Privacy News ArticlesExcerpts 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.
It is just a technical matter, the Obama administration says: We just need to make a slight change in a law to make clear that we have the right to see the names of anyone’s e-mail correspondents and their Web browsing history without the messy complication of asking a judge for permission. It is far more than a technical change. The administration’s request, reported [on July 29] in The Washington Post, is an unnecessary and disappointing step backward toward more intrusive surveillance from a president who promised something very different during the 2008 campaign. To get this information, the F.B.I. simply has to ask for it in the form of a national security letter, which is an administrative request that does not require a judge’s signature. The F.B.I. used these letters hundreds of thousands of times to demand records of phone calls and other communications, and the Pentagon used them to get records from banks and consumer credit agencies. Internal investigations of both agencies found widespread misuse of the power, and little oversight into how it was wielded. President Obama campaigned for office on an explicit promise to rein in these abuses. But instead of implementing reasonable civil liberties protections, like taking requests for e-mail surveillance before a judge, the administration is proposing changes to the law that would allow huge numbers of new electronic communications to be examined with no judicial oversight.
Note: For key reports on the growing government and corporate threats to privacy, click here.
The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed "Perfect Citizen" to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants. The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government's chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack. Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort valued at up to $100 million. Some industry and government officials familiar with the program see Perfect Citizen as an intrusion by the NSA into domestic affairs. One internal Raytheon email, the text of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal [said,] "Perfect Citizen is Big Brother." Raytheon declined to comment on this email. The information gathered by Perfect Citizen could also have applications beyond the critical infrastructure sector, officials said, serving as a data bank that would also help companies and agencies who call upon NSA for help with investigations of cyber attacks, as Google did when it sustained a major attack late last year.
Note: For key reports of government and corporate surveillance from reliable sources, click here.
University of Reading researcher Mark Gasson has become the first human known to be infected by a computer virus. The virus, infecting a chip implanted in Gasson's hand, passed into a laboratory computer. From there, the infection could have spread into other computer chips found in building access cards. All this was intentional, in an experiment to see how simple radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips like those used for tracking animals can host and spread technological diseases. The research from the British university shows that as implantable bionic devices such as pacemakers get more sophisticated in the years ahead, their security and the safety of the patients whose lives depend on them will become increasingly important, said Gasson. "We should start to think of these devices as miniature computers," Gasson said. And just like everyday computers, they can get sick. "I don’t think for us that (infectious technological agents) would be a particularly new concept, but implants in our bodies will make it a lot more real," Gasson told TechNewsDaily. "A denial-of-service attack on a pacemaker, if such a thing were possible, would of course be very detrimental."
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on the dangers of microchip implant technologies, click here.
At a warehouse in New Jersey, 6,000 used copy machines sit ready to be sold. Almost every one of them holds a secret. Nearly every digital copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive ... storing an image of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine. In the process, it's turned an office staple into a digital time-bomb packed with highly-personal or sensitive data. If you're in the identity theft business it seems this would be a pot of gold. "The type of information we see on these machines with the social security numbers, birth certificates, bank records, income tax forms," John Juntunen said, "that information would be very valuable." Juntunen's Sacramento-based company Digital Copier Security developed software called "INFOSWEEP" that can scrub all the data on hard drives. He's been trying to warn people about the potential risk - with no luck. All the major [digital copier] manufacturers told us they offer security or encryption packages on their products. One product from Sharp automatically erases an image from the hard drive. It costs $500. But evidence keeps piling up in warehouses that many businesses are unwilling to pay for such protection, and that the average American is completely unaware of the dangers posed by digital copiers.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on threats to privacy, click here.
