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UN Human Rights Council Appoints Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy - Fri, 27/03/2015 - 07:05

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is pleased with the United Nations Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) decision to adopt a resolution appointing a special rapporteur on the right to privacy.

This decision is a key step forward for the UNHRC; it elevates the right to privacy to the priority level that the Human Rights Council ascribes to most other human rights. Most importantly, it gives the right to privacy the international recognition and protection it deserves.

Special rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council who serve in a personal capacity and are mandated to report on human rights. They are not UN staff members and do not receive financial remuneration. The independent status of the mandate-holders is essential for the UN to impartially fulfill its functions.

This particular special rapporteur position will be appointed in June. They will play a crucial role in developing common understandings and furthering a considered and substantive interpretation of the right to privacy in a variety of settings. They will be responsible for carrying out systematic analyses, research, and monitoring the right to privacy across the world. The special rapporteur will also play a role in providing much-needed guidance to states and companies on its interpretation of the right to privacy. They will amass input from all relevant stakeholders to ensure a coherent and complementary approach to the interaction between privacy and other fundamental freedoms is developed. They will report to the UNHRC and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on alleged privacy violations, wherever they may occur, including challenges arising from new technologies. They will draw attention to situations of particular concern and submit an annual report to the UNHRC and the General Assembly.

The UNHRC’s resolution is indeed a positive step toward ensuring the global protection of the right to privacy, but it is only a first step, and it will not alone prevent countries from conducting mass surveillance practices. Now the onus rests on all of us to bring local unchecked surveillance cases to the attention of the new special rapporteur and ensure that the new rapporteur is knowledgeable on privacy and data protection, technology, and human rights.

Related Issues: Surveillance and Human RightsPrivacy
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DMV Photo-Sharing, Facial Recognition Nixed from California Strategic Plan - Fri, 27/03/2015 - 03:55

More than 1,500 Californians over the last two weeks joined EFF in an email campaign to defeat a proposal by an obscure committee within the California Department of Justice that would have compromised the privacy and security of their driver-license photos.  As part of its strategic plan, the committee had approved a goal to share driver and mugshot photos with a national law enforcement network and allow police to leverage facial recognition technology against the image database.

The committee listened to your letters.

At its meeting on Wednesday, the CLETS Advisory Committee (CAC) voted unanimously to delete “Goal 8,” which encompassed both the image sharing and facial recognition, from its strategic plan. (CLETS, by the way, stands for the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, the statewide police information-sharing network.)

In a letter [PDF] to CAC and its Stranding Strategic Planning Subcommittee, EFF pointed out that the committee in previously approving the goal had disregarded warnings from the California Department of Motor Vehicles that photo-sharing and facial recognition were not authorized under state law. Despite those warnings, CLETS staff applied for a grant to build out the system and began arranging lobbying meetings with law enforcement associations as if the legal roadblocks were mere inconveniences to overcome.  

At yesterday’s meeting, we also learned that those meetings had been canceled after legal staff raised concerns that they couldn’t be held without running afoul of California’s open meetings laws.

It’s great news that facial recognition and photo sharing are no longer on the table, but we remained concerned about several other CAC strategic goals, including biometric collection for infractions and GPS tracking of offenders.  As we told the committee at its the meeting: 1,500 emails was only the beginning and we will continue to shine light on their plans.



