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back to article Blame Silicon Valley for the NSA's data slurp... and what to do about it

Widespread ridicule has greeted the announcement that eight giant technology companies led by Google and including Facebook and LinkedIn were going to save us from the NSA. The ridicule is thoroughly justified, for trusting giant corporations - whose business models rely on selling your identity to advertisers - to safeguard …

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The underlying problem with IP rights, both in 'the individual' case and in the behaviour of traditional media, is that it relies on actually fighting such problems through the courts. And that costs money. Serious money.

Add to the the financial penalties which, in the US at least, are ruinous to an individual but petty cash to a billion pound business, and you start to see why it is fairly hard for any individual to challenge, but easy for industries (and or their representation groups such as the MPAA, etc) to threaten small innovative players into obedience or destroy them.

Short of settlements being means-based (say 0.1% of one's worth, so few thousand for an individual but maybe millions for a big business or a group they back), and making the court process faster and cheaper, that is hardly going to redress the situation we find ourselves in.

As for the spooks, well they get laws made up to suit what they want to do, so none of this would make any difference.

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I think its time for another chorus of, "no taxation without representation". Us plebs get taxed well enough but the representation goes to whoever has the richest lobby group. And funnily enough, the companies which don't pay any taxes have plenty of cash available for lobbying - that is, buying representation.

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It doesn't cost serious money in most cases. No matter how wealthy the infringer, the law favours the property owner.

Per-infringement statutory damages really focus the mind. Now imagine this for privacy infringement.

It will be an uphill battle because you'll be fighting both state propaganda (WoT) and Silicon Valley propaganda. But even Larry Page had to admit last year that your data ultimately belongs to you.

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Anonymous Coward

"But you ARE represented...by your Representatives and Senators. YOU voted for them, after all. Your fault for voting in a brown-nose."

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Anonymous Coward

It doesn't cost serious money ?!

If my memory is still good, the SCO saga lasted about a decade in court. Google versus Oracle and Apple versus Samsung are also heading for a long presence in courts of justice. You still have to have some spare change to burn all these years.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: "Your ARE represented" - stupid reasoning.

If your only candidates in an election are already captured cronies then the vote becomes meaningless. In the USA especially, but becoming more so elsewhere, the funds required to run for office inevitably lead to voting being no more than selecting from a pool of cronies. That's not democracy. But then neither is the USA.

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Small claims court

The underlying problem with IP rights, both in 'the individual' case and in the behaviour of traditional media, is that it relies on actually fighting such problems through the courts. And that costs money. Serious money.

Since autumn 2012 the UK justice system has had a small claims track for IP cases where the value of the claim is less than £10,000. [More details here.] There is no reason why the same system should not be applied to privacy cases. And sure, £10,000 is a trivial sum to a big corporation; but I doubt if any corporation who cares about its public face would want to fight a lot of such cases.

The IP small claims court can issue injunctions to prevent future infringement, as well as award damages.

The US Copyright Office has been conducting consultations with a view to bringing in a similar system. I don't know what point they have arrived at on this.

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Optional

"The ridicule is thoroughly justified, for trusting giant corporations - whose business models rely on selling your identity to advertisers - to safeguard your privacy is like hiring a kleptomaniac with a sweet tooth to guard the sweet shop."

FIFY!

A good piece, though.

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Headmaster

Nah, Andrew had it right

By definition, kleptomania is an uncontrollable urge to steal for reasons other than personal gain. So someone with a sweet tooth stealing from a sweets shop does not fit the definition.

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Re: Nah, Andrew had it right

In that case there's no need to specify the type of shop. Since it was specified, adding the sweet tooth emphasises just how futile the excercise is.

Not dissimilar to exaggerating how badly something is going by adding first "like an elephant on skis" to the statement that it's going downhill fast. And the next time, "like an elephant with a jetpack on skis", then "like an elephant with a jetpack on skis on a vertical incline."

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Coat

Re: Nah, Andrew had it right

By definition an incline is neither horizontal nor vertical. And what if the jetpack is opposing the downward motion of the elephant? Otherwise, I agree with you 110%.

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Re: Nah, Andrew had it right

"The ridicule is thoroughly justified, for trusting giant corporations - whose business models rely on selling your identity to advertisers - to safeguard your privacy is like hiring children to guard the sweet shop"

FTFY.

