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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.

It’s About Liberty, Not Technology

in Communicating Liberty, First Amendment, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, One Minute Liberty Tip, Philosophy by Sharon Harris Comments are off

It’s About Liberty, Not Technology

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

Last month actor Mark Hamill, an advocate of gun control, posted this tweet to his nearly one million followers:

“Don’t get me wrong, as a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment [sic]—I believe in every American’s right to own a musket.”

right-to-bear-musketsIn doing so, Hamill was repeating an anti-gun argument that’s frequently heard and is surprisingly widespread.

This argument says that the Second Amendment was written over two centuries ago, before today’s modern firearms had been invented. Therefore, the Second Amendment only protects a right to keep and bear muskets and other primitive firearms common at the time.

You might think that this is a satirical remark, more snarky than a real argument.

Yet many opponents of the right to keep and bear arms actually intend this as a serious argument. Even those who use it half-jokingly often believe it makes a legitimate point.

For example, journalist Piers Morgan tweeted this in 2012:

“The 2nd amendment was devised with muskets in mind, not high-powered handguns & assault rifles. Fact.”

I could cite many more. Versions of this argument are circulating on the Internet.

How might libertarians effectively respond to this? One obvious way is to apply the same logic to other amendments.

The First Amendment, which defends freedom of speech and freedom of the press, was written before the Internet, television, radio, DVDs, cell phones and other forms of personal and mass communication.

Yet most Americans, especially liberals and progressives who favor gun control, certainly recognize that the First Amendment protects such modern communication as well.

No First Amendment activist would argue that a newspaper must be printed on 18th century technology to have First Amendment protection. What could be sillier?

Similarly, most reasonable people see that the Fourth Amendment protection of privacy clearly applies to modern technology such as cellphones, laptops, and so on.

In some circumstances, it may also be useful to point out that this issue has already been settled — and quite forcefully — by the Supreme Court.

In fact, in the landmark 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision, the Court declared this argument was “bordering on the frivolous.”

Wrote the Court:

“Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications… and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search… the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”

The Supreme Court drove the point home just last month in Caetano v. Massachusetts, which concerned a woman who carried a stun gun for self defense:

“While stun guns were not in existence at the end of the 18th century, the same is true for the weapons most commonly used today for self-defense, namely, revolvers and semiautomatic pistols. Revolvers were virtually unknown until well into the 19th century, and semiautomatic pistols were not invented until near the end of that century. Electronic stun guns are no more exempt from the Second Amendment’s protections, simply because they were unknown to the First Congress, than electronic communications are exempt from the First Amendment, or electronic imaging devices are exempt from the Fourth Amendment.”

These are powerful, even devastating, arguments from logic, history and authority that pretty much lay waste to the argument that the Second Amendment is limited to protecting our right to black powder muskets. But… there’s one more important point to make.

We should always remember our purpose as communicators. In most communications and conversations, we should seek to win others to our side, not just to win arguments.

So, rather than just responding with the powerful arguments above, take a moment first to listen to those making these arguments and try to uncover their genuine concerns. Are they worried about our society becoming more violent? Are they fearful of more children being victims of mass shootings? Are they advocates of nonviolence who have adopted an anti-gun position?

These are all legitimate, admirable, understandable concerns. Let your listeners know that you share their concerns (if you do) and then point out that there are libertarian answers — solutions — to all of them. By identifying and addressing the underlying concerns, you can try to win them to our side, or at least to a better and more sympathetic understanding of our views. That’s a lot better than merely winning an argument, but making a permanent enemy.

If the conversation allows it, you could go even further and point out that, to many libertarians, the right to keep and bear arms is rooted in the fundamental libertarian idea that people should be free to do anything they wish as long as they don’t harm others. A conversation that reaches this level can be very rewarding.

There are specific communication methods you can use to respond in such effective ways, and I have compiled many of the best of them in my book How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty: Successfully Sharing Libertarian Ideas.

Please check it out.

What Are Your Other Interests?

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

What Are Your Other Interests?

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

Football. Movies. Music. Food. Technology. Family. Cars. Family. Friends.

hobbies word cloud There’s more to life than policy, meetings, and debate. As libertarians, we tend to be hyper-focused on those things. As people living in the real world, we need to have a well-rounded life. Freedom is of utmost importance, yet a life focused solely on Big Government, its growth, and its encroachment in our everyday lives can burn you out and bring down your morale.

Personally, I’m involved in politics so that I don’t have to be. I’d much rather spend time with my family and friends, engaging in things I find fulfilling. If freedom were standard, I would invest more time and treasure in my interests of college football, auto racing, Broadway shows, movies, concerts, and rescuing dogs.

