Paranoid about the NSA?

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While a bill limiting what the NSA can do with your phone lines is a good thing, maybe the NSA is not the entity you should worry about when it comes to privacy. One thing that many people keep neglecting is what big business does to your privacy. Sure I understand why people are skeptical of government practices, some cynicism is healthy, but when you ignore the bigger problem, then it becomes irrational.

Here is how big business interferes with your privacy. The internet is filled with cookies. Cookies are a file stored in the server of the website and is sent to what is called the “cache” that stores all of your web information. The cookie then communicates back to the host server with information about the computer’s settings. By itself a cookie is morally neutral. Every time you log on to a website and hit the remember me button, a cookie is sent to your computer so that you can log on automatically. Cookies are beneficial; however, they are incredibly vulnerable to abuse and you can visibly see this. For example, let’s say you go to a companies website. It can be anything ranging from a candy bar to a car brand. Once you go to that site, they will send a cookie to your computer and you will start seeing advertisements for whatever website you went to. They can do this without warning you and odds are you get about 2-3 cookies per page click. It adds up and the biggest offender is Google. Type something in there and that search along with all your sites are stored information.

Outside of the internet, the violation of privacy doesn’t stop there. There was a news article once about Target and their algorithm. Just by looking at the orders of their customers, they were able to find out a teenage girl was pregnant, they found the IP address linking her credit card and sent her ads to her email all before her doctor found out she was pregnant. This type of computing puts the NSA to shame. If that lack of privacy doesn’t scare you, then I don’t know what will. There are ways to mitigate these factors and make your web surfing more private, but the fact that we are given no warning about this is alarming.

  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on May 24, 2014 - 6:32 pm

    You have to ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen? In my experience, the worst cookies can do is cause ads to follow you around to different websites. Search for Eddie Bauer pants, and then surf over to various blogs you’ll keep seeing ads for Eddie Bauer pants.

    OTOH the NSA can share your information with the FBI and the IRS, or Homeland Security, and they can arrest you. Given the uncertain state of the Bill of Rights, you may never be seen or heard from again.

    • #2 by Nathan Erkkila on May 24, 2014 - 6:54 pm

      If you think that’s the worst cookies can do, you are sadly mistaken. There are cookies out there that are designed to steal your personal information. They are better known as spyware. Identity theft is so huge in this country, it is mind-boggling and it’s rumored that these cyber criminals can range from multimillion dollar syndicates like Anonymous all the way to one guy on a computer. Personally I am more worried about losing my identity than I am worried about having my door busted down by the government. If you want a good movie to watch, watch The Net. The scary thing is that this movie is an UNDERSTATEMENT to what someone can do if they had control over the internet and its servers.

      • #3 by Richard Warnick on May 24, 2014 - 11:26 pm

        I think spyware is a separate issue from cookies. I have had passwords stolen and even my credit card number. It’s an inconvenience for the consumer, but my credit union reimbursed the fraudulent charges. At worst, this kind of cyber-crime marginally increases the cost of credit.

        OTOH NSA spying is a breach of the Constitution by our own government, which is supposed to uphold the law.

        Why do you associate Anonymous with identity theft?

        • #4 by Nathan Erkkila on May 26, 2014 - 2:10 pm

          A cookie is a piece of software that takes information from your computer and spyware is a piece of software that takes information from your computer. The difference is arbitrary at best and non-existent at worst. This should scare you because while you may have retrieved your credit, some are not so lucky and many banks are unforgiving of this. What really should scare the shit out of you is that these companies know everything about you. They know where you live, where you work, what you make, what you buy, what websites you go to and where you currently are and in the case of Target, they know more about your health than your doctor. Let’s say you want to protest against their actions, guess what? They can have you arrested and charged to take you out of the picture. Hell they could possibly use the NSA.

          And yes. Anonymous has dabbled with credit and identity theft one in particular was the theft of user account. Case in point

          http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/84218-how-the-playstation-network-was-hacked

          They are a crime syndicate just like the mafia. They also put a lot of police officers in danger as well by compromising the safety of them and their families.

