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Big Brothers race to control Internet

“For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders – every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle and video from every street corner.” – Brookings Institution report.

Since I began writing this column, our government has been ceaselessly intent on controlling the Internet.

In describing the White House’s “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World” report, which among other things proposes a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” and calls on Congress to pass new legislation to regulate online businesses, Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, and Larry Downes, TechFreedom senior adjunct fellow said, “This report begins and ends as constitutional sleight-of-hand.”

He continues, “President Obama starts by reminding us of the Fourth Amendment’s essential protection against ‘unlawful intrusion into our homes and our personal papers’ by government. But the report recommends no reform whatsoever for outdated laws that have facilitated a dangerous expansion of electronic surveillance. That is the true threat to our privacy. The report dismisses it in a footnote. Instead, the report calls for extensive new regulation of Internet businesses to address little more than the growing pains of a vibrant emerging economy.”

Conservative Action Alerts lists attempts made by our government to seize control “for our own good”, of course:

  1. They tried Net Neutrality, ultimately gaining the right to an Internet “kill-switch,” even though three federal judges told them it was unconstitutional;
  2. The FCC has worked diligently to increase regulations on Internet activity, and its members are openly hostile to First Amendment rights;
  3. SOPA and PIPA, which would have caused sweeping devastation to legitimate websites, were days away from passage when they were finally shelved due to overwhelming opposition from the American people … however, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is likely to bring back these bills by hiding them in his new cybersecurity legislation;
  4. H.R. 1981, one of the newest pieces of Internet legislation to be debated, is a huge threat to our privacy. Under the auspices of protecting our children from pornography, it is simply a cleverly-disguised way to force online service providers to spy on your online activities and provide that information to the government. H.R. 1981 is all about data retention. It requires Internet service providers to keep detailed records of your Internet activity, your name, address, bank account numbers and credit card numbers.
  5. And now most recently, the United Nations’ is attempting to impose a world tax on Internet users, especially on financial transactions.

The U.N. wants to sink its talons into the Internet, a means of communication even in the most remote parts of the world.

According to a report by Robert McDowell, the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union, or ITU, which includes Russia, China and their allies within the 193 member states, intend to renegotiate a 1988 treaty that will expand its reach into previously unregulated areas of the Internet.

“Reading even a partial list of proposals that could be codified into international law next December at a conference in Dubai is chilling,” he wrote. “If successful, these new regulatory proposals would upend the Internet’s flourishing regime, which has been in place since 1988. That year, delegates from 114 countries gathered in Australia to agree to a treaty that set the stage for dramatic liberalization of international telecommunications. This insulated the Internet from economic and technical regulation and quickly became the greatest deregulatory success story of all time.”

McDowell gives us the history of the Internet, explaining how the ITU’s grasp would alter its future as a free-flowing medium of communication.

“In 1995, shortly after it was privatized, only 16 million people used the Internet worldwide,” he writes. “By 2011, more than two billion were online – and that number is growing by as much as half a million every day. This explosive growth is the direct result of governments generally keeping their hands off the Internet sphere.”

Read the whole thing, and for what it is worth, do your part to protect our Internet freedom of speech. Please tell your member of Congress to fight hard against this U.N. encroachment upon an unfettered Internet. Better yet, drop by his or her district office and make it personal.

News has its limitations

Though I wouldn’t recommend doing it, the The Washington Post will limit the news you read to suit your preferences. The paper is experimenting with Personal Post, available at personal.washingtonpost.com, where you’ll see a river of content that you can customize.

Question: Though a lot of what we read in the news is extraneous content, why would you wall yourself off from ALL the news of the day?

Print is dead

Charging readers for news content is not the business model that will succeed for print media, according to one expert who says print is dead.

“Across the publishing industry, year-over-year declines in revenue, subscriptions and circulation are well documented,” he writes. “Print periodicals are going to go away, forced out of this world by the march of technology and changing tastes and replaced by new powerhouse brands – TMZ, Buzzfeed and HuffPo to name a few – which are poised to own the future, because they know how to adapt to (and even anticipate!) evolving user behavior.”

USA Today thinks otherwise. They’re betting $100M to stanch the blood flow of red ink. Odds are the patient will die.

Meanwhile, online media is making billions.

The social networking giant Facebook is predicted to lose its lead to Google in online U.S. display advertising revenue next year. Google is expected to capture 20 percent of the market in 2013 with $3.68 billion in sales. Facebook is projected to grab nearly 18 percent, or $3.29 billion.

When is a Facebook user posting a cry for help?

How do you know when a Facebook posting is a last-resort cry for help? When someone is telling “friends” they are at the end of their rope? What’s the difference between a “drama-du-jour” and a legitimate concern? This article points out the signs and how they should be handled. A must-read for parents.

Predicting job performance with a look at Facebook

What can a prospective employer learn from your Facebook page? Plenty, according to the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. A series of two studies conducted by researchers at Northern Illinois University, the University of Evansville and Auburn University revealed that your Facebook entries reveal if you are conscientious, extroverted, emotionally well-balanced, adventurous, open to new ideas, argumentative, in short, where you are in terms of the big five personality traits an employer is looking for in a prospective employee.

Heads up! Ogling with Google Goggles

Resisting the urge to write “Here’s looking at you, kid” (see how I did that?), Google is getting ready to launch its Google Goggles later this year. According to published reports, Google X lab is developing thick-rimmed “smart glasses” that will connect with the Internet, giving wearers a heads-up display.

The glasses, which the site 9to5Google reported would look somewhat like the Oakley Thump, would include a built-in camera that records what the wearer is looking at and then uses that feed to find relevant information about what’s being observed, which is then displayed on the lenses of the headset. The smart glasses would reportedly have motion-sensing capability and rely on 3G or 4G wireless connections.

Motorola has a similar product in the works. Watch this fascinating video demonstrating the various applications this heads-up eyeglass capability can provide.

Do it now!

I did it last week. You should do it too, as soon as possible, or at least before March 1. Protect your online privacy. Hurry! Dump your entire Google web browsing history. Because safe surfing is becoming rarer. Just ask Scroogle.

Meanwhile, top government lawyers from 36 states have sent a letter to Google expressing “strong concerns” with Google’s new privacy policy.

“On a fundamental level, the policy appears to invade consumer privacy by automatically sharing personal information consumers input into one Google product with all Google products,” reads the letter sent to Google CEO Larry Page and signed by 36 state attorneys general.

Google last week announced it will add a do-not-track button to its Chrome Web browser. No time frame was set for changing the Chrome browser to include a do-not-track feature.

“Forget about authoritarian governments, democratically elected ones are tracking your every move online,” writes Kyle Gonzales, The International Man, who explains how you can use the Internet in “stealth mode”.

Online “Nosy Book”

Years ago, my mom owned an annually published book that listed all registered voters in our city. We laughingly referred to it as “The Nosy Book.” It listed voters by street, precinct and ward, and included their names, age, occupation, political party affiliation and home address. I can assure you, in my parents’ household, “The Nosy Book” was well thumbed through!

Today, the “Nosy Book” is electronic. You and your neighbors can find out with a couple of clicks who lives in your neighborhood. A satellite bird’s eye view shows your neighborhood, with a number assigned to each dwelling. Run your cursor over it and the info pops up on the left sidebar. Though your neighbors’ occupation and political affiliation aren’t listed – yet – if they’re using a landline, their phone number is included. This info could come in handy in an emergency, I suppose. Or if you want to plan a neighborhood block party. But isn’t it just a little creepy?

Facebook Fast for Lent

Lent is a season of preparation for Easter, practiced by many Christians. It begins 40 days prior to Easter on Ash Wednesday and is a time for Christians to fast, repent and reflect on the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Many Christians give up a favorite food or activity as part of their penance, or sacrifice.

A Chicago woman has taken her Lenten sacrifice to a modern-day level – giving up Facebook for Lent. It’s a huge sacrifice. She says she has Facebooked every day for the past five years, posting status updates and photos and generally being very active on the social networking site.

But she thinks the 40-day Facebook fast will teach her something about herself. Yet she’s not ready to go all cold turkey about it – admitting she won’t stop using Facebook and Twitter.

“That would be impossible,” she said.

Hooked on your phone?

Here’s an idea or two to help you put it down and step away slowly.

The Time Capsule

1860 – Lincoln delivers Cooper Union speech

1902 – Author John Steinbeck born, Salinas, California

1906 – Bugsy Siegel born, Brooklyn, New York

1954 – U.S. detonates largest man-made explosion at Bikini

1963 – de Gaulle arch enemy charged with attempted assassination

1969 – Maiden flight of supersonic Concorde

1986 – Sweden’s PM Olof Palme assassinated in Stockholm; wife wounded

1991 – Operation Desert Storm victorious after only 100 days

Now playing at the Princess Theater, Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WND readers Tim Kerlin of Watervliet, Mich., and John Spivey of Bucyrus, Ohio, who were among the first to correctly guess actor John Wayne in his portrayal of Sgt. Stryker in the 1949 film “The Sands of Iwo Jima.” The film was based on a dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.

The selection was tied to last week’s Time Capsule item when in 1945, the Stars and Stripes was raised at Iwo Jima.

The quote was: “Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.”

This week’s quote: “I love Doc! He was a character witness for me, and I ain’t got no character.”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Please be sure to add your town and state. Good luck!