RSSCategory: Privacy

The government keeping an eye on us

April 6, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More
The government keeping an eye on us

In the process of describing his lawsuit regarding the NDAA, Chris Hedges writes:

There are now 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies that work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, The Washington Post reported in a 2010 series by Dana Priest and William M. Arken. There are 854,000 people with top-secret security clearances, the reporters wrote, and in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2011. Investigative reporter James Bamford wrote in the latest issue of Wired magazine that the National Security Agency is building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret NSA surveillance program code-named “Stellar Wind.” Bamford noted that the NSA has established listening posts throughout the country to collect, store and examine billions of email messages and phone calls.

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Nude body airport scanners: Eight billion dollar fraud

March 7, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Nude body airport scanners:  Eight billion dollar fraud

Take a look at this short video by Jonathan Corbett. He makes a pretty good case that the nude body scanners at American airports constitute an $8 Billion fraud, in addition to exposing us to supposedly safe radiation and invasive searches. Most important, these scanners are technically flawed to such a degree that any terrorist can slip virtually anything into an airplane. Corbett points out that the Israelis refused to invest in these scanners, because they are “useless.” This is a rather unsurprising accusation against the folks who never considered locking the cockpit doors prior to 9/11–boondoggle and ineffective. But at least a lot of Americans will see those shiny expensive new nude body scanners and assume that they are safe. After all, these new scanners are newer than the “old fashioned” metal detectors that actually work. But it seems to be the prime objective of the TSA to cause people to believe that they are safe.

For more information, see Corbett’s website posts on this topic here and here.

If Corbett’s analysis is correct, these nude body scanners exemplify this country’s approach to many issues. Hype a problem, inject with the fear of terrorists, spend a lot of money that isn’t really needed, violate lots of fundamental civil liberties and cover up the fact that the money is not being well-spent.

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How to protect your electronic data at the border

February 23, 2012 | By | Reply More
How to protect your electronic data at the border

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a detailed article advising you of your (lack of) rights when you enter and leave the United States (this applies to citizens and non-citizens). Here is some basic advice, but check out the article for lots of good advice regarding encryption, use of clouds, backups and other advice, much of it useful even when you are not traveling:

Border agents have a great deal of discretion to perform searches and make determinations of admissibility at the border. Keep in mind that any traveler, regardless of citizenship status or behavior, can be temporarily detained by border agents for more detailed questioning, a physical search of possessions, or a more extensive physical search. Refusal to cooperate with searches, answer questions, or turn over passwords to let agents access or decrypt data may cause lengthy questioning, seizure of devices for further examination, or, in extreme circumstance, prevent admission to the country. For this reason, it may be best to protect your data in ways that don’t require you to have awkward confrontations with border agents at all.

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The extent of the spying by the NSA

December 26, 2011 | By | Reply More
The extent of the spying by the NSA

From the Washington Post:

“Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”

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EFF promotes jailbreaking for all devices

December 8, 2011 | By | Reply More
EFF promotes jailbreaking for all devices

Electronic Frontier Foundation is advocating for the right to jailbreak all devices. I agree, based on this.

EFF advocates many position with which I agree. Here is the EFF About statement:

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990 — well before the Internet was on most people’s radar — and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.

Blending the expertise of lawyers, policy analysts, activists, and technologists, EFF achieves significant victories on behalf of consumers and the general public. EFF fights for freedom primarily in the courts, bringing and defending lawsuits even when that means taking on the US government or large corporations. By mobilizing more than 61,000 concerned citizens through our Action Center, EFF beats back bad legislation. In addition to advising policymakers, EFF educates the press and public.

EFF is a donor-funded nonprofit and depends on your support to continue successfully defending your digital rights. Litigation is particularly expensive; because two-thirds of our budget comes from individual donors, every contribution is critical to helping EFF fight — and win — more cases.

If you would like to support this work, a special program will quadruple your donation.

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A Deep Blue Paranoid Moment (DBPM)

December 7, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
A Deep Blue Paranoid Moment (DBPM)

“Just Because I’m Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Out to Get Me!”

OK, so sometimes I do go off the deep blue end but, I really think that very nearly all of our communications are monitored without warrant or our knowing consent. “So what?” you say, “If you’re not doing anything wrong what do you have to worry about?”

If a US citizen cannot have their most private information free from others, we have no civil society but a state where any innocent series of calls or conversations could be made to look as though some wrongdoing were afoot. I’m an attorney and I have to be sure my communications are kept both secret and confidential. If others know what we’re up to in a given case, it sorta takes the wind out of sails and stacks the deck against us. How would they know? Easy!

