From the testimony, PDF of Pam Dixon (World Privacy Forum) before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation:
What do a retired librarian in Wisconsin in the early stages of Alzheimer's, a police officer, and a mother in Texas have in common? The answer is that all were victims of consumer data brokers.[more inside]
In which I relate my experience as an NSA employee and impart my thoughts on the policies in place, my former coworkers, and the current cyber war. I am an American patriot. Many impressions may come to mind at that word, “patriot”: perhaps that I am a Republican, that I don’t care about people outside the US, or that I am afraid of them. In my case, none of these conceptions apply. Patriotism to me simply means that I care about the US and its future. [more inside]
CIA, FBI and Pentagon spies have infiltrated online games including World of Warcraft, Second Life and Xbox Live games.
On Lulu, women can rate men in categories — ex-boyfriend, crush, together, hooked-up, friend or relative — with a multiple-choice quiz. Women, their gender verified by their Facebook logins, add pink hashtags to a man’s profile ranging from the good (#KinkyInTheRightWays) to the bad (#NeverSleepsOver) to the ugly (#PornEducated). The hashtags are used to calculate a score generated by Lulu, ranging from 1 to 10, that appears under the man’s profile picture. (The company’s spokeswoman declined to explain the ratings algorithm.) Men can add hashtags, which appear in blue, but these are not factored into their overall score. (SLNYT)
A couple made the mistake of breaking up on a NYC rooftop next to comedian Kyle Ayers, who promptly live-tweeted their breakup with the hashtag #roofbreakup, which went viral, prompting not only retweets, commentary, and memeification, but also a video re-enactment. However, some are considering the wider implications of this kind of phenomenon, pondering the ethics of the panopticon, live reportage on ordinary people, and even the nature of relationships itself in the context of the pair. [more inside]
"In 1967, The Public Interest, then a leading venue for highbrow policy debate, published a provocative essay by Paul Baran, one of the fathers of the data transmission method known as packet switching [and agent of RAND]. Titled “The Future Computer Utility," the essay speculated that someday a few big, centralized computers would provide 'information processing … the same way one now buys electricity. Highly sensitive personal and important business information will be stored in many of the contemplated systems … At present, nothing more than trust—or, at best, a lack of technical sophistication—stands in the way of a would-be eavesdropper.' To read Baran’s essay (just one of the many on utility computing published at the time) is to realize that our contemporary privacy problem is not contemporary. It’s not just a consequence of Mark Zuckerberg’s selling his soul and our profiles to the NSA. The problem was recognized early on, and little was done about it... It’s not enough for a website to prompt us to decide who should see our data. Instead it should reawaken our own imaginations. Designed right, sites would not nudge citizens to either guard or share their private information but would reveal the hidden political dimensions to various acts of information sharing." -- MIT Technology Review on The Real Privacy Problem
"Reality has caught us" Ubisoft game Watch Dogs, scheduled for release next year, models pervasive surveillance as a game. Polygon's Charlie Hall investigates Chicago's vast camera network and finds the fiction might be not so far away from reality. [more inside]
Facebook just got less private. Now anyone one can find you. Facebook has eliminated a setting that controls whether users could be found when people type their name into the website's search bar. [more inside]
SensorPrint is a proposal to exploit subtle imperfections in accelerometers as a unique fingerprint for smartphones [pdf]. It's easy to demonstrate the idea: Generate a unique ID for your own device. SensorPrint joins other hardware-based tracking concepts in the pursuit of non-configurable, location-aware, un-deletable "cookies" on your mobile device. [via]
Daniel Radcliffe’s Next Trick Is to Make Harry Potter Disappear (slnyt profile, via) [more inside]
But that didn't prevent On the Media producer Sarah Abdurrahman and several members of her family and friends from being detained at a Canadian-US border while on the way home from a wedding. The story is all the more frightening as it details Sarah's inability to get any answers about policy from the Border Patrol, including the name of the officers who held her.
"These discussions are thoughtful and measured, but the premise that frames them all is shaky; Lessig doesn't offer much proof that a Soviet-style loss of privacy and freedom is on its way. … Unlike actual law, Internet software has no capacity to punish. It doesn't affect people who aren't online (and only a tiny minority of the world population is). And if you don't like the Internet's system, you can always flip off the modem." — David Pogue is the creator of the ''Missing Manual'' series, which will include guides to Mac OS 9, Outlook Express and Windows 2000.
Google knows almost every wi-fi password. Of course this means that the NSA also has access to them. Apple might not be much better.
