Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2460462
 


 



Loopholes for Circumventing the Constitution: Unrestrained Bulk Surveillance on Americans by Collecting Network Traffic Abroad


Axel Arnbak


Institute for Information Law (IViR, University of Amsterdam); Harvard University - Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Sharon Goldberg


Boston University - Department of Computer Science

August 27, 2014

Presented at Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (TPRC'42), Arlington, VA, Sept. 2014
Presented at Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium (HOTPETS'14), Amsterdam, NL, July 2014
2014 TPRC Conference Paper

Abstract:     
We reveal interdependent legal and technical loopholes that the U.S. intelligence community could use to circumvent constitutional and statutory safeguards for Americans. These loopholes involve the collection of Internet traffic on foreign territory, and leave Americans as unprotected as foreigners by current U.S. surveillance laws. We also describe how modern Internet protocols can be manipulated to deliberately divert American's traffic abroad, where traffic can then be collected under a more permissive legal regime (Executive Order 12333) that is overseen solely by the Executive branch of the U.S. government. While the media has reported on some of the techniques we describe, we cannot establish the extent to which these loopholes are exploited in practice.

An actionable short-term remedy to these loopholes involves updating the antiquated legal definition of "electronic surveillance" in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), that has remained largely intact since 1978. On the long term, however, a fundamental reconsideration of established principles in U.S. surveillance law is required, since these loopholes cannot be closed by technology alone. Legal issues that require reconsideration include: the determination of applicable law by the geographical point of collection of network traffic; the lack of general constitutional or statutory protection for network traffic collection before users are "intentionally targeted"; and the fact that constitutional protection under the Fourth Amendment is limited to "U.S. persons" only. The combination of these three principles means that Americans remain highly vulnerable to bulk surveillance when the U.S. intelligence community collects their network traffic abroad.

Note: The paper is accepted and will be presented at the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium of July 2014, during the HOTPETS session.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 34

Keywords: Surveillance, Privacy, FISA, Executive Order 12333, Network protocols, DNS attacks, BGP attacks

Accepted Paper Series





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Date posted: June 30, 2014 ; Last revised: September 6, 2014

Suggested Citation

Arnbak, Axel and Goldberg, Sharon, Loopholes for Circumventing the Constitution: Unrestrained Bulk Surveillance on Americans by Collecting Network Traffic Abroad (August 27, 2014). Presented at Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (TPRC'42), Arlington, VA, Sept. 2014; 2014 TPRC Conference Paper. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2460462

Contact Information

Axel Arnbak (Contact Author)
Institute for Information Law (IViR, University of Amsterdam) ( email )
Kloveniersburgwal 48
Amsterdam, 1012 CX
Netherlands
HOME PAGE: http://www.ivir.nl/staff/arnbak.html
Harvard University - Berkman Center for Internet & Society ( email )
23 Everett Street
Cambridge, MA 012138
United States
Sharon Goldberg
Boston University - Department of Computer Science ( email )
Boston, MA
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.cs.bu.edu/~goldbe/
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