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Privacy Your Rights Online

An Epidemic of Snooping 163

Posted by kdawson
from the audit-and-audit-again dept.
Travoltus writes "Privacy advocates are frequently confronted with the rhetorical question, 'If you don't have anything to hide, you don't have a good reason to worry about losing your privacy, right?' This AP story uncovers a vast, distributed, decentralized epidemic of snooping into databases of personal information by workers at major utilities, the IRS, and other large organizations. In a number of cases these incidents have led to real harm. One striking example involves now ex-Mayor of Milwaukee Marvin Pratt, who had a pattern of being late paying his heating bills. This fact was leaked to the media by a utility worker and may have led to Pratt's losing a bid for re-election. As one can imagine, the harm becomes much greater when this same snooping is done by Government officials to deal with political enemies, or by corporations to uncover whistleblowers."
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An Epidemic of Snooping

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  • Q&A (Score:5, Insightful)

    by calebt3 (1098475) on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:06AM (#22542550)
    How's this for an answer:
    I do have stuff to hide. It's just not illegal stuff.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by morari (1080535)
      Some of mine is illegal. Only a patriot like myself would be willing to break such unjust laws however.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Some of mine is illegal. Only a patriot like myself would be willing to break such unjust laws however.
        It sounds to me that you hate freedom. Those laws were put in place to restrict you actions thus making sure you have liberty.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        While I agree with your principle, the Kohlberg Stages of Moral Development [plts.edu] explain why most people do not understand the argument you just made.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765)
        *ahem* civil disobedience means breaking laws AND accepting the punishment doled out for it. So if you're truly letting patriotism guiding you, then you have reported this illegal stuff to your local police station YOURSELF, right ? No need for privacy in databases to uncover your illegal stuff.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Maxo-Texas (864189)
          I agree with your point.

          However, I believe that those in control of society are getting better at dealing with civil disobedience.

          I think they used to be embarrassed by it but are no longer. I also think they are better at spinning it, or suppressing reporting of it, or negating it's impact (in part by say, smearing the person being civilly disobedient.)
    • Re:Q&A (Score:5, Funny)

      by statusbar (314703) <jeffk@statusbar.com> on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:51AM (#22542844) Homepage Journal
      I don't have anything to hide! I live at #4-1131 burnaby st in vancouver, I own 3 macintosh computers, 2 linux servers, a video camera, MIDI equipment, a large screen plasma tv, a ps3 and an xbox 360.

      I have loads of dvd's and I blog about all of my favourites.

      On wednesday I will be going on a trip for a few weeks and although I don't have an alarm system I have a pet cat. I'm getting my friend Kim to come over every day at noon to feed my cat.

      I am a trusting person and I'm SURE that no one would take advantage of this information and break in and rob me while I'm gone!

      Once again, I have nothing to hide!

      --jeffk++
      • Re:Q&A (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 25, 2008 @02:00AM (#22542914)
        You and your cat can goto hell! I'm not going to risk my life after you post this information to all these potential burglars and rapists!
        -Kim
      • by CBravo (35450)
        You're not done yet. Please answer the following questions too:
        -what do you earn monthly
        -what is your best kept secret up to now
        -when did you last have sex, and how was it
        -describe in detail your most embarrasing social encounters

        tell me the answers to those questions and I'll come back with a few more.
        • Re:Q&A (Score:4, Insightful)

          by statusbar (314703) <jeffk@statusbar.com> on Monday February 25, 2008 @03:52AM (#22543404) Homepage Journal
          ---- Whoosh ----

          Someone didn't get the joke.

          Do you really think I'd be so stupid as to post real information?

          I thought people would get the hint that it was a joke by saying "I'm sure no one would rob me -- look at all the stuff I have!"....

          In my opinion, people who violate their own privacy deserve what they get (or lose, as it may be).

          --jeffk++
          • by CBravo (35450)
            oh please, I did... But to stay OT: the examples you gave are not really 'heavy' secrets that people usually really want to keep. That is why I replied.
          • by dpilot (134227)
            This is why I've never put up a personal web page.

