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Archive for the ‘surveillance’ tag

Police Keep Quiet About Stingray A Cellphone Surveillance Tool

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Eye see u Willis
Eye see u Willis

Ahh, our National Security State keeps chugging along, snatching us up in its tentacles…

Police across the country may be intercepting phone calls or text messages to find suspects using a technology tool known as Stingray. But they’re refusing to turn over details about its use or heavily censoring files when they do.

Police say Stingray, a suitcase-size device that pretends it’s a cell tower, is useful for catching criminals, but that’s about all they’ll say.

For example, they won’t disclose details about contracts with the device’s manufacturer, Harris Corp., insisting they are protecting both police tactics and commercial secrets. The secrecy – at times imposed by nondisclosure agreements signed by police – is pitting obligations under private contracts against government transparency laws.

Even in states with strong open records laws, including Florida and Arizona, little is known about police use of Stingray and any rules governing it.

A Stingray device tricks all cellphones in an area into electronically identifying themselves and transmitting data to police rather than the nearest phone company’s tower. Because documents about Stingrays are regularly censored, it’s not immediately clear what information the devices could capture, such as the contents of phone conversations and text messages, what they routinely do capture based on how they’re configured or how often they might be used.

(click here to continue reading POLICE KEEP QUIET ABOUT CELL-TRACKING TECHNOLOGY, BY JACK GILLUM, News from The Associated Press.)

Cops on Bikes
Cops on Bikes on Cellphones

Note that this works on everyone’s cellphones, regardless if you are a criminal suspect, or just a teenage girl texting your friends. Who needs warrants, right? The old United States that celebrated civil liberties as a constitution right has been superseded by 9-11 and the War on Terra.

ACLU Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler writes:

It appears that at least one police department in Florida has failed to tell judges about its use of a cell phone tracking device because the department got the device on loan and promised the manufacturer to keep it all under wraps. But when police use invasive surveillance equipment to surreptitiously sweep up information about the locations and communications of large numbers of people, court oversight and public debate are essential. The devices, likely made by the Florida-based Harris Corporation, are called “stingrays,” and unfortunately this is not the first time the government has tried to hide their use.

So the ACLU and ACLU of Florida have teamed up to break through the veil of secrecy surrounding stingray use by law enforcement in the Sunshine State, last week filing a motion for public access to sealed records in state court, and submitting public records requests to nearly 30 police and sheriffs’ departments across Florida seeking information about their acquisition and use of stingrays.

As two judges noted during the oral argument, as of 2010 the Tallahassee Police Department had used stingrays a staggering 200 times without ever disclosing their use to a judge to get a warrant.

Potentially unconstitutional government surveillance on this scale should not remain hidden from the public just because a private corporation desires secrecy. And it certainly should not be concealed from judges. That’s why we have asked the Florida court that originally sealed the transcript to now make it available to the public. And that’s also why we have asked police departments throughout Florida to tell us whether they use stingrays, what rules they have in place to protect innocent third parties from unjustified invasions of privacy, and whether they obtain warrants from judges before deploying the devices.

Although secret stingray use has increasingly been exposed by the press (and by the ACLU), public details are still scant. Our new work in Florida is part of national efforts to understand how law enforcement is using these devices, and whether reforms are needed to protect our privacy from law enforcement overreach.

(click here to continue reading Police Hide Use of Cell Phone Tracker From Courts Because Manufacturer Asked | American Civil Liberties Union.)

Transformers 3 Soldier extra
Soldier on a Cellphone (Transformers 3)

via

Written by Seth Anderson

March 27th, 2014 at 9:04 am

Photo Republished at Government Accuses Sprint Of Overcharging By $21M For Its Wiretapping Services – Consumerist

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Cell phone-iphile
 

My photo was used to illustrate this post

What is a Sprint?!? Are they listening now?!? I’m a cat. (swanksalot) The White House has gotten its tab from Sprint for wiretapping expenses and is sending it back with a big old frowny face on it, saying the company is overcharging it by more than $21 million. And by “sending it back,” of course I mean it’s suing Sprint. Feds claim in the lawsuit (PDF) that Sprint inflated charges by about 58% between 2007 and 2010, reports Wired.com.

click here to keep reading :
Government Accuses Sprint Of Overcharging By $21M For Its Wiretapping Services – Consumerist

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Written by eggplant

March 5th, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Posted in Links

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Photo Republished at When the FBI asks you to weaken your security so it can spy on your users – Boing Boing

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Back Door?
My photo was used to illustrate this post

