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EyeSee You and the Internet of Things: Watching You While You Shop PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 08:53

Gifts have been bought. Presents wrapped. Now all that remains is the giving and receiving. Oh, and the tracking, of course. Little did you know that all the while you were searching out that perfect gift, you were unknowingly leaving a trail for others – namely, the government and its corporate cohorts – to follow.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, the indifference of the general public to the growing surveillance state, the inability of Congress to protect Americans’ privacy, and the profit-driven policies of the business sector, the corporate state could write a book about your holiday shopping habits: the Web sites you’ve visited when trying to decide what to buy, the storefronts you’ve browsed while wandering the mall, and the purchases you’ve made.

Even the store mannequins have gotten in on the gig. According to the Washington Post, mannequins in some high-end boutiques are now being outfitted with cameras that utilize facial-recognition technology. A small camera embedded in the eye of an otherwise normal-looking mannequin allows storekeepers to keep track of the age, sex, and race of all their customers. This information is then used to personally tailor the shopping experience to those coming in and out of their stores. As the Washington Post report notes: “A clothier introduced a children’s line after the dummy showed that kids made up more than half its mid-afternoon traffic. ... Another store found that a third of visitors using one of its doors after 4 p.m. were Asian, prompting it to place Chinese-speaking staff members by that entrance.”

 
Can You Trust the President, Congress, or the Courts to Protect Your Privacy Rights? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 14:05
“The game is rigged, the network is bugged, the government talks double-speak, the courts are complicit, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” – David Kravets, reporting for Wired

Nothing you write, say, text, tweet or share via phone or computer is private anymore. This is the reality of the Internet-dependent, plugged-in life of most Americans today.

A process that started shortly after 9/11 with programs such as National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapping and Total Information Awareness has grown into a full-fledged network of warrant-less surveillance, electronic tracking, and data-mining, thanks to federal agents having been granted carte blanche access to the vast majority of electronic communications in America. Their methods generally run counter to the Constitution, but no federal agency, court, or legislature has stepped up to oppose this rapid erosion of our privacy, and there is no way of opting out of this system.

Consequently, over the course of the past 12 years, Congress, the courts, and the presidents (both George W. Bush and Barack Obama) have managed to completely erode privacy in America. Complicating matters further is the fact that technology is moving so rapidly that we often find ourselves making decisions (or subjected to decisions) whose consequences we can scarcely comprehend.

 
Looking Beyond Election Day: The Issues That Threaten to Derail the Nation PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Thursday, 01 November 2012 18:44

While it may be months before the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy can be fully resolved, Americans cannot afford to lose sight of the very real and pressing issues that threaten to derail the nation.

What follows is an overview of the major issues that both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, despite their respective billion-dollar war chests, have failed to mention during their extensive campaign-trail stumping and televised debates. These are issues that aren’t going away anytime soon. Indeed, unless we take a proactive approach to the problems that loom large before us, especially as they relate to America’s ongoing transformation into a police state, we may find that they are here to stay.

 
Smile, the Government Is Watching: Next Generation Identification PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Tuesday, 18 September 2012 13:22

You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement was scrutinized.” – George Orwell, 1984

Brace yourselves for the next wave in the surveillance state’s steady incursions into our lives. It’s coming at us with a lethal one-two punch.

To start with, there’s the government’s integration of facial-recognition software and other biometric markers into its identification data programs. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is a $1-billion boondoggle that is aimed at dramatically expanding the government’s current ID database from a fingerprint system to a facial-recognition system. NGI will use a variety of biometric data, cross-referenced against the nation’s growing network of surveillance cameras, to not only track your every move but create a permanent “recognition” file on you within the government’s massive databases.

By the time it’s fully operational in 2014, NGI will serve as a vast data storehouse of “iris scans, photos searchable with face-recognition technology, palm prints, and measures of gait and voice recordings alongside records of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos.” One component of NGI, the Universal Face Workstation, already contains some 13-million facial images, gleaned from “criminal mug shot photos” taken during the booking process. However, with major search engines having “accumulated face-image databases that in their size dwarf the earth’s population,” it’s only a matter of time before the government taps into the trove of images stored on social-media and photo-sharing Web sites such as Facebook.

 
Apple: Rotten to the Core? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Thomas L. Knapp   
Tuesday, 11 September 2012 15:05

As a company over the past few years, Apple has come a long way in the wrong direction – exactly the opposite direction from that indicated in the seminal, game-changing Macintosh “1984” commercial. As time goes on, Apple seems to rely less and less on its ability to create a groundbreaking product, and more and more on its ability to use the power of government to prevent others from doing likewise.

The verdict in last month’s patent lawsuit – in which Apple managed to have Korean electronics firm Samsung sanctioned for, among other things, violating an Apple patent on the shape of tablet computers – is just the tip of an iceberg extending well below the waterline of recent history.

 
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