Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Shop Online? NSA Is Probably Watching You

Via teacherken at Daily Kos, we have Washington Post's "The Switch" blog informing us:

NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking

By Ashkan Soltani, Andrea Peterson, and Barton Gellman — December 10 at 8:50 pm

... [image of slide from NSA internal presentation]

The National Security Agency is secretly piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using "cookies" and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.

The agency's internal presentation slides, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government. The slides also suggest that the agency is using these tracking techniques to help identify targets for offensive hacking operations.

For years, privacy advocates have raised concerns about the use of commercial tracking tools to identify and target consumers with advertisements. The online ad industry has said its practices are innocuous and benefit consumers by serving them ads that are more likely to be of interest to them.

The revelation that the NSA is piggybacking on these commercial technologies could shift that debate, handing privacy advocates a new argument for reining in commercial surveillance.

NSA Co-opted Spokesmonster
I know of no way to beat this surveillance, short of using one computer and 'net connection for shopping, and another computer and 'net connection for anything you want to keep safe from NSA hacking. Maybe two virtual machines would do; I don't know. But NSA is determined to divert and use every scrap of information you share with anyone or any company, for NSA's own purposes of... well, what? Who knows... anything they damned well please. I can't imagine all their intentions are benign.

Warrants for these NSA searches? You must be joking. Presumption of innocence? "Innocence? That's so... 19th century," as a friend says in a recent comment. You think all the invasive practices of the NSA don't affect you because you don't have anything to hide? See if that makes any difference when someone, somewhere in government or law enforcement, decides they have a bone to pick with you. You're damned right it affects you. But... go ahead, enjoy your delusions while you can; I won't try to stop you.

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