Petition to Repeal UK Investigative Powers Bill

Xbiz reports that UK Internet users can now sign an online petition to protest the invasive, privacy-killing requirements of the recently passed “Investigative Powers Bill.” The bill, if approved, would require that ISPs monitor and store large amounts of information about Internet users’ browsing histories. Combined with the proposed adult-website age-verification measure, the UK would mandate the collection and storage of highly sensitive and intimate information about users, increasing the risks of misuse by hackers, blackmailers, and rogue agencies.

xHamster Asks U.K. Users to Sign Petition
xHamster.com today started urging users in the U.K. to sign a petition calling for the repeal of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which recently wended its way through Parliament and now awaits royal assent, which would turn the piece of legislation into law. Read More>>

 

Adult Dating Site Hack Exposes 400M Accounts

Today, The Verge is reporting that another hack of Adult Friend Finder and several related websites resulted in over 400 million accounts having been exposed. Information stolen includes e-mail and IP addresses and account passwords, but unlike a previous hack, this one apparently doesn’t include information on sexual preferences. The Verge reports that the websites stored user data in plain text or encrypted with outdated algorithms.

Anyone who ever had an account at AFF or Friend Finder Network should immediately change any similar passwords that were used elsewhere. (This breach is a great example of why people should never re-use the same password at multiple websites.) Users may also wish to check their e-mail accounts for possible breaches using the free service at  https://haveibeenpwned.com/

UK Age Verification Proposal Omits Privacy Protections

Even as the American organizations CDT and FSC work to promote consumer privacy for adult websites, UK authorities continue to plow ahead with their ill-conceived plan to require mandatory age verification for consumers to access adult material. (A similar plan in the US was defeated in court partly over First Amendment concerns regarding the right to receive controversial speech anonymously.) The UK has designated the British Board of Film Classification to perform age verification, but astonishingly, the law makes no provision to protect the privacy of adult-website visitors.

As described in this petition, “The Digital Economy Bill currently before Parliament will introduce compulsory age verification without guaranteeing privacy protections for subscribers. This omission risks users’ personal details and private sexual preferences being exploited for commercial gain and/or leaked into the public domain.”

Discussion of the Digital Economy Bill by The Independent

Update: adult industry stakeholders held a protest outside Parliament today against the bill, which they say “imposes state censorship and surveillance of consensual adult sexual content in the U.K.”

Groups Aim to Improve Adult-Site Privacy

In the aftermath of ongoing revelations about mass surveillance and enormous data breaches, consumers have rightly become more concerned with online privacy and security. As Xbiz reports, the Center for Democracy and Technology has partnered with adult industry group Free Speech Coalition to promote the use of privacy-enhancing https technology by adult websites to reduce the erosive effects of indiscriminate dragnet monitoring programs. (This website has not yet adopted https technology because of hosting company limitations but plans to do so as soon as it is feasible.)


FSC Pushes to Make Adult Sites More Secure

The Free Speech Coalition and the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital civil liberties group, have agreed to work together to advocate use of the encryption protocol HTTPS for adult sites. Read more>>

Porn Effects Disputed in UK; Privacy Under Attack in US

I have not been able to post as much as I would like because of recurring medical issues, but two stories relevant to our community are in the news.

First, the BBC recently published a report repeating the old canard that frequent porn use supposedly causes erectile disorder in young men by desensitizing them to real-life sexual stimuli. Maxim, although generally considered more of a “lad’s mag” than a serious news publication, responded to the BBC claims with a well-sourced article citing two scientific studies showing that porn use is not inherently harmful.

Second, the dominant US Internet provider, Comcast, has indicated its desire to charge ISP customers additional fees for privacy, similar to what AT&T has been doing to certain fiber Internet subscribers. Caroline Craig has an excellent article at Infoworld explaining the current privacy situation in the US and the FCC’s new role in protecting consumers from intrusive practices by ISP’s, which, due to lack of meaningful competition, can impose onerous conditions on customers at will.

Trump Signs Anti-Porn Pledge

According to XBIZ and other news outlets, GOP presidential candidate (and former Playboy cover model) Donald Trump has signed an anti-porn pledge promulgated by a notorious pro-censorship organization called “Enough is Enough.” Most of the pledge is standard “save the children” fare with scant reference to adult erotica, but concerningly, it also affirms the false claim made this year by the Utah legislature — and now enshrined in the GOP platform — that online adult content is a hazard to public health.

The pledge also calls on private companies to partner with the government in “voluntary” efforts to reduce the supposed threat of minors seeing adult content, which sounds to me like an attempt to reinvigorate the age-verification and de-anonymization schemes which the US Government promoted in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s before they were mostly struck down by the courts. Such partnerships could also include more surveillance and data sharing by private companies, ostensibly to protect minors from being chatted at by perverts, but effectively invading everyone’s online privacy along the lines of the proposed “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).”


Trump Signs Pledge to Crack Down on Porn If Elected

In a development that could sway stakeholders in the industry, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump signed a pledge two weeks ago stating he would aggressively enforce existing laws that prevent the sexual exploitation of children, including federal obscenity laws, child pornography laws, sexual predation laws and the sex trafficking laws. Read more>>

Fetish Forum Breached; Ted Cruz Returns; FCC Chair Proposes Privacy Rules

In a busy week for infosec news, BBC reports that “traceable data,” including members’ IP and e-mail addresses, was stolen from an unnamed fetish forum. (Update: According to Fortune.com, the forum was “The Rosebutt Board.”) The breach was due to outdated software:

A hardcore fetish web forum has been hacked, with more than 100,000 accounts exposed, according to a prominent security researcher.

