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Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Privacy’

Coronavirus is Just the Latest Excuse to Expand the Surveillance State | | Tenth Amendment Center

Posted by M. C. on May 20, 2020

In practice, “geofence” warrants authorize police to search Google’s massive location tracking database for all of the phones within a given geographical area during a specific timeframe. According to the New York Times, federal agents first utilized the practice in 2016.

Is your GPS always on?

https://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2020/05/13/coronavirus-is-just-the-latest-excuse-to-expand-the-surveillance-state/

By:

Federal, state and local agencies have teamed up to operate a warrantless cellphone tracking program to monitor compliance with COVID-19 social distancing requirements.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the program provides information on people’s movements in over 500 U.S. cities. According to the report, the CDC spearheads the program known as the COVID-19 Mobility Data Network with assistance from state and local governments. Tech companies and data providers have reportedly been cooperating with the effort.

This information has been fed to law enforcement agencies. For instance, according to a report from the Daily Mail, “one source shared that researchers learned that a huge number of New Yorkers had been visiting Brooklyn’s Prospect Part and handed the information over to authorities.”

Emergencies create the perfect excuse for government power to expand.

The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. The spread of coronavirus and the fear generated has opened the door to all kinds of government actions that would be intolerable in normal times. Once established, these government powers never go away. In fact, the 9/11 emergency allowed the federal government to create the foundation for the surveillance state that exists today with the passage of the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 “authorities.”

Since then, the federal government has been constructing an integrated national surveillance state with the cooperation of state and local agencies. The COVID-19 “emergency” provides an excuse to put that system to “good use.” it also sets the stage for further expansion and abuse of the system in the future.

Some have pushed back against further expansion of the surveillance state during the pandemic, recognizing the inherent danger of letting that particular cat out of the bag. The New York-based Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) released a statement opposing the expanded use of location data to track coronavirus.

“Even as we battle this unprecedented public health threat, we still have to uphold the Constitution. Warrantless cellphone location tracking has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and this surveillance program poses dire consequences for Americans’ privacy. We are deeply concerned that this data was not only collected in secret, but that it’s apparently being shared with no protections against being used by police or even ICE. While it’s unclear if this sort of surveillance state helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s quite clear that it undermines our most fundamental rights and risks driving countless Americans into the shadows.”

The COVID-19 tracking program reportedly strips records shared with government agencies of identifying information. But as a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) points out, it’s virtually impossible to truly anonymize location data.

Practically speaking, there is no way to deidentify individual location data. Information about where a person is and has been itself is usually enough to reidentify them. Someone who travels frequently between a given office building and a single-family home is probably unique in those habits and therefore identifiable from other readily identifiable sources. One widely cited study from 2013 even found that researchers could uniquely characterize 50 percent of people using only two randomly chosen time and location data points.

It is possible to aggregate data in a way that protects individual identities, but once the pandora’s box is open, how do you keep everything inside? By its nature, government pushes the boundaries. It’s only a matter of time before police agencies are using this information to identify individuals.

Other countries have already used location data to identify specific people. China was particularly aggressive in using mass surveillance of phones to classify individuals based on their health status and to then restrict their movements. Those who claim “that can’t happen here” are naive. In fact, police have already used mass location tracking to hunt down fugitives.

Judges across the U.S. are issuing search warrants that effectively authorize police to search broad geographical areas to determine who was near a given place at a given time. In practice, these warrants give police permission to use Google location data to engage in massive fishing expeditions and subject hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people to police location tracking.

In practice, “geofence” warrants authorize police to search Google’s massive location tracking database for all of the phones within a given geographical area during a specific timeframe. According to the New York Times, federal agents first utilized the practice in 2016.

According to the Times, these broadly construed warrants help police pinpoint possible suspects and witnesses in the absence of other clues. Google employees said the company often responds to a single warrant with location information on dozens or hundreds of devices.

North Carolina produced the first public reports of this investigative tactic last year after detectives obtained warrants to obtain location data for all the phones that were in the area of two shootings. According to WRAL, “On a satellite image, they drew shapes around the crime scenes, marking the coordinates on the map. Then they convinced a Wake County judge they had enough probable cause to order Google to hand over account identifiers on every single cell phone that crossed the digital cordon during certain times.”

Geofencing could also be accomplished in real-time using celt site simulators, commonly known as “stingrays.” These devices essentially spoof cell phone towers, tricking any device within range into connecting to the stingray instead of the tower. This allows law enforcement to sweep up communications content, as well as locate and track the person in possession of a specific phone or other electronic device.

Some argue that this kind of mass surveillance is necessary to catch “bad guys.” But what happens when the government defines a person stopping at the gun store or attending a church a “bad guy?”

