It’s okay to store and analyze data to sell you useless shit you don’t even need, but NOT okay to store and analyze data to catch psychos who want to blow your legs off? Uh…. I don’t get it.

12 Jun


Hypothetical situation:  Let’s say I’m at the library with my laptop, sitting in cubby next to a man who has his own laptop, and thanks to the way the cubbies are organized, I can see his screen every time he gets up.

He gets up to fetch a book a number of times, and each time I see what  is on his screen:

Videos of beheadings

Images of wounded soldiers in Afghanistan

Videos of bombs exploding

Ecstatic crowds chanting and waving machine guns

Then I take a look at the books he has stacked up around him:


book 2

book 3

Okay, these books probably aren’t in the public library, but bear with me here.

Buddy beside me is a pleasant looking fellow.  He’s not acting strange or awkward.  He has never looked at me, and probably doesn’t realize that I can see his screen.  It’s still rather troubling.  What on earth is he doing?  Why is he searching for this information?

It could be perfectly innocent.  Indeed, in writing this post, I have searched for a number of images that could trigger similar suspicion  to someone looking over my shoulder, who has no knowledge of what I am doing.  Maybe I just landed myself on a Prism list.

What are my responsibilities?  Morally, ethically, legally – do I have any obligation to report what I have just seen?  Morally, I think I do, but I also understand that morality can be tricky to define and some people have wildly different ideas about what constitutes morally appropriate behavior.  So let’s skip the moral question for the moment.


What are my LEGAL responsibilities?

I am going to focus here just on American law, although most modern democracies have similar statutes.  In the US, there are a number of laws under which I could be prosecuted for failing to report my fellow library-goer, in the event that the worst possible scenario comes about:  he builds a bomb and detonates it, taking lives and limbs from innocent bystanders.

Here is a quick summary of the laws that might apply:


Client privilege


Aiding and abetting

I’m no lawyer, but I would guess the most applicable law would be accessory before the fact.  I knew, or ought to have known, that a crime was being planned and in failing to report that information, I was an accessory to the crime before it even happened.

This is a tricky law to apply:  the prosecutors would have to prove that I KNEW a crime was being planned, and that I INTENDED to assist with that crime, which probably explains why people are rarely convicted of this offense.

That brings us back to the murky waters of morals and ethics.  Even though my legal responsibility to report the potential bomb builder looks pretty shaky, do I have a moral obligation to at least inform the librarian what is happening?  Maybe she’s a mandated reporter?  Maybe she is already obliged to report anyone who checks out the “How to Build a Bomb for Dummies” book?

Perhaps I should pass my obligations on to the authorities, and we all know who the authority is in a library.


I’m not the only person who has been watching what our curious little friend in the library is up to, either.  Like millions of other people, he searched the web using Google, and he watched videos on YouTube and sent email using his Hotmail account.

After his busy afternoon, Google rewarded him by offering him 20% off a new pressure cooker, if he clicks the link provided!


How thoughtful of Google.

The whole kerfuffle over Prism and the NSA and Andrew Snowden perplexes me.  I’ve read thousands of words about the “invasion of our privacy” and the “attack on fundamental liberty” and all kinds of other dramatic and overwrought polemics.


But we never had privacy in the first place!  Our data and browsing history is stored and analyzed all the time. That is how targeted internet advertising works!  Google observes your browsing history, reads your emails, and chooses ads for you to view based on how that information has been analyzed.  So does YouTube.  So does Facebook.  So does Foxfire.  So does every other entity out there!

If a site has advertising, and you will note that mine does NOT, somewhere, someone is storing and analyzing your data.

In an effort to sell you some crap they figure you might want.

Now explain to me why you don’t want that same data analyzed to keep you safe from wingnuts who want to hurt you? And it’s not even YOUR data.  Prism searches foreign to foreign interactions (although domestic phone calls are monitored). The NSA want access to data like “show me every person in Chechnya who watching jihad videos and sent email to Pakistan containing the words ‘bomb’, ‘timer’, ’package’ or ‘victory’.

Of course, this is where the slippery slope argument comes in.  Sure, it all seems reasonable enough now, but what ELSE can the government do with that data?  How soon will it be before we are ALL subject to NSA searches?


And this where I waiver.  Some part of me thinks we will simply have to work through how checks and balances on the government are going to work, and another part thinks we’re handing our lives over for complete control.

Here’s an example of where this could all go so very, very wrong.  I woke up this morning and my husband was in bed beside me shaking.  I thought he was crying. He was reading something on his iPhone and had his face in his hands and he just handed me the phone.  I thought I would be reading that his father had died or something equally terrible.

Instead I read this:

“Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs and a Big Red Box”.


Julia Gillard is the Australian Prime Minister, and the menu was featured at an opposition party’s fundraiser.  Of course, the PM was outraged and decried the whole thing as grossly sexist.

Rather than sobbing, Mr. JB was actually laughing hysterically and trying not to wake up the whole house.  Seriously, he couldn’t stop.  He kept saying “big red box” and putting his head under the pillow to stifle his laughter.  He’d come up for air and then say “huge thighs” and back under the pillow he went.  This is just the sort of thing he finds riotously amusing.


He immediately texted it to a friend in Australia who works for a large defence contractor, his message captioned with a whole bunch of LOL LOL LOLs.

Now, imagine that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, under the direction of an extremely pissed off PM, was reading all emails to and from national defence contractors, identifying those that had sent, forwarded or received the Big Red Box story, along with any of the following words:  LOL, hilarious, funny, etc. etc. etc. Uh-oh.  That could be bad news. And if our PM is feeling vindictive, it could be VERY bad news.    There goes our friend’s career.


