Privacy Online News https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog Online Privacy blog by Private Internet Access VPN. Protect your online privacy. Fri, 19 Jan 2018 17:00:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights (12/21): Our parents bought things untracked, their footsteps in store weren’t recorded https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/analog-equivalent-privacy-rights-our-parents-bought-things-untracked/ https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/analog-equivalent-privacy-rights-our-parents-bought-things-untracked/#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 17:00:57 +0000 https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/?p=7134 In the last article, we focused on how people are tracked today when using credit cards instead of cash. But few pay attention to the fact that we’re tracked when using cash today, too. Few people pay attention to the little sign on the revolving door on Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It says that … Continue reading "Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights (12/21): Our parents bought things untracked, their footsteps in store weren’t recorded"

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In the last article, we focused on how people are tracked today when using credit cards instead of cash. But few pay attention to the fact that we’re tracked when using cash today, too.

Few people pay attention to the little sign on the revolving door on Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It says that wi-fi and bluetooth tracking of every single individual is taking place in the airport.

What sets Schiphol Airport apart isn’t that they track individual people’s movements to the sub-footstep level in a commercial area. (It’s for commercial purposes, not security purposes.) No, what sets Schiphol apart is that they bother to tell people about it. (The Netherlands tend to take privacy seriously, as does Germany, and for the same reason.)

Locator beacons are practically a standard in bigger commercial areas now. They ping your phone using wi-fi and bluetooth, and using signal strength triangulation, a grid of locator beacons is able to show how every single individual is moving in realtime at the sub-footstep level. This is used to “optimize marketing” — in other words, find ways to trick people’s brains to spend resources they otherwise wouldn’t have. Our own loss of privacy is being turned against us, as it always is.

Where do people stop for a while, what catches their attention, what doesn’t catch their attention, what’s a roadblock for more sales?

These are legitimate questions. However, taking away people’s privacy in order to answer those questions is not a legitimate method to answer them.

This kind of mass individual tracking has even been deployed at city levels, which happened in complete silence until the Privacy Oversight Board of a remote government sounded the alarms. The city of Västerås got the green light to continue tracking once some formal criteria were met.

Yes, this kind of people tracking is documented to have been already rolled out citywide in at least one small city in a remote part of the world (Västerås, Sweden). With the government’s Privacy Oversight Board having shrugged and said “fine, whatever”, don’t expect this to stay in the small town of Västerås. Correction, wrong tense: don’t expect it to have stayed in just Västerås, where it was greenlit three years ago.

Our analog parents had the ability to walk around untracked in the city and street of their choice, without it being used or held against them. It’s not unreasonable that our digital children should have the same ability.

There’s one other way to buy things with cash which avoids this kind of tracking, and that’s paying cash-on-delivery when ordering something online or over the phone to your door — in which case your purchase is also logged and recorded, just in another type of system.

This isn’t only used against the ordinary citizen for marketing purposes, of course. It’s used against the ordinary citizen for every conceivable purpose. But we’ll be returning to that in a later article in the series.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

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Private Internet Access and Linux Journal set up $25,000 fund to reward experienced and aspiring writers https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/private-internet-access-linux-journal-set-25000-fund-reward-experienced-aspiring-writers/ https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/private-internet-access-linux-journal-set-25000-fund-reward-experienced-aspiring-writers/#respond Thu, 18 Jan 2018 18:40:30 +0000 https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/?p=7140 January 18, 2018 — Private Internet Access, the leading no-log VPN provider in the world, has established a $25k fund to jump-start the next generation of Linux journalism. PIA’s parent company, London Trust Media, acquired Linux Journal earlier this year when the magazine announced financial constraints were causing it to close its doors. London Trust … Continue reading "Private Internet Access and Linux Journal set up $25,000 fund to reward experienced and aspiring writers"

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January 18, 2018 — Private Internet Access, the leading no-log VPN provider in the world, has established a $25k fund to jump-start the next generation of Linux journalism. PIA’s parent company, London Trust Media, acquired Linux Journal earlier this year when the magazine announced financial constraints were causing it to close its doors. London Trust Media’s management team explained the motivation behind the acquisition: “Many members of our team have been Linux Journal readers for years. Linux Journal needs to be there to chronicle our journey into a more open future.”

