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Privacy Government United States Politics Your Rights Online

US Official Urges Americans To Reconsider Privacy 515

Posted by kdawson
from the we're-from-the-government-and-we're-here-to-pry dept.
Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, a deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information. "Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won. Anyone that's typed in their name on Google understands that," said Kerr. Kurt Opsahl of the EFF said Kerr ignores the distinction between sacrificing protection from an intrusive government and voluntarily disclosing information in exchange for a service. "There is something fundamentally different from the government having information about you than private parties. We shouldn't have to give people the choice between taking advantage of modern communication tools and sacrificing their privacy." Kerr's comments come as Congress is taking a second look at the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act, requiring a court order for surveillance on U.S. soil. The White House argued that the law was obstructing intelligence gathering.
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US Official Urges Americans To Reconsider Privacy

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  • I don't see any red flags...
    • by HiThere (15173) <{ten.knilhtrae} {ta} {nsxihselrahc}> on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:37PM (#21317651)
      It requires trusting the people who will be collecting the information. Experience proves that they are *NOT* trustworthy, and don't have your best interests at heart.

      Even if you can't get total privacy, get what you can, and don't give up easily. Those who are trying to replace privacy with trusting large organizations are doing so because large organizations can be threatened by larger or more powerful (or even just more committed) organizations.

      P.S.: Remember that "Do Not Call" list? That one shares your phone number with all telemarketers, so they'll know who not to call. It expires next year, and they've got your number.
  • I, for one... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Grandiloquence (1180099) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @03:56PM (#21315961)
    I, for one, welcome the impending removal of our old tyrannical police-state masters. www.ronpaul2008.com
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arth1 (260657)
      I for one don't think we'll get MORE liberties by voting for right-wing populists.
      • Re:I, for one... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Cerebus (10185) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @09:21PM (#21318355) Homepage
        Here's a great run-down of Ron Paul's Congressional whack-nuttery:

        http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2007/11/ron-pauls-record-in-congress.html [blogspot.com]

        • Re:I, for one... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by intchanter (1035396) on Monday November 12, 2007 @06:07AM (#21321559)
          After reviewing the summaries of the whole list, the only way I can see you justifying your claim of "whack-nuttery" is if you believe that government exists to allow you to force others to pay for your personal agendas or punish them for doing things that you don't like.

          A big problem with that point of view is that it makes the government a puppet for whoever screams most loudly, at the expense of everybody else. And since the loudest voice is constantly changing, we end up with the worst of all worlds, more tangled laws and regulations than a reasonable person will ever read, and a rapidly growing government.

          "Ron Paul's Congressional whack-nuttery" is the first real chance to break away from that in a very long time, and his claims are only further backed up by your link. I could run through that list of proposed bills one by one, if you like, but this really isn't the forum for that.

          If you have another reason for believing that the misrepresentations on the page linked are evidence of a real problem with Ron Paul's record, I'd love to hear them.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dreamchaser (49529)
          A lot of those made me think more of him, not less. Did you also read the bills themselves, or did you just go by sensationalistic explanations on the page you cited and the bill names?
        • Re:I, for one... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Loki_1929 (550940) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:02PM (#21325603) Journal
          I'm sure there must be some reason why I can't tell whether that blog poster (and yes, the 'site' cited is actually nothing more than the incoherent ramblings of yet another of 10 trillion 'bloggers') is far left wing or far right wing. The only thing I can tell for sure is that they're unstable at room temperature.

          Let's get a few things straight:

          1) Refusing to finance a given decision does NOT mean you are against having choice in the matter
          2) Shifting power from the Federal government to the state governments does NOT equal fascism
          3) Refusing to subsidize something does NOT equate to being against it
          4) Being thrifty when it's not your money does NOT equate to being a religious whackjob
          5) The US Consitution still defines the role of the Federal government. Since the Federal government has proven many times over that it only does well the jobs laid out for it by the US Constitution, it makes sense that we restrict its roles thereto.

          Ron Paul isn't a nut - he's just thinking far beyond the average member of the body politic.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Sloppy (14984)

          I know that I disagree with Paul about a few things, but even of the things where we disagree, a lot of these bills really look like he's attempting to get the Feds to defer to states on the issues. In many instances, it looks like he might just be grumpy that the Feds have exceeded their constitutional powers. The fact that the Feds happen to be [ab]using their power in a way that is popular, is beside the point.

          If you establish that an relatively unaccountable party should be omnipotent, then that's on

    • Awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cgenman (325138) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @09:17PM (#21318325) Homepage
      Isn't it great how with one little change of definition, "privacy" can now mean "we keep private everything we know about you, which is everything."

      This guy really should be fired. Out of a cannon. At a wall.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rtb61 (674572)
        No. This guy should have the whole of his life, including the lives of his family made public knowledge. Every breath, every twitch, and every bowel movement. If he is so wrapped up in the lie that every man and his dog is entitled to do a full psychological break down of you for marketing purposes and future psychological marketing manipulation, let him and his family feel the full sting of complete public exposure.

        The thing with privacy is, if you want to retain any part of your privacy, you simply have

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mbrod (19122)
        I was watching the movie The Lives of Others [wikipedia.org] a few weeks back. Summary of the movie is it details East Germany spying on its own population after the end of WWII when the Communist party there was taking full control. They were monitoring everyone, but the catch was they used this information in really nasty ways. Bringing people in and interrogating them for 48 hours straight, arresting people, sending them for "training" for weeks on end if unruly. This all got me to thinking and asking the question "wh
  • by MankyD (567984) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @03:57PM (#21315971) Homepage

    "Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won. Anyone that's typed in their name on Google understands that," said Kerr.
    Try telling that to John Smith.
    • "Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won. Anyone that's typed in their name on Google understands that," said Kerr.

      Try telling that to John Smith.

      Yea, Googling my name, first and last, I got almost 300,000 results. Adding a middle initial I still got almost 2000. Spelling out the middle name I still got more than 100. And I'm a nobody.

      Falcon
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:26PM (#21316191)
        I'm nobody! Who are you?
        Are you nobody, too?
        Then there's a pair of us - don't tell!
        They'd waterboard us, you know.
      • by Stanislav_J (947290) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @05:01PM (#21316459)

        I have yet to see anything turn up relating to me via my legal name (and variations) on Google. I don't know whether to be relieved or insulted.....

        Basically, the more public the life you lead, the more apt you are to be found on Google. I've led a very hermit-like life and am very, very careful about who gets my personal information and why. Google knows me not -- I've never been the subject of or quoted in any news stories, I have not worked for any company or belonged to any organization that might put a staff or membership list online, etc., etc. Even if you try the various public records searches, my name will pop up occasionally, but 95% of what turns up is outdated information anyway, and what is there could be found without the Internet via a trip to the courthouse. I am well aware that the tide is turning (has turned) and that you can't totally hide in this day and age. But at the same time, that doesn't mean I'm going to hand over the details of my life on a silver platter. I understand that if someone really wanted to find me, they could. But at least they will have to work hard to do so.

  • by Stanislav_J (947290) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:00PM (#21315997)

    "There is something fundamentally different from the government having information about you than private parties."

    The difference being that while I trust no one, I trust the government with the information even less, because they have the power to screw me over to such a greater degree.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NormalVisual (565491)
      And they're much less accountable for it, too.
    • by Kythe (4779) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @05:45PM (#21316759)
      What Mr. Kerr seems to miss is that the reason for government being fundamentally different than private companies is checks and balances.

      Private companies answer only to a limited number of customers; government (in theory) answers to all the voting population.

      Of course, when oversight (the checks and balances) is removed, government no longer answers to the people, and the potential for harm is exponentially greater, simply because the amount of potential power is greater.

      Government CAN be on the side of the angels. But without checks such as anonymity, it can be democracy and freedom's worst enemy.
  • by Dutchmaan (442553) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:01PM (#21316003) Homepage
    "Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people's private communications and financial information."

    Yes, lets 'redfine' privacy to mean "we know what you do, we will just be responsible with the information"

    • That's what they have now. That's what the guy is trying with little success to express to everyone.

      The government already knows. FBI, they know. CIA, they know. Google, MS, IBM, AT&T, Visa, MasterCard, the list goes on and on.

      The million dollar question is, what is wrong with people that they'd sacrifice the ability to also know what is actually going on if it will prevent the neighbour from knowing what they do with their weekends, when people are already using that same knowledge to conspire agai
    • by dgatwood (11270) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:28PM (#21316205) Journal

      Indeed, that pretty much constitutes the definition of "trust". You share secrets with people you trust. What these political trolls are asking us to do is trust the government---yet on nearly every occasion in the past, they have proven utterly unworthy of that trust. Hell, they can't even keep computers from walking away from Lawrence Livermore National Labs. If we can't even trust them to keep their own nuclear secrets safe, how can we possibly be expected to trust them to keep our private information safe?

      This is literally the epitome of the phrase "wolf guarding the henhouse". The entire purpose of large parts of our Bill of Rights is to protect the citizens from our own government---to ensure that the government cannot do precisely what this person is asking us to let it do.

      So my question to anyone seriously considering his statement is this: What ever happened to "I... will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States"? Are those mere words, or do they mean something? Because if we give in to this tyranny, we are saying that those are mere words---that the spirit of the U.S. Constitution, of the Bill of Rights---indeed, the spirit of America---is nothing more than a statement of naive ideals to be respected only when it is convenient.

      No, this is not the time to cave in. Indeed, it is when we are most threatened that we must most firmly cling to our principles. It is easy to do the right thing when it is convenient; only the truly good continue to do good when it is hard. It is time that we as a nation stand up and tell the world, "This is what we believe. This is who we are as a nation." Are we going to be a nation of fear? Are we going to be a nation of paranoia, not trusting our neighbors and telling the government every time they sneeze in the interests of protecting ourselves? Are we going to be a nation of terrified little children who cower in our beds out of fear that the big bad terrorist boogeyman will get us? Or are we going to be a proud nation standing strong as a beacon of freedom and light to a darkened world?

      A time of great tribulation is upon us. Everyone must choose a side. Will you choose the side of right---of freedom---or the side of wrong---of tyranny, oppression, and fear? Only you can decide. As for me, I choose the side of truth. To Mr. Kerr, I'm sorry if the Bill of Rights and the Constitution are inconvenient for you, but maybe, just maybe, that is because you're doing something you shouldn't be doing in the first place. If you can't see that, I pity you.

      • by Watson Ladd (955755) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @08:07PM (#21317855)
        The US has rarely been a beacon of light. Look at Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama(twice), and Chile for examples. What makes this different is they've turned on the population of the US. Every one of these actions has been conducted in the darkness of government secrecy, against the will of the people. Until the government is responsive to the will of the people, this kind of stuff will go on.
  • by m2943 (1140797) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:07PM (#21316037)
    if the US government--president, NSA, CIA, FBI--are willing to give up their secrecy.

    What is intolerable, however, is for government officials to have a lot of information on private citizens, but for private citizens to have little information on the government.
  • Is this guy joking? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:09PM (#21316049)
    "There is something fundamentally different from the government having information about you than private parties."

    Definitely. For one, I can choose not to interact with certain private parties if they piss me off. But I probably can't choose to ignore the government and have to interact with it on some level.

    Also, private parties can't demand I hand over certain private information -- sure, they might decide not to do business with me, but the government seems to think it's priviledged to anything and everything since the Patriot Act. Good luck turning them down.

    Now it's no longer based on evidence that a crime was done -- we are welcomed to the pre-emptive society. Pre-emptive wars. Pre-emptive invasion of my privacy (without warrant) based on crimes that might happen. I'm just waiting to be pre-emptively thrown in jail.

    I find it interesting that this government official is trying to sell us on the government safeguarding our information. HAH! What a joke.
    • Bingo.

      Someone post the 5 nastiest links of information abuse so we can mod them +6 Informative and shut this thread down and go to the next story.

    • by schwaang (667808) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:22PM (#21316161)
      FTA:

      Kerr said at an October intelligence conference in San Antonio that he finds concerns that the government may be listening in odd when people are ``perfectly willing for a green-card holder at an (Internet service provider) who may or may have not have been an illegal entrant to the United States to handle their data.''


      Really, I don't need to read beyond this. Does the US have a privacy problem with personal data held by corporations without regulation? Yes. Does the US have a privacy problem with novel government surveillance methods without (serious) oversight? Hell Yes. Can one be used to excuse the other in any way shape or form? Hell no!

      This guy should not be the standard bearer for the dialog that the US needs to have over privacy in the age of information technology.
      • by Shihar (153932) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:31PM (#21317609)

        Really, I don't need to read beyond this. Does the US have a privacy problem with personal data held by corporations without regulation? Yes. Does the US have a privacy problem with novel government surveillance methods without (serious) oversight? Hell Yes. Can one be used to excuse the other in any way shape or form? Hell no!
        It is worse than that. I don't like private companies to have piles of information on me. I don't like telemarketing spam. That said, what a private corporation can do with my personal information is a whole lot less than what the government can do. So Google knows what sort of pr0n I like and that I am looking for a job in another industry. Great. They can target ads for asian midget preggo lesbian white sock fetish porn at me while serving up ads for opening as a toll booth collector.

        The government on the other hand can do far worse to me. The government can realize that I am a fan of a radical centrist group and start keeping tabs on my every move. While they can't prove that I have done anything wrong in terms of being a radical terrorist, they can easily keep track of the laws I break and hit me all at once for them. As they track my GPS they can dish out a fine each time I touch above the speed limit, charge me the full $250,000 per son each time I let a friend borrow a CD, castrate me for drinking on the sabbath, toss me in jail for illegal drug possession when I pop one of my girlfriends anti-allergy pills, and in general make my life a miserable hell.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:09PM (#21316051) Homepage Journal
    Next Spring, almost every state will have political caucuses and conventions which will set the state parties' platforms.

    Attend your local caucus or convention and try to get elected as a delegate to the state convention.

    Introduce resolutions that value freedom and privacy. Lobby to get them passed.

    Send a message to Washington: Privacy is important. Anonymity is an essential part of privacy.
  • by Benjamin_Wright (1168679) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:09PM (#21316057) Homepage
    The article notes that kids reveal much private information about themselves on myspace and facebook. Some fear that this information can damage a kids employment prospects. Heres an idea: People could post legal terms of service on their social networing pages declaring that employers and prospective employers are forbidden from looking at or copying from the pages. Such terms would be like No Trespassing signs on land. Some case law supports the notion that terms posted on a web site can restrict the right of visitors to gather information off the site. Arguably, if an employer grabs information off of a site in violation of posted terms, and that leads to termination of an employee, then the employee could sue the employer for violating the terms of the web site. Even if the terms are not legally binding on the employer, they could be ethically binding.
    • by cdrguru (88047)
      Sorry, I don't believe there is any such case law.

      Nor do I believe that as an employer anything you choose to reveal about yourself should not be used in a decision whether or not to hire you. If you rave on and on online endlessly about how all businesses are evil and the US government is out to get us all, you're not a candidate for any job I have. If you rave on and on about what great drugs you got last weekend and how you spent the entire time watching pretty patterns on the ceiling, you're not a can
    • The article notes that kids reveal much private information about themselves on myspace and facebook.

      The thing that articles like this neglect to mention is that kids lie on their profiles and chats. Here's an article from "Business Week" about "Marketing to Teens Online" [businessweek.com]. One of the reasons they give for kids lying is "Kids also lie on the Web to avoid creepy predators. One parent told me her 13-year-old son's MySpace profile says he's 26 and married with two kids. Teens, sometimes with parental enc

  • If you believe you can have privacy, security and anonyminity you are wrong. You might get any two of those. Maybe.

    If you main fear is the US government, think again. Your information is a marketable commodity and nobody is doiung anything to prevent commerce using that commodity. How many businesses are involved in trading information that you believe should be private? Do you believe the government should put an end to all such activity?

    It isn't going to happen.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by falconwolf (725481)

      If you believe you can have privacy, security and anonyminity you are wrong. You might get any two of those. Maybe.

      Privacy and anonymity are essentially the same thing. A USSC ruling even stated this in the early 1800s. If a person couldn't reasonable expect to keep their privacy then freedom of political speech didn't mean anything. Without remaining anonymous people wouldn't be willing to talk openly about politics for fear what they say can be used against them. I think the appropriate third word

  • Google my pseudonym and anything written by me is obscured in a sea of fanfics, fanpics, and completly unrelated person's posting information. Type my real name into google and you'll find 3 entries relating to me: two of which are useful but could have been found before the Internet. Nothing has changed; only the speed of things have changed. If someone really wishes to find me, they would, but the majority of the information would come from offline. Preserving anonmity is still a keystone of the freedom o
  • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:12PM (#21316083) Journal

    The White House argued that the law was obstructing intelligence gathering.
    Of course it is! That's entirely the point. It's not supposed to be easy for the government to carry out espionage on its own soil. In the course of an investigation there will be a lot of information, records, conversations, and correspondence between the persons being investigated and regular citizens. When you do your espianage on American soil, the bystanders are AMERICAN CITIZENS, protected from being spied on. It should be very difficult for the government to do those types of activities. Just because the white house thinks they need a blank check to do what ever they want in the name of security doesn't mean we should give it to them.

    Also, about googling your own name; I just did that and although there were over 1.5 million results, none of them were about me as far as I could tell :(
    I guess I should be relieved, although I'm kind of disappointed that I'm not important enough to have my privacy violated.
  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:13PM (#21316097) Homepage
    A detailed search on google will reveal WAY too much info on people. Certainly more than you'd want released to just anyone.

    More than this ... laws will not change this fact ... this sucks. If google can build databases of people le, why can't the US govt ? At least US govt has this freedom of info act. Google obeys only the laws they truly have to.

    Outlawing google also seems like a stupid thing to do.

    He just makes the point that we can't have it both ways. We can't have a searchable internet and the privacy standards of 1960. It just doesn't compute.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Charcharodon (611187)
      Actually you can have it both ways.

      Having Google show you all kinds of things that link back to your identity is a very good thing. After I saw how accurately Google showed how many, and there were many, places my private information was bouncing around the net I was able to quickly pull the plug on every business and social site that was leaking my info.

      Now when I do a search I find nothing about myself even after digging through 20 or 30 pages of Google search results.

      Now why can't the US governm

  • God, will it ever get here?

    The Bush administration is systematically perverting the American Constitution.

    I swear I would vote for anyone that said they would restore and enforce the Constitution, who would prosecute those who have subverted and raped it, and who would roll back the stoled powers of the Executive branch.

    Even better, if they would turn the current system of campaign contributions by corporations into treasonous acts and punish all involved in the harshest possible manner.

    We have
    • I swear I would vote for anyone that said they would restore and enforce the Constitution, who would prosecute those who have subverted and raped it, and who would roll back the stoled powers of the Executive branch.

      I don't really care for Ron Paul's politics on abortion (since I consider matters of reproduction an inalienable right), but I feel he's probably the only one who would remotely consider these actions. In fact, as a fairly liberal/libertarian person, he'd earn my vote in a heartbeat if he made
  • Barry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pilsner.urquell (734632) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:15PM (#21316105)
    Privacy no longer can mean anonymity.
    -- Donald Kerr

    A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.
    -- Barry Goldwater

  • "Anyone that's typed in their name on Google understands that," said Kerr."

    Great! We should give Kerr a dose of his own medicine by posting about how "Donald Kerr likes having sex with a sheep", "Donald Kerr was arrested for soliciting sex in a public washroom", "Donald Kerr was indicted for embezzling $5 million dollars", "Donald Kerr was convicted of sexually assaulting an 82-year-old woman after tazering her", "Donald Kerr helped funnel funds to Al-Quaida", "Donald Kerr was found wandering naked in a local park, claiming to have been abducted by aliens, who then probed his body", "Donald Kerr is a vocal proponent of scientology", "Donald Kerr is president of the Washington Brittney Speares fan club", "Donald Kerr controls a bot-net of 250,000 PCs", "Donald Kerr accepted 'gifts' of $4.5m from Microsoft", "Donald Kerr wants to track people via bluetooth".

    After all, Google is now a "good source" for Donald Kerr.

    (Note to the humour-impaired - the above is fair comment satire directed at a public officials' political policy statements, and in no way is an endorsement of Mr. Kerr's positions on privacy OR sex with a sheep)

  • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:17PM (#21316125)
    And the penalties for it.

    The Bush administration has shit all over the Constitution and this country. They have committed treason.
    • by Tom (822) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @05:20PM (#21316571) Homepage Journal

      The Bush administration has shit all over the Constitution and this country. They have committed treason.
      That's not what scares me (or any other onlooker from Europe or the rest of the world).

      What scares us is that you shitheads let them get away with it. You almost impeached a president for lying about a blowjob, but you don't take down an administration that is actively dismantling everything your ancestors fought and died for.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:21PM (#21316153)
    Yes, there is something fundamentally different: After they take away your rights and screw you over, they can get themselves immunity. Private businesses generally cannot do that.

    This guy is basically advertising a surveilance state, were everybody has to trust the government without reserve. Not a good idea. Historically that has always lead to a catastrophy. Unfortunately there will not be any allied armies to free the US population. I advise to stop this now with all possible legal means. A free society has to live with a real risk of terrorism. That is what makes it free: People have the freedom to go bad. If you remove that freedom, you cause much, much more damage that terrorists ever could do directly. All this "war on terror" is really a power-grap in disguise by power-hungry people without even a shred of ethics. You do not want to be ruled by this type of evil.

     
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:21PM (#21316157)
    On the New Hampshire auto license plates reads one of my favorite sayings: Live Free, or Die. This man would rather capitulate, and is therefore lost.

    We will struggle, those that believe in liberty and freedom, against the tides that would try to drown us with rationalisms, excuses, and the madness of fealty to the corrupt and mindless sycophants of government.

    There was a reason the founding fathers worded their documents they way that they did-- there was another King George that tried to shove fealty down our throats. This minor duke in his administration would have us believe that liberty and freedom != anonymity. He is wrong.

  • ...and? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jo42 (227475)
    If I change my name to "John Doe"?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Not such a good idea because there aren't that many John Doe's. Go for John Smith. Or now, maybe you should change your name to Mohammed Al-Mohammed. Or Juan Sanchez. Or Unique Williams. Or possibly best of all -- Lee Chin.
  • security? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rev_sanchez (691443) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:24PM (#21316177)
    Bad terrorists kill thousands. Bad government kill millions. Their fear mongering and our cowardice are poisoning our nation's leadership.
  • Firefox add-on (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Janos421 (1136335) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:25PM (#21316181)
    For those of you who want to protect their privacy, I've made a light Firefox add-on which generates randomly some queries on Google to make your search profile noisier and less exploitable. The queries keywords are extracted from RSS flows so you can personalize them. Moreover, the program simulates some clicks on Google search results (and ads).
    For further information go on: http://sourceforge.net/projects/fuzzy-search/ [sourceforge.net]
    It's a beta version and any comments are appreciated.
    • Re:Firefox add-on (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DaleGlass (1068434) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @06:46PM (#21317275) Homepage
      Have you seen Bruce Schneier's opinion [schneier.com] on your plugin?

      If your plugin still works as described, then I'd say it's very imperfect. I don't think the approach is completely wrong though, but it could use improvements.

      This reminds me of the old idea of randomly embedding key words like "president", "nuke", etc in mail and usenet posts, to mess with with Echelon/Carnivore. A mail with random key words inserted in places would work for triggering the data gathering, but look obviously unrelated to a human who reads the message, as the extra stuff would be inserted in nonsensical places.

      Now if your plugin happens to google for "raping virgins" how will you prove this wasn't a real search you tried to hide among a heap of a lot of grammatically incorrect ones? Searches that make grammatical sense will be a minority, and with a list like that there's a high chance that they won't be things normal people google about.

      Then there's that it doesn't seem it actually follows any links from the searches, so if the ISP is doing logging it's easy enough to tell what is being actually used.

      This seems to me like going to a library, and borrowing 20 books at once, including the Anarchist Cookbook and Mein Kampf, to try hide your actual and much more harmless interest in reading a book on say, Neopaganism. If your history is checked, all that extra stuff you didn't read isn't going to help you any, because there's no way to tell that most of your history was intended to be padding and you haven't even opened it.
  • The EFF is wrong. There is no difference because they are one and the same, meaning that the Government does provide us with services, in fact it is their only job to provide us with services... that's why we pay taxes and elect officials.

    If we want to protect our privacy in the new age of information, we must have policies in place which reflect the real world, not a fantasy world where you can be an anonymous citizen (which is impossible BTW) who simply goes about his/her business without interference fro
    • by 0123456 (636235)
      "If everyone knows what everyone is doing and becomes accustomed to it then everyone can freely do as they will without fear of punitive judgement, as long as they don't break any laws... which is another discussion (see recommendations above)."