I would also spend more time traveling and visiting with friends and family around the country and throughout the world. It is a defensive move on my part to prevent my time, treasure, and talents from being used in ways I do not approve. If you don’t have something to escape to, how can you rest your mind, body, and soul from the crushing concern that is politics?

By balancing life and politics, we open our networks (and opportunities for persuasion) beyond the “echo chamber,” while simultaneously providing a refuge to prevent burnout. Burnout is probably the biggest hurdle I see to the spread of libertarian principles and ideas, as our best and brightest activists and communicators become consumed and overwhelmed with the grind of constantly battling authoritarianism. I’ve been at the brink of burning out myself. Between elections, outreach, media relations, and managing volunteers, exhaustion sets in. Had I not retreated to “rest” in some of the interests noted above, I may not be writing to you today.

What interests you?

Violence in America: Drug War Policy is the Problem, Not Guns

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

Violence in America: Drug War Policy is the Problem, Not Guns

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

President Barack Obama has reignited the gun debate by announcing a series of executive actions with the intent of curbing gun violence. To critics, Obama’s announcement is simply a mistake. To others, executive actions are sideshows, distracting the country from the actual problems tied to violence.

Despite the criticism, former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she’s “proud” of Obama. To the Democrat, more must be done in order to “eliminate all the threats as much as possible.”

gun control

Included with the executive actions are new requirements concerning background checks for guns bought from dealers online and at gun shows. The president also wants to upgrade the background check technology that would help federal officials track stolen weapons.

But despite the president’s passionate rhetoric, unregulated private sales usually benefit individuals who are prevented from owning guns but who are not necessarily purchasing weapons to commit crimes.

On the other hand, weapons used by the two attackers responsible for the deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino were bought legally, making Obama’s latest actions completely ineffective in similar cases.

But as media outlets and Internet figures debate the effectiveness of Obama’s plan, another piece of evidence provided by the federal government is consistently left out of the discussion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the injury rates among crime victims who use guns to defend themselves are lower when compared to injury rates among victims who resort to different strategies for protection.

The $10 million study released recently by CDC suggests that the number of violent crimes, “including homicides specifically,” has been in steady decline for the past five years, and that the number of stolen guns linked to criminal use is very low. Most felons, the report suggests, obtain their weapons from informal sources instead of resorting to theft. The study also suggests that most gun-related incidents in America tend to result in injuries rather than deaths.

Yet another bit of information the president failed to mention during his announcement covers the rates of gun-related deaths. According to the study released through CDC, the majority of deaths caused by firearm use are suicides, not homicides.

Between 2000 and 2010, for instance, the number of firearm-related suicides outnumbered the number of homicides for victims in all age groups. The agency reports that 335,600 people died between 2000 and 2010 due to firearm-related violence, but 61 percent of these deaths, or 204,716 of these cases, were suicides.

If the president is serious about curbing violence in America, one could easily find reasons to take a look at other policies—such as the drug war—for a practical solution.

According to the study released by CDC, African American males are the most affected by firearm-related violence.

While the study suggests that income inequality is a risk factor that may predict violence, it fails to note that the drug war is mostly responsible for the high rates of arrests, prosecutions, and convictions among people of color.

Being serious about gun violence in the country requires vision, which President Barack Obama appears to lack.

As the drug war wages on, despite some states’ successful efforts against prohibition, inequality and economic tyranny continue to make gun violence an issue in America. Executive orders concerning gun use will do nothing to put an end to what the US drug policy has triggered.

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.

Rutherford Institute: We’re Living in “Every Dystopian Sci-Fi Film We’ve Ever Seen”

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Dystopian Sci-Fi FilmDisturbing excerpts from “How DNA Is Turning Us Into a Nation of Suspects“ by Rutherford Institute president John W. Whitehead, with lots of startling links:

“Every dystopian sci-fi film we’ve ever seen is suddenly converging into this present moment in a dangerous trifecta between science, technology and a government that wants to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful.

“By tapping into your phone lines and cell phone communications, the government knows what you say. By uploading all of your emails, opening your mail, and reading your Facebook posts and text messages, the government knows what you write. By monitoring your movements with the use of license plate readers, surveillance cameras and other tracking devices, the government knows where you go.

“By churning through all of the detritus of your life — what you read, where you go, what you say — the government can predict what you will do.

By mapping the synapses in your brain, scientists — and in turn, the government —will soon know what you remember. And by accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.