Next, as I suspected, failed Republican presidential primary candidate Ted Cruz has already resurfaced, hinting that he could restart his campaign if he considers it viable again. If elected, he would likely appoint FCC commissioners who would reverse the hard-fought, if rather weak, Open Internet and Common Carrier regulations (“Title II”) which are intended to provide American consumers with at least minimal protection from abusive practices by the ISP duopoly.

Related to the above, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler testified before a US Senate committee about why ISP’s should be required to follow the same privacy rules as telephone companies in their use of customer data:

“Most of us understand that the social media we join and the websites we visit collect our personal information, and use it for advertising purposes,” Wheeler told the committee in his prepared testimony. … “[However,] we can choose not to visit a website or not to sign up for a social network, or we can choose to drop one and switch to another in milliseconds. But broadband service is fundamentally different. Once we subscribe to an ISP—for our home or for our smartphone—most of us have little flexibility to change our mind or to do so quickly.”

Political Updates

Although my medical recovery has not been going as smoothly as I had hoped, I wanted to post some updates about the US political situation.

First, the Brookings Institution has issued a new report analyzing the views of major US presidential candidates about the Internet. As expected, Senator Ted Cruz still actively opposes consumer protection rules such as Title II classification for ISP’s, preferring that the high-speed Internet duopoly essentially self-regulate. Senator Rubio holds similar views.

While Senator Sanders advocates net neutrality and consumer protection, he also calls for adding a new Internet sales tax! This surprised me, because consumption taxes are regressive, meaning they most negatively affect lower income people. Further, this tax would hurt e-commerce companies and consumers who live far from physical shopping locations. One might also speculate that high taxes on Internet purchases would encourage consumers to drive to stores rather than buying online, amplifying urban problems such as pollution, noise, and traffic congestion.

Based on the Brookings report, Secretary Clinton actually seems to be the least horrible candidate in terms of Internet policy and consumer rights. (My previously preferred candidate, John McAfee, has disappointed by deleting his health care policy position statements from his website after declaring his intent to run with the Libertarian Party, causing me to reconsider my endorsement.)

Related to the above, DSL Reports notes that the unexpectedly pro-consumer “FCC Boss Hints He May Not Resign Under New President

Unrelated, but important:

story category
(Completely rewritten 2016/03/06 to expand and clarify.)

Favorable Developments

Just a quick post from me for now. This week has seen favorable developments in Internet privacy, sexual health news, and the survival of traditional adult media.

According to DSL Reports:

“In a new letter sent to the FCC (pdf), around 60 consumer groups are urging the FCC to quickly and clearly adopt “strong rules to protect consumers from having their personal data collected and shared by their broadband provider without affirmative consent, or for purposes other than providing broadband Internet access service.”

From an article at RH Reality Check titled There Really Isn’t Any Bad News for People Who Like to Masturbate:

“A recent Maxim article warned readers that masturbation may be harmful in the long wrong if they do it too often or the wrong way. Thankfully, the article is based on pseudoscience and misunderstandings—there is no reason to stop the activity.”

And finally, from Consumerist, the title says it all:

Penthouse Keeping Magazine, Citing The “Gravitas” Of The Printed Page

 

We still have a chance to stop CISA

Regarding the incarnation of CISA that is currently before the US Congress, a press release from https://www.fightforthefuture.org/


Congress is dirty in their ways. They snuck a much worse version of CISA – the terrible surveillance and incarceration bill – into the omnibus, a budget bill that has to be passed to prevent a government shutdown.

But, it’s starting to look like there might not be enough votes to pass it. Both Democrats and Republicans are starting to balk because of CISA and other provisions. Now, we need to try our damndest to make sure every on-the-fence senator and representative sides with us and votes no. Otherwise, CISA winds up on President Obama’s desk.

Take action right now to stop Congress from passing the worst surveillance and incarceration bill since the PATRIOT Act.

The provision looks a lot like CISA, Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act — but there’s no pretense of privacy in it at all.

It’s a flagrant attempt to expand U.S. government’s surveillance programs. It has language in it that allows many federal agencies to use our data for their purposes. Inevitably, the FBI and law enforcement agencies will use the data they collect from companies through this program to investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate more people, deepening injustices in our society while failing to improve security.

In short, Congress is overreaching again — which means it’s time for us to make sure they don’t get away with it.

Tell Congress: Don’t sell out the open Internet in this year’s omnibus bill. 

Instead of actually debating the bill on the floor of Congress, it’s being attached to the must-pass omnibus spending bill, which makes it less likely that Congress will actually spend the time they need to discussing this provision.

That’s because ever since Congress adopted its do-nothing mentality, spending bills have become more and more important because they’re one of the only things that Congress absolutely has to do on a regular basis — otherwise there would be another government shutdown and no one is actually willing to chance that again.

In practice, that means spending bills have become vehicles for legislation that would otherwise never pass. Regulations and provisions make their way into law as part of massive trades and compromises that need to be made this way because Congress is so impossibly ineffectual.

To make sure CISA doesn’t become law, much less without even a hint of the previous privacy protections, we need to act now. 

Yes, I’ll take action right now.

No, I can’t do that — but I’ll chip in $10 to help Fight for the Future expand the campaign to protect basic rights online.

Thanks for protecting the Internet,

Evan at FFTF

P.S. There is some good news in the omnibus bill, though — the anti- Net Neutrality provisions that were being discussed have been completely axed from the final version. Together, we did that. We scared them, and they left it out. So be proud of that win…while you take action to keep CISA out of the budget