Our Surveillance State and Resisting

In a society with ever-increasing amounts of surveillance, it is not a big leap to argue that there will be a range of opinions regarding surveillance. The reasoning behind surveillance is something that is often questioned. Modus operandi, or methodology, is something that is also brought into the spotlight. Arguments could be made for why ever-increasing levels of surveillance are necessary. There are just as many arguments for why it is not. Regardless of the arguments surrounding the levels of surveillance seen in society, the surveillance is there. As a result, there are groups and individuals who have taken it upon themselves to resist the surveillance state in which we now live. The methods and effectiveness of these resistances are open to interpretation, yet the fact still remains: Resisting is necessary, however effective or ineffective it may be.

In his article, “A Tack in the Shoe: Neutralizing and Resisting the New Surveillance” Gary Marx, an Emeritus professor at MIT, stated that there are a primary set of eleven concepts to aid in the avoidance of surveillance. These include masking behaviors, Distorting, avoidance, piggy backing, and simple refusal behaviors. Professor Marx outlines types of behaviors that allow one to resist the surveillance on a general level, with what he describes as “resistance or non-compliance.” He goes into how each type of behavior may be implemented to aid in the everyday resistance of surveillance. For Example, he describes how piggy backing actions can hide when one might enter or exit a building. Assuming you have legitimate purposes and clearance to enter an area, instead of swiping your card upon entering to open a door, merely walk in as someone else swipes. The technique of discovering what surveillance may be active is a form of surveillance all its own. Marx outlines another example of a radar detector in a vehicle. It can detect if a police officer is using radar. The counters surveillance, or “discovery surveillance” works as long as it is assumed there is actual surveillance in place.

There are ways to resist the surveillance we now face. One example is the Detekt softwares. It is designed to be used on windows PCs in order to detect spyware used on a commercial scale to monitor a staggering number of individuals. It is recommended that if you suspect that your computer is tagged to disconnect it from the Internet and all networks. This is in the hopes to limit further observation. There are a large number of tools to fight against malware and spyware. These tools have become necessities for maintaining one’s privacy.

In a recent article in Al Jazeera America, Resisting the Surveillance State of Mind,” authored by Norman Solomon, Solomon quoted a German named Wolfgang Schmidt. Schmidt was a Lieutenant Colonel in the german Stasi, the former East German Special Police. Schmidt compared the surveillance he oversaw in the 1980’s. He states it was tiny in comparison to the NSA’s programs. He also stated that for an operative, this level of surveillance would have been “a dream come true”. This is coming from someone who worked in what is historically viewed as one of the most repressive intelligence groups ever formed. Part of the reason for this is because its role was not defined in any legislation in East Germany, meaning that its de facto purpose was to spy and survey all information both domestically and externally. Granted, this comparison is a little unfair for a number of reasons, one example being the NSA has a tendency not to physically destroy dissidents. The point remains that the Stasi relied on 2,000,000 collaborators and 100,000 employees. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, the information they gathered allowed them to infiltrate every institution and aspect of daily life. The invasive network of technology that is constantly gathering information on behalf of the NSA, it could be argued, is rather similar. The similarities stretch into the choice to operate and enhance incredibly invasive programs. The Stasi through their network of citizens turned informants, and the NSA through their amassing of astronomical amounts of mobile phone metadata.

Norman Solomon also brings up an important point in the same article. He writes, “Technology is a convenient scapegoat for escalating invasions of privacy. But there is nothing inherent in technological progress that requires such violations of human rights and civil liberties.” This is an important distinction. There is no reason that new developments in technology must spell out new methods of increasingly invasive surveillance. That means that the network that the United States government has in place becomes exponentially more disturbing with each revelation. All this outlines why resistance to this system is important. Perhaps if not resistance, certainly making it more difficult for those who would seek to gather all information to gain “Total Information Awareness.”

In an editorial for Reason.com, Steve Chapman stated that privacy showed definite signs of life. Citing the the architect of the Patriot Act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, he outlined how the Patriot act initially was structured to prevent this sort of data mining. The picture painted by this information is that often Law makers twist a program, meaning it begins to suit the desires of the politicians, as opposed to the purpose for which it was originally conceived.

That beings said, there are some methods of surveillance for which there are not many tools to resist. There are not large numbers of tools for public camera surveillance beyond the run of the mill hat or hood. Cell phones, simply by being on your person, can lead to you being tracked. This can occur without GPS, simply by studying the battery level of phone. The battery level in Android devices produces battery statistics, which can be used to build a tracking model of the individual in question. The algorithm designed by researchers at Stanford allows for battery level to outline a rough path of the phone, allowing for basic tracking through nothing but the battery level. Granted, the program must first know what battery is communed across various paths, but once that information is obtained, tracking can occur. The theory behind this is that phones use different levels of power at different differences from different towers. There is a 2/3 success rate, with an accuracy of 150m for this program, but it goes to show how easy technology can be used to survey people in their daily lives.

