Safety & Internet Surveillance

Posted: May 2, 2013 by Nikolas Sartin-Tarm in The Pros


What is this surveillance thing anyway and why does it matter to us? 

The safety of the citizens of the world is always the number one priority when the topic of Internet Surveillance comes up in discussions in politics around the world. For people that are extememly against being tracked fully online, accroding to the New American, “For Internet freedom activists, though, government regulation or control of the Internet is off the table and non-negotiable. First of all, the U.S. Constitution does not allow even the federal government to regulate the Web, much less the UN; and if either gets its foot in the door, restoring liberty online would be extremely difficult (2012).” The U.S. and the world need to know that the government is not trying to see what you did at that party last weekend, they want to know if you are engaging in suspicious activities online.

When one talks about internet surveillance and how it relates to the political environment, you have to discuss the Patriot Act. This website defines what the Patriot Act actually entails. Within this website it is said that the Patriot Act is in place to help to “enhance law enforcement investigatory tools” ( This is important for the safety of the United Sates Citizens, especially after the Terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. 

Internet surveillance is something that we all have to deal with. Although, in the political sphere, it is something much more prominent. It is something that government officials have to deal with every day. They are suing tracking tools to see what people are doing and also be scrutinized at the same time. The way that the government and Internet surveillance are intertwined allow for a safer place to call home. If the United States government is tracking our every move, whether it be on social media or our Google searches, we need to know that it is for the safety of the United States citizens. Without this tracking and big brother watchdog methodology, the government would not be able to find the terrorist plots that have occasionally started online. This is why we need to just accept the fact that we are being watched in this new society.

Clay Shirky has made many discussions about the Internet and how it ties into society. Clay did a TED talk that I found very interesting  and related to Internet and how the government can use it for surveillance.

Clay touched on social media in his TED talk as well but there was another video that discusses the discussions that have been made within the United Nations about having global Internet surveillance in order to create a safer place for the world citizens. Clay does not discuss any of the surveillance topics until the video is almost done but he still touches on it. I believe this video is a good look at what social media and media history is in today’s world. Without this background information, it would be hard to understand what people are even up in arms about in regards to their Internet privacy.

Many people are up in arms about this because they think it is taking away from their right to privacy. These citizens need to know that the tracking of our Internet activity allow for a safer place. This video also discussed the problems of the distribution of copyrighted material. This is where most of the people got angered about having total Internet surveillance. They want to have the opportunity to share their music or videos that they have downloaded with their friends and they do not see the problem with this. The government, as an institution needs to be able to protect the business that keep local governments going. One of these viable business is the multimedia industry that some people believe is suffering from sharing copyrighted material.

In all honesty, I do not believe being watch online is that big of a deal. I have nothing to hide. If the government wants to read my emails from my professors and my boss, then go ahead. I also believe that the government will not be watching your Internet usage if you are not doing anything suspicious. This is something I have reiterated many times, but I believe it needs to be said. The governments of the world only have access to small amount of your information and what they do have they only examine if you are going a “person of interest”.

Whether you are for or against the government using Internet surveillance on their citizens, it is important to be educated about the topics.

-Johnny Walters Jr.


Clay Shirky: How social media can make history. 2009. Video. TED Web. 29 Apr 2013. <;.

“UN Seeking Global Internet Surveillance For Terror, Propaganda.” New American (08856540) 28.22 (2012): 7. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 Apr. 2013.

Image Credit

N.d. Photograph. n.p. Web. 27 Apr 2013. <;.


The Future of Internet Surveillance

Posted: May 2, 2013 by Morri979 in The Cons

Unlike the United States, most countries in the modern world have fewer opportunities to think and act without hinderance or restraint. This idea is especially true regarding the rights of users on the Internet.  In the United Kingdom, this inability to speak freely on the Internet has become more problematic due to something called a “black box.”

These black boxes, which will be installed by the Security Service Mi5 (Military intelligence, section 5), are a way that user activity on the Internet can be further monitored.  These boxes are intended to monitor emails, social networking activity and monitor calls over the course of a year.  Obviously, any Internet monitoring plan of this degree will receive its fair share scrutiny from civil rights groups and displeased citizens. But politicians in the U.K. are justifying the Black Boxes as a necessity, because as criminals become more technologically capable, so must they.  But what about everyone who isn’t causing trouble? These Black Boxes are intended to monitor all users and the government of the U.K. would have full access to anyone and everyone’s personal information, whether they are causing trouble or not.

