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by msmolly

Over Easy: Did They Know All Along?

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Upstream slide of the PRISM presentation

PRISM presentation slide

Last June when Edward Snowden’s leaked documents revealed the existence of the PRISM program, almost all of the giant US internet companies listed as participants in PRISM, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook and others, insisted they did not know about the program and were not knowingly giving the NSA access to their customers’ information.

PRISM allows the NSA to collect material directly from the servers of major providers, including the contents of emails, file transfers, live video or voice chats, VoIP (such as Skype), videoconferencing, social media interactions, search history, etc. In November the Guardian published a large (41 slides) PowerPoint presentation that described PRISM program capabilities in detail and was apparently used to train intelligence personnel on the program.

The presentation states that these companies assisted with the operation of PRISM, but all of the companies denied knowing about the program at all. Google said, “Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data” while Apple said it had “never heard of” PRISM. Senior executives of the tech companies insisted that if it was happening, it was being done without their knowledge.

But an article by Spencer Ackerman published in Wednesday’s Guardian argues that the companies did know all along.*

US tech giants knew of NSA data collection

The senior lawyer for the National Security Agency stated unequivocally on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data, contradicting months of angry denials from the firms.

Rajesh De, the NSA’s General Counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called ‘upstream’ collection of communications moving across the internet.

The FISA Amendments Act passed in 2008, Title VII, section 702, allows the NSA’s foreign surveillance programs such as PRISM (and some earlier data collection activities previously authorized under the President’s 2001 Surveillance Program) to collect internet, phone, email, and other communications content when one party to the communication is reasonably believed to be a non-American outside the United States. The NSA stores PRISM data for five years, and communications taken directly from the internet for two years. Snowden’s leaked documents showed that the NSA has unmonitored blanket access to tech companies’ customer information. The secret FISA court (FISC) that oversees US surveillance activities renews authorizations annually for NSA targeted surveillance under Section 702. It isn’t clear what legal processes the government serves on a company to compel access to content and metadata under the PRISM program or upstream collection. Section 702 prohibits intentional targeting of Americans or US persons, known as “reverse targeting,” but the in the process of collection, large amounts of Americans’ phone calls and emails are swept up.

Section 702 also permits NSA analysts to search through the collected communications for identifying information about Americans, an amendment to so-called ‘minimisation’ rules revealed by the Guardian in August and termed the ‘backdoor search loophole’ by [Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron] Wyden.

[snip]

De argued that once the Fisa court permits the collection annually, analysts ought to be free to comb through it, and stated that there were sufficient privacy safeguards for Americans after collection and querying had occurred. ‘That information is at the government’s disposal to review in the first instance,’ De said.

Other Snowden documents the Washington Post published revealed that the NSA also siphons data in transit between the Google and Yahoo data centers, including from fiber optic cables between servers at various locations around the world, an activity reportedly conducted under Executive Order 12333. While an individual user may have an encrypted connection to a website, the internal data flows are not encrypted and allow the NSA to gather millions of records each month, including both metadata and such content as video, audio, and text.

* Late update: Mike Masnick at Techdirt says, “Not so fast, buddy!” After kudos to Spencer Ackerman’s customary outstanding reporting, Masnick says,

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by msmolly

Over Easy: Tech Notes for Friday

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Teléfono de cordel (1882)

Let’s chat!

Last Friday, Apple quietly pushed out an update for its iOS mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod) to fix a major security flaw known as “gotofail” that could allow hackers, even those with low-level skills, to retrieve and control our sensitive information. Apparently it went unnoticed for 18 months! The flaw is in the way iOS 7 validates the SSL (secure socket layer) certificates intended to protect websites, and could allow an attacker on the same network as a victim to eavesdrop on all the victim’s activity. On Tuesday Apple finally released an update that fixes the gotofail flaw for Mac computers. Find out if you are vulnerable at the gotofailweb page, which will automatically assess your device and (in the case of Macs) which apps may be vulnerable. The Safari browser, of course, is one.

