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Government Adds Consumer Databases To Mining Queries 179

Posted by Zonk
from the next-up-grammar-school-records dept.
mrraven writes "According to an article in the Washington Post the government is increasingly using consumer databases for surveillance purposes. " From the article: "It is difficult to pinpoint the number of such contracts because many of them are classified, experts said. At the federal level, 52 government agencies had launched, or planned to begin, at least 199 data-mining projects as far back as 2004, according to a Government Accountability Office study."
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Government Adds Consumer Databases To Mining Queries

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  • Uh Oh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by nog_lorp (896553) * on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:30PM (#15543282)
    I knew I shouldn't have answered the question "When is the last time you purchased weapons of mass destruction?" on that Safeway survey!
    • I knew I shouldn't have answered the question "When is the last time you purchased weapons of mass destruction?" on that Safeway survey!

      You should do like I did, and have a Safeway card registered under the name Richard M. Nixon. Presidents are immune from questioning about WMD.
    • I knew I shouldn't have answered the question "When is the last time you purchased weapons of mass destruction?" on that Safeway survey!

      1) Go to $grocery_store
      2) Fill out club card
      3) Put the name and address of someone you don't like
      4) Buy weapons of mass destruction on sale with club card
      5) ???
      6) (Oil) Profit!

      • by TWX (665546)
        Just register your club card to some fake name and always pay cash.

        I'm sure that they're wondering who the hell "Oliver Clozoff" is, and why he or she is buying Mentos and Diet Coke at the same time...
        • We always use my inlaw's club card. The data has to look pretty funny as it would all be concetrated in two stores many miles apart and with very different buying habits.
    • Dell asks you if you are a terrist. Better say no [silicon.com] (the story)
      • It's like the entry paperwork for the USA where they ask if you are visiting to assasinate the president. The goal is to help establish that you are a lying, conniving individual if for some reason you end up in court on such charges.

        Xix.
    • Re:Uh Oh! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by demachina (71715) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:17PM (#15545620)
      It would be possible to use this kind of mining to catch someone buying a ton of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, some plastic barrels, and diesel fuel. You might catch an Al Qaeda terrorist or a Tim McVeigh preparing a very large bomb, or you might net about a million farmers. Presumably your data mining would use other information sources to narrow the focus to Arab Muslims who are either terrorists or farmers. Of course when you do that you would let all the Tim McVeigh's out of your net. Maybe you can factor in Ryder truck rentals to get them back in the net, so the query is:

      Ammonium Nitrate && barrels && diesel && (Arab Muslim || Ryder truck rental)

      I don't know about anyone else, but I would really prefer the government stop spying on all Americans in a mostly futile effort to catch a relatively small number of Muslim extremists. I would prefer the government had focused on dismantling Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, since they were actually responsible for 9/11 and are still mostly not held to account. I would have preferred they hadn't gone off on a tangent and off the deep end in Iraq and in spying in the U.S. For example it is insane to make everyone take off their shoes in airports, from now on, because one guy put some explosives in his shoes once and it didn't even work. People on airplanes will freak if they see someone try to light their shows now so I'm not very worried about this vector of attack. It was insane to create a concentration camp in Gitmo, and it is really insane to snatch up innocent people with Rendition, endorse the use of torture, and dismantle due process all of which have permanently tarnished the U.S. in the eyes of the world and made many Americans ashamed.

      I can probably live with the FBI focusing some attention on Arab Muslim men who are in this country on visa's of one and if they are doing things that are suspicious, get a FISA warrant and spy the hell out of them. FISA warrants are almost never denied and at least there would be some restraint on the spying. All the spying that is going on has NO restraints on it, and is ripe for and probably is being abused.

      Sure its possible another 9/11 plot slips through the cracks, but its a smaller price to pay than the one we are paying by turning the U.S. in to a police state, reviled by the rest of the world, and that is what we are getting. Even worse we are getting a police state that can make extensive use of computers and networks to create a police state that is more all knowing and all seeing than any in history. And it is a police state with nukes, lots and lots of nukes, and the most powerful military in world history(though it still can't control the streets of Baghdad).