Old analog cell phones, some digital cells and the phones you can walk around with that have a base at work or home and talk can be listened to with a police scanner and the courts have ruled that since the signal is readily available to monitoring there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in your conversations and a warrant isn’t needed to listen or record the calls.

The major phone companies just gave up all your calling data to the National Security Agency (NSA) , except Qwest, when the government simply asked for it. The telcos then went to Congress and got themselves a ban on any consumer lawsuits for illegally releasing your private, confidential calling information.

We also all heard about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) illegal interception of US citizens’ communications under the Bush administration. Many of the Bush secret “anti-terror” policies have been continued by the Obama administration.

Faxes and e-mails from offices should now have a warning notice to recipients that the sender cannot guarantee that some government agency is not intercepting the communication without their knowledge or consent or a search warrant.   And see here.

It’s so bad that some citizens, like reporters, use so-called “burner phones” for calls to confidential sources and toss them after one or very few uses so as to not have their locations or sources compromised. Of course, then the reporters or whoever are now acting “suspiciously” and may have their innocent conduct of just wanting privacy used to have some eager beaver go get a roving wiretap on the person under the so-called USA Patriot Act.

The US House and Senate just passed a “Defense Authorization Act” for President Obama to sign which includes another “authorization for the use of force” against suspected al Qaeda terrorists and allows for the possible indefinites detention of US citizens without charge, denies such US citizen “suspects” access to US civilian courts, and denies them access to counsel, all of which have never been allowed before in US history. President Obama must veto the bill.

I don’t think it reasonable that we have to have any fear that all our communications are monitored by some government agency.

So much has been justified in the “war on terror” that maybe I’m not so paranoid after all.

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Your privacy in the news

December 2, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
Your privacy in the news

Here is some recent news I learned from links posted by Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Carrier IQ’s code is raising lots of questions:

“Consumers need to know that their safety and privacy are being protected by the companies they trust with their sensitive information,” Franken said Thursday.
“The revelation that the locations and other sensitive data of millions of Americans are being secretly recorded and possibly transmitted is deeply troubling. This news underscores the need for Congress to act swiftly to protect the location information and private, sensitive information of consumers. But right now, Carrier IQ has a lot of questions to answer.”

Amazon’s new browser, Silk, is raising concerns. (Senator Ed Markey is asking some good questions here):

Amazon told a Massachusetts congressman that the Silk browser in its Kindle Fire tablet doesn’t pose a privacy threat to consumers, but the lawmaker wasn’t ready to give the online retailer a pass.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the co-chairman of a congressional caucus on consumer privacy, on Tuesday released the retailer’s responses to questions he had put to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in October about Silk and the data it collected.

Markey wasn’t happy with Amazon’s answers.

“Amazon’s responses to my inquiries do not provide enough detail about how the company intends to use customer information, beyond acknowledging that the company uses this valuable information,” said Markey in a statement.

New outrageous bill invites government to snoop.

The bill would allow a broad swath of ISPs and other private entities to “use cybersecurity systems” to collect and share masses of user data with the government, other businesses, or “any other entity” so long as it’s for a vaguely-defined “cybersecurity purpose.” It would trump existing privacy statutes that strictly limit the interception and disclosure of your private communications data, as well as any other state or federal law that might get in the way. Indeed, the language may be broad enough to bless the covert use of spyware if done in “good faith” for a “cybersecurity purpose.”

EFF is an excellent source of new on the issues of privacy and censorship. Here is an excerpt from the About page:

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990 — well before the Internet was on most people’s radar — and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.

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The dangers of “Protect-IP” in a nutshell

November 17, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
The dangers of “Protect-IP” in a nutshell

Protect-IP is an abysmal idea. No one likes it except for well-monied content providers. It would, if construed broadly by the courts, hinder the ability of ordinary folks to organize in order to promote higher profits for the entertainment industry, which already has plenty of ways to protect its IP. This is too high a price to pay.

PROTECT IP Act Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

How flawed are the approaches now being considered by Congress? Consider these reasons.

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Twitter required to hand over data in Wikileaks investigation

November 17, 2011 | By | Reply More
Twitter required to hand over data in Wikileaks investigation

This, from EFF:

A district court judge in Virginia ruled against online privacy today, allowing U.S federal investigators to collect private records of three Twitter users as part of its investigation related to Wikileaks. The judge also blocked the users’ attempt to discover whether other Internet companies have been ordered to turn their data over to the government.

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