Bitcoin-coinsBitcoins, which exist in electronic form, depend on a network of computers that solve complex mathematical problems to verify and record every transaction. Investors deposit their bitcoins in digital “wallets” at various exchanges. Bitcoin deposits have no government-backed insurance as bank accounts do. Instead, customers have the same legal remedies as anyone who entrusts property to an institution that fails to protected it adequately.

Mt. Gox was the largest exchange, but it and other exchanges halted withdrawals after a series of cyber attacks. Customers were unable to access their accounts. Read How Mt. Gox went down. Mt. Gox also is being investigated by Federal prosecutors.

Minor update on Aereo this week: Broadcasters Warn Supremes Of The Innumerable Non-Existent Horrors That Will Befall Everyone If Aereo Wins.

…broadcasters have long argued that if they’re not given what they want they’re sure to go out of business, even if the evidence never actually supports that. Their latest incarnation of that has been in heavy rotation during their battle against live TV streaming service Aereo, with broadcasters arguing that if Aereo is allowed to survive, they’ll pull all of their broadcast channels from over the air and move them to paid cable tiers.

I say they should go right ahead and do that. The publicly-owned airwaves these broadcasters are using could certainly be put to better use. I’ll bet the broadcasters will love the anger of sports fans and the politicians who’ll side with those fans to gain political brownie points. Heh.

Here’s what they’re saying:

The petitioners are appealing the denial of an injunction at the 2nd Circuit and are hoping to undercut Aereo’s own position that what it does is private in nature. The TV broadcasters reject Aereo’s conclusion that cloud computing and other novel technologies could be at stake, but they do raise dire warnings about what might happen should the Supreme Court rule in Aereo’s favor. As the brief states, ‘Indeed, if that is the world in which broadcasters must live, then they may be forced to reconsider whether they can afford to continue making the same quantity and quality of programming available to the public for free in the first place.’

Finally, we see that the UK’s GCHQ, the NSA’s collaborator in the out-of-control surveillance state, has been intercepting Yahoo webcam images from millions of users.

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

All in the name of keeping us safe™ I’m sure!

by msmolly

Over Easy: A Small Price to Pay?

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Caricature of James Clapper

We’re only keeping you safe!

The myths surrounding the revelations by Ed Snowden about the unchecked surveillance state are like zombies that never die. After I posted the Day We Fight Back information on my Facebook timeline on Tuesday, a friend I’ll call “Susan” (not her real name) replied with the following comment:

I’m sorry but I believe it’s a small price to pay for our protection from evil.

The myths surrounding the NSA’s surveillance persist, despite some excellent attempts to counter them with facts. An article from The Guardian, republished on the ACLU website, tries to set things straight.

Within minutes after the Guardian published that first leak on the NSA’s activities, pro-surveillance forces starting making bold claims about how necessary broad spying is to our very security. And almost every justification for indiscriminate spying on Americans and people abroad has been methodically refuted ever since. It turns out that assertions made by the administration, members of Congress and security commentators were little more than myths.

Just a few of those myths:

NSA surveillance programs have thwarted terror attacks here at home.

Administration representatives insisted during hearings that spying, including vast collection of phone metadata, had stopped 54 terror incidents. When pressed for specific details, the administration said around 10 were based in the US. That number finally shrank to one San Diego cab driver who was convicted of sending $8,500 to a Somali terrorist group. So it turns out that there were no attacks in America that were derailed by domestic spying.

Top National Security Experts: Spying Program Doesn’t Make Us Safer, and Spying Leaks Don’t Harm America

We’ve stayed safe. Doesn’t that prove the government efforts have worked?

This is like believing that government spying has prevented alien invasions or stopped boogeymen from hiding under our beds. The 9/11 attacks argument is a straw-man justification for whatever the NSA wants to do, just another way of scaring us into accepting anything in the name of Keeping Us Safe™. NSA spying would not have stopped 9/11, because the government already had information it needed, and didn’t effectively share or act on it.

NSA’s programs only work if they collect all information on everyone.

In their investigation the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board found no cases supporting the need for bulk collection, and concluded that bulk collection has not provided any information that the NSA could not have gotten using more targeted surveillance.

They’re only collecting metadata, not listening in on our calls.

The NSA reportedly traces three hops from a target: Alice knows Bob, Jeff, and Rebecca. But if Jeff becomes a target, Jeff’s three hops mean the NSA can check out Fran, Evan and Gloria. The Guardian calculated that if Alice has 50 friends, the number of targets generated under the NSA’s three-hops rule would be more than 1.3 million people. I really do hope that you (and everyone you know, and the 1.3 million people they know) don’t mind too much. Are you OK with the government knowing whom you call and when, from where to where, and how long your call lasts, and for the government then to know who those people called and when and for how long?

There’s no less-intrusive way to achieve the same goals.

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by msmolly

Over Easy: Should Snowden Come Home? (Part 2)

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

Two weeks ago we discussed whether Edward Snowden should come home, as his critics have been demanding, and face trial where he would be able to make his case. A lot of opinions from respected Snowden supporters make it clear that he would not be able to receive a fair trial, because he would not be permitted to discuss his intent or present justification for his actions. Quoting Snowden himself, from Thursday’s Q&A:

The hundred-year old law under which I’ve been charged, which was never intended to be used against people working in the public interest, and forbids a public interest defense. This is especially frustrating, because it means there’s no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury.

But there is another powerful argument that he should not come home. His life would almost certainly be in danger if he did. In intelligence community circles, Snowden is regarded as “a traitor in wartime.”  Recent reports show that NSA and Pentagon officials, defense contractors, and members of congress display an extraordinary animosity toward Snowden.

A BuzzFeed article published January 16, America’s Spies Want Edward Snowden Dead, quotes from interviews the author was able to obtain with a variety of individuals in the intelligence world (on condition of anonymity, of course) that are frightening in their venom and specificity. Here are excerpts (my bold):

‘In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself,’ a current NSA analyst told BuzzFeed. ‘A lot of people share this sentiment.’

I would love to put a bullet in his head,’ one Pentagon official, a former special forces officer, said bluntly. ‘I do not take pleasure in taking another human beings life, having to do it in uniform, but he is single-handedly the greatest traitor in American history.’

‘His name is cursed every day over here,’ a defense contractor told BuzzFeed, speaking from an overseas intelligence collections base. ‘Most everyone I talk to says he needs to be tried and hung, forget the trial and just hang him.

In October, according to The Guardian, Michael Hayden, the former NSA and CIA chief, and Michigan Republican Mike Rogers, chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee, openly joked about putting Edward Snowden on a kill list.

Steven Levy at Wired wrote about a two-hour interview with NSA “bigwigs” General Counsel Rajesh De; the head of private partnerships, Anne Neuberger; and Richard Ledgett, head of the Media Leaks Task Force the NSA established to handle Snowden blowback. To begin, Gen. Keith Alexander appeared briefly to urge Levy to “ask anything.” Among other topics from the interview, Levy writes,

They really hate Snowden. The NSA is clearly, madly, deeply furious at the man whose actions triggered the biggest crisis in its history. Even while contending they welcome the debate that now engages the nation, they say that they hate the way it was triggered.  …  Even if Snowden is eventually pardoned, he’d do well to steer clear of Fort Meade.

Repeated and widely broadcast assertions (without substance) on last Sunday’s Meet the Press and Face the Nation that Snowden is a Russian spy, the openly stated opinions that he should be summarily executed without due process, and the assessment that he would not be allowed to mount an effective defense, make it obvious that Edward Snowden’s life would be in grave danger were he to return home.

On Thursday’s Q&A, Snowden addressed this issue in response to a direct question: “Recently several threats have been made on your life by the intelligence community. Are you afraid for your life?”

It’s concerning, to me, but primarily for reasons you might not expect.

