Category Archive 'Privacy'

21 Aug 2015

Love Gov: 5 Episodes

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A series of videos from the Independent Institute depicting Alexis’s relationship with Gov, from first date to mandate.

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23 Mar 2015

German Hacker Replicated Politician’s Fingerprint From Photograph

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GermanMinisterFingerprint
Last December, a member of the Chaos Computer Club claimed to have replicated the fingerprint of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen using photographs of the politician’s thumb.

Wired puts a nice “Justice was done” spin on the story, but gets the identity of the Minister wrong.

A few years ago the German Minister of Justice—kind of like the Attorney General here in the United States—he was pushing very hard for Germans to have biometric data on their national ID cards, and he wanted all Germans to be fingerprinted. And the Germans pushed back, particularly privacy advocates and those in the Chaos Computer Club. And so what they did is when the German Minister of Justice was out at a restaurant, they went ahead and after he left they got the glass that he had left behind, and they were able to lift his fingerprint off of the glass. They then took a photograph, brought it into Photoshop, cleaned it up, and then were able to replicate it on 3D printers, in latex. … [They] included it as a handout in their Chaos Computer Club magazine that went out to 5,000 people, and they encouraged their readers to leave the Justice Minister’s fingerprints at crime scenes all over Germany, which they did.”

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The BBC has the correct story.

A member of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) hacker network claims to have cloned a thumbprint of a German politician by using commercial software and images taken at a news conference.

Jan Krissler says he replicated the fingerprint of defence minister Ursula von der Leyen using pictures taken with a “standard photo camera”.

Mr Krissler had no physical print from Ms von der Leyen.

Fingerprint biometrics are already considered insecure, experts say.

Mr Krissler, also known as Starbug, was speaking at a convention for members of the CCC, a 31-year-old network that claims to be “Europe’s largest association” of hackers.

He told the audience he had obtained a close-up of a photo of Ms von der Leyen’s thumb and had also used other pictures taken at different angles during a press event that the minister had spoken at in October.

Mr Krissler has suggested that “politicians will presumably wear gloves when talking in public” after hearing about his research.

30 Dec 2013

“This Isn’t a Free Country Anymore; This Is a Country in Which You Get Things for Free”

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Try walking into a government building these days, and you’ll meet them.

In one of his best essays, Dan Greenfield, last year, explains how far we have come from the free country invented by the framers. Today’s America is a socialist, paternalist, dirigiste, thoroughly-regulated bureaucracy and police state, in which your personal habits and bank account are public property and in which you need to be searched regularly.

The average American still holds the fanciful belief that, if he isn’t annoying anyone, he should be left alone. To the people running his country, this is as bizarre and unworkable as Phrenology or the Geocentric theory or handing out universal health care without also compelling everyone to buy it.

This is not a nation where people are left alone anymore. This is a nation where they are hounded from the moment they are born until the moment they die by the arms of a regulatory state run by men and women weaned on Cleaver, Alinsky, Fourier, Marx, Wells and countless others. This is a nation where, accordingly, being left alone is the greatest of luxuries.

It takes a lot of money to be left alone. Regulatory space is much more expensive than physical space, and buying it requires investing in lobbyists, fundraisers and lawyers. If you make the right payoffs, then you can buy the privilege of being left alone, exempted from regulations, going uninspected and protected against the agents of the state. But once you do that, you are no longer neutral. You have bought yourself the privilege of not being considered the problem; instead, you have become part of the solution for the people you are paying off.

The Americans bushwacked by ObamaCare, the scam artist’s dream of a tax paid to a third-party in exchange for benefits accrued to a fourth party, still thought they had the freedom to take the middle, to despise meddling politicians in both parties, ignore most things the government did, while living their own lives. They had seen their savings devalued, their homes seized, their lives bedeviled by a thousand regulations, but they still thought that it was possible to take a middle-ground, to reject the solutions by asserting that they are not the problem.

They did not understand that in Cleaverland, in Alinskytown and in Obamaville—no one opts out. Either you volunteer of you get drafted. Raise your hand or you will be called on anyway. Not volunteering to be part of their agenda means that you are the problem.

