Posted by toadstar on 5:07 PM

I For One Welcome Our Government Overseer's:

In a 69-28, lopsided vote the US Senate bows to Bush's continuing war on the Constitution and voted to approve his surveillance bill. Bush says that the legislation will protect citizens' rights of privacy from government intrusion as well as Americans' security.

"This bill will help our intelligence professionals learn who the terrorists are talking to, what they're saying and what they're planning."

Does it really? Has anyone thought to explain to him the paradox of the false positive? In Cory Doctorow's book Little Brother, he explains this theory thusly:

Terrorists are really rare. In a city of twenty million like New York, there
might be one or two terrorists. Maybe ten of them at the outside. 10/20,000,000
= 0.00005 percent. One twenty-thousandth of a percent.

That's pretty rare all right. Now, say you've got some software that can sift through all the bank-records, or toll-pass records, or public transit records, or phone-call
records in the city and catch terrorists 99 percent of the time.

In a pool of twenty million people, a 99 percent accurate test will identify two hundred thousand people as being terrorists. But only ten of them are terrorists. To
catch ten bad guys, you have to haul in and investigate two hundred thousand
innocent people.

Guess what? Terrorism tests aren't anywhere close to 99 percent accurate. More like 60 percent accurate. Even 40 percent accurate, sometimes.

What this all meant was that the Department of Homeland Security had set itself up to fail badly. They were trying to spot incredibly rare events -- a person is a terrorist -- with inaccurate systems.

So what good is it all? If the odds of catching an actual terrorist in this method is this small, why continue to eavesdrop? What is there to gain? Control. Control in two different ways. 1) Waving the specter of the terrorist bogey man over our heads creating fear a fearful populace is more willing to let the government take away their civil rights in the name of protecting us from said bogey man. They are creating oppression through fear. 2) Now they have control of all our information, bank records, medical records, what we buy at the grocery store, bus trips, who we call and how often. Now they can tag us and track us and keep us in line-we have become spime. But did they really need to go through all this political posturing? No, apparently domestic spying is a large portion of federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies and goes far beyond mere wiretapping. "They sift, store and analyze the communications, spending habits and travel patters of U.S. Citizens, searching for suspicious activity."

"There's virtually no branch of the U.S. government that isn't in some way involved in monitoring or surveillance," said Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian and fellow at the National Security Archives at The George Washington University. "We're operating in a brave new world."

Apparently, however the government wants to be the only entities that track our online use. "Executives from major Internet players-Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and facebook Inc.- are due for a grilling about online privacy in a Senate committee Wednesday, [...] NebuAd had drawn fierce criticism from privacy advocates in recent weeks for working with Internet service providers to track the online behavior of their customers and then serve up targeted banner ads based on that behavior."

Pot meet Kettle...

[edited to add more links]


Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas