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Science, Culture, & Humanities
Topic: Privacy (Read 3088 times)
June 13, 2007, 09:11:28 AM »
The notion of Privacy is under serious attack. In my opinion, Privacy is a Constitutional right, found in the Ninth Amendment of our Consitution. This, not the scurrilous attacks upon his person, was the basis of my opposition to the nomination of brilliant legal mind Robert Bork to the Supreme Court-- he denied the existence of a C'l right to Privacy.
In the name of the inane and insane War on Drugs, the government has intruded into people's lives in ways that once upon a time would have been considered fascistic.
And now the march of technology creates its own demons.
This thread is for the discussion of these matters. Tis a rare event, but I begin with a NY Times editorial.
Published: June 13, 2007
Internet users are abuzz over Google’s new Street View feature, which displays ground-level photos of urban blocks that in some cases even look through the windows of homes. If that feels like Big Brother, consider the reams of private information that Google collects on its users every day through the search terms they enter on its site.
Privacy International, a London-based group, has just given Google its lowest grade, below Yahoo and Microsoft, for “comprehensive consumer surveillance and entrenched hostility to privacy.”
There are welcome signs that this Wild West era of online privacy invasion could be coming to an end. Data protection chiefs from the 27 countries of the European Union sent Google a letter recently questioning the company’s policy for retaining consumer information. Here at home, the Federal Trade Commission is looking into the antitrust ramifications of Google’s $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick, an online advertising company.
The F.T.C. should also examine the privacy ramifications of the deal. And Congress needs to act on proposals to prevent the warehousing of such personal data.
Google keeps track of the words users type into its popular site, while DoubleClick tracks surfing behavior across different client Web sites. The combination could give Google an unprecedented ability to profile Web users and their preferences. That knowledge means big bucks from companies trying to target their advertisements. But it also means Google could track more sensitive information — like what diseases users have, or what political causes they support.
Google has announced that rather than keeping information indefinitely, it would only keep it for 18 months before making it anonymous. That is a good step, but not enough since it’s not clear what anonymous means. Last year AOL released records of searches by 657,000 unidentified users. Reporters from The Times were able to trace the queries back to “anonymous” users.
Google is the focus of privacy advocates right now, but it is hardly the only concern. Competitors like Yahoo and Microsoft have the same set of incentives. Privacy is too important to leave up to the companies that benefit financially from collecting and retaining data. The F.T.C. should ask tough questions as it considers the DoubleClick acquisition, and Congress and the European Union need to establish clear rules on the collection and storage of personal information by all Internet companies.
Reply #1 on:
January 09, 2008, 04:55:35 PM »
By MIGUEL HELFT
Published: December 11, 2007
OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 10 - Will privacy sell?
Skip to next paragraph
Blogrunner: Reactions From Around the Web
Ask.com is betting it will. The fourth-largest search engine company will
begin a service today called AskEraser, which allows users to make their
searches more private.
Ask.com and other major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft
typically keep track of search terms typed by users and link them to a
computer's Internet address, and sometimes to the user. However, when
AskEraser is turned on, Ask.com discards all that information, the company
Ask, a unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp based in Oakland, hopes that the privacy
protection will differentiate it from more prominent search engines like
Google. The service will be conspicuously displayed on Ask.com's main search
page, as well as on the pages of the company's specialized services for
finding videos, images, news and blogs. Unlike typical online privacy
controls that can be difficult for average users to find or modify, people
will be able to turn AskEraser on or off with a single click.
"It works like a light switch," said Doug Leeds, senior vice president for
product management at Ask.com. Mr. Leeds said the service would be a selling
point with consumers who were particularly alert about protecting their
"I think that it is a step forward," said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of
the Center for Democracy and Technology, about AskEraser. "It is the first
time that a large company is giving individuals choices that are so
But underscoring how difficult it is to completely erase one's digital
footprints, the information typed by users of AskEraser into Ask.com will
not disappear completely. Ask.com relies on Google to deliver many of the
ads that appear next to its search results. Under an agreement between the
two companies, Ask.com will continue to pass query information on to Google.
Mr. Leeds acknowledged that AskEraser cannot promise complete anonymity, but
said it would greatly increase privacy protections for users who want them,
as Google is contractually constrained in what it can do with that
information. A Google spokesman said the company uses the information to
place relevant ads and to fight certain online scams.
