The Most Important Issue I Don’t Understand

Wise people avoid expounding on issues they do not grasp. In that spirit, you’ll find very little content here on foreign policy, military life, Canadian politics, bow hunting or hockey, as a small sample. Occasionally though, an issue is so important that it can’t be ignored merely due to ignorance. Sometimes it’s helpful just to describe the outline of a baffling problem in the interest of generating conversation that might lead to clarity.

Privacy issues emerging from our ever expanding digital lives are so complex and unprecedented that it’s difficult to establish any useful reference points. Clearly we are making policy decisions in our time, mostly by default or inaction, which will determine the shape of our personal and property rights in the digital realm for generations to come. We are making these decisions (and in-decisions) while largely blind to the outcomes and implications. That’s not just frightening, it’s maddening, and there doesn’t seem to be much that we can do about it.

Part of the problem is that privacy as a legally protected “right” is rather new. The Bill of Rights mentions some of the building blocks of privacy, including the obscure 3rd Amendment, but there is no expressed privacy right in our Constitutional law. The first time the Supreme Court struck down a law for interfering with privacy was in 1923.

In Meyer v. Nebraska the Court invalidated a state law criminalizing foreign language instruction in primary schools. This reading of the liberty clause in the 14th Amendment was novel. The decision did not use the word “privacy” but described the concept at some length. By interpreting 14th Amendment protections to extend beyond mere physical constraints, the Court was beginning to stake out a realm of personal space protected from public interference.

It was a reasonable response to the nation’s transition from an agrarian to an industrial culture. The concept of privacy is fairly esoteric when your nearest neighbor lives too far away to see. Liberty has different demands in a city.

Even then, another four decades would pass before the term “privacy” would take on much meaning in legal terms. Griswold in 1965 and Roe in 1973 established privacy as a personal, Constitutional right in rulings dealing with contraception and abortion. Even then those decisions were controversial and privacy rights are still contentious. As late as 1989 the Bush Administration nominated a Supreme Court justice who denied a Constitutional privacy right. The matter was not generally settled until the Lawrence decision in 2003. You can still find prominent Republicans who insist that the Constitution does not protect personal privacy.

Privacy as we generally understand has come more from legislation and culture than from Constitutional law, reflecting the fact that commerce, not politics, is where our privacy is mostly in play. The Fair Credit Reporting Act was passed in 1970, representing probably the most powerful protection of personal financial information. Your rights to your health data were not uniformly protected at the Federal level until 1996. Privacy legislation has been late in arriving and relatively thin compared to other western countries. New technological developments are already rendering our meagre protections useless.

A new generation of credit reporting companies is emerging to evaluate your value in the digital realm. Everything from your home equity to your social media influence is available for assessments that impact your ability to get a job, borrow money, or engage in other commerce. Refusing to participate in social media or other methods of surveillance does not prevent the creation of a profile, it merely influences your score (downward, generally).

Almost none of this category of surveillance is covered by existing consumer protections or credit regulations. The monitoring of your email and phone metadata by the NSA is positively trivial in size, sophistication, scope, and relevance compared to the dossiers being compiled on you by Internet service providers and other technology companies, free of almost any accountability or regulation.

Traditionally, transparency and consent have been treated as the antidote to privacy intrusion. Law assumes that the real tension in privacy disputes comes not from surveillance, but from clandestine surveillance. To the extent we are properly warned of what is being done, an activity is largely accepted. That understanding may not be enough as our technology becomes increasingly complex.

There are things you would say on a train that you would not say in an elevator. There are things you would say on a softball field that you would not say at school. There are things you would say in a break room that you would not say in a conference room. We expect to be able to judge fairly sophisticated grades of our setting in order to judge what levels of candor or expression will be not only appropriate, but properly understood by a potential hearer. That is one reason that so-called “hearsay,” an over-heard third-party report of a statement, is generally inadmissible as evidence in a legal proceeding. There is no similar protection from the impact of hearsay online.

At stake is not merely our control of our image, but our ability to communicate effectively. Use language or phrasing appropriate for the bleachers at Wrigley Field at a 3rd grade softball game and witness one of the challenges presented by the decline of privacy. The ability through omnipresent surveillance to transpose communications from one setting to another without context can have implications for one’s ability to hold a job, protect a credit rating, influence politics, or retain ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers. Watch how many phones are recording the speeches at the next political meeting you attend. Why is that happening?

We are less and less competent to judge the sensitivity of our communications as surveillance technology transforms the landscape. What makes this phenomenon so difficult to manage is the fact that its implications are entirely mixed. Yes, a central authority can now monitor your every move. However, you may also monitor theirs. The technology that lets the police identify a suspect on the street can (and occasionally is) also used to observe and punish police brutality. Technology that lets someone surreptitiously record your conversation also lets you photograph the person who stole your phone.

