Tag Archives: privacy

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U.S. Transhumanist Party Support for H.R. 1868, the Restoring American Privacy Act of 2017 – Post by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
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The United States Transhumanist Party and Nevada Transhumanist Party support H.R. 1868, the Restoring American Privacy Act of 2017, proposed by Rep. Jacky Rosen of Henderson, Nevada.

This bill, if enacted into law, would undo the power recently granted by S.J. Res. 34 for regional-monopoly Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to sell individuals’ private data – including browsing histories – without those individuals’ consent. For more details, read Caleb Chen’s article on Privacy News Online, “Congresswoman Rosen introduces Restoring American Privacy Act of 2017 to reverse S.J. Res. 34”.

Section I of the U.S. Transhumanist Party Platform states, “The United States Transhumanist Party strongly supports individual privacy and liberty over how to apply technology to one’s personal life. The United States Transhumanist Party holds that each individual should remain completely sovereign in the choice to disclose or not disclose personal activities, preferences, and beliefs within the public sphere. As such, the United States Transhumanist Party opposes all forms of mass surveillance and any intrusion by governmental or private institutions upon non-coercive activities that an individual has chosen to retain within his, her, or its private sphere. However, the United States Transhumanist Party also recognizes that no individuals should be protected from peaceful criticism of any matters that those individuals have chosen to disclose within the sphere of public knowledge and discourse.”

Neither governmental nor private institutions – especially private institutions with coercive monopoly powers granted to them by laws barring or limiting competition – should be permitted to deprive individuals of the choice over whether or not to disclose their personal information.

Individuals’ ownership over their own data and sovereignty over whether or not to disclose any browsing history or other history of online visitation to external entities are essential components of privacy, and we applaud Representative Rosen for her efforts to restore these concepts within United States federal law.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free  by filling out the membership application form here

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The IRS Believes All Bitcoin Users are Tax Cheats – Article by Jim Harper

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The New Renaissance HatJim Harper
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The Internal Revenue Service has filed a “John Doe” summons seeking to require U.S. Bitcoin exchange Coinbase to turn over records about every transaction of every user from 2013 to 2015. That demand is shocking in sweep, and it includes: “complete user profile, history of changes to user profile from account inception, complete user preferences, complete user security settings and history (including confirmed devices and account activity), complete user payment methods, and any other information related to the funding sources for the account/wallet/vault, regardless of date.” And every single transaction:

All records of account/wallet/vault activity including transaction logs or other records identifying the date, amount, and type of transaction (purchase/sale/exchange), the post transaction balance, the names or other identifiers of counterparties to the transaction; requests or instructions to send or receive bitcoin; and, where counterparties transact through their own Coinbase accounts/wallets/vaults, all available information identifying the users of such accounts and their contact information.

The demand is not limited to owners of large amounts of Bitcoin or to those who have transacted in large amounts. Everything about everyone.

Equally shocking is the weak foundation for making this demand. In a declaration submitted to the court, an IRS agent recounts having learned of tax evasion on the part of one Bitcoin user and two companies. On this basis, he and the IRS claim “a reasonable basis for believing” that all U.S. Coinbase users “may fail or may have failed to comply” with the internal revenue laws.

If that evidence is enough to create a reasonable basis to believe that all Bitcoin users evade taxes, the IRS is entitled to access the records of everyone who uses paper money.

Anecdotes and online bragodaccio about tax avoidance are not a reasonable basis to believe that all Coinbase users are tax cheats whose financial lives should be opened to IRS investigators and the hackers looking over their shoulders. There must be some specific information about particular users, or else the IRS is seeking a general warrant, which the Fourth Amendment denies it the power to do.

Speaking of the Fourth Amendment, that rock-bottom “reasonable basis” standard is probably insufficient. Americans should and probably do have Fourth Amendment rights in information they entrust to financial services providers required by contract to keep it confidential. Observers of Fourth Amendment law know full-well that the “third-party doctrine,” which cancels Fourth Amendment interests in shared information, is in retreat.

The IRS’s effort to strip away the privacy of all Coinbase users is more broad than the government’s effort in recent cases dealing with cell site location information. In the CSLI cases, the government has sought data about particular suspects, using a standard below the probable cause standard required by the Fourth Amendment (“specific and articulable facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe”).

In United States v. Benbow, we argued to the D.C. Circuit that people retain a property right in information they share with service providers under contractual privacy obligations. This information is a “paper or effect” for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, a probable cause standard should apply to accessing that data.