President Obama has signed off on new security protocols for people flying to the United States, establishing a system that uses intelligence information and assessment of threats to identify passengers who could have links to terrorism. The system, which will be put in place this month, applies only to travelers flying into the United States. Officials said intelligence information from a variety of United States agencies would be made available to foreign airlines, whose employees and security officials would have wide latitude to stop passengers, or not. Currently, the only information typically checked before a passenger boards an airplane is the name, date of birth and nationality — information found in a passport, which is compared against the terror watch lists. But the Homeland Security Department separately already collects much more information on the travel patterns of passengers headed to the United States, including other stops made on the way to an American airport, how the passenger paid for the ticket as well as other details contained in the reservation, like what hotel a passenger might be staying in, or if he or she is traveling alone.
Note: For many disturbing reports from major media sources on increasing governmental threats to civil liberties, click here.
A broad coalition of technology companies, including AT&T, Google and Microsoft, and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum said Tuesday that it would push Congress to strengthen online privacy laws to protect private digital information from government access. The group, calling itself the Digital Due Process coalition, said it wanted to ensure that as millions of people moved private documents from their filing cabinets and personal computers to the Web, those documents remain protected from easy access by law enforcement and other government authorities. The coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, wants law enforcement agencies to use a search warrant approved by a judge or a magistrate rather than rely on a simple subpoena from a prosecutor to obtain a citizen’s online data. The group also said that it wanted to safeguard location-based information collected by cellphone companies and applications providers. forcement agencies and the Obama administration.
Note: For many key articles from reliable sources on privacy issues in the new age of surveillance, click here.
A federal judge ruled [on March 31] that the National Security Agencyďż˝s program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administrationďż˝s effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush. In a 45-page opinion, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been ďż˝subjected to unlawful surveillance,ďż˝ the judge said the government was liable to pay them damages. The ruling by Judge Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, rejected the Justice Departmentďż˝s claim ďż˝ first asserted by the Bush administration and continued under President Obama ďż˝ that the charityďż˝s lawsuit should be dismissed without a ruling on the merits because allowing it to go forward could reveal state secrets. The judge characterized that expansive use of the so-called state-secrets privilege as amounting to ďż˝unfettered executive-branch discretionďż˝ that had ďż˝obvious potential for governmental abuse and overreaching.ďż˝
Note: For illumination of the dark world of state secrecy, click here.
All dogs are to be compulsorily microchipped so that their owners can be more easily traced under a crackdown on dangerous dogs. Under the scheme a microchip the size of a grain of rice is injected under the skin of the dog between its shoulder blades. The chip contains a unique code number, the dog's name, age, breed and health as well as the owner's name, address and phone number. When the chip is "read" by a handheld scanner the code number is revealed and the details can be checked on a national database. The measures will be set out by the home secretary, Alan Johnson, who will point to rising public concern that "status dogs" are being used by some irresponsible owners to intimidate communities or as a weapon by gangs. If the scheme were made compulsory owners would face a fine for failing to microchip their dogs.
Note: Once all dogs are required to be microchipped, what will come next? To be informed of some disturbing plans to microchip all of us, click here. For lots more on microchipping from reliable sources, click here.
From 2004 through 2009, in a policy that has gotten completely out of control, New York City police officers stopped people on the street and checked them out nearly three million times, frisking and otherwise humiliating many of them. Upward of 90 percent of the people stopped are completely innocent of any wrongdoing. And yet the New York Police Department is compounding this intolerable indignity by compiling an enormous and permanent computerized database of these encounters between innocent New Yorkers and the police. “They have been collecting the names and all sorts of other information about everybody who is stopped and frisked on the streets,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which is fighting the department’s stop-and-frisk policy and its compiling of data on people who are innocent. “This is a massive database of innocent, overwhelmingly black and Latino people,” she said. Police Commissioner Kelly has made it clear that this monstrous database, growing by a half-million or so stops each year, is to be a permanent feature of the department’s operations.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on serious threats to civil liberties, click here.