That current, serving officials of our government are so comfortable in their authorities that they’re willing to tell reporters on the record that they think the due process protections of the 5th Amendment of our Constitution are outdated concepts. These are the same officials telling us to trust that they’ll honor the 4th and 1st Amendments. This should bother all of us.

The fact that it’s also a direct threat to my life is something I am aware of, but I’m not going to be intimidated. Doing the right thing means having no regrets.

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by msmolly

Over Easy: Should Snowden Come Home?

6:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

EdwardSnowdenMural

Edward Snowden Mural

Almost from the June day Edward Snowden outed himself as the source of the NSA revelations, prominent voices have called for his return to the U. S. to submit to due process of law. From those who are critical of the revelations, who deny that he is a whistleblower and refuse to compare him to Daniel Ellsberg, there is a fairly consistent refrain: “If only Snowden would return and submit to the legal process, he could tell his side of the story in court.” Administration officials, Congress members, NSA officials and their spokespeople, and even President Obama all have declared that he should turn himself in.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice has stated, “We believe he should come back, he should be sent back, and he should have his day in court.” Former CIA deputy director Mike Morell has made similar statements. Rep. Mike Rogers (Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee) said he’d pay for a return ticket for Snowden (and lied about NSA Programs and asserted Snowden offered to sell information). Colorado Senator Mark Udall (an advocate for NSA reform) proclaimed that “[Snowden] ought to stand on his own two feet…Make the case that somehow there was a higher purpose here.” According to the New York Times (my bold),

[Senator Chuck Schumer] said it was unclear how much the broad metadata gleaned by the National Security Agency had helped the fight against terrorists; how much damage Mr. Snowden had, in fact, done to intelligence efforts; and precisely how the data were used.

All of this could come out in a trial; it would be beneficial for the country to have the discussion,’ Mr. Schumer said. ‘So, running away, being helped by Russia and China, is not in the tradition of a true civil disobedience practitioner.’

Schumer and the others calling for Snowden’s return are either uninformed or they are deliberately “misrepresenting” the truth.

Would Snowden even be able to tell his side of the story in court? In recent cases, prosecutors have convinced courts that neither the intent of the leaker, the value of leaks to the public, nor the lack of harm caused by the leaks are relevant, so they are inadmissible at a trial. If previous Espionage Act cases against leakers are any indication, a jury would not be allowed to hear that information. It is highly likely that what Edward Snowden could present to a jury in defense and justification of his actions would be extremely limited.

Glenn Greenwald made it clear in his CNN discussion with Ruth Marcus (video below) what Snowden would face if he stood trial.

Under the Espionage Act, you’re not allowed to come into court and say, ‘I was justified in disclosing this information.’ There is no whistleblower exception in the Espionage Act.

Greenwald said that if Snowden should return to the United States, he would have no protections under the Espionage Act, and would not be allowed to justify his actions in court. There would be no guarantee that he would be allowed to tell a jury why he believed his violations could be in the country’s national interests. Whether jurors would be allowed to hear Snowden even mention his claim of a higher purpose for his actions is unknown.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation says it better than I can.

Americans should be outraged that leakers and whistleblowers are being prosecuted under an espionage statute without ever having to show they meant to harm the U.S. or that any harm actually occurred. There are two dozen bills calling for the reform of the NSA in the wake of Snowden’s revelations, there should also be reform of the Espionage Act, so it cannot be used by the government as a sword to protect itself from accountability.

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by msmolly

Over Easy: Still Fighting the Surveillance State

6:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Eff spying eagle

Spying Eagle

Welcome to 2014. No, the surveillance state didn’t disappear with the rollover of the calendar.

It seems, among other things, that there is a surveillance order that has been flying under the radar, known as Executive Order 12333–United States intelligence activities. It has been around since Reagan signed it in December 1981, and its preamble begins,

Timely and accurate information about the activities, capabilities, plans, and intentions of foreign powers, organizations, and persons and their agents, is essential to the national security of the United States. All reasonable and lawful means must be used to ensure that the United States will receive the best intelligence available.