Although surveillance of the Internet in the United States seems no where near as drastic as it is in the United Kingdom, it is something that has occurred more behind closed doors. One example of this is what happened to Nicholas Merrill, the founder of Calyx Internet Access and the Calyx Institute.

Merrill, the founder of the Calyx Internet Access (an Internet service provider), was essentially given an FBI letterhead asking him to provide “electronic communication transaction records,” or essentially, they asked Merrill to disclose his customers personal information.  Merrill chose not to comply with the letterhead, stating that it would be unconstitutional, and eventually filed a lawsuit against the FBI and the Department of Justice regarding the National Security Letters statute in the Patriot Act of 2001. Although a judge ruled in favor of Mr. Merrill by stating that this section of the Patriot Act was unconstitutional, the case was soon appealed. After being in and out of court for years the FBI eventually dropped the case, but a life-long gag order was set in place.  What this case proves is that the Internet isn’t as safe as people might assume.  If someone does something on the Internet that the government doesn’t agree with, then they will go to lengthy measures to stop these individuals.  In the case of Nicholas Merrill, the FBI tried to order him to give up valuable, personal information; and even after a judge deemed the request unconstitutional, the FBI still forced him to withhold any information and for many years hide his identity.  What the FBI did to Nicholas Merrill was infringe upon his rights and the rights of the constitution of the United States.

The Internet is in no way a place where user privacy is protected by the common law of the United States. Although certain surveillance practices on the Internet are far from constitutional, policy makers seem to shrug off this fact.  New laws regarding Internet surveillance, like CISPA, are emerging and will further threaten the rights of all varieties of Internet users.

The main problems with CISPA are constitutional issues.  More specifically, there is a nagging question of whether the individual rights within the constitution apply to the rights of Internet users.  While civil rights activists claim that the two are congruent, governmental policies like CISPA would inevitably deny Internet users their right to privacy on the Internet. But if CISPA were to pass, then how long would it take until little black boxes, or something similar, were installed in every American household so that the government could more easily monitor Internet users? You’d like to think this would never happen, but no one expected that a CISPA-like act would ever come about back in the 1990s; so who really knows?


In 2012, these five countries were listed by Reporters Without Borders as “Internet Enemies” for having heavily-monitored internet.  Many of them were also cited for having heavy censorship.


Vietnam is a country of which, in the midst of rapid urbanization, has an internet usership rate of a third of its population.  Vietnam’s Internet infrastructure is run by 16 providers, most of which are directly or indirectly control by its Communistic Government.  Its top provider, controlling about 75% of the market, is a subsidiary of the nation’s government-run Ministry of Communications.  One provider is owned by the Armed Forces; others, which are private, rely on the government for funding and technology.

Many websites in Vietnam are blocked, most of which are user-generated content, including both foreign and domestic blogs.  Some providers even block social networking sites, such as Facebook, which has caused many citizens to acquire software to counteract censorship.  However, more alarming is its surveillance methodology.  Subscribers to telephone or internet service must register their personal information with the Vietnam Internet Network information Center, which prohibits explicit content, radical viewpoints, and propaganda.  Any violation of its code is punishable for prison time and large fines.  Internet cafes are also regulated, and browser logs of patrons are often stored.  The Internet provisions are enforced by the Ministry of Public Security, as well as a secret “cyber-army” of 80,000.


Bahrain has some of the best internet coverage in the Middle East, and a usership rate of 77%.  However, it is also one of the most censored and monitored, perhaps  due to recent cyberattacks, which, coincidentally, may have been provoked by the government. A great amount of web content is unavailable, including pornography and explicit sites.  Malware, disguised as media related to human rights, has attacked many servers.  Some of it has been found to be from Federal sources, which has used Facebook and Twitter to obtain IP addresses and personal information.

In addition, there is close networking of mobile networks.  Authorities can directly search through mobile data or track down subscribers, sometimes after Tweets containing “questionable material” are posted.  Some people have been interrogated, having to explain their social networking habits and even giving away their passwords.  The leading Internet Service Provider is Batelco, which is run by the royal family.  All citizens must have contingency with the laws of the Information Affairs Authority, which is headed both by a government minster and the royal family.


Iran has a very sophisticated internet infrastructure.  Iranian internet use has a 33% participation rate, and many use it to obtain news media.  The network is monitored very closely.  When protest threats are imminent, the government actually slows down the connection speed.  Many websites are blocked, and not just political opposition and independent news websites; also many entertainment websites that are deemed to be “out of the line”. There have been many cyber-attacks upon Iran’s Nuclear Weapon servers.  Therefore, there is a new Internet Service being created known as the “Halal Internet”, which will have emails, search engines, and social networks developed under control of the government.  The government also plans to reduce the network’s connection speed and increase subscription cost.

Internet providers much obtain a specific license from the Telecommunication Company of Iran.  Filtering is done by keywords, blacklists, URLs, and IP addresses in areas that are prone to protest.  The government monitors both foreign and domestic sites, and has been especially cracking down on Twitter and Facebook.  They have used tools such as Deep Packet Inspection, which tracks browser history and analyzes email content.  Recently, due to the privatization of internet providers and uprise in user-generated content, the authorities created the Supreme Council for Cyberspace.


The Syrian Internet Network is comprised of both the Syrian Computer Society (SCS) and the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE).  SCS controls many of the mobile networks, while STE controls many fixed connections.  In 1999, there was a government document calling for a National Internet System, which had monitoring capabilities of hundreds of users at once, six monitoring terminals, and data recording/storage of all VoIP, email, web, chat and news.  Emailing, chat functions, and web pages were to have sampling capabilities.

The Syrian government has monitored many web conversations, and made many arrests.  The government has allegedly purchased proxies by a company known as Blue Coat Systems.  The government has supported spyware, malware, and phishing techniques to track IP addresses and information.


The mother of all Communist governments, it is no surprise that its Internet use is heavily regulated.  There are four national networks: CTNEy, Chinanet, Cernet, and CHINAGBN, all of which are owned by the state.  In addition, the three major national service providers, China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile, are also controlled by the state.  Corporations are entitled to public internet access.  With a user rate of 42.1%, China’s internet usage is by far the highest in the world.  There are five governmental departments involved with censoring and monitoring the web.

There is also a system known as the Great Firewall which provides VPN services.  It has the ability to block encrypted connections.  Monitoring is also built into social networks, chat, and VoIP, which is the responsibility of private companies.  There is an application known as QQ, which is basically a Trojan Horse, seeking certain keywords and expressions on chat.  All bloggers are required to register their own names and phone numbers.  There are also regulations of how long certain websites can be used.

There is a clear economic impact associated with China’s web surveillance.  There is a great effect on competitiveness, because monitoring their own websites are an extra cost to web services.  There was a popular Chinese platform, known as GitHub, that hosted open-source software and libraries of code.  On it was a list published of people who contributed code to the Great Firewall, which led the Chinese government to block access to the list.  Later, it was revealed that a third party member was impersonating the site, and a warning was shown.  Anyone who proceeded had their IP address recorded and their passwords intercepted.  The Chinese government has been known to cyber-attack many American companies, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and CNN.

A video talking about China’s recent crackdown on VPN’s.

Internet Surveillance Policies

Posted: April 30, 2013 by Nikolas Sartin-Tarm in The Cons
Anti ACTA Berlin - Guy Fawkes

Anti ACTA Berlin – Guy Fawkes (Photo credit:

Katz Vs. United States

This was an act passed in 1967 stating that the interception of communications is a search, and a warrant is required.  This was used in wiretapping, which became increasingly more prevalent during the Cold War.  However, this notion would carry on past audible communications and onto the Internet.  This law was imposed off the Fourth Amendment, which requires that all searches and seizures are backed up by a warrant, which is obtained through probable cause.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

Passed in 1978, which created a secret federal court to issue warrants for wiretapping.  This law was created in light of the Watergate Scandal of 1972, where wiretapping through telephone wires exposed the malice of Richard Nixon.  The law also allowed for surveillance of communication devices to be done to non-US citizens without a warrant.  This led to a great amount of surveillance being done by the FBI for foreign intelligence.

Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act

A controversial law passed in 1994 requiring all telecommunications companies to make it possible for the government to wiretap all communications.  This was passed in light of recent technology, such as the fiber optic system and cellular communications, that made it harder for the government to wiretap.  This was also passed just as the Internet began to take off, and was first used through the Internet as a medium for voice-over-Internet protocol.

The Patriot Act

A new provision enacted by President Bush following the traumatic 9/11 attacks.  The act made it easier to obtain foreign intelligence and track down terrorism suspects.  Basically the Act allowed for law enforcement to use surveillance for crimes of terror, and federal agents could track down terrorists through web surveillance.  Also, it called for new technology to override suspects with anti-tracking devices.  The act also led to new technology for information sharing between the government.  While it was praised by some for helping to track down terrorism suspects, many people felt that it was too restrictive of their internet rights.  It is still a very controversial law.


The Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act were proposed by Congress in 2012, which became extremely controversial by both internet companies and internet users.  Interpretations of the law led to blackouts and internet protests, as many were worried that their liberties were being taken away.   SOPA was designed to protect copyrights and intellectual property.  However, this would be done by monitoring networks and censoring websites that that are not in accordance with the notion.  By monitoring the content that is posted, only content that is original would be allowed, restricting a great deal of information.  PIPA was more created to regulate websites, both domestic and foreign, of distribution of counterfeit goods.  This monitoring of user-generated content would have a debilitating impact on the Web 2.0.


Like SOPA and PIPA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement set up federal provisions to protect against internet fraud.  This act also aimed to use secret agencies, instead of ones like the WTO, to protect digital security.  ACTA was an international act, that has only been ratified in Japan, but forces countries to begin monitoring IP networks.  The act, which was really controversial, was finalized in closed-door sessions, and would boost both internet surveillance and censorship.


The latest of the controversial online protection acts, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act allows for corporations to share user data with the National Security Agency in order to obtain domestic intelligence.  It creates a loophole that allows for the government to monitor internet use without a warrant; for example, it would provide for increased use for a program called EINSTEIN which automatically tracks IP addresses of people that have given threats against the federal government.  The law also protects against private sector corporations that use surveillance software to track Internet users.  This new provision has commonly been seen as an infraction of the Fourth Amendment.

This is a video talking about CISPA and all the harm it would cause.

The Negative Consequences of Internet Surveillance

Posted: April 30, 2013 by Nikolas Sartin-Tarm in The Cons

Internet surveillance is detrimental to even the most basic fundamentals of the web.    The internet started out as an electronic portal in which free information could be spread over a large network, as the technology of packet switching become sophisticated enough to become the number one way that people obtain information.  The Internet has become commercialized, personalized, and decentralized; yet in such an open sphere, the easiest way to diminish such a useful tool is to monitor it.

The most obvious downside to Internet Surveillance is privacy.  In George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel, 1984, he envisioned a world in which people were constantly watched and forced to live their lives in a certain way, completely stripped of their liberties and living fearful, reclusive lives.  In a way, this idea is becoming a reality, as both governments and corporations can track information that is viewed on the web.

Certainly, this is a scary phenomenon.  Imagine that every time you read a book, there is a man standing behind you, monitoring everything that is read.  With the Government’s Surveillance technologies, they can monitor both websites and are encrypted and unencrypted, and can even gather private information.   It is not difficult to obtain IP addresses of content that is posted, which means that one’s physical location can be tracked down.  Unbeknownst to many, this practice is becoming more common, as our national security has been threatened on many recent occasions.  Also, methods such as this are not only used by the government.

This technology is also used by corporations to gather information from people in order to target certain demographics.  Recently, social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have come under fire for selling information to third party companies to assist with marketing.  This practice, due to federal loopholes and a lack of a bastion for privacy, is legal and listed in the social networks’ terms of use.  Aggregated information collected is extremely valuable to corporations, and reemphasize the emerging idea that the users are actually the product, not the customers, of social networking.

A video explaining how we, as users of social networks, can protect our private information and limit data that could be used for corporate interests.