      A new 9/11 plot might kill some people but the war in Iraq has killed far more people than 9/11 did and in a year or so it will have killed more Americans than 9/11 did, having passed the 2500 mark this week. A new 9/11 plot might cause a lot of economic damage like the first, but the war in Iraq is heading towards the half trillion dollar mark, we are spending more there every month than we spent during the height of Vietnam(adjusted for inflation) and Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. American should have whacked Al Qaeda after 9/11, and then laughed in their face and said we aren't going to play your game, we are going to be an even better and freer country than before and do some things that would make a real difference in the world, and in the eyes of Muslims, like resolve the mess in Israel.

      All I'm saying is:

      Dear Government, Please stop being insane, Please stop spying on me, Please stop wasting all my tax dollars and borrowing my country in to a hole it will never get out of. Please stop making the rest of the world completely hate America and Americans. I like the rest of the world and I would like them to like me. The fewer people who hate America, the fewer people there are who will want to blow it up. Please FBI keep an eye on Ara
      • "...or you might net about a million farmer."
        No, farmers register for use.

        "I would really prefer the government stop spying on all Americans in a mostly futile effort to catch a relatively small number of Muslim extremists."
        Yes, ever so much easier to follow the trail of debris and body parts, eh? Yes, they are small in percentage and number, but they do mega-death and damage. I prioritize for proaction, not reaction.

        "I would prefer the government had focused on dismantling Al Qaeda and the Tali
        • Re:Uh Oh! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by demachina (71715) on Friday June 16, 2006 @12:49PM (#15549650)
          "Actually, they are. Perhaps you don't read enough news. Or, maybe you think those organizations are small monoliths, restricting their members and activities to that area?"

          The U.S. and Pakistan has made no viable effort in the tribal areas of Waziristan [csmonitor.com]. Afghanistan and has turned it in to a narco-state thanks to the corruption of the U.S. supported government, and on the other hand a home for a resurgent Taliban. You see the U.S. backed government is so bad, the Taliban looks good by comparison. Rumsfeld's failed strategy of using the North Alliance on the ground and the U.S. in the air, scattered the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It did very little to actually catch or punish them.

          " In it you list things the FBI should have done (which would have "stopped" 9/11), which is pretty much exactly what they're trying to do now."

          You fail to grasp the concept. You see the FBI could have stopped 9/11 just using some basic police work and good communication, with the powers they had pre 9/11 and and pre patriot act. They don't need to spy on all Americans to catch Al Qaeda. The FISA courts worked fine the way they were, sure it was some paperwork but that is a small price to pay to prevent spying on innocent people.

          What they are doing now is massive overkill and of dubious merit. It is in like making you take your shoes off to get on an airplane. It makes it seem like they are doing something when in fact they are just punishing innocent people to give those same people a false sense that they are doing something effective.

          "They are buying data from the commercial sector and using it. This is spying how?"

          Because they can and probably are correlating it with all the other data they have, much of which is illegally obtained like our phone call records, and evesdropping on our every form of communication without FISA warrants, probably illegally accessing our IRS records, sneak and peak searches which is basically the Patriot act authorizing the government to break and enter in to our homes and businesses withour our knowledge.

          The cumulative effect is our government is accumulating vastly more information about us than they should. Knowledge is power and when our government can use computers and networks to accumulate all this information about us they are becoming enormously dangerous. If I could trust them that would be one thing, but Hoover and Nixon and all the bad things the CIA and FBI have done in the past when they started spying on America suggests they can't be trusted. It is inevitable all this spying will turn in to spying on dissidents, to suppress dissent, and smearing political opponents to suppress democracy, and to just suppress our right to free speech and right to privacy in general.

          " (You don't think they would have discovered the Saudis learning to take off and not land without the "mining", do you?)"

          Dude, the flight schools they were at reported them to the FBI because they were being suspicious. As I recall TWO different schools reported them in Arizona and I think Minnesota. THERE WASN'T ANY MINING INVOLVED. They ARRESTED Moussaoui a month before 9/11 because of it, and were holding him on a visa violation. The FBI could have foiled 9/11 with some basic police work but they didn't because they are an inept bureaucracy.

          " How then do you suggest they determine those individuals that are doing suspicions things which might lead to another 9/11? "

          Arab men in this country on visa's deserve more some scrutiny by default, since all the 9/11 attackers were Arab men and citizens of Middle Eastern countries and likely will be in the future. Unfortunately there is a degree of racial profiling there but, but its against people who aren't U.S. citizens and I am OK with that, that is a smaller price than trashing the civil liberties of citizens who have done nothing wrong nor will they.

          You see you are presuming all this bullshit is actually going to foil th
      • Unless terrorists are so stupid they use their discount card when buying nitrate fertilizer or pay it their credit card or can't resist having a frequent flyer card for the frequent flyer miles of all those plane trips to training camps in the Middle East and Africa ...

        This is aimed at other purposes such as:
        - Profiling by seing what kind of books, music, magazines, newspapers and other such thing people buy.
        - Detecting criminals and people that try to escape taxes by estimating how much they are spending m
    • You are buying:
          Chemicals:Semtex
          Clothing:Balaclava

      Other customers who have bought these items also bought
        detonators
        AK-47
        hand grenades
        bulk ammounium nitrate fertiliser
        anthrax
        sarin gas
        religious items:

  • by qw(name) (718245) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:31PM (#15543289) Journal

    Commercial companies are doing far worse and most of them don't ensure the same level of privacy as the government would maintain.

    • I don't have a great deal of faith in the government's regard for my privacy. I think it is all too likely that some of this data will either be:
      1) "Mentioned" in a conversation with a reporter, or
      2) Recorded in a portable medium (disks of some sort) and lost accidentally.
      • You should have the same level of trust for the companies that are quietly selling your company to anyone that is willing to pay the price.

        At least with the government, they are looking for illegal activity (currently). The commerical world could give a rip what you do, or how their actions harm you. It's all about making money.

        Every visit a site to buy something, tell them to not bug you, and the next day your new email address is thrashed with SPAM? Happens all the time to me. I create a new email add
        • by Goblez (928516)

          The problem with your assement here is the definition of what's illegal. Sure, that's fine if it's ensuring that violent criminals are being taken care of, but as it's used against (yours, ours, my) children for downloading music, or later down the road against those that disagree or speak against what they do (or what we don't know that they do), then you have a problem.

          And maybe if you think everyone is just group hating the government, maybe you need to pay closer attention.

          • But the problem with your argument is that with the laws you don't like and your rampant distaste for the government, you STILL get to know how the information is being used.. in persuit of busting people that break the laws. We know what those laws are. You should already be avoiding them.

            With a company.. you have absolutely no clue or control over what they do or how they want to perceive your actions. Take the RIAA for example. If they found you had a single MP3 on your computer they're likely to cal
            • by jkauzlar (596349) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @06:34PM (#15544517) Homepage
              The only example you gave was the RIAA, which is a monopolistic sort of union that by reason of its monopoly can get away with all kinds of shit that most companies can't. K-Mart has to be fairly courteous to their customers and not accuse them of terrorism, pat them down before leaving the store, etc. Microsoft can get away with some of the same shit, like putting spyware in their OWN operating system. All of that shows what kind of unreasonable power they have. Most companies that are not monopolies are just trying to improve their marketing, which is mostly alright with me, considering that the alternative is blind mass mailing. The gov't is not trying to sell us anything. They want to maintain as much power as possible over the people. We don't know if they want to protect Americans or protect themselves, hence the checks and balances of the Constitution. That last point is what most Americans don't seem to get. Our 'freedom' relies entirely on that point.
          • The problem with your assement here is the definition of what's illegal. Sure, that's fine if it's ensuring that violent criminals are being taken care of, but as it's used against (yours, ours, my) children for downloading music, or later down the road against those that disagree or speak against what they do (or what we don't know that they do), then you have a problem.

            Part of the problem is that violent criminals are dangerous to try and catch. Someone who is activly planning a mass murder isn't likely
    • by mrraven (129238)
      What like sell their data to the government? Hmmmmm...
    • by Umbral Blot (737704) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:36PM (#15543341) Homepage
      Yes but we expect companies to be greedy and to try to get away with as much as they can. On the other hand the government is supposed to represent the people and respect our rights. A company is created by a few people for their benefit, but the government is created by all the people, and it should be run to the benefit of everyone, not just the power-hungry and the wealthy.
      • but the government is created by all the people, and it should be run to the benefit of everyone, not just the power-hungry and the wealthy.

        i suggest you read Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" to gain some more insight on this topic. the united states wasn't created by all, it was created by a minority. and throughout our history, most everything has been done with the power-hungry and wealthy in mind.

        government as an ideal may strive to grant and protect people's rights; but governme
      • Democracy... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:28PM (#15543931)
        Yes but we expect companies to be greedy and to try to get away with as much as they can. On the other hand the government is supposed to represent the people and respect our rights. A company is created by a few people for their benefit, but the government is created by all the people, and it should be run to the benefit of everyone, not just the power-hungry and the wealthy.