Although honestly, that menu is a perfect example of Australia, if you ask me.  Irreverent, hilarious, crude, clever and audacious, all at the same time.  If she can’t handle that, she should probably consider turning in her citizenship and moving somewhere prissy like Switzerland.

I think a lot of Aussies feel the same way.


Let’s talk for a moment about the role Andrew Snowden played in this whole story:  he’s been called a hero, a whistleblower, a traitor and a coward.  He revealed himself as the leaker and is now in hiding, in Hong Kong, apparently.  Good luck if you think the Chinese are going to protect you!

I like the Economist take on Snowden:

LET’S get the most contentious point out of the way first: Edward Snowden made the right call to make public the extent of the National Security Administration’s surveillance of electronic communications. The American people can now have a debate about whether or not they consent to that level of surveillance in order to prevent terrorist attacks, a debate that we were previously denied by the government’s unwillingness to disclose even the broad outlines of what the NSA was doing.

Snowden kick-started a conversation we need to have.  If we can accept Google reading our mail and offering products and services based on that information, why can’t we accept the government reading our mail looking for potential terrorists?

Is it because we trust business leaders more than government ones?

The words of Ronald Reagan come to mind:


I’m on the fence on this one.  And if Glenn Beck and Michael Moore end up on the same side, you know this issue is complicated.  I’m not sure how I feel, but I do know one thing:  Dinner tonight will be Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs, served in a Big Red Box.

red box

Australia, you’re hilarious!  Fuck Julia.  That was awesome!

Lots of love,


70 Responses to “It’s okay to store and analyze data to sell you useless shit you don’t even need, but NOT okay to store and analyze data to catch psychos who want to blow your legs off? Uh…. I don’t get it.”

  1. Jim June 12, 2013 at 13:45 #

    You should be concerned as the state has become politicized. There isn’t a two party system as we all believe. It’s a state political elite system with two slightly different sects within it. The IRS “scandal” shows us all that if you believe in the Constitution, you are an enemy of the government that in reality should fall underneath it but has now overtaken it.

    The US government now is as dangerous if not more so than any terrorist out there merely because it’s incompetent and out of control. And they are even arming terrorist ala the Libyan and Egyptian uprisings. The Muslim Brotherhood is not a democratic organization but one with ties to the same groups we are fighting against in the “war on terror”.


  2. Jim June 12, 2013 at 13:52 #

    As to your question about being followed around on the internet, you usually agree to terms and conditions when using browsers or downloading items. You have a choice whether to use it or not. The government tracking US citizens doesn’t give anyone that option. On top of passing legislation that allows drones unfettered access to US airspace and the elite powers to take out US citizens after being convicted in “secret courts”. Or swiftly taken away to prisons without due process and held indefinitely.


  3. ar10308 June 12, 2013 at 13:53 #

    I’d rather this country go through a number of terrorist attacks and lose hundreds or thousands of lives than the government assemble a dissident list and start knocking down the doors of people who disagree with that. The body counts in the latter scenario are orders of magnitude higher than those killed in terrorist attacks.

    The most #1 murderer in history is government. It should be your greatest fear.


  4. Jim June 12, 2013 at 14:11 #

    Terrorist would do more to further their cause if they attacked only government facilities and those who are tied in with it. As an American citizen, I can honestly say if they went after the government I wouldn’t care in the least. Leave the average citizens out of it and go after the elite. Hell, the people would cheer it on.

    Washington, DC has the honor of being the wealthiest area of the nation. All funded by taxpayers and controlled by elite power brokers who have no clue to the harm they are doing to the rest of the nation with their crony and bogus laws and regulations. I have no sympathy for those that are only concerned with retaining power and control no matter the damage they do to the rest of us. The illegal immigration debate and the thought of giving people automatic citizenship who came here by breaking the law in order to gain votes is obscene. Lifetime politicians with no accountability and who marginalize the Constitution are the enemy. And they use a moronic populace that is only concerned with what monies they can be bribed with in order to stay in power. To hell with them.


  5. M3 June 12, 2013 at 14:30 #

    Because you only have one government, with the power of law to take away your rights and freedoms if it deigns you an enemy of the state for your words.

    Google can’t do that. Even if they suspended service to you, you have choice to go to BING..

    You can’t do that with the Gov’t.

    As a libertarian i find the idea of ‘if you have nothing to hide, don’t worry’. I say fine.. live in a glass house. You have nothing to hide. Who cares who see your vibrator, or the porn sites you’re viewing. We have privacy because we are entitled to it and lose it only under reasonable circumstances where it’s shown before an arbiter like a court that it should be revoked for the greater good.

    History is replete with government abusing this privilege every chance it gets.

    I was a big Antiwar advocate when the US invaded Iraq. Imagine if i was being datamined under surveillance, tracked, monitored and had things exposed about me that had nothing to do with my antiwar stance and everything to do with simply making me look like someone who’s opinion shouldn’t be taken seriously because i read 9-11 truth sites, and order my blow up dolls using Amazon Prime super saver shipping.

    Seriously.. if it’s ok to track everything you’re doing online just because the nature of the internet thrives on data.. then perhaps everyone should have a keystroke logger on their keyboard that dumps everything they type right to a gov agency. Put wiretaps on their phones, because the nature of phone signals is interceptable too. Why not just get back to the easy breasy days of cops stopping people out of the blue on a whim and ask ‘Papers please’.

    Random searches of everything in your car.

    Who would be offended about that, if you got nothing to hide…?

    *as an aside, another article here discussing how datamining like this is mostly useless and hurts actual intelligence.