Internet Surveillance ruins the structure of the internet and makes it compact, as internet users could begin feeling restricted, which would change their internet habits and ultimately lead to self-censorship.  Web surveillance itself is along the same lines as censorship, in which the government makes the Internet more restrictive.  Obviously, this would lead to the Internet becoming privatized and beaurocratized, in a way, as some members of society may have less Internet restriction.

With this restriction on Internet, the Internet would cease to continue growing.  Such an essential innovation that has brought other innovations into the world would become sabotaged, which would create a huge damper on the US economy.  In fact, since almost all US businesses rely on the Internet to make sales, Internet surveillance could inadvertently hamper the economy.  However, for better or for worse, many users do not feel this impending pressure of surveillance, which is why usership habits have not changed much.

The government often uses Internet Surveillance to track down criminals.  Many terrorists have been located because of Internet surveillance, sparing the country the risk of violence.  In recent news, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina demanded that the FBI use more surveillance in light of the Boston Bombings, in order to track and investigate the Tsarnaev brothers, who were the perpetrators of the crime.

However, as this technology becomes available to the government, it is also easy to get into the wrong hands.  Sources have reported that Al Qaeda was, at one point, trying to adapt this technology.  In addition, hackers have been able to obtain this technology to track down personal information from people and corporations, as cybercrime continues to skyrocket.  Ironically, what governments have tried using to stop criminals has actually helped them.

To put it bluntly, Online Surveillance ruins the integrity of the internet.  The government has largely supported Internet Surveillance and done little to protect online freedom.  The recent provisions passed in Congress have violated the Fourth Amendment and will continue to impede the advancement of the internet.

This video shows how easy it is to track down someone’s IP address.

What is Internet Surveillance?

Posted: April 30, 2013 by Nikolas Sartin-Tarm in Uncategorized

Internet Surveillance is becoming a critical issue in today’s politics, as technology involving the Internet continues to advance and define our daily lives.  Many people don’t realize that, whether they might be casually browsing or furiously attempting to conduct online research, they are constantly being monitored.  As the Web 2.0 begins to underscore users as being both producers and consumers of such a mass information conglomerate, issues of privacy are starting to become more prevalent in our daily lives.

Surveillance of Electronic Communications is nothing new.  Wiretapping of telephones, albeit lacking the surveillance of information or media, was a very controversial topic in the 20th century.  It also laid the foundation for the surveillance policies that persist through the Internet era.  Circuit-switched systems, used in older house phones, could easily have a wire attached, which would transmit the soundwaves to an additional audible location.  Stereotypically, as shown in Hollywood films, Investigators would listen to conversations in a parked van with headphones.

In 1967, there was a US Supreme Court Case, known as Katz vs. United States, that became one of the first surveillance laws passed.  The law passed determined the interception of communications as a search, which requires a warrant.  A few years after wiretapping exposed the infamous 1972 Watergate Scandal of then-US President Richard Nixon, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which set up a secret federal court to issue wiretap warrants.

The basis of these acts was incorporating the Fourth Amendment with laws on communications.  This Amendment requires that all searches and seizures must be backed up by a warrant, issued if there is probable cause.  The FISA provided three critical components: between US persons and foreigners, between communications inside and outside the US, and between wired and wireless communications.  However, this created a loophole, where radio communications between non-US citizens could be obtained without a warrant.

The United States government, especially during and after the Cold War, began to push for more surveillance of Communications.  In 1994, they passed the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which denoted that all telecommunications companies make it possible for the government to tap and monitor all communications of any subscriber.  The law came in conjunction with new technologies, such as Optic Fibers, which made it harder to carry out wiretapping.

Initially, this law had little effect on the Internet.  The only application of this provision was in Voice-over-Internet Protocol Systems, where Internet users could call and talk to eachother on different computers.  However, in 2004, the US Department of Justice decided to extend the law to Internet Providers.  Therefore, all Internet providers were required to provide technology to make it possible to track Internet use.

A prominent technology used in web surveillance is packet sniffers.   Computer administrators, such as employers at an office, also use this method.  A packet sniffer is a program that allows viewing of all the information passing over a network.  They can either be Unfiltered, where they capture all the packets, or Filtered, where only packets containing specific elements are displayed.  The information is obtained from a user’s ISP.

