You probably never heard of Executive Order 12333. The Ars Technica blog explained what it is, the history leading up to the order, and how it affects spy programs today. Several NSA alumni offered their views of Executive Order 12333, issued in 1981:
“... 12333 is used to target foreigners abroad, and collection happens outside the US," whistleblower John Tye, a former State Department official, told Ars recently. "My complaint is not that they’re using it to target Americans, my complaint is that the volume of incidental collection on US persons is unconstitutional.” "
Another alumnus recalled that when President Reagan took office in 1981, he:
"... inherited an intelligence community that had been demoralized and debilitated by six years of public disclosures, denunciation, and budgetary limitations... during the Carter era, Congress set up onerous “procedures governing virtually every aspect of intelligence gathering in the US or affecting US citizens abroad.” These included the pesky House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence, FISA, and FISC... 12333 was designed to allow NSA to have greater latitude when they pick up Americans [as part of] targets overseas..."
At that time, the primary perceived threat was spying by the Soviet Union. Terrorism was a lower priority:
"Ed Loomis, a cryptologist at the NSA from 1964 to October 2001 who later became a whistleblower, told Ars that every year, everyone working in the signals intelligence (SIGINT) division had to read EO 12333, FISA, and US SIGINT Directive 18 (July 1993) as a way to keep refreshed on the laws. Prior to the September 11 attacks, Loomis said the NSA's internal policy was to stay much more in line with FISA and not collect information—incidental or otherwise—on Americans."
How 12333 is used today:
"Thomas Drake, another well-known NSA veteran turned whistleblower, put it in simpler terms.“12333 is now being used as the ‘legal justification’... It’s not technically law... An executive order is the equivalent of the law, we have a constitutional process by which laws are created in this country... The NSA has carte blanche on foreign intelligence... They’re hiding behind 12333 to continue the vast collection of metadata and content... As long as there is reasonable doubt, they will hide behind what has been disclosed. What has been disclosed is 12333..."
I strongly urge you to read the entire Ars Technica blog post.
Sooner or later, everyone travel. For business or for pleasure. Via car, train, bus, boat or plane. The new "Travel" topic provides fast, convenient access to privacy, identity theft, security, threats, and safety tips related to transportation. You can easily access this content using the Categories tag cloud in the right column.
I hope that you like the new category.
Late last month, Pew Research released results of a study about the "spiral or silence," the tendency of people not to share their opinions to family, friends, coworkers, and classmates when they believe that their opinions are not widely shared. To study the "spiral of silence," Pew Research surveyed 1,801 adults about the disclosures by Edward Snowden about extensive government surveillance programs. Pew Research selected this topic because there was wide disagreement about it:
"... other surveys by the Pew Research Center at the time we were fielding this poll showed that Americans were divided over whether the NSA contractor’s leaks about surveillance were justified and whether the surveillance policy itself was a good or bad idea. For instance, Pew Research found in one survey that 44% say the release of classified information harms the public interest while 49% said it serves the public interest."
Pew Research found that:
"People were less willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story in social media than they were in person. 86% of Americans were willing to have an in-person conversation about the surveillance program, but just 42% of Facebook and Twitter users were willing to post about it on those platforms."
"Social media did not provide an alternative discussion platform for those who were not willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story. Of the 14% of Americans unwilling to discuss the Snowden-NSA story in person with others, only 0.3% were willing to post about it on social media."
"In both personal settings and online settings, people were more willing to share their views if they thought their audience agreed with them. For instance, at work, those who felt their coworkers agreed with their opinion were about three times more likely to say they would join a workplace conversation about the Snowden-NSA situation."
"Previous ‘spiral of silence’ findings as to people’s willingness to speak up in various settings also apply to social media users. Those who use Facebook were more willing to share their views if they thought their followers agreed with them..."
"Facebook and Twitter users were also less likely to share their opinions in many face-to-face settings. This was especially true if they did not feel that their Facebook friends or Twitter followers agreed with their point of view..."
Why do people practice this spiral of silence? The researchers didn't ask survey participants directly why:
"The traditional view of the spiral of silence is that people choose not to speak out for fear of isolation. Other Pew Research studies have found that it is common for social media users to be mistaken about their friends’ beliefs and to be surprised once they discover their friends’ actual views via social media. Thus, it might be the case that people do not want to disclose their minority views for fear of disappointing their friends, getting into fruitless arguments, or losing them entirely. Some people may prefer not to share their views on social media because their posts persist and can be found later—perhaps by prospective employers or others with high status."
