The 227-year-old Law at the Center of the Encryption Debate

One of the many ways the internet is changing our brains includes our perception of our own privacy. What’s ironic is that now, in our space-age internet-information age, our legal and federal system is using precedents for our behavior that were set over two centuries ago

A law created at the same time as federal courts themselves is now at the center of one of the most public encryption debates to ever take place.

Namely, the debate between Apple CEO Tim Cook and the FBI, who are requesting via federal magistrate that Apple write custom software that will allow the FBI to help break into a phone it seized from one of the terrorists of the San Bernadino terrorist attack.

tim cookApple has stated that it is unwilling to write such a software, as it would constitute purposefully creating a serious security flaw in its own privacy protections and make vulnerable the millions of customers that rely on Apple encryption for their privacy.

Now the government has brought into play the All Writs Act, a part of the Judiciary Act of 1789 that actually created the court system. A “writ” is a formal order. To bring the age of the law further into perspective, George Washington signed it into law.

The entirety of the statue is as follows:

“a) The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.

b) An alternative writ or rule nice may be issued by a justice or judge of a court which has jurisdiction.”

According to this act, courts have the power to issue orders that do not fall under a pre-existing law. The act serves as a procedural tool for courts dealing with strange issues that haven’t been covered by laws yet, which definitely made sense when the justice system and entire country were new and forming. However, some believe that this law should not be used to allow the government to go against existing laws or take action when there’s no laws today.

After all, as one gizmodo writer put it, “A judge can’t issue an order for Tim Cook to execute Jony Ive or to move to a condo in Yonkers. It’s not that broad.”

According to a precedent set by the Supreme Court in 1948, the law is “a legislatively approved source of procedural instruments designed to achieve ‘the rational ends of law.'”

The act is not used frequently in modern courts, and when it has surfaced in some military courts recently, the courts overwhelmingly ruled that they did not have authority under All Writs.

fbiiiNowadays, the act is generally used to “effectuate” a search warrant, as the FBI is attempting to use it now. The FBI wants to search that San Bernadino terrorist’s phone, and it’s trying to use All Writs to force Apple to help.

This has worked before. All Writs has already been used to force Apple to help law enforcement unlock iPhones, in fact that has happened 70 times.

Unfortunately, there is only one judge that questions this house of All Writs. When the government tried to get Judge Ornstein to authorize surveillance using All Writs in 2005, the judge said that that interpretation “invites an exercise of judicial activism that is breathtaking in its scope and fundamentally inconsistent with my understanding of the extent of my authority.” Ornstein has questioned whether All Writs was appropriate for Apple’s San Bernadino encryption issue as well.

How the Internet is Changing Our Brains

“The Internet is an interruption system. It seizes our attention only to scramble it,” claimed Nicholas Carr in The Shallows: What the Internet is Going to Our Brain. His work was highly skeptical of the effect of internet access on human society, making it a provocative and highly controversial read.

The tech boom has brought with it a lot of negativity and paranoia regarding the devices that have been invented. Paranoia might be too degrading of a word; a lot of the security risks that people bring up regarding the Internet of Things and the easily carried out identify thefts that now are all commonplace are totally valid.

That said, there must be a way to use the internet for the purpose of furthering humankind. Perhaps the only way of finding that ideal method is by better understanding exactly how the internet affects us so that we can optimize that effect to the best of our abilities. Unfortunately there isn’t a huge amount of data out there regarding long-term trends since the internet was recently invented. But here’s what scientists have found:

brainThe Internet is capable of interacting with your brain similarly to the way that drugs interact with your brain. That means if you’re someone who tends to have an addictive personality or have struggled with drug and alcohol addiction before, you’re more likely to deal with cravings to be constantly plugged into your computer as well. One 2011 study reported by the Telegraph showed that some people had withdrawal symptoms simply from unplugging from their technology for a single day.

“The majority of people we see with serious Internet addiction are games- people who spend long hours in roles in various games that cause them to disregard their obligations,” explained Dr. Henrietta Bowden Jones, an Imperial College, London psychiatrist who runs a clinic for Internet addicts and problem gamblers.

Her report brings to mind the tragic story of two children two were totally neglected by their gaming-addicted parents, who were eventually charged with child abuse.

The internet is also capable of making people feel more lonely and jealous, which is kind of a no-brainer; it makes it easier to see other people in their most successful moments. Apparently researchers have even gone so far as to name the phenomenon “Facebook depression.”

