Privacy: You, too, can become an Informer

I use an antivirus program because I don’t like nasty people infecting my computer.   I use Tor (a program that bounces my searches around among many other sites) to obscure my activities so other malefactors who might just nosy (or worse) will find it hard to effortlessly monitor my life.  I use the postal mail for the same reason.  

I also use an anonymizer that changes my internet address.  I’m not doing anything illegal, I just think that I should be able to enjoy some modicum of privacy from internet voyeurs (public or private).  

Of course I’m in awe of the NSA, CIA, and FBI, and other less well known agencies who have the power to intercept telephonic and banking traffic worldwide and simultaneously.  If they want you they’ll get you – ask Bin Laden.  I just want to make the “cost” of casual surveillance high enough to be able to fly under the wire.  

If everyone used Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) and Steganography to further conceal, on the internet, what used to be concealed by licking an envelope, it would make spying on citizens a lot more difficult.  I think it’s reasonable to assume that our communications are being mined  by Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and lesser aggregators as well as national and foreign intelligence agencies at all times.

This is life in the 21st century.  Newspeak is used all the time while messaging and unhistory is revealed every time I turn on the TV.  Classical privacy died a century ago.  Nevertheless, the government wants to create informers to inform on citizens who just want a little privacy.

Total Information Awareness (TIA) or whatever its name has become these days is just too sexy an item to disappear.  TIA is also the most dangerous thing should the wrong government come to power.  Oh, for goodness sakes, I’m not talking about America!  This isn’t East Germany!

Do You Like Online Privacy? You May Be a Terrorist

February 1, 2012 in News

Public Intelligence

A flyer designed by the FBI and the Department of Justice to promote suspicious activity reporting in internet cafes lists basic tools used for online privacy as potential signs of terrorist activity.  The document, part of a program called “Communities Against Terrorism”, lists the use of “anonymizers, portals, or other means to shield IP address” as a sign that a person could be engaged in or supporting terrorist activity.  The use of encryption is also listed as a suspicious activity along with steganography, the practice of using “software to hide encrypted data in digital photos” or other media.  In fact, the flyer recommends that anyone “overly concerned about privacy” or attempting to “shield the screen from view of others” should be considered suspicious and potentially engaged in terrorist activities.

Logging into an account associated with a residential internet service provider (such as Comcast or AOL), an activity that could simply indicate that you are on a trip, is also considered a suspicious activity.  Viewing any content related to “military tactics” including manuals or “revolutionary literature” is also considered a potential indicator of terrorist activity.  This would mean that viewing a number of websites, including the one you are on right now, could be construed by a hapless employee as an highly suspicious activity potentially linking you to terrorism.

The “Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities” contained in the flyer are not to be construed alone as a sign of terrorist activity and the document notes that “just because someone’s speech, actions, beliefs, appearance, or way of life is different; it does not mean that he or she is suspicious.”  However, many of the activities described in the document are basic practices of any individual concerned with security or privacy online.  The use of PGP, VPNs, Tor or any of the many other technologies for anonymity and privacy online are directly targeted by the flyer, which is distributed to businesses in an effort to promote the reporting of these activities.

About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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