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Anonymous Coward

Lobbying is what they mean. They're spend a fortune funding the right senators.

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Lobbying

It's just a fancy word for bribe.

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Re: Lobbying

Not even fancy, just weasely.

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The law is not the answer

> Then we can begin to assert that we own everything we produce, extending copyright rights and practice to our own data.

Having "rights" is fine and dandy ... if you are a law student making an argument in some ivory tower. However when an average guy on (maybe) $50,000 a year tries to assert those rights, up against the corporate might of a $100Bn corporation, there isn't even a smear left on the tracks of the juggernaut that rolls over him.

Recourse to the law is only practical when it is affordable (without ruining either side: win or lose) and there is some degree of symmetry between the means of the parties involved.

So how would an average guy "defend" his rights to his data? The answer is that he can't. Nobody can. As software companies learned with software piracy: once it's out there, you can't stop it. The only way to restrict the proliferation of personal data is to stop it getting "free". One model would be for all personal data to only be available through some sort of personal server (real or virtual) that required specific, tailored access to be granted on a case-by-case basis, by the individual in question.

The problem is that few would wish to take the time to police their data. We already know that personal privacy comes a long way down the list of most people's priorities - as most (rightly or wrongly) don't consider it to have any value and so far they haven't been proved wrong.

Maybe a better solution would be a way of allowing people to declare tabula rasa every few years. Change their online identity, walk away from all the crap that's been written about, or by, them and stop all those dam' cookies from following them around.

The idea was popular in early Jewish/Christian tradition as Jubilee where slaves were freed, debts wiped clean and sins absolved. Maybe the internet needs the same? Though 50 years could be too long an interval - 6 months might be better.

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@Repeat (pete 2) Re: The law is not the answer

You are right.

We can't afford individual lawsuits against the giant companies for spying on us.

And the only winners in a class action lawsuit are the lawyers and the main litigants like the EFF.

We can't stop using their products. It would mean every web page that uses Google Analytics would have to then find another service, and another company would actually have to invest $$$ to build a network of data centers to host the massive index of the web containing search results in multiple languages. (And it costs $$$ so you'll have to figure out a way to monetize it.)

As to creating an online persona... guess what? I use one to post, but Google and company already know how to tie personas back to a real person. (Ooops! I guess I broke that one.)

The only thing we can do is to get the laws changed and force Google and company to remove the data that they collect on us and to no longer track us if we submit a form ordering them to do so.

(Want to see the chocolate factory melt overnight? ) I mean we could register a UUID cookie that says don't track this device. And if the corporation (Google, FB, Apple, etc ...) did, it would be not only a civil suit, but also prison time for not just the employee, but also the corporate exec. (No more... 'rogue' programmers as an excuse ...)

Actually the irony would be that you would register a master cookie with the government in a 'Do not track' list where only the government has the PII information and the other companies just have the cookie and if they do associate it with other data, or do track more than 5 days after registration... oops. JAIL TIME! (The irony is that only the government could associate the cookie to you and they are the ones whom are accused of invading your privacy. ;-)

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Re: The law is not the answer

"So how would an average guy "defend" his rights to his data?"

The same way the law favours you when the Daily Mail steals your photo. Cheap and easy access to justice, with the deck stacked in your favour. I think you're struggling with the concept here a bit because you don't actually know what property rights you have today.

You are right about the individual being sovereign in the correct model - you just don't need a single physical point of failure - your ownership (as with copyright ) is automatic.

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Re: The law is not the answer

> I think you're struggling with the concept here a bit because you don't actually know what property rights you have today.

A fair point.

The difficulty is: knowing which of the outfits that you allowed access to your privates, did the dirty on you. For example, say I received a dozen of more spams saying "Happy birthday Pete 2, not that you're getting on a bit, would you like to take out our special old-people's life insurance. If you apply today, we'll send you a free bus-pass holder".

Now there would probably be many organisations that have either been given my date of birth, or that could have inferred it. For example: Amazon getting lots of gift-wrapped orders (I wish) to my name and address. Unlike the example of the Daily Wail using my photograph, I wouldn't necessarily know who had leaked my personal data.

There is also the issue of scalability. Even if there was a route to cheap justice and a swift judgment, would that process still work when every citizen had several outstanding claims against multiple infringers: each of whom was located in a different country and had an interest in having the proceedings held in their own home country. I can see a situation where the legal process might only take 5 minutes, but there is a 6 month wait for your 5 minutes.

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Re: The law is not the answer

"The same way the law favours you when the Daily Mail steals your photo."

You mean like the fellow who finally won out against the Daily Mail, but it took years? (There's too many search hits for the Daily Mail stealing photos.) Sure, the law favors your, but it will take a lot of effort, and it definitely isn't as easy as clicking through a few forms and getting a payout.

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Re: The law is not the answer

Trouble is, what if BOTH sides claim ownership? Then it's big guy vs. little guy again, and the big guy has all the lawyers. They can come up with the legally-verifiable claims of ownership, real or made-up. Plus they may even be able to subvert the legal system itself. It's just straight out bullying, and he has your lunch, a bat, AND a posse. Anything YOU can assert, THEY can assert with more force (and even if you strip rights from businesses, what's to stop them creating a "designee"?).

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Re: @Repeat (pete 2) The law is not the answer

I don't use any Google, Yahoo, or Bing search for most searching, I use Startpage HTTPS and DuckDuckGo on most everything, even inline search, and misc proxies. I also use advert bug killers (like Ghostery), site blockers, script blockers, an end-of-session cookie killer, etc..., all with site whitelists, and I don't stay logged into comment sites for long; all because I expect sites to spy on me, and most do! I also use unique account details, so that data aggregators will find it much harder to track me across sites.

I have never had a "drive-by" exploit, despite visiting many odd sites.

There is lots more I could do, but it comes down to how much extra cost and hassle I will tolerate.

What we need is something which makes the excessive spy infrastructure unusable, irrelevant, or just plain unaffordable. IP6 may just do that!

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Re: The law is not the answer

"We already know that personal privacy comes a long way down the list of most people's priorities - as most (rightly or wrongly) don't consider it to have any value and so far they haven't been proved wrong."

Millions of customers of Target might have recently received a wake up call. As have millions upon millions of other people who have been the victims of massive data thefts. At least, those who actually read/watch/listen to the news or were contacted by the data holders. Assuming those victims actually understand that it was their data that was stolen and that they are the victim,not the company who let the data be stolen.

Oh, hang on. Yes, you are absolutely right. Almost no one values personal data because even when vital data like their own credit card number is stolen, most don't think that is something worth seriously considering.

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Re: @Repeat (pete 2) The law is not the answer

A few month ago I came up with the idea for a government-run central database to store all information about that country's citizens.

Every citizen would be issued a smart-card that would be used to authorize access to their information. IN turn each Company, organization and agency would be then issued their own CA certificate with which they would use to issue each employee their own certificate as well as certificates for equipment used to process personal information. This would allow for access to that information to be revoked for an rogue employee, a compromised server, or even an entire company that is misusing data.

Each certificate issued would come with a long list of flags based on what information the requester can see (Primarily based off of whether the requester / requester's organization has passed regulatory checks such as HIPPAA, SOX, etc) or if they have a valid business license. This would be restricted at both the CA level and the individual employee level.

Each company or data requester would have a standardized database that would receive the information in the form of a selective replication from the central database over a secured connection (SSL VPN perhaps using the device's certificate for access).

When information is requested of a private citizen, a unique ID is generated along with a series of flags describing which pieces of data that are being requested, this is then sent to the central database where it is held to await authorization. At this point the citizen for whose data is being requested will use some for authorization terminal and log in with their card and see any requests being made for their data, at which point they could uncheck some things they don't want the requester to know, or is irrelevant. At this point the citizen would then send back the authorization. Once this authorization step has taken place, the request is granted in the form of a simple database replication from the central database to the requester's with only the authorized data.

The requester's database would be constructed in such a way that it will filter information itself based on the authorization level of the employee.

An example of all this would be if a citizen broke a bone and went to the hospital, at reception the clerk would create a request for all the citizen's medical information at which point they would be able to filter out irrelevant stuff (say the citizen had a psych eval. a few years back), the citizen would then authorize access to that data. The central database would then replicate all the authorized requested bit of information such as medical history, name, gender, DOB, next of kin, medical benefits, etc. along with a token describing how long the data will be available before the request expires and new authorization is needed.

Since this data is further filter by the local database, each employee would see a different subset of data: the receptionist would see just your name, the doctor would see all your medical history but not address or other information, the nurse would be able to see your name, medications you are *currently* taking and allergy information, etc.

