Wikimedia Foundation v. National Security Agency/FAQ

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On March 10, 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that supports Wikipedia and its sister projects, filed suit against the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), among others. The Foundation and its eight co-plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The lawsuit is a challenge to dragnet surveillance by the NSA, specifically the large-scale seizing and search of internet communications frequently referred to as “upstream” surveillance.

Privacy is one of our core values. We work hard to protect the information that users share and generate when they visit the Wikimedia projects. Last year, we implemented HTTPS to encrypt traffic to and from the Wikimedia projects to make this data and communications with users more secure. The Wikimedia Foundation’s aim in filing this suit is similar: to protect the rights of the Foundation and Wikimedia users around the world by ending upstream mass surveillance. Wikipedia is one of the world’s largest collaborative free knowledge resources and receives hundreds of millions of unique visitors per month. Mass surveillance undermines privacy and free expression rights on the Internet and creates a chilling effect that threatens the future growth and well-being of the Wikimedia projects.

Was greift diese Klage an?

Our lawsuit challenges the NSA’s unfounded, large-scale search and seizure of international internet communications, frequently referred to as "upstream" surveillance. Using upstream surveillance, the NSA seizes and copies virtually all internet communications flowing across the network of high-capacity cables, switches, and routers that make up the internet's "backbone." This backbone connects the Wikimedia global community of readers and contributors to Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects, such as Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata.

Wie rechtfertigt die US-Regierung das Programm rechtlich?

Die US-Regierung hat den Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA) (siehe 50 U.S.C. § 1881a) verwendet, um weitreichende “Upstream”-Massenüberwachung innerhalb der Vereinigten Staaten zu rechtfertigen. Under dem FAA „können der Attorney General und der Director of National Intelligence gemeinsam, über einen Zeitraum von bis zu einem Jahr ab dem Zeitpunkt der Genehmigung, die gezielte Überwachung einer Person [nicht US-Bürger] genehmigen, um Auslandsnachrichteninformationen zu erlangen, wenn Grund zu der Annahme besteht, dass diese Person sich außerhalb der Vereinigten Staaten befindet.“ Das Gesetz erfordert nur „Grund zu der Annahme“, dass sich ein Nicht-US-Bürger außerhalb der Vereinigten Staaten befindet. Es ist nicht nötig, zu zeigen, dass ein Ziel ein ausländischer Agent ist, geschweige denn ein Terrorist. Das Ziel des Gesetzes ist es, „Auslandsnachrichteninformationen“ zu erlangen – ein sehr allgemeines Konzept. Wir glauben, dass die weite Auslegung dieses Gesetzes, die Upstream-Überwachung erlaubt, verfassungswidrig ist.

Wie wirkt sich Überwachung oder die Angst davor auf Leser und Bearbeiter von Wikipedia und ihren Schwesterprojekten aus?

Massenüberwachung ist eine Bedrohung für geistige Freiheit und Forschungsgeist, zwei der treibenden Kräfte hinter Wikimedia. Wikipedia wird von Menschen aus der ganzen Welt geschrieben, die oft schwierige Themen in Angriff nehmen. Sehr häufig ziehen sie es vor, anonym oder pseudonym zu bleiben. Das erlaubt es ihnen, frei zu gestalten, beizutragen, und zu entdecken, ohne Angst vor Repressalien. Überwachung kann verwendet werden, um sensible Informationen zu enthüllen, von Mitwirkung abzuschrecken, oder, in extremen Fällen, einzelne Benutzer zu identifizieren. Allgegenwärtige Überwachung unterhöhlt die Freiheiten, auf denen Wikipedia und ihre Gemeinschaften basieren.

Wie beeinflusst Überwachung Wikipedia als Wissensquelle?

