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Congress Prepares To Pass Expanded Surveillance Bills

Like Santa, the U.S. government also plans to know whether you've been good or bad. According to the EFF, Congress is getting ready to pass new surveillance bills by the end of the year. Two of the bills relate to the FISA Section 702 reauthorization, while another one is a new border screening bill that will allow TSA agents to collect biometric and DNA information from both U.S. and foreign travelers.

Expanding Mass Surveillance With H.R. 4478 and S. 2010

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has been problematic from day one because it’s one of the main programs that has allowed the NSA to collect not just all foreign internet data and phone call records that pass through the U.S., but also the same data belonging to Americans.

Programs such as PRISM and Upstream, which allow the NSA to tap into internet cables and capture and analyze every data packet, including your emails, chats, and browsing history, were created under Section 702.

Encrypted information is of course (relatively) safe from this type of collection, but the NSA has began storing encrypted data indefinitely. The agency hopes that one day there will be a way to decrypt everything, such as with quantum computers. Then, things you said 10 years ago could potentially start being used against you if you ever land in a court, and judges may not even be aware of it.

The two bills that will expand the U.S. government’s surveillance powers are H.R. 4478 and S. 2010. According to the EFF, the two bills would:

Grant authority to restart “about” collection, an invasive type of surveillance that was heavily criticized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for privacy violations.Fail to protect Americans from FBI agents reading their private communications without first obtaining a warrant.

Back in 2008 and 2012, few House or Senate members fought the expansion of surveillance powers. However, this time around there seem to be more members of Congress fighting both the reauthorization of FISA Section 702 and the expansion of surveillance powers.

There were at least two related bills introduced in the Senate and two in the House that were meant to either expand the surveillance powers or restrict them. The USA Rights Act, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden and a few other Senators from both parties, was the only one aimed squarely at reforming and restricting the government’s mass spying capabilities.

Because there was no consensus, it seems that none of them are moving forward. However, those who would like to reauthorize and expand the mass surveillance programs are now trying to sneakily add the bills to the funding bills for next year.

According to the EFF, this maneuver would rob surveillance reform of the little debate it was going to have in the first place. It would also rob it of a transparent vote, which could have been used by the American people in the next election to see how their representatives voted on the issue.

Biometric And DNA Collection At Border (S.2192)

If the NSA mass surveillance expansion was not enough, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced a bill that seems to contain 1984’s list of things to do for oppressive governments: biometric screening, DNA collection, surveillance drones, social media snooping, license plate readers. Grassley’s “the Secure ACT” (S.2192) seems to be an all you can you can spy-on authoritarian government buffet.

S.2192 borrows heavily from other House and Senate bills (H.R. 3548 and S. 1757) introduced earlier this year Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and opposed by the EFF.

Sen. Coryn’s bill would require that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS):

Collect biometric information from all people who exit the U.S., including U.S. and foreign citizens.Collect DNA and other biometric information from “any individual filing an application, petition, or other request for immigration benefit or status.”Share biometric information about immigrants with the FBI, Defense Department, and State Department.Review social media accounts of visa applicants from “high-risk countries.”Deploy drones at the U.S. border.

The bill would apply to both foreigners as well as all Americans passing through U.S. airports. The EFF believes that border security should be balanced with essential civil rights that both citizens and foreigners should have in airports, and that these bills violate that principle.

Biometric Authentication, An Increased Risk

The increasing collection of biometric data, as well as governments everywhere becoming interested in installing highly-advanced facial recognition cameras in airports or anywhere in public, is also why biometric authentication for mobile devices may not have a long life after all.

Facial recognition seems to be the most vulnerable to this type of technology adoption from governments, because you already have your face plastered everywhere online. Now governments will be able to capture it from multiple angles everywhere you go, too.

This is why smartphone OEMs should probably resist the urge to copy Apple and ditch the fingerprint sensor in favor of facial recognition, which even despite Apple’s advanced security measures, can’t seem to be secure enough.

Fingerprints are significantly harder to collect by governments in a passive manner compared to your face profile. However, as we’re seeing with these new bills, some governments are also trying to actively collect fingerprints, too, and build databases of them that can later be hacked by criminals and rival governments.

The EFF is urging everyone to call their Congressmen, as there are only hours left until some of these bills will start passing, unless action is taken.

  • HEXiT
    america inc has really become a threat to democracy and liberties... its almost like the american government now see's every 1 as an enemy of the state.
    Reply
  • AgentLozen
    I wonder how successful this Section 702 stuff (and whatever) has been. Does it catch and prosecute REAL threats 70% of the time? 50%? 10%? 1%? Whats the ratio of snooping on harmless people vs terrorists? Is 50% of the harmless population snooped on? 75? 99.999%?

    America: "We've passed a bill to allow the creation of our new smart bomb system. It can kill WAAAAY more people than before!"

    Concerned Citizens: "How often does it kill innocent people compared to threats to America?"

    America: "DO YOU WANT THE TERRORISTS TO WIN?"


    Really though, I think the reply would be a simple, bland: "We've shown many times in the past that we don't care what you think."
    Reply
  • dark_lord69
    20502946 said:
    america inc has really become a threat to democracy and liberties... its almost like the american government now see's every 1 as an enemy of the state.