Ultimately, surveillance comes down to information gathering of those who are deemed to have the interest of those doing the watching. Those being surveyed often (almost completely) have no choice in the matter. That being said, there are services and behaviors that can be avoided. Paying cash, leaving phones at home, using a PO box, and other such behaviors that can limit that information can be gathered. But if someone is determined to find information, it will be there. However seemingly insignificant something may seem, like the battery level on your phone, with the right mind behind it, can determine where you have been. Lieutenant Colonel Schmidt also said, “It is the height of naivety to think that once collected, this information won’t be used. The only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.” Resisting the surveillance and gathering of information is crucial because it allows individuals to retain their personal liberties and keeps the government in its place. It has also been voiced by many that bulk collection is often inherently ineffective. If this was the case, it would mean that the argument could be made that large often ineffective surveillance provides data which is used in secondary ways other than the originally intended purpose. Resistance to this model is necessary, because it is not an acceptable model for a nation to adopt. This model is not acceptable because though legality is often a matter of who you ask, it is undeniable that it is not in the spirit of the Constitution and its amendments. For example, though Phone metadata to some may not constitute unreasonable search and seizure, it is seriously at odds with the spirit of the 4th amendment.

Lateral Surveillance

What is lateral surveillance and is it helpful or hurtful? Lateral surveillance is any type of surveillance that comes from another person or thing watching another. There are people who think that lateral surveillance is helpful and helps keep peace in everyday life and then their are people who think that lateral surveillance is hurtful because it bring more surveillance that is intruding on their privacy. The Department of Homeland Security is one of the big reasons why there is lateral surveillance because they make campaigns like the “If You See Something, Say Something.” They use sports stadiums, hotels, local transportation, airports and even Wal-Mart to help with terrorism and crime prevention practices. Why lateral surveillance is hurtful to people is because the Department of Homeland Security is using peer to peer monitoring which means they are using the people around you like neighbors, family members, shoppers when you’re at the supermarket, sports fans when you’re at a game as their eyes and ears to listen and watch everything you do.

Technology has also played a big role in lateral surveillance because it’s made new way in which our friends, foes, employers and even police officers could watch, listen and record us. Social media has also helped in lateral surveillance because it’s basically letting your peers or your co-workers survey you which is an easy way to for them to profile to see what type of person you are. Social media sites were made as an easier way of interacting with people that don’t live near us like family members or to catch up with old friends and to make new friends. If you are using a social media site like Facebook or Twitter you are being laterally surveyed every time you post, like or comment on one of these sites and the thing is, the information you post can be seen by everyone, this is like a snoops dream to get information about you. This is why some people don’t get social media accounts because they already know that the Department of Homeland Security is watching them but that’s not always the people watching them so why give them another way in which they can watch you. There has been some good that comes from lateral surveillance on social media site like when people post about crimes that they have done or are going to do and law enforcement agencies are able to arrest them. http://mic.com/articles/54961/8-social-media-users-arrested-for-what-they-said-online Technology has also brought many tools that people use that can be used to lateral surveillance you in your everyday life like body cams, drones, smart phones, etc. Now with the FBI using facial biometrics to identify people they could basically put anyone of their server just by using a picture from your Facebook or Twitter and they would be able to identify you out in public. The thing is that you wouldn’t even have to have a Facebook or Twitter because if someone posted a picture of you on their account they could use that picture to identify you.

Surveillance was a big concern to a lot of people in the past and now it seems like people just consider it a day to day thing that is going on and that there is no way to avoid it. Your peer or even your co-workers are surveilling your every action or and even people you walk by are surveilling you so there is no way to get around a lot of lateral surveillance. Most people I feel, don’t know that there are ways of getting around lateral surveillance and if they do know how to get around it they won’t usually take the time to do something about it. A good lateral surveillance is a neighborhood watch because it is put in place to help protect the neighborhood and is a physical lateral surveillance that impacts the environment of the neighborhood. The only problem with neighborhood watches is that some of the citizens over think their power and they take actions into their own hand by thinking that they are the law. This is when the neighborhood gets affected negatively because the watches are then invasive to peoples privacy.

I feel like privacy concerns over the years have really dropped off because people really do just consider it a everyday thing and it will happen anyway or they just don’t care anymore. I think that if people were to learn about all the privacy and security invasions that they would want to know more on how they could stop it or learn more on how they can prevent privacy of security invasion from happening to them. If there was a way to teach people about lateral surveillance and the way to avoid it, then we would have less privacy issues and we would be able to be in more control of the surveillance about us.


Facial Recognition: Privacy vs Security

August 9, 2014 will live in the hearts of many as a day of a tragic injustice. A young black teenager was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. People across the country protested the behavior of the officer, deeming his actions to be based off of feelings of racial superiority rather than justice. The accounts of witnesses vary, but if there were a video that showed exactly what happened, it would make all the difference. In the wake of the shooting, and ultimately the death, of 18-year-old Michael Brown, there has been a bigger push than ever to have police officers wear body cameras. President Obama strongly advocates for such cameras and has proposed a plan that would pour 75 million dollars into federal spending to allot 50,000 recording devices for police departments. However, the decision to implement body cameras is much more complex than just finding the money to do so. There are many privacy concerns that come along with this decisions. Concerns such as when will the camera be on (do the officers get to pick and choose what is going to be recorded?), how long will the footage be kept, who can access the footage, will the cameras hinder people’s willingness to give cops tips, what technology will be used, and what privacy infringements will accompany these camera? Enabling these cameras to have facial recognition technology is one of these privacy concerns and this post will address those concerns.

First, to truly understand the debate, it is essential to know how facial recognition technology operates. Facial recognition technology uses an algorithm to measure unique facial features such as the space between the eyes, the depth of the eye sockets, the shape of the cheekbones, the length of the jawline, or the width of the nose. It uses these measurements to make what is called a face print. Face prints are just as unique as fingerprints; although, fingerprints are still a more accurate source of biometric identification. Another algorithm is used to then run face prints with other photos that are in the database, searching for a match.