Some privacy experts doubt that concerns about privacy are significant
enough to turn a feature like AskEraser into a major selling point for
Ask.com. The search engine accounted for 4.7 percent of all searches
conducted in the United States in October, according to comScore, which
ranks Internet traffic. By comparison, Google accounted for 58.5 percent,
Yahoo for 22.9 percent and Microsoft for 9.7 percent.
"My gut tells me that basically it is not going to be a competitive
advantage," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon
Institute, an independent research company "I think people will look at it
and see it as a cool thing, and they may use it. But I don't think it will
be a market differentiator."
Mr. Ponemon said many surveys showed that while about three in four
Americans said they were concerned about privacy, their concern was not
sufficient to make them change their behavior toward sharing personal
information. About 8 percent of Americans were concerned enough about
privacy to routinely take steps to protect it, the surveys showed.
"Privacy only becomes important to the average consumer when something blows
up," Mr. Ponemon said.
Of course, something has already blown up. Last year, AOL released the
queries conducted by more than 650,000 Americans over three months to foster
academic research. While the queries where associated only with a number,
rather than a computer's address, reporters for The New York Times and
others were quickly able to identify some of the people who had done the
queries. The queries released by AOL included searches for deeply private
things like "depression and medical leave" and "fear that spouse
The incident heightened concerns about the risks posed by the systematic
collection of growing amounts of data about people's online activities. In
response, search companies have sought to reassure consumers that they are
serious about privacy.
While companies say they need to keep records of search strings to improve
the quality of search results and fight online scams, they have put limits
on the time they retain user data.
Google and Microsoft make search logs largely anonymous or discard them
after 18 months. Yahoo does the same after 13 months.
In recent months, privacy has emerged as an increasingly important issue
affecting major Internet companies. Several consumer advocacy groups,
legislators and competitors, for instance, have expressed concerns about the
privacy implications of the proposed $3.1 billion merger between Google and
the ad serving company DoubleClick, which is being reviewed by regulators in
the United States and Europe.
Last month, the Federal Trade Commission held a forum to discuss concerns
over online ads that appear based on a user's Web visits. And just last
week, the popular social networking site Facebook suffered an embarrassing
setback when it was forced to rein in an advertising plan that would have
informed users of their friends' buying activities on the Web. After more
than 50,000 of its members objected, the company apologized and said it
would allow users to turn off the feature.
In some cases, companies have argued that they are required to keep records
of search queries for some time to comply with laws in various countries.
"Those arguments are seriously undermined when their competitors erase data
immediately," said Chris Hoofnagle, a senior lawyer at the Samuelson Law,
Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley.
Mr. Hoofnagle and other privacy advocates said they hoped AskEraser would
pressure Google and others to offer a similar feature. A Google spokesman
said the company takes privacy seriously but is not currently developing a
service to immediately discard search queries.
Our records are easily accessible
Reply #2 on:
February 23, 2008, 07:04:43 PM »
I've posted before how our records are easily accessed by many people. As I've mentioned I know for certain our phone records, bank records, credit information, pay information, and other information as all readilly available to crooks who can easily birbe employees of various companies to snoop on us and supply them with information. In my experience companies always deny it occurs, deny their employees don't do this, cover it up, not investigate, etc.
I have to grimace every time I hear the darn ACLU talk about how our government is invading our privacy when it is rampant in the private sector.
This is along the lines of what I have experienced for several years now:
Reply #3 on:
November 02, 2008, 10:10:28 AM »
Believe me the safest way to get away fro this is buy some old clothes fro a thrift shop, in cash , nonsequential bills , dont go near anything electronic
, dont look up , dont buy anything with RFIDS :evil:in them , dont use credit cards , debit cards , do online shopping , use the internet
use any energy from any of the utility companies
dont work anywhere for a salary, fet paid cash with a false name,,,,and on and on ,,,,and on....iperpetua
Because its the only way that you will ever be free...
Reply #4 on:
December 30, 2008, 02:16:50 PM »
Exposing Obama's Genome
And Oprah Winfrey's, Brad Pitts', and yours
Ronald Bailey | December 30, 2008
Cheap genome screening is becoming ever more widely available. For example, the price of a genome screening test offered by Silicon Valley startup 23andMe has dropped from $999 to $399, and it now reveals even more genetic information to customers. Let's say the price for such tests falls to the price of over-the-counter paternity tests, making it inexpensive and easy for DNA collected from anyone to be screened. Collecting DNA from suspects is a standard plot device in television shows like CSI: Miami and is a facet of real life crime solving. Investigators pick up a cigarette butt, a soft drink can, a toothpick, or a hair follicle, and have the residual DNA sequenced. All of us shed DNA and anyone could pick up our DNA and send it in for screening. But why would someone want to do that?
