Showing posts with label privacy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label privacy. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Operator? Information. Get me Obama on the line.

A journalism professor of mine at Louisiana State used to tell us that every time he made an international call, he'd always close with "And greetings to the good people at the NSA!"

Because, of course, everybody knew the National Security Agency was eavesdropping on most, if not all, overseas telephone calls in search of Russkie spies, pinko security threats or whatnot. It was the Cold War, after all.

Today, things are different. After more than a decade of the endless -- and endlessly amorphous -- War on Terror, we need to be closing every phone call with "And greetings to the good people at the NSA, the FBI and whomever else in the U.S. government might be listening in!"

As a convenience to its land-line and cellular customers, maybe Verizon could just insert that friendly "Greetings to our federal overlords!" into the metadata for every call it handles. That's because the NSA, on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is collecting data on every call the phone company handles -- which would be yours, if you're a customer.

And, as a courtesy to my friendly, neighborhood G-man, that Verizon cell-phone call made to the Mighty Favog by Abu Missus last night at 8:51 p.m., was to see whether I needed anything else from CVS. No radioactive iodine or ammonium nitrate was involved, I swear.

But if you show up at the door, I'm gonna lawyer up like a son of a bitch before you can ship me off to Guantanamo.

ANYWAY, confirmation of our present political-freedom-cannot-withstand-a-never-ending-state-of-war moment has been brought to you by The Guardian, the left-wing British daily. Not, I note, by any American newspaper -- liberal, conservative or conflicted:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government's domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI's request for its customers' records, or the court order itself.

"We decline comment," said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of "all call detail records or 'telephony metadata' created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad" or "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls".
I THINK we now understand exactly what all that "change" President Obama promised us in 2008 was all about.

It means that the New Boss is pretty much the same as the Old Boss, except that he's black, is from Chicago, plays basketball instead of riding a bicycle and is more better well-spoken. Frankly, it would take an extraordinary man to roll back the fascistic powers the modern American president has amassed since Dwight Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex back in 1960.

Barack Obama ain't that extraordinary. Like most of low-down, rotten humanity, the man craves power like a hog loves slop.

You might want to think about that before clamoring for yet another battle to fight on the global stage (Syria, anyone? Iran, perhaps?) -- yet another pretext to send more young Americans home in plastic bags, yet another pretext to turn you into a little bit more of a subject instead of a citizen.

And people were worried about "Obamacare."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Discretion! Really? What a concept!

Well. Freakin'. DUH!

Saturday's New York Times has a story about young people once again pushing their dinghy onto the pristine sands of terra incognita, a whole new world we shall dub The Obvious.


WELL, SCREW IT . . . there's just so much one can say, so just go on and read it yourself. Here's the first part to get you started:
Min Liu, a 21-year-old liberal arts student at the New School in New York City, got a Facebook account at 17 and chronicled her college life in detail, from rooftop drinks with friends to dancing at a downtown club. Recently, though, she has had second thoughts.

Concerned about her career prospects, she asked a friend to take down a photograph of her drinking and wearing a tight dress. When the woman overseeing her internship asked to join her Facebook circle, Ms. Liu agreed, but limited access to her Facebook page. “I want people to take me seriously,” she said.

The conventional wisdom suggests that everyone under 30 is comfortable revealing every facet of their lives online, from their favorite pizza to most frequent sexual partners. But many members of the tell-all generation are rethinking what it means to live out loud.

While participation in social networks is still strong, a survey released last month by the University of California, Berkeley, found that more than half the young adults questioned had become more concerned about privacy than they were five years ago — mirroring the number of people their parent’s age or older with that worry.

They are more diligent than older adults, however, in trying to protect themselves. In a new study to be released this month, the Pew Internet Project has found that people in their 20s exert more control over their digital reputations than older adults, more vigorously deleting unwanted posts and limiting information about themselves. “Social networking requires vigilance, not only in what you post, but what your friends post about you,” said Mary Madden, a senior research specialist who oversaw the study by Pew, which examines online behavior. “Now you are responsible for everything.”

The erosion of privacy has become a pressing issue among active users of social networks. Last week, Facebook scrambled to fix a security breach that allowed users to see their friends’ supposedly private information, including personal chats.

Sam Jackson, a junior at Yale who started a blog when he was 15 and who has been an intern at Google, said he had learned not to trust any social network to keep his information private. “If I go back and look, there are things four years ago I would not say today,” he said. “I am much more self-censoring. I’ll try to be honest and forthright, but I am conscious now who I am talking to.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

The trouble with Google

The problem with smart people is they can be so dumb.