On December 30th, the ACLU and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic filed a FOIA lawsuit in Federal court, demanding that the government release information about its use of Executive Order 12333 to conduct surveillance of Americans’ international communications. The complaint reads, in part,

The executive order, signed by President Reagan in 1981 and modified many times since, is the authority relied upon by the intelligence agencies, including the NSA, to conduct surveillance of foreigners outside of the United States. According to recent reports, however, the government relies upon the executive order to sweep up the international communications of countless Americans. For example, it collect billions of records every day containing the location information of mobile phones, including Americans’ phones; to harvest the address books of email users; and to sweep up the information of users of Google and Yahoo as it travels between those companies’ data centers abroad.

One document already released to the ACLU is a recent version of U.S. Signals Intelligence Directive 18, dated 2011 [that] regulates the NSA’s collection of Americans’ communications, including from surveillance conducted on foreign soil. Until Edward Snowden’s disclosures, little was known about how the NSA interpreted its authority under USSID 18. Many questions remain unanswered even since those disclosures, but this much is clear: the government interprets USSID 18 to permit it to sweep up Americans’ international communications without any court order and with little oversight.

For years the NSA has used its authority to gather foreign intelligence as permission to conduct sweeping surveillance of Americans’ international communications. This happens under the laws that govern surveillance on U.S. soil. Recent revelations by Edward Snowden make it clear that this happens — probably to an even greater extent — in surveillance conducted abroad under Executive Order 12333.

Almost all of the rationale for surveillance programs under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act that the NSA has offered does not apply to surveillance under Executive Order 12333. Claims that the surveillance has oversight from all three branches of government is demonstrably untrue. It also is untrue that the courts have tested these programs, because the FISA Court has no authority over programs that fall under this Executive Order.

We are learning daily how this ungoverned authority has led to dangerous surveillance overreach. The ACLU is asking for the release of documents that would clarify the internal rules the administration applies to itself (or doesn’t) when it monitors international communications abroad — including those of Americans. Since it’s obvious that these programs are — and have been for a long time — collecting information about Americans on American soil, the ACLU is arguing for legal analysis, beginning with making the government disclose its own basis for conducting these programs.

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by msmolly

Over Easy: Holiday Grab Bag

6:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Sock icon

My Christmas Stocking

Since I’ve been traveling over the Christmas holiday, I offer for today a selection of goodies Santa left in my Christmas stocking!

From Jay Rosen’s excellent PressThink blog, a first look at NewCo, the collaboration between Glenn Greenwald and Pierre Omidyar. Rosen is an advisor to what is to be called First Look Media, so is in an excellent position to share insights. The whole article is interesting; this is but a tidbit.

As we figure out what the pieces of the company will be, we are announcing them. Today’s news settles one of the questions I have been asked a lot: ‘Is NewCo going to be a business or a non-profit?’ Answer: both. The news and editorial operation will be a non-profit. The technology company will be a business run for profit. If the tech company is successful it can help fund the journalism mission, along with other possible sources of revenue.

The President’s Intelligence Review Task Force has a surprising revelation of other activities the NSA may have been engaged in. Techdirt says the Report Suggests NSA Engaged In Financial Manipulation, Changing Money In Bank Accounts.

Recommendation #31.2 reads:

Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial system.

This strongly suggests that something very specific about financial manipulation surfaced during the task force’s review. Hmmmm. What sort of financial “manipulation” has the NSA been up to?

Furthermore, according to the Guardian, apparently the NSA also targeted charities, among them UNICEF.

The papers show GCHQ, in collaboration with America’s National Security Agency (NSA), was targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN’s children’s charity Unicef and Médecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones.

President Obama finally has commuted Clarence Aaron’s sentence, which I posted about almost exactly a year ago. Dafna Linzer, formerly of ProPublica, discussed the commutation of Clarence Aaron’s 3 consecutive life sentences for a non-violent drug offense — Aaron did not possess or sell any drugs, only put friends who sold drugs in touch with other friends who were buyers. The pardon attorney misrepresented the situation and opposed the commutation, even though the prosecuting attorney and the sentencing judge recommended it.

