Category Archives: Privacy

Who watches the watchers?

From the Orlando Sentinal is this report about police abusing the FL DMV database. The is more about it at the Reason blog.

Government databases will always be abused. That’s the nature of man and there is no use fighting it. Which is why massive government databases should not be created to begin with, unless there is no alternative.

Who’s the rube?

There is an old saying that when you sit down to a poker game if you can’t spot the rube, you’re the rube.

Given the recent news that Instagram has announced that they now have the rights to sell your photos, perhaps that should be good advice for online services. Here is a good hint; if you aren’t paying for a service, then at a minimum you aren’t a “customer”. Oh the service has customers all right, you’re just not in their number.

Update: of course XKCD nails this one better than I ever could.

There is always my way out…

Google’s new privacy policy is generating a lot of discussion. The controversial part is that Google is going to cross reference the data it collects on different services for the purpose of tweaking the ads and search results you see.

The creeps a lot of people out. What creeps them out even more is that you can’t opt out.

Of course there is always my way out… (cue lightning flash and creepy James Earl Jone laugh).

Seriously though, don’t use Google services exclusively. Use Bing instead of Google for searching. Use Yahoo instead of GMail. Buy an iPhone, or if you want an Android phone, create a new email account just for phone use. Use Facebook instead of Google+.

If you give one company all your data what do you think they are going to do with it?

You ultimately have control over this in your choice of providers. You can opt out by switching.

Internet Protest Day

You may notice a lot of sites today have “blacked out” or are otherwise protesting the PIPA and SOPA acts being considered in the US Senate and House of Representatives.

If you are not familiar with the acts you really need to be. Please take time to visit the EFF pages on SOPA and PIPA here and in more detail here.

The job you save could be your own.

Security via obscurity failed… in 1903

This is a wonderful story about the hacking of Marconi’s wireless system in 1903. Marconi touted the security of his system based on a tight (and presumably not publicly disclosed) frequency bandwidth. Of course it was hacked in a public and humiliating fashion.

Security via obscurity, as effective in 1903 as it is today.

Hat tip to Bruce Schneier.

Yet another abuse by the TSA

This story about how the TSA not only searched a woman’s bags, but also went through her check book and receipts is quite infuriating (but not really surprising). The USA flying situation has already degraded into a farcical mix of incompetence and fascism that could only be surpassed by the society in Terry Gilliam’s classic “Brazil”. And I’m not sure it surpasses it by all that much.

And  we all will soon get to experience the electronic equivalent of a strip search once they roll out the new body scanners.

The worst part of all this is that the TSA’s policy seems to be that if you react with anything other than meek acceptance they will call the police. The consistent code words are “elevated behavior”.

If your behavior isn’t elevated after interacting with the TSA, there’s something wrong with you. If only we would wake up and fire the lot of them.

Forgetful Paradisio

Tim Cole has an interesting post about the need for a “forgetful” internet. A place where embarrassing pictures don’t haunt you for life. A place where there is no permanent record. A place where all sins are eventual forgiven and forgotten.

Such a place does not now exist. Unfortunately the search for such a forgetful paradisio leads instead to the inferno of government control. For if the government can tell you how long you can leave something online, they can also tell you not to put it online to begin with. And they will.

iPolice

By now you probably know the sordid case of the lost iPhone and the ongoing Apple-Gizmodo spat that culminated in the recent police raid on a Gizmodo editor’s home. The raid raises two very interesting and troubling issues. The first concerns state and federal journalist shield laws and how they apply to online journalists like Jason Chen. That deserves a separate treatment that I will defer to a later post.

The second issue is why the police descended on a home in mass to break down the door and cart away six computers in what is essentially an intellectual property dispute between two corporations. The reason, it turns out, for this strange action on the part of the high-tech crime task force is that Apple sits on their steering committee.

Meet the iPolice, Apple’s very own IP enforcement squad with handy police state powers.

When you make a call and have the police break into a citizens home and confiscate his possessions, doesn’t that qualify you as an evil corporate behemoth?

Full disclosure: I don’t own any Apple products. At this rate it not looking like I ever will.

I thought xauth was a Unix command…

Axel Nennker is calling out Google and Meebo for the privacy aspects of the new XAuth spec.

Peter Yarid has some thoughts here, but criticizes it more from a business than privacy standpoint.

Techie-buzz has this candidate for the understatement award:

There are of course privacy implications because not every user would want every website in the world to know what social networks it uses.

Gee, you think?

You have already agreed to be monitored

Steve Chapman poses the question, “would you volunteer to carry a device that lets the police monitor your location 24×7, every day?” He then lets you in on a secret, you already have. In fact chances are you have the locator on your person at this very moment.

It’s called a cell phone.

Just think of the privacy implications here. The government can tell if you spend the night at someone elses house, visit a red light district, attend a political rally, drive too fast, or get a medical procedure. They can know where you are at all times, both when you are out in public or when you are in a private residence.

Oh, and the current administration (like the last one) doesn’t think a warrant should be required for any of this.