B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘surveillance’ tag

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.

  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

Tagged with ,

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.”

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

Written by Seth Anderson

August 9th, 2011 at 8:14 am

Milly Dowler Hacking Puts Pressure on News Corp

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Jogging After the End of Times

About fracking time. Rupert Murdoch’s criminal enterprise has avoided prosecution for way too long, in this matter, and others due to political influence. Isn’t justice supposed to be impartial?  ((ha ha))

LONDON — Political pressure is bearing down on Rebekah Brooks, a top executive of the News Corporation in Britain, following allegations that one of the company’s newspapers hacked the cellphone of a 13-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in 2002, when Ms. Brooks was its editor.

Prominent politicians chastised the company and Ms. Brooks, and Ford Motor Company suspended advertising in News of the World, the tabloid that has faced a long-running scandal over the widespread interception of voice mail messages of celebrities and other public figures.

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Tuesday that Ms. Brooks should “consider her conscience and consider her position” after the disclosures.

“It wasn’t a rogue reporter,” Mr. Miliband said. “It wasn’t just one individual. This was a systematic series of things that happened and what I want from executives at News International is people to start taking responsibility for this.” News International is the News Corporation’s British newspaper division, and Ms. Brooks is now its chief executive.

Prime Minister David Cameron took time out from a visit to British troops in Afghanistan to lament what he called a “truly dreadful situation.” The police, he added, “should investigate this without any fear, without any favor, without any worry about where the evidence should lead them.”

Adding to the pressure, Ford Motor Company said it was suspending advertising until the newspaper concluded its investigation into the episode. “We are awaiting an outcome from the News of the World investigation and expect a speedy and decisive response,” Ford said in a statement released to news agencies. Under an onslaught of Twitter messages demanding a boycott of the paper, several other companies said they were reviewing their advertising policies.

(click here to continue reading Milly Dowler Hacking Puts Pressure on Rebekah Brooks of News Corp. – NYTimes.com.)

Rupert Murdoch is scum, and his disease has spread through his entire “news” empire: Fox News, News of the World, New York Post, etc. etc., Ad nauseam…

Eye see u Willis
Eye see u Willis

I guess the real test will be if News Corporation’s criminal activity leads to legal action in the near future.

The allegation that investigators working for The News of the World may have had ordinary people like the Dowlers, not just celebrities, in their sights has raised the level of alarm in Britain over tabloid newspaper excesses.

“The Milly Dowler story has taken this from an issue for people who are concerned about media ethics to one that is of broader concern to the general public,” said Tim Luckhurst, a journalism professor at the University of Kent. “News Corporation thought they could put a lid on this, and this has blown the lid right off.”

According to Mark Lewis, a lawyer for the Dowler family, The News of the World not only intercepted messages left on Milly Dowler’s phone by her increasingly frantic family, but also deleted some of those messages when her voice mailbox became full — thus making room for new ones and listening to those in turn. This confused investigators and gave false hope to Milly’s relatives, who believed it showed she was still alive and deleting the messages herself, Mr. Lewis said.

In a statement, Mr. Lewis called the newspaper’s actions “heinous” and “despicable”, and said the Dowler family had suffered “distress heaped upon tragedy” upon learning that the News of the World “had no humanity at such a terrible time.”


From The Guardian U.K.

The private investigator at the centre of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal has issued a public apology to all those who have been hurt or upset by his activity.

In a statement released exclusively to the Guardian, Glenn Mulcaire made no direct reference to the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone, but he said he had never intended to interfere with any police inquiry.

“I want to apologise to anybody who was hurt or upset by what I have done,” he said, adding that he had worked at the NoW under “constant demand for results”.

He released the statement at the Guardian’s request after experiencing what he described as “vilification” following the revelation of the hacking of the missing schoolgirl’s phone.

“Much has been published in the media about me. Up to now, I have not responded publicly in any way to all the stories but in the light of the publicity over the last 24 hours, I feel I must break my silence.

“I want to apologise to anybody who was hurt or upset by what I have done. I’ve been to court. I’ve pleaded guilty. And I’ve gone to prison and been punished. I still face the possibility of further criminal prosecution.

“Working for the News of the World was never easy. There was relentless pressure. There was a constant demand for results. I knew what we did pushed the limits ethically. But, at the time, I didn’t understand that I had broken the law at all.

“A lot of information I obtained was simply tittle-tattle, of no great importance to anyone, but sometimes what I did was for what I thought was the greater good, to carry out investigative journalism.

“I never had any intention of interfering with any police inquiry into any crime.

“I know I have brought the vilification I am experiencing upon myself, but I do ask the media to leave my family and my children, who are all blameless, alone.”

(click here to continue reading Phone hacking: Glenn Mulcaire blames ‘relentless pressure’ by NoW for actions | Media | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 5th, 2011 at 8:52 pm

CTA Unaware of Its Photography Policy

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CTA Gleaming

The Chicago Transit Authority apparently does not ensure that its own employees are aware of CTA photography policy, which reads:

The general public is permitted to use hand-held cameras to take photographs, capture digital images, and videotape within public areas of CTA stations and transit vehicles for personal, non-commercial use.

Large cameras, photo or video equipment, or ancillary equipment such as lighting, tripods, cables, etc. are prohibited (except in instances where commercial and professional photographers enter into contractual agreements with CTA).

All photographers and videographers are prohibited from entering, photographing, or videotaping non-public areas of the CTA’s transit system.

All photographers and videographers are prohibited from impeding customer traffic flow, obstructing transit operations, interfering with customers, blocking doors or stairs, and affecting the safety of CTA, its employees, or customers. All photographers and videographers must fully and immediately comply with any requests, directions, or instructions of CTA personnel related to safety concerns.

For everyone’s safety, do not use a camera’s flash if facing a person who is operating a train or bus.

Be respectful of others – CTA customers and employees.

Don’t stand (or cause others to stand) in the way of stairs, aisles, escalators or doorways.

Be careful! Your safety is very important to us, so stay away from platform edges and moving vehicles.

Be safe! Don’t inch backward with your camera to get a wider view – always look where you’re going.

While on CTA premises, all photographers and videographers must comply with all applicable rules, including but not limited to, this policy, all applicable laws, ordinances, municipal regulations, standard operating procedures, and administrative procedures. CTA personnel may evaluate the actions of a photographer or a videographer, and if a determination is made that the actions of a photographer or videographer are not in compliance with any applicable rule, CTA personnel may terminate the permission granted by this policy.


CTA facilities and vehicles are for the exclusive use of the CTA, its employees, and its customers. Any and all permission granted to photograph and videotape in connection with this policy is subordinate to the CTA’s obligations to its customers, employees and to the general public. Loitering at CTA stations for extended periods for the purpose of taking photographs or video is prohibited.


(click here to continue reading Photography & Video Policy | CTA.)

Cab 6570

Geoff mentioned (on Facebook) that he was told not to photograph in the El during his recent visit here:

I got hassled in Chicago because I took a photo in the subway station.

…The employee who accosted me said “We just took another tourist in the back for an hour. Please don’t make us do it again.” Do they really detain people?

I doubt very much the CTA even has a back room they use to browbeat tourists, but who would want to risk it?

Mysteries of time

This isn’t a new problem, but sadly, it keeps occurring. Olivia Leigh wrote about her experience with CTA harassment for the Chicagoist, back in 2007:

Take a quick look through Flickr, and you’ll see that the CTA is one of the most popular subjects for photographers’ lenses. Interesting architecture, intriguing people, and a nice dose of urban decay all beg to be photographed. We were similarly inspired last weekend while waiting for a brown line train at the Belmont “L” stop. After taking a photo of the view toward the end of the platform, and two snapshots of a glimpse down Belmont in between train cars, we were approached by a CTA employee who told me that us to stop taking photographs, as they were not allowed. We politely said we would stop, but we believed he was incorrect about the photography policy. His tone turned gruff quite quickly, and he said, “I know the rules. You can’t take pictures here. I work for the CTA.” We once again politely stated said that we understood, but said I did not believe that was the policy. The employee then said, “I could send you to jail for taking these pictures, so stop arguing with me!”

…We also asked Gaffney1 for her recommendations for photographers who encounter harassment while photographing the CTA. She replied that the “customer should ask for a supervisor or contact customer service if the employee does not know the procedures regarding photography. Additionally, if photographers “encounter an employee who is not as well versed in the policy as he or she should be…photographers should report the location, date, time and employee id # (if possible) to CTA customer service so that the employee can be retrained.” After hearing of an employee threatening to take a camera from a photographer, we asked if employees would ever have the recourse to seize cameras. Gaffney replied that employees “should not take any cameras,” and instead should notify the control center to call the police if there is “suspicious behavior” (so perhaps we could have gone to jail?).

If you think this sounds a trifle confusing, you’re not alone. While we applaud the CTA for never proposing a ban on photography, unlike some other major metropolitan transportation services, the policy is extremely vague, left to the subjective views of CTA employees who may not be properly trained on identifying suspicious behavior. Gaffney noted that people “take photographs all the time without incident”; however, the number of people who have had difficulties, nearly all of whom we would venture to guess are merely photography enthusiasts, are not insignificant.

(click here to continue reading Getting to the Bottom of the CTA Photography Policy: Chicagoist.)

Are We Really Free

The CTA system has a great attraction for photographers, both tourists, and residents. The tracks, trains, buses and stations define the city, both good and bad, and it is a shame that the CTA employees are giving the city a bad name by being jerks. For the record, I’ve taken hundreds2 of photos of various aspects of the CTA infrastructure and employees/passengers, and have not yet gotten more than a dirty look or two. I guess my time will come, eventually, we’ll see what happens when employees are contradicted by facts. They are not always pleased.

Station hopping shuffler

  1. CTA Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Noelle Gaffney []
  2. or more – after a while, hard to keep track []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 2nd, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Netizens Gain Some Privacy

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Eye see u Willis

A small step, yet significant. I would like these to get stronger: even though the Do Not Call list is not perfect (too many loopholes, especially for political communications/surveys/etc.), it has cut down on the number of unsolicited telephone calls. Having a similar sort of list for online tracking would be welcomed.

Last week, Google and Mozilla announced new software for their Web browsers that would allow consumers to permanently opt out of the online tracking used by many advertisers to follow online activities, build consumer profiles and deliver tailored ads.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission recommended ways to protect online privacy, including giving consumers a clear, simple way to opt out of data tracking — something akin to the do-not-call registry.

Hoping to pre-empt action from a Congress in which privacy protection is one of the very few items with strong bipartisan support, companies involved in online advertising have rushed to issue their own proposals.

The efforts are welcome. The fact that Google and Mozilla get most of their revenue from online advertising is a strong rebuttal to claims that allowing consumers to opt out of tracking would undermine ad-driven businesses and endanger the free Internet.

Still, these initiatives fall short of what is ultimately needed. The privacy plug-in for Google’s Chrome browser merely lets users opt out permanently from tracking by companies from the coalition of companies that already allow surfers to opt out. It allows them to keep their opt-out settings even if they clear their cookies.

Mozilla’s feature, which will be added to new versions of its Firefox browser, will broadcast users’ preference not to be tracked to the Web sites they visit and the tracking companies that deliver cookies from these sites. But it will be up to these companies to comply with customers’ wishes. Many advertising networks that offer opt-outs still track surfing, just not for marketing.

To close these loopholes, Congress should require all advertising and tracking companies to offer consumers the choice of whether they want to be followed online to receive tailored ads, and make that option easily chosen on every browser.

(click here to continue reading Netizens Gain Some Privacy – NYTimes.com.)


Written by Seth Anderson

January 31st, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Illinois Eavesdropping Act Should be Overturned

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Let Me Show You How to Eagle Rock

Police should be held to the same standards as citizens: and not allowed to hide behind this archaic, pre-digital law. I fail to see why the police are afraid of being recorded, unless they plan on bending the law in some way and don’t want to be caught. Other states don’t have this same law, and seem to be doing just fine…

The Illinois Eavesdropping Act has been on the books for years. It makes it a criminal offense to audio-record either private or public conversations without the consent of all parties, Mr. Schwartz said. Audio-recording a civilian without consent is a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to three years in prison for a first-time offense. A second offense is a Class 3 felony with a possible prison term of five years.

Although law-enforcement officials can legally record civilians in private or public, audio-recording a law-enforcement officer, state’s attorney, assistant state’s attorney, attorney general, assistant attorney general or judge in the performance of his or her duties is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The A.C.L.U. filed its lawsuit after several people throughout Illinois were charged in recent years with eavesdropping for making audio recordings of public conversations with the police. The A.C.L.U. argued that the act violates the First Amendment and hinders citizens from monitoring the public behavior of police officers and other officials.

On Jan. 10, a federal judge in Chicago dismissed the suit for the second time. Mr. Schwartz said the A.C.L.U. would appeal. Andrew Conklin, a spokesman for Anita Alvarez, the Cook County state’s attorney, said, “We did feel the A.C.L.U.’s claims were baseless and we’re glad the court agreed with us.” Beyond that statement, Mr. Conklin said, “we have no comment because we have these two cases pending.”

(click to continue reading Eavesdropping Laws Mean That Turning On an Audio Recorder Could Send You to Prison – NYTimes.com.)


Written by Seth Anderson

January 23rd, 2011 at 3:12 am

E-Mail and Letters Should Have Equal Legal Protection

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Soviets Lithuania

Seems like a simple question, but law enforcement doesn’t want to accept that electronic communications have replaced handwritten documents. There shouldn’t be a distinction based solely on the medium the communication uses. If I have a safe in my house with personal documents,1 the police need a warrant to open it. Why should my email folder be any different?

The question boils down to this: Should personal information that people store online, from e-mail messages to photos to location updates, be treated the same as telephone calls or paper documents stored in a person’s home?

Right now, they often aren’t, in part because the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which governs surveillance of what people do online, was written in 1986 — well before Twitter direct messages, Facebook status updates or Foursquare check-ins.

And Web users generally do not understand when and how law enforcement can access their information, said Ryan Calo, director of the consumer privacy project at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet & Society.

“People have no idea that with a relatively small amount of process, people can get all this information that they’ve been storing for more than 180 days,” Mr. Calo said. “If they were to go and look at a privacy policy, it would say, ‘We comply with lawful requests for your information,’ but you don’t know what that means.”

(click to continue reading Should E-Mail and Letters Have Equal Legal Protection? – NYTimes.com.)

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of the US currently has a reactionary majority, and will predictably side with the police over civil liberties, every time. There’s always hope…

So far, updates to the law have been piecemeal. For example, last month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, considering a fraud case, ruled that law enforcement cannot access e-mail messages stored online without a warrant because they are protected by the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches.

  1. which I actually don’t, but I want one to store my passport and some similar papers in case of fire or other calamity []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 13th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

1986 Privacy Law Inadequate For 2011 Digital Society

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Popo Starry Pants

The mentality of law enforcement is that since there is information available about suspects, law enforcement officers should have free reign to sift through it, no matter what. However, if one is a suspect, and a warrant is executed for one’s home, the officers are usually limited to certain areas as precisely described by the warrant, they are not1 allowed to look through every single nook and cranny, unless the warrant has been constructed this broadly. Why isn’t digital data treated the same way?2

SAN FRANCISCO — Concerned by the wave of requests for customer data from law enforcement agencies, Google last year set up an online tool showing the frequency of these requests in various countries. In the first half of 2010, it counted more than 4,200 in the United States.

Google is not alone among Internet and telecommunications companies in feeling inundated with requests for information. Verizon told Congress in 2007 that it received some 90,000 such requests each year. And Facebook told Newsweek in 2009 that subpoenas and other orders were arriving at the company at a rate of 10 to 20 a day.

As Internet services — allowing people to store e-mails, photographs, spreadsheets and an untold number of private documents — have surged in popularity, they have become tempting targets for law enforcement. That phenomenon became apparent over the weekend when it surfaced that the Justice Department had sought the Twitter account activity of several people linked to WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy group.

Many Internet companies and consumer advocates say the main law governing communication privacy — enacted in 1986, before cellphone and e-mail use was widespread, and before social networking was even conceived — is outdated, affording more protection to letters in a file cabinet than e-mail on a server.

(click to continue reading Privacy Law Is Outrun by Speed of Web’s Progress – NYTimes.com.)

