Tag Archives: government

Stand Against Spying- A Coalition Seeking to Stop Government Mass Spy Programs

By: Alan Cleaver

A coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum has joined forces to fight mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA). The group has launched a website called “Stand Against Spying” and has become a watchdog of Congress. Although the organizations are vastly different in terms of missions, goals, and communities they all agree that mass surveillance is a violation of the United States Constitution. Electronic Frontier Foundation, Tenth Amendment Center, Greenpeace, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and UpWorthy are all part of the coalition fighting back against the government spy programs created by the NSA.

Stand Against Spying allows users to put in their address and zipcode to see how their representative is voting on issues regarding mass surveillance. Each member of Congress is rated on his or her actions to end or promote mass surveillance.

The method used to rate members of Congress was different for the House and for the Senate. For the House, votes for the two strongest bills against mass spying were considered; the Surveillance State Repeal Act and the original version of the USA FREEDOM Act. Senate members were rated on whether they co-sponsored the original USA FREEDOM Act and if they have come out publicly claiming a commitment to cosponsoring the Act when Congress is back in session (July 7).

The website requests that users sign an open letter to President Obama. The letter sets out the goals, beliefs and mission of Stand Against Spying.

It reads:

“Dear Mr. President,

As citizens of the Internet, we believe that mass surveillance by the NSA and its global partners infringes on our civil liberties, runs contrary to democratic principles, and chills free expression.

We’re calling on you to take immediate steps to end the mass spying. Specifically, we urge you to stop the mass collection and retention of telephone records and Internet communications of hundreds of millions of people who are not suspected of a crime.

In addition, we call on you to provide a full public accounting of the intelligence community’s mass surveillance practices.”

Read the full letter here. Internet citizens are encouraged to sign the open letter to take a stand against spying.

 

The Fifth Estate Reveals Quest to Expose Deceptions and Corruptions of Power

the fifth estateBeing a watchdog and exposing the privileged and powerful was the idea behind WikiLeaks. The website which allowed whistle blowers to anonymously leak covert data shined a light on government secrets and corporate crimes. DreamWorks Pictures’ The Fifth Estate is a dramatic thriller based upon WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s quest to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful.

The Fifth Estate highlights one of the most fiercely debated organizations –WikiLeaks– and focuses on the story of Assange and Berg gaining access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history. The Fifth Estate asks “what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society –and what are the costs of exposing them?”

The WikiLeaks platform rocked the media and journalism community. It began reporting and breaking more hard news than the world’s most legendary media organizations combined. The website exposed over 76,000 documents about the war in Afghanistan, a set of almost 400,000 documents called the “Iraq War Logs,” mapped over 109,000 deaths in significant attacks by insurgents in Iraq, and published files related to the prisoners detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. And that was just the start.

The film “The Fifth Estate” presented by DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment is based on Continue reading The Fifth Estate Reveals Quest to Expose Deceptions and Corruptions of Power

Biometric databases: Cause for concern or helpful tool?

Consider this, a database that is so big that it will require 10 times the memory storage capacity of Facebook (and considering how Facebook interacts that’s a whole lot of memory)  and this database doesn’t plan on stopping there. It plans to collect the biometic data of India’s approximately 1.2 billion residents.  While India’s biometic database may currently be the largest plan to date, it is not without  competition.

The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) of Nigeria announced a proposal to register 100 million Nigerians in its recently introduced biometric database system within a period of 30 months. This database would require Nigerians, aged 16 years and older to register their information, which is to be used to “harmonize” services and other databases such as Driver’s license, voter registration and online banking.

“Nigeria lacks a comprehensive database for its citizens as 75 percent of the available identity documents are fake or self-issued and they are sectoral silos without a common key,” Onyemenam said. “With a reliable national identity database in place, challenges of security and fraud would be dealt with because it would checkmate security threats.’’

Biometic databases are nothing new. The Washington Post reported in 2007 “The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world’s largest computer database of peoples’ physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.”   However, what you may not know is that according to this same article,

  • The Defense Department has been storing in a database images of fingerprints, irises and faces of more than 1.5 million Iraqi and Afghan detainees, Iraqi citizens and foreigners who need access to U.S. military bases.
  • The Pentagon also collects DNA samples from some Iraqi detainees, which are stored separately.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has been using iris scans at some airports to verify the identity of travelers who have passed background checks and who want to move through lines quickly.
  •  The DHS already has a database of millions of sets of fingerprints, which includes records collected from U.S. and foreign travelers stopped at borders for criminal violations, from U.S.

(Quoted for accuracy).

Nandan Nilekani, “father” of India’s Unique Identity (UID) program calls this “the biggest social project on the planet,”  and that the current system of identification (or lack thereof) actually “hampers economic growth and emboldens corrupt bureaucrats.”

Not everyone agrees,“Skeptics see a threat of state intrusions, or detect patriotic vanity.”  Nine million Israeli’s found out exactly how much concern a biometic database could cause when their government database was part of the country’s primary national biometric database was stolen.   This database contained the name, date of birth, national identification number, and family members of nine million living and dead Israelis, detailed health information, and information on birth parents of hundreds of thousands of adopted Israelis.

So, what would someone do with all this information?  Sell it of course.  Or cause all sorts of trouble by simply uploading it to the Internet, so that this information was freely downloadable.

The “thief” was caught, but not before the damage was done.