Adding to the complexity is the fact that surveillance is not merely, or even primarily, a matter of state power. Say what you will about the Snowden leaks, but perhaps the most startling revelation from the whole affair is the discovery of how far the Federal security infrastructure still lags behind the monitoring capabilities of private companies.

The potential for government to misuse personal information is a valid concern, but it is far from a pressing concern. What looms over us now is the digital land grab that is gobbling up property rights in information that could potentially belong to individuals. When those rights are gone they will never be restored.

Your digital profile is valuable property. Like a homestead on the prairie that you haven’t seen yet, it may belong to you, but it is very difficult to evaluate. Our current model allows individuals to sell away chunks of their privacy rights in exchange for free email, navigation services, games and hundreds or even thousands of other valuable services.

The freedom to transfer those rights is every bit as constitutionally valid as a right to privacy. The problem is that technology companies are operating at a significant information advantage as relates to individual consumers. Like oil companies at the turn of the 20th Century negotiating leases with farmers, both sides are engaged in an uncertain speculation. However, without any legal framework to set the balance the companies control the terms of the trade. Ask a landholder what it takes to recover their mineral rights and you’ll get a sense of what the next generation faces online.

So what can we do about this? In the digital realm, what is “privacy” and how valuable is it? How much of your data should be protected? On what terms should you be able to bargain it away? I don’t have answers and I’m not seeing a lot of other good ideas. There is no partisan divide on the issue of digital privacy as there aren’t really any coherent positions being taken by anyone on a broad scale. It might be the most important issue rights issue of our time and we have little or no idea what to do with it.

At the very minimum, it is probably necessary to remove the ability for children to sign away their digital rights while still a minor. A generation is emerging that values privacy in much the same way they regard virginity, as something to be shed definitively in the transition to adulthood. That is a completely unnecessary mistake and we owe it to our children to prevent it. Blocking the compromise of privacy individually is like trying to build seawall around your beach house. To be practical and effective, this will have to come from legislation.

The terms of the compromise struck at age 13 may look very different at 30, but perhaps not. Privacy, like mineral rights, may be meaningless if you never knew you had it in the first place. If all we do about the erosion of our ownership in our personal profile is to build a wall around an emerging digital generation that might be enough. Perhaps an emerging wave of digital natives with a keener understanding of technology might strike a different collective bargain for their digital rights.

For us, there seems to be very little we can do to establish any personal control of our online data. We’ve made our bargain for free real time maps and music. The value is not trivial, but it will likely prove to be a fraction of what those assets were worth. No matter, we will get where we are going on time and be entertained along the way even if the destination is unknown.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Civil Rights, Technology, The Second Machine Age
94 comments on “The Most Important Issue I Don’t Understand
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  2. Bobo Amerigo says:

    NPR has an interesting series this week about internet privacy.

    Here’s a link to one of the stories, in which they created a table that indicates how well — or not so well — major internet companies protect personal data.

  3. tuttabellamia says:

    I’ve been thinking about the difference between privacy and anonomity. More on that later. Maybe.

  4. John Galt says:

    These are important questions, but they fall into several different categories. One is what the restrictions should be on what the government can do with our information. The IRS, SSA, and other agencies have legitimate uses for employment, income, and other personal data. The harvesting of data by other agencies (NSA) is less defensible. What are the limits and how should these limits be enforced?

    Private companies are as big an issue. Amazon knows all about purchases I’ve made and they use that data to tailor marketing to me. I mostly ignore this, though every once in a while I am introduced to a product that I actually do want. Credit card companies track spending patterns the same way. Their doing so enables some anti-fraud protections that have worked to detect unauthorized charges. My ISP probably has a database of IP addresses I visit, for what purpose I don’t really know. Google definitely knows what I search for (though I mostly do this without being logged in to Google services so they just know by patterns of IP addresses).

    What should these companies be allowed to with this data? Internal marketing? Internal product development? Should they be able to sell it without your knowledge? Should they have terms of service so detailed and obscure that lay people cannot actually understand what can be done with their data? Can they change these at will?

    Finally, once laws are in place, how will they be enforced for breaches of data, given that the hackers are often in other jurisdictions?

    I don’t know the answers either, but our political system hasn’t recently shown much ability to have productive debates about complex issues like these.

    • flypusher says:

      “I don’t know the answers either, but our political system hasn’t recently shown much ability to have productive debates about complex issues like these.”

      They’re still working on the stuff that should be easy and obvious, like outlawing revenge porn. The things you listed have so many shades of grey, and most politicos can’t deal well with that.

      It would be interesting (and probably scary) to find out who (other than obvious entities like Amazon and other places I’ve given business to) has data on me and exactly what do they have.

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      This issue reminds me of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were reproduced and used throughout the world without her knowledge or any kind of payment.

      I think you and your data are the most valuable part of any commercial transaction, including commercials on cable TV and the internet.

      It belongs to you until you either give it away or sell it, with all the possible permutations of any contract.

  5. CaptSternn says:

    Well, Lifer, it finally got political again. But did you gather any understanding or insight to the most important issue you don’t understand? Like you, I find all this new technology and the consequences very interesting. Maybe I have a little (stress that) more understanding because I have dealt with it in other levels and in different ways, but it is not really clear.

    With more and more laws being passed concerning it, and more court cases being brought, I can see how laws and government just can’t keep up (don’t even get me started with the fact that government entities are still using fax machines).

    There are other technologies outside social media and our online profiles to consider. I think I mentioned the license plate readers and cameras governments are using, but now we will be looking at drone technology.

    A lot of people scoff at the idea of those “black helicopters” the way many scoff at the contrails being chemical warfare, but they were real. Not black, but dark army green, military surplus, using infrared to basically search homes via heat signatures. The court ruled against them, but now what about drones hovering over cities or neighborhoods and spying on people in their fenced back yards?

    When I was younger I had the desire to escape it all, go live on a remote mountain and get away from this New World. I am getting old and dependent on technology, in fact it is how I make my living. My employer issued me a Blackjack phone several years ago but has been moving towards iPhones. I resisted, but the Blackjack finally died and now I have an issued iPhone. Now I play Angry Birds instead of just emails, texts and phone calls. My personal cell phone is still a simple and cheap flip phone, but even that can be tracked by the towers.

    I was a cash and carry kind of person for most of my life, no checks, no crdit cards. In the last few years I discovered having bad credit is better than having no credit, so I managed to convince my bank to give me a credit card, and now I use them, now I am tracked as are my purchases, when, where and what.

    Really good question you brought up about where our privacy begins and ends. I had hoped there would be more discussion on such an interesting topic. I guess sometimes we are just here to bicker and argue politics, don’t get apolitical because … well … we are just here to argue back and forth. Meh. I do it, you do it, we all do it here, but I had hoped for more on this subject.

    • John Galt says:

      What’s incredible is that Sternn (for once) posts something reasonably thoughtful and on-topic and you respond this way. Does being incessantly outraged over trivia ever get old?

    • goplifer says:

      You mention cash. I remember cash and it’s an interesting generational watershed. Never in my life have I used it for anything important. I think I’ve had the same eight buck or so sitting in my wallet for about six years. Interesting the way that changes the shape of life.

      And the drones v. angry birds – interesting to wonder which form of surveillance is having more impact on our lives. In a couple of years Amazon will have a much larger fleet of drones than any government agency.

      Every now and then I come back to the comparison between two 20th Century visions of the future, 1984 and A Brave New World.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Don’t know if I would call it a generational thing, many people I know and have known don’t carry cash, they would use checks for the most part. My parents were that way. But I have not even had a checking account for most of my life.

        It really messed with bank employee heads back in the later 1990s while I was doing web design, I would just show up at the counter to cash large checks, anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000. They would tell me I should call ahead, and I would reply that there was no way I was going to give any advance warning that I would be walking out with that kind of cash.

        I had no credit cards, so I would usually carry between $1,500 and $2,500 at all times. I still like to have between $50 and $250 with me. That attitude helped when Ike hit in 2008. First thing I did when it was predicted to hit Houston was run to the bank and get plenty of cash, second thing was to fill up with gasoline, then bread to put in the freezer. A lot of people didn’t consider cash and wound up not being able to buy anything.

        Side note, they eye of the storm passed directly over my home. I had power until the eye passed, then it went out. I got it back just a couple hours later. We would go for groceries and be offered ice, when we refused we got strange looks and we would just kind of whisper that we had electricity, almost like we were ashamed. I was grateful for the air conditioning. Now I have a generator just big enough to run the fridge, window unit, and a couple of other things like the TV and computer or whatever I want, just switch things around. The thought of being without A/C does not sit well with me.

      • John Galt says:

        I use cash for small things – cheap lunches and things – but it’s mostly plastic. I only take cabs when I travel, but I was in Boston a couple of weeks ago and the driver seemed surprised when I offered cash. On the return to the airport, I used the touchscreen card reader in the backseat.

        My generational issue is checks. Seriously, it’s 2014 and you’re writing a check at the grocery store? I was behind someone at Specs yesterday who wrote a check. Shoppers intending to do that should have to wear a big scarlet ‘C’ on their backs warning the rest of us to pick a different line.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        The “C” could also stand for COUPONS.

      • flypusher says:

        My fav bar is cash only.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Like Cleburn’s Cafeteria. Cash only, or checks. No credit or debit cards. Unless it’s changed since I was last there.

      • CaptSternn says:

        I just had to go and jinx myself on the A/C bit. Compressor went out this morning between Beeville and Goliad. That was a hot ride home.

        JG and Tutt, so would a person using coupons then writing a check have double C’s on their back?