“Of course, none of these technologies are foolproof. Nor are they immune from tampering, hacking or user bias. Nevertheless, they have become a convenient tool in the hands of government agents to render null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Consequently, no longer are we ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in the face of DNA evidence that places us at the scene of a crime, behavior sensing technology that interprets our body temperature and facial tics as suspicious, and government surveillance devices that cross-check our biometricslicense plates and DNA against a growing database of unsolved crimes and potential criminals. …

“All 50 states now maintain their own DNA databases, although the protocols for collection differ from state to state. That DNA is also being collected in the FBI’s massive national DNA database, code-named CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), which was established as a way to identify and track convicted felons and has since become a de facto way to identify and track the American people from birth to death.

“Indeed, hospitals have gotten in on the game by taking and storing newborn babies’ DNA, often without their parents’ knowledge or consent. …

“What this means for those being born today is inclusion in a government database that contains intimate information about who they are, their ancestry, and what awaits them in the future, including their inclinations to be followers, leaders or troublemakers.

“If you haven’t yet connected the dots, let me point the way: Having already used surveillance technology to render the entire American populace potential suspects, DNA technology in the hands of government will complete our transition to a suspect society in which we are all merely waiting to be matched up with a crime.

“No longer can we consider ourselves innocent until proven guilty. … We are all suspects in a DNA lineup until circumstances and science say otherwise.”

Read the rest of John W. Whitehead’s article here.

Four Great FREE EBOOKS on Liberty

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Students For Liberty (SFL), in partnership with the Atlas Network, has published four outstanding libertarian books — great reading for student and non-student libertarians alike.

And you can download them for FREE as e-books or PDFs, or purchase paperback copies. (Note: if you’re not a student, ignore the “Expected year of college graduation” form box when downloading a PDF.)

Here’s what SFL offers:

The Economics of FreedomThe Economics of Freedom: Selected Works of Frédéric Bastiat features a truly delightful and enlightening collection of essays. Atlas scholar Tom Palmer notes that Bastiat is “the clearest, most sensible economist who ever wrote. Bastiat can be understood by a Nobel Prize winner, a taxi driver, a student, an entrepreneur… even a politician! Read this book and get set for a life-changing experience.”

The Morality of CapitalismThe Morality of Capitalism edited by Tom G. Palmer: Outstanding short pieces by a fantastic line-up of philosophers, economists, Nobel Prize winners, and entrepreneurs, all making the case that not only are markets highly effective, a true free market system is a prerequisite for a just, prosperous, and cooperative society.

Why LibertyWhy Liberty edited by Tom G. Palmer: A great collection of articles that focuses not just on political theory but also on liberty through the lens of culture, entrepreneurship, health, art, technology, philosophy, and the transformative power of freedom. The book features articles from experts in the fields of policy, academia, business, media, and student organizing. This collection makes it clear that liberty is a dynamic and liberating force with the power to change the world for the better.

Peace, Love, & LibertyPeace, Love, & Liberty edited by Tom G. Palmer: Shows that libertarianism is the philosophy of peace — and how libertarian ideas are making the world a safer place. Drawing on the disciplines of history, philosophy, poetry, literature, and psychology, Peace, Love, & Liberty shows that peace is possible — and shows how we can achieve it.

These books can also be purchased, either individual copies or in packs of 100 copies at very low cost, making them great for outreach. Thanks, SFL!

Raising the Price of Milk: A Minimum Wage Metaphor

in Communicating Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

First, the bad news.

A strong majority of Americans favor increasing the minimum wage. A recent Reason-Rope poll asked Raising the Price of Milk1,003 American adults this question: “The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Do you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour?”

Fully 67 percent supported raising the minimum wage.

But there’s more.

When the poll further asked: “What about if raising the minimum wage caused some employers to lay off workers or hire fewer workers? Would you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage?” the response changed dramatically. 58 percent opposed raising the minimum wage, and only 39 percent favored it.

And when asked: “What about if raising the minimum wage caused some employers to raise prices? Would you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage?” the vote was split almost evenly.

And that’s the good news. We can change minds and win the majority to our side on this issue — if we help people understand the true, terrible consequences of minimum wage laws.

How can we do that? It’s not easy. To many people, a higher minimum wage seems compassionate. It even seems to make economic sense. As one state representative said earlier this year: “Raising the minimum is a win-win. If you put an extra $700 or $800 in a worker’s pocket, that money is going to be spent. Everybody will benefit.”

One problem is that most people aren’t employers; they don’t “buy” labor. They don’t think in those terms.

But most people do buy milk. And that suggests a simple analogy that can cut through foggy thinking and help people understand why the minimum wage produces such bad results.

Ask your listeners: What if the government decided to mandate an increase in the retail price of milk? Suppose the price of a gallon of milk was doubled?

Would that help farmers, dairies, and grocery stores? Would it mean more money for them? After all, it would only be a small increase for most milk buyers, just a few dollars per week.

Ask your listener what they think would happen if the cost of milk doubled.

How would people react? Would people buy more milk, or less?

For some people, the price increase wouldn’t matter. They’d just keep on buying milk.

But for many consumers, the price increase would make a big difference. Struggling families would be hit especially hard.

Many people would start exploring milk substitutes. Instead of buying whole milk, they might switch to cheaper soy or almond or rice milk.

Others would simply cut back on the amount of milk they consume.

Still others might water down their milk after purchasing it, to make it stretch further.

Further, the cost of items that used milk — cheese, ice cream, butter, etc. — would also rise. Consumers would buy less of those items, too. And manufacturers, just like consumers, would switch to milk substitutes whenever possible, in order to keep the prices of their products as low as possible.

The bottom line? Consumers would buy less milk. And, ironically, many farmers — the very people the increase was supposed to help — would lose money or even go out of business.

Which brings us to the minimum wage.

Employers buy labor, not milk. But if you increase the cost of labor, employers will act in much the same way that our imaginary milk consumers did.

Some employers will no longer be able to afford to buy labor at the price mandated by the new minimum wage. As a result, some jobs will shrink (fewer bag boys, fewer check-out counters, fewer waiters, fewer warehouse workers, etc.). Some jobs will disappear altogether. (Remember movie ushers, and car attendants who pumped your gas and checked your oil for you?)

Further, as the price for labor is incorporated into the price of goods, prices will go up for some products, and others may simply disappear from store shelves.

Some employers will look for labor substitutes, just like our consumers above looked for milk substitutes. They will use technology. Check-yourself-out counters. Automation. Robots. When labor reaches a high enough price, substitutes suddenly become cost-effective. Even moving to a new country with cheaper labor costs may be feasible.

Still others will “water down” the work. They will hire fewer people, or fewer full time employees, and stretch the work out between them.

Most people understand that if you forcibly increase the cost of milk, less milk will be sold, and ultimately both consumers and farmers will be harmed.

This simple metaphor lets them see the same is true of labor, too. A mandated increase in the price of labor, via the minimum wage, brings fewer jobs, higher prices for goods and services, harder work loads, and other negative consequences.

That’s not what people want. When they learn such these things are consequences of the minimum wage, they will no longer support it.

(To learn more arguments against the minimum wage, see “Minimum Wage Maximum Damage” by economist Jim Cox, published by the Advocates. This short easy-to-understand booklet devastates every argument for the minimum wage.)

Click here to read the next article from this issue.

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Washington Post: Year 2013 Proved “Paranoids” Were… Right

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“2013 is the year that proved your ‘paranoid’ friend right.” That’s the title of a funny, but alarming, end-of-year column by Washington Post technology policy reporter Andrea Peterson.

“Most people involved in the tech scene have at least one friend who has been warning everyone they know about protecting their digital trail for years — and have watched that friend get accused of being a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist. But 2013 is the year that proved your ‘paranoid’ friend right,” Peterson’s column begins.

“It’s now a matter of public record that the NSA collects and stores the calling records of domestic phone calls, tracks the location of millions of mobile devices worldwide, infiltrates the data links between the data centers of tech companies used by millions of Americans, piggybacks onto commercial tracking mechanisms, collected potentially sensitive online metadata for years and actively worked to undermine the privacy and security measures that underpin the Internet. And considering the purported size of the Snowden cache, that could be the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.”

The NSA story alone confirms those who suspected the government of monstrous deeds, Peterson says. But there is so much more.

“For instance, the ACLU released a cache of documents showing that police around the country are collecting license plate scanner information [from people who are completely innocent] that could be used to track physical locations of many Americans… when you pool together huge databases of this type of location information, it can create incredibly intimate portraits of how individuals live their lives — including where they work, which friends they visit and what doctors they see.”

And how’s this for sheer B-movie uber-creepiness:

“Someone might be watching you through your laptop’s webcam — without even activating the warning light. Reports say the FBI has had this capability for several years, and researchers at John’s Hopkins were able to demonstrate how to covertly spy via webcams in MacBooks. Good thing you can cover up your webcam. Too bad there’s not a similarly easy solution for stopping hackers from listening in on your laptop’s built-in microphone.”

Check Peterson’s excellent article — complete with extensive links — for more disturbing examples and information.

And we suppose she ran out of room, because there is much more surveillance-state stuff she could have mentioned: public spy cameras, the huge federalarsenal of malware, US surveillance of Cloud computing… not to mention secret laws approved in secret courts, presidents who can start wars on their say-so and kill civilians without warrants or trial… but don’t get us started.

Peterson’s conclusion: “…you owe your paranoid friend a beer.”