Government powers never shrink. They only expand. Each expansion begets new expansions. It is imperative to place absolute limits on surveillance. We can’t trust government agents to limit themselves. As Patrick Henry warned, “Show me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed in the sole chance of their rulers being good men without a consequent loss of liberty.”

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Cashless Society and the End of Freedom

Posted by M. C. on April 27, 2020

As of 27 April 2020 the PA Liqour Control Board allows curbside pickup at state stores.

Yes, PA still has state stores.

Credit card in advance only. The sheeple are lining up.

 

Cashless society seems like an inevitable progression into an easier, faster and more convenient future. But this comes at a huge of cost of privacy and anonymity of cash payments, and freedom from control over people’s funds.

 

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Impeach Brett Kavanaugh – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on April 22, 2020

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 which created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was supposed to be limited to intelligence gathering of “foreigners.” Thanks to judges of the ilk of Brett Kavanaugh, it has been expanded to cover U.S. citizens.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/04/walter-e-block/impeach-brett-kavanaugh/

By

Brett Kavanaugh does not deserve a place on the United States Supreme Court and should be impeached.

Why? No, not those sexual allegations; unproven. She said, he said.

Why then? In a word: privacy.

Our bedrock Constitutional protection from unwarranted invasions in this regard is the Fourth Amendment. It reads as follows:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In what way does Judge Kavanaugh fall foul of this eminently reasonable public security blanket? He supports the Patriot Act. And what manner of beast is that, pray tell? Its full title is: “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.” The bottom line on this is that it gives the Federal Government tools that are incompatible with the Fourth Amendment. To wit, it short circuits the “no Warrants” safeguard. Specifically, this Act greatly enhanced the ability of the Federales to interdict citizens’ communication, while undermining the ability of the latter to engage in court challenges of these expansions.

Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) was the only Republican member of the House of Representatives to oppose this nomination of President Trump’s. He stated “Privacy advocates must fight. There are many potential nominees with a conservative record on abortion, guns, and regulations. The only question is will the Senate confirm one who is really bad on the #4thAmendment, when so much is at stake in upcoming digital privacy battles.”

True, Mr. Amash cannot vote on this matter since he is not a member of the Senate. But, enquiring minds want to know if this stance of his will affect the position of his libertarian soldier-in-arms, Senator Ron Paul (R-KY). Hint, hint!

Judge Andrew Napolitano, no pinko, he, either, points out that the Patriot Act allows two members of the FBI to authorize a warrant without any by-your-leave from a judge. The government may also demand that you not reveal to anyone else that your home and effects have been searched, not only violating the Fourth Amendment, but the First one too.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 which created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was supposed to be limited to intelligence gathering of “foreigners.” Thanks to judges of the ilk of Brett Kavanaugh, it has been expanded to cover U.S. citizens.

A word about privacy, if you please. The Fourth Amendment, properly interpreted, limits the government, not anyone else, from invading privacy. Individuals may still “assault” each other’s privacy. If we could not, then the entire profession of detectives would be per se illegal. There go Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole and all real world counterparts. We could not so much as look at each other without undermining privacy. (When my kids were young they would complain “he’s looking at me; “she’s looking at me; my wife and I tried to assure them that this was not a rights violation).

This privacy business is akin to censorship. Only the government can do this. If a private concern does this (you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater), they are not censoring you; they are only insisting on upholding their private property and contractual rights. Similarly for electronic platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon. They are not censoring the likes of Alex Jones, merely refusing to associate with him. Similarly, there are no privacy “rights” we can hold against other private citizens. The Fourth Amendment protects us only against governmental incursions.

With Mr. Brett Kavanaugh on the high court, these rights will be undermined.

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The Rutherford Institute :: Deadly Distractions: Laying the Groundwork for the Next Civil War | By John W. Whitehead |

Posted by M. C. on January 23, 2020

History may show that from this point forward, we will have left behind any semblance of constitutional government and entered into a totalitarian state where all citizens are suspects and security trumps freedom.

https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/deadly_distractions_laying_the_groundwork_for_the_next_civil_war

By John W. Whitehead

And so it continues.

This impeachment fiasco is merely the latest in a never-ending series of distractions, distortions, and political theater aimed at diverting the public’s attention from the sinister advances of the American Police State.

Don’t allow yourselves to be distracted, diverted or mesmerized by the cheap theater tricks.

This impeachment spectacle is Shakespearean in its scope: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Nothing is the key word here.

Despite the wall-to-wall media coverage, nothing will change.

Mark my words: the government will remain as corrupt and self-serving as ever, dominated by two political factions that pretend to be at odds with each other all the while moving in lockstep to maintain the status quo.

