October 9, 2008
Government Surviellance Pays Lip Service to Privacy Concerns
Stories about how technological surveillance of individuals by the government isn't exactly safeguarding privacy while keeping us "safe" (whatever that means) seem to be cropping up lately. Take this one on ABC News that reports that NSA workers would routinely listen in on private phone calls by U.S. citizens in the middle east to relatives and friends back home:
"These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones," said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA's Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.
Kinne described the contents of the calls as "personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism."
Some of the conversations included what appear to be phone sex sessions.
Then there is this story out of the Washington Post where the Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and placed their names into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects. One of the problems with tracking terrorism is that people holding a contrary view to that of the government are Constitutionally allowed to associate and express those views. The disclosure was made by current Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan who said the names would be purged.
The names were added under a program by former Superintendent Thomas E. Hutchins who defended the move to add the individuals, calling the activists "fringe people." Sheridan also disclosed that the names are being removed as there is no evidence that suggests these people are either violent or dangerous. But will their names be removed from federal databases not under the control of the Maryland State Police? Let's see if any of these people can get on a plane. Or enter a federal building. Or open a bank account. Or vote.
And then there is this story from Declan McCullagh at CNET, reporting that a recent government study shows that predicting terrorist behavior through data mining doesn't work. The money quote from the story:
A National Research Council report, years in the making and scheduled to be released Tuesday, concludes that automated identification of terrorists through data mining or any other mechanism "is neither feasible as an objective nor desirable as a goal of technology development efforts." Inevitable false positives will result in "ordinary, law-abiding citizens and businesses" being incorrectly flagged as suspects.
Not that this is going to stop the government from domestic spying. The report is here.
And finally, manipulating technology for government purposes even invades the Simpsons. Check it out here. It wouldn't be funny if there weren't some truth to the premise. [MG]
October 9, 2008 | Permalink
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