Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 11, 2014

Privacy is theft

Filed under: Cybersecurity,General Homeland Security,Privacy and Security — by Christopher Bellavita on March 11, 2014

News item:

The Custom and Border Protection (CBP) official at Hartsfield–Jackson airport scanned Martin Bryant’s fingerprints.

“What’s that little device you’ve got clipped on?” he asked.

Bryant was entering the United States from the UK.  He was wearing a Narrative Clip.  The Clip is “a tiny camera that takes a photo of what’s in front of you every 30 seconds.”


Bryant planned to use the Clip to document his trip, to “capture the flavor of his journey.” As he approached the CBP official, “a terrible realization dawned on me – I’d forgotten to take the Clip off.”

The story has a sort of happy ending.  Bryant had to delete the airport pictures he took — or rather, the Clip took, but he was eventually allowed to continue his travels.

It was the first time the CBP officials had seen that particular device.  Bryant writes that he

…expected stern faced, intolerant treatment from officials who wanted to get rid of an odd British geek’s weird little camera as soon as possible, and instead they took the time to understand what they were dealing with and respond in an appropriate manner.”

News item:

Homeland security students contemplate how wearable technology, like Google Glass, can assist first responders for event security, disaster response, and other tasks.

Wearable glass technology could be valuable in reinforcing the [TSA’s]… security techniques for its Behavior Detection Officers…. A computerized eyeglass device could assist in gauging a passenger’s physiological responses, such as pupil dilation or micro facial expressions. The technology could also potentially monitor a traveler’s walking gait to determine if the person is concealing an item, as well as provide a remote feed where other officers can analyze what the wearer is seeing.


News item:

The PEW Research Center issues a report on Digital Life in 2025, reminding readers that the World Wide Web is 25 years old on March 12.

Among the report’s good news bad news hopes:

Augmented reality and wearable devices will be implemented to monitor and give quick feedback on daily life….

People will continue – sometimes grudgingly – to make tradeoffs favoring convenience and perceived immediate gains over privacy; and privacy will be something only the upscale will enjoy.


There is no need to worry about this Brave New World

Here are three slogans from the David Eggers book, The Circle. Repeating them 15 minutes twice a day will put any concerns you might have to rest, once in the morning and once before you turn off all your devices and go to sleep.

Sharing is caring.

Secrets are lies.

Privacy is theft.

Here’s an excerpt from The Circle (208 ff).  An elected official decides to provide ultimate transparency by wearing a steroids version of the Clip during every waking moment.

Everything she does will be streamed in real time.

Showing care by sharing everything.

Embracing truth by having no secrets.

Demonstrating honesty by shedding privacy.

I intend to show how democracy can and should be: entirely open, entirely transparent,  Starting today… I will be wearing [the Clip on steroids]. My every meeting, movement, my every word, will be available to all my constituents and to the world.

“And what if those who want to meet with you don’t want a given meeting to be broadcast?” she is asked.

‘Well, then they will not meet with me.… You’re either transparent or you’re not. You’re either accountable or you’re not. What would anyone have to say to me that couldn’t be said in public? What part of representing the people should not be known by the very people I’m representing?

It begins now for me… And I hope it begins soon for the rest of the elected leaders in this country – and for those in everyone of the world’s democracies.

Before too long, in Eggers’ transparent new world, no one gets elected or appointed to any office unless they promise to wear “the Device.”

Why would they refuse to wear it?

What are they trying to hide?


News item:

Happy birthday, World Wide Web.  Without you, life would be

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Comment by E. Earhart

March 11, 2014 @ 5:57 am

Privacy is theft demonstrates the clash occurring between hls practitioners and the Fourth Amendment to our constitution.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Turning the notion of if you have nothing to hide around, and viewing it in the context of the 4th Amendment, I would ask if I am doing nothing wrong, then you have no reason to monitor me.

Comment by Quin

March 11, 2014 @ 6:36 am

For those who didn’t watch 60 Minutes last week, they had an excellent story on how information brokers know everything about you from your online surfing. It makes the NSA look like the minor leagues in some aspects.


Comment by John Comiskey

March 11, 2014 @ 7:50 am

E. Earhart,

Quinn’ reference to the meta-NSA, commercial information brokers is telling. Change is coming.