      Indeed. Jews in Nazi Germany in the 30s were free to do what they wanted without fear, so long as they didn't break any laws.

      Of course walking around with a Star of David on your clothes kind of sucked later on when being a Jew became a capital offence.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @04:35PM (#21316259) Homepage

    Is Donald Kerr's house in Google StreetView? What's the link?

  • ...the clamps start getting put in place. They turn the screws a thread at a time, make lots of fuzzy statements like "Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won." The fight is lost. There is no fight. Submit. Submit.
  • by Chaos Motor (974072) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @05:03PM (#21316467)
    Instead of "redefining" privacy to mean "we know your private data, but we'll be responsible with it", how about we re-institute actual privacy? Instead of giving our personal information to companies who lose it or sell it or share it, how about we the people guard our own data? Instead of keeping it on their computers, let's keep it on our own.

    In my opinion, software as a service and registration based software are two of the biggest perpetrators of data and privacy violations. They take away your right to manage who knows what about you, forcing you to provide whatever data the "service provider" chooses or dictates that they "need".

    1) Make it illegal to force consumers to turn over private information unless it's a functional requirement of the process (not just data mining or marketing enhancement)

    2) Make it illegal for companies to sell or share ANY personally identifiable data they collect, even names, phone numbers, and addresses.

    3) Dismantle companies that violate privacy laws, retain identifiable customer data, or insist on data that is not a necessity to do business.

    It's pretty simple! You own YOUR OWN data. No one else has a right to it. No one can force you to turn it over to do business with them unless it's a functional necessity of doing business and not just a preference. Anyone that violates privacy laws is dismantled.

    BUT! BUT! It won't happen, because we live in a fascist corporate pathocracy where companies and money rule politics, the individual citizen, nay citizens period, are not considered, asked, or involved in any decisions, and THE GOVERNMENT WANTS YOUR DATA ALSO. So they can spy on you. It's all to protect YOU from the "terrists" you know.

    Nevermind the true terrorists are OUR OWN GOVERNMENT.

    Vague "terrorist threats", data mining, advertising, marketing, and "revenue enhancement" ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE REASONS TO DISMANTLE PRIVACY. Money and fear are NEVER reasons to willingly accept oppression or subordination.

    Fight for your rights, America. Our rights aren't what some company claims they will recognize, or what our government claims they will 'allow'. These are inherent to our existence, and they are for US to decide, not someone else. Fight for your rights! Wake up before it's too late.
  • Without Anonymity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @05:18PM (#21316557)
    Without anonymity the small voice with be Bitch SLAPPed into silence!
  • by vkg (158234) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @06:39PM (#21317207) Homepage
    At the end of the day, you can't use somebody else's computer, and expect privacy. You can't use somebody else's network, and expect privacy. If I jack into your ethernet hub, you're going to have the possibility of reading my traffic unless I use HTTPS / SSH / GPG etc.

    That's our real relationship with Comcast, with AT&T and so on. They're snoopy sysadmins on a gigantic scale, and we should treat them like snoopy sysadmins of any other kind: encrypt and tunnel all traffic, and push back technically as hard as we can. P2P has led the way on this, but it's really time we stopped dinking around and started defaulting to HTTPS even on sites like Slashdot.

    On the broader level, I did some work on this (ironically, the first draft of the work was done for the USG.)

    http://guptaoption.com/4.SIAB-ISA.php [guptaoption.com]

    It's a system - built on open source software for the most part (and the remaining stuff could be built) - which provides for a rock solid personal identity card which has three critical properties:

    * all your personal data is encrypted, and only a court can decrypt it
    * the card has no unique identifiers on it, and you have dozens of cards (that you leave with institutions like your bank to "anchor" your account)
    * it's dirt cheap and secure enough to entrust with biometric data like DNA fingerprints.

    Concerted effort to produce an open alternative which offers strong security *AND* strong privacy by carrying the debate to a higher technical level than schemes like RealID is long past due.

    Phil Zimmerman settled the encryption issue for most of a generation with PGP. It's time for us to consider doing the same for general communications snooping, and then moving out into areas like the poor protection of identity in systems like the Social Security Number-based credit reporting system.

    We can do better, and we must.

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