communicate securely. It assures users of the integrity of their data and authenticates individuals to companies, governments, and one another. Further, the ability to confidently communicate and conduct business online is a necessary foundation of economic growth in the digital age. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression recently noted, “[e]ncryption and anonymity, separately or together, create a zone of privacy to protect opinion and belief.”
In the 365 days since our petition hit the 100,000 signatory threshold to ensure a response from the administration, the FBI attempted to force Apple to build an entirely new, insecure operating system to bypass its security protocols and the U.S. Congress and legislatures in individual states have debated passing harmful anti-security legislation that would endanger the technology sector globally. Around the world, governments have capitalized on the lack of leadership in support for encryption and implemented harmful laws and policies. China specifically cited to the rhetoric in the U.S. last December when it passed a new law that likely bans end to end encryption, with no upper limit on fines for non-compliant companies. The UK is on the cusp of passing a law that could, practically, have the same impact. And from Brazil to Russia to India we are seeing other actions or proposals that could undermine the security of the global internet.
Mr. President, your response is urgently needed to clarify the United States’ position and establish its leadership on this critically important topic. The United States should once and for all repudiate any type of mandate requiring third-party access to encrypted data, both stored and in transit.
The leading candidates for president have commented on the importance of strengthening U.S. cybersecurity. A cornerstone to those plans must be an increase in the development and use of strong encryption.
Today, it was revealed that AT&T has been running a massive secret spying program—funded by tens of millions in taxpayer money—for state and local law enforcement agencies to conduct warrantless searches of trillions of call records and other extremely sensitive customer data such as precise physical location. Fight for the Future, a digital rights group known for its high profile campaigns for free speech and online security, released the following statement, which can be attributed to campaign director, Evan Greer:
“The for-profit spying program that these documents detail is more terrifying than the illegal NSA surveillance programs that Edward Snowden exposed. Far beyond the NSA and FBI, these tools are accessible to a wide range of law enforcement officers including local police, without a warrant, as long as they pay up. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it. Customers trusted AT&T with some of their most private information, and the company turned around and literally built a product to sell that information to as many government agencies and police departments as they could. Not only did they fail to have any safeguards to prevent unauthorized use of the data, they actually required law enforcement to keep the program secret and dig up or fabricate other evidence, to hide the fact that they’d received information from AT&T. If companies are allowed to operate in this manner without repercussions, our democracy has no future. We call on AT&T to immediately shut down this illegal and unethical spying program, and we demand that the U.S. department of Justice launch an investigation into the use of the Hemisphere spying program, and reveal all court cases where Hemisphere was used so that they can be reviewed.”
Fight for the Future is best known for organizing some of the largest online protests in history including the massive SOPA Blackout, the Internet Slowdown for net neutrality, and Reset the Net opposing mass government surveillance. Learn more at FightForTheFuture.org
What really caused last week’s Internet outage: technologically illiterate lawmakers
THE INTERNET–Today, digital rights group Fight for the Future launched 1 (844) 294-A-CLUE, a “Tech Support Hotline” for members of Congress who find themselves too technologically challenged to understand the recent cyber attacks that took down many popular websites last week.
“Are you a member of Congress who has been asked to give a TV interview about the massive DDoS attacks that took down ‘the internet’ last week, but have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about? We can help!” the website for the hotline proclaims. “Don’t be like Marsha Blackburn, who went on CNN and gave an interview that makes it clear her level of tech savvy falls somewhere between “says ‘the Facebook’ when she means ‘Facebook’” and “asks her kids how to cut and paste.”
The site offers members of Congress a phone number to reach Fight for the Future’s CTO Jeff Lyon, who “will be more than happy to explain the basics of how DDoS attacks work, and how hastily passing more bad Internet legislation will put us all in even more danger.” It also features a video of Blackburn’s eyebrow-raising comments, where she claims that passing the copyright bill SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) would have prevented the DDoS attacks, and calls the technology experts who opposed the bill “cyberbots,” a term used by no-one serious, ever.
Alongside the tongue and cheek humor, the site links to a series of tweetsexplaining history of ignorance and corruption in Congressional attempts to address cybersecurity.
“When somebody on the Communications and Technology subcommittee is this shaky on basic facts of technology and Internet policy, it’s no laughing matter. Lives are at stake,” said Fight for the Future Co-founder Holmes Wilson, “If we’re going to get beyond mistakes like CISA we need members of Congress who actually understand this stuff and don’t just pretend to.”
Nationwide TPP protest tour stopped in Boston over the weekend, events included a training session for future actions pressuring local lawmakers Seth Moulton and Joe Kennedy
BOSTON, MA–More than 200 people turned out on Friday as the nationwide Rock Against the TPP tour protesting the unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal came to the Boston area. The concert, which featured well known acts including Mirah and Debo Band, was followed by a training session where participants planned future actions to pressure undecided local lawmakers Rep Seth Moulton and Joe Kennedy, to vocally oppose the TPP.
Scroll down to see some short video clips from the concert.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not about ‘free trade,’ it’s about corruption,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future and lead organizer of the tour, who is based in Jamaica Plain, and organizes the popular Break the Chains LGBTQ dance party series in Boston, “we’re harnessing the power of music and culture to sound the alarm about this corporate power grab and stop it in its tracks.”
Organized by digital rights group Fight for the Future in partnership with legendary guitarist Tom Morello (Prophets of Rage, Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave) and riot-folk singer Ryan Harvey’s record label Firebrand Records, previous stops on the tour have featured high-profile participants including actress Evangeline Lilly, hip hop icon Talib Kweli, comedian Hari Kondabolu, Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra, legendary punk band Anti-Flag, Danbert Nobacon of the UK sensation Chumbawamba, Adult Swim comedian Eric Andre, and ANTI records songwriter Jolie Holland. The roadshow has already drawn large crowds in Denver, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco.
The TPP has little to do with trade, but instead grants multinational corporations extraordinary new powers to threaten jobs, the environment, affordable medicine, free speech, and food safety. The Rock Against the TPP tour brings together a broad coalition of supporters including digital rights groups, labor unions, environmental groups, and small businesses, and is sponsored by Backbone Campaign, Citizens Trade Campaign, Communications Workers of America (CWA), CREDO, Demand Progress, Friends of the Earth, the International Labor Rights Forum, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, SumOfUs, the Teamsters, and United Steelworkers. Organizers plan to announce additional dates to the tour soon.
Additional performers at the October 7th event include afro-latin rock group Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde and Firebrand Records artist Bell’s Roar.
Yahoo was just revealed to be the very first US internet company to build a program, at the request of US Intelligence Services, to search every single incoming message of every single user in real time.
Let me say that again. Every. Single. Incoming. Message. Every user.
This is an absolutely unprecedented privacy violation. Surveillance experts and former government officials are saying they have never seen such a broad demand for real-time digital surveillance, nevermind one that calls for the creation of a new computer program. This program, essentially a wire-tap on the web, is beyond the scope of any of the already overreaching surveillance laws currently on the books.
“The order issued to Yahoo appears to be unprecedented and unconstitutional. The government appears to have compelled Yahoo to conduct precisely the type of general, suspicionless search that the Fourth Amendment was intended to prohibit,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Patrick Toomey.
Communication giants Microsoft, Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Apple have all rushed to put out statements assuring users that they had not received or complied with similar directives, some going so far as to say that if they had they would challenge it in court. Apple pointed to a recent statement by CEO Tim Cook, which reads, “I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”
Meanwhile, Yahoo issued a statement that does not outright deny that the program existed, nor address the myriad of privacy and security concerns that have been raised.
Even former Yahoo Chief Information Security Officer, Alex Stamos, is appalled by the program. When he found out about it in 2015 he immediately resigned his position, telling coworkers that he had been excluded from the decision to implement the program. He also cited flaws that seriously endangered the security of user data and left the program vulnerable to hackers.
Yahoo is a sinking ship. This is not the first security problem Yahoo has struggled with. Just last month it was revealed that over 500 million (and possibly many many millions more) Yahoo user accounts were compromised by “state sponsored actors.” This hack was almost certainly a result of Yahoo consistently refusing to invest in the necessary and standard security practices adopted by their competitors after a massive hack six years ago, to which Yahoo also fell victim.
And their security is not going to get any better. Yahoo was recently sold to Verizon for 4.8 billion dollars. Telecom companies including Verizon have been colluding with the NSA for years to gather information on billions of people worldwide, as Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations have shown. Beyond handing your data to a prying NSA, Verizon also notoriously created an innovative way to track your online habits on both your phone and on your non-Verizon devices like personal laptops. They then sell your information to marketers. The Verizon-Yahoo merger is going to compound the security issues these two companies have created, resulting in a service where your communication becomes nothing more than a piece of data to be rifled through by the government and sold to the highest bidder.
You deserve to have the safety and privacy you expect. It’s time to dump Yahoo.