Before we get to the Consumerist part of the post, I thought I’d highlight a speech by Alan Grayson on the NSA surveillance revelations. For most NC readers, a lot of his talk will be old hat. However, he does a good job of unpacking how the Verizon order and PRISM programs violate long-standing laws about the scope of Department of Defense operations, the one Supreme Court ruling on phone record requests, and the Fourth Amendment. This video is also a great introduction for friends and family members who want to catch up on this story.
I’m opening up the thread for readers to discuss what they have done or plan to do in the wake of the revelations about the extent of NSA surveillance. Those of you who were clued in to how bad it is and have taken appropriate precautionary measures might give the rest of us some pointers. For instance, one buddy in the IT business stopped having anything to do with Google a while back.
A fellow finance blogger is of a similar mindset: “I have since moved my email away from Google and stopped using Google’s browser. I have installed a VPN as well.”
I’m actually very bothered by the geolocation issue, the idea that my movements can be tracked. Fortunately, I have an ancient stupid phone (no GPS). I promptly went and bought another as well as another battery, and I’m keeping it off the overwhelming majority of the time. I’m at my desk a ton, and I actually believe in being off duty the little bit of the day I’m away, so unless I want to make a call during my peregrinations, it can wait.
I wonder what iPad users will do. I had been told by a colleague (prosecutors in his family and lots of government contacts) that any iPad after the iPad 2 was a surveillance device, as in it could spend videos and sound from the room it was in. He refused to own one precisely because he was concerned about government snooping. NC regular Ned Ludd provided some confirmation:
The woman is visible from thousands of miles away on a hacker’s computer. The hacker has infected her machine with a remote administration tool (RAT) that gives him access to the woman’s screen, to her webcam, to her files, to her microphone. He watches her and the baby through a small control window open on his Windows PC, then he decides to have a little fun.
This is the type of thing that black hat hackers can do. The iPad and iPhone are suppose to be malware-proof since all the apps are approved by Apple. However, Apple could include spying technology, into iOS, for the NSA. The iPad contains a built-in microphone and a camera. It can technically spy on you and what you are doing, unless you stick it in a soundproof bag.
Will some clever developer come up with a program that sends a white noise (or better yet, horrible Muzak) to the mike and a test pattern to the camera when not being actively used by the owner? I bet iPad users who understood the issue would pay $10 in a heartbeat (but the reality is you just might get an escalating software war on this front).
Of course, I have subversive ideas that are just too hard to implement, like for arranging for friends (or better yet, cooperative strangers, if you could figure out how to find trustworthy ones) to take your geolocation device, um, cell phone, on visits to places you’d NEVER go, say like having one of my gay buddies take my cell phone with him to a bathhouse. If you can’t escape the NSA, the next best is to corrupt their data.
The mainstream media is starting to peddle advice, not all of which is good. I’m astonished to see an Associated Press story on how to keep your information secure put encryption of e-mails at the top of its list. Encrypting e-mail is like waving a big red “Look at me, I have something to hide” flag to the spooks UNLESS a large number of people start routinely encrypting at the same time.
Now of course the other route is Otpor to make fun of the NSA as often and in as visible a way as possible. Here’s one idea from GitHub. And that is one last advantage of the Web. While the officialdom will stomp on public stunts (too many people people in one place is now deemed a danger to public safety), Web-based tauntings are still a tolerated form of protest.
Maybe we just need to recognize that we live in a world like the one depicted in Robert Heinlein’s novel Friday, where the only communiques that are secure are carried by special couriers. If so, that’s yet another way the world has been redesigned so that the 1% have a better option, but woe betide the rest of us. Nevertheless, any reader idea or actions very much appreciated.