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“Who Threatens Our Privacy?”: The Onslaught On Our Privacy Rights — Surreally, In The Name Of Transparency

The whole Snowden affair has receded into the background by now. But recently Michael Cohen made an important point that seemed to get totally lost in the discussion about privacy.

This week, the group Wikileaks posted on its website the entire archive of data and information stolen from Sony Pictures last fall — and it seems every day there’s a new, earth-shattering scoop…

I needed only 20 minutes on the Wikileaks site to find a credit card number, medical information, private e-mail addresses, salary data, and plenty else that most people wouldn’t want available on a searchable database.

This kind of cyberattack is a greater threat to people’s privacy than anything revealed in the Snowden/NSA leaks, which became a cause celebre for some of the same people chortling over the Sony leaks…

Today, it is harder and harder to stay outside the omnipresent eye of social media, surveillance cameras, and smartphone videos. Wikileaks is only adding to the onslaught on our privacy rights — surreally, in the name of transparency.

I always found it interesting that many of those who were most closely involved with the Snowden leaks (including Wikileaks) have pretty deep ties to the hacker community – people whose raison d’etre is to invade privacy. From their reaction to this inquiry from Cohen, it appears that only certain people’s privacy is important to them.

It’s true that the concerns raised by the leaks about NSA are worrisome in regards to the possibility that the government might have access to private information. But the prospects of everyone else having access is equally (if not more) concerning.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 26, 2015

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Edward Snowden, Privacy, Wikileaks | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Company Is Secure”: Stop Asking Me For My Email Address

It’s hard out there for a paranoid cybersecurity reporter.

I’ve covered enough breaches, identity thefts, cybercrime and worse, to know it’s a terrible idea to hand over my personal data — even something as seemingly innocuous as my birthday or email address — to a store clerk, or a strange login page on the Internet.

But it’s getting hard to resist. I was in the middle of buying a swimsuit recently when the sweet lady behind the boutique counter asked me for my email address. I explained, as I have a hundred times before, that I’m a paranoid security reporter who makes it a general rule of thumb not to hand out information unnecessarily.

“We won’t spam you or anything,” she said, perplexed. “We just need it for our database.”

I knew then that the conversation was headed into a whole lot of awkward, as it had dozens of times before. The fact is, a boutique doesn’t need my email address so I can buy a swimsuit. The hotel I stayed in recently didn’t need my birth date, or my home address, or my driver’s license number, before I could check in. And Target doesn’t need to store your debit card PIN.

After news of Target’s breach first broke last month, a reader emailed complaining that after a recent purchase at a Target store in San Francisco, she was asked for her driver’s license after her credit card was authorized. “I gave it to her thinking she was only going to look at it, however she immediately scanned it through her register. I was a bit shocked and asked why she did that. She said it is always done but ‘Don’t worry, it is secure.’”

That, we now know, is absurd.

There is a temptation to think that major retailers like Target– and now Neiman Marcus– are more secure because they have more cash to spend on security. It’s the same assumption users made thinking Snapchat was secure because it magically makes selfies disappear, or that LinkedIn knew how to protect data because it likes to talk up big data, or that Adobe could protect our passwords.

Actually, I take that back: Compromised Adobe PDF files have been used in far too many cyberattacks to mention here.

The point is that no company is secure. None of them. Not when they are up against an increasingly sophisticated, elusive enemy. But the problem is not just retailers, or technology companies or hackers, it’s us.

We regularly hand over data simply because we’re politely asked. We don’t read privacy policies, or ask companies whether our email addresses and passwords will be “salted” or “hashed,” encrypted with long or short keys, or whether those keys will be stored on separate systems from the ones they can unscramble. We don’t challenge major credit card companies to hurry up and adopt smart-chip credit cards. And we don’t stop doing business with companies that don’t take data protection seriously.

So we’ll all feign shock that the Target breach did not just affect 40 million people as it previously reported, but well over one-third of America’s adult population. And then, in a few days, we will likely go back to politely handing over our email addresses and birth dates.

But for now, the sweet lady at the boutique just has this: privacyreporter@stopaskingme.com.

 

By: Nichole Perlroth, Digital Diary, The New York Times, January 10, 2014

January 12, 2014 Posted by | Privacy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Privacy? We Gave That Away Already”: You Might Want To Rethink Your Relationship With Technology

All the President’s Men, the movie made from the book that inspired my career in journalism, was on (very) late night TV the other night. What’s strikingly anachronistic about the film is not the sideburns and bug-eye glasses, but the rudimentary journalistic tactics of the reporters who broke the Watergate story.

They weren’t on Google, searching for information that may or may not be accurate, and using a research technique that is so easily tracked that pop-up ads related to the search will begin appearing almost immediately. They didn’t drive through toll booths with a convenient electronic device on the windshield that can (and do) track their movements and the specific time of the movements. They didn’t do email interviews, cell phone interviews or even many hardline phone interviews that could leave an electronic trail.

The movie shows the real, unglamorous shoe-leather work of being a reporter. It’s one scene after another of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein driving to a neighborhood, parking blocks away to avoid detection and then knocking on people’s doors, sweet-talking their way into living rooms for interviews. It’s Woodward finding ways to meet his source, “Deep Throat” – not by thumb-typing a text, but by signals that involved the moving of a plant on a balcony. This was how the duo managed to get people to talk to them – sometimes at great personal risk – and how Woodward managed to keep Mark Felt’s identity a secret until Felt’s family disclosed his role in 2005.

Journalists are concerned at the surveillance of their phone records. And many are also jarred by the disclosure that federal authorities have been monitoring certain activity on the web and collecting phone call data. But where would anyone get the idea that any communication attached to technology and electronic’s is really private?

We have a new Facebook generation which is remarkably willing to give up its collective privacy by posting their embarrassing photos and travel plans and insignificant “status” updates on what is the biggest billboard in the cyber-sky. And yet the same people live in the delusion that no one is monitoring it? That a potential burglar isn’t tipped off by someone’s Pinterest photos of the family currently on vacation, a sign that the house is unattended? That a potential employer might see a photo of an applicant with someone doing shots off his chest and think, “maybe this isn’t someone we want working here?”

True, the idea government surveillance has a different quality to it, from both sides. We expect our government to respect our privacy. The government, meanwhile, knows it is also expected to track the bad guys. The balance of those two goals will surely be debated yet again after the recent disclosure of surveillance techniques. But in the meantime, Americans might want to rethink our relationship with technology and the privacy we lose by using it.

This applies exponentially to journalists, who might want to get back to basics – especially when reporting sensitive stories. When I was reporting in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, almost no one would be interviewed on the phone. They had just ousted a communist regime, and they were convinced, still, that their phones were being tapped. They didn’t even talk openly on the subway, so well-trained they were to be discreet. It made it harder to report, but it also promoted some better work tactics. I had to actually go meet someone somewhere and do interviews in person. I was less likely to misinterpret, and came back with more information than I would have gotten in a quick phone conversation. Woodward and Bernstein did it. So should the rest of us.

 

By: Susan Milligan, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, June 10. 2013

June 11, 2013 Posted by | Privacy, Technology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Return Of Back-Alley Abortions

Underground abortions have returned to the United States, just as pro-choice activists have warned for years. And women have started going to jail for the crime of ending their own pregnancies, or trying to.

This week Jennie L. McCormack, a 32-year-old mother of three from eastern Idaho, was arrested for self-inducing an abortion. According to the Associated Press, McCormack couldn’t afford a legal procedure, and so took pills that her sister had ordered online. For some reason, she kept the fetus, which police found after they were called by a disapproving acquaintance. She now faces up to five years in prison, as well as a $5,000 fine.

Idaho recently banned abortions after 20 weeks, and McCormack’s fetus was reportedly between five and six months old. But according to Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, under Idaho law, McCormack could have been arrested even if she’d been in her first trimester because self-induced abortion is illegal in all circumstances. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an 8- or 10- or 12-week abortion,” says Kolbi-Molinas. “If you do what you could get lawfully in a doctor’s office—what you have a constitutional right to access in a doctor’s office—they can throw you in jail and make you a convicted felon.”

While horrific, McCormack’s case is not unique. In recent years, several women have been arrested on suspicion of causing their own abortions, or attempting to. Most have come from conservative rural states with few clinics and numerous restrictions on abortion. In America’s urban centers and liberal enclaves, the idea of women being prosecuted for taking desperate measures to end their pregnancies might seem inconceivable, a never-again remnant of the era before Roe v. Wade. In fact, it’s a slowly encroaching reality.

Even more, these cases demonstrate that criminalizing abortion means turning women who have abortions into criminals.

In 2005, Gabriela Flores, a 22-year-old Mexican migrant worker, was arrested in South Carolina. Like McCormack, she had three children and said she couldn’t afford a fourth, and so she turned to clandestinely acquired pills. (The drug she took, Misoprostol, is an ulcer medicine that also works as an abortifacient and is widely used in Latin American countries where abortion is illegal.) Initially facing two years in prison, she ended up being sentenced to 90 days.

In 2009, a 17-year-old Utah girl known in court filings as J.M.S. found herself pregnant by an older man who is now facing charges of using her in child pornography. J.M.S. lived in house without electricity or running water in a remote part of the state, several hours’ drive from the nearest clinic, which was in Salt Lake City. Getting there would have required not just a car—her area had no public transportation—but money for a hotel in order to comply with Utah’s 24-hour-waiting period, as well as for the cost of the abortion itself.

According to prosecutors, when J.M.S. was in her third trimester, she paid a man $150 to beat her in the hopes of inducing a miscarriage. The fetus survived, but she was charged with criminal solicitation to commit murder. When her case was thrown out on the grounds that her actions weren’t illegal under the state’s definition of abortion, legislators changed the law so they would be able to punish women like her in the future.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have appealed J.M.S.’ case to the Supreme Court, and observers expect it to rule against her. She could still face a trial and prison time.

A woman doesn’t even have to be trying to abort to find herself under arrest. Last year, a pregnant 22-year-old in Iowa named Christine Taylor ended up in the hospital after falling down a flight of stairs. A mother of two, she told a nurse she’d tripped after an upsetting phone conversation with her estranged husband. Though she’d gone to the hospital to make sure her fetus was OK, she confessed that she’d been ambivalent about the pregnancy and unsure whether she was ready to become a single mother of three.

Suspecting Taylor had hurled herself down the stairs on purpose, the nurse called a doctor, and at some point the police were brought in. Taylor was arrested on charges of attempted feticide. She spent two days in jail before the charges were dropped because she was in her second trimester, and Iowa’s feticide laws don’t kick in until the third.

These cases are a harbinger of what’s to come as abortion laws become increasingly strict and abortion clinics harder to access in the more conservative parts of the country. They demonstrate the lengths to which women will go to end unwanted pregnancies. But even more, they demonstrate that criminalizing abortion means turning women who have abortions into criminals.

The antiabortion movement likes to see itself as pro-woman. Most of its spokespeople talk about protecting women from abortion, insisting they’re not interested in seeing them punished. “It’s tragic that this young woman felt that this was her only way out,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said in a statement in response to questions about the McCormack case. “The pro-life movement has never supported jail sentences for women who are victims of the abortion culture and abortion industry.”

Tobias said her group calls on Idaho officials “to engage in more publicity about the network of pregnancy resource centers and about the existence of Idaho’s safe haven law—either of which would have helped this young mother and saved her child.” But she didn’t call on them to release McCormack or to change the laws under which she’s being charged. If these sorts of prosecutions aren’t what the antiabortion movement had in mind when it pushed wave after wave of state-level legislation, now might be a good time to speak up.

 

By: Michelle Goldberg, Contributing Writer, The Daily Beast, June 3, 2011

 

 

June 5, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Anti-Choice, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, Education, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Governors, Health Care, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Planned Parenthood, Politics, Privacy, Pro-Choice, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, Sex Abuse, State Legislatures, States, Uninsured, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mad Men and Mad Women: Republicans And Social Engineering

Republicans hate social engineering, unless they’re doing it.