Again, the government in the CSLI cases sought information about the cell phone use of particular suspects, and that is controversial enough given the low standard of the Stored Communications Act. Here, the IRS is seeking data about every user of Bitcoin, using a standard that’s even lower.

Coinbase’s privacy policy only permits it to share user information with law enforcement when it is “compelled to do so.” That implies putting up a reasonable fight for the interests of its users. Given the low standard and the vastly overbroad demand, Coinbase seems obligated to put up that fight.

Jim Harper is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, working to adapt law and policy to the information age in areas such as privacy, cybersecurity, telecommunications, intellectual property, counterterrorism, government transparency, and digital currency. A former counsel to committees in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, he went on to represent companies such as PayPal, ICO-Teledesic, DigitalGlobe, and Verisign, and in 2014 he served as Global Policy Counsel for the Bitcoin Foundation.

Harper holds a JD from the University of California–Hastings College of Law.

This work by Cato Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Read the original article.

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A Transhumanist Opinion on Privacy – Article by Ryan Starr

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Categories: Culture, Politics, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatRyan Starr

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Privacy is a favorite topic of mine. Maintaining individual privacy is a crucial element in free society. Yet there are many who want to invade it for personal or political gain. As our digital fingerprint becomes a part of our notion of self, how do we maintain our personal privacy on an inherently impersonal network of data? Where do we draw that line on what is private, and how do we enforce it? These are questions that are difficult to answer when looking at a short-term perspective. However, if we look further into the probable future, we can create a plan that helps protect the privacy of citizens today and for generations to come. By taking into account the almost certain physical merger of human biology and technology, the answer becomes clear. Our electronic data should be treated as part of our bodily autonomy.

The explosive success of social media has shown that we already view ourselves as partly digital entities. Where we go, what we eat, and who we are with is proudly displayed in cyberspace for eternity. But beyond that we store unique data about ourselves “securely” on the internet. Bank accounts, tax returns, even medical information are filed away on a server somewhere and specifically identified as us. It’s no longer solely what we chose to let people see. We are physical and digital beings, and it is time we view these two sides as one before we take the next step into enhanced humanity.

Subdermal storage of electronic data is here, and its storage capabilities will expand rapidly. Soon we will be able to store a lot more than just access codes for our doors. It is hard to speculate exactly what people will chose to keep stored this way, and there may even come a time when what we see and hear is automatically stored this way. But before we go too far into what will be stored, we must understand how this information is accessed in present time. These implants are currently based in NFC technology. Near-Field Communication is a method of storing and transmitting data wirelessly within a very short distance. Yes, “wireless” is the key word. It means that if I can connect my NFC tag to my smart phone by just waiving my hand close to it (usually within an inch or so), then technically someone else can, too. While current antenna limitations and the discreetness of where a person’s tag is implanted create a highly secure method of storage, advances in technology will eventually make it easier to access the individual. This is why it is urgent we develop a streamlined policy for privacy.

The current Transhumanist position is that personally collected intellectual property, whether stored digitally or organically, is the property of the individual. As such, it should be protected from unauthorized search and download. The current platform also states that each individual has the freedom to enhance their own body as they like so long as it doesn’t negatively impact others. However, it does not specify what qualifies as a negative impact or how to prevent it. Morphological freedom is a double-edged sword. A person can a person enhance their ability to access information on themselves, but they can also use it to access others. It is entirely feasible enhancements will be created that allow a person to hack another. And collecting personal data isn’t the only risk with that. What if the hacking victim has an artificial heart or an implanted insulin pump? The hacker could potentially access the code the medical device is operating with and change or delete it, ultimately leading to death. Another scenario might be hacking into someone’s enhanced sensory abilities. Much like in the novel Ender’s Game, a person can access another to see what they see. This ability can be abused countless ways ranging from government surveillance to sexual voyeurism. While this is still firmly within the realm of science fiction, a transhuman society will need to create laws to protect against these person-to-person invasions of privacy.

Now let’s consider mass data collection. Proximity beacons could easily and cheaply be scattered across stores and cities to function as passive collection points much like overhead cameras are today. Retail stands to gain significantly from this technology, especially if they are allowed access to intimate knowledge about customers. Government intelligence gathering also stands to benefit from this capability. Levels of adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin stored for personal health analysis could be taken and paired with location data to put together an invasive picture of how people are feeling in a certain situation. Far more can be learned and exploited when discreetly collected biodata is merged with publicly observable activity.

In my mind, these are concerns that should be addressed sooner than later. If we take the appropriate steps to preserve personal privacy in all domains, we can make a positive impact that will last into the 22nd century.
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Ryan Starr is the leader of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado. This article was originally published on his blog, and has been republished here with his permission.