Reuters reports on two studies that unlock the mystery of how HIV causes AIDS. The results open up some new treatment possibilities.

Instead of actively killing immune system cells known as CD4 T cells, much of the damage done by HIV occurs when the virus tries to invade these cells and fails, triggering an innate immune response that causes the cells to self-destruct in a fiery kind of cell suicide known as pyroptosis.

It appears that the NSA review panel the president tasked with making recommendations about the NSA surveillance “problem” will appear before the Senate judiciary committee on January 14.

The committee’s Democratic chairman, Patrick Leahy, announced on Sunday that a special session would be convened on 14 January to discuss the 46 recommendations made by the handpicked panel last week. The hearing, the judiciary committee’s first of the New Year, promises to put data surveillance at the top of the political agenda when Congress returns to work in 2014.

Here’s hoping the problems aren’t simply treated as a public relations issue and that some meaningful reforms are imposed and the NSA is reined in. I’m not hopeful.

Also in the stocking I find that a Stanford Researcher Proves NSA Can Probably Identify Individuals from Phone Records, even though we’re told that metadata won’t do that.

The National Security Agency likes to claim that intelligence officers are only collecting the phone records of millions of Americans, safely omitting their actual names from analysis. But a Stanford researcher, Jonathan Mayer, found that he and his co-author could easily match so-called ‘meta-data’ to individual names with little more than a Google search.

Finally, from the “Uh oh” department: McDonalds tells employees not to eat fast food because it’s bad for you!

“McResource Line” — McDonald’s’ employee-only resource and advice site — has been dispensing a hot mess of helpful tips in recent months: From advising workers to get a second job, to suggesting they sell their stuff for quick cash, to reminding them to tip their nannies and pool boys generously this holiday season. Its latest recommendation, however, may be its most useful yet: Lay off the fast food.

That’s all, folks, I’ve emptied the stocking. Did anything interesting show up in your stocking this year? Tell us about it!

by msmolly

Over Easy: …one more thing

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Blog-comments

…one more thing.

When you are reading this, I will be in California, prepping for a morning flight from Oakland to San Diego, and won’t be here to host. So this morning’s Over Easy is a sampling of things from here and there that I found particularly interesting, not especially time sensitive, and perhaps good conversation starters. Or, as often happens, choose your own topic(s). Carry on!

I was never a big fan of Ana Marie Cox when she appeared on Rachel Maddow’s show. Somehow she comes across as a bit of an airhead, which probably is unfair. But I did find this column especially compelling. Gives those of us in favor of gun control some talking points.

What Not To Say After a Mass Shooting

Yves Smith (Susan Webber) recounts an eye-opening adventure (actually, two) she recently had with her bank.

TD Bank: “We Don’t Have to Obey the Law” on Check Processing

How many of us have had similar experiences? I do know that real humans don’t look at checks much any more, the payee or the signature line — or the endorsement.

On the surveillance front (you knew I would, didn’t you?), a browser extension lets you insert a random selection of keywords, like “terrorist,” “pressure cooker,” “Al Qaeda,” etc. to the address of every website you visit. The purpose apparently is to overload the NSA with “noise” as it filters through our communications.

New browser extensions let you hit the NSA where it hurts: in the data

Barry Friedman, a frequent commenter at Charlie Pierce’s Politics blog (who has hosted occasionally when Pierce is away), is a stand-up comedian, author, and a monthly columnist for Tulsa People. He’s Jewish, and in his comments he frequently riffs on Jewish stereotypes–hilariously. Here’s a recent one, and I chuckled over it off and on all day.