Nico Sell is the CEO of Wickr, a privacy-oriented mobile messaging system that’s been deliberately designed so that the company can’t spy on its users, even if they’re ordered to do so. As we know from the Snowden leaks, spooks hate this kind of thing, and spend $250M/year sabotaging security so that they can spy on everyone, all the time. After a recent presentation, she was approached by an FBI agent who asked her if she’d put a back-door into Wickr.

click here to keep reading :
When the FBI asks you to weaken your security so it can spy on your users – Boing Boing

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Written by eggplant

January 10th, 2014 at 9:23 am

Posted in Links

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Senator Rockefeller Warns Marketing Data Giants: You’re On Notice

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Video Flag Z by Nam June Paik
Video Flag Z by Nam June Paik

We’ve long been dismayed by how powerful and secretive the massive data broker corporations have become. Our data is collected, often surreptitiously, then repackaged and sold to other corporations, and we don’t get a percentage of the profits, nor any real notice that this is happening.

Good news, maybe, from Washington, as reported by Kate Kaye of AdAge:

Today the Senate Commerce Committee held a long-awaited hearing about the consumer-data-broker industry.

“We have a feeling people are getting scammed or screwed,” said Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., whose office sent inquiries to several data brokers in the past year. He called out data giants Acxiom, Epsilon and Experian, threatening to use more forceful ways of getting them to divulge information about how they do business and with whom.

One concern shared by Mr. Rockefeller and privacy advocates is predatory marketing activity conducted by financial firms or other companies targeting vulnerable groups such as the impoverished or immigrant populations. Another concern is the practice of scoring individuals determined by algorithmic data analysis and serving them with tailored offers. In some cases that could involve higher interest rates for loans or dynamic prices for products based on prior web behavior or demographic data.

“To date they have not given me complete answers,” said Mr. Rockefeller of Acxiom, Epsilon and Experian. “I’m putting these three companies on notice today…that I am considering further steps and I have steps I can use to get this information.”

Mr. Rockefeller sent letters to data companies such as Acxiom, Datalogix, Epsilon, Experian and Transunion in June, then broadened the inquiry to include media firms — typically big collectors of behavioral web data — like About.com, Babycenter.com, Cafemom.com, Time’s Health.com and Conde Nast’s Self.com.

 

(click here to continue reading Rockefeller to Marketing Data Giants: You’re On Notice | Privacy and Regulation – Advertising Age.)

Bares paying attention to…

Written by Seth Anderson

December 19th, 2013 at 11:04 am

Photo Republished at AT&T offers gigabit Internet discount in exchange for your Web history | Ars Technica

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Eyeing John Marshall Law School

My photo was used to illustrate this post

AT&T is watching you browse. AT&T’s “GigaPower” all-fiber network has launched in parts of Austin, Texas, with a price of $70 per month for download speeds of 300Mbps (which will be upgraded to a gigabit at no extra cost in 2014). The $70 price is only available if you agree to see targeted ads from AT&T and its partners, however. Interestingly, AT&T labels the Internet service with targeted ads as its “premier” service while calling the service without targeted ads “standard.”

click here to keep reading :
AT&T offers gigabit Internet discount in exchange for your Web history | Ars Technica

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Written by eggplant

December 11th, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Five Hundred Seventy Four Dollars a Year to Be Spied Upon

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Watching - Polapan
Watching – Polapan

Harumph. I thought my AT&T bill was on the high side, but seems like my NSA bill trumps that, for usefulness…

Indeed, as the Washington Post revealed when it released portions of the so-called Black Budget, this year’s price tag on America’s spook infrastructure comes out to a whopping $52.6 billion.

This is, of course, a tremendous sum – more than double the size of the Department of Agriculture, more than triple the size of NASA; the list goes on… But, what really puts this number into perspective is its average cost to each American taxpayer, or what I would call the NSA and associated agencies’ “rent.”

Yes, the NSA’s rent, charged to every taxpayer living under its web of surveillance, comes out to an exorbitant $574 per year. If this is the price the federal government is charging American taxpayers to have their own privacy invaded, then I say the NSA’s rent is too damn high.

(click here to continue reading The NSA’s Rent Is Too Damn High | Cato @ Liberty.)

On the bright side, if you add in the 53,676,039 non-taxable returns (from 2011) – i.e., the Takers™ – that means we are only paying $361 a year for the privilege of having our personal information scooped up by the N.S.A. power-vacuum…

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Seth Anderson

October 29th, 2013 at 10:52 am

Posted in government

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Experian Sold Consumer Data to ID Theft Service

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We Finally Came To Realize

We Finally Came To Realize

A troubling tale via Krebs on Security

An identity theft service that sold Social Security and drivers license numbers — as well as bank account and credit card data on millions of Americans — purchased much of its data from Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, according to a lengthy investigation by KrebsOnSecurity.

