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Doomsday clock ticking on Internet freedom

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither.” – Benjamin Franklin

They’re coming for it and show no signs of letting up. Once they get their foot in the door and before you know it, you’ll be worried and thinking twice about what you’re posting on your blog or Facebook or Twitter account. And if it appears on the Internet, the government will somehow try to tax it.

Readers, if you haven’t been, you’d better get interested in this now, because we are moving closer to pivoting off the relative freedom of speech of Internet into absolute government control. And if you let the Washington ruling elite control it, who knows what the result will be? One thing for sure, it “will be for our own good,” but it won’t be good for us.

Are you a terrorist? No? Then why is Big Sis spying on you? And what’s Congress doing about it? For the most part, aiding and abetting on the encroachment of our First Amendment freedom.

Under what circumstances, if any, should the Department of Homeland Security be allowed to monitor Twitter, Facebook, Hulu, Wikileaks, the Huffington Post, The Drudge Report and other social networks? That’s a question that will soon be taken up by Congress. The Congressional hearing, DHS Monitoring of Social Networking and Media: Enhancing Intelligence Gathering and Ensuring Privacy, will be held this Thursday, Feb. 16. What brought that on?

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, a private advocacy group, pushed Congress to investigate DHS’ monitoring practices, after EPIC obtained nearly 300 pages of documents from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that detail DHS’ “intelligence gathering” practices on the web. Among those practices are instructions to outside contractors on how to monitor for “threats and hazards,” as well as reports and comments that adversely reflect on the agency or the federal government.

Early in 2010, the DHS awarded General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems a contract worth $11.3 million to spend 24 hours monitoring news media coverage on popular websites to highlight “both positive and negative reports on FEMA, CIA, CBP, ICE, etc., as well as organizations outside of DHS.

“The DHS has openly announced that it is actively monitoring social media for signs of “social unrest,” in a bid to preempt any sign of social dislocation within the United States,” according to a published report. Read more of that report here.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that amid controversy over Google’s plans to combine user data from its search function to YouTube, “Google told the Federal Trade Commission in a self-assessment report that the upcoming changes in its privacy policy are fully in compliance with the company’s settlement with the federal government last year.”

The 14-page report was delivered to the FTC in January and outlined internal steps Google has taken to comply with the FTC’s consent decree over the firm’s privacy policies. But not everyone is convinced or reassured that Google is on the up-and-up.

EPIC filed suit and a motion to compel the FTC to enforce the consent decree, arguing that Google’s new privacy policies violate some of the terms of that agreement.

“Google’s report makes clear that the company failed to comply with the obligations set out in the consent order, particularly with respect to the changes announced on Jan. 24, 2012. It is clear that the Federal Trade Commission will need to act,” EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg told Politico.

You may be a terrorist if you like online privacy. No, really.

If you have a shield on your computer screen, you could be reported to federal investigators as exhibiting “suspicious” behavior. Welcome to Nazi Germany.

The FBI and the Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric “Fast & Furious” Holder have issued a flyer that encourages us to spy on each other if we see “suspicious” activity in areas like Internet cafes. It’s all part of a program to “keep us safe” called “Communities Against Terrorism,” and it lists the use of basic tools like “anonymizers, portals or other means to shield IP address” as a sign that a person could be engaged in or supporting terrorist activity.

According to Public Intelligence, “The use of encryption is also listed as a suspicious activity along with steganography, the practice of using ‘software to hide encrypted data in digital photos’ or other media. In fact, the flyer recommends that anyone ‘overly concerned about privacy’ or attempting to ‘shield the screen from view of others’ should be considered suspicious and potentially engaged in terrorist activities.”

Whew! I feel safer. Don’t you? Or maybe YOU are a terrorist?

Now I don’t know for sure …

But purchasing and using this “tech protect bag” might get you on the FBI and DHS list as a “terrorist suspect.”

Which brings up another question about our privacy rights. Should you have the ability to delete online information about yourself? A good question and one the European Commission, the executive body for the European Union, is mulling as it proposes a strict set of privacy rules that included a “right to be forgotten.”

This sets up a natural tension between those who advocate for privacy versus others who want complete freedom of speech and information. So who might have the most at stake?

“Google and Facebook, which have built business models dependent on user data and could face multimillion-dollar fines for infractions,” according to this published report.

Where do you stand? More privacy for you, or complete and open cyber accessibility to anything about you?

Governments and regimes desperate and determined to control Internet

Last weekend we read yet another headline about a regime shutting down its citizens’ Internet access. The Daily Mail reported that Iran cut Internet links, leaving millions without email and social networks in the advent of the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, rife with rumors of anti-government protests.

