Category Archives: Privacy

Get ready for soaring cable, Internet, phone bills


Yep, a key Trump administration official wants the abolish the agency that regulates the prices of the nation’s communications system.

And that means there wouldn’t be anyone setting caps on the prices telephone, satellite, and cable companies could charge.

So prepare for slower connection speeds unless you pay premium prices, and prepare for downgraded service to rural areas and actual blocking of some web sites that offer views service providers don’t like.

And privacy? Security from unfettered government and corporate snooping?

Fuggedaboudit!

From the Los Angeles Times:

A top advisor to Donald Trump on tech policy matters proposed all but abolishing the nation’s telecom regulator last month, foreshadowing possible moves by the president-elect to sharply reduce the Federal Communications Commission’s role as a consumer protection watchdog.

In an Oct. 21 blog post, Mark Jamison, who on Monday was named one of two members of Trump’s tech policy transition team, laid out his ideal vision for the government’s role in telecommunications, concluding there is little need for the agency to exist.

“Most of the original motivations for having an FCC have gone away,” Jamison wrote. “Telecommunications network providers and [Internet service providers] are rarely, if ever, monopolies.”

The FCC declined to comment for this story, but its current leadership has disagreed strongly with that analysis. Its Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler, has spoken of an Internet service “duopoly” in much of the country that limits competition. And he has compared telecommunications to the rail and telegraph networks of the 19th century, calling for new rules of the road as the Internet becomes the dominant communications platform of the 21st century.

Wheeler has used his agency to go after allegedly misbehaving companies, proposing record-setting fines against companies for slowing down “unlimited” data plans and for billing customers for content and services they didn’t ask for. He passed proactive regulations such as net neutrality to prohibit anticompetitive behavior. And, in an unprecedented step, Wheeler made Internet providers obey the same privacy rules that legacy phone companies must abide by when handling customer data.

French Big Brother database plans generate anger


A Big Brotherish panopticon plan announced on Halloween weekend by the government of increasingly unpopular French President François Hollande has generated strong and growing opposition.

From TheLocal.fr:

French government plans to create a new database containing details of almost the entire population suffered fresh blows on Monday as criticism grew of the controversial project.

The Socialist government announced a decree to create the database, which would contain personal information of 60 million people, on a public holiday weekend at the end of October.

It has led to fears that hackers might target the information as well as anxiety that so much personal data could be misused in the future by the security forces or other government agencies.

The stealthily issued decree, published two days after Halloween, led opposition MP Lionel Tardy to accuse the government last week of “treating the French people like pumpkins”.

On Monday, the French Digital Council, a state watchdog that looks at the impact of technology on society and the economy, said the database should be suspended.

Abby Martin tackles John Podesta and his emails


In one of her most important efforts yet, Abby Martin digs beneath the rhetoric to show the real importance of the cache of Wikileaked emails from the account of Democratic National Committee chair John Podesta.

What she reveals is the heart of darkness beating beneath the skin of the American political system, the same system that has given us a presidential race pitting the two most unpopular candidates since polling began.

In an attempt to discredit the emails and what they reveal, the mainstream media have presented without questioning claims that the hack was executed at the behest of the Russian government without offering any verification for their assertion.

But no less than James Bamford, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst and attorney who became the most distinguished journalist ever to cover and blow the lid off illegal spying programs by the National Security Agency, Bamford questioned the government’s claims in an incisive essay for Reuters, where he writes:

The problem with attempting to draw a straight line from the Kremlin to the Clinton campaign is the number of variables that get in the way. For one, there is little doubt about Russian cyber fingerprints in various U.S. campaign activities. Moscow, like Washington, has long spied on such matters. The United States, for example, inserted malware in the recent Mexican election campaign. The question isn’t whether Russia spied on the U.S. presidential election, it’s whether it released the election emails.

Then there’s the role of Guccifer 2.0, the person or persons supplying WikiLeaks and other organizations with many of the pilfered emails. Is this a Russian agent? A free agent? A cybercriminal? A combination, or some other entity? No one knows.

There is also the problem of groupthink that led to the war in Iraq. For example, just as the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the rest of the intelligence establishment are convinced Putin is behind the attacks, they also believed it was a slam-dunk that Saddam Hussein had a trove of weapons of mass destruction.

Consider as well the speed of the political-hacking investigation, followed by a lack of skepticism, culminating in a rush to judgment.

But what is certain, beyond question, is that John Podesta represents everything that’s wrong about American politics, where claims of democratic openness are belief by secret deals in which big banks and powerful corporations, not workers and their families, are the real beneficiaries.

And Abby Martin is on the story.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Abby Martin Exposes John Podesta

Program notes:

With the Wikileaks release of thousands of emails belonging to John Podesta, very little is known in US society about Podesta himself. While he’s maintained a low profile, John Podesta is actually considered one of Washington’s biggest players, and one of the most powerful corporate lobbyists in the world.

In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin explores John Podesta’s political rise, his vast network of corporate connections and his think tank “Center for American Progress.” Learn why the Podestas and the Clintons are a match made in ruling class heaven.

Quote of the day: A Clinton team email response


From Wikileaks, an email from a longtime Hillary advisor, transition team co-chair and likely chief of staff in a Hillary White House Neera Tanden, asking the logical question of the Democratic National Committee chair and offering a solution of her own:

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Making someone very, very happy

Meanwhile, The Donald has a response of his own to the latest development, the reopening of the FBI investigation to determine if crimes were committed in using that private email server to send classified information thanks to a new discovery of emails on the computers of habitual sexter Anthony Weiner and his now-estranged spouse and top Clinton advisor best buddy Huma Abudin.

From the editorial cartoonist of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Mike Luckovich: With tongue

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Ma Bell sells spooky data; Internet attack probed


Two major stories on the cybersecurity front to report.

AT&T sells your data, for a fortune

The first item comes from Ma Bell, who’s been helping folks spy on you and pocketing a fortune for doing.

From the Guardian:

Telecommunications giant AT&T is selling access to customer data to local law enforcement in secret, new documents released on Monday reveal.

The program, called Hemisphere, was previously known only as a “partnership” between the company and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for the purposes of counter-narcotics operations.

It accesses the trove of telephone metadata available to AT&T, who control a large proportion of America’s landline and cellphone infrastructure. Unlike other providers, who delete their stored metadata after a certain time, AT&T keeps information like call time, duration, and even location data on file for years, with records dating back to 2008.

But according to internal company documents revealed Monday by the Daily Beast, Hemisphere is being sold to local police departments and used to investigate everything from murder to Medicaid fraud, costing US taxpayers millions of dollars every year even while riding roughshod over privacy concerns.

Internet of things becomes a federal priority

After last week’s massive attackj on online services, carried out through baby monitors, security cameras, and other devices connected to the Internet of Things, Uncle Sam is getting busy.

From Reuters:

Obama administration officials sought on Monday to reassure the public that it was taking steps to counter new types of cyber attacks such as the one Friday that rendered Twitter, Spotify, Netflix and dozens of other major websites unavailable.

The Department of Homeland Security said it had held a conference call with 18 major communication service providers shortly after the attack began and was working to develop a new set of “strategic principles” for securing internet-connected devices.

DHS said its National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center was working with companies, law enforcement and researchers to cope with attacks made possible by the rapidly expanding number of smart gadgets that make up the “internet of Things.”

Such devices, including web-connected cameras, appliances and toys, have little in the way of security. More than a million of them have been commandeered by hackers, who can direct them to take down a target site by flooding it with junk traffic.

You have to wonder if another federal agency, the NSA, is busy exploiting these same devices to pry into our lives.

Just a thought. . .

Marshall McLuhan: Still prescient, 49 years later


Back when esnl was a budding journalist, no name was better known in media theory than Marshall McLuhan of the University of Toronto School of Communication Theory.

McLuhan’s theories about the role of mass media in shaping the consciousness of the 20th Century sparked endless hours of coffee house conversation.

But McLuhan has largely dropped out of sight, enduring mainly on DVD’s of Annie Hall, in one of most memorable movie cameos ever:

But McLuhan’s theories prove remarkably resilient, most notably his prescient understanding of the computer-enabled panopticon and the power of television to shape and mobilize emotions on behalf of corporate agendas.

He also grasped that the dramatic first-person journalistic reports and prime network coverage by the free-roving reporters of the Vietnam War would lead to draconian restrictions liked the “embedded reporters” who covered the two Bush Wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

Indeed, he even foreshadowed the rise of the presidential candidacy of a creature such as Donald Trump.

And that brings us to today’s video, a remarkably documentary aired on NBC 19 March 1967:

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And now for the video. . .

Aired 49 years ago, yet remarkably timely, it comes from from Marshall McLuhan Speaks:

This is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Massage

Program note:

Featuring Marshall McLuhan, and narrated by Edward Binns.

U.K. spooks waged spy campaign on own citizens


Who do they think they are?

The NSA?

From the Guardian:

The UK’s security agencies have secretly and unlawfully collected massive volumes of confidential personal data, including financial information, on British citizens for more than a decade, top judges have ruled.

The investigatory powers tribunal, which is the only court that hears complaints against MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, has ruled that the security services operated secret regimes to collect vast amounts of personal communications data tracking individual phone and web use and large datasets of confidential personal information without adequate safeguards or supervision for more than 10 years.

The IPT ruling includes the disclosure from an unpublished 2010 MI5 policy statement that the “bulk personal datasets” include material on the nation’s personal financial activities. “The fact that the service holds bulk financial, albeit anonymised, data is assessed to be a high corporate risk, since there is no public expectation that the service will hold or have access to this data in bulk. Were it to become widely known that the service held this data, the media response would most likely be unfavourable and probably inaccurate,” it says.

The ruling comes as the House of Lords debates the final stages of the investigatory powers bill – the snooper’s charter – which will put mass digital surveillance activities on a clear legal footing for the first time since the disclosure by Edward Snowden of the extent of state surveillance in 2013.