Contacted about the reader’s claim, U.S. Info Search CEO Marc Martin said the data sold by the ID theft service was not obtained directly through his company, but rather via Court Ventures, a third-party company with which US Info Search had previously struck an information sharing agreement. Martin said that several years ago US Info Search and CourtVentures each agreed to grant the other company complete access to its stores of information on US consumers.

Founded in 2001, Court Ventures described itself as a firm that “aggregates, repackages and distributes public record data, obtained from over 1,400 state and county sources.” Cached, historic copies of courtventures.com are available through archive.org.

THE ROLE OF EXPERIAN

In March 2012, Court Ventures was purchased by Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Experian, one of the three major consumer credit bureaus. According to Martin, the proprietors of Superget.info had gained access to Experian’s databases by posing as a U.S.-based private investigator. In reality, Martin said, the individuals apparently responsible for running Superget.info were based in Vietnam.

Martin said he first learned of the ID theft service after hearing from a U.S. Secret Service agent who called and said the law enforcement agency was investigating Experian and had obtained a grand jury subpoena against the company.

While the private investigator ruse may have gotten the fraudsters past Experian and/or CourtVentures’ screening process, according to Martin there were other signs that should have alerted Experian to potential fraud associated with the account. For example, Martin said the Secret Service told him that the alleged proprietor of Superget.info had paid Experian for his monthly data access charges using wire transfers sent from Singapore.

“The issue in my mind was the fact that this went on for almost a year after Experian did their due diligence and purchased” Court Ventures, Martin said. “Why didn’t they question cash wires coming in every month? Experian portrays themselves as the databreach experts, and they sell identity theft protection services. How this could go on without them detecting it I don’t know. Our agreement with them was that our information was to be used for fraud prevention and ID verification, and was only to be sold to licensed and credentialed U.S. businesses, not to someone overseas.”

Experian declined multiple requests for an interview.

(click here to continue reading Experian Sold Consumer Data to ID Theft Service — Krebs on Security.)

Or Pay The Price
Or Pay The Price

so if your account was one of the unlucky ones, what was stolen?

These services specialized in selling “fullz” or “fulls,” a slang term that cybercrooks use to describe a package of personally identifiable information that typically includes the following information: an individual’s name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, place of work, duration of work, state driver’s license number, mother’s maiden name, bank account number(s), bank routing number(s), email account(s) and other account passwords. Fulls are most commonly used to take over the identity of a person in order to engage in other fraud, such as taking out loans in the victim’s name or filing fraudulent tax refund requests with the IRS.

All told, findget.me and superget.info acquired or sold fullz information on more than a half million people, the government alleges.

Why exactly do we as a society allow Experian and similar organizations collect this data in the first place? They accumulate the data, and sell it to advertisers, or to scammers, and what benefit does it bestow on us? Other than headache and grief…

There was much gnashing of teeth when we discovered just how many hard disks the N.S.A. has filled with our personal data, why does Experian and other similar corporations get a pass from the public?

Revolution of The Innocent
Revolution of The Innocent

especially when Experian will skip away from this investigation with nothing more than a slap on the wrist with a wet noodle…

Meanwhile, it’s not clear what — if any — trouble Experian may face as a result of its involvement in the identity theft scheme. This incident bears some resemblance to a series of breaches at ChoicePoint, a data aggregator that acted as a private intelligence service to government and industry. Beginning in 2004, ChoicePoint suffered several breaches in which personal data on American citizens was accessed by crooks who’d used previously stolen identities to create apparently legitimate businesses seeking ChoicePoint accounts. ChoicePoint was later sued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, an action that produced a $10 million settlement — the largest in the agency’s history for a violation of federal privacy law.

Experian makes about $500,000,000 in profit a year, btw.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 27th, 2013 at 11:05 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with , , ,

N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens

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Eye see u Willis
Eye see u Willis

Oh, nothing to worry your pretty heads about

A series of agency PowerPoint presentations and memos describe how the N.S.A. has been able to develop software and other tools — one document cited a new generation of programs that “revolutionize” data collection and analysis — to unlock as many secrets about individuals as possible.

The spy agency, led by Gen. Keith B. Alexander, an unabashed advocate for more weapons in the hunt for information about the nation’s adversaries, clearly views its collections of metadata as one of its most powerful resources. N.S.A. analysts can exploit that information to develop a portrait of an individual, one that is perhaps more complete and predictive of behavior than could be obtained by listening to phone conversations or reading e-mails, experts say.