In the U.S. the new system came under scrutiny as it raised a number of privacy and security concerns.  The ACLU wondered if all the information gathered should be easily accessible, and what happens if it is incorrect?  Concerns regarding constitutional rights were also raised.

Other concerns about biometric data systems in the US were expressed by Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley technology forecaster,   “Unlike say, a credit card number, biometric data is forever. If someone steals and spoofs your iris image, you can’t just get a new eyeball,” Saffo said.

India and Nigeria are not the only one’s planning upgrades.  The FBI plans to make a “Bigger — Better — Faster,” program  with it’s plans for Next Generation Identification (NGI). This program would be a  billion-dollar upgrade to a database that will then contain: iris scans, photos searchable with face recognition technology, palm prints, and measures of gait and voice recordings alongside records of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos.

Proponents of biometric databases claim that these types of programs can help with everything from making shopping easier (as you pay with a thumbprint or iris scan and have it deducted from your account) to fighting fraud for public services and even protection against terrorist.  However, not everyone is convinced of the positive attributes citing privacy concerns and security breaches (as I found out with the recent Yahoo breach).  The Electronic Frontier Foundation offers this opinion,

“A biometric data collection program of this scale, particularly in the absence of an existing data protection law, presents serious risks to individuals’ privacy. Rather than improving people’s lives, Aadhaar could place their highly sensitive personal information at risk.”

 

Fighting Identity Fraud: Government Steps up Battle against Medicare Fraud

The effort in preventing identity fraud has many components, and recently the government went more high-tech and stepped their battle up a notch in preventing Medicare fraud. They recently opened a $3.6 million command center that is said to potentially be a turning point in winning the war against Medicare fraud which is estimated to cost more than $60 billion annually.

Medicare fraud is something everyone should be concerned about. It doesn’t just hurt the government, but ultimately hurts all of us through higher taxes. Medicare fraud basically entails an intentional falsification or deception of information that involves Medicare. Just a few examples include false medical insurance claims, using another person’s Medicare information to obtain care or medical equipment, or billing for services that were not actually received by the patient.

Preventing identity fraud involving Medicare

Avoid becoming a victim of this type of identity fraud through the following:

  • Never give anyone your Medicare number other than your physician or Medicare provider. Think of your Medicare number in the same way you would your PIN numbers attached to a personal bank account.
  • Secure your medical records. Your records reveal the pertinent information a potential scam artist can use to perpetrate a crime. Keep medical records in a locked cabinet, and if they are on your computer make sure they are password protected.
  • If anyone comes to your door, or calls, in attempt to sell medical supplies or medications, never accept the offer no matter how legitimate it may seem.
  • If any medical practitioner or supplier offers items or services that you know are not usually covered by Medicare but claim that they can bill the expenses elsewhere, do not accept as this is most likely Medicare fraud.
  • Review your Medicare summaries or explanation of benefits carefully. Compare your services to what has been billed, and if you notice any discrepancies call Medicare.

Medicare fraud can lead to identity theft and potentially endanger lives Continue reading Fighting Identity Fraud: Government Steps up Battle against Medicare Fraud

Anonymizer Universal Review

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This is an era of ever-increasing government intrusion into people’s lives.

Review the situation today, and think yourself 12 years ago.

Review how old you were.

Review what you thought at the time.

(The year was 1999.)

Now imagine, from a big picture review, that the person you were 12 years ago is being physically patted down by someone “securing you” before you took a flight.

What would you have thought then?

Is this kind of “precaution” (which costs BILLIONS by the way) necessary for the security of all?

I don’t know. But I certainly don’t feel more safe.

99.99% of people in the world are good people. So why are the 99.99% penalized by the actions of .01% of the population?

Benjamin Franklin has been quoted as having said:

“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

And people want to give up their freedom so readily. But you’ve got to be vigilant and Continue reading Anonymizer Universal Review

What Have You Done for Me Lately? Identity Theft Protection & Penalities

In his second term as President, Bush has been criticized on major issues from the economy to the War in Iraq. While the focus has been on the “war against terrorism,” many Americans have fallen victim to the fastest growing crime in America, identity theft.
Since great strides were made during 2000-2006 on protecting, preventing and penalizing identity theft, but since then very little has been done on the federal level,. So what steps can be taken to keep up with this growing crime and ever changing technology that makes it easier to occur?

Continue reading What Have You Done for Me Lately? Identity Theft Protection & Penalities

UK Government Data Breach in The Postal Service

A massive data breach in the United Kingdom demonstrates how easy it is for sensitive data to be compromised.
Two CDs containing the personal information of almost every child under the age of 16 and their parents in the U.K. have gone missing. (That’s 25 million people who belong to 7.25 million families.)
The data, compiled for the payment of certain social benefits, includes each child’s name, address, date of birth, sex, and National Insurance number, the parents’ and any partners’ information, and in some cases, the family’s bank account details.

Continue reading UK Government Data Breach in The Postal Service

Identity Theft Insurance – need or not?

News 12 out of Arizona ran an article talking about insurances you don’t need. On their list was Identity Theft Insurance. They say that Identity Theft Insurance “does not include unauthorized charges or funds siphoned from accounts.” What they recommend you do instead is check your credit reports regularly.
And yet, the federal government has now authorized blanket purchase agreements to two credit bureaus (Equifax and Experian), Bearak Reports, and a company called “Identity Force”, to provide policies, using taxpayer dollars, to people whose information is stolen from agencies of the Federal Government.

Continue reading Identity Theft Insurance – need or not?