Imagine how many fans might be voyeuristically intrigued by the genetic details of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey or Brad Pitt. In fact, Winfrey famously had her DNA screened as part of a PBS television series, African American Lives, in an attempt to trace her African ancestry. Apparently, the results located her matrilineal ancestors among the Kpelle people of Liberia. Now, a waiter at the Table 52 restaurant in Chicago could take a water glass used by Winfrey and hand it over to an enterprising tabloid reporter for a couple of hundred bucks. The reporter could swab the lip of the glass and send in a sample of the talk show host's DNA for screening.
Given that everybody has some kind of genetic disease risks, the tabloid might later breathlessly report that Oprah is at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, age-related macular degeneration, or Crohn's disease. Based on the results of three different genetic markers related to macular degeneration, a sensational (and inaccurate) headline might read: "Oprah To Go Blind, Says Genetic Test." In fact, I am surprised that something like this hasn't already happened. Finding out this bit of titillating, but generally irrelevant, genetic information about entertainment or sports celebrities is no big deal. But what happens when the same thing is done to politicians?
University of Boston neurologist Robert Green and bioethicist George Annas recently considered the genetic privacy of politicians in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. Both the press and voters are interested in the health of presidential candidates. Green and Annas point out that "some presidential candidates, including Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, misled the public about their health status and that illness may have affected their ability to perform their duties." Roosevelt concealed the fact that, as a result of polio, he was a paraplegic confined to a wheel chair. Eisenhower hid the seriousness of his heart disease. Kennedy suffered from numerous debilitating ailments, most critically Addison's disease, an endocrine disease that produces fatigue and muscle weakness.
During the 2008 campaign, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) allowed reporters three hours to look over nearly 1200 pages of his medical records. Democratic political activists published a full page advertisement in The New York Times calling on the 72-year-old McCain to release his medical records. The ad also hinted that the candidate might be hiding information about the possibility of a recurrence of melanoma that was surgically removed 8 years earlier. For his part, President-elect Barack Obama made available just a one-page letter attesting to his good health.
Green and Annas point out that McCain's father and grandfather died of heart attacks at 70 and 61 years of age, respectively. And Obama's grandfather died of prostate cancer at age 73. They note that current genetic screening tests can identify markers that have significant associations with heart disease and prostate cancer. Does the public have a legitimate interest in knowing if McCain has genetic markers indicating a higher risk for heart disease and that Obama has markers indicating a higher risk of prostate cancer? More problematically, some genetic markers can indicate a risk of psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder.
Again, it's just as easy to obtain a DNA sample from a presidential candidate as it would be to get one from a celebrity like Winfrey. Green and Annas are most worried that competing campaigns might engage in "genetic McCarthyism." That is, campaigns will seek to obtain DNA from their adversaries and then release genetic data that suggests that their opponents are somehow unhealthy. Such a tactic could be used to confuse the public because genetic information is easy to misinterpret and to misrepresent. Consequently, Green and Annas argue that "future presidential candidates should resist calls to disclose their own genetic information. We recommend that they also pledge that their campaigns will not attempt to obtain or release genomic information about their opponents." They reject the idea of making it a federal crime to sequence a candidate's DNA without consent. Oddly, Green and Annas overlook the plausible scenario in which some media organization surreptitiously obtains DNA from candidates, and then sequences it and reports the results.
Consider that the genetic risks suggested above for Oprah Winfrey are actually the results of my genetic screening test with 23andMe. The genetic screening company reports that 24 out of 100 people with my genotype will get type 2 diabetes between the ages 20 and 79. The average risk is 21.9 per 100 people. With regard to macular degeneration, 9.5 out of 100 people with my genotype will get it between the ages of 43 and 79. The average risk for people of European ethnicity is 7 out of 100. And 0.94 out 100 people with my genotype will get Crohn's disease between the ages of 20 and 79. The average risk for people of European ethnicity is 0.43 out of 100. I will save for a future article the good news that I also have a number of genetic markers that indicate lower risks for many other conditions. This is the kind of risk information that genetic screening tests will reveal. While I can think of plenty of reasons why I might not be cut out for politics, these genetic risks would not disqualify me, or anyone else, from political office.
