Privacy News StoriesExcerpts of Key Privacy News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of privacy news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda. A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives. The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same. Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions.
Note: The Pentagon claims that the "fake persona" software will not be used on social networks in the United States, because that would break laws against using propaganda on US citizens. How much credence should be given to this assurance?
Giving Transportation Security Administration agents a peek under your clothes may soon be a practice that goes well beyond airport checkpoints. Newly uncovered documents show that as early as 2006, the Department of Homeland Security has been planning pilot programs to deploy mobile scanning units that can be set up at public events and in train stations, along with mobile x-ray vans capable of scanning pedestrians on city streets. The non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [has] published documents it obtained from the Department of Homeland Security showing that from 2006 to 2008 the agency planned a study of of new anti-terrorism technologies. The projects range from what the DHS describes as “a walk through x-ray screening system that could be deployed at entrances to special events” ... to “covert inspection of moving subjects” employing the same backscatter imaging technology currently used in American airports. The 173-page collection of contracts and reports, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, includes contracts with Siemens Corporations, Northeastern University, and Rapiscan Systems. One project allocated to Northeastern University and Siemens would mount backscatter x-ray scanners and video cameras on roving vans, along with other cameras on buildings and utility poles, to monitor groups of pedestrians, assess what they carried, and even track their eye movements. It’s not clear to what degree the technologies outlined in the DHS documents have been implemented.
Note: When WantToKnow.info manager Fred Burks worked as a language interpreter with the US State Department, he accompanied foreign dignitaries on ride-alongs with police where they were already using equipment like this over 10 years ago in clear violation of privacy laws. For other major media articles revealing clear violations of civil liberties, click here.
Starting in the early 1900s, hundreds of thousands of American children were warehoused in institutions by state governments. And the federal government did nothing to stop it. The justification? The kids had been labeled feeble-minded, and were put away in conditions that can only be described as unspeakable. A large proportion of the kids who were locked up were not retarded at all. They were simply poor, uneducated kids with no place to go, who ended up in institutions like the Fernald School in Waltham, Mass. The Fernald School, and others like it, was part of a popular American movement in the early 20th century called the Eugenics movement. The idea was to separate people considered to be genetically inferior from the rest of society, to prevent them from reproducing. Eugenics is usually associated with Nazi Germany, but in fact, it started in America. Not only that, it continued here long after Hitler's Germany was in ruins. Few of the attendants [at Fernald] showed any kindness. And ... there was sexual abuse. The place was tailor made for it. The school [also] allowed them to be used as human guinea pigs. In 1994 Senate hearings, it came out that scientists from MIT had been giving radioactive oatmeal to the boys ... in a nutrition study for Quaker Oats. All they knew is that they'd been asked to join a science club. The boys were recruited with special treats [like] extra milk. “But they forgot to mention the milk was radioactive,” says David White-Lief, an attorney who worked on the state task force investigating the science club. “These experiments, because of the lack of informed consent, violated the Nuremburg Code established just 10 years earlier,” says White-Lief.
Note: The extreme racism of the Nazis was quite popular among certain groups in the U.S. For lots more on how these ideas came to pervade some groups in U.S. intelligence services, click here. For a powerful list of military and government sponsored experiments on human guinea pigs with links for verification, click here.
Skipping class, though frowned upon, is practically a rite of passage for young teens, but thanks to an elaborate system involving GPS being used by some school districts, it is practically being eliminated completely. The Orange County Register reports that the Anaheim Union High School District in California is currently participating in a pilot program which involves using a combination of Global Positioning System technology, automated telephone reminders, and one-on-one coaching to cut down on truancy. It's similar to programs being used in Baltimore and San Antonio. Basically any students in the seventh- or eighth-grade who have four or more unexcused absences over the course of a school year can be put into the Anaheim program. They will be assigned a GPS tracking device about the size of a cell phone, and they'll need to use it regularly, the newspaper said. It's worth noting that while this anti-truancy program is very elaborate and almost invasive, it is [promoted as] optional. Students and their parents are offered the chance to voluntarily participate in the "monitoring as a way to avoid continuation school or prosecution with a potential stay in juvenile hall." On top of that, parents would also be avoiding the $2,000 fine that can come from turning a blind eye to truancy if a school district chooses to pursue the issue.
Note: For other revealing media articles on microchips being used to invade privacy, click here. To better understand a program of elements within the power elite to microchip the entire population, click here.
Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables appear to show that the United States has been snooping on NATO's top official using secret sources on his own staff. Confidential cables from the U.S. mission to NATO released [on February 11] by WikiLeaks, ... said American diplomats received information on the private conversations of Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen from "a member of the NATO international staff." Instead of the staffer's name, the phrase "strictly protect" was inserted in a cable dated Sept. 10, 2009. The cable dealt with Fogh Rasmussen's proposal to improve ties with Russia by establishing contacts with the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-dominated security alliance. The cable was signed off by U.S. ambassador Ivo Daalder. There has been no known [previous] case in the past of a nation spying on the secretary-general.
Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group largely focused in recent years on Google's privacy practices, has called [for] a congressional investigation into the Internet giant's "cozy" relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama's administration. In a letter sent [on January 24], Consumer Watchdog asked Representative Darrell Issa, the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to investigate the relationship between Google and several government agencies. "We believe Google has inappropriately benefited from close ties to the administration," the letter said. "It should not get special treatment and access because of a special relationship with the administration." Consumer Watchdog's latest complaints about the relationship of Google and the Obama administration are outlined in a 32-page report [which] questions Google's relationship with the U.S. National Security Agency and calls for the company to be more open about what consumer information it shares with the spy agency.
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is suing the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, saying full-body scans and pat-downs at airport checkpoints are violating his rights. Ventura filed his lawsuit [on January 24] in federal court in Minnesota. He says the new security measures violate his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. He's asking a federal court to order officials to stop subjecting him to these searches. Ventura was governor of Minnesota from 1999 through 2002. He now hosts the television program "Conspiracy Theory." The lawsuit says Ventura had a hip replacement in 2008, and his titanium implant sets off metal detectors.
Note: Jesse Ventura is one of the heros of our time. Do a video search on his name to watch episodes of his amazingly revealing "Conspiracy Theory" programs.
The suspect's house, just west of this city, sat on a hilltop at the end of a steep, exposed driveway. Agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety believed the man inside had a large stash of drugs and a cache of weapons. The Texas agents did what no state or local law enforcement agency had done before in a high-risk operation: They launched a drone. A bird-size device called a Wasp floated hundreds of feet into the sky and instantly beamed live video to agents on the ground. The SWAT team stormed the house and arrested the suspect. "The nice thing is it's covert," said Bill C. Nabors Jr., chief pilot with the Texas DPS, "You don't hear it, and unless you know what you're looking for, you can't see it." The drone technology that has revolutionized warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is entering the national airspace. The operation outside Austin presaged what could prove to be one of the most far-reaching and potentially controversial uses of drones: as a new and relatively cheap surveillance tool in domestic law enforcement. By 2013, the FAA expects to have formulated new rules that would allow police across the country to routinely fly lightweight, unarmed drones up to 400 feet above the ground - high enough for them to be largely invisible eyes in the sky. Such technology could allow police to record the activities of the public below with high-resolution, infrared and thermal-imaging cameras.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on government and corporate threats to privacy, click here.
Undercover police officers routinely adopted a tactic of "promiscuity" with the blessing of senior commanders, according to a former agent who worked in a secretive unit of the Metropolitan police for four years. The former undercover policeman claims that sexual relationships with activists were sanctioned for both men and women officers infiltrating anarchist, leftwing and environmental groups. Sex was a tool to help officers blend in, the officer claimed, and was widely used as a technique to glean intelligence. He said undercover officers, particularly those infiltrating environmental and leftwing groups, viewed having sex with a large number of partners "as part of the job". His comments contradict claims last week from the Association of Chief Police Officers that operatives were absolutely forbidden to sleep with activists. The claims follow the unmasking of undercover PC Mark Kennedy, who had sexual relationships with several women during the seven years he spent infiltrating a ring of environmental activists. Another two covert officers have been named in the past fortnight who also had sex with the protesters they were sent to spy on, fuelling allegations that senior officers had authorised sleeping around as a legitimate means of gathering intelligence.
Note: For a comprehensive overview of the still-ongoing revelations about police provocateur Mark Kennedy and his cohorts in the UK police infiltration of environmental and related activist groups, click here.
Coming to you soon from the Pentagon: the diary to end all diaries — a multimedia, digital record of everywhere you go and everything you see, hear, read, say and touch. Known as LifeLog, the project has been put out for contractor bids by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the agency that helped build the Internet and that is now developing the next generation of [surveillance] tools. The agency ... [considers] LifeLog ... a tool to capture "one person's experience in and interactions with the world" through a camera, microphone and sensors worn by the user. Everything from heartbeats to travel to Internet chatting would be recorded. The goal is to create breakthrough software that helps analyze behavior, habits and routines, according to Pentagon documents reviewed by The Associated Press. The products of the unclassified project would be available to both the private sector and other government agencies — a concern to privacy advocates. John Pike of Global Security.org, a defense analysis group, is dubious the project has military application. "I have a much easier time understanding how Big Brother would want this than how (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld would use it," Pike said. "They have not identified a military application."
