Being watched at a mall near you … you!

For years, malls have used various techniques to determine what entrance people use, what stores they go to, and what stores they pass by. Now, the technology exists to track unique cell phone IDs to collect reliable data – in bulk – concerning your movements at malls and inside stores. How do you feel about this?

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Connecticut should not make pistol permit information available to public

Connecticut state law does not allow pistol permit records to be available to the public. Many states do allow this information to be released, and some media outlets – in a drive to increase page views – have published the full databases including private information simply because it’s “public record.”

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Student laptops deliver thousands of private images to school district

Remember the story from February where a high school sophomore and his family alleged the school district was using laptop Web cameras – issued by the school – to monitor students by taking pictures when the computers were on at home? It gets worse…

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School secretly monitors students at home via webcam

Is big teacher watching your kids at home? That’s the question of the day, as the Lower Merion School District admits they had the ability to access webcams – without the users knowledge – on school-supplied laptops. Did teachers access the webcam of one student when he was at home?

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Justice Department demands list of Web site visitors – or visitor?

Well this is somewhat interesting. The United States District Court in southern Indiana demanded information on all IP traffic to and from on June 25, 2008. They want subscriber data including personal identification details.

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Little brother is watching, too…

What does this story mean?  Probably that Orwell just wasn’t paranoid enough…

Children as young as seven are being recruited by councils to act as ‘citizen snoopers’, the Daily Mail can reveal.

The ‘environment volunteers’ will report on litter louts, noisy neighbours – and even families putting their rubbish out on the wrong day.

There are currently almost 9,000 people signed up to the schemes. More are likely to be recruited in the coming months.

Controversially, some councils are running ‘junior’ schemes which are recruiting children.

After basic training, volunteers are expected to be the ‘eyes and the ears’ of the town hall.

They are given information packs about how to collect evidence, including tips about writing down numberplates, which could later be used in criminal prosecutions.

Luton Borough Council’s Street Seen scheme encourages its 650 volunteers to report ‘environmental concerns’. It is also recruiting ‘Junior Street Champions’, aged between seven and 11.

The notion that any “free” nation would use this sort of snooping is revolting.  The previous “innovation” of British surveillance society, the surveillance camera, is taking root — can turning children into spies for the state be far behind?

Denounce your neighbors, win Great Prizes!

PETA and Michael Vick

One of the things you can always count on PETA to be in entertaining, especially if you like your humor dark and your protesters naked.  Admittedly, they’re probably best known for stripping at KFC than making sense, but, hey, who can complain about a campaign I can only call “chicks for chickens.”  Which is why I find their recent snarkiness in the direction of Michael Vick troubling.  Now, don’t get me wrong — this isn’t going to turn into some defense of dog-fighting, Michael Vick or pit bulls.  But let me ask you a question — who would you rather leave your pet with?  I’ll give you a minute…

Ok… those of you who figured this one was a trick question, give yourself a gold star.

“According to public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed 2,124 pets last year and placed only seven in adoptive homes. Since 1998, a total of 21,339 dogs and cats have died at the hands of PETA workers.

Despite having a $32 million budget, PETA does not operate an adoption shelter. PETA employees make no discernible effort to find homes for the thousands of pets they kill every year. Last year, the Center for Consumer Freedom petitioned Virginia’s State Veterinarian to reclassify PETA as a slaughterhouse.”

This is the group that thinks that Michael Vick’s personal problems with the care and feeding of animals ought to require that he undergo a brain-scan prior to any potential reinstatement to football.  Glossing over the hypocrisy for the moment, do you *really* want to empower *anyone* to scan your brain and decide whether or not you’re fit to do you job, based on a picture and a view of neurology that barely qualifies as a theory?  From the PETA web-page, via the Fifth Down

“Vick’s behavior seems to fit the American Psychiatric Association profile for anti-social personality disorder (APD). People with APD are commonly referred to as “psychopaths”. They are usually male, often charming, prone to lying and manipulation, and incapable of genuine remorse. They can also take pleasure in inflicting cruelty.

Before the NFL even considers the possibility of allowing Vick back into the League, where he will be in a position to influence many fans, including countless children, PETA wants the League to require him to undergo a brain scan, coupled with a structured, standardized test (e.g, the Psychopathy Checklist, approved by the American Psychiatric Association). If Vick emerges from these examinations without evidence of psychopathy, this may mean that he has the capacity to express true remorse. If he is a psychopath, the chances of recidivism are great and remorse is virtually impossible.”

