Online Privacy

Online Privacy

Government Increasingly Turning to Data Mining

Anonymous Patron sent over A Washington Post article that reports The Pentagon pays a private company to compile data on teenagers it can recruit to the military. The Homeland Security Department buys consumer information to help screen people at borders and detect immigration fraud.

As federal agencies delve into the vast commercial market for consumer information, such as buying habits and financial records, they are tapping into data that would be difficult for the government to accumulate but that has become a booming business for private companies.

CALEA passes civil liberties challenge

cjovalle writes "The Center for Democracy and Technology reports that "a federal appeals court today ruled 2-1 that telephone regulators and the FBI can control the design of Internet services in order to make government wiretapping easier." Several groups contributed to the civil liberties challenge, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Americal Library Association. The EFF has a page how CALEA harms civil liberties and innovation. Service providers affected by this law include universities and libraries."

The Verdict is In: Google v. U.S.A.

Google Inc. won a partial victory in a battle with the government when a federal judge ruled yesterday that the company didn't have to turn over customer search queries to the U.S. Justice Department.

U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Jose, California, refused to make Google, the most-used Internet search engine, give the agency 5,000 search queries as part of an effort to defend a law aimed at keeping children from accessing Internet pornography. Ware did rule Google had to comply with the U.S. demand for 50,000 Web addresses from its index of Web sites. New from and The New York Times.

Library security same after threat

From The Newton, Mass weekly Newton TAB:

A month after someone allegedly e-mailed a terrorist threat from the Newton Public Library, the library has not made it more difficult for potential criminals to use the Internet.

"Anyone could walk in off the street... the [alleged terrorist] could walk in tomorrow and do it again?" Alderman Brian Yates asked librarian Kathy Glick-Weil at a meeting last Wednesday.

"That's right," Glick-Weil said.

See prior LISNews coverage from Jan 25 [2], Jan 27, Feb 6, and Feb 19

Privacy rights and public safety issues Simplified

Anonymous Patron writes "David Cohen, mayor of Newton, Massachusetts and Kathy Glick-Weil, director of the Newton Free Library, offer op-ed page acticle in the February 16, 2006 issue of The Boston Globe.
"Let us say, in no uncertain terms, that our insistence on a warrant did not put public safety at risk. If the federal authorities needed immediate access to those computers to protect people's safety, the FBI and US attorney's office would have cited their specific authority to take them without a warrant, and we would have cooperated fully. At no time did these agencies indicate that this was necessary.""

Berkeley Watchdogs Bark at RFID Plan

A group of concerned citizens are protesting the use of RFID tags (which they call "spy chips") at an authors gala today says Inside Bay Area.

Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense will gather in front of the library on Kittredge Street at 6 p.m. as people arrive at the $250-a-plate event, where more than two dozen Bay Area authors are expected, including Mark Danner, Judy Rodgers, Peter Coyote, Mary Roach and Deborah Santana.

The sold-out event, which this year includes dim sum, sushi and high-end vodka martinis, draws an elite crowd and raises thousands of dollars every year for the library.

Could Future Subpoenas Tie You to 'Britney Spears?

Anonymous Patron writes "Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has an interesting Article On that says DOJ's subpoena of Google may lead to more intrusive examination of Internet users' online records.
von Lohmann says, "Search engines should stop keeping so much information about us, and points to the The Video Privacy Protection Act, and says a similar rule has recently been proposed for search engines in legislation introduced by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. Such a rule would go a long way toward protecting our privacy online."

Civil Liberties: from DC to the Newton Library

From The Bostonist , opinions about civil liberties and libraries, particularly as they pertain to the attempted seizure of materials at the Newton Library last week. The paper offers a link to quotes from Boston lecturer Richard Cravatts, also submitted here by LISNews reader DeeS:

"The more thorny and pressing question is why a library director could even exercise the authority to block access to vital evidence requested by the police and FBI, stalling an investigation during an ongoing crime where stakes are high. More to the point, why are librarians, whose professional training concentrates on mastering the use of the Dewey Decimal System, making any decisions that affect law enforcement?"

The op-ed above was printed in the Boston Globe in response to their own editorial on the subject of the attempted Newton seizure.

City Stalls FBI Access in Library

From The Daily News Tribune:

"Law enforcement and Newton Free Library officials were embroiled in a tense standoff last week when the city refused to let police and the FBI examine library computers without a warrant."

"Police rushed to the main library last Wednesday after it was determined that a terrorist threat to Brandeis University had been sent from a computer at the library."

"But requests to examine any of its computers were rebuffed by library Director Kathy Glick-Weil and Mayor David Cohen on the grounds that they did not have a warrant."

DOJ Search Engine Requests, Intrusive, yet futile

Daniel is sharing this interesting piece by Danny Sullivan on the SearchEngineWatch blog about the trustworthiness of search engines in the aftermath the government's request for information.

Alberto Gonzales v. Google

Google has now been taken to court in California by Alberto Gonzales, the US Attorney-General. The lawsuit describes any privacy concerns as illusory, arguing that it does not want to see any additional information that would identify the person who entered the search.