  6. Goober June 12, 2013 at 14:42 #

    To the point that you make about Google looking at what you’re doing, vs. the government looking at what you’re doing – it doesn’t even compare, and I’m quite frankly that a smart gal like you can’t see the difference.

    I’ll start with this – Google didn’t slaughter 100 plus million of its customers in the last century, alone. Government did.

    Google doesn’t have a track record of using information against people to subjugate them. Government does.

    Google doesn’t have a monopoly on the use of force, violence, and coercion. Government does.

    If Google finds out that you’re doing something shady (or just suspects that you might be), they can’t break down your front door, throw bombs into your home and physically assault you and your family while training automatic weapons on you. Government can.

    I can choose not to do business with Google. If I try to not do business with the government, they will eventually come and kill me.

    There is a huge, HUGE, HUUUUUUUGE fucking difference between Google farming my data so that they can market shit to me, and government farming my data to see if they can violently assault, detain, and possibly even kill me if they get a wild hair up their asses.


  7. Goober June 12, 2013 at 14:43 #

    The part about you getting in trouble for not reporting this guy is total rubbish – you have no way to know that he is going to commit a crime. What if he’s doing research for a book he’s writing? Or a project for school?

    The criminal statutes that would put you in jeopardy for not reporting a crime would all require you to KNOW that this guy is going to commit a crime, and typically know WHEN, WHERE, and HOW, before you can get your ass in a sling.

    Would I report the guy?

    Depends. I know this is horribly racist, but honestly? If he was a middle eastern or black north african male between the ages of 18 and 40, hell yes. If he was any other ethnicity? Probably not.

    It’s a numbers game, folks – has nothing to do with race.


  8. Robert June 12, 2013 at 14:44 #

    Hey JB,

    On a conceptual level I agree with you, and many people point out the legal and constitutional constraints that the NSA is under. But then so is the IRS. And we now see what those constraints mean to the IRS: very little.

    How long is it before this administration or the next uses gleaned NSA information against their political opponents? Who said it hasn’t happened already?

    If you give government the power they will eventually use it and abuse it.


  9. judgybitch June 12, 2013 at 14:46 #

    Oh, give them time. Google, I mean.

    Monsanto has done a nice job killing people. We won’t even discuss coal mines and textile mills.

    Union Carbide?
    Gunpowder manufacturers?


  10. TMG June 12, 2013 at 14:56 #

    I am sure no uberfeminist bureaucrats in the Obama administration would ever think to use NSA data to harass critics of Feminism.


  11. judgybitch June 12, 2013 at 14:58 #

    Oh gosh no.



  12. Goober June 12, 2013 at 15:08 #

    Can you provide source material on Monsanto killing people? Coal mines and textile mills kill people in accidents, not in official acts to subjogate people (with a few exceptions around the turn of the last century that were quickly squashed).

    Union Carbide was a horrible, unforgivable accident for which many people should have hung, but it wasn’t a deliberate act of murder like the government.

    As for gunpowder manufacturers, I fail to even get your point here – because people use their product to kill people, they… what now?


  13. judgybitch June 12, 2013 at 15:10 #

    Oh, you’re right of course.

    Gunpowder factories have a tendency to blow up.

    But you’re right. They’re accidents or the result of negligence. Not deliberate subjugation.


  14. Goober June 12, 2013 at 15:12 #

    Besides, all companies combined are going to have to pick up the pace if they even want to get close to the death toll of government in just the last 50 years, even if you give them the advantage of giving them the entire history of mankind to catch up.

    It is really bad business to kill your customers, so they generally don’t do it. Google never will – I fail to see how you think that they are going to find a business model where that works out for them, especially given the monopoly on violence that the government has and Google does not have – they would be breaking the law and so, if they do start killing folks, they would only be able to do so with the explicit permission and assistance of the government.

    I stand by my assertion that there is a huge difference here that you are failing to recognize.


  15. Jim June 12, 2013 at 15:29 #

    Government has taken away the power we have as a consumers to dictate what companies do. Actual real capitalism competes for money from the PRIVATE SECTOR. It gives people a CHOICE. Now it competes for it from the PUBLIC SECTOR via whichever crony politician it can bribe while at the same time monopolizing. Big difference.

    Smoking bans are the largest example of what is currently happening and just how powerless we as a supposedly capitalistic consumer nation we really are. Instead of allowing private businesses the ability to allow or prevent it, and thus compete for business, government steps in and bans it. And while many think it’s a good thing, all it’s done is taken the ability of people to make choices away from them and given the government control. Instead of people realizing they have the ability to patronize places that suit them and businesses will do what it takes to get their money, they instead think the government is better at being in charge and it’s up to it to enforce “their rights not to breathe in smoke”. The exact same thing that’s happening with the NSA tracking us and all the other BS that the government is doing to “keep us safe”. Small steps lead to eventually tighter controls.


  16. lelnet June 12, 2013 at 15:32 #

    “Now explain to me why you don’t want that same data analyzed to keep you safe from wingnuts who want to hurt you?”

    I’d love to see that. Trouble is, it’s not in the hands of people we can trust. It’s in the hands of government. Which we can rely on absolutely, whenever an opportunity presents itself to choose between protecting citizens and oppressing them, to choose the latter.


  17. Mr. Krishan June 12, 2013 at 16:00 #

    Two issues on email-reading specifically:

    1) Google and other sites use methods that can be avoided or spoofed, if you don’t want them tracking your info, and those methods are mostly legal. Don’t enable cookies. Use a public computer. Use an onion router. Use your own domain email instead of free email. Etc.
    2) Google and others have no power to arrest, imprison, subjugate, harass, or otherwise LEGALLY make my life hell. They can only report a crime (at worst). They can’t directly send me to guantanamo, for example.

