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The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an American civil-liberties group, has revealed its plans to end global mass surveillance, The Inquirer reports.
The eight point plan comes in at just over 4,500 words and covers everything from lobbying tech companies to block backdoors, to public education and the end of the Patriot Act.
The points to the Electronic Frontier Foundation manifesto are as follows:
1. “Pressure technology companies to harden their systems against NSA surveillance”
Noting the reliance of surveillance on technology company cooperation, the first point of the plan involves pressuring companies to block backdoors. “We’re focused on transparency — uncovering everything we can about the degree to which big tech companies are actively helping the government — and public pressure. That means highlighting ways that companies are fighting surveillance and calling out companies that fail to stand up for user privacy,” explains the EFF.
2. “Create a global movement that encourages user-side encryption”
Encrypting correspondences is something that can be done ‘in a matter of minutes’, the manifesto argues, and to that end they have created a ‘Surveillance Self Defense” guide to explain encryption to those who have the interest, but lack the technical know-how.
“The more people worldwide understand the threat and the more they understand how to protect themselves—and just as importantly, what they should expect in the way of support from companies and governments—the more we can agitate for the changes we need online to fend off the dragnet collection of data,” the document explains.
3. “Encourage the creation of secure communication tools that are easier to use”
The EFF acknowledges that the tools out there for security best-practice are often hard to use for the layman, and wants to encourage simpler technology: “The ones that are easiest to use often don’t adopt the security practices that make them resilient to surveillance. We want to see this problem fixed so that people don’t have to trade usability for security.”
4. “Reform Executive Order 12333”
Executive Order 12333, enacted by Ronald Reagan in 1981 is also a target for the EFF. “Most people haven’t even heard of it, but Executive Order 12333 is the primary authority the NSA uses to engage in the surveillance of people outside the U.S. While Congress is considering much-needed reforms to the Patriot Act, there’s been almost no debate about Executive Order 12333. This executive order was created by a stroke of the pen from President Ronald Reagan in 1981. President Obama could undo the worst parts of this executive order just as easily, by issuing a presidential order banning mass surveillance of people regardless of their nationality,” the EFF argues.
5. “Develop guiding legal principles around surveillance and privacy with the help of scholars and legal experts worldwide”
The EFF points to the “International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance” and its guiding 13 principals as the starting point to this. “The 13 Principles are our way of making sure that the global norm for human rights in the context of communication surveillance isn’t the warped viewpoint of NSA and its four closest allies, but that of 50 years of human rights standards showing mass surveillance to be unnecessary and disproportionate,” explains the document.
6. “Cultivate partners worldwide who can champion surveillance reform on the local level, and offer them support and promotion”
The EFF is looking to keep a grassroots campaign going worldwide to apply local pressure. “The goal is to engage activists and lawyers worldwide who can use the 13 Principles and the legal analyses we’ve prepared to support them at the national level to fight against the on-going trend of increased surveillance powers. For example, we teamed up with activists in Australia, Mexico, and Paraguay to help fight data retention mandates in those countries, including speaking in the Paraguayan National Congress,” the document explains.
7. “Stop NSA overreach through impact litigation and new U.S. laws”
Certain laws in the US can be interpreted in such a way that allows mass surveillance, the EFF argues, and as a result they plan to fight them: “Fighting these laws is the bread and butter of our domestic legal team. Our lawsuits, like Jewel v. NSA, aim to demonstrate that warrantless surveillance is illegal and unconstitutional. Our grassroots advocacy is dedicated to showing American lawmakers exactly how U.S. law is broken, what must be done to fix it, and the powerful movement of people working for change.”
8. “Bring transparency to surveillance laws and practices”
The EFF is quite candid that it does not have all the information about surveillance practices, and for that reason seeks transparency on the subject, in order to fight it. It aims to counter this by seeking reform of the classification system, using Freedom of Information Act requests, and “educating on the value of whistleblowers.”
Venture Beat offers a skeptical view of the likelihood of the EFF’s success in their endeavor, noting past attempts at curbing government surveillance, such as the USA Freedom Act which has been “floundering in Congress since 2013 despite being a bipartisan effort.”
Author Alan Martin, ESET