Commentary

Privacy Lost

Most of my life I have protested against or advocated for one cause or another, from ending apartheid in South Africa to reforming America’s criminal justice system, hardly radical stuff.

In the late sixties, my children attended a Harlem (New York) public elementary school; then one of the lowest ranked in the city.

To address the issue, I joined with several like-minded parents to urge removal of its principal. We argued our position at local school board meetings, raised awareness at PTA meetings, and distributed position papers.

Despite our good intentions, we met strong resistance from some teachers and parents who labeled us “troublemakers.”

Ultimately, we succeeded, and I learned the power of community action, protest, and citizen activism.

Over the years, I have jokingly remarked that I am probably on some government watch list.

I no longer consider this a joke.

Criticism of government, corporations, or institutions is likely to get you “tagged,”  sued, maybe even arrested, for views and opinions expressed in texts, e-mails, v-logs, blogs, chats, or on Facebook and Twitter.

Shared personal data can be accessed by marketers or law enforcement, hopefully for benign purposes.

The American Civil Liberties Union, however, has serious concerns over government collection of personal data:

“Government surveillance of social media can have serious consequences, whether you’re a U.S. citizen, a lawful resident, or are seeking to immigrate to or visit the United States. The FBI appears to be using social media as a basis for deciding who to interview, investigate, or target with informants or undercover agents. A single Facebook post or tweet may be all it takes to place someone on a watch list, with effects that can range from repeated, invasive screening at airports to detention and questioning in the United States or abroad. And non-citizens subject to the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” policies could be denied entry to the United States or face difficulty becoming lawful residents or naturalized citizens.”

Food for Thought

  • Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends(New York Times, 6/3/18“Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung — over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said…You might think that Facebook or the device manufacturer is trustworthy,” said Serge Egelman, a privacy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the security of mobile apps. “But the problem is that as more and more data is collected on the device — and if it can be accessed by apps on the device — it creates serious privacy and security risks.”
  • The NSA Managed to Collect 500 Million U.S. Call Records in 2017” (Gizmodo.com, 5/4/18)  “In the first full year of the Trump administration, the National Security Agency really went all out in efforts to surveil Americans. According to a new report released Friday, the agency sucked up more than 534 million US phone records in 2017, three times the amount it collected in 2016…While it might not seem like much, metadata can be quite revealing. The information itself is supposedly anonymous, but it can easily be used to identify an individual. The information can also be paired with other publicly available information from social media and other sources to paint a surprisingly detailed picture of a person’s life.
  • “You Don’t Have To Be a Star To Be Sued Like One (hubinternational.com, 5/3/17) As is the case with a popular things, with the increased reach of professional blogging comes a greater incidence of lawsuits and claims. The Media Law Resource Center estimated that there were $17.4 million in court judgments made against bloggers by the end of 2014…The biggest risks that bloggers with large followings face are, according to Bankrate, claims of libel, defamation of character, copyright infringement, and invasion of privacy. Depending on the blog in question, harassment and trademark infringement could also pose a risk, as well as charges of bodily injury resulting from products recommended in professional blogs. However, the biggest danger to bloggers comes from the fact that blogging cases don’t have the same legal precedent that more traditional media might have; in fact, courts have been very inconsistent about cases and the application of the First Amendment to blogging cases.”

Now, I don’t believe that my blog, Facebook, or Twitter posts are so cogent, provocative, or widespread that I pose a security threat.

Nonetheless, I do recognize that my political views, personal data, or postings could someday land me in trouble, or worse, in handcuffs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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