Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The United States of Surveillance?

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  • Angus Robertson,

    There is a suggestion the NSA taps directly into the hub networks of the USA. It would make more sense for them to do this physical spying than for them to act through the likes of Google or Yahoo, because the access would be more reliable and exclusive.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Nick McBride,

    Your flick of dirt in his direction is nothing compared to what he will be up against, but disappointing all the same. It’s telling and somewhat encouraging that those exploiting his “rape a nun” metaphor couldn’t find something more recent.

    I've acknowledged and corrected the error. I do have some problems with Greenwald's reporting, as noted above,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    That wouldn't let you see much Gmail, as Google defaults to https and Gmail-Gmail comms would be internal. Also, you'd need to recreate a lot from scratch, as opposed to having access to Google's own data structure.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I wonder whether our rulers actually *wanted* to release this stuff. The rationale would be that by letting the fact of their access to corporate data into the public domain, a row will ensue, and unless legislators move to prevent this, that access will become the “new normal”. In the same vein would be the NZ government’s response to the Dotcom illegalities of substantially widening GCSBs powers.

    I don't think TPTB are happy with this leak, as such, but I also don't think many people are all that surprised about the scope or intent of the data collection. The leak itself might be the most surprising part of thus story; most of us have assumed the rest was true for years.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    I don’t think TPTB are happy with this leak, as such, but I also don’t think many people are all that surprised about the scope or intent of the data collection. The leak itself might be the most surprising part of thus story; most of us have assumed the rest was true for years.

    In the case of the original Verizon story, it's one that was broken by Seymour Hersh seven years ago. The only real news is that it's still going on under a different administration.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to BenWilson,

    Heh, Big Data to find criminals and terrorists. It’s hilarious how silly the idea is. How much money could be expended on computers, taken away from actual coppers and intelligence agents, how much it will actually reduce their chances of finding what they’re looking for.

    The amount of money spent on anti-terrorism in the USA since 9/11 must be ginormous. Imagine how many lives could have been saved if it was spent on something mundane like preventing car accidents or smoking.

    I heard that the increase in deaths from car accidents in the year after 9/11 when Americans became plane averse, so did more long distance driving, was actually a greater loss of lise than the 9/11 event itself. Perverse, eh ?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 620 posts Report Reply

  • Rick Shera,

    I may have missed it, but in all the discussion around "metadata" I've not seen any mention of the fact that, presumably, an important piece of data being collected will be the IP address. Even the Wired founder guy's recanting of his "nothing to see here" initial reaction, on the basis that internet surveillance is different from wiretap, doesn't mention IP addresses.

    The Paul Revere piece (brilliant thanks David) reminded me of the analysis which many have done on what can be found out about someone from just an IP address, This potential is why privacy authorities have started to focus on IP addresses as personally identifiable information (which are therefore protected under privacy statutes).

    This blithe refutation of there being anything to worry about, because it is "just metadata" seems to me to be an attempt to avoid scaring the horses, who might otherwise be persauded to make a submission on the extraordinary expansion of GCSB powers being proposed in the GCSB and TICS Bills (submissions due Thursday 13 June although if you ask nicely you'll get an extension until Monday 17 June on the GCSB Bill at least).

    Auckland • Since Feb 2008 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to BenWilson,

    Currently, on the success rate of apparently nothing whatsoever

    Well, to be fair, the sucesses get a lot less press than the failures. There’s been half a dozen separate stories in the UK press over the last year or so about the arrests, prosecution and sentencing of various small groups. Mostly they make the front page, sometimes not, but they’re almost always gone by the next day. Compare and contrast with the rolling week-long coverage that Woolwich generated.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich Lock,

    There’s been half a dozen separate stories in the UK press over the last year or so about the arrests, prosecution and sentencing of various small groups.

    Do we know how they got their intel for it, though? It is an unfair thing I'm claiming, in one regard - they can't really go into much detail on any technique that they want to continue working.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Our General Clapper (good name) from the NSA has quite a history of his own:

    The official, James R. Clapper Jr., a retired lieutenant general, said satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the American invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material ''unquestionably'' had been moved out of Iraq.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Simultaneously supporting and undercutting my point (hey, it's how I roll), this story from yesterday wasn't major news - it made none of the front pages of these papers.

    However, as is mentioned several times in the story, the only reason they were stopped in the first place was because they 'were discovered by chance', 'counter-terrorism detectives [stating that] the group was not on their radar and that they knew nothing about the plot', in spite of the fact that 'three of them had read the terrorist online magazine Inspire', and 'on Uddin's mobile phone was a lecture in which the speaker said that it was right to wage war against the unbeliever', and 'at Hasseen's home, police found 859 files of extremist material, including some urging people to fight abroad, a digital copy of Inspire containing pipe bomb instructions and a video about IEDs'

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I wonder whether our rulers actually wanted to release this stuff.

    My thoughts, too.
    Smoke and mirrors - looky here, looky here, while the hidden assistants shift the furniture, and that glitzy new NSA complex in Utah is your classic illusionist's box...
    ...where were they gonna get the data to fill it?
    Meanwhile commercial interests happily mine face recognition (meat data?) and other openly available information (thru FaceBook etc) for their own ends - someone is always trying to sell us something! The Govt is no different.
    Prism is an apt name - it's as if they thought 'we can just split the disinfectant of sunlight into bands of colour - divide and rule...'

