Category Archives: Public Confidence

About the level of confidence the public has in governement and businesses. Related to the trust that is lost every day due to waste, fraud, abuse, and downright stupidity.

NSA Cryptokids Get a Taste of Privacy Invasion

Y.R. Tap - The reject Cryptokid
Y.R. Tap - The reject Cryptokid
The NSA has been working on their public image and trying to market itself as a cool place to work partially with their "Cryptokids" campaign. Their goal is to teach kids about what the NSA does in a fun, kid-friendly way.

But that's not what I'm posting about.

I ran across this interesting comic about the unpopular little-know cryptokid, Y.R. Tap, the NSA domestic spying fly. The fly shows the Cryptokids what can happen when civil liberties are violated.

Make sure you find and click the "Next Comic–>" link at the bottom to see all of them

Schneier And U.S. Government Policy for Seizing Laptops at Borders

Schneier covers the recently released US policy for laptop seizure:

The U.S. government has published its policy: they can take your laptop anywhere they want, for as long as they want, and share the information with anyone they want

Oy. So what does it take to end this horrible trend? Obama? McCain (not likely)? Or something else entirely, and, if so, what?

Retarded Congressional Neanderthals Mess Up Big

Warning! Warning! You have found a RANT. Articles in this section are sounding boards for my frustrations. They usually (more like always) lack impartiality and may include arguments and "facts" that may not be supported.

With time I may calm down and make this a real article, but for now, you have been warned...

Breaking news, Congress is full of quarter-witted imbeciles and corrupt sychophants. Wait… we knew that already. What is new is that now we have a roster of the members of the House who either have no clue about what's going on or have gone to the dark side (cue Darth Vader-like breathing).

Yesterday the House passed a FISA amendment act which includes a provision shielding telecommunications companies from any liability. In the coverage of the situation by Ars Technica, they were able to quote Nacy Pelosi as being an idiot:

(Bold text in parenthesis is mine)

The most extended apologia came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who urged that the compromise be judged by comparison with the Senate bill, which she characterized as the only realistic alternative (So we can't ask for a good law, only a less bad one? That's a great standard to live to). She outlined several ways in which the current legislation is preferable to the Senate's version. First, the compromise bill reasserts that FISA is the "exclusive means" for conducting electronic surveillance, which would require the president to ignore such language twice in order to launch an extralegal surveillance program, rather than only once, as under traditional FISA rules (So if the President breaks the law, now it would violate two laws instead of just one. The next time someone breaks a law, I wonder if it will result in jail time if it only breaks the law "once"). Second, it preserves prior judicial review of surveillance authorizations, except in "very, very rare" circumstances, such as when the attorney general asserts that waiting for a judge would entail delay (I think that recent history has shown how much we can trust to the "rarity" of the Attorney General approving anything a president might ask. Has she even been awake in the last decade?). Third, it contains specific provisions barring the use of authorizations targeting parties abroad as a pretext for targeting U.S. persons, presumably to be enforced by a board of psychics. Finally, it provides for an internal investigation of the extent of past surveillance, which Congress will act upon with the same legendary zeal for civil liberties it has displayed over the past seven years (Brilliantly summarized. Ars has some great writers.).

So in one day, the House voted to expand powers of the Judicial branch that they didn't need and shield their conspirators from liability against justice.

Don't get me wrong, if I got a letter from the Attorney General of the United states that required my company to do something and my lawyers said to do it, I would have and maybe that's what happened to the telcos. But if there is no accountability for the Attorney General, the President, and the involved Agencies, then the whole things tastes like Congress cooked us up some chili made of poo.

Reunion.com Invades Your E-mail and Spreads Like a Virus

Reunion.com is using a deceptive marketing strategy where they pretend to be someone you know who is inviting you to Reunion. If you go to Reunion.com to see who it is, sign up, and make the horrible gross mistake of giving them your e-mail address password, they will automatically send out false e-mails to all the people in your contact list.

Two things are going horribly wrong here. One is that Reunion.com is using false and deceptive practices and is doing nothing less than what a virus or hacker would do. I hope the hammer of law hits them hard and fast

The second thing is that people somehow believe it's ok to give up their e-mail address password which is a huge no no.

(H/T to The Consumerist for the link)

Backscatter Alternative Tested

A British company has developed a camera that can see through clothes, but unlike Backscatter, it doesn't provide pornographic photos of the target.

Depending on the material, the signature of the wave is different, so that explosives can be distinguished from a block of clay and cocaine is different from a bag of flour.

It shoots some rays at the target and reads the response. It's more like a sonar device than a camera and it if works, this will be not only more effective at detecting threats, but also much better for personal privacy.

