Tag Archives | Privacy

Reason Magazine Subpoena Stomps on Free Speech

Stephen Melkisethian (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Stephen Melkisethian (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Virginia Postrel Via Bloomberg View:

Wielding subpoenas demanding information on anonymous commenters, the government is harassing a respected journalism site that dissents from its policies. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York claims these comments could constitute violent threats, even though they’re clearly hyperbolic political rhetoric.

This is happening in America — weirdly, to a site I founded, and one whose commenters often earned my public contempt.

Los Angeles legal blogger Ken White has obtained a grand jury subpoena issued to Reason.com, the online home of the libertarian magazine I edited throughout the 1990s. The subpoena seeks information about commenters who posted in response to an article by the site’s editor Nick Gillespie about the letter that Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht wrote to Judge Katherine B. Forrest before she sentenced him to life in prison without parole. Ulbricht was convicted of seven felony charges, included conspiracies to traffic in narcotics and launder money, and faced a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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The Good, The Bad and The Robot: Experts Are Trying to Make Machines Be “Moral”

I, Robot coverCoby McDonald Via California Magazine:

Good vs. bad. Right vs. wrong. Human beings begin to learn the difference before we learn to speak—and thankfully so. We owe much of our success as a species to our capacity for moral reasoning. It’s the glue that holds human social groups together, the key to our fraught but effective ability to cooperate. We are (most believe) the lone moral agents on planet Earth—but this may not last. The day may come soon when we are forced to share this status with a new kind of being, one whose intelligence is of our own design.

Robots are coming, that much is sure. They are coming to our streets as self-driving cars, to our military as automated drones, to our homes as elder-care robots—and that’s just to name a few on the horizon (Ten million households already enjoy cleaner floors thanks to a relatively dumb little robot called the Roomba).

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When The Language Of Freedom Dies

When The Language Of Freedom Dies, Freedom Dies With It

Freedom is in peril stencil
Image by Leo Reynolds

Back in March (2015) a UK parliamentary select committee published a report [1] which expounded, amongst other things, its views on the police uploading arrest photographs, including those of people not subsequently convicted, into a facial recognition database. The police started doing this on the quiet, without any public announcement or public debate on their reasons for doing it or its impact on individual freedoms.

Here is what the Select Committee had to say:

“We fully appreciate the positive impact that facial recognition software could have on the detection and prevention of crime. However, it is troubling that the governance arrangements were not fully considered and implemented prior to the software being `switched on’. This appears to be a further example of a lack of oversight by the Government where biometrics is concerned; a situation that could have been avoided had a comprehensive biometrics strategy been developed and published.”

[‘Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies’ report, House of Commons Science and Technology select committee, 2015]

Oh boy, strong words, they must have been pretty annoyed – oh no, hang on a minute – “fully appreciate the positive impact”, “governance arrangements were not fully considered”, “lack of oversight”… There must have been a mistake at the printers, they appear to have accidentally printed a sermon on the merits of doing nothing other than producing yet more administrative red tape.… Read the rest

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Can Transhumanism Overcome a Widespread Deathist Culture?

Mort

Zoltan Istvan via IEET:

The rapidly growing field of transhumanism—an international social movement whose highest immediate priority is overcoming human death via science and technology—is facing a colossal challenge. About 85 percent of the world’s population believes in life after death, and much of that population is perfectly okay with dying because it gives them an afterlife with their perceived deity or deities—something transhumanists often refer to as “deathist” culture.

In fact, four billion people on Earth—mostly Muslims and Christians—see the overcoming of death through science as potentially blasphemous, a sin involving humans striving to be godlike. Some holy texts say blasphemy is unforgivable and will end in eternal punishment.

So what are transhumanists to do in a world where science and technology are quickly improving and will almost certainly overcome human mortality in the next 30 years? Will there be a great civil rights debate and clash around the world?

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1984 Action Day, 8th June – Orwell as Relevant as Ever

On 8th June 1949 George Orwell published his novel ‘1984’. It was a warning of the society that would emerge if the totalitarian thinking he believed had taken root in the minds of intellectuals and policymakers everywhere was left unchecked.

Sixty-six years later we find that Orwell’s novel resonates as strongly as ever.

Democratic governments around the world are enacting laws that enable greater and greater monitoring of the people, curtail freedom of speech and undermine protections once enshrined in our legal systems.