It seems that FOMO (e.g., Fear Of Missing Out) applies to a lot of discussions on social networking sites and apps. This presents all of us with another opportunity to practice these three strategies to fight FOMO. The spiral of silence practice seems both profoundly sad and a waste. A waste because we have these wonderful, powerful social networking tools that people have chosen not to fully utilize and/or are afraid to use completely. Sad because the practice of spiral of silence prevents open, honest, and direct dicussions; we fail to learn as much as we might from each other.
What are your opinions of this study? Of the spiral of silence? Of FOMO? Are people who practice the 'spiral of silence' cowards?
The New York Times reported recently about a surge in lawsuits by workers against their employers:
"... a flood of recent cases — brought in California and across the nation — that accuse employers of violating minimum wage and overtime laws, erasing work hours and wrongfully taking employees’ tips... Some federal and state officials agree. They assert that more companies are violating wage laws than ever before, pointing to the record number of enforcement actions they have pursued."
One possible reason why wage theft is increasing:
"... underlying changes in the nation’s business structure. The increased use of franchise operators, subcontractors and temp agencies leads to more employers being squeezed on costs and more cutting corners... companies on top can deny any knowledge of wage violations [by contractors]...".
The news story reported plenty of examples:
"... Guadalupe Rangel worked seven days straight, sometimes 11 hours a day, unloading dining room sets, trampolines, television stands and other imports... Even though he often clocked 70 hours a week at the Schneider warehouse here, he was never paid time-and-a-half overtime, he said. And now, having joined a lawsuit involving hundreds of warehouse workers..."
One wage-theft tactic is to force workers to sign blank timesheets:
"Julie Su, the state labor commissioner, recently ordered a janitorial company in Fremont to pay $332,675 in back pay and penalties to 41 workers who cleaned 17 supermarkets. She found that the company forced employees to sign blank time sheets, which it then used to record inaccurate, minimal hours of work."
Reclassifying jobs is another tactic:
"... in California, a federal appeals court ruled last week that FedEx had in effect committed wage theft by insisting that its drivers were independent contractors rather than employees. FedEx orders many drivers to work 10 hours a day, but does not pay them overtime, which is required only for employees. FedEx said it planned to appeal."
And, the wage theft problem is spreading:
"Commissioner Su of California said... My agency has found more wages being stolen from workers in California than any time in history... This has spread to multiple industries across many sectors. It’s affected not just minimum-wage workers, but also middle-class workers..."
Terrible business practices and unethical behaviors. The tiny bit of good news: more workers are learning what their rights are and are standing up for their rights.
I am not surprised at all by these mounting wage-theft allegations. Why? First, professor and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich summarized the ethical problem well in September 2013 on Twitter.com while discussing wrongdoing at the big banks:
"Fines effective only if risk of being caught x probability of being prosecuted x amount of fine > profits to be made."
Besides banks, executives in other and medium-sized businesses have done the math, too. Browse the website for the atate attorney general where you live. Some enforce wage laws vigorously. Others, not so much -- leaving it to workers to file civil suits. Low- and minimum-wage workers often don't have the funds to hire an attorney; if they know their rights. They are busy trying to survive, feed their families, and pay their bills.
Second, many unethical executives have concluded that labor laws in their states are weak. This 2013 study by NELP highlighted the problem: 83 percent of workers still had problems collecting unpaid wages -- even when they already had a court decision in their favor. That means, employers realize there are likely no consequences from violating labor laws.
Third, with any search engine you can easily find news reports about wage-theft settlements. I have reported about some recent cases in New York State: Domino's, McDonald's, and Masonry Services. Fourth, you see similar unethical behavior by executives with employer-operated retirement plans. This blog post reported about some typical cases. Overall, the U.S. Department of Labor recovered $1.2 billion in 2012 for workers. The facts speak for themselves.
What are your opinions of the wage-theft allegations?
Monthly Internet prices seem to be going up. Last month, my Internet Service Provider (ISP) raised prices about ten percent.