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Well, a double C could also stand for Credit Card, or even Cleburne’s Cafeteria, so it’s impossible to tell. In any case, I disagree with JG’s assessment that writing a check is cause for shame, on a par with adultery.

      • John Galt says:

        Would your favorite bar be Valhalla, fly?

        Use of coupons while paying with a check should be covered under the Geneva conventions. This is clearly a crime against humanity.

        (And, yes, I’m kidding.)

    • kabuzz61 says:

      Now that’s funny JG. I feel the same way.

  6. kabuzz61 says:

    Today is the day to commemorate D-Day. An absolutely amazing plan involved thousands of ships, a couple of million men and many tons of food and ammo.

    The true heroes were the men rushing off the Higgin’s boats knowing machine gun nests were entrenched in bunkers all along the coast of Normandy France. Many, many brave men were killed rushing the beach to reach the cliffs. A true testament to how our military is an honorable, proud bunch. If these brave men did not attempt this feat, there would have been no troops in Europe maybe ever. Talk about stress, I can’t even imaging the stress Eisenhower went through. God bless them all.

    • CaptSternn says:

      Amen to that, Kabuzz.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Yea! World War II vets are dying at 6000 per day. My father one of them that has passed.

        Being a history major, I talked to many vets in the Pa area. One thing they had in common was their not wanting to tell what they saw. Eventually over time, some did. War is horrible. I wish it wasn’t needed at all, but we live in the world we live.

        When I moved to Houston in 75, I settled by luck in the Meyerland area which if you did not know is heavily Jewish and most of those orthodox. Anyway, I got to meet many men and women who survived the death camps. (I don’t know if survived is the right word) Again, horrible stories. The choices some had to make to stay alive especially the women.

        That war was worth fighting for. When people are oppressed and killed for being who they are, well, it is time for the strongest to help.

        One common thread the vets shared with the death camp survivors is guilt. They are wracked with guilt and the main reason they don’t want to talk about it.

        Anyway, God bless them all and soon they will all be at peace.

      • DanMan says:

        we were neighbors, when I lived there we had on my little block both American and Israeli Jews, two German war brides, a Christian Lebanese family, a Chinese family, a black family, a Cuban family whose parents fled Castro and the rest of us who were Heinz 57s.

        The husband of one of the German gals recorded a very chilling war story from Korea for my youngest as a part of a school assignment to talk to a veteran. When he listened to it he brought it to me with tears in eyes. I mentioned the story to his family after he passed and found out he never mentioned it to them. I really wish I could find that tape.

    • DanMan says:

      Having some great e-mail exchanges today relating stories of our dad’s experiences in WWII. These veterans are vanishing quickly now.

      I was honored to give a eulogy at the Houston’s Veterans Memorial Cemetery in January for a 95 year old friend that had an amazing story. He grew up working in his dad’s upholstery shop and when he joined the Army they quickly identified his skills as a craftsman with an attention to detail. He was sent though the Army Air Corp training routine and ended up being in charge of managing the flight training for the B-29 bombers. The B-29 was a stunning airplane still in design and testing when he started the immersion program. He took a wrecked prototype B-29 and built a functional simulator. With that model he then installed over a dozen fully functional tandem cockpits in a B-24 Liberator (the only other 4-engine aircraft at the time) to train several pilots at a time. He ultimately built 124 of these training planes and almost every pilot tandem that manned a B-29 went through his training program. About 8,000 pilots in all.

      The pictures of his work is amazing. The wiring harnesses, hydraulic lines, switches, lights, gauges and all of it in every station was fully functional and could be over ridden by the main pilots of the trainer.

      He also designed the conversion of the B-24s into C-109 fuel tankers. Those tankers were modified to “get over the hump” which was the 28,000 ft Himalayas in order to get fuel to China so bombers could be flown from ships to Japan and then head to China for refueling to get back.

      The biggest disappointment he expressed to me was he never got promoted past Staff Sergeant or the opportunity to “get in the battle” as he described it. My regret is he did not get the attention and appreciation I came to realize he deserved when I did my research of his service.

  7. DanMan says:

    man the rucas posse sure is quiet, I wonder why?

    • kabuzz61 says:

      Because even they have limits to what the president should do. Good for them.

    • John Galt says:

      I assume I count as a member of the “rucas posse.” I’ve been busy. At a grant review panel meeting. Held in Arlington. We could see Arlington National Cemetery from the conference room windows. Puts things in perspective. One of my grandfathers is buried there.

    • Bart-1 says:

      This will get them to react on D-day During the 3-1/2 years of World War II that started with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and ended with the Surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, the U.S. produced 22 aircraft carriers, 8 battleships, 48 cruisers, 349 destroyers, 420 destroyer escorts, 203 submarines, 34 million tons of merchant ships, 100,000 fighter aircraft, 98,000 bombers, 24,000 transport aircraft, 58,000 training aircraft, 93,000 tanks, 257,000 artillery pieces, 105,000 mortars, 3,000,000 machine guns, and 2,500,000 military trucks.

