U.S. is now an "endemic surveillance society"

[ramble alert: needs an edit]

This post has three parts. First, a troubling report from Privacy International. Basically the US is just as bad as China and Russia when it comes to protecting liberty and privacy. However, I must really keep in mind that this is the internet, and Privacy International could very well be a lonely fat and sweaty individual with PowerPoint skillz and too much time on his hands. It's certainly not a source I've heard of before.

Second, I found this article via Digg. Maybe there really is wisdom in crowds.

Third, the problem with getting people riled up about privacy is the abstractness of it, and by far the most frequent thing I hear is that "well, I don't have anything to hide. Do you?". So let's take a stab at making the risk more concrete:
  1. privacy is important because if it can be abused it will be abused. You don't have to have done something wrong; they'll make something up or interpret the facts in a negative light.
  2. privacy helps keep power decentralized. another way to put it if that's too abstract: privacy protection keeps nameless thugs out of your life. You may still have thugs in your life, but they'll at least have names and you'll know where they live!
That last point is worth exploring. One privacy principal I like to live by keeping information parity: I should know as much about you as you do about me. And this should apply to individuals, organizations, and governments.

I also like the "no gossip" rule. You should have a chance to speak for yourself. If you come into my life with a big long rap sheet, and I believe it, then you're starting off down at the bottom and that's not fair to you.

I think that people who move into a community should introduce themselves and become part of it. I would support city laws that forced renters and new owners to attend the occasional community BBQ. (Most criminals, especially the violent ones, are unintelligent, shady people who would HATE to meet their neighbors.)

Maybe the same approach could be applied at airports. Instead of asking people to come in 2 hours early to wait in line, have them come in 2 hours early for a meet and greet with their fellow passengers and the flight crew. Have people vote on who seems shady, and have the shady ones searched (along with some random ones.). Rely on people's intuitions and sense of self-preservation.

Regarding the immigration thing, I just don't get it. Let em all in! I didn't even realize we had limits on that. When did that start?

Anyway, here are the key points about the US:
  • No right to privacy in constitution, though search and seizure
    protections exist in 4th Amendment; case law on government searches has
    considered new technology
  • No comprehensive privacy law, many sectoral laws; though tort of privacy
  • FTC continues to give inadequate attention to privacy issues,
    though issued self-regulating privacy guidelines on advertising in 2007
  • State-level data breach legislation has proven to be useful in identifying faults in security
  • REAL-ID and biometric identification programs continue to spread without adequate oversight, research, and funding structures
  • Extensive data-sharing programs across federal government and with private sector
  • Spreading use of CCTV
  • Congress approved presidential program of spying on foreign
    communications over U.S. networks, e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, etc.; and now
    considering immunity for telephone companies, while government claims
    secrecy, thus barring any legal action
  • No data retention law as yet, but equally no data protection law
  • World leading in border surveillance, mandating trans-border data flows
  • Weak protections of financial and medical privacy; plans spread for
    'rings of steel' around cities to monitor movements of individuals
  • Democratic safeguards tend to be strong but new Congress and
    political dynamics show that immigration and terrorism continue to
    leave politicians scared and without principle
  • Lack of action on data breach legislation on the federal level
    while REAL-ID is still compelled upon states has shown that states can
    make informed decisions
  • Recent news regarding FBI biometric database raises particular
    concerns as this could lead to the largest database of biometrics
    around the world that is not protected by strong privacy law

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