Archive | January, 2014

To cloud or not cloud?

After the NSA revelations many of us wonder whether cloud services are advisable. Do we wish to entrust a third party with our private and corporate data?

The big corporations provide smooth services, no question about that. Syncing data via Apple’s iCloud means that, well, that data is stored with Apple. Of course all these giants tell us that they do nothing outside what law requires from them. But admittedly “law” can include secret executive orders from authorities.

Long before the NSA revelations it turned out that Dropbox did have the keys to decrypt data that users had uploaded to them, using their encryption service. This was not clear at all from their user terms. Read this Wired story about this instructive case.

Swedish public intellectual Rasmus Fleischer, a founder of and activist in the now defunct “the Pirate Bureau”, just published a book (in Swedish) with “net-political” musings. He claims that we become less free when we hand over physical control over information: “To store files on a hard-disk starts to appear like having money on the bank – nothing for the broad masses …”.

At 5th of July Foundation we believe that it has become more important to consider who is behind different services, what is their track record, where are servers located, in what jurisdiction and so forth.

 Based in sweden logotype 200px 

One initiative was taken by Swedish ISP Bahnhof (whose main owners stands behind this foundation): A “Based in Sweden” seal for certain service providers. Info In English.

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Laptop data belongs to the state, no?

The U.S. government regularly seizes laptops, smart phones, tablets, when people enter the country. They don’t have to suspect a crime. Copying the information on electronic devices and look into people’s whole lives are seen as equivalent to opening a suitcase and go through some clothing. This “border search” happens both to American citizens and visitors. We have seen it used against dissidents and critics. Jacob Appelbaum is a well-known case.

On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, this principle was upheld once again in court. ACLU, American Civil Liberties Union, tried to challenge the doctrine but the court did not agree.

Here is a report about the case when it was filed some years ago, less than two minutes of informative video:

The “border” has been interpreted to stretch 100 miles into the country from the borders, making up a “constitution free zone” according to some interpretations.

EFF, Electronic Frontier Foundation, has even published Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices.

One of their advice is to simple not carry the most sensitive data on a laptop into the U.S. It may be financial records, business negotiations, very personal items, whatever. If one needs this data, EFF recommends leaving it at home and download it in secure manners once inside the U.S.. One could e.g. use a VPN tunnel out from the U.S., transporting the information in an encrypted way “under the border”. OpenVPN should be safe, even if NSA is more competent than previously thought.

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Snowden setting the stage for 2014

5th of July Foundation recommends watching – or listening to – Edward Snowden’s Alternative Christmas Message, delivered on Britain’s Channel 4. It is meant as an alternative to the Queen’s speech. His message is short, not even two minutes long, so don’t hesitate!

Channel 4’s own original video is found here, but it is only available for one month. There are numerous other sources however, just search the web. This is from the YouTube channel of AP, Associated Press:

We started talking about the 5th of July Foundation in 2012 after a resolution was passed in the United Nations that stated that freedom of expression must be as well protected on the Internet as outside. We found it hypocritical since two major forces behind the resolution was Sweden and the U.S., nations that were known to intercept and scan (at least!) virtually all Internet traffic that passed the borders of the country, before storing and analysing huge amounts of that data.

In Februray 2013 we signed the founding documents of the 5th of July Foundation. Little did we know that a certain Edward Snowden had already struck up secret conversations with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras (who also filmed Snowden’s message above). In June 2013 The Guardian published the first documents from Snowden’s leak.

At the same time we launched a VPN service, Integrity.st (so far only sold via Swedish “free speech ISP” Bahnhof, but getting closer to a more public release). 

As Internet veterans, entrepreneurs, activists and thinkers we knew a lot about surveillance of communications. But the extent shown by Snowden’s leak was unexpected.

We have lingered behind the scenes so far but will be more public from now. We will launch both “for pay” and free services for the public that enhances Security, Privacy and Liberty on the Internet. Services from a trustable source. Such are needed. 

It is 2014. Stay tuned!

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