If you are wondering what other Americans pay monthly for Internet access, it's alot. I reviewed the "Cost of Connectivity 2013" report by the New America Foundation (NAF). The NAF analyzed prices in 24 cities worldwide and found:
"... in comparison to their international peers, Americans in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC are paying higher prices for slower Internet service. While the plans and prices have been updated in the intervening year, the 2013 data shows little progress, reflecting remarkably similar trends to what we observed in 2012."
The U.S. cities in the report: Bristol (Virginia), Chattanooga (Tennessee), Kansas City (Kansas), Kansas City (Missouri), Lafayette (Louisiana), Los Angeles (California), New York (New York), San Francisco (California), and Washington, DC.
I hope that Boston makes the 2014 report. Other cities in the 2013 report: Amsterdam (Netherlands), Berlin (Germany), Bucharest (Romania), Copenhagen (Denmark), Dublin (Ireland), Hong Kong (China), London (United Kingdom), Mexico City (Mexico), Paris (France), Prague (Czech Republic), Riga (Latvia), Seoul (South Korea), Tokyo (Japan), Toronto (Canada), and Zurich (Switzerland).
While Chattanooga (Tennessee), Seoul (South Korea), Lafayette (Louisiana), Kansas City (Kansas), and Kansas City (Missouri) offer the fastest connection speeds, residents in the USA pay more and get slower speeds compared to other countries. Some more comparisons in the report:
"... the best deal for a 150 Mbps home broadband connection from cable and phone companies is $130/month, offered by Verizon FiOS. By contrast, the international cities we surveyed offer comparable speeds for less than $80/month, with most coming in at about $50/month.... In July 2013 Verizon announced a new 500 Mbps service (with 100 Mbps upload speeds) available in selected areas of its FiOS service. However, this new 500 Mbps service costs around $300 a month. In Amsterdam, a symmetrical 500 Mbps broadband plan (with 500 Mbps download and upload speeds) costs just over $86."
$300 per month? That's equivalent to an auto loan. Would you pay that? Can you afford to pay that? The comparisons aren't any better for mobile broadband:
"... the cheapest price for around 2 GB of data in the U.S. ($30/month from T-Mobile) is twice as much as what users in London pay ($15/month from T-Mobile). It costs more to purchase 2 GB of data in a U.S. city than it does in any of the cities surveyed in Europe."
So much for claims of American exceptionalism. I wrote in prior blog posts about how local laws already exist in 20 states to prevent broadband competition by stopping cities and towns from building their own (low-cost to users) fiber Internet services. This keeps monthly prices by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) high. This limits the freedom of consumers to build broadband alternatives through their cities and towns. Bad for you; good for the corporate ISPs., Again, from the NAF report:
"In cities with municipal broadband networks, pricing generally remained the same. The notable exception was Chattanooga, TN, where the local municipal provider EPB dramatically lowered the costs of a symmetrical 1 Gbps connection, from $349/month to $70/month. By contrast, in American cities without local fiber competitors, the highest speed available for $70/month is around 50 Mbps. EPB also raised the speed of their their slowest broadband plan from 30 Mbps to 100 Mbps, while keeping the monthly price the same at $57.99."
$349 to $70 monthly! If this is what it takes to lower monthly Internet prices, I am all for municipal broadband.
Yet, instead of foghting for lower Internet prices, during the past few months U.S. residents have had to fight to keep a fair and open Internet (a/k/a Net Neutrality). The first dealine to submit comments to the FCC was July 18 (moved from July 15 due to heavy volume). 1.1 million comments were submitted, and the electronic version of the comments data is available online.
The next deadline to submit Net Neutrality comments to the FCC is September 15, 2014 (moved from Sept. 10). If you believe prices are too high, tell your ISP, the FCC, and tell your elected officials.
Has your ISP lowered or raised prices recently? If so, how much? Do you think that Americans should pay more for Internet compared to residents of other countries? Do you think monthly Internet prices in the USA are okay as is or too high? Share your reasons.
[Editor's Note: today's post is by R. Michelle Green, a frequent guest author. She is the Principal for her company, Client Solutions, and a combination geek girl, personal organizer, and career coach. Today, she shares her experiences with with maintaining privacy online, especially at social networking sites that ask users to share health and fitness data.]
By R. Michelle Green
I recently watched a 60 Minutes report called The Data Brokers, about companies that gather our personal information from the net and sell it. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth your time. I spent the next several minutes thinking about the information I share, and the trade-offs I know I make.