Phone and e-mail logs, for example, allow analysts to identify people’s friends and associates, detect where they were at a certain time, acquire clues to religious or political affiliations, and pick up sensitive information like regular calls to a psychiatrist’s office, late-night messages to an extramarital partner or exchanges with a fellow plotter.

(click here to continue reading N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens – NYTimes.com.)

PRISM
PRISM

except, as reported by Maureen Dowd of all people, the NSA has built a monster in Utah

The Bluffdale sinkhole, which has quietly started sucking in mountains of data in the shadow of mountains, is the lockbox. This squat, ugly complex of four buildings is the creepy symbol of the N.S.A.’s remorseless reach deep into our lives. I drove onto the Utah National Guard’s Camp Williams base to see the concrete data cloud up close.

Never mind puny terabytes. Or even exabytes, a handful of which can hold all knowledge from the dawn of man, according to estimates.

James Bamford, the chronicler of the untrammeled powers of the “Puzzle Palace,” as he calls the N.S.A., wrote in Wired that the Utah tower of Babel may be able to store a yottabyte. That is equal to a septillion bytes or about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.

“It’s basically the N.S.A.’s external hard drive,” Bamford told me, noting that our phone call was no doubt being logged by the Bluffdale computers. “It holds more private information than anyplace else on earth.”

Bamford believes that the N.S.A. has transmogrified from an agency that “watched the Soviet Union to make sure it didn’t blow us up with nuclear weapons,” to one “that keeps collecting and collecting and collecting but doesn’t seem to do us any good.”

“They saw 9/11 and all these other terrorist attacks on CNN. They didn’t have a clue. The more electronic hay they stack on their haystack, the more difficult it is to find the needle.”

(click here to continue reading Creeping Cloud – NYTimes.com.)

Revolution of The Innocent
Revolution of The Innocent

because, in truth, the NSA doesn’t have to tell the truth about what it does, allegedly in our names:

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon told me ruefully that on Thursday, “Alexander put in a lockbox information that he’s told the public he doesn’t have. This is what we’re dealing with.

“They think it’s O.K. to repeatedly say one thing to the public about domestic surveillance and do something completely different in private,” continued Wyden, who pressed Alexander about whether they’re collecting cellphone location information.

The senator is skeptical that the N.S.A. is open to reform, noting, “They’re just putting the same wine in a new bottle.”

We’ve always been at war with Eurasia, right?

Written by Seth Anderson

September 29th, 2013 at 9:45 am

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with ,

Big Data Owns You And You Cannot Opt Out

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Electric Eye
Electric Eye

So Big Data is not only collecting, and selling your information online, but in retail stores too. I know we are being trained to just shrug our shoulders and chalk it up to living in the 21st C.E., but I can’t quite get comfortable with the idea that corporations have accumulated so much information about me and you that the information is a commodity. We’ve discussed how prevalent this activity is, a few times, or more.

The technology that allows stores to track shoppers’ cellphones, for instance, works even when customers do not log on to the Wi-Fi networks of stores. The only way a cellphone user can avoid being tracked is to turn off the Wi-Fi feature on their phones, which few are likely to do if they are unaware of the monitoring in the first place. While a few retailers like Nordstrom have posted signs telling customers that they were being monitored in this way, many others do not do so. (Nordstrom stopped tracking cellphones in May, partly as a result of complaints from customers.)

If stores want to track their customers, they should tell the public what they are doing and give people the ability to opt out of monitoring. Many shoppers say they are willing to give information about themselves in exchange for special deals and promotions. But some consumers go to physical stores because they want to protect their privacy. Traditional retailers would be smart not to alienate customers by surreptitiously tracking them.

(click here to continue reading You (and Your Cellphone) on Candid Camera – NYTimes.com.)

Eyeing John Marshall Law School
Eyeing John Marshall Law School

especially since technology to track us is advancing quickly:

Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, says that although most of the focus in the media has been on how companies are tracking us through Internet browsers and smart phones, there is actually more danger of invasions of privacy occurring in physical retail outlets, mostly because consumers are unaware of the extent to which they are being tracked. “This is an entire business model that has sprung up that I think maybe three people in the entire country know about outside the industry,” she says.

And though analytics firms and retailers claim they aren’t using technology to personally identify shoppers or pair that information with financial histories, it is very much possible to do so. In 2010, the Association of Marketing in Retail produced a voluntary code of conduct for marketers and retailers to use as a guide in their tracking and marketing efforts. The code outlines the various tracking capabilities available and rates them on a scale from low risk to high risk. According to the code of conduct, a low-risk tracking method would include “infrared or laser or laser beam motion detectors” that can give retailers an idea of how many people are in a store and where they are traveling but “are not able to track or record individual consumer paths.” The high-risk end of the spectrum includes methods that allow retailers to individually track consumers by recognizing a smart phone wi-fi signal or through interpreting visual data from facial-recognition technology.

