Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fascism's Ugly Head: Your Laptop Can Now Be Screened at Border Crossings

At what point do we stop calling America the "Land of the Free," or a "democracy" and call it what it's becoming, a fascist, totalitarian police state? It really doesn't matter what the reasoning behind policy changes such as this example, where cops can arbitrarily decide to peruse your laptop when you cross the U.S. border without probable cause. This is hardly the first example to take place in Bush's post-2001 America. The excuse to eliminate our Constitutional rights is the same as China's. "We must protect the country."

The one thing we have going for us is that, in theory, we can replace our leaders with those who'll revert us back to being a true democracy, with a Constitution, with civil rights. You know, those sorts of things we've been fighting to protect in the first place.

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posted by Brian at 1:26 PM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Bourne Ultimate Frisbee

My Israeli friend Danny from Sony and I saw The Bourne Ultimatum today.

Jason Bourne sends signals to a targeted journalist, in hopes of navigating him to safety outside the Waterloo train station.

Plotwise, this movie is about signals. The CIA sends signals to an "asset" (i.e. assassin) to hit targets. A CIA team searches for relevant signals that might reveal Bourne's location, be they cel phone messages, GPS coordinates of phones, trips taken, passports stamped, or visual clues from security video feeds. Meanwhile, Bourne sends false signals, even spoofing signals on behalf of CIA folks, using old passports, giving false meet-up locations, and doing his best to avoid sending overt signals of any sort. He also sends signals in specific languages, like when he calls the Spanish police as an obstacle against encroaching CIA gunmen.

Visually, this movie is about whiplash. Unsteady camera moves, insanely fast fighting choreography and editing, cars and motorbikes racing through skinny Moroccan and congested New York streets, all coming to rapid, neck-wrenching smashes against walls.

Well, neck-wrenching for everyone except Bourne, who had some pretty amazing training it seems. He can survive 10-story falls into water, 60+mph car crash impacts, cel phone-triggered explosives less than 10 feet away... Hell, he can even get a brand new mobile phone activated in minutes!

But overall, I thought the movie was tight -- most of the signals were clever, made sense, were well-motivated and didn't come from out of nowhere. In this surveillance world we live in, it's time we got used to having all our signals captured and potentially scrutinized (done East German Stasi-style gone high-tech). We need heroes like Bourne to remind us that fighting for privacy is a good thing, dammit!

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posted by Brian at 11:07 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