What cute baby picture posts may lead to …

You know them — the social media parents.

They learn she’s pregnant with her first child. Joy consumes them. The announcement hits Twitter with abdominal photo or sonogram: “I’m preggers! #thefirst #babybump #joyful”

The author, ever analog ...

The author, ever analog …

Husband and wife create an email account for the unborn child. They send a book’s worth of loving messages for her to read years from now. Husband or wife (usually wife) creates a WordPress blog to chronicle the family journey.

Delivery room photos of happy husband and sweat-soaked wife holding the minutes-old child hit Facebook. Baby clothes choices choke Instagram.

The predictable follows, mostly with photos. Cute baby eating in high chair, face smeared with mushed peas. Cute baby’s bare butt. Cute baby sleeping blissfully. Cute baby in cute baby holder. Selfies (usually by mom) holding cute baby smiling, regurgitating, sleeping, crying (don’t bother to pick one; you’ll eventually see them all). Cute baby with family puppy or kitten.

Then it’s toddler toddling. Kid taking her first steps. First play date. First day of pre-school. Pre-school graduation. First day of kindergarten. Kindergarten graduation. Various religious functions (baptism, bris, first communion, bar mitzvah, aqiqah, etc.)

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New Facebook app update demands unreasonable privacy access – The Tech Curmudgeon

The Borg meet the One App in the Facebook app’s latest privacy permissions.

Internet and Social MediaThe Tech Curmudgeon has got a Facebook app on his smartphone, probably like nearly everyone else in the English-speaking world. But the Tech Curmudgeon hasn’t updated it to the latest app, and he won’t. In fact, when his current version of the Facebook app stops working, the Tech Curmudgeon will purge the app from his phone entirely rather than update to the next version. And when his phone finally dies and the Tech Curmudgeon has to get a new one, he’ll probably purge the Facebook app from that one too, all because Facebook’s recent update has asked for permissions no one in their right mind would give Facebook. Continue reading

Hey Facebook – can you tell me who my perfect match is?

PrivacyBig Data and Social Media: Americans can’t give their privacy away fast enough…

Big Data just keeps getting bigger and biggerer, and it seems like if you have enough data you can figure out damned near anything. Last year we had the case of Target telling a Minneapolis man his teenaged daughter was pregnant before she did. Now it seems like Facebook knows who you’re involved with whether you reveal it or not. Continue reading

It’s SchadenFriday! Who really got theirs this week?

You want to get away with this? Then be this guy. Otherwise, stop.

Sadly, nobody really.  Surprising no one, I’m sure, it can be terribly difficult to find tales of people who actually get the full spectrum what’s coming to them. That’s the degree of trouble that causes me the most perverse dance-a-jig-on-a-grave glee. Failing that, I’ll gladly accept for my prurient amusement any troubles at all for folks and institutions that, in my estimation, deserve that and so much more. This week we’ve got six stories that detail people who are at least feeling the heat for one kind of asshattery or another, or should be sometime soon.

Christian family home after ill-fated Pacific voyage to escape US tyranny

First up, we’ve got the Gastonguay family. This would be a real rib-tickler if not for one key point…children were endangered. I’ll settle for a round of hoots and jeers. Why is it even remotely amusing? Well, while I do give Ma and Pa props for having the courage of their convictions, I have a huge problem with a) inflicting those ill-informed convictions on children when b) such courage puts the lives of those children in jeopardy.

For one thing, these miscreants (if reckless endangerment of children isn’t a crime, it damned well should be) have the problem ass-backward. Government isn’t interfering with religion. Proponents of one particular religion, particularly the faithful in an especially virulent strain of that religion are interfering with government. Facts matter.

Ma feels deeply wronged because they have to pay taxes for things they don’t agree with, specifically, abortion provided for by Obamacare. Funny thing about that, there’s no truth in it.

For that matter, cry me a river when it comes to paying taxes for things you don’t agree with.  Maybe those of us who are against wars of aggression rife with “conflict of interest,” dare I say greed, should be exempted from paying taxes because that’s just not fair? After all, we have a bit of a history of killing hundreds of thousands of people for trumped up reasons, and those people happen to include civilians, women, children.

And puh-lease!  The state is controlling religion?  News flash:  nobody forces churches to file for tax exempt status to keep them however ineffectually, out of the political arena.  Smarter churches have even realized that the tax exemption is basically the government bribe to shut the hell up.  I don’t think you get to collect the bribe and still complain about being regulated.  Want to talk about having real government intrusions into your faith?  First, consider the Navajo.

Poor dear also feels, “”The Bible is pretty clear.” Really, now? Is that why the history of Christianity is a history of bloody schism and war resulting in no less than 200 denominations? Clear as mother’s milk, it seems. So clear, for that matter, that Skeptic’s Annotated Bible has a heyday with all that crystal clarity.  The Bible may deserve praise for a number of reasons, but clarity just isn’t one of them.

The just desserts? Poor Pa Cretin will now have to get a job to pay back the government to the tune of $10,000. Now if only someone would bring criminal charges against them for endangering their children and see to it that those kids are raised in a safe home, regardless of the religion (or lack of) espoused by the foster parents.

Tenn. judge changes infant’s name from ‘Messiah’

Next up, we have a judge who is actually either stupid enough or genuinely corrupt enough to say out loud that her ruling boils down to, “because Jesus.” For now, I hope she’s squirming from all the attention. I’ll be much happier when her ruling is overturned. I will be ecstatic if she never gets to darken the bench again with her oppressive bigotry. Bonus points? There’s some indication that this is an issue where the left and libertarians have a chance of reaching agreement.

Charges: W.Va. judge tried to frame ex-mistress’ husband

For now we’re still stuck at the stage of allegations and accusations. Should it turn out this poor schmo has been unjustly targeted and that he’s really a nice, upstanding guy, I’ll feel bad for feeling good. I won’t hold my breath. Should it turn out that this man actually is a feculent lump of injustice disgracing his robe, I really hope he has to spend some time behind bars.  This story makes Newt Gingrich and Anthony Wiener look like ardent defenders of the sanctity of marriage by comparison.

Rick Santorum accused of soliciting illegal campaign contributions

This story should surprise nobody that already suspects Santorum of schmuckitude in the first dregree. It really would just be a matter of time that this walking conflation of stupidity and malice would cross a line where money is concerned. Oh, please, please, please let there be evidence that would grace a prison with his presence.

NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds

I really want to be clear here. It’s not the difficulties of some nebulous “NSA” (as though it doesn’t comprise flesh and blood people), or even of people I’m mostly willing to give the benefit of the doubt to when it comes to good intentions and service to country, that make me merry when doused in sunlight. It’s the death throes of misbegotten policy that hit the sweet spot as far as I’m concerned. The more that comes out about NSA overreach and outright incompetence, the closer we get (I hope!) to drawing some clear and proper boundaries around their actions and those of the government in general. Just don’t bank on it coming from empty (or worse, misdirecting) posturing from the POTUS. After all, only three days after announcing that he wants an independent body to provide some oversight he suggests that known liar and policy apologist Clapper would be just the guy to set up that “independent” body. I can’t wait until the next Snowden release. Eventually we’ll hit a tipping point where we must do something adequate to remedy these violations of our constitutional rights.

Photo: Hooters Restaurants in San Diego Won’t Serve Bob Filner

Finally, SOMEBODY has to pay a pound of flesh now, sort of.  Pa Gastonguay’s $10k bill is ultimately far more satisfying, but it lacks a certain immediacy.  Right now, America’s new poster boy for misogynistic douchebaggery, Filner, is barred from America’s most mainstream meatmarket’s locations in San Diego. I’m sure he would have gone just for the sliders, right? Oh, wait, I guess that depends on whether that’s a euphemism. Seriously, when you get called out by Hooter’s for disrespecting women, you’re doing it terribly wrong.


Image credit: twm1340 @ flikr.com. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Mark Udall: working hard to fly a drone up the ass of every American

UdallDronesWe’ve had some issues through the years with Colorado’s BiParticrat Senator, Mark Udall. He’s worked hard to cultivate a reputation as a guy who’s looking after our civil liberties, and his chief tactic in doing so has been an insistence on no-nonsense, pro-rights policy a nigh-Cirque du Soleil-esque commitment to misdirection, sleight-of-hand, obfuscation, backpedaling, smoke-blowing, singing in tongues and tapdancing. Recall, if you will, his silver-tongued bullshittery back in 2008 when I wrote him about his anti-Constitutional collaboration with the Bush administration over FISA. I don’t know who his Propagandist-in-Chief is, but his/her gift for doublespeak could, in a month or two, transform Charlie Sheen and Paris Hilton into poster children for abstinence.

