France wants to ban public Wi-Fi and Tor in wake of Paris attacks

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

France Considers Ban On Public Wi-Fi During Emergencies.

In the wake of the terror attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead, French law enforcement wants to ban the use of public Wi-Fi and the secure web network Tor when a state of emergency is declared, according to leaked documents from the French Ministry of Interior seen by French newspaper La Monde.

OBAMA WANTS HELP FROM TECH: President Obama is urging Silicon Valley to help fight violent extremism by making it “harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice.” The comment, made Sunday night in Obama’s oval office address, sets up “renewed debate over personal privacy online,” Reuters reports. “Obama used the address to try to reassure Americans nervous about possible future attacks after the shooting deaths of 14 people at an office party in San Bernardino, California, by a husband and wife with radical Islamist views. The shootings have reinvigorated a long-running debate about Washington’s digital surveillance effort to find and capture violent extremists, with at least one sign of Republican support in the House of Representatives for Obama’s agenda,” the wire service reports. How France would go about denying access to Tor is still unclear, but as The Verge points out, China’s stringent censorship policy has barred use of the tool since 2012; countries like Iran and Russia have taken aim at it as well. In response to the attacks, authorities in France and the U.S. have urged tech companies to lighten up on encryption and grant them access to protected communications—though most firms have yet to budge on the issue. To encrypt communications, Tor uses Onion Routing, a software system that allows users to browse the web anonymously by preventing website and network operators from knowing a person’s location and the websites the person has been viewing.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler told Congress recently that it should expand the definition of “lawful intercept” to allow more exhaustive wiretapping. If the French government needs some help in getting their blockade set up, they could always talk to the only other country in the world known to successfully block Tor: China, with its Great Firewall.” ABOUT THOSE PHONE RECORDS: The Associated Press points out that the government’s ability to analyze five years of phone records for the suspects in the San Bernardino attack lapsed just four days earlier. “Under a court order, those historical calling records at the NSA are now off-limits to agents running the FBI terrorism investigation even with a warrant. It does this by passing the connection between thousands of relay points to make it impossible to pinpoint where it came from. “Encryption and anonymity, separately or together, create a zone of privacy to protect opinion and belief,” a written report by David Kaye, a special rapporteur in the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in May.

Instead, under the new USA Freedom Act, authorities were able to obtain roughly two years’ worth of calling records directly from the phone companies of the married couple blamed in the attack,” the AP reports. “The period covered the entire time that the wife, Tashfeen Malik, lived in the United States, although her husband, Syed Farook, had been here much longer. But a ban on public Wi-Fi seems extreme, given that many Parisians relied on social media to find shelter during the chaos, and that so many people benefitted from the Safety Check feature on Facebook, which many Parisians used during the attacks to inform friends and family that they were safe. However, the move led to protests, with hundreds rallying in Paris against the government’s plans, while the co-founder of an internet surveillance watchdog slammed the move. “It’s not just about terrorism; it allows the intelligence agencies to resort to surveillance for a broad range of motives: scientific, economic espionage or monitoring social movements,” said Felix Treguer, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net. “So it’s really not just about terrorism and some of the measures really come down to legalizing mass surveillance. The Chinese government is the only one that currently blocks Tor outright by blocking connections to publicly listed Tor entry nodes and finding and automatically blocking secret entry nodes. Beyond those technological hurdles, of course, this would oppose the first word in France’s motto: “liberté, egalité, fraternité” (liberty, equality, fraternity).

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