That kind of tracking is, according to Dixon, unethical and contrary to shoppers’ expectation of privacy. “Legally, stores have the right to put up security cameras, but the consumer expectation of privacy is being circumvented here,” she says. “Because when a consumer looks into that camera, they expect it’s being used for security, not marketing purposes.”

According to Mark Eichorn of the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection at the Federal Trade Commission, the FTC has been monitoring this type of consumer tracking but hasn’t found that firms are using facial-recognition software to create individual profiles of customers. Last December, the FTC held a workshop on facial-recognition technology in the retail space

(click here to continue reading Are Retailers Using Facial-Recognition Software to Track Customers? | TIME.com.)

Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

To me, a government agency such as the FTC saying “we haven’t seen this activity” does not make me confident. The federal government is not proactive in most instances, preferring to Not Know, so that nobody can complain that Nothing Is Being Done. In other words, I’m guessing some corporations are using facial recognition software and merging that with databases of financial history and who knows what else. The NSA is one thing, but do you really want Home Depot or Macy’s to be able to profit off of you in this way? Where do you opt out? Nowhere, other than moving to Frostpocket and going off the grid…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 22nd, 2013 at 8:35 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with , ,

Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform

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Continuous Video Recording in Progress

Continuous Recording in Progress 

This does not make me warm and fuzzy…

The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.

Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (PDF) is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.

Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.

This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.

 

(click here to continue reading Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform | Threat Level | Wired.com.)

I imagine that if people hear of this proposed plan, there will be bipartisan, vehement objection to it. 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 11th, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Acxiom Consumer Data Unavailable to Consumers

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Old Number Two
Old Number Two

Funny how this works: databases containing all sorts of data about you is compiled by giant, somewhat secretive corporations, and then rented out to corporations so marketers can sell their goods and services to you, and yet you have no access to the data. For what it’s worth, I took the time to opt out of Acxiom’s system, based on my email address, but who knows if they really removed me. I doubt it, but there is no way to verify or confirm in any case. We are just numbers to them, not people.

I recently asked to see the information held about me by the Acxiom Corporation, a database marketing company that collects and sells details about consumers’ financial status, shopping and recreational activities to banks, retailers, automakers and other businesses. In investor presentations and interviews, Acxiom executives have said that the company — the subject of a Sunday Business article last month — has information on about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. Acxiom also promotes a program for consumers who wish to see the information the company has on them.

As a former pharmaceuticals industry reporter who has researched all kinds of diseases, drugs and quack cures online, I wanted to learn, for one, whether Acxiom had pegged me as concerned about arthritis, diabetes or allergies. Acxiom also has a proprietary household classification system that places people in one of 70 socioeconomic categories, like “Downtown Dwellers” or “Flush Families,” and I hoped to discover the caste to which it had assigned me.

But after I filled out an online request form and sent a personal check for $5 to cover the processing fee, the company simply sent me a list of some of my previous residential addresses. In other words, rather than learning the details about myself that marketers might use to profile and judge me, I received information I knew already.

It turns out that Acxiom, based in Little Rock, Ark., furnishes consumers only with data related to risk management, like their own prison records, tax liens, bankruptcy filings and residential histories. For a corporate client, the company is able to match customers by name with, say, the social networks or Internet providers they use, but it does not offer consumers the same information about themselves.

(click here to continue reading Acxiom Consumer Data, Often Unavailable to Consumers – NYTimes.com.)

Numbers Add Up to Nothing
Numbers Add Up to Nothing

and I’m totally in favor of the FTC forcing these companies to become more transparent, based upon the historical precedent of the credit card industry’s standard practice:

Now federal regulators are pressuring data brokers to operate more transparently. In a report earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission recommended that the industry set up a public Web portal that would display the names and contact information of data brokers, as well as describe consumers’ data access rights and other choices.

Julie Brill, a member of the Federal Trade Commission, said consumers should have access to all the details that data brokers collect on them, as well as any analyses that the companies sell about their behavior.

“I include in that not just the raw data, but also how that information has been analyzed to place the consumer into certain categories for marketing or other purposes,” she said. “I believe that giving consumers this kind of granularity will greatly increase consumer trust in the information flow process and will lead to more accurate marketing.”

