Monday, June 10, 2013

Peekaboo! They See You!

Last week, my friend Handy found himself a news messenger's Coach, a great dark blue canvas, and he got it for a steal. I countered by saying the messenger bag of my dreams is also canvas and leather, but from Ghurka. There was a discussion, and I googled the Ghurka website so I could send him a link.

No sooner than I had sent said link did I notice a new ad on the side my Facebook home page. Now Ghurka is not exactly Kate Spade, and few people are acquainted with the brand out here on the tundra, yet...... 

Currently, there’s a storm over the NSA information gathering on Americans. This is all part of the powers extended by the Patriot Act. At that time, Ziggy declared this to be a slippery slope and that the very nature of privacy would be challenged. "The Founding Fathers never thought of this one," he would say again and again. And he was right; they could not have thought this one up at all. 

The truth is that 
there is no electronic privacy. There never has been and never will be. The minute you write it online _someone_ you don't know has access to it. If you use any "check in" function, someone you don't know knows where you are. If you search for something on the web, your computer knows, your search engine knows, and your server knows. ....and all of them will immediately begin tailoring that which it shows you in the ad slots. 

Let's say you ordered a bunch of plumbing pipes and some fertilizer from Home Depot. Need uranium? You can order some right from United Nuclear easily enough.  Not only does the retailer know what you bought, the manufacturer does, too. Did you remember to click "doesn't want emails" on or order? Well, even if you did, the email address you used is now in the marketing pipeline. And you can bet your last Molotov cocktail the government knows, too. 

If you're not  terrorist, the NSA or whomever is watching, eventually figures that out. 

But what if you are a terrorist?

How do you think the spooks find the terrorists? Through tips from little old ladies like me?   Surveillance is what's used to keep the lunatics from blowing up the asylum. It seem to work most of the time, but not all of the time. 

The internet and electronic media has changed the entire nature of the game. No matter how many pseudonyms you use, you are never really anonymous. Every electronic entry can be followed back to a server. Mountains of data are no longer sifted through by humans; it's all done with algorithms and massive amounts of computers. It a never ending search for that needle in a haystack.

Now, you get to ask yourself: what is the price national safety? What constitutes personal privacy versus the public good?

This is not the easy question one might think? 

Did the government fail in not fingering the Marathon Bombers? There was tons of information that was missed because the powers that be asked the wrong questions. Should they not have had access to the cell phone and server records?

What goes on in a bedroom between two consenting adults is a matter of privacy. But what if an online child pornography site leads investigators to a bedroom where one of the participants is neither an adult nor consulting? Is that an invasion of privacy?  What if it's a predator luring young girls on Facebook (recent case too close to home....the cops got there in time and the child is safe) should that not be permitted?

Understand, I'm an not advocating for a nanny state here, but I do think the legal definition of privacy is about to change. I believe that SCOTUS will have to decide if information posted on the web is to be considered private. Is there a difference  between paper and data? What will constitute secure v. public? A safe deposit box in the bank may be quite private because it's  physical location,  but what about a blog with a password for entry? Is that to be afforded the same protection?
Fresh Philly photo by LMP-S

By the way, the Constitution does not, contrary to popular belief, guarantee privacy. The closest it comes is in the 9th Amendment which states, rather amorphously at that,

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Uh, I don't see privacy mentioned specifically there...but then again, most jurist seem to think the right to privacy is one of the "certain rights" mentioned. 

Meanwhile, I'm trying to decide which bothers me more: that one simple search on Google has totally impacted what I see on Facebook....or that the government harvests our cell calls. I'm not sure which is the bigger privacy issue.

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Living in turtle country during egg laying season?
Keep a broom in the car so you can hurry them across the street 
without picking them up.


  1. Good read WP. The same folks that are screaming about privacy are the same ones that will be calling for the head of the President, (whomever that may be) the next time a bomb goes off or an airplane crashes into a building. Cops dont get their info from little old ladies at church - they work with addicts, pimps, hookers and thieves - they get dirty. The same goes for intel networks. Snowdon is a traitor and should be treated as such. Info still coming out, but a high school drop ot, IT guy??? Come on. Who was bankrolling him? Who is financing his international escape? When is the book and follow on movie deal announced? F*ck him. Send him to Florence, Co. and give him many years to think about his "privacy" in supermax. He can discuss it with Ted Kozinsky while he's there. Plus I hear the pajamas there REALLY suck.

  2. also tossed out of the Army - seeing a patter here???

  3. The Constitution does not guarantee privacy; however, SCOTUS has found that the Constitution implicitly grants a right to privacy against governmental intrusion. This right to privacy was the justification for civil liberties cases including Griswold v. CT, Roe v. Wade, and Lawrence v. Texas. The holy trinity: contraception, abortion, and sodomy.

    If Obama is able to flip the court, it may adopt a right to privacy explicitly stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 12): "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

    One of the earliest legal discussions of the right to privacy in the US was a 1890 paper by Brandeis. He followed with a dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. US (1928). Doubtful that he would approve of PRISM in its current form.

    1. Hey! Thank you, whomever you are, for sending this! The post was getting a bit long, so I cut the section on the UDOHR thinking to save it for a later edition.

      I am _hoping_ SCOTUS is pushed into defining privacy. This would be a good step, but will "correspondence" include electronic messaging? Paper can be secured. We _know_ electrons cannot.

      Huge questions! HUGE!And they will have to be addressed in a legal forum in order to enact future law.

  4. If this is what you believe, please post the last three months of your cell phone call records on your blog. You won't. Because it's private.

    1. I'm afraid they're terribly boring calls home to say I'm going to the grocery store...but you're avoiding the real question: Is there an reasonable expectation of privacy inside the electronic cloud? Or is interception a fact of life? Ultimately, these are legal parameters that must be set.

  5. So how do we all feel about the SCOTUS DNA decision? Is DNA swabbing merely a better form of fingerprinting and should become as routine as fingerprinting when one is arrested? Or is taking a DNA sample truly an invasion of one's privacy and a violation of the 4th Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches?

    I am still not sure about that one and need some help in seeing the light...

  6. So, in reality, the government could just "like" us on Facebook and know everything they need to know BUT they already know that we would refuse their 'friend' request. So that's why they have to go to such extreme, expensive measures to know what we're doing:)

  7. Good day, WP. I'm a former Navy spook, so I get excited about the gathering of intelligence. And I don't have a personal issue with it... however, my biggest problem is with the integrity of those receiving the information. Our government has lost all credibility, with the majority of the public also having a lack of confidence in our government. Too many scandals and too many unanswered questions. Right now, I'd have to revoke their authority to further expand their surveillance capabilities.


    1. Ah, the integrity of those receiving the information! Good point, and I cannot argue with your concern. However, I think the government lost all credibility in that arena with the passage of the Patriot Act, everything after that is fall out.

      Y'know, if hackers can do it all, should the government be denied the same facility? Where do you draw the line...and how?

      Questions, questions, more questions!

  8. You are misleading whomever reads this. It is unfortunate you cannot distiguish the difference between electronic privacy and the privacy guaranteed by the fourth amendment of th eUS Constitution: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Though the word "privacy" does not appear. I expect my rights shall not be violated. The NSA is ignoring the 4th amendment. The PATRIOT act, though "legal" ignores the 4th amendment.

    1. Sorry, but the 4th (The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.) does not mention privacy, it's about search and seizure, not the same thing. The 9th is the amendment most closely associated with the RIGHT to privacy. This is established. Your _expectation_ have no standing in a court of law...unless there is specific precedent to support that expectation.

      Try this:

      That's a pretty good summary.

  9. Did you even read my entire post? You are hung up on the word "privacy" for no reason. That is not the point. The NSA is using WARRANTLESS surveillence to tap BILLIONS of electronic phone and email records without probalbe cause OR a SPECIFIC reason: "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized"

  10. I've been ruminating on this for a couple of days, and moreso since this afternoon on XM124, Julie Mason discussed a Pew survey ( indicating that more Republicans approved of the Bush administration's NSA spying while Democrats disapproved back then, and vice-versa now.

    I was wondering if some of those attitude changes are not the result of rank partisanship, but are instead the end result of the constant erosion of online privacy we're all going through. We get frequent notices that Facebook has changed the privacy policy, always in favor of LESS privacy for users (FB's inventory) and more access to our data to advertisers (FB's customers). We hear about computer hacking and our personal information being stolen from banks, retailers, and more. Our personal information is being treated as a commodity, and the companies we used to trust to keep it safe, we now realize, don't. Or can't.

    So could it be that we're just resigned that all of our electronic utterances, transactions, and correspondences are being aggregated for someone's benefit, not necessarily our own, in the 21st century?