The world of modern eavesdropping, or signals intelligence ... for many years ... operated in the shadows. The Puzzle Palace, the 1983 best seller by James Bamford that remains the benchmark study of the N.S.A., first pulled back the curtain to provide a glint of unwanted sunlight on the place. As each operation has come to light, an anxious public has wanted to know whether this powerful new surveillance model was undermining traditional notions of privacy and civil liberties. Just whom is the government watching? And who is watching the watchers? It has been left to outsiders — journalists, authors, civil rights advocates and privacy groups — to keep tabs on the watchers and to bring public scrutiny to once-secret programs. For the spymasters, this spotlight was decidedly unwelcome. Mike McConnell, a director of intelligence in the Bush administration, ... is one of the recurring characters in The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State by Shane Harris. Mr. Harris, with some success, does what Mr. McConnell and others in the intelligence world have found so objectionable: he watches the watchers. At its best The Watchers provides an insightful glimpse into how Washington works and how ideas are marketed and sold in the back rooms of power, whether the product being peddled is widgets or a radical model for intelligence gathering.
Note: For more insights into the activities of Big Brother, click here.
It's time to reflect on the immense powers Americans have ceded to the government and [the] potential for abuse by federal, state and local authorities. The global Internet and telecommunications infrastructure provides massive information on almost ... every person on the planet. One power truly stands out --- the all-encompassing reach and technological capabilities of the US National Security Agency. If you want to be secure, don't use a phone, a computer, credit card or any other technologically linked system because it guarantees that Big Brother will find you. Big Brother is not just the government. Most consumer "spying" comes from subpoenas and requests from non-terrorist-related federal, state, local agency requests and non-governmental private litigation and discovery. Simply put, a subpoena issued by a court in support of private litigation and discovery may have the same impact on an individual as the full force of the NSA. What information is typically requested from a company by say a plaintiff's lawyer during some discovery phase? Well, it's everything. In fact, it's generally a fishing expedition for every log file, every uploaded video, photo, chat session and anything else they can get their hands on.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on the continuing development of a global society under Big Brother's constant gaze, click here.
Law enforcement is tracking Americans' cell phones in real time—without the benefit of a warrant. Amid all the furor over the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program a few years ago, a mini-revolt was brewing over another type of federal snooping that was getting no public attention at all. Federal prosecutors were seeking what seemed to be unusually sensitive records: internal data from telecommunications companies that showed the locations of their customers' cell phones—sometimes in real time, sometimes after the fact. Prosecutors "were using the cell phone as a surreptitious tracking device," said Stephen W. Smith, a federal magistrate in Houston. "And I started asking the U.S. Attorney's Office, 'What is the legal authority for this? What is the legal standard for getting this information?'" Those questions are now at the core of a constitutional clash between President Obama's Justice Department and civil libertarians alarmed by what they see as the government's relentless intrusion into the private lives of citizens. There are numerous other fronts in the privacy wars—about the content of e-mails, for instance, and access to bank records and credit-card transactions. The Feds now can quietly get all that information. But cell-phone tracking is among the more unsettling forms of government surveillance, conjuring up Orwellian images of Big Brother secretly following your movements through the small device in your pocket.
Note: For many key reports from major media sources on the disturbing trend toward increasing government and corporate surveillance, click here.
When Annie Brown's daughter, Isabel, was a month old, her pediatrician asked Brown and her husband to sit down because he had some bad news to tell them: Isabel carried a gene that put her at risk for cystic fibrosis. While grateful to have the information -- Isabel received further testing and she doesn't have the disease -- the Mankato, Minnesota, couple wondered how the doctor knew about Isabel's genes in the first place. After all, they'd never consented to genetic testing. It's simple, the pediatrician answered: Newborn babies in the United States are routinely screened for a panel of genetic diseases. Since the testing is mandated by the government, it's often done without the parents' consent, according to Brad Therrell, director of the National Newborn Screening & Genetics Resource Center. In many states, such as Florida, where Isabel was born, babies' DNA is stored indefinitely, according to the resource center. Many parents don't realize their baby's DNA is being stored in a government lab, but sometimes when they find out, as the Browns did, they take action. Parents in Texas, and Minnesota have filed lawsuits, and these parents' concerns are sparking a new debate about whether it's appropriate for a baby's genetic blueprint to be in the government's possession.
