Privacy Media Articles
Excerpts of Key Privacy Media Articles from Major Media
Below are many highly revealing excerpts of important privacy articles reported in the mainstream media suggesting a cover-up.
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For an index to revealing excerpts of media articles on several dozen engaging topics, click here
Domestic spying far outpaces terrorism prosecutions
2008-05-12, Los Angeles Times
The number of Americans being secretly wiretapped or having their financial and other records reviewed by the government has continued to increase as officials aggressively use powers approved after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the number of terrorism prosecutions ending up in court -- one measure of the effectiveness of such sleuthing -- has continued to decline, in some cases precipitously. The trends, visible in new government data and a private analysis of Justice Department records, are worrisome to civil liberties groups and some legal scholars. They say it is further evidence that the government has compromised the privacy rights of ordinary citizens without much to show for it. The Bush administration has been seeking to expand its ability to gather intelligence without prior court approval. The [Justice] department ... reported a sharp rise in the use of national security letters by the FBI -- from 9,254 in 2005 to 12,583 in 2006, the latest data available. The letters seek customer information from banks, Internet providers and phone companies. They have caused a stir because consumers do not have a right to know that their information is being disclosed and the letters are issued without court oversight. Civil liberties groups say the new data reveal a disturbing consequence of the government's post-Sept. 11 expanded surveillance capabilities. "The number of Americans being investigated dwarfs any legitimate number of actual terrorism prosecutions, and that is extremely troubling," said Lisa Graves, deputy director of the Center for National Security Studies, a Washington-based civil liberties group.
Note: For many reports from major media sources that question the reality of the "terror" threat, click here.
FBI Backs Off From Secret Order for Data After Lawsuit
2008-05-08, Washington Post
The FBI has withdrawn a secret administrative order seeking the name, address and online activity of a patron of the Internet Archive after the San Francisco-based digital library filed suit to block the action. It is one of only three known instances in which the FBI has backed off from such a data demand, known as a "national security letter," or NSL, which is not subject to judicial approval and whose recipient is barred from disclosing the order's existence. NSLs are served on phone companies, Internet service providers and other electronic communications service providers, but because of the gag order provision, the public has little way to know about them. FBI officials now issue about 50,000 such orders a year. The order against the Internet Archive was served Nov. 26, and the nonprofit challenged it based on a provision of the reauthorized USA Patriot Act, which protects libraries from such requests. The privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation represented the archive in the suit, which was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union. The archive also alleged that the gag order that accompanied the data demand violated the Constitution. As part of their settlement, the FBI agreed to drop the gag order and the archive agreed to withdraw the complaint. The case was unsealed Monday. Yesterday, redacted versions of key documents were filed, allowing the parties to discuss the case. "We see this as an unqualified success," said Brewster Kahle, the archive's co-founder and digital librarian. "The goal here was to help other recipients of NSLs to understand that you can push back."
Note: The Internet Archive has now posted excellent information on how to deal with cases like this at http://government.zdnet.com/?p=3795. Three cheers for the Internet Archive!
Bush Lawyer Won't Say if Congress can Limit President's Power
2008-04-24, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
A Bush administration lawyer resisted a San Francisco federal judge's attempts Wednesday to get him to say whether Congress can limit the president's wiretap authority in terrorism and espionage cases, calling the question simplistic. "You can't possibly make that judgment on the public record" without knowing the still-secret details of the electronic surveillance program that President Bush approved in 2001, Justice Department attorney Anthony Coppolino said at a crucial hearing in a wiretapping lawsuit. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker didn't rule immediately on the government's request to dismiss the suit by an Islamic charity in Oregon, which says a document that federal authorities accidentally released showed it was wiretapped. But Walker, in an extensive exchange with Coppolino, said Congress had spoken clearly in a 1978 law that required the government to obtain a warrant from a secret court before it could conduct electronic surveillance of suspected foreign terrorists or spies. "The president is obliged to follow what Congress has mandated," Walker said. The case may determine whether any U.S. court can judge the legality of Bush's covert order to the National Security Agency to intercept phone calls and e-mails between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists without seeking judicial approval. After Bush acknowledged the existence of the program, Congress temporarily extended it in August and now is debating whether to protect telecommunications companies from lawsuits for their past cooperation. Most lawsuits challenging the program have been dismissed because the plaintiffs were unable to show that they had been wiretapped.