Take the techie wunderkinds at Google. They thought it would be a fine idea to combine Gmail with elements of Twitter and Facebook, thus giving themselves the chance to be the Masters of All Social Media.

BUT NONE of these scary-smart people thought combining the exhibitionism of Twitter and Facebook with the inherently "private" nature of electronic mail (even if it is web based like Gmail) might be a problem. And could, for some people, be a full-blown privacy nightmare from which they'd be hard-pressed to wake up.

(Note that the last link is not kid- or workplace-friendly . . . the title is "F U Google," only spelled out in all its Anglo-Saxon glory. And the post gets more bitter from there.)

Reuters explains it all here:
Google touted its 176 million Gmail users as a key advantage in its latest attempt to break into the red-hot social networking market, dominated by the likes of Facebook and Twitter. But email may turn out to be Google’s Achilles heel.

Less than four days after introducing Google Buzz, a social networking service that is built-in to Gmail, the company is already moving to address a growing privacy backlash.
At issue is the network of contacts that Buzz automatically creates for new users based on their existing email contacts, saving people the laborious chore of manually building a social graph from scratch.

The problem is that Google’s ready-made social network is composed of people’s frequent email contacts – which are not necessarily the folks you want to receive regular status updates and random musings from (e.g. your landlord).

But the bigger problem – as many blogs and online publications have pointed out in recent days – is that people’s email contacts are in inherently private and the mere fact of making them publicly accessible can be dangerous.

Who needs the National Security Agency to comb the Internet for every detail about us when Corporate America so helpfully encourages us to out ourselves? And then we're shocked, shocked when an abusive ex-husband shows up on the stoop with a shotgun. Or when an employer takes a dim view of that picture of you . . . well, prudence dictates that I not elaborate upon that one.

Thing is, it's not just Buzz in Google's quiver of poison-tipped arrows aimed right at the stuff formerly known as "None of Your Beeswax."

See the above screenshot.

If you have Google Chrome as a web browser, you might want to be extremely careful about who you let use your computer. Or about using any remote-desktop software.

You might even want to set up various user accounts on your PC, and then banish Chrome from all but your own. Then again, you just might want to uninstall the whole thing and resign yourself to surfing the web more slowly.

That's because all it takes for someone to steal every saved password you have is to open Chrome, click on the "wrench" icon on the toolbar, go to "options" and . . . voila!

AND IT WILL show them all to you, too. Or anyone else. Oops.

The trouble is you're likely to look at that and think, at first, "That's handy. I can't keep up with all the damned things. Can't remember half of them." Only later -- if ever -- do you get around to thinking that if you can look up all your passwords. . . .

Pity. I like Chrome. It really is sleek and fast.

But I like lots of things that, sooner or later, could land me in a world of hurt. The question is whether you can afford to indulge in them.

And that question, the way things are going, could be the death of Google.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Creating a negative buzz

Who in the world, upon hearing the premise of Google Buzz, ever could have thought privacy issues might come into play for all those early adopters getting their "buzz" on?

Really, what in the world could be the problem when you, in effect, combine Twitter and Facebook with your clunky old G-Mail account?

WELL, this, according to Business Insider:
There is a huge privacy flaw in Google's new Twitter/Facebook competitor, Google Buzz.

When you first go into Google Buzz, it automatically sets you up with followers and people to follow.

A Google spokesperson tells us these people are chosen based on whom the users emails and chats with most using Gmail.

That's fine.

The problem is that -- by default -- the people you follow and the people that follow you are made public to anyone who looks at your profile.

In other words, before you change any settings in Google Buzz, someone could go into your profile and see who are the people you email and chat with most.

(Freaking out already? Here's how to IMMEDIATELY stop following someone >)
YOU ARE NOW FRIENDS with that cheap barfly from the Cougar Lounge in the Bide-a-Wee Motel. Boy, you E-mail her a lot. Thirty-seven people like this.

Your wife does not.

Personally, I try to avoid "friending" loose women from local drinking establishments. That's one reason I've been married almost 27 years now.

See, there are things that I electronically share only with a specific person or persons. That is called E-mail -- it's not perfectly private, but it's about as private as you get in cyberspace.

Then there are things I care to share with friends, acquaintances, friends of friends and friends of acquaintances. That is called Facebook -- it's a great tool for finding folks, catching up and keeping up.

Finally, there's this thing I use to spew out pithy little tidbits to whomever wants to read them. I also use it to, in a matter of speaking, keep my electronic ear to the ground. That is called Twitter.

I GUESS if I were someone who just couldn't manage to keep three applications straight in my head -- and on my computer -- I'd be interested in Google Buzz. But I bet if that were the case, I'd be someone you'd figure you couldn't trust with a secret.