“London Trust Media didn’t merely rescue this ship we were ready to scuttle,” said long-time Linux Journal publisher Carlie Fairchild, “they’re making it seaworthy again and are committed to making it bigger and better than we were ever in a position to think about during our entirely self-funded past. Setting up this fund will set us on that path.”

Linux Journal editors are ready to consider articles from both new and former contributors. “This isn’t a contest, and there are no rules other than the ones that worked for journalism before it started drowning in a sea of content” announced Linux Journal Editor in Chief Doc Searls. “What we want are essays, columns, stories, reports, how-tos and other editorial pieces that attract and keep readers by shedding light on subjects that matter. Submissions can be about anything related to Linux or adjacent topics. And, since Linux supports everything from watches to data centers and rockets in space, the range of possibilities rounds to infinite.”

Send article proposals or topics of interest to write@linuxjournal.com. For more information about the fund, see alive.linuxjournal.com.

 

About Linux Journal

Started in 1994, Linux Journal has become well-known as the Linux community’s most-trusted source of information. Inside every issue of Linux Journal, you’ll find tips and tricks, in-depth tutorials, concise product reviews, insights from leading Linux personalities and much more. Read more at http://www.linuxjournal.com.

About Private Internet Access by London Trust Media

London Trust Media runs Private Internet Access (PIA), the leading no-log VPN service provider in the world. PIA believes that access to an open internet is a fundamental human right and donates yearly to causes such as FSF, EFF, GNOME, Arch Linux, Linux Mint, Qubes OS, FFTF and many more to promote privacy and FOSS causes internationally. Please visit https://www.londontrustmedia.com for more information.

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Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights (11/21): Our parents used anonymous cash https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/analog-equivalent-privacy-rights-our-parents-used-anonymous-cash/ https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/analog-equivalent-privacy-rights-our-parents-used-anonymous-cash/#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 17:00:05 +0000 https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/?p=7120 The anonymous cash of our analog parents is fast disappearing, and in its wake comes trackable and permissioned debit cards to our children. While convenient, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In the last article, we looked at how our analog parents could anonymously buy a newspaper on the street corner with some coins, and … Continue reading "Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights (11/21): Our parents used anonymous cash"

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The anonymous cash of our analog parents is fast disappearing, and in its wake comes trackable and permissioned debit cards to our children. While convenient, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In the last article, we looked at how our analog parents could anonymously buy a newspaper on the street corner with some coins, and read their news of choice without anybody knowing about it. This observation extends to far more than just newspapers, of course.

This ability of our parents – the ability to conduct decentralized, secure transactions anonymously – has been all but lost in a landscape that keeps pushing card payments for convenience. The convenience of not paying upfront, with credit cards; the convenience of always paying an exact amount, with debit cards; the convenience of not needing to carry and find exact amounts with every purchase. Some could even argue that having every transaction listed on a bank statement is a convenience of accounting.

But with accounting comes tracking. With tracking comes predictability and unwanted accountability.

It’s been said that a VISA executive can predict a divorce one year ahead of the parties involved, based on changes in purchase patterns. Infamously, a Target store was targeting a high school-aged woman with maternity advertising, which at first made her father furious: but as things turned out, the young woman was indeed pregnant. Target knew, and her own father didn’t.

This is because when we’re no longer using anonymous cash, every single purchase is tracked and recorded with the express intent on using it against us — whether for influencing us to make a choice to deplete our resources (“buy more”) or for punishing us for buying something we shouldn’t have, in a wide variety of conceivable ways.

China is taking the concept one step further, as has been written here before, and in what must have been the inspiration for a Black Mirror episode, is weighting its citizens’ Obedience Scores based on whether they buy useful or lavish items — useful in the views of the regime, of course.

It’s not just the fact that transactions of our digital children are logged for later use against them, in ways our analog parents could never conceive of.

It’s also that the transactions of our digital children are permissioned. When our digital children buy a bottle of water with a debit card, a transaction clears somewhere in the background. But that also means that somebody can decide to have the transaction not clear; somebody has the right to arbitrarily decide what people get to buy and not buy, if this trend continues for our digital children. That is a horrifying thought.

Our parents were using decentralized, censorship resistant, anonymous transactions in using plain cash. There is no reason our digital children should have anything less. It’s a matter of liberty and self-determination.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

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Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights (10/21): Analog journalism was protected; digital journalism isn’t https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/analog-equivalent-privacy-rights-analog-journalism-was-protected-digital-journalism-prosecutable/ https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/analog-equivalent-privacy-rights-analog-journalism-was-protected-digital-journalism-prosecutable/#respond Wed, 10 Jan 2018 17:00:54 +0000 https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/?p=7100 In the analog world of our parents, leaks to the press were heavily protected in both ends – both for the leaker and for the reporter receiving the leak. In the digital world of our children, this has been unceremoniously thrown out the window while discussing something unrelated entirely. Why aren’t our digital children afforded … Continue reading "Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights (10/21): Analog journalism was protected; digital journalism isn’t"

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In the analog world of our parents, leaks to the press were heavily protected in both ends – both for the leaker and for the reporter receiving the leak. In the digital world of our children, this has been unceremoniously thrown out the window while discussing something unrelated entirely. Why aren’t our digital children afforded the same checks and balances?

Another area where privacy rights have not been carried over from the analog to the digital concerns journalism, an umbrella of different activities we consider to be an important set of checks-and-balances on power in society. When somebody handed over physical documents to a reporter, that was an analog action that was protected by federal and state laws, and sometimes even by constitutions. When somebody is handing over digital access to the same information to the same type of reporter, reflecting the way we work today and the way our children will work in the future, that is instead prosecutable at both ends.

Let us illustrate this with an example from the real world.

In the 2006 election in Sweden, there was an outcry of disastrous information hygiene on behalf of the ruling party at the time (yes, the same ruling party that later administered the worst governmental leak ever). A username and password circulated that gave full access to the innermost file servers of the Social Democratic party administration from anywhere. The username belonged to a Stig-Olof Friberg, who was using his nickname “sigge” as username, and the same “sigge” as password, and who accessed the innermost files over the Social Democratic office’s unencrypted, open, wireless network.

Calling this “bad opsec” doesn’t begin to describe it. Make a careful note to remember that these were, and still are, the institutions and people we rely on to make policy for good safeguarding of sensitive citizen data.

However, in the shadow of this, there was also the more important detail that some political reporters were well aware of the login credentials, such as one of Sweden’s most (in)famous political reporters Niklas Svensson, who had been using the credentials as a journalistic tool to gain insight into the ruling party’s workings.

This is where it gets interesting, because in the analog world, that reporter would have received leaks in the form of copied documents, physically handed over to him, and leaking to the press in this analog manner was (and still is) an extremely protected activity under law and indeed some constitutions — in Sweden, as this concerns, you can even go to prison for casually speculating over coffee at work who might have been behind a leak to the press. It is taken extremely seriously.

However, in this case, the reporter wasn’t leaked the documents, but was leaked a key for access to the digital documents — the ridiculously insecure credentials “sigge/sigge” — and was convicted in criminal court for electronic trespassing as a result, despite doing journalistic work with a clear analog protected equivalent.

It’s interesting to look at history to see how much critically important events would never have been uncovered, if this prosecution of digital journalism had been applied to analog journalism.

For one example, let’s take the COINTELPRO leak, when activists copied files from an FBI office to uncover a covert and highly illegal operation by law enforcement to discredit political organizations based solely on their political opinion. (This is not what law enforcement should be doing, speaking in general terms.) This leak happened when activists put up a note on the FBI office door on March 8, 1971 saying “Please do not lock this door tonight”, came back in the middle of the night when nobody was there, found the door unlocked as requested, and took (stole) about 1,000 classified files that revealed the illegal practices.