Note: For more on this at Wired, click here.
Scotland Yard has admitted giving MPs inaccurate information by denying "covert officers" were deployed at London's G20 protests in April 2009. In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said it had established that covert officers had been deployed to the protests. The letter came after ... the unmasking of undercover policeman Mark Kennedy, who attended many demonstrations during seven years living as a spy among green activists. Giving evidence at the select committee in 2009, Commander Bob Broadhurst told MPs then: "The only officers we deploy for intelligence purposes at public order are forward intelligence team officers who are wearing full police uniforms with a yellow jacket with blue shoulders. There were no plain clothes officers deployed at all." The Met statement released on Wednesday said: "Having made thorough checks on the back of recent media reporting we have now established that covert officers were deployed during the G20 protests. Therefore the information that was given by Commander Bob Broadhurst to the Home Affairs Select Committee saying that 'We had no plain-clothes officers deployed within the crowd' was not accurate."
Note: For lots more on the police provocateur Mark Kennedy, click here.
A business privacy case that comes before the U.S. Supreme Court today may rekindle a debate among the justices over whether corporations are like people, even to the point of suffering embarrassment. The case ... pits the Obama administration against AT&T Inc. over the release of documents stemming from a government investigation of the company. The question is whether corporations can invoke a Freedom of Information Act provision that protects against invasions of “personal privacy.” In siding with AT&T, a lower court said companies can be embarrassed and stigmatized just like human beings -- a contention the Obama administration scoffed at. The court’s divisions were on display when it considered whether to overturn decades-old restrictions on corporate campaign spending. During arguments in 2009, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that judges “created corporations as persons” and that they might have been wrong to have “imbued a creature of state law with human characteristics.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that “a corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights.” The court majority disagreed, ruling in a 5-4 decision that corporations have the same constitutional right to spend money on campaign ads as individuals do.
A member of parliament in Iceland who is also a former WikiLeaks volunteer says the US justice department has ordered Twitter to hand over her private messages. Birgitta Jonsdottir, an MP for the Movement in Iceland, said last night on Twitter that the "USA government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009. Do they realize I am a member of parliament in Iceland?" She said she was starting a legal fight to stop the US getting hold of her messages, after being told by Twitter that a subpoena had been issued. She added that the US authorities had requested personal information from Twitter as well as her private messages and that she was now assessing her legal position. "It's not just about my information. It's a warning for anyone who had anything to do with WikiLeaks. It is completely unacceptable for the US justice department to flex its muscles like this. I am lucky, I'm a representative in parliament. But what of other people? It's my duty to do whatever I can to stop this abuse."
Note: For a New York Times article with more on this, click here.
The European security research programme (ESRP) has a €1.4bn EU budget and its twin objectives are to enhance European security and foster the growth of a globally competitive security industry in Europe. Unfortunately, in its haste to cash-in on the homeland security boom, the EU has effectively outsourced the design of its security research agenda to some of the corporations that have the most to gain from its implementation. It has created bodies outside the formal structure of the EU, beyond parliamentary scrutiny and democratic control. The result is a public research programme designed by lobbyists, for lobbyists, with corporations invited to shape the objectives and annual priorities, and then apply for the money on offer. ESRP was the brainchild of the "group of personalities", an EU advisory body convened in 2003 that included some of Europe's largest defence and IT contractors alongside the likes of NATO, the EU military committee and the Rand Corporation. The group's primary concern was the scale of the US government's investment in homeland security R&D, which meant that the US was "taking a lead" in the development of security "technologies and equipment which … could meet a number of Europe's needs", putting US multinationals in "a very strong competitive position".
Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators. The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation's history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing. The months-long investigation [by The Washington Post], based on nearly 100 interviews and 1,000 documents, found that: * Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America. * The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. * Law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies. * The Department of Homeland Security sends its state and local partners intelligence reports with little meaningful guidance, and state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings.
Note: This report is part of a series, "Top Secret America," by The Washington Post. For more, click here.
The Transportation Security Administration has come under fire for new body scanners and what some say are highly invasive pat-downs. Thomas Sawyer, a bladder cancer survivor, said he was humiliated after a pat-down broke his urostomy bag, leaving the 61-year-old covered in his own urine. Sawyer said he warned the TSA officials twice that the pat-down could break the seal. Cathy Bossi, a long-time flight attendant and breast cancer survivor, said the TSA made her take off her prosthetic breast. "She put her full hand on my breast and said, 'What is this?' I said 'It's a prosthesis because I've had a breast cancer,'" Bossi said. "And she said, 'You'll need to show me that.'" In recent days, several passengers have come forward to tell such shocking stories about their experiences with TSA officers. An ABC News employee said she was subject to a "demeaning" search at Newark Liberty International Airport Sunday morning. "The woman who checked me reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around," she said. "It was basically worse than going to the gynecologist. It was embarrassing. It was demeaning. It was inappropriate." The head of the Transportation Security Administration John Pistole ... has said the TSA would not change its pat-down procedures.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on increasing threats to privacy, click here.