    Everyone IS a potential enemy of the state. That's why we will/are all being monitored. And what have they found out about me. I love America I'm proud to live here and I am no threat. ...But.. it only takes ignorance and gullibility to fight on behalf of a terrorist organization... and there are FAR too many ignorant suckers in america that buy into anything they are told.

    Taught what to believe because they are incapable of thinking for themselves... Pathetic people.
    It actually reminds me of our Neo Nazzi's they teach each other to hate and are incapable of their own thoughts.

    The only REAL downside to more surveillance is the potential of it ending up in the wrong hands... Or if you're an idiot watching and believing the terrorist organization videos. Also, they don't care about petty crimes they are trying to protect our citizens.

    If this gets you up in arms then put yourself in charge.... How would you go about protecting every citizen in this entire country from threats that are, foreign, domestic and ourselves?
    Reply
  • HEXiT
    oh now thats a rabbit hole...
    theres a whole lot that needs rolling back...
    sadly it wont happen as then the truth about drones, oil pipelines and bank theft would come out and 90%+ of washington would be going to jail.

    but the simple truth is. its easier to find a needle in a haystack if you dont keep adding hay. these powers are just more hay and probably unconstitutional.
    Reply
  • mrmez
    Every great civilisation, every great power there once was, is now gone.
    It may take a long time, the question is not when, but how America's stranglehold ends.
    Anyone remember a certain Hernán Cortés?
    Reply
  • jackt
    This is nazism ! about the U.S... And a war crime about the rest of the world. This violates the basic human rights, how can you allow that ?
    Reply
  • Mousemonkey
    20503403 said:
    How would you go about protecting every citizen in this entire country from threats that are, foreign, domestic and ourselves?

    Easy, ban humans from using the internet, guns, motor vehicles and any kind of sharp objects. Then employ fluffy bunnies to do all the things that humans have just been banned from doing, when was the last time a fluffy bunny was considered as being dangerous?
    Reply
  • shrapnel_indie
    20505990 said:
    20503403 said:
    How would you go about protecting every citizen in this entire country from threats that are, foreign, domestic and ourselves?

    Easy, ban humans from using the internet, guns, motor vehicles and any kind of sharp objects. Then employ fluffy bunnies to do all the things that humans have just been banned from doing, when was the last time a fluffy bunny was considered as being dangerous?

    Easy, maybe... but you'll have to force governments to play by the same rules, and the lawless and law breakers too. Not an easy task, especially since they'll be for the ban while hiding their cache from us until its time to take advantage of a helpless population.

    As to when a fluffy bunny was considered dangerous? Have you never seen Monty Python and the quest for the Holy Grail? That bunny was pure evil.



    (I see this quoted 1x before me... but don't see the reply. probably removed. oh well... it's neither here nor there.)
    Reply
  • Mousemonkey
    20506760 said:
    20505990 said:
    20503403 said:
    How would you go about protecting every citizen in this entire country from threats that are, foreign, domestic and ourselves?

    Easy, ban humans from using the internet, guns, motor vehicles and any kind of sharp objects. Then employ fluffy bunnies to do all the things that humans have just been banned from doing, when was the last time a fluffy bunny was considered as being dangerous?

    Easy, maybe... but you'll have to force governments to play by the same rules, and the lawless and law breakers too. Not an easy task, especially since they'll be for the ban while hiding their cache from us until its time to take advantage of a helpless population.

    As to when a fluffy bunny was considered dangerous? Have you never seen Monty Python and the quest for the Holy Grail? That bunny was pure evil.



    (I see this quoted 1x before me... but don't see the reply. probably removed. oh well... it's neither here nor there.)

    The bunny in QftHG was just an actor playing a role man, c'mon this is serious. And the other poster who quoted my post deleted it themselves.
    Reply
  • shrapnel_indie
    20506884 said:
    20506760 said:
    20505990 said:
    20503403 said:
    How would you go about protecting every citizen in this entire country from threats that are, foreign, domestic and ourselves?

    Easy, ban humans from using the internet, guns, motor vehicles and any kind of sharp objects. Then employ fluffy bunnies to do all the things that humans have just been banned from doing, when was the last time a fluffy bunny was considered as being dangerous?

    Easy, maybe... but you'll have to force governments to play by the same rules, and the lawless and law breakers too. Not an easy task, especially since they'll be for the ban while hiding their cache from us until its time to take advantage of a helpless population.

    As to when a fluffy bunny was considered dangerous? Have you never seen Monty Python and the quest for the Holy Grail? That bunny was pure evil.



    (I see this quoted 1x before me... but don't see the reply. probably removed. oh well... it's neither here nor there.)

    The bunny in QftHG was just an actor playing a role man, c'mon this is serious. And the other poster who quoted my post deleted it themselves.

    I realize the bunny wasn't based on RL... One does however still need to keep their eyes peeled for wolves in sheep's clothing for not everything is as it appears to be.

    I was serious when I was talking specifically about the ban though. There will be those who will appear to comply, those that will totally ignore, those who will gladly comply thinking everyone else is and they'll be completely safe and without worry, and those who will fight it tooth and nail at all levels.

    I also noted the deletion was "neither here nor there." In retrospect, I should probably not have noted it.
    Reply