Wishing they had the power to repeal the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and get back to the repressed “Mad Men” world they crave, some conservative lawmakers grumpily quizzed upbeat military brass on Friday.

“We’re starting to try to conform the military to a behavior, and I remember going through the military, we took behaviors and we formed it to the military,” said Representative Allen West of Florida, warning ominously (and weirdly) that “this could be the camel getting his nose under the tent.”

The House Armed Services subcommittee hearing was led by Joe Wilson, the oh-so-subtle Republican congressman from South Carolina famous for yelling “You lie!” at President Obama. Wilson started off the hearing by saying that the legislation to let gays stop lying while they risk dying was rushed through in an “undemocratic” lame-duck session.

Two top Pentagon officials testified that the transition was going swimmingly, yet Republicans scoffed. Representative Austin Scott of Georgia demanded the price tag. Clifford Stanley, an under secretary of defense, replied that the training materials cost only $10,000.

Scott harrumphed, “If something was done at D.O.D. for $10,000, I would like to know what it was.” He said that hundreds of thousands had been spent training a soldier in his district to disarm I.E.D.’s, but the soldier wouldn’t re-enlist because of the “social policy.”

The Democrat Chellie Pingree of Maine jumped in to note that the cost of purging gays between 2004 and 2009 was $193.3 million: “It’s not only unconscionable … but the costs are horrendous.”

Scott persisted in looking for trouble, even after Vice Adm. William Gortney, director of the joint staff, said the Pentagon had seen no problems so far.

The congressman asked the admiral if he had ever dismissed anyone. Gortney said he had dismissed a young sailor who acknowledged being gay after “don’t ask, don’t tell” first passed.

“Did you discharge him from the service because he was gay?” Scott asked. “Or because he violated the standard of conduct?”

“Because he was gay,” Gortney said.

“He did not violate the standard of conduct before he was dismissed?” Scott pressed.

“He did not,” Gortney said.

“Well,” Scott said, once more at a loss, “that’s not the answer I thought you would give, to be honest with you.”

Gortney assured him there were “very few cases” of gays’ being dismissed for violating the standard of conduct.

After the Republican rout in November, the story line took hold that because of the recession and Tea Partiers’ fervent focus on the debt as a moral matter, divisive social issues were going on the back burner. But lo and behold, social issues have roared back. Many in the Tea Party have joined that chain-smoking, cocktail-quaffing Mad Man John Boehner in the martini party to put a retro focus on wedge issues, from gays to abortion.

Like Boehner, who complained that Democratic leaders were “snuffing out the America that I grew up in,” some Tea Partiers are jumping in a time machine. They can’t stop themselves from linking social issues to the budget.

“This pulls the mask back a little bit on the Tea Party movement,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland. “Adding riders against Planned Parenthood and gutting the environmental laws indicate that the Tea Party is focused on imposing a right-wing ideological agenda on the country and using the budget as a vehicle.”

Whether it’s upholding the Defense of Marriage Act, trying to defund Planned Parenthood, or aiming cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, NPR and even AARP, House Republicans are in a lather that occludes their pledges to monomaniacally work on the economy.

When Mitch Daniels, the Indiana governor and Republican presidential aspirant, dared to urge his party to “mute” social issues, he was smacked.

“We cannot repair the economy without addressing the deep cultural issues that are tearing apart the family and society,” said Andy Blom of the American Principles Project. The presidential hopeful Rick Santorum even posited last week that abortions might be breaking the bank on Social Security.

The snowball of social rage will speed up as we head toward 2012, given that the Iowa caucuses are dominated by social conservatives. Pawlenty, Barbour and Huckabee have already talked about vitiating the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Because independent voters considered President Obama too partisan in his debut, they shifted their loyalties — and swept in one of the most ideological and partisan Republican caucuses in history. Now Obama will get back some of the independents because he seems reasonable by comparison.

One thing independents like to be independent of is government meddling in their personal lives. 

By: Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 2, 2011 

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, GOP, Independents, Politics, Privacy, Republicans, Right Wing, Swing Voters, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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