Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts in Privacy

Minister of law, Anders Anundsen, on the matter, December 13th:

“If this is true, such surveillance is completely unacceptable.”

Fast forward one single day to December 14th, and Anders Anundsen publishes a bill proposing that the police be able to use IMSI catchers — the exact same piece of equipment that it’s apparently unacceptable to set up close to The Storting — to surveil the mobile network without the need to go court for permission, and without any suspicion of crime.

More at Aftenposten and Reddit.

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elfonboxset

Professor Laura Pinto, a digital technology professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, says that there might be something more to that elf sitting on your child’s shelf each night.

In her paper, Who’s the Boss, published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Laura Pinto argues Santa’s spying little helper “sets up children for dangerous, uncritical acceptance of power structures.”

Based on a modern-day Christmas fairy tale, the Elf on the Shelf takes up residence in children’s homes for the month of December. Each night, it flies back to the North Pole to update Santa, a.k.a. “the boss,” on the kids’ activities, both “naughty” and “nice.”

“You’re teaching (kids) a bigger lesson, which is that it’s OK for other people to spy on you and you’re not entitled to privacy,” she told the Star. And while it might be done in the spirit of fun, she said the messaging could be problematic down the road. She likened the relationship between elf, “an external form of non-familial surveillance,” and children to state and citizen.

“If you grow up thinking it’s cool for the elves to watch me and report back to Santa, well, then it’s cool for the NSA to watch me and report back to the government.”

Pinto isn’t the only one who’s worried about the elf.

Emma Waverman, a blogger with Today’s Parent, is also unimpressed with the elf.

“It’s a little creepy, this idea that this elf is watching you all the time,” she said. But her main beef is the use of a threat — not getting presents — to produce good behaviour.

“It makes the motivation to behave something that’s external,” she said. “If I’m not around or if the elf is not around, do they act crazy?”

Psychotherapist and parenting expert Alyson Schafer took a similar position; the Elf on the Shelf is an extension of the “naughty or nice list,” she said.

“Someone’s commercializing on confused parents who will just do anything that feels good if they think they can get their kid to act better.”

While some people don’t think the elf is that big of a deal and is just a nice Christmas gift, combining the elf with other surveillance tools children also encounter, such as tracking at school, it’s another small piece that conditions children to not question authority and forces them to live with the possibility of being in trouble when not conforming to what authority figures say is correct behavior.

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From Help Net Security:

After having disclosed the extent of the employees’ information stolen in the recent hack to the California Attorney General’s Office, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) has sent out an email to the affected workers, outlining the scope of the potential damage the “brazen cyber attack” might bring to them personally.

“Although SPE is in the process of investigating the scope of the cyber attack, SPE believes that the following types of personally identifiable information that you provided to SPE may have been obtained by unauthorized individuals: (i) name, (ii) address, (iii) Social Security Number, driver’s license number, passport number, and/or other government identifier, (iv) bank account information, (v) credit card information for corporate travel and expense, (vi) username and passwords, (vii) compensation and (viii) other employment related information,” the letter described.

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privacy

Richard Posner is an influential judge in the United States. In a recent conference, he said the NSA should be able to collect whatever information it needed in the name of stopping terrorism.

“I think privacy is actually overvalued,” Judge Richard Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, said during a conference about privacy and cybercrime in Washington on Thursday.

“Much of what passes for the name of privacy is really just trying to conceal the disreputable parts of your conduct,” Posner added. “Privacy is mainly about trying to improve your social and business opportunities by concealing the sorts of bad activities that would cause other people not to want to deal with you.”

Perhaps Posner would be okay with everyone looking at his private information, following him wherever he travels and knowing what he is up to. Wanting privacy doesn’t mean you are concealing anything unsavory. It means your life is not anyone else’s business to be snooping into just because they can.

Congress should limit the NSA’s use of the data it collects — for example, not giving information about minor crimes to law enforcement agencies — but it shouldn’t limit what information the NSA sweeps up and searches, Posner said. “If the NSA wants to vacuum all the trillions of bits of information that are crawling through the electronic worldwide networks, I think that’s fine,” he said.

Let the vacuuming commence with all of Judge Posner’s activities. He’s made it clear he doesn’t have a problem with this sort of behavior.

In the name of national security, U.S. lawmakers should give the NSA “carte blanche,” Posner added. “Privacy interests should really have very little weight when you’re talking about national security,” he said. “The world is in an extremely turbulent state — very dangerous.”

The world has always been in a turbulent state. It has always been dangerous. I think Posner might have wanted to say, “We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.”

Posner criticized mobile OS companies for enabling end-to-end encryption in their newest software. “I’m shocked at the thought that a company would be permitted to manufacture an electronic product that the government would not be able to search,” he said.

Then let Posner be the one to lead by example and start letting the government search his cell phone at will.

Other speakers at Thursday’s event, including Judge Margaret McKeown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, disagreed with Posner, saying legal limits on government surveillance are necessary. With much of U.S. privacy law based on a reasonable expectation of privacy, it’s difficult, however, to define what that means when people are voluntarily sharing all kinds of personal information online, she said.

This is true, but for those who choose not to share personal information online, they shouldn’t be subjected to random vacuuming of information because the NSA wants to go on a fishing expedition. The people who advocate for privacy aren’t the ones dumping their personal information online. When they do, they know it’s public information.

David Cole, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center also disagreed with Posner.

Some recent court cases, including the Supreme Court’s 2014 Riley v. California ruling limiting law enforcement searches of mobile phones, have moved privacy law in the right direction, he said.

Posner questioned why smartphone users need legal protections, saying he doesn’t understand what information on smartphones should be shielded from government searches. “If someone drained my cell phone, they would find a picture of my cat, some phone numbers, some email addresses, some email text,” he said. “What’s the big deal?

“Other people must have really exciting stuff,” Posner added. “Do they narrate their adulteries, or something like that?”

This is the problem with Posner. He doesn’t understand why someone other than himself wouldn’t want their information freely available and automatically believes they must be up to no good. Yet, this judge most likely doesn’t have his home address listed publicly for security reasons. People have reasons why they don’t want their information spread, including safety, security and peace of mind.

Smartphones can contain all kinds of information that people don’t want to share, including medical information, visits to abortion doctors and schedules for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Cole said. “Your original question, ‘what’s the value of privacy unless you’ve got something to hide?’ that’s a very short-sighted way of thinking about the value of privacy,” he said.

They may also contain information about upcoming political protests. If they cannot organize and protest freely, then this is not a free society. If Posner is not willing to step up and allow collection of his personal and private records at any time and for any reason, then he truly is ignorant or is spouting a government line and knows exactly what agenda he is pushing. Considering Posner tried to hide the name of a trust on his 2013 tax return, he likes his privacy just fine.

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Al Jazeera America has created a graphic novel explaining big data. In the graphic novel, reads learn about what we gain and what we give up.

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