Category Archives: Big Brother

Spy Chief Trying to EXPAND Surveillance Powers

For the love of dirt! They're trying to get even more power and less oversight? And I thought this Mike guy was doing such a good job so far. Here's one that caught my eye:

Give telecommunications companies immunity from civil liability for their cooperation with Bush's terrorist surveillance program. Pending lawsuits against companies including Verizon and AT&T allege they violated privacy laws by giving phone records to the NSA for the program.

LIKE BLOODY HELL! When the government breaks the law and businesses go along with it, they should be held accountable. Duh!

(H/T privacy.org)

Private Lenders Turn Away People on The Terrorist Watch List

Great. Now the terrorist watch list is making it to our everyday lives.

Private businesses such as rental and mortgage companies and car dealers are checking the names of customers against a list of suspected terrorists and drug traffickers made publicly available by the Treasury Department, sometimes denying services to ordinary people whose names are similar to those on the list.

Yet anyone who does business with a person or group on the list risks penalties of up to $10 million and 10 to 30 years in prison, a powerful incentive for businesses to comply.

"It prohibits anyone from doing business with anyone who's on the list. It does not have a minimum dollar amount. . . . The local deli, if it sells a sandwich to someone whose name appears on the list, has violated the law."

This might be a good thing if it actually worked. Judging on how the no-fly list works, I'm guessing it doesn't.

So what happens when the terrorists start using names like:

  • John Smith
  • Mike Brown
  • Chris Anderson
  • Mary Jones
  • Beth Miller

If one or two terrorists use something like that as an alias, our whole country will shut down.

(H/T to privacy.org for the link to the original article)

Washington State Dumb as Dirt – Uses RFID in Licenses

In an act of supreme stupidity and ignorance, Washington state has passed a law allowing residents to purchase an "alternative" drivers license that could be used in lieu of a passport at the Canadian border.

Citing the 9/11 Commission's support for more secure documentation for U.S. entry, Chertoff pointed out that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents currently must look at more than 8,000 different forms of identification, whether birth certificates, driver's licenses or other documents.

So their answer to the problem?

The alternative license will contain a Radio Frequency Identification chip, commonly known as RFID, which the guard booths will use to scan the license as a traveler or trucker pulls up to the booth. U.S. passports issued since late 2006 already contain RFID chips.

They're going to offer a license that has no shielded covers like passports do that border guards will now just non-chalantly swipe across a reader rather than take the time to inspect. Brilliant. Maybe next, they can just put the readers out for the people in the vehicle to use making it even more convenient. That way, the criminals wouldn't have to bother changing the photo on the ID since no one would be looking anyway.

You'd think no one in Washington has been keeping up with the news about RFID passports.

President Can Decide Who Is Enemy – Hold Them Without Trial Forever

Public Citizen reports:

A new law enacted last fall denies a fair hearing or hardly any hope of release to those confined at Guantanamo naval base, and to other non-citizens labeled “enemy combatants ? – simply on the president’s say-so. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 (or MCA) denies these individuals the most fundamental of protections – the writ of habeas corpus – which requires the government to justify to the court why it is depriving a detainee of his liberty.

Public Citizen has a web petition going here. Please let everyone know!

I mean COME ON! Like we don't have enough evidence that we can't trust the President with our lives and safety? Now we're going to let him point a finger and blow someone off the face of the map? Who will he strike first? I'm thinking those reporters who keep publishing embarassing data come to mind. Maybe some of the members of the ACLU and the EFF who keep bringing up his various breaches of law. Maybe it will be some poor blogger who happens to tick him off… uh…

On second thought, nevermind. Bush is a GREAT president and we all love him!

FBI Learned Well From Bush – Illegally Circumvents Subpeonas

According to the Washington Post, the FBI issued thousands of national security letters many without any clear ties to "emergencies" or current investigations.

Referring to the exigent circumstance letters, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote in a letter Friday to Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine: "It is . . . difficult to imagine why there should not have been swift and severe consequences for anyone who knowingly signed . . . a letter containing false statements. Anyone at the FBI who knew about that kind of wrongdoing had an obligation to put a stop to it and report it immediately."

No kidding. What I don't get is why everyone is saying that the "FBI's use of the exigency letters "circumvented" the law" rather than just say "They broke the law and many of the buggers are going to jail".

Idaho Tells REAL ID Act to Shove Off

Idaho has joined a growing trend of states that are flat out telling the federal government to jump off a cliff. The REAL ID act has been attacked by privacy organizations for being a national ID card which will have far reaching implications to personal freedom. Not only that, but implementation of the system is extremely expensive and each state is supposed to pay for it.

FBI Abuses Power – Accountability No Where In Sight

Bruce Shneier says it better, with more sources, but the FBI is abusing it's powers to circumvent the subpeona process.

The Justice Department's inspector general has prepared a scathing report criticizing how the F.B.I. uses a form of administrative subpoena to obtain thousands of telephone, business and financial records without prior judicial approval.

Hmm.. private data without a warrant, where have we heard that before?

Tiny RFID Makes Even Worse Abuses Possible

spychips author Katherine Albrecht has warned of RFID being put into things like paper, clothing, stamps etc. and it looks like the technology is catching up with the theory.

Also this excerpt from Popular Science explains it in more detail actuallly referencing the use of these RFID chips in money.

For years, radio-frequency identification, or RFID, tags have been used to track everything from highway tolls to pets, but only Hitachi’s newest tag is skinny enough to fit inside a dollar bill. Just 0.15 millimeter square and 7.5 microns thick, it’s a mere 1/15 the size of the next smallest RFID chip. And it can do everything its predecessors can. Hitachi’s tags store up to 128 bits of data—including prices, serial numbers and places of origin—that radio scanners can read from more than 10 feet away.

