Loss of Privacy

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

Browsing Posts tagged surveillance society

Last year, the police in the city of Leicester tested the practical use of a body CCTV camera. It proved to be successful for the police, so they are now rolling out the cameras to all police across the United Kingdom.

The cameras, which have in-built night vision, have already proved to be invaluable in a number of situations faced by the police, including dealing with domestic violence incidents and identifying offenders in large groups.

Police wear the cameras on the front of their stab vests and after attending an incident download the footage captured onto a computer where if needs be it can be transferred onto a DVD to be presented as evidence in court.

The technology has an advantage over pole-mounted CCTV cameras as it allows officers to film an incident at street level, as they see it, the force also believes the cameras will deter troublemakers from squaring up to officers or making false allegations against them.

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A new Pew Research poll has just come out and, sadly, it reveals that a majority of Americans find the NSA phone tacking system, known as PRISM, is okay with them as long as it’s for fighting terrorism. What many privacy advocates fear is true. Americans are too happy to give up their privacy in exchange for some perceived safety from terrorism.


Currently 62% say it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy. Just 34% say it is more important for the government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats.







For these 62%, the revelations of last week mean nothing. They don’t care if their every movement in life is tracked, recorded, and stored. They bought the lies from the government and are willing to stick with it.

One interesting, and possible huge clue is how the support varies.

Overall, those who disagree with the government’s data monitoring are following the reports somewhat more closely than those who support them. Among those who find the government’s tracking of phone records to be unacceptable, 31% are following the story very closely, compared with 21% among those who say it is acceptable. Similarly with respect to reports about government monitoring of email and online activities, 28% of those who say this should not be done are following the news very closely, compared with 23% of those who approve of the practice.

It is interesting that those who are following the reports, reading and learning what they entail, are more likely to not support what the government has been doing. Then again, 62% of Americans can’t even pass the official US Citizen test given to foreigners who wish to become citizens. Should we be so surprised that they are happy to give up their freedoms for a little bit of perceived safety?

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In the past week, many people have either repeated that they’ve been warning others about government spying on American citizens for years or they don’t have a problem with it because corporations have been doing it for years. It is not only terrorists, criminals, and spies who should fear secret activities of the British and US intelligence agencies. It is each and every one of us. In such a split nation, everyone needs to take a closer look at just what the metadata collected from PRISM can do to an individual before pronouncing that it’s okay for the NSA to keep tabs on all of its citizens.

Facebook can already tell if you are gay, use drugs, or are a Republican. The metadata that you provide on Facebook reveals who you are, sometimes unwittingly.

Sociologist Kieran Healy of Duke University has already shown how easy it is to discover a person using metadata. Using metadata, he was able to find the terrorist Paul Revere.

Metadata matters. As the EFF has demonstrated, it can reveal a lot about an individual.

What they are trying to say is that disclosure of metadata—the details about phone calls, without the actual voice—isn’t a big deal, not something for Americans to get upset about if the government knows. Let’s take a closer look at what they are saying:

  • They know you rang a phone sex service at 2:24 am and spoke for 18 minutes. But they don’t know what you talked about.
  • They know you called the suicide prevention hotline from the Golden Gate Bridge. But the topic of the call remains a secret.
  • They know you spoke with an HIV testing service, then your doctor, then your health insurance company in the same hour. But they don’t know what was discussed.
  • They know you received a call from the local NRA office while it was having a campaign against gun legislation, and then called your senators and congressional representatives immediately after. But the content of those calls remains safe from government intrusion.
  • They know you called a gynecologist, spoke for a half hour, and then called the local Planned Parenthood’s number later that day. But nobody knows what you spoke about.

Sorry, your phone records—oops, “so-called metadata”—can reveal a lot more about the content of your calls than the government is implying. Metadata provides enough context to know some of the most intimate details of your lives.  And the government has given no assurances that this data will never be correlated with other easily obtained data. They may start out with just a phone number, but a reverse telephone directory is not hard to find. Given the public positions the government has taken on location information, it would be no surprise if they include location information demands in Section 215 orders for metadata.

Still, many will continue to say that they don’t consider it a bad thing for the government to know who their friends are, where they shop, or where they travel. The problem is this information is already being used to profile you based on whether or not you hang out with normal people or people the government has deemed radical. If you know someone or are related to a “radical,” you will receive increased surveillance. At that moment, you are considered an outlier, but the more you communicate with this “radical” the more likely you are going to be moved from outlier to insider.

What happens to you when this information begins to be used as a check on your personal movements and livelihood? You can no longer fly on a plane, leave the country or get a government or some other type of job. You get stopped for a simple broken tail light or speeding. Normally, you’re given a ticket and you’re set on your way. Now, because the government has labeled you as having a relation to a radical, there’s a mark in your record and the police taking you in for further questioning. You haven’t broken the law, but the police don’t know this and no amount of pleading from you will prevent their investigation and questioning.

You don’t even have to be under an active investigation to, eventually, be considered a suspect. The Patriot Act, under Section 215 allows them to collect all this data and then it just sits there. One day in the future, John Terrorist is being followed and investigated. A security analyst discovers that John Terrorist shops at the same hardware as you do and has called the same truck rental places that you did. Much of these actions occur around the same time period. Your information is now pulled up and scoured over. Your emails are read and your taken away for questioning. You’re completely innocent, but that doesn’t change public perception. In the meantime, your life is turned upside down until the government finally declares that you’re innocent. It doesn’t matter because your wife has left you, your kids hate you, you lost your job and can’t find another one, you’re bankrupt, and no one cares because they still believe you are guilty.