Now Udall is on the stump for domestic drones, and again, he’s waving the bright shiny with one hand while he fishes the Vaseline out of his pocket with the other. See, the thing is, he wants us to understand, the thing is that we have to make sure all those people putting drones with cameras in the air over America’s cities and towns are doing so in a way that doesn’t, you know, result in illegal surveillance.

No, wait. That’s not quite right. That’s what he wants you to hear. What’s he’s actually saying is slightly different.

“We need to integrate unmanned aerial systems into the American psyche in a way that isn’t threatening or scary,” he said, in remarks at the National Press Club. “Many here today have likely recognized that I’m deliberately not using the word ‘drone’ because it carries a stigma.

Ahh. There’s the Vaseline. What we have to do is deploy those drones – excuse me,  unmanned aerial systems – in a way that doesn’t upset folks. The problem isn’t the drones, it’s the people. We don’t need to ban drones, we need to reengineer people’s psyches so that they look up in the sky and see a friend. It’s not like Big Brother at all.

Udall’s solution sounds okay on its face, although we’re not being given anything in the way of specifics. But we can trust him.

Udall is working to update safeguards to protect Americans from being surveilled by private drone operators without their consent, addressing concerns raised by his constituents while helping to head off possible legal problems for an emerging and potentially important industry for Colorado.

The great news is that he has a track record of being an uncompromising privacy watchdog and if history tells us anything, it’s that Congress always refuses to bend and water down legislation in the face of lobbying by big industry interests.


In related news, you may have been reading that the NSA has been routinely collecting our phone records without warrants for several years now. Why do I mention this now?

Intelligence committee member Mark Udall, who has previously warned in broad terms about the scale of government snooping, said: “This sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I’ve said Americans would find shocking.”

Yes. I’ve been worried about illegal government surveillance all along. Which is why I voted to grant blanket immunity to telecoms that helped Bush operate his illegal scheme.

Ahem, I say. Ahem.

So now BiParticrat Udall wants us to all get warm and fuzzy about those unmanned aerial systems which he’s being careful not call, you know, the “D” word. Kumbayah, bitches. We can trust him to shoot straight and never compromise where our rights are concerned. Just like he always has.

Pass the Vaseline, yo.


Marathon Monday investigation rolls on: the irony of being a privacy advocate in an NCIS world

Ah, yes. The advantages of living in a security state.

Authorities have clear video images of two separate suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings carrying black bags at each explosion site and are planning to release the images today in an appeal for the public’s help in identifying the men, according to an official briefed on the case.

The official said that the two suspects were seen separately on videotape — one at each of the two bombing sites, which are located about a block apart.

The official, who spoke this morning on the condition of anonymity, said the best video has come from surveillance cameras on the same side of Boylston Street as the explosions. The official said the widely reported Lord and Taylor surveillance camera, and snapshots from individual cellphone camera users, have not provided the clearest images.

Big Brother is watching. Also, Lord & Taylor, the bodega on the corner, the liquor store, the dry cleaner, the douchenozzle at the next table with the funny glasses

This is all pretty high-tech, NCIS stuff.

If investigators in Boston can find a facial image of sufficient quality from the videos, it could provide a powerful lead. The F.B.I. has been working for several years to create a facial recognition program, and the video of a suspect or suspects could be matched against the bureau’s database of mug shots of about 12 million people who have been arrested, officials said.

If there is no match, investigators can hunt for the suspects’ images in the voluminous videos and photographs from the bombing site that were submitted by members of the public in response to an F.B.I. appeal. That is still a technically difficult task, because the software is most accurate with head-on facial images and can be thrown off even by a smile, specialists said on Wednesday.

Still, “it’s vastly superior to just watching the video,” said Al Shipp, chief executive of 3VR Inc., a company that sells video analytics software. “You can sort through years of video in seconds. That’s the game changer.”

By piecing together more images of suspects and their movements, the F.B.I. might be able to come up with a name. Even without a name, Mr. Shipp said, investigators could program multiple cameras at airports and elsewhere with the suspects’ images so the cameras would send an alert to them if someone resembling a suspect passed by.

CATEGORY: PrivacyIf only everyone had been wearing Google Glass, huh?


It’s no secret that we here at S&R care a lot about things like freedom and privacy. We’ve written any number of times about the encroachments of advanced electronic technology (heck, I’ve even gone all Minority Report over things like the shopping cart of the future).

