privacy

Sunday Buffet: Domestic Drones, Cosmic Clouts, and More

photo: Parrot AR Drone via Amazon.com

photo: Parrot AR Drone via Amazon.com

Here’s an assortment of goodies that crossed my tablet over the last 24 hours or so. Which of these tidbits fires you up?

•  The Verge reported Friday that a new bi-partisan privacy bill sponsored by representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) targets the use of drones in the US.

“As written, it would ban police from operating unmanned aerial vehicles armed with weapons of any kind, and any drone surveillance operation would require a warrant notifying the target within 10 days, except when the notice would “jeopardize” an investigation. It also requires they make efforts to “minimize” the amount of data collected or shared, to avoid violating privacy unnecessarily. …

…Fears over the use of drones have increased lately as both President Obama and his counterterrorism chief John Brennan refused to answer whether lethal strikes could be used against American citizens on US soil. …”

When drones can be remotely operated by iPhone or Android cellphones and cost less than $300, we’re way past time for this bill. It might not hurt citizens to act locally as Charlottesville, Virginia has, enacting a ban on their use in their municipality. Think a drone couldn’t possibly slip by you to monitor you without permission? This one pictured here is only 22 inches long, comes equipped with a 720p high-def camera on board–imagine it hovering and peering in your bedroom window, or your kid’s room, its video output watched from an iPhone miles away.

•  Friday’s meteorite-asteroid-meteorite triple whammy certainly shook up the globe. What? You didn’t hear about the third one? Apparently when the smaller meteorite passed over California about 7:42 pm PST, the media had already used up its allotment of cosmic-related coverage for the week. Or year. Anyhow, objects hit our planet all the time that we don’t notice or publicize widely; it was the rare confluence of a near-miss asteroid and a larger-than-average meteorite within a 24-hour window that only made us think earth’s pummeling by space debris is unusual. Given that meteorites and asteroids are not all that rare, it seems like we’d do more to be prepared for impacts–especially since we’ve had pretty decent guesstimates about the damage space objects could inflict.

•  Speaking of science, science writer Philip Ball looks at the discovery of the microscope and its dramatic impact on science and religion. Technology that allowed us to look at our world at meta-scale has also had an impact on our perspective; the famous “blue marble” photo* from an Apollo mission is credited with increasing public interest in ecological studies, environmental protection, and space exploration. What technology will encourage us to get our tails in gear on climate change?

•  Finally, this photo-dense piece gives me pause. I was two years old when these were taken; what an incredible year that was. I wish I’d been old enough to remember any of these events, and yet, I’m glad some of them were well behind us by the time I was school-aged. Some of these photos remind me how little things have changed. Just Google “church arson” or “race hate crime” and you’ll see what I mean.

By the way, I’m open to suggestions as to naming these collections of newsy bits and pieces. Leave me your thoughts in comments. Thanks!

* When I first drafted this post, I didn’t know today marked the anniversary of the similarly important “pale blue dot” photo. How time flies.

Google Boondoggle With No Such Agency

spy-who-loved-meEllen Nakashima has a startling, but I guess unsurprising, article in this morning’s Washington Post on internet giant Google’s new partnership with the NSA:

Under an agreement that is still being finalized, the National Security Agency would help Google analyze a major corporate espionage attack that the firm said originated in China and targeted its computer networks, according to cybersecurity experts familiar with the matter. The objective is to better defend Google — and its users — from future attack.

Google and the NSA declined to comment on the partnership. But sources with knowledge of the arrangement, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the alliance is being designed to allow the two organizations to share critical information without violating Google’s policies or laws that protect the privacy of Americans’ online communications. The sources said the deal does not mean the NSA will be viewing users’ searches or e-mail accounts or that Google will be sharing proprietary data.

The article indicates Google initiated the matter by approaching the NSA after the recent discovery of intrusive attacks by Chinese interests last month, which is interesting in light of the fact Google made a point of publicly stating in 2008 they had never cooperated with the NSA on the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

Nakashima also notes that NSA is also soliciting involvement of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. You have to wonder exactly what the FBI and DHS are going to lend that NSA cannot if this is truly just technical advice, because neither agency is particularly known for its geeky brilliance with computers. You would have to wonder is this is not a step in the direction of the “cyber protection” program the government has been hinting at initiating for some time now.

More from Nakashima and the Post:

“As a general matter,” NSA spokeswoman Judi Emmel said, “as part of its information-assurance mission, NSA works with a broad range of commercial partners and research associates to ensure the availability of secure tailored solutions for Department of Defense and national security systems customers.”

Despite such precedent, Matthew Aid, an expert on the NSA, said Google’s global reach makes it unique.

“When you rise to the level of Google . . . you’re looking at a company that has taken great pride in its independence,” said Aid, author of “The Secret Sentry,” a history of the NSA. “I’m a little uncomfortable with Google cooperating this closely with the nation’s largest intelligence agency, even if it’s strictly for defensive purposes.”

Mr. Aid isn’t the only one a little uncomfortable with this new spirit of cooperation between the world’s most spooky governmental spy agency and the world’s most ubiquitous information technology and database company. And so the descent down the slippery slope picks up a little more speed.

(Image courtesy of SearchEngineWatch.com, a very nice resource by the way)

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel Apparently you can be smart AND make great beer. http://t.co/9w220yz7gf
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emptywheel Suggestion for journos on the GOP Trial Lawyer beat: Ask whether they have problem w/Executive not prosecuting any banks.
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emptywheel @johnson_carrie Agree. Someone should do a lovely send off profile! ;p Also think they defy claim you gotta be bankster to investigate them
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JimWhiteGNV @Pedinska I have some road time this afternoon, but will check in later.
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JimWhiteGNV RT @davidcnswanson: Democrats ran a torturer for Congress in Michigan if anyone cares http://t.co/egS8LDH5fz
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emptywheel What is the background of Levin's PSI staffers who do such a good at digging out this crime?
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emptywheel @alexisgoldstein "And boyohboy I'm not going to commit to do that again any time soon because look at the nightmare it has caused me."
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bmaz @brianbeutler A lot of us said this about Gruber from the outset. He is duplicitous and ethically dubious. Ocare sold on the wings of lies.
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bmaz .@michaelbkiefer @azcentral Thank you for including the source document, the legal motion, in your article. I wish more journalists did that
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emptywheel USA Freedom Act didn't have a data mandate. But it apparently had a data handshake. http://t.co/DPQ0tnZd1p
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emptywheel Dudley returns to his "finding firms guilty" is the same as "jail."
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emptywheel Is anyone saving this hearing for posterity bc I just had the thought Sherrod did: Geithner would have said the same thing Dudley is.
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