The House of Representatives added an amendment to their Cybersecurity bill CISPA, and then passed it 248-168. Those 248 people need to take a high school civics course are get a refresher on the Bill of Rights.
The bill will annihilate our 4th Amendment rights on the Internet by creating a loophole whereby the authorities can pretty much establish cause to search any files you’re sharing with another web service – Email, Google Docs, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, banking, medical databases, websites, Google Search, you name it, if it isn’t hosted on your own server, you’re screwed.
Previously, CISPA allowed the government to use information for “cybersecurity” or “national security” purposes. Those purposes have not been limited or removed. Instead, three more valid uses have been added: investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crime, protection of individuals, and protection of children. Cybersecurity crime is defined as any crime involving network disruption or hacking, plus any violation of the CFAA.
Basically this means CISPA can no longer be called a cybersecurity bill at all. The government would be able to search information it collects under CISPA for the purposes of investigating American citizens with complete immunity from all privacy protections as long as they can claim someone committed a “cybersecurity crime”. Basically it says the 4th Amendment does not apply online, at all. Moreover, the government could do whatever it wants with the data as long as it can claim that someone was in danger of bodily harm, or that children were somehow threatened—again, notwithstanding absolutely any other law that would normally limit the government’s power.
CISPA is now a completely unsupportable bill that rewrites (and effectively eliminates) all privacy laws for any situation that involves a computer. Far from the defense against malevolent foreign entities that the bill was described as by its authors, it is now an explicit attack on the freedoms of every American.
I’m choosing to believe that 248 of our Representatives are just incredibly stupid, because otherwise they are evil. This is one of the most oppressive bills I’ve ever heard of. Bunch of savages.
Hopefully Obama comes through with a Veto, and it holds up.
On a philosophical and political level, I’m deeply troubled. Philosophically, I think more privacy is the direction we should be moving. However, politically I don’t want to see that privacy come as a result of government regulation. As we have seen with copyright law, when governments get involved, things get ugly fast. Google’s actions here have captured the attention of government leaders in quite a few countries, and I guarantee it’s going to case problems down the line. Ultimately the people who will suffer most from government internet regulation will be smaller website operators., not Google.
Killing YouTube Data Collection
All that being said, I have no problems sticking it to Google for grabbing at more data. Here’s a simple way to kill Google’s data collection on YouTube:
Courtesy of Lifehacker
Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing is one of the smartest guys out there. His recent TED presentation on protecting kids privacy on the Internet should be a real eye opener to the folks who plan on spying on their kids Internet activity.
If you found that interesting, give TwiT TV’s interview with Cory a listen. He covers such a broad range of interesting subjects with Leo Laporte & Tom Merritt.
Spokeo is a data scraping service that scours the Internet for people’s personal information, and makes it available to anyone.
If you go to spokeo.com and search for your name, the odds are pretty good that you are going to find your address (or possibly other places you have lived), your family tree, phone numbers, as well as some of your interests. The information tends to be fairly accurate, and it is accessible by anyone.
Spokeo doesn’t seem to keep a standing database, they pull your information from the Internet live, and they do it rather quickly. I find it equal parts impressive and scary.
Removing yourself from spokeo.com
- Search spokeo.com for yourself
- When you find yourself, copy the URL of the page
- Go to spokeo.com/privacy
- Paste in the URL, fill in your email address, and type in the CAPTCHA key
- Go to your email, and click the link they sent to finish off the deed
Keep in mind, Spokeo only allows you to kill two entries per email address, so you might have to use a few email addresses if they have multiple entries for you. In my case, they listed my parents address, one of my college addresses, and my current home.
I also recommend you search for your grandparents (or other non-tech savvy folks in your life) and help them delete their entries.
The information that Spokeo is making available is information that is already on the Internet. Their argument is that they are only making it easier to access what’s already there. On that point, I can’t really disagree.
However, I see this as one of those problems that while it can be solved, perhaps it’s best left unsolved.
This isn’t really a service for the individuals who’s information is published, it’s for other people to gather information about them. I showed Spokeo to a few friends and no one said, “Wow, I’m delighted to see that I’m listed.” The general response was more along the lines of, “Eww, that’s creepy. Delete.”
Unwanted credit card applications are terrible. They are wasteful, annoying, and present an identity theft risk.
I purchased a paper shredder to destroy the applications I receive (many from Chase Bank – I ignored your first 20 applications, why send me 50 more? The US Postal Service thanks you).
Finally I decided to read the fine print on one of these applications as part of a personal project I’m working on. I discovered an Opt-Out number.
I learned that credit card companies buy lists of people with decent credit, and send them applications. You can opt-out of these lists from the three major credit monitoring companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) by calling 1-888-567-8688.
The process is entirely automated, and very quick. The system had a hard time finding my address, but even with the hold up it took me no more than five minutes.
The catch is that the opt-out only lasts for five years, meaning you have to call back and do it again.
I’m cool with killing five minutes once every five years to save myself some hassles and limit the risk of identity theft.
For more on:
Facebook has introduced a new feature called “Places.” Facebook Places lets you check yourself and your friends into physical locations, publishing the information on your wall. The feature is similar to foursquare, but without the fun stuff.
I’m not a big fan of broadcasting my location, and I hate the idea that my Facebook is giving my friends the ability to reveal my location. So I disabled the feature.
It’s easy to disable Facebook Places, if you know where to do it. There are three different setting that you need to change to render this privacy invading feature dormant. Lifehacker made a good “How to” video.
If you really want to try location based services, foursquare is a lot more interesting.
What should you keep?
I hit a critical mass of bills and documents in my filing cabinet this weekend. I started to consider purchasing another filing cabinet when I thought, “Why don’t I just throw some of this crap out?”
Then I realized that I have no clue what I should be keeping. So I turned the Internet.
Here’s a rather dry, yet useful site explaining what you should keep, and how long you should retain it.
When you are getting rid of sensitive financial or other personal information, you want to make sure that the documents are thoroughly destroyed.
Dumpster diving for other people’s personal information isn’t my thing, but it seems that some of us are into that sort of thing. So, shred your documents.
What you want is a cross-cutting shredder that will turn your papers into confetti. Just tearing them up, or shredding them in one direction isn’t enough to deter the committed ID thief.
I’ve gone with an inexpensive Staples 8-Sheet Cross-Cut Shredder (about $35.00).
There are a lot of fancy, and expensive shredders out there. My feeling is that you don’t need it unless you are destroying massive amounts of paper on a regular basis.