Note: For many reliable reports on the increasing governmental and corporate threats to privacy, click here.
The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist or simply persuading phone companies to provide records, according to internal bureau memos and interviews. FBI officials issued approvals after the fact to justify their actions. E-mails obtained by The Washington Post detail how counterterrorism officials inside FBI headquarters did not follow their own procedures that were put in place to protect civil liberties. A Justice Department inspector general's report due out this month is expected to conclude that the FBI frequently violated the law with its emergency requests. FBI officials said they thought that nearly all of the requests involved terrorism investigations. FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni said ... that the FBI technically violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act when agents invoked nonexistent emergencies to collect records.
Note: The FBI, by admitting that "nearly all" of the phone records they obtained were related to "terrorism investigations," make it clear that some were not. But they used claims of "terrorism emergency" to obtain them. These they then assert were merely "technical" violations. For many disturbing reports from major media sources on the increasing threats to civil liberties under the pretext of the "war on terrorism," click here.
The Transportation Security Administration ... has on its web site a “mythbuster” that tries to reassure the public. Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy. Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list. “Meet Mikey Hicks,” said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. “It’s not a myth.” Hicks’s mother initially sensed trouble when he was a baby and she could not get a seat for him on their flight to Florida at an airport kiosk; airline officials explained that his name “was on the list,” she recalled. The first time he was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried. After years of long delays and waits for supervisors at every airport ticket counter, this year’s vacation to the Bahamas badly shook up the family. Mikey was frisked on the way there, then more aggressively on the way home. “Up your arms, down your arms, up your crotch — someone is patting your 8-year-old down like he’s a criminal,” Mrs. Hicks recounted. It is true that Mikey is not on the federal government’s “no-fly” list, which includes about 2,500 people, less than 10 percent of them from the United States. But his name appears to be among some 13,500 on the larger “selectee” list, which sets off a high level of security screening.
Note: For many reports from major media sources on the extreme loss of liberties brought about by the highly touted "war on terrorism," click here.
Researchers are already using brain-computer interfaces to aid the disabled, treat diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and provide therapy for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Work is under way on devices that may eventually let you communicate with friends telepathically, give you superhuman hearing and vision or even let you download data directly into your brain, a la "The Matrix." Researchers are practically giddy over the prospects. "We don't know what the limits are yet," says Melody Moore Jackson, director of Georgia Tech University's BrainLab. At the root of all this technology is the 3-pound generator we all carry in our head. It produces electricity at the microvolt level. But the signals are strong enough to move robots, wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs -- with the help of an external processor. One of the more controversial uses under development is telepathy. It would require at least two people to be implanted with electrodes that send and receive signals. DARPA, the Pentagon's technology research division, is currently working on an initiative called "Silent Talk," which would let soldiers on secret missions communicate with their thoughts alone. This stealth component is attractive, but naysayers fear that such soldiers could become manipulated for evil means.
Note: Remember that secret military research such as that undertaken by DARPA is often years ahead of capabilities publicly acknowledged.
The CIA is to be given broad access to the bank records of millions of Britons under a European Union plan to fight terrorism. The Brussels agreement, which will come into force in two months’ time, requires the 27 EU member states to grant requests for banking information made by the United States under its terrorist finance tracking programme. The EU said it had agreed that Europeans would be compelled to release the information to the CIA “as a matter of urgency”. The records will be kept in a US database for five years before being deleted. Critics say the system is “lopsided” because there is no reciprocal arrangement under which the UK authorities can easily access the bank accounts of US citizens. They also say the plan to sift through cross-border and domestic EU bank accounts gives US intelligence more scope to consult our bank accounts than is granted to law enforcement agencies in the UK or the rest of Europe. This weekend civil liberties groups and privacy campaigners said the surveillance programme, introduced as an emergency measure in 2001, was being imposed on Britain without a proper debate. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “The massive scope for transferring personal information from Europe to the United States is extremely worrying, especially in the absence of public debate or parliamentary scrutiny either at EU or domestic level.