The use of this technology is not new—Facebook and Google+ use it to help you identify friends or yourself in photos, Find My FaceMate uses facial recognition technology for dating purposes, casinos use it to monitor players that have been marked as cheaters or suspicious people. There is even a university in the UK that was using facial recognition technology to take roll. Companies are working to use facial recognition technology to find the age and gender of someone looking at their digital kiosk so that they can advertise specifically to that person. The ethics of all these uses are debatable, but there are currently no legal restrictions on commercial use of facial recognition technology. However, when it comes to law enforcement, the idea of utilizing facial recognition technology is primarily seen as negative by our society.

But, why? We’ve all seen movies that portray facial recognition technology as heroic: it’s a fast way to scan a group of people and find the criminal. It helps the good guys win in a matter of seconds. However, there are some legitimate privacy concerns such as what database would the police officers use and would use of this technology by law enforcement destroy anonymity?

The FBI is working to build a database that is “bigger, faster, better”. This database is called Next Generation Identification (NGI) and currently contains more than just fingerprints, it also contains face prints. The NGI does not get the images from mug shots alone. In fact, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, by this year, the NGI will contain 4.3 million images that were not taken for criminal purposes. EFF goes on to explain how if you apply for a job that requires a background check or fingerprinting, the FBI stores your prints in its civil database. However, with the use of facial recognition technology expanding, employers may require a photograph, or “mug shot”. This would then put your information into the NGI along with your fingerprints. The danger in storing criminal and non-criminal data together is that non-criminals could be falsely incriminated merely because their face print and fingerprints are in the database.

Another issue concerning the database is that there is currently no legislation that would block law enforcement from gaining information from organizations such as Facebook. Although the FBI says that it does not currently share information with such sites, who is to say that they won’t in the near future? The problem with the rapid increase of more sophisticated and accessible facial recognition technology is that it is not regulated. Despite tragedies of police brutality, allowing body cameras to have live stream access to facial recognition technologies is rash if it precedes necessary regulation that would protect an individual’s privacy.

One of the biggest concerns that comes up with allowing police officers to have their body cameras equipped with live stream facial recognition technology is that it robs people of the right they feel they have to be anonymous. Facial recognition technology robs by passively tracking and collecting personal biometric data without a warrant. In the Arizona Law Review, Sabrina Lochner says that under the Fourth Amendment, “law enforcement may take a picture of someone’s face from a lawful vantage point without reasonable suspicion or probable cause; there is no reasonable expectation of privacy as to the face, which is constantly exposed to the public.” However, she goes on to say that running the picture through facial recognition technology is not justifiable without reasonable suspicion. If police were equipped with body cameras that used facial recognition in live time, they would be unjustly collecting information on innocent people. This would destroy anonymity. It would restrict what people will do in public, whether it is good or bad.

The privacy concerns that accompany this decision are valid. However, I personally think that the pros of having officers equipped with facial recognition on cameras outweigh the privacy concerns. In Seattle, police officers are using the technology with their own city-determined rules that include annual audits, restrictions on what officers can use the technology, and required logs on usage. Legislation that strictly defines what government agencies are and are not allowed to do needs to be passed before equipping our police officers with body cameras that use facial recognition technology. In this debate, the answer cannot be merely privacy or security; there needs to be a balance that will allow citizen’s privacy and law enforcement’s means to protect citizens.

Surveillance in the Modern Workplace

For as long as there have been employees and bosses to manage them, there has been workplace surveillance. From the foreman of a construction site, leering managers in a cubicle-filled office, and drill sergeants in a military line; it is a commonly held belief that monitoring workers is essential to keeping them in line. The advent of modern electronic surveillance systems has created a workplace environment in which the boss is always looking over your shoulder.

The ever-increasing sophistication of these electronic surveillance systems presents equal concern surrounding their use, as well as the effectiveness of these sometimes invasive systems. Privacy in the workplace takes many forms: it can be as simple as monitoring of e-mails and call logs, but it may also include sophisticated camera systems by which every movement, every served drink, and every service ticket is monitored, recorded, and analyzed.

Workplace surveillance gives cause for concern when employers are able to monitor personal correspondence, such as the content of messages and voice calls. In California, state law requires that both parties be informed that the call is recorded by a beep or recorded disclaimer. However, employers are required to stop the monitoring once it is realized that it is a personal call. It is unclear whether any currently available software is capable of discerning a personal call from a business related call, and what happens with the already recorded data. This means that the content of a phone call may need to be heard by an employer before they can make a determination that it is personal.

In the digital age, employers face increasing scrutiny from employees who, through social media, have been given more visibility than ever before. From expletive-laden comments on Twitter, to entire blog sites dedicated to criticizing their employer, consumers and employees alike have the ability to reach millions with the click of a mouse. It is important that employees, and their employers, are given clear guidelines to protect the interests of each party. To ensure that this extends across all industries and jobs, legislation may be a necessary part of the solution.

Companies see surveillance as a way to protect their interests. This may extend into the personal lives of employees by monitoring their social media usage, ensuring that nothing is said or done which may damage the reputation of the company.  Employers may also find ways around these laws by hiring third parties to monitor employee social media accounts for them. A number of employers have even fired employees for content they’ve posted online. Huffington Post, an internet news blog, has an entire section dedicated to people who have been fired due to posts on social media.

Although many believe that grievances aired off the clock and on their social media accounts are protected acts, they are likely not. The National Labor Relations Board found several instances of lawful terminations linked to social media “gripes”. Employees are subject to surveillance off the clock on their social media accounts and may face disciplinary action if sharing these ideas online. Legislation exists to protect employees in places such as Colorado from employer control of social media accounts. However, employees are still subject to any information which may be publicly available or leaked.

While employers may find it important to ensure they hire people who they believe will fit their image, it could be argued that employees should have the right to privacy, even if using company property to conduct personal business. Legislation keeping social media and personal e-mail account access from employers should be enacted to allow employees to maintain privacy. This is a reasonable expectation because countless employees use company devices to access personal accounts every day. As a result, social networking and electronic communication have become an important part of everyday life.

Aside from protecting digital information, employers and employees alike are increasingly concerned with physical security of employees. An FBI report released in 2014 details a trend of increased workplace shootings over the last seven years. Despite possible tax incentives for hiring convicted felons, employers may be held liable for workplace violence by knowingly retaining employees who have shown to have a violent criminal past. Because of this, many employers may feel an obligation to monitor to mental health and/or communications of their employees.

Monitoring the behavior and physical location of employees provides employers more control over what happens in the workplace. Physical monitoring may be successfully accomplished by video monitoring, as well as GPS tracking on vehicles both personal and company-owned. Understandably, these practices face varying degrees of resistance. Employees often feel entitled to privacy from their employers while off duty. While on the clock, however; courts have generally ruled in favor of GPS monitoring during work hours, regardless of vehicle ownership.

Privacy legislation can take shape in different ways than we might imagine. Recent legislation in Utah, HB0242, provides public employees with the right to a private room in which to breastfeed. The physical privacy afforded in this bill does not extend to private employees in the state, perhaps because of the burden it would put on businesses. Despite this, it may be in the interest of mothers across the country if such legislation was enacted to protect their right to privacy equal to their government peers.

Part of creating clearly outlined rules in regards to privacy in the workplace is the opportunity to create an environment which fosters trust and communication between the employer and the employed. Legislation requiring employers to clearly communicate surveillance practices within the workplace keeps both parties in check, and can help to avoid embarrassing situations. It also enables employers to create an expectation while employees understand what kind of information their employer may capture if they log into their Facebook on a company computer.

Employees should have a right to know when electronic surveillance exists in any form. This information should be disclosed fully and in an upfront manner, such as in an employee handbook. Certain states, such as Connecticut, have created legislation which ensures that employees are given this very kind of advance notice of any electronic monitoring in the workplace.

The rapidly evolving landscape of electronic surveillance requires that these issues are quickly addressed, and that it is done in ways which produce the most future-proof legislation possible. Questions of second use and data retention must also be considered beyond the simple collection of information in the workplace. Although it may be possible to create a compromise through negotiations between employers, employees, and clients, this doesn’t guarantee standards which are applied to every employer, or even every industry. Because of this, legislation may be necessary to provide a base level of protection and compromise for both employers and employees.

Legislation surrounding workplace surveillance must be carefully crafted to protect privacy and safety in favor of employees, while not crippling employers’ ability to maintain their brand image or the security of sensitive data.  Federal laws regarding workplace monitoring already exist, such as the Electronic Communications Act, 18 USC 2150, which allows for unannounced monitoring of business calls across state lines, similar to the aforementioned law in California. This law has the important distinction that an employer must cease monitoring when the employer realizes the call is personal.

Any legislation enacted must not prevent individual employers and employees from striking a balance which both consider favorable and beneficial. The goal of any legislation should lift the burden of these technologies from both parties and allow everyone involved to benefit from them, without being damaging to the reasonable interests of either.

Is surveillance of kids good, effective parenting?



Is surveillance of kids good, effective parenting?


In today’s time, a parent can have a huge monitoring system to keep tabs on their children. Technology has made many advancements in the world of surveillance, so good that parents can use gadgets to monitor their child from the time they are an infant to close to early adulthood. Many parents believe that using equipment to watch their kids is a perfect way to raise them. But there are also parents who think they should not stay in their kids business all the time and let them learn through their own decision making. It’s obvious that family life has changed because of such things like the Internet,Xbox, and cell phones. One issue that has been brought up now in our present time, is if using technology to monitor children is an effective way of parenting. One reason why parents use monitoring gadgets is because they are affordable at a cheap price, available at most stores, and easy to use in most cases.It’s time for parents to use technology in a fashionable way to monitor their children so they can function well in their lives.


 Since there has been rapid advances in technology these past few years, individuals now can use surveillance tools that were once only available to the government and law enforcement. Video cameras and GPS tracking devices have been added on to smart phones. Parents can now connect their computers to WiFi and through a webcam watch over their property and their loved ones while away from home. The gadgets you read about in spy novels have now become a reality and parents can pick them up at a store at a local mall.


Many parents have the “helicopter parent” trait, which means they watch over their kids constantly. This is where a parent like this would see surveillance technology beneficial to the challenge of raising their kid. Most parents are super busy and work long hour jobs each week and they feel like it is helpful to monitor their kids since they can’t see them in person all the time. A young mother may listen to her baby monitor or look to see if the baby is in crib through her web camera that’s set up. Or in a teenager’s case, a parent may stick a GPS tracking device on the teenager’s car to see where he is going that night. Other parents feel like this is not a positive way to raise kids, because these parents have a “free range parenting” style where they let their children learn from their mistakes and be independent.


State Sen. Eric Adams states, “You have the duty and obligation to protect the members of your household.”  Some government officials believe that children don’t technically have constitutional rights and that parents should constantly search their kids for contraband. They think there are just too many uncertainties involving the Internet and other things in life that can alter a child’s growth and healthy lifestyle choices. Many parents are fearful and are scared by child abduction and the dangers lurking in cyberspace. In most cases, parents will buy into the multi-million dollar industry that creates tools to monitor kids.


(http://www.carolynjabs.com/the_argument_for_surveillance_software_58462.htm) In some cases, using technology to monitor you children can create drama and bad tension. Children can start to feel anger and possibly lose the ability to trust  or feel that you as the parent, won’t ever trust them. Usually you would start to see this scenario in their teenage years where they could start to be more rebellious. Parents should allow their children to have free time to do what they want in their own privacy and let them go out on the weekends in an appropriate manner. It’s just not great for a kid to constantly be throwing tantrums because of a parent’s excessive monitoring.


I understand that parents want to monitor their children more than ever now. There are so many harmful things they can discover on the internet that could possibly alter their well-being. It would only make sense for a parent to save a young toddler from seeing something that could scar him or her for life. Let’s not forget that it’s wise to put a baby cam in the house while the nanny is taking care of your child. High rates of kidnapping young children have definitely raised a serious issue and made parents more aware. Yes, there will still be parents who let their kids experience life with a less of a strict attitude. This can work because it teaches the child how to be more independent and not to always rely on their parents. Either way, it will most likely continue to be a debate issue on whether parents should monitor their kids using surveillance tools.  When it comes down to it, parents should try their best to find the perfect way to monitor their children in a fashion where the kid can function well socially and keep a healthy relationship with the parents and other significant people in their lives.







1. (https://www.priv.gc.ca/information/research-recherche/2012/opc_201210_e.asp)


3. (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/wellness/teen-ya/story/2011-09-05/Parental-dilemma-Whether-to-spy-on-their-kids/50262316/1)

4. (http://www.carolynjabs.com/the_argument_for_surveillance_software_58462.htm)



Track Students to Combat Cyber Bullying?

Cyber bullying has become a major issue in recent years and the debate on how to handle this issue has become increasingly important. Is it a parent’s job to monitor their kids’ social media accounts or should public school systems get involved? Many people believe there needs to be a balance between parental monitoring and school involvement. Students need to be protected from online dangers but there privacy also needs to be protected.


The Glendale school district in Los Angeles hired a tech firm, Geo Listening, to monitor students’ social networking sites for keywords related to cyber bullying, drug use and school violence. They can see exactly what they have typed, where they have been and what they have been doing. “These could be posts that are initiated from school, or not; using school-owned technology, or not. The technology also allows for the flagging and reporting of drug use or class-cutting – or really anything publicly posted by a student that could be viewed as problematic to the school”, said Justin W. Patchin.


This program may be increasing the schools sense of security but it is making the students feel like their privacy and security has been taken away. “..but students will feel their speech chilled knowing that the school district is watching,” said Anupam Chander. Students may behave differently online if they know that school officials are watching everything they do. This may be a good thing but it will most likely have negative side effects.


According to CNN’s Kelly Wallace, it has cost the Glendale school district 40,500 dollars annually to monitor all of their students’ social media sites. Is this an appropriate place to put school resources? Forty thousand dollars could be used for several other programs in the school system such as programs to educate parents and students about the Internet in general, but specifically social media. If parents are more aware of the social media sites their children are using they can more effectively regulate and monitor them without a lot of school interference. Also, if students are taught how to behave in an appropriate manner online by their parents and by school officials it will reduce incidents of cyber bullying. It is understandable that this is a big job for parents but it will require less invasive measures from school officials to prevent cyber bullying.


However, it is not reasonable to say that school monitoring to combat cyber bullying is ineffective because it has not been in place or researched for a long enough period of time. In the instance that it does stop or reduce school violence and self-harm significantly, the money invested in the tech firm may be worthy in the eyes of most.


The main issue with tracking students is the violation of privacy. “It’s students’ expression of their own thoughts and feelings to their friends,” said Young Cho, student at Herbert Hoover High School to the Los Angeles Times, “For the school to intrude in that area – I understand they can do it, but I don’t think it’s right.”


Many people, especially students, feel as if it is an invasion of their right to privacy. However, many would argue that if students are posting to public websites anyways it doesn’t matter if the school chooses to monitor their posts. At my high school there was an employee who was hired to monitor our social media accounts in order to maintain school security. I never felt like my privacy was being violated because any time I posted on social media I was aware that anyone, including my school officials, could see it. It all depends on the person and how educated they are about the Internet and social media.


In conclusion, tracking and monitoring students to combat serious issues, such as bullying and other violence can be effective if it is used under the right circumstances. The information would need to be highly secure with access granted to a minimal amount of people. It would need to be deleted after a certain number of days. Students and parents would also need to be aware of the monitoring. In addition to schools monitoring for keywords and phrases on social media sites, it is equally important for the school system to educate students on privacy issues and the dangers of bullying on the Internet (and in reality). The answer is not a clear cut yes or no because this issue is a lot more complicated than that. Students’ privacy is at risk when using a system like this but their safety is at risk if nothing is done about the issue.


List of Resources:














Do Not Track: Do We Need It?

