The Invasion of Your Privacy: By Almost Everyone

Who Is Watching You?

The truth is, you don't know. Everything you do on the Internet, from browsing, to online shopping and banking, to sending and receiving email or participating in online chat is available to anyone with the resources to monitor or capture it. If you are being watched, and you probably are, it is very unlikely you will know it.

But who has the resources to monitor your Internet activity?

The first is your ISP (Internet Service Provider). From dial-up to high-speed cable, most ISPs make their resources available to various government and non-government agencies, as well as some individuals and businesses. Many ISPs use something called DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) which is able to "see" and capture everything transferred across the Internet using their servers.

New technologies used by Federal agencies (and nobody knows how many others) called the "full pipe" method captures everything on an "Internet segment" which may include your Internet activity even if there is no intention of monitoring you. That information about you can be stored indefinitely.

If you are not careful, the biggest threat to your online privacy may be yourself. Phishing scams simply trick people into answering emails or Internet surveys, then the handing information over to whoever wants or is willing to pay for the information.

There may even be spies in your own computer.

Viruses, Worms, Trojans, and Bots

Viruses, worms, Trojans and bots are all called, "malware," meaning "malicious software." Malware is sometimes referred to as an, "infection," because it software, or programs, that are harmful or damaging to a computer. Such software is "installed" on your computer through almost anything you download from the Internet from WEB pages to email. Malware is sometime only annoying, but some can be totally destructive.

Trojans and bots are not usually destructive; they are the spies hidden in your computer that can gather and transmit to others any private information stored on your computer including your passwords, your activity, and even details of your personal identification.

There are many programs available for detecting and removing malware, and every computer user ought to be using some kind of malware detection and removal software.

No Privacy On the Internet

As examples of how the government and other agencies are invading every aspect of your freedom and privacy on the Internet, the following links provide evidence. Many of them pertain to the UK, but you can know, the US government and other agencies are engaged in the same kinds of privacy invasion.

Internet black boxes to record every email and website visit. "It is further evidence of the Government's desire to have the capability to vet every telephone call, email and internet visit made in the UK."

Your privacy is an illusion: UK attacks civil liberties "The UK government continues to attack the civil liberties of its citizens, using everyone's favorite bogeyman, the threat of terrorism, to justify its actions. An Outer Party member takes a look at the latest developments."

Last year one of the more troubling provisions of the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) finally came into effect. This piece of legislation made it a criminal offense to refuse to decrypt almost any encrypted data residing within the UK if demanded by authorities as part of a criminal investigation. The penalty for failure to decrypt is up to two years imprisonment for "normal" crime, and up to five years for "terrorism."

"As two men accused of 'terrorism' discovered last week, the long-standing right to silence does not trump the RIPA powers. The UK's Court of Appeal judged last week that the pair, named only as 'S' and 'A,' could not depend on their right of silence to refuse to provide decryption keys. In the decision, the Court stated that although there was a right to not self-incriminate, this was not absolute, and that the 'public interest' can supersede this right in some circumstances."

NebuAd paid ISPs to let it install Internet monitoring machines inside their network. "Those boxes eavesdropped on users' online habits—and altered the traffic going to users in order to track them better. That data was then used to profile users in order to deliver targeted ads on other websites." (They got caught. How many haven't been?)

Great Firewall of Australia: "Whats not mentioned makes it even more scary." In essence this scheme will give the Australian government the means to censor anything and everything it chooses—just like Red China.

UK identities sold for 80 online "Internet fraudsters sell complete financial identities for just 80, according to an online safety group. The details packaged and sold online include names, addresses, passport numbers and confidential financial data such as credit card numbers."

Whistleblower: NSA spied on everyone, targeted journalists. "'The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications -- faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications,' Tice claimed. 'It didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications.'"

UK Approves Police Hacking Home Computers. "The only authorization that's needed for the surveillance is for a senior officer to determine that the monitoring is 'proportionate' and necessary to investigate a 'serious' crime (any crime that carries a possible jail sentence of at least three years). This could involve, for example, anyone suspected of terrorism, pedophilia or identity or credit card theft." Or anything else they drum up as an excuse, of course."

ISPs to record all emails and calls. "Internet service providers are to keep records of emails and online phone calls under controversial new government regulations that come into force today.

"ISPs will be legally obliged to store details of emails and Internet telephony for 12 months as a potential tool to aid criminal investigations. Although the content of emails and calls will not be held, ISPs will be asked to record the date, time, duration and recipients of online communications."

Britain's new Internet law -- as bad as everyone's been saying, and worse. Much, much worse. "The British government has brought down its long-awaited Digital Economy Bill, and it's perfectly useless and terrible. It consists almost entirely of penalties for people who do things that upset the entertainment industry (including the 'three-strikes' rule that allows your entire family to be cut off from the net if anyone who lives in your house is accused of copyright infringement, without proof or evidence or trial), as well as a plan to beat the hell out of the video-game industry with a new, even dumber rating system (why is it acceptable for the government to declare that some forms of artwork have to be mandatorily labelled as to their suitability for kids? And why is it only some media? Why not paintings? Why not novels? Why not modern dance or ballet or opera?).

So it's bad. 50,000 fines if someone in your house is accused of filesharing. A duty on ISPs to spy on all their customers in case they find something that would help the record or film industry sue them (ISPs who refuse to cooperate can be fined 250,000).

"But that's just for starters. The real meat is in the story we broke yesterday: Peter Mandelson, the unelected Business Secretary, would have to power to make up as many new penalties and enforcement systems as he likes. And he says he's planning to appoint private militias financed by rightsholder groups who will have the power to kick you off the Internet, spy on your use of the network, demand the removal of files or the blocking of websites, and Mandelson will have the power to invent any penalty, including jail time, for any transgression he deems you are guilty of. And of course, Mandelson's successor in the next government would also have this power."

TSA subpoenas bloggers, demands names of sources. "TSA special agents served subpoenas to travel bloggers Steve Frischling and Chris Elliott, demanding that they reveal who leaked the security directive to them. The government says the directive was not supposed to be disclosed to the public."

CENSORSHIP? Obama's TSA "Attacks" Bloggers "It is a sad day in America when we have an administration that threatens a solitary blogger trying to watch his kids and do his blogging job, but ignores terror warnings and reaches out to despots. This is what Obama must have meant by Change."

Top Internet Threats: Censorship to Warrantless Surveillance. Their list: "Warrantless Government Monitoring, Private Censorship, Government Censorship, Deep Packet Inspection."

Yahoo is spying on you "A story on Mathaba.net states, "Cox Communications, SBC, Cingular, Nextel, GTE and other telecoms and Internet service providers," or ISPs, are involved in federally sanction data collection." The relative official documents are here, here, and here.

Court orders three H-1B sites disabled "A New Jersey judge has ordered the shutdown of three H-1B opposition Web sites and seeks information about the identity of anonymous posters."

How to Maintain Your Privacy

Please see the companion piece to this article, "Internet Privacy" for many resources for maintaining your privacy on the Internet.

—Reginald Firehammer (01/29/10)