The Phantom City

Notes from our travels across a mysterious world.

Category: Privacy (page 1 of 2)

Sorry, still no match

U.S. to fingerprint E.U. visitors:

Visitors from European nations traveling with visas or visa-free to the United States will soon have to give 10 digital fingerprints when entering the country, a senior U.S. Homeland Security official said Monday.

Let’s see, the last time I had my fingerprints taken by a digital scanner owned by the U.S. government, it took 30 minutes and continual rewetting of my fingertips because the system was having trouble matching the individual prints to a ten-print scan. Since that was in April, and the machine was fairly new and expensive, I doubt the technology used in the various points of entry has any reason to work much more consistently. I wonder how they plan on handling the extra delays?

Maybe we can work this into some kind of marketing slogan: “Europeans are lining up to get into the United States!”

The Ohio Backup Plan

You know that Ohio state government data storage device, containing the personal information of hundreds of thousands of people, that was stolen from an intern’s car? You ever wonder why that kind of information would be in an intern’s car? Well, the Associated Press explains:

Under protocol in place since 2002, a first backup storage device is kept at a temporary work site for a state office along with the computer system that holds all the employee information, and a second backup device is given to employees on a rotating basis to take home for safekeeping, officials said.

That reminds me: I need to go and put my backup drives in their customary location in the old hollow tree out back.

Don’t turn on a video camera in PA

A man in Pennsylvania has been charged with a felony for wiretapping, after using a video camera to record a police officer during a traffic stop. As it turns out, state law “bars the intentional interception or recording of anyone’s oral conversation without their consent.”

What I find interesting about the article is that everyone seems to agree charging him with a felony isn’t the proper response in this case, but no one mentioned the fact the law itself seems fundamentally flawed. Not being able to record public officials in their duties is a problem, not to mention the number of violations that could be happening every day from tourists. (“Hey, look, Amish! Let me get the camera!”) How do they define intention? A recording of a party is intentional, as is the recording of guests’ voices, but it sounds almost like you would need to get permission from each person if it’s possible to construe that as eavesdropping.

Link courtesy of Scripting News.

UPS loses a package

Not really news, usually, but this time the package contained financial information and Social Security numbers on 3.9 million Citibank customers. Apparently Citibank was sending unencrypted backup tapes by UPS, and a set disappeared a few weeks ago. After what must have been a agonized few weeks of searching, Citibank is now planning on notifying affected customers. It’s nice that identity thieves have that waiting period before they can use information that fell off the truck, thereby giving Citibank plenty of time to wait, right? 😉

It’s okay to steal data…from sick people

Apparently the Justice Department has decided not to enforce the criminal penalties behind HIPAA, which protects the privacy of medical records. Basically, they ruled that criminal prosecution can be brought against medical practices, hospitals, insurance companies, and the like, but not against the employees of those entities.

That’s kind of interesting, since the employees who did the stealing would have been the targets of any criminal prosecution anyway. I’m not sure what Justice was thinking on this one, although I don’t entirely buy the theory that it’s a backhanded way of getting rid of HIPAA. To the extent that I do buy it, I think it is likely a result of a larger ongoing Justice Department attempt to downsize its influence over corporate practices. If it was a real attempt to overthrow HIPAA, I would expect it to be even more ham-handed. (Although the person I linked to would have a better idea than I, I would think, having worked to put HIPAA together.)

In the meantime, I guess with that little bit of clarification, law enforcement can spend more time looking for real Justice Department concerns, such as people who copy their own CDs and anyone who looks “foreign” and takes a picture. 😐

Register of Copyrights wants less rights to make copies

Personally I agree with at least one part of Marybeth Peters’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee: It is disturbing that there may be ties between terrorist organizations and copyright violators. I mean, after all, what if the terrorists get their hands on copies of Britney and Kevin: Chaotic and release it to the rest of the world? That will just make people hate America more. 😉

Link courtesy of Corante, via Boing Boing

Hey, everybody, it’s a National ID Card!

I figured this would be happening sooner or later, but I always thought it would just be more blatant. We’re soon to have uniform standards on driver’s licenses thanks to the REAL ID Act, creating a national ID card out of identification that once was more fractious. The legislation was just passed by the House of Representatives, thanks to it being attached to a “must-pass” Iraq appropriations bill.