        <rant>
        Theoretically, in a democracy, the government is elected by the people. Unfortunately the selection of candidates available to be elected is usually controlled by a smal clique of wealthy people since it has become so expensive to run for office that no normal person can afford it without sellign his/her soul to these special interest groups. So in effect it is they who are create the government, not the people. Sometimes I get the feeling that the only thing that keeps democracy from being a totally unworkable system of government is the fact that the pack of weasels that make up the government are usually to busy the stabbing each other in the back to concentrate fully on their great design which seems to be to bring about the total collapse of human civilization as we know it. That and the fact that once in a while.... uhmmm.... make that once in a loooooooong while the people grow a spine, get off their ass and remind their 'elected representitives' that governments should never forget to fear their electorate.
        </rant>
      • A government of the people, by the people, for the people? What kind of whacked out pinko commie rhetoric is that? For the people...puleeeze... Next what will you want? Votes that actually count? How about free karma points while you are at it? I guess you will want a government that sticks to that liberal manifesto...what do you call it...The Bill of Rights next? Don't you know that thing is also called the Presidential toilet paper?

        This is the NSA and we approve this post.

      • Private firms, if the system is kept competitive, will not share their data with competitors, past a certain level of detail. If you have a history of not paying debts, they'll share that. But if you are a particularly good prospect, as compared to a bad one, they'll tend to hoard that information - selling it if they can to companies which don't compete with them, but never sharing it with their direct competitors. And those private firms have as their chief, often only, goal to sell you something. Now, it
      • On the other hand the government is supposed to represent the people and respect our rights. A company is created by a few people for their benefit, but the government is created by all the people, and it should be run to the benefit of everyone, not just the power-hungry and the wealthy.

        A government of the people, for the people, and by the people? Are you from the past???
    • Commercial companies are doing far worse and most of them don't ensure the same level of privacy as the government would maintain.

      The government can put you in jail.
    • "same level of privacy as the government would maintain.

      Yes, the U.S. government goes to great [slashdot.org] lengths [slashdot.org] to protect the information it collects.
    • by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:41PM (#15543399)
      ANd that isn't right either. The US needs some real data protection laws, similar to whats in Europe. SOmething along the lines of "Its illegal to sell non-annonymized personal data, without their written permission. You are not allowed to make price breaks or sales of goods/sevices dependant on giving written permission" and "It is illegal to give personal information to the government without a court order." and put a nice long jail term and fine on each of those.
      • There is a slight problem.

        You are asking the legislature and executive branches of government to pass bills into law which would limit their power.

        Not. Gonna. Happen. in today's world. :(

        Use your vote wisely. Vote out the current scumbags, and give a new crook a chance. ;)
      • The US needs some real data protection laws, similar to whats in Europe.
        I've come to the same conclusion. I'm not aware of proposed legislation to do this, but if any bubbles up I'll be phoning my congresscritters in support of it. It's way overdue.
    • "Commercial companies are doing far worse and most of them don't ensure the same level of privacy as the government would..."

      Yup...heck, if they connect to Acxiom's [acxiom.com] databases...they'll already have about all the info on US citizens they need.

      They get records from all types of sources, US Postal change of address, states that sell drivers licenses, phone books, warranty cards...etc.

    • Commercial companies are doing far worse and most of them don't ensure the same level of privacy as the government would maintain.

      You seem to have that backwards.

      Most people have expressed very loudly they don't trust companies with this kind of informtaion, and try very hard to ensure as few companies as possible know anything. I do not participate in surveys, store promotions, or a lot of things.