These were then mailed to various press outlets. The theft resulted in the exposure of some of the FBI’s most self-incriminating documents, including several documents detailing the FBI’s use of postal workers, switchboard operators, etc., in order to spy on black college students and various non-violent black activist groups, according to Wikipedia. And here’s the kicker in the context: while the people stealing the documents could and would have been indicted for doing so, it was unthinkable to charge the reporters receiving them with anything.

This is no longer the case.

Our digital children have lost the right to leak information to reporters in the way the world works today, an activity that was taken for granted — indeed, seen as crucially important to the balance of power — in the world of our digital parents. Our digital children who work as reporters can no longer safely receive leaks showing abuse of power. It is entirely reasonable that our digital children should have at least the same set of civil liberties in their digital world, as our parents had in their analog world.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

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Private Internet Access adds new PIA servers and regions in Czech Republic https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/private-internet-access-adds-new-pia-servers-regions-czech-republic/ https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/private-internet-access-adds-new-pia-servers-regions-czech-republic/#comments Wed, 10 Jan 2018 15:02:37 +0000 https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/?p=7115 Dear Beloved Customers, Private Internet Access is proud to announce the opening of our Czech Republic Region/Gateway. Just like our other boxes, these new PIA servers have 10Gbit connections to our premium transit carriers to ensure world class connectivity. The Czech Republic has been frequently requested by our customers – and we listen. We know … Continue reading "Private Internet Access adds new PIA servers and regions in Czech Republic"

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Dear Beloved Customers,

Private Internet Access is proud to announce the opening of our Czech Republic Region/Gateway. Just like our other boxes, these new PIA servers have 10Gbit connections to our premium transit carriers to ensure world class connectivity. The Czech Republic has been frequently requested by our customers – and we listen. We know that you have been waiting for a long time for new infrastructure expansion; and, as always, we thank you for your patience, loyalty, and support!

Just in the last month, Private Internet Access has added 7 new regions, bringing our total region count to 44 across 29 countries.

– Atlanta, USA
– Vancouver, CA
– Austria
– Belgium
– Manchester, UK
– Spain
– Czech Republic

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Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights (9/21): When the government knows what news you read, in what order, and for how long https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/analog-equivalent-privacy-rights-government-knows-what-you-read/ https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/analog-equivalent-privacy-rights-government-knows-what-you-read/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 17:00:07 +0000 https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/?p=7091 Our analog parents had the ability to read news anonymously, however they wanted, wherever they wanted, and whenever they wanted. For our digital children, a government agent might as well be looking over their shoulder: the government knows what news sources they read, what articles, for how long, and in what order. For our analog … Continue reading "Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights (9/21): When the government knows what news you read, in what order, and for how long"

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Our analog parents had the ability to read news anonymously, however they wanted, wherever they wanted, and whenever they wanted. For our digital children, a government agent might as well be looking over their shoulder: the government knows what news sources they read, what articles, for how long, and in what order.

For our analog parents, reading the news was an affair the government had no part of, or indeed had any business being part of. Our analog parents bought a morning newspaper with a few coins on the street corner, brought it somewhere quiet where they had a few minutes to spare, and started reading without anybody interfering.

When our digital children read the news, the government doesn’t just know what news source they choose to read, but also what specific articles they read from that news source, in what order, and for how long. So do several commercial actors. There are at least three grave issues with this.

The first is that since the government has this data, it will attempt to use this data. More specifically, it will attempt to use the data against the individual concerned, possibly in some sort of pre-crime scheme. We know this that since all data collected by a government will eventually be used against the people concerned, with mathematical certainty.

In an attention economy, data about what we pay attention to, how much, and for how long, are absolutely crucial predictive behaviors. And in the hands of a government which makes the crucial mistake of using it to predict pre-crime, the results can be disastrous for the individual and plain wrong for the government.

Of course, the instant the government uses this data in any way imaginable, positive or negative, it will become Heisenberg Metrics — the act of using the data will shape the data itself. For example, if somebody in government decides that reading about frugality probably is an indicator of poverty, and so makes people more eligible for government handouts, then such a policy will immediately shape people’s behavior to read more about frugality. Heisenberg Metrics is when a metric can’t be measured without making it invalid in the process.

(The phenomenon is named after the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which is traditionally confused with the Observer Effect, which states you can’t measure some things without changing them in the process. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is actually something else entirely; it states that you can’t measure precise momentum and position of a subatomic particle at the same time, and does not apply at all to Heisenberg Metrics.)

The second issue is that not only government, but also other commercial actors, will seek to act on these metrics, Heisenberg Metrics as they may be. Maybe somebody thinks that reading fanzines about motorcycle acrobatics should have an effect on your health and traffic insurance premiums?

The third issue is subtle and devious, but far more grave: the government doesn’t just know what articles you read and in what order, but as a corollary to that, knows what the last article you read was, and what you did right after reading it. In other words, it knows very precisely what piece of information leads you to stop reading and instead take a specific action. This is far more dangerous information than being aware of your general information feed patterns and preferences.

Being able to predict somebody’s actions with a high degree of certainty is a far more dangerous ability than being vaguely aware of somebody’s entertainment preferences.

Our analog parents had the privacy right of choosing their information source anonymously with nobody permitted (or able) to say what articles they read, in what order, or for what reason. It’s not unreasonable that our digital children should have the same privacy right, the analog equivalent privacy right.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

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How to stop CoffeeMiner, the tool that injects a cryptocurrency miner to HTML requests at WiFi hotspots https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/stop-coffeeminer-tool-injects-cryptocurrency-miner-html-requests-wifi-hotspots/ https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/stop-coffeeminer-tool-injects-cryptocurrency-miner-html-requests-wifi-hotspots/#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 08:22:18 +0000 https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/?p=7082 There’s a new project called CoffeeMiner which allows an attacker to hijack the computers of those on the same WiFi network and force them to mine cryptocurrency (Monero) for the attacker. Arnau Code created the proof of concept for academic purposes only after reading about a Starbucks WiFi hotspot that was commandeered to make users … Continue reading "How to stop CoffeeMiner, the tool that injects a cryptocurrency miner to HTML requests at WiFi hotspots"

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There’s a new project called CoffeeMiner which allows an attacker to hijack the computers of those on the same WiFi network and force them to mine cryptocurrency (Monero) for the attacker. Arnau Code created the proof of concept for academic purposes only after reading about a Starbucks WiFi hotspot that was commandeered to make users mine Monero. While that was being done through the WiFi hotspot’s captive portal, CoffeeMiner also uses Coinhive to do the mining, calling the JS using HTML requests on HTTP websites, though it’s noted that HTTPS functionality could be added easily with sslstrip.

In general, man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks like this are a threat to consider when you’re on the internet. It’s not just when you’re at a public place such as a coffee shop or airport, either. Even in the comfort of your own home, MITM attacks from your router, or what appears to be your router thanks to ARP spoofing, are an ongoing concern. A separate MITM concern is the fact that some internet service providers and mobile service providers still serve ads or warnings through the same route. The bottom line is that this attack vector of serving your computer stuff that it isn’t expecting, for lack of a simpler analog terminology, is actively used. Therefore, it must be actively prevented against.

Private Internet Access protects against CoffeeMiner

If the user has any HTTP pages open, CoffeeMiner would run coinhive even if the website itself isn’t serving up doesn’t have it – and an uncomfortable amount of websites are already running coinhive by themselves, anyways. By using Private Internet Access, CoffeeMiner would not be able to force your computer to web-mine XMR. For more information on CoffeeMiner (for academic purposes only) please visit Arnau’s site:

http://arnaucode.com/blog/coffeeminer-hacking-wifi-cryptocurrency-miner.html

Ironically, if you visit that website while at a coffee shop without Private Internet Access, you very well could be mining.