Access to the internet for those who are vulnerable to depression and suicide will increase their risk of a self-harming incident as well.

brain2Internet use may be associated with increased memory problems as well; the information overload of the internet makes it difficult to file information away where it can be stored effectively.

“When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world of emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,” Dr. Anthony Wagner said of people trying to split their attention on the internet. Wagner is an associate professor of psychology at Stanford. “That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”

However, the internet can boost brain function. Apparently a 2008 study showed that the use of Internet search engines can actually stimulate neural activation patterns and potentially increase brain function for older adults.

Tech Changes Iowa’s Political Landscape

The Iowa caucus has always been about more than casting votes; since becoming the “first in the nation” to vote in the primaries in 1972, the coming of the caucus has always led Iowans to hold assemblies in schools, community centers, and neighborhood homes to discuss the candidates of either party and which presidential hopeful has the most to give to the state.

These events were originally as tech-less as they sound, but this year’s go around is timed with the societal changes that have come along with smartphones and the incessant rise of social media.

twitter iowa caucus“We all have smartphones, and we not only tweet regularly, but we have Instagram and YouTube and video cameras in our pockets,” comments Professor Rachel Paine Caufield, a professor of political science at Drake University in Des Moines. “This will be a caucus that’s documented in a way no previous caucus has been documented.”

The Iowa caucus is different for Republicans and Democrats. For the Republican caucus, Iowans gather in their percents and cast private votes. Those votes are tallied and their numbers determine how many delegates each candidate receives at the party’s nominating convention, which takes place in July.

The Democratic caucus operates differently: When the Iowans assemble in their individual precincts, they publicly declare their support of whichever candidate by dividing themselves into sections within an assembly room. Then they mix again, attempting to convince friends, family and neighbors to join their cause or in turn being convinced to join the causes of other candidates. Apparently this process involves everything from begging to free cookies. If any group ever loses the minimum amount of people to become viable, that group dissolves and its members must then pick a new group with which to align. That’s when the real fun begins.

“It’s a weird parallel universe where stuff that would never fly in any other aspect of politics all of a sudden becomes really normal,” explained Crystal Patterson, a former digital team member of Clinton’s 2008 campaign.

At the end of the assembly, the number of members in each camp are written down and a formula is used to determine how any delegates each candidate will receive.

This year, we can add Twitter to the occasion. Twitter will allow for caucus-goers to understand how their candidate is doing in other districts, which can in turn influence their own home-town support. Statistics have shown that people tend to want to join the majority.

“Our voting calculations in our own heads change depending on which candidates are doing well,” Caufield explained. “We’re going to have a lot more information about that this time around.”

Adam Sharp is Twitter’s head of new, government and elections. He believes that Twitter will help people to understand the entire democratic process better this election, especially that of Iowa:

“The fair weather supporters of the candidates, hoping they neighbors speak for them, will now have more visibility to see and understand how critical their vote is when they are getting those real time reports,” he explained.

bernie sandersTech is also expected to allow for more accurate recording, a much-needed change considering Republican leadership actually declared the wrong victor (Mitt Romney instead of Rick Santorum) in 2012. Microsoft has built a reporting app that they hope will allow for fewer embarrassing mishaps. The app will also flag inconsistencies in the data, such as a strangely large turnout four a district or missing precincts. Microsoft predicts that the biggest challenge will be simply beating the learning curve for the app; the company is used to developing software that can handle huge amounts of information.

The Iowa Democratic party will also be holding a tele-caucus for the first time ever this year.

Campaigns are also developing new technology for caucus counting. Bernie Sanders’ campaign has apparently built an app that allows precinct captains to track how preference groups change over the course of the night, information that will surely prove helpful to presidential hopefuls as primaries continue on through the nation.

“If we did well ind districts where there was a candidate who’d didn’t get viability, and we’re able to peel those people off, we’ll be able to surface that information in real time,” explained Pinky Weitzman, the digital director of Sanders’ Iowa campaign.

Anonymous Sets Target on Trump

Anonymous seems to have its fingers in every political pie from here to the Middle East. A month or so after declaring war on ISIS, Anonymous has released it has an additional target: Donald Trump.

This week’s most recent video posting revealed that Anonymous will commit itself to fighting back against Trump’s most recent proposal to ban all Muslim people from traveling to the United States.

“This policy is going to have a huge impact. This is what ISIS wants,” explained the masked member of anonymous. “Donald Trump, think twice before you speak anything. You have been warned, Donald Trump.”

optrumpTheir anti-Trump plan is aptly named #OpTrump and is aimed at removing the internet footprint of the tycoon-turned-politician. International Business Times reported that the operation has resulted in a denial of service attack on trumptowerny.com that lasted for hours last night.