      It has always known that it would be illegal for the government to have that kind of information. It has alwa

  • by koreth (409849) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:34PM (#15543322)
    After all, I'm sure they're only scrutinizing people who are actually doing something wrong. It's the government! We can trust the government to do the right thing and not abuse its power. Unless it's the part of the government that gives money to poor people or sets school standards. That part of the government is run by a bunch of incompetent lunatics. But the part that secretly tabulates data about people, of course they're all good guys.
  • Here we go (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Luscious868 (679143)
    Cue the rants by the tin foil hat and the anti-Bush crowd (aka 80% of Slashdot).
    • Here I was all set to put on my tinfoil hat and rant about Bush and you came along and ruined it by predicting what I would do in advance. That's pretty clever, did you think up that tactic all by yourself? You see what he did everybody? He claimed we would all rant about Bush, and implied that anyone who does is akin to someone with a mental illness who wears tinfoil on his head to keep out the evil mind rays. That is so clever, that is just so, so fresh, how did you come up with that? Wow, just... wow. I
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:34PM (#15543329)
    "It was terribly dangerous to use cash when you were in any public place and not a member of a loyalty program. The smallest thing could give you away. A falafel here, an unconscious visit to a halal butcher, a habit of not drinking, anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to have insufficient data on your credit card record, was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Amspeak: feedcrime"

    - G. Orwell, Functional Specification: A Consumer Data Mining Model for Homeland Security

    The damndest part is that I drink like a fish, and the only problem I have with pork is my Homeresque refusal to believe that things as wonderful as bacon, ham, and sausage can all come from the same, magical animal.

    Unfortunately, I live next to a really good butcher's shop, and have no need of a loyalty-card based chain grocery stores. Guess I gotta get out there and start buying Lee Greenwood albums on my credit card or something.

    • I pay cash. I get my "loyalty cards" by finding them in parking lots. I have about 4 differnt cards on my keyring for the same store, none of them were "registered" by me in my name. As long as I don't loose my keys, and the thing gets dumped in a mailbox, I'm fine. (most say "if found, drop in any mailbox, postage guaranteed") Or maybe I'm even better off with all the different cards. The store will not know who's it is.
  • by joeyspqr (629639) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:36PM (#15543343)
    given the bang up job the gov't is doing in New Orleans and Iraq, I don't see much to worry about.

    move along
    • That's one of the problems. Do you trust them to be competent enough to keep all of the data secure for criminals in the public?
      • That's one of the problems. Do you trust them to be competent enough to keep all of the data secure for criminals in the public?
        The greater risk is likely to come from spys in their midst. Regardless of if these spys work for other governments, organised crime or even corporate entities. Combined with governments just handing over the information to other governments...
  • Hmmm . . . Maybe I shouldn't be buying those evening gowns with my credit card.
  • If this doesn't reek of corporate interest and funding classified projects with private sector funds then I don't know what does. At the end of this rainbow lies a HUUGGGEEE pot of gold once the "mission is aborted". I mean what do they want to know, if terrorists are seasonal shoppers or impulse buyers?! Or maybe you can spot them by brand. I always see terrorists wearing Nike before they carry out an act of sedition...Air force One's usually, although they have been spotted in Air Huarache's in some rando
  • and will proudly present my papers when searched by the Politburo's duly designated Security Police.
  • exposes ordinary people to ever more scrutiny by authorities while skirting legal protections designed to limit the government's collection and use of personal data

    Eh, what’s wrong with an end run around the safeguards protecting our freedom and liberty? They act like that’s a bad thing or something.

    I guess when the “strict constructionists” say that the Constitution isn’t a “living document,” that must imply that it’s just some smelly old corpse to be kicked

  • If you data mine in their systems or otherwise snoop too deeply into NSA or the FBI you get yourself 5 to 10 years in federal P.M.I.T.A. prison.
  • "It is difficult to pinpoint the number of such contracts because many of them are classified,"

    If a contract is classified, who gets to bid on it? Just the big defense agency companies? Where's the oversight?
  • Buy my data. I don't have anything to hide (sorry paranoid /.ers I just don't care, as long as they are not telling me what to do). But I want Royalties for usage anytime my results are yielded in a search!
  • Huh ?

    Just i have finished replying to a comment requesting that i provided an example to 'corporations taking control of a country' for another discussion.

    It is a giant conspiracy against people of united states. And money is at the helm.
  • Well, DUH! Don't buy your copy of The Anarchists Cookbook on Amazon if you don't want to be called in for questioning every time some nimrod torches a McDonalds. It's just common sense.
  • by QCompson (675963) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @04:52PM (#15543494)
    What is so frightening about the data that the NSA/FBI is gathering about U.S. citizens is that while they claim it will solely be used to look for terrorists today, next year they will be using it to look for drug dealers, then file-sharers, then political "radicals", etc.