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First They Came For the iPhones… – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Justice, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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The FBI tells us that its demand for a back door into the iPhone is all about fighting terrorism, and that it is essential to break in just this one time to find out more about the San Bernardino attack last December. But the truth is they had long sought a way to break Apple’s iPhone encryption and, like 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act, a mass murder provided just the pretext needed. After all, they say, if we are going to be protected from terrorism we have to give up a little of our privacy and liberty. Never mind that government spying on us has not prevented one terrorist attack.

Apple has so far stood up to a federal government’s demand that it force its employees to write a computer program to break into its own product. No doubt Apple CEO Tim Cook understands the damage it would do to his company for the world to know that the US government has a key to supposedly secure iPhones. But the principles at stake are even higher. We have a fundamental right to privacy. We have a fundamental right to go about our daily life without the threat of government surveillance of our activities. We are not East Germany.

Let’s not forget that this new, more secure iPhone was developed partly in response to Ed Snowden’s revelations that the federal government was illegally spying on us. The federal government was caught breaking the law but instead of ending its illegal spying is demanding that private companies make it easier for it to continue.

Last week we also learned that Congress is planning to join the fight against Apple – and us. Members are rushing to set up yet another federal commission to study how our privacy can be violated for false promises of security. Of course they won’t put it that way, but we can be sure that will be the result. Some in Congress are seeking to pass legislation regulating how companies can or cannot encrypt their products. This will suppress the development of new technology and will have a chilling effect on our right to be protected from an intrusive federal government. Any legislation Congress writes limiting encryption will likely be unconstitutional, but unfortunately Congress seldom heeds the Constitution anyway.

When FBI Director James Comey demanded a back door into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, he promised that it was only for this one, extraordinary situation. “The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message,” he said in a statement last week. Testifying before Congress just days later, however, he quickly changed course, telling the Members of the House Intelligence Committee that the court order and Apple’s appeals, “will be instructive for other courts.” Does anyone really believe this will not be considered a precedent-setting case? Does anyone really believe the federal government will not use this technology again and again, with lower and lower thresholds?

According to press reports, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., has 175 iPhones with passcodes that the City of New York wants to access. We can be sure that is only the beginning.

We should support Apple’s refusal to bow to the FBI’s dangerous demands, and we should join forces to defend of our precious liberties without compromise. If the people lead, the leaders will follow.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Thanks to “Wiretapping” Laws, Your Cell Phone Is a Felony Machine – Article by Gary McGath

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The New Renaissance HatGary McGath
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The prosecutions are clearly meant to chill free speech

In 2006, police in Nashua, New Hampshire, filed charges against Michael Gannon for using a security system in his home. When he brought a security recording to the police to back up a complaint about how he was treated, they arrested him and charged him with “felony wiretapping” — recording what happened in his own house. They were later forced to drop the charges under intense publicity.

The relevant New Hampshire law is titled “Wiretapping and Eavesdropping,” but it isn’t restricted to electronic communications.

It’s a felony if someone “willfully intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any telecommunication or oral communication.”

Intercepting means “the aural or other acquisition of, or the recording of, the contents of any telecommunication or oral communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device.” Oral communication means “any verbal communication uttered by a person who has a reasonable expectation that the communication is not subject to interception, under circumstances justifying such expectation,” but the law doesn’t define “reasonable expectation.”

Recording what someone else says can be a felony unless it falls under the reasonable-expectation exception. Burglars don’t expect to be recorded. I live in the same city as Gannon; if thieves broke into my home and I recorded their activity, would I dare bring the evidence to the police?

The New Hampshire law is a “two-party consent” law; you can’t even record your own conversation with someone else without letting him or her know. Nine to twelve states, depending on interpretation, have two-party consent requirements.

In recent years activists have successfully pushed back against using those laws to prevent or punish recording police activity. Courts have held that when they’re on duty, cops don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Governments can still use the law against people who record other public speech, though.

In 2015, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Christopher David was charged with felony wiretapping for recording a conversation on a public street. He recorded a private citizen telling him he could be prosecuted for running an Uber vehicle, which the city has banned. It’s easy to suspect the city is going after him for competing with the city’s taxis, but officially, his “crime” is recording words directed at him in public.

Illinois had a similarly draconian law often used to punish recording the police, which the state’s Supreme Court struck down. The court held:

The recording provision of the eavesdropping statute … burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to serve a legitimate state interest in protecting conversational privacy. Thus, it does not survive intermediate scrutiny. We hold that the recording provision is unconstitutional on its face because a substantial number of its applications violate the First Amendment.