Another example would be an online store where it would ask you for your shipping address and confirmation that you are allowed to posses certain materials such as prescription drugs, or toxic materials (But only if they are authorized to sell such things).

A third example would be for an online service (such as email, a forum or social network) would only need to validate that you are a human being without the need to give them your name or even an email address, plus you could log in without the need for a password (you''d be able to use your smartcard). This would allow illegal activity (Such as soliciting sex from a minor or other malicious behavior) to be reported and the account traced through the original request, that way the police can handle it without the website ever knowing who that person truly was.

On the other hand, if someone came up to you claiming to be from the government or a specific company, you could then make a request to the central database to validate that they are, in fact, a member of that organization and see a list of what they are able to request (In order to prevent fraudsters from claiming to be from your bank to steal you money or a government agent over-stepping their bounds).

There would also be a a table in the database listing every single request for data, which would allow each citizen to review who made each request, even law enforcement requests would be listed here.

The organization running the database would be built from the ground up with the idea of privacy in mind where no one can make an anonymous request despite them having a court order or National Security Letter. In the process of proper law enforcement, certain requests can be authorized by a judge and possibly be anonymized for a set amount of time (say 90 -120 days, but no more than a year) at which point the request will become public and the prosecution must either enter the information as evidence or delete it, either way it would be revealed to the citizen that this information was requested.

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Re: @Repeat (pete 2) The law is not the answer

Thing is, what if the government you describe gets overthrown and the new leader(s) simply say, "Unlock everything or your family will have never existed." The main problem with your system is that it has to rely on perfect trust. Once the trust is broken, anywhere along the line, it's in the open again.

That's always been the big problem with encryption. At some point, for the data to be usable, it has to be DEcrypted. and that's where you're most vulnerable, because THIS is where trust comes in.

Thing is, we're just about at a point where you can't trust ANYONE. Which means it can all boil down two one of two scenario. Either we go into total paranoia, and all socialization will cease because we can't trust anyone, or we surrender to the inevitable result of a world where trust cannot be guaranteed: sooner or later (usually sooner), no secret will be safe and pray that civilization doesn't hinge on a secret.

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Re: The law is not the answer

The answer is to start an IETF RFC for a massively secure public/private key transaction at the raw packet level, and a DNS and proxy system that could be built to make it massively hard to track packets, with them being routed around the 'net in short term one time hops that would subsequently vanish.

We did this with frequency hopping spread spectrum radio for anti-surveillance: we should do it for all traffic on the net.

That solves the man in the middle issue.

AS far as compromised end points go, physical security and proper monitoring of the traffic in and out is probably the best response.

That doesn't stop massively expensive targeted surveillance from cracking codes or penetrating 'targets of interest' but it would make routine surveillance of everything impossibly expensive.

And some of what has been revealed is frankly impossible: unless disk manufacturers are prepared to reserve several times a disks capacity for the retention of all the data on it that has ever been written and subsequently erased, its not going to be able to store it.

Firmware hacks that 'transmit all the data over the internet' require at least a suitable amount of bandwidth to transmit it with.

So monitor it. If there is a background dribble of data going out over the internet, find it.

The point is that to respond to this sort of compromising, requires active methodologies by the whole IT community at every level. You may compromise most of the tools used to detect intrusion, but not all, and the moment one exploit is discovered, the damage done to the whole brand if a particular piece of hardware is found to have back doors, would be massive.

The point is ultimately that we are not at the mercy of large corporations and the shadowy government agencies. So long as engineers have tools to analyse data flows or Bioses to fix problems, they can disassemble anything they care to.

And the people in charge of the surveillance themselves (as Snowden shows), are not immune from attacks of conscience - or indeed being paid to reveal what some other party is anxious to see revealed.

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Re: @Repeat (pete 2) The law is not the answer

If the government gets overthrown, I don't think privacy is what I'd be worrying about, besides the intelligences services already have all that information anyway and its not like that will change any time soon. My system doesn't rely on perfect trust, just that you'd only need to trust one person rather than the plethora we do now, and the system I propose would give the people we already trust with our data less of it.

And yes, there are problems with encryption, but I:d rather have it stay encrypted for most of the data's life than not all; I don;t want to wake up one day to find that some jobsworth has left an unencrypted drive full of my information on the bus.

