My View on this NSA thing

I have tried to keep my blog as non-political as possible, but with the news that has recently come to light regarding the NSA with both Verizon call data, and the PRISM program that snarfs up all our internet communications; I find myself very hard pressed to ignore the issue, but I will do my best to simply represent my objections to the issue, without getting too political.

Basically, the stories that have come to light indicate that the government, with the consent and direction of the Obama administration (and Bush previously) have been issuing secret programs and warrants to collect all of your communication data. With Verizon wireless, it appears that they are using the call metadata, not your actual call contents but rather your phone number, call time, call length, who you called, and other details but no name. They are getting that information from all Verizon customers, and put it through data-mining to find out who might need to be “watched” more closely.

This presents a very large concern to me. As someone who values both freedom, and privacy, this action bothers me to my core. The government isn’t waiting till they suspect someone of actually communicating with terrorists before looking into their activities; they are looking at everyone, looking for possible bad guys. the problem with the later, is that even if you have done NOTHING wrong, you’re being watched. The government is just WAITING for you to screw up, so they can get more information on you.

It doesn’t just end there however. The NSA is also using a program called PRISM to gobble up all of the internet communications and activities of all Americans online. They are claiming they have agreements with major companies who give them this data. They named, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook and many many more (Some of the companies are denying any knowledge of such a program, or that they do not simply give information to the government or law enforcement, which is completely beside the point) The information they are gathering, consists of email information, VOIP call data, chat history, web habits (like what sites you visit or “like” or “favorite”), shopping information. Essentially they are getting access to all you do, and can study it.

It is important to remember, that in the pursuit to fight “terror” we have systematically given up so many of our civil liberties and freedom for the false promise of “safety” that it simply proves, that which Benjamin Franklin said “Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither”. This is exactly true. We as a country cannot allow this level of intrusion into our personal lives to continue.

There are important way to fight this, most importantly is voting. Our government is failing us as citizens, and we’re sitting by watching it happen. WAKE THE FUCK UP! it is important to hold EVERY elected official accountable for their actions (how they vote on anything) by literally tossing them out of office. Yes, I said FIRE THEM! Enough with this “we’re just protecting you” bullshit, and GET OFF MY LAWN!

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Always, ALWAYS be mindful of what you share online.

With your privacy under attack by so many organizations, and governments; it is important to remember that anything you share can come back to haunt you. Facebook recently changed its privacy policies to include a statement that anything you post (be it pictures, posts, stories, poems, status updates, etc…) is owned by Facebook, and can be used as they please because all users are capital entities.

I also just read about an iPhone/iPad app called “snapchat” that purports to automatically delete pictures sent after a max of 10 seconds since it was received. This is done in an effort to protect teens from “accidently” sharing photos of themselves that could cause trouble for them (think the Amanda Todd incident) however, there is nothing stopping anyone from taking a screenshot of the picture or even doing a few other ways of capturing the content before it is auto deleted.

It is important to stay educated when sharing anything online, as once it has been released in a digital format, there will ALWAYS be a trace of it somewhere on the internet. The only way to truly protect your pictures, or information is to keep it off the web to begin with.

If you are worried about maintaining your copyright for your works that you post online, make sure you carefully read ALL the privacy and content notices under the end user license agreements for any company or website that you use. In a best case scenario you would be using your own private server, and private storage that would allow you to maintain ownership of all your intellectual property.

Privacy and intellectual property is a huge concern in today’s world. Governments, and companies will seek to profit and use your information for their gain, and most times with little concern for how it impacts you.

Facebook: If you don’t use it, why have it?

Today at work I was lucky enough to attend an InfoSec session, and the speaker was very knowledgeable. The target audience was a less tech-savvy crowed, and mainly focused on teaching the basics of how to avoid the “human” factor in getting taken advantage of on-line.

One of the things that came up, is something I’ve been thinking for quite some time. Regarding social media sites and the myriad accounts that most people have. Technology is a great thing, and the access to information we have today is simply amazing, but with all the access, all the smart phones, all the computers, and websites you have also increased your on-line footprint, and made yourself a much larger target for ID theft, Scamming, or any other possible attack.

Some of the points I’ve touched on before:
1. Don’t use public wireless networks
2. On your phone, disable wifi. Use the 3g/4g data, because most phones just connect to an open wireless without warning
3. Be careful what you put on your public facing profiles
4. Don’t simply click links in emails, open your browser and MANUALLY go to the site.

But the final point that finally sank home with me, was regarding Facebook and other sites like LinkedIn. Most people use those sites to connect with “trusted friends”, but don’t stop to think who else can access that information. With the recent hack of LinkedIn, millions of users user-names/passwords/email etc was leaked to the public simply because someone got bored and wanted some excitement (it will be plenty exciting for them in prison, but thats another story). But just think for a second, how likely is it that many of the users that were compromised, don’t log in and use the service? Now their account is compromised along with all the personal information therein and they will never know. It begs the question:

If you aren’t going to use a service, why have an account at all?

The simple answer is, “Don’t” why leave personal information out there? By default most sites will simply only “deactivate” your account, and will still retain all your data. You will need to hunt for the permanently delete, but its there, sites are required to have it, just not required to make it easy.

So today, I finally did what I’ve wrestled with for some time, and DELETED all the accounts I never use. There is no need for extra accounts, if someone wants to reach you, they likely already know how.

Just some more food for thought.