Privacy, Why Worry?

James Joyner finds this NYT article “interesting if somewhat chilling” and then goes on to say that he’s pretty much bought into the idea of feeding the maw of the information brokers:

I make all manner of similar choices. For example, I use credit cards rather than cash virtually everywhere that doing so is an option. Theoretically, this creates the ability for Big Brother to track my spending habits and movements. I take comfort in the ubiquity of such information and the belief that it’s incredibly unlikely that government resources will be allocated to track the purchase habits of 290-odd million citizens.

Well, James, its not for lack of desire. The Total Information Awareness project in its 1st bush term incarnation was squashed but there is no reason to believe that this work is not ongoing and that federal and state folks are not eager for more similar tools to accomplish their ends, for example, a database of all 16-18 year olds for military recruiting purposes.
You should take discomfort in the ubiquity of such information.
Use cash as often as you can. It is often but not always quicker and leaves no electronic tracks…though you are probably on the security cam anyway. Disrupt the flow of information about you whenever possible.

Privacy, Forget It

The US National Security Agency apparently played a major role in the arrest of 9 folks in Britain and 1 in Canada on charges of planning a terrorist act and belonging to a terrorist group. The key: an intercepted email message:

“That’s the first admission I’ve actually seen that they actually monitor Internet traffic. I assumed they did, but no one ever admitted it,” Mr. Farber said.
Officials at the NSA could not be reached for comment. But U.S. authorities are uniquely positioned to monitor international Internet and telecommunications traffic because many of the world’s international gateways are located in their country. And once that electronic traffic touches an American computer — an e-mail message, a request for a website or an Internet-based phone call, for instance — it is routinely monitored by NSA spies.
“Foreign traffic that comes through the U.S. is subject to U.S. laws, and the NSA has a perfect right to monitor all Internet traffic,” said Mr. Farber, who has also been a technical adviser to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Uhhh, no they do not have that right and to the extent that there are laws allowing this behavior they need to be severly curtailed if not eliminated. There is too great an opportunity for abuse and, at minimum, these searches should not be allowed without probable cause. This does not appear to be the case at NSA.
Frankly, I would have expected Farber, who sits on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation to express a little more concern about this.

Keeping Track of Your Clothes (and maybe you)

RFIDs well probably be a positive thing for retail inventory management:

(London, UK – 18 February 2004) Exel, the global leader in supply chain management, has announced that it will embark on a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) project with House of Fraser, Britain’s leading department store group. The trial will represent one of the most advanced and ambitious projects in the industry as it will test the application of RFID across international supply chains.
The project will encompass individual products from House of Fraser’s own brand manufacturers in China. RFID tags will be attached directly to garments providing the scope to track shipment movements at item level. The tags enable automatic, real-time product visibility at any point in the supply chain.

This type of application is well underway in the US as well. In particular Wal-Mart has an agressive program.
Once these things proliferate everyone and their cousin will have RFID readers, for example: 1) your friendly border guard will quickly know that you are lying about the price of that nice coat from Canada; 2) on the positive (?) side the traffic cop could quickly know if there are stolen goods in the car she just stopped; 3) your neighbor will know that you bought that sweater at the dollar store not Nordstroms. We will all probably need to buy RFID zappers to kill the damn things once we take something out of the store.
Oh, and remember to pay cash so that your purchases can’t be tied back to your credit card. There is no point in feeding federal, state, local or business databases and giving the banks an automatic skim on everything that you buy.
Via White Rose.

ashcroft just might find Dean to his liking

I have had little to say about the current democratic aspirants and probably won’t say much more until there are fewer to deal with.
However, anyone supporting a national ID card in this age of MATRIX and the PATRIOT ACt deserves a hot poker applied to some tender area of their anatomy.
Dean Campaign site:

I will nominate federal judges with outstanding legal credentials, records of professional excellence, and demonstrated commitment to the constitutional principles of equality, liberty, and privacy.

Dean in March 2002:

Fifteen months before Dean said he would seek the presidency, however, the former Vermont governor spoke at a conference in Pittsburgh co-sponsored by smart-card firm Wave Systems where he called for state drivers’ licenses to be transformed into a kind of standardized national ID card for Americans. Embedding smart cards into uniform IDs was necessary to thwart “cyberterrorism” and identity theft, Dean claimed. “We must move to smarter license cards that carry secure digital information that can be universally read at vital checkpoints,” Dean said in March 2002, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “Issuing such a card would have little effect on the privacy of Americans.”
Dean also suggested that computer makers such as Apple Computer, Dell, Gateway and Sony should be required to include an ID card reader in PCs–and Americans would have to insert their uniform IDs into the reader before they could log on

A national ID card seems to be contrary to any meaningful idea of liberty and privacy.
Via Metafilter.