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FBI Target Puts His Life Online 324

Posted by kdawson
from the go-ahead-investigate dept.
After the FBI mistakenly targeted him as a terror suspect five years ago, art professor Hasan Elahi began recording his entire life online for the perusal of government agents or anyone else who wants to look in. "I've discovered that the best way to protect your privacy is to give it away," he says, grinning. "It's economics. I flood the market."
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FBI Target Puts His Life Online

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  • New religion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Romwell (873455) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @04:59AM (#19233437)
    Privacy nowadyas is like a religion. Some people believe in it, some don't; some fight to protect it. But it is still as intangible and unattainable as deities from other religions.
  • by mcvos (645701) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:05AM (#19233461)
    It's great that he's created the perfect alibi, and keeping himself out of accidental incarceration on Gitmo, but the real message here is that government institutions are way too sloppy, and that if you do not give up your privacy like this, you may be risking all sorts of harassment and worse. Innocent people do get locked up because of mistakes, malice, or a combination of both.
  • Killing time? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cb_is_cool (1084665) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:09AM (#19233475)
    Sounds to me like he's just made it into some wierd pseudo-hobby. I don't think I could ever be that comfortable posting my every move.
  • Re:New religion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by m1k3y121 (1039338) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:38AM (#19233617)
    The attempt is what matters, at least to me. I currently am a member of the Army and it makes me realize that privacy is important to most people. Some people don't have a problem with people knowing just about everything about them (small towns), but people like me and alot more hate having a roommate and our whole life being watched. When I get out, it will be like heaven for me for that reason. p.s. other than that it's not a bad job
  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:43AM (#19233649)
    IMHO, what he should be doing is flooding the internet with both real and fake information about himself, the more and the more varied the better (*). In an age where people look you up on Google, the best (only?) way to regain your privacy (once it's been breached only) is to poison the information index with total and contradictory garbage. The more obviously contradictory, the quicker people will give up reading page after page of Google's results about you.

    This principle is similar to Rivest's winnowing and chaffing [mit.edu] cryptographic system, or the military countermeasures used to confuse self guiding missiles.

    (*) but not fake terrorism, that would be counterproductive in his case :)

  • It's Not Worth It (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jellie (949898) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:45AM (#19233661)
    I understand the intentional irony in his actions, but I don't agree that it would work. It's the government, for crying out loud. They do not act rationally, neither in placing him on some terrorist watch list nor in continuing to monitor him because they don't trust someone with an Arabic-sounding name. Suppose his the batteries in his GPS unit fail - then the FBI would scream, "Get him! He's going off the grid!" My life is probably more boring than his, but I don't want invisible agents snooping around my house or following my online activities. Treat us like citizens should be treated, not like characters in a video game. I've never been detained at an airport, so I can't imagine what it's like to have to call the FBI before every flight.
  • by rs79 (71822) <hostmaster@open-rsc.org> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:51AM (#19233709) Homepage
    There are sometimes more than one way to spell Arab surnames. For example "El Ashi" could be "Elashi".

    In the case of "Hasan Elahi" that's close enough to "Hassan Elashi [google.com]" that it's probably "close enough for government work". I'd be willing to bet this is the source of his trouble.

    In the early 80s Bayan [google.com], Ghassan and Hassan Elashi had a little company that made computers for the royal Suadi family. My boss was Jewish and he and I were the only white guys there; we did all the software. All the Elashi's are in jail now on what appears to me to be trumped up charges. Trivia: the Elashis paid for the only decent UUCP node in LA at the time; they held the .IQ [theregister.co.uk] tld for a while Bayan called Jon Postel one day and Jon just gave it to him by virtue of an Arabic accent. Bayan told me while giggling he was holding it hostage from the Iraqi government. I still have a watch Bayan gave me that I posted about in alt.horlology in 1988.

    Let me be less subtle. We ran their computers and were nosy. If they're terrorists then I'm Stephen fucking Hawking.
  • Re:Slashdot points (Score:2, Interesting)

    by apathy maybe (922212) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:54AM (#19233727) Homepage Journal
    Fuck the police. There are so many problems with the criminal/legal system that it isn't funny. Innocent people being locked up, harassed etc., is just the tip of the ice berg. There is so much shit happening under the surface that you can't see, that you don't hear about (and you are a relativly intelligent person who doesn't get all their news from the mainstream media, or at least I assume you are...).

    >1) Doing ANY research on an innocent individual is obviously completely illegal for the police
    Well it should be, it should be as hard as possible for the police to do their job, that way they might actually not misuse their powers ...
    >2) If any individual actually commits a crime, that's a failure of the police, not a problem in this individual
    I wouldn't say the police alone, what causes property crimes? The existence of property...
    >3) nobody, not even convicted murderers, are guilty
    Plenty of convicted murderers (let alone people who were convicted of other "crimes") aren't actually guilty at all... Why? Two reasons, incompetence and malice. For example, the police and prosecutor fucking up the evidence. Or the jury and/or judge being biased towards the defendant (racist perhaps), or the police framing the defendant, or whatever. The police don't often care if who they get is the actual criminal, they just want a conviction...

    >The things the police is allowed to do should be well-defined, and respected, by "us", meaning the parliament.
    I don't know about you, but I'm not represented in any parliament. In fact, the only true way for be to be represented would be if I was in their myself! No parliament is the answer, government by the people (not the "people's representatives", who are actually often just bought corporate shitheads) is the answer.

    >On the contrary, while I do not agree with the argument that his current actions are violating the rights of the state (of the police if you will), he is danguerously close to doing just that.
    Care to explain, 1) how the police or state actually has any rights at all, 2) how his actions are borderline close to violating these (non-existent) rights?

    (And for all the trolls who think they might jump in and mention the Cold War, fuck off. I'm an anarchist, who ever won, the people would have lost. The only winning move is not to play.)
  • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @06:01AM (#19233761)
    You might be joking but that is actually a very good way to hide something -- just cover it with lots and lots of noise. I do that with our beloved friend -- Google. You see, it likes very much to gather my browsing history so in case of a court order it can quickly give it to any lawyer out there, so what do I do? I run the TrackMeNot Firefox extension. It sends a fake query to Google about once in 5 or so seconds. Let Google figure out which one is me browsing and which queries are submitted by TMN. TMN is actually pretty smart while I was typing this it asked Google for such things like "describe dept that", "Chinchilla Farm Investigation", "officials representing diverse views" and "each selective router" -- not bad, just as crazy and random as my own queries would be...
  • Re:Sorry, no. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @06:04AM (#19233779)
    In fact the sofware the KGB used got released on the market at the end of the Cold War http://www.infotame.com/Support/faq.shtml [infotame.com]
  • by Simon (815) <simon AT simonzone DOT com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @07:20AM (#19234111) Homepage

    The difference is that in the US, there's plenty of evidence that it is already being abused. In Netherland it's still only the risk that it may happen.

    Well, the article gave a couple good examples of how laws are being abused.

    Een dakloze liet Rick van Amersfoort laatst een stapeltje van dertig boetes zien. De oogst van een maand op straat leven: oversteken bij rood licht, in het openbaar een joint roken, hangen op een bankje voor het Amsterdamse Muziektheater. Van Amersfoort werkt bij het bureau Jansen en Janssen, dat geworteld is in de kraakbeweging en politie- en inlichtingendiensten kritisch" volgt. Jij en ik zouden er geen boete voor krijgen, maar deze dakloze is lastig, dus pakt de politie hem zo aan."

    "A homeless person showed Rick van Amserfoort his collection of 30 fines. The harvest of one month on the streets: crossing against a red light, smoking a joint in public, loitering on a bench in front of the Amsterdamse Muziektheater. Van Amersfoort works at the bureau Jansen en Janssen, which grew out of the squatting movement, and critically follows the work of the police and the intelligence service. You and I wouldn't receive a fine, but this homeless person is difficult, so the police are always on to him."

    and another example:

    De legitimatieplicht is volgens Brenninkmeijer een goed voorbeeld. Waarschuwingen dat de politie hem zou kunnen misbruiken, werden weggewuifd. "Nu zie je dat politie betogers vraagt om hun legitimatie. Dan is het een repressiemiddel geworden."

    The legitimatieplicht (=law requiring everyone to carry ID in public) is according to Brenninkmeijer a good example. Warnings that the police would misuse this law were waved off. "Now you see that police ask protesters for their ID. It has become a tool of repression."

    --
    Simon

  • Nazi Germany (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @07:35AM (#19234177)

    Even if you realized that in such a low tech setting they can't know _everything_, you didn't know exactly _what_ they know, and exactly _what_ and _when_ they'll use it against you. Maybe they'll do nothing. Maybe they'll send you to Siberia. Maybe you just won't be allowed to travel abroad any more. Maybe your kid won't ever get a high paying job because his dumbass father got drunk once and complained about the party.
    I can't speak about Soviet Russa but I do know a bit about Nazi Germany from people who lived through that time and basically the same was true there. You kept your mouth shut because there was a very good chance of even a single moment of carelessness biting you in the ass sooner or later with dire consequences. Even though everybody knew that the State couldn't know everything they still kept their mouth shut because:
    1. The Gestapo offered quite handsome bounties for tips on people who exhibited treasonous or regime critical behavior or uttered any derogatory comments about the 'Führer' the party or it's policies.
    2. Even if the Gestapo didn't get tipped off by one of it's professional informers they would probably eventually learn about any such details the moment they shook somebody down for some minor infraction and that person named you and a couple of dozen others to save his own skin. These tips could range from subversive activities, such as being a communist or social democrat to having once been seen reading a communist leaflet or having been overheard telling a treasonous joke.

    Basically the Nazi system wasn't all that dissimilar in it's inner workings to the tactics employed by Senator McCarthy and his goons except it went much further. Those who got named weren't merely socially ostracized as they were in the USA, in Nazi Germany and the cooupied territories they got sent to a camp and executed. There was actually a group of people both in Germany it self and the occupied countries who made a tidy business out of regularly informing on anybody that acted even mildly suspiciously. Once the Gestapo did lock in on you they were practically guaranteed to find _something_ to hang you with. Believe it or not, purely out of fear of a Gestapo visit, people both Germans and non Germans sorted the scrap paper they used on the toilet in case it contained any leaflets or other printed material from politically unreliable elements or, god forbid, contained a picture of Adolf him self. People today may find that funny but there were actually people who did long stretches in KZ camps or even died there for the simple offence of insulting the visage or persona of the 'Führer'.
  • by rumli (1066212) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @07:38AM (#19234183)
    I grew up thinking that one cannot have freedom without privacy. But having thought about it a bit, they seem like orthogonal concepts. Of course, this depends on one's definition of freedom and privacy. Very roughly speaking, the definitions I use are: 1. Freedom is your right to act as you choose so long as your actions do not harm others, and 2. Privacy is your right to control the dissemination of information about yourself. You might argue that lack of privacy can limit choices by the threat of embarrassment, but freedom does not preclude embarrassing actions from your choice set. In other words, freedom does not require your choices to be easy and embarrassment-free, just possible. This is not to say that privacy isn't a right worth fighting for. But I don't think we should use the right to freedom to justify the right to privacy.
  • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @09:34AM (#19235227)
    Sorry to spoil the joke but the Australian rockclimber Elizabeth Smith is currently unable to travel to the USA due to having a similar name to a person suspected by the FBI. How many Elizabeth Smith's would there be - and then there's the similar names like Elizabeth Windsor you would have to stop - especially if Windsor is an assumed name picked by her father to rename the family after a building! It really is amataur hour over there - do you have anybody left other than political appointees?
  • by k1e0x (1040314) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @09:36AM (#19235265) Homepage
    It upsetting to see so many people say.. "See, what a good idea."

    First off if this guy has not committed a crime, why is the FBI watching him? Where do they get the authority to do this if they have nothing on him? If they *DO* have something on him, why haven't they arrested him and charged him formally? What ever happened to Due process.

    Secondary.. he has given up his privacy not willingly but under threat of imprisonment and torture in Guantanamo, where he would not get a trial to defend himself at all. This is like saying you gave the mugger your cash willingly and the gun he was pointing at you is irreverent. Like a mugger.. the government is pointing an invisible gun at this man and some of you cheer the fact that he has given up his privacy, sugesting that we all do the same?

    Have you people lost your mind?
  • by jez9999 (618189) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @10:02AM (#19235719) Homepage Journal
    But the internet is built by people voicing opinionated views, we're not all going to be thrown into the Gulag!!!

    Give the state the powers of prison guards, and the entire country becomes the Gulag.
  • Re:Come on... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by volpe (58112) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:12PM (#19241675)

    "Do you understand why some people believe that ruining somebody else's country for our own convenience is a bit, well, unconscionable?"

    Do you understand that some people don't?

    Actually, no.

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