White House Proposes Online Privacy Bill of Rights

(También en Español)

News of Note: White House Proposes Online Privacy Bill of Rights

the Obama Administration released a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights for online users, including the ability for browser users to opt out of being tracked by advertisers and others.

The proposed document was described by the White House as “part of a comprehensive blueprint to improve consumers’ privacy protections,” while maintaining the Internet’s growth and innovation. The Administration said the intent is to give users “more control over how their personal information is used on the Internet,” and to help businesses grow while maintaining consumer trust.

In the wake of SOPA, PIPA and other bills, I’m immediately suspicious of an online “Bill of Rights.” The proposal focuses on data collection and online privacy. I am totally in support of increased privacy online but I’m totally against enacting new laws to enforce that privacy. This “Bill of Rights” does not protect us from the government, it protects us from commercial websites. Giving the government any more reasons to police the internet, even if under the guise of enforcing privacy, is not welcome or necessary. If you want to browse the internet privately you already can. People everywhere (and in countries like China) use Tor to anonymize their online activity and social networks like Diaspora address privacy concerns related to centralized social networks.

The US Government recently labeled anyone that cares about online privacy suspicious of terrorism. I have no reason to believe this new Bill of Rights is anything but a loss of freedom.

What purpose do you believe this internet Bill of Rights may serve? Would you rather have the government step in and police the Internet for you, or are comfortable protecting yourself with the tools already at your disposal?

Maryland Legislature to Employers: Hands Off Facebook Passwords

(También en Español)

News of Note: Maryland Legislature to Employers: Hands Off Facebook Passwords

The state of Maryland just passed the first bill in the nation that bans employers from asking for the social media passwords of job applicants and employees.

Maryland should be congratulated for not only standing up for online privacy, but privacy in general. Logging into someone’s private Facebook account can easily be compared to reading their mail, and may be even more intrusive. I’m very happy to see Maryland taking the first step and hope that this is the beginning of a positive trend.

Facebook privacy protection law shot down by Congress

(También en Español)

News of Note: Facebook privacy protection law shot down by Congress

The US House of Representatives has shot down proposals which would have prevented businesses from collecting Facebook log on credentials as part of their employee vetting procedures.

The law had been proposed by Colorado representative Daniel Perlmutter.

Perimutter suggested that the proposals would have given an important measure of privacy to end users.

“No American should have to provide their confidential personal passwords as a condition of employment,” Perlmutter said.

“Both users of social media and those who correspond share the expectation of privacy in their personal communications.”

We can’t expect job seeker’s private lives to meet the same neutral and public-friendly image that businesses try to maintain within the public sphere. Honesty and authenticity are endearing human traits yet these businesses are not concerned with living truthful lives. When you exist for profit it is both unfair and hypocritical to impose that lifestyle on those that depend on you for survival.

While mega-corporations (looking at you Google) continue to combine every strength the internet has to offer into one all-encompassing hub, culture is being condensed. With the judging eyes of our peers (and employers) sharpening focus everyday, will humanity become less progressive, even mundane?

Creative Commons image by: BlakJakDavy

UK Surveillance: New powers to record every phone call and email

(También en Español)

News of Note: New powers to record every phone call and email makes surveillance ’60m times worse’

The proposals, to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech, will see a huge expansion in the amount of data communication providers are required to keep for at least a year.

It will allow the police and intelligence officers to monitor who someone is in contact with or websites they visit, although the content of such communications will not be accessed.

Mr Davis said: “What this does is make (existing problems) 60 million times worse. The simple truth is that this is not necessary. What’s proposed here is completely unfettered access to every single communication you make.

England is fairly notorious for mass surveillance and unlike the American Patriot Act, they’re hardly trying to slip this in the back door.

We are literally moving into the dystopian future of our worst nightmares, where all of our private emails, phone calls, and internet activity is recorded and available to law enforcement. Not only is this a monumental loss of privacy, think of how much raw power this turns over to the government.

The motivations for increased surveillance of otherwise law-abiding citizens may have begun because of increased terrorism but when government uses that as the only excuse to watch everything you do it annihilates freedom, a too heavy price to pay.

Creative Commons image by: jonathan mcintosh

Care About Privacy? You May Be a Terrorist

(También en Español)

News of Note: Justice Dept, FBI Say Interest in Online Privacy an ‘Indicator’ of Terrorism

A new flyer released by the Department of Justice and the FBI, emblazoned with the logos of each agency and being circulated to Internet cafes and other businesses, warns of “potential indicators of terrorist activities.”

In particular, the flyer cautions businesses to be on the lookout for “content of extreme/radical nature” as well as people who visit an Internet cafe even though there is evidence they have Internet access at home. It also urges people to watch for anyone using “anonymizers, portals, or other means to shield IP address,” or who seems “overly concerned about privacy.”

With an endless stream of bills coming forth that would criminalize what we know of today as the internet, here comes the FBI with a warning that use of anonymizers and other shielding tools are signs of terrorism. The internet is under attack and now they’re calling any form of defense terrorism, isn’t this tactic frighteningly obvious?

I hope no one has forgotten about the National Defense Authorization Act that allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens who are suspected of terrorism.

What’s more, the flyer urges people to be suspicious of those who “always pay cash” and to “identify license plates, vehicle description, names used, languages spoken, ethnicity, etc.”

This goes to show how absolutely subjective and malleable the definition of terrorism has become. Do you prefer to pay with cash? Maybe you’d prefer your online activity remain anonymous? I would call that playing it smart. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Warrant needed for GPS tracking while civilian use rises

(También en Español)

News of Note: Private Snoops Find GPS Trail Legal to Follow

Online, and soon in big-box stores, you can buy a device no bigger than a cigarette pack, attach it to a car without the driv

er’s knowledge and watch the vehicle’s travels — and stops — at home on your laptop.

Tens of thousands of Americans are already doing just that, with little oversight, for purposes as seemingly benign as tracking an elderly parent with dementia or a risky teenage driver, or as legally and ethically charged as spying on a spouse or an employee — or for outright criminal stalking.

The advent of Global Positioning System tracking devices has been a boon to law enforcement, making it easier and safer, for example, for agents to link drug dealers to kingpins.

Last Monday, in a decision seen as a first step toward setting boundaries for law enforcement, the Supreme Court held that under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, placing a GPS tracker on a vehicle is a search. Police departments around the country say they will be more likely to seek judicial approval before using the devices, if they were not already doing so.

Still, sales of GPS trackers to employers and individuals, for a multitude of largely unregulated uses, are growing fast, raising new questions about privacy and a legal system that has not kept pace with technology.

We previously covered how police were attaching GPS tracking devices to cars without a warrant; thankfully they are no longer allowed to do that. It is still hard to consider this a victory, as GPS use by civilians rises, and loss of privacy remains an issue. Nothing is stopping someone (police or not) from placing a device on a car; it’s unlikely that you would know and even more unlikely that the person would ever be caught.

GPS technology is forcing us to rethink privacy. Unless someone invents an easy way to detect these devices, they will likely become commonplace in our society. Technology continues to grant us access to information, including the ability to spy on one another. How do you think our society will adjust to this new norm?

Image source: From previous coverage of MSNBC “Has the government attached GPS to your car?