1. You don’t have to be a paranoid to ask legitimate questions about where all this is leading." — Rick Morgan, The American Thinker

    The FBI is spending $1 billion to put together a facial recognition database that will let it spot suspects using footage from public security cameras. The new system would mark a giant leap forward for the bureau, which for decades has been using fingerprints and mug shots to ID suspects. Should ordinary citizens be worried about privacy invasions? 

    The FBI’s new facial recognition program

    (Source: theweek.com)

     

  2. Millions of people have downloaded smartphone apps on both iOS and Android to show their support for President Obama or Mitt Romney, possibly to their own detriment. A report from web security firm GFI says that both candidates’ apps — “Obama for America” and “Mitt’s VP” — are amassing a surprising amount of user data, and most users probably don’t even realize it.

    How Obama and Romney’s campaign apps invade your privacy

    (Source: theweek.com)

     


  3. Facebook is launching a new type of mobile advertising that targets consumers based on the apps they use, pushing the limits of how companies track what people do on their phones.
    — 

    Shayndi Raice at The Wall Street Journal

    Is this a smart way to make mobile advertising profitable? Or is it too invasive?

     


  4. If you are an American adult, the odds are that it knows things like your age, race, sex, weight, height, marital status, education level, politics, buying habits, household health worries, vacation dreams — and on and on.
     

  5. Welcome to the drone era. Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration relaxed the rules for deploying unmanned aerial vehicles. 30,000 unmanned aerial vehicles — some as small as birds — are expected to be peering down on American soil by the end of the decade.

    The American Civil Liberties Union warns that drones may “profoundly change the character of public life,” ushering in an era in which Americans could be monitored every time they step outside. Fences and property lines may no longer serve as barriers to police surveillance — or Peeping Toms. “You want to sunbathe in the nude on your own property?” says Jay Stanley of the ACLU. “Now you can’t be sure nobody is watching you.”

    That prospect alarms many people: A recent Rasmussen poll found that more than 50 percent of Americans oppose drones’ use in domestic skies. 

    The drone over your backyard: A guide

     

  6. A new smartphone app called SceneTap employs facial-detection software and cameras placed strategically in bars and nightclubs to tell users the age and gender makeup of an establishment they’re thinking of visiting. 

    Is it an invasion of privacy for your neighborhood watering hole to install cameras and scan your face?

    Let’s be honest, says Violet Blue at ZDNet, this “bro-app” is designed to help “brotards” get liquored up and go straight to the bars “with the most chicks in them,” which is “sure to make women feel a little more like hunted prey” than they do already. News of the launch in San Francisco provoked so many complaints that several bars that had planned to participate backed out.

    More about SceneTap

     


  7. Defense contractors, telecoms, and power utilities all sent letters of support, as did Facebook, Intel, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle. Tech trade groups are on board, too, says Hayley Tsukayama at The Washington Post. In other words, “the technology industry is fully behind the bill.”

    Earlier this year, a heavy dose of “internet muscle” from big technology companies was enough to derail another piece of proposed internet regulation, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

    But this time, “these same [tech] companies have been quiet as church mice.

     


  8. An unprecedented internet-driven public outcry sank the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in January, and now privacy advocates and web-freedom activists are trying to stopanother House bill targeting the internet: The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). They don’t have much time. The bill, which quixotic presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) calls “Big Brother writ large,” is scheduled for a vote on May 27, and it has at least 113 cosponsors. What is CISPA, why don’t critics like it, and what are the odds it will pass? Here’s what you need to know:

    What does CISPA do?
    The bill is designed to make it easier for the government and private companies to share information that might thwart cyber attacks by everyone from hacker groups like Anonymous to secret-pilfering nations. Companies and the government already can, and do, share some private information about individual web users, but they face the risk of lawsuits. CISPA would allow companies to freely share “cyber threat information” without consequence. The idea is that if everyone can freely pool information about cyber threats, they’ll be easier to stop.

    Why is that controversial?
    The problem stems largely from one word: “Notwithstanding,” says Declan McCullagh at CNET News. By including the caveat that any web-related service provider may share “cyber threat information with any other entity,” including the military and National Security Agency, “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” CISPA’s backers want the bill to “trump all existing federal and state civil and criminal laws. It would render irrelevant wiretap laws, web companies’ privacy policies, educational record laws, medical privacy laws, and more.” It’s “a classic example of over-legislation,” says DJ Pangburn at Death and Taxes.

    But isn’t cyber-security a real concern?
    Yes, but “encouraging private industry to funnel information to the government poses its own set of problems,” says the Los Angeles Timesin an editorial. The bill can be tweaked, but its troubling premise is that it transforms email providers, Facebook, and broadband services “from service providers to surveillance agencies.” Clueless legislators must start “talking to actual cyber security and tech experts,” not to mention civil libertarians, says Erik Kain at Forbes. In the meantime, with bills like CISPA “we risk giving far too much away, once again, in our quest for an ever-elusive sense of security.”

    Who backs CISPA, and who doesn’t?
    Unlike SOPA, several large tech companies are on board with CISPA, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and IBM. Other prominent backers include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, and defense contractors. On the other side, the ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Market Coalition, Anonymous, Sunlight Foundation, a group of 18 House Democrats, and the Republican Liberty Caucus are among the odd collection of groups trying to kill the bill. The Obama administration opposes the bill as written. The bill’s author, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich), says he’s “open to change this bill right up until it comes to the House floor.”

    What are CISPA’s chances in Congress?
    Since the list of congressional supporters is growing, not shrinking as in the SOPA affair, Rogers says there is “a strong chance that the bill will be passed” this week. Even Ron Paul appears ready to support it with the inclusion of some privacy safeguards. Its prospects are less clear in the Senate, which has a competing bill, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which has more protections. Finally, it has to be signed by the leery president. Although Obama advisers say the bill is flawed, Obama hasn’t threatened to veto it.

     


  9. Shut up and be scanned.
    — The Los Angeles Times editorial board has some advice for travelers considering gumming up airport security lines with "opt out" protests the day before Thanksgiving. Instead of insisting on the “seriously embarrassing” new TSA pat-downs, just go through the new full-body scanners. And if the “overblown” privacy fears or “shrug-worthy” health concerns inspire you to make the busiest travel day “positively unbearable,” the L.A. Times says, “perhaps you should stay on the ground.”