Note: For many disturbing reports of increasing threats to civil liberties, click here.
Administration Set to Use New Spy Program in U.S.
2008-04-12, Washington Post
The Bush administration said yesterday that it plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible. Sophisticated overhead sensor data will be used for law enforcement once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved, he said. His statements marked a fresh determination to operate the department's new National Applications Office. But Congress delayed launch of the new office last October. Critics cited its potential to expand the role of military assets in domestic law enforcement, to turn new or as-yet-undeveloped technologies against Americans without adequate public debate, and to divert the existing civilian and scientific focus of some satellite work to security uses. Democrats say Chertoff has not spelled out what federal laws govern the NAO, whose funding and size are classified. Congress barred Homeland Security from funding the office until its investigators could review the office's operating procedures and safeguards. The department submitted answers on Thursday, but some lawmakers promptly said the response was inadequate. [Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee] said, "We still don't know whether the NAO will pass constitutional muster since no legal framework has been provided."
Note: For many more revealing stories on threats to civil liberties, click here.
Centers Tap Into Personal Databases
2008-04-02, Washington Post
Intelligence centers run by states across the country have access to personal information about millions of Americans, including unlisted cellphone numbers, insurance claims, driver's license photographs and credit reports, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post. One center also has access to top-secret data systems at the CIA, the document shows, though it's not clear what information those systems contain. Dozens of the organizations known as fusion centers were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The centers use law enforcement analysts and sophisticated computer systems to compile, or fuse, disparate tips and clues and pass along the refined information to other agencies. Though officials have publicly discussed the fusion centers' importance to national security, they have generally declined to elaborate on the centers' activities. But a document that lists resources used by the fusion centers shows how a dozen of the organizations in the northeastern United States rely far more on access to commercial and government databases than had previously been disclosed. The list of information resources was part of a survey conducted last year, officials familiar with the effort said. It shows that, like most police agencies, the fusion centers have subscriptions to private information-broker services that keep records about Americans' locations, financial holdings, associates, relatives, firearms licenses and the like. "Fusion centers have grown, really, off the radar screen of public accountability," said Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonpartisan watchdog group in the District. "Congress and the state legislatures need to get a handle over what is going on at all these fusion centers."
Note: For further disturbing reports on threats to privacy, click here.
Colorado Proposes Tough Law on Executive Accountability
2008-04-01, New York Times
For 30 years, Lew Ellingson loved being a telephone man. His job splicing phone cables was one that he says gave him “a true sense of accomplishment,” first for Northwestern Bell, then US West and finally Qwest Communications International. But by the time Mr. Ellingson retired from Qwest last year at 52, he had grown angry. An insider trading scandal had damaged the company’s reputation, and the life savings of former colleagues had evaporated in the face of Qwest’s stock troubles. “It was a good place,” he said wistfully. “And then something like this happened.” Now, Mr. Ellingson is the public face of a proposed ballot measure in Colorado that seeks to create what supporters hope will be the nation’s toughest corporate fraud law. Buttressed by local advocacy groups and criticized by a Colorado business organization, the measure would make business executives criminally responsible if their companies run afoul of the law. It would also permit any Colorado resident to sue the executives under such circumstances. Proceeds from successful suits would go to the state. If passed by voters in November, the proposal would leave top business officers [with] unprecedented individual accountability, said Mr. Ellingson. “If nothing else, these folks in charge of the corporations and companies will think twice about cutting corners to make themselves look more profitable than they really are,” he said. The plight of Mr. Ellingson’s former employer, Qwest, based in Denver, was a motivation for the proposal. Last April, a jury in Denver convicted Qwest’s former chief executive, Joseph P. Nacchio, of 19 of 42 counts of insider trading. Mr. Nacchio was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $19 million and forfeit $52 million in money he earned from stock sales in 2001.
Note: As reported in the Washington Post, Joseph P. Nacchio, the former Qwest CEO, has claimed that he was singled out for prosecution because he refused to cooperate with the National Security Agency's electronic surveillance of American citizens, which began before 9/11.
ACLU: Military using FBI to skirt restrictions
2008-04-01, MSNBC/Associated Press
The military is using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance to obtain private records of Americans' Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies, the ACLU said Tuesday. The American Civil Liberties Union based its conclusion on a review of more than 1,000 documents turned over by the Defense Department after it sued the agency last year for documents related to national security letters. The letters are investigative tools used to compel businesses to turn over customer information without a judge's order or grand jury subpoena. ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman said the documents the civil rights group studied "make us incredibly concerned that the FBI and DoD might be collaborating to evade limits" placed on the Defense Department's use of the letters. Goodman, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, said the military is allowed to demand financial and credit records in certain instances but does not have the authority to get e-mail and phone records or lists of Web sites that people have visited. That is the kind of information that the FBI can get by using a national security letter, she said. "That's why we're particularly concerned. The DoD may be accessing the kinds of records they are not allowed to get," she said. Goodman also noted that legal limits are placed on the Defense Department "because the military doing domestic investigations tends to make us leery.
Note: For further disturbing reports on threats to civil liberties, click here.
Google has lots to do with intelligence
2008-03-30, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
When the nation's intelligence agencies wanted a computer network to better share information ... they turned to a big name in the technology industry to supply some of the equipment: Google Inc. The Mountain View company sold the agencies servers for searching documents. Many of the contracts are for search appliances - servers for storing and searching internal documents. Agencies can use the devices to create their own mini-Googles on intranets made up entirely of government data. Additionally, Google has had success licensing a souped-up version of its aerial mapping service, Google Earth. Spy agencies are using Google equipment as the backbone of Intellipedia, a network aimed at helping agents share intelligence. [The system] is maintained by the director of national intelligence and is accessible only to the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency and an alphabet soup of other intelligence agencies and offices. Google supplies the computer servers that support the network, as well as the search software that allows users to sift through messages and data. Because of the complexities of doing business with the government, Google uses resellers to process orders on its behalf. Google takes care of the sales, marketing and management of the accounts. Google is one of many technology vendors vying for government contracts. On occasion, Google is the target of conspiracy theories from bloggers who say it is working with spy agencies more closely than simply selling search equipment.
Every bank transaction triggers snooping
2008-03-26, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta's leading newspaper)
The sad saga of [Eliot] Spitzer should concern every American. The web of snooping in which federal investigators and regulators are now able to ensnare any person who engages in any form of financial transaction has become so complex and pervasive that almost no person anywhere in the world can escape its clutches. The seeds of this modern-day Orwellian financial web were sown in the late 1960s and early 1970s when such expansive federal laws as the Bank Secrecy Act were enacted. Designed as tools to ferret out organized crime figures, major drug traffickers and international money launderers, this family of far-reaching regulatory-cum-criminal laws initially was used largely as intended. Many of the “Suspicious Activity Reports” (or SARs) required by the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, for example, were largely ignored by investigators and prosecutors, who viewed them as burdensome and difficult to catalog and utilize. Two events have conspired to change all that. First, the advent of digital technology has elevated dramatically the ability of the government to gather, analyze, manipulate, retrieve and disseminate the SAR data. The second factor ... was, of course, the events of 9/11 and the ensuing USA Patriot Act. These two things institutionalized fear as the driving force in virtually all federal policies, including those relating to financial reporting. [A section of] the Patriot Act — has been interpreted by banking examiners to require banks to profile their customers and the full range of their transactions, regardless of amount. These “know your customer” regulations are among the most insidious of this entire class of invasive federal laws and regulations.
Note: This informative article is by former US Congressman Bob Barr, who has become a crusader against the excesses of the PATRIOT Act.