Anyone remember Reagan being opposed to a national ID card? That was in part due to a libertarian strain in conservative politics, and in part due to evangelicals who believed a national ID card was the first step toward world government. Sure, maybe 9/11 changed “everything,” but I would think fundamental political and religious beliefs would be the last things to change, so expect some fireworks over this one by tomorrow, when it goes to the Senate.

In the meantime, I think it’s disgusting that the bill had already gone down to defeat last year, only to get attached to a bill designed to furnish the equipment and supplies our troops need. Also, it denies states the ability to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

So, we have a bill establishing a federal ID standard, cynically abusing an appropriations bill for the military, establishing a new unfunded mandate on the states, and increasing federal control while limiting personal freedom. You’re a bad conservative, Rep. Sensenbrenner, you’re a bad conservative.

Link courtesy of WilWheaton dot Net

Update: Hmmm…this could make for an interesting Supreme Court fight.

Update, again: Looks like the bill is about to be signed into law.

Talking technology in Butler County, Ohio

Okay, perhaps local officials everywhere can’t be trusted to learn the basics before making public statements. Subdermal GPS chips don’t exist yet! You’re thinking of those microchips they scan at the vet’s office!

And, once again, I can only hope the Sheriff was joking when he was talking about electrically shocking parolees who were doing things in violation of their probation. I can sort of see it working as an Invisible Fence for keeping people in a certain area — if you had the GPS tracking chips — but the last time I saw a chip that shocked someone because of their behavior, it was on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Link courtesy of Engadget

This is insane…

I really wanted not to comment on the Terri Schiavo case. I really wanted not to comment on it because I don’t think our comments matter. In the end, this is a personal, family matter that has been blown out of all proportion. (Yes, there are larger issues here, but what is happening to Terri Schiavo is happening across the United States right now with other patients and we haven’t been paying attention to them.) So, why am I commenting now? No good reason, other than to get it out of my head.

There’s so much noise out there right now, and very little of it means anything. I’m kind of embarrassed to say I did add to the noise on one blog, because I had noticed an idea the writer had come up with was spreading rapidly through other blogs I read and I felt the need to comment on it. He took CT scan images of Terri Schiavo’s brain and a normal brain and compared them. Seems reasonable, except for the fact that 95% of blog readers aren’t used to interpreting the information given, and the other 5% would often tell you that one image of a scan isn’t exactly enough for them to offer an opinion. So, I was amazed when I noticed a lot of people doing just that. (Okay, this fellow probably has a good idea. Or maybe this fellow? Darn hard to tell from folks just commenting on a scan they saw on the Internet.)

Then I notice things like this, and it raises my blood pressure again. So Bill Frist, M.D., offered an uninformed medical opinion in the role of “Top Doctor in Congress,” huh? And it’s big deal because it might be against medical ethics? Great, another illustration of how much this has turned into a partisan debate. If it wasn’t for uninformed medical opinions from doctors who should know better than to offer them in public, there wouldn’t be much news for our national media outlets to hyperventilate over. In other words, this isn’t unusual, folks, even though it is wrong.

For what it’s worth, this case has made me think a lot more about living wills and medical power of attorney, which is a good thing. I do want to have some say in how I go, and I trust my wife to make those decisions for me. That needs to be spelled out, though.

What is my take on larger questions, as if it’s worth knowing any more than anyone else’s?

  1. Removing hydration and food from a person is cruel, and all the medical opinions about “can’t feel pain, doesn’t know what is happening” do not change that. We’re still debating whether fish feel pain. How can we tell with humans?
  2. If a person wishes to die, and is unable to do so themselves, we should make it as comfortable and quick as possible. Yes, I’m talking about assisted suicide. I’m not in favor of suicide, but we already have it. It’s happening right now. We need to make it more humane, if we have it at all.
  3. Where the decision to die has not been explicitly made, it has to belong to the next-of-kin. In Florida law, that’s her husband, and yes, it will mean people we as outsiders may not approve of get to make that decision. I can’t in good conscience deny her husband the same right I would wish my wife to have, unless he was proven unworthy of it in some fashion, such as a court of law. The court has not so ruled.
  4. No, making a federal law out of it is not a bad thing. It’s amazing to see people who would have looked upon states’ rights as potential evidence of the Confederacy rising again immediately turn against federal control when they don’t agree with the federales who will be doing the controlling. (And vice versa. Everybody thinks national control is good when their party is in power.)
  5. Note I didn’t say that would lead to good law. Just that there wasn’t anything wrong with a federal law as opposed to a myriad of state laws. I’m personally a fan of moving political control as close to the people as possible, but we haven’t proven good stewards of that faith many times in our history.