Related Issues: Privacy
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Putin and Assad Address Western Imperialism - Fri, 27/03/2015 - 03:55
Putin and Assad Address Western Imperialism
by Stephen Lendman
US-dominated NATO is humanity's greatest threat. Its rage for war may kill us all.
Last November, Putin told Tass "(w)e are strong because we are right."
Russia alone continues going all-out for regional peace and stability. Washington recklessly pursues endless conflicts.
Yemen exploding in war is the latest example. Obama bears full responsibility for what's happening.
US-deployed Red Sea warships may join Saudi and other Gulf states' naked aggression, according to CENTCOM.
Ukraine remains in the eye of the storm. Low intensity war could explode full-force any time at Obama's discretion.
Continental Europe is threatened. America's rage for dominance risks nuclear war. 
Never in human history has humanity's fate been more up for grabs than now.
Putin's commitment for world peace is humanity's best defense against neocon lunatics infesting Washington.
On March 26, he addressed a Federal Security Service (FSB) board meeting on major issues facing Russia at a time he called "not an easy one."
"The world situation has exacerbated," he said. "We witnessed growing tensions in the Middle East and a number of other areas of the world, while a state coup provoked civil war in Ukraine."
"Russia is making significant efforts to reconcile the parties and normalise the situation." 
"We have already received and continue receiving thousands, even hundreds of thousands of refugees and are doing all we can to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe."
US imperial policy is hugely destructive, destabilizing and lawless. 
Russia is the world's most important counterweight against policies able to destroy life on earth.
Sovereign Russian independence and forthright efforts to help people in need "caus(ed) outright irritation on the part of those we traditionally call our colleagues and partners," said Putin.
"They are using their entire arsenal of means for the so-called deterrence of Russia: from attempts at political isolation and economic pressure to large-scale information war and special services operations." 
"As it was recently stated quite openly: those who disagree will have their arms twisted periodically." 
"However, this does not work with Russia; it never has and never will."
"Meanwhile, NATO is developing its rapid deployment forces and building up its infrastructure near our borders." 
"Attempts are being made to violate the existing nuclear parity, European and Asia-Pacific segments of the ABM system are being created at an increased pace."
"(N)ew weapons systems" are being developed to wage war from space, he said.
Attempts to bully, pressure or otherwise push around Russia won't work, he stressed.
"We have always had and will have an adequate response to all the domestic and external threats to national security," he maintained.
"The situation cannot remain like this forever and it will change and I hope for the better, including around this country." 
"It will change for the better only in case if we become stronger."
Putin thanked FSB and other Russian officials for major accomplishments in the face of great obstacles.
He applauded their courage to protect Russian security and national interests.
US-dominated NATO prepares recklessly for greater war. 
Russia stands resolutely for world peace and stability. Its efforts to prevent catastrophic nuclear war deserve universal support.
Bashar al-Assad hangs on valiantly as Obama's war on Syria enters its fifth year.
It continues causing devastating mass slaughter and destruction. It aroused overwhelming popular support for Assad.
Last June, he was reelected in an independently judged free, open and fair election by a nearly 90% majority.
The vast majority of Syrians can't imagine anyone else leading them. They want America's dirty hands off their country.
Assad said US-dominated Western policy in Syria and Ukraine aims to weaken Russia.
"There is a connection between the Syrian crisis and what is happening in Ukraine," he said. 
"Firstly, because both countries are important for Russia. Secondly, because there is a goal in both cases to weaken Russia and create a puppet state."
"It is clear that the duty of any state is to protect the interests of the people and the country." 
"And, of course, the role of the government is to implement these interests."
Assad said he "welcome(s) the expansion of Russian presence in the eastern Mediterranean, especially near our shores and in our ports."
The Tartus facility is used for maintenance and resupplying Russian Mediterranean-based warships.
Assad awaits concrete evidence of US alleged interest in dialogue after John Kerry suggested readiness for direct talks.
"We are still listening to the comments, and we have to wait for the action, and then we'll decide," Assad said.
Longstanding US duplicity gravely harmed Syria. It'll take much more than high-sounding rhetoric to change things.
"Any international changes that come about within that framework are something positive, if they are honest and have an effect on the ground," Assad said.
Talks "on the future of the Syrian president (are) for the Syrian people and all the declarations from outside do not concern us," he stressed.
Kerry's rhetoric days earlier about negotiating with Syria rang hollow.
"We'll have to negotiate," he said - on US terms alone giving Syrians no say on who'll lead them.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki clarified Kerry's comments.
She said talks "would not be, and would never be (with) Assad himself."
Washington wants his independent government toppled. It wants pro-Western stooge governance replacing it.
It wants an Israeli rival eliminated. It wants Iran isolated. It wants perpetual war and instability.
US warplanes continue bombing Syria. IS is the pretext. Syrian infrastructure the target. Regime change the objective.
America's imperial lawless may destroy life on earth. End it or it'll end us.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Secret US Intelligence on Yemen Compromised - Fri, 27/03/2015 - 01:29
Secret US Intelligence on Yemen Compromised
by Stephen Lendman
On March 25, the Los Angeles Times said Houthi rebels obtained secret intelligence documents on so-called US Yemeni counterterrorism operations.
They included names and locations of confidential informants, as well as plans for further targeted drone strikes.
The Times said "US intelligence officials believe additional files were handed directly to Iranian advisors by Yemeni officials who have sided with the Houthi militias…"
Damage to US Yemeni intelligence is "severe," said the Times.
"The US still plans to fly armed drones over Yemen from bases in Saudi Arabia and Djibouti, but officials acknowledged that their ability to identify and find terrorism suspects has been severely hampered by the loss of the intelligence files and the power struggles within Yemen's security services," according to an unnamed source the Times quoted.
Houthi forces took control of Yemen's National Security Bureau. It worked closely with CIA and other US spy agencies against the interests of its own people.
Obtaining information on its secrets exposes some of America's dirty imperial agenda - its long war on humanity for unchallenged global dominance.
Compromised US intelligence got Obama to halt Yemeni drone strikes for two months, said the Times.
In February, US embassy personnel were evacuated. Last weekend, "US special operations and intelligence teams" were taken out of the country.
Before Saudi-led March 26 aggression, the White House revealed it's maintaining close communication with ousted US-installed stooge president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
His whereabouts remains unknown. Members of his regime are being arrested.
Houthis announced a $20 million reward for Hadi's capture. Airstrikes targeted his Aden compound.
Reports on Wednesday indicated he fled by sea. His destination wasn't revealed.
Last August, Houthi uprising began. In September, they seized key Sanaa government facilities.
On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said US officials were in touch with Hadi earlier in the day.
"(H)e is no longer at his residence, which you’ve seen in reporting, but we can certainly confirm," she said. 
"I’m not in a position to confirm any additional details from here about his location." 
"We have been in touch with him over the last several days. And as all of you know, Ambassador Tueller has seen him in person and has traveled from Jeddah to go see him."
"In terms of our counterterrorism cooperation, as my colleagues at, I believe, DOD said yesterday, there’s no question our preference would be to have a presence on the ground." 
"And that’s certainly - that’s why we have diplomatic - diplomats in embassies around the world, is to have that on-the-ground coordination." 
"But we maintain means of working with, monitoring, going after some of the threats that face us, and that’s ongoing." 
"And even if you look on the diplomatic side, though Ambassador Tueller and his close team are not based in Yemen, they have been able to continue to communicate with President Hadi and communicate with others and, obviously, with the UN about the political process moving forward."
Psaki added she has no "on-the-ground update" about Houthi advances.
She confirmed they seized Al Anad airbase. She provided no further information.
She ludicrously claimed Washington is working with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies for resolving Yemen's conflict "peaceful(ly)."
She said nothing about US responsibility for regional turmoil.
Asked if Washington plans direct military involvement, she begged off saying "I'm not going to get into (any possible US actions) and certainly any action anywhere would be something the Department of Defense would speak to."
Last year, Obama lied calling Yemen as success story.
Asked if it's still a model for US counterintelligence operations, Psaki turned truth on its head saying "we still have a number of successes to point to in terms of our efforts to push back on al-Qaida and our successes in doing that in coordination with authorities."
Al Qaeda is one among other US-created groups - used strategically as both enemies and allies.
Don't expect Psaki to explain. She's paid to lie, not tell hard truths. She admitted conditions in Yemen are "difficult…volatile…on the ground for a range of reasons."
Violently out-of-control best describes things. Reuters said John Kerry spoke with Saudi and other Gulf states' foreign ministers.
An unnamed senior State Department official said:
"He commended the work of the coalition taking military action against the Houthis and noted the United States' support for those coalition efforts - including intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, and advisory and logistical support for strikes against Houthi targets." 
"The ministers all expressed their support for political negotiations as the best way to resolve the crisis, but also noted that it is the Houthis who have instead waged a military campaign."
"They agreed to stay in close contact going forward" - code language for Washington and Gulf state despots declaring war on Yemen to restore US-installed puppet rule.
If Washington has many more "success stories" like Yemen, planet earth may be set ablaze.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

More US-Sponsored Middle East Aggression - Thu, 26/03/2015 - 19:40
More US-Sponsored Middle East Aggression
by Stephen Lendman
Washington already turned Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria into free-fire cauldrons of violence, instability and chaos.
It partners with Israel's long war on Palestine. It backs the most of the world’s worst tinpot despots - all Middle East ones.
It's responsible for millions of deaths and appalling human suffering.
It's now using Saudi and other thuggish Gulf states as imperial proxies - waging war on Yemen, naked aggression by any standard.
International law is clear and unequivocal. No nation may interfere in the internal affairs of others. 
None may attack others except in self-defense. Doing so requires Security Council authorization.
Otherwise it's strictly prohibited at all times, under all circumstances with no allowed exceptions.
All US post-WW II direct and proxy wars were and remain illegal acts of aggression.
Nuremberg chief prosecutor Robert Jackson called it "the supreme international crime against peace" - greater than any other.
No nation in world history is more culpable than America. None caused more irreparable harm to countless millions over a longer duration.
US Yemeni policy bears full responsibility for current chaotically violent conditions.
Washington continues mass murdering innocent victims globally. Its lawless drone war on Yemen killed countless hundreds. 
A cynical White House statement "strongly condem(ed) ongoing military actions taken by the Houthis against the" US-installed puppet regime.
It expressed phony concern about the welfare of the Yemeni people - the same ones America has been murdering for years.
Yemeni's US-installed president Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi has no legitimacy whatever.
Houthi rebels ousted him from power. Washington coordinated with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to wage war to reinstate him.
It established "a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia('s) (despotic regime) to coordinate US military and intelligence support."
It pledged further action against "imminent threats" to US regional dominance.
It wants nothing interfering with its divine right to ravage, destroy, control and plunder one country after another.
Murdering millions of people is considered a small price to pay. Establishing viciously oppressive despotic rule is called democracy building.
Plundering nations is considered economic development. Exploiting people is called liberating them.
Thursday headlines announced Saudi-led air war on Yemen.
Al-Arabiya said the kingdom mobilized 150,000 troops, 100 warplanes, artillery and other heavy weapons, as well as naval units for ongoing operations.
Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Morocco are involved. Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan announced readiness to participate.
An Egyptian junta statement said:
"There is coordination ongoing now with Saudi Arabia and the brotherly gulf countries about preparations to participate with an Egyptian air and naval forces and ground troops if necessary."
Saudi ambassador to Washington announced what's ongoing saying:
"We will do whatever it takes in order to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling" - to return an illegitimate thug to power.
Troubled Yemen faces all-out war. Millions are threatened with death, destruction, and greater misery than before.
It's already the region's most impoverished country. Its security officials said Saudi airstrikes targeted a camp for US special forces now controlled by Houthi rebels.
Other targets included Sanaa's Duleimi missile base and fuel depot.
A Houthi statement said they responded with anti-aircraft missiles.
Yemen may again end up divided. Houthis control northern areas, including the capital Sanaa.
They advanced into southern regions, seized Yemen's third largest city Taiz, took much of Lahj province, and may have captured Aden.
They control most of Yemen's military - including its best equipped and trained elements.
On Wednesday, Houthi official Ahmed al Bahri said rebel military operations were launched earlier because Hadi allied with Al Qaeda.
Houthi forces aim to prevent "terrorist militants (from) turn(ing) (Yemen) into chaos," he claimed.
On Wednesday, Houthis captured Hadi's defense minister (Mahmood al Subaihi), top military commander (Faisal Rajab), and Hadi's brother, Nasser.
Arrests took place in Lahij province, bordering Aden.
Saudi-led Yemeni aggression coincided with US warplanes terror-bombing Tikrit, Iraq.
US strategy perhaps intends setting the entire region ablaze.
Wherever America shows up or exerts unwarranted influence, death, destruction and appalling human misery follow.
If Yemeni warplanes retaliate against Saudi oil facilities, the impact could be potentially huge.
Houthi official Mohammed al Bukhait warned against spreading Arabian peninsula "wide war."
Saying "(t)he Yemeni people are a free people and they will confront the aggressors. I will remind you that the Saudi government and the Gulf governments will regret this aggression."
Fars News reported Houthi forces seizing control of most of Aden. Fighting just began. Washington initiated aggression can go on for years.
How many more millions of deaths are tolerable? How much more mass destruction? When will free societies say no more?
When will America be universally condemned for waging war on humanity? When will peace replace endless wars?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Locking In Public Access to Scientific Knowledge by Unlocking Scholarly Research - Thu, 26/03/2015 - 08:29