    The 4th amendment is very, very important. Following proper, legal, CONSTITUTIONAL procedures is vital to our survival as a free country. We throw out evidence when it is tainted. Well, everything the government is gathering on us is tainted.

    It stops bombs/crimes? So does a cop illegally breaking into houses looking for evidence of a crime – any crime. THE ENDS DO NOT JUSTIFY THE MEANS.

    You want to stop crime, or terrorism, or whatever boogeyman you’re afraid of? There are other ways – LEGAL ways.

    For example, get control of the borders. PROFILE those who wish to come to this country. Young, male, Saudi national, Wahhabist muslim? Yeah, good odds you want to keep them out, even without knowing anything else. 80-year-old wife and victim of Rwanda ethnic cleansing? Come on in.

    There are plenty of methods to keep us safe that would be (or are) legal. The problem is that a) they don’t increase government’s power over the citizenry, (police the border) b) they have bad optics or are politically incorrect (open borders are great!) or c) they undermine the platform the ruling party supports (open borders, brown people are good whites are bad).


  18. freetofish June 12, 2013 at 16:02 #

    The problem is the lack of oversight and accountability. JB you’re also Canadian right? Did you follow the Omnibus crime bill and cyber spying bill the CPC tried to put through? The problem with the cyber bill was it wanted to allow RCMP and CSIS access to private citizens data,email ect without judicial warrant. That is wrong plain and simple.

    It allows the government to decide what (and who) is criminal without the oversight of the judiciary. I remember the CPC using the wedge of child pornography to justify it. If you don’t agree with unfettered, non warrant access then you must be a child predator.

    A nice moral justification for giving the government complete access and control over the populace.

    Two famous quotes always come to mind when these discussions about Government spying on it’s citizens in the name of “safety”

    First they came for the socialists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.


    “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”-Ben Franklin

    Also apropos – ” “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Edmund Burke


  19. Goober June 12, 2013 at 16:08 #

    Agreed. The corporate crony system of bastardized capitalism that we’ve been moving toward won’t have good results. It screws with all the wrong incentives and whenever people find flaw with our system i can generally point to a corporatist policy that created it.

    My biggest departure from most that agree with me on this is that I don’t blame the corporation for this; I blame the government.


  20. princesspixiepointless June 12, 2013 at 16:10 #

    “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”
    ― George Orwell, 1984


  21. Mike June 12, 2013 at 16:24 #

    I think context is important. Right now gov’t snooping doesn’t seem so bad because we can all live comfortably. But let’s say another great depression hits, cronyism and corruption make for a vast gulf in wealth between a small elite and the greater population, and there is no longer any money for welfare, and now our corrupt sociopathic government has infinite spying power and all the guns right when we need another French revolution. We’re all boned.


  22. freetofish June 12, 2013 at 16:32 #

    That is an interesting quote because in 1984 Big Brother wins. That is the real message of 1984. That there is a tipping point at which once the government gets enough power, there is no unseating them.

    The trick if you will is not letting them get to that point.

    Interesting read here:


  23. princesspixiepointless June 12, 2013 at 16:34 #

    Thanks for the link, I am listening to 1984 now, been too long since i have read it…


  24. princesspixiepointless June 12, 2013 at 16:42 #

    Over in the UK, there are an estimated 4.2 million CCTV cameras and just recently it was revealed that the British Library is to store every comment, website, web page into it’s data base…

    We put a lot of information about ourselves out on the net, quite willingly. I was shocked that people were so shocked by the NSA and Prism revelations.

    (I do need to read more into it though, just getting bits here and there)


  25. feeriker June 12, 2013 at 16:53 #

    We put a lot of information about ourselves out on the net, quite willingly.

    Who exactly is “we?”


  26. princesspixiepointless June 12, 2013 at 17:00 #

    The 1.06 billion monthly (active) facebook users? Pinterest, youtube, twitter, etc…
    Social networking sites.


  27. feeriker June 12, 2013 at 17:14 #

    Agreed. The corporate crony system of bastardized capitalism that we’ve been moving toward won’t have good results.

    Yep. I cannot hammer home often enough how most people fail to distinguish between capitalism and state corporatism (a.k.a. “crony capitalism”). It is the latter system under which we in the West live today, a system in which ostensibly “private sector” business co-opts the power of the State for its own ends in order to either create a monopoly for itself or to create artificial barriers to entry to prevent competition (and don’t think that businesses detest government regulation; they LOVE it, for the very reasons I just cited. The regulatory capture theory helps explain this fully). One of the most extreme and toxic end results of this is exemplified by the quasi-private but utterly governmental operations of such behemoths as Lockheed Martin in their multi-faceted roles as “contractors” in doing the State’s dirty work for it (e.g., managing IRS tax collection operations, data mining for the NSA, creating weapons for the MIC, etc.).

    I would dare say that the western world hasn’t experienced genuine capitalism in at least 150 years, if even then (the closest to it the U.S. in particular ever came was the period of roughly 1815-1861). A return to such, along with stable (e.g., gold-based) money and government so limited as to be almost non-existent (the ideal supposedly behind the deeply flawed piece of parchment cobbled together by America’s founders 225 years ago) would go a long way toward restoring sanity – and restoring real freedom.