Any legal prohibition ought to satisfy the question, “What harm to someone does it deter?” Recording a person who comes up to you in public and tells you something doesn’t injure him in any way. If he’s giving away information he doesn’t want known, that’s on his own head.

Eugene Volokh notes that without a clear definition of privacy, prohibitions ostensibly designed to protect it can seriously infringe on free speech. “Once restrictions on people’s speech are accepted in the name of ‘privacy,’ people will likely use them to argue for other restrictions on ‘privacy’ grounds, even when the matter involves a very different sort of ‘privacy.’” This is a serious matter, because “the right to information privacy — my right to control your communication of personally identifiable information about me — is a right to have the government stop you from speaking about me.”

Modern technology allows anyone to make video recordings in public, and if anyone’s voice is picked up without consent, the recording could be a crime punishable by years in jail. David Rittgers, an attorney and legal policy analyst at the Cato Institute, argues, “I think in this modern age where everyone has a ‘felony machine’ in their pocket — a cell phone — the [all-party] consent law is outdated.”

When the government surreptitiously captures records of our private communications, it tells us we shouldn’t worry if we have nothing to hide. When we record people speaking openly in public, quite a different standard applies.

Most of the debate about abusive wiretapping and eavesdropping laws has focused on their use to protect police officers caught misbehaving. The problem doesn’t stop there, though. When “reasonable expectation of privacy” isn’t clearly delimited, any recording of what people say in public can become an excuse to throw people in jail.

Gary McGath is a freelance software engineer living in Nashua, New Hampshire.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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The Internet Memory Hole – Article by Wendy McElroy

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The New Renaissance Hat
Wendy McElroy
November 24, 2014
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Imagine you are considering a candidate as a caregiver for your child. Or maybe you are vetting an applicant for a sensitive position in your company. Perhaps you’re researching a public figure for class or endorsing him in some manner. Whatever the situation, you open your browser and assess the linked information that pops up from a search. Nothing criminal or otherwise objectionable is present, so you proceed with confidence. But what if the information required for you to make a reasoned assessment had been removed by the individual himself?

Under “the right to be forgotten,” a new “human right” established in the European Union in 2012, people can legally require a search engine to delete links to their names, even if information at the linked source is true and involves a public matter such as an arrest. The Google form for requesting removal asks the legally relevant question of why the link is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise objectionable.” Then it is up to the search engine to determine whether to delete the link.

The law’s purpose is to prevent people from being stigmatized for life. The effect, however, is to limit freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and access to information. Each person becomes a potential censor who can rewrite history for personal advantage.

It couldn’t happen here

The process of creating such a law in the United States is already underway. American law is increasingly driven by public opinion and polls. The IT security company Software Advice recently conducted a survey that found that “sixty-one percent of Americans believe some version of the right to be forgotten is necessary,” and “thirty-nine percent want a European-style blanket right to be forgotten, without restrictions.” And politicians love to give voters what they want.

In January 2015, California will enforce the Privacy Rights for California Minors in the Digital World law. This is the first state version of a “right to be forgotten” law. It requires “the operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application to permit a minor, who is a registered user … to remove, or to request and obtain removal of, content or information posted … by the minor.” (There are some exceptions.)

Meanwhile, the consumer-rights group Consumer Watchdog has floated the idea that Google should voluntarily provide Americans with the right to be forgotten. On September 30, 2014, Forbes stated, “The fight for the right to be forgotten is certainly coming to the U.S., and sooner than you may think.” For one thing, there is a continuing hue and cry about embarrassing photos of minors and celebrities being circulated.

Who and what deserves to be forgotten?

What form would the laws likely take? In the Stanford Law Review (February 13, 2012), legal commentator Jeffrey Rosen presented three categories of information that would be vulnerable if the EU rules became a model. First, material posted could be “unlinked” at the poster’s request. Second, material copied by another site could “almost certainly” be unlinked at the original poster’s request unless its retention was deemed “necessary” to “the right of freedom of expression.” Rosen explained, “Essentially, this puts the burden on” the publisher to prove that the link “is a legitimate journalistic (or literary or artistic) exercise.” Third, the commentary of one individual about another, whether truthful or not, could be vulnerable. Rosen observed that the EU includes “takedown requests for truthful information posted by others.… I can demand takedown and the burden, once again, is on the third party to prove that it falls within the exception for journalistic, artistic, or literary exception.”