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Private Internet Access creator, London Trust Media, acquires Linux Journal https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/private-internet-access-creator-london-trust-media-acquires-linux-journal/ https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2018/01/private-internet-access-creator-london-trust-media-acquires-linux-journal/#comments Tue, 02 Jan 2018 00:30:09 +0000 https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/?p=7077 To our beloved customers, Over the years, with your help, we have supported many worthy projects and events in the open source space. At the beginning of December, Carlie Fairchild posted a farewell to the Linux community in a post titled “Linux Journal Ceases Publication.” We know that some of our users may have also … Continue reading "Private Internet Access creator, London Trust Media, acquires Linux Journal"

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To our beloved customers,

Over the years, with your help, we have supported many worthy projects and events in the open source space. At the beginning of December, Carlie Fairchild posted a farewell to the Linux community in a post titled “Linux Journal Ceases Publication.” We know that some of our users may have also read this message, given the strong overlap between those that care about privacy and those that care about freedom and open source software. Needless to say, upon reading the news, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.

Many members of our team have been Linux Journal readers for years – even since before they worked with Private Internet Access. We truly believe that Linux Journal needs to be there to chronicle our journey into a more open future. Private Internet Access is proud to announce that our parent company, LTM, has acquired Linux Journal. 2018 is going to be a big year for Linux – and we will continue to play our part in facilitating this.

Linux Journal will join the LTM family alongside Private Internet Access and many others. Please feel free to view the full list of companies in the LTM family on our website at www.londontrustmedia.com. Private Internet Access will always continue to provide for the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community. Read more about the Linux Journal revival, direct from the Linux Journal team at www.linuxjournal.com.

Private Internet Access will always continue to provide for the FOSS community.

Together, we will change the world.

Sincerely,

The Private Internet Access Team

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Private Internet Access adds new PIA servers and regions in Spain https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2017/12/private-internet-access-adds-new-pia-servers-regions-spain/ https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2017/12/private-internet-access-adds-new-pia-servers-regions-spain/#respond Sat, 30 Dec 2017 23:44:37 +0000 https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/?p=7074 Dear Beloved Customers, Private Internet Access is proud to announce the opening of our Spain Region/Gateway. Just like our other boxes, these new PIA servers have 10Gbit connections to our premium transit carriers to ensure world class connectivity. Spain has been on our customers’ wishlist for many months. We know that you have been waiting … Continue reading "Private Internet Access adds new PIA servers and regions in Spain"

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Dear Beloved Customers,

Private Internet Access is proud to announce the opening of our Spain Region/Gateway. Just like our other boxes, these new PIA servers have 10Gbit connections to our premium transit carriers to ensure world class connectivity. Spain has been on our customers’ wishlist for many months. We know that you have been waiting for a long time for new infrastructure expansion; and, as always, thank you for your patience!

Private Internet Access continues network expansion by adding new PIA servers and regions in Spain

Just in the last month, Private Internet Access has added 6 new regions, bringing our total region count to 43 across 28 countries.

  • US Atlanta
  • CA Vancouver
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • UK Manchester
  • Spain

We truly cherish your loyal support and will continue to push forward with many new Infrastructure updates in the near future. Stay tuned for more news about Private Internet Access’s network expansion. You can always view the latest status of our network by visiting the PIA network page – where you can check server count and run speed tests to find the best region for you.

Private Internet Access Google Chrome Extension

Don’t forget, you can also access the PIA network through our Google Chrome extension. Check out our new Private Internet Access Google Chrome extension here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/private-internet-access/jplnlifepflhkbkgonidnobkakhmpnmh

As always, thanks for choosing Private Internet Access!