            Enough people are able to find out enough information about me, do I really want to volunteer any more? I realize that I may control what information I put up, but am I really good enough to put up ONLY the information I want to release, and not leak something I don't want to? For instance, a lot of people put up vacation photos. They may thing they're only talking about where they've been, but they're frequently leaking information about their family - t
          • Re:Q&A (Score:4, Funny)

            by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:09PM (#22548248)

            Do you really think I'd be so stupid as to post real information?
            Err, no! Of course, not. Don't be silly. *quietly cancels U-Haul rental*
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lee1026 (876806)
        Curiously enough, a truly privacy-free world would be better for the person in question. It would easy enough for him to find out who robbed him if no one had any privacy. If we are allowed to assume that all people are rational actors, then no one would rob him.
        • by Chrisq (894406)
          Lets go with mandatory GPS implants then
        • Re:Q&A (Score:4, Insightful)

          by werewolf1031 (869837) on Monday February 25, 2008 @06:47AM (#22544126)

          If we are allowed to assume that all people are rational actors, then no one would rob him.
          Therein lies the principal flaw with your proposal. If you need it explained to you further, then you Just Don't Get It... and you're part of the problem.
        • Re:Q&A (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MindKata (957167) on Monday February 25, 2008 @07:25AM (#22544268) Journal
          "A truly privacy-free world would be better for the person in question"

          That's true only in a utopian world of total equality. But it has two major problems. First the world doesn't work like that, its got a hierarchy. Secondly, a lot of people in power would consider this kind of open, flat, everyone equal, utopian world, as their idea of a dystopia, not a utopia. They want power. They don't want it flat and open. They want to be higher up than others. They want to be the centre of attention. They want more money than others. They want more power than others.

          So that kind of totally open world is a scifi only utopian world, that cannot ever exist in a world that has some people who also seek power and that will never change. Plus these people who seek power ultimately make the rules, so they will not allow it to go that far, where everyone becomes equal.

          Political ideologies are ultimately driven by the psychology of personality types, as with all human patterns of behaviour. These personality types will continue to exist, regardless of how technology evolves in the future. So the personality types will shape what technology is allowed or disallowed and how it is used.

          I am sadly convinced however that Big Brother in becoming inevitable. Too many people want the power it gives over others. Its becoming a scramble for who can grab as much of that new power faster than others. The examples of Google's chess moves show this to be true. Google's "do no harm" PR smoke screen marketing theme is sounding more hollow, every new move Google makes. Their goal is to become some kind of marketing version of Big Brother, but with the total knowledge they are building up, they will also have immense political power as well. Google data mine everything they have. Each new chess move of Google reminds me of the saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". Google is becoming Big Brother. Yet few people seem to be able to see its slowly happening.

          Given the kinds of personalities that can easily dominate in corporations, its hardly surprising.
          http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=448546&cid=22377974 [slashdot.org]

          So I think the question is becoming not if we will have a Big Brother, but what the form of that Big Brother will take. Google definitely are becoming a marketing Big Brother and others are racing to try to grab some of what Google are grabbing for themselves. Then again, its not simply just marketing products. Marketing of anything can be helped with market research. So selling ideas just as selling products is still selling. So marketing a product or marketing a political ideology using these kinds of new technologies is going to happen, regardless of what that ideology the people want to market. The more market research that can be grabbed, the more power it gives to the people with that knowledge

          Knowledge mining is the new gold rush and with it brings power over others. Its the nature of the game. But that has existed in some form, for centuries. But now we have the ability to monitor and mine everything people are interested in and what their thoughts are when they for example post emails etc... Not only that, the Internet is a growing database of these ideas on blogs etc... Give it say another decade or two and imagine what kinds of data mining can be done on archived data, to work out what people think thought out their lives.

          Its like the old saying, "Knowledge is power".
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Woah. I grew up in 1141, next door (the big ugly brown building on the other side of that huge tree). There was a totally hot girl who used to live where you... umm, hi son?
      • I own 3 macintosh computers, 2 linux servers, a video camera, MIDI equipment, a large screen plasma tv, a ps3 and an xbox 360.
        Only a terrorist would own an xbox 360.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        For the lazy criminal here is a map to Jeff Koftinoff's apartment:
        1131 Burnaby St [mapquest.com]

        Note the parks within easy running distance if the police should happen to interrupt your B&E and the hospital if you throw out your back hauling all that stuff out to your truck.
        Also, Jeff is a contributer to Open Source software so please don't steal any of the media (CD's, thumb drives etc) since you can probably download much of it from Freshmeat [freshmeat.net] or his own website [jdkoftinoff.com]

        I found two odd things when googling Je

    • by FudRucker (866063)
      show them the business end of a 12 gauge shotgun and tell them if they cross the threshold they are going to get a load of double ought buck,,,
  • Easy Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SRA8 (859587) on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:07AM (#22542558)
    A co-workers once made the same statement to me regarding warrantless wiretapping -- why hide anything if you are not guilty. The response is simple:
    - Do you have a daughter?
    - Would you mind preparing a binder with photos of her, along with all her diary entries, emails and phone conversations and sending a copy to every police officer in the city?

    This will shut up most people. -----------
    /. Mathematics:
    +1 Insightful for encouraging killing of Muslims
    -1 Troll for Muslims responding to such messages
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CSMatt (1175471)
      So then what do you say if the response is "Sure. I trust the police."?
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Inform them that it will sit on a shelf behind the desk where they process suspected rapists and child molesters.

        They'll get it then. If they don't, they're beyond help.

      • Re:Easy Answer (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jugalator (259273) on Monday February 25, 2008 @03:19AM (#22543222) Journal

        So then what do you say if the response is "Sure. I trust the police."?
        That the police are humans like you?

        That the police probably really may watch Jerry Springer with a beer when they're done at work?

        It's not that they're super humans, nothing says they can actually handle the power they have in terms of this.

        I *know* that every now and then, these sort of regulations are broken at hospitals, why would the police be different?
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        So then what do you say if the response is "Sure. I trust the police."?
        Show them the statistics of the level of crime (especially sexual predators) among law enforcement.
    • by JoshJ (1009085)
      In theory, I like the approach of actually going through and giving these anti-privacy people exactly what they're asking for.
      • Re:Easy Answer (Score:5, Interesting)

        by erlehmann (1045500) on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:46AM (#22542810)

        I like the approach of actually going through and giving these anti-privacy people exactly what they're asking for.

        I did his at school. When I urged people to encrypt their communication, several said they had nothing to hide. So I started Wireshark and proceeded to read some of their more interesting instant messages to them and everyone who was interested.

        Kind of bothered some of them, but instead of learning crypto basics, they yelled at me. I do not understand this behaviour, can Slashdot explain ?
        • Re:Easy Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

          by X0563511 (793323) on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:58AM (#22542900) Homepage Journal
          We can sure try!

          People are stupid!
          • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:41AM (#22543838)
            Nobody likes a Nerd, or to be proved wrong. You put them in the position of being proved wrong by a nerd. Surprised they aren't happy? (Written by a nerd who has come to learn that that a discussion on quantum randomness and free-will is not what everyone looks for on a first date!)
            • by Stanislav_J (947290) on Monday February 25, 2008 @07:00AM (#22544198)

              Kind of bothered some of them, but instead of learning crypto basics, they yelled at me. I do not understand this behaviour...

              Nobody likes a Nerd, or to be proved wrong. You put them in the position of being proved wrong by a nerd. Surprised they aren't happy?

              It's the difference between the few souls in this world who think rationally (like the nerd) and most of humanity which tends to let emotion rule the day (like those students).

              I am in the former category. And I do not mind being proven wrong. In fact, I welcome it. I want to understand life, the universe and everything a little better each day, and the clearer and better informed my thinking, the more useful and accurate my knowledge becomes.

              Many people, however, seem to have a huge emotional stake in being "right." They cannot possibly begin to admit the thought that they might be wrong -- I dunno, maybe it's a basic self-esteem thing. That's why almost a decade into the 21st Century, we still have people who believe such things as the universe being created in 6 days, or that the moon landings were faked, or that Barry Bonds just worked out a lot.

              My experience has been that most discussions of this sort go something like this:

              Other guy (we'll call him "Joe") states a misinformed opinion.

              I show Joe the error of his argument and point out his factual errors.

              Joe pauses, then merely repeats the same line of "reasoning." (The last two steps may loop several times in succession with Joe becoming more and more flustered.)

              Joe at some point abandons any pretense of rational argument and, having quickly exhausted his arsenal, starts to use phrases like "you just don't understand" or "that's just the way it is" or the like. (Optional phrases include "But God says it, so I believe it" or "Well, that's what my mother taught me -- are you calling my mother a liar?")

              Final phase has Joe (a)attacking my character and the circumstances of my birth, usually accompanied by various words and phrases on the FCC's no-no list.

              This is why it does not pay to argue about anything with anyone. When warning signs of the early phases of the above conversation begin to appear, quickly change the subject. When someone prefers to wallow in ignorance, there is little you can do. Pressing the issue will just make you an asshole in their eyes, and in extreme cases may result in the proverbial and venerable knuckle-sandwich being applied to your nose.

            • Written by a nerd who has come to learn that that a discussion on quantum randomness and free-will is not what everyone looks for on a first date!)

