Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Tag: Privacy

FBI Employees Face Criminal Probe Over Patriot Act

According to an article at, “FBI personnel who used misleading emergency letters to acquire thousands of Americans’ phone records are the subject of a criminal investigation […] The privately disclosed investigation would mark the first time government officials have faced possible prosecution for misuse of Patriot Act investigative tools.”

Also- you can “help out the EFF”: go through the documents received via Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the FBI PATRIOT ACT abuses.

Worst Privacy Debacles of All Time

“Wired”:,71622-0.html has put up a list of the worst privacy debacles in the United States of all time. Of course, since this article was prompted by the “AOL debacle”: that incident in particular has not made the list. I wonder if it would have made the list, and if so, at what position. I would rank it pretty high on importance on principle but low on potential damage to individuals.

This list is pretty good, and the #1 position is my favorite:

*1. The creation of the Social Security Number:*
Although security blogger Adam Shostack is known for his expertise on information-age data leaks, he considers the creation of the Social Security Number in 1936 to be the “largest privacy disaster in the history of the U.S.” Referencing controversy over the card’s creation at the time, he said, “Ironically, privacy advocates warned that the number would become a de facto national ID, and their concerns were belittled, then proven right, setting a pattern that still goes on today.”

The AOL Breach Aftermath

The repercussions of the “severe breach of trust by AOL”: a few weeks ago, when they released the search records of more than 650,000 users, are beginning to be felt by those responsible.

“AP is reporting”: that three employees connected with the release of the records are no longer working for the company. The individual researcher and his/her supervisor have been fired and the chief technology officer Maureen Govern has either been fired or has resigned.

Holding individuals responsible is a good starting point, but is far from enough. This move only sends a signal to other employees within the company, but there is still no clear message for other companies with similar lax data retention and release policies. AOL must suffer heavy financial consequences so that every company that is entrusted with customer information considers it in their best interest to take that trust seriously. As things stand right now, there is only a vague threat of losing customers but unfortunately this is neither tangible nor obvious.

Take Action: AOL, Privacy and the Database of Intentions

AOL's Data Leak: Were You Exposed?

“AOL has put our privacy at risk by publicly disclosing the recent search history”: of 650,000 users. This wrong in so many different ways- and yes, your search queries say a lot about you, including your identity. The “New York Times discovered just who AOL Searcher #4417749”: was just using their search strings. Read the rest of this entry »

NSA Eavesdropping Ruled Unconstitutional (updated)

This is fantastic news- a federal judge ruled today that the “NSA eavesdropping program is unconstitutional”: in the case that the ACLU brought against it. The government contended that it was within the President’s authority, and the details were state secrets but the judge did not buy it. The ACLU argument was that the President had already admitted the program and the publicly available information was sufficient for the judge to rule on.

The judge ordered an immediate halt to the program.

* A “pdf of the judge’s ruling”:
* A quote from the judge:

Judge Taylor states that “[t]here are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution,” so all the president’s “inherent powers” must derive from the Constitution.

* Attorney General Gonzales “says he will appeal”: to a higher court. “Contribute to the ACLU”: to keep up the good fight.