At the same time, I think we understand the allure of surveillance technology. They never solved the bombing of Canadian Pacific Airlines Flight 21, did they? Or the 1933 United Airlines Boeing 247 crash. Who robbed the Denver Mint? Who was the Batman rapist? Whatever happened to Maud Crawford? And we never found out the identity of the Boy in the Box.

There are lots of mysterious unsolved crimes across our history – some famous, some obscure. The thing is, if you took the time to map out and examine each and every one of them, you’d probably notice a pattern: thanks to modern investigation techniques enabled by advanced forensics technology, it’s getting harder and harder to get away with anything. It isn’t impossible, of course. But Jack the Ripper didn’t have to worry about Abby Sciuto.

You might hate the idea that your every movement is being recorded as you wander around your local Target. You’re uneasy about the knowledge that every time you buy something online, every time you use a credit card, every time you save a few pennies with that supermarket loyalty card, Big Data knows a little more about you. Maybe a little too much. Maybe more than you even know yourself. If you’re really plugged in, you have to be a little unsettled by the certainty that if this information isn’t automatically being shared with the NSA, it will be instantly upon request. Without a warrant. Wait – did you recently buy some fertilizer? Nails? Ball bearings? A pressure cooker?

Hold on a second – somebody’s knocking at the door.

But if somebody breaks into your car while you’re shopping in Target, the fact that the cameras in the parking lot captured the perp means you might get your stuff back. If one of your family members was injured on what they’re now calling “Marathon Monday,” you’ll probably forgive all that nosy surveillance technology at least a little bit when it brings the terrorists to justice – as it inevitably will.

We live in an increasingly complex society. Our lives are confusing, our values conflicted, and every day seemingly presents us with another challenge to the kind of social, ethical and moral stability that might afford us a measure of inner peace. The world moves beneath our feet, no matter where we stand, no matter how tightly we cling to the sacred icons of our once-unshakeable institutions and ideologies.

I can’t tell you that I have it all figured out, but I will say this: in my experience, there’s no substitute for a highly developed sense of irony.


The Tech Curmudgeon – Google’s CEO Schmidt clueless

Google CEO Eric Schmidt (center) and other Google VIPs wearing Google Glass (image credit: KPCB)

So Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt thinks that government regulation is required to protect privacy from a rising tide of civilian drones. The Tech Curmudgeon agrees, at least in principle, because civilian drones and things like passenger aircraft should be kept well separated.

Yet this is the man apparently doesn’t see a problem with Google Glass, a system that turns every user into a mobile audio and video surveillance system, with all that data conveniently stored in Google’s server farms.

If you’re a Google investor, dump your shares now. With a CEO who’s too stupid – or who thinks that everyone else is too stupid – to understand how these two claims are hypocritical, Google’s future looks bleak.


Google Glass: Welcome to the end of privacy

CATEGORY: PrivacyIf you haven’t yet seen Mark Hurst’s piece on Google Glass over at Creative Good, you need to. You really, really need to. A lot of times cool new gadget and service roll-outs mainly just affect the manufacturers and the people with the cash to buy them. Sure, there can be collateral damage – World of Warcraft widows, for instance – but usually the downside isn’t as direct as it is with this latest idea from the Don’t Be Evil crowd. A snip from Hurst’s analysis:

The key experiential question of Google Glass isn’t what it’s like to wear them, it’s what it’s like to be around someone else who’s wearing them. I’ll give an easy example. Your one-on-one conversation with someone wearing Google Glass is likely to be annoying, because you’ll suspect that you don’t have their undivided attention. And you can’t comfortably ask them to take the glasses off (especially when, inevitably, the device is integrated into prescription lenses). Finally – here’s where the problems really start – you don’t know if they’re taking a video of you.

Now pretend you don’t know a single person who wears Google Glass… and take a walk outside. Anywhere you go in public – any store, any sidewalk, any bus or subway – you’re liable to be recorded: audio and video. Fifty people on the bus might be Glassless, but if a single person wearing Glass gets on, you – and all 49 other passengers – could be recorded. Not just for a temporary throwaway video buffer, like a security camera, but recorded, stored permanently, and shared to the world.

Ummmkay, that’s a little creepy. But we’ll adjust, right? Not so fast.

Now, I know the response: “I’m recorded by security cameras all day, it doesn’t bother me, what’s the difference?” Hear me out – I’m not done. What makes Glass so unique is that it’s a Google project. And Google has the capacity to combine Glass with other technologies it owns.