              Let me give you a little hint. With very few exceptions, discussions on free-will are never to be undertaken with members of the female persuasion.

              You may try "quantum randomness" as you desire. Free will will get you killed every time.

            • Nobody likes a Nerd, or to be proved wrong. You put them in the position of being proved wrong by a nerd. Surprised they aren't happy? (Written by a nerd who has come to learn that that a discussion on quantum randomness and free-will is not what everyone looks for on a first date!)

              I'm glad they're not happy; sucks to be them for a change. I mean doesn't everybody like sticking it to "The Man"?

        • Admitting that you are correct implicitly requires them to accept that they are wrong.
        • Re:Easy Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

          by misanthrope101 (253915) on Monday February 25, 2008 @03:28AM (#22543256)
          Well, yes...they meant other people. People never mean "I want to give away all of my privacy." It's just when they dismiss privacy as superfluous, they have a mental picture right then of someone, probably a minority (if they themselves are a minority, it will just be a different minority) doing something shady, probably involving kiddie porn or something similarly without redeeming merit. If we actually started randomly selecting people and posting their entire browsing/chat history online, people would just get pissed without going through the intellectual effort to articulate why that is wrong.

          They want their own privacy and that of their friends, and by extension for those they admire, but not for anyone else. The entire concept of rule of law, that we need to find rules that can apply to everyone yet still maintain law and order, is alien to them.

          • Re:Easy Answer (Score:4, Informative)

            by Agripa (139780) on Monday February 25, 2008 @09:48AM (#22545438)
            A lot of state gun control laws were passed to disarm various minorities and African descendant Americans with the thought that they would never apply to good upstanding white people. The specific ones that come to mind include limiting purchases to specific and expensive manufacturers [wikipedia.org] and requiring letters from prominent citizens (bankers, store owners, etc.) attesting to the character of the purchaser which Missouri had until relatively recently. Later these laws were applied much more indiscriminately.
        • by JoshJ (1009085)
          The approach is not to teach them about cryptography. (Remember the concepts of UI design! The algorithm should be transparent to the end user!) The approach is to go "well, you could make it so that I can't do that. Here's how." and show them PGP or whatever.
        • Re:Easy Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jimbojw (1010949) <wilson.jim.rNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:50AM (#22543636) Homepage

          Pointing out security flaws is never a good idea - especially by way of demonstration. Just look at that kid with the boarding pass generator [slashdot.org]

          The unfortunate truth about vulnerabilities is that those who report them are rarely rewarded, often interrogated, and occasionally imprisoned.

          • by sckeener (137243)
            The unfortunate truth about vulnerabilities is that those who report them are rarely rewarded, often interrogated, and occasionally imprisoned.

            That is because the person reporting the vulnerability is a troublemaker...going against the herd.

            Every society honors the live conformist and the dead troublemaker.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          erlehmann: Kind of bothered some of them, but instead of learning crypto basics, they yelled at me. I do not understand this behaviour, can Slashdot explain ?

          Easily.

          They were relying on "Security Through Apathy" as their primary defense. And you, you nasty, naughty person, blew through it as if it wasn't there at all.

          That they're relying on bad people to just look the other way is, in their minds, not a problem at all. Which obviously is a problem, but not to them. From here, it's turtles all the way do

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by makak (861541)
          Just some thoughts then, to try to answer that question.

          Even though the information itself might have not been anything they had any real need to hide, your act of snooping is invasive in itself. They trusted you to behave responsibly and you failed, it's as simple as that.

          You personally seem to think that such an invasion of privacy is something bad. This means that you would (by your own standards) hurt someone just to prove a point. I'd say this is not a quality i generally admire in people (And I might
        • I did his at school. When I urged people to encrypt their communication, several said they had nothing to hide. So I started Wireshark and proceeded to read some of their more interesting instant messages to them and everyone who was interested.

          Kind of bothered some of them, but instead of learning crypto basics, they yelled at me. I do not understand this behaviour, can Slashdot explain ?

          It's the difference between explaining to someone that their bedroom window is easily viewable at night, and being the person actually looking in that bedroom window at night, pounding on it when they are naked.

          You have a well-meaning intention, but you are causing the exact harm you wished them to avoid. And they are doing to you what they would have done to anyone else who would have read their "interesting" messages to "everyone who was interested". You're not helping them at all. If you had instead a

    • Mind if I follow you into the bathroom?
  • I misread the title as "An Epidemic of Spoofing" and, seeing the binoculars, assumed that this was some hyped up article about how privacy advocates are destroying the credibility of the Internet.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    is that when politicians have access to spy on people... who are they going to abuse it against? They're political rivals.. ohh but they'd never do that.. A President hasn't got impeached and resigned from office from doing just that..
  • Personal story (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:13AM (#22542610) Journal
    I knew a girl who had a cop look up her name and address from her car's plate just to flirt with her. She was a bit freaked out by it.
    • Re:Personal story (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chrisq (894406) on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:46AM (#22543858)
      Before we were married, my wife used to be a secretary in a police department. When she met me she once said "well, of course I knew you must be OK because working fore the police is like having twenty big brothers. As soon as they know I am going out with someone they check his record and let me know if there is anything dodgy".
  • Oh come now... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pyrion (525584) on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:14AM (#22542614) Homepage
    Who the hell is going to believe that he lost his bid for re-election because he was frequently delinquent in paying his utility bills?

    Bear in mind that we live in a nation that's over nine trillion dollars in debt. Whoever believes horseshit like the above has no sense of scale.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RodgerDodger (575834)
      Not knowing how that information was used, it's hard to say. OTH, if, say, his opponent was portraying him as being disorganised and incompetent, having the fact that you can't even keep track of when to pay your gas bill may be yet another nail in the coffin. Certainly, a good attack campaign could take that information and run with it.
    • by amplt1337 (707922)
      Who the hell is going to believe that he lost his bid for re-election because he was frequently delinquent in paying his utility bills?

      Bear in mind that we live in a nation that's over nine trillion dollars in debt. Whoever believes horseshit like the above has no sense of scale.
      ...because obviously voters never use higher standards for public officials than for themselves.
    • by Slak (40625)
      I'm reminded of the new-old saying:

      If you owe $1,000 and can't pay it's your problem
      If you owe $1,000,000 and can't pay it's the bank's problem
      If you owe $1,000,000,000 and can't pay it's everyone's problem

      -Slak
  • There is nothing to worry about, we are only here to help you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Sir, I'm sure the 25 million people in the UK whose child benefit records were lost all agree with you, sir!

      The really insidious thing about something like that is that it's almost impossible to prove that harm came from it. Anecdotal evidence might suggest that if such data did fall into criminal hands then a significant number of those people will now be victims of identity theft or some related crime. Past experience might suggest that given the high value the criminal world would place on such a rich

  • Darned if I can't find the link, but I remember reading about people being required to turn over their encryption keys to police in "routine" checks, even though there was no evidence of wrongdoing. If they refused to do so they were charged with something, and I think this was at the boarder or something similar.
    • by quanticle (843097)
      The Supreme Court has upheld the right of Customs to confiscate laptops and other electronic devices at the border without any probable cause. I don't know if they can force you to give up encryption keys to the laptop, but that might be what you're thinking of.
      • Re:Encrypted files? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xptical AT gmail DOT com> on Monday February 25, 2008 @02:12AM (#22542974) Homepage
        You don't have to give them the keys. Then again, they don't have to let you in the country. And if they do let you in, they'll probably never give the laptop back.

        In any event, I read one article about a girl who did give them everything they wanted. This was years ago and she never got her laptop back anyway...
        • by fmobus (831767)
          Can an US citizen be denied entry in USA? Is this possible at all?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dpilot (134227)
            According to the current meme, when you're in Customs, you're in legal limbo.

            You're not in the origination country, you're not in the destination country, so you have no rights of either location. You have exactly the rights that the Customs people choose to give you. They have absolute power, though they generally don't abuse that, because the Press has absolute power, too. (again, according to the current meme)
  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:16AM (#22542628) Homepage Journal
    Why must evil corporations go out of their way to violate the privacy of others? I would never do such a thing. Now excuse me, for I have some other things to do today, such as this [starmagazine.com] and this [gossipreport.com]. Oh, and I have a date tonight and I want to get to know her [background...ateway.com]. I even picked the movie [imdb.com]!
  • by Xenkar (580240) on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:20AM (#22542650)
    What I like to do to those "If you have nothing to hide" people is tell them the truth. I make sure to tell them about all of the weird fetishes I wank off to, my thoughts on the whole "don't eat your own boogers" conspiracy, and whatever twisted thoughts are going through my mind at the moment.

    My right to privacy isn't for my sake, it is for everyone else. Their fragile minds can't handle the onslaught of awkwardness I bring down upon them.
    • I make sure to tell them about all of the weird fetishes I wank off to.

      If you have nothing to hide...

      Now let me make some popcorn up for us, and tell us more about your weird fetishes you wank on :).
  • by erlehmann (1045500) on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:39AM (#22542758)
    "Everyone poops, but it takes a special person to do it in public."

    (Dunno where I read it.)
  • by thezig2 (1102967) on Monday February 25, 2008 @01:42AM (#22542772)

    First, things that are legal are not always socially acceptable. Your weekend bar escapades and porn habits are probably quite legal, but it may not be in your best interests for the outside world to know about your attraction to midget transvestites.

    Secondly, and more importantly, things that are legal and/or acceptable now might not be in the future. Look at drug use, for example. There was no point in hiding it back in the 70's, because "everybody did it", and now it's coming back to haunt people (like politicians). People shouldn't be scrutinized because they have the brains to foresee that stuff they're doing today might bite them in the ass later.
    • by Bios_Hakr (68586)
      If you are relying on security through obscurity, then you'll eventually get bitten. If you are getting stupid in the club, eventually people will find out.

      Not that I'm saying we should tell everyone everything; it's just that if you do something in public, people will blog it.

      Also, I really don't see past drug use haunting anyone. GWB did coke and even had a DUI. No one really gives a shit. It's when a politician tries to hide that it becomes an issue.

      If you are open and honest about your dealings, the
  • knowledge is power (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    knowledge is power. If you give someone too much power(knowledge) they will eventually abuse it.
  • Nothing to hide? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bogeskov (63797)
    I may have nothing to hide, but I do have a lot to loose.
  • "yes i do have shit to hide, no it doesn't mean i've done anything wrong or that you should be allowed to know"

    why is this concept hard to grasp?

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Monday February 25, 2008 @02:33AM (#22543068)

    I'm pretty sure the video my girlfriend made of me chasing her around the apartment dressed as Captain Cocktastic doesn't actually violate any laws (There's nothing on the books in Canada about good taste as far as I know).

    On the other hand, I doubt whether having it posted on the internet would help my political career all that much, if I had one. Unless I was running in Toronto/Rosedale, of course.

  • by Secret Rabbit (914973) on Monday February 25, 2008 @03:00AM (#22543164) Journal
    ... again and again and again and ...

    I'm always amazed just how often this and other nonsense comes up. Then I remember that today's people have attention spans of chronically depressed Lemmings and it all comes rushing back... along with that deep sickening sinking feeling.

    At any rate, here's a good essay (found it linked to on Schneier's blog) that destroys the argument:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=998565 [ssrn.com]

    Just used it on my parents a couple days ago. Spread it around!
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Monday February 25, 2008 @03:04AM (#22543182) Journal
    The reason privacy safeguards need to be in place is because the people working at the IRS and other organizations are just regular people too. They are not "better" at handling power than anyone else.
  • "if you don't have anything to hide, you don't have a good reason to worry about losing your privacy?"

    If a person is an upstanding member of the community that has done nothing wrong in any way, is law abiding, upright, honest and noncontroversial in their actions why should (s)he worry about revealing everything there is to know about (her)himself? Why should this person's privacy be protected? some may assert that the government should be allowed to distribute personal records about people so that they

  • We all need privacy - I mean, would you feel comfortable with knowing that there might be a camera in your bedroom? Or in your bathroom? There has to be a limit somewhere, a space where can be alone. Some people may not mind crapping in public (this was apparently what the Romans did, more or less), or knowing that their minds could be read electronically (the technology to do so is getting closer each day); but having a safe haven somewhere is a fundamental need for all living creatures, I think.

    So, "I hav
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:39AM (#22543596)
    Some years ago, I had a very strange medical problem. A very severe auto-immune response. The doctors ran through the gamut. Rheumatoid Arthritis, Rheumatic fever, Lupus, Lyme's Disease, Lymphoma, Steve Johnson syndrome, eventually long shots, like HIV, advanced STDs. Nothing, nadda, zilch.

    Eventually it was concluded it was a rare allergic reaction, just the right combination of things.

    Well, about 3 weeks after the hospitalization, guess what comes in the mail?, a big splashy vivid orange package for fucking Rituxan (a lymphoma/arthritis medication). Is that any of my neighbors fucking business? No it's not.

    A far more insidious (in my book) example. I racked up some debt taking care of my mother when she was dying. Anyway, for Valentine's, I send my girlfriend flowers at her work. Three days later, guess what? Creditors calling her work, asking for my girlfriend, and asking about my whereabouts. When asked how they got this number, they replied "We heard you were dating".