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Re: The law is not the answer

How can somebody who writes such cynical claptrap be so naive? Even if you technically have legal recourse against the DM for publishing your photos and/or making scurrilous accusations against you, by the time the legal system has ground into action the damage has already been done.

Suppose the DM publishes your photograph in an article about suspected paedophiles, naturally you're outraged and take them to court. As they have no proof to back up their claims and because they violated your privacy unfairly you prevail in court and possibly win a juicy payout that more or less covers your court costs.

However, the damage done to your reputation is permanent. The news article will still exist somewhere, and it will still insinuate in writing that you're a paedophile with your photo attached. While the paper will probably also be forced to publish a retraction and an apology, they never exactly go out of their way to call much attention to them. You'll get some tiny correction printed in tiny print in the hopes nobody notices it, and nobody probably will.

Meanwhile, the thought implanted in the public mind will linger in some corners and you'll probably never escape it. There's no legal way (or indeed physical way that I'm aware of) to erase the population's memory.

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Anonymous Coward

Paul Crawford sez "As for the spooks, well they get laws made up to suit what they want to do, so none of this would make any difference."

And when they don't, they just change their 'percepted meaning' ie surveillance is not surveillance unless an analyst sits down and actually looks at a persons data and then checks off that it has been looked at.

My concern is not with Silicon Valley, I have the option to not use their shit.

Avoiding the NSA / GCHQ or w/e is far more difficult.

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Boffin

@Andrew Orlowski

Andrew,

It only took you 6 months to figure out and write about this. ;-P

Not that I disagree with you on anything that you wrote, but the biggest reason why the likes of FB and Google are protesting so much is that it uncovers the amount of spying that they do.

Visit a web page? Google knows about it.*

Run a search? The odds are Google knows about it. **

Want to read a news article from a site like the WSJ or from a paper like the Tribue (Chicago & LA) or even Huffington Post? Log in to Facebook to authenticate you as a real person.

The point is that you can't avoid these companies capturing data about you.

The irony and hypocrisy is that while many are 'outraged*** at the NSA data slurp, the same information that people want to keep 'private' they routinely and freely share with companies, and even the companies send out annual privacy statements on how they will use the data that they capture.

The biggest irony? The NSA could have actually purchased the data from the likes of Google, Facebook, and the telcos all legal and above board.

I wonder how many would feel then?

* Assuming you're not running NoScript and you shut off any JS code that reports to google or shares data with google...

** Assuming you use Google Search (which most people do)

*** Merkel should get the German equivalent of the Oscar for her performance. What? Foreign companies spy on other Foreign companies? Say it isn't so?

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Re: @Andrew Orlowski

Only since last year :-)

Without property rights there won't be any privacy. Google knows this as well as the NSA.

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Re: @Andrew Orlowski

Begging the question of whether "copyrights" are "property rights".

"But... MUH PROPERTY, PIRATE!" "Fuck you, this is MY harddisk!"

See the difference?

"Property rights" and "Privacy" are completely orthogonal things. And so are "Copyrights". Mashing all this up into a guacamola ain't helping nobody.

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Re: @Andrew Orlowski

Really? It took you long enough. I've been saying this for ages.

The Internet was designed to be inherently 'trusting'. It's never been fit for its current purposes, and there are no signs of this changing. I therefore don't put anything on the Internet that I want to keep secret.

The NSA, GCHQ and their peers spy on people? Who knew? Oh right: I did. So did anyone else with more than two brain cells to bang together. They're spy agencies! Spying is what they do! Spying on their own citizens was also a wholly predictable result of the US PATRIOT Act and its foreign equivalents: It's hard to spot home-grown terrorists within your own borders if you don't do it and the UK certainly has form: the IRA and UDF were rather into setting off bombs and murdering civilians until relatively recently. Both groups were operating inside the UK's own borders. Spain and France also have similar experiences, with the former having to face the Basque separatist group, ETA.

The only thing surprising about Snowden's "leaks" is that so many people were so shockingly ignorant about what these agencies actually did for a living. What did you people think they were doing all day in those vast buildings? Watching porn?

*

All those GPL variants so beloved of the GNU and many members of the FOSS communities? Without IP laws, they're not worth the rusty iron they're stored on: Copyleft cannot exist without Copyright. Without IP laws, without the pillars that support Copyright Law, no license agreement can be enforced: counterfeiting would be effectively legal for everyone. Even the Creative Commons movement relies on existing IP law to enforce its own licenses.

