Privacy not found!

Peep The All Seeing Spy EyeTrump demands secrecy himself but you cannot use the Internet with any privacy. To add insult to injury, every major company in any ties to the Internet are selling or going to be selling information about you.

Congress voted to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules on March 28.  President Trump signed the legislation (SR Res 34) April 3rd, to take the regulations off the books and prevent future privacy rules.

Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “the only people in the United States who want less Internet privacy are CEOs and lobbyists for giant telecom companies who want to rake in money by spying on all of us and selling the private details of our lives to marketing companies.”

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said “It is worth remembering that the FCC’s own overreach created the problem we are facing today. Until 2015, the Federal Trade Commission was protecting consumers very effectively, policing every online company’s privacy practices consistently and initiating numerous enforcement actions. However, two years ago, the FCC stripped the FTC of its authority over Internet service providers. At the time, I strongly opposed usurping the FTC, and the FCC’s struggles to address the privacy issue over the past couple of years (along with its refusal to recognize consumers’ uniform expectation of privacy) has only strengthened that view.”

The FTC’s Privacy Guidelines seem to cover criminal acts with your data or very fragmented rules about using your data.  Rules about how AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon use and sell your data seem to be governed by the “Privacy” contract (3000 words) that you forced to sign before you can get service.  If you have every read one, you will find that they allow the company to do just about anything with your data and change the contract at anytime.

Big Data cartoonCollecting, using, and selling your data has become a huge growth industry benignly called Big Data.  This industry collects, analyzes, and extracts value (make money).  Facebook is a database marketing company, posing as a social networking service, that eliminated the need for data collection and data entry by convincing 1.86 billion+ people to enter lots of data about themselves.

Pandora’s iPhone

Pandora's iPhoneThe U.S. government’s case against Apple to force Apple to change the iPhone’s operating system software, iOS to allow access to a terrorist’s information is an issue that impacts all of us.

Even though the FBI has insisted that this is just about this case is just about a single phone, the end result would be opening Pandora’s Box or iPhone in this case.  Once the solution has been created, everyone will want to use it; the British, the French, the Russians, your wife’s divorce lawyer….  And the FBI has other cases where this might be used to compel Apple to change their product.  And once a method has be created, it will only be a matter of time (weeks or days) before hackers have created their own version to steal your identity and bank balance.

As the government demands access to our secrets, they demand their secrets are protected by the highest level of encryption in the name of “National Security,” some which turnout to be questionable and illegal, many exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013.  On the opposite side, the government does have valid reasons for protecting certain information and so do citizens.

We all should be creating or buying the best encryption technology available to protect our lives, liberties, and bank accounts.  Our government should not be trying to weaken that protection.  Maybe it is time to create an explicit Right to Privacy in our constitution instead of the current maze of laws and implied protections.

Global Post rails against privacy!?

I was surfing my news feeds and ran across this post on the Global Post that gave me pause.  Here is a quote from their site with emphasis added.

The letter was published a day before House Judiciary committee members will debate on the Stop Online Privacy Act introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.). Although Smith’s bill has attracted tons of support from media firms and the Hollywood industry, web companies and public interest groups strong oppose it, the Washington Post reported.

SOPA aims to cut the amount of pirated content online and would give content owners and the US government the power to request court orders to shut down websites associated with piracy, the BBC reported. The bill also aims to stop online ad networks and payment processors from doing business with foreign websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.

I know Mark Zuckerberg thinks privacy is over, but Sergey Brin of Google, Jack Dorsey of Twitter, Elon Musk of PayPal (EBay), Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post and Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia?  Apparently they were opposed to the Stop Online Piracy Act introduced by Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), which is very different.  And even Mark Zuckerberg is not as open as he wants you to be!

Apparently the editors and fact-checkers at the Global Post are out for the holidays.  Happy New Year!

IRS should allow direct electronic submission of forms

The IRS should all U.S. citizens to submit tax returns directly to their system without going through a third party. This is something you can do on paper, but not electronically.

The IRS gave a big boost to the tax professional/software industry by requiring me to use one of the third party preparers to submit my tax return electronically.  Buried in the online agreement, that you must respond in the affirmative, is usually a clause that gives the third party the right to use your tax return data for purposes other that submitting your return to the IRS!  In other words, sell you unrelated goods and services.

Now third party tax preparation companies are gathering detailed information about their customers.  And what could be more detailed that a tax return.  We are requried to list every financial company that we have a relationship.  Who are our dependents.  If we gamble, or more correct, if you won some money gambling.  How much we spend on health insurance.  To what charities we give money.  Who holds our mortgage.  And that is just the beginning.

Where and when will the assault on our privacy end!  I will continue filing my tax return on paper, by snail mail, until this right to privacy is recognized by the IRS.

IRS, sharpen your letter openers and check your post office box.

IRS Privacy Changes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is trying to slip a change in rules through that will allow companies that process your tax returns to sell that information to other people.The proposed rule, published on December 8, 2005 in the Federal Register, would allow companies that prepare your income tax return to ask your permission to give or sell your information to third parties. This change is being slip through as an administrative change. Privacy advocates (including me) feel this gives an open door to tax preparers to harvest detailed information about their customers. Consent must be given, but many people will not read every word that preparers put in front of them.

Quoting rule text:

The proposed regulations also allow a taxpayer to use a single document to consent to multiple uses of their tax return information….

The Treasury Department and the IRS propose these amendments to protect taxpayers’ tax return information, and to ensure that taxpayers are fully informed when providing consent to disclose or use tax return information.

This doesn’t seem to be the case. If the IRS was concerned about disclosure of tax return information they would make a rule the information can only be disclose to the IRS or the taxpayer.

The proposed regulations also allow a taxpayer to use a single document to consent to multiple uses of their tax return information, or use a single document to consent to multiple disclosures of their tax return information, provided certain requirements are met.

This would allow preparers to use one consent form for several uses, only one of which they actually discuss with the taxpayer.

To quote Lou Dobbs (CNN, Mar 22, 2006), “Well, it is under the heading of, you can’t make this stuff up. The Internal Revenue Service saying that we would be sharing our personal tax information to protect the privacy of our tax information. It’s Orwellian.”

Written or electronically generated comments must be received by March 8, 2006. Outlines of topics to be discussed at the public hearing scheduled for April 4, 2006, in the Auditorium of the Internal Revenue Building at 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20224, must be received by March 14, 2006. These regulations are proposed to apply on the date that is 30 days after the final regulations are published in the Federal Register.