    Outside of that one credit card transaction, there was no other paper trail connection to us otherwise, anywhere on earth. It's obvious they used the records to call her and harass her at work. That's not fucking right.

    Now let's extrapolate that. Let's say I was a married or taken man, and that was not my wife? Would they have the right to potentially destroy a family or otherwise cause such destruction in someone's life?

    Sure, some people will say, they would be getting what they deserved, but it misses the point, I'm of the mind that if business is allowed to get that personal, then it's a two way street, including grievous, personal harm in return.
    • it's never lupus
    • by base3 (539820)
      If you wouldn't mind sharing, I'm sure I'm not the only one who would want to know what credit card company misused that information (not that they don't all probably do it, but I'd just as soon avoid the one that definitely did it).
  • by axx (1000412) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:59AM (#22543676) Homepage
    On this subject, this was posted last summer, so some of you probably read it. Quite worth the read though, it makes valid points.

    "I have nothing to hide" and other misunderstandings of privacy
    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/07/10/2054219 [slashdot.org]
  • Definitely.. The arguement that you should have "nothing to hide" is not the point.. the example above of making your daughter's (well anyones diary) available is a good example. It may not be incriminating, but it is private (and hence potentially embarrassing to that person). Also, if these proponents of "nothing to hide" are so keen, why don't they put up their WHOLE life stories and personal details on MySpace/Facebook and see what happens (not that I have anything against these sites - apart from th
  • by SystematicPsycho (456042) on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:30AM (#22543804)
    I'm an Oracle DBA and from what I've seen sometimes people don't even know they're breaking the law. The worst case of data theft without people knowing is when they take an export of production data to development for testing. You're not allowed to do that! I've seen organisations not even know what data they have or that it should be audited. And when it was audited the level of auditing was totally insufficient. Mainly because some clown set it up and didn't understand the requirements from management, or management let some clown set it up and didn't understand the requirements themselves but were glad to hear "it has auditing enabled".

    I hope this doesn't come across the wrong way but since alot of companies have been outsourcing their systems to India data theft has increased (google for 'inda data theft'). for example - http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/10/05/india_exposed/ [theregister.co.uk]

    Heh, I saw someone on the Oracle forums post a question, "how do I take an export of Production to import to my home PC" and judging by the name... and he even mentioned he's allowed?!
    http://forums.oracle.com/forums/thread.jspa?messageID=2289794&#2289794 [oracle.com]
    • I've been involved in testing a data scrambled for a European bank for exactly that purpose. They used a product that did a reasonable job, and with a few small changes we ensured that pattern analysis to rebuild the original source wouldn't work.

      I've also dealt with both gov and financial people that understood the dangers of unauthorised access, some wnet so far as to insist on checking audit was correctly, which is IMHO a very intelligent form of self preservation - few realise that logging can also pro
  • by flajann (658201) <flajann&linuxbloke,com> on Monday February 25, 2008 @06:07AM (#22543958) Homepage Journal
    The problem with having private details of your life exposed are multifarious. You can't always expect to know how the information may be used against you in the future.

    One case in point that I often beat to death (among those who know me, of course!) is the case in California, where "Megan's Law" resulted in quite a few gays being put on the list because they were considered "sexual offenders" by an earlier set of laws, and their names remained in files sitting around in the office of the bureaucrats for years.

    Do we all have stuff to hide? Yes! But what is wrong with that? Just because we have stuff to hide doesn't mean that it's "illegal" -- just that we don't want the entire world knowing about it as all. People tend to judge you on the basis of their own morality, and their own expectations. If you happen to simply not "fit in", you could be harassed by the very private information on yourself were it to be exposed.

    So the whole sneaky argument of "do you have anything to hide" becomes a semantic one, one in which we all

    privately answer "yes" to, but because of the implication we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    Even the very question is in and of itself an invasion into our privacy. That very question turns privacy upside down and invites further inquiry. Instead, the question should be answered with a question -- the same question -- thrown back at the person asking it. And if said person says "no", then start asking that person really private questions and see how they respond. Questions like, "do you do cunninglingus with your wife" or similar. That act, by the way, is still considered illegal in some states!

    So, the truth is, if you are human at all, you have something to hide. That is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing wrong with that. Privacy, by its very definition, is all about "hiding" details of your life you don't wish the world to know -- and of course, is nobody's business, anyway.