Cookieless Monster: Exploring the Ecosystem of Web-based Device Fingerprinting [pdf]. From the 2013 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, this article examines "how web-based device fingerprinting currently works on the Internet. By analyzing the code of three popular browser-fingerprinting code providers, we reveal the techniques that allow websites to track users without the need of client-side identifiers [i.e. cookies]." [more inside]
How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets. "It all started with her own fight against surveillance." [more inside]
Too much information: Our instincts for privacy evolved in tribal societies where walls didn't exist. No wonder we are hopeless oversharers. [Via]
In a crackdown that FBI claims to be about hunting down pedophiles, half of the onion sites in the TOR network has been compromised, including the e-mail counterpart of TOR deep web, TORmail. FreedomWeb, an Irish company known for providing hosting for Tor "hidden services" -- services reached over the Tor anonymized/encrypted network -- has shut down after its owner, Eric Eoin Marques, was arrested over allegations that he had facilitated the spread of child pornography. [more inside]
A series of BBC News Magazine articles on the office as workplace: (i) How the office was invented; (ii) The ancient Chinese exam that inspired modern job recruitment (previously); (iii) The invention of the career ladder; (iv) The arrival of women in the office; (v) Do we still need the telephone?; (vi) Are there too many managers?; (vii) The era of the sexually charged office; (viii) The decline of privacy in open-plan offices; (ix) How the computer changed the office forever and (x) Why did offices become like the home?—by columnist Lucy Kellaway. [more inside]
On July 30th, the Oakland City Council unanimously voted to accept $2 million in federal funds to create a 24/7 "Domain Awareness Center" that would "link surveillance cameras, license-plate readers, gunshot detectors, Twitter feeds, alarm notifications and other data into a unified 'situational awareness' tool for law enforcement." [more inside]
The new documentary "Terms And Conditions May Apply," about the privacy overreach of major tech companies, presents its trailer on a cleverly written page of terms and conditions.
After a six-month hiatus, Surveillance Camera Man (previously) is back with a new video, and a site of his own. (via waxy) [more inside]
Concerned about privacy and government surveillance? Not even snail-mail is safe: With Mail Isolation Control and Tracking, the US Postal Service is now photographing the exterior of every piece of paper mail in the United States, and storing the data indefinitely.
Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple are being monitored by the FBI and NSA, with Dropbox "coming soon." So what can you do? Use some alternatives. As Gabriel Weinberg, founder of DuckDuckGo, told NPR: "we made the choice to just not track people so there is nothing to turn over."
The end of Summer 2013 should see the release of Memoto, a wearable camera that takes a picture of what's in front of you every thirty seconds 24/7. Billed as an unobtrusive observer for lifebloggers, it is also being touted as a legal witness and an alibi provider. An interview that asks Memoto's CEO about privacy. (warning: interview filmed in shaky-cam)
The Secret History of Privacy. "Something creepy happened when mystery became secular, secrecy became a technology, and privacy became a right..." [Via]
The Council of the European Union recently released a proposal to amend the General Data Protection Regulation. Scaling back from becoming the most strict privacy regulation in the world, the amendment greatly favors corporate interests while reducing the rights of data subjects. [more inside]
I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."
How the feminist internet utopia failed, and we ended up with speculative realism. Contemporary mass culture equates anonymity with secrecy or downright negative intent, not harmless experimentation. Who lies about who they are online? Pedophiles, scammers, hackers, bullies, Wikileaks. Anonymity has turned from thrilling to terrifying. 1:1 self-to-body ratio is a moral mandate. It’s no wonder that nailing down objective reality seems so attractive.
Washington Post: NSA and FBI are mining data from nine major tech companies in formerly secret program. Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple are being monitored, with Dropbox "coming soon". The program, called PRISM, is reportedly the most prolific contributor to the President's Daily Brief.
Glenn Greenwald has produced a secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over to the NSA "telephony metadata" of all local and international calls either originating or terminating in the United States on an "ongoing, daily basis," and further barring Verizon from disclosing to the public the fulfillment of this request or the existence of the court order itself. The ACLU refers to the practice as "beyond Orwellian." Direct link to the court order available here. [more inside]
The Pew Internet And American Life Project has a new report out on Teens, Social Media, and Privacy. danah boyd comments:
My favorite finding of Pew’s is that 58% of teens cloak their messages either through inside jokes or other obscure references, with more older teens (62%) engaging in this practice than younger teens (46%).[more inside]
Photographer Arne Svenson has sparked a bit of controversy with his recent show "The Neighbors," about which he says, "I turned to the residents of a glass-walled apartment building across the street from my NYC studio. The Neighbors don’t know they are being photographed; I carefully shoot from the shadows of my home into theirs. I am not unlike the birder, quietly waiting for hours, watching for the flutter of a hand or the movement of a curtain as an indication that there is life within." [more inside]
I turned around to face an approaching figure. It was Larry Page, naked, save for a pair of eyeglasses. “Welcome to Google Island. I hope my nudity doesn’t bother you. We’re completely committed to openness here. Search history. Health data. Your genetic blueprint. One way to express this is by removing clothes to foster experimentation. It’s something I learned at Burning Man,” he said.
