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02/09/2004 Archived Entry: "First Privacy Alert"
Cartoon fix: Ted Rall's "Only a Bag"; Tom Toles' "Grave and Gathering Danger"; and, Stuart Carlson's "The Sap".
RED ALERT: Privacy Threats That Hit the News!
----from c/net: "Janet Jackson's Super Bowl flash dance was shocking in more ways than one: Some TiVo users say the event brought home the realization that their beloved digital video recorders are watching them, too...TiVo said users had watched the skin-baring incident nearly three times more than any other moment during the Super Bowl broadcast, sparking headlines that dramatically publicized the power of the company's longstanding data-gathering practices."
----from the Washington Times: "The U.S. Census Bureau is preparing for the next census in 2010 -- which may include Americans living abroad -- by doing a practice run in France, Kuwait and Mexico...A challenge for the test run in France and for all European Union countries if the census expansion is approved for 2010 will be complying with European Union confidentiality laws." For example, French law does not encourage identification of race or ethnicity.
----from Wired: "The magnetic strips and bar codes on the back of most state's driver's licenses contain more information than people think. The way the swipers use the information might surprise them as well: Some bars and restaurants scan driver's licenses to catch underage drinkers and fake IDs, but they're also using the information for marketing purposes."
----also from Wired: "When the government wanted millions of passenger records to test antiterrorism data-mining projects, it simply asked for and received the data from JetBlue Airlines and Northwest Airlines, which were both eager to help out.But when government watchdogs subsequently asked the government about the purpose and legality of one of those transfers, government agencies -- from the Transportation Security Administration to the Pentagon -- responded with a wall of silence and a series of delays. "
----from the Miami Herald:"In what may be the first subpoena of its kind in decades, a federal judge has ordered Drake University to turn over records about a gathering of antiwar activists. In addition to the subpoena of Drake, subpoenas were served last week on four of the activists who attended a Nov. 15 forum at the school, ordering them to appear before a grand jury Tuesday, the protesters said. Federal prosecutors refused to comment on the subpoenas....Those served subpoenas include the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry, the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic Worker House, and an antiwar activist who visited Iraq in 2002. They say the subpoenas are intended to stifle dissent."
----from the Washington Post: "Cybersecurity experts say an increasing number of private or putatively secret documents are online in out-of-the-way corners of computers all over the globe, leaving the government, individuals, and companies vulnerable to security breaches. Some Web sites and various message groups, techno-hobbyists are even offering instructions on how to find sensitive documents using a relatively simple search."
----from MSNBC: "A government subcontractor posted the names, birthdays and daily whereabouts of hundreds of upstate New York children to the Internet, where the information remained publicly available for weeks until MSNBC.com notified authorities. The incident offers a glimpse into the murky world of government outsourcing and its impact on citizens' privacy."
----from Govexec.com: ""The U.S. and Canadian governments have started formal negotiations over whether Canada will provide private information on its citizens for U.S. terrorist watch lists and aviation security programs."
One news story cries out for personal commentary. The story begins with the first paragraph of an article from the Register: "Irish on-line betting site Paddypower.com is the latest high-profile Web property to suffer a denial of service attack from malicious users bent on extortion." Apparently, "cyber-gangsters" are on the rise and targeting casino sites (as the Online Casino News reports) that pay big bucks to keep their gambling operations on-line. Jeffrey Weber, author of an online betting news letter says that a few hours downtime is could lose a casino between $500,000 to $1 million dollars worth of action. ZDNet reprinted on extortion email received by a casino, which read: "If you wait to make a deal with us when the attacks start, it will cost you $25,000 for six months protection and the lost revenues as your site will stay down until the $25,000 is received.'' Unlike protection rackets of the past, however, the cyber-gangsters can offer no protection against similar others who wish to play the same extortion game.
Indeed, the ongoing MyDoom probably falls into the category of organized cyber-gangsterism despite SCO's attempt to paint it as a dastardly attack by Linux zealots. According to the Independent, "to security experts, MyDoom marked a serious step up in the evolution of the virus because it had all the fingerprints of organised crime....'There's a possibility for criminal gangs to threaten blackmail with a virus like [MyDoom],' said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos. He has been tracking computer viruses for nearly 20 years. 'If it was targeted at an online bank, it would be extremely costly for them.' He notes that the virus is programmed to stop attacking SCO after 12 February. 'Maybe that date is there so that whoever's behind it can say to SCO, If you don't want this to happen again, then ...' " But OOPS!!!...I have strayed into SCO and Linux territory...that's Brad's domain. So, allow me to tiptoe sheepishly out of this commentary.
LIFE ON THE FARM:
According to our chiropractor who gets his uncannily-correct weather predictions directly from an elderly farmer-client...winter should be all but gone by the end of February. A good thing: we're running low on firewood for the airtight stove. Getting wood last year was an ordeal, tho' it usually is no more difficult than picking up a phone and ordering it from a local source. This year, our regular source couldn't get back into their forest all summer due to high rainfall; the truck kept getting stuck in the mud. So they subcontracted us out to a couple who didn't seem interested in buying a client base: translation, they never showed up when they were supposed to. Brad finally called another local farmer who dropped off a likely-looking load of wood that later turned out to be infested with carpenter ants. Fortunately, the infestation seemed localized and we lambasted those suckers with "kill-'em" powder.
Best to all,