9 Problems of Government Hacking: Why IT-Systems Deserve Constitutional Protection

Published 20 February 2014 on Freedom to Tinker.

Governments around the world are increasingly hacking into IT-systems. But for every apparent benefit, government hacking creates deeper problems. Time to unpack 9 of them, and to discuss one unique perspective: in response to a proposed hacking law in 2008, the German Constitutional Court created a new human right protecting the ‘confidentiality and integrity of IT-systems’. The rest of the world should follow suit, and outlaw government hacking until its deep problems are addressed. Continue reading 9 Problems of Government Hacking: Why IT-Systems Deserve Constitutional Protection

Watch Your Mouth: Why Talking ‘(Cyber-)Security’ Is Popular, Complex and Deeply Political

Everybody immediately relates to ‘security’, but may mean something profoundly different. This makes researching ‘security’ both difficult and important. My main concern is that we need a better understanding of what ‘(cyber-)security’ is and what it’s not, precisely because of it’s popular, complex and deeply political properties. Until then, we need to watch our mouth when we talk ‘(cyber-)security’, as ambigous concepts are a battleground for political exploitation.  Continue reading Watch Your Mouth: Why Talking ‘(Cyber-)Security’ Is Popular, Complex and Deeply Political

Law and Justice: Breaking One Stupid Rule A Day for Moral Fitness

If something is legal, it doesn’t follow that it is just. A simple observation, but so often neglected. Failing to continuously question the tension between actual law and justice or morality is omnipresent. Take surveillance; whatever moustache-twirlingly evil practice is revealed, authorities across the globe primarily defend systematic spying by refering to deeply flawed and even secret law. Today, I read a passage of James Scott’s new book, in which he outlines ‘Scott’s Law of Anarchist Calisthenics’. It’s a hilarious and deeply inspiring way to reveal fundmantal tensions between law and justice – and my way to train moral fitness. Continue reading Law and Justice: Breaking One Stupid Rule A Day for Moral Fitness

ECHR Fast-tracks Court Case on PRISM and TEMPORA (and VERYANGRYBIRDS?)

So. The NSA and GCHQ piggyback on Angry Birds to spy on its 1.7 billion users. potential terrorists. Not only that, but everything on smartphones can be compromised: “if its on the phone, we can get it”. Will it ever stop? A few days ago, the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECHR’) made the unique move to fast-track a case on the legality of mass surveillance practices by the GCHQ. A judgement is now expected in months, rather than years – in time to have a huge impact on the global debate on mass surveillance. Time for some analysis. Continue reading ECHR Fast-tracks Court Case on PRISM and TEMPORA (and VERYANGRYBIRDS?)

Paper Repository on the NSA Revelations – Add Yours in the Comments [UPDATE]

Recently, I’ve been circulating a reading list of papers and reports on the NSA revelations on a couple of mailing lists. The writings take a step back from the nitty gritty details, and focus on the more fundamental issues that technical, legal and political responses need to address. People have been asking me to blog about it, so here’s a stub, and I encourage you all to add your suggestions in the comments. [UPDATE 25.02.14: added extra sources on securitization] Continue reading Paper Repository on the NSA Revelations – Add Yours in the Comments [UPDATE]

Interviewed by the Dutch Financial Times on the Collingridge Dilemma

The other day, the Dutch Financial Times published an interview with me on my ‘Brandende Kwestie’ (literal translation: burning issue). It was a great opportunity to raise awareness for something I’ve really wanted to talk about for a long time: the lack of meaningful societal debate and hidden agendas when new technologies or new government IT-projects are introduced.  Continue reading Interviewed by the Dutch Financial Times on the Collingridge Dilemma

Signing Mass Surveillance Declarations and Petitions: Should Academics Take a Stance?

Published 30 Oct. 2013 at Freedom to Tinker.

Quite often, especially since the Snowden revelations began, tech policy academics will be approached by NGO’s and colleagues to sign petitions ‘to end mass surveillance’. It’s not always easy to decide whether you want to sign. If you’re an academic, you might want to consider co-signing one initiative launched today. Continue reading Signing Mass Surveillance Declarations and Petitions: Should Academics Take a Stance?

The Politics of the EU Court Data Retention Opinion: End to Mass Surveillance?

Published 13 Dec. 2013 at Freedom to Tinker.

The Wall Street Journal headlines: “EU Court Opinion: Data Retention Directive Incompatible With Fundamental Rights”. The Opinion is strong, but in fact not yet an outright victory to privacy and civil liberties. The jury is out: the Opinion is a non-binding, but influential advice to the E.U. Court, that will deliver its final judgment come next spring. Now is a perfect moment to analyze the Opinion, as well as the institutional politics of the E.U. Court — critical in understanding the two-tier approach to surveillance and fundamental rights in Europe. The two-tier approach converges, after 60 years, when the E.U. accedes to the European Convention of Human Rights anytime soon. Amidst the Snowden revelations, these are the fundamental legal developments that will ultimately answer the question whether European law can end mass surveillance. Continue reading The Politics of the EU Court Data Retention Opinion: End to Mass Surveillance?

NSA Strategy 2012-16: Outsourcing Compliance to Algorithms, and What to Do About It

Over the weekend, two new NSA documents revealed a confident NSA SIGINT strategy for the coming years and a vast increase of NSA-malware infected networks across the globe. The excellent reporting overlooked one crucial development: constitutional compliance will increasingly be outsourced to algorithms. Meaningful oversight of intelligence practises must address this, or face collateral constitutional damage. Continue reading NSA Strategy 2012-16: Outsourcing Compliance to Algorithms, and What to Do About It

The 2008 Liberty Case: An Authoritive Ruling on Snowden’s Disclosures

Published 30 Oct. 2013 at Freedom to Tinker.

The other day, I was re-reading the 2008 Liberty vs. The United Kingdom ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECHR’). The case reads like any BREAKING / REVEALED news report on Edward Snowden’s disclosures, and will play a crucial role in the currently pending court cases in Europe on the legality of the surveillance programs. Liberty is also great material for comparing surveillance jurisprudence across the Atlantic. Continue reading The 2008 Liberty Case: An Authoritive Ruling on Snowden’s Disclosures

When an Ethnographer met Edward Snowden

Published 18 Oct. 2013 at Freedom to Tinker.

If you talk about ‘metadata’, ‘big data’ and ‘Big Brother’ just as easily as you order a pizza, ethnography and anthropology are probably not your first points of reference. But the outcome of a recent encounter of ethnographer Tom Boellstorff and Edward Snowden (not IRL but IRP), is that tech policy wonks and researchers should be careful with their day to day vocabulary, as concepts carry politics of control and power. Continue reading When an Ethnographer met Edward Snowden