Facebook Software Updates in Real Life: Parody [SYTL 2min 20sec] 'Facebook Updates in Real Life' illustrates that not all of the mobile user base is happy with the current 'Facebook Home' improvements. [more inside]
EFF's Who Has Your Back? for 2013. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published the 2013 edition of their analysis of how well your private data is protected from the government by about a dozen big internet companies. Also available as pdf. Focused on the US, but may apply elsewhere, too.
Panopticon is a documentary which details how our concept of privacy is altered by the modern surveillance state.
On the 23 of June, 2011 a secret five hour meeting took place between WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who was under house arrest in rural UK at the time and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. We provide here a verbatim transcript of the majority of the meeting; a close reading, particularly of the latter half, is revealing.[more inside]
Practical Ethics: Enlightened Surveillance?
Surrendering on surveillance might be the least bad option – of all likely civil liberty encroachments, this seemed the less damaging and hardest to resist. But that’s an overly defensive way of phrasing it – if ubiquitous surveillance and lack of privacy are the trends of the future, we shouldn’t just begrudgingly accept them, but demand that society gets the most possible out of them.[more inside]
The TechNet trade association has been lobbying for CISPA, a bill the EFF describes as a “misguided cybersecurity bill that would create a gaping exception to existing privacy law while doing little to address palpable and pressing online security issues” (previously). Google's Eric Schmidt signed TechNet's letter supporting CISPA. [more inside]
The ACLU reports that the IRS claims in an internal document that it has the authority to access citizens' online communications without a warrant. The IRS claimed in a 2009 document that "the Fourth Amendment does not protect communications held in electronic storage, such as email messages stored on a server, because internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications." It still retains that position even after the 2010 case of US v Warshak which determined that citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications. [more inside]
When it hits you, no matter how much you expect it, it comes as a surprise — a literal shock, like a baseball bat swung hard and squarely into the small of your back. That sensation — which is actually two sharp steel barbs piercing your skin and shooting electricity into your central nervous system — is followed by the harshest, most violent charlie horse you can imagine coursing through your entire body. With the pain comes the terrifying awareness that you are completely helpless. You cannot move. You lose control of almost everything and the only place you can go is down, face first to the floor. That’s what it feels like to be hit with a Taser.
Facebook announces Facebook Home, a layer of apps for Android that turns your phone into a Facebook hub. The Verge has a review with pictures – they seem to like it. But Om Malik fears that Facebook Home destroys any notion of privacy for its users:
So if your phone doesn’t move from a single location between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for say a week or so, Facebook can quickly deduce the location of your home. Facebook will be able to pinpoint on a map where your home is, whether you share your personal address with the site or not. It can start to build a bigger and better profile of you on its servers. It can start to correlate all of your relationships, all of the places you shop, all of the restaurants you dine in and other such data. The data from accelerometer inside your phone could tell it if you are walking, running or driving. As Zuckerberg said — unlike the iPhone and iOS, Android allows Facebook to do whatever it wants on the platform, and that means accessing the hardware as well.
How stores spy on you: Many retailers are snooping more than ever Gaze trackers are hidden in tiny holes in the shelving and detect which brands you’re looking at and how long for each. There are even mannequins whose eyes are cameras...Cisco is testing a system [that] automatically detects your mobile device and connects you to the retailer’s free Wi-Fi network. "Once the customer gets on the network, he has opted in, and the privacy concerns are allayed..." [via] [more inside]
Why the collision of big data and privacy will require a new realpolitik:
The paper, entitled Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility, took an anonymized dataset from an unidentified mobile operator containing call information for around 1.5 million users over 14 months. The purpose of the study was to figure out how many data points — based on time and location — were needed to identify individual users. The answer, for 95 percent of the “anonymous” users logged in that database, was just four.
Google Glasses are being tested by tech writers as we speak. But are they a good thing? The long awaited Project Glass is nearly here. There are articles about them here, here, and here among many others. But is it a good thing? Questions are being asked both about safety and about privacy. Everything good, bad and ugly about the online world is about to get more intense. Are you ready?
Welcome to a world where Google knows exactly what sort of porn you all like, and more about your interests than your spouse does.
Cypherpunk rising: WikiLeaks, encryption, and the coming surveillance dystopia by R. U. Sirius. [Via]