Tag Archives: Bill of Rights

Are ‘you’ just inside your skin or is your smartphone part of you?

By Karina Vold – Most democratic constitutions shield us from unwanted intrusions into our brains and bodies. They also enshrine our entitlement to freedom of thought and mental privacy. That’s why neurochemical drugs that interfere with cognitive functioning can’t be administered against a person’s will unless there’s a clear medical justification. Similarly, according to scholarly opinion, law-enforcement officials can’t compel someone to take a lie-detector test, because that would be an invasion of privacy and a violation of the right to remain silent.

But in the present era of ubiquitous technology, philosophers are beginning to ask whether biological anatomy really captures the entirety of who we are. Given the role they play in our lives, do our devices deserve the same protections as our brains and bodies?

After all, your smartphone is much more than just a phone. It can tell a more intimate story about you than your best friend. No other piece of hardware in history, not even your brain, contains the quality or quantity of information held on your phone: it ‘knows’ whom you speak to, when you speak to them, what you said, where you have been, your purchases, photos, biometric data, even your notes to yourself – and all this dating back years.

In 2014, the United States Supreme Court used this observation to justify the decision that police must obtain a warrant before rummaging through our smartphones. more>

Surprise! NSA data will soon routinely be used for domestic policing that has nothing to do with terrorism

By Radley Balko – This basically formalizes what was already happening under the radar.

We’ve known for a couple of years now that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the IRS were getting information from the NSA.

Because that information was obtained without a warrant, the agencies were instructed to engage in “parallel construction” when explaining to courts and defense attorneys how the information had been obtained.

If you think parallel construction just sounds like a bureaucratically sterilized way of saying big stinking lie, well, you wouldn’t be alone.

It’s all another sobering reminder that any powers we grant to the federal government for the purpose of national security will inevitably be used just about everywhere else.

And extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over.

And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end. more> https://goo.gl/eZsFoY

The secret history of America’s cyber war


Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, Author: Fred Kaplan.

By Fred Kaplan – Richard Clarke interrupted him. You’ve gone to the trouble of setting up this program, he said, and you’re looking for connections to just three organizations?

That’s all we have the authority to do, Chris Inglis [2] replied.

Moreover, if the metadata revealed that an American had called a suspected terrorist’s number, just 22 people in the entire NSA—20 line personnel and two supervisors—could request and examine more data about the phone number. At least one supervisor had to approve the request. And the authority to search the suspect’s records would expire after six months.

The group then asked about the program’s results: How many times had the NSA queried the database, how many times were terrorist plots disrupted as a result?

One of the officials had the numbers at hand. For all of 2012, the NSA queried the database for 288 phone numbers. As a result, it passed on 12 tips to the FBI, which had the legal authority to investigate much more deeply. How many of those tips led to the halting of a plot? The answer was zero. None of the tips had led to anything. more> http://goo.gl/A3s0yx

The loose use of government lists

By Bruce Lawlor – Federal government lists are vulnerable to inaccuracy, and misuse by politicians to push political agendas.

The problem is not people the president would have you believe want terrorists to have guns, but politicians, lacking imagination, who want to use a flawed, unreliable, secret government process to brand U.S. citizens as terrorists, without a court hearing, and then deny them their constitutional rights.

The no-fly list is demonstrably inaccurate, a product of subjective decision-making, using the lowest possible legal standard of proof, to identify people “reasonably suspected to have engaged in terrorism or related activities.”

The courts recognize the standard, but it is not enough to arrest or indict anyone, or even get a search warrant, much less a criminal conviction. It’s best described as gut instinct, the kind that allows a police officer who sees something not quite right to stop people briefly, and question them about what’s going on.

The president would use gut instinct to tinker with fundamental freedoms. more> http://goo.gl/hStWEu


Let gridlock bury mass surveillance, preserve U.S. right to privacy

By John Shina – Can government gridlock save our constitutional right to privacy?

President Obama has put forth a compromise, which would turn the stored database of dates, times and duration of phone calls over to private telecommunication companies.

In other words, to privatize spying.

But few-to-zero Republicans in Congress listen to the Democrat now in the White House, which is why the U.S. is now at gridlock on the issue.

Could this be precisely what the Founding Fathers had in mind? more> http://tinyurl.com/oye45xe

What if we didn’t have a Constitution?

By Andrew P. Napolitano – What if we didn’t have a Constitution?

What if the government were elected by custom and tradition, but not by law?

What if election procedures and official titles and government responsibilities merely followed those that preceded them, and not because any of this was compelled by law, but because that’s what folks came to expect?

What if the violation of the right to privacy is a gateway to all other government violations of personal liberty?

What if government does create modern-day witches and heretics and then arrests them and seeks credit for keeping us safe from them? What if they never posed any threat?

What if we fall for this? more> http://tinyurl.com/l5pnfto

The philosophy of privacy: why surveillance reduces us to objects

By Michael P. Lynch – Philosophers have traditionally distinguished freedom of choice or action from what is sometimes called autonomy.

To see the difference, think about impulse buying. You may “freely” click on the “buy” button in the heat of the moment – indeed, corporations count on it – without that decision reflecting what really matters to you in the long run. Decisions like that might be “free” but they are not fully autonomous.

Someone who makes a fully autonomous decision, in contrast, is committed to that decision; she owns it. Were she to reflect on the matter, she would endorse those decisions as reflecting her deepest values.

Systematic invasions of privacy are undermining our autonomy in precisely the same way in which the mind-meld case does. The government is not forcing us to make a decision. But it is undermining our autonomy nonetheless. more> http://tinyurl.com/mrd2obb


NSA’s Section 215 Telephony Metadata Program Should and Can Be Shut Down

By David Medine – In its Section 215 report, PCLOB (Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board) found that bulk collection of Americans’ phone call metadata was not effective in identifying terrorist plots or terrorists, concluding there was “little evidence that the unique capabilities provided by the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone records actually have yielded material counterterrorism results that could not have been achieved without the NSA’s Section 215 program.”

Balanced against this slim record of efficacy, the government’s collection of information about countless private interactions between people not suspected of any wrongdoing clearly risks chilling freedom of speech, association and religion, and as well as risking future data abuse by government officials. more> http://tinyurl.com/kqsbhhv


Cover of darkness

By Jamie Bartlett – In short, the battle-lines have been drawn. Troops and materiel are amassing on both sides. Which means this seems as good a time as any to ask what we want from the internet.

How should it balance openness and privacy? What about law and anarchy? And as events unfold, is there anything we can do to decide the outcome?

Because of that powerful combination of public appetite and new technology, the means of staying hidden online will only get easier to use, more widespread and ever more sophisticated. And the cypherpunks have physics on their side: it is easier to encrypt something than to decrypt it. (Encrypting is like cracking an egg; decrypting it without the key is like trying to put it back together again.) more> http://tinyurl.com/pserhpu

Is the NSA actually making us worse at fighting terrorism?

By Stephen M. Walt – What would the United States, Great Britain, and other wealthy and powerful nations do if they didn’t have these vast surveillance powers?

What would they do if they didn’t have armed drones, cruise missiles, or other implements of destruction that can make it remarkably easy (and in the short-term, relatively cheap) to target anyone they suspect might be a terrorist?

If we didn’t have all these cool high-tech hammers, in short, we’d have to stop treating places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria as if they were nails that just needed another pounding, and we might work harder at marginalizing our enemies within their own societies. To do that, we would have to be building more effective partnerships with authoritative sources of legitimacy within these societies, including religious leaders. more> http://tinyurl.com/q8ypdc5