The GOP is worse than a table full of Jewish women at a restaurant: “We want war … uh, no we don’t, okay, we do … you know, maybe not. What comes with that? Oh, we don’t like any of your sides. Who’s back there cooking? Oh, really? Okay, what else do you have? You know, nothing sounds good. Really, a free meal? Nah, we don’t like your portions. Can we have another waiter? It’s just we feel like you’re not really listening to us and we don’t know how we can be any clearer.”

And, OOPS!

On a more serious note, this caught my eye from a Facebook post last week, from UniteWomen.org:

Next time you judge someone using food stamps, I do my nails myself, my phone has been my Christmas gift from my dad for the last 3 years, my bag is a knock off, my car belongs to my mom, my son’s name brand clothes are from Goodwill, and I work two jobs. Forgive me for not looking “poor enough” for your stereotypical view of poverty. I forgot that I’m required to dress in rags in order to appease your prejudice.

Maybe we all–including moi–should be less judgmental of those in need, who should have the same right to personal dignity and personal choices as those of us more financially comfortable.

Good deed of the day: Stop the Monsanto Protection Act. Please sign and circulate. I like the names attached to this petition!

Finally, my 19-year-old grandson is going to need this someday! I am horrified at some of the things he posts on FaceBook (language, mostly, nothing truly ugly). Hope Indiana follows California’s example.
‘Eraser’ law will let California kids scrub online past

Have a great day and great weekend, everyone!

by msmolly

Over Easy: …one more thing

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Servers1In early August, President Obama created a review panel to examine and guide reforms to US government surveillance. According to the announcement, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies was to be chosen by, and report to, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper. After a backlash and some furious backtracking, the White House said, “The panel members are being selected by the White House, in consultation with the Intelligence Community, and will not report to the DNI.”

Although the review panel is supposed to be independent, it is composed of intelligence insiders, former White House officials, and Obama advisers. Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director, leads the panel. He is joined by Richard Clarke, a White House counter-terrorism aide to both Presidents Bush and Bill Clinton. Rounding out the panel are Cass Sunstein, a former White House regulatory staffer who is married to Samantha Power, the new US ambassador to the United Nations; Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor who is close personally with Obama; and Peter Swire, a Georgia Tech professor and former aide to Obama and President Clinton. The group is directed to file an interim report to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in 60 days, followed by a full report to President Obama by the end of the year.

According to The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman (my bold),

During its first round of meetings, the panel … separated [into] two groups of outside advisers. One group included civil libertarian organizations such as the ACLU and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. It met in a conference room on K and 20th Streets. Morrell and Clarke did not attend.

The other, which met in the Truman Room of the White House Conference Center, included technology companies that have participated – sometimes uneasily and at court behest – in NSA surveillance. All five panel members participated.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo sent representatives to the inaugural hearing. The discussion was dominated by the interests of major technology firms, and the session did not address making any substantive changes to the mass collection of phone or internet communications. The technology industry’s concerns seemed to dominate the 90-minute meeting.

Robert Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and an attendee, told the Guardian that he ‘did not hear much discussion’ of changes to the bulk surveillance activities.

‘My fear is it’s a simulacrum of meaningful reform,’ said Sascha Meinrath, a vice president of the New America Foundation (a Washington think tank) and the director of the Open Technology Institute, who also attended. ‘Its function is to bleed off pressure, without getting to the meaningful reform.’

‘I didn’t find anyone saying the bulk surveillance is horrendous and bad for our democracy,’ said Meinrath. … ‘The companies are concerned that it impacts their bottom line. My concern is they’re looking to preserve the function of the NSA.’

When asked if that was the perspective of the government or the companies, he responded, ‘I’m not sure you can separate the two.’

The conduct of the initial meeting of the also struck Meinrath as odd, since representatives from the technology firms were identified by placards listing only their employers, not their names. There was minimal technical discussion of surveillance mechanisms, despite the presence of technology companies. Meinrath assessed the representatives as lawyers, not technologists.

When it appeared like the meeting would discuss a surveillance issue in a sophisticated way, participants and commissioners suggested it be done in a classified meeting. Meinrath interpreted that as a maneuver to exclude his more-critical viewpoint.

