Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

Privacy Roundup #7 of 2013

August is upon us and summer in the northern hemisphere is in full swing. And although it seems like yesterday, news of PRISM broke several months ago and Edward Snowden continues to be firmly in the conversation. Further, the US government has been under relentless pressure from foreign governments, congressmen, senators, and companies for what many consider a very intrusive information gathering policy.

For this roundup we did try to include some links to news other then the aforementioned but – as you can tell below – we still felt obligated to include several PRISM / NSA related coverage as the associated privacy issues are still significant.

Click away and catch up on some of what has been going on in the world of online privacy and security in the last month:

From our perspective, we are happy to see a national and international debate rising around privacy and its growing importance in the online world in which we live. This will be a significant issue of our time as we need to understand where lines should be drawn and who is responsible for drawing them. Finding a fitting quote to end this privacy roundup with was not a terribly difficult task in light of this recent news.

“Big Brother is Watching You.” ― George Orwell, 1984

Privacy Roundup #6 of 2013

Summer is officially in full swing in the northern hemisphere. For us Americans that means a celebration of fireworks and cookouts and freedom. This year in particular we are thinking a little more about what ‘freedom’ means in the backdrop of PRISM and its impacts on our society.

It is a complicated issue for sure as we all want to live in a safe place – away from harm and terror. However, we also need to be fully aware of the costs and what we are willing to give up to achieve this safety. It is a dialogue that is finally entering the public discourse and one that we hope will continue in the weeks and months ahead.

This edition of the Privacy Roundup serves up a collection of the most interesting, eye opening and informational news pieces and blog posts on the topic of privacy and of course focus on the late breaking news around the growing Snowden/PRISM scandal:

The weekly quote for this roundup may have to be from “Cosmo” the lovable blind hacker from the 1992 movie “Sneakers” – “There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information!”

As always, we hope you have a productive and private month ahead! Until next time…

Privacy Roundup: PRISM Special Edition

May has rolled into June and summer is fast approaching. Originally I had planned for this privacy update to be another collection of somewhat random links regarding the world of security and privacy. And then… We had Thursday. And then PRISM. And it seemed only right to gather as much information, opinion and material as possible around PRISM and make it available to our readers.

But what is PRISM?

This far in, all anyone can tell for sure is that PRISM is the name of a data collection model and technology solution that improves speed and simplicity in allowing NSA and possibly other US agencies to access user data from a large number of the worlds most popular online services. (Including Google, Skype, Microsoft, Facebook etc.)

It seems the program in itself actually does not introduce any new laws, or even break any current ones. What it does however is enables a more effective way for the NSA to request and receive private user data. And of course, this makes it ripe for speculation as to what this ‘new’ stream lined procurement process is being used for and how.

One of the most informative posts as to the model, use, and participants ironically enough comes from the NSA themselves (via Washington Post) and can be found here:

NSA slides explain the PRISM data-collection program

If you desire to dig a bit deeper into PRISM, what people are saying / thinking, and what companies may or may not have been directly involved, here are a collection of what we found to be the most informative links on the subject from the last several days:

Though we will be elaborating on the PRISM program in relation to SpiderOak in a separate blog post,  I can say definitively that our users’ data is encrypted client-side, uploaded, and stored in its fully encrypted state which means we  are never able to view plaintext user content under any circumstances. In short, PRISM would be wholly and entirely useless in the SpiderOak context. 

To Note: We also have yet to even be contacted by any agency regarding the program – surely a result of our ‘Zero-Knowledge’ privacy environment. After all, encrypted data is rather useless for conducting data mining activity.

In light of recent news and the topic for this special roundup I think it’s only fitting we sign off with this quote of the week:

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” – George Orwell in 1984