First, take the video feeds from every Google Glass headset, worn by users worldwide. Regardless of whether video is only recorded temporarily, as in the first version of Glass, or always-on, as is certainly possible in future versions, the video all streams into Google’s own cloud of servers. Now add in facial recognition and the identity database that Google is building within Google Plus (with an emphasis on people’s accurate, real-world names): Google’s servers can process video files, at their leisure, to attempt identification on every person appearing in every video. And if Google Plus doesn’t sound like much, note that Mark Zuckerberg has already pledged that Facebook will develop apps for Glass.

Wait – so now it’s not only taking video of me, it’s linking that video to my name and identity? Yes. Try not to think, for a moment, about all the data that exists on you already – you know, consumer profiles and the like. You don’t surf porn, do you?

Finally, consider the speech-to-text software that Google already employs, both in its servers and on the Glass devices themselves. Any audio in a video could, technically speaking, be converted to text, tagged to the individual who spoke it, and made fully searchable within Google’s search index.

Nervous yet? Keep reading.

Let’s return to the bus ride. It’s not a stretch to imagine that you could immediately be identified by that Google Glass user who gets on the bus and turns the camera toward you. Anything you say within earshot could be recorded, associated with the text, and tagged to your online identity. And stored in Google’s search index. Permanently.

I’m still not done.

The really interesting aspect is that all of the indexing, tagging, and storage could happen without the Google Glass user even requesting it. Any video taken by any Google Glass, anywhere, is likely to be stored on Google servers, where any post-processing (facial recognition, speech-to-text, etc.) could happen at the later request of Google, or any other corporate or governmental body, at any point in the future.

Remember when people were kind of creeped out by that car Google drove around to take pictures of your house? Most people got over it, because they got a nice StreetView feature in Google Maps as a result.

Google Glass is like one camera car for each of the thousands, possibly millions, of people who will wear the device – every single day, everywhere they go – on sidewalks, into restaurants, up elevators, around your office, into your home. From now on, starting today, anywhere you go within range of a Google Glass device, everything you do could be recorded and uploaded to Google’s cloud, and stored there for the rest of your life. You won’t know if you’re being recorded or not; and even if you do, you’ll have no way to stop it.

So, say in five years you’re applying for a job with, I don’t know, Google. You might not remember calling Sergey Brin a fascist motherfucker on May 3, 2013, while having coffee with your best friend and discussing this article. But Google’s HR group remembers. They have the audio (and maybe the video, too). But, but – HR groups would never use that, right? No, of course not. Just like they never ask for Facebook passwords.

Just think: if a million Google Glasses go out into the world and start storing audio and video of the world around them, the scope of Google search suddenly gets much, much bigger, and that search index will include you. Let me paint a picture. Ten years from now, someone, some company, or some organization, takes an interest in you, wants to know if you’ve ever said anything they consider offensive, or threatening, or just includes a mention of a certain word or phrase they find interesting. A single search query within Google’s cloud – whether initiated by a publicly available search, or a federal subpoena, or anything in between – will instantly bring up documentation of every word you’ve ever spoken within earshot of a Google Glass device.

Seattle’s 5 Point Cafe has proudly become the first establishment to ban Google Glass. I’m guessing they won’t be the last. I’m also thinking of starting a pool: on what date will we hear about the first assault against a GG wearer by somebody who doesn’t want his/her privacy invaded?

Once again, corporate America is innovating new and improved ways of invading your privacy. Orwell saw the future, only he thought governments would be the culprits. And they certainly will be – expect them to be lining up to purchase Google’s data. And expect Google to find an excuse to sell it to them.

What we need now are equally gifted tech entrepreneurs dedicated to short-circuiting Google and to assuring greater privacy for the citizenry. I actually have a couple of ideas. If you’re a venture capitalist who’s concerned about our civil liberties, drop me a line….

These aren’t the drones you’re looking for: The U.S. shift to droid warfare and surveillance

by Kevin Rogers

In George Lucas’s Star Wars universe, droids are robots with tasks including translation, computing and repair work. The series’ most famous droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, take on these benign jobs.

But not all droids are created equal. The malevolent Galactic Empire uses droids designed for torture and surveillance in the original trilogy. In the prequel series, the Trade Federation deploys entire armies of droid warriors and aircraft tasked with destruction and conquest.

Imperial Probe Droid: CC-DevanJedi

Droids go by a different name in this galaxy. Pilotless drones gather enemy intelligence and blow up suspected terrorists abroad. It sounds great; American enemies are destroyed without risking military lives.

But America’s shift to drone-based warfare and surveillance should arouse concern. The Justice Department released a justification to take out American citizens without charges or trial. Federal agencies look to expand permits for drones in U.S. airspace.

Smuggler Han Solo put it best in the original Star Wars: “I got a bad feeling about this.

Vulture droids in foreign skies

Drone attacks in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia have transformed America’s battle against al-Qaida. While Yemen and Somalia rack up some impressive drone strikes statistics, Pakistan draws the most attention from these glorified droid star fighters.

While the drones rained death upon terrorists, hundreds of civilians, including children, went with them. The total number of civilian deaths may be even higher given the administration’s policy of counting military-age males killed in a strike zone as enemy combatants.

Drones put distance between the pilot and the target. A human pilot can likely show some discretion when pulling the trigger. If a drone is flying autonomously toward a target, those judgments can’t be made.

The strikes have been effective in taking down top members of al-Qaida, but the cost has been a federal justification to kill American citizens abroad without charges, judges or juries. The drone-targeted killing of U.S.-born al-Qaida chief Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen occurred under this rationale. Drones nabbed his 16-year-old son a few weeks later.

The existence of justifiably legally killing American citizens without due process should prompt outrage. The American government isn’t the Empire.

Probe droids overhead

These winged droids won’t be limited to foreign skies. The Federal Aviation Administration, working to expand unmanned aircraft in domestic airspace, grants limited permits to the armed forces, law enforcement and some universities.

In other words, the probe droids deployed to Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back exist and fly over American skies.

Though these domestic drones lack the destructive capabilities of their overseas counterparts, these droids present a new challenge. These droids, in their capacity to assist law enforcement and the armed forces, pose a clear threat to privacy.

Though some states and cities have moved to restrict the capacity of law enforcement to use drones, others won’t. Regulated or not, any camera with wings ought to concern those who care about privacy. This technology grants unprecedented surveillance capacity to authorities.

A shift to droids and a loss of humanity

There’s a reason why Star Wars fans cheer on the rebels and the Jedi against droid armies and Imperial forces. It represents the battle of humanity against machines.

Using drones for police work and military operations robs that humanity. There’s no discretion, judgment or morality coming from a robot. The normal processes in surveillance and military strikes get tossed aside in the name of efficiency. The right of due process and expectations of privacy get erased.

But Americans don’t need a rebellion to challenge these policies. Voice opposition. Protest. Press lawmakers to protect legal rights and privacy.

Tell them to keep abuse of this technology in a galaxy far, far away.

Drone strike protest, Washington, D.C.

Kevin Rogers is a junior journalism major at St. Bonaventure University. He writes the blog The Nerds of Congress.

Private lives, public surveillance

An example of a Tracker Device

Whether people think about this election’s hot button issues in this framework or not, many of our country’s so-called “social issues” are issues of privacy. While lawmakers fought over the economic and religious implications of hot topics like gay marriage, abortion, health care and cybersecurity, they were essentially deciding what level of privacy Americans should be entitled to under the law, and how strictly the Constitution should be interpreted to provide or deny that privacy.

I thought about this struggle between the private lives of citizens and the public decisions of legislators and administrations when I saw a story from Texas about high school sophomore Natalie Hernandez suing her school following her expulsion. Hernandez was expelled from her high school because she refused to wear her school’s name badge, which contains an RFID tracking device. Hernandez says the badge violates her religion – the badge is considered a “mark of the beast” – and by forcing her to wear it, the school district is violating her 1st Amendment rights. After the school offered her a name badge without the tracking device, which she refused, the school expelled her.

Continue reading

Facebook: the most congenitally dishonest company in America

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”

Did you know you have a Facebook email address? Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t. But if you have a Facebook account you have a Facebook email. And that email is now your default email on FB.

WTF? You didn’t do that. NOBODY would do that. As Kashmir Hill writes at Forbes, it’s a lame attempt by our friends at Facebook to force their service on you. Gervais Markham is even more pointed:

In other words, Facebook silently inserted themselves into the path of formerly-direct unencrypted communications from people who want to email me. Continue reading

The Tech Curmudgeon – hell no, you don't get my Facebook password, Mr. Interviewer

Image credit: Scientific American

In one of the Tech Curmudgeon’s favorite movies, Winston Zeddmore (played by Ernie Hudson) told Ray Stantz (played by Dan Aykroyd) “When someone asks if you’re a god, you say ‘YES!'” In that same spirit, if a prospective employer asks for your Facebook password, you say “NO!” Actually, the Tech Curmudgeon initially thought that “fuck off!” was a better response, but you may not want to get a reputation for having an attitude problem.

Then again, having an attitude about refusing to bare your private life to an employer who has no legitimate interest in said private life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s why it’s called “your private life,” after all.

The Tech Curmudgeon also feels that any company who demands access to your private information via social networking sites as a condition of employment is a company that desperately needs to go out of business yesterday, if not sooner. Continue reading

Target to require retinal scans and DNA samples of all in-store customers

Okay, maybe not yet. But we’re definitely getting there. Check out today’s two-part gotcha.

Part 1: Back in 2008 I wrote a piece called “The Smartest Shopping Cart That Ever Lived,” a glimpse into the near-future of GPS meets RFID meets customer relationship management meets intelligent supply chain meets nosy retailer shopping experience. I invoked Minority Report in doing so – remember Tom Cruise trying to get through that mall without being skinned alive?

Of course, as is so often the case when it comes to predicting the future these days, I was way too conservative. Check this item, from the Not-Science-Fiction-At-All Files.

An angry man went into a Target outside of Minneapolis, demanding to talk to a manager: Continue reading

What were the top privacy stories of 2011?

2011 was a big year where issues of political power were concerned. The #Occupy movement made a great deal of noise the past few months. Finally, there was lots of discussion about Citizens United and corporate personhood, and the “99%” began asserting its anger. There was l’affaire WikiLeaks and the ongoing Julian Assange and Bradley Manning battles, with Anonymous getting involved a bit, as well. The “who owns the Internet?” question is far from settled. In addition, AT&T was forced this week to abandon its attempt to further consolidate its domination of the mobile industry. And so on.

If you’ve been paying attention at all, you’ve probably been alarmed by the ongoing assault on your privacy. Continue reading

News-of-the-World-gate: the empire strikes back

This just keeps getting better and better. Alexander Cockburn is right—this is just like Watergate. The steady drip, drip, drip of bad news. The iconic hate figure, a man who pretty much singlehandedly created a global media empire against very significant odds, which in any other context might be seen as plucky and admirable in some way, but who wrecked that accomplishment through political blowback once some transparency revealed the depths to which members of his organization would go. (There’s that whole Fox News thing too, for good measure.) The scuttling of politicians for cover, or at least better defensive positions. And a few heroes popping up, occasionally from unexpected quarters.

So what’s happened since our last update? Well, what hasn’t happened? Except for Rebeka Brooks’s resignation, which Rupert has said is not gonna happen. We’ll see—some folks are giving it until Wednesday. In other expected and unexpected developments, Andrew Coulson, former News of the World editor and former press advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron, has been arrested, question, and released. Continue reading

Wikileaks and the Thought Police

“We are the clear logic used to unveil wrongdoing. The general public, clouded by misleading information mostly by the media with a political agenda, fails to see and understand this wrongdoing. Because of this, those who do the wrongdoing escape unpunished. Anonymous is here to ensure punishment does not go unserved to those who deserve it.” – Anonymous spokesperson for the group Anonymous, which brought down Visa and Mastercard Web sites because of the companies’ withdrawal of services from free speech target wikileaks.org.

Anonymous is the group that published emails from Sarah Palin’s Yahoo! account back in 2008, when she was a candidate for vice president. Continue reading

Nota Bene #117: Wake Up!

“Hollywood is so crooked that Mafia gangsters are entirely outclassed and don’t stand a chance. People in Hollywood are smarter. They have more sophisticated knowledge of money and deals and how to steal legally rather than illegally.” Who said it? Continue reading

America vs. the Terrorists, 9/11/10: a status report, nine years on…

In September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger jets. They flew three of them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The fourth was retaken by the passengers and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. These things we know. Since then, much has transpired. For example:

  • The US invaded Afghanistan, the nation that had harbored the terrorists and their mastermind, Osama bin Laden. The war has not been uniformly well managed and attempts to install a stable self-government have so far failed. Many experts argue that our efforts there have been woefully counterproductive. Continue reading