So President Trump’s legal team can grandstand all they want about the impeachment trial being “an affront to the Constitution” and “a dangerous perversion of the Constitution,” but that’s just smoke and mirrors.

You know what is really “an affront to the Constitution”? The U.S. government.

We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long—sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs—that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but we’re certainly on that downward trajectory now, and things are moving fast.

The republic has fallen.

The Deep State’s plot to take over America has succeeded.

The American system of representative government has been overthrown by a profit-driven, militaristic, corporate oligarchy bent on total control and global domination through the imposition of martial law here at home and by fomenting wars abroad.

Even now, we are being pushed and prodded towards a civil war, not because the American people are so divided but because that’s how corrupt governments control a populace (i.e., divide and conquer).

These are dangerous times.

These are indeed dangerous times but not because of violent crime, which remains at an all-time low, or because of terrorism, which is statistically rare, or because the borders are being invaded by foreign armies, which data reports from the Department of Homeland Security refute.

No, the real danger that we face comes from none other than the U.S. government and the powers it has granted to its standing armies to rob, steal, cheat, harass, detain, brutalize, terrorize, torture and kill American citizens with immunity.

The danger “we the people” face comes from masked invaders on the government payroll who crash through our doors in the dark of night, shoot our dogs, and terrorize our families.

This danger comes from militarized henchmen on the government payroll who demand absolute obedience, instill abject fear, and shoot first and ask questions later.

This danger comes from greedy, power-hungry bureaucrats on the government payroll who have little to no understanding of their constitutional limits.

This danger comes from greedy politicians and corporations for whom profit trumps principle.

You want to know about the state of our union? It’s downright scary.

Consider, if you will, all of the dastardly, devious, diabolical, dangerous, debilitating, deceitful, dehumanizing, demonic, depraved, dishonorable, disillusioning, discriminatory, dictatorial schemes inflicted on “we the people” by a bureaucratic, totalitarian regime that has long since ceased to be “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Americans have no protection against police abuse. It is no longer unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, such as the 16-year-old teenager who skipped school only to be shot by police after they mistook him for a fleeing burglar. Then there was the unarmed black man in Texas “who was pursued and shot in the back of the neck by Austin Police… after failing to properly identify himself and leaving the scene of an unrelated incident.” And who could forget the 19-year-old Seattle woman who was accidentally shot in the leg by police after she refused to show her hands? What is increasingly common, however, is the news that the officers involved in these incidents get off with little more than a slap on the hands.

Americans are little more than pocketbooks to fund the police state. If there is any absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off. This is true, whether you’re talking about taxpayers being forced to fund high-priced weaponry that will be used against us, endless wars that do little for our safety or our freedoms, or bloated government agencies such as the National Security Agency with its secret budgets, covert agendas and clandestine activities. Rubbing salt in the wound, even monetary awards in lawsuits against government officials who are found guilty of wrongdoing are paid by the taxpayer.

Americans are no longer innocent until proven guilty. We once operated under the assumption that you were innocent until proven guilty. Due in large part to rapid advances in technology and a heightened surveillance culture, the burden of proof has been shifted so that the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty has been usurped by a new norm in which all citizens are suspects. This is exemplified by police practices of stopping and frisking people who are merely walking down the street and where there is no evidence of wrongdoing. Likewise, by subjecting Americans to full-body scans and license-plate readers without their knowledge or compliance and then storing the scans for later use, the government—in cahoots with the corporate state—has erected the ultimate suspect society. In such an environment, we are all potentially guilty of some wrongdoing or other.

Americans no longer have a right to self-defense. In the wake of various shootings in recent years, “gun control” has become a resounding theme. Those advocating gun reform see the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms as applying only to government officials. As a result, even Americans who legally own firearms are being treated with suspicion and, in some cases, undue violence. In one case, a Texas man had his home subjected to a no-knock raid and was shot in his bed after police, attempting to deliver a routine search warrant, learned that he was in legal possession of a firearm. In another incident, a Florida man who was licensed to carry a concealed firearm found himself detained for two hours during a routine traffic stop in Maryland while the arresting officer searched his vehicle in vain for the man’s gun, which he had left at home. Incidentally, the Trump Administration has done more to crack down on Second Amendment rights than anything the Obama Administration ever managed.

Americans no longer have a right to private property. If government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family, your property is no longer private and secure—it belongs to the government. Likewise, if government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you’re no longer the owner of your property.

Americans no longer have a say about what their children are exposed to in school. Incredibly, the government continues to insist that parents essentially forfeit their rights when they send their children to a public school. This growing tension over whether young people, especially those in the public schools, are essentially wards of the state, to do with as government officials deem appropriate, in defiance of the children’s constitutional rights and those of their parents, is reflected in the debate over sex education programs that expose young people to all manner of sexual practices and terminology, zero tolerance policies that strip students of any due process rights, let alone parental involvement in school discipline, and Common Core programs that teach students to be test-takers rather than critical thinkers.

