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IP-Watch interns talk about their Geneva experience in summer 2013. 2:42.

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The Politicization Of The US Patent System

The Washington Post story, How patent reform’s fraught politics have left USPTO still without a boss (July 30), is a vivid account of how patent reform has divided the US economy, preempting a possible replacement for David Kappos who stepped down 18 months ago. The division is even bigger than portrayed. Universities have lined up en masse to oppose reform, while main street businesses that merely use technology argue for reform. Reminiscent of the partisan divide that has paralyzed US politics, this struggle crosses party lines and extends well beyond the usual inter-industry debates. Framed in terms of combating patent trolls through technical legal fixes, there lurks a broader economic concern – to what extent ordinary retailers, bank, restaurants, local banks, motels, realtors, and travel agents should bear the burden of defending against patents as a cost of doing business.


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    Mass Surveillance No Surprise To Many In Technology And Politics

    Published on 12 June 2013 @ 12:40 am

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    Revelations about boundless spying by the National Security Agency and other US agencies on the electronic communications of US and non-US citizens are rippling international politics and will be a surprise topic at the upcoming Group of 8 summit in Dublin. But the more savvy technical community has been slow to react. There is some speculation about the technical solutions used and even less call for action. For many, quite obviously, the state surveillance does come as a surprise because of its scope.

    “The extent has been rumoured, but a lot of people refused to accept that it was so large,” Scott Bradner, professor at Harvard University, wrote in answer to Intellectual Property Watch. Asked why no core infrastructure providers like network access, backbone or DNS providers were mentioned as targets of PRISM or other surveillance programs, Bradner wrote that it seems only “logical that something is going on there considering what we already know.” Diverting traffic or copying it at more central nodes is possible, a German network operator told Intellectual Property Watch.

    Information about Prism, a data mining project collecting bulk data sets from large internet platforms like Google, Facebook, Youtube, Skype, Yahoo, Microsoft, Paltalk and AOL, have been leaked by a former CIA analyst and Booz Allen Hamilton infrastructure analyst for the National Security Agency (NSA), Edgar Snowden late last week. Snowden provided the UK Guardian and the Washington Post newspapers with large sets of classified data which give glimpses into PRISM and other surveillance programs (see an interview with Snowden here). The companies all declined “direct access” to their systems.

    Bradner, senior technology consultant, Office of the CTO at Harvard University and a Jon Postel awardee, has served in various roles of internet governance and operating organisations, including the Internet Engineering Task Force, which in one of its rare political statements rejected 10 years ago to standardise surveillance technology. He did expect a discussion in the IETF, wrote Bradner, at its upcoming meeting in Berlin in July. So far engineers have kept their opinions largely to themselves.

    The Internet Society (ISOC), which on many occasions speaks up for the technical community, so far did not get back on a request for comment on the issue.

    The best option, Bradner said, for engineers to react, is to “enable end-to-end encryption – that hides the contents but does not hide who is talking – use Tor to do the latter (see http://www.newyorker.com/strongbox/).”

    Longer lists about how to fight back state intruders (as well as other unwelcome common electronic thieves) also have been posted on the mailing list of the North American Operator Group (Nanog).

    Nanog, one engineer wrote, is not a political forum. “However many of the people on NANOG are in positions to affect positive change at their respective employers,” he said, and presented a whole to do list:

    “- Implement HTTPS for all services.
    - Implement PGP for e-mail.
    - Implement S/MIME for e-mail.
    - Build cloud services that encrypt on the client machine, using a key that is only kept on the client machine.
    - Create better UI frameworks for managing keys and identities.
    - Align data retention policies with the law.
    - Scrutinize and reject defective government legal requests.
    - When allowed by law, charge law enforcement for access to data.”