You, sitting right there in your chair, watching these words move across your screen, are the problem. A problem 311,591,917 human souls strong. You eat too much or you don’t pay enough taxes, you drive your car too often, you haven’t bought solar panels for your roof, you browse extremist websites when you should be browsing government informational sites for tips on how to do or not do all of the above. But most of all… you still don’t understand what a great problem you are for the people running this country into the ground between the Atlantic and the Pacific. They keep trying to solve you, but you don’t go away.

There is no neutrality when dealing with people who reject the very concept of neutrality. Who draw everyone into the long columns of their spreadsheets and catch everyone in their spider’s web. There is no middle ground with people who don’t believe there is a middle ground, who believe that every human on earth is part of the problem and can only opt out of being the problem by joining up with them and following their directives.

That is what we are up against. We confront the Great Solvers of the Human Problem who are determined to arrange everyone and everything to their liking. They began by controlling everything that people did. Now, they have moved on to controlling what people don’t do. If you live, if you breathe, if you stir, move your muscles, track moving objects with your eyes, then there are obligations imposed on you.

ObamaCare is one of the final declarations that there is no opting out. Even if you don’t drive, own a home, own a business, own a dog, or do one of the infinite things that bring you into mandatory contact with the apparatus of your local, semi-local, trans-local, national or global government, you are committed to a task from maturity to death. Your mission is to obtain health insurance, and, in a system in which you become the ward of the government as soon as you taste air, it is the price that you pay for being alive.

In a free country, you are not obligated to do things simply for the privilege of breathing oxygen north of the Rio Grande and south of Niagara Falls. But this isn’t a free country anymore; this is a country in which you get things for free. And there is a big difference between those two things.

18 Nov 2013

Yale May Access Student (and Alumni and Faculty) Emails

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The Oldest College Daily recently advised the Yale community of a potential downside to the use of free University-provided email addresses.

Yale students’ email accounts are subject to search without consent or notification by the University, as outlined in a publicly available but little-publicized document.

Under the University’s Information Technology Acceptable Use Policy, the University maintains the right to access not only employee accounts, but students’ accounts as well. While 55 of 73 students interviewed were unsurprised that the University can monitor their correspondences, few were clear on the specifics under which Yale can search their accounts.

Only three students of 73 interviewed were aware of the specifics of Yale’s policy, with one adding that he learned about the University’s regulations through a class.

“I feel like the University should make clear under what circumstances they consider searching emails,” Sherry Du ’17 said. “The school should do more to publicize this.”

Most students said they were not taken aback by the policy because the email account is provided by Yale.

Graduate students who came to Yale after working in the corporate world expressed especially little surprise over the policy. Ashlee Tran SOM ’14 said employees at large corporations assume their emails are monitored.

“It doesn’t shock me at all that they can do that,” Acer Xu ’17 said. “It’s Yale email, it’s an internal server.”

According to its Acceptable Use Policy, several circumstances warrant access to students’ emails: “preserv[ing] the integrity of the IT systems,” complying with “federal, state, or local law or administrative rules,” carrying out “essential business functions of the University,” “preserv[ing] public health and safety” and producing evidence when “there are reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of law or a significant breach of University policy may have taken place.”

Administrators did not define what actions constitute a significant breach of University policy, though ITS Director of Strategic Communications Susan West described these circumstances as “specific and unusual.”

For the University to access a student account, two administrators must give their approval: University Provost Benjamin Polak as well as the dean of Yale College or the appropriate graduate or professional school, though deans are allowed to delegate this task.

However, in situations where “emergency access is necessary to preserve the integrity of facilities or to preserve public health and safety,” systems administrators may access an account without approval.

No explicit mention is made in the Undergraduate Regulations of the University’s right to access student accounts, though the Appropriate Use Policy is accessible through a link on page 128 of the 131-page document.

“Preserv[ing] the integrity of the IT systems,” complying with “federal, state, or local law or administrative rules,” carrying out “essential business functions of the University,” “preserv[ing] public health and safety” and producing evidence when “there are reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of law or a significant breach of University policy may have taken place.”

Translation: Whenever we feel like it.

