This outline was written in January 2009 for a group project in CCE 577 (Learning in Adulthood) that sought to collect data related to inclusion, attitude, meaning, and competence, which are described by Wlodkowski, R.J. (1999) as “motivational conditions that substantially enhance adult motivation to learn.”

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Confidentiality and mass surveillance

These are preliminary notes based on collaborative research in the Digital Security and Awareness folder at Zotero. This post is not legal advice and is offered for educational purposes only.

James Risen and Laura Poitras report in the New York Times on February 15, 2014: “Andrew M. Perlman, a Suffolk University law professor who specializes in legal ethics and technology issues, said the growth of surveillance was troubling for lawyers. […] “Given the difficulty of finding anything that is 100 percent secure, lawyers are in a difficult spot to ensure that all of the information remains in confidence.”” [1]

In an April 2008 article in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin, T.H. Nelson and Mark J. Fucile write: “As a general proposition, when a lawyer knows or reasonably suspects that communications are being intercepted by the government (whether legally or not), the lawyer needs to take steps such as face-to-face meetings with clients and disabling cell phones or pagers that might otherwise be subject to electronic surveillance or tracking that would allow advance placement of “bugs.” [2]

T.H. Clarke and L.D. Andara, writing for a LexisNexis blog on July 24, 2013 suggest “the client needs to be informed of the risks inherent in all communications, and to give their informed consent to proposed modes of communication having been advised of the potential risks.” [3]

Kurt Opsahl and Trevor Timm, writing at the EFF Deeplinks blog on June 21, 2013, suggest that the risks include: “In sum, if you use encryption they’ll keep your data forever. If you use Tor, they’ll keep your data for at least five years. If an American talks with someone outside the US, they’ll keep your data for five years. If you’re talking to your attorney, you don’t have any sense of privacy.” [4]

Larson and Shane report in the New York Times on September 5, 2013 that the NSA “has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.” [5]

Timberg and Soltani report in The Washington Post on December 13, 2013 that “[e]ven with strong encryption, the protection exists only from a phone to the cell tower, after which point the communications are decrypted for transmission on a company’s internal data network. Interception is possible on those internal links, as The Washington Post reported last week.” [6]

Dominic Rushe reports in the Guardian on August 14, 2013: “People sending email to any of Google’s 425 million Gmail users have no “reasonable expectation” that their communications are confidential, the internet giant has said in a court filing.” [7]

Ed Pilkington reports in the Guardian on February 2, 2014, per the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), that “the NSA could develop the capability to recreate a reporter’s research, retrace a source’s movements and listen in on past communications,” and according to CPJ internet advocacy coordinator Geoffrey King, “[i]t could soon be possible to uncover sources with such ease as to render meaningless any promise of confidentiality a journalist may attempt to provide.” [8]

According to Mikki Barry on September 10, 2013: “As attorneys, each one of us should be screaming bloody murder about this potential breach of attorney/client privilege at its very core. It’s not that it is “possible” to get our privileged information, our work product through Google Apps, both the “metadata” and the content of our correspondence, etc., it has already happened, and continues to this day. We KNOW our communications have been compromised. The question now is what to do about it.” [9]

Nadia Kayyali writes at the EFF Deeplinks blog on February 22, 2014: “The American Bar Association has responded to these allegations by urging the NSA to clarify its procedures for minimizing exposure of privileged information” and “ABA president James R. Silkenat writes in his letter to NSA Director Keith Alexander: “The attorney client privilege is a bedrock legal principle of our free society.”” [10]

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courage and a back up plan

During the development of a presentation entitled “Information Literacy, Privacy, & Risk: What Are the Implications of Mass Surveillance for Libraries?” for the 2014 Online Northwest conference, my group considered a question asked by the keynote speaker, Andromeda Yelton: “what obstacles stop us from learning, and how do we get around them?”

In the context of the conference presentation, potential obstacles include chilling effects on learning due to fears related to mass surveillance – will students self-censor their research and writing due to fear that it might one day be used against them?  Our discussions about how we can support students reminded me of training and experience from my previous work with survivors of abuse, and I wrote this note in one of our planning documents:

Lessons learned from other abusive systems – what do survivors of domestic violence know that might be helpful for students, faculty and librarians?  Victims believe that they can control when the abuse occurs – survivors know that it isn’t how it works.

There is a lot of background discussion for this note, but the general idea is that for chilling effects related to fears about mass surveillance, there is a well-worn path in the anti-violence advocate community to consider when thinking about our responses as educators.

