The NSA's Vast Spying Regime Does Not Pass Constitutional Muster

It often appears that the only time Democrats and Republicans can agree on anything, it tends to result in the launching of new wars, or building more prisons, or further eroding constitutional rights and civil liberties.  This could not be more clear in the bipartisan defense of the unconstitutional surveillance and spying regime that has been constructed in the United States over the last decade(s).  An op-ed in the New York Times calls it what it is: criminal.  Excerpt:
The Fourth Amendment obliges the government to demonstrate probable cause before conducting invasive surveillance. There is simply no precedent under the Constitution for the government’s seizing such vast amounts of revealing data on innocent Americans’ communications. 

The government has made a mockery of that protection by relying on select Supreme Court cases, decided before the era of the public Internet and cellphones, to argue that citizens have no expectation of privacy in either phone metadata or in e-mails or other private electronic messages that it stores with third parties . . . 

We may never know all the details of the mass surveillance programs, but we know this: The administration has justified them through abuse of language, intentional evasion of statutory protections, secret, unreviewable investigative procedures and constitutional arguments that make a mockery of the government’s professed concern with protecting Americans’ privacy. It’s time to call the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs what they are: criminal.

Documents Reveal Widespread Email Surveillance by US Government for Past Decade

A few years ago, actually, even just a few weeks ago, anyone who suggested that email correspondence and internet traffic were being monitored by the government would have been labeled a nut or conspiracy theorist.  But they would have been right.  From The Guardian:
The Obama administration for more than two years permitted the National Security Agency to continue collecting vast amounts of records detailing the email and internet usage of Americans, according to secret documents obtained by the Guardian.

The documents indicate that under the program, launched in 2001, a federal judge sitting on the secret surveillance panel called the Fisa court would approve a bulk collection order for internet metadata "every 90 days". A senior administration official confirmed the program, stating that it ended in 2011.

The collection of these records began under the Bush administration's wide-ranging warrantless surveillance program, collectively known by the NSA codename Stellar Wind.

Remote Desktop Feature Added to Google Hangout

From Geekosystem:
Getting started with Hangouts Remote Desktop is pretty basic. We just gave it a test drive, and everything went smoothly. The feature can be installed as an app in the hangout itself. It’s found under the “Add Apps” tab on the left of the screen. Once one person enables Remote Desktop, the other party can choose to accept or reject it. Now you’re free to click around the other person’s screen.

Privacy Tools: Free Web Browsers With Strong Privacy Protections and Tools provides listings of free alternatives to proprietary software produced by companies known to be collaborating with global spying and intelligence operations that compromise their users' privacy.  If you are using Apple Safaro, Google Chrome or Microsoft Internet Explorer, you are perhaps inadvertently compromising your own data security and internet privacy due to the fact that these corporations are known to collaborate with global surveillance and spying operations.  Alternatives include:

Tor Browser Bundle
Gnuzilla and IceCat

NSA Scandal: If Your Data Are Encrypted, They are Being Collected

If you secure any data you send over the internet encrypting them, you probably have a backup copy somewhere at the NSA.  From Tech Dirt:
There's been plenty of commentary concerning the latest NSA leak concerning its FISA court-approved "rules" for when it can keep data, and when it needs to delete it. As many of you pointed out in the comments to that piece -- and many others are now exploring -- the rules seem to clearly say that if your data is encrypted, the NSA can keep it.  Specifically, the minimization procedures say that the NSA has to destroy the communication it receives once it's determined as domestic unless they can demonstrate a few facts about it.

Firefox Will Offer Better Internet Privacy and Anti-Tracking Tools

From the Washington Post:
The maker of the popular Firefox browser is moving ahead with plans to block the most common forms of Internet tracking, allowing hundreds of millions of users to eventually limit who watches their movements across the Web, company officials said Wednesday.

Firefox’s developers made the decision despite intense resistance from advertising groups, which have argued that tracking is essential to delivering well-targeted, lucrative ads that pay for many popular Internet services.

Widespread release of the blocking technology remains months away. But officials at Mozilla, the nonprofit group that makes Firefox, spoke confidently Wednesday about the growing sophistication of tools they are building to limit the placement of “cookies” in users’ browsers. . . .