    The Patriot Act was supposedly passed to help law enforcement in their fight against terrorism, but it didn't take long before it was being used in the "war on drugs". When the Patriot Act was renewed recently, they added a provision about methamphetamine.

    In Attorney General Gonzo's own words: Importantly, the legislation provides additional tools for protecting our mass transportation systems and seaports from attack; takes steps to combat the methamphetamine epidemic that is sweeping our country; and closes dangerous loopholes in our ability to prevent terrorist financing.

    It is scary how this was packaged up under the "terrorism-oogity-boogity-label". This may all seem a bit off-topic, but it demonstrates that the government is willing and able to lump other issues into the terrorism catch-all.
    • You are overreacting. The primary purpose of this is just to look for the terrorists who are buying wood matches and lighter fluid in order to burn American Flags.
    • What is so frightening about the data that the NSA/FBI is gathering about U.S. citizens is that while they claim it will solely be used to look for terrorists today, next year they will be using it to look for drug dealers, then file-sharers, then political "radicals", etc.

      What proportion of the time will it actually get used to look for actual terrorists? There's also the issue of what happens when the "wrong" terrorists get caught. e.g. radical Zionists, Christian anti-abortionists, Arabs opposed to Bin
  • history? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sum.zero (807087) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:06PM (#15543656)
    i so love it when a vested interest puts words in the public's mouth.

    from the article:

    "The public is willing to bend the rules a little bit with respect to privacy," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, adding that Americans showed similar tendencies during the "red scares" after World War I and World War II. "They are giving the government the benefit of the doubt in large part because they are concerned about terrorism."

    yep, the us government really showed how much they can be trusted in these situations. mcarthy didn't go over the top at all...

    sum.zero

    ps yes, that was sarcasm
  • Lest we forget:

    (o) (o) [wikipedia.org]

    This is their ultimate goal. Knowing everything about everybody at all times. Except for themselves, of course...
  • by Peter Trepan (572016) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:20PM (#15543843)
    THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING WAL-MART

    GRO LITE x 12............$34.68
    MAX STR ROBITUSSIN x 4...$14.23
    ASS-TRO GLIDE.............$7.98
    PETS/HMSTR............... $2.98
    MUSIC/B.STREISAND........$16.98

    TOTAL: $76.85

    IN ACCORDANCE WITH NEW HOMELAND
    SECURITY DIRECTIVES, THIS INFORMATION
    IS BEING FORWARDED TO THE NSA, WHO
    WILL THEN FORWARD RELEVANT INFORMATION
    TO LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS.

    HAVE A NICE DAY!
  • On the plus side... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:23PM (#15543873)
    Unlike things like the "do not fly" list(s) where you aren't (officially) allowed to know if your name is on the list or not -- at least if the information is commercially available you can buy it yourself and find out what big brother knows (and presumably doesn't know) about you.

    You can also use that info to judge the effectiveness of whatever disinformation you use to protect yourself. For example, a good friend of mine had a fake id made up with her real name. But it had a bogus age (younger than her real age, she is a woman after all), bogus address and bogus SS# (or maybe DL# I forget). She was tired of all the clubs that swipe the magstripe to "check id" when in fact they are "swiping" your personal information.

    This use had the unexpected side-effect of creating a completely bogus "identical twin" in a surprisingly large number of these commercial databases with the same name and same town, but otherwise completely different info. In some databases like the address lookups on yahoo and other places, her "twin" is the only entry - her real info isn't there. At the very least, this twin should confuse any stalkers (she's had a few before this development).
  • by golodh (893453) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @05:30PM (#15543948)
    Remember that admiral Poindexter with his Total Information Awareness (TIA) programme? It looks as if his ideas have been implemented from the first to the last. Links: http://www.p2pnet.net/issue03/page1.html [p2pnet.net] and http://www.p2pnet.net/issue05/page1.html [p2pnet.net]
  • I use the "Fletch" method to disguise my consumer loyalty cards. I have been thanked as "Mr. Nugent", "Mr. Truman" and "Mr. Cocktosen".

    Otherwise try these tips...
    Going

    Diss credit: Want to be hard to find? Start by dashing off stern opt-out letters to the big database companies and credit bureaus - Experian, TransUnion, Equifax. These folks may make a mint peddling personal info, but they can be cajoled into stopping. First, though, they'll make you jump through hoops - like filling out a 1040-sized form or idling in toll-free hell. Junkbusters [junkbusters.com] has a good list of opt-out addresses.

    Anonymize: Ditch your ISP and sign up with a service that lets you surf by proxy, keeping your IP address concealed. Send email via an anonymous remailer like Mixmaster, a digital middleman that scrambles timestamps and message sizes. And if you're going to be advocating the violent overthrow of the government or bragging about your cool new bong, make sure your remailer routes messages through multiple machines.

    Grok the fine print: Boring as it sounds, read the privacy statements that clutter your mailbox around tax time and sever ties with companies that admit, "Our privacy policy may change over time" - industry lingo for "We reserve the right to screw you."

    Going Further

    Ditch the digits:Want to drop out?Start by rustling up a new Social Security number.

    The Social Security Administration doesn't accept paranoia as a criterion for granting a new card, but it recognizes cultural objections and religious pleas. One stratagem: Contend that your credit has been irrevocably damaged by a number-related snafu, or that you live in fear of a stalker who knows your digits. Once you switch your SSN, never use it. Instead, dole out 078-05-1120, an Eisenhower-era card that works 99 percent of the time.

    Call cell-free: Use the humble pay phone. Mobile phones are being outfitted with global positioning satellite chips to comply with an FCC mandate. By 2006, all wireless networks must feature 911-friendly tracking technology. Marketers are cooking up ways to capitalize, like zapping burger coupons to your Nokia as you stroll by a fast-food joint.

    Pay full price: You may relish saving 10 percent on Prell, but deep-six your buyers' club cards. Supermarkets and pharmacies haven't yet perfected the art of data mining, but it won't be long. "If you're having a child custody fight, they could subpoena your frequent-shopper cards and say, 'Look, he's buying too many potato chips, he's hurting the kids,'" says Robert Gellman, a Washington-based privacy consultant.

    Gone

    Move: Want to go completely off the grid? Start by moving - address changes bedevil databasers. But don't buy a home. All those loan apps will blow your cover. Residential hotels smell like cheap cigars and urine, but at least you can register under a pseudonym. Give a fake address: 3500 S. Wacker, Chicago, IL, 60616 - the front door for Comiskey Park.

    Toss your cards:Pay cash for everything, and don't plan on a life of luxury. Any (legal) cash transaction more than $10,000 triggers government reporting regulations, which means you can forget about that Cadillac Escalade you've had your eye on. Settle for the subway or bus, using coins rather than prepaid fare cards, which keep a record of trips.

    Go incognito: Facial-recognition gear will soon be ubiquitous in public spaces. To fool the systems, invest in a pair of bulky aviator sunglasses and a hat. If you fear being tailed, alter your gait every time you hit the street - a pigeon-toed shuffle one day, a bowlegged amble the next. There are also Central American plastic surgery mills, beloved of drug lords, that can alter the loops and whorls on your fingertips. It'll set you back 10 Gs, but then, Costa Rican doctors have been known to accept gold Rolexes in lieu of cash.
  • Buy less. Buy cash. Close your credit accounts.

    Actually that's pretty sane advice from a "ending up with more money and less crap you don't need" point of view as well...
  • The phone companies have to collect enough information to allow traffic analysis, just so they can send out bills.

    It's illegal for them to hand that information over to the government. Even Republican Arlen Specter said "There is no doubt that the NSA program violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act" [washingtonpost.com]

    There is no such law to forbid phone companies from selling call records to private consumer research firms. As far as I know, there's no law forbidding the NSA from being yet another customer of the
    • As far as I know, there's no law forbidding the NSA from being yet another customer of the consumer research firms. Presto, "information laundering".

      Ding, ding, ding--we have a winner. The Privacy Act of 1974, FISA, et al mean bupkes if the .gov can trawl the oceans of commercial databases that are conveniently allowed to exist.

    • the next thing to check is whether they're still getting the exact same information

      .... you meant "where" didn't you? Instead of "whether"?

      Does anyone know if the NSA is operating shell corps (similar to the way the CIA operates) ?

  • by jafac (1449)
    Net Neutrality is the trade for the telecoms handing over our call registers.

    The Bankruptcy Bill was the trade for the Credit Card companies handing over our spending records. (I'm sure that there are certain high-end clients that are exempt, of course).

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