For some reason, The New York Times didn’t actually link to this Google tool, I’m not sure why. Anyway, after a few minutes of searching3, found it.

Like other technology and communications companies, we regularly receive requests from government agencies around the world to remove content from our services, or provide information about users of our services and products. This map shows the number of requests that we received in six-month blocks with certain limitations.

(click to continue reading Google Transparency Report: Government Requests.)

As of the current moment, Google has received 4287 requests for information in the United States alone4 from law enforcement in the last six months (an average of 714.5 requests a month, or nearly 24 requests a day).

  1. officially []
  2. I am not a lawyer, and all my information comes from stupid television shows, so don’t laugh too loudly if I’m wrong []
  3. longer than I thought, actually []
  4. that Google is allowed to mention – perhaps not including some alleged participants in the War on Terror []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 11th, 2011 at 11:48 am

The Web Means Everything Is On Your Permanent Record

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I am lucky that I was a teen and finished college before the digital age. As far as I know, there are no permanent records of my exploits anywhere on the web, accessible by casual web searchers, or overzealous customs officials. Like most 19 year olds, I did some crazy stuff, participated in some questionable behavior with my peers, but never was actually arrested by law enforcement. Thankfully. Because otherwise, I’d worry…

Three Note Oddity

Four years ago, Stacy Snyder, then a 25-year-old teacher in training at Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster, Pa., posted a photo on her MySpace page that showed her at a party wearing a pirate hat and drinking from a plastic cup, with the caption “Drunken Pirate.” After discovering the page, her supervisor at the high school told her the photo was “unprofessional,” and the dean of Millersville University School of Education, where Snyder was enrolled, said she was promoting drinking in virtual view of her under-age students. As a result, days before Snyder’s scheduled graduation, the university denied her a teaching degree. Snyder sued, arguing that the university had violated her First Amendment rights by penalizing her for her (perfectly legal) after-hours behavior. But in 2008, a federal district judge rejected the claim, saying that because Snyder was a public employee whose photo didn’t relate to matters of public concern, her “Drunken Pirate” post was not protected speech.

When historians of the future look back on the perils of the early digital age, Stacy Snyder may well be an icon. The problem she faced is only one example of a challenge that, in big and small ways, is confronting millions of people around the globe: how best to live our lives in a world where the Internet records everything and forgets nothing — where every online photo, status update, Twitter post and blog entry by and about us can be stored forever. With Web sites like LOL Facebook Moments, which collects and shares embarrassing personal revelations from Facebook users, ill-advised photos and online chatter are coming back to haunt people months or years after the fact. Examples are proliferating daily: there was the 16-year-old British girl who was fired from her office job for complaining on Facebook, “I’m so totally bored!!”; there was the 66-year-old Canadian psychotherapist who tried to enter the United States but was turned away at the border — and barred permanently from visiting the country — after a border guard’s Internet search found that the therapist had written an article in a philosophy journal describing his experiments 30 years ago with L.S.D.

According to a recent survey by Microsoft, 75 percent of U.S. recruiters and human-resource professionals report that their companies require them to do online research about candidates, and many use a range of sites when scrutinizing applicants — including search engines, social-networking sites, photo- and video-sharing sites, personal Web sites and blogs, Twitter and online-gaming sites. Seventy percent of U.S. recruiters report that they have rejected candidates because of information found online, like photos and discussion-board conversations and membership in controversial groups.

(click to continue reading The Web Means the End of Forgetting – NYTimes.com.)

Land of the free, right.

Oh, and since Jeffrey Rosen didn’t specify the 66 year old Canadian psychologist who took LSD in 1967, his name is Andrew Feldmar, and I blogged about this travesty in 2007. He really was barred from entry to the US in May, 2007, because he wrote an article about his drug use – in 1967!

Written by Seth Anderson

July 21st, 2010 at 9:30 pm

U.S. Program to Detect Cyber Attacks

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Mixed feelings about this: the Federal Government probably should have some sort of cyber patrol to protect the nation’s infrastructure against attack, but am always skeptical that this isn’t just an excuse to legalize the spying upon citizens that has become the norm.

