Sunday, August 12, 2012

No Recourse for Illegal Behaviour?

Recently the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that if the government spies on its citizens, citizens have no resource.  The same court also ruled that a warrant is not required for utility records.

The meters in question could report data in sub-minute intervals, allowing an analyst to determine when the house is empty, when people come home, and whether or not the occupants use too more electricity than their neighbors.  More troubling that the meter data is the accounting data "such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, account information, as well as credit or debit card and checking information" 

The court also said customers had no reasonable expectation of privacy under the so-called “business records” doctrine: The utility, not the customer, owns those records.  So once again, under US law, people do not own the data about them.  This seems to be a fundamental difference between the US and the EU.  Strangely, the EU seems to provide more privacy protections for its citizens than the US.  The US seems to be more concerned about protecting the business environment and ensuring that nothing hinders the economic vitality of its corporations.

The net result is that businesses can request any information they wish from you, the consumer, and if you provide it the government can simply request it from the corporation. In addition, the corporation can sell that data on to whomever it chooses.  But that is a different issue.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Next time you fill out an application remember ...

"Since the 1970s, the Supreme Court has largely held that authorities don't need a full search warrant to obtain information that people have stored with "third parties"—such as their bank or phone company—on the principle that people have already willingly given up that data." -- Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2012

All the data your phone company collects, all the data Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and other web sites collect, all the data your power company collects, all the data  your credit card company collects.  All the data the describes your life is an open book.

There are many who argue that we need to worry about the data the government collects on us, I think that we need to worry about the data that business collects on us as the government has access to all of it.  What government needs a large internal security branch when they have commercial data to access?