      We put 16.1 million men in uniform in the various armed services, invaded Africa, invaded Sicily and Italy, won the battle for the Atlantic, planned and executed D-Day, marched across the Pacific and Europe, developed the atomic bomb, and ultimately conquered Japan and Germany.

      It’s worth noting that during the almost exact amount of time, the Obama administration couldn’t build a web site.

      • goplifer says:

        You’re right. Those fools on the left could accomplish all of the greatest feats of the Greatest Generation if they only had the good sense to fully nationalize and militarize the private sector like we did during World War II. Silly liberals.

      • desperado says:

        That lame-ass e-mail has been floating around the intertoobs for about 6 months now. Surprised you’re just catching up. But I guess I shouldn’t be, that’s about how up to speed you are on everything.

      • DanMan says:

        We were united for a common cause, something the rucas posse doesn’t recognize. Divide and conquer is your tactic.

      • so Chris the WWII effort was done by “those on the left”? Your urgent defense of liberalism even when misplaced makes me believe you maybe should consider a name change to “Crist” Ladd.

      • texan5142 says:

        The republicans today will not unite for a common cause …. Healthcare for everyone….. It is party politics before country… guys are just to stupid and partisan to see it. Privatize everything, if you can not make a buck off of it , you are against it.

        Chris am am sad to see the demise of your blog. Take care, you will find that in the future, only the circle jerks will post, everyone else has left.

        Good day sir.

      • texan5142 says:

        Forgot to add, the state you and I once loved may be lost….. Just read the platform of the current Texas GOP convention , crazy shit.

      • CaptSternn says:

        No, at least conservative republicans will not unite in the common couse of the left to do away with individual liberty and rights to create socialism for all. You are right about that, Texan.

      • DanMan says:

        you leaving again bro?

        If the repubs unite to destroy our nation like the dems are doing then then it won’t matter Texan. It may not anyway. I don’t see the left lifting a finger to save the nation. To y’all this American experiment is destroying the planet.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        I’m taking my toys and going home. Man up Texan. You’ve been in the frozen North to long.

      • John Galt says:

        The right often blames the welfare state on two presidents: Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, both on the left (though reality is more complex than that). Every single thing that Bart mentions – which were truly awesome feats – were during the Roosevelt administration (except at the very end, when Truman took over). Patriotism and competence are not limited to one party or the other.

  8. DanMan says:

    another day another lie

    Todays iteration of the Bergdahl deal is Obama could not tell congress about it because the Taliban said they would kill him if the news of a deal leaked.

    The record notes that Bergdahl’s parents, AP, the NYT and the Taliban have written and spoken of the effort publicly for the last two years at least.

    And Obama is basically saying congress can’t be trusted while he negotiates with our enemy. Note that Dianne Feinstein chairs the senate intelligence committee.

    And another easy counter to Obama’s lie du jour…Harry Reid said he was told on Friday, the day before the swap. The Obama camp and Reid had a behind the scenes contretemps over Reid saying Friday and them insisting it was Saturday. Today? Reid’s response is…get ready now, ” What difference does it make?”

    • kabuzz61 says:

      A new poll shows that Obama is found to be more incompetent then GW Bush.

      Commanders in Afghanistan are telling reporters that the military is now going to be hunted so the Taliban can negotiate with us.

      I am waiting for democrats to realize this goes against the pale.

  9. objv says:

    Privacy? Well, Sponge Bob’s privacy was certainly invaded. He might need to get some workout tips from Michelle.

    Seriously, there do need to be more stringent guidelines as to what personal information and images can be shared. The Obama video was funny, but lives can be ruined by some of the defamatory stuff out there.

  10. lomamonster says:

    “Refusing to participate in social media or other methods of surveillance does not prevent the creation of a profile, it merely influences your score (downward, generally).”

    I somehow doubt that the winners of popularity contests on Twitter or Facebook will somehow countenance more fruitful lives in terms of job opportunities, credit ratings, or superior profiles worthy of special consideration.

    In fact, many participants of social sites have experienced the reality that they have unintentionally sabotaged their own lives in an attempt to communicate, woefully weakened personal security, and almost certainly contributed to their own economic demise.

    I’ll take the lower score…

    • DanMan says:

      6/5/2014…a date that will live in infamy. I agree with lomamonster.

      • Bart-1 says:

        it is the 10 year anniversary of Ronald Reagan;s passing however. In honor of that, one of his many favorite quotes: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild, and government to gain ground.” – Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, Paris, May 27, 1788

      • DanMan says:

        yep, good one Bart

        We used to be the exception, hope we get back to that. Can’t happen with Obama and his ilk.

