Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New Technologies that threaten our Safety and Privacy

Written by: Michael Caldwell on February 13, 2013.

In the USA the TV watches YOU! Technology is a wonderful thing. It makes our lives easier. But some technologies can put us in danger and threaten our privacy.

By now we all know that every modern cell phone can not only be traced with GPS technology but it can also be activated by the carrier to be utilized as a listening device unbeknownst to its end user. Add to that new more accurate facial recognition systems that utilize calculations based on the distance between your eyes, ears and nose to identify you and the influx of millions of tax dollars for city wide surveillance cameras and you would think not much crime would go unsolved. But as usual it is all about “terrorism”.

So what US cities have the most surveillance cameras? Chicago surpassed Washington DC this year for the top position. Other cities with high amounts of police surveillance are Houston, Dallas, and Austin TX as well as Denver CO, and Rochester NY.

The NSA has built a huge data center in Utah that reads every email you’ll ever send.
Many of us are aware that nothing of what we say on social networks is really private. But you’d think your emails would be safe from prying eyes — especially those of your government. But once the government completes work on a top-secret Utah data center reportedly built to spy on civilian communications.

The $2 billion facility, said to be complete by September 2013, is designed to be able to filter through yottabytes (10^24 bytes) of data. Put into perspective, that’s greater than the estimated total of all human knowledge since the dawn of mankind. If leaked information about the complex is correct, nothing will be safe from the facility’s reach, from cell phone communications to emails to what you just bought with your credit card. And encryption won’t protect you — one of the facility’s priorities is breaking even the most complex of codes.

The good news is that the sheer volume of internet traffic and emails sent in a single day is far too much to be read by human eyes. Instead, the government will likely need to rely on complicated algorithms to assess each transmission and decide if they represent a security threat. So you’re probably out of the government’s earshot here… as long as you watch what you say.

The FBI maintains detailed files on numerous public, semi-public, and private figures.
Have you ever thought of taking a job with the government? If you value your privacy, think twice — the government runs incredibly extensive background searches on its high-profile applicants.

What kind of information does the government want from its applicants? Well, when former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was under consideration for a job with George H.W. Bush’s administration in 1991, the FBI compiled a massive file on him. Included in that file: the fact that Jobs had a 2.65 GPA, his history of marijuana and LSD usage, and his tendencies to “distort reality” and to “twist the truth” in order to achieve his goals.

Of course, Jobs is far from the only figure with an FBI file. Other public personalities profiled by the FBI include John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, and even Anna Nicole Smith. If you’re curious about what goods the FBI has on you, you can always submit a request to view your own personal file. Of course, that the government doesn’t profile everyone — just certain people of interest.

Homeland Security is reading your tweets and Facebook status messages.
Unless you play around with your Twitter and Facebook privacy settings, just about anything you say is public. So it might not come as a surprise that the Department of Homeland Security is seeking contractors to build software and hardware capable of reading through what it calls “publicly available social media.” The government wants to read through your tweets and status messages to see if there’s any information that might help in detecting threats. Some believe the US Government financially backed Facebook and Twitter in exchanged for “future cooperation”.

There are some ground rules to the project. The government won’t pose as a Twitter follower and won’t accept or send any Facebook friend requests. Still, even with those restrictions, there’s a lot of information floating out there for the feds to read, even if most of it is nonsense about Justin Bieber.

Your ISP is required to keep files on what sites you visit.
A law that requires your internet service provider to keep constant tabs on you, along with detailed records of what websites you visited and when was passed with H.B. 2288 and companion bill S.B. 2530. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. John Mizuno (D), “requires internet service providers… keep consumer records for no less than two years.” The bill then goes on to specify that these records must include “each subscriber’s information and internet destination history information.”

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a similar bill titled Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act. That bill, sponsored and written by Texas Republican Representative Lamar Smith, would mandate that commercial ISPs create logs of customers’ names, bank information, and IP addresses. That information could later be used by attorneys seeking to prosecute in a criminal trial or even in civil cases and even divorce trials.

Not much is private anymore
Between private companies violating your privacy and now the government, is there any way to avoid prying eyes? Not really, unless you make significant changes in the way you use the web. So before you send that next tweet or post that next Facebook status message, think about whether or not you’d be okay with a complete stranger looking at it — because that’s very well what may happen.

More than the violation of our constitutional rights what worries me is how much money this is costing WE the people. It seems to me that we are building our own prison. Paying for the shackles that will keep us from soaring.

I hope that is food for thought.


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