Right now mendacious political activists and sensationalistic journalists could misrepresent and misinterpret genetic risk information. However, it is unlikely that such genetic risk information would be more toxic than claims that Obama is a secret Muslim. More and more Americans will learn about how to interpret genetic risks as genetic screening becomes routine and even more widely available in the next four to five years, making it less likely that such information can be abused. In any case, politicians, celebrities, and the rest of us should get ready for a world in which our DNA can be screened by anybody at anytime.
Ronald Bailey is reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.
Is the UK still a free country?
Reply #5 on:
January 06, 2009, 12:36:55 PM »
UK - Police set to step up hacking of home PCs
THE Home Office has quietly adopted a new plan to allow police across Britain routinely to hack into people’s personal computers without a warrant.
The move, which follows a decision by the European Union’s council of ministers in Brussels, has angered civil liberties groups and opposition MPs.
They described it as a sinister extension of the surveillance state which drives “a coach and horses” through privacy laws.
The hacking is known as “remote searching”. It allows police or MI5 officers who may be hundreds of miles away to examine covertly the hard drive of someone’s PC at his home, office or hotel room.
Material gathered in this way includes the content of all e-mails, web-browsing habits and instant messaging.
Under the Brussels edict, police across the EU have been given the green light to expand the implementation of a rarely used power involving warrantless intrusive surveillance of private property. The strategy will allow French, German and other EU forces to ask British officers to hack into someone’s UK computer and pass over any material gleaned.
A remote search can be granted if a senior officer says he “believes” that it is “proportionate” and necessary to prevent or detect serious crime — defined as any offence attracting a jail sentence of more than three years.
However, opposition MPs and civil liberties groups say that the broadening of such intrusive surveillance powers should be regulated by a new act of parliament and court warrants.
They point out that in contrast to the legal safeguards for searching a suspect’s home, police undertaking a remote search do not need to apply to a magistrates’ court for a warrant.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the human rights group, said she would challenge the legal basis of the move. “These are very intrusive powers – as intrusive as someone busting down your door and coming into your home,” she said.
“The public will want this to be controlled by new legislation and judicial authorisation. Without those safeguards it’s a devastating blow to any notion of personal privacy.”
She said the move had parallels with the warrantless police search of the House of Commons office of Damian Green, the Tory MP: “It’s like giving police the power to do a Damian Green every day but to do it without anyone even knowing you were doing it.”
Richard Clayton, a researcher at Cambridge University’s computer laboratory, said that remote searches had been possible since 1994, although they were very rare. An amendment to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 made hacking legal if it was authorised and carried out by the state.
He said the authorities could break into a suspect’s home or office and insert a “key-logging” device into an individual’s computer. This would collect and, if necessary, transmit details of all the suspect’s keystrokes.
“It’s just like putting a secret camera in someone’s living room,” he said.
Police might also send an e-mail to a suspect’s computer. The message would include an attachment that contained a virus or “malware”. If the attachment was opened, the remote search facility would be covertly activated. Alternatively, police could park outside a suspect’s home and hack into his or her hard drive using the wireless network.
Police say that such methods are necessary to investigate suspects who use cyberspace to carry out crimes. These include paedophiles, internet fraudsters, identity thieves and terrorists.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said such intrusive surveillance was closely regulated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. A spokesman said police were already carrying out a small number of these operations which were among 194 clandestine searches last year of people’s homes, offices and hotel bedrooms.
“To be a valid authorisation, the officer giving it must believe that when it is given it is necessary to prevent or detect serious crime and [the] action is proportionate to what it seeks to achieve,” Acpo said.
Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, agreed that the development may benefit law enforcement. But he added: “The exercise of such intrusive powers raises serious privacy issues. The government must explain how they would work in practice and what safeguards will be in place to prevent abuse.”
The Home Office said it was working with other EU states to develop details of the proposals.
Reply #6 on:
January 07, 2009, 06:26:25 AM »
Free, as compared to what?
Reply #7 on:
January 07, 2009, 09:08:37 AM »
Oh, I dunno, a country where the people have the right to defend themselves, including with guns; have the right to speak plainly about religious fascism; and have the right to not have the police hack in their personal correspondence and records without a warrant , , , little stuff like that.
Reply #8 on:
January 07, 2009, 09:58:13 AM »
Everything exists on a continuum. The UK is less free than us, more free than most other places.
Reply #9 on:
January 07, 2009, 10:14:15 AM »
Quote from: G M on January 07, 2009, 09:58:13 AM
Everything exists on a continuum. The UK is less free than us, more free than most other places.
I worry that we will follow the UK.
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