(H/T to Schneier's Blog for the link)

Audit Shows Even More FBI Abuses

The agencies that are supposed to protect us turned against us. It's depressing that more hasn't been done about this and sooner.

Of course, you know why Bush isn't defending them the same way as some other agencies? Because he didn't authorize it and therefore doesn't need to shield them to cover his own butt. That's my guess anyway.

Wide-spread Drinking Water Contamination

Just another example for why we need federal monitoring and regulation of certain industries and services. Stuff like this would go on all the time if there wasn't oversight and corresponding accountability. Just look at the presidential adminsitration for an example.

Now to see if anything comes of this.

(Circulating everywhere online, but I got it at The Consumerist)

FTC Continues to Be Useless

According to their annual report to congress, the Federal Trade Commission recieved over 69,000 complaints that debt collectors were violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the law that prevents them from harassing you or using dirty tactics to try and get you to pay a debt). In response, the FTC filed against 3 debt collectors.

Thanks FTC!

The Problem With Terrorist Threat Reporting

Schneier has a great summary article of how citizen informants combined with officials who won't take responsibility for over-reacting over the last few years is making America look dumber and dumber every day.

Here's an excerpt:

Causing a city-wide panic over blinking signs, a guy with a pellet gun, or stray backpacks, is not evidence of doing a good job: it's evidence of squandering police resources. Even worse, it causes its own form of terror, and encourages people to be even more alarmist in the future. We need to spend our resources on things that actually make us safer, not on chasing down and trumpeting every paranoid threat anyone can come up with.

AT&T and Apple Intentionally Broke Unlocked Phones?

Not surprisingly, a class-action lawsuit has begun against Apple and AT&T becuase of their firmware update that some claim was intentionally designed to break any iPhone that someone had unlocked.

The real problem here is that people really like the iPhone. As soon as it came out, busy hackers got to work unlocking it so it could be used with another cell provider's service and have 3rd party programs installed on it. Apple and AT&T didn't like that and soon issued a new update to the phone which caused many of the ones that had been "hacked" to break. There are some who think it was done intentionally.

While I can certainly imagine it, you would think that they would have anticipated the legal and customer backlash. You would think… but companies have made these kinds of mistakes before.

Confessions of a College Credit Card Pusher (Wanna Free Shirt?)

If you've been on college campuses these days, you'll often see the booths where you get a free shirt or coffee mug for signing up for a credit card. Well, it's pretty obvious that college kids have no idea how to handle credit and the credit card companies know it.

Rhoades took the job and signed up roughly 30 students for cards. He regrets any trouble he caused other students from his actions.

Still, his actions may have been most damaging to himself. He ended up with $13,000 worth of debt that he is now struggling to repay.

We don't get any training how to deal with and manage credit, but we get plenty of training on how to get and abuse it. So sad…

(H/T to The Consumerist for the link)

Sprint/Nextel Extended Customer Contracts Without Warning

Sprint used any minor changes to service plans to extend customer contracts by up to two years.

“When you receive complaints across the board, from firefighters to lawyers, from retirees to construction workers, all of whom feel they were unfairly manipulated by their cell phone company, you have a problem, ? Attorney General Lori Swanson said. She was joined at a State Capitol news conference by a number of Minnesota consumers who described their problems with the company.

In other words, these aren't people who are not paying attention to the legal agreements and they're most likely not lying to get out of their agreements. In fact, the article says that Sprint has had over 30 thousand complaints against them in the last 3 years registered with the Better Business Bureau.

I knew ATT/Cingular was bad, but I didn't know about Sprint. That doesn't leave many carriers to choose from.

Update

Verizon is no better. So much for them.

Comcast Resets Bittorrent Shares

It turns out that Comcast thinks they have the right to control how someone uses the Internet. Bittorrents, often, but not always used to distribute copyrighted content is one of the types of filesharing that big nasty companies like the RIAA target. Whether in the spirit of cooperation with the RIAA or just to save a little money by preventing heavy Internet users from actually using the Internet, Comcast is throttling Bittorrent shares and actually blocking seeders (people who provide the content originally).

If this disgusts you, now is a good time to become a supporter of net neutrality.

AT&T Hiding $10/month DSL Service – Sign up Now!

AT&T, world known for their honesty and loyalty to customers (this is sarcasm folks), was required to offer a $10 per month DSL service (as a condition of their Bellsouth merger) which they now say that nobody seems interested in. It's hard to be popular if no one knows about it though.

That being said, spread the word! Make sure everyone has a chance to cut their fees by switching to this plan. This doesn't do near enough to put AT&T to justice, but if you're already a customer and don't need the high bandwidth, make sure they don't get away with hiding their mandated $10 plan.