  28. Clover June 12, 2013 at 17:20 #

    The thing is, companies who want to sell me things won’t generally care about my opinions. Google isn’t going to step in and give evidence in family court proceedings that my interest in online poker makes me an unfit mother…the government might. If I buy fireworks on Amazon, they might try to sell me more fireworks, but the government might wonder why I need them when it’s nowhere near December 5th (I’m from the UK, that’s the only time we really do fireworks apart from new year’s eve). More importantly, we should know – as I write this, I do so as if it is in the public domain, now I realise it could be traced back to me by the NSA. It’s the same difference between having a conversation in private and at the bus stop. There’s plenty I am happy to say, but plenty more I’d rather keep behind closed doors, thanks.


  29. feeriker June 12, 2013 at 17:25 #

    It’s an example of how utilitarianism, fueled by ignorance-induced mass hysteria, has gripped (and corrupted) contemporary society. Somebody might be considering actually contemplating doing something “bad,” so LOCK THEM UP NOW, before they hurt somebody! Think: Minority Report – only without anything even remotely resembling the certainty behind that premise.


  30. feeriker June 12, 2013 at 17:31 #

    Trouble is, it’s not in the hands of people we can trust. It’s in the hands of government.


    Myth: Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, a majority of people still think that government is dedicated to “keeping ‘us’ safe.”

    Fact: Government has an agenda of its own (centered around something called power) that takes the subjects over whom it rules into consideration only insofar as they are useful tools for obtaining (and maintaining) the primary agenda. Outside of that narrow consideration, they are disposable and of no consequence to those in power. Indeed, should they consciously resist being compliant tools for implementation of the prime agenda, their “information” is used in ways to hurt them.


  31. Jeremy June 12, 2013 at 17:32 #

    Neither is ok to me, Judgy. I block most cookies, and most usless javascript on the web. The best result of this is the web loads MUCH faster because I’m not seeking code from 20 different domains to load a single page (I am not exaggerating that number). I have that option by simply using a properly equipped browser. No one can deny this option to me.

    What the government did, amazingly through legal means, was to essentially establish carte blanche surveillance that I could not opt-out of. U.S. residents were forcefully subjected to being monitored without my consent (or so the story goes).

    When an advertiser collects information on me, that information is extraordinarily detailed, and these days is used to target all manner of consumer products into my e-mail box. Gone are the days of thousands of poorly targeted spam e-mails daily. Instead I get e-mails about cribs on sale at Target when my girlfriend gets pregnant. That’s amazingly invasive, but ultimately the goal is to sell me something, not manipulate my vote. The good news is I can entirely opt-out of being commercially tracked and STILL use most online services, simply by blocking their cookies and javascript when possible.

    When the government, who ordinarily gets consent from the citizens of it’s own country to enforce laws through threat of lethal force, gets the power to target internal political enemies, then history tells us that horrible things happen. We are seeing this happen now. The IRS targeting is just the first example we know of, it probably wont be the last. I’m sure most of the people in the NSA are patriotic Americans who love their country and just want to use their talents to help preserve it from external enemies. Politicians are not patriotic Americans, full stop. The politicians we have in office are people who would burn the entire system to the ground to preserve their own political power. The best current example of this is the fact that We haven’t had a budget since Obama took office, because members of congress and the president know that accepting cuts to their pork is politically unpalatable, so it’s better that the entire budgetary system be destroyed for their own individual political gain. When you give the power provided by patriotic Americans working for the NSA at rooting out domestic terrorists with proper meta-data-bases, into the hands of a politician who only cares about his political career/legacy… WATCH OUT.


  32. feeriker June 12, 2013 at 17:34 #

    OK, understood. You’re using “we” in the literal first-person-plural sense (to include yourself and others you know), not the generic collective “we” (as in “everyone, whether they want to be part of the collective or not”).


  33. feeriker June 12, 2013 at 17:36 #

    Give serious consideration to this:


  34. Jim June 12, 2013 at 17:37 #

    I always tell people if they want to watch news to always watch the financial news networks. They’re usually pretty good at telling the backstories behind the numbers and the reasons why. And they keep people aware of all the government shenanigans behind the scenes. They are the least politicized of the MSM. By no means do I trust the media though.


  35. feeriker June 12, 2013 at 17:54 #

    Even if they suspended service to you, you have choice to go to BING..

    A tool of Microsoft (the digital world’s Evil Empire)? BAAAARF. They’re probably collecting even more data on you than Google is.

    Honestly, I can think of a half dozen other search engines that, if even due only to their relative obscurity, are less invasive and risky than the Big Three (Bing, Google, and Yahoo). Off the top of my head: (if you don’t mind Q&A-type syntax)

    Ask (my personal favorite)

    Beaucoup (a metasearch engine)

    Brainboost (a query engine that’s really fun to play with)

    Clusty (also a metasearch engine)

    Dogpile (another metasearch engine)

    All, IME, capable of providing feedback as accurate and comprehensive as any of The Big Three.

    The key to using metasearch engines, of course, is, if you want to avoid The Big Three as much as possible, to take care of where you ultimately choose to go for your information/answers to your question.

    Oh, and never, EVER register a username and/or email address with a search engine that you intend to use regularly for that purpose. While I do have a Google gmail account for convenience’s sake (though not as my primary address), I never use Google’s search engine if I can avoid doing so and ALWAYS, whenever possible, encrypt any email I send through my gmail account (OpenPGP is a wonderful tool for this).


  36. angelowal June 12, 2013 at 17:55 #

    Don’t forget about credit cards too – your spending records are all there indicating a pattern of your habits and activities – the privacy horse has left the stable and that door is already closed! We’re naive to expect the right to privacy any more; this is a new world.

    I know that in my country there are people working verrry hard to keep us safe from evil and if gaining access to “private” info helps with that, I’ll willingly give it.


