Sunday, June 9, 2013

Trust? I'd rather verify, thanks.

By now, most of my friends have (hopefully) read the articles about the Stasi-like levels of survelance on American citizens, by their own Government.  The official reply of the President of the United States is “Trust us, it’s for your own good.”
I wonder if they tested saying it is the “Shield and Sword of the Party.”
Obama said “nobody is listening to your phone calls.” Not surprisingly… this too is a lie.  And a strawman, of course.  No one was accusing the NSA of listening to everyone’s phone calls, but now we know they do ‘accidentally’ listen to our phone calls.
The big concern is “Metadata”.  This isn’t listening to your calls, it’s collecting data on who you call.  The New Yorker ran an excellent article on this.  To sum up, patterns can be drawn from who you call and where your cell phone is.  One example given is, your phone shows you at the oncologist.  It then displays calls of 15+ minutes length to your sister, parents, and your PCP.  What can be inferred from that data, gathered over the course of a couple hours?
Now apply this to other aspects of your life.  Are you a TEA party member?  Well they can tell who you call and how long you talk (assuming they don’t ‘accidentally’ listen in).  Then they can tell who the people you talk to talked to, etc. etc.
But “Trust us” is the answer to critics.
This is only half the story.  The other half is PRISM and its undisclosed relations. Unlike the suspiciously specific denials of the NSA on the not ‘intentionally’ listening in, PRISM *does* collect and gather information. As detailed here, among other sources, our e-mails are being read, skyping being monitored, etc.
What does this mean for the average innocent American?  Plenty.  Ever accidentally mistyped a URL and gone to a porn site?  Ever intentionally gone to a porn site? Ever sent your SO risqué pictures while he’s on a long distance trip? Ever ridden the bus? That data could very well be sitting in some server in Utah.
Perhaps most importantly, does this make us safer?  It doesn’t appear so, despite claims to the contrary.  The data on the Boston Bombers was there, and not acted on.  The data on the Ft. Hood terrorist attack was there, and not acted on.  But don’t worry, the government will be right on top of that, right after they get done persecuting Americans for their beliefs, leaking information on farmers to environmental groups, and leaking tax returns to political oppponents.

“You can trust us,” Says Obama.  I prefer to follow Reagan’s mantra.  “Trust, but verify.”

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Technological aside

Amazon's free app of the day today was the SAS Survival Guide.  I grabbed it and was amused.  "Gee," I thought, "this would help in the zombie apocalypse, clear up until the battery in my kindle died."

Then I thought.  "No way..."


This just amuses me.