2008-03-24, Newsweek magazine
When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, law-enforcement agencies hailed it as a powerful tool to help track down the confederates of Osama bin Laden. No one expected it would end up helping to snag the likes of Eliot Spitzer. In the fine print were provisions that gave the Treasury Department authority to demand more information from banks about their customers' financial transactions. But Treasury went further. It issued stringent new regulations that required banks themselves to look for unusual transactions (such as odd patterns of cash withdrawals or wire transfers) and submit SARs—Suspicious Activity Reports—to the government. Facing potentially stiff penalties if they didn't comply, banks and other financial institutions installed sophisticated software to detect anomalies among millions of daily transactions. They began ranking the risk levels of their customers ... based on complex formulas that included ... whether an account holder was a "politically exposed person" [PEP]. At first focused on potentially crooked foreign officials, the PEP lists expanded to include many U.S. politicians and public officials who were conceivably vulnerable to corruption. Federal prosecutors around the country routinely scour the SARs for potential leads. One of those leads led to Spitzer. Last summer New York's North Fork Bank, where Spitzer had an account, filed a SAR about unusual money transfers he had made. The governor called attention to himself by asking the bank to transfer money in someone else's name. The SAR was not itself evidence that Spitzer had committed a crime. But it made the Feds curious enough to follow the money.
Note: This story provides useful information about how the PATRIOT Act has been applied since its passage. The reasons for the investigation of Eliot Spitzer, leading to his resignation, may not have been so simple, however, given his many powerful enemies in government and on Wall Street.
Why Hospitals Want Your Credit Report
2008-03-18, Wall Street Journal
In a development that consumer groups say raises privacy issues, a growing number of hospitals are mining patients' personal financial information to figure out how likely they are to pay their bills. Some hospitals are peering into patients' credit reports, which contain information on people's lines of credit, debts and payment histories. Other hospitals are contracting with outside services that predict a patient's income and whether he or she is likely to walk away from a medical bill. Hospitals often use these services when patients are uninsured or have big out-of-pocket costs despite having health insurance. Consumer advocates say the practice creates the potential for hospitals to misuse the information by denying or cutting back on patients' care if they can't pay. What's more, hospitals could scour a patient's financial records for credit lines and encourage the patient to tap them, despite high interest rates or other costs. "It has the potential to put people at risk financially," says Mark Rukavina, executive director of the Access Project, a research and advocacy group that focuses on medical debt. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or Hipaa, a federal law that has patient-privacy provisions, doesn't bar hospitals from providing patient payment histories to consumer reporting agencies. It's unclear how much latitude hospitals have to legally check a patient's financial information. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, hospitals are allowed to obtain patients' credit reports if they get their permission, says Rebecca Kuehn, an assistant director in the Federal Trade Commission's division of privacy and identity protection.
Note: For many other revelations of privacy abuses from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.
National Dragnet Is a Click Away
2008-03-06, Washington Post
Several thousand law enforcement agencies are creating the foundation of a domestic intelligence system through computer networks that analyze vast amounts of police information. As federal authorities struggled to meet information-sharing mandates after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, police agencies from Alaska and California to the Washington region poured millions of ... records into shared digital repositories called data warehouses, giving investigators and analysts new power to discern links among people, patterns of behavior and other hidden clues. Those network efforts will begin expanding further this month, as some local and state agencies connect to a fledgling Justice Department system called the National Data Exchange, or N-DEx. The expanding police systems illustrate the prominent roles that private companies play in homeland security and counterterrorism efforts. They also underscore how the use of new data -- and data surveillance -- is evolving faster than the public's understanding or the laws intended to check government power and protect civil liberties. Three decades ago, Congress imposed limits on domestic intelligence activity after revelations that the FBI, Army, local police and others had misused their authority for years to build troves of personal dossiers and monitor political activists and other law-abiding Americans. Since those reforms, police and federal authorities have observed a wall between law enforcement information-gathering, relating to crimes and prosecutions, and more open-ended intelligence that relates to national security and [politics]. That wall is fast eroding following the passage of laws expanding surveillance authorities, the push for information-sharing networks, and the expectation that local and state police will play larger roles.
Note: For many revealing reports from reliable sources of serious threats to civil liberties, click here.