So, yes, IP law is needed – or a very near facsimile offering similar features. (I'm not convinced of the validity of software patents, for example. And the USPTO really needs a major overhaul.)

What we need are standardised Open Formats. If we can store our personal profiles in standard formats, they become much, much easier to trade. We could trivially leverage our personal data, and there's no need for micro-payments to do so either: "Do ut des." The personal data is the payment. Make this the price for "pro" services and we can choose whether to pay that price. Offer a cut-down, genuinely "free" service tier, then use it as a 'teaser' service to entice users to make that choice of their own volition. Give people the choice.

(Okay, I won't be interested myself, but I'm sure plenty of people will be more than happy to do so. As anyone who's ever looked at Facebook or Twitter can attest.)

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Re: @Andrew Orlowski

All those GPL variants so beloved of the GNU and many members of the FOSS communities?

Copyleft was invented to subvert copyright. I don't think the originators of that license would care too much if "intellectual property" as we know it completely ceased to exist.

Me, I can understand the advantage of some kinds of limited copyright. However "intellectual property" is, as I continue to maintain, a cancer.

Though what this has to do with the NSA spying on people, privacy in general or the tendency of large corporations to be obsessed with spying on their customers, I have no idea. It's an Orlowski article. I get the feeling he'd blame "the freetards" for shooting John F Kennedy, if he could.

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Boffin

@ Sean T ... Re: @Andrew Orlowski

First, I've known about some of the stuff the NSA/CIA/etc has been doing over the past 20+ years. As you say, anyone with a brain and the ability to read would know that. (Or at least suspect what they were doing without actually knowing what they were doing. )

But its only been 6 months since Snowden did his massive dump. And by dump I mean pinch a loaf on the US.

To your point: "What did you people think they were doing all day in those vast buildings? Watching porn?"

Actually some do. We all know that the internet was created so that geeks can get their full share of porn in the privacy of their own home. We also know that its probably the easiest way to get your PC infected. Or to pass encrypted messages in a photo. So yes, the NSA does watch porn. (Hey! if I was in the NSA, that would be something I would do... ) [And I think NCIS or some other TV show mentioned this... ]

I suggest you look at the Creative Commons. You are still giving a lot of rights away.

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Re: @Andrew Orlowski

"Copyleft was invented to subvert copyright. I don't think the originators of that license would care too much if "intellectual property" as we know it completely ceased to exist."

That, I'm afraid, is nonsense. You need to read Stallman's original article on GPL, rather than the projections of other people's Marxist fantasies onto it. Copyleft is an exercise of the intellectual property right of copyright, not a replacement for it.

Without copyright, GPL works would be no different to Public Domain works... there would be absolutely no legal comeback against someone who breached the copyleft terms of a Free Software licence.

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Re: @Andrew Orlowski

http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/

The simplest way to make a program free software is to put it in the public domain, uncopyrighted. This allows people to share the program and their improvements, if they are so minded. But it also allows uncooperative people to convert the program into proprietary software. They can make changes, many or few, and distribute the result as a proprietary product. People who receive the program in that modified form do not have the freedom that the original author gave them; the middleman has stripped it away.

Though you are probably thinking of the following paragraph:

Copyleft is a way of using of the copyright on the program. It doesn't mean abandoning the copyright; in fact, doing so would make copyleft impossible. The “left” in “copyleft” is not a reference to the verb “to leave”—only to the direction which is the inverse of “right”.

See, I don't read that as "abandon all copyright". I read that as "abandoning the copyright on your product as a way of putting it into the public domain". Abandoning all copyright would mean that "proprietary", ie uncopyable, products would be impossible to legally enforce, and there would be no need for copyleft. Therefore, copyleft is invented as a means to subvert (or perhaps invert) copyright. Therefore, I don't think the people who invented copyleft would be all that bothered if the notion of intellectual property (note I did not say 'copyright' there, two very different beasts) went out of the window.

There is also the very second sentence in the GNU GPL preamble:

The licenses for most software and other practical works are designed to take away your freedom to share and change the works. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change all versions of a program--to make sure it remains free software for all its users.

Sounds pretty hippy-dippy-free-love-and-pass-the-flowers-around to me.

Of course I guess we would have to get an answer straight from Stallman, ESR or the various other GNU guys' mouths, to know for certain.

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Anonymous Coward

"...at least the NSA is subject to democratic scrutiny..."

