Bag searches at borders reveal more than ornamental nipple clamps

Bag searches at borders reveal more than ornamental nipple clamps
By Simon Davies

bag search 2 edit

Bag searches at the border are becoming a privacy issue. Simon Davies explains why we need to put our foot down on zealous security officials. 

The online world is replete with embarrassing tales of air travellers who have suffered the indignity of having the intimate contents of their luggage aired in public by zealous security officials. I’ve seen more and more of these accounts lately, often involving the waving around of everything from kinky underwear to jumbo condom packets.

I can empathise, though on this occasion I’d like to focus on the rarely discussed aspect of international rail travel.

Some time ago, I travelled by train from Hamburg to Copenhagen. It’s normally a peaceful journey, stopping along the way to board the ferry between the towns of Puttgarden (on the German side) and Rodby (on the Denmark side).

It turned out that “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion” are not legal terms in the vocabulary of most officials.

On this occasion the trip was not so convivial. Thanks to various reactionary government edicts, border controls throughout this European region – and almost everywhere else – have been ramped up (though there is, as some reports describe it, a glimmer of hope that the EU borders are being relaxed in places).

Three border officials approached me en-masse and politely requested to search my bags. Well, they asked as politely as border officials are pathologically able to ask.

As seasoned travellers will know, I use the word “requested” with a tinge of irony. Refusing search requests at a border would probably result in me being escorted to the next train back to Germany. Cancellation of your privacy and fourth amendment rights is not confined to airports.

It turned out that “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion” are not legal terms in the vocabulary of most officials. I reluctantly consented, under protest.

I’ll hand them something; they were meticulous. Meticulous to the point of obsession. In hindsight, when they asked if I had any drugs on me I shouldn’t have responded “No, but I know a guy who does if you really want some”. You can’t get away with joviality at the border, even on a train.

The search began in earnest and I started to worry whether I might have something “of interest”, or even slightly humiliating. After a few weeks of travel you collect a lot of random stuff. You know, some prankster friend hilariously gives you a pair or ornamental nipple clamps after a long night on the booze. That sort of thing. I got to thinking of that iconic search scene in Austin Powers. The one with the Swedish penis enlarger pump.

Sydney Airport Media demonstration of new carry on baggage restrictons and security check in measures for International passengers. A security officer examins a womans carry on containers. All containers must now be 100 millilitres or less and sealed in a clear plastic bag. ( airport staff posing as passengers) SMH NEWS PIC BY LEE BESFORD. Thursday 29th March 2007.

On a more serious note, did I pack those conference papers on terrorist networking? Or that academic report on radicalism? Shades of the McArthyism era sprang to mind.

They started by holding aloft a roll of toilet paper from my backpack.

OK, let me be clear here. There are some items that the long-haul traveller packs as a matter of necessity. Toilet paper is one such item.

I polled a number of colleagues on this point, and our list of essentials and emergency items eerily converged. We all travel for long periods and have independently gained a common understanding of such matters. For the record, here is the list:

Passport, umbrella, grocery bags, power adapter, ethernet cable, toilet roll and basic toiletries, combined bottle opener and cork screw, pen and paper, asprin, water bottle, ingredients for making tea or coffee, plasters, spare shoe laces, reading material, rubber bands, snacks, cash, dental floss and ear plugs.

Beyond that list, almost everything is suspect – but also toilet roll, apparently.

Why do you carry this?”enquired one of the sanitary investigation officials in a voice that may or may not have been loud enough to be overheard in Romania..

did I pack those conference papers on terrorist networking? Or that academic report on radicalism? Shades of the McArthyism era sprang to mind.

There really is no easy answer to that line of questioning, so I resorted to shrugging my shoulders rather than doing a mime act on my behind. This did provide some amusement to fellow travellers, some of whom had abandoned their crossword puzzles and MP3 players to observe the scene.

Another official found a small hand carved wooden duck which was given to me as a gift by a conference in Norway. I had completely forgotten about that duck.

It was a beautiful duck, doubtless carved by rustic artists from an ancient Spruce tree on the shores of a remote exotic fjord. Someone had gone to the trouble of daubing it with art-nouveau yellow and blue circles, just like ducks aren’t.

The officials were intrigued. What is this? One asked, slowly turning it around like an antiques expert. Fellow passengers also seemed curious to know. After all, they had become part of this show.

They prodded that duck. They held it to the light, shook it, tapped it and meddled with its bits. “Are there drugs in here?”

I explained that it was just a duck. I then went on to show them the relevant conference programme and my talk on jurisdictional conflicts arising from the General Data Protection Regulation. You would think that investigatory people would have an opinion on that subject, but apparently not. They don’t make border officials like they used to.

After the duck controversy had been resolved, they discovered a bag of electrical peripherals – or “wiring”, as they described it. That is, three mobile phone chargers, the essential ethernet cable, a micro USB cable, remote drive, batteries and sundry other items necessary for the digitally connected traveller.

Thankfully there was enough sense among the posse to move on from an interrogation about explosives equipment.

This search went on for a further few minutes until the bags were exhausted of opportunity. What slightly annoyed me was that they didn’t even find the bag of sugar that I carry with me. They did, however, enjoy going through my documents and correspondence and loudly enquiring about particular aspects, such as a trip to Moscow and personal correspondence with a former UK Home Secretary. There is no requirement to log such observations.

The point of this diatribe is that border people need to learn some respect for people’s dignity and privacy. Codes of conduct that currently exist for pat-downs should be extended to bag searches to provide some assurance of personal rights. This applies in particular to searches on trains and buses, where the proximity of other travellers is intimate and close.

The UK government, as an example, employs a standard that requires bags to be checked in front of the traveller, but offers no guidance on how those items are checked. Nor does it offer advice on how officials should avoid humiliating searches. The codes of Canada and Australia are similarly vacant.

Yes, I understand that in the big scheme of things in privacy – or even in border privacy – this aspect might seem trivial, but it is often those more arcane elements of privacy that end up setting a broader standard for us all.

June 25, 2017 at 08:52PM
via The Privacy Surgeon

Australia wants to be able to read your encrypted messages

Australia wants to be able to read your encrypted messages
By Caleb Chen

Australia’s Attorney General Senator Brandis announced over the weekend that he would be leading the discussion on squeezing tech firms and forcing them to encryption backdoors in secure messaging apps at the next annual meeting of public security ministers and attorney generals from the Five Eyes countries (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia). Brandis announced his plan to seek greater power over encrypted messaging and the tech firms that provide it in a joint statement:

“I will raise the need to address ongoing challenges posed by terrorists and criminals using encryption. These discussions will focus on the need to cooperate with service providers to ensure reasonable assistance is provided to law enforcement and security agencies.”

It is still entirely unclear how these politicians would propose forcing tech firms to be able to decrypt messages without a backdoor – but it is clear that they will be discussing in earnest at the upcoming closed door meeting of these five countries’ security arms.

Australia to push tech companies for a way to read encrypted messages, continues to deny that such a thing is a backdoor

Beyond the conundrum of how to technically provide a way to decrypt encrypted messages without an encryption backdoor… What about citizens’ right to privacy? Earlier this month, as Australia’s plans to talk about encrypted messaging at the upcoming Five Eyes meeting was first being unveiled, Australia’s cyber security special advisor, Alastair MacGibbon, tried to justify the move by saying that:

“From time to time we do expect our privacy to be breached. From time to time you would expect a law enforcement agency to break into a private communication online.”

That is to say – The government is still actively trying to peddle the poisonous idea that privacy is not an absolute thing. Brandeis will likely find an ally in the United Kingdom, where Theresa May has called for censorship and encryption backdoors of their own. Russia is even attempting to ban Telegram, their homegrown encrypted messaging app. In sharp contrast, politicians in the Europe have been calling for “state-of-the-art,” end-to-end encryption and a clear lack of backdoors.

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The post Australia wants to be able to read your encrypted messages appeared first on Privacy Online News.