  37. LostSailor June 12, 2013 at 18:42 #

    *as an aside, another article here discussing how datamining like this is mostly useless and hurts actual intelligence.

    I agree that the difference is that Google or Amazon isn’t going to drag you off to a FEMA camp. Well, not yet, at least.
    But I have to dispute this “article” because it’s wrong. First I look on anything published on Techdirt with a jaundiced eye; they have an agenda and are often intellectually dishonest, particularly Masnick, with whom I’ve sparred on line in the past. First, he doesn’t even link to the actual report he’s touting but to a report about the report and a bad one at that.

    The actual report doesn’t say that data mining doesn’t work or that it hurts intelligence, mainly because that would not be true. Of course the report was focused on effective use of datamining within tight bounds of maintaining privacy. The report found that certain types of datamining with certain types of expected outcomes are not effective. For example, trying to match transactional patterns in the data to identify specific terrorists or intended terrorist act is not just ineffective, but largely impossible, and intelligence agencies shouldn’t do this. Of course, intelligence agencies aren’t doing this. That’s not how this type of datamining works or it’s intended purpose.

    However, using smart search algorithms combined with ontological taxonomies to mechanically sift through all this data is actually pretty good at identifying and flagging information that should be investigated further by a human analyst. And it’s that nexus where privacy concerns come in. The report Masnick referenced actually support this kind of datamining, and was primarily concerned with oversight of that human analysis and protections for the many false-positives that this kind of work inevitably generates.

    This kind of shit is why I find Masnick intellectually lazy at best and dishonest at worst.


  38. praguestepchild June 12, 2013 at 18:57 #

    Is it because we trust business leaders more than government ones?

    The essential difference is that people voluntarily choose to give info to Google, FB, etc. Maybe they do it out of ignorance and laziness, but it *is* voluntary.

    Also, if you had actually paid attention to the whole ‘kerfuffle’ you might have noticed it is Edward, not Andrew Snowden.


  39. Alex June 12, 2013 at 19:15 #

    big thing about this issue is i can limit the amount of data and what kind of data the companies get to the point where i’m not a profitable avenue, at which point they leave me alone. the govt, not so much. i really don’t feel like going to jail just cause i might’ve said i hated a senator or not, can you say thought police?


  40. Jeremy June 12, 2013 at 19:25 #

    Here’s the thing about Tor… Who vets the servers? Currently, there’s no known way to ensure that the NSA doesn’t own half of the tor network. No decryption needed, simply watch the packets in real time.


  41. Goober June 12, 2013 at 20:00 #

    So the fact that you’re under massive surveillance already makes this okay?

    Or maybe, just maybe, you should be questioning the fact that you’re already under massive surveillance…

    Just sayin’…

    I’ve never given much credence the the argument that because they’re already doing something, its okay for them to do more of it.

    If what they’re doing is wrong, then they need to stop, whether they’re already doing it or not.


  42. Goober June 12, 2013 at 20:14 #

    The more I think about this, the more I’m convinced that the key thing here is “opt-out”. I don’t have to do business with Google if I don’t like what they are doing.

    How, exactly, do I “opt-out” of a government dragnet?

    I can’t. And if I try, as I said before, the situation will continue to degrade and escalate until I either give in, or they kill me.

    Perfect example (which you’ll be familiar with if you followed my link above) is the new Obamacare thing. It is deliciously ironic that we’re implementing a law right now that says that if you don’t buy health insurance, we’ll fucking kill you!

    No, I didn’t go off the rails there. Stay with me. In order to form a more perfect society, we’ve given the government a monopoly on force, violence, and coercion. It’s a decent trade, but it is a dangerous one that we must remain vigilant to regulate. Since they have this monopoly, everything that the government does comes with the implicit backing of the full force and violence of the government.

    Therefore, EVERY SINGLE THING that they do ends with an “or else I’ll kill you.” Without exception. From EPA regulations to taxation, the government tells you that if you don’t do what they say, they’ll kill you.

    Follow along:

    Joe Blow decides he doesn’t want to buy health insurance… leads to:

    Government fines him for not having health insurance, since that is now illegal under Obamacare… leads to:

    Joe, still not convinced that they should be able to make him purchase insurance, refuses to submit and pay the fine… leads to:

    Government takes various actions against Joe, none of which Joe submits to because he doesn’t agree that they have that right… leads to:

    Government issues warrant for Joe’s arrest for failure to comply, and sends armed men out to arrest him… leads to:

    Joe resists arrest. Again, because Joe doesn’t think he should have to give in and won’t budge an inch… leads to:

    The arresting officers kill Joe in self-defense.

    This is the logical conclusion of any situation where the government dictates and the citizen chooses to never give in. If you don’t give in, they will kill you. Period.


    Therefore, they are playing in a different playing field altogether, and should be treated as such. Any comparison of this with a business that you choose to do business with (and likewise can choose to NOT do business with) is no comparison at all.


  43. Marlo Rocci June 12, 2013 at 20:18 #

    Stated reason for snooping: Protect americans from terrorism..
    Actual reason for snooping: Protect democrats in next election.


  44. Reggie June 12, 2013 at 20:24 #

    It’s all well and good until the guy in the library is JudgyBitch and what she is researching (and that could have been legitimate research) is anti-feminist. What is the moral obligation of the state to stay the fuck out of your head and computer? This is what the fourth amendment is for JB, it’s not to protect killers and child molesters, it is to protect people (read YOU) from government intrusion.

    All it takes is for a few legs to get blown off and a few children to be molested (highly publicised) for fearful people to give up the right to carry Ron Paul literature for fear of the new police finding it.

