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An Illinois Court Just Didn’t Get It: We Are Entitled to Expect Privacy In Our Smart Meter Data, Which Reveals What’s Going On Inside Our Homes - Thu, 02/03/2017 - 05:36

Cities across the country are switching to wireless smart meters. You may even have one in your home. Utility companies say the new technology helps consumers monitor their energy use and potentially save money. But smart meters also reveals intimate details about what’s going on inside the home. By collecting energy use data at high frequencies—typically every 5, 15, or 30 minutes—smart meters know exactly how much electricity is being used, and when. Patterns in your smart meter data can reveal when you are home, when you are sleeping, when you take a shower, and even whether you cook dinner on the stove or in the microwave. These are all private details about what’s going on inside your home—details that should be clearly within the bounds of Fourth Amendment protection.

But a federal district court in Illinois has held—in a lawsuit alleging that smart meters installed in Naperville, Illinois, put the privacy of the city’s citizens at risk—that Americans can’t reasonably expect any privacy in the data collected by these devices. According to the court, smart meter data is completely beyond the protection of the Fourth Amendment.

The case is currently on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which should throw out the district court’s sweeping, dangerous decision because it threatens the privacy of Americans across the country. Roughly 65 million smart meters have been installed in the United States in recent years, with 88% of them, over 57 million, in homes of American consumers. More than 40 percent of American households currently have a smart meter, and experts predict that number will reach about 80% by 2020. This case has far-reaching implications.

The lower court’s decision was based on flawed assumptions about smart meter technology. The court was convinced that data collected from smart meters is no different from data collected from analog meters, in terms of what it reveals about what’s going on inside the home. But that’s simply not the case. Smart meters not only produce far more data than analog meters—those set at collecting data in 15-minute intervals produce 2,880 meter readings per month compared to just one monthly reading for analog meters—but the data is also far more intimate. A single monthly read of cumulative household energy use does not reveal how energy is being used throughout the course of a day. But smart meter data does. And its time granularity tells a story about what is going on inside the home for anyone who wishes to read it.

The case law is clear: details of the home are entitled to the utmost Fourth Amendment protection. And this should include smart meter data.

EFF and Privacy International asked the Seventh Circuit if we could weigh in on this important case. We’ve requested to file a brief to help the court understand the broader impact of the lower court’s decision—and specifically, where the lower court went wrong. We hope the federal appeals court accepts our brief and throws out the lower court’s dangerous and out-of-touch ruing.

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Categories: Aggregated News

Provocative Deployment of US THAAD Missiles in South Korea - Thu, 02/03/2017 - 03:26
Provocative Deployment of US THAAD Missiles in South Korea
by Stephen Lendman
Washington intends deploying so-called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile systems in South Korea.
They’re designed to intercept and down short, medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase. Instead of warheads, they rely on impact kinetic energy to destroy incoming missiles.
Claiming they won’t detonate ones with nuclear weapons is highly doubtful. A similar navy program is called the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. Aegis ashore is land-based.
South Koreans oppose THAADs, fearful of potential hazardous radiation and areas where they’ll be deployed targeted in case of war.
Anti-THAAD protests were held since Washington and Seoul announced the plan last July, a target date not given.
Both governments claim THAADs are to protect against possible North Korean missile attacks. Throughout its post-WW II history, Pyongyang never attacked another country.
In June 1950, it responded to Truman’s aggression, initially using South Korea’s military as a provocative proxy force. 
Deploying THAADs is more about targeting Russia and China than North Korea. Moscow expressed concern, saying THAADs in South Korea “do not correspond to their stated goals and threaten to deal serious damage to the strategic security of neighboring countries, including China and Russia, and worsen the situation in the country.”
Beijing issued a similar statement, stressing “(t)he THAAD deployment…does no good (for) peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
US Defense Secretary Mattis lied, saying THAADs will be deployed in response to Pyongyang’s “provocative behavior.”
Their radar capability lets Washington monitor regional activities. According Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies chief research fellow Konstantin Asmolov:
THAAD radar can be quickly reconfigured to a mode where it will act as a sensor to detect the launch of ballistic missiles within a radius of up to two thousand kilometers, which allows for a significant part of China and the Russian Far East to be monitored and can be used as a part of a global ABM defense system of the USA.” 
“It is no coincidence that besides South Korea, THAAD is also placed on Guam and in Alaska.”
They’re designed to down missiles at altitudes ranging from 40 to 150 km. North Korean missiles fly at a lower altitude of about 20 km, showing Washington’s deployment (likely by summer) mainly targets China and Russia’s far east.
In January, Moscow and Beijing announced “unspecified” measures to counter their deployment, warning of escalating tensions and instigating an arms race.
Last December, Trump tweeted America “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
The next day on MSNBC, he said “(l)et if be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all” - spoken like a warrior, not a peacemaker.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Liberating Palmyra - Thu, 02/03/2017 - 03:19
Liberating Palmyra
by Stephen Lendman
The ancient Syrian city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, seized by US-supported ISIS terrorists in May 2015.
It was liberated last March, retaken by thousands of ISIS fighters in December.
Government forces are close to freeing the city again, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), saying its military “establish(ed) control over the Palmyra Triangle area in Homs province…on the western outskirts of Palmyra city after” routing ISIS fighters.
Government and allied forces “established full control over Hayal Mountain and all the hills overlooking al-Qossour area in Tadmur (Palmyra) city.”
A palace complex to the city’s southwest was cleared of ISIS fighters. Government and allied forces are within firing range of the city. Earlier on Wednesday, they gained control over a strategic traffic interchange at its southern entrance.
Backed by Russian airstrikes, steady advances are being made to free the area entirely from the scourge of ISIS terrorists. Weeks of heavy fighting are heading toward a successful conclusion.
ISIS is being beatened in multiple locations, losing scores, maybe hundreds of fighters. They’re on the defensive, heavily battered by aerial and ground operations.
The struggle to liberate Syria entirely from America’s imperial scourge has a long way to go.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Liveblogging Today’s House Judiciary Hearing on Section 702 - Thu, 02/03/2017 - 01:48

The U.S. government’s warrantless Internet spying is in the hot seat today.

The House Judiciary Committee is holding a two-part hearing this morning about the Section 702, created by the FISA Amendments Act, which the government uses to justify the unconstitutional mass surveillance of Americans’ online activity. EFF opposes the sweeping surveillance that happens under Section 702, and we’re calling on Congress to let the authority lapse when it is set to expire at the end of the year.

In advance of this hearing, a coalition of Internet giants known as Reform Government Surveillance issued a letter calling for significant reforms to Section 702. We hope that the companies’ letter will set the tone for this hearing: Section 702 must not be reauthorized in its current form.

Below is our running live blog of the House Judiciary hearing’s unclassified portion.


8:00 a.m. (PST) -- While the hearing started at 10 a.m. (EST), the Committee is still in its closed, classified session. We’ll start live blogging as soon as the public portion of the hearing begins.

8:53 a.m. (PST) -- The classified hearing is going longer than expected. 

9:40 a.m. (PST) -- The Committee is still in closed session. We'll start blogging as soon as there's something to blog. 

10:20 a.m. (PST) -- The closed session is finally over after more than three hours and the unclassified hearing is about to start. 

10:40 a.m. (PST) -- Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) has reconvened the hearing with a description of Section 702 that completely glosses over the fact that the operation of "Upstream," a program purportedly authorized under the section, scans vast quantities of Americans' communications without probable cause. Here's the full text of his statement.

10:55 a.m. (PST) -- The Committee’s top Democrat Rep. John Conyers took the intelligence community to task for failing to deliver on its promise to provide lawmakers an estimate of the number of U.S. communications that are “incidentally” swept up by the NSA under Section 702.

While lawmakers repeatedly asked for that report to inform the congressional debate over Section 702 reauthorization, “the intelligence community has not so much as responded to our December letter” asking for an update on the timing of the estimate, he said. “I had hoped for better.”

Conyers said lawmakers “will not simply take the government’s word on the size of the so-called incidental collection.” He’s right, and we won’t take the government’s word either. No one outside of the intelligence community (or even inside the IC, it seems) has a good estimate of how many Americans are impacted by the warrantless Internet surveillance under Section 702. That is unacceptable as Congress debates reauthorizing this sweeping surveillance authority.

10:59 a.m. (PST) -- Mr. Kosseff (a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy) takes the position that “foreign intelligence” represents a blanket exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, and that Section 702 falls within it. We at EFF cannot disagree more.

11:05 a.m. (PST) -- Ms. Doss (a former NSA attorney) makes the deeply misleading claim that Section 702 collection is targeted surveillance. That’s just plain wrong; Section 702 includes spying directly on the Internet backbone.

11:06 a.m. (PST) -- The Committee has gone into recess for approximately 45 minutes so that members can make it to the floor for a vote.

12:33 p.m. (PST) -- We're now nearly 90 minutes into the "45 minute" recess. No sign of the Committee reconvening yet.

12:43 p.m. (PST) -- The Committee has reconvened and noted civil libertarian, Elizabeth Goitein from NYU’s Brennan Center, is testifying.

12:52 p.m. (PST) -- Ms. Goitein pushed back on the claim that surveillance under Section 702 targets individuals located abroad.

Despite the intelligence community’s claims to the contrary, Section 702 surveillance collects “a massive amount of Americans’ communications” which the government keeps “for years and routinely searches … for information to use against Americans in ordinary criminal proceedings,” she said. Thanks to Section 702, “the FBI is reading Americans’ emails and listening to their phone calls without a factual basis to suspect them of wrongdoing, let alone a warrant.”

This is crucial fact-checking of the myths spread by intelligence community officials.

12:55 p.m. (PST) -- Former NSA attorney April Doss just made the absurd claim that it would be more privacy intrusive for the NSA to estimate how many Americans’ communications are swept up in Section 702 collection.

1:00 p.m. (PST) -- Rep. Ted Lieu comes out strong against the backdoor loophole that lets law enforcement agencies like the FBI access Americans’ communications collected under Section 702. “That information can be passed to the FBI to do a criminal proceeding,” he said, calling it “a flat out violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

1:06 p.m. (PST) -- Rep. Raul Labrador asks: is it possible to subject the 250 million Internet transactions collected per year by the NSA to rigorous oversight? Ms. Goitein notes that there have been a large number of documented violations of law and NSA regulations and there is essentially no effective oversight.

1:10 p.m. (PST) -- Rep. Labrador raised the question of whether such a vast surveillance system can have adequate safeguards to prevent abuse. Specifically, he cited the recent example of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigning after it was leaked that the FBI had reviewed calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. ahead of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

“Can we prevent them from using this personal information to settle [political] scores?” Labrador asked.

While refraining from commenting on the specifics of Flynn’s surveillance, the Brennan Center’s Liza Goitein said the potential for abuse is one of the problems with the law. “The statute is not narrow enough,” she said.

1:16 p.m. (PST) -- Rep. Jim Jordan was skeptical of the intelligence community’s claim that it is difficult to come up with a long-promised estimate of how many Americans have had their communications collected under Section 702. “That seems like baloney to me,” the Ohio Republican said. “It’s the greatest intelligence service on the planet. You’d think they’d be able to know that.”

1:20 p.m. (PST) -- In response to questions from Rep. Jim Jordan, Goitein notes that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board report shows that the FBI and NSA routinely search Section 702 collection for evidence that U.S. citizens have committed crimes unrelated to national security. But of course, we don’t know if any such citizens have been prosecuted because the NSA has been less than forthright in their notification requirements.

1:22 p.m. (PST) -- Rep. Ted Lieu raised the critical point that Section 702 surveillance isn’t limited to national security concerns. Instead, it is limited to “foreign intelligence” issues, which is a much broader category. “That could apply to academics, students, human rights activists, lawyers,” he said. “It’s this massive group.”

Goitein agreed, replying that the system relies on the intelligence community makes responsible decisions about who to target. “We are trusting on the self restraint of the people who are operating these programs,” she said.

1:25 p.m. (PST) -- Lieu also made the point that EFF has long-argued: the NSA violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless seizures when it collects Americans’ communications even before it violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless searches before it scans those communications. As Lieu put it: “Why is the seizure of Americans’ communications not a violation of the Fourth Amendment, totally aside from the searching of it?”

1:28 p.m. (PST) -- Rep. Ted Poe notes that the NSA doesn’t need to “target” Americans under Section 702 since that would unquestionably require a warrant. Instead, they can just “run across” Americans’ communications that’s “incidentally” collected, and then criminally prosecute them. Indeed, the FBI can search data collected under Section 702 without a warrant. “I think that is illegal and a violation of the Constitution and an abuse of power” says Rep. Poe.

1:40 p.m. (PST) -- Mr. Kosseff notes that it’s possible that a clean reauthorization of Section 702, the US-EU Privacy Shield might fail, since Section 702 contains no privacy protections for non-US persons.

1:48 p.m. (PST) -- The hearing ended on crucial point. As Goitein put it: “Oversight not an end in itself. It’s never a substitute for adequate substantive limits in the law. The law and the rules allow the FBI to read Americans’ emails without obtaining a warrant. The FBI could be scrupulously adhering to those rules, and we still have a problem.”

1:50 p.m. (PST) -- And with that, the hearing is adjourned.

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Categories: Aggregated News



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