Eye see u Willis

The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed “Perfect Citizen” to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.

The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government’s chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack, though it wouldn’t persistently monitor the whole system, these people said.

Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort valued at up to $100 million

(click to continue reading U.S. Program to Detect Cyber Attacks on Infrastructure – WSJ.com.)1


  1. non-WSJ subscribers use this link []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 7th, 2010 at 5:58 pm

United States E-Passports Contain RFID Chip

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Wondered why my newly minted passport contained such a thick cover. Reading the back page carefully, I noticed the phrase, “This document contains sensitive electronics,” and of course, my curiosity was piqued.

This document contains sensitive electronics

The chip used in the e-passports will comply with the ISO 14443 RFID specification and contain the same information as a passport’s data page—the passport holder’s name, nationality, gender, date of birth, place of birth and digitized photo. The chip will also contain the passport number, issue date, expiration date and type of passport. The ISO 14443 specification permits chips to be read when an e-passport is placed within approximately 10 centimeters of an RFID interrogator (reader).

Of all objections the department received regarding its plans, the overwhelming majority expressed concern over the potential for skimming and/or eavesdropping. Skimming is the act of creating an unauthorized connection with an RFID tag in order to gain access to its data. Eavesdropping is the interception of the electronic communication session between an RFID tag and an authorized reader.

To prevent skimming, the department will add shielding material to the passport’s front cover and spine. The material is supposed to make the e-passport’s RFID tag unreadable as long as its cover is closed or nearly closed. The department will also implement Basic Access Control (BAC), which functions as a Personal Identification Number (PIN) in the form of characters printed on the passport data page. Before a passport’s tag can be read, this PIN must be inputted into an RFID reader. The BAC also enables the encryption of any communication between the chip and interrogator

(click to continue reading United States Sets Date for E-Passports – RFID Journal.)


Written by Seth Anderson

July 1st, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with

Overloaded Intelligence Gathering Leads to Poor Intelligence

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Too much data, indiscriminately accumulated, is just as much a problem as too little intelligence data, if not worse. Remember when we were America, land of the Free?

Do All Photographers Need a Warrant?

It has been demonstrated that when officials must establish before a court that they have reason to intercept communications — that is, that they know what they are doing — we get better intelligence than through indiscriminate collection and fishing expeditions.
[Rush Holt]

The failure of the U.S. Government to detect the fairly glaring Northwest Airlines Christmas plot — despite years and years of constant expansions of Surveillance State powers — illustrates this dynamic perfectly. As President Obama said [Janurary 5th, 2010], the Government — just as was true for 9/11 — had gathered more than enough information to have detected this plot, or at least to have kept Abdulmutallab off airplanes and out of the country. Yet our intelligence agencies — just as was true for 9/11 — failed to understand what they had in their possession. Why is that?  Because they had too much to process, including too much data wholly unrelated to Terrorism. In other words, our panic-driven need to vest the Government with more and more surveillance power every time we get scared again by Terrorists — in the name of keeping us safe — has exactly the opposite effect. Numerous pieces of evidence prove that.

Today in The Washington Post, that paper’s CIA spokesman, David Ignatius, explains that Abdulmutallab never made it onto a no-fly list because there are simply too many reports of suspicious individuals being submitted on a daily basis, which causes the system to be “clogged” — overloaded — with information having nothing to do with Terrorism. As a result, actually relevant information ends up obscured or ignored.  Identically, Newsweek’s Mike Isikoff and Mark Hosenball report that U.S. intelligence agencies intercept, gather and store so many emails, recorded telephone calls, and other communications that it’s simply impossible to sort through or understand what they have, quite possibly causing them to have missed crucial evidence in their possession about both the Fort Hood and Abdulmutallab plots:

This deluge of Internet traffic — involving e-mailers whose true identity often is not apparent — is one indication of the volume of raw intelligence U.S. spy agencies have had to sort through as they have tried to assess Awlaki’s influence in the West and elsewhere, said the officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information. The large volume of messages also may help to explain how agencies can become so overwhelmed with data that sometimes it is difficult, if not impossible, to connect potentially important dots.