  11. CaptSternn says:

    Privacy is derived from the 4th amendment, the right to be secure in our persons, papers, houses and effects against unreasonable searches and siezures. Generally, a warrant would be required to make the search or siezure reasonable with some exceptions (we could debate the exceptions until the cows come home and probably not agree, but I would say being arrested for committing a crime would mean it would be reasonable for the arresting officer to search and sieze the person, papers and effects).

    Privacy goes out the window to a certain extent in public space as far as being recorded or observed. I do not expect that it would be legal for police to simply stop a person on the street and search them and take property away, and police must obtain a warrant to attach a tracking device to a vehicle.

    On the other hand, there are cameras everywhere, public and private. There are automatic license plate readers, stationary and mobile, that read and record every plate they pass or passes them, stores the date, time and location of the vehicle indefinately. We have several PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) cameras in my city. They are generally aimed at specific locations, like parking lots. But we can manipulate them live, watch and record things going on in other areas. Face recognition systems are being put into use as well (not by my city … yet).

    Privacy on the internet? Forget it. It is all public out here in the ether. There is encryption software that can protect privacy to an extent, but it isn’t used in most places or for email in general. We all need to understand that comments we post are public speech, we may as well be standing on a street corner with a bullhorn (money buys a bigger bullhorn, Citizens United).

    You also bring up the issue of property, the property of our digital or online profile. That is another very interesting issue to look at. Who owns the post I am typing out right now? Who owns your blog? Likely comes down to the Houston Chronicle owned your blog, and still owns what is left of it there. Now WordPress owns it. It is hosted on their servers, their property. If you wanted to own it, you would need a good connection and a decent server at your home or business (if you own the business) to actually own your blog. Then what would it take to Copyright your entries, or our comments?

    Who owns our Google searches? Google owns them. Their servers, they gather the data, the IP addresses, the type and version of browser used, they type of device used … . They can sell it or give it away, even to the federal government or any other government if they so choose.

    As Dan pointed out, even the federal government is mining the new public spaces. One issue that is flagged is people supporting the right to keep and bear arms as insurance against our own federal state and local governments. I do that a lot. Is there an FBI and a CIA agent refreshing a browser to see what CaptSternn says from moment to moment? Is this CaptSternn also Captain Sternn, or Cap Stern, or any other variation (there are quite a few out there.)? Is this domain name owned by the same person as another domain name?

    No, of course there are not agents doing that. But if I were to do some radical crime tonight, they could use the system and find all my comments and domain names, even using that “Way Back Machine” (wow, just used it and saw my old web site, wish I still owned that domain, or was I only renting it, or even that much?).

    Dan asked if you were writing by the pound. But I think you are bringing up an interesting subject and we could both be paid by the pound on this one and not even get into partisan politics. I could go on and on and make a comment longer than your entry. I don’t care for the comment of, “If you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.” That comes from both sides of the aisle and government in general, which is why …

    Yep, stop there because I would be getting into some partisan politics and beliefs.

    To what extent does a person go to protect property and privacy in the age of technology? To what extent can any person reasonably do so?

  12. johnofgaunt75 says:

    By the way GOPLifer, I was expecting a detailed post on the upcoming Canadian elections, whether Justin Trudeau can lead his party back to victory in the shadow of his father, the affect of the New Democratic Party on such a chance and whether the fact that there is not a Canadian team in the Stanley Cup finals will cause a social and moral collapse north of the border.

    • goplifer says:

      They still have their own country up there don’t they. Thats so cute.

    • fiftyohm says:

      Trudeau’s sole qualification to be Prime Minister of this country is having been the son of perhaps the most spendthrift PM in history. He has never done anything other than politics.

      Oh wait…

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        Trudeau’s sole qualification to be Prime Minister of this country is having been the son of perhaps the most spendthrift PM in history.

        Sounds familiar.

  13. CaptSternn says:

    Can’t put much in right now, but one important fact to consider is that only government entities and representatives can violate our civil rights. Individuals and private companies can’t. They can commit crimes a d civil infractions.

    Data collected by Google is voluntarily submitted as with other private companies. Unencripted emails are not secure and not considered private.

    It is a tough subject to tackle indeed. Now to see if this new device will post correctly this time.

    • johnofgaunt75 says:

      Can’t put much in right now, but one important fact to consider is that only government entities and representatives can violate our civil rights. Individuals and private companies can’t. They can commit crimes a d civil infractions.

      Violation of someone’s civil rights is a crime. It is a federal crime in fact.

      Private companies can and have been prosecuted for these crimes. So have individuals.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Got any example cases you can share, 75?

      • DanMan says:

        I think the guys that dragged James Bird got their 1st degree murder convictions upgraded to a hate crime which is a civil rights violation by definition even though blacks can’t be charged with it. With all of the laws dems pass for every group outside of the straight male beige-foot tribe I’m sure there’s a mountain of convictions for civil rights violations out there. Heck even our liberal lesbian mermaid mayor just made it a crime with a fine of up to $5,000 for offending her special critters who declare their sexuality however and whenever they deign to do so.

        to quote me…Bake me a cake nancy boy!

