Privacy is For Finding Out Who We Are When We Are Not Performing Ourselves

“Privacy is essential to human agency and dignity. Denying someone privacy—even when it’s as seemingly small as a parent who won’t let their kid close the door—has a corrosive effect, eroding trust as well as our sense of interiority. When we scale up the individual to a body politic, it is the private sphere that’s crucial for our capacity for democracy and self-determination. As individuals, we need privacy to figure out who we are when we’re no longer performing the self. As a collective, we have to be able to distinguish who we are as individuals hidden from the norms and pressures of the group in order to reason clearly about how we want to shape the group. Elections have secret ballots for a reason.

If we do care about privacy as a collective value, then it cannot be an individual burden. Right now, privacy is essentially a luxury good. If you can afford not to use coupons, you don’t have to let retailers track your shopping habits with loyalty points. If you’re technically savvy, you don’t have to let Gmail see all your emails. Not only does that make access to privacy incredibly inequitable, it also affects our collective understanding of what is a ‘normal’ amount of privacy.”

-Jenny, “left alone, together.” phirephoenix.com. May 3, 2021.

Coveillance

“Increasingly powerful surveillance tools have shifted the power dynamics between people and institutions. To address this new dynamic, we’ve been creating a toolkit, in collaboration with the ACLU of Washington, that demystifies surveillance technologies in Seattle in the historical context of structural inequities in the United States.”

https://coveillance.org/

Behind the One-Way Mirror: A Deep Dive Into the Technology of Corporate Surveillance

“…This paper will focus on corporate “third-party” tracking: the collection of personal information by companies that users don’t intend to interact with. It will shed light on the technical methods and business practices behind third-party tracking…

The first step is to break the one-way mirror. We need to shed light on the tangled network of trackers that lurk in the shadows behind the glass. In the sunlight, these systems of commercial surveillance are exposed for what they are: Orwellian, but not omniscient; entrenched, but not inevitable. Once we, the users, understand what we’re up against, we can fight back.”

-Bennett Cyphers, “Behind the One-Way Mirror: A Deep Dive Into the Technology of Corporate Surveillance.” Electronic Frontier Foundation. December 2, 2019.

Still Spying on Dissent

“Throughout its history, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has used its expansive powers to investigate, monitor, and surveil First Amendment-protected activity. As early as 1924, public concern about the FBI’s violation of First Amendment rights and other civil liberties spurred official attempts to check the FBI’s power. This report covers FBI surveillance of political activity over roughly the past decade. We find that the FBI has repeatedly monitored civil society groups, including racial justice movements, Occupy Wall Street, environmentalists, Palestinian solidarity activists, Abolish ICE protesters, and Cuba and Iran normalization proponents…

…Read the report to understand how pervasive and persistent FBI surveillance is, then take action!”

—Chip Gibbons, “Still Spying on Dissent: The Enduring Problem of FBI First Amendment Abuse.” RightsAndDissent.org. October 2019.

The Fashion Line Designed to Trick Surveillance Cameras | The Guardian

“But to an automatic license plate reader (ALPR) system, the shirt is a collection of license plates, and they will get added to the license plate reader’s database just like any others it sees. The intention is to make deploying that sort of surveillance less effective, more expensive, and harder to use without human oversight, in order to slow down the transition to what Rose calls ‘visual personally identifying data collection’.

‘It’s a highly invasive mass surveillance system that invades every part of our lives, collecting thousands of plates a minute. But if it’s able to be fooled by fabric, then maybe we shouldn’t have a system that hangs
things of great importance on it,’ she said.”

—Alex Hern, “The fashion line designed to trick surveillance cameras.” The Guardian. August 14, 2019.

Assistant Account Executive at Public Relations Agency Uses Talkwalker.com

“Talkwalker’s state-of-the-art social media analytics platform uses AI-powered technology to monitor and analyze online conversations in real-time across social networks, news websites, blogs and forums in 187 languages.”

