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Government Facial Scans Are Here, Here’s Why You Should Worry

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Government Facial Scans Are Here, Here’s Why You Should Worry

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What starts as “common sense” legislation often ends up opening up the gates for more government intrusion, putting the freedom and privacy of Americans at grave risk.

That’s what’s happening now as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s “Biometric Exit” program is starting to be used at airports in certain parts of the country.

government

Congress, decades ago, passed legislation pushing federal officials to take steps to track down foreign nationals as they entered and left the United States. The idea, born out of a perceived necessity to keep track of foreigners who overstayed their visas, soon became the basis for yet another idea. That’s when the thought of creating a database filled with scans of American faces came to life.

Without going to Congress or consulting the public, the DHS launched the Biometric Exit program. Slowly, the agency started implementing the scanning initiative, making American citizens and green card holders, as well as foreigners, have their faces scanned before embarking on certain international flights from both New York and Atlanta.

To kickstart this program, DHS partnered with Delta in Atlanta and New York and with JeBlue in Boston, making these face recognition scans mandatory when run by Delta and voluntary when run by JetBlue.

To those going through JetBlue, the company gives passengers the option of ditching the physical ticket altogether for a face scan.

Despite the different approaches, both of the systems already in use are just the start of something larger that could soon turn into a nationwide launch of Biometric Exit. As a result, everyone, both foreign and American, would be subject to having their faces scanned and their details added or matched to a federal database.

If this system becomes mandatory, the issues associated with errors could be a major headache for individuals on the receiving end of the extra scrutiny. With government goons taking the facial recognition tool much too seriously, a case of mistaken identity could put an absolutely innocent person at risk of being detained, while other, smaller mistakes, could cause passengers to miss their flights or spend extra hours at secondary screenings.

Aside from these potential issues, the very idea that the federal government would be collecting this information from anyone leaving the country raises questions regarding the constitutionality of these scans. After all, does the collection of information on innocent Americans without a warrant pass the Fourth Amendment test?

Many legal scholars say that it wouldn’t. So why is the DHS putting this in motion without Congress’ approval?

Well, quite frankly, because they can. As government grows larger and more intrusive, it also grows more certain it may operate outside existing laws that theoretically restrict them from infringing on people’s most basic rights. And that is the problem that must be addressed.

Obama Era Rule Expansion Could Finally Kill The Fourth Amendment

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Obama Era Rule Expansion Could Finally Kill The Fourth Amendment

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Just before President Barack Obama left office, his administration gave President Donald Trump’s administration the best parting gift a power thirsty official could have asked for: More access to innocent Americans’ private information.

Fourth AmendmentAfter Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on innocent Americans without due process, the country — and the world — learned that the U.S. government prefers to collect the haystack before looking for the needle. As the debate surrounding privacy rights heated up due to this revelation, others dismissed the reports, saying that those who have nothing to hide should have nothing to fear.

As a counterargument, privacy advocates pointed out that officials don’t need to do their jobs correctly to bust someone for a crime they didn’t commit if they have data.

With data, these advocates would explain, officials can tell a story, even if you had nothing to do with a certain crime.

Now, the Trump administration has the power to make use of the data collected by the NSA even more widely, since Obama gave sixteen federal agencies access to the agency’s database.

These agencies include the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

While the government says that the collected communications available via the NSA are “masked” to protect the identity of innocent Americans, several government officials have the authority to demand unrestricted access. And what’s worse, Congress is now working hard to expand this information sharing system with a series of other agencies.

Thanks to Rep. John Katko (R-NY), HR 2169, or the Improving Fusion Centers’ Access to Information Act, may change the rules so that more agencies under the DHS control have the same access to NSA’s database, such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). If flying hadn’t been made nearly unbearable thanks to the sexual harassment that comes along with going through airport security, the TSA is about to get even more invasive by combing through information provided by the NSA and doing what it pleases with it — unless HR 2169 gets booted.

To privacy advocates, this bill would only do more damage to America’s already fragile civil liberties protections. Instead of keeping government officials and workers from having more reasons to abuse their power, this new rule expansion would put more Americans at risk of having their rights violated for entirely new reasons.

If the Fourth Amendment still means anything in this country, it might as well die an agonizing and definite death if Katko’s bill gets to the president’s desk. Are we ready for more TSA and ICE scandals?