Americans are powerless in the face of militarized police. In early America, citizens were considered equals with law enforcement officials. Authorities were rarely permitted to enter one’s home without permission or in a deceitful manner. And it was not uncommon for police officers to be held personally liable for trespass when they wrongfully invaded a citizen’s home. Unlike today, early Americans could resist arrest when a police officer tried to restrain them without proper justification or a warrant—which the police had to allow citizens to read before arresting them. (Daring to dispute a warrant with a police official today who is armed with high-tech military weapons and tasers would be nothing short of suicidal.) As police forces across the country continue to be transformed into outposts of the military, with police agencies acquiring military-grade hardware in droves, Americans are finding their once-peaceful communities transformed into military outposts, complete with tanks, weaponry, and other equipment designed for the battlefield.

Americans no longer have a right to bodily integrity. Court rulings undermining the Fourth Amendment and justifying invasive strip searches have left us powerless against police empowered to forcefully draw our blood, strip search us, and probe us intimately. Accounts are on the rise of individuals—men and women—being subjected to what is essentially government-sanctioned rape by police in the course of “routine” traffic stops. Remember the New Mexico man who was subjected to a 12-hour ordeal of anal probes, X-rays, enemas, and finally a colonoscopy—all because he allegedly rolled through a stop sign?

Americans no longer have a right to the expectation of privacy. Despite the staggering number of revelations about government spying on Americans’ phone calls, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, Google searches, emails, bookstore and grocery purchases, bank statements, commuter toll records, etc., Congress, the president and the courts have done little to nothing to counteract these abuses. Instead, they seem determined to accustom us to life in this electronic concentration camp.

Americans can no longer rely on the courts to mete out justice. The U.S. Supreme Court was intended to be an institution established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds. Yet through their deference to police power, preference for security over freedom, and evisceration of our most basic rights for the sake of order and expediency, the justices of the Supreme Court have become the architects of the American police state in which we now live, while the lower courts have appointed themselves courts of order, concerned primarily with advancing the government’s agenda, no matter how unjust or illegal.

Americans no longer have a representative government. We have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age, let’s call it the age of authoritarianism. In fact, a study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens. Instead, the study found that the government is ruled by the rich and powerful, or the so-called “economic elite.” Moreover, the researchers concluded that policies enacted by this governmental elite nearly always favor special interests and lobbying groups. It is not overstating matters to say that Congress, which has done its best to keep their unhappy constituents at a distance, may well be the most self-serving, semi-corrupt institution in America.

In other words, we are being ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, and arguably on our way towards fascism: a form of government where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people are seen as mere subjects to be controlled. Rest assured that when and if fascism finally takes hold in America, the basic forms of government will remain: Fascism will appear to be friendly. The legislators will be in session. There will be elections, and the news media will continue to cover the entertainment and political trivia. Consent of the governed, however, will no longer apply. Actual control will have finally passed to the oligarchic elite controlling the government behind the scenes. Sound familiar? Clearly, we are now ruled by an oligarchic elite of governmental and corporate interests. We have moved into “corporatism” (favored by Benito Mussolini), which is a halfway point on the road to full-blown fascism. Corporatism is where the few moneyed interests—not elected by the citizenry—rule over the many.

History may show that from this point forward, we will have left behind any semblance of constitutional government and entered into a totalitarian state where all citizens are suspects and security trumps freedom. Even with its constantly shifting terrain, this topsy-turvy travesty of law and government has become America’s new normal. From Clinton to Bush, then Obama and now Trump, it’s as if we’ve been caught in a time loop, forced to re-live the same thing over and over again: the same assaults on our freedoms, the same disregard for the rule of law, the same subservience to the Deep State, and the same corrupt, self-serving government that exists only to amass power, enrich its shareholders and ensure its continued domination.

Elections will not save us.

I haven’t even touched on the corporate state, the military industrial complex, SWAT team raids, invasive surveillance technology, zero tolerance policies in the schools, overcriminalization, or privatized prisons, to name just a few, but what I have touched on should be enough to show that the landscape of our freedoms has already changed dramatically from what it once was and will no doubt continue to deteriorate unless Americans can find a way to wrest back control of their government and reclaim their freedoms.

There can be no denying that the world is indeed a dangerous place, but what the president and his cohorts fail to acknowledge is that it’s the government that poses the gravest threat to our freedoms and way of life, and no amount of politicking, parsing or pandering will change that.

It is easy to be diverted, distracted and amused by the antics of politicians, the pomp and circumstance of awards shows, athletic events, and entertainment news, and the feel-good, wrapped-in-the-flag evangelism that passes for religion today.

What is far more difficult to face up to is the reality of life in America, where unemployment, poverty, inequality, injustice and violence by government agents are increasingly norms, and where “we the people” are at a distinct disadvantage in the face of the government elite’s power grabs, greed and firepower.

The Constitution doesn’t stand a chance against a federalized, globalized standing army protected by legislative, judicial and executive branches that are all on the same side, no matter what political views they subscribe to: suffice it to say, they are not on our side or the side of freedom.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the powers-that-be want us to remain distracted, divided, alienated from each other based on our politics, our bank accounts, our religion, our race and our value systems. Yet as George Orwell observed, “The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.”

You either believe in freedom or you don’t. It’s that simple.

Everything else is just a deadly distraction. As Orwell observed in 1984:

“All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations. And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because, being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice.”

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Living in a World Bereft of Privacy – Consortiumnews

Posted by M. C. on December 8, 2019

This low-level and laughably amateur attempt at extortion is risible. Unfortunately, the threat from our governments spying on us all is not.

Even back then we knew that computers could be captured by adversaries and turned against you – keystroke loggers, remote recording via microphones, cameras switched on to watch you, and many other horrors.

Living in a World Bereft of Privacy

By Annie Machon
in Brussels
Special to Consortium News

A few days ago I first received a menacing email from someone calling herself Susana Peritz. She told me “she” had hacked my email, planted malware on my computer, and had then filmed me getting my jollies while watching “interesting” porn online. Her email had caught my attention because it mentioned in the subject line a very old password, attached to a very old email address I had not used for over a decade. The malware must have been planted on a defunct computer.

Putting aside the fact that I am far more concerned about GCHQ or the NSA hacking my computer (as should we all be), this did rather amuse me.

Apparently, I must pay this “Susana” $1000 via Bitcoin or, shock, have my alleged pleasures shared with my acquaintances. And just last night I received another courteous request for cash from someone calling themselves Jillie Abdulrazak, but the price has now been inflated to $3000.

Why am I not concerned? Well, I can safely say – hand on heart – that I have never watched online porn. But this got me thinking about how or why I could have been singled out for this mark of a blackmailer’s esteem, and that brings me on to some rather dark thoughts.

It is perfectly possible that a rare, unguarded moment of long-distance online love might have been captured (but by whom?). That would probably be over a decade ago and would certainly have been using the old email account which was attached to the particular password at the time.

However, even those memories have been denied me – I distinctly remember that I have been too paranoid for too long and have always covered the built-in computer camera lens. Anything that could possibly have been recorded could only be audio – a saucy phone call at most. There can be no video of my younger self, alas.

I have had good reason to be paranoid. In the late 1990s I supported my former partner and fellow MI5 intelligence officer, David Shalyer, in his whistleblower exploits to expose the crimes and incompetence of the UK spy agencies at the time. This resulted in us literally going on the run across Europe, living in hiding for a year in la France profonde, and another two years in exile in Paris before he voluntarily returned to the UK in 2000 to face the music and inevitably, under the terms of the UK’ draconian 1989 Official Secrets Act, being sent to prison for exposing the crimes of British spies.

From those years, knowing what we knew about the spies’ capabilities even then, the sense of being always potentially watched has never rubbed off.

The Bigger Picture

So, knowing absolutely that I have never watched any online porn and that I always keep my computer camera lens covered, “Susana” and “Jillie” can go whistle. You have tried to shake down the wrong paranoid ex-MI5 whistleblower, darlings. And my tech people are now hunting you.

Any possible audio could, I suppose, be spliced in some way to some dodgy video to make this the stuff of a blackmailer’s dreams. That, surely, will be easy to “forensicate” – and indeed I have other friends who can do this, at world class level.

Alternatively, the former love at the time could have recorded the audio for his own nefarious personal usage for some nebulous time in the future. And if that future is now, after he had shown himself a long time ago to be chronically dishonest, why do this in 2018 when we have been separated for years?

He may have possibly continued to used the old email account himself to watch vile material – he certainly had the password back then and perhaps he uses it to distance himself from his own porn habit (fapware, as the geeks call it)? If that is the case, he is even less honorable than I had considered him to be.

Or perhaps this is some type of dark LoveInt operation by the spooks, in some failed attempt to frighten or embarrass me?

But there is, of course, a bigger, more political picture.

Ever since I worked as an intelligence officer for MI5, before going on the run with Shayler during the whistleblowing years in the late 1990s, I have been painfully aware of the tech capabilities of the spies. Even back then we knew that computers could be captured by adversaries and turned against you – keystroke loggers, remote recording via microphones, cameras switched on to watch you, and many other horrors.