Search engines have an incentive to honor requests rather than to absorb the legal cost of fighting them. Rosen said, “The right to be forgotten could make Facebook and Google, for example, liable for up to two percent of their global income if they fail to remove photos that people post about themselves and later regret, even if the photos have been widely distributed already.” An October 12, 2014, article in the UK Daily Mail indicated the impact of compliance on the free flow of public information. The headline: “Google deletes 18,000 UK links under ‘right to be forgotten’ laws in just a month: 60% of Europe-wide requests come from fraudsters, criminals and sex offenders.”

American backlash

America protects the freedoms of speech and the press more vigorously than Europe does. Even California’s limited version of a “right to be forgotten” bill has elicited sharp criticism from civil libertarians and tech-freedom advocates. The IT site TechCrunch expressed the main practical objection: “The web is chaotic, viral, and interconnected. Either the law is completely toothless, or it sets in motion a very scary anti-information snowball.” TechCrunch also expressed the main political objection: The bill “appears to create a head-on collision between privacy law and the First Amendment.”

Conflict between untrue information and free speech need not occur. Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, explained, “Traditional law has mechanisms, like defamation and libel law, to allow a person to seek redress against someone who publishes untrue information about him.… The legal standards are long-standing and fairly clear.” Defamation and libel are controversial issues within the libertarian community, but the point here is that defense against untrue information already exists.

What of true information? Truth is a defense against being charged with defamation or libel. America tends to value freedom of expression above privacy rights. It is no coincidence that the First Amendment is first among the rights protected by the Constitution. And any “right” to delete the truth from the public sphere runs counter to the American tradition of an open public square where information is debated and weighed.

Moreover, even true information can have powerful privacy protection. For example, the Fourth Amendment prohibits the use of data that is collected via unwarranted search and seizure. The Fourteenth Amendment is deemed by the Supreme Court to offer a general protection to family information. And then there are the “protections” of patents, trade secrets, copyrighted literature, and a wide range of products that originate in the mind. Intellectual property is controversial, too. But again, the point here is that defenses already exist.

Reputation capital

Reputation capital consists of the good or bad opinions that a community holds of an individual over time. It is not always accurate, but it is what people think. The opinion is often based on past behaviors, which are sometimes viewed as an indicator of future behavior. In business endeavors, reputation capital is so valuable that aspiring employees will work for free as interns in order to accrue experience and recommendations. Businesses will take a loss to replace an item or to otherwise credit a customer in order to establish a name for fairness. Reputation is thus a path to being hired and to attracting more business. It is a nonfinancial reward for establishing the reliability and good character upon which financial remuneration often rests.

Conversely, if an employee’s bad acts are publicized, then a red flag goes up for future employers who might consider his application. If a company defrauds customers, community gossip could drive it out of business. In the case of negative reputation capital, the person or business who considers dealing with the “reputation deficient” individual is the one who benefits by realizing a risk is involved. Services, such as eBay, often build this benefit into their structure by having buyers or sellers rate individuals. By one estimate, a 1 percent negative rating can reduce the price of an eBay good by 4 percent. This system establishes a strong incentive to build positive reputation capital.

Reputation capital is particularly important because it is one of the key answers to the question, “Without government interference, how do you ensure the quality of goods and services?” In a highly competitive marketplace, reputation becomes a path to success or to failure.

Right-to-be-forgotten laws offer a second chance to an individual who has made a mistake. This is a humane option that many people may choose to extend, especially if the individual will work for less money or offer some other advantage in order to win back his reputation capital. But the association should be a choice. The humane nature of a second chance should not overwhelm the need of others for public information to assess the risks involved in dealing with someone. Indeed, this risk assessment provides the very basis of the burgeoning sharing economy.

History and culture are memory

In “The Right to Be Forgotten: An Insult to Latin American History,” Eduardo Bertoni offers a potent argument. He writes that the law’s “name itself“ is “an affront to Latin America; rather than promoting this type of erasure, we have spent the past few decades in search of the truth regarding what occurred during the dark years of the military dictatorships.” History is little more than preserved memory. Arguably, culture itself lives or dies depending on what is remembered and shared.

And yet, because the right to be forgotten has the politically seductive ring of fairness, it is becoming a popular view. Fleischer called privacy “the new black in censorship fashion.” And it may be increasingly on display in America.

Wendy McElroy (wendy@wendymcelroy.com) is an author, editor of ifeminists.com, and Research Fellow at The Independent Institute (independent.org).