RFID chips typically use thick metal guard rings to insulate their circuitry. The insulation limits electrical interference but makes the tags too bulky for thin products such as paper. Hitachi’s weight-loss solution is to remove the rings and separate the circuits into individual wells coated with a thin insulating layer of silicon dioxide.

So far, the new insulation trick has worked perfectly. An earlier version of the chip successfully debuted in tickets for the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi, Japan, as a way to stop counterfeiters, and a new, even slimmer version could appear in European and Japanese currency within the next few years. When that happens, banks and businesses can simply scan the tagged bills to confirm their authenticity or trace their origins.—Elizabeth Svoboda

Printer Companies Secretly Tracking Your Prints

Did you know that many new printers print "tracking dots" that encodes information in everything you print? They are nearly invisible, but can be used by law enforcement or others to specifically identify what printer printed any photo or document.

Since they don't openly disclose this "feature", be sure to stop by the EFF's guide to which printers come with tracking dots and which don't before you choose your next printer.

Smart Cameras Spell Privacy Disaster

So now they're using smart cameras to analyze you based on your not just appearance, but the way you walk, and your actions.

A student walked into the middle of the room, dropped a laptop case, then walked away. On the laptop screen, a green box popped up around him as he moved into view, then a second focused on the case when it was dropped. After a few seconds, the box around the case went red, signaling an alert.

In another video, a car pulled into a parking lot and the driver got out, a box springing up around him. It moved with the driver as he went from car to car, looking in the windows instead of heading into the building.

In both cases, the camera knew what was normal – the layout of the room with the suspicious bag and the location of the office door and parking spots in the parking lot. Alerts were triggered when the unknown bag was added and when the driver didn't go directly into the building after parking his car.

Fantastic. So now, you have to explain yourself every time you do something "out of the ordinary". Stoop down to tie your shoe on the way into the office and get picked up by security for not heading straight into the building.

Yes technology has a lot of potentially legitimate uses, but total surveillance has far more potential for abuse.

And the cameras can only see so much – they can't stop some threats, like a bomber with explosives in a backpack. They can't see what you are wearing under your jacket – yet.

They can already do this with backscatter x-ray.

Its Still Better to Live in American Than the UK It Seems

Wow. Apparently, Tony Blair doesn't know jack about the real world. Removing freedoms from everyone to stop a select few indivuduals who probably won't be hurt by the new technology is the act of an idiot or a madman (see any reference to President Bush).

I highly doubt any card they create will be that secure. Look that the complete failure of the new RFID passports for instance.

Verichip, Accident or Fraud?

CASPIAN warns that Verichip, the ones who have brought the human-implant RFID to the market had to publish a report of risks associated with the technology to satisfy the Securities and Exchanges Commission before they could IPO. In almost 20 pages of risks (holly clap!) they still neglected to mention that their RFID chips can be cloned… easily. So much for their claim to "tighten security in facilities like nuclear power plants".

"Potential investors should be told how a hacker can simply walk by a chipped person and clone his or her VeriChip signal, a threatdemonstrated by security researcher Jonathan Westhues months ago," says McIntyre, who is a former federal bank examiner.

And most creepily:

The VeriChip implant is a glass encapsulated RFID tag that is injected into the flesh to uniquely number and identify individuals. The tag can be read by radio waves from a few inches away. The highly controversial device is being marketed as a way to access secure areas, link to medical records, and serve as a payment instrument when associated with a credit card or pre-paid account.

So you get to be tagged like an animal with something you can't get rid of without surgury, and because your credit card information is in it, all someone has to do to steal your identity is stand near you for a few seconds. Wonderful.

Let's be clear about this: Human implantation of RFID is the most dangerous development in technology ever created. I really need to write an article about this sometime…

FBI to Force DNA Collection on Innocent People.

A depressing post on Slashdot recently indicated that forced DNA collection will become standard in criminal investigations.

The goal is to make DNA collection as routine a part of detainment as fingerprinting and photography.

Yeah, we're supposed to believe that they won't abuse that?

Peter Neufeld, a lawyer who is a co-director of the Innocence Project, which has exonerated dozens of prison inmates using DNA evidence, said the government was overreaching by seeking to apply DNA sampling as universally as fingerprinting.

“Whereas fingerprints merely identify the person who left them, ? Mr. Neufeld said, “DNA profiles have the potential to reveal our physical diseases and mental disorders. It becomes intrusive when the government begins to mine our most intimate matters. ?

Instructor Asked By University to Not Explain Tor to Students

I found this news on Slashdot today. Basically, a university professor used a powerful free tool that lets him browse the Internet completely anonymously (Tor). Because the utility bypasses university security, they came to him and demanded he stop using it.

From his own description of the event, I found this especially nice, condensed description of why someone would want to use Tor:

Tor can also be useful in e-commerce. For example, Amazon.com knows more about my shopping habits and tastes than my wife does. I appreciate Amazon's ability to make recommendations based on my previous purchases. But in 2000, Amazon admitted experimenting with so-called dynamic pricing, charging different people different prices for the same MP3 player; the prices were presumably based on estimates of what each user would be willing to pay, considering prior purchases. Online merchants could all do that, thanks to traffic analysis. They know who I am when I log on — unless I delete their cookies or use Tor.

Yeah…. Just remember my advice: don't shop at Amazon if you can avoid it.

RFID Myth Busted – That Was Fast…

Of the proponents of RFID, one of their strongest defenses was (said in whiney voice), "but RFID can only be read from a few inches away, so it can't every be a problem…."

CASPAIN's newsletter points to this article showing that one company is using RFID to let drivers change the messages on billboards over 500 feet away! For perspective, the average football field is 300 feet.