Email Company Targeted Over Snowden Relaunches Offering Greater Privacy

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

 Email Company Targeted Over Snowden Relaunches Offering Greater Privacy

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Lavabit became a household name after former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden made the public aware of the U.S. government’s mass spying programs.

ComputerAt the time, the company’s founder shut Lavabit down in order to avoid allowing federal prosecutors to have access to the system’s encryption key. Due to his decision to stand by his word, protecting his customers’ privacy against the government’s overreaching powers, he was hailed as a hero by many. But that cost his business.

Years later, the company appears to be coming back. More private than ever.

According to TechDirt, the Lavabit team worked on a more secure email platform, launching the new system with an array of new privacy-enhancing features, including one that will obscure email metadata so that agencies such as the NSA or FBI won’t be able to trace communication, making officials unable to find out with whom Lavabit users are communicating.

It was the lack of this kind of security setting that caught the attention of officials prior to the closure of Lavabit in 2013. With this feature, the new Lavabit platform would be more resistant to government spying.

But the new system doesn’t only give users the peace of mind they are hoping to find by enhancing its overall security, it also protects the individual by further protecting the company from giving in under legal pressure. By closing the SSL “gap,” the company is now incapable of handing over any data that could identify users or individuals with whom they are communicating. And by locking the key in a hardware security module, Lavabit is able to generate long passphrases blindly, making the company or anyone working with the company unaware of the key’s location. But that’s not all. After generating the long passphrase, Lavabit then inserts into a tamper-resistant device and destroys the passphrase.

In order to provide consumers with the level of privacy they are seeking, the company will provide two types of high-level privacy modes: Cautious or Paranoid. The basic, more compromisable level is simply known as Trustful, placing the security duties in the hands of the company.

Cautious mode offers end-to-end encryption, placing the encryption key in the user’s device, while the Paranoid mode will require the user to move the key if he or she needs to use the service in a different device. By not allowing the encryption key to go to the Lavabit server, the company is unable to have access to the user’s communications, protecting them from government.

While this type of service is necessary, it’s important to note that, over the years, the federal government continued to fight to have an even greater access to a series of consumer technologies. At times demanding companies like Apple create a “backdoor” to their devices.

Thankfully, more private entrepreneurs will continue to step up the game, providing free market solutions to problems only governments can create.

DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Department of Justice’s proposed Rule 41, which would allow U.S. judges to provide law enforcement with search warrants for devices outside of the DOJ’s and its agencies’ jurisdiction, could soon become law, unless Congress does something.

DOJWhile Rule 41 could make Americans less safe, putting their privacy at risk, that is not the only issue with the proposed change to the law. According to Tech Dirt, Rule 41 could also turn millions of computer users across the world into criminals, simply because they use privacy tools to communicate with one another.

“From journalists communicating with sources to victims of domestic violence seeking information on legal services, people worldwide depend on privacy tools for both safety and security,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). But if the DOJ wins this battle, the reality is that the U.S. government will be given the power to access phones and computers remotely with little to no oversight.

By allowing law enforcement to seek warrants to computers or other devices equipped with privacy tools, many have argued, Rule 41 adds a presumption of guilt to an activity that is part of the daily lives of most innocent American technology users.

In order to make sure the DOJ is not successful in its battle against privacy, several congressmen and senators from both political parties sent a letter to the DOJ asking for clarification on how the agency seeks to interpret the proposed changes to the law.

According to EFF, if Rule 41 becomes law, “anyone who is using any technological means to safeguard their location privacy could find themselves suddenly in the jurisdiction of a prosecutor-friendly or technically-naïve judge, anywhere in the country.” In their letter to the DOJ, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), and several others argue that Rule 41 would give law enforcement the power to hack into any device, expanding the scope of the DOJ’s authority, and risking our safety and privacy as a result.

Tech Dirt argues that while the DOJ claims that Rule 41 would not interfere with current laws, which already establish the need to demonstrate probable cause before the warrant is produced, judges have already been caught signing on warrants that exceeded existing jurisdiction limits.

Claiming that Rule 41 would keep those safeguards in place, Tech Dirt adds, is simply dishonest.

Unless Congress acts fast, Rule 41 will become the law by December 31st. Unfortunately for privacy, all the media seems to be talking about is the presidential election. Is anyone even paying attention?