The NSA slideshow clearly points out that they have access to every email, chat (video, voice, and VoIP), video, photo, data stored in the cloud, logins, social network details, and file transfers.


Still think it’s okay? Before you answer, you need to realize that this is so much more than just the metadata. You don’t need a warrant for a DNR (dialed-number-recorder) to be hooked up to a phone line. This will give you access to when you picked up your phone, what number you dialed, and how long you spoke for. The police also don’t need a warrant for server content either, including IP address, time, data, operating system, and transfer statistics. It’s every email, tweet, post, and phone conversation.

If politicians, such as Lindsey Graham, think that there is nothing harmful or worth worrying about in the metadata, then he should be the first one to have all of his metadata released. Then, and only then, will we see what he really thinks about the personal collection of people’s private conversations without their knowledge and without them being suspected of any crime.

As Americans, we shouldn’t be pointing fingers as to who voted who into office. We’re already in this position. George Bush started this all without informing anyone. Barack Obama has extended what was already there. No one honestly believes that Mitt Romney would have been much different. Congress and the courts have upheld all of this as legal. Everyone had a hand in making this legal and normal. Now, they’re invoking special privilege to get Americans to stop talking about it. Fighting over who is to blame serves no purpose other than divide the people so they will not take any action against their government and will stop pushing for answers and changes to policy.

We could impeach every single person in Washington that had a hand in this, but we would end up back in the same situation as before. The American people have proven time and again that they simply don’t care. As long as they have their bread and circuses, nothing is going to change. Right now it doesn’t affect you, but what happens when it does?

Enough is enough. We’ve had Echelon, Carnivore, Total Information Awareness, and PRISM. It’s time to stop letting the government abuse the constitution and stop being afraid. PRISM should scare you, but it’s time to stop fearing the government and make them afraid of you.

Americans can start with practical measures, such as firing National Intelligence Director, James Clapper, and trying him for perjury for lying to Congress. If you feel like you can’t do anything locally to fight the government, you can. You can donate time and/or money to the ACLU, EPIC, Wikileaks, and EFF, who tirelessly fight for your rights.

Picture Source.

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As usual, the media has decided that, instead of looking at the problems of the NSA spying on it own citizens and the entire scandal surrounding it, it has taken to attacks on Edward Snowden, the whistleblower behind the leaks. The Guardian article presented the facts and didn’t speculate on Snowden or his character because it isn’t a necessary part of the story. Other media outlets, however, are ignoring the massive violations to the constitution that the NSA has committed and decided to participate in ad hominem attacks.

The New York Times is calling Snowden “a relatively low-level employee of a giant government contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton”

The article goes on to disparage Snowden further.

“In past years, someone like Snowden may not have had access to briefings detailing these collection programs,” said Cedric Leighton, a former deputy director of the National Security Agency, “but now with the push from a ‘need to know’ to a ‘need to share’ philosophy, it’s far more likely for an I.T. contractor like him to gain access to such documents.”

According to the Washington Post, “he was capable of melodrama,” which undermines the seriousness of what Snowden is trying to relay and inform the public about.

Thanks to Politico, we now know that Snowden had a cluttered garage and didn’t seem like a nice neighbor because he never stopped to chat. They also try to spin the fact that he was only in the military for 5 months and didn’t complete any training. That’s a bit hard to do when you have two broken legs.

CNN has described him in this way:

Edward Snowden, the man behind one of the biggest leaks in the history of U.S. intelligence, is a former technical assistant for the CIA who is now holed up in a Hong Kong hotel, in danger of running out of money and hoping to find asylum somewhere in the world.

It makes it seem as Snowden is some seedy character on the run from the CIA. CNN has also focusing on whether or not what Snowden was criminal, ignoring what the CIA has been doing years. This afternoon, CNN was asking these questions.

Most leakers seem to be millennials, is this something about how they think differently? They seem to think of themselves as world citizens and govts dont [sic] like that. They see themselves as world citizens, not national citizens and that makes them harder to control (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically it).

So, it’s the millennial fault that this is all happening. It’s not the government who is evil here.

It’s unnerving that Americans, including politicians, are angry at Snowden, yet, even with PRISM and all the tools, legal and illegal, at their disposal, the NSA didn’t have a clue about the Boston Bombers. They are probably the dumbest terrorists ever to set foot on American soil, yet all the metadata in the world didn’t provide any clues to the NSA of what was about to happen. However, we’re mad that someone informed the public about such a system and everyone is calling for his head on a platter. They want Edward Snowden extradited and prosecuted for exposing government corruption. It’s even sadder that what the NSA did is, technically, legal right now, yet Americans want the head of Snowden and not the NSA. Hopefully, the Icelandic government can give him asylum.

Watch The Guardian’s interview with Edward Snowden via Democracy Now.

You can also watch the followup interview with Glenn Greenwald, which discusses Edward Snowden, PRISM, and the NSA spying.

Daniel Ellsberg, Woodward and Bernstein, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden. We need these whistle blowers. How many more like them will come forward and how much more will the American public put up with?

If you want to take action to fight and change things to force the government to change, go to the EFF’s Take Action page. You can also sign the We the People petition to pardon Edward Snowden. You can also call your Representatives and Senators.

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