Wikipedia is a living resource for knowledge. It is written by volunteers around the globe, in hundreds of languages. It reflects the world around us and changes to embody current events, notable individuals, evolving theories, emerging art, and more. Wikipedia relies on the contributions of editors and the support of readers to evolve and grow. If readers and editors are deterred from participating in Wikipedia because of concerns about surveillance, the health of Wikipedia as a resource to the world is jeopardized.

Who is paying for this lawsuit? Will it be expensive for Wikimedia?

We are very fortunate to have pro bono representation from world-class attorneys at the ACLU. We are also supported by the top-notch attorneys at Cooley, LLP, who are now representing us pro bono as well. Because legal representation is often the most expensive aspect of civil litigation, we expect the cost to the Foundation to be relatively very small. However, we do foresee the use of limited, preallocated staff and budget resources to ensure that we put forth the best case possible before the District of Maryland and U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Warum ist es so wichtig, dass die Wikimedia Foundation für ihre Benutzer Privatsphäre und Anonymität sicherstellt?

Privacy is a core value of the Wikimedia movement. From its beginning, Wikipedia has allowed users to keep their identities private through the use of anonymous or pseudonymous editing. This has been reinforced by the Wikimedia Foundation’s firm commitment to protecting the privacy and data of its users through legal and technical means. Privacy makes freedom of expression possible, sustains freedom of inquiry, and allows for freedom of information and association. Knowledge flourishes where privacy is protected.

Why did Wikimedia join this lawsuit against the NSA?

Our role at the Wikimedia Foundation is to protect Wikipedia, its sister projects, and the Wikimedia community of users. This means providing our users with the right conditions to facilitate their work, and protecting them when necessary. Defending the privacy of our editors, readers, and community is paramount to us. We believe privacy is essential to facilitating and advancing free knowledge.

Wie wisst ihr, dass Wikimedia zur Überwachung durch die NSA ausgewählt wurde?

One of the NSA documents revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden specifically identifies Wikipedia's HTTP traffic as a target for surveillance alongside several other major websites like, Gmail, and Facebook. The previously secret slide declares that monitoring these sites can allow NSA analysts to learn “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet.” In addition, a second NSA slide, published in July 2015, instructs analysts on how to use search strings containing the words “wikipedia” and “wikimedia” on HTTP traffic. In June 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation implemented HTTPS to encrypt traffic to and from the Wikimedia projects to make data and communications with users more secure.

Hat die Wikimedia Foundation irgendwelche Schritte unternommen, um die Privatsphäre ihrer Nutzer zu schützen?

The Wikimedia Foundation takes privacy very seriously, which is why we find the NSA’s upstream mass surveillance so troubling. In June, 2015 we implemented the HTTPS protocol by default to protect user privacy by encrypting traffic on Wikimedia sites. You do not need to create an account or login to read or edit Wikipedia or the other Wikimedia sites. If you do decide to create an account, you can choose any username you like -- we don’t require real names, email addresses, or any other personally identifying information, and we never sell your data. When law enforcement agencies or governments request data about our users, we push back, and ensure that they have followed the law and our stringent rules regarding such requests.

Why did the district court dismiss the case?

The district court Judge, T.S. Ellis III, dismissed the case on standing grounds. Specifically, the court found that our complaint did not plausibly allege that the NSA was specifically monitoring Wikimedia communications. In so doing, the court referenced a previous decision, Clapper v. Amnesty International, in which the Supreme Court of the United States found that a different set of plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge a different surveillance program. We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision, with regard to both the similarity of this case to Clapper and the wealth of evidence about government surveillance provided in our complaint. This is why we recently filed an appeal in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

What are your arguments on appeal?

Our opening appeal brief, filed February 17, 2016, argues that we have plausibly alleged that our communications are being intercepted and searched as part of the NSA’s upstream surveillance practices. The sheer number of our communications with users around the world, and the way in which this type of surveillance operates, make it a virtual certainty that our communications are captured and searched. Further, we make a procedural argument that the district court should have accepted as true our allegations at this early stage in the litigation, as required by Supreme Court precedent.