ACLU: Police Use of Face-Recognition Tech is ‘Violating Americans’ Civil Rights’

in Liberator Online by Alice Salles Comments are off

ACLU: Police Use of Face-Recognition Tech is ‘Violating Americans’ Civil Rights’

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The American Civil Liberties Union, along the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, sent a letter to the Justice Department expressing concerns over federal, state, and local police use of facial recognition technology.

FaceThe letter claims that a recent study carried out by the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law shows that “law enforcement use of face recognition technology is having a disparate impact on communities of color, potentially exacerbating and entrenching existing policing disparities.”

Adding that said systems are powerful, the letter explained that a Federal Bureau of Investigation study from 2012 shows that the technology is “5 to 10 percent less accurate on African Americans than Caucasians.” By reaching out to the Justice Department, the ACLU plus over 50 other groups are asking the government to investigate police practices associated with the technology because of the system’s inaccuracies.

While the ACLU has not argued for an end to the use of the technology, the organization’s legislative counsel, Singh Guliani, said that, unless “meaningful safeguards are in place,” the use of the technology could be putting the privacy of Americans at risk.

Mentioning the fact that half of all U.S. adults are in government face recognition databases, Guliani added that allowing law enforcement to use these technologies without clear policies may lead to abuse.

According to the Georgetown report mentioned by the ACLU, abuse may come in different shapes and sizes.

Because many law enforcement agencies employ the technology in a continuous fashion, scanning individuals on real-time, researchers believe that this type of approach may violate people’s privacy simply because law enforcement is collecting footage of law-abiding citizens without seeking a warrant beforehand. In the report, the Center on Privacy & Technology team explains that this type of use is “generalized and invisible.” In many instances, the research team adds, abuse may lead to stifling of free speech.

Out of the 52 agencies using the system, the research team found at least one department using the face recognition tool to track individuals engaged in political, religious, or other type of “protected free speech.” But because of the lack of oversight, many departments do not have access to data on the use of the technology, making it difficult for researchers to identify other instances of abuse.

All of these problems are “unprecedented and highly problematic,” researchers added in the report.

In the group’s letter, the ACLU argued that the problems raised by the Georgetown study are “particularly disturbing” when we consider that federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies have been using these technologies for routine investigations without any oversight.

Considering law enforcement has been under heavy scrutiny recently over the use and abuse of “voodoo science,”  it’s easy to see how the ACLU has reason to mistrust law enforcement with the use of such a powerful tool.

What Would It Take To Make You Leave Everything Behind?

in From Me To You, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Brett Bittner Comments are off

What Would It Take To Make You Leave Everything Behind?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The actions that could lead one to leave everything behind is the central theme discussed by Oliver Stone’s newest film, “Snowden.”

Framed by the June 2013 release of information to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill, along with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, the film takes us on a course of a young man enlisting in the Army Reserves, being discharged after an injury, and moving on to a series of information security positions both inside and contracted by the CIA and the NSA.

LeavePrior to the screening, a special message from Oliver Stone spoke to the danger to privacy that our smartphones create, a theme made quite prominent in the film. Stylistically, Stone really drives home the point by including the privacy invasion in his directorial vision to depict the dragnet being run on the entire world by the American government.

Those of us who know the story of the whistleblower/dissident/patriot/traitor will appreciate the way in which the film chronicles his journey through the CIA, as an NSA contractor, and finally, as the person who exposed the extent to which the American government collects data both domestically and abroad. More importantly, the story will offer those who aren’t as aware of what occurred a dramatic look at his story, especially the “why” behind his actions to expose the federal government’s actions.

A theme present throughout the film was about how the surveillance and data collection did not present as a means to safety or security, rather an opportunity to exert control, both economically and socially. Whether in his time in Geneva in the CIA, or as a contractor for any of the other alphabet agencies, the use (and misuse) of access and authority passed by legislation exemplifies the danger of giving authority over from one’s self to another.

Ultimately, the connections we make with others when we communicate our thoughts, actions, and even our deepest secrets are what can be held against us, should the time come that we are to be a pawn. The merging and sharing we do make us feeling, connected, empathetic human beings. We crave the attention, as well as to give it.

In real life, Snowden exposed that we, through our lives, thoughts, and actions, are simply sitting in a database somewhere in a rack inside a data center, waiting to be looked at, manipulated, and controlled. In the film, Stone helps explain that to an audience that may not understand the full extent that exposure affects us all, whether libertarian, conservative, liberal, centrist, or even authoritarian.

Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In Omnipotent Government, Ludwig von Mises writes that tending toward “a transgression of the limit” of the application of violence is a natural impulse among professionals who use violence in their line of work, even if the particular application of violence is seen as legitimate.

These transgressions are seen everywhere, from instances of police brutality to the ever-growing presence of law enforcement agents on our borders and airports.

SmartphoneNow, this transgression is entering another realm, making way for law enforcement to have an even more formally accepted online presence.

According to a new Department of Homeland Security proposal, officials are considering asking visitors entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program to disclose information pertaining to their social media presence.

If the DHS has its way, visitors would have to fill out a form with links to their Twitter, Facebook, and other online applications. According to the DHS, the collection of this information would “enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

But the wording in this new proposal is broad enough to allow officials to dig at will, increasing the risk of abuse of power—a surveillance issue that has already been associated with 4th Amendment violations in the past. To privacy advocacy organizations like Restore The 4th, this new transgression is everything but legitimate.

In a press release, the organization explained that the DHS new proposal is toxic.

In a letter addressed to the US Customs and Border Protection, the group along with “over two dozen human rights and civil liberties organizations” outlined the program’s “disproportionate risks, excessive costs, and other serious shortcomings.”

According to the letter, the DHS will be further invading individual privacy, putting freedom of expression at risk if this proposal is implemented. Furthermore, the federal government would have to worsen the national debt due to the high cost of implementation. The maintenance of this program would also cost taxpayers greatly, Restore The 4th added, and these costs “appear to be unaccounted for in the DHS Paperwork Reduction Act statement.”

The advocacy group also claims that the DHS would ignite the expansion of the surveillance state by opening a new window into the traveler’s private life. If implemented, this new rule could impact particular groups of travelers, allowing law enforcement to refer to their racial and religious bias in order to do their job.

Restore The 4th explains:

“This ‘disparate impact will affect not only travelers from visa-waiver program countries, but also the Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans whose colleagues, family members, business associates, and others in their social networks are exposed to immediate scrutiny or ongoing surveillance, or are improperly denied a visa waiver because of their online presence.’”

The letter urges CBP to dismiss the DHS proposal altogether. ​

Snowden: Bulk Data Collection is Ineffective, Promotes Insecurity and Oppression

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Snowden: Bulk Data Collection is Ineffective, Promotes Insecurity and Oppression

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

As the country watches the battle between the FBI and Apple unfold, former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden uses his notoriety to bring attention to the surveillance problem publicly.

During an interview with the Spanish TV channel Sexta, Snowden gave his two cents on the subject, extending his commentary to the realm of bulk data collection and why it never works.

SnowdenDuring the interview, Snowden claimed that what Washington D.C. believes to be the most effective way to deter terrorists doesn’t pass the smell test.

“In the wake of the revelations of mass surveillance,” Snowden explained, “[US] President [Barack Obama] appointed two independent commissions to review the efficiency of these [surveillance] programs, what they really did and what effect they had in combating terrorism.” What they found, Snowden continued, was that none of the surveillance programs carried out by Washington “stopped a single terrorist attack and never made a concrete difference in a terrorist investigation.”

When looking into how the CIA and NSA have violated the US Constitution for ten years by snooping on Americans’ private communications without ever producing warrants, Snowden continued, “we must ask ourselves: Was it ever worth it?”

With news showing surveillance programs are used for purposes other than fighting terrorism, it’s difficult to ignore the whistleblower’s claims. Especially since the current administration seems unwilling to put an end to its ineffective programs.

Nowadays, bulk data collection is “more aggressive and invasive” than ever before, Snowden told Sexta. “Law enforcement and intelligence structures do not any longer bother to pick up a suspect and hack his cell phone, they cut into all lines and communications” instead. To the whistleblower, this is a clear violation of innocent people’s rights, since federal agents attack the “heart of the society” instead of following tangible evidence.

The debate revolving around privacy and bulk data collection often misses the importance of privacy in a free society. Something that Snowden likes to revisit often. During the interview, he explained this angle of the debate by reminding the reporter that “it is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say, … There are rights that provide value to you even if you’re not actively engaged in them in that moment.”

Currently, Americans are struggling to identify exactly what is and isn’t the best way to go about the surveillance subject. As the public is bombarded with divisive, autocratic rhetoric tied to the presidential campaign, many become oblivious, ignoring their surveillance-related concerns.

Understanding that existing tools like the Internet will always be abused by criminals, and that the federal government is incapable of keeping tabs on what citizens are doing at all times is all part of the problem. Famed economist F. A. Hayek talked extensively about the knowledge problem, explaining that the importance of knowledge of individual circumstances is often minimized by state officials, and the results are often bad to freedom since central planners like to claim they know just what they need to do to solve whatever problem is at hand.

Much like economic problems, which often become much worse as government intervention gets a boost, more surveillance has the same effect, forcing criminals to take part in even more obscure communication methods in order to remain untraceable. The unintended consequences are seldom discussed, but it’s the American individual who pays the price.

If Snowden and many other privacy advocates are right, the federal government’s efforts against terrorism could benefit greatly from a privacy-centered policy. After all, sacrificing freedom in the name of a false sense of security makes us both less safe and less free.

Supreme Court Ignores Privacy Group’s Request to Disclose DHS’s Cellphone Shutdown Policy

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Supreme Court Ignores Privacy Group’s Request to Disclose DHS’s Cellphone Shutdown Policy

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Do you think the Department of Homeland Security keeps us safe? What about the Supreme Court? Do you believe it upholds the Constitution as it should?

Recently, a petition from the Electronic Privacy Information Center demanding the DHS to release its plan to close mobile phone services in the wake of disasters was set aside by the Supreme Court.

With the snub, the highest court of the land refused to look at the federal appeals court’s May ruling that upholds the secrecy surrounding DHS’s plan. If the ruling remains in place, DHS officers are not required to disclose details concerning Standard Operating Procedure 303, which outlines the guidelines that private and commercial wireless networks are required to follow during the service shutdown and restoration processes in the event of what the DHS describes as a “national crisis.”

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying Glass

The appeals court used the Freedom of Information Act to keep the DHS from disclosing the plan in May, claiming that allowing details from SPP 303 to become public would put the safety of Americans at risk.

The factor that prompted the privacy group to act involved a full shutdown of cellphone service in the San Francisco Bay Area subway system during what EPIC calls a peaceful protest back in 2011. At the time, EPIC demanded DHS to divulge the contents of SOP 303, but the agency refused. Later, the case was taken to a district court in Washington, D.C., where the judge ruled in favor of the privacy group. Soon after, the federal appeals court overturned the district court’s ruling, claiming the SOP 303 is a “voluntary process” designed to protect Americans during “critical emergencies such as the threat of radio-activated improvised explosive devices.”

According to the heavily redacted version of the shutdown policy obtained by EPIC, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials have access to the powers granted by SOP 303. Despite the overreach and the policy’s restrictions on individuals’ communication devices without proper warning, document details are not accessible to Americans.

If a peaceful protest is enough of a reason to shut down the phone service of countless individuals who may have not even been part of the incident, privacy groups like EPIC want to make sure the DHS opens SOP 303′s contents for discussion.

By infringing the individual’s right to privacy without due process, the DHS is acting unconstitutionally, despite the Supreme Court’s decision to ignore EPIC’s petition.

If the American people are not made aware of the Supreme Court’s decision to ignore privacy concerns and government abuse, agencies like DHS will continue to abuse its powers.

Trashing the restrictions on government imposed by the US Constitution will not make us safe.

According to the Cato Institute, DHS is responsible for increasing bureaucracy while not improving the efficacy of Department of Homeland Security’s programs. In a perfect world, the DHS’s inefficiency alone would be enough to have it slashed.

As taxpayers foot the bill, agencies like the DHS work relentlessly to keep Americans from having access to policies that impact them directly. If privacy groups like EPIC are not able to push the Supreme Court to rule on this matter, what are other ways we should go about demanding our privacy is fully restored?

The Internet Privacy Conversation

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

The Internet Privacy Conversation

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Baby Anarchist (BA) (10): I need to use my device upstairs because it has directions to my Lego project.
Me: Can you print the directions?
BA: It’s hundreds of pages long.
Me: Do you and your dad have an agreement about using your device upstairs?
BA: Yes.
Me: Just for the instructions?
BA: Yes.
Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying GlassMe: YS, do you know why no one in the house uses devices in their own private spaces?
Young Statesman (YS): It gives you the impression that there’s privacy on the Internet.
Me: Right. Is there privacy on the Internet?
YS: None.
Me: Do you know about Ashley Madison?
YS: No.
Me: People married and agreed to forsake all others and they made this agreement in front of their families and friends and the understanding was that this was their agreement. They used the Ashley Madison service to violate the terms of their agreement. They believed that to be in secret. That they had privacy on the Internet. They were publicly exposed as users of Ashley Madison.
YS: Wow.
Me: Some of them lost their families, their friends, their jobs, and some were so distraught that they killed themselves. All because they rejected reality. Reality is that there is no privacy on the Internet.
YS: They thought because they didn’t like reality it wouldn’t hurt them.
Me: Right. They weren’t oriented towards reality. They thought their ignoring reality would somehow defend them.
YS: There’s no privacy on the Internet.
Me: None. And if we allowed you to think there was privacy associated with Internet use by allowing the use of devices in private spaces we’d be allowing you think something that wasn’t true.
Me: Do you remember the story about the teenagers who were sexting and arrested for it?
YS(14): No.
Me: One of them sexted the other and was charged as an adult for distributing child pornography. That’s a crime that can include being registered as a sex offender as well as jail time.
YS: How can they be tried as adults? They’re minors.
Me: For some crimes minors are tried as adults.
YS: That doesn’t make sense. They were pictures of themselves.
Me: It’s wrong but that doesn’t matter. If a person goes to court on child pornography charges even if it’s ridiculous and dismissed…
YS: That never goes away.
Me: Right. Even if they were wronged and it’s insane…
YS: It’s going to stick.
Me: Yes. So if you receive something like that you can be charged with possession of child pornography. As an adult. Even if you didn’t want it. You can be set up.
YS: That’s unbelievable.
Me: I know. And this is awkward, but it’s too important for us not to have this conversation.
YS: Just because you don’t want to know doesn’t mean it won’t hurt you.
Me: Right. And if you find yourself in a situation where you’re holding something that can get you jail time, you have to tell us immediately. We trust you understand how dire it would be to face jail and that you would not willingly do anything that would result in jail time.
YS: Right.
Me: So if you find yourself in a dangerous situation you must tell us immediately. We know you wouldn’t put yourself there on purpose so there’s no blame. Just help. But you have to be quick.

Abolish NSA, Exonerate Snowden, Stop Illegal Spying: Libertarian Candidates Pledge

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 17 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Scores of Libertarian Party candidates for federal office have pledged to downsize the bloated federal government  — in these big and specific ways:

* Eliminate the federal income taxEnd Spying - Abolish the NSA
* End the War on Drugs
* Abolish the NSA
* Cut military spending by 60%

We’re exploring each of these pledges in detail, one per issue, because the Libertarian Party has done a great job of showing that these bold proposals are not only possible, but practical and enormously beneficial. (Of course, you can jump ahead of us and read about all four positions right now.)

Let’s look at the pledge to abolish the NSA (National Security Agency).

The candidates pledge: “If elected, I will sponsor legislation to abolish the NSA, grant clemency and full whistleblower protection to Edward Snowden, consolidate our 18 spy agencies into one accountable agency, and cut taxes accordingly.”

Here are the benefits of fully restoring the Fourth Amendment, exonerating Edward Snowden and shrinking the American spy apparatus, according to the Libertarian Party:

* Privacy! No more snooping on your private emails, phone calls, text messages, Skype sessions, and other personal communication without your consent. No risk of embarrassment and humiliation due to others’ unwelcome knowledge of your personal life. You alone will control your private information.

* Consolidating the 18 U.S. spy agencies will enable substantial cuts in federal taxes. Each American family will get back, on average, $540 every year that they now pay in taxes.

* Assurance of privacy will increase the use of online banking and shopping, creating greater convenience for shoppers and increased sales for online vendors. It also encourages use of email, which cuts costs for businesses, cuts prices for consumers, liberates personal communications, and reduces paper waste.

* Protection from warrantless government search and seizure will greatly reduce the risk of unjust arrests and prosecution of innocent Americans, and will lessen the risk of America devolving into a state of tyranny.

* Exonerating Edward Snowden will grant him the respect and freedom he deserves, and will make it safe for whistleblowers to speak up when the government violates the rights of citizens.

 

Thursday, June 5, 2014: Online Liberty Campaign “Reset The Net”

in Business and Economy, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Fed up with government surveillance spoiling the freedom and fun of the Internet? You’re not alone. And now there’s something you can do about it.

