"Down The Rabbit Hole"

by Edward Langenback

© 2/23/06

People as a whole, have always had the idea that certain basics about their lives was not open to casual inspection by anyone. But this is changing. Now the expectation of privacy has not only become a matter of legal definitions and court battles, but the idea that we can be private in our personal lives is now something that we have to actively fight for. Because the moment we stop fighting, we begin to lose more of it.

The part that sometimes seems overwhelming is that there are so many ways in which this ability to NOT be watched, followed and generally snooped on is being stolen from us. As we progress farther into the last days most of us will, like Neo, be surprized just how deep the rabbit hole really is.

To lead off on this theme I'm passing on a warning about the enourmous invasiveness of the new version of Google Desktop. The best Advice I can offer to both individual users and Corporate IT people, based on what I've read: "Don't touch Google Desktop with a ten foot download."

February 09, 2006
Google Copies Your Hard Drive - Government Smiles in Anticipation
Consumers Should Not Use New Google Desktop

San Francisco - Google today announced a new "feature" of its Google Desktop software that greatly increases the risk to consumer privacy. If a consumer chooses to use it, the new "Search Across Computers" feature will store copies of the user's Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and other text-based documents on Google's own servers, to enable searching from any one of the user's computers. EFF urges consumers not to use this feature, because it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who've obtained a user's Google password.

Full Article:

And in a related article:

EFF issues Google Desktop warning
Configure it carefully, or forget it
By John Leyden
Published Friday 10th February 2006 15:36 GMT

Google has released a revamped version of its desktop search tool which introduces the ability to search the contents of one computer from another. Previous versions of the tool indexed files on user's PCs, but using the optional "Search Across Computers" facility in Google Desktop 3 temporarily stores text copies of searchable items on Google's own servers for up to 30 days.


Search Across Computers makes a range of files - including web histories, Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, power point presentations as well as PDF files and text files in the My Documents folder - searchable from other computers.

"Unless you configure Google Desktop very carefully, and few people will, Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the desktop software can index," EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston said. "The government could then demand these personal files with only a subpoena rather than the search warrant it would need to seize the same things from your home or business, and in many cases you wouldn't even be notified in time to challenge it."

Full Article:

As if one global tracking network wasn't bad enough, now the EU is starting up a second, civilian based network.

EU Takes First Step in Challenge to GPS
Dec 28, 4:27 PM (ET)

PARIS (AP) - Europe on Wednesday launched the first in a planned network of orbiters expected to make satellite navigation on Earth more precise, wider-ranging and free of U.S. control.

Test satellite Giove A shot skyward from Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. Four hours later it began transmitting the first test signals in a $4 billion rival to the U.S.'s Global Positioning System.

The American military network has grown around the world in recent years to reach civilian users ranging from commercial airline pilots to lost hikers. But the military retains control, and President Bush last year announced plans for temporarily disabling the network in a national crisis to prevent terrorists from using it.

"If the Americans want to scramble GPS, they can do it whenever they want," European Space Agency spokesman Franco Bonacina said. "Whereas our system is a civilian-based system run by a civilian authority and would be completely autonomous."

Full Article:

The Cold Hearts department features "Honor Killings". A practice where a man will kill his wife, sister(s), and / or daughter(s) to preserve their 'family honor'.

What most westerners don't really want to know is not only does this happen in today's world, but it's been going on for hundreds of years.

Pakistani Killed Daughters to Save 'Honor'
Dec 28, 4:27 PM (ET)

MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) - Nazir Ahmed appears calm and unrepentant as he recounts how he slit the throats of his three young daughters and their 25-year old stepsister to salvage his family's "honor" - a crime that shocked Pakistan.

The 40-year old laborer, speaking to The Associated Press in police detention as he was being shifted to prison, confessed to just one regret - that he didn't murder the stepsister's alleged lover too.

Hundreds of girls and women are murdered by male relatives each year in this conservative Islamic nation, and rights groups said Wednesday such "honor killings" will only stop when authorities get serious about punishing perpetrators.

Full Article:

Sattelite technology has lots of very good uses. This is not one of them.

