The new Braziliian middle-class are making a racket
“None of this is to say that Brazilians have nothing to complain about: they pay the highest taxes of any country outside the developed world (36% of GDP) and get appalling public services in return. Violent crime is endemic; crack cocaine is sold and consumed openly in every big city centre. A minimum-wage worker in São Paulo’s centre whose employer does not cover transport costs (an obligation for formal employees) will spend a fifth of gross pay to spend hours a day on hot, overcrowded buses that trundle in from the city’s periphery. But this is nothing new in a country of gaping inequality—and in fact economic growth in the past decade has brought the biggest gains to those at the bottom of the heap. So, why now? One reason is surely a recent spike in inflation, which is starting to eat into the buying power of the great majority of Brazilians who are still getting by on modest incomes, just as a big ramp-up in consumer credit in recent years has left them painfully overstretched. Bus fares have not risen for 30 months (mayors routinely freeze fares in municipal-election years, such as 2012, and in January this year the mayors of Rio and São Paulo agreed to wait until June before hiking in order to help the federal government massage the inflation figures). In fact, the rise in São Paulo’s and Rio’s bus fares comes nowhere close to matching inflation over that 30-month period. But bus fares are under government control, unlike other fast-rising costs such as those for housing and food. Perhaps they were simply chosen as a scapegoat. More broadly, the very middle class that Brazil has created in the past decade—40m people have escaped from absolute poverty, but are still only one paycheck from falling back into it, and 2009 was the first year in which more than half the population could be considered middle class—is developing an entirely new relationship with the government. They see further improvements in their living standards as their right and will fight tooth and nail not to fall back into poverty.” (via Protests in Brazil: The streets erupt | The Economist)
A great blog post outlining some of the events:
“Last night’s scenes in Rio were incredible and exhilarating. At times they shocking. I started with a ‘bloco’ (a music band leading a large crowd of people, as is often seen at carnival) at the Largo São Francisco de Paula, a square in the central shopping district of Uruguaiana. The crowd mainly consisted of university students from the Federal University. The mood was jovial. A standard read “Nada deve parecer impossível de mudar” (“Nothing should seem impossible to change”), a quote by Berthold Brecht.”
Interesting - I wonder how this works when cable data (not PRISM) is hoovered up.
The AP with the most comprehensive story yet on government surveillance:
“Deep in the oceans, hundreds of cables carry much of the world’s phone and Internet traffic. Since at least the early 1970s, the NSA has been tapping foreign cables. It doesn’t need permission. That’s its job.
But Internet data doesn’t care about borders. Send an email from Pakistan to Afghanistan and it might pass through a mail server in the United States, the same computer that handles messages to and from Americans. The NSA is prohibited from spying on Americans or anyone inside the United States. That’s the FBI’s job and it requires a warrant.
Despite that prohibition, shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush secretly authorized the NSA to plug into the fiber optic cables that enter and leave the United States, knowing it would give the government unprecedented, warrantless access to Americans’ private conversations.
Tapping into those cables allows the NSA access to monitor emails, telephone calls, video chats, websites, bank transactions and more. It takes powerful computers to decrypt, store and analyze all this information, but the information is all there, zipping by at the speed of light.
“You have to assume everything is being collected,” said Bruce Schneier, who has been studying and writing about cryptography and computer security for two decades.
Unlike the recent debate over Prism, however, there were no visual aids, no easy-to-follow charts explaining that the government was sweeping up millions of emails and listening to phone calls of people accused of no wrongdoing.
The Bush administration called it the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” and said it was keeping the United States safe.
“This program has produced intelligence for us that has been very valuable in the global war on terror, both in terms of saving lives and breaking up plots directed at the United States,” Vice President Dick Cheney said at the time.
The government has said it minimizes all conversations and emails involving Americans. Exactly what that means remains classified. But former U.S. officials familiar with the process say it allows the government to keep the information as long as it is labeled as belonging to an American and stored in a special, restricted part of a computer.
That means Americans’ personal emails can live in government computers, but analysts can’t access, read or listen to them unless the emails become relevant to a national security investigation.
The government doesn’t automatically delete the data, officials said, because an email or phone conversation that seems innocuous today might be significant a year from now.
What’s unclear to the public is how long the government keeps the data. That is significant because the U.S. someday will have a new enemy. Two decades from now, the government could have a trove of American emails and phone records it can tap to investigative whatever Congress declares a threat to national security.
When the Protect America Act made warrantless wiretapping legal, lawyers and executives at major technology companies knew what was about to happen.
One expert in national security law, who is directly familiar with how Internet companies dealt with the government during that period, recalls conversations in which technology officials worried aloud that the government would trample on Americans’ constitutional right against unlawful searches, and that the companies would be called on to help.
The logistics were about to get daunting, too.
For years, the companies had been handling requests from the FBI. Now Congress had given the NSA the authority to take information without warrants. Though the companies didn’t know it, the passage of the Protect America Act gave birth to a top-secret NSA program, officially called US-98XN.
It was known as Prism. Though many details are still unknown, it worked like this:
Every year, the attorney general and the director of national intelligence spell out in a classified document how the government plans to gather intelligence on foreigners overseas.
By law, the certification can be broad. The government isn’t required to identify specific targets or places.
A federal judge, in a secret order, approves the plan.
With that, the government can issue “directives” to Internet companies to turn over information.
While the court provides the government with broad authority to seize records, the directives themselves typically are specific, said one former associate general counsel at a major Internet company. They identify a specific target or groups of targets. Other company officials recall similar experiences.
All adamantly denied turning over the kind of broad swaths of data that many people believed when the Prism documents were first released.
“We only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers,” Microsoft said in a statement.
Facebook said it received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests for data from all government agencies in the second half of last year. The social media company said fewer than 19,000 users were targeted.
How many of those were related to national security is unclear, and likely classified. The numbers suggest each request typically related to one or two people, not a vast range of users.
Tech company officials were unaware there was a program named Prism. Even former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials who were on the job when the program went live and were aware of its capabilities said this past week that they didn’t know what it was called.
What the NSA called Prism, the companies knew as a streamlined system that automated and simplified the “Hoovering” from years earlier, the former assistant general counsel said. The companies, he said, wanted to reduce their workload. The government wanted the data in a structured, consistent format that was easy to search.
Any company in the communications business can expect a visit, said Mike Janke, CEO of Silent Circle, a company that advertises software for secure, encrypted conversations. The government is eager to find easy ways around security.
“They do this every two to three years,” said Janke, who said government agents have approached his company but left empty-handed because his computer servers store little information. “They ask for the moon.”
That often creates tension between the government and a technology industry with a reputation for having a civil libertarian bent. Companies occasionally argue to limit what the government takes. Yahoo even went to court and lost in a classified ruling in 2008, The New York Times reported Friday.
“The notion that Yahoo gives any federal agency vast or unfettered access to our users’ records is categorically false,” Ron Bell, the company’s general counsel, said recently.
Under Prism, the delivery process varied by company.
Google, for instance, says it makes secure file transfers. Others use contractors or have set up stand-alone systems. Some have set up user interfaces making it easier for the government, according to a security expert familiar with the process.
Every company involved denied the most sensational assertion in the Prism documents: that the NSA pulled data “directly from the servers” of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL and more.
Technology experts and a former government official say that phrasing, taken from a PowerPoint slide describing the program, was likely meant to differentiate Prism’s neatly organized, company-provided data from the unstructured information snatched out of the Internet’s major pipelines.
In slide made public by the newspapers, NSA analysts were encouraged to use data coming from both Prism and from the fiber-optic cables.
Prism, as its name suggests, helps narrow and focus the stream. If eavesdroppers spot a suspicious email among the torrent of datapouring into the United States, analysts can use information from Internet companies to pinpoint the user.
With Prism, the government gets a user’s entire email inbox. Every email, including contacts with American citizens, becomes government property.
Once the NSA has an inbox, it can search its huge archives for information about everyone with whom the target communicated. All those people can be investigated, too.
That’s one example of how emails belonging to Americans can become swept up in the hunt.
In that way, Prism helps justify specific, potentially personal searches. But it’s the broader operation on the Internet fiber optics cables that actually captures the data, experts agree.
“I’m much more frightened and concerned about real-time monitoring on the Internet backbone,” said Wolf Ruzicka, CEO of EastBanc Technologies, a Washington software company. “I cannot think of anything, outside of a face-to-face conversation, that they could not have access to.”
One unanswered question, according to a former technology executive at one of the companies involved, is whether the government can use the data from Prism to work backward.
For example, not every company archives instant message conversations, chat room exchanges or videoconferences. But if Prism provided general details, known as metadata, about when a user began chatting, could the government “rewind” its copy of the global Internet stream, find the conversation and replay it in full?”
I subsequently learned that the cable Hoovering is called Boundless Informant.