    So, really, the question is really saying "Do you have anything to be private about", and nearly everyone of course will answer "yes" to that. If you have something you wish to keep private, then you have something you wish to keep hidden. Period.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Monday February 25, 2008 @08:52AM (#22544860)
    I note that the summary feels the need to mention the IRS, even though the IRS had only a brief paragraph in the article saying they had taken action against some snoopers. Some things you should know about the situation at the IRS:

    The IRS was misused by Richard Nixon. Congress responded with certain privacy protections aimed right at the agency. As a reslut, for the last 30 years or so the IRS has been better than most places when it comes to snooping. Not perfect, but generally ahead of the curve.

    25-30 years ago, when online data was just becoming ubiquitous within the agency but auditing protocols were laughable, snooping was more common. Nowadays, things have swung the other direction. Some, particularly the Union, would say too far. Currently, if you work at a Taxpayer Assistance Center helping the public, it's entirely possible that an investigation will be triggered when you assist someone (a complete stranger to you) who, it turns out, happens to live in your apartment block or your subdivision (along with a few thousand other people). The data mining that goes on, matching people's database accesses with any possible connection with their lives, is thorough to the point of ridiculousness. I have no doubt that the majority of people at the IRS who snoop get caught. I would not be surprised if the 219 disciplinary actions referred to in the article were 99%-plus of the perpetrators in the reported time period.

    And the penalties are *harsh*. Disciplinary actions are taken for inadverdent accesses. Deliberate accesses get you fired. Flagrant deliberate accesses result in jail time. Yes, jail time. I've seen employees hauled out in handcuffs for this stuff. (I've also seen a flagrantly deliberate access case that resulted in jail time that was a total miscarriage of justice. The perp was previously a rising star as an Officer. She was a wonderful young woman. Then, she had a major stroke and lay on the floor of her apartment for three days over a weekend before she was found. Afterwards, her mental capacity was severely reduced and she could no longer do the Officer job, so she was moved to a support position. The organization really tried to keep her employed so she could keep her health insurance. People really went out on a limb for her, even though if you knew her before and after, you could have easily concluded that she should have left the Agency on a disability retirement. Given her reduced mental abilities, it just didn't click in her mind that it was a serious violation of the law to look up the tax records of every one of her coworkers so she could compile a list of their birthdays so she could plan parties. She was that far gone. When she was prosecuted, her lawyer was strictly forbidden by her family from using any sort of diminished capacity defense. They were too embarrassed that their superstar child had become...well...what she had become. They preferred she go to prison rather being forced to publicly admit they had a less-than-perfect daughter. So she went to prison for a while, lost any shot at a disability pension, and God only knows whatever became of her. It was rumored that her parents took her back to Korea but I never found out for sure.)

    Finally, why the big increase in incidents? Simple. Up until about 7 years ago, the IRS was a very convenient political punching bag. Politicos loved to cut funding to the IRS because that always played well with the constituency. As a result, the agency hired damn near nobody for about 15 years, from the mid-1980s to about 2000. Recently, though, we've started hiring in droves. The newbies, who don't yet appreciate the culture and public service mission of the agency, are doing things they figure no one will care about. They're getting caught. That's a good thing.

    219 disciplinary actions out of about 100,000 employees is, in the real world, pretty damn good.

    Yes, I work for the IRS. No, this is not official communication; it represents my personal feelings only.
  • Sheeple (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sheepofblue (1106227)
    As long as sheeple sign up for 'customer appreciation' cards and willingly respond when asked for a phone number at places like Worst Buy the companies will continue to collect the information. It is profitable to track your sheeple for later shearing. It is not profitable to police your employees abuse of your sheeple under the current system. So this should be no surprise to anyone. The only way to combat this as an individual is to refuse to provide data and provide bad data that screws up the databa
  • Meh, it is not illegal to have secrets.
  • Many many years ago I heard the same tin-foil hat fears. OMG! SPIEZ!
    There was an article about grocery store rewards cards and how evil empire corporations would track everything you bought and how that information could get out and ruin your life. It was accompanied with some story about a parent who was suing for child custody and their ex pulled out a shopping list full of alcohol and junk food. Funny how after all those warnings I haven't heard a word about it since.

    Here we are again, same crap, differe
  • The "Nothing To Hide" argument was effectively addressed and invalidated by Daniel J. Solove in:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cfm/SSRN_ID998565_code249137.pdf?abstractid=998565&mirid=1 [ssrn.com]

    I think originally learned about this article on an old Slashdot story...

    Ah yes, here it is: http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/07/10/2054219 [slashdot.org]
  • How about this:

    I'm a partner in a group involved in the acquisition of several companies. The SEC says I have things to hide.

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