A denial of service attack (DoS) comprises of an attack that renders a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users. This can be a temporary or indefinite condition intended to interrupt or suspend services of a host connected ot the internet.

Coincidentally, today is also Anonymous’s “Anti-ISIS Day of Rage”, which urges people to troll ISIS by using the twitter hashtag “#Daeshbags, Daesh being the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

Whether insulting ISIS is actually helpful or interesting is up for debate.. in general, the threat that Anonymous poses to ISIS is likely somewhat negatable, especially since the U.S. Federal Government and United Nations are doing everything they can and still running into issues.

Donald Trump may be more at Anonymous’s level; if they manage to screw with his campaign to the extent that he can’t continue his consistent output of hate speech and all the propaganda that conservatives love, Anonymous could actually slow down the momentum crucial to Trump’s campaign.

Anonymous is not alone in terms of grass-roots movements to stop Trump and show intense feelings of lack-of-support. Today marks the second day of circulation of the most popular petition in the UK. It proposes that Trump not be allowed to to travel to the United Kingdom and has already been signed by 458,230 UK citizens.

The petition was released in direct response to Trump’s statements regarding a country-wide ban on Muslim people traveling to the US and constitutes an effort to give him a taste of his own medicine. It’s currently so popular that Parliament actually has to discuss the issue; by law, once a petition hits over 100,000 signatures, the government must respond to it.

trump petitionIf Trump were banned from traveling to the UK, it wouldn’t actually be the first time that the UK closed its borders to individuals in reaction to their “unacceptable behavior.” Also banned from the UK are Martha Stewart, Chris Brown and Mike Tyson.

It’s more common for the UK to ban people on the basis of their use of hate speech. One such example is the ban of Stephen Donald Black, a Ku Klux Klansman responsible for founding the white supremacist internet group Stormfront. After Trump’s comments, Stromfront was forced to upgrade its servers in response to the torrent of new viewers checking out the site.

UK Spy Bill Worries Internet Users

The UK has finally released the first draft of its controversial Investigatory Powers Bill, a massive document that attempts to update and clarify what rights authorities have to access public data in the interest of combating crime.

The document’s main goal is to make the argument that since authorities already have the right to access information regarding that private phone calls people have made, it follows suit for them to also have the right to find out what websites and chat apps people use.

Accordingly, the bill proposes that authorities be able to bypass obtaining a warrant if they want to check people’s “internet connection records.”uk surveillance

They wouldn’t be able to see exactly what content was being made at whatever web addresses, but they would know what websites a person visited and at what time. For example, they could know if a person visited Instagram or Facebook, but not which specific web pages the person viewed or whether or not that person sent a message or left a comment.

They would access this information via network providers. The bill would require provider to maintain connection records for a year and then wipe those records clean immediately after a year has passed. Providers would need to create a log of IP addresses so that they can track and organize which devices participate in what activity.

Service providers aren’t crazy about the idea. Adrian Kennard, director of Bracknell-based internet provider Andrews & Arnold, had this to say:

“It is going to be costly and require a lot of equipment, but the big issue is that this is mass surveillance of the public.”

A warrant would remain necessary in the case of authorities wanting more specific browser history, such as which Facebook pages were looked at. Law enforcement officials would also be restricted in terms of determining whether someone had visited a medical website or mental health website. Even information about what news someone gets would necessitate a warrant.

“They would only be able to make a request for the purpose of determining whether someone had for example accessed a communications website, an illegal website or to resolve an IP address where it is necessary and proportionate to do so in the course of a specific investigation,” explained Home Secretary Theresa May.

Privacy-advocates take issue with the bill for a number of reasons. Not only are they disturbed by the push for such large-scale public surveillance by the government, but they’re afraid of the information being stored in the first place.

The bill would create files where data is stored regarding the pornography sites a person might visit, for example. Other examples of potentially sensitive browser history includes pirated media websites or political and religious sites.

If the information is being stored somewhere by service providers, realistically more than the government could potentially access it. Cryberattacks are on the rise, and cybercriminals tend to enjoy releasing private information to the embarrassment of their victims.ashley madison

Take the hack on Ashley Madison for example. Hackers stole information regarding members of the adultery-enabling dating website and threatened to release it if the website didn’t shut down completely. Ashley Madison didn’t comply, and the emails and personal information of its users were eventually released publically.

Most hacks aren’t so ethics-based, so just storing such sensitive information could put even honorable people at risk.