Loss of Privacy

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

A fellow redditor has received a letter from Senator Al Franken and his stance on net neutrality.


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Next June, India will have a centralized monitoring system on all mobile phones, landlines, and internet communications in the country.

The CMS will have central and regional databases to help central and state-level enforcement agencies intercept and monitor communications, the government said. It will also have direct electronic provisioning of target numbers by government agencies without any intervention from telecom service providers, it added. It will also feature analysis of call data records and data mining of these records to identify call details, location details, and other information of the target numbers.

The current system used by the government for call monitoring can be easily compromised because of the requirement of manual intervention at many stages, the minister said. Interception using the new system will also be instant, he added.

The government brought into force earlier this year the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008, an amendment to an earlier law, which broadened the government’s powers to intercept and monitor communications.

Some experts have argued that the government should set up an organization like an ombudsman to ensure that information collected during surveillance is not misused.

As the law stands now, there will be a lot of abuse to this system.  The current system isn’t secure and the government ministers have admitted that it probably won’t be any safer next June.  This is yet another law that has been put in place to, supposedly, counter terrorism when all it does is suppress those that haven’t done anything wrong.

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The United Kingdom has begun practicing a policy of arresting innocent people, just so they can add them to their DNA database.  The database, which was supposed to include only those who had been arrested after being suspected of committing a crime, is now growing faster than anyone ever thought it could.

When the DNA database was created, nearly everyone cried, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”  This new policy proves the exact point that people like me have been saying for years.  Even if you have nothing to hide, you should still fear the encroachment of your civil liberties and privacy by government officials.

…the most grotesque and brazen undermining of our freedoms, we now know, is the theft of our very essence….police are routinely arresting innocent people specifically to secure their DNA samples.

Britain now boasts the largest DNA database in the world, with samples logged from 5.6 million people, of whom almost a million are known to be entirely innocent of any offence.

Let me repeat that for you.  One million people are known to be entirely innocent of any offence.

Once you are on that database, it will take a minimum of a several month wait and a fee of £200 for the police to remove your name.

It is said, though the figures are disputed, that up to three- quarters of black men aged 18 to 35 are recorded on the DNA database.

How odd that this blatantly discriminatory statistic does not appear to trigger any sort of challenge under that other great New Labour achievement, the Human Rights Act, which is supposed to guarantee our rights to privacy, private life and equality under the law.

Not really odd.  Black men get the shaft when it comes to crime statistics no matter what country you’re living in.

While some may argue that there are medical benefits to collecting everyone’s DNA, such as to help find cures to diseases, this should only be done on a voluntary basis.  There are many people, who, even if it would save their own life, would not want their most private details in any database.

The deliberate policy to create a comprehensive national DNA database is one of those public policy matters which, like the introduction of ID cards and the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, is deemed too important to be opened up to any sort of democratic scrutiny. It is policy-by-creep.

Indeed, the real scandal is that the exact implementation of the database has been passed down to unelected police commissioners who make up policy on the hoof about whose DNA should be retained and then whose should be erased.

Given the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service has already been in breach of a DNA database containing 4,000 murderers and rapists on the run was lost for an entire year, do we really want innocent people’s DNA placed into the database where it, too, can be lost?  The UK government has already shown that they have a cavalier attitude towards our privacy simply by letting this scheme go forward.  Why would you ever place your trust in them securing your DNA?

It is now clear, what we have to fear is the state itself.  It is methodically [pdf] tracking all of us with CCTV and electronic data retention laws and, now, placing every UK citizen in a database, thus making everyone a criminal.

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On Monday, the EU Council is set to give the USA all of its SWIFT banking data. In its quest to catch tax cheats, the US searched through everything they could lay their hands upon, including other countries’ data. Once it was revealed that the US had access to the SWIFT data through the US data centers, the EU shifted its transactions away from the US servers. Now, however, with the new treaty the US will have access to all EU interbank transfers, despite the cry from within the EU not to do this. This means that the US will have access to banking data that also includes non-SWIFT data.

“The move of SWIFT the data server to Switzerland would be an excellent opportunity to stop the nearly unlimited access of US authorities on EU bank transactions. But EU justice and interior ministers are apparently keen [on agreeing to] a deal as soon as possible, on 30 November. Why 30 November? Because one day later, on 1 December 2009, the EU’s Lisbon Treaty will be in force and would allow the European Parliament to play a major role in the negotiations of the deal with the US. A deal one day before will be a slap in the face to democracy in the EU. … [W]hile the US will be able to access EU banking data, no access to US banking data by EU [authorities] is being foreseen.”

Providing this goes into effect before December 1st, there is no way the European Parliament will have a say in the matter, despite their protestations.

A country simply needs to make a request for data and they will get what they need. Also included in the treaty is wording that claims that, if the specific data cannot be obtained, the EU will send bulk data to the country asking for the information and it will be up to them to sort out what they need.

According to article 5 of the treaty, any country in the world connected with fighting terrorism can gain access to this data.

article 5 (h): “Information obtained through this Agreement shall only be shared with law enforcement, public security, or counter terrorism authorities in the United States, European Union, or third states to be used for the purpose of the investigation, prevention, or prosecution of terrorism or its financing.”

Interestingly enough, this deal has no reciprocity for the EU. The US gets what it wants and doesn’t have to share its data. This treaty will catch a few tax cheats while risking the privacy of millions of everyday people. Is such a treaty really beneficial to anyone other than the spying governments who are pushing for this to happen?

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In 2003 Donald Rumsfeld estimated a war with Iraq would cost $60 billion. Five years later, the cost of Iraq war operations is over 10 times that figure. So what’s behind the ballooning dollar signs? Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilme’s exhaustedly researched book, “The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict,” breaks down the price tag, from current debts to the unseen costs we’ll pay for years to come.

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