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[liberationtech] Whatsapp, a Trojan horse for seekers of easy privacy?

carlo von lynX lynX at
Fri Jan 16 12:18:36 PST 2015

Al, you may want to deviate the discussion towards the 10.000th
debate about proprietary vs free software, but the topic here is
the impossibility for a U.S. company to deliver what it promises.

Should the U.S. develop an interest in regaining international
trust, they would need to remove several inappropriate laws plus
improve the separation of powers. The U.S. is one of the world's
oldest democracies and it shows, centuries of special interest
politics have convoluted it - most Americans I meet tell me it 
actually isn't a democracy. I don't like hearing that. And I don't
like the influence it is exercising on younger democracies. And 
New York City will never go back to being as cool as it was in
the 80s.

On Fri, Jan 16, 2015 at 01:52:57PM -0600, Cypher wrote:
> I was under the impression that the government couldn't make you
> actively lie to someone. For example, if I have a message on my page
> that says "we do not collect any user data" and the government makes
> me collect data on an existing user, that's acceptable. But they could
> not stop me from changing that sign and force me to lie. I'd assume
> that would be the case with WhatsApp. Once the visuals are surfaced,
> each new encrypted connection would be forcing the service to actively
> tell a lie, which, as I understand it, isn't legal. Of course, IINAL
> so I don't know.

I remember reading or hearing that upon reception of an NSL you are
not supposed to batter an eye and change anything about the way you
interact with the public. Also, your legal theory doesn't match up
with what was said in Caspar Bowden's presentation. It's also not at
all obvious, that the NSA would openly confront the leadership of a
company. If there is any suitable technology administrator, they can
require her to cooperate without anyone else in the company knowing -
this is in fact very advantageous for the NSA, since they can consult
their own data bases for suitable people: not very strong ethically,
possibly with documented sins the NSA can blackmail them with.

And then there's also the option of accessing the infrastructure the
company is using, for instance by controlling the hosts that run any
rented VPS systems - but that is unlikely the scenario in the case
of Whatsapp. That's more the type of approach they need to use with
servers located outside the U.S.

That is why the theories the Google employees are exchanging among
each other are humbug. Of course the NSA can have a backdoor in order
to consult Google data bases and make it look like random Gmail traffic.
You may find it funny, but apparently employees at Google want to
believe PRISM can't possibly have happened. Anything that serves as
an excuse to legitimize staying in that company, earning all that money.

I haven't said anything new, just reflecting what I picked up since
those dramatic days in June.


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