    Give your head a shake and look at the real statistics; you are more likely to be killed by the police or your own government than you are a terrorist. If you want to keep yourself safe, don’t bother looking at some guy’s screen at the library, watch your surroundings. Look for unclaimed bags.

    This shit is getting old. Whenever you give the government power, a good stupidity test is to ask yourself “What would Hitler/Stalin/Pol Pot do with this power?” And then you will have your answer as to what the government’s business is.


  45. Fred June 12, 2013 at 20:25 #

    The scope of this program is entirely out of whack.

    The likelihood of dying in a terrorist attack is astronomically low, lower than the chances of being hit by lightning. This small risk justifies spying on the entire world? The fuck if it does.

    We have a bunch of paranoid lunatics in charge. Just imagine how hopelessly fucked we are if something really bad should happen.


  46. Reggie June 12, 2013 at 20:32 #

    And that is because you are not a:

    Who will protect you when the come for you? How will you feel after this “private” info is legally obtained and they find that posting on JudgyBitch is a crime? If you can think of the stupidest, most idiotic use of a law and it fits, it’s a bad law.


  47. Reggie June 12, 2013 at 20:34 #

    It’s OK, the criminals will still have guns … sigh!


  48. Reggie June 12, 2013 at 20:39 #

    TOR is open source. It is vetted by hundreds/thousands of developers. There is no back door.


  49. Reggie June 12, 2013 at 20:41 #

    Furthermore, if you’re using secure channels, the traffic is untraceable.

    I’ll concede your point that the government could be running as many TOR servers as they think necessary.


  50. Jeremy June 12, 2013 at 20:43 #

    Then you’ve proven my point. Encryption or no, no one vets TOR servers to ensure they’re run by non government. Since you can presume the network is compromised in this way, TOR offers you nothing, other than an assurance that if the government wants to watch you, they still can even if you’re using TOR.


  51. Reggie June 12, 2013 at 20:43 #

    Just film some legs getting blown off and most twits will let them put a potty cam in their bathroom.


  52. Reggie June 12, 2013 at 20:52 #

    And if you want to keep yourself safe, keep your government in check. Look up the term Democide:


  53. Fred Flintstein June 12, 2013 at 21:36 #

    After 9/11, the fear of another attack on U.S. soil cleanly supplanted the fear of having one`s penis chopped off by a vengeful lover in the pantheon of irrational American fears.

    While we`re constantly being told that another attack is imminent and that radical Islamic fundamentalists are two steps away from establishing a caliphate in Branson, Missouri, just how close are they? How do the odds of dying in a terrorist attack stack up against the odds of dying in other unfortunate situations?

    The following ratios were compiled using data from 2004 National Safety Council Estimates, a report based on data from The National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition, 2003 mortality data from the Center for Disease Control was used.

    — You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack

    — You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack

    — You are 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane

    — You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack

    –You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack

    — You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack

    — You are 13 times more likely to die in a railway accident than from a terrorist attack

    –You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack

    –You are 9 times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack

    –You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

    –You are 8 times more likely to die from accidental electrocution than from a terrorist attack

    — You are 6 times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack

    SOURCE: The Progressive Review


  54. Mr. Krishan June 12, 2013 at 21:39 #

    “The likelihood of dying in a terrorist attack is astronomically low, lower than the chances of being hit by lightning. This small risk justifies spying on the entire world? The fuck if it does.”



  55. RicksCafe45 June 12, 2013 at 22:23 #

    As has been noted, the issue is one of what possible uses can the data be used for – and by whom.

    I’ve assumed that everything I do on line is monitored by the NSA not because they care about me – they don’t, but because it’s easier to find patterns in large data sets than it is to find them in small data sets.

    I know Google and Yahoo and who ever track as much as they can get – they’re convinced that those patterns create advertizing opportunity and result in sales. They’re provably correct.

    I do my reasonable best to obfuscate my trail – I use Startpage, which at least uses SSL links to them to help hide the trail. I use Ghostery to block ad trackers. I’ve considered going to TOR or one of the commercial VPN anonymizers. While this will help to eliminate Google/BING/Yahoo snooping, it will only be mildly annoying to the NSA – if they ever decide to actually look at me. Since I am – Pro Gun, libertarian, Anti Radical-Feminist, and a whole bunch of other things – I’m on I don’t know how many lists I’m on.

    Commercial uses of data are unlikely to lead to violence – it’s bad business. The Government is on the other hand, is in the business of Violence.

    “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence-it is force! Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

    – George Washington

    I find it amusing in a scary sort of way, that Republicans are somewhat OK with NSA snooping when a Republican is in office – Dems are very much against it. Reverse the party in office and reverse the results. What this shows is a serious lack of vision – no hindsight, no ability to project forward. Once a government takes a power to itself, it rarely (if ever) gives it up – so when your party is in power, the question you need to ask is – do I trust the other party with this power? And if the answer isn’t a resounding YES, then maybe you’d better avoid giving that power away.


  56. Reggie June 12, 2013 at 22:30 #

    You need to go a step further and ask yourself “Would I trust Hitler with this power?”


  57. Lord Highbrow June 12, 2013 at 22:34 #

    I’m Australian and that Juliar joke is as old as the hills (still funny though). I haven’t been following the story (don’t watch the news), but heard it being discussed yesterday on the radio when my alarm went off. Apparently that whole dinner menu thing happened back in March and the press was holding onto it, waiting for the right time to release it. So okay, it seems to have backfired on the ginger, since even feminists have come out against her for bringing it up (again, don’t really know any details, just what I heard on the radio while I was still half asleep).

