Think Verizon and the NSA shouldn’t be in the same category as Wolfman and Frankenstein? Think again: Behind you! It’s … it’s … packet shaping!
So maybe James Clapper isn’t as scary-looking as Lon Cheney in "Phantom of the Opera," but the implications of warrantless surveillance are terrifying. For Halloween, make sure you have the lights on as you read about these 13 (arguably) "frightening" legal issues facing technology today:
- Verizon Wireless is tracking your Web traffic. Wired reported earlier this week that Verizon was injecting identifiable IDs into user traffic in order to more effectively target advertisements.
- The FBI thinks people who use encryption are criminals. FBI Director James Comey wants to have a master key to everyone’s stuff. Because only murderous pedophiles need to keep the FBI out of their cell phones.
- We’re not allowed to know how many National Security Letters get served. Twitter is suing the government for the right to be just a teensy bit more specific than "less than 1,000" about how many requests it gets to turn over user data through National Security Letters.
- Police can trick your phone into connecting to their sting operation. Police use a device called a "Stingray" to get cell phones to think it’s a cell tower and connect to it. They’re very tight-lipped about the device, but it also doesn’t help that they’ve lied about using it to get search warrants.
- Your thermostat can and will be used against you. Your woefully insecure thermostat or refrigerator could allow a hacker to infiltrate your home network through the fridge — it’s right behind you! (The fridge, I mean.)
- ISPs want to do away with net neutrality. Right now, ISPs have to deliver all the bytes you want at the speed you pay for. If net neutrality disappears, you’ll get some of your bytes at one speed, but the bytes you want the most will cost you more.
- A Comcast/Time Warner merger is still a possibility. Combined, Comcast and Time Warner would own 57 percent of the cable market. Verizon, the next-largest company, would own a whopping 8 percent.
- The FBI thinks it doesn’t need a warrant for your email. Thanks to an outdated federal law, the FBI may be technically correct, even though the Sixth Circuit said parts of the law (the Stored Communications Act) are unconstitutional.
- NSA spying has practically no oversight. Contrary to what Clapper has said, Congress says it’s routinely not informed about certain things, and the FISA court says it lacks the expertise to know if the NSA is telling the truth.
- ISPs don’t want municipal Wi-Fi. State legislatures, with backing from disinterested parties like major ISPs, want to make it illegal for cities to set up their own municipal wireless networks. Because, you know, money.
- State officials are reading emails between attorneys and incarcerated clients. Prosecutors are reading confidential attorney-client emails and introducing them into evidence. It helps that the only email systems some prisons let inmates use are conspicuously monitored.
- Government officials impersonating real people. Turns out the DEA was impersonating a woman on Facebook without her knowledge or consent.
- Your license plate is being scanned all the time. Even outside the Internet, you’re still being scanned: In Los Angeles, police routinely record the locations of identifiable cars without any articulable suspicion.