And in Saudi Arabia, a young Saudi journalist may be put to death by the kingdom’s top clerics for being an “apostate”, i.e. tweeting remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

You might expect that Iran and other autocracies would control all means of citizen communication. After all, it’s what totalitarian regimes do. But what about when it’s our government, our elected representatives who seek to have the same power and capability?

The Daily Caller last week reported that congressional Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, continue to gnaw away like rodents at our Internet freedom of speech, seeking to grasp and control it with yet another newly introduced cyber bill that would broadly expand the authority of executive branch agencies.

“Following a recent anti-piracy legislative debacle with SOPA and PIPA, (Reid) will lead his second effort of 2012 to push Internet-regulating legislation, this time in the form of a new cybersecurity bill,” according to the Daily Caller. “Details about the bill remain shrouded in secrecy. Clues available to the public suggest that the bill might be stronger than President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity proposal, which was released in May 2011. Reid said that he would bring the bill — expected to come out of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, chaired by Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman — to the floor during the first Senate work period of 2012.”

Folks, this is getting beyond critical mass. You really need to jump on your elected member of the Senate now and tell him or her what you expect them to do about this. And then you must make sure that if your Senator is unresponsive to your directive, you let him know you will work to replace him with a Senator who has the country’s best interests at heart and will uphold the First Amendment. Just do it.

Politics and the Internet: Santorum’s Google problem

If you Google search presidential candidate Rick Santorum, the top entries are negative. And it seems Santorum’s problem is in a league of its own, according to a published report that compares his search results with several other GOP candidates.

“Type the other major candidates’ names into Google, and you’ll find it’s mostly official websites and Twiter (sic) feeds – with a couple of exceptions,” reports the LA Times.

But Google Mitt Romney’s name and you’ll find few negatives. Instead, you will find news items, his Wikipedia page, and his bio on biography.com. The situation is worse for Newt Gingrich. And as for Ron Paul, his entries were biographical or totally promotional. A Google search for Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer and John Boehner came up clean.

Even Sarah Palin came up clean when Googled, where you’ll find her name, a link to her super PAC, her Wikipedia page, her Facebook page, and her Twitter.

So what’s the deal with Santorum’s name? And will we be seeing more of this suspected online political chicanery as the 2012 election campaign moves forward?

And by the way, just what is that mystery device Google is testing in hundreds of its employees homes?

Whitney Houston (1963-2012)

Pop star Whitney Houston died last Saturday night, and celebs expressed their shock and sympathy on Twitter, the new medium for condolences.

“Wow. RIP Whitney Houston. Grew up on her,” actress Elizabeth Banks said. “She contributed to the soundtrack of many of my 12-year old sleepover parties.”

“So so sad that Whitney Houston died,” Kris Jenner said. “Praying for her daughter and her family … tragic … just heartbreaking … amazing talent, amazing voice.”

TV host Nancy O’Dell kept it simple: “I am in shock and so sad … Whitney Houston reported dead.”

“RIP Whitney Houston. Sad to see anyone go so early. My thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family,” said actress and TV host Olivia Munn.

“Whitney Houston is dead. A beautiful & talented woman. RIP Whitney,” said author Jackie Collins.

Bits & Bytes








Social media as a parenting tool

This dad issues a warning to his daughter about her behavior on Facebook. It’s a lesson she won’t soon forget. This video has received close to 17 million views since Dad posted it on daughter’s Facebook page. Let this be a warning to sassy kids and parents who overindulge their children.

The Time Capsule

1923 – BG Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager born in West Virginia

1945 – Dresden ablaze after Allied bomber attacks

1954 – Sen. McCarthy hunting “Army communists”

1959 – Castro sworn in as Cuba’s youngest PM

1974 – Author Solzhenitsyn charged with treason

1989 – Soviets withdraw from Afghanistan after nine years

1997 – China’s Xiaoping dead at 92

Now playing at the Princess Theater, Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WND readers Karen Mullaney of Saugus, Mass., and Carolyn LaMontagne of Trenton, N.J., who were among the first to correctly guess actor George Clooney in his portrayal of Fred Friendly in the 2005 film “Good Night and Good Luck.” The film was based on broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow’s efforts to bring down U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

The selection was tied to last week’s Time Capsule item when in

1950, Sen. McCarthy began his anti-communist hunt.

The quote was: “There’s no news, boys, so go out there and make some news. Rob a bank, mug an old lady, whatever – just do something.”

This week’s quote: “I’m a fearless man, but I’m scared to death of you.”

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!