Gabe had suggested that I really should check out Andromeda Yelton’s blog, and after reading a post about the experiences of identifiably female writers, I added a quote below the note:

wow: “Let’s say that again: I live in a world where being myself in public, talking about things I care about under my own name in public, is a specific choice which requires both courage and a backup plan.”

This is a beautiful way to put it.  The choice to write anyway, to research freely, to live out in the open even though tangible threats may exist – these are all specific choices requiring both courage and a backup plan.

The framework of choice also implies respect for individual autonomy in making decisions about how public to be – it wouldn’t be an act of bravery if there were no risks.  As educators, we can consider serving as role models for courage in the learning experience, and we can work on figuring out what a ‘backup plan’ means in the context of mass surveillance.

The Online Northwest conference was unfortunately cancelled due to the weather, but we’ll publish our presentation slides soon at the conference website – including quotes from Andromeda Yelton’s post described as a possible template for how to respond to chilling effects and risks of self-censorship.

This post reflects collaborative research and discussion with Gabe Gossett and Brian Davidson for class projects and preparation for the 2014 Online Northwest conference.

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the epoch of incredulity

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…

– A Tale of Two Cities, 1859 [1]

1862: President Abraham Lincoln granted Secretary of War Edwin Stanton authority to exercise “total control of the telegraph lines.” Stanton “used his power over the telegraphs to influence what journalists did or didn’t publish” and “ultimately had dozens of newspapermen arrested on questionable charges.” [2]

1952: President Harry Truman created the National Security Agency in a 1952 memorandum that “placed it under the authority of the Secretary of Defense, and charged it with monitoring and decoding any signal transmission relevant to the security of the United States.” [3]

1972: “In a 1972 case, the Supreme Court invalidated warrantless electronic surveillance of domestic organizations on Fourth Amendment grounds, despite the government’s assertion of a national security rationale.” [4]

1974: “Late in 1974, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed that the CIA was […] conducting illegal intelligence operations against thousands of American citizens.” [5]

1975: Senator Frank Church on NSA technology in 1975: “If this government ever became a tyranny, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny. There would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capacity of this technology.” [6]

1977: “”When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” So Richard Nixon infamously defended his approval of a plan to engage in warrantless wiretapping of Americans involved in the antiwar movement of the 1970s.” [7]

1978: “In reaction to the Church Committee reports pushing for oversight, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, which established a secret FISA court responsible for issuing warrants for domestic wiretapping activity.” [8]

1982: “NSA possesses the technology to scan the mass of signals transmitted through various communications systems and then to select out by computer those messages in which certain words or phrases occur.  It is thereby possible for that agency to acquire all communications over a monitored system in which, for example, a person’s name is mentioned.” [9]

1992: “A fair percentage of the digital signals dispatched on planet Earth must pass at some point through the NSA’s big sieve in Fort Meade, Maryland, 12 underground acres of the heaviest hardware in the computing world. There, unless these packets are also encrypted with a particularly knotty algorithm, sorting them back into their original continuity is not very difficult.” [10]

2001: “The collection of email metadata on Americans began in late 2001, under a top-secret NSA program started shortly after 9/11, according to the documents. Known as Stellar Wind, the program initially did not rely on the authority of any court – and initially restricted the NSA from analyzing records of emails between communicants wholly inside the US.” [11]

2004: “George W Bush briefly “discontinued” that bulk internet metadata collection, involving Americans, after a dramatic rebellion in March 2004 by senior figures at the Justice Department and FBI, as the Washington Post first reported.” [12] “The DoJ quickly convinced the Fisa court to authorize ongoing bulk collection of email metadata records. On 14 July 2004, barely two months after Bush stopped the collection, Fisa court chief judge Collen Kollar-Kotelly legally blessed it.” [13]

2005: “Elements of the President’s Surveillance Program became public in 2005, when the New York Times reported the government’s ability to intercept e-mail and phone call content inside the United States without court warrants, sparking controversy.”  [14]

2005: “N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.” [15]

2005: “In 2005, [50 U.S.C. §1861] was also amended to provide special protections for records which were considered particularly sensitive. Specifically, if the records sought are “library circulation records, library patron lists, book sales records, book customer lists, firearms sales records, tax return records, educational records, or medical records containing information that would identify a person,” the application must be approved by one of three high-ranking FBI officers, and cannot be further delegated.” [16]

2006: “The [NSA] has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, […] most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.” [17]

2007: “The documents, he said, show that the NSA gained access to massive amounts of e-mail and search and other Internet records of more than a dozen global and regional telecommunications providers.”  [18]

