The Switchboard: Patriot Act author calls Feinstein’s NSA reform bill ‘a joke’

December 11, 2013

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) (Susan Walsh/AP)

Published every weekday, the Switchboard highlights five tech policy stories you need to read.

Patriot Act author: Feinstein's bill ‘a joke.’ In an interview with The Hill, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) "says the House and Senate Intelligence committees have become 'cheerleaders' for the National Security Agency. 'Instead of putting the brakes on overreaches, they’ve been stepping on the gas,' he said of the committees, which are led by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Sensenbrenner — who has offered legislation to rein in the NSA — called rival legislation 'a joke.' "

NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking. "The National Security Agency is secretly piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using 'cookies' and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance," Ashkan Soltani, Andrea Peterson and Barton Gellman report for The Washington Post. "The agency's internal presentation slides, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government. The slides also suggest that the agency is using these tracking techniques to help identify targets for offensive hacking operations."

How these 5 dirtbags radically advanced your digital rights. "Bad facts make bad law, the saying goes. But sometimes, bad people make good law," Wired argues. "Consider the following exhibits: a cocaine dealer, a child pornographer, a purveyor of suspect penis-enlargement pills, and two accused hackers. The courtroom challenges they brought resulted in rulings that dramatically expanded your rights, from helping to keep your email and whereabouts private to reducing gadget searches at the U.S. border and limiting the legal definition of unlawful hacking."

“We cannot trust” Intel and Via’s chip-based crypto, FreeBSD developers say. "Developers of the FreeBSD operating system will no longer allow users to trust processors manufactured by Intel and Via Technologies as the sole source of random numbers needed to generate cryptographic keys that can't easily be cracked by government spies and other adversaries," Ars Technica reports. "The change, which will be effective in the upcoming FreeBSD version 10.0, comes three months after secret documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) subcontractor Edward Snowden said the U.S. spy agency was able to decode vast swaths of the Internet's encrypted traffic."

Alleged revenge porn Web site operator arrested in California. "Recent years have seen the rise of 'revenge porn' sites, in which explicit images of people are posted online without their consent," our colleague Andrea Peterson writes. "Today, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that the state has arrested a man authorities say is the operator of a such a revenge porn Web site."

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Andrea Peterson · December 10, 2013