June 26, 2017 at 02:50PM
via Privacy Online News

Private Internet Access shines the cat signal for net neutrality

Private Internet Access shines the cat signal for net neutrality
By Caleb Chen

Today, Private Internet Access is shining the cat signal with a full page ad in the New York Times to gain support for the Net Neutrality Day of Action that Fight for the Future and other organizations are is planning at Battle for the Net.


We, the people of the Internet, have stopped these draconian attempts to close our access to the open internet in the past, and we must do so again each time. Join us at the Internet Defense Leaguefor this and future actions.

Cat Signal shines in the New York Times

cat signal new york times

Continue reading“Private Internet Access shines the cat signal for net neutrality”

The post Private Internet Access shines the cat signal for net neutrality appeared first on Privacy Online News.

June 25, 2017 at 02:02AM
via Privacy Online News

Does US have right to data on overseas servers? We’re about to find out

Does US have right to data on overseas servers? We’re about to find out
By David Kravets

Enlarge (credit: Red Agenda)

The Justice Department on Friday petitioned the US Supreme Court to step into an international legal thicket, one that asks whether US search warrants extend to data stored on foreign servers. The US government says it has the legal right, with a valid court warrant, to reach into the world’s servers with the assistance of the tech sector, no matter where the data is stored.

The request for Supreme Court intervention concerns a 4-year-old legal battle between Microsoft and the US government over data stored on Dublin, Ireland servers. The US government has a valid warrant for the e-mail as part of a drug investigation. Microsoft balked at the warrant, and convinced a federal appeals court that US law does not apply to foreign data.

The government on Friday told the justices that US law allows it to get overseas data, and national security was at risk.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

June 25, 2017 at 07:10AM
via Ars Technica UK

Wikileaks – Choose Your Side of the Barricade

Wikileaks – Choose Your Side of the Barricade
By craig

Today Julian reaches precisely five years of incarceration in the Ecuadorean Embassy and I am on the train down to London for events to mark the anniversary. Given that two days ago I couldn’t make it to my balcony, I feel quite chuffed with my powers of recovery.

Yesterday I wrote that Corbyn’s advance has removed the “unelectable policies” excuse from New Labour and they have now to decide whether they are actually socialist or have adopted neo-liberalism out of belief.

Precisely the same faux-left now face precisely the same challenge over Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The “sexual allegations” never stood up to five minutes’ serious analysis, but they served their purpose brilliantly for some years. They enabled the “left” of the political establishment completely to evade the question of whether they supported whistleblowers on war crimes and corruption, or whether they supported official secrecy and the spiralling authoritarianism that defends the neo-liberals.

There is now only one active question with regard to Julian Assange. Do you think he should be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges and life imprisonment for publishing the Chelsea Manning Iraq war crime revelations, and for assisting Edward Snowden to escape? Because that is now the only legal jeopardy he faces.

All the faux-left who dodged that question now have to answer it.

Assange is wanted by the Metropolitan Police for what they themselves have called the “minor charge” of missing a bail appointment. It is indeed a minor charge, normally dealt with by a fine, particularly as the extradition request relating to the bail order is no longer in force. Assange’s defence is that he did not skip bail to run away, but to seek an alternative legal remedy – the political asylum process. That this latter has priority is proven by the fact that there are numerous people granted asylum in the UK who face “criminal” charges in their home country. Fear of persecution – often by unjust prosecution – is of course the basis of asylum.

But even ignoring this solid defence, there are many thousand people in the UK today who have missed bail. Julian Assange is the only one of those thousands with a permanent roster of plain clothes detectives keeping watch 24 hours a day. Why, when there are no longer any allegations for him to face? There is no open and honest logic to it.

The answer of course is that Theresa May and Amber Rudd have plans firmly in place for Assange to be arrested and incarcerated, while extradition to the United States is quickly arranged. That is why a man wanted on nothing but a “minor charge” has more police resources devoted to him than any murderer. Again I ask – which side are you on?

The post Wikileaks – Choose Your Side of the Barricade appeared first on Craig Murray.