Really?!? Are you joking or is this just deliberate misinformation?

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57603402-38/secret-court-reveals-justification-for-nsas-mass-data-collection/

Secret courts: Maybe you could explain how exactly they're subject to "democratic scrutiny".

Here's some examples of how secret courts stop the sky falling in:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jo-shaw/secret-courts-8-nightmare-scenarios-now-possible-in-britain-0

PS When is theregister forum going to be fixed to allow hyperlinks for anonymous contributors. And the details on how to do it, clearly published.

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Big Brother

Toys

All of our computers and phones are now relegated to Fisher-Price toy status.

They are only suitable for watching mainstream video and light browsing.

Do not use your computer for any form of business or private communication.

2013, the year that the "Paperless Office" finally died.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Toys

That means you'll be forced to go out in the open...right into the view of satellites and security cameras. Don't think they're stupid enough to tap just electronic communications.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Toys

Do you think that John Chen might have a point about BES 10 and BlackBerry messaging security, then?

Did I see a picture of Frau Doktor Merkel with a BlackBerry phone? And the Danish PM?

Just don't sideload anything Android, folks.

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Big Brother

Way to miss the point and foobaring it

The ridicule is thoroughly justified, for trusting giant corporations - whose business models rely on selling your identity to advertisers - to safeguard your privacy is like hiring a kleptomaniac to guard the sweet shop.

The very second paragraph mixes up privacy violations by companies and privacy violations by state. While the first are a nuisance, the second get you into a concentration camp. They are not the same at all.

Then talking about how "copyright" has been "weakened" (what? I must have been dreaming the last twenty years) and can be applied to the problem at hand, while it is basically a state-granted monopoly that state can give a flying fuck about is sadly jumping the shark.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Way to miss the point and foobaring it

Mr. Orlowski can rest assured, nobody is going to weaken the copyright. Au contraire :

http://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/2014/pre-1976

the fact that Curious George will not go into public domain until 2053 should offer him much needed relief.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Way to miss the point and foobaring it

Copyright will be extended indefinitely. There is no way Hatch will allow Mickey Mouse to enter the public domain.

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Democratic scrutiny?

`Yet at least the NSA is subject to democratic scrutiny.'

To paraphrase Arthur Ford: `This is obviously some strange usage of the word "democratic" that I hadn't previously been aware of.'

Almost nothing of significance about the NSA is known. Not even how many people work there or not what the budget is. How can I, as a citizen, scrutinize something I know almost nothing about?

Secret government, such as the NSA, is by it's very nature anti-democratic, It's a few chosen ones deciding what's good for the people at large, it's the exact opposite!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Democratic scrutiny?

You don't have to scrutinize it yourself, this is a job for the incompetent, ignorant members of the US Congress.

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Anonymous Coward

Far from prefect

To paraphrase Arthur Ford:

Any relation to Arthur Dent ?

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If I take a photo of you, then, in the UK, as I understand it, you have no property rights. I can do with that photo what I will; in particular, I can sell it and make money. (Even in jurisdictions where a model release is necessary, it doesn't affect the properties rights.) If I was an expensive lawyer, I would make a similar argument about much of this data: a server log is a facsimile of your actions made by me; it is my property to dispose of as I will, subject to privacy legislation.

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Not true that subjects of photos have no rights

If I take a photo of you, then, in the UK, as I understand it, you have no property rights. I can do with that photo what I will; in particular, I can sell it and make money.

This is only true if you take the photo in a public place. Otherwise:

i) If you take it in my house, or while you are on my property, you need my consent.

ii) If you take it on someone else's land/property you need their consent. But even that may not always be enough; see this page.

iii) If I commissioned you to take it, although you keep the copyright, you cannot publish it or exhibit it, etc (applies to wedding photos, for instance); see Copyright Designs and Patents Act section 85

So there are restrictions. And restrictions could just as well apply, or be made to apply, to a server log.

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Stop

Sigh...

"The EFF and ACLU each bagged $1m from the settlement, which for the EFF was more than it raised in donations. And it has some pretty wealthy donors.

So the poachers are paying off the gamekeepers."

Dear Andrew, I couldnt care less if they are funded by "the industry", the EFF and the ACLU do more for the privacy uf the US citizens than an articulist sitting on his confy chair...and you "forget" to say that Microsoft and Apple have been around before Google and Facebook.

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