At the moment, however, information brokers have wildly different policies. Acxiom lets people opt out of its marketing databases, while Epsilon, another marketing services firm, allows people to opt out of having their data rented to third parties. Epsilon says it will also furnish individuals, upon request, with general information about their past retail transactions — including the categories and years of purchase. But it does not include exact product or retailer names.

Commissioner Brill of the F.T.C. said she could not comment on specific companies. But she said the reluctance of the data broker industry to show consumers their own records reminded her of an earlier era, when consumer reporting agencies — companies that track and sell information about people’s credit histories — protested that it would be too expensive and time-consuming for them to show individuals the same reports that creditors could see. In 1996, Congress updated the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, giving people greater access to the files that those agencies held about them. Today, consumers can easily gain access to their credit reports online.

“What the credit reporting industry did was change their point of view from client-oriented to consumer-oriented, and develop the tools and technology to allow consumers to see what’s in their reports and ensure it is accurate,” Ms. Brill said. “The data broker industry could do the exact same thing.”

(click here to continue reading Acxiom Consumer Data, Often Unavailable to Consumers – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 23rd, 2012 at 6:07 am

FTC Should Pursue Case Against Google

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Electric Eye
Google’s Electric Eye sees all

Google really has lost whatever ethics it may have once had1 and should really have to pay a price for their latest lapse. Especially since Google and the Federal Trade Commission had an arrangement already, and Google violated it within weeks…

The Stanford privacy researcher who first uncovered Google evading the default privacy settings for all users of Apple’s Safari web browser believes that the Federal Trade Commission has a “slam dunk” case that Google violated its privacy agreement with the government.

“The facts in this case are unusually clear cut,” Jonathan Mayer, a grad student in computer science and law and a researcher at the Stanford Law Center for Internet and Society, in a phone interview with TPM.

…Aside from further tarnishing Google’s image in the press and public at a crucial time (the search giant was at the time getting ready to roll out a controversial new privacy policy), the news led many writers, including TPM, to speculate that Google could be found in violation of a privacy settlement it agreed to with the Federal Trade Commission.

The settlement, first struck in October 2011 , was the result of the FTC’s year-long privacy investigation into Google over its failed Google Buzz social network. The FTC concluded that Google had indeed misled users and violated their privacy and subjected Google to 20 years worth of privacy audits and ordered that Google no longer “misrepresent” its privacy settings to users. If Google violates any of the terms of the settlement, the FTC can slap the company with a $16,000 civil fine for every day that the company violated any of the terms.

On Thursday night, The Journal reported that the FTC “is examining whether Google’s actions violated last year’s legal settlement,” and another regulatory body in France (the CNIL) and several states attorneys general were also investigating Google over the practice and could levy fines of their own.

 

(click here to continue reading FTC Has ‘Slam Dunk’ Case Against Google, Privacy Researcher Says | TPM Idea Lab.)

Or Pay The Price
Or Pay The Price

and from the WSJ:

In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission is examining whether Google’s actions violated last year’s legal settlement with the government in which Google pledged not to “misrepresent” its privacy practices to consumers, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The fine for violating the agreement is $16,000 per violation, per day. Because millions of people were affected, any fine could add up quickly, depending on how it is calculated. The FTC declined to comment.

A group of state attorneys general, including New York’s Eric Schneiderman and Connecticut’s George Jepsen, are also investigating Google’s circumvention of Safari’s privacy settings, according to people familiar with the investigation. State attorneys general can have the ability to levy fines of up to $5,000 per violation.

In Europe, the French Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, or CNIL, has added the Safari circumvention technique to its existing pan-European investigation into Google’s privacy-policy changes, according to a person close to the investigation. The CNIL is the agency that levied a €100,000 ($130,960) fine on Google last year for collecting passwords and other personal information when Google vehicles were gathering information for its Street View map service.

(click here to continue reading Google Faces New Privacy Probes – WSJ.com.)

Google power and deep pockets shouldn’t be enough to evade the law, the FTC should make an example of Google, and really bring the hammer down.

Footnotes:
  1. perhaps it never had ethics and was just better at covering up its questionable decisions. No matter []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 20th, 2012 at 7:56 am

Illinois’ eavesdropping law under attack

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Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

I’ve been following the Chris Drew travesty fairly closely. Why should police be treated differently than other citizens? If Illinois law was on the books in California, for instance, would Scott Olsen be a household name? Or other Occupy incidents, like the various pepper spraying videos? If police are doing their job, they shouldn’t be worried about a spectator videoing their actions, and if they are doing something questionable, citizens should be able to collect evidence of police wrongdoing.

Anyway, there are rumblings that the law could be thrown out as vague, or unconstitutional.