The whistleblowing of Edward Snowden back in 2013 has confirmed all this and more on an industrial, global scale – we are all potentially at risk of this particular invasion of our personal privacy. I have kept my computer and mobile camera lenses covered for all these years precisely because of this threat.

One specific Snowden disclosure, which has received little mainstream media traction, was a programme called OPTIC NERVE. This was a GCHQ program (funded by American money) that allowed the spooks to intercept in real time video conferencing calls. It turned out, horror, that 10 percent of them were of a salacious nature, and the spooks were shocked!

I have spoken about privacy and surveillance at conferences around the world and have many, many times had to debate the supposition that “if you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.”

However, most people would like to keep their intimate relationships private. In this era of work travel and long distance relationships, more of us might well have intimate conversations and even video play via the internet. In an adult, consensual and mutually pleasurable context, we are doing nothing wrong and we have nothing to hide, but we surely don’t want the spooks to be watching us or listening in, any more than we would want the criminals capturing images and trying to shake us down for money.

This low-level and laughably amateur attempt at extortion is risible. Unfortunately, the threat from our governments spying on us all is not.

Annie Machon is a former intelligence officer in the UK’s domestic MI5 Security Service.

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Without encryption, we will lose all privacy. This is our new battleground

Posted by M. C. on October 16, 2019

The US, UK and Australia are taking on Facebook in a bid to undermine the only method that protects our personal information

Edward Snowden is a US surveillance whistleblower

In every country of the world, the security of computers keeps the lights on, the shelves stocked, the dams closed, and transportation running. For more than half a decade, the vulnerability of our computers and computer networks has been ranked the number one risk in the US Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment – that’s higher than terrorism, higher than war. Your bank balance, the local hospital’s equipment, and the 2020 US presidential election, among many, many other things, all depend on computer safety.

And yet, in the midst of the greatest computer security crisis in history, the US government, along with the governments of the UK and Australia, is attempting to undermine the only method that currently exists for reliably protecting the world’s information: encryption. Should they succeed in their quest to undermine encryption, our public infrastructure and private lives will be rendered permanently unsafe.

In the simplest terms, encryption is a method of protecting information, the primary way to keep digital communications safe. Every email you write, every keyword you type into a search box – every embarrassing thing you do online – is transmitted across an increasingly hostile internet. Earlier this month the US, alongside the UK and Australia, called on Facebook to create a “backdoor”, or fatal flaw, into its encrypted messaging apps, which would allow anyone with the key to that backdoor unlimited access to private communications. So far, Facebook has resisted this.

If internet traffic is unencrypted, any government, company, or criminal that happens to notice it can – and, in fact, does – steal a copy of it, secretly recording your information for ever. If, however, you encrypt this traffic, your information cannot be read: only those who have a special decryption key can unlock it.

I know a little about this, because for a time I operated part of the US National Security Agency’s global system of mass surveillance. In June 2013 I worked with journalists to reveal that system to a scandalised world. Without encryption I could not have written the story of how it all happened – my book Permanent Record – and got the manuscript safely across borders that I myself can’t cross. More importantly, encryption helps everyone from reporters, dissidents, activists, NGO workers and whistleblowers, to doctors, lawyers and politicians, to do their work – not just in the world’s most dangerous and repressive countries, but in every single country.

When I came forward in 2013, the US government wasn’t just passively surveilling internet traffic as it crossed the network, but had also found ways to co-opt and, at times, infiltrate the internal networks of major American tech companies. At the time, only a small fraction of web traffic was encrypted: six years later, Facebook, Google and Apple have made encryption-by-default a central part of their products, with the result that today close to 80% of web traffic is encrypted. Even the former director of US national intelligence, James Clapper, credits the revelation of mass surveillance with significantly advancing the commercial adoption of encryption. The internet is more secure as a result. Too secure, in the opinion of some governments.

Donald Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, who authorised one of the earliest mass surveillance programmes without reviewing whether it was legal, is now signalling an intention to halt – or even roll back – the progress of the last six years. WhatsApp, the messaging service owned by Facebook, already uses end-to-end encryption (E2EE): in March the company announced its intention to incorporate E2EE into its other messaging apps – Facebook Messenger and Instagram – as well. Now Barr is launching a public campaign to prevent Facebook from climbing this next rung on the ladder of digital security. This began with an open letter co-signed by Barr, UK home secretary Priti Patel, Australia’s minister for home affairs and the US secretary of homeland security, demanding Facebook abandon its encryption proposals.

If Barr’s campaign is successful, the communications of billions will remain frozen in a state of permanent insecurity: users will be vulnerable by design. And those communications will be vulnerable not only to investigators in the US, UK and Australia, but also to the intelligence agencies of China, Russia and Saudi Arabia – not to mention hackers around the world.