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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Congress Defers to President On NSA Reform – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
January 12, 2014
Recommend this page.
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Congress’s decline from the Founders’ vision as “first among equals” in government to an echo chamber of the unitary executive, has been a slow but steady process. In the process we have seen a steady stream of unconstitutional wars and civil-liberties abuses at home. Nowhere is this decline more evident than in the stark contrast between the Congressional response to intelligence agencies’ abuses during the post-Watergate era and its response to the far more serious NSA abuses uncovered in recent years.In 1975, Senator Frank Church (D-ID) convened an historic select committee to investigate the US intelligence services for possible criminality in the wake of Watergate. Thanks in part to reporting by Seymour Hersh and others, abuses by the CIA, NSA, and FBI had come to light, including the monitoring of US peace activists.The Church Committee played its proper Congressional role, checking the power of the executive branch as it had been spiraling out of control since the 1950s and the early CIA covert action programs. The Committee sought to protect US citizens against abuses by their government after those abuses had come to light through leaks of secret government documents.

The parallel to the present NSA scandals cannot be ignored. What is completely different, however, is that Congress is today acting as an advocate for the executive branch’s continuing abuses, and as an opponent to the civil liberties of US citizens. Not only has Congress – with a precious few exceptions – accepted the NSA’s mass spying program on American citizens, it has actually been encouraging the president to continue and expand the program!

Where once there was a Congressional committee to challenge and oppose the president’s abuse of power, today the president himself has been even allowed by a complacent Congress to hand pick his own NSA review commission!

Are we really expected to believe that a commission appointed by the president to look into the activities of the president’s intelligence services will come to anything more than a few superficial changes to give the impression of real reform?

One of the president’s commission recommendations is that the NSA cease holding our phone records and demand that the private phone companies retain those records instead – for the NSA to access as it wishes. This is supposed to be reform?

The president will make a speech this Friday to tell the rest of us which of the suggestions made by his own commission he will decide to implement. Congress has no problem with that. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) admitted last week that Congress has no intention of asserting itself in the process. “It’s my hope that [Obama will] do as much as he can through the executive process because the legislative process will be difficult, perilous and long.”

Senator Church famously said back in 1975:

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air… We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left… There would be no place to hide…. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

Have we reached that point? Let us hope not. Real reform begins with the repeal of the PATRIOT Act and of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. If we keep our eye on that goal and not allow ourselves to become distracted with the president’s phony commissions we might force Congress to listen.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Internet Fascism and the Surveillance State – Article by Ben O’Neill

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ben O’Neill
July 16, 2013
Recommend this page.
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What is the purpose of telecommunication and internet surveillance?

The NSA presents its surveillance operations as being directed toward security issues, claiming that the programs are needed to counter terrorist attacks. Bald assertions of plots foiled are intended to bolster this claim.[1] However, secret NSA documents reveal that their surveillance is used to gather intelligence to achieve political goals for the US government. Agency documents show extensive surveillance of communications from allied governments, including the targeting of embassies and missions.[2] Reports from an NSA whistleblower also allege that the agency has targeted and intercepted communications from a range of high-level political and judicial officials, anti-war groups, US banking firms and other major companies and non-government organizations.[3] This suggests that the goal of surveillance is the further political empowerment of the NSA and the US government.

Ostensibly, the goal of the NSA surveillance is to prevent terrorist acts that would harm or kill people in the United States. But in reality, the primary goal is to enable greater control of that population (and others) by the US government. When questioned about this issue, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake was unequivocal about the goal of the NSA: “to own the internet and find out what everybody is doing.”[4]

“To own the internet” — Public-private partnerships in mass surveillance

The internet is, by its very nature, a decentralized arrangement, created by the interaction of many private and government servers operating on telecommunications networks throughout the world. This has always been a major bugbear of advocates for government control, who have denigrated this decentralized arrangement as being “lawless.” Since it began to expand as a tool of mass communication for ordinary people, advocates for greater government power have fought a long battle to bring the internet “under control” — i.e., under their control.

The goal of government “ownership of the internet” entails accessing the facilities that route traffic through the network. This is gradually being done through government control of the network infrastructure and the gradual domination of the primary telecommunications and internet companies that provide the facilities for routing traffic through the network. Indeed, one noteworthy aspect of the mass surveillance system of the NSA is that it has allegedly involved extensive cooperation with many “private” firms operating under US law. This has allegedly included major security, telecommunications and internet companies, as well as producers of network software and hardware.

