Snowden effect and other privacy news: Laws in different states, plus push for secure email

Time for a trip to the corner of tech and privacy, where the Edward Snowden effect can be seen in at least a couple of news items.

Privacy matters such as the kind that have sparked different laws throughout the United States were issues even before the leaks by Snowden, the former U.S. government tech contractor. The New York Times reports that this year, more than two dozen laws have passed in more than 10 states. The laws address things such as warrantless tracking of cell phone locations, the right for children to erase social-media posts, and more. They come as people grow more concerned about the consequences of the always-on, always-connected life that most of us are living: Who’s tracking us, either virtually or physically? Who collects our information, and what are they doing with it?

Lawmakers tell the NYT that their action has been sparked by the lack of federal legislation addressing some of the issues, while other laws have sprung up as a result of the Snowden leaks and the revelations about mass NSA spying.

In news more directly related to Snowden, his former email provider — which as we wrote in August decided to shut down its service rather than turn over user info to the feds — is teaming up with Silent Circle, another encrypted-email provider that did the same thing. Their effort, called Dark Mail, aims to create email that’s surveillance-proof because only users would have the “keys” to messages.

“We’re fighting to bring privacy back to the Internet,” Lavabit owner Ladar Levison told Forbes — which notes that key to making the effort work will be the cooperation of other email providers such as Google and Yahoo. This is because even though the Dark Mail technology would not technically be able to comply with court orders, the recipient of the email might be using a non-participating service and would therefore be subject to court orders. For this and other reasons, some are saying Dark Mail’s effort may not be realistic.


Photo: Edward Snowden, the source of leaks that have revealed the scope of NSA spying, has reportedly found a tech-support job in Russia. (The Guardian via Associated Press)


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