Tag 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.

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.

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.

Pre-crime and punishment

Reason has this disturbing story about an Oregon man who was taken into custody, had his house searched (without a warrant), had his property taken, and was forced to undergo a mental examination all because there was a suspicion that he might commit a violent crime in the future. He is not suspected of actually committing a crime or of actually threatening anyone, but he was a gun collector who had been place on administrative leave from his job.

Defenders of this policy will likely point out that he was released and his property was returned, so the action is warranted to make sure that he wasn’t a threat to his community. I would note that such defenders are not volunteering to have the SWAT team come to their home, search their house, and haul them to a mental facility in handcuffs.

Living and dying in reputation time

Microsoft has done an interesting study that finds %70 of hr professionals surveyed had rejected applicants due to online reputation. Clearly people need to be more careful about not putting things out there that will hurt their reputation.

But why stop with just hiding the bad? How about accentuating the good? How about inventing the good?

Perhaps there is a great opportunity for a start up that would “puff” people’s online reputations for a small fee. If your prospective employer if browsing your Facebook page, wouldn’t it be great if Reverend Smith was thanking you for your great work you did at the homeless shelter last weekend, or kudos from your kids school for getting their library book fair organized? How about posts from one of your friends about how you helped him move into his new house? A reputation buffing service could plant this kind of reputation to really make you look like the kind of person that employers would want on their team.

Or you could go out and actually do those things… nah, that’s just crazy.