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Gauging the Dangers of Surveillance 111

An anonymous reader writes "We have a sense that surveillance is bad, but we often have a hard time saying exactly why. In an interesting and readable new article in the Harvard Law Review, law professor Neil Richards argues that surveillance is bad for two reasons — because it menaces our intellectual privacy (our right to read and think freely and secretly) and because it gives the watcher power over the watched, creating the risk of blackmail, persuasion, or discrimination. The article is available for free download, and is featured on the Bruce Schneier security blog."
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Gauging the Dangers of Surveillance

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  • Welcome to 2013 (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 31, 2013 @06:33PM (#43326981)

    These things have been obvious since Orwell or even before, which is well over sixty years ago. What has this site come to?

  • by Xenkar ( 580240 ) on Sunday March 31, 2013 @06:40PM (#43327011)

    The government has shown that they are willing to use lists against people. During WW2, US citizens of Japanese and German descent were taken into internment camps using data from the Census.

    Another recent debacle was when a gun owner's list got published in a major newspaper. People had their houses robbed and more firearms entered the hands of criminals.

    These lists also cost money to maintain. We're pissing away billions each year on these lists which could instead go towards infrastructure maintenance which is actually vital for our nation's security.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Sunday March 31, 2013 @06:41PM (#43327019)
    If the government has a magical 100% of information about our daily lives then the most diligently law abiding of us are still probably open to legal difficulties. Have you read all 36,000 pages of the tax code? Have you ever stepped off the curb just a moment after it said, "Don't walk"? Even if you only broke fairly minor laws here and there a overzealous prosecutor could line up the charges and ruin your life. That is if you don't cooperate with his request to do something you didn't want to do.

    At this point in our over surveilled society it is still a goodly amount of work to assemble a case against the innocent. But with more and more information being gathered and more and more information processing capability it shouldn't be too long before a few clicks of a button show all your law breaking ways.

    This might seem like slightly paranoid thinking and in most sensible parts of the western world government people have better things to do. Yet in various small towns you hear of the Sheriff bringing his police to bare against any opponent. I can imagine what kind of resources might be available to hunt down whistle-blowers, investigative reporters, and the people they care about. Or the police looking to discover who uploaded the next Rodney king video. If they had license plate scanning, facial recognition, cell phone records, and internet records then they are golden.

    Then you get the false positives. Recently I read about a couple who had the police kick in their door because they were suspected of running a grow-op because of recent hydroponic purchases. They were law-abiding ex-CIA and were growing tomatos and such.

    Now think about the power the American people suddenly had over the government when Watergate happened. Now think about how many resources were applied by the government to find out who leaked what? Think about how many resources were applied to the Pentagon papers? Now give the government access to today's/tomorrow's records and see how long Deep Throat remains secret?

    My theory is quite simple. The second amendment needs its own amendment and that should read that the people should have near unlimited access to any government records and that the government should have extremely limited access the people's information. This way power will be in the correct hands for a democracy.
  • by cheekyjohnson ( 1873388 ) on Sunday March 31, 2013 @07:06PM (#43327125)

    You didn't think government was the only threat to privacy did you?

    Some corporations seem to gleefully hand over information to the government upon request, and even assist the government in its spying at times. A corporation having tons of information about you probably means that the government could easily get that information as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 31, 2013 @07:08PM (#43327139)

    I know it is a bit of a cliche around here. But it really is a lot like the book 1984 if you think about it.

    Seriously. Think about it.

      Cameras are almost everywhere but your house. I know for me, cameras start just a few short steps outside of my door.

    Cameras on the street, in every store. Then on the internet, they track you with cookies, flash cookies that can't normally be deleted. ISPs often have deals with the government to just route all their traffic through the government.

    Companies like Google and Facebook largely make their money by spying on users and selling the information.

    The governments seem to introduce another bill almost every month to increase their ability to spy on the citizens even more than they already did.

    Just the other day there was a story here saying the FBI is crying because their spying on gmail users wasn't "in real time".

    And I think it might have been in the same story, the FBI was also complaining that they were having a hard time monitoring all the chatting in online little games like "Words with Friends". Because "criminal conversations sometimes happen there."

    Well they do everywhere else, too. Including face to face. Do we need a government agent to monitor face to face conversations too? Just in-case someone says something criminal?

    It's really all way too much for me.

    Knowing about this stuff from slashdot and elsewhere, now using the "normal" internet, feels like I'm being watched all the time.

    And I am. Even if it's "just" an automated system that archives things for later possible viewing.

    I feel strongly that all of this has a huge chilling effect on free speech for a lot people. And that we should be working on getting much of this rolled back.

    But anyway, in the meantime, I do have a few partial solutions:

    I have started using for my searches. It's the Google results without the spying. They claim to not even save your ip.

    And I use for email. It was started as a response to Gmail's horrible privacy (lack of it) policies. It also claims to keep the tracking and monitoring of users to a minimum. And not archiving your mail for possibly forever after it's deleted, as Google does.

    Lastly, I use a good no logging VPN for a lot of my browsing because I just prefer the freer feeling of it compared to the "bunch-of-surveillance-cameras" feel that the regular internet has for me.

    Call me paranoid, or whatever, for not enjoying being spied upon non-stop. I know most of the other sheep don't care. But myself, I feel uncomfortable with it. And I opt out of it whenever I am able.

    Posting from behind my no-logging VPN. :)

  • Re:Yeah, but (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Monday April 01, 2013 @01:46AM (#43328693) Homepage Journal

    Apparently, you didn't read the PDF, or you failed to understand what you read.

    Google Glass is just one of many surveillance methods. It's marketed to the masses as "something cool", and they buy it. By doing so they "consent" to being monitored by Google. Which may or may not be alright. There are, however, not one, but TWO other considerations.

    1: The people with Google Glass are going to be survelling other people who have NOT consented in any way to being tracked.

    2: Google and virtually all other corporations are either selling or giving information to the government.

    We have seen legislators attempt to legalize the growing practice of corporations and government freely exchanging data. The goal is to have all corporations and the government accessing each others data bases, freely. There may be monetary exchanges involved or not, but the free access is what counts.

    Gun rights is a hot button issue right now. How many of us thinks that government should be able to access the data bases of all gun and ammunition retailers in the nation, to compile an inventory for each and every citizen in the nation?

    OK, depending on your personal views on gun rights, you may come up with a different answer than I have. Let's try another example - your reading habits.

    Do you really want Uncle prying into your reading history? Let us suppose that your professional reading is all taken from sources A through F. And, let us suppose that your entertainment, hobby, and self improvement reading are taken from an entirely different set of sources - G through M.

    Your reading habits in some vague way resembles the reading habits of some known criminals, and in some other vague way resembles those of known terrorists. Extremely vague resemblances that your professional reading doesn't reflect, nor does your other reading - but when taken together, they set off an alarm.

    Suddenly, you're the subject of full time government surveillance, because the companies from which you purchase your reading material has submitted their data bases to the NSA or whoever correlates all that data.

    No big deal, right? UNTIL you decide that you'll take the children to visit their grandparents on the other coast of the United States, or in Bangladesh, or wherever. You approach the gate to board your plane, with children in tow, and a TSA agent takes you to a back room for an interrogation, and you find that you're on a "No-Fly" list.

    All in secret, all behind your back, you've been monitored and judged, and found unworthy of your civil liberties. No judge, no jury, no counsel available, no chance to deny any allegations - you've been judged, based on your reading habits.

    It's all hypothetical, right? Purely conjecture, right? Can't happen in America, right?

    Go study the laws being authored and submitted to the legislatures for consideration.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson