August 7, 2015
Crisis: Internet Dying, Fourth Amendment, Medical Privacy, "Free Speech"

"They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next


'The Dream of Internet Freedom is Dying,' Warns Top
     Civil Liberties Attorney

2. Stop Watching Them: Federal Court Squashes
     Unwarranted Cell Phone Tracking

3. Medical Privacy Under Threat in the Age of Big Data
A Quiz for the West's Great Free Speech Advocates and
    Supporters of Anjem Choudary's Arrest

This is a Nederlog of Friday August 7, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article that - correctly - says the internet is dying, and I agree (and list some of my own proposals, that probably will not be followed); item 2 is about a decision of a US court that upheld the Fourth Amendment; item 3 is a not so good article about "medical privacy", which to the best of my knowledge is, in Holland at least, a thing of the past; and item 4 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald, who
shows that the current Western style for free speech - you are free to say what you please, as long as you please the government - is not quite as free as the
governments say it is, and I connect this with an example from "The Communist

1. 'The Dream of Internet Freedom is Dying,' Warns Top Civil Liberties Attorney

The first article of today is by Lauren McCauley on Commom Dreams:

  • 'The Dream of Internet Freedom is Dying,' Warns Top Civil Liberties Attorney

This starts as follows:

"The dream of Internet freedom is... dying," said attorney and civil liberties expert Jennifer Granick during her keynote speech before a major computer security conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Granick, formally the civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and now the director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, was addressing some of the world's foremost technology experts attending the annual Black Hat information security event this week.

"Centralization, regulation, and globalization," Granick said, have wrought havoc on a space once thought of as "a world that would leave behind the shackles of age, of race, of gender, of class, even of law."

The dream is dying, she said, because "we’ve prioritized things like security, online civility, user interface, and intellectual property interests above freedom and openness." And governments, for their part, have capitalized on the fear of "the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse: terrorists, pedophiles, drug dealers, and money launderers" to push for even more regulation and control, she added.

I quite agree, and indeed called for making a new internet - in 2009. Here is a part of it (and the rest is here):

A new internet is needed + 3 special reasons why

It seems to me highly desirable to split up the internet as is in a commercial net and a public net, with the commercial players, the advertisers, the commercial-Flash-on-you-pukers, and indeed also all that is commercial and more or less decent and justified, from banking to plumbing, on one net, and non-commercial content, varying from private persons websites, to schools and universities, the Wikipedia and much other educational matter (Stanford Encyclopedia, Victorian Net, Perseus, you name it...), on another net.

In fact, the split between commercial and non-commercial can be drawn quite easily, while allowing for overlaps: It is mostly that between open en hidden source and apart from that depends on whether makers of web-content want to cash in on advertisments and/or have web-pages in order to support a commercial product.
And here are three final arguments:

First - it is and ought to be public and open: the internet has grown out of the efforts of private persons and people working at universities, and indeed out of what was from the beginning open source - Microsoft jumped in only for the money, and since then attempted to redesign it for its own needs.

Second - it makes solid sense:, the split I advocate - into a WWW and a WCW, to reduce it to acronyms - corresponds quite closely to a manifold split of the following kind

open source   - hidden source
personal        - commercial
educational     - profit-oriented
individual       - organizational

Third - it may save the public media:

Seeing what is happening to the classical papers (getting extinct fast, to be replaced by Foxnews and the like, at least for the masses) and to the media (mostly moronified to please the masses of pinheads and the smart-alecks who live off these pinheads), this could be an excellent means to regain something like the classic media, but on the net:

Make the media - in part, for there is also place for commercial media, but I am talking in fact of the major public benefits of real quality papers, produced by highly competent and trained journalists, preferably with a university education - into educational institutions, somewhat like universities are (in Europe), that is, mostly funded by public money and on a BBC-model

This seems to me the best way to go, to preserve the quality media, albeit in a new form; to give the internet back to the public, who created it in the first place; and to clearly separate what is commercial from what is not, and should not have to compete with, crowded out, or suffocated by, commercial players with private ends and megabucks of money.