When a Cook County jury in August acquitted a woman of violating Illinois’ strict eavesdropping law, an unassuming man with wire-rimmed glasses and wispy white hair sat in the gallery, quietly taking notes.

Chris Drew had good reason to keep an eye on the case — he’s facing trial on the same felony charge of eavesdropping on a public official, which carries up to 15 years in prison.

An artist whose ’60s upbringing instilled a deep respect for questioning authority, Drew, 61, is accused of making an illegal audio recording of Chicago police during a 2009 arrest for selling art on a downtown street without a permit.

Drew intended the incident to be a test of the city’s permit laws. But now his case has wound up at the forefront of a much bigger effort to challenge the constitutionality of Illinois’ eavesdropping law, which makes it illegal to audio-record police without their consent, even when they’re performing their public duties.

“He’s become the accidental eavesdropping activist,” Drew’s lawyer, Joshua Kutnick, joked in a recent interview.

Illinois is one of a handful of states in which it is illegal to record audio of public conversations without the permission of everyone involved and has one of the strictest eavesdropping laws in the country.

Opposition to Illinois’ law has been gaining traction for months as several cases have been tossed out of court.

In August, while Drew watched, Tiawanda Moore, 21, was acquitted of illegally recording two Chicago police internal affairs investigators whom she believed were trying to dissuade her from filing a sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer. One juror later told the Tribune that he and his fellow panelists considered the case “a waste of time.”

The next month, a Crawford County judge ruled the law unconstitutional and dismissed eavesdropping charges against a man accused of recording police and court officials without their consent.

 

(click here to continue reading Illinois’ eavesdropping law under attack – chicagotribune.com.)

Officer with Blackberry
Officer with Blackberry

For instance, Ralph Braseth, a Loyola University journalism professor had a run-in with the Chicago Police while filming a documentary. The officers arrested him, and erased his footage.

Braseth has since filed a complaint with the Independent Police Review Authority, which forwarded the case to Chicago police internal affairs investigators.

While Braseth said he understands why some police officers don’t like to be recorded, he said Illinois’ eavesdropping law “should have been done away with a long time ago.”
“The citizens of Chicago employ the police officers, and they are acting as agents for our government,” Braseth said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s my job to police the police, but I think it’s a good idea for them to know that that can happen at any time. It’s one of the checks and balances that we have. It’s so fundamental.”

Even the Faux Walls have eyes
Even the Faux Walls have eyes

Meanwhile, the court has ruled it is ok for corporations to spy on you:

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has ruled as constitutional a law giving telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government with its email and telephone eavesdropping program.

Thursday’s unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision regarding the 2008 law.

The appeal concerned a case that consolidated 33 different lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf of these companies’ customers.

The court noted comments made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the legal immunity’s role in helping the government gather intelligence.

“It emphasized that electronic intelligence gathering depends in great part on cooperation from private companies … and that if litigation were allowed to proceed against persons allegedly assisting in such activities, ‘the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future,’” Judge M. Margaret McKeown said.

The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers including the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, accuse the companies of violating the law and the privacy of its customers through collaboration with National Security Agency on intelligence gathering.

(click here to continue reading Court OKs immunity for telecoms in wiretap case – CBS News.)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 2nd, 2012 at 10:35 am

Marketing Data Gathered in Malls

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Eye see u Willis

Eye see u Willis

Sort of disturbing, but sadly inevitable. All of our behavior is grist for the marketing mill.

Online retailers have long gathered behavioral metrics about how customers shop, tracking their movements through e-shopping pages and using data to make targeted offers based on user profiles. Retailers in meat-space have had tried to replicate that with frequent shopper offers, store credit cards, and other ways to get shoppers to voluntarily give up data on their behavior, but these efforts have lacked the sort of data capacity provided by anonymous store browsers — at least until now. This holiday season, shopping malls in the U.S. have started collecting data about shoppers by tracking the closest thing to “cookies” human beings carry — their cell phones.

The technology, from Portsmouth, England-based Path Intelligence, is called Footpath. It uses monitoring units distributed throughout a mall or retail environment to sense the movement of customers by triangulation, using the strength of their cellphone signals. That data is collected and run through analytics by Path, and provided back to retailers through a secure website. On March 31, Path CEO Sharon Biggar presented the tech at the ICSC Fusion conference in Los Angeles. She discussed how data collected by Footpath could be used by retailers to boost revenue. Options include tracking response to mailers and other advertising by providing the equivalent of web metrics like unique visitors, “page impressions” (measuring how many people walked past a display or advertisement), and “click-through” (determining how many people who passed an advertisement then visited the store associated with it). “Now we can produce heat maps of the mall and show advertisers where the premium locations are for their adverts,” she said, “and perhaps more importantly we can price the advertising differently at each location.”