Promising public access legislation FASTR (Fair Access to Science & Technology Research Act) has been re-introduced by a bipartisan coalition in Congress. Lawmakers now have an important opportunity to strengthen and expand rules that allow taxpayers to freely read articles resulting from research their tax dollars support. EFF continues to encourage legislators to pass this bill as an important step forward—though there are still some measures to improve.

Take action to support FASTR right now.

Shortly after FASTR was initially introduced in 2013, the White House released a directive requiring the results of research funded by major federal government entities to be made freely available to the public. In the two years since, eight agencies and departments have begun complying with that directive by releasing plans for putting research online.

Those steps have been successful and effective, and make a strong case for FASTR. The White House Directive is good, but codifying it through Congressional legislation would create a more stable rule, guaranteeing that the public's access is placed beyond the reach of any future presidential administration with different priorities.

Further, FASTR would strengthen the public access provisions in the Directive by reducing the embargo period—the length of time after research is published before it must be made freely available to the public—from 12 months down to six.

One major drawback of both the White House Directive and the FASTR legislation is the lack of an open licensing requirement. Public access is an important first step, but without open licensing, valuable secondary uses—like data mining, major cross-discipline analysis projects, and redistribution efforts—could be caught under a cloud of copyright uncertainty. In order to make the upgrade from “public access” to real “Open Access,” future rules should include a requirement for the products of research to be released under a free license, like the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license EFF uses for its publications.

Tell your lawmakers to support FASTR today.

FASTR's reintroduction comes at an exciting time for the open access movement: the movement has now been building steam for over a decade, and has chalked up some major successes. Also last week, the Wikimedia Foundation released a thorough Open Access policy that sets a strong example for non-governmental organizations. Under that policy, the results of research that Wikimedia supports through grants or collaboration must be released under a free license.

Related Issues: InnovationOpen Access
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