“Don’t ask for your privacy. Take it back.” Reset the Net - June 5, 2014

That’s the theme of Reset the Net — a new worldwide coalition of organizations, companies and tens of thousands of Internet users dedicated to preserving free speech and basic rights on the Internet.

They’re all pledging to “Reset The Net” on Thursday, June 5th, 2014 — the anniversary of the first NSA surveillance story revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden — by empowering Internet activists, companies and organizations to take simple steps to encrypt the web to shut out the government’s mass surveillance capabilities.

And you can join them.

Organizations — including some of the Internet’s largest and most influential — will participate by publicizing the effort, improving their own security and promoting free privacy tools to their followers.

Individual Internet users can act with Reset The Net in several important ways. Reset The Net will offer a free “privacy pack” of safe open-source software tools for easy encrypting of chat logs, email, phone calls and text messaging, as well as information on other ways to secure online life against intrusive surveillance.

” These super-easy encryption tools let you talk, chat, and text with pretty strong privacy,” says Reset The Net. “If everyone used them, that would go a long way to shutting down mass surveillance. So, be the first. And tell your friends. In the end, beating the NSA could be that simple.”

Reset The Net will offer supporters a splash screen they can run at their websites on June 5. These screens will reach millions with a call for privacy and a link to the privacy tools pack. You can also join the worldwide #ResetTheNet Twitter brigade to publicize the effort.

Information on these and other activities is at the Reset The Net website. Watch the short video on the home page to learn more.

“The NSA is exploiting weak links in Internet security to spy on the entire world, twisting the Internet we love into something it was never meant to be,” says Reset The Net. “We can’t stop targeted attacks, but we can stop mass surveillance, by building proven security into the everyday Internet.”

For more information — and more ideas on what you can do — watch the short ResetTheNet.org campaign video and visit ResetTheNet.org.

And remember the date: June 5th, 2014.

The Surveillance Scandal: The Right — and the Wrong –Terms

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

“In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten; in the 

Privacy or Liberty?human kingdom, define or be defined.”

So wrote the great libertarian Thomas Szasz.

Define or be defined. That’s a key principle of effective communication.

You can see this at work right now, in the unfolding scandal concerning government surveillance and the resulting public debate.

Those who defend such programs are using specific words to attempt to redefine and change what is at stake in this debate.

“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security, and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” President Obama said this month. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”

Similarly, I’ve watched TV pundits and talk show hosts discuss this issue over and over again — always using the word “privacy” and talking about “the debate over balancing security with privacy.”

What’s going on here? The president and his supporters are attempting to define — or perhaps more accurately, redefine — the debate.

They want us to see this, and discuss this, as a question of “privacy” and “convenience” versus “security.”

Or even better for them, as Obama puts it in the quote above: “100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience” versus security.

They want these words and phrases to define the debate because, if we debate using these terms, they win.

The argument that we must compromise on “privacy” and “convenience” sounds so reasonable. After all, don’t we all routinely relinquish some privacy for other values? For example, we voluntarily give websites like Facebook our personal information, in exchange for the value of being able to use their services. We give credit card companies detailed information about our financial and personal lives for the benefits of using their cards.

As for “convenience,” it sounds unreasonable — in fact, downright selfish — not to be willing to give up something so trivial as a little convenience in order to protect Americans from terrorism.

That’s the argument the administration and its defenders want to make. It’s how they want to frame the debate.

But “privacy” and “convenience” are not what this debate is about. Not at all.

It’s about liberty. The Fourth Amendment. Fundamental Bill of Rights freedoms. The Constitution. Basic rights. Core freedoms.

“Privacy” and “convenience” are squishy, malleable, non-political terms. It’s easy to imagine “striking a balance” between them and something so vital as security.

But it’s far harder to imagine “balancing” your fundamental liberty. Anyone familiar with politics and history can see that such balancing acts quickly tip over to the government side.

They want to change the debate. Don’t let them.

Don’t use terms like “privacy” and “convenience” when discussing this issue. You lose every time these words are the ones used to describe what’s at stake in this debate. Politely but firmly object to them if politicians and others use them.

Point out that this debate is about liberty. The Fourth Amendment. Fundamental Bill of Rights freedoms. The Constitution. Constitutional guarantees. Basic rights. Core freedoms.

This is also a great time to memorize, and quote, the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

And the words of President Obama, in 2009: “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

Define — or be defined.