The site's lawyer said: Google's acceding to the request would suggest that it is willing to reveal information about those who use its services. This is not a perception that Google can accept. This report is from Times Online UK, which also outlines how search engines in Great Britain must comply with the "Home Office Code," recommending that they seriously consider blocking weblinks that contain illegal child abuse images.

Mining Subversion Is Just a Wish(list) Away

Tom Owad over at presents an interesting look at privacy, data mining, and wish lists in an article entitled Data Mining 101: Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists.

The article, while technical, shows the frightening and fascinating results of a small-scale data mining operation. Using public domain tools and without violating the Amazon terms of service, Mr. Owad was able to collect and correlate the addresses and potential reading interests of hundreds of persons. This article is sobering and--without hyperbole--a must read.

Privacy? Why no I don't value privacy.

mdoneil writes "I had a nice sandwich from Subway this evening. They gave me a game piece for some promotion. I scratched the thing off and then went to the website as instructed to see if I won.

I never got around to entering the code number as I was offended by the data they wanted before I could find out if I won. Name and Address, well I guess that is OK, but birthdate... before I could even check to see if I won!

The privacy policy linked in tiny type at the bottom of the page is so full of holes it could be cheese for my sandwich. They can share the information I provide with affiliates... they note this after telling me how they will safeguard my informaiton... unless they don't.

The privacy policy even says it is less stringent than that required in companies in the EU member states. At least that is something that won't be offshored, crappy privacy policies. Then it ends with an arbitration clause so you can't sue them if they whore out your information.

The scary thing is the sheeple will fill this out hoping they win a free sandwich. We wonder why we have privacy anympre, because we freely give it away that's why.

I like Subway, but this stuff annoys me."

Tattling Library Elf

Mary Minow's LibraryLaw Blog reports that people using Library Elf to track their checkouts and overdues may have their records exposed like these 228 Bloglines users.

My impression is that this that circulation records wouldn't show if people used a pc-based newsreader instead of a public web-based one like Bloglines.

It's also important to let any outraged people know that this isn't the fault of the libraries because it is the patrons who sign up for Library Elf accounts.

Interlibrary Loan Monitoring Story Smelling Fishy

There is now another version of this story about a Dartmouth student who received a visit from Homeland Security after requesting an original version of Mao's Little Red Book. The latest version takes place at University of California/Santa Cruz and mentions History Professor Bruce Levine. I emailed Levine to see if he could verify the story, but my email was the first he'd heard about it. He was a bit amused, as his specialty is Civil War history, and curious about his name got tacked on to the story. ALA's Public Information Office is digging into the story as well. More details as they become available!

Update: 12/19 22:45 GMT by R :Jessamyn contacted the reporter of the original, Dartmouth story, and he's trying to confirm what he heard from the sources. What's clear is that the UCSC version of the story is a total rip-off of the Dartmouth story. Here's a cached page explaining that the UCSC story was bogus, and removed at the request of one of the professors mentioned in the story.

Privacy in Peril

Anonymous Patron writes " With identity thieves targeting big consumer databases, your data isn't just up for sale--it could be up for grabs.

Information brokers gather incredible amounts of personal data--not just credit details--from many different sources, including private companies and government agencies; then they sell it to businesses, to law enforcement, or to anyone who can demonstrate a need that the brokers consider legitimate. The laws limiting what information can be sold and who can receive it are weak and narrowly focused, so for the most part each broker is free to formulate its own standards."

Information Leaks Leave University Students Vulnerable

Anonymous Patron writes "Columbia Spectator: A harmless act of procrastination by a Queens College law student inadvertently uncovered what has become a massive headache for hundreds of City University of New York students, employees, and affiliates.
The university rushed to inform CUNY students last week that a security foul-up had compromised their confidential information."

Want to Look at the Internet? Your Passport, Please

Anonymous Patron writes "Italy recently passed a law that requires operators of Internet cafes to record and photocopy IDs and passports of anyone who logs on the net in an Internet Cafe. Can such a law be far behind in the US, and applied to libraries, in another future itertion of the Patriot Act? Read this USA Today story here:

Want to check your e-mail in Italy? Bring your passport

Privacy watchdogs say incidents are being disclosed more often

Anonymous Patron writes "One From The San Fransisco Chronicle says that contrary to appearances, there has probably not been an increase in security breaches.

Instead, there has been more disclosure, precipitated by the same California law that forced ChoicePoint to come clean, they said.

"I think there have always been as many security breaches as we've seen in the last few months," said Beth Givens, founder and director of the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Deigo. "The California security- breach notice law has increased the visibility of those breaches.""

In Digital World, Privacy Is Being Eroded For Commercial Gain

Anonymous Patron writes "Tampa Bay Online has a good report on our digital footprints. Companies track these trails for patterns and preferences. The digital footprints can be collected into profiles, or dossiers, so companies can pitch additional products or target advertising to customers.

As a result, government regulators, consumers and the companies offering the high- tech services are beginning to wrestle with how such digital histories will - or should be - stored and sold.

Of course, the government ain't much better, as The Palm Beach Post reports Federal agencies are using data brokers such as Seisint Inc. and ChoicePoint Inc. as a major investigative tool, despite concerns by some activists and lawmakers that the practice sidesteps a long-standing privacy law."


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