Prescott satellite to spy on your home.
Hi-tech cameras brought in to police home improvements and council tax dodgers
By Marie Woolf, Political Editor
Published: 01 January 2006

John Prescott has told tax inspectors to use satellites to snoop on householders' attempts to improve their homes.

Images of new conservatories and garages taken from space will be used to hike up council taxes and other property levies, official guidance obtained by The Independent on Sunday reveals.

Mr Prescott's department is overseeing the creation of a database containing the details of every house in Britain to help tax inspectors to assess new charges.

Even minor improvements, invisible from the road, will be caught by "spy in the sky" technology that uses a mix of aerial and satellite images taken over time to spot changes.

Full Article:

Spyware and Phishing scams are by no means the only threat to privacy, Your cell phone records are easily available to nearly anyone.

Sale of phone files targeted
Blagojevich, Madigan planning crackdown
7 Jan 2006
By Christi Parsons

Illinois officials say they want to stop companies from selling private telephone records without the consent of consumers, and they want to know how brokers got those records in the first place.

But even as Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan work to prevent privacy invasion at the state level, some fear Congress may take steps to weaken related identity theft laws already on the books in Illinois and elsewhere. Consumer advocates are preparing to join the fight on both fronts.

"It's important that customers be able to properly protect themselves," said Brian Imus, senior policy advocate with the Illinois Public Interest Research Group. "Our privacy shouldn't be for sale."

In Congress, watchdogs are fighting a measure that they say would gut state laws requiring companies to notify consumers whenever their information security has been breached. As currently crafted, they contend, the proposal would require notification only when there's a good chance personal information has fallen into the wrong hands.

Full Article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/technology/chi-0601070213jan07,1,6584397.story

Given that last story, This one deserves serious attention.

Government Still Pushing for Cell Phone Tracking Without Probable Cause

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked a federal magistrate judge in New York City to reject a Department of Justice (DOJ) request to track a cell phone user without first showing probable cause of a crime. In a brief filed in New York on Tuesday, EFF and the Federal Defenders of New York argue that no law authorizes the government's request, and that granting the order would threaten Americans' Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches.

Full Article:

All I can say here is it's about time something like this got passed. Hopefully other states and the Feds will follow.

New Hampshire takes lead on RFID Law
Tuesday, January 3 2006

"New Hampshire could be a national leader in consumer privacy protection if legislation endorsed by the House Commerce Committee is adopted this month. Prompted by worries that developing technologies that use radio waves to identify both physical objects and human beings are gaining popularity in big businesses such as Wal-Mart, House and Senate members have collaborated on the language for what could be the model for legislation of its kind in the nation."

Full Article:

The problem with that last story is that it's very likely a case of 'too little, too late', as is shown here.

Computer Chips Get Under Skin of Enthusiasts
Personal Information Could Be Implanted in the Future

NEW YORK, Jan. 9, 2006 - Forgetting computer passwords is an everyday source of frustration, but a solution may literally be at hand - in the form of computer chip implants.

With a wave of his hand, Amal Graafstra, a 29-year-old entrepreneur based in Vancouver, Canada, opens his front door. With another, he logs onto his computer.

Tiny radio frequency identification (RFID) computer chips inserted into Graafstra's hands make it all possible.

"I just don't want to be without access to the things that I need to get access to. In the worst case scenario, if I'm in the alley naked, I want to still be able to get in (my house)," Graafstra said in an interview in New York, where he is promoting the technology. "RFID is for me."

Full Article:

More for the section labeled: "It sure looks like the 'Mark Of The Beast'."

Company requires RFID injection
Published: 2006-02-10

Two employees have been injected with RFID chips this week as part of a new requirement to access their company's datacenter.

Cincinnati based surveillance company CityWatcher.com created the policy with the hopes of increasing security in the datacenter where video surveillance tapes are stored. In the past, employees accessed the room with an RFID tag which hung from their keychains, however under the new regulations an implantable, glass encapsulated RFID tag from VeriChip must be injected into the bicep to gain access, a release from spychips.com said on Thursday.

Full Article: