Surveillance

Senator Wyden on the Patriot Act, FISA, and the Knowledge Gap

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) of the Senate Intelligence Committee recently discussed the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments on Countdown with Kieth Olbermann.

Wyden made two notable observations:

  1. On the Patriot Act: “There is growing gap between what Americans believe the laws actually is, and the secret interpretation.”
  2. On the FISA Amendments: “This law was intended to deal with foreigners … and I’m concerned about the possibility … of innocent Americans having their communications swept up under it.”
What people think these laws do, what these laws technically do, and how these laws are being interpreted and enacted behind closed doors, are three entirely different things.

Google CEO on Privacy, and Natural Surveillance

Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher recently interviewed Google CEO Eric Schmidt at D9. The whole thing is worth a watch, but two statements by Schmidt were truly exceptional. The first is his definition of privacy, the second is his framing of mobile tracking as “natural.”

Schmidt on privacy:

… from our perspective, privacy is a compromise between the interests of a government and the citizen.

Schmidt on (what I’m now calling) natural surveillance:

I’m very concerned, personally, about the union of mobile tracking and facial recognition. Because, mobile tracking is something that can occur naturally by virtue of these devices … biometrics, in general, will make it possible to do facial recognition in crowds.

I should have known it was mother nature, and not mankind, that created this form of surveillance … damn you nature!

Welcome to Personhood: SCOTUS Rules No Personal Privacy for AT&T

The Supreme Court, after recognizing corporations as legal persons in their Citizens United decision, has now ruled that AT&T does not have a right to personal privacy. Welcome to personhood, AT&T!

Here’s some background: AT&T over-prices some of the equipment it was selling to schools (schools!). The FCC investigates. AT&T’s competitors file a FoIA to make the investigation’s findings public. AT&T claims the FoIA request is a violation of their personal privacy. The SCOTUS denies their right to personal privacy. AT&T and other corporations join the ranks of the rest of us “persons” who are given no right to personal privacy in the US.

It’s worth remembering that this is the very same AT&T that denies their own customers a right to personal privacy. From SFGate.comwaaaaaay back in 2006:

AT&T has issued an updated privacy policy that takes effect Friday … The new policy says that AT&T — not customers — owns customers’ confidential info and can use it “to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.”

The policy also indicates that AT&T will track the viewing habits of customers of its new video service — something that cable and satellite providers are prohibited from doing … The company’s policy overhaul follows recent reports that AT&T was one of several leading telecom providers that allowed the National Security Agency warrantless access to its voice and data networks as part of the Bush administration’s war on terror.

Irony abounds.

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