Ellen Ratner is the White House correspondent and bureau chief for the Talk Radio News service. She is also Washington bureau chief and political editor for Talkers Magazine. In addition, Ratner is a news analyst at the Fox News Channel.More ↓Less ↑
I just got back from South Sudan. Most of the country has no access to electricity, let alone the Internet. For those lucky enough to have a cell phone, it is usually charged in the market where smart shopkeepers use a generator to charge the cell phones. Privacy concerns are not huge in a country that uses cell phones sparingly.
I came back and reviewed my mountain of email and was shocked at the email from a list serve I subscribe to. It is like the frog in the cook pot. When the heat is turned up a bit at a time, the frog doesn’t notice he is being cooked.
I get emails from Dave Farber list serve. Until I looked at it all at once, it did not disturb me. Here is just a quick sampling from this week alone on the issue of privacy.
“[The Electronic Frontier Foundation] has been closely following the FBI’s work to build out its Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometrics database, which would replace and expand upon the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFAS). The new program will include multiple biometric identifiers, such as iris scans, palm prints, face-recognition-ready photos and voice data, and that information will be shared with other agencies at the local, state, federal and international levels. The face recognition component is set to launch in 2014.
“‘[Next Generation Identification] will result in a massive expansion of government data collection for both criminal and noncriminal purposes,’ says EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch, who testified before the U.S. Senate on the privacy implications of facial recognition technology in July of last year. ‘Biometrics programs present critical threats to civil liberties and privacy. Face-recognition technology is among the most alarming new developments, because Americans cannot easily take precautions against the covert, remote, and mass capture of their images.’”
“Millions of websites and billions of people rely on SSL to protect the transmission of sensitive information such as passwords, credit card details and personal information with the expectation that encryption guarantees privacy. However, recently leaked documents appear to reveal that the NSA, the United States National Security Agency, logs very high volumes of Internet traffic and retains captured encrypted communication for later cryptanalysis. The United States is far from the only government wishing to monitor encrypted internet traffic: Saudi Arabia has asked for help decrypting SSL traffic, China has been accused of performing a MITM attack against SSL-only GitHub, and Iran has been reported to be engaged in deep packet inspection and more, to name but a few.
“The reason that governments might consider going to great lengths to log and store high volumes of encrypted traffic is that if the SSL private key to the encrypted traffic later becomes available – perhaps through court order, social engineering, successful attack against the website, or through cryptanalysis – all of the affected site’s historical traffic may then be decrypted at once. This really would open Pandora’s Box, as on a busy site a single key would decrypt all of the past encrypted traffic for millions of people.”
From Cironline on the ability to read license plates and feed them to data “fusion centers”:
“The paperback-size device, installed on the outside of police cars, can log thousands of license plates in an eight-hour patrol shift. Katz-Lacabe said it had photographed his two cars on 112 occasions, including one image from 2009 that shows him and his daughters stepping out of his Toyota Prius in their driveway.
“That photograph, Katz-Lacabe said, made him ‘frightened and concerned about the magnitude of police surveillance and data collection.’ The single patrol car in San Leandro equipped with a plate reader had logged his car once a week on average, photographing his license plate and documenting the time and location.”
On the ability for the NSA to keep and later listen to a billion phone calls a day:
“The NSA has a ‘brand new’ technology that enables one billion cell phone calls to be redirected into its data hoards, according to the Guardian’s Glen Greenwald, who told a Chicago conference that a new leak of Snowden’s documents was ‘coming soon.’
“Calling it part of a ‘globalized system to destroy all privacy,’ and the enduring creation of a climate of fear, Greenwald outlined the capabilities of the NSA to store every single call while having ‘the capability to listen to them at any time.’”
From IntelliHub on taking a photo of a police station:
“Randall Thomas told Photography is Not a Crime he was taking photos to prepare for an upcoming trial stemming from a January arrest in which police deleted his footage after he had recorded them making an abusive arrest.
“Not that any of that was the cop’s business who harassed him Saturday for taking photos outside the Police Service Area 3 Housing Bureau in Brooklyn.
“Thomas was placed in a cell and held for almost an hour before he was released with two citations for disorderly conduct, one for blocking traffic, the other for obscene language – as if that is not protected by the First Amendment.
“Regardless, the video Thomas recorded with his smartphone shows he did not block traffic nor use obscene language in his interaction with Officer Soto, which begins at 4:30.”
All of these reports are from less than one week’s collection made by Dave Farber’s list serve.
We are frogs, and we are being cooked by our government.
It’s time to jump out of that pot and organize the good, old-fashioned way we did in the 1960s.
We need our government to hear us, not though cell phone data collection or facial recognition software, but from our protests on the streets.
We’d better do this before they know when we are leaving our houses to go to that demonstration.