Note: For reports from major media sources on erosion of privacy by governments and corporations, click here.
In spring 2007, as one of many American air travelers who were inconvenienced when our names popped up on a federal "watch list," I never could get straight answers from my government. Was this a mistake, or was I being flagged for some reason? How many Americans were on that watch list? What were the criteria for getting on it? I filed my appeal with the Department of Homeland Security's Travel Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP). The Department of Homeland Security received 75,315 requests for redress under the TRIP program as of Oct. 31. Of those requests, 49,826 have been adjudicated, 7,217 are under review, and 18,272 are awaiting supporting documentation, according to the DHS. "Absolutely, the system didn't work as well as it should have," said Suzanne Trevino, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration. Once an airline receives a passenger's control number, along with full name, date of birth and gender, that information is transmitted to the government for clearance. Fewer than 2,500 known and suspected terrorists are actually on the "no fly" list, according to Trevino. And less than 10 percent of them are Americans. [Yet] the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center has acknowledged that its watch list has more than 1 million entries of names and aliases representing about 400,000 people [with] with an average of 1,600 people who presented a "reasonable suspicion" being added every day.
Note: For many revealing reports from major media sources on the worsening threats to civil liberties, click here.
Every phone call, text message, email and website visit made by private citizens is to be stored for a year and will be available for monitoring by government bodies. All telecoms companies and internet service providers will be required by law to keep a record of every customerâ€™s personal communications, showing who they have contacted, when and where, as well as the websites they have visited. Despite widespread opposition to the increasing amount of surveillance in Britain, 653 public bodies will be given access to the information, including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the ambulance service, fire authorities and even prison governors. They will not require the permission of a judge or a magistrate to obtain the information, but simply the authorisation of a senior police officer or the equivalent of a deputy head of department at a local authority. The Government announced yesterday it was pressing ahead with privately held â€śBig Brotherâ€ť databases that opposition leaders said amounted to â€śstate-spyingâ€ť and a form of â€ścovert surveillanceâ€ť on the public. It is doing so despite its own consultation showing that it has little public support. The new rules ... will not only force communications companies to keep their records for longer, but to expand the type of data they keep to include details of every website their customers visit.
Note: For many more reports from major media sources on the disturbing trend toward increasing government and corporate surveillance and loss of privacy, click here.
On a remote edge of Utah's dry and arid high desert ... hard-hatted construction workers with top-secret clearances are preparing to build [a] mammoth $2 billion structure. It's being built by the ultra-secret National Security Agency ... to house trillions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and [electronic data trails of all kinds]. The NSA is also completing work on another data archive, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome. Just how much information will be stored in these windowless cybertemples? A recent report prepared by the MITRE Corporation, a Pentagon think tank, [states] "Sensor data volume could potentially increase to the level of Yottabytes [10-to-the-24th-power bytes] by 2015." Once vacuumed up and stored in these near-infinite "libraries," the data are then analyzed by powerful infoweapons, supercomputers running complex algorithmic programs, to determine who among us may be — or may one day become — a terrorist. Emerging [after 9/11] as the most powerful chief the spy world has ever known was the director of the NSA. He is in charge of an organization three times the size of the CIA and empowered in 2008 by Congress to spy on Americans to an unprecedented degree. These new centers in Utah, Texas, and possibly elsewhere will likely become the centralized repositories for the data intercepted by the NSA in America's version of the "big brother database."
Note: James Bamford, the author of this review of a new book on the history of the NSA, has himself written three important books on the agency. For many revealing reports from reliable sources on the developing capacity by government and corporate surveillance to construct a "Big Brother" states, click here.
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.