Loss of Privacy

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

Facebook has made detailed explanations of their privacy settings and is now trying to be more transparent in the privacy policy. Their comment policy remains open as well so that they may try to better understand their users’ wishes as well as attempting to keep people’s privacy.

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Here’s the cut and paste that I got a few days ago from US Airways in my email about Secure Flight.  Though you’d have to pay me to ever set foot on one of their planes again, I believe these rules are for all airlines.

Secure Flight changes how you book with US

Beginning October 30, 2009, we’ll be asking you for a bit more information when you book a reservation. The reason? A new, federally-mandated program called Secure Flight.

Run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Secure Flight requires that we collect each passenger’s:

  • Full name (as it appears on the government-issued photo ID you travel with)
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • TSA-issued Redress Number (if applicable)

According to the TSA, Secure Flight will greatly reduce the number of passengers misidentified as matches to the watch list. Providing the required information will help prevent delays at the airport, particularly for passengers who have names similar to those on the watch list.

For more information or to learn about TSA’s privacy policies, including its privacy impact assessment, visit tsa.gov.

Thanks for flying with US.

Considering that my full name as it appears on the government-issued photo ID I travel with is my passport or my driver’s license, why do I then have to add my date of birth and gender? That’s already listed on all government-issued IDs. Do people suddenly forget what their gender or DOB is? I know that, if I were a criminal, I’d certainly know this and I don’t think any terrorist is going to lie about whether they are male or female.

I guess I’m just cranky that I now have to provide more information that is, essentially, redundant and doesn’t really help anything.

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Eschol Amelia “Amy” Studnitz used to work for Corporate Mailing Services as a senior accountant until last July when CMS won a contract from the Social Security Administration to handle their mail.  An routine FBI background check, however, said that Studnitz was unsuitable to work the contract and denied her the low-level security clearance she needed to keep her job.  CMS could have simply removed her from the project, after all, the FBI didn’t say why she was unsuitable and gave no details.  Instead, CMS gave her a few minutes to gather her things before she was fired and removed from the building.

Studnitz maintained that she had no criminal history and, indeed, the only court record the Baltimore Sun was able to uncover on her was a civil case related to a $11,676 judgment that a nursing home had been awarded in 2005. Studnitz told the paper this actually involved a suit against her late father’s estate.

About two weeks later, the Social Security Administration sent a letter to CMS backing her claim of innocence. The letter said Studnitz had passed a pre-screening check and could work on the SSA contract pending a final determination. It made no mention of the previous letter that claimed she was unsuitable.

That should have settled the matter. But instead of reinstating her in her job, CMS told her to re-apply for her position. After she did so, the company wrote back saying it was reorganizing the department and would get back to her. The company finally sent her a letter last week saying it had no intention of restoring her job.

The company claimed it had uncovered some problems that would be “detrimental” to her performing her job successfully. The company said she had failed to process some invoices or bill customers at new rates after they’d been raised. Studnitz has disputed the claims.

Studnitz has since learned that an unspecified error in the FBI’s National Criminal Information Center database was the cause for the SSA’s initial determination that she was “unsuitable. The NCIC database is a repository for criminal records and information on fugitives, stolen property and missing persons. Information is fed to the database from local, state. and federal law-enforcement agencies around the country. Canada uses the database to refuse border entry to anyone with a criminal record.

Since being fired, Studnitz has been unable to find work and is considering a lawsuit.

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For just $99.99, you can get the Little Buddy Child Tracker that allows you to keep tabs on your children.

From Best Buy’s website:

Keep tabs on your child at all times with this small but sophisticated device that combines GPS and cellular technology to provide you with real-time location updates. The small and lightweight Little Buddy transmitter fits easily into a backpack, lunchbox or other receptacle, making it easy for your child to carry so you can check his or her location at any time using a smartphone or computer.

Customizable safety checks allow you to establish specific times and locations where your child is supposed to be — for example, in school — causing the device to alert you with a text message if your child leaves the designated area during that time. Additional real-time alerts let you know when the device’s battery is running low so you can take steps to ensure your monitoring isn’t interrupted.

How do I sign up for Insignia LittleBuddy?

  1. Purchase and receive your Insignia LittleBuddy location device from BestBuy.com.
  2. Activate your LittleBuddy at https://www.insignialittlebuddy.com by clicking the Activate Your LittleBuddy tab.
  3. Provide your e-mail address. You will receive an authentication e-mail with a link to complete the sign-up process.

Theoretically, this can also be used to track people who aren’t children.  I’m sure spouse abusers and stalkers would love something like this.  Human traffickers and employers would probably also be interested.

As with other GPS devices, such as the British idea to sew trackers into their childrens’ school jackets, it is useless.  If it fits easily into a backpack, lunchbox or other receptacle, how long will it be before the child leaves it behind somewhere?  It will take the children all of twenty seconds to think of ways around this.  You can leave it in the bushes at school, in your locker, with your friends, etc.  Considering most schools require that all of your belongings go into your locker during school, the device is likely not to work.  The locker will act as a Faraday Cage allowing little to no signal to be sent.  It really isn’t hard to circumvent yet parents will be under a false sense of security, thinking their “innocent” children are safe at the desired location.

Instead of tracking your children every moment of the day, maybe parents should actually try parenting instead.  For those who are overly paranoid about their children being abducted, see my last sentence.  Yes, abductions occur, but, if you take a closer look, many of them could have been avoided by simple parenting.  They are also not a common occurrence.  We only think so because each time something happens, the news media reports it to death because they know it will sell newspapers and raise ratings.

If your small children cannot behave in public that they try to hide or run away and think it’s all a game, it’s a lack of parenting.  This device will simply allow those types of parents to continue such behaviors while believing that this Little Buddy will save their kids from all the problems of society.  The parents are also assuming that any would-be abductor would not be smart enough to search a child for any type of GPS enabled device.

There is also little detail on how secure this system is and who can access the information.  This is a security risk that doesn’t seem to be addressed.

Kids don’t need to be monitored all the time.  Let kids be kids.  The more you restrict them, the more rebellious they will end up being.  Guide them, but know when to get the hell out of the way.

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