Loss of Privacy

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

Browsing Posts tagged surveillance society


User 161719 on reddit recently wrote an excellent post on why surveillance is not okay and it needs to be spread as far and wide as possible.

I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US. People here talking about curfews aren’t realizing what that actually FEELS like. It isn’t about having to go inside, and the practicality of that. It’s about creating the feeling that everyone, everything is watching. A few points:

1) the purpose of this surveillance from the governments point of view is to control enemies of the state. Not terrorists. People who are coalescing around ideas that would destabilize the status quo. These could be religious ideas. These could be groups like anon who are too good with tech for the governments liking. It makes it very easy to know who these people are. It also makes it very simple to control these people.

Lets say you are a college student and you get in with some people who want to stop farming practices that hurt animals. So you make a plan and go to protest these practices. You get there, and wow, the protest is huge. You never expected this, you were just goofing off. Well now everyone who was there is suspect. Even though you technically had the right to protest, you’re now considered a dangerous person.

With this tech in place, the government doesn’t have to put you in jail. They can do something more sinister. They can just email you a sexy picture you took with a girlfriend. Or they can email you a note saying that they can prove your dad is cheating on his taxes. Or they can threaten to get your dad fired. All you have to do, the email says, is help them catch your friends in the group. You have to report back every week, or you dad might lose his job. So you do. You turn in your friends and even though they try to keep meetings off grid, you’re reporting on them to protect your dad.

2) Let’s say number one goes on. The country is a weird place now. Really weird. Pretty soon, a movement springs up like occupy, except its bigger this time. People are really serious, and they are saying they want a government without this power. I guess people are realizing that it is a serious deal. You see on the news that tear gas was fired. Your friend calls you, frantic. They’re shooting people. Oh my god. you never signed up for this. You say, fuck it. My dad might lose his job but I won’t be responsible for anyone dying. That’s going too far. You refuse to report anymore. You just stop going to meetings. You stay at home, and try not to watch the news. Three days later, police come to your door and arrest you. They confiscate your computer and phones, and they beat you up a bit. No one can help you so they all just sit quietly. They know if they say anything they’re next. This happened in the country I live in. It is not a joke.

3) Its hard to say how long you were in there. What you saw was horrible. Most of the time, you only heard screams. People begging to be killed. Noises you’ve never heard before. You, you were lucky. You got kicked every day when they threw your moldy food at you, but no one shocked you. No one used sexual violence on you, at least that you remember. There were some times they gave you pills, and you can’t say for sure what happened then. To be honest, sometimes the pills were the best part of your day, because at least then you didn’t feel anything. You have scars on you from the way you were treated. You learn in prison that torture is now common. But everyone who uploads videos or pictures of this torture is labeled a leaker. Its considered a threat to national security. Pretty soon, a cut you got on your leg is looking really bad. You think it’s infected. There were no doctors in prison, and it was so overcrowded, who knows what got in the cut. You go to the doctor, but he refuses to see you. He knows if he does the government can see the records that he treated you. Even you calling his office prompts a visit from the local police.

You decide to go home and see your parents. Maybe they can help. This leg is getting really bad. You get to their house. They aren’t home. You can’t reach them no matter how hard you try. A neighbor pulls you aside, and he quickly tells you they were arrested three weeks ago and haven’t been seen since. You vaguely remember mentioning to them on the phone you were going to that protest. Even your little brother isn’t there.

4) Is this even really happening? You look at the news. Sports scores. Celebrity news. It’s like nothing is wrong. What the hell is going on? A stranger smirks at you reading the paper. You lose it. You shout at him “fuck you dude what are you laughing at can’t you see I’ve got a fucking wound on my leg?”

“Sorry,” he says. “I just didn’t know anyone read the news anymore.” There haven’t been any real journalists for months. They’re all in jail.
Everyone walking around is scared. They can’t talk to anyone else because they don’t know who is reporting for the government. Hell, at one time YOU were reporting for the government. Maybe they just want their kid to get through school. Maybe they want to keep their job. Maybe they’re sick and want to be able to visit the doctor. It’s always a simple reason. Good people always do bad things for simple reasons.

You want to protest. You want your family back. You need help for your leg. This is way beyond anything you ever wanted. It started because you just wanted to see fair treatment in farms. Now you’re basically considered a terrorist, and everyone around you might be reporting on you. You definitely can’t use a phone or email. You can’t get a job. You can’t even trust people face to face anymore. On every corner, there are people with guns. They are as scared as you are. They just don’t want to lose their jobs. They don’t want to be labeled as traitors.

This all happened in the country where I live.

You want to know why revolutions happen? Because little by little by little things get worse and worse. But this thing that is happening now is big. This is the key ingredient. This allows them to know everything they need to know to accomplish the above. The fact that they are doing it is proof that they are the sort of people who might use it in the way I described. In the country I live in, they also claimed it was for the safety of the people. Same in Soviet Russia. Same in East Germany. In fact, that is always the excuse that is used to surveil everyone. But it has never ONCE proven to be the reality.

Maybe Obama won’t do it. Maybe the next guy won’t, or the one after him. Maybe this story isn’t about you. Maybe it happens 10 or 20 years from now, when a big war is happening, or after another big attack. Maybe it’s about your daughter or your son. We just don’t know yet. But what we do know is that right now, in this moment we have a choice. Are we okay with this, or not? Do we want this power to exist, or not?

You know for me, the reason I’m upset is that I grew up in school saying the pledge of allegiance. I was taught that the United States meant “liberty and justice for all.” You get older, you learn that in this country we define that phrase based on the constitution. That’s what tells us what liberty is and what justice is. Well, the government just violated that ideal. So if they aren’t standing for liberty and justice anymore, what are they standing for? Safety?

Ask yourself a question. In the story I told above, does anyone sound safe?

I didn’t make anything up. These things happened to people I know. We used to think it couldn’t happen in America. But guess what? It’s starting to happen.

I actually get really upset when people say “I don’t have anything to hide. Let them read everything.” People saying that have no idea what they are bringing down on their own heads. They are naive, and we need to listen to people in other countries who are clearly telling us that this is a horrible horrible sign and it is time to stand up and say no.

There are many people who are reporting on reddit that they cannot post a link to the comment on Facebook and some speculation. Someone also registered a website where the comment is posted and you can use that if you’re being blocked on Facebook or anywhere else. You can also, of course, link to this website as well.

If you think you have nothing to hide. Think again. Privacy matters, even if you think you have nothing to hide.

This post originally appeared at The Daily Censored.

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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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