Newsweek adds that intelligence agencies likely possessed emails between accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki — as well as recorded telephone calls between al-Awlaki and Abdulmutallab — but simply failed to analyze or understand what they had intercepted.

[Click to continue reading Glenn Greenwald - Backfiring of the Surveillance State : Salon.com]

Pretty pathetic. And the solution is simple: start being much more targeted with information collection so there is less noise and more actionable signal. Allowing 8 year old kids like Mike Hicks to remain on the No-Fly List for seven years is just idiotic

Mikey, who would rather talk about BMX bikes and his athletic trophies than airport security, remains perplexed about the “list” and the hurdles he must clear. “Why do they think a kid is a terrorist?” Mikey asked his mother at one point during the interview.

Mrs. Hicks said the family was amused by the mistake at first. But that amusement quickly turned to annoyance and anger. It should not take seven years to correct the problem, Mrs. Hicks said. She applied for redress in December when she first heard about the Department of Homeland Security’s program.

“I understand the need for security,” she added. “But this is ridiculous. It’s quite clear that he is 8 years old, and while he may have terroristic tendencies at home, he does not have those on a plane.”

[Click to continue reading Mikey Hicks, 8, Can’t Get Off U.S. Terror Watch List - NYTimes.com]

and he’s not alone

For every person on the lists, hundreds of others may get caught up simply because they share the same name; a quick scan through a national phone directory unearthed 1,600 Michael Hickses. Over the past three years, 81,793 frustrated travelers have formally asked that they be struck from the watch list through the Department of Homeland Security; more than 25,000 of their cases are still pending. Others have taken more drastic measures. Mario Labbé, a frequent-flying Canadian record-company executive, started having problems at airports shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, with lengthy delays at checkpoints and mysterious questions about Japan. By 2005, he stopped flying to the United States from Canada, instead meeting American clients in France. Then a forced rerouting to Miami in 2008 led to six hours of questions.

“What’s the name of your mother? Your father? When were you last in Japan?” Mr. Labbé recalled being asked. “Always the same questions in different order. And sometimes, it’s quite aggressive, not funny at all.” Fed up, in the summer of 2008, he changed his name to François Mario Labbé. The problem vanished.

Boy, that makes me feel so much safer – just change your name, and voila, no problems!

Continuous Video Recording in Progress

The mind-set doesn’t appear to be ending soon, if Massachusetts Police policy is any indication:

A report from the New England Center For Investigative Reporting has chronicled a pattern of what civil liberties advocates say is a misuse of police powers: Massachusetts police are using the state’s stringent surveillance laws to arrest and charge people who record police activities in public.

It’s a situation that is pitting new technologies against police powers. With recording equipment now embedded into cellphones and other common technologies, recording police activities has never been easier, and has resulted in numerous cases of police misconduct being brought to light. And that, rights advocates argue, is precisely what the police are trying to prevent.

In October, 2007, Boston lawyer Simon Glick witnessed what he said was excessive use of police force during the arrest of a juvenile. When he pulled out his cellphone to record the incident, he was arrested and charged with “illegal electronic surveillance.”

In December, 2008, Jon Surmacz, a webmaster at Boston University, was attending a party that was brok

[Click to continue reading Massachusetts cops can arrest you for making them famous | Raw Story]

Even the Chicago Transit Authority is getting into the action

The Chicago Transit Authority is so “committed to safety,” that it is urging commuters to report people committing “excessive photography/filming.”

The sign posted inside the train stations places photographers on the same level as, say, a non-CTA employee walking the tracks or an unattended package or “noxious smells or smoke.”

In other words, it accuses photographers of being possible terrorists or just suicidal maniacs.

The problem is that these signs not only encourage commuters to dial 911 when seeing someone taking photos, which will tie up real emergencies, it contradicts the CTA’s own policy on photography and videography within train stations.

[Click to continue reading Chicago Transit Authority urges commuters to report photographers | Photography is Not a Crime]

More data, more clutter in the system for intelligence to sort out, or the already overloaded judicial system, and for what reason? We need a change in direction, and soon.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 19th, 2010 at 9:34 am

Minions of Rupert Murdoch illegally hacked 3000 cellphone accounts

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Either Rupert Murdoch is too close a friend of most US media conglomerate CEOs, or else they are scared of incurring Murdoch’s wrath. What other explanation for the lack of coverage of the juicy Guardian UK scoop regarding Murdoch illegality?

