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I actually don't have a problem with private surveillance, regardless of purpose. As long as it's legal (!!!), it's probably more effective than what government agencies like the NSA could do with their more intrusive and illegal methods. I would love to see the NSA domestic surveillance done away with and then have some sort of transparent government incentive for companies that can effectively monitor terrorists, dissent groups, disruptive individuals, whatever, legally. Like private investigators looking into terrorist groups. That's fine, and if the public doesn't like what those dollars are being spent on, such as monitoring peaceful protests (and how are police supposed to know the protestors have peaceful intentions unless they look into them? I've seen some nasty things happen at some of the occupy events in Zugatti park...), they can vote the guys out of office who are in charge of designating targets. It's the complete lack of accountability that causes problems...

I once worked for a company that did pre-employment background checks. Before I left the CEO was talking about the next big thing in weeding out undesirables from the workforce: a system that would keep track of every time someone was placed behind bars/arrested, adding that to a database, and notifying potential/present employers that person A either working for them or applying to work for them had been arrested, either at one time or now.

Not charged with a crime, not falsely arrested, just simply placed behind bars. I left before really delving into the legality of it, but it apparently was.

Remember, the bill of rights only applies to the government. A private company doesn't have to care about WHY you were placed in a jail cell or whether you actually are a criminal, just that you were detained by the police at one time.

If every protester who'd been arrested (I'm thinking Occupy from a while ago) was now in a database that prevented them from ever getting a job again even though they've never committed a "real" crime, then being legal sure doesn't seem fine at all.

I should also mention that I've worked for a few companies handling private information about people. The lack of security in the private area is astounding. I'm honestly surprised that massive SSN and other personal info don't leak out of private companies more often, most of the time it's not difficult to walk out with a million DOB/Name/Current Address/SSN/Duplicatable Signature on thumb drive, there's no internal tracking and no encryption most of the time. The private sector is the last place surveillance should be happening, it's really frightening to think what could happen should they mess up.

Most police forces are institutionally right wing, and so are quite happy to help corporations build blacklists to keep people involved in unions or who brought up health and safety issues out of work. I'm sure police forces hate left wing occupy protesters and will be quite happy to supply detailed information about who they have arrested or information gained from undercover operations to help build blacklists.


Police officers across the country supplied information on workers to a blacklist operation run by Britain's biggest construction companies, the police watchdog has told lawyers representing victims.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has informed those affected that a Scotland Yard inquiry into police collusion has identified that it is "likely that all special branches were involved in providing information" that kept certain individuals out of work.

There is an entire blackmailing mugshot industry.

Not sure if the company you worked for was one of the ones involved, but it is very much a thing.


I have a problem with surveillance in general and I don't think that private surveillance is really any better. Because it still descends from government, I think you'd end up with most of the same problems in addition to problems resulting from trying to make profit.

I mean, what surveillance companies are going to get the most contracts and make the most money? The ones that 'discover' dissent groups, non-peaceful demonstrations, and terrorists. Given that these are relatively rare in our society, a business has incentive to forge evidence on groups and hand them over to law enforcement. Since we're just talking surveillance, no real crimes have to be committed. We can't expect the businesses to be transparent in their methods, because that's their competitive advantage. Whatever government agency signing the checks would be just as happy with this as with their own illegal spying, because they get to point to all these 'wins'.

I guess my point is that moving a controversial issue from the public sector to the private sector doesn't make it magically better. You can say you're fine with it "as long as it's legal", but that qualifier can be applied to government surveillance, too. The problem is that this kind of surveillance lends itself to corruption. I've seen nasty things happen at Thanksgiving parades. What percentage certainty do we need of a demonstration becoming disruptive before law enforcement comes down on the heads of the organizers? 90%? 50%? How often do you think a protest against the current establishment is going to cross that threshold?

Gah, </ramble>

This negative feedback you imagine is worse than you imagine and it has already happened.

The contractors the NSA use, i.e. Lockheed Martin are able to spy on others that may get work on NSA contracts, they can therefore put in a preferential bid to make sure that they get the work.

Now factor in how Lockheed Martin also do the census. They also do the nuclear weapons.

1984 wasn't really that imaginative, the Lockheed Martin script is far more out there.

So after reading that article, if I were a protestor or insurgent; I would be thinking about how to feed false information to these surveillance systems. For instance creating ghost marches; or faking mandatory response incidents in ways that are likely to get innocent bystanders beaten up or shot by the security services.

Anytime you have a fast feedback loop like this, you're going to be getting a lot of noise and a fair amount of disinformation.

Imagine a scenario in which Anonymous is sending out several hundred messages in multiple formats describing an incident in which "Just saw a guy in a suit shoot a cop at Xth and XXX" features prominently. Especially if police communications were being selectively disrupted at the same time...

I've been wondering about this for a while but here it goes:

- what if every medium sized website (in terms of traffic: 1k pageviews per day), injected background ajax calls for google queries about any number of sensitive issues topics?

- what if those same websites used this link[0] or similar for other major services in ajax calls/or iframe with click jacking to send emails on behalf of people which included sensitive information?

I wonder what that topology would look likeā€¦

[0]: https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&view=cm&fs=1&tf=1&shva=1

There's a roughly similar browser extension called "Track Me Not". I have no idea if it's any use. I've been told that it's trivially easy to filter this kind of noise.



If one would consider all the traffic noise, then I can see it being trivially easy (since the traffic would look so much different from everything else), but what if it contained some that weren't really noise? Like if someone piped the output to a database anyone could access?

What about for the emails?

I am a lot more bothered about private companies doing surveillance than I am about whatever NSA / GCHQ are doing.

For a long time my assumption has been that well funded government agencies can, and do, slurp everything I type. (Even though that breaks several laws.)

That has little to no effect on me. But private companies do - they lose the data; they're open to blackmail or corruption; they're insecure; they inaccurate; etc.

Many more people are caused harm by Equifax listing someone else's debt problems under their name than by the NSA doing whatever it is they do.

This post is not saying that government surveillance is acceptable, or that we shouldn't do stuff to stop it!

>That has little to no effect on me. But private companies do - they lose the data; they're open to blackmail or corruption; they're insecure; they inaccurate; etc.

How do those issues not apply to NSA / GCHQ?

Except that the government has a monopoly on force. If a private company harms you, there are often civil and potentially criminal concequences. If the government uses your private data against you and violates your rights, who do you turn to?

> If a private company harms you, there are often civil and potentially criminal concequences.

It is really difficult to sue a company that has a team of lawyers while you are a individual just trying to get by, esp. if said private company did something that really disrupts your life, like wrongly foreclosing on your home or wrongly firing you.

1) It's unequivocally bad if the government spies on its citizens.

2) Some people manage to obtain justice when they are wronged. Often it's just not that easy.

> If a private company harms you, there are often civil and potentially criminal concequences.

This is not at all true, unless you're referring to penalties (civil and criminal) imposed by the government, with the underlying threat of force.

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