HazDat
11Jan/11

Winona Ryder Fears Accidentally Opting-Into Al Queda

Careful What You Click F

Actress Winona Ryder doesn't use the Internet. She just got her first smartphone, but finds it unpredictable. She had a laptop, but rarely used it.

She's fearful of technology. And that just might make her smarter than you.

As evidenced in her "Late Night" interview with Jimmy Fallon, these days, such concerns are the fodder for comedians. It's the current equivalent of being afraid to drive or swim. In the late 20th. Century, it might have been a fear of handing one's money over to an ATM machine. Or more recently, making a purchase online. But, well over 30,000 people died in car accidents in 2009. Another 24,000 were injured. In a similar period, more that 3000 people died from drowning. Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Not if it keeps you safe.

Most of us either fear what we don't know, or fear what we do. There's also a whole complicated subset of irrational, or misguided fears that really fall into the first category. According to her own interview, Ryder falls into the former classification.

Ryder told Fallon, "We're a button away from joining Al Queda!"

How many times have you accidentally opted yourself into joining a mailing list because you forgot to un-approve your pre-approved consent? What about that time when you accidentally installed a bunch of "trial-ware" that came along with a program you legitimately wanted to use. Somewhere, before or after the end-user-license agreement you didn't read, it may have been an option. In the 90's one of my attorney-client's accidentally sold a good investment when he was dabbling with online day trading. I have met people who accidentally purchased cars on eBay. Meanwhile, I promise (though I don't recommend confirming it) that many forms of contraband are just a few clicks, or even a typo, away from where you sit this very moment. Last Summer I gave National Public Radio (NPR) a glimpse into just how easy it can be. Even if you bleed apple pie filling, you're still just a click away from looking like someone else.

I haven't tried it myself, but I'll bet joining Al Queda requires, at least, the completion of an annoying CAPTCHA in order to submit a membership application.  While I'm sure Ryder has no interest in joining, just the accusation, or even a rumor, that she ever supported a terrorist organization, or had some other frighting interest, could be just as detrimental. Remember Christine O'Donnell, the Republican Party's most famous witch? In some parts of the country that's harder to understand than extremism.

Ryder: "We're a button away from joining Al Queda."

Remember, Ryder works in the industry that was most famously asked, "Are you, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"

Maybe -- even if unwittingly -- she's on to something. Maybe we'd have several thousand fewer vehicular deaths every year if more drivers understood the engineering that goes into the highway, or a car, it's tires, or even just its brakes and safety systems. Sure, it might scare a few people out of driving altogether. But it might make the rest think a little harder before they accelerated into a turn, or tried to beat a red light across a wet intersection. Maybe, if more people really understood the Internet better before hopping on the "Information Superhighway", law enforcement might have fewer accidents to investigate.

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8Jan/11

When it comes to last year’s holiday gifts, Uncle Sam wants to know if you’ve been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake!

Via EFF:

What do an online donation to the International Red Cross, a bank transfer to family members living in Vietnam, and a payment sent through PayPal for an expensive rug in Turkey have in common? The government wants to know about them. And, if new rules proposed by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, go into effect, the government will — along with your name, address, bank account number, and other sensitive financial information.

In September, FinCEN, an agency component of the Department of the Treasury, proposed a set of rules (pdf) that would require banks and money transmitters to report to the government any cross-border electronic funds transfer. Yesterday, we submitted a comment (pdf) opposing the agency’s proposal.

Essentially, under the proposed rules, anytime you electronically transfer money into or out of the country, the government wants to know. The proposed rules require banks and money transmitters, like PayPal or Western Union, to submit reports documenting the amount of money sent or received, where that money came from, and where it is going. Depending on the type of transfer, a variety of information would be included in the reports, including the name, address, bank account number, and taxpayer ID number of the sender; the amount and currency of the funds transfer; and the name and address of the recipient. Passport numbers or alien ID numbers could also be required for some transfers.

The government wants reports on all electronic bank-to-bank transfers, regardless of whether the transfer is $1 or $1,000,000. For money transmitters, reports would be filed for transfers at or above $1,000. FinCEN estimates it will receive 750 million reports every year, and the agency wants to keep the data for ten years. Once the reports are filed with FinCEN, other federal law enforcement agencies — the FBI, IRS, ICE, and the DEA — would all have access to the data.

Shortly after FinCEN announced the rules in September, EFF filed a FOIA request seeking documentation that would justify the agency’s law enforcement need for the regulations. We also sought information demonstrating that FinCEN had taken adequate data-security precautions for handling such a massive amount of sensitive information. The agency produced some records, but the documents provided no evidence that the proposed rules are necessary to deter money laundering and terrorism financing, or that the agency had adequately assessed the privacy implications of the proposed rules.

In our comment, we opposed the rules for three reasons:

1. The new reports are unlikely to be effective in preventing terrorism financing — the primary impetus behind the regulations in the first place.

2. While the agency sought the advice of financial institutions, other law enforcement agencies, and even foreign governments when developing the rule, FinCEN never solicited the opinions of privacy advocates during the drafting process.

3. The agency has not provided any evidence that the technological systems are in place to safely receive, transmit, and store the vast quantities of highly-sensitive information the rules would require.

We strongly oppose the government’s attempt to pry into the sensitive financial dealings of citizens, especially when there is no demonstrated need and no evidence that the agency is equipped to handle that much sensitive information. Comments on the proposed rules are due December 29th, and can be submitted here. We urge you to join us in opposing these intrusive new regulations.

Read full article at http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/12/sending-money-overseas-holidays-government-wants

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8Jan/11

Department of Justice Subpoenas Twitter Records of WikiLeaks Volunteers

Source: Freebase

Source: Freebase

Via Gawker:

The Department of Justice has subpoenaed many people's Twitter accounts who were associated with WikiLeaks. The subpoena states that there is "reasonable ground to believe that the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation."

Read full article at http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/JyTdxSjSU5o/department-of-justice-subpoenas-twitter-records-of-wikileaks-volunteers

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31Aug/09

U.S. Gov. authorizes long-layovers for laptops.

DHSIt's sometimes hard to remember, but it wasn't that long ago that most carry-on's bypassed so much as an x-ray screening. Then came the obligatory laptop and shoe removal. And, eventually, the "drink 'em or lose 'em" rule, accompanied by the ever-perplexing debate over what constitutes a "liquid", and how many ounces of it you can carry through a TSA line.

(I once overheard a TSA agent explaining to a traveler that, "anything that can be liquefied is a liquid". I felt compelled to explain that, at the right temperature, the whole airplane could be liquefied--but kept my mouth shut, for fear of missing my flight.)

In recent months, some international travelers have been greeted with an indignity that makes the "patdown" look like a "fist-bump". In the past 10 months, over 1000 people had their laptop computers "detained" and subsequently searched. Most would assume that this was with probable cause, but, the DHS maintains that probable cause is not required for such a search. ... CONTINUE READING »

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28Aug/09

Win Ben Bernanke’s Money (Irony)

It looks like, for some, the stimulus package wasn't enough. In an ironic twist, the man often criticized for moving Trillions from the Federal Reserve Bank into the hands of failing corporations has had a far lesser sum removed from his personal bank account.

Conan O'Brien"Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been a victim of identity theft. His credit card company became suspicious when they noticed repeated purchases of large, failing American car companies."

- Conan O'Brien (Aired August 27, 2009)

Just days after President Obama announced Bernanke's renomination to the Federal Reserve, officials revealed that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was a victim of a wide-spread identity theft ring ... CONTINUE READING »

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27Aug/09

Search & Seizure: 9th Cir. Appeals calls “foul” on broad computer searches

When searching a spreadsheet containing the drug test results of 104 professional baseball players federal prosecutors went too far, says the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

After lawfully executing a warrant on a Long Beach, CA drug testing lab for the test results of 10 players, agents uncovered a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with results of every player that was tested in the program. The government argued that 94 of those results were in "plain sight".

In a 9-2 decision, the court ruled:

"The government should, in future warrant applications, forswear reliance on the plain view doctrine or any similar doctrine that would allow it to retain data to which it has gained access only because it was required to segregate seizable from non-seizable data. If the government doesn’t consent to such a waiver, the magistrate judge should order that the seizable and non-seizable data be separated by an independent third party under the supervision of the court, or deny the warrant altogether." ... CONTINUE READING »

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10Aug/09

Amazon pities that crazy fool Murdoch, but will Kindle owners?

225px-Rupert_Murdoch_-_WEF_Davos_2007

News Corp.'s (NWS) Rupert Murdoch is mad--perhaps literally and figuratively. Presumably, billions of dollars in losses will have that effect on a person. Not surprisingly, he's looking for ways to stop the bleeding--or, he's just looking for revenge. It's hard to tell.

H.M. Murdoch

First, he's ordered an end to the free ride. That means, no more free online news. Yes, FoxNews.com too.  (Hey, that's fair and balanced, right?)  Then, he negotiated with Amazon.com, a higher revenue share for Wall Street Journal electronic Kindle subscriptions. And, finally, he issued an ultimatum: Give us the names of Kindle subscribers, or we walk.

During his fiscal-year-end earnings call with analysts, Murdoch said, "...we don't get the names of the subscribers. Kindle treats them as their subscribers, not as ours, and I think that will eventually cause a break with us."

Murdoch also made it clear that News Corp had no intention of competing with the Kindle e-reader, but instead stressed the need for News Corp properties to "return to their old margins of profitability... Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalizing its ability to produce good reporting."

Kindle

Still, Kindle subscribers have already been paying for the Wall Street Journal, despite the fact that The Wall Street Journal Online has been giving away the same content for free. But, apparently, Murdoch is willing to give up that revenue for what appears to be a turf-war over the ownership of personal subscriber data.

The whole fight begs the question: Do Kindle owners see themselves as Amazon subscribers or Wall Street Journal Subscribers, and--in the end--does it matter how they see themselves?

As for Murdoch's state of mind: Is he howling mad, or is he crazy like a Fox News Host? That remains to be seen. But, if he messes with Amazon subscribers, I pity the fool.

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24Jul/09

When There Is No Cover, Will You Be Judged By The Book?

You know the saying: "Don't judge a book by its cover." The word "book" doesn't mean what it used to. Today, many people listen to books on their iPods, and read books on devices like the Amazon Kindle, and Sony Reader. Even Barnes & Noble announced this week that they're getting back into the game.

No surprise, Google would like their piece of the action as well. And, that's got the EFF concerned. Unlike traditional sources of literature, a person reading an e-book can unwittingly produce nearly as much information as they consume.

In some respects, reading an e-book could be analogous to buying a used college textbook, and reselling it after you're done. The previous owner might have highlighted important information and made some notes in the margins. As a second-hand-reader, you may even find these notations provide some valuable insight--not just into the book, but into it's previous owner as well. By the time you're ready to sell-back the book, you may have added even more notes and highlighted some additional paragraphs. Perhaps, making the book even more valuable to its next owner.

In much the same way, as an individual reads an electronic book, additional research--like online searches related to the subject matter, can be recorded on a server revealing significant insight into the mindset of the reader. Whereas, the process of reading involves a one-way flow of information, from the book to the brain, online, so much more occurs behind the scenes.

The biggest difference between the notations made on paper, and those recorded online, is that the online reader has no control over (or even knowledge of) what data is being observed, collected, preserved and cross-referenced, for how long, and with whom it is shared.

At this point, it's reasonable to note that Google, arguably, already controls the world's largest database with which to cross-reference your personal habits and interests.

You wouldn't, for example, likely volunteer every book or magazine you ever read in college to your next prospective employer (or your next date, for that matter). Sure, your résumé might say, "well read", but you're referring to Faulkner, not Hefner. Google, on the other hand, knows, not only what you searched for and read on it's Google Books web site, but also what pages you read. So, if you read the Starr Report because you're "really into politics" but you skipped to the best part, you're BUSTED!

Before you read your next (or first) electronic book, read this:

EFF: Don't Let Google Close the Book on Reader Privacy

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Filed under: Law, Politics, Privacy No Comments
10Jul/09

GPS-Tracking Car Tax is Gaining Traction

The first set of mass-production plug-in electric vehicles are slated to arrive this year. Among other incentives, they won't pay a dime in fuel tax. Looking to head-off that shortfall, several states, including California, Oregon, and Missouri have investigated charging by the mile, instead of by the gallon.

Why not simply base mileage on a vehicle's odometer? Beside the obvious tampering concerns, a state has no right to collect for out-of-state mileage. In the past, it had always been assumed that anyone traveling interstate would eventually need to fill-up with taxable liquid fuel at a regulated pump, thus contributing to each state's highway improvement budget.

Not so, in this modern era. Electric vehicles, like GM's Volt, can be charged from any conventional outlet, or faster via a dedicated higher-voltage charger. Though, theoretically, taxes will be paid on the energy consumed, those taxes don't directly contribute to things like highway improvement.

Now comes the increasingly ever-depreciating GPS with the ability, not only, to collect state and interstate road-usage data with a fair degree of accuracy and tamper-resistance, but also the ability to transmit that data wirelessly on-schedule, on-demand, or even in real-time.

It's that last feature that has many up in arms. How else could this data be used? It could, for instance, report traffic violations to municipalities without involving a law enforcement officer, even as they occur. It could also be used to prove that someone was speeding, or is a habitual speeder, after the fact. Perhaps as evidence in a traffic accident. Or for the purposes of increasing one's insurance premium. It could be used to automatically alert authorities when a suspect returns to their jurisdiction, or to the "scene of the crime". For that matter, it could be used after an incident to locate all individuals who were in the area, and even retrace their path. Spouses could subpoena the data as evidence of infidelity. Ex-spouses could use it to collect child or spousal support.

Some have suggested that such a system would come with built-in privacy mechanisms. For instance, it might only record the mileage in each state, and not specific location data. The biggest problem with that is, now you have no way to audit the accuracy of the figures, or the system as a whole. It presents the possibility of systemic inaccuracies or even gross abuse. In other words, much like electronic voting, how do citizens patrol their government?

Read more @ Kansas City Star

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26May/09

FCC Says: Wireless Surf = Warrantless Search

“Anything using RF energy — we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference,” says FCC spokesman David Fiske.

According to Wired:

The FCC claims it derives its warrantless search power from the Communications Act of 1934, though the constitutionality of the claim has gone untested in the courts. That’s largely because the FCC had little to do with average citizens for most of the last 75 years, when home transmitters were largely reserved to ham-radio operators and CB-radio aficionados. But in 2009, nearly every household in the United States has multiple devices that use radio waves and fall under the FCC’s purview, making the commission’s claimed authority ripe for a court challenge.

Wired: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/05/fcc-raid/

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