    Perhaps it was all just a misunderstanding - and Obama is just big on public servers... not service.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    As a side note, I took over responsibility for keeping David's database online and available for the public after he left our common workplace, and there should be laws against allowing him access to big data. The maps for starters...

    I attended a talk last year by a NZ expert on data and data privacy. He was talking how companies use membership cards to learn about trends in their shoppers (like a Farmers Card). The company he was using as an example in the US had remarkable success in predicting when people were pregnant and sending them special deals for baby gear, based on their shopping behaviour trends for non-baby gear several months beforehand. It was fascinating, if a little scary given how much data we provide for free to facebook and google.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Rich Lock,

    It's nearly all thoughtcrime, though, like the case of the "Lyrical Terrorist". Very few people have actually been caught with explosives or guns. When wingnuts engage in similar fantasising, which they do all the time, the cops don't bother them at all.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    It was fascinating, if a little scary given how much data we provide for free to facebook and google.

    Well, 9 times out of 10 the targeted ads I get on youtube are for pop albums by acts like one direction or beyonce, hair conditioner, female skin cream, and creams for…other problems that only women get.

    Given that I’m a middle-aged baldy with metalhead tendancies, I’m not currently losing a lot of sleep over it. Unless google actually knows my deepest unconscious and frankly faaaabulous desires better than I know them myself, darling.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    And we have the former head of the GCSB saying that we either play their game or unnamed enemies ("a very generic grouping of straight-out jihadists and terrorists through to nation states who may have some evil or incorrect intent against New Zealand") will take away our freedoms, or –worse – turn off the sewage system.

    Either way, he says we will be in a power of shite if we don't do as we are told.

    You'd be forgiven for thinking, at least from the evidence on display in this story, that Sir Bruce Ferguson is, at the very best, deluded.

    I guess he's still not over the Skyhawks.

    I was reminded of Muldoon's 'the Russians have a presence in the Pacific' meme of years past.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    It’s nearly all thoughtcrime, though, like the case of the “Lyrical Terrorist”. Very few people have actually been caught with explosives or guns. When wingnuts engage in similar fantasising, which they do all the time, the cops don’t bother them at all.

    True, but it’s interesting to note that even with all this surveillance, tracking abilities, monitoring of website visited, etc, four guys who fit the profile, clearly had bad intentions, and were pressing all the right buttons to get pinged…simply didn’t. The questions that that raises are potentially more disturbing than the surveillance itself.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    And we have the former head of the GCSB saying that we either play their game or unnamed enemies (“a very generic grouping of straight-out jihadists and terrorists through to nation states who may have some evil or incorrect intent against New Zealand”) will take away our freedoms, or –worse – turn off the sewage system.

    That's a disappointing interview. I've spoken to Sir Bruce before and been very impressed by him, but he's not making sense there.

    That said, infrastructure threats are within the scope of our security services.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    He has just said some really silly things on Nine to Noon too. Claiming that the GSCB has 'always operated within the law' as if the last year of revelations never happened. Head in sand stuff.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Well, 9 times out of 10 the targeted ads I get on youtube are for pop albums by acts like one direction or beyonce, hair conditioner, female skin cream, and creams for…other problems that only women get.

    What have you been watching? My annoying YouTube crap is mostly travel insurance. I haven't traveled in years, have never purchased travel insurance. I can only presume that people who watch the same kinds of things as me sometimes buy travel insurance. A deep pattern linking people watching instructable videos on worm farming and mathematical proofs, and a fear of ill health abroad.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    based on their shopping behaviour trends for non-baby gear several months beforehand. It was fascinating, if a little scary given how much data we provide for free to facebook and google.

    I noticed years ago how I was getting deals in the mail promoting dog food at Countdown and yes I have a onecard and a dog. Never meat, which I thought it meant they had figured I was a vegequarian. I have never been surprised at any ability to extract info about me via data online. Trade me has a pretty picture of my personal tastes to be sur!
    This 5 eyes, is it not one big circle jerk?
    oooh Trade Me has alerted my email, spooky timing :)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    It seems the net is kicking back . Anyone seen this site offering protection from network surveillance.

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston, in reply to BenWilson,

    A deep pattern linking people watching instructable videos on worm farming and mathematical proofs, and a fear of ill health abroad

    Must be the mathematical proofs Ben , I watched a few worm farm vids and got ads for cell phones and Mitre 10.

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Shifting poo is actually something I know about, having worked for an industrial automation firm in my first grad job.

    What generally happens in a pumping station (unless they've changed vastly in thirty years, which I doubt) is that there is a computerised controller box that runs the pumps at an optimal rate. If this fails, then a float switch will turn all the pumps on when the level of brown stuff reaches a certain height. Failing that (in the case of a big storm or prolonged powercut) then it overflows into the nearest watercourse (or storm drain on a separated system like we mostly have in NZ).

    So even if terrerists took total contol of the computers, the consequences aren't going to be anything more than a heavy rainstorm. Turning toilets into geysers of poo just isn't feasible, fortunately.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to BenWilson,

    Do we know how they got their intel for it, though?

    From public accounts (in the cases where there have been public accounts) it has mostly been from people thinking someone was getting a bit extreme, alerting the authorities, and the authorities actually investigating.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

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