Privacy and Liberty

The 4th Amendment has historically "...stop[ed] the police and other government agents from searching us or our property without "probable cause" to believe that we have committed a crime." This has been helped effective safeguard against abuse of power and provided us with one of the pillars of a healthy society; an expression of the age old principal "innocent until proven guilty." But as our environment has changed, so has many individual and agency's opinion regarding our rights and protections regarding our communications and stored information.

It is only very recent in the history of the human race that communication, work, shopping and learning happens through electronics and digital networks. No longer does someone need to physically peep through a key hole, hide in the bushes, or physically search or interrogate someone in order to obtain information. Today information about location, identity, relationships, finances, interests, buying habits, and lifestyle can and is presently being mined remotely by both public and private entities through cellular, WIFI, Blue Tooth, GPS, electronic financial and other networks.

Our Digital World

The Internet, sometimes called the network of networks, is based upon one simple principle: transferring information from one computer to another. In order to do this each computer needs an identity which is called the "Internet Protocol address" or "IP address." It is similar to a telephone number or street address. The IP address is personally identifiable information that is automatically captured by another computer when any communications link is made over the Internet.

Computers connected to the Internet speak the "Internet language" called the "Internet Protocol" or simply "IP." Each computer is assigned a unique address somewhat similar to a street address or telephone number. Under the current system there are four numbers that range from 0 to 255 (Example: Every computer, whether it functions as a web site, is being used by a web surfer, is a mail server, and/or is used for any other function, has an IP address so it can communicate across the Internet.

Communication is accomplished by sending pieces of information called "packets" that include the IP address of the destination computer. Every transfer of information over the Internet must include the capture of the IP address. Generally, users who have fixed Internet connections (cable modems, private companies, etc.) have fixed IP addresses. Dial-up Internet providers usually give addresses dynamically from a pool when a user dials in to connect (such as a pool of 100 IP addresses per 800 subscribers). As fixed Internet connections increase, more and more users can be traced directly from their IP address. Some examples of automatic logging are: visiting a web site, sending or receiving e-mail, using a chat room, or reading and posting to newsgroups.

As of March 1998 the vast majority of privacy policies, both in the public and private sectors, fail to properly explain IP address collection as the collection of personally identifiable information. Sites such as FTC.GOV and CONSUMER.GOV have incorrect information concerning this issue. These policies indicate that only a domain name is captured. Some commercial web sites (such as VISA.COM) have copied this incorrect information and made it part of their own policy. Other industry privacy policy templates, such as those offered by the Direct Marketing Association and the Information Industry Association, overlook IP address collection. If a proxy sits between the users and the Internet all of the users appear to come from one computer. In these cases, users can only traced as far as the proxy unless additional information is known. The computer names can also sometimes be used to gather additional information. One major provider's computer names usually include the nearest big city of the user. Some networks simply use the e-mail address in the computer name [Example: has e-mail address]. -The National Telecommunications and Information Administration

The Prism Program

"The PRISM program collects stored Internet communications based on demands made to Internet companies such as Google Inc. under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to turn over any data that match court-approved search terms. Its existence was leaked six years later by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who warned that the extent of mass data collection was far greater than the public knew and included what he characterized as "dangerous" and "criminal" activities.The disclosures were published by The Guardian and The Washington Post on June 6, 2013. Subsequent documents have demonstrated a financial arrangement between NSA's Special Source Operations division (SSO) and PRISM partners in the millions of dollars.

Documents indicate that PRISM is "the number one source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytic reports", and it accounts for 91% of the NSA's Internet traffic acquired under FISA section 702 authority." The leaked information came to light one day after the revelation that the FISA Court had been ordering a subsidiary of telecommunications company to turn over to the NSA logs tracking all of its customers' telephone calls." ~Wikipedia

Note: there is no silver bullet for privacy. To quote Edward Snowden during his SXSW Conference "…basic steps will encrypt your hardware and … your network communications [making] you…far, far more hardened than the average user - it becomes very difficult for any sort of a mass surveillance. You will still be vulnerable to targeted surveillance. If there is a warrant against you, if the NSA is after you, they are still going to get you. (emphasis added) But mass surveillance that is untargeted and collect-it-all approach you will be much safer."

 These resources are NOT for those who seek a silver bullet. Use of these Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET's) will help prevent "mass surveillance," aggregation and monetization of your personal data, communications and location information, but not from being targeted for criminal activity aimed at damage or injury of person or property.