Examples of such “public-private partnerships” are set out in leaked documents of the NSA. An unnamed US telecommunications company is reported to provide the NSA with mass surveillance data on the communications of non-US people under its FAIRVIEW program.[5] Several major computing and internet companies have also been explicitly named in top secret internal NSA material as being current providers for the agency under its PRISM program.[6] Several of these companies have issued denials disavowing any participation in, or prior knowledge of the program, but this has been met with some scepticism.[7] (Indeed, given that the NSA did not anticipate public release of its own internal training material, it is unlikely that the agency would have any cause to lie about the companies they work with in this material. This suggests that the material may be accurate.)

Many of these companies have supplied the NSA with data from their own customers, or created systems which allow the agency access to the information flowing through telecommunications networks. They have done so without disclosure to their own customers of the surveillance that has occurred, by using the blanket advisement that they “comply with lawful requests for information.” By virtue of being subject to the jurisdiction of US statutes, all of these companies have been legally prohibited from discussing any of their dealings with the NSA and they have been well placed for retaliatory action by the many regulatory agencies of the US government if they do not cooperate. In any case, it appears from present reports that many companies have been active partners of the agency, assisting the NSA with illegal surveillance activities by supplying data under programs with no legitimate legal basis.

This has been a common historical pattern in the rise of totalitarian States, which have often sought to incorporate large business concerns into their network of power. Indeed, the very notion of “public-private partnerships” in this sector readily brings to mind the worst aspects of fascist economic systems that have historically existed. The actions of US companies that have cooperated in the NSA’s mass surveillance operations calls into question the “private” status of these companies. In many ways these companies have acted as an extension of the US government, providing information illegally, in exchange for privileges and intelligence. According to media reports, “Such cooperation is an extremely delicate issue for the companies involved. Many have promised their customers data confidentiality in their terms and conditions. Furthermore, they are obliged to follow the laws of the countries in which they do business. As such, their cooperation deals with the NSA are top secret. Even in internal NSA documents, they are only referred to by the use of code names.”[8]

We began this discussion by asking the purpose of telecommunication and internet surveillance. The answer lies in the uses to which those surveillance powers are being put, and will inevitably be put, as the capacity of the NSA expands. The true purpose of the NSA is not to keep us safe. Its goal is to own the internet, to own our communications, to own our private thoughts — to own us.

Ben O’Neill is a lecturer in statistics at the University of New South Wales (ADFA) in Canberra, Australia. He has formerly practiced as a lawyer and as a political adviser in Canberra. He is a Templeton Fellow at the Independent Institute, where he won first prize in the 2009 Sir John Templeton Fellowship essay contest. Send him mail. See Ben O’Neill’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Notes

[1] Mathes, M. (2013) At least 50 spy programs foiled by terror plots: NSA . The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 June 2013.

[2] MacAskill, E. (2013) New NSA leaks show how US is bugging its European allies . The Guardian, 1 June 2013.

[3] Burghardt, T. (2013) NSA spying and intelligence collection: a giant blackmail machine and “warrantless wiretapping program.” Global Research , 24 June 2013. Reports are from NSA whistleblower Russ Tice, who is a former intelligence analyst at the NSA.

[4] Wolverton, J. (2012) Classified drips and leaks. The New American, 6 August 2012. Emphasis added. Capitalization of “Internet” removed.

[5] Greenwald, G. (2013) The NSA’s mass and indiscriminate spying on Brazilians . The Guardian, 7 July 2013.

[6] Gelman, B. and Poitras, L. (2013) US, British intelligence mining data from nine US internet companies in broad secret program . The Washington Post, 7 June 2013. See also NSA slides explain the PRISM data-collecting program . The Washington Post, 6 June 2013.

[7] McGarry, C. (2013) Page and Zuckerberg say NSA surveillance program is news to them . TechHive, 7 June 2013.

[8] Ibid Poitras, p. 3.

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If You Like the Surveillance State, You’ll Love E-Verify – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
June 30, 2013
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From massive NSA spying, to IRS targeting of the administration’s political opponents, to collection and sharing of our healthcare information as part of Obamacare, it seems every day we learn of another assault on our privacy. Sadly, this week the Senate took another significant, if little-noticed, step toward creating an authoritarian surveillance state. Buried in the immigration bill is a national identification system called mandatory E-Verify.

The Senate did not spend much time discussing E-Verify, and what little discussion took place was mostly bipartisan praise for its effectiveness as a tool for preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining employment. It is a tragedy that mandatory E-Verify is not receiving more attention, as it will impact nearly every American’s privacy and liberty.

