Thomas Gagnon, 32, of Beverly, Massachusetts was sent to jail for violating an active restraining order because Google+ automatically invited his ex-girlfriend to join his circles.
According to Gagnon, Google automatically sent the invitation without informing him or asking for his consent.
As the Salem News reported, Gagnon was arrested about 90 minutes after his ex-girlfriend notified police. The officers agreed the sent invitation constituted a violation of the restraining order, and while the district court judge acknowledged he wasn’t sure precisely how Google+ processes invitations, he set bail at $500.
While Gagnon argues he did not send the invitation, both he and his attorney, Neil Hourihan, are at a loss when it comes to explaining how the message was transmitted.
When asked about the situation by ABC News, Internet privacy expert and attorney Bradley Shear said it’s possible Gagnon is telling the truth. He cited a Google+ forum topic circa 2011 and 2012 that featured numerous customers complaining about the social network’s automatic invite feature.
“As soon as I add an email to a circle, Google seems to send an email automatically asking that person to join Google Plus,” wrote one user. “Is there any way of turning this off? I don’t want Google to send any email on my behalf without my permission. At least I would expect some sort of warning.”
“If he didn’t send it — if Google sent it without his permission and he was jailed for it — Google could be facing major liability,” Shear added.
While Google does allow for users to opt-out, the default is opt-in and users must take the extra step to let Google know that they don’t wish to participate.
Lisa Simeone runs the civil liberties watchdog site TSA News Blog, where she and her writers keep track of the abuses of the Transportation Security Administration. Simeone has been working in public radio and print for 30 years. She has hosted NPR’s All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and Performance Today, also the independent documentary series Soundprint. She’s written book reviews and op-eds for the Baltimore Sun and now writes on a variety of subjects for Style Magazine. In 2011, she was fired by Soundprint and blacklisted by NPR for her involvement in the Occupy movement. She managed to hang on to two radio gigs and continues her lifelong political activism.
“Where I see it going is toward a totalitarian state,” says William Binney. “You’ve got the NSA doing all this collecting of material on all of its citizens – that’s what the SS, the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, and the NKVD did.”
Binney is talking about the collection of various forms of personal data on American citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA), where he worked for 30 years before quitting in 2001 from his high-placed post as technical leader for intelligence. A registered Republican for most of his life, Binney volunteered for military service during the Vietnam War, which led to his being hired by the NSA in the early ’70s.
In 2002 – long before the revelations of Edward Snowden rocked the world – Binney and several former colleagues went to Congress and the Department of Defense, asking that the NSA be investigated. Not only was the super-secretive agency wasting taxpayer dollars on ineffective programs, they argued, it was broadly violating constitutional guarantees to privacy and due process.
The government didn’t just turn a blind eye to the agency’s activities; it later accused the whistleblowers of leaking state secrets. A federal investigation of Binney – including an FBI search and seizure of his home and office computers that destroyed his consulting business – exonerated him on all charges.
“We are a clear example that [going through] the proper channels doesn’t work,” says Binney, who approves of Edward Snowden’s strategy of going straight to the media. At the same time, Binney criticizes Snowden’s leaking of documents not directly related to the NSA’s surveillance of American citizens and violation of constitutional rights. Binney believes that the NSA is vital to national security but has been become unmoored due to technological advances that vastly extend its capabilities and leadership that has no use for limits on government power. “They took that program designed [to prevent terrorist attacks] and used it to spy on American citizens and everyone else in the world,” flatly declares Binney (33:30).
Binney sat down with Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie to discuss “Trailblazer”, a data-collection program which was used on American citizens (1:00), why he thinks the NSA had the capability to stop the 9/11 attacks (7:00), his experience being raided by the FBI in 2007 (12:50), and why former President Gerald Ford, usually regarded as a hapless time-server, is one of his personal villians (41:25).