EPIC Sues DHS Over Covert Surveillance of Facebook and Twitter

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Dec 242011
 

From EPIC.org:

EPIC has filed a Freedom of information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to force disclosure of the details of the agency’s social network monitoring program. In news reports and a Federal Register notice, the DHS has stated that it will routinely monitor the public postings of users on Twitter and Facebook. The agency plans to create fictitious user accounts and scan posts of users for key terms. User data will be stored for five years and shared with other government agencies.The legal authority for the DHS program remains unclear. EPIC filed the lawsuit after the DHS failed to reply to an April 2011 FOIA request. For more information, see EPIC: Social Networking Privacy.

(h/t Pogo Was Right)

EU chief advocates “digital diplomacy”

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Dec 122011
 

This article is a little sparse on details, but one bit of it is interesting enough to note. EU foreign relations chief Ashton has come out with a paper calling for improvements that can be made in the enforcement of human rights in the EU generally, but of interest here is the recognition for “digital diplomacy.”

With Arab Spring revolutions marked by their use of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, she says: “The EU could mobilise key delegations to use social media for digital diplomacy.” She suggests holding “live webcasts” so that human rights activists can talk directly to policy-makers.

She also wants to ban EU countries from selling technology that helps dictators to snoop on people: “[The EU] will develop appropriate measures to ensure that people are not subject to indiscriminate censorship or mass surveillance when using the Internet.”

Bill proposed to end foreign export of web censorship and surveillance tools

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Dec 102011
 

Also in the news regarding US tech exports is a proposed bill to end the foreign export of web censorship and surveillance tools. From the AFP:

“It’s unconscionable that US technology is putting democracy activists at risk,” said Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey who is behind the Global Online Freedom Act.

“US companies should not, knowingly or unwittingly, be providing the technology used by repressive regimes to hunt down and punish human rights activists.

“This bill will stop the vicious merry-go-round we are now on of exporting Internet-restricting technologies from the US that we then have to spend millions of dollars helping activists circumvent,” Smith said.

The legislation would prohibit American companies from exporting hardware or software that could be used for online surveillance or censorship to nations that restrict the Internet.

It would also require Internet companies listed on US stock exchanges to disclose to American regulators their practices in collecting and sharing personally identifiable information and steps taken to notify users when removing content.

Per Smith the bill, if passed, would cover not only US-based companies but “the increasing number of foreign IT companies that raise capital here on our stock exchanges, including a large number of Chinese Internet companies that will soon have to report their practices to the [Securities and Exchange Commission].”