June 19, 2017 at 09:35AM
via Craig Murray

Britain’s ISPs already censor political opinions they just randomly happen to disagree with

Britain’s ISPs already censor political opinions they just randomly happen to disagree with
By Rick Falkvinge

British Internet providers already censor political opinions they don’t like. Specifically, they censor this blog by default, which is trivial to verify, thanks to Open Rights Group. This blog isn’t a random corporate blog; it builds political opinion in favor of net liberty and net neutrality, and frequently against the old telco dinosaurs. Therefore, it’s a huge red flag when those same dinosaurs prevent people from accessing it at all.

As Caleb Chen has written here before, some of Britain’s ISPs have decided to censor this entire VPN service off the visible Internet for their customers: people who try to access Private Internet Access are essentially told that the page doesn’t exist, is censored, is illegal, or is otherwise shady. That’s outrageous in itself – the notion that an ISP can take itself the right to determine which other businesses, well, exist. It’s especially concerning when the blocked services are absolutely vital for whistleblowing and other core democratic safeguards.

Sky and O2 in Britain don’t let people read political opinion pieces, such as pieces in favor of net neutrality, on this blog. Above the result of a political piece, courtesy of a block check service made by our friends at Open Rights Group.

But there’s more to it. Private Internet Access is also running this very blog, which promotes various liberty aspects. We’re not just a random VPN company, we happen to be passionate activists who run a VPN company as a way to create sustainable liberty. This is not about the money. This is about liberty, anonymity, privacy, and human rights to us. Therefore, you could argue that the entire company is political – in the good sense – but at the very least, no matter how you turn it, this blog certainly is. This is where we argue for anonymity, where we report on political events, and where we talk to our brothers and sisters on the barricades.

Therefore, it is undeniably the case that the UK now has default-on censorship for political opinions. That’s not particularly flattering.

But there’s more to this. There are two important twists to this story.

The first twist to this story is that this is a site and a blog heavily in favor of net neutrality, something that telco-luggage ISPs are vehemently against in order to protect their obsolete copperline luggage. Therefore, it’s in their business interest to censor this particular site.

So while it can absolutely be argued that it just “happens” to be opinions these telcos disagree with that get “accidentally” censored as an unfortunate side effect of censoring an entire VPN company, it’s undeniably the case that a VPN company will, one way or another, always push these political values, and so it should be foreseeable. It’s also a very convenient coincidence that the default censorship just happens to censor out opinions that go against the business interest of those actually doing the censoring. To be frank, even if it’s accidental and unintended, it leaves a very bad taste.

The second twist is that if the net neutrality we argue in favor of were abolished, we would see more of this behavior openly – your telco-luggage ISP selecting your opinions for you, without even trying to say it’s accidental. It would be portrayed as “family friendly”, “ethical”, or some other whitewashing.

If net neutrality were abolished, we’d see exactly this, and much more of this – your ISP essentially being free to serve you only that part of reality that they agreed with, and let you think opposing viewpoints did not exist. The notion that it already exists at all is sickening. The notion that a legalization of this is one political decision away is frightening.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

The post Britain’s ISPs already censor political opinions they just randomly happen to disagree with appeared first on Privacy Online News.

June 16, 2017 at 09:52PM
via Privacy Online News

The Internet needs paid fast lanes, US anti-net neutrality senator says

The Internet needs paid fast lanes, US anti-net neutrality senator says
By Jon Brodkin

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Bill Clark)

This week, the head of the Federal Communications Commission and a Republican US senator each called net neutrality a “slogan” that solves no real problems, with the senator also arguing that the Internet should have paid fast lanes.

“It’s a great slogan,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, when asked by a radio host what net neutrality is. “But in reality what it involves is Internet regulation, and the basic question is, ‘Do you want the government deciding how the Internet is run?'”

Pai, who is touring midwestern states to meet with rural ISPs about broadband deployment, appeared with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee on Monday. You can listen to the interview here (hat tip to Stop the Cap).

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

June 9, 2017 at 04:45PM
via Ars Technica UK