Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Dept of Homeland Security fights privacy

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DHS has a heavy hand, which it does not hesitate to use. Julia Angwin reports in ProPublica:

Since Edward Snowden exposed the extent of online surveillance by the U.S. government, there has been a surge of initiatives to protect users’ privacy.

But it hasn’t taken long for one of these efforts — a project to equip local libraries with technology supporting anonymous Internet surfing — to run up against opposition from law enforcement.

In July, the Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire, was the first library in the country to become part of the anonymous Web surfing service Tor. The library allowed Tor users around the world to bounce their Internet traffic through the library, thus masking users’ locations.

Soon after state authorities received an email about it from an agent at the Department of Homeland Security.

“The Department of Homeland Security got in touch with our Police Department,” said Sean Fleming, the library director of the Lebanon Public Libraries.

After a meeting at which local police and city officials discussed how Tor could be exploited by criminals, the library pulled the plug on the project. [Note that criminals can also use regular library services. I wonder if DHS thinks those services should therefore be stopped as well. Indeed, criminals probably shop at supermarkets. Wonder if DHS has thought of that? – LG]

“Right now we’re on pause,” said Fleming. “We really weren’t anticipating that there would be any controversy at all.”

He said that the library board of trustees will vote on whether to turn the service back on at its meeting on Sept. 15.

Used in repressive regimes by dissidents and journalists, Tor is considered a crucial tool for freedom of expression and counts the State Department among its top donors. But Tor has been a thorn in the side of law enforcement; National Security Agency documents made public by Snowden have revealed the agency’s frustration that it could only identify a “very small fraction” of Tor users.

The idea to install Tor services in libraries emerged from Boston librarian Alison Macrina’s Library Freedom Project, which aims to teach libraries how to “protect patrons’ rights to explore new ideas, no matter how controversial or subversive, unfettered by the pernicious effects of online surveillance.” (The Library Freedom Project is funded by Knight Foundation, which also provides funding to ProPublica.) . . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: Contradicting DHS, FBI Director James Comey stated today that criminals cannot in fact use TOR to hide criminal activity.

US law enforcement doesn’t really have its act together.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 September 2015 at 12:34 pm

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