23 Aug 2013

Left-wing Scribbler Takes a Shot at Smearing the NRA

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Steve Friess, in the characteristically glib and mendacious style of his branch of the journalistic profession, pointed out the obvious as cause for outrage and alarm, associating conventional organizational marketing practices, in the case of the NRA, with a currently popular journolist meme focusing on privacy paranoia in order to flimflam the rubes and suckers.

[T]he sort of vast, secret database the NRA often warns of already exists, despite having been assembled largely without the knowledge or consent of gun owners. It is housed in the Virginia offices of the NRA itself. The country’s largest privately held database of current, former, and prospective gun owners is one of the powerful lobby’s secret weapons, expanding its influence well beyond its estimated 3 million members and bolstering its political supremacy.

That database has been built through years of acquiring gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, gathering names of new owners from the thousands of gun safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines, and more, BuzzFeed has learned.

The result: a big data powerhouse that deploys the same high-tech tactics all year round that the vaunted Obama campaign used to win two presidential elections.

The NRA is invading my privacy in the exact same fashion as the Wall Street Journal, L.L. Bean, Brooks Brothers, the Yale Club of New York, the Republican Party and all the other groups I belong to, publications I subscribe to, and merchants I shop with. The NRA has a membership/customer list and a marketing database in the same way every group or vendor does. Steve Freiss’s malarkey simply exists in order to flatter the prejudices and political animosity toward the NRA of the statist slave/emasculated urban metrosexual liberal community of fashion, whose members –as usual– bray accord in their own echo chamber. No one with common sense would buy into this nonsense for a New York minute.

05 Aug 2010

Hitchens and Cancer

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Christopher Hitchens shares his current near-death experience.

The notorious stage theory of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whereby one progresses from denial to rage through bargaining to depression and the eventual bliss of “acceptance,” hasn’t so far had much application in my case. In one way, I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light. But for precisely that reason, I can’t see myself smiting my brow with shock or hear myself whining about how it’s all so unfair: I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me. Rage would be beside the point for the same reason. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again? To read—if not indeed write—the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger? But I understand this sort of non-thinking for what it is: sentimentality and self-pity. Of course my book hit the best-seller list on the day that I received the grimmest of news bulletins, and for that matter the last flight I took as a healthy-feeling person (to a fine, big audience at the Chicago Book Fair) was the one that made me a million-miler on United Airlines, with a lifetime of free upgrades to look forward to. But irony is my business and I just can’t see any ironies here: would it be less poignant to get cancer on the day that my memoirs were remaindered as a box-office turkey, or that I was bounced from a coach-class flight and left on the tarmac? To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?

Hitch writes wittily and one admires his courage, but I must say I do find myself a bit puzzled by the eagerness of professional literati like Hitchens not merely to share, but to avidly harvest, process, package, and market such close-to-the-bone experiences as a personal fatal illness.

My own natural inclination is to regard broad areas of personal life and experience, particularly this kind, as completely private. I would no more desire to tell an audience of strangers what I thought when I learned I had a fatal condition than I would care to disrobe in public.

It seems certain to me that my attitude must be a residual feature of my primitive, ordinary American, working class origins. Nothing could be more characteristic of membership in the Ivy League, elite world of high achievement, celebrity, and success than rushing, as quickly as possible following any notable experience, to the keyboard and hurrying one’s account of myself and whatever into print.

All experience was once considered useful for the forging of the human character. Today, all experience is simply more fodder for publication.

True members of the community of fashion are always marketing themselves. One can picture Hitchens arguing with Charon about not being permitted to retain his Blackberry and the lack of Wifi access from the River Styx. There would be such a huge opportunity for a major feature on exactly what a chap sees, and everything he experiences, as he is drawn irresistibly in the direction of that bright white light. How frustrating it would be!

Let’s hope Hitchens beats the odds and can go on writing and self-revelating for a long time yet.

12 Apr 2006

Thinking About Privacy and Transparency

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Harvard Law Professor William J. Stuntz in New Republic has a provocative essay on the history of privacy (both that private citizens and that of government), attitudes of the left and right toward both, and considers the contemporary impact and proper limits of the right to privacy of the individual and exposure to public scrutiny of government operations.


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