Transcript: [Suzanne] MALVEAUX: A Texas mystery solved -- at least partially. We now know Houston police are going to start using unmanned drone aircraft. But the question remains, well, for what? Stephen Dean of CNN affiliate KPRC has got an exclusive look. STEPHEN DEAN, KPRC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): HPD [Houston Police Dept.], the federal Department of Homeland Security and other invited guests all watching to see how this drone could be used for police work in and around Houston. We tracked that drone from News Chopper 2. And that drone was able to use a high-powered camera to track us. Those cameras can actually look into people's homes or even follow them in moving cars -- which raises all sorts of new questions. HPD quickly hustled together a news conference when it realized our cameras were there for the entire secret test. Executive Assistant Chief Martha Mantabo admits that could mean covert police action. But she says it's too early to tell what else HPD will do with the aircraft. We asked, are these drones headed for ticketing speeders from the sky? MONTALVO: I'm not ruling anything out. DEAN: Back at the secret test site, police helicopter pilots claimed the entire air space was restricted and even threatened our local 2 Investigates pilot with action from the FAA if we didn't leave. But we checked with FAA several times and there never was a flight restriction. That leaves some to wonder whether the police are now ready to use terrorism fears since 911 to push the envelope further into our private lives.
Note: To watch the video of secret police work in action, click here.
Every email, phone call and website visit is to be recorded and stored after the Coalition Government revived controversial Big Brother snooping plans. It will allow security services and the police to spy on the activities of every Briton who uses a phone or the internet. Moves to make every communications provider store details for at least a year will be unveiled later this year sparking fresh fears over a return of the surveillance state. It comes despite the Coalition Agreement promised to "end the storage of internet and email records without good reason". The plans are expected to involve service providers storing all users details for a set period of time. That will allow the security and police authorities to track every phone call, email, text message and website visit made by the public if they argue it is needed to tackle crime or terrorism. The information will include who is contacting whom, when and where and which websites are visited, but not the content of the conversations or messages. The move was buried in the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on increasing government and corporate threats to privacy, click here.
A growing pilot and passenger revolt over full-body scans and what many consider intrusive pat-downs couldn't have come at a worse time for the nation's air travel system. Thanksgiving, the busiest travel time of the year, is less than two weeks away. Grassroots groups are urging travelers to either not fly or to protest by opting out of the full-body scanners and undergo time-consuming pat-downs instead. Some pilots, passengers and flight attendants have chosen to opt out of the revealing scans. One online group, National Opt Out Day calls for a day of protest against the scanners on Wednesday, November 24, the busiest travel day of the year. Another group argues the TSA should remove the scanners from all airports. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)... is taking legal action. Pilots' unions for US Airways and American Airlines are urging their members to avoid full-body scanning at airport security checkpoints, citing health risks and concerns about intrusiveness and security officer behavior. "Pilots should NOT submit to AIT (Advanced Imaging Technology) screening," wrote Capt. Mike Cleary, president of the U.S. Airline Pilots Association. "Frequent exposure to TSA-operated scanner devices may subject pilots to significant health risks," Cleary wrote. The website We Won't Fly urgers travelers to "Act now. Travel with Dignity."
Note: For a powerful, one-minute video showing just how invasive these searches are, click here.
Two of the largest pilots' unions in the nation are urging commercial pilots to rebel against current airport screening rules. In late October, the Transport Security Administration implemented more invasive patdown rules. Travelers and pilots were faced with a new dilemma -- have a revealing, full-body scan or what some are calling an X-rated patdown. Pilots are piping mad over the options, saying the full-body scanners emit dangerous levels of radiation and that the alternative public patdown is disgraceful for a pilot in uniform. Some pilots have said they felt so violated after a patdown, they were unfit to fly. The patdowns, implemented Oct. 29, allow TSA officers to pat down passengers with the front of their hands, instead of the backs of their hands. A security expert who demonstrated the new procedure on a mannequin for ABC News explained the changes. "You go down the body and up to the breast portion," said Charles Slepian of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center. "If it's a female passenger, you're going to see if there's anything in the bra." The new patdown protocol could be used at any of the nation's 450 airports on passengers who require additional screening. Tens of thousands of passengers are submitted to patdowns and full-body scanners every day. More than 300 full-body scanners are being used at 65 airports across the country.
Note: And what about the general public having to submit to being groped?
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.