      • CaptSternn says:

        I don’t think so, Dan. A civil rights violation can’t be committed by a non-government entity because a non-government entity cannot envoke the force of the law. There are things individuals, companies and corporations can demand, but the person always has the right to refuse and walk away, even if it means not getting services, goods or a job.

        There can be civil damages, like slaner and liable, and of course there an be crimnal actions, against individuals, but not violations of civil rights, as far as I understand. I looked into this a while back in search of answers and I am 90% sure of my take on it. That is why I dropped reasearching it further. I would welcome example cases to study and reasearch, as I am not 100% certain of it.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        18 U.S. Code § 242 – Deprivation of rights under color of law

        Not sure about the Bird case, but one famous example was the prosecution of the men responsible for the torture and murder of the civil rights workers in Mississippi during the 1960’s. The movie Mississippi Burning was based on this case.

        The state of Mississippi refused to bring murder charges against these men so the federal government brought charges against them for the deprivation of rights under the US code section noted above. This was not and is not a civil punishment or a tort. The men convicted spent up to ten years in jail.

      • CaptSternn says:

        75, the code you stated backs up what I was saying, it has to be done through force (color) of law to be a civil rights violation.

        Dan, you are citing 18 U.S. Code § 245. It says nothing about civil rights.

      • DanMan says:

        yep, I thought about it and recalled the concepts of thoughts being crimes when it was passed. Hates crimes enhance criminal charges.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        That is not what the term “color of law” means. It does not mean the “force” of law. It means “semblance.”

        In other words, the law states that it is a violation of that code section to violate another’s civil right that is derived from even a “semblance” of the law.

        Trust me. You’re wrong on this one Capt.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:


        Hate crimes are an additional crime but they act in a similar way to motive and circumstances of te crime. In other words, our law punishes people differently for, example, murder carried out in the heat of the moment v. murder that is pre-planned and pre-meditated.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Private individials or entities do not enforce law, 75. I am listening to what you are saying and asking for any actual cases that have been tried on this, but so far you are coming up short.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        And I cited a case. US v. Price.

        You’re just too hardheaded to listen.

      • CaptSternn says:

        They were released from jail by the authorities with the intent of killing them, which gets back to government entities and government representatives, not private individuals with no connection to government entities and representaives. Anything else?

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        They were individuals. Some were law enforcment. Some were not.

        It has NOTHING to do with the government taking action. Read the law for god’s sake. That, written in there, is what the law actually says. Not some theoretical viewpoint you have about who can break rights and who can’t.

        I can guarantee you that you would get laughed out of court if you tried to defend someone with such an argument.

      • CaptSternn says:

        I read the law, even posted the title of the specific law and read the case you named. Private individuals can commeit civil and criminal acts against others, but unless they are acting in the name of some level of government they are not using the force of law to violate civil rights.

      • John Galt says:

        Hate crime laws allow federal prosecution of crimes that local authorities refuse to pursue. The Mississippi Burning case jg75 brought up is a classic example. They probably weren’t needed in the Bird case, but it did put the local police on notice that they better pursue this crime to the best of their abilities or someone else would.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        The law clearly makes it a crime for an individual to violate the civil rights of another indivual. This is a criminal offense just like it is a criminal offense to punch someone in the face or take their milk money.

        An indivual who violates the civil rights of another (for example, by killing them), can be charged under this law. Period.

      • CaptSternn says:

        That is not violating their civil rights, that is committing a crime against them. Only through the use or force of law can a person or entity violate the civil rights of another. If I steal from you, I am not using the force of law to do so, so it is simply a crime against you. If the government steals from you, that is a violation of your civil rights.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        Are you being purposely obtuse? The crime is violation of another’s civil rights. It is both a violation of another’s civil rights AND a crime.

        If you murder someone is it crime but not murder? No. It is both.

        This is stupid. You are doing this just to argue. No one can be this inane.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        One of your civil rights is protection of life except in certain circumstances (due process, i.e. trial and execution, self defense, etc.). It is a violation of another’s civil rights to kill them purposely. That is a crime under this law. Individuals, not governments, are the people charged and they are the people sent to jail.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Seems to me you are the one being obtuse and stubborn. I have asked you for examples of cases and the law, and all that you have come up with doesn’t back any of your claims. Civil rights are for protection against the government, the law and their representatives.

      • DanMan says:

        Capt you’re incredible.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        And I cited them. I gave you the Mississippi burning case.

        There is an entire government department called the EEOC that takes in complaints from citizens who believe that their civil rights have been violated. Some are from state and local governments. Some are from private individuals and companies.