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Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights (8/21): Using Third-Party Services Should Not Void Expectation of Privacy https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2017/12/analog-equivalent-privacy-rights-using-third-party-services-not-cancel-expectation-privacy/ https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2017/12/analog-equivalent-privacy-rights-using-third-party-services-not-cancel-expectation-privacy/#respond Fri, 29 Dec 2017 17:00:30 +0000 https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/?p=7055 Ross Ulbricht handed in his appeal to the Supreme Court this week, highlighting an important Analog Equivalent Privacy Right in the process: Just because you’re using equipment that makes a third party aware of your circumstances, does that really nullify any expectation of privacy? In most constitutions, there’s a protection of privacy of some kind. … Continue reading "Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights (8/21): Using Third-Party Services Should Not Void Expectation of Privacy"

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Ross Ulbricht handed in his appeal to the Supreme Court this week, highlighting an important Analog Equivalent Privacy Right in the process: Just because you’re using equipment that makes a third party aware of your circumstances, does that really nullify any expectation of privacy?

In most constitutions, there’s a protection of privacy of some kind. In the European Charter of Human Rights, this is specified as having the right to private and family life, home, and correspondence. In the U.S. Constitution, it’s framed slightly differently, but with the same outcome: it’s a ban for the government to invade privacy without good cause (“unreasonable search and seizure”).

U.S. Courts have long held, that if you have voluntarily given up some part of your digitally-stored privacy to a third party, then you can no longer expect to have privacy in that area. When looking at analog equivalence for privacy rights, this doctrine is atrocious, and in order to understand just how atrocious, we need to go back to the dawn of the manual telephone switchboards.

At the beginning of the telephone age, switchboards were fully manual. When you requested a telephone call, a manual switchboard operator would manually connect the wire from your telephone to the wire of the receiver’s telephone, and crank a mechanism that would make that telephone ring. The operators could hear every call if they wanted and knew who had been talking to whom and when.

Did you give up your privacy to a third party when using this manual telephone service? Yes, arguably, you did. Under the digital doctrine applied now, phonecalls would have no privacy at all, under any circumstance. But as we know, phonecalls are private. In fact, the phonecall operators were oathsworn to never utter the smallest part of what they learned on the job about people’s private dealings — so seriously was privacy considered, even by the companies running the switchboards.

Interestingly enough, this “third-party surrender of privacy” doctrine seems to have appeared the moment the last switchboard operator left their job for today’s automated phone-circuit switches. This was as late as 1983, just at the dawn of digital consumer-level technology such as the Commodore 64.

This false equivalence alone should be sufficient to scuttle the doctrine of “voluntarily” surrendering privacy to a third party in the digital world, and therefore giving up expectation of privacy: the equivalence in the analog world was the direct opposite.

But there’s more to the analog equivalent of third-party-service privacy. Somewhere in this concept is the notion that you’re voluntarily choosing to give up your privacy, as an active informed act — in particular, an act that stands out of the ordinary, since the Constitutions of the world are very clear that the ordinary default case is that you have an expectation of privacy.

In other words, since people’s everyday lives are covered by expectations of privacy, there must be something outside of the ordinary that a government can claim gives it the right to take away somebody’s privacy. And this “outside the ordinary” has been that the people in question were carrying a cellphone, and so “voluntarily” gave up their right to privacy, as the cellphone gives away their location to the network operator by contacting cellphone towers.

But carrying a cellphone is expected behavior today. It is completely within the boundaries of “ordinary”. In terms of expectations, this doesn’t differ much from wearing jeans or a jacket. This leads us to the question; in the thought experiment that yesterday’s jeans manufacturers had been able to pinpoint your location, had it been reasonable for the government to argue that you give up any expectation of privacy when you’re wearing jeans?

No. No, of course it hadn’t.

It’s not like you’re carrying a wilderness tracking device for the express purpose of rescue services to find you during a dangerous hike. In such a circumstance, it could be argued that you’re voluntarily carrying a locator device. But not when carrying something that everybody is expected to carry — indeed, something that everybody must carry in order to even function in today’s society.

When the only alternative to having your Constitutionally-guaranteed privacy is exile from modern society, a government should have a really thin case. Especially when the analog equivalent — analog phone switchboards — was never fair game in any case.

People deserve Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights.

Until a government recognizes this and voluntarily surrenders a power it has taken itself, which isn’t something people should hold their breath over, privacy remains your own responsibility.

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