Bill C-51 in Canada, a new pro surveillance law in France, the Counter-Terrorism Legislative Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act 2014 in Australia, a 1.6M euros system to track social media in Spain… And In the UK the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, a proposed new Counter-Extremism Bill and plans to re-introduce the “snoopers charter” to spy on all communications. To name but a few!

All this removal of freedoms is being done under the guise of protecting those very freedoms using a skewed human rights agenda that justifies anything in the name of “national security”, for example the UK’s so-called ‘Protection of Freedoms Act’.… Read the rest

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‘Freelance’ Spies Filling in for NSA, Recording Your Private Conversations

Now that the NSA is readying to shut down its domestic surveillance operation as the Patriot Act goes into limbo, some freelancers in New York City are picking up the NSA’s reins and recording private conversations at restaurants, gyms and other public locations. Generously, they are “declassifying” the recordings and publishing them at their website, WeAreAlwaysListening.com. Gothamist reports:

Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know that the National Security Agency collects the phone records of every American in order to keep the country safe from terrorism. But for the past eight months a group of artists claiming to work for the NSA on “a freelance, pro bono basis” have been recording people’s private conversations in popular bars, restaurants, and gyms in Lower Manhattan to ensure that no actionable intelligence falls through the cracks.

Recording devices from WeAreListening.com

Recording devices from WeAreListening.com

 

“We’re looking for terrorism, we’re looking for signs of plots and schemes that could put the homeland at risk,” one of the group’s “agents” tells us.

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Even The FBI Had Privacy Concerns on License Plate Readers

Wired reports on the ACLU’s document request showing that the FBI paused for thought on whether or not the use of license plate readers might violate Americans’ privacy rights. Whatever reservations their lawyers may have had, the bosses at the Bureau clearly ignored them, as evidenced by the fact that the readers are very much in use:

Law enforcement’s use of automated license plate readers has drawn increasing controversy in recent years amid concerns that the devices pose a threat to privacy. Now, internal documents show that the FBI, based on a recommendation from its own lawyers, was told to stop buying the devices for a time in 2012.

Photo: dickelbers (CC)

Photo: dickelbers (CC)

 

The documents, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through a public records request, show the FBI’s own Office of General Counsel was grappling with concerns about the agency’s use of the technology and the apparent lack of a cohesive government policy to protect the civil liberties of citizens whose vehicles are photographed by the readers.

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NSA’s Big Defenders Cash Big NSA Checks

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

via Lee Fang at The Intercept:

The debate over the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records has reached a critical point after a federal appeals court last week ruled the practice illegal, dramatically raising the stakes for pending Congressional legislation that would fully or partially reinstate the program. An army of pundits promptly took to television screens, with many of them brushing off concerns about the surveillance.

The talking heads have been backstopping the NSA’s mass surveillance more or less continuously since it was revealed. They spoke out to support the agency when NSA contractor Edward Snowden released details of its programs in 2013, and they’ve kept up their advocacy ever since — on television news shows, newspaper op-ed pages, online and at Congressional hearings. But it’s often unclear just how financially cozy these pundits are with the surveillance state they defend, since they’re typically identified with titles that give no clues about their conflicts of interest.

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CPD Still Stonewalling Privacy Advocates On Releasing Information About Surveillance

A Chicago Police officer films protesters and a journalist at the NATO demonstrations in 2012 (photo courtesy of Kate Harnedy)

A Chicago Police officer films protesters and a journalist at the NATO demonstrations in 2012 (photo courtesy of Kate Harnedy)

Aaron Cynic writes at Chicagoist:

Privacy advocates filed another lawsuit yesterday in the ongoing battle to get the Chicago Police Department to provide information on the covert cell phone tracking systems it uses. Activist Freddy Martinez, who has filed similar suits twice before, filed one against the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office yesterday via Loevy and Loevy, a civil rights law firm. According to a press release from the firm, the suit charges the State’s Attorney has:

“Willfully and intentionally violated FOIA by refusing to produce records related to the presentation of evidence obtained through use of cell site simulators on the basis that it would be too ‘burdensome’ and is insufficiently important to justify the work involved to produce the records.”

The Chicago Police Department is one of many law enforcement agencies employing technologies such as Stingray, a brand-name and generic term for a device which mimics cell phone towers and collect data from phone calls, texts and more.… Read the rest

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