Earlier this month, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) released its long-awaited report on the National Security Agency’s surveillance of Internet and telephone communications under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.
This is the independent executive branch agency’s second report on NSA surveillance, following a January report by the board recommending an end to the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.
If the Board’s last report on the bulk collection of phone records was a bombshell, this one is a dud. The surveillance authority the Board examined in this report, Section 702 of 2008’s FISA Amendments Act, is in many ways much more worrisome than the bulk collection program. As the Board itself explains, that law has been used to authorize the NSA’s wiretapping of the entire Internet backbone, so that the NSA can scan untold numbers of our emails and other online messages for information about tens of thousands of targets that the NSA chooses without individualized court approval. Yet the reforms the Board recommends today regarding this awesome surveillance power are much weaker than those in their last report, and essentially boil down to suggesting that the government should do more and better paperwork and develop stricter internal protocols as a check against abuse.
As Chief Justice Roberts said just last week, “the Founders did not fight a revolution to gain the right to government agency protocols,” they fought to require search warrants that are based on probable cause and specifically identify who or what can be searched. Yet as we know from documents released earlier this week, government agents are searching through the data they’ve acquired through this surveillance authority–an authority that was sold to Congress as being targeted at people outside the US–tens of thousands of times a year without having to get a warrant first.
The fact that the Board has endorsed such warrantless rummaging through our communications, just weeks after the House of Representatives voted almost three to one to defund the NSA’s “backdoor” searches of Americans’ data, is a striking disappointment. The Board is supposed to be an independent watchdog that aggressively seeks to protect our privacy against government overreach, rather than undermining privacy by proposing reforms that are even weaker than those that a broad bipartisan majority of the House has already endorsed.
We are grateful to the Board for its last report and are grateful to them now for laying out, in the clearest and most comprehensive way we’ve seen so far, exactly how the NSA is using its surveillance authority. But Congress shouldn’t wait for the NSA to take the Board’s weak set of recommendations and get its own house in order. Congress should instead move forward with strong reforms that protect our privacy and that tell the NSA, as the Supreme Court told the government last week: if you want our data you need to come back with a warrant.
The summer vacation season is underway, and while you may be looking forward to taking a few days off work, the thieves, fraudsters and con artists of the world have no intention of doing so.
If you are planning to completely unplug during your vacation, more power to you. However, most of us intend to stay connected to email, social networks and Web resources to enhance our traveling experience. This means jumping on public WiFi networks at airports, hotels, cafes and coffee shops. Unfortunately, these hotspots are notoriously dangerous and the bad guys are lurking to scam users to gain access to their identity and financial data.
For anyone who plans to connect to public WiFi this summer, it’s imperative you deploy a Personal VPN service when you’re online. A VPN will encrypt your Internet connection and mask your IP address to keep data sniffers and cyber criminals at bay for a private and secure browsing experience. Golden Frog is currently offering a 3-day free trial of VyprVPN so summer travelers can protect themselves.
Here a few more practical travel tips:
Backup your mobile device and PC before taking it on a trip
Use secure sites with web addresses beginning with “https”
Always use a credit card instead of a debit card or checking account
Don’t pay your credit card or check your bank balance on public WiFi unless you’re using a VPN service
Turn off Bluetooth on your devices when not in use
Employees on the go at the Company Behind Ubuntu Use VyprVPN for Added Security and Privacy While Collaborating with Colleagues
MEGGEN, Switzerland, June 12, 2014 – Golden Frog, a global privacy company, today announced that Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu and the leading provider of services for Ubuntu deployments in the enterprise, has selected VyprVPN for Business. Mobile Canonical employees who work on customer sites will use VyprVPN, a fast and reliable VPN service, to help them securely access the company’s collaboration and file sharing resources.
Canonical has over 600 employees in more than 30 countries around the world. The company’s global distribution makes it an ideal company to take advantage of VyprVPN for Business. It gives mobile employees an encrypted Internet connection so they can securely share data, ideas and files. Most Canonical employees use Ubuntu, but VyprVPN works across any platform: Windows, Mac or Linux for the desktop and iOS and Android for mobile apps. Employees can also choose between all of Golden Frog’s VPN protocols including Chameleon, a proprietary VPN technology that helps break through restrictive Internet environments that attempt to block VPN traffic.
“VyprVPN was by far the fastest VPN service we tested,” said Pete Graner, Director Engineering and Operations at Canonical. “After we met with the Golden Frog team, it is clear why. The company has over a decade of experience operating Internet infrastructure on a global basis. They own and operate the hardware and run their own global network, which creates a fast, reliable and private experience that meets the demands of our mobile employees and our business.”
VyprVPN for Business includes an admin interface to manage and modify employee accounts. Customers also get a dedicated account manager and priority access to Tier 2 support. Each employee also gets two simultaneous connections, one for a mobile device and another for a desktop or laptop. All VyprVPN members get unlimited bandwidth and connection speeds and are able to switch between VyprVPN servers worldwide without restrictions.
“Employees on the go, or those who work remotely, are the most susceptible to security dangers and Internet restrictions,” said Sunday Yokubaitis, president of Golden Frog. “By arming mobile employees with VyprVPN for Business, Canonical is providing them with a tool to remain productive and connected to their colleagues, no matter where they are in the world.”
View our latest infographic, “The FCC Revolving Door vs. The Open Internet,” for a detailed look at how the FCC’s revolving door has hurt the free and Open Internet. The infographic is below.
The FCC has extended the deadline for people to leave comments on their site to Friday, July 18th. Make your voice heard and show the FCC bureaucrats that the public’s will to preserve the Open Internet is stronger than the revolving door.
In May of 2014, the FCC made a historic decision to advance rules that will kill the “Open Internet”. Despite public outcry nationwide, Tom Wheeler, current chairman of the FCC, and his democratic commissioners betrayed Net Neutrality rhetoric, and instead approved the consideration for rules that would create a “two-tiered Internet” that will:
stifle innovation by putting startups with less funding at a competitive disadvantage because they can’t afford to pay for faster access
increase costs because companies will pass along new costs for “premium traffic” to consumers
decrease privacy because ISPs will snoop on user traffic so they can prioritize “premium” traffic over “regular” traffic
Though this ruling is disturbing and paints a grim picture of the future of the Internet, it doesn’t come as a surprise due to the FCC’s long history of employing former cable and telecom lobbyists and executives. The FCC’s “revolving door” phenomenon has posed significant conflicts of interest in the past, from the controversial changes enacted to media ownership rules in 2003, the Comcast – NBC merger in 2011, and now this most recent Net Neutrality debacle.
The FCC has asked Internet users to weigh in on Net Neutrality by posting to the comments section on the FCC website, http://www.fcc.gov/comments. There have been over 800,000 comments, an overwhelming number that even caused the site to crash on July 15th. Continue to leave comments through July 18th and pressure the FCC to protect the Open Internet. Make your voice heard!