          I just find it weird that you have this double-standard. The government cannot look into the private life of its people but big corporations can and they can do it without our consent and without us knowing? I’m not saying the NSA is in the right, but the way companies act, they are in competition. They can use personal information against what they consider a threat.

        • #5 by Richard Warnick on May 26, 2014 - 4:52 pm

          The distinction is simple. What corporations are doing is legal, and at least in theory we can opt out. Cookies, for example, require a web browser (unlike spyware). You can push a button and block cookies.

          What the NSA is doing is totally illegal. “Anonymous” uses distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) as a means of protest. This is not illegal in the USA. I’ll have to check into unproven allegations of identity theft.

          You can make the case that “there oughta be a law,” and in fact I wonder why Congress hasn’t paid that much attention to the Internet.

          • #6 by brewski on May 26, 2014 - 6:39 pm

            I thought the government was good and corporations were bad. So didn’t you just say…..?

          • #7 by Nathan Erkkila on May 26, 2014 - 7:14 pm

            I guess you can opt out if you want to live like Ted Kaczynski. Otherwise they track everything while this should not be legal. That is the problem. A DDoS is where you flood a website with enough data to choke it. That is illegal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. However that isn’t the only thing Anon has done. They will often hack into police records and publicize personal information about someone who they believe harm society. They also wiretap calls within and between governments. All of which are illegal.

          • #8 by Richard Warnick on May 27, 2014 - 6:31 pm

            brewski, your thoughts are all over the place. But then again a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of lttle minds. ;-)

          • #9 by brewski on May 27, 2014 - 8:05 pm

            My thoughts are very consistent. It is others who try to put me into their own tidy little boxes which don’t fit me. They have feeble minds.

          • #10 by Richard Warnick on May 27, 2014 - 8:28 pm

            The CAA became law in 1986. The World Wide Web didn’t exist then.

            However, the FBI believes that stealing information on the Internet is a violation of federal law. I eagerly await the arrest of Admiral Michael S. Rogers.

  2. #11 by Anonymous on May 24, 2014 - 8:47 pm

    Given the disastrous outcomes in our gutter trash nation, it is fairly obvious our clownish yet overtly violent government hasn’t much of an idea what to do with the information they gather.

    More like a dumb squirrel hiding nuts and then forgetting where they put them. The more they steal and hoard, the more they forget.

  3. #12 by Nathan Erkkila on May 26, 2014 - 7:16 pm

    brewski :

    I thought the government was good and corporations were bad. So didn’t you just say…..?

    Tell me. Did you feel the same way about the federal government under Bush or is that different because he was a Republican?

    • #13 by brewski on May 26, 2014 - 8:59 pm

      Yes I did. Who said I was a Republican? I have voted for candidates in 4 different parties in my life. Your assumption that I am some loyal Republican is misplaced.

  4. #14 by Richard Warnick on May 27, 2014 - 6:55 pm

    On FDL, Peter Van Buren asks the obvious question: Where was the NSA before the Isla Vista Mass Shooting?

    We are asked to believe that our Constitution has been shredded in order to protect all of us from acts of terrorism. But nobody can prove that any terrorist plots have been thwarted by widespread warrantless surveillance – not even the ones that ought to have been a slam-dunk.

  5. #16 by Larry Bergan on May 27, 2014 - 9:26 pm

    This is pretty interesting and I hope it scares people who have gone too far.

    • #17 by Richard Warnick on May 28, 2014 - 7:55 am

      It will be interesting to see the proof, but I won’t be surprised to find out the NSA is targeting peaceful activists. It’s part of a pattern since 9/11 among all intelligence and law enforcement agencies. There are more than a million people on the terrorist watch list. The U.S. government has another list of 8 million people who they consider “potentially suspect.”

      If just one percent of the people on these lists were actually terrorists, we’d be doomed.

      • #18 by Larry Bergan on May 28, 2014 - 8:26 pm

        The peaceful activists are just waiting for the right moment. :)

        I’M KIDDING!

  6. #19 by cav on June 6, 2014 - 9:39 pm

    .

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