I have two Google Mail accounts, for example. I consciously work to limit its access to all of me, using different browsers for the different Gmail accounts. I don’t stay logged in if I’m not actively reading or sending emails. Google treats me differently depending on which account I’m using (check it yourself – I got different results for the same search request) so my little efforts are not wasted. I know it’s a losing battle, but I make the effort.
I am not a power Facebook user. I Liked a couple of shows, but I play no games, and resist its use for birthdays, reminders etc. The site patiently and relentlessly reminds me that my profile is only 55% complete. It’ll stay that way if I have anything to do with it. (Why do they need to know where I was born? Or my elementary school? Please…) And the very idea of using my Facebook login credentials to log into other sites makes me twitch.
My ruminations led me to identify one site with a great deal of info about me that I had not scrutinized at all. My nutritionist requires me to journal my food intake at a free online weight-loss site offering coaching, motivational support, and analytic tools. This is not meant to be a review of the site, but rather the actions I took (and DIDN’T take) in using it.
The good news – the site manages the info well. They retain it, they do not sell it, and they are careful to distinguish between Private User Generated Content (available only by log-in) and Public User Generated Content (visible on the public Community pages). Once you find one governing document, big ad sized icons lead you to the other documents that control one’s use of the site. It also encourages people to read this info, with participation points (e.g., points users can earn by participating in the site's loyalty program) available at the bottom of each agreement. They even offer advice about how to surf the internet safely.
The bad news – I didn’t see any printer friendly protocols for these agreements. Like many sites, they permit 3rd party advertisers to offer you ads targeted to the content you are posting. They do not mention specifically the names of parties with whom they share information – but doubleclick (now a Google subsidiary) is mentioned as their 3rd party advertising partner. And like many sites, even when you do have choices about how your info is used, the default skews to the site’s benefit, as the user can only opt-out after the fact. Some of you have heard about Personal Health Information (PHI) here on this blog, with articles as far back as 2011. The term is never mentioned on my site, perhaps because they are careful to say that they are not dispensing medical advice, only offering tools for users’ convenience. And those tools have helped many people live healthier and stronger lives. For free? And with the site’s assertion that even if the site is purchased by some other entity, these rules will still apply? Not too shabby.
But I should have checked all that stuff first, back in 2012.
Now I only wrote down what I ate. But even just knowing the food I eat could be descriptive of very specific illnesses or syndromes. The site is available both via browsers and mobile apps. If I really fully used the site, I could be sharing my exercise routine and location, my psychological attitudes about myself, my meals, and/or my moods, and more. The site would have access to my conversations with others on the site. It would have access to what it calls user generated content (recipes, comments on restaurants, or other activities associated with participation in the online "Community"). That’s when it starts getting scary to me.
I’ve accepted that more info than I prefer is out on the net and out of my hands, but I’m not fully abdicating control. The keys, IMHO, to negotiating the compromises required to benefit from our digital technologies?
A) Read the terms and the privacy clauses of any site or application you routinely use. Review them periodically – they can and will change them, as Facebook has demonstrated.
B) Read the manuals of the mechanisms that you use to access the 'net, be they desktops, laptops or mobile devices like tablets, smartphones, etc.
C) Know how to disable your device’s location tracking. Know what your apps are broadcasting, and what it takes to control them.
D) take advantage of the apps or software available to maximize your control and minimize 3rd party controls. The program I’m most curious about after watching the 60 Minutes report is Disconnect. This software permits you to see in real time the numerous parties watching your web interactions, and reveal what information they are gathering in the process.
E) Don’t make it easy for them! For example, don’t use your Facebook log-in to join some other site. My choice with Facebook? I log in, enjoy, and log off when I’m done. I never leave it on continually in the background. (Apparently I am congenitally immune to FOMO.)
Pew research back in 2011 noted that the more time you spend on social networking sites, the more trusting you are. (Beware confusing correlation with causation!!) Since I’m unwilling to be Travis McGee and live off the grid, I’m always looking for new tools that make my life easier. Perhaps you’ll share with me some of your favorite ways to negotiate a path between eschewing the use of the net completely, and passive ignorance about the loss of privacy.
As you go to the polls tomorrow to vote, consider the message below from professor and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich: