Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Cartoon In Honor of 9/11

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posted by Brian at 3:23 PM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, August 02, 2008

DHS says it can search Laptops At Border Without Suspicion. Why? "Cuz we gotta."

My Brazilian friend sent me this article from the Washington Post this morning. (She is now questioning ever visiting the United States.)
Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"The policies . . . are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government's border search practices. He said he intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin.

DHS officials said the newly disclosed policies -- which apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens -- are reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism. Officials said such procedures have long been in place but were disclosed last month because of public interest in the matter.

Read more here

Remember, this is the USA. We have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights that say we can NOT under any circumstances be searched without reasonable suspicion. We and travelers coming into this country put up with mildly invasive searching at the borders, but still, the governing principle is that we have privacy, and that we are innocent until we break the Law, taken to Court, and proved guilty through a process.

But now, the impatient DHS has gone mad, claiming "There are lots of bad things out there on computers! We gotta catch 'em!" Thanks to recent rule changes at the Department of Homeland Security, everyone's laptops are fair game. Note, they did not announce these changes -- only after "the public expressed interest" did they reveal them. WTF? We are not ruled by the Stasi in Communist Germany. Did you see The Lives of Others? Did you see that, without checks and balances, these unregulated searches become an excuse to stifle enemies of all sorts, be they political, romantic rivals, industry competition, or "I just don't like these people"? Don't you realize that there's no way to examine effectively 400 million laptops and that these untrained guards will falsely identify more problems that can possibly be countersued? Don't you see that the DHS's claim that "This won't hurt Americans" is bullshit -- other countries will develop blanket sweeps against us too when we travel abroad in retaliation? Aren't we tired of the "We gotta do this unconstitutional, China-like, Orwellian Law to protect us against terrorism" excuse this administration (both Democrat and Republican) spews out whenever there's the slightest dissent?

Is this really the America you want? The World you want? Do you truly want your computer or PDA or iPOD exposed when you travel? All those songs you don't have receipts or CDs for that now the RIAA will gladly sue you for $10s of thousands of dollars once they cut a deal with the DHS? All those non-compliant Windows XP installations that Microsoft would LOVE to know about and sue you for. Health care agencies eager to look for signs on your computer that you're not healthy enough for coverage or deserving of claims. Remember, this may start as a fight against terror but YOU have enemies too, and they will reap the benefits of these unregulated policies, I guarantee you.

Wake up America, this Bush Administration is slowly turning us into a totalitarian, corporate fascist state for the rich, only with better P.R. and marketing.

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posted by Brian at 10:56 AM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Faux "Prohibited" merchandise

A few years ago I had the idea to make shirts, cups, mousepads, frisbees, tote bags, buttons, etc. with fake "Due to heightened security measures, bla is prohibited" signage on them.

Since then, America has continued down the path of banning and censoring arbitrary things in the hopes of making our lives more secure, a trend science fiction writer Bruce Schneier calls "Security Theatre." Why not wear your favorite arbitrary, allegedly unsafe thing?

I'll leave the store up till the end of the year. Order now for a very distinctive Christmas present! I particularly like the "Democracy is prohibited" ones. If you would like a custom prohibited shirt, leave a comment.

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posted by Brian at 5:29 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 09, 2007

Animation about How We're Becoming a Surveillance Society

So what's wrong with being watched, if it means a better sense of security? Having the FBI and police know everything about you. Having corporations and governments know everything about you. Having insurance companies know everything about you. Whether or not you think you've done something wrong, some entitiy out there will, or associate you with someone who has. Sooner or later, self-interest will take advantage of this information and use it against you. This is the theme of the German Academy Award Winning film, "The Lives of Others," and we're quietly allowing our government to move in this direction in the name of fighting terrorism.

Given how sloppy a lot of the software and procedures are in these systems, expect massive numbers of false positives. Expect data leaks to end up in enemy hands. None of this is worth it. No gradual improvement of technology over time designed to improve accuracy will be worth losing Democracy. We do not want to be China. It does not take much to flick off the checks & balances built into our system. We can't assume America is immune from despotism and Big Brother Syndrome.

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posted by Brian at 4:11 PM 2 comments links to this post