Snowden warns Australia: ‘You are being watched’




Former National Security Agency contractor and American whistleblower Edward Snowdon has sharply criticised the Australian government’s data retention laws, calling them a “radical” departure from liberal society.

Snowdon labelled the laws “dangerous,” while speaking via satellite from Moscow on Friday at the Progress 2015 congress in Melbourne. “This is not things that governments have ever traditionally been in power [to] claim for themselves as authorities,” he said.

Australia’s data retention scheme was passed in March, and requires telecommunication and Internet companies to retain the metadata of their customers — from the location of devices to IP addresses — for two years. Government agencies will be able to access the data of millions of Australians without a warrant, unless they are accessing the metadata of a journalist for the purpose of investigating a leak. Read more…

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Facebook warns regulators: We’ll, uh, delay features if you keep bugging us!


facebook-empathyFacebook is pushing back against the increasing scrutiny it has received in European markets, and it has warned regulators that it might change the rate at which new features are introduced in those markets because of its frustration.

Richard Allan, the company’s head of policy in Europe, said in an opinion piece published by the Financial Times that Facebook simply can’t (or won’t) struggle to meet the demands of multiple regulators working independently of each other.

Of course, this threat is veiled in concern for startups that might be unable to innovate because they won’t know how to navigate Europe’s regulatory system. But this passage is clearly the closest Allan could come to making a direct threat:

For internet companies, too, national regulation would pose serious obstacles. Facebook’s costs would increase, and people in Europe would notice new features arriving more slowly, or not at all. The biggest victims would be smaller European companies. The next big thing might never see the light of day. We know from experience that getting a company off the ground is hard enough already. And if regulation at the national level is adopted, it could stop start-ups before they even really get started. At a time when Europe is looking to create jobs and grow its economy, the results could be disastrous.

Facebook has been under a lot of pressure from European regulators, and this opinion piece, couched though it is in talk of sticking up for small startups, is a clear message that continuing to scrutinize its practices will carry consequences.

And what might those practices be? Well, there’s the allegation that Facebook tracks consumers against their consent, the news that it accidentally (cough) installed cookies on non-Facebook-users’ devices, and a whole raft of criticism that says the company isn’t complying with many of Europe’s privacy laws.

Others have also filed class-action lawsuits slamming the company’s reported involvement with National Security Agency surveillance programs, the large amount of biometric information it collects about its users, and more. Facebook is the donkey to which regulators and consumers alike are pinning their ire.

Now the company is resorting to opinion pieces in the Financial Times to vent its frustrations. Next time it might want to choose a better threat, though: even if European users have to wait for the newest sticker pack or Messenger feature, warning that some new additions to its service will be delayed isn’t that scary.

[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]