What are things that make me very angry during this debate?

  1. Our President signed a law in Texas that allows hospitals to decide to remove life support when the family of the patient can’t pay for it and an ethics board deems the care “futile,” even if the family asks for that care to be continued.
  2. Is Tom Delay ranting about that one? Nope, this is about political gain. And his own “victimhood.”
  3. Congratulations, everyone, for somehow making this a partisan matter. Particularly Rick Santorum.
  4. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Michael Schiavo doesn’t come off very well in interviews normally. This is the best one I’ve seen with him. However, I’ve noticed people’s interpretation of him seemed for a while to be “Cruel Bastard” vs. “We Can’t Know What He’s Going Through.” Now that the national Republicans are fully involved, it’s gone to “Cruel Bastard” vs. “Loving, Dedicated Husband Who Has Fought for Years.” I’ve been guilty of idle speculation about the family situation, but we really don’t know one way or the other, folks. If you’re morally or politically outraged, making up the story as you go along isn’t going to help. That goes for everyone.
  5. Amateur metaphysicians that are debating whether she’s “truly alive” or not. Do y’all have a good test for soul presence?
  6. Materialists who point out that she is non-communicative and non-contributing, therefore not a true human. Have fun when you get old, folks.
  7. Are we so tabloidized that we can’t deal with the personal, ethical, moral, and political issues at least somewhat on their own terms? There are a lot of questions to be answered here, yet we seem incapable of concentrating on any of them.
  8. Stories about the European attitudes toward the U.S. The Europeans go through this sort of moral/legal struggle as often as we do. If the story you’re writing is just quotes illustrating “enlightened European comment,” you might want to check them out during an election.
  9. Commentary on the “Coming Great Cultural War.” Mm-hmm. Man the barricades, whatever. Perhaps we should note that if Pat Buchanan exhibited little sense of recent history when he said it, it doesn’t make it better when we say it now.
  10. Is it just me, or do Florida courts and state government seem particularly unsuited to handle major cases?

Anyway, I’ve now ranted my uninformed opinions, which makes me no better than millions of others. For anyone who’s coming in late, check out the timeline of this particular case. The University of Miami (Florida) has a nice site that actually tries to do something constructive.

Update: A fair article in Slate about what is wrong with what Congress is currently doing.

Update, again: This doctor, however, needs to learn how to make his point:

“To the families and loved ones, and to inexperienced health care professionals, PVS patients often look fairly ‘normal. Their eyes are open and moving about during the periods of wakefulness that alternate with periods of sleep; there may be spontaneous movements of the arms and legs, and at times these patients appear to smile, grimace, laugh, utter guttural sounds, groan and moan, and manifest other facial expressions and sounds that appear to reflect cognitive functions and emotions, especially in the eyes of the family.” – Dr. Ronald Cranford, a neurologist and bioethicist at the University of Minnesota Medical School

So, wait. That’s a pretty long list there, and could be construed to cover many of my activities during a day. I think he needs to work on that one a bit more. He’s had time to do so. He’s a leading figure in talking about the ethics of the right to die, and has attracted some controversy down through the years. Google him.

MP3 Players: Gotta Catch ‘Em All?

USA Today runs an article that basically sounds like the rewriting of a press release from the Ponemon Institute. (I really wish he had run something from the Pokémon Institute instead.) The article itself is basically a scare piece about the idea that MP3 players could record your personal information, music files, and digital photos, and share them over Bluetooth with nearby eavesdroppers. (Engadget has a few reasons why that logic is flawed. ‘Ware of shiny MP3 players. 😉 )

What the article mainly made me think was that an MP3 player that could take pictures, sync over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and store personal information would be pretty nice. Could it play games as well?

I don’t know anything about the Ponemon Institute, but do you get the feeling from the site it’s really just one guy?

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