Big Brother’s progeny, “googol-google” will wear
google glasses, make decisions based on google-analytics, and will have google-babies that will laugh at their ancestor’s notions of privacy.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 11, 2014 @ 8:33 am

Destruction of PRIVACY by either GOVERNMENTS and/or PRIVATE ENTITIES OR PERSONS will result in destruction of democracy and civil society! First GOVERNMENTS will always be able to force PRIVATE ENTITIES OR PERSONS to disclosure information they hold to them [governments] perhaps even by killing and/or torture.

Second, note how many arguments are mounted like “protection of the State is paramount” and almost never protection of the CONSTITUTION and its preservation!

This is why the SCOTUS decision in CITIZENS UNITED is so pernicious. What the SCOTUS has really ruled is that CORPORATIONS need protection from the voters.

And ELITES understand that now they are the beneficiaries of government and need its protection and little worry over privacy invasion of the “other”!

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 11, 2014 @ 8:35 am

Have I mentioned that fortification of the SEAT OF GOVERNMENT continues masked as widening of the CAPITAL BELTWAY?

Comment by Dan OConnor

March 11, 2014 @ 11:26 am

“Privacy’s been dead for years because we can’t risk it. The only privacy that’s left is the inside of your head. Maybe that’s enough.” John Voight as Thomas Reynolds, Enemy of the State.

“Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to” Mark Twain

Immediately after Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, something life-altering happened. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” (Genesis 3:7) The New Living Translation of this verse includes their feelings. “At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.

The issue is privacy. Every human being has this need,” says Dr. Jerome Biegler, a Philadelphia psychiatrist who chairs the American Psychiatric Assn.’s committee on confidentiality. “We each have a differential capacity for sharing ourselves. If one has respect for oneself, one sets a boundary. It’s counterbalanced by affection and commitment to another.”

Privacy is a fundamental human behavior for any number of reasons. Whether it’s a required behavior trait to procreate, protect, assemble and socialize or simply to co-exist as a rationalizing animal I cannot say with any degree of expertise.

It seems to me that it is a biological and psychological necessity and it is protected. Now we have security to content with. Our security or so we’re told requires in-depth analysis and storage of any number of data bits about our behaviors, predictions, activities, etc. We have to be secure and that requires some surrender of privacy.

Warfare, lawfare, prosecution, and persecution all come by means of exploiting information. The contentious issue is that there is, in my opinion a significant reduction in resilience, trust, and overall integrity of institutions that practice this idea.

While it is egalitarian to believe sharing is caring, secrets are lies, and privacy is theft is also has a bit of BS too. Why not discuss the difference between hunter gatherer tribes versus agricultural based societies and the emergence of physical violence as a means of competition for resources? What about the politics of chimpanzees? What about race, culture, and economics?

Is the need for privacy, biological, spiritual, or a purely rationalized state? There is much to be discussed on the virtue of maintaining our individuality and uniqueness. Perhaps we should also re visit Polonius’ Advice to Laertes. It was pretty sound and reinforced observing instead of sharing.

This idea that not sharing, not being transparent, and guarding “things” is somehow wrong is quite bothersome. This noncompliance issue has crept into our security lexicon and is eroding ideas of what privacy is.

There is a concern, at least for me that compliance equates security. This epiphenomenon that is slowly shopped as the future is a concern. To imagine that the default is “what do you have to hide” or “Demonstrating honesty by shedding privacy” is astounding. All the comments today are accurate and lean into the future rather harshly. Our internet habits are much better monitored by commercial entities to entice, lure, subliminally suggest, and persuade activity. Once accrued however, the one sentence in the 35000 word end-user license agreement (EULA) that no one reads enables this data to be accessed by the government for “security” purposes.

I embrace E. Earhart, John C’s, and Bill C’s comments. I don’t think Benjamin Franklin ever intended something he said to become a security cliché. However, ‘those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one’ may be not be contextually accurate, does have a resonance when it comes to discussing with passion and vigor the security leviathan! Just some thoughts. Don’t want my email searched or my phone calls recorded, or my purchasing habits…oops.

Comment by John Comiskey

March 11, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

It wont take long

Big Brother, Small City: River Islands Will Feature Heavy Surveillance

See: http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2014/03/10/big-brother-small-city-river-islands-will-feature-heavy-surveillance/

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 11, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

Thanks all for interesting post and comments! Do any other professions other than law have courses focused on PRIVACY?

When I attended Law School no courses on the environment, civil rights and civil liberties or privacy. 1964-1967!

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