Privacy advocates state that there should be a “Do Not Track” system, that forbids the collection of certain information and allows a user to option out of any methods of  tracking. There are two sides to every argument with legitimate concerns that people with different world views prioritize to differing degrees. At first glance, one may approve for the need of FTC mandating internet. For some, it feels like a violation to be treated as a mere object of commerce others worry that data about their interests will be used to discriminate wrongly against them or to exclude them from information and opportunities they should enjoy. Those who argue we do not need the DNT system believe excess customization of the Web experience may structure society. There is a nice thought  that as a nation our, privacy rights would be restored, however we cannot forget how many loopholes, contracts, network service providers benefits will come about a DNT law. The ultimate question is  what is  privacy?” Everyone has their own take on “privacy,” all we can do is be smart about how and who we provide our information to, take responsibility and control, that’s the closest to freedom  and privacy we can get, without the need of a DNT system.

DNT is not needed in terms of businesses and advertising, Internet tracking has many advantages, including allowing businesses and advertisers to convey more convenient and relevant advertising, services and cost savings to Internet users, however if ad networks sold personal and contact info, it would undercut its advertising business and its own profitability, however they can still trade the information. Most websites such as Facebook, Yahoo, MSN and thousands of blogs, news sites, and comment boards use advertising to support what they do, using cookies to track one’s Internet usage. Google for example, spends millions and millions of dollars on free services like its search engine, Gmail, mapping tools, Google Groups and more where the ultimate result is  personalized advertising.

Marketers will pay more to reach you if you are likely to use their products  in  the business of online advertising the model code is to sell space to advertisers—giving them access to people based on their demographics and interests.

A working group of industry representatives, advertisers, online businesses and privacy advocates  known as The W3C Tracking Protection Working Group, have been working for two years to expand an agreed upon policy and procedure for the need of a DNT system, but have been unable to reach any conclusion. 2012  Eric Wheeler  “Do Not Track”  is Poised to Kill Online Growth, argues the rumors ran that the DNT would be in action starting in the year 2013 there were no specifics as to who and what this DNT system would represent and “poison.” Wheeler argues that it would be so effective,

That it should strike fear into the hearts of every company that does business online — particularly startups, but also the Googles and Facebooks of the world.

According to the article,

The FTC was likely to go beyond the boundaries of privacy and easily opt out of receiving any such market ads including ones from companies and ad networks. Any allied company would cease to collect anonymous user data or coerce browsers to prevent tracking by default, this statement may sound beneficial.

Wheeler says,

The practical implications of such regulations would be devastating — not just for advertisers and the online publishers who depend on their money, but for the technology industry and economy as a whole.

Wheeler implies that consumers themselves would end up suffering to a need for the DNT System. The gain of  “privacy”  would be at the cost of online subscription fees, less interesting and innovative online experiences, and less relevant advertising. The results to DNT would lead  to a confusing, overboard, opt-in mechanisms on every Website visited. As Wheeler states,

We are headed for what feels like an anti-Internet, not a privacy movement.

The article by Jim Harper,  ‘It’s a Modern Trade: Web Users Get as Much as They Get as Much as They Give’ starts with

Many people are concerned and dismayed—even shocked—when they learn that “their” data are fuel for the World Wide Web.

Harper  is not so much taken aback by the FTC wanting to mandate the need for DNT, but rather says that society should stop being such cry babies and learn to better control our information. Harper does not agree with tracking one’s information, but he doesn’t agree with FTC wanting to mandate the need for DNT either.

Rather than indulging the natural reaction to say “stop,” people should get smart and learn how to control personal information. Every visit to a website sends information out before it pulls information in. And the information Web surfers send out can be revealing.

All this brings back information from one of the readings done in class titled, “NSA Prism program taps into the user data of Apple, Google and others.” The NSA obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other U.S. internet giants, this access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism. Prism allows officials to collect material such as search history, content of emails, file transfers and live chats.

PRISM is an easier method of  extensive, in-depth surveillance of live communications and stored information.

Prism according to the law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, Americans whose communications include people outside the US and also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US to be  collected without warrants. The new tracking method  PRISM emphasizes a need for DNT, creating more fears into people of their information being tracked to the point where apparently it can be collected without the use of a warrant.

In the end, one is responsible for their privacy and the actions they take upon it. Whether one agrees or disagrees  with  the need of the FTC mandating a  DNT system is an individual decision. Excess customization of the Web experience may structure  society. For those who seek a need for DNT, there are services and behaviors that can be avoided to not be tracked within one’s own terms. Once can make the effort in taking responsibility and control of the information they choose to share and post. Such methods include paying for security devices for network and online services, using a PO box and other such behaviors that can limit  information from being gathered.  Resisting the need for the DNT System, allows for one to be independent, in control of their information, allowing individuals to retain their personal liberties. 




Regulating the Internet of Things

Imagine this: It’s 2007 and you are Dick Cheney. You have just gotten a heart defibrillator to help with your irregular heart rate and rhythm. It turns out that your defibrillator is wirelessly connected to the Internet, which allows your doctor to monitor you from remote locations. Now this might become a problem considering you’re the vice president of the United States and now have something implanted in your body that has the potential to be hacked into, and possibly used to stalk, injure, or even kill you. (For further information look here.) The issues in heart defibrillators themselves are not incredibly worrisome, as Barnaby J. Feder discusses in this article. The larger issue that presents itself is the Internet of Things as a whole, which is why I believe the FTC should regulate it.

The Internet of Things, also known as the “world’s nervous system”, is a mass of web connected sensors and controllers. Essentially, the Internet of Things can receive inputs form the physical environment and act on them (for example, the sensors might detect a sound, and the controllers might act on those senses.) Massive amounts of data can be collected through the Internet of Things, presenting quite a few issues (which are the reasons I think it should be regulated.)

First, data is often collected without consent. One huge example is the first story Edward Snowden revealed. Basically, the NSA was given the authority to collect months worth of Verizon subscribers’ data without them knowing about it. This obviously poses a huge issue, as people were unaware that their data was being collected. Although some people are now aware that all cell phone companies are required to give some data they’ve collected to the government, many still are not. And even more concerning, unless the Internet of Things begins to be regulated, no one is regulating whether or not companies are telling their consumers what information they are collecting about them.

Another example I came across was about the FTC regulating the Internet of Things, including your car. One of the problems associated with this situation, as well as other similar situations, is that personal information will be shared. As the geolocation of motor vehicles is collected, information is also being collected about the consumer. It will be known precisely where and when the consumer is going, and businesses would easily be able to sell this information to data brokers, who in turn would be able to resell the information to different businesses. Collecting this information can also have effects on the price of insurance and the security of connected cars.

The second reason I think regulating the Internet of Things is a good idea is that the information these companies and organizations are collecting can actually be very dangerous to the consumer. If the FTC isn’t regulating the security of the information being collected, who knows what information is going where. People can steal information, and when there is a lot of information stored about many consumers, it poses a threat to all of them. This can also be the case with more private information like home security systems, which would possibly pose an even greater threat to the individual.

Although I believe regulating the Internet of Things is the best thing to do, it would also be a very difficult task. Regulating the Internet of Things would cost time and money that isn’t currently being spent on it, and it may be difficult to do. Even if regulation of the Internet of Things is implemented, should consumers have the right to opt out of data collection? Or should it be mandatory? There are definitely pros and cons of regulating the Internet of Things.

The FTC is here to protect our privacy and ensure consumer protection. If the FTC were to adopt regulations governing how data from inanimate objects is collected, used, stored and accessed, we, as citizens of the United States, would be more fully protected. In Alice E. Marwick’s article titled How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined (a reading from earlier this year), she makes the point that people who are concerned with privacy matters must “continue to demand that checks and balances be applied to these private corporations…While closer scrutiny of the NSA is necessary and needed, we must apply equal pressure to private corporations to ensure that seemingly harmless targeted mail campaigns and advertisements do not give way to insidious and dangerous violations of personal privacy.” Marwick also makes the point that technology is changing faster than our current consumer protection laws, which means the FTC adopting new regulations is important and crucial if something like that were to be effective. Ultimately, I believe the benefits of regulating the Internet of Things outweighs the cons, and the FTC should begin regulating in order to ensure the safety of the consumer.


  1. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2636073
  2. http://www.securityprivacyandthelaw.com/2014/10/the-ftc-wants-to-regulate-the-internet-of-things-including-your-car/
  3. The New York Review of Books: How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined by Alice E. Marwick
  4. http://mashable.com/2013/06/05/verizon-nsa-phone-records/
  5. http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/overview/article/iot_video.html
  6. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/PreventionTreatmentofArrhythmia/Implantable-Cardioverter-Defibrillator-ICD_UCM_448478_Article.jsp
  7. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/12/business/12heart-web.html?_r=1&
  8. http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/20/us/dick-cheney-gupta-interview/


National DNA database: Sound policy?

Every living person has DNA. Even though humans share 99.9% of that DNA, that .1% in each person is enough to make us each unique. That uniqueness is also enough for the FBI to profile criminals. In 1998, the FBI introduced the National DNA Index System (NDIS) for law enforcement purposes1. This system is the FBI equivalent of similar systems that were being used by 41 states and Great Britain going back to seven years. Legally, the FBI can only catalogue DNA that’s been obtained from criminals, crime scenes, and unidentified human remains. This has proven to be an effective system in solving a number of crimes, but can it be an effective system in preventing future lawbreakers from causing harm?

The idea is that there can be a database that holds the DNA of every U.S. citizen from birth. Currently, genetic cataloguing is only permitted for the NDIS for criminal investigations, but there is potential for a system that documents the genetic code for each and every citizen. I see that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in the idea of a public database. The system would function similar to current birth certificates and social security numbers. A newborn is processed at birth, and he or she can use that information later in life to prove he or she is a citizen. It’s only another form of documentation.

Although I find the benefits obvious, some people would be reluctant for such a system to exist. And they’re not wrong to be reluctant. A person’s DNA is his and his alone. Even if that person were to somehow clone himself, he and his clone would still be affected by epigenetics. This is information that a person may want to keep private. At the moment, unless that person is suspected of a crime, that information will be protected.

The key word there is suspected. The DNA databases currently in the world are mostly run by government agencies that are built around taking down criminals. They are able to gain access it an innocent person’s DNA with a warrant2. For instance, if a person is suspected of a crime, but the police can’t find enough evidence for a warrant, they can possible retrieve another warrant for a completely different crime and take that persons DNA. They can then use that DNA for the first case. The issue here is that innocent people will have their DNA in a system that’s shared with criminals. This may send the wrong message about a person if someone finds out that they’re in this database.

Currently, there are some policies to remove a person’s genetic information from a database3. In 2008, after a juvenile in the U.K. fought to have his information removed from a database, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that genetic information storage was a violation was a violation of privacy.  The U.K. was required to purge the information from their database, with the conditions that people not convicted with DNA evidence have their information purged immediately and criminals have their information purged five years after a case.

The big problem with this case is that it only pertains to databases that collect criminal DNA, not that every citizen of a nation. People wouldn’t have their information automatically purged after a period of time. If anything, a public database would act similar to electronic medical records4. Currently, medical providers are switching to electronic systems to transfer medical data, and a big concern is how much control the patients have over this data. Anybody with permission to access the system can view this data. A public DNA database will behave similarly, giving access to genetic information to anyone with permission.

How easy would it be for a corporation to get permission for this system? If a drug company gained access, they would have the genetic records of everyone in the system’s country. They could then target individuals with ads based on the composition of their DNA. If a person’s DNA shares traits with other genetic information that indicates a person may have diabetes, that person may be spammed with adverts for blood strips and insulin.

And let’s say that everyone has access to the system, no matter who they are. Companies would obviously target everyone, but there is a more extreme example that could come out of this. There was a movie in 1997 called Gattaca that had a social class system based on DNA. People with “inferior DNA” are on the lower classes and people with “superior DNA” are on the upper classes. This is an extreme example, but some aspects may appear in the real world. Health insurance providers may base policies on genetic structure. People could look at your DNA to determine ethnicity, and may profile a person based off of it. Maybe in another extreme example, someone would base their decision to marry based on the partner’s genetic background.

The last examples may never happen, since a public DNA database would have to be absolutely public, allowing anyone to see information. But some fears of such a database can hold true. The major point to remember is that, similar to medical records and financial histories, a DNA database is a database of personal information. It can be beneficial for documentation, though it is a large chunk of information that some people may not be comfortable having stored in a single place. Genetic information is unique to every person, so it should be dealt with in a precious manner.






Funny Internet Memes: Effective Response to Surveillance?

The funny pictures and videos we now call “memes” are all over the internet. While most memes may have the same format and pictures, the text often changes to create humor out of a generally more serious topic. When the 2013 NSA/Snowden scandal happened, it became the subject of many memes/videos on the web. One might think making a funny picture out of an issue as serious as privacy and surveillance is innappropriate, but it’s just a way of helping us cope. It reminds us that while these awful things may be happening, we can find humor in the situation that may give us hope or encouragement to intervene and stand up for what we think about what’s going on in the world around us.
The issue of privacy and surveillance is something that affects everybody. Bob Sullivan in his article “Privacy under attack, but does anybody care?” said “Privacy is like health: When you have it, you don’t notice it. Only when it’s gone do you wish you’d done more to protect it.” Everyone has many things that they don’t want the rest of the world to know about and that’s exactly why were given the right to keep our personal lives private. As the years go on, that right we were promised seems to be slowly eroded. Our phone calls are monitored, surveillance cameras are everywhere we look, and our cell phones can tell anyone where we are at any moment. These are all things that are scary, invasive, and unsettling. So why do we joke about them? Inserting humor in a serious situation is a very effective away to apply that situation to our own lives. Seeing a meme we recognize that includes text or a picture about privacy and surveillance allow us to relate that issue to our own lives and realize that it does affect us personally.
How do we go on living our daily lives without being in constant fear and suspision? We do it by turning fear into laughter. That’s not to be mistaken with taking the situation lightly..that’s not the purpose of the internet memes. Creating humor in a seemingly helpless situation allows us to know the issue and make the connection to our own lives, and that is exactly why joking about the situation on the web is a coping device for so many. While we may not google search “surveillance memes” when we’re feeling a bit uneasy about drones flying about, seeing a meme on our twitter feeds about the situation allows us to see the situation, imitate the feelings it gives, and respond/share positively. Richard Dawkins said: “Memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.” Everyone knows what is happening with privacy and surveillance and seeing those pictures may help people to realize how rediculous the situation is from an outside perspective and suddenly feel inclined to do or say something about it to their peers or the government/corporation itself.
Lightening up a serious situation with humor has been around long since the internet. Television involves cartoons addressing serious situations and newspapers involve political comics creating an enjoyable spin on the most recent scandals. While television and newspaper memes are easily accessable to us, internet memes are avialable to us almost immediately. Paul Brewer, associate director for research at the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication, says “Many of us are using television, social media, smartphones and tablets all at the same time as we take in the debates, by the time the debate is halfway over, there’s already a Tumblr site full of memes.” Memes are an extremely effective way to not only make people laugh, but spread the laughter around the World Wide Web quickly.
As humans, we have certain ways of dealing with situations we feel like we can do nothing about. The government and big businesses are the main ones involved in invading the privacy in our lives, and as a single person we feel helpless against those powers. Seeing and sharing a funny picture about privacy and surveillance allows us to relate to the situation ourselves, and sharing that picture with our friends allows us to spread the word. Pal Gil, an internet basics expert said, “A meme with political humor attached to it can virally spread awareness of an issue, or can help to reinforce growing attitudes and prejudices.” Internet memes on privacy and surveillance are informative, they’re effective, and they’re down-right hilarious.

Neuman, Scott. “Political Memes: Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control?” NPR. 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. .

Gleik, James. “What Defines a Meme?” Smithsonianmag.com. Smithsonian Magazine, 11 May 2011. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. .

Sullivan, Bob. “Privacy under Attack, but Does Anyone Care?” NBC News. 17 Oct. 2006. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. .

Gil, Paul. “Why Would You Ever Create an Internet Meme?” About Technology. About.com. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. .