2008: “The second program targets the electronic communications, including content, of foreign targets overseas whose communications flow through American networks. These data are collected pursuant to Section 702 of FISA, which was added by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. This program acquires information from Internet service providers, as well as through what NSA terms “upstream” collection that appears to acquire Internet traffic while it is in transit from one location to another. Although this program targets the communications of foreigners who are abroad, the Administration has acknowledged that technical limitations in the “upstream” collection result in the collection of some communications that are unrelated to the target or that may take place between persons in the United States.” [19]

2008: “Congress […] approved even broader electronic surveillance in 2008. By law, the targets of that surveillance must be outside the United States, but lawmakers acknowledged that calls and messages of some Americans would be inadvertently intercepted.” [20]

2009: “a DOJ letter in 2009 […] was made available to all members of Congress (under the usual strict secrecy rules), and it makes clear that (a) NSA collects “substantially all” of the domestic phone records of U.S. phone companies, (b) ditto for emails, and (c) they use these records to perform contact chaining.” [21]

2010: “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.” [22]

2011: “According to the 2011 opinion, NSA collected 250 million Internet communications per year using 702 authorities. Of these communications, 91% were acquired “directly from Internet Service Providers.” [23]

2013: “According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from internal Yahoo and Google networks to data warehouses at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. […] including “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, as well as content such as text, audio and video.” [24]

2013: “No one can sue the government over secret surveillance because, since it’s secret, no one can prove his or her calls were intercepted, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, throwing out a constitutional challenge to the government’s monitoring of international calls and emails.” [25]

2013: “Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could.” [26]

2013: “The Washington Post reported on June 6th, 2013, that, “The [NSA] and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets.” [27]

2013: “The NSA, through secret court orders served to U.S. telecommunications firms, scoops up metadata relating to almost all calls made into and within the U.S., which it can later query as part of a terror investigation.” [28]

2013: “The tactic of collecting everything was unknown to the public until former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked word of it to the public.” [29]

2013: “The original press articles and more recent stories have suggested NSA monitors or can monitor the vast majority of the world’s Internet traffic. NSA has stated that it “touches” only 1.6% of Internet traffic and “selects for review” 0.025% of Internet traffic.” [30]

2013: “In Defense Department documents, form No. 1391, page 134, the buildings behind the sign are given the project No. 21078. It refers to the Utah Data Center, four huge warehouses full of servers costing a total of €1.2 billion ($1.56 billion). Built by a total of 11,000 workers, the facility is to serve as a storage center for everything that is captured in the US data dragnet. It has a capacity that will soon have to be measured in yottabytes, which is 1 trillion terabytes or a quadrillion gigabytes. Standard external hard drives sold in stores have a capacity of about 1 terabyte.” [31]

2013: “The government says it stores everybody’s phone records for five years.  [Deputy Attorney General James] Cole explained that because the phone companies don’t keep records that long, the NSA had to build its own database.“ [32]

2013: “According to the [Wall Street] Journal, the NSA “has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic.” And while the NSA is only supposed to “target” foreigners, the NSA sometimes “retains the written content of e-mails sent between citizens within the U.S.” [33]

2013: “The communications of Americans in direct contact with foreign targets can also be collected without a warrant, and the intelligence agencies acknowledge that purely domestic communications can also be inadvertently swept into its databases. That process is known as “incidental collection” in surveillance parlance. But this is the first evidence that the NSA has permission to search those databases for specific US individuals’ communications.” [34]

2013: “The [NSA] has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world.” [35]

2013: “The [NSA], using a combination of jawboning, stealth and legal force, has turned the nation’s Internet and telecommunications companies into collection partners, installing filters in their facilities, serving them with court orders, building back doors into their software and acquiring keys to break their encryption.” [36]

2013: “U.S. agencies collected and shared the personal information of thousands of Americans in an attempt to root out untrustworthy federal workers that ended up scrutinizing people who had no direct ties to the U.S. government and simply had purchased certain books.” [37]


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a philosophy of technology

The use of digital technology is rapidly increasing across higher education, [1] but knowledge, concerns, and literacy related to digital security and privacy vary greatly among consumers of digital media. [2]

During this era of rapid transition in our society, there is a broad spectrum of concern about digital security and privacy, including potential impacts on personal and professional levels, as well as social justice movements and democratic systems of government. [3]

Literacy related to digital security and privacy is now a threshold competency for participation in higher education today. [4]

* This post reflects collaborative research and discussion with my classmates Brian J. Davidson and Gabe Gossett, and was developed as background research for class projects in November and December 2013.

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Perpetual Motion

reflections on being a student in the 21st century:


“Perpetual Motion” by destinazione_altrove (feat. Donnie Ozone) via

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a legal critique of research methods

In Video Software v. Schwarzenegger, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit tears several studies to shreds:

video software v. shwarzenegger pdf at 21

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