Another form of web surveillance is Desktop Monitoring.  Basically, signals that are transmitted when information is being inputted are diverted to desktop monitoring programs, which, again, can be applied by an administrator.  This is common at job sites, where people install software into computers.  However, this can also be done by email attachments containing monitoring software, which is known as a Trojan Horse.  This information can either be streamed or recorded for a third party.  This form of surveillance is also commonly used by hackers to obtain personal information.

Internet Surveillance is done by the government to monitor criminal behavior online.  It is also done by corporate entities to better target certain demographics to advertise products.  It is done by employers to try to reduce distractions and boost productivity.  It is done by hackers who want nothing more than to obtain personal information and possibly capitalize.  It is no secret that Internet Surveillance is all around us today.

This video talks about how the government and corporations use Web Surveillance.

The Architecture is the Truth

Posted: April 30, 2013 by Morri979 in The Cons
Tags: , ,

When the public Internet first came into existence 20 years years ago, few Internet users at the time could have ever guessed that it would evolve into its current state.  These early Internet users surfed an Internet, that at the time, must have seemed like an online Eden, or as if a new and virtually endless frontier had just opened its borders–but these views of the Internet are seldom discussed in the contemporary world.

So what has become of this once beloved Internet that seemed to filled with endless possibilities? There was a coup and the lowly end-user lost.

The modern Internet has become a place for advertisers and companies to legally track users, and a place where the government can locate terrorists, criminals and anyone else who’s an enemy of the state.  But when did this surveillance begin? And how will politics further affect Internet policy?

Well for starters, this political and economical surveillance isn’t always directly due to governmental policy, but is often a result of the platform that a given Internet site is founded upon.


Jacob Appelbaum, one of the main minds behind Tor (anonymity network) and the “Cypherpunk” activist group, sheds light on this structural problem of the Web.   One of Applbaum’s main points, explained in the above video, is that “the architecture is the truth.” Appelbaum’s argument here is that the “architecture” of whatever it may be (government, financial systems or even the Internet) is set up through a certain structure and that structure is canon.

Likewise, Internet sites are subject to this same “truth” that Appelbaum is talking about. Just like your favorite sport or the government you adhere to, websites are founded on basic pillars, or laws, which essentially set the boundaries for the site. Although Internet sites are rarely created to harm users in any way, the pillars upon which sites are built upon  usually don’t account for those who seek to jeopardize users of the site.

An example of how users are subject to the “architecture” can be seen through various forms of Internet sites and online games.  But the ones responsible for tainting the Internet, and the individuals who use it, are not always hackers and spammers.  In some rare cases governmental organizations are the ones responsible for violating websites and their users.

Congress is still deadlocked over the Bush Administration’s efforts to listen in to phone calls and read emails without search warrants. The sticking point is whether or not to allow private citizens to sue telecom conglomerates, the huge firms that provide most of us with phone and internet service – and helped the Administration spy on us. Now, the Administration wants to try to spy on Americans in another way.
-Bill Moyers

In the early 2000s, users of sites like SecondLife and massive multi-player online games (MMOs) like World of Warcraft were targets of government surveillance, even though most users didn’t even understand that it was a possibility. The government would secretly monitor users’ content on these social sites, claiming that it was to assist the global “war on terror.”  Federal intelligence agencies wanted to monitor these online worlds by studying their social, behavioral and cultural norms, and then attempt to create a system that could detect suspicious behavior.  Like listening to people’s phone conversations and reading their email messages, spying on their activities on social MMO sites is just as much an infringement of personal rights.

But governmental surveillance and monitoring in the United States has reached its next, and most pertinent speed bump regarding Internet privacy of users.  Policy makers are now attempting to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Privacy Act (CISPA), which if passed, will allow sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and technology and manufacturing companies. In other words: it would be another major setback to ensuring Internet users’ rights.

If CISPA were to pass, then the potential for more instances like the spying of MMOs would increase monumentally.  Civil rights and activist groups have already had a tough time fighting for the rights and privacy of Internet users, so if CISPA were to pass then these groups may no longer stand a chance in the fight for privacy on the Web.