The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) will do more to seek protection for non-US citizens from the US government’s electronic snoopers , co-founder John Perry Barlow said yesterday.
The commitment came in the wake of a week of revelations of widespread collection and trading of private electronic messages by US and UK security agencies.
Barlow, EFF co-founder with former Lotus Corp CEO Mitch Kapor, committed the digital rights organisation to the action under pressure from delegates to ORGcon13, the Open Rights Group‘s annual conference in London.
It will seek to persuade the US to extend Fourth Amendment rights (no search without a warrant) to non-US citizens.
The pressure came particularly from Caspar Bowden, privacy advisor to Microsoft from 2002 to 2011, who found that the US Foreign Intelligence Service Act Amendment Act 2008 (FISAAA) removes all ‘safe harbour’ protection of non-US citizens’ data from US global surveillance.
This makes all non-US citizen’s data stored in the cloud vulnerable to a Section 1881(a), also known as a S.702 order. It allows US agencies to scan, without a warrant, all communications traffic entering or leaving the US, and to target anyone outside the US. Most of the traffic is likely to relate to terrorist, criminal or political content. However, there are no safeguards against commercial or other intellectual property data.
Bowden has spoken of this before, but been roundly ignored by mainstream media.
Barlow, who consults to the US National Security Agency (NSA), said the NSA and GCHQ, the UK’s electronic surveillance agency, have swopped information on each others’ citizens for decades. This is a ‘gentlemens’ agreement’ that allows both agencies to get information that would be illegal for either to acquire directly.
Barlow was at pains to say the people he deals with at NSA are deeply concerned that some of the work it is asked to do borders on illegality.
He said one of the problems was to get the courts to recognise the EFF’s “standing” as a representative of non-US interests. “I will see that we say that a lot more obviously and visibly, and here’s me saying it now,” he said to applause.
Sir Paul Kennedy, the UK commissioner of communications interception, said in his latest annual report (for 2011), that under the UK’s main interception legislation (RIPA 2000) there were nearly 500,000 requests for communications data, 11% down on 2010. “Communications data must only be acquired for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime and where there is an intention to gather evidence for use in legal proceedings,” he said.
Soundbites from the conference will be available later.