The FBI Deputizes Business
2008-02-07, Common Dreams
Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does -- and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to "shoot to kill"¯ in the event of martial law. In November 2001, InfraGard had around 1,700 members. As of late January, InfraGard had 23,682 members, according to its website, www.infragard.net, which adds that "350 of our nation's Fortune 500 have a representative in InfraGard."¯ FBI Director Robert Mueller addressed an InfraGard convention on August 9, 2005. He urged InfraGard members to contact the FBI if they "note suspicious activity or an unusual event." And he said they could sic the FBI on "disgruntled employees who will use knowledge gained on the job against their employers."¯
Note: We don't normally use Common Dreams as a news source, but as this news is so important and the major media failed to report it, we decided to include this article here. For a revealing report by the ACLU on this key topic, click here. For important reports from major media sources on threats to civil liberties, click here.
Spies' Battleground Turns Virtual
2008-02-06, Washington Post
U.S. intelligence officials are [now claiming] that popular Internet services that enable computer users to adopt cartoon-like personas in three-dimensional online spaces also are creating security vulnerabilities by opening novel ways ... to move money, organize and conduct corporate espionage. Over the last few years, "virtual worlds" such as Second Life and other role-playing games have become home to millions of computer-generated personas known as avatars. By directing their avatars, people can take on alternate personalities, socialize, explore and earn and spend money across uncharted online landscapes. Nascent economies have sprung to life in these 3-D worlds, complete with currency, banks and shopping malls. Corporations and government agencies have opened animated virtual offices, and a growing number of organizations hold meetings where avatars gather and converse in newly minted conference centers. Intelligence officials ... say they're convinced that the qualities that many computer users find so attractive about virtual worlds -- including anonymity, global access and the expanded ability to make financial transfers outside normal channels -- have turned them into seedbeds for transnational threats. The government's growing concern seems likely to make virtual worlds the next battlefield in the struggle over the proper limits on the government's quest to [expand] data collection and analysis and the surveillance of commercial computer systems. Virtual worlds could also become an actual battlefield. The intelligence community has begun contemplating how to use Second Life and other such communities as platforms for cyber weapons.
Microchips Everywhere: a Future Vision
2008-01-29, Seattle Times/Associated Press
Here's a vision of the not-so-distant future: Microchips with antennas will be embedded in virtually everything you buy, wear, drive and read, allowing retailers and law enforcement to track consumer items -- and, by extension, consumers -- wherever they go, from a distance. A seamless, global network of electronic "sniffers" will scan radio tags in myriad public settings, identifying people and their tastes instantly so that customized ads, "live spam," may be beamed at them. In "Smart Homes," sensors built into walls, floors and appliances will inventory possessions, record eating habits, monitor medicine cabinets -- all the while, silently reporting data to marketers eager for a peek into the occupants' private lives. Science fiction? In truth, much of the radio frequency identification [RFID] technology that enables objects and people to be tagged and tracked wirelessly already exists -- and new and potentially intrusive uses of it are being patented, perfected and deployed. Some of the world's largest corporations are vested in the success of RFID technology, which couples highly miniaturized computers with radio antennas to broadcast information about sales and buyers to company databases. Already, microchips are turning up in some computer printers, car keys and tires, on shampoo bottles and department store clothing tags. They're also in library books and "contactless" payment cards. With tags in so many objects, relaying information to databases that can be linked to credit and bank cards, almost no aspect of life may soon be safe from the prying eyes of corporations and governments, says Mark Rasch, former head of the computer-crime unit of the U.S. Justice Department.
Note: For lots more on microchip implants, click here.
Greater Use of Privilege Spurs Concern
2008-01-29, Washington Post
The U.S. government has been increasing its use of the state secrets privilege to avoid disclosure of classified information in civil lawsuits. Some legal scholars and members of Congress contend that the Bush administration has employed it excessively as it intervened in cases that could expose information about sensitive programs. These include the rendition of detainees to foreign countries for interrogation and cases related to the National Security Agency's use of warrantless wiretaps. The privilege allows the government to argue that lawsuits -- and the information potentially revealed by them -- could damage national security. It gives judges the power to prevent information from reaching public view or to dismiss cases even if they appear to have merit. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) ... cited statistics that show the Bush administration has used the state secrets privilege substantially more, on a percentage basis, than previous administrations to block or dismiss lawsuits. Kevin Bankston, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation ... said "The administration is attempting to use the privilege as a back-door immunity to obtain dismissal of any case that attempts to put the NSA wiretapping issue in front of a judge. It is no secret such a program existed."
Note: For many disturbing reports on government secrecy from reliable sources, click here.
Like FBI, CIA Has Used Secret 'Letters'
2008-01-25, Washington Post
For three years, the Bush administration has drawn fire from civil liberties groups over its use of national security letters, a kind of administrative subpoena that compels private businesses such as telecommunications companies to turn over information to the government. After the 2001 USA Patriot Act loosened the guidelines, the FBI issued tens of thousands of such requests, something critics say amounts to warrantless spying on Americans who have not been charged with crimes. Now, newly released documents shed light on the use of the letters by the CIA. The spy agency has employed them to obtain financial information about U.S. residents and does so under extraordinary secrecy, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained copies of CIA letters under the Freedom of Information Act. The CIA's requests for financial records come with "gag orders" on the recipients, said ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman. In many cases, she said, the recipient is not allowed to keep a copy of the letter or even take notes about the information turned over to the CIA. The ACLU posted copies of some of the letters on its Web site. In most cases, nearly all the text had been redacted by CIA censors.
Note: For many powerful reports on the growing threats to civil liberties, click here.
Schweitzer seeks other governors to oppose REAL ID
2008-01-19, Associated Press
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is urging a third of the nation's governors to join him in opposing the implementation of a national identification card, saying they can force Congress to change it. Schweitzer, who last year said "no, nope, no way, hell no" to the federal plan calling for national driver's licenses under the REAL ID Act, sent a letter yesterday to 17 other governors asking them to oppose a Department of Homeland Security effort to penalize states that have not adopted the mandate. Homeland Security has said recently that travelers from states that have not adopted the license will have to use a passport or certain types of federal border-crossing cards if they want to avoid a vigorous secondary screening at airport security.
Inquisition at JPL
2008-01-16, Los Angeles Times
For the last four years, two robot rovers operated from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge have been moving across the surface of Mars, taking photographs and collecting information. It's an epic event in the history of exploration, one of many for which JPL's 7,000 civilian scientists and engineers are responsible -- when they're not fending off the U.S. government's attempts to conduct an intimidating and probably illegal inquisition into the intimate details of their lives. The problem began -- as so many have -- in the security mania that gripped the Bush administration after 9/11. Presidential Directive No. 12, issued by the Department of Homeland Security, directed federal agencies to adopt a uniform badge that could be used by employees and contractors to gain access to government facilities. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin ... directed Caltech, which has a contract to run JPL for NASA, to make sure all of the lab's employees complied. The government demanded that the scientists, in order to get the badges, fill out questionnaires on their personal lives and waive the privacy of their financial, medical and psychiatric records. The government also wanted permission to gather information about them by interviewing third parties. Twenty-eight of JPL's senior scientists sued in federal court to stop the government and Caltech from forcing them to agree to the background checks as the price of keeping their jobs. They point out that Griffin is one of those who remain skeptical that human actions contribute to global warming, and that some of JPL's near-Earth science has played a critical role in establishing the empirical case to the contrary. They see the background checks as the first step toward establishing a system of intimidation that might be used to silence inconvenient science.
Note: For many disturbing reports on threats to our civil liberties, click here.
Microsoft seeks patent for office 'spy' software
2008-01-16, Times of London
Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence. The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state. This is believed to be the first time a company has proposed developing such software for mainstream workplaces. Microsoft submitted a patent application in the US for a “unique monitoring system” that could link workers to their computers. Wireless sensors could read “heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure”, the application states. The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user”. Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management. Civil liberties groups and privacy lawyers strongly criticised the potential of the system for “taking the idea of monitoring people at work to a new level”.
Note: For revealing reports from major media sources on the increasing surveillance of all aspects of society by secret government and corporate programs, click here.