    Beside the rather technical and cautious – or cynical ? – answers, there were also clear complaints about the US government “failing us”. “I am not so much concerned about them gaining access to data I don’t want them to access. I am far more disturbed by the trend which reflects a government which increasingly considers itself unrestrained by the laws it is in place to support and implement,” network expert Owen de Long wrote.

    No Surprise to EP members

    For EU politicians, the PRISM programme also did not come as a real surprise, said Sophie In’T Veld, member of the Liberal Party Group in the European Parliament at an ad hoc meeting of the EP Plenary Tuesday morning.

    In’t Veld said questions were unanswered on the Foreign Terrorist Surveillance Act (FISA), the legislation said to allow for the 24/7 complete data communication spying of the NSA against non-US citizens, on extraterritorial enforcement of US law and violations of EU data protection legislation through bilateral agreements on data transfers from the EU to US authorities. But also did European national governments “do the same thing,” with regard to more and more spying on their citizens.

    “We are failing our citizens,” said In’t Veld. EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg confirmed that Commission Vice President Viviane Reding would ask for clarification from the US government at the upcoming Summit meetings in Dublin at the end of the week. According to German news reports, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said she would ask Obama about PRISM and will ask for clarification.

    All party groups in the Parliament pushed to finalise the EU data protection regulation that also would make EU data protection law binding for those companies offering services to EU citizens – like the PRISM partners of the NSA. “Data protection here is not a technical issue, a small thing,” said Green Party member Jan Philipp Albrecht. “It is about the rule of law and democracy.” The protection from massive surveillance instead is “precondition for democracy.”

    The protection of EU data protection standards also would be included in negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), said Claude Moraes (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) in the EP.

    The TTIP mandate is expected to be finalised during the meeting of EU trade ministers on 14 June. Health Commissioner Borg underlined that one major issue between the EU and the US is that in the EU granted fundamental rights of privacy and data protection to all and not only to EU citizens.

    US in Breach of International Law?

    This very issue was also taken up in an open letter to the UN Human Rights Commission by the Best Bits Coalition. These revelations were “suggesting a blatant and systematic disregard for human rights as articulated in Articles 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well as Articles 12 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Best Bits warns, and requests a special session of the Human Rights Council.

    The High Commissioner on Human Rights also should ask states to report on surveillance practices and laws in place on surveillance and the PRISM case itself should be examined “in the light of the Human Rights Council endorsed United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework of A/HRC/RES/17/4.”

    Finally, civil society groups support a recommendation of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, “that the Human Rights Committee develop a new General Comment 16 on the right to privacy in light of technological advancements.” La Rue only three days before the leaks published a major report on the growing danger for privacy and freedom of expression through massive state surveillance (see here). Quite obviously, for La Rue and the UN, mass surveillance from the US did not come as a surprise, either.

    Challenges in the US: ACLU, StopWatching.Us

    In the US, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today (12 June) filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration challenging the constitutionality of the NSA programme. More information is available here.

    Meanwhile, a large coalition of US non-governmental organisations wrote to Congress demanding legal reform. There were nearly 30,000 signatures as of yesterday. The letter can be signed here.

    InternetNZ: PRISM for New Zealanders?

    Separately, a group of New Zealand ICT organisations in an open letter called on Prime Minister John Key and Law and Order Committee Chair Jacqui Dean to extend the deadline for submissions to several NZ draft bills. More time is necessary, according to organisations including the .nz ccTLD manager InternetNZ, to check the potential impact “PRISM will have on the Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security (TICS) and Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment (GCSB) Bills.”

    InternetNZ Acting Chief Executive Jordan Carter said in a press release, “a great deal of New Zealanders’ Internet traffic over PRISM partners services will have passed and is passing through the United States.”

    How much countries like New Zealand, Australia, and Canada have been participating or benefitting from PRISM – following the old model of Echelon, a major spy program on satellite communications – is an open question. Old Echelon partner UK has already been reported by the Guardian to be a PRISM beneficiary.

    Monika Ermert may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

     


    Leave a Reply

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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