(click here to continue reading We’re Watching: Malls Track Shoppers’ Cellphone Signals to Gather Marketing Data | Epicenter | Wired.com.)

update 2:06 pm

Hmm, maybe not quite yet:

You may now shop two malls again without fear of individualized tracking—at least by your cell phone signal. Privacy concerns raised by US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) have ended plans by malls in southern California and Virginia to “survey” customers’ shopping habits by tracking their cell phone signals.

… Forest City had planned to conduct the trial until the end of December. However, just a day after the trial began, Sen. Schumer contacted Forest City to raise his concerns. In a press conference on Sunday, Schumer said that the malls should have allowed customers to opt into the survey, rather than having to “opt out” by turning off their cell phones. “A shopper’s personal cell phone should not be used by a third party as a tracking device by retailers,” Schumer said in a press conference on Sunday. “Personal cell phones are just that — personal. If retailers want to tap into your phone to see what your shopping patterns are, they can ask you for your permission to do so.”

Schumer also sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz asking the FTC to look into whether Path’s technology was legal in the U.S.

Forest City has not abandoned plans for the survey, however.

(click here to continue reading Mall Owners Pull Plug on Cellular Tracking (For Now) | Epicenter | Wired.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

November 29th, 2011 at 11:45 am

Posted in News-esque

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GPS and the 4th Amendment

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Shoveling snow apparently optional
Shoveling snow apparently optional

Our erosion of civil liberties continues apace, the police increasingly don’t even bother to get warrants before they put you in their surveillance net. For instance, in the case of suspect Antoine Jones, the police installed a GPS tracking device on his (or his wife’s) Jeep.

Jordan Smith reports on this troubling case:

When are electronic or other forms of surveillance of an individual considered a search under the Fourth Amendment — thus requiring a valid warrant to conduct such surveillance in a manner that protects the individual from “unlawful search and seizure”?

How the U.S. Supreme Court answers that question, in a case on its docket for the term starting in October, will have far-reaching implications for the power of government and for the privacy of individuals, according to lawyers and privacy rights advocates.

If the Court holds that warrants are not required for this type of surveillance, it could mean “the technological death of the Fourth Amendment,” warns Arkansas-based attorney John Wesley Hall, a leading Fourth Amendment expert…

The officers obtained a judicial warrant providing for a 10-day tracking period inside the District of Columbia. However, they actually installed the device after the 10-day window had expired — the reasons have not been brought out in court — and they did so while the Jeep was parked in a public lot in Maryland. The GPS data provided a 24/7 record of all of Jones’ movements in the Jeep over the next month — including, at times, the movements of his wife and family.

(click here to continue reading Big Brother is tracking you: GPS and the 4th Amendment – Obama’s Supreme Court Nominees | Supreme Court Justices – Salon.com.)

ACLU Constitution Free Zone
ACLU Constitution Free Zone

I’d be very surprised if the Roberts Court rules against the police, shocked in fact. Even the fact that some gun rights organizations have filed briefs decrying this destruction of the Fourth Amendment will probably not sway the Court, if history is any guide.

As Leckar1 told the Crime Report, a beeper is a “simple sense-augmenting device,” while a GPS tracking device, designed by the government for military use and only made available since 2000 for civilian applications, is “not sense augmenting; it’s sense supplanting.”

And that is one of the main reasons that in order to pass the Fourth Amendment’s legal standard a warrant is needed to conduct GPS surveillance, Leckar argues.
The “D.C. Circuit was correct to hold that pattern information is dramatically more intrusive than mere information about an individual’s discrete journeys,” his brief argued. “Indeed, the distinction between discrete bits of information and patterns of conduct is well-accepted.”

To privacy and Fourth Amendment advocates, the distinction is crucial.

In a brief supporting Jones before the D.C. Circuit, the Electronic Freedom Foundation and the ACLU, and which they are expected to revive before the Supremes, argued that GPS technology now gives police extraordinary new powers to remotely track individuals over long periods in both public and private realms.

“Without a warrant requirement, an individual’s every movement could be subject to remote monitoring, and permanent recording, at the sole discretion of any police officer,” the brief said.
Gun Owners of America, Inc., Gun Owners Foundation, and several other conservative groups have already filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court urging it to restore “the Fourth Amendment to its original text and purpose.”

Footnotes:
  1. veteran attorney Stephen Leckar, who represents Jones []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 9th, 2011 at 8:14 am