Mountain Sun

Mountain Sun

Friday, March 25, 2011

US Government Develops "Panic Button" Software to Protect Activists from "Repressive Governments"

This is a good one, from Reuters:

Hillary Clinton, protector of cellphone privacy.
US develops 'panic button' for democracy activists
by Andrew Quinn
WASHINGTON, March 25 (Reuters) - Some day soon, when pro-democracy campaigners have their cellphones confiscated by police, they'll be able to hit the "panic button" -- a special app that will both wipe out the phone's address book and emit emergency alerts to other activists.
The panic button is one of the new technologies the U.S. State Department is promoting to equip pro-democracy activists in countries ranging from the Middle East to China with the tools to fight back against repressive governments...
The United States had budgeted some $50 million since 2008 to promote new technologies for social activists, focusing both on "circumvention" technology to help them work around government-imposed firewalls and on new strategies to protect their own communications and data from government intrusion.

So glad that the US government is doing this.  I wonder if this critical information has gotten out to the democracy activists habitually being delayed, harrassed and having their communications gear searched and/or confiscated illegally.  There have been some serious difficulties in this regard with repressive government behavior (from boingboing):

Wikileaks volunteer detained
by Rob Beschizza  
A volunteer for Wikileaks was detained by officials Thursday while entering the country at Newark International Airport.
Jacob Appelbaum, noted for his work with the Tor online security project, was searched and "interrogated" for three hours before being released, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous
According to the source, Appelbaum was stopped by customs officials and spoken to for at least three hours by a team that included a U.S. Army investigator. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning was named last week as a possible Wikileaks source in relation to the classified logs.
Appelbaum's interviewers demanded that he decrypt his laptop and other computer equipment, the source said. After his refusal to do so, they confiscated it, including three cellphones. The laptop was returned, apparently because it contained no storage drive that investigators could examine. He was also asked about his role in Wikileaks and informed that he was under surveillance.

Here's another case (from cnet) that the State Department might want to investigate. They really need to help this guy out:

Security researcher: I keep getting detained by feds
by Elinor Mills
A security researcher who specializes in online privacy had his laptop and cell phones temporarily seized after returning to the U.S. on an international flight last night.  Moxie Marlinspike told CNET in an interview today that he had been detained and questioned after an international flight last week and appears to be on a federal "watch list" for domestic flights too but doesn't know why.
Last week, while he had fallen asleep waiting at an airport gate in Frankfurt airport on a layover, a man who said he was from the U.S. consulate and who had a photo of Marlinspike on his cell phone approached him and asked him where he had been, Marlinspike said. Marlinspike told him that he had given a presentation at the Black Hat security show in Abu Dhabi and the man said he had to make a phone call to Washington, D.C. and then let him go a few minutes later, according to Marlinspike.
On Monday, Marlinspike had gone through the security check point and secondary screening and was seated on a plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport for the flight to the Dominican Republic, he said. As airline workers were preparing to shut the plane door, a TSA agent ran onto the plane and escorted Marlinspike off, he said. In the walkway that leads to the plane, two agents patted him down before allowing him to get back on the plane, he said.
Returning from that trip yesterday, Marlinspike said he was met by two Customs and Border Patrol agents at JFK. With a photo of him in hand, they escorted him into a detention area and took his computer and phones away for inspection before returning them and letting him go nearly five hours later, he said.  
His laptop is encrypted and the text messages and call history on his phones are encrypted. He declined to provide his password when agents asked him for it
Tons of other examples of repressive government behavior that Secretary Clinton--unrelenting champion of freedom--might want to take a look at.  I think she'll find that she doesn't have to look too far from home to find it.  

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