But so far the Guardian, which last Wednesday broke the news of how two newspapers belonging to Rupert Murdoch illegally hacked into the mobile phone accounts of “two or three thousand” people, as well as “gaining unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemized phone bills [belonging to] Cabinet ministers, MPs, actors and sports stars” has the story pretty much to itself.

On the surface this is surprising. Here, after all, is a story that combines boldface names like Gwyneth Paltrow, Elle MacPherson, Nigella Lawson and George Michael with the official spokesman of the Conservative Party (Andy Coulson, media strategist for Tory leader David Cameron, was editor of the News of the World when the paper allegedly paid private investigators for access to the celebrities’ accounts) and Rupert Murdoch, the world’s most powerful media baron. The BBC put the story at the top of its world news lineup, and followed up the next day with a story about how some of famous targets were contemplating lawsuits. So why has the Guardian’s incredible scoop turned out to be a 2 day wonder?

[Click to continue reading  The Dog That Didn't Bark]

Quite curious, no?

Rupert Murdoch’s News Group News papers has paid out more than £1m to settle legal cases that threatened to reveal evidence of his journalists’ repeated involvement in the use of criminal methods to get stories.

The payments secured secrecy over out-of-court settlements in three cases that threatened to expose evidence of Murdoch journalists using private investigators who illegally hacked into the mobile phone messages of numerous public figures as well as gaining unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills. Cabinet ministers, MPs, actors and sports stars were all targets of the private investigators.

Today, the Guardian reveals details of the suppressed evidence, which may open the door to hundreds more legal actions by victims of News Group, the Murdoch company that publishes the News of the World and the Sun, as well as provoking police inquiries into reporters who were involved and the senior executives responsible for them.

[Click to continue reading Murdoch papers paid out £1m to gag phone-hacking victims | Media |The Guardian]

such as

When the high court last summer ordered the News of the World to pay damages to Max Mosley for secretly filming him with prostitutes, the paper was furious. In an angry leader column, it insisted that public figures must maintain standards. “It is not for the powerful and the influential to run to the courts to gag newspapers from publishing stories that are TRUE,” it said. “This is all about the public’s right to know.”

Even as those words were being published, lawyers and senior executives from News International’s subsidiary News Group were preparing to run to court to gag Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, who was suing the News of the World for its undisclosed involvement in the illegal interception of messages left on his mobile phone.

By persuading the high court to seal the file and by paying Taylor more than £400,000 damages in exchange for his silence, News Group prevented the public from knowing anything about the hundreds of pages of evidence which had been disclosed in Taylor’s case, revealing potentially criminal behaviour by journalists on its payroll. It also protected some powerful and influential people from the implications of that evidence.

[Click to continue reading  Trail of hacking and deceit under nose of Tory PR chief guardian.co.uk ]

Red Light Night

names like:

Scotland Yard disclosed only a limited amount of its evidence to Taylor. The Guardian understands that the full police file shows that several thousand public figures were targeted by investigators, including, during one month in 2006: John Prescott, then deputy prime minister; Tessa Jowell, then responsible for the media as secretary of state for culture; Boris Johnson, then the Conservative spokesman on higher education; Gwyneth Paltrow, after she had given birth to her son; George Michael, who had been seen looking tired at the wheel of his car; and Jade Goody.

When Goodman, the News of the World’s royal editor, was jailed for hacking into the mobile phones of Palace staff, News International said he had been acting without their knowledge. One of the investigators working for the paper, Glenn Mulcaire, was also charged with hacking the phones of the Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes, celebrity PR Max Clifford, model Elle MacPherson and football agent Sky Andrew as well as Taylor. At the time, the News of the World claimed to know nothing about the hacking of these targets, but Taylor has now proved that to be untrue in his case. Others who are believed to have been possible targets include the Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan, who has previously accused the News of the World of bugging his car; Jeffrey Archer, whose perjury was exposed by the paper; and Sven-Göran Eriksson, whose sex life became a tabloid obsession.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 14th, 2009 at 7:29 pm