And I know the above is a brief argument, that may be butressed and countered in quite a few ways, but it seems to me the only way I know of to keep the internet public, educational, open source and for and by private individuals, and also to retain quality journalism and quality media in the interest of all

Also (to return to the original article) I am not alone :

Late last month, Snowden himself made a direct plea to technologists to build a new Internet specifically for the people.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to push for expanded surveillance capabilities, such as with the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) currently making its way through congress, which would allow companies to share personal user information with the government if there is a so-called "cybersecurity threat."

Then again, I also must admit I am now a lot more skeptical than I was in 2009.

That is, more precisely: I am still strongly in favor of it, but I live in a world which is presently strongly for the rich and also strongly democratized, especially for the IQs up to 100 (which covers half of mankind) since currently everyone with any opinion on anything can utter these opinions on the internet, quite anonymously also, at least for other normal users, and more or less as offensive, stupid, and dogmatic as he or she pleases, and indeed it seems very many do so (judging by comments and twitters).

Besides, this democratic half (the majority, at least together with the clever frauds and conmen who exploit them) doesn't seem to care much for being spied on from all directions, varying from commercial spying to governmental spying, because they are certain that they "didn't do anything wrong" and "therefore" are safe (and also they quite like the ads they get, in exchange for their total privacy, or so it seems).

Hence, and summing up: While it is quite feasible, I take it that now it is quite unlikely to happen, simply because both the rich and the stupid half are against it, and since the majority wants a manipulated single internet where the rich can spy on anyone (and send personalized ads in reward), and the government can spy on anyone, and where no one who has an IQ of maximally 100 or an income above a million a year will be harmed, I take it there will remain just one net for all, were it only because the truly intelligent are always in a small minority.

If so, it is a very great pity, but it will be a real, if manipulated, democratic decision of the majority. [1]

There is also this:

Granick also took on the undisclosed rules which supposedly enable much of the government's spying activities. "We need to get rid of secret law. We have secret law in this country and it is an abomination in the face of democracy," Granick proclaimed, to much applause.

In the future, she further warned, Internet users won't be aware of the "secret" software-driven decisions directly impacting their rights and privacy.

"Software will decide whether a car runs over you or off a bridge," she said. "Things will happen and no one will really know why."

"The Internet will become a lot more like TV and a lot less like the global conversation we envisioned 20 years ago," Granick said, concluding that if this is the case, "we need to get ready to smash it apart to make something better."

Again, I agree, but I am afraid it is too late, and that the forces that want a single, manipulable, advertised, government-controlled internet for the democratic majority of the stupid and the rich, are simply too strong and too rich, and besides lack a real conscience.

But OK - we will find out.

2. Stop Watching Them: Federal Court Squashes Unwarranted Cell Phone Tracking

The next article is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

  • Stop Watching Them: Federal Court Squashes Unwarranted Cell Phone Tracking

This starts as follows:

In what civil liberties groups hope will lead to an end of unchecked cell phone tracking of U.S. residents, a federal court of appeals has ruled that law enforcement agencies cannot obtain a person’s historical cell phone location information from cell phone companies without a legal warrant signed by a judge.

In a decision that is likely to propel the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, the 4th Circuit of Appeals on Wednesday ruled the practice of tracking individuals using information stored on a person's phone or within a company's database system without court approval is an unconstitutional violation of the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure.

I say! A US court that applies the Bill of Rights and the Fourth Amendment correctly! But yes, I quite agree, though I understand this is indeed not the common legal opinion in the USA:

Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the ACLU, called the opinion "a full-throated defense of Fourth Amendment privacy rights in the digital age."

In previously heard challenges, the two other appeals courts which reviewed the issue—both the 5th and 11th Circuits—ruled differently than the 4th Circuit as they took the side of government lawyers who argued that cell phone users should have no expectation of privacy when their cell phone data is already in the hands of their phone company.

But as Wessler explains, the historic legal idea of the "third party doctrine" should no longer apply in an era when our phones can reveal so much about our personal lives. "Cell phone location records can reveal some of the most private details about our lives by showing where we go and who we spend time with. Requiring a warrant for access to this information is an important protection against unjustified government intrusions."

Well... although I agree with Wessler's argument, I also recall that the Fourth Amendment does not merely apply "in an era when our phones can reveal so much about our personal lives":

The Fourth Amendment - and here it is:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
-- Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution

simply insists that no one shall be investigated - searched, materials taken - without probable cause, signed by a judge, that also should list which items
are to be seized. 

I quite agree with that, and this does not refer to "an era when our phones can reveal so much about our personal lives". Instead it insists, quite correctly, that no one's private data are to be seized, inspected, read or stored, except if there
is a probable cause that he or she has broken the law.

There probably will be more on this legal decision, since the probability is that it will be judged by the Supreme Court.

3. Medical Privacy Under Threat in the Age of Big Data

The next article is by Farai Chideya on The Intercept:

  • Medical Privacy Under Threat in the Age of Big Data
I should start by saying that I think that the theme is quite important, but I did not much like this article. But here is one part of it:
Medical privacy is a high-stakes game, in both human and financial terms, given the growing multibillion-dollar legal market for anonymized medical data. IMS Health Holdings, for example, acquires data from pharmacies and sells it to biotech and pharmaceutical firms. After looking into its filing to become a public company, ProPublica found IMS’s “revenues in 2012 reached $2.4 billion, about 60 percent of it from selling such information.” Medical data-mining firms claim that this is all harmless because the data is truly anonymous, but their case is not airtight by any means. For example, Latanya Sweeney of Harvard’s Data Privacy Lab bought commercially available data and de-anonymized it by cross-referencing the dates of medical events with local news events and public records. She found that a man publicly identified as a missing person was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had attempted suicide, for example.
I know of this because some years ago (circa 2011) there was a considerable hullabaloo in Holland about the privacy of medical data, in part because the health insurances wanted to couple and search the records doctors keep, all
"with the best intentions", according to them.

Since then (I took part a little bit, back then) I have not heard much about it,
and indeed it seems as if the NSA and the GCHQ know everything about anyone,
so I will assume something similar is the case in Holland:

In fact, the health-insurances know everything about your health and your doctor,  and they sell these data to anyone who is willing to pay their price, and the only way you can escape this - it seems, for as usual the patients are not told anything - is by not getting ill or by not going to a doctor.

But yes, this is a guess, although one with reasonable evidence.

4. A Quiz for the West's Great Free Speech Advocates and Supporters of Anjem Choudary's Arrest

The final article today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
  • A Quiz for the West's Great Free Speech Advocates and Supporters of Anjem Choudary's Arrest

This starts as follows

As we all know ever since the inspiring parade in Paris following the Charlie Hebdo attack, “free speech” is a cherished and sacred right in the west even for the most provocative and controversial views (of course, if “free speech” does not allow expression of the most provocative and controversial views, then, by definition, it does not exist). But yesterday in the UK, the British-born Muslim extremist Anjem Choudary, who has a long history of spouting noxious views, was arrested on charges of “inviting support” for ISIS based on statements he made in “individual lectures which were subsequently published online.”

This arrest has predictably produced the odd spectacle of those  who just months ago were parading around as free speech crusaders now cheering the arrest of someone for ideas he expressed in a lecture. That simply shows what was obvious all along: that for many participants, the Charlie Hebdo “free speech” orgies were all about celebrating and demanding protection for ideas that they like (ones that castigate Islam and anger Muslims), not actual principles of free speech (having the Paris march led by scores of world leaders who frequently imprison those with unpopular views was the perfect symbol).

Yes, precisely: It seems as if the real model for "free speech" in the West these days is along the following lines: You are free to say what you please as long as our fine government agrees; you risk (secret) persecution (legal or otherwise) in case what you please does not please our free and democratic government. (And remember: the secret services of our fine free and democratic governments
know everything about you, even though you do not know anything about them.)

Glenn Greenwald continues:

The principal justification I saw yesterday from those defending Choudary’s arrest was that “advocacy of violence” or “incitement to violence” is something different than speech, and can thus be legitimately punished, including with prison. With this standard in mind, I offer a few examples of statements and would like to know whether it should be legal to express them or whether one should be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for doing so:

(1) Saddam Hussein is a major threat and has WMD, and we should use all our might to invade Iraq, bomb the country, take it over, and kill him and his supporters!

(2) Obama is absolutely right to use drones even though he’s killing innocent people. In fact, we should use more drones to kill more people. Even if it means having civilians and children die, the need to wipe out The Terrorists requires we use more violence now, no matter how many innocent Muslims will die from it!

He gives quite a few other examples, which you can check out by clicking the last dotted link, but I have yet another example, which I owe to my communist background [2].

Here is the end of Marx and Engels's "The Communist Manifesto" (first published in February 1848):

In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.

In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time.

Finally, they labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries.

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

Working Men of All Countries, Unite!

In case you do not get my point:

Isn't it clear that according to the modern approach of "free speech" - speech is free as long as it agrees to what the government says - what communists like Marx and Engels said is an obvious example of terrorism? And how dared they threaten the democratic governments of their days with "the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions"?!

In fact, of course, I agree with Glenn Greenwald, but it is an interesting fact that
it seems as if Marx and Engels - of 1848 - were "terrorists" according to modern "free speech" notions, and might very well have been arrested these days in England.


[1] You may protest that I am not an egalitarian, and indeed you are right:

I do not believe everyone is the equal of Goebbels and Hitler, or of Einstein and Von Neumann; and I do believe that the truly creative and the truly intelligent are and always have been a small minority (rather like those who become soccer stars, though - perhaps - a tiny bit more intelligent).

And the reason I am so explicit about this is that I have studied at the University of Amsterdam, where nearly everyone who worked or studied there between 1971 and 1995, claimed that they believed that "everyone knows that everyone is of equal value", whereas I - who is the son and grandson of communist resistance fighters, with a knighted father - and who was about the only one who publicly denied that everyone is of equal value to Goebbels and to Einstein, was removed briefly before being able to take my M.A. in philosophy from the faculty of philosophy, because I was supposed to be, according to at least 16 academically employed pseudo-philosophers, "a fascist" and "a terrorist", in May of 1988 (when I was invited to speak in public, and did so, and in fact only asked questions).

So...anyone may protest my opinions, but unless your father and grandfather were arrested by the SS, tortured, and convicted to the concentration-camp as "political terrorists", and you yourself have shown that you are able to stand up by yourself and protest obvious but popular idiocy and bullshit, also when you risk being heavily sanctioned, I will not take you seriously.

Also, I don't think any Dutchman will protest, and I do not know of anyone (except my brother) who has a background in the Dutch resistance (to the Nazis) that is stronger or as strong as mine is.

[2] In brief: Both of my parents were communists for more than forty years; both were in the communist resistance against the Nazis; my father's father was a communist; my mother's parents were anarchists; and both my father and his father were arrested in June of 1941 and convicted to the concentration camp, where my grandfather was murdered.

I was the first in my family who could study (my parents and grandparents were more than intelligent enough to study, but there simply was no money), while I gave up communism in 1970, when I was 20 (and legally not yet an adult, then: I became a legal adult in 1971).

Also, I should add that what I disagreed with was very much more the teachings of Marx, Engels and Lenin than the moral example of my parents: I never disagreed with my parents' moral norms, and indeed we had no big disagreements about my giving up communism, although they were not happy about it.

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