Week 9 News Digest

Hampton entrepreneur seeks to launch privacy-friendly search engine

March 4, 2015


While Google openly collects data on every search performed, this information may be used by governments or other entities to monitor individuals or groups of people. A new search engine alternative released under the name “Jumbawumba” uses Google’s technology to obtain search results, but doesn’t allow the search engine to see who made the original inquiry. Instead, Jumbawumba masks the request by sending it through their own servers first, breaking the direct link between the searcher and the search engine. The website, whch started on Kickstarter.com, will charge a fee for large-scale, automated searching, but is free for regular users who want to obtain information discreetly.

Blackphone 2, Sikur, CryptTalk: Privacy And Call Encryption Evolves

March 4, 2015


Silent Circle, the company who created the first smart phone built from the ground up for security and privacy recently released the second model of this phone, the Blackphone 2. This phone features an octa-core processor, 3 GB ram, and a proprietary operating system called Private OS 1.1. For users who don’t want the hefty price tag attached to the phone ($500+), a Swedish company called Arenim has created an app called CryptTalk, which provides call encryption. Another company, Sikur, offers a new smartphone called GranitePhone. This phone is designed to protect the exchange of sensitive and confidential data and is expected to ship by Q3 of this year.


Colorado lawmakers seek penalties on using drones to invade privacy

March 3, 2015


Lawmakers in Denver, CO are struggling with legislation restricting drone usage. Legislators are working to resolve exceptions for everyday photography, but have met with challenges. The House Judiciary Committee is considering a bill which would make it a crime of first-degree trespassing to take images of someone when they have an expectation of privacy. In addition to trespassing charges, drone users could also be charged with harassment. Some representatives are against the bill, warning that it may lead to a sweeping reform which criminalizes photography.  Lawmakers are working to future-proof laws to protect their work against the ever-changing landscape of new technology.

FBI email warns whistleblower of retaliation if surveillance program concerns reported

March 3, 2015


An FBI communication recently told a potential whistleblower that he could face retaliation if he comes forward with concerns about political interference with a secret terrorism and counterintelligence program. The e-mail came from a bureau attorney and has raised questions in congress about the FBI’s ability to properly handle accusations of wrongdoing and protection of whistleblowers. The Senate Judiciary Committee met on Wednesday to take testimony regarding the FBI’s whistleblower protections. The e-mail also confirms long held beliefs in Congress that the FBI’s protections in place for whistleblowers are currently being pushed aside in favor of bureaucratic tradition. In February, a Government Accountability Office report found that nearly 90% of FBI whistleblower claims were dismissed. This means that many of these concerns around surveillance programs within the FBI are being ignored and pushed to the side.

EFF to UN: You Need a Privacy Watchdog
March 4, 2015


The EFN recently joined sixty civil liberties unions and public interest groups to call on the UN to create a Unite Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy. The special rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to ensure that privacy is defined and understood by members of the global organization. The creation of this role would serve to further common understanding among United Nations members and help foster discussion among world powers and the public. The U.N. Human Rights council is holding its 28th session in Geneva and it will conclude on March 27th.