End-to-end encrypted communication systems are designed so that messages can be read only by the sender and their intended recipients, even if the encrypted – meaning locked – messages themselves are stored by an untrusted third party, for example, a social media company such as Facebook.

The central improvement E2EE provides over older security systems is in ensuring the keys that unlock any given message are only ever stored on the specific devices at the end-points of a communication – for example the phones of the sender or receiver of the message – rather than the middlemen who own the various internet platforms enabling it. Since E2EE keys aren’t held by these intermediary service providers, they can no longer be stolen in the event of the massive corporate data breaches that are so common today, providing an essential security benefit. In short, E2EE enables companies such as Facebook, Google or Apple to protect their users from their scrutiny: by ensuring they no longer hold the keys to our most private conversations, these corporations become less of an all-seeing eye than a blindfolded courier.

It is striking that when a company as potentially dangerous as Facebook appears to be at least publicly willing to implement technology that makes users safer by limiting its own power, it is the US government that cries foul. This is because the government would suddenly become less able to treat Facebook as a convenient trove of private lives.

To justify its opposition to encryption, the US government has, as is traditional, invoked the spectre of the web’s darkest forces. Without total access to the complete history of every person’s activity on Facebook, the government claims it would be unable to investigate terrorists, drug dealers money launderers and the perpetrators of child abuse – bad actors who, in reality, prefer not to plan their crimes on public platforms, especially not on US-based ones that employ some of the most sophisticated automatic filters and reporting methods available.

The true explanation for why the US, UK and Australian governments want to do away with end-to-end encryption is less about public safety than it is about power: E2EE gives control to individuals and the devices they use to send, receive and encrypt communications, not to the companies and carriers that route them. This, then, would require government surveillance to become more targeted and methodical, rather than indiscriminate and universal.

What this shift jeopardises is strictly nations’ ability to spy on populations at mass scale, at least in a manner that requires little more than paperwork. By limiting the amount of personal records and intensely private communications held by companies, governments are returning to classic methods of investigation that are both effective and rights-respecting, in lieu of total surveillance. In this outcome we remain not only safe, but free.

Edward Snowden is former CIA officer and whistleblower, and author of Permanent Record. He is president of the board of directors of the Freedom of the Press Foundation

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Probable Cause: I Should Have No Privacy? – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on October 11, 2019

A society can get rid of all sorts of crimes, misdemeanors, and unwanted behavior. A way of doing this is introducing total surveillance. There may be some issues with capacity and corruption among the watchmen, but in theory it is at least possible. The concept of pre-crime of Minority Report comes to mind. Do we really want such a society?

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/10/jrn-k-baltzersen/probable-cause-i-should-have-no-privacy/

By

Thirteen is an unlucky number, some say. I was making my way for my twelfth visit, also counting one overnight transit, to the United States.

It’s the type of story you always hope never turns out to be about yourself. In July, I was on my way to the twelfth FreedomFest in Las Vegas, and yes, it is by a coincidence also my twelfth visit to the American union; all my visits to the U.S. have not been FreedomFest occasions.

Perhaps 12 is my unlucky number?

What Happened?

I flew in to Detroit Metropolitan Airport with my international flight. I had heard stories about seizures and searches of electronic devices. That was why I had planned not to bring my ordinary laptop, only a reserve/backup device.

I came to the immigration checkpoint. The standard procedure with questioning started. I answered the questions as best I could. I told the officer my purpose was a conference, and upon followup I said it was the FreedomFest in Las Vegas. Apparently, the officer was so interested in the conference she googled it.

I don’t know what the reason for it was. Was it one of my answers that provoked them? Was it the fact that I was a single male traveler? Was it my information about going to a conference? I don’t know. No matter the cause, I was taken to a room for extended interview/interrogation.

There were several subjects of extended checks in this room.

I was ordered early on to get my checked bag.

They turned the pages of my physical papers.

I don’t know what it was that triggered it. Could it have been my misunderstanding of a question, interpreted by the officer as ill intent? Could I have hesitated for a few seconds too long in answering a question, interpreted by the officer as my having something to hide? Was it that I didn’t have any conference, hotel, or return flight documentation on me? Was it that I was claiming to go to a (suspect) freedom conference?

No matter the cause, I was requested/ordered to put my cell phone on and in flight mode and to enter the password.

They were two officers now. I was given an informational form about seizures of electronic devices. I could observe that an officer was scanning my cell phone with another cell phone. When the officer did so, she had opened my text messages. Parts of my text message threads were being scanned.

The officer searching my phone finished her search of my phone by telling the other officer she didn’t find anything.