Also in attendance at the initial meeting of the review panel were Alan Davidson of MIT, and representatives of the Information Technology Industry Council, Rackspace (an IT hosting company), and the Software and Information Industry Association.

Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the White House “should not be segregating the civil liberties groups and the tech industry.” Rotenberg said: “We need to be on the same page when it comes to surveillance reform.”

Interestingly, in an article Wednesday in The Guardian, also by Spencer Ackerman, we learn that

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by msmolly

Over Easy: …one more thing

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Flickr - law keven - Watching you...watching me....

Watching you…watching me…

I vowed to myself that this week I was going to post about something other than surveillance, but this one is too good not to write about!

A Data Broker Offers a Peek Behind the Curtain

The Acxiom Corporation, a marketing technology company that has amassed details on the household makeup, financial means, shopping preferences and leisure pursuits of a majority of adults in the United States, is trying something new. According to the NYT, Acxiom is the “quiet giant” of consumer database marketing. It knows who you are. It knows where you live. It knows what you do.

Few consumers have ever heard of Acxiom. But analysts say it has amassed the world’s largest commercial database on consumers — and that it wants to know much, much more. Its servers process more than 50 trillion data “transactions” a year. Company executives have said its database contains information about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. That includes a majority of adults in the United States.

But now Acxiom, one of the most secretive and prolific collectors of consumer information, is embarking on a novel public relations strategy: openness. On Wednesday, September 4, Acxiom unveiled a free Web site where we can all see, edit, or suppress the information the company has collected about us.

The data on the site, called AbouttheData.com, includes biographical facts, like education level, marital status and number of children in a household; homeownership status, including mortgage amount and property size; vehicle details, like the make, model and year; and economic data, like whether a household member is an active investor with a portfolio greater than $150,000. Also available will be the consumer’s recent purchase categories, like plus-size clothing or sports products; and household interests like golf, dogs, text-messaging, cholesterol-related products or charities.

From the About the Data website,

Ever wonder what kind of information determines the ads you see or the offers you receive? You’ve come to the right place. About The Data brings you answers to questions about the data that fuels marketing and helps ensure you see offers on things that mean the most to you and your family.

More from the website:
Why is data about me important to companies?
How do companies get data about me and what do they do with it?
What types of data do companies use about me?

Now, if you’re curious, you can look at the data they have about you, and you have an option to edit it, or opt out of their collecting altogether. They say the penalty for opting out is that the ads you see will no longer be targeted to your personal interests or lifestyle. To look at your data, you first enter information about yourself, a Captcha code, and agree to terms of use.

To make sure we are accessing information about the correct person, we ask for some personal information, which we then compare to our Authentication system. We do this for your protection so that we can verify that we are only giving access to Acxiom’s digital Marketing Data about you.

I took a look at my own data, and here’s what I found.

  • “Characteristic Data” showed that I’m married (I’ve been divorced since 1990), 1 child “present,” 14 years old, a surname that’s Scottish/Irish (I still use my ex husband’s last name), no political party. My children are in their 40s (no 14 year old!) and don’t live with me.
  • “Home Data” was reasonably accurate. Most of that is available from public records, and they use home value and property size ranges, not specifics. But there was no mortgage amount shown.
  • “Vehicle Data” was not found. Interesting, because I own a registered, licensed automobile, the same one for about 5 years.
  • “Economic Data” showed regular American Express credit card use (I have only one credit card, and it isn’t an American Express card), regular online purchasing (that’s true), but the other info in that category wasn’t accurate, including household income.
  • “Shopping Data” also was inaccurate. It way understated my purchasing, both in dollars (only $408!) and in frequency (3 purchases in 24 months). It says I’m a mail order responder and a mail order buyer, and it does seem to show basic categories of my purchases reasonably correctly.
  • “Household Interests Data” lists categories accurately, except I don’t have or purchase collectible antiques, nor do I own a pet.

I didn’t see any information about my…

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