Big Brother Big Profits

The never ending lack of privacy game has a new chapter, but this post isn't the end of the story.  The NSA spygame is running through the courts.  The latest ruling gives the NSA carte blanche by proclaiming the massive metadata collection is not in violation of the law.  This is one week after another judge ruled the program was unconstitutional and after a graduate student easily proved metadata can be used to match individuals to obtain their phone and data records.

The excuses for collecting so much data abound, from keeping the world safe from real scum to crowd control of large populations.  The revelation that RSA Security was paid $10 million to enable a back door into encrypted content is actually financial peanuts in the massive profits being made from the new Orwellian society.  It is well known Google derives most of their $44 billion in revenues (2012) from advertising.  Yet they create Android, the now dominant smartphone operating system and their new cheap Chrome laptops are a number one seller on Amazon.  These systems have been slammed for their privacy violations, wayward apps and generally speaking are glorified spyware machines where only an advanced engineer, if they are lucky, can remove all of the profiling mechanisms.  Google uses many tracking devices and methodologies.  While all of this is currently used to display mostly terrible ads, the depth of profiling to get someone to actually click is enormous.  In other words, Google knows all, they are like a digital God with enormous power.  Microsoft has attempted to point this out, yet are they any better?  Given their track record we think not as they too have been colluding with the NSA.

Advertising alone was estimated to be data driven to the tune of $156 billion in 2012.  It is now common practice to sell your personal data.  U.S. carriers sold $5.5 billion worth just recently. and the market of selling your tracking data to further profile,categorize and sell you stuff is expected to reach $9.9 billion by 2016.  The privacy rules vary dramatically and the NSA is part of these purchases.

Pharmacies routinely sell prescription records, a whopping 55,000 a day according to PPR.  These are your medical records yet no one seems to be interested in stopping pharmacies from selling what kind of medications people are on.  It is not just people's prescription information that is being sold, lab results and even hospital records are on the line, to the tune of $10 billion in sales.  Bloomberg gave an example of how easy it is to obtain an individual's complete medical record due to the sale of medical information from hospitals.

The Spokane hospital where the individual was treated sent as required all of his medical treatment information including his age, ZIP code, admission dates, and payment information to Washington State’s Department of Health Comprehensive Hospital Abstract Reporting System, or CHARS, a database of 650 000 previous state health care hospitalizations which is available for sale to the public. Bloomberg News bought the information for apparently less than US $175, and with some data analytic help by Harvard University’s Data Privacy Lab, was able to re-identify the individual as well as other patients who had received treatment at the same hospital.

Target may not be able to secure their POS terminals, but hey, at least they are profiling customers to the point they know they are pregnant before the customer does.  Twitter is already selling data to the United Nations to zero in on social unrest, including geographical locations, in real time.  Think about crowd control on that one.  Behind the scenes of every tweet is a huge natural language processing system that in real time is estimating the mood of the crowd.

The new cloud computing technology is not just a concern for the NSA obtaining data.  The reality is your data is now stored on someone else's hardware and what goes on is not really under your control:

The system that scans cloud drives for illegal images was created by Microsoft and Dartmouth College and donated to NCMEC. The organization creates signatures of the worst known images. These file signatures are given to service providers who then try to match them to user files in order to prevent further distribution of the images themselves

Needless to say going after such crimes is a worthy agenda, yet the same technology could be used to profile and even obtain personal data through image recognition algorithms.  Privacy policies and term of services often are changed, yet people willy-nilly put up the most sensitive personal information on cloud drives, even though this is akin to entering a foreign land and expecting U.S. laws to apply.  Worse, industrial espionage costs the U.S.at least $13 billion with estimates as high as $350 billion, yet companies and employees often expose company secrets, designs in progress and other sensitive business data by use of various social media tools and cloud drives.  The profile and grab situation is so extreme, data brokers have developed hidden dossiers on almost every U.S. consumer.  A smartphone is with you always and over time tells almost everything about you.

Your cell phone sends a signal back to cell phone towers every seven seconds; that data, mapped out over days or weeks, can show "an intimate portrait of a person’s familial and professional associations, political and religious beliefs, even health status

The bottom line in this never ending big brother game is it is not just the NSA that's the bad guy here, sniffing, prodding, poking and profiling you in terabytes.  It is corporations doing the evil deed.  From consumer behavior profiling to selling of medical records to using credit scores for employment consideration to geolocation behavioral profiling, big brother is big profits and people's privacy rights are being trampled.  Big Business will stop at nothing to invade your privacy and make huge profits in the process.  None of this will stop as long as your data is big bucks, there for the taking, like gold strewn all over the ground.

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Comments

NSA intercepting computers, hard drives for spyware

This is most amusing, the NSA routinely intercepts computers, hard drives and other technology to modify them and add their spyware and exploits.

Thing is, while corporate America was so fast to manufacture in China, this enables China to add their spyware at the time of manufacture! Seriously, huge security risk and finding things at the firmware, bios level is really tough.

Manufacture in China also guarantees one's product will be reverse engineered.

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