Big brother to log your drinking habits and waist size

GPs are to be forced to hand over confidential records on all their patients’ drinking habits, waist sizes and illnesses.
The files will be stored in a giant information bank that privacy campaigners say represents the ‘biggest data grab in NHS history’.
They warned the move would end patient confidentiality and hand personal information to third parties.

The data includes weight, cholesterol levels, body mass index, pulse rate, family health history, alcohol consumption and smoking status.
Diagnosis of everything from cancer to heart disease to mental illness would be covered. Family doctors will have to pass on dates of birth, postcodes and NHS numbers.
Officials insisted the personal information would be made anonymous and deleted after analysis.

But Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, said: ‘Under these proposals, medical confidentiality is, in effect, dead and there is currently nobody standing in the way.’ Nick Pickles, of the privacy group Big Brother Watch, said NHS managers would now be in charge of our most confidential information.
He added: ‘It is unbelievable how little the public is being told about what is going on, while GPs are being strong-armed into handing over details about their patients and to not make a fuss.
‘Not only have the public not been told what is going on, none of us has been asked to give our permission for this to happen.’
The data grab is part of Everyone Counts, a programme to extend the availability of patient data across the Health Service.

Read more here.

Military drones are watching you

It’s confirmed: The drones are overhead.

Records newly released to the Electronic Frontier Foundation reveal the federal government has approved dozens of licenses for unmanned aerial surveillance drones all across the United States.

“These records, received as a result of EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),” the EFF reports, “come from state and local law enforcement agencies, universities and – for the first time – three branches of the U.S. military: the Air Force, Marine Corps and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).”

Some of the records show drones used for purposes as sensible as helping the U.S. Forest Service fight forest fires.

Others purposes, such as performing aerial observation of houses when serving warrants or covert surveillance of drug sales, however, have prompted the EFF to question privacy issues.

“Perhaps the scariest is the technology carried by a Reaper drone the Air Force is flying near Lincoln, Nev., and in areas of California and Utah,” EFF reports. “This drone uses ‘Gorgon Stare’ technology, which Wikipedia defines as ‘a spherical array of nine cameras attached to an aerial drone … capable of capturing motion imagery of an entire city.’ … This technology takes surveillance to a whole new level.”

The use of military drones further raised flags in a New York Times report earlier this year, when reporter Mark Mazzetti joined a group of observers watching drone use at Holloman Air Force Base in remote New Mexico and discovered the military was practicing for foreign missions by spying on American vehicles.

“A white S.U.V. traveling along a highway adjacent to the base came into the cross hairs [of the drone’s view] and was tracked as it headed south along the desert road,” Mazzetti wrote. “When the S.U.V. drove out of the picture, the drone began following another car.

“‘Wait, you guys practice tracking enemies by using civilian cars?’ a reporter asked,” according to Mazzetti. “One Air Force officer responded that this was only a training mission, and then the group was quickly hustled out of the room.”

The EFF clarified that while the U.S. military doesn’t need an FAA license to fly drones over its own military bases (these are considered “restricted airspace”), it does need a license to fly in the national airspace, which is almost everywhere else in the U.S.

“And, as we’ve learned from these records,” EFF reports, “the Air Force and Marine Corps regularly fly both large and small drones in the national airspace all around the country.”

In fact, compiling the various approved applications for military, educational and law enforcement use enabled EFF to create a map of drone locations in the records they’ve received so far

Read more here.

‘Government surveillance on rise’

Government demands for user data worldwide from Google have “increased steadily,” the search giant says in a new report: “One trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise.”

“Government demands for user data have increased steadily since we first launched the Transparency Report,” writes Dorothy Chou, Google senior policy analyst, on the company’s blog about its latest “transparency report.”

“In the first half of 2012, there were 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world. Those requests were for information about 34,614 accounts.”

The finding comes in the wake of revelations of government email snooping in the case of former CIA director David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell.

Read more here.

Big Brother set to use eminent domain powers to rip off investors

Eminent domain powers have long been a rallying point for believers in the primacy of the Constitution and the importance of protecting private property from the rapacious hands of Big Government. A new issue has arisen that may stoke the ire of Tea Party folks and others concerned with the prospect of an ever growing role for politicians and their allies in our lives.

Various California communities are exploring — with the help of Democratic investor cronies connected to Bill Clinton and others — their eminent domain powers to seize mortgages owned by private investors. These mortgages would then be sold to a newly formed investment company who hope to buy these mortgages on the cheap and profit from them in the months and years to come.

Nick Timiraos of the Wall Street Journal reports :

A handful of local officials in California who say the housing bust is a public blight on their cities may invoke their eminent-domain powers to restructure mortgages as a way to help some borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth.

Investors holding the current mortgages predict the move will backfire by driving up borrowing costs and further depress property values. “I don’t see how you could find it anything other than appalling,” said Scott Simon, a managing director at Pacific Investment Management Co., or Pimco, a unit of Allianz SE.

Eminent domain allows a government to forcibly acquire property that is then reused in a way considered good for the public–new housing, roads, shopping centers and the like. Owners of the properties are entitled to compensation, which is usually determined by a court.

But instead of tearing down property, California’s San Bernardino County and two of its largest cities, Ontario and Fontana, want to put eminent domain to a highly unorthodox use to keep people in their homes.

The municipalities, about 45 minutes east of Los Angeles, would acquire underwater mortgages from investors and cut the loan principal to match the current property value. Then, they would resell the reduced mortgages to new investors.

Read more here.

Facebook’s Failure May Be Part of Government Plan to Control Internet

Was Facebook systematically overvalued in order to force it into a government bailout?

That’s the hypothesis that Glenn Beck offered on GBTV tonight, and like many of Beck’s hypotheses, you might be surprised at the evidence that exists for it. In a nearly 20 minute segment, Beck meticulously and carefully picked his way through the past record of the company that handled the IPO for Facebook – Morgan Stanley – and pointed out that they don’t exactly have a record of success in helping companies go public.

“Morgan Stanley was the lead consultant on Fannie and Freddie bailouts,” Beck said in the segment. “They also set the IPO for General Motor. Whoa.”

The evidence from that point continued to mount, all to support Beck’s contention that the administration wanted Facebook to fail. Why? So that it could be brought into the orbit of the government as one of many formerly powerful companies that had to take money in exchange for loyalty. Beck suggested that the reason the government would want this is because control over Facebook via public money would enable them to have huge amounts of control over the internet, which they would then use to stifle dissent.

See the video here.

‘Snooper’s Charter’

British officials have given their word: “We won’t read your emails.”

But experts say that its proposed new surveillance program, unveiled last week as part of the government’s annual legislative program, will gather so much data that spooks won‘t have to read your messages to guess what you’re up to.

The U.K. Home Office stresses that it is not seeking to read the content of every Britons’ communications, saying the data it was seeking “is NOT the content of any communication.” It is, however, seeking information on who’s sending the message, whom it’s sent to, where it’s sent from, and potentially other details including a message’s length and its format.

The government’s proposal is just a draft bill, so it could be modified or scrapped. But if passed in its current form, it would put a huge amount of personal data at the government’s disposal, which it could potentially use to deduce a startling amount about Britons’ private life — from sleep patterns to driving habits or even infidelity.

“We’re really entering a whole new phase of analysis based on the data that we can collect,” said Gerald Kane, an information systems expert at Boston College. “There is quite a lot you can learn.”

The U.K. government began preparing these proposals in April and an anonymous Home Office official told Britain’s The Sunday Times, “It’s not about the content. It’s about the who, what, where and when.”

This same official said it was important for law enforcement to be able to be able to obtain such data in investigations.

The ocean of information is hard to fathom. Britons generate 4 billion hours of voice calls and 130 billion text messages annually, according to industry figures. In 2008 the BBC put the annual number of U.K.-linked emails at around 1 trillion. Then there are instant messaging services run by companies such as BlackBerry, Internet telephony services such as Skype, chat rooms, and in-game services liked those used by World of Warcraft.

Communications service providers, who would log the details of all that back-and-forth, believe that the government’s program would force them to process petabytes (1 quadrillion bytes) of information every day. It’s a mind-bogglingly large amount of data on the scale of every book, every movie, and every piece of music ever released.

So even without opening emails, how much can British spooks learn about who’s sending them?

Read more here.

‘Big Brother’ Black Boxes In All New Cars

A bill already passed by the Senate and set to be rubber stamped by the House would make it mandatory for all new cars in the United States to be fitted with black box data recorders from 2015 onwards.

Section 31406 of Senate Bill 1813 (known as MAP-21), calls for “Mandatory Event Data Recorders” to be installed in all new automobiles and legislates for civil penalties to be imposed against individuals for failing to do so.

“Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part,” states the bill.

Although the text of legislation states that such data would remain the property of the owner of the vehicle, the government would have the power to access it in a number of circumstances, including by court order, if the owner consents to make it available, and pursuant to an investigation or inspection conducted by the Secretary of Transportation.

Given the innumerable examples of both government and industry illegally using supposedly privacy-protected information to spy on individuals, this represents the slippery slope to total Big Brother surveillance of every American’s transport habits and location data.

The legislation, which has been given the Orwellian title ‘Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act’, sailed through the Senate after being heavily promoted by Democrats Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer and is also expected to pass the Republican-controlled House.

Given the fact that the same bill also includes a controversial provision that would empower the IRS to revoke passports of citizens merely accused of owing over $50,000 in back taxes, stripping them of their mobility rights, could the mandatory black boxes or a similar technology be used for the same purpose?

Read more here.

Schools ‘spy’ on fat kids

Big Brother is joining the battle of the bulge.

A group of Long Island students will soon be wearing controversial electronic monitors that allow school officials to track their physical activity around the clock.

The athletics chair for the Bay Shore schools ordered 10 Polar Active monitors, at $90 a pop, for use starting this spring. The wristwatchlike devices count heartbeats, detect motion and even track students’ sleeping habits in a bid to combat obesity.

The information is displayed on a color-coded screen and gets transmitted to a password-protected Web site that students and educators can access.
TOO FAR, TOO FAST? School aide records a student’s heart rate.

The devices are already in use in school districts in St. Louis and South Orange, NJ — and have raised privacy concerns among some parents and observers.

But Ted Nagengast, the Bay Shore athletics chair, said, “It’s a great reinforcement in fighting the obesity epidemic. It tells kids, in real time, ‘Am I active? Am I not active?’ We want to give kids the opportunity to become active.”

The monitors are distributed by Polar Electro, of Lake Success, LI, the US division of a Finland firm.

In the South Orange-Maplewood School District, where earlier versions of the devices have been used for two years, upper-grade students’ marks in phys ed are based in part on heart-rate monitors and activity sensors.

Teachers use hand-held computers to collect data from each student’s wrist monitor during class, then upload the information to the school computer system for storage and long-term tracking.

But privacy advocates and parents worry that schools are using electronic monitors in phys ed without families’ knowledge or consent.

“I didn’t even know it was going on, and I’m active in the school,” said Beth Huebner, of St. Louis.

Her son, a fourth-grader, wore a Polar Active monitor in class without her OK last fall at Ross Elementary School.

“We have gotten no information about the Web-site security or where the data will go,” Huebner said.

“When you get into monitoring people’s biological vital signs, that’s a pretty intrusive measurement,” said Jay Stanley, of the American Civil Liberties Union. “There are key privacy interests at play.”

Read more here.

Is Your Community Profiting by Installing Traffic Cams to Monitor You?

You see a flash behind you as you coast through a red — sometimes you get the flash even if you run through oddly enough — and you hang you’re head. You’re not alone, one out of every five Americans lives in a community that pays a for-profit company to install and operate cameras that record traffic violations.

And while most of us have at one time speculated police departments have ticket quotas to meet, did you know that some of these contracts require cities to share revenue of tickets with the camera vendor?

Suffolk County, N.Y., for example, diverts half of the revenue from its red-light camera program to its vendor, according to the report being released Thursday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Another type of agreement – conditional “cost-neutral” contracts – also contain provisions that link payments to the number of tickets issued, although the payments are capped, the report said. Under these contracts, local governments pay a monthly fee to a camera vendor. If ticket revenues fail to cover the vendor’s fee in any given month, cities may delay payments. That gives vendors “an incentive to ensure a minimum (number) of citations are issued,” the report said.

As many as 700 communities, with a combined total of more than 60 million people, outsource their street and highway camera systems, the report found.

Read more here.