Now, I personally think this is a long-shot, but, hey, there’s always the Raiders… but I digress.  What would you call a group that, despite their passionate pleas that animals be treated in a humane, “ethical” manner and routinely kills animals left in its care?  Frankly, I think they might just be psychopathic, if one can go about anthropomorphizing a whole organization.  To save the animal from degradation, they had to kill it.  I seem to recall that logic being uttered somewhere else.  Maybe before they get to kill their next puppy, the leadership of PETA should undergo a “brain scan”.

“Big Brother” is watching…

What is the difference between a citizen and a subject?

Personally, my reflexive answer is freedom of one sort or another — the right to bear arms, the right to free speech and freedom of association, etc.  The things that a citizen has and takes for granted.  Sometimes, however, it is what the subject has to put up with that makes the difference.

It comes into starkest relief when contrasting the United States and the United Kingdom — chillingly so, since much of what starts there seems to seep out over on this side of the Atlantic — traffic cameras and  police CCTV come to mind.

So, now, allow me to introduce to you, via the UK Daily Mail, the very latest variation of the nanny-cam:

“Our movements are already tracked by CCTV, speed cameras and even spies in dustbins.

Now snooping on the public has reached new heights with local authorities putting spy planes in the air to snoop on homeowners who are wasting too much energy.

Thermal imaging cameras are being used to create colour-coded maps which will enable council officers to identify offenders and pay them a visit to educate them about the harm to the environment and measures they can take.”

Now, you’d think that the loyal opposition in the UK might have something to say about this sort of thing… and they do:

“Lib Dem group leader Stuart Beadle added: ‘Cameras are in place all over today and we have to accept them. So long as the right guidelines are in place and it will bring benefits, I think the scheme is a good thing.'”

Not quite as catchy as “Four legs good, two legs better,” but it may have to do.  Of course, the bleating Beadle may simply have been swept away with the tide:

“Almost 500 local authorities have been using anti-terrorism powers brought in under the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to launch a string of bizarre investigations.

These have included checks on dog fouling, putting bins out on the wrong day and people trying to cheat school catchment area rules.”

Almost makes you miss Alan Funt, doesn’t it?

Wall Street Witch Hunts

Democrats in Congress usually have a “thing” for privacy rights.  Listening in on international phone-calls were one end of the conversation is a known or suspected terrorist?  That’s bad.  However, not all such intrusions are equal.

McCarthy-esque intrusion into the lives of folks working on Wall Street?  Wielding  the tax code as a weapon against employees who allowed the offer of retention bonuses to convince them to remain in AIG’s employ that they might carry the government’s water?  How about a fishing expedition into the remuneration of Merrill Lynch employees by Andrew Cuomo?  That, it would appear, is hunky-dory to the high mavens of privacy rights and civil liberties, death threats and hate-speech concerns notwithstanding.

Update (Jim): I would say its unusual when Dave and Chris Matthews actually agree on something.


Taxes, privacy and liberalism

Remember all that Democratic whining about wanting for people to drive more fuel-efficient cars?

Here comes the other shoe

“A year ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced it had demonstrated that a new way to pay for roads — via a mileage tax and satellite technology — could work.

Now Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he’d like the legislature to take the next step.

As part of a transportation-related bill he has filed for the 2009 legislative session, the governor says he plans to recommend “a path to transition away from the gas tax as the central funding source for transportation.”

What that means is explained on the governor’s website:

“As Oregonians drive less and demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, it is increasingly important that the state find a new way, other than the gas tax, to finance our transportation system.”

According to the policies he has outlined online, Kulongoski proposes to continue the work of the special task force that came up with and tested the idea of a mileage tax to replace the gas tax.

The governor wants the task force “to partner with auto manufacturers to refine technology that would enable Oregonians to pay for the transportation system based on how many miles they drive.”

The online outline adds: “The governor is committed to ensuring that rural Oregon is not adversely affected and that privacy concerns are addressed.”

Lessee… we’re going to create a system where we know how many miles a car has gone using an “eye in the sky” system, but their going to see “that privacy concerns are addressed??”