  • Two views with two likes.
  • Talkwalk.com’s artificial intelligence decides a conversation might be happening or could potentially happen that would be critical of plastic production and quickly publishes it to the dashboard on their portal.
  • *Bing* A desktop notification sounds.
  • Bored assistant account executive at a public relations agency looks up. Yet another desktop notification about that damn The Intercept article? She decides it’s time to stop scrolling through Slack, Facebook and complaining about the cost of Matouk towels to her friend in Messenger (so expensive, even on Amazon!) and decides to finally look into what all the fuss was about in case their client, a ginormous chemical company producing plastic, decides to call and ask the account director what she is doing to minimize the damage from that small time publication The Intercept. Time to get some intel! Take me away, Talkwalker.com.
  • Clicks on a promising link. See a few quotes and a link to The Intercept article. Thinks to herself, “What is this shit?”
  • Decides to go back to shopping on Amazon, her home page and accidentally hits the refresh button instead.
  • Woohoo, four views! Another exciting day here at cafebedouin.org, the veritable tip of the tongue of the “global conversation.”
  • Meanwhile, Big Plastic has dumped another few tons of plastic in the ocean, and I’m going to have a McDonald’s fish filet and wait for the microplastic to reduce the sperm counts of men to the point that every birth will require artificial fertilization. Nothing to see here folks! The problem of plastic and patriarchy is solving itself! Try the Matouk Factory Store!

Duckduckgo.com

Virtually all internet users tend to be Google search engine users, by default. The main strategy for Google is to try to hold on to the users it has by implementing better security and privacy protection measures. This is something definitely on their agenda, but the issue still remains that user data is tracked. Therefore, Google is leaking some users who are leaving its boat in order to climb aboard that of Duckduckgo.

-Miriam Cihodariu, “Duckduckgo vs Google: A Security Comparison and How to Maximize Your Privacy.” Heimdal Security. May 16, 2019.

I left the Google boat two years ago. I have been consistently using Duckduckgo.com for a couple of years. It’s not as good as Google, but it is adequate for most searches you need to do. I typically only need to use Google if I am looking for answers to a difficult question, it requires Google maps functionality (such as looking for restaurants meeting certain criteria near a specific location), or I am looking for recent news on a specific topic. Duckduckgo.com has the ability to limit to news items, but the number of sources they have compared to Google is limited.

In short, Duckduckgo is a decent Google replacement, if you are willing to exchange a little functionality for a little more privacy. I think it is a worth doing.

Newly Disclosed NSA Documents Shed Further Light on Five Eyes Alliance

“(Compare that with, for example, the statement by David Lange, the former prime minister of New Zealand, who remarked that “it was not until I read [the] book [“Secret Power” by Nicky Hager, which details the history of New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau] that I had any idea that we had been committed to an international integrated electronic network.” He continued that “it is an outrage that I and other ministers were told so little, and this raises the question of to whom those concerned saw themselves ultimately answerable.”)”

—Scarlet Kim and Paulina Perrin, “Newly Disclosed NSA Documents Shed Further Light on Five Eyes Alliance.” Lawfare. March 25, 2018.

The reason that ideas like “the deep state” resonate with some people is that there is truth to them. While I’m sure incoming Presidents and Prime Ministers are given access to a great deal of “secret” information, it would take years to cover every important agreement or established ways of doing things, like the Five Eyes agreement. Who decides? And what kind of accountability is there? This illustrates that the likely answer is, “None.”

Walgreens Tests New Smart Coolers

“Walgreens is piloting a new line of “smart coolers”—fridges equipped with cameras that scan shoppers’ faces and make inferences on their age and gender. On January 14, the company announced its first trial at a store in Chicago in January, and plans to equip stores in New York and San Francisco with the tech.

Demographic information is key to retail shopping. Retailers want to know what people are buying, segmenting shoppers by gender, age, and income (to name a few characteristics) and then targeting them precisely.”

—Sidney Fussel, “Now Your Groceries See You, Too.” The Atlantic. January 25, 2019.

Another technology that sounds creepy, but will be everywhere in 10 years and no one will think twice about. It reminds me of the good old days when movie theaters started on time and didn’t show 20 minutes of ads first.