Boy Was I Wrong


I was looking back through some old tech stories last night when I came across one on cellphone tracking. Maybe you remember the story?

A few years ago, an iPhone user found his phone was compiling a list of cell towers he’d pinged and when. He even plotted his iPhone derived itinerary on a map (above).

It’s obvious, your cell carrier has to know where you are to deliver calls. What was surprising was the ‘dossier’ being kept. A lot of people were upset.

Here’s where I was wrong. I said cell companies could do that tracking, but not the government. After all, there’s the 4th Amendment.

Now we have Edward Snowden’s revelations. I feel like a sap. My script was very naive.

I’d rather not be enough of a cynic to see conspiracy everywhere. I’d rather not be so jaded I can’t believe denials from those in the know. I was played. We were all played.

It’s tough not to be jaded and cynical now.

Be Careful What You Google

If you read this blog with any frequency you know I’m concerned about our government’s propensity to snoop on its own citizens. It’s not that I’ve done anything wrong, it’s just massive data sniffing leads to massive numbers of computer assisted conclusions–often wrong.

Just searching “pressure cooker” and “backpack” can arouse suspicion. This morning reported on a Long Island family visited by police because of Googling those two terms!

They mentioned that they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing. I don’t know what happens on the other 1% of visits and I’m not sure I want to know what my neighbors are up to.

General Keith Alexander who heads the National Security Agency appeared at the Black Hat Convention in Las Vegas, Wednesday. The NSA employs our most prying spies. Alexander’s appearance was telling.

General Alexander said NSA operatives worked under strict controls, including oversight by Congress, the executive and judges on the Fisa court, which he said was a tough watchdog: “I can tell you from the wire-brushings that I’ve received that it is not a rubberstamp.”

In essence, as much as the NSA gets, they’d really like more.

Am I A Paranoid Tinfoil Hat Wearing Nutcase?

I’m not sure which upsets me more, the government’s massive program which spies on its own citizens or the fact few people really care. What’s happening is scary to me. It should be scary to you too.

This isn’t a Republican or Democrat problem. I was upset with President Bush for this intrusion on my life. Now I’m upset with President Obama.

We all understand that the price for services in the 21st Century is a sacrifice of privacy.

As I wrote over the weekend, Southern California Edison knows when I turn my lights off at night. AT&T knows where I am 24/7. Other companies, like Google, know so much about me from my web habits, they might know more about me than I do!

Last night I helped Stef with car insurance. After supplying a few bits of data the insurance company found the rest on their own!

None of these companies can put me in jail. None of these companies have the power of the government.

The US government doesn’t want to give up specifics of their spying programs. Even senators and congressmen have extremely limited access to the NSA’s workings. Government spokespersons say they are worried vital secrets would be revealed.

My suspicion is the administration’s more worried about the embarrassment and blowback from this overreach than any impact from the secrets. Do spies and terrorists not think we’re trying to track them? Do foreign governments think we just mind our own business?

The problem with the NSA and other secretive agencies is lack of oversight. Yes, the government claims there is the FISA court, but it is secret with secret opinions, secret rules, secret laws and gag orders enforced on anyone who has dealings with it or the NSA, CIA, etc.

Most people scrutinized by the court have no idea anything’s happened.

There’s certainly little of the safeguards and protection against prying the government claims. Look what Snowden, a low level non-government employee, made off with!

To me all of this seems like an obvious and dangerous violation of the 4th Amendment.

Few people seem to care. I’ll admit that. The majority of attention to the NSA spying leaks has focused on the leaker.

Who cares? He is not the story.

Fixating on Edward Snowden misses the whole point… which might be the government’s goal in directing our attention his way.

So tell me, why do so few care? Have I become a paranoid tinfoil hat wearing nutcase?