The mandatory E-Verify system requires Americans to carry a “tamper-proof” Social Security card. Before they can legally begin a job, American citizens will have to show the card to their prospective employers, who will then have to verify their identity and eligibility to hold a job in the US by running the information through the newly created federal E-Verify database. The database will contain photographs taken from passport files and state driver’s licenses. The law gives federal bureaucrats broad discretion in adding other “biometric” identifiers to the database. It also gives the bureaucracy broad authority to determine what features the “tamper-proof” card should contain.

Regardless of one’s views on immigration, the idea that we should have to ask permission from the federal government before taking a job ought to be offensive to all Americans. Under this system, many Americans will be denied the opportunity for work. The E-Verify database will falsely identify thousands as “ineligible,” forcing many to lose job opportunities while challenging government computer inaccuracies. E-Verify will also impose additional compliance costs on American businesses, at a time when they are struggling with Obamacare implementation and other regulations.

According to David Bier of Competitive Enterprise Institute, there is nothing stopping the use of E-Verify for purposes unrelated to work verification, and these expanded uses could be authorized by agency rule-making or executive order. So it is not inconceivable that, should this bill pass, the day may come when you are not be able to board an airplane or exercise your Second Amendment rights without being run through the E-Verify database. It is not outside the realm of possibility that the personal healthcare information that will soon be collected by the IRS and shared with other federal agencies as part of Obamacare will also be linked to the E-Verify system.

Those who dismiss these concerns as paranoid should consider that the same charges were leveled at those who warned that the PATRIOT Act could lead to the government collecting our phone records and spying on our Internet usage. Just as the PATRIOT Act was only supposed to be used against terrorists but is now used to bypass constitutional protections in matters having noting to do with terrorism or national security, the national ID/mandatory E-Verify database will not only be used to prevent illegal immigrants from gaining employment. Instead, it will eventually be used as another tool to monitor and control the American people.

The recent revelations of the extent of National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Americans, plus recent stories of IRS targeting Tea Party and similar groups for special scrutiny, demonstrates the dangers of trusting government with this type of power. Creation of a federal database with photos and possibly other “biometric” information about American citizens is a great leap forward for the surveillance state. All Americans who still care about limited government and individual liberty should strongly oppose E-Verify.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission.

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Government Spying: Should We Be Shocked? – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
June 9, 2013
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Last week we saw dramatic new evidence of illegal government surveillance of our telephone calls, and of the National Security Agency’s deep penetration into American companies such as Facebook and Microsoft to spy on us. The media seemed shocked.

Many of us are not so surprised.

Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it would pave the way for massive US government surveillance—not targeting terrorists but rather aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least four wars ago.

We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA authority need expanding? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand over our personal information to the government?

It was all a build-up of the government’s capacity to monitor us.

The reaction of some in Congress and the Administration to last week’s leak was predictable. Knee-jerk defenders of the police state such as Senator Lindsey Graham declared that he was “glad” the government was collecting Verizon phone records—including his own—because the government needs to know what the enemy is up to. Those who take an oath to defend the Constitution from its enemies both foreign and domestic should worry about such statements.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers tells us of the tremendous benefits of this Big Brother-like program. He promises us that domestic terrorism plots were thwarted, but he cannot tell us about them because they are classified. I am a bit skeptical, however. In April, the New York Times reported that most of these domestic plots were actually elaborate sting operations developed and pushed by the FBI. According to the Times report, “of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, 14 were developed in sting operations.”

Even if Chairman Rogers is right, though, and the program caught someone up to no good, we have to ask ourselves whether even such a result justifies trashing the Constitution. Here is what I said on the floor of the House when the PATRIOT Act was up for renewal back in 2011:

“If you want to be perfectly safe from child abuse and wife beating, the government could put a camera in every one of our houses and our bedrooms, and maybe there would be somebody made safer this way, but what would you be giving up? Perfect safety is not the purpose of government. What we want from government is to enforce the law to protect our liberties.”

What most undermines the claims of the Administration and its defenders about this surveillance program is the process itself. First the government listens in on all of our telephone calls without a warrant and then if it finds something it goes to a FISA court and get an illegal approval for what it has already done! This turns the rule of law and due process on its head.

The government does not need to know more about what we are doing. We need to know more about what the government is doing. We need to turn the cameras on the police and on the government, not the other way around. We should be thankful for writers like Glenn Greenwald, who broke last week’s story, for taking risks to let us know what the government is doing. There are calls for the persecution of Greenwald and the other whistle-blowers and reporters. They should be defended, as their work defends our freedom.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission.

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