    But that is just standard stuff for her, frankly she can’t do anything right. Her and her little pack of omega minions. The election is coming up in September (or something) and it’s tipped to be the biggest landslide victory for the Liberals in the history of Australian politics. Hopefully Labor have learned their lesson about what a disaster it is to put a filthy ranga feminist in charge.


  58. feeriker June 12, 2013 at 22:39 #

    Exactly. “Open source” is the key word here. ANYONE can access and review source code. (See here for more on this.)


  59. LostSailor June 12, 2013 at 22:49 #

    The real danger isn’t to the average person, of whatever political stripe. I’ve known some spooks and generally they’re pretty straight shooting people, who mostly care about the country and are working on protection. I’m sure that the vast majority of the NSA analysts who are working on this stuff aren’t interested in spying on the average guy.

    But there is danger that some administration might use data to intimidate their more prominent political opponents.

    It’s a fine line to walk, between actionable intelligence–and they are getting it from these programs–and privacy. I’m of two minds about it.

    But the “whistleblower” who leaked this is not, I think, a hero. Most of us knew that this was probably happening so this really isn’t a surprise. And his cat-and-mouse game, claiming to have more info to leak, smacks of fame-seeking. I’ll withhold judgment until this plays out, but he knows he broke several oaths and many laws and will be going to jail if caught.


  60. feeriker June 12, 2013 at 22:52 #

    TOR server setups are done mostly through word-of-mouth or interpersonal socialization (I’ve helped set up a couple of them). No, there’s no FOOLPROOF way of ensuring that someone not on a gov’t spook agency payroll isn’t running one, but given that organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other privacy-advocating organizations tend to be heavily involved (and that those who are open source advocates also tend to be heavily libertarian/privacy-oriented), the risk is considerably lessened.

    As for encryption, while it is also true that we have no ABSOLUTE assurance that there isn’t a “back door” in the most popular and readily available encryption tools (e.g., PGP) and the algorithms on which they operate that aren’t exploitable by the NSA, it is still a useful obstacle to casual snooping. Even a 256-bit asymmetric encryption key such as those that are common to PGP key pairs takes Herculean resources and effort to “crack” and is usually not worth the time and effort unless some compelling threat to “national security” is at stake. This is why I ALWAYS, whenever possible, encrypt personal emails between family and close friends (anyone who wants other than a “Hi, how are ya?/Good. You?” email exchange from me WILL download and install Enigmail and OpenPGP).

    Oh, and if you run a wireless home network, ALWAYS enable network wireless security (specifically WPA2/AES) – unless you want guys like me piggybacking your network.


  61. Goober June 13, 2013 at 00:44 #

    Why do all these prove want George bush to ne in charge of their healthcare? Or even worse, dick Cheney?


  62. Odysseus June 13, 2013 at 00:47 #

    This doesn’t pass the “Jews in the Attic” test to me.

    Also the ratchet affect of government means these powers will be used by whoever comes into the office. Do you really want a President Nehemiah Scudder using this to see who ever downloaded Skeptic’s Inquirer or who doesn’t talk with their Christian parents anymore? In many ways metadata is scarier than phone-tapping could ever be.


  63. Rotten June 13, 2013 at 01:41 #

    This isn’t just about your web browsing. Pretty much all telephone calls today pass through the Internet. In addition if you have a smart phone or iPhone, your physical location information is embedded in the metadata.

    What this is really about is soft tyranny. There are so many laws, that everybody is guilty of something. Most of thm aren’t enforced. Now the government has access to the information it needs to hang you. 460,000 Government have access to Prism, piss any of them off for reasons that have nothing to o with terrorism and they can destroy your life.


  64. Ronald Magistro June 13, 2013 at 03:19 #

    What gets me oh Judgy Bitch is who’s doing all the spying on the nsa. There must be someone and who’s spying on them

    etc. etc. etc. Where does it all stop. You may as well
    say every person in the government is being spied upon whether they be at home work or play which also includes the military local cops judges and all else even prisoners in prisons. Absurd or ridiculous? No I don’t think so.


  65. Vladimir June 14, 2013 at 20:46 #

    This article falls under the stereotype that women prefer to have their rights violatated if they feel that the people who are doing this them keep them safe.


  66. RPinProgress June 16, 2013 at 13:21 #

    Not to mention, despite this surveillance being in place for years, the Boston bombing still occurred, and you can bet the 20-somethings involved used cell phones/emails/Internet to organize. The targets, like others have mentioned, aren’t Islamic terrorists ( the most likely culprits for organized attacks like that) but political enemies. A group in power tends to cling to power. Just like the IRS targeting tea partiers, this is government trying to crush opposition – the only people they’re really interested in protecting is themselves.


  67. Goober June 17, 2013 at 14:38 #

    Is that really so hard to believe? Evolutionarily speaking, a woman willing to cede responsibility for her safety and security would have been more successful. Let the men chase off the saber-toothed tigers, you know? A woman joining that fray would be less useful and more likely to get hurt.

    Since the government has increasingly replaced men in women’s lives over the past half decade, this trend should really be expected.


  68. Just Saying June 18, 2013 at 15:15 #

    There are a number of data encryption solutions out there. Remember the government can’t track what it cannot read. So encrypt everything – it’s easy these days. Every piece of E-mail I send is encrypted – goes through a Tor site, and that’s just to make things difficult – you should always strive to make things difficult for people with a vacuum – you won’t stop them, but you can slow them down. The bad guys are already doing it. If security (or your privacy) is important to you, you should make data/packet level encryption a mandated feature for all of your communications.


  69. Nikki B. June 21, 2013 at 22:59 #

    Reblogged this on Just lil ol' me, Nikki B!.


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