Your Tax Dollars At Work – Governmental Surveillance

Dennis Anon

We know that the US government is spying on us.  Just how deep the surveillance goes is a question that is hard to answer.  If you are one of those people who thinks this surveillance is OK because you “have nothing to hide,”  I suppose you could skip this article.  But here’s my question – why do you get upset when your identity is stolen by a cyber-criminal, but yet you are unmoved when your own government does the same thing?

Or how about this realistic scenario:  when you take your computer in for repair, whether at the Geek Squad or through a tech support professional like me, would it be OK if I looked through your documents and pictures, made copies of interesting finds for myself, and shared them with or sold them to other people?  How about if I sent the suspicious stuff to the FBI in exchange for some part-time agent income, just like the Geek Squad did a few years ago.  Maybe they still are?  Still have nothing to hide?  So why would you be OK with a bunch of strangers in a government building doing the same thing?  If you have an answer, please comment below.

I was introduced to Privacy.net  back at the beginning of August, and found Dennis Anon’s article on government surveillance to be interesting, yet chilling.  I highly recommend reading the original article.

Some of the two dozen US governmental agencies that have our information in some detail include:

  • The US Census Bureau – while the information is quite extensive, the Census Bureau is forbidden from sharing this information with other agencies and law enforcement under Title 13 of the US Code.  The information collected can include:
    • Name
    • Social security number
    • Permanent address and/or place of usual residence
    • Age, birth date, sex
    • Place of birth
    • Prior place of residence and duration of residence
    • Ethnicity
    • Marital status
    • Household composition (family members and how they’re all related)
  • The Internal Revenue Service – unlike the Census, the IRS will disclose information under court order to law enforcement agencies.  This information can include your employer, charitable contributions, and business ownership information.
  • Housing and Urban Development
  • Social Security Administration
  • State agencies – the Department of Transportation would have a picture of you that was included on your driver’s license, as well as your height, weight, and eye color.

There are many corporate entities that will supply the government with information if presented with a search warrant or under court order.  These include:

  • Google
  • Apple
  • Microsoft
  • Facebook
  • Comcast and other ISPs – IP address information, search history
  • Cell phone companies – Historical and current GPS location information, browsing history
  • Libraries and eBook stores
  • Credit reporting agencies – in additional to the typical name, address, SSN information, a credit bureau has detailed information about most of your financial history including loans, payment history, and mortgages.
  • Public Utilities – Telephone, ISPs, electric, gas and water utilities.
  • Financial institutions -including transaction amounts, securities bought, sold, or held.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the US collect a lot of information about citizens including the metadata including:

  • Phone metadata – phone number of both parties on a call, call duration, date and time of call.
  • Email metadata – sending and receiving email address, time and date, IP address and location of the sender.
  • GPS location information
  • Firearms registration
  • Biometric information

Dennis has provided a great deal more information in his article, and I encourage you to click over and enjoy it for yourself.

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About the Author:

Cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. Serving small business owners in the St Paul, Minneapolis, and western Wisconsin area since 2001. Cybersecurity and hacking have been a passion of mine since I entered the computer and networking business in 2000. I hold several cybersecurity certifications including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Advanced Security Pratitioner (CASP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Other computer industry certifications include A+, Network+ and Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE). As Cybersecurity Analyst at The WyzCo Group, I help our clients experience high levels of security on their computers, networks, and websites. In addition to consulting on security products and services, we also conduct security audits, vulnerability assessments and full penetration tests. We also work with companies and organizations that need to certify compliance with regulations such as PCI-DSS (credit card processing), HIPAA/HITECH (medical records), and GLBA. We also provide Cybersecurity Awareness Training for clients and their employees. I am a frequent speakers at cybersecurity conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference, the (ISC)2 World Congress, and the ISSA International Conference, and many local community organizations, Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2008.

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