        Here’s a little game for you to play if you own rental property. Post a sign that says “I REFUSE TO RENT TO BLACK PEOPLE” outside of the property. What how long you last before you are slapped with charges from the Department of Justice.

        But, maybe you are right and you won’t get charged because “You can’t violate someone’s civil rights. Only a government can.” If you’re wrong…..well….you can spend a couple of years in jail thinking it over.

        More information:

        More examples:
        During 2012, 42 percent of the FBI’s total civil rights caseload involved color of law issues—there were 380 color of law cases opened during the year.

        Most of the cases are brought against government officials but the law is broad and includes EVERYONE.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        And civil rights are not a “protection against government.” Your life is a protection against government? Your liberty? Civil rights are inherent.

        You don’t know what the hell you are talking about as usual.

      • DanMan says:

        yer killin us 75

      • CaptSternn says:

        Rights are inalienable or inherint, civil rights is when dealing with government entities, representatives and laws.

        Why can your employer demand you pee in a cup every so often? Why can an employer demand your social media names and passwords? Why can an employer demand to search your vehicle or belongings on company property? Because you can refuse, even if it means quitting your job or being fired. Why can Google track your searches, gather your information and then give it or sell it to whomever they please? Because you don;t have to give them that information and because their software belongs to them.

        When it is by force of law, either a warrant or reasonable suspicion is required because you can’t refuse, they have weapons and authority. Why can’t levels of government demand drug tests for welfare? Because that would violate a person’s civil rights.

        I really don’t understand your confusion here or why you are so hung up on it. And you still haven’t come up with any laws or examples that back your claims. Do some research on the matter instead of going with the emotional need to simply disagree with me.

  14. johnofgaunt75 says:

    One interesting policy proposal to address this issue is the European Right to Be Forgotten. Frankly, I need to read more on this proposal but I believe it essentially allows individuals to demand that Google and other internet providers remove personal information from their servers.

    Since I’m hardly a tech expert, I am not sure how successful this will be. Can you really “remove” something from the internet?

    Tech companies are also raising the issue that this will be too difficult for them to enforce. Frankly, considering they seem to handle demands to remove copyrighted material from their servers pretty efficiently, I think this is a little stupid.

    Anyway, it will be interested to see how this plays out and if successful, will similar legislation be demanded here in the US.

    • lomamonster says:

      75, the Right to Be Forgotten is a “Catch 22” in that you have to furnish extensive documentation to prove that you are indeed who you are and then it goes to a committee vote and the decision will be made to either delete items from the internet on your behalf or not. In the meantime, you have completed a nicely expanded profile (thank you very much!)…

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        Good point! Didn’t realize it worked like that. Seems like a pretty glaring failure in the law.

  15. kabuzz61 says:

    Well, with all the very heady and important issues, this must rise to the top. Okay, I’ll play.

    In most states and the federal government, they won’t tap a phone unless there is a warrant issues with detail of what they can listen to and they must shut off the recorder when whomever is talking about issues not covered by the warrant. Plus, some states have laws that a person can’t record another without that other person having knowledge. Since phone signals are sent through the ether thus easy to grab if you wanted to, why not apply the same rules to the internet. Specifically saying a web site cannot sell your personal information to another.

    In respect to Obama making Google, Yahoo, etc. share email information, that is incredibly wrong. I know Chris didn’t mention this because he is an Obama booster, but we have a administration that is trampling on our rights. Then he lies to us saying the NSA doesn’t do such a thing, then Snowden releases the detail. I bet he is running scared about what will be released next.

    I am very careful about any sites I do business with. I also do not get involved in lengthy personal emails.

    As to kids, let them be kids. They are using the new walkie talkie’s of their age. The only problem is the potential predator’s that are reading and hunting kids.

  16. Crogged says:

    With minors we can assume any relinquishment of privacy online is in the form of a contract, which means the minor can void the agreement. Unfortunately that is after the fact of the information transfer so this ability doesn’t address the harm done. I think we will have to explore privacy as both a legal and way of life concern, those of us with kids are constantly reminding them that like two people and a ham, the internet is now ‘forever’ long.

  17. DanMan says:

    Holy Moly! you getting paid by the pound for writing now?

    During one of the weekly get togethers we have to discuss and solve all the world’s problems a year or so into Obama’s first term I posited to a good buddy of mine that our every move could be tracked and he laughed. I mentioned our drinking habits, smoking habits, eating habits, health care issues, travel destinations and many other aspects of our menial little lives were being recorded and could ultimately be used to give feedback to anyone having jurisdiction over the information.

    He thought the very idea of anybody even being able to make any use of all the data of all the people was too vast of a concept to worry about. Back then he called me paranoid. He no longer does.

    • kabuzz61 says:

      To put a left spin on it, if it tracks bad guys and conservatives it’s okay. But leave mine alone.

      Like the IRS, okay hassle the conservatives but greenlight mine.

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