“How the US government secretly reads your email” @ The Guardian

Posted on October 24, 2011

Computer Science Researcher and WikiLeaks Volunteer (Courtesy of The Guardian)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 — Heather Brooke

“Somewhere, a US government official is reading through a list of those who sent or received an email from Jacob Appelbaum, a 28-year-old computer science researcher at the University of Washington who volunteered for WikiLeaks. Among those listed will be my name, a journalist who interviewed Appelbaum for a book about the digital revolution.

Appelbaum is a spokesman for Tor, a free internet anonymising software that helps people defend themselves against internet surveillance. He’s spent five years teaching activists around the world how to install and use the service to avoid being monitored by repressive governments. It’s exactly the sort of technology Secretary of State Hilary Clinton praised in her famous “Internet Freedom” speech in January 2010, when she promised US government support for the designers of technology that circumvented blocks or firewalls. Now, Appelbaum finds himself a target of his own government as a result of his friendship with Julian Assange and the fact WikiLeaks used the Tor software.

Appelbaum has not been charged with any wrongdoing; nor has the government shown probable cause that he is guilty of any criminal offence.

That matters not a jot, because, as the law stands, government officials don’t need a search warrant to access our digital data. Searching someone’s home requires a warrant that can only be obtained by proving probable cause, but digital searches require no such burden of proof. Instead, officials essentially “self-certify” to a judge that the information they seek is, in their opinion, relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation. On this basis, Google and a small ISP called Sonic were made to hand over to the government all Appelbaum’s email headers from the past two years.”

Read more at The Guardian.