When I was let go from the intrusive questioning and searching, I asked about the photographing of my phone. I was told it was just translating. When checking my phone later on, several apps I never use had apparently been opened.

Later, when I got home I filed a complaint/inquiry. To be exact, this was on July 31. Specifically, in this inquiry, I asked for the specific reason for my phone search. Normal processing time is stated to be 10-15 working days. While high season may cause processing time to be longer, I still haven’t heard anything, and more than 3-4 times that stated normal processing time has now passed.

One of the the immigration officers nagged about the place I was staying, which I had given exact details of both in my ESTA application and when filling out information via the airline. Apparently, it was a problem that I didn’t remember the street number exactly – or was unsure about the zip code. He had also been nagging about my return flight, which was just a week later. Checking my passport, I had been granted entry for 90 days.

What Can Be Said About It?

Several travelers, also known as entry candidates, were in the same room at the same time. In the case they claim these extended checks are between the officers and the traveler, this is certainly not so…

A society can get rid of all sorts of crimes, misdemeanors, and unwanted behavior. A way of doing this is introducing total surveillance. There may be some issues with capacity and corruption among the watchmen, but in theory it is at least possible. The concept of pre-crime of Minority Report comes to mind. Do we really want such a society?

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Your Alternative to Facial Recognition

 

 

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What’s the Big Problem With Facial Recognition? | | Tenth Amendment Center Blog

Posted by M. C. on October 4, 2019

https://blog.tenthamendmentcenter.com/2019/10/whats-the-big-problem-with-facial-recognition/

By:

The Oakland City Council recently gave final approval to an ordinance banning facial recognition in that city. This is part of a broader movement at the state and local level to ban outright or at least limit this invasive surveillance technology.

So, what’s the big problem with facial recognition?

Plenty.

In the first place, it’s just not very accurate, especially when reading African American and other minority facial features. It gets it wrong a lot of the time.

This isn’t just theoretical musing. During a test run by the ACLU of Northern California, facial recognition misidentified 26 members of the California legislature as people in a database of arrest photos.

But as ACLU attorney Matt Cagle said, this isn’t a problem that can be fixed by tweaking an algorithm. There are more fundamental issues with facial recognition. Government use of facial recognition technology for identifying and tracking people en masse flies in the face of both the Fourth Amendment and constitutional provisions protecting privacy in every state constitution.

Berkeley, California, City Councilmember Kate Harrison is pushing for a facial recognition ban in her city. In her recommendation of the ordinance, she pointed out the inherent constitutional problem with facial recognition.

It eliminates the human and judicial element behind the existing warrant system by which governments must prove that planned surveillance is both constitutional and sufficiently narrow to protect targets’ and bystanders’ fundamental rights to privacy while also simultaneously providing the government with the ability to exercise its duties.

Facial recognition technology automates the search, seizure and analysis process that was heretofore pursued on a narrow basis through stringent constitutionally-established and human-centered oversight in the judiciary branch. Due to the inherent dragnet nature of facial recognition technology, governments cannot reasonably support by oath or affirmation the particular persons or things to be seized. The programmatic automation of surveillance fundamentally undermines the community’s liberty.

Facial recognition puts every person who crosses its path into a perpetual lineup without any probable cause. It tramples restrictions on government power intended to protect our right to privacy. It feeds into the broader federal surveillance state. And at its core, it does indeed fundamentally undermine liberty.

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Edward Snowden On Trump, Privacy, and Threats to Democracy: One Hour Interview on MSNBC – Antiwar.com Blog

Posted by M. C. on September 25, 2019

https://www.antiwar.com/blog/2019/09/23/edward-snowden-on-trump-privacy-and-threats-to-democracy-one-hour-interview-on-msnbc/

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Facial recognition: ten reasons you should be worried about the technology

Posted by M. C. on August 30, 2019

With so many concerns about facial recognition technology, we desperately need a more prominent conversation on its impact on our rights and civil liberties. Without proper regulation of these systems, we risk creating dystopian police states in what were once free, democratic countries.

dystopian police states”  We are already beyond the “risk” stage.

http://theconversation.com/facial-recognition-ten-reasons-you-should-be-worried-about-the-technology-122137

The Conversation

1) It puts us on a path towards automated blanket surveillance

2) It operates without a clear legal or regulatory framework

3) It violates the principles of necessity and proportionality…

4) It violates our right to privacy…

5) It has a chilling effect on our democratic political culture…


6) It denies citizens the opportunity for consent…

7) It is often inaccurate…

8) It can lead to automation bias…

9) It implies there are secret government watchlistsNothing “implicit” there-MCViewPoint)

10) It can be used to target already vulnerable groups

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Face-Recognition Using OpenCV: A step-by-step guide to ...

You are than just a number. You are lots of numbers.

 

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