Legislation

The navigation company OnStar is attracting strong criticism after announcing last week that it would continue to monitor drivers’ speeds and GPS locations — and sell the information to third parties such as law enforcement — even after customers end their contracts. Outrage ensued and even U.S. lawmakers have now entered the fray.

OnStar is a subsidiary of General Motors, which is still partly owned by the U.S. and Canadian governments after receiving billions in bailouts

Almost immediately after OnStar announced the changes to its privacy policy set to take effect in December, privacy activists and civil-liberties groups expressed concern. Indeed, the company has been deluged with bad publicity about the changes in recent days. Critics attacked the schemes as everything from “spying” to “Big Brother.”

I’m not much of a football fan. In fact, we can broaden that to say I loathe every sport but Scrabble. If the entertainment involves chasing a ball, count me out.

Thank God I’ve endured only one football game in my life, when a friend with two free tickets dragged me to see Giants or Yankees or something. But I managed to grab a book before he trussed me and threw me in the back of his car. Burying my nose in its pages kept me from dying of boredom while men who were old enough to know better scrimmaged for home runs or whatever it is they do.

So I could be wildly mistaken in my impression of football’s average enthusiast. But I’ve always assumed he’s blessed with an abundance of testosterone. And that he doesn’t take kindly to another guy’s even noticing his “junk,” let alone massaging it on the preposterous pretense that explosives lurk there.

A 35-year-old Navy veteran, Luis Lebron, is suing the state of Florida over its policy that all welfare applicants be drug tested prior to receiving benefits. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), America’s legislative lobbying and litigation artisans whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States," will be representing Lebron.

The Orlando resident is currently pursuing an accounting degree at the University of Central Florida, while taking care of his four-year-old son and mentally disabled mother. One of many victims of the Great Recession, Lebron was laid off in 2008, and has been unable to find another job since. After exhausting his veteran’s benefits, he applied earlier this summer for welfare benefits.

"It made me feel really bad; I just felt like everything was caving in on me," Lebron lamented. "I felt like, I served my country for four years; doesn't that mean anything anymore? I've worked for pretty good companies. I'm going to school; I'm supposed to graduate. I shouldn't be in this position."

The U.S. government has found another way to invade privacy in the name of fighting terrorism by proposing legislation that would track prepaid debit cards. As usual, the real losers would be, not terrorists who won’t comply anyway, but innocent Americans, or travelers, and card issuers burdened with yet another layer of record keeping and compliance procedures. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a branch of the Treasury Department, has drafted rules, taking effect Sep. 27, to establish a “more comprehensive regulatory approach for prepaid access.”

It’s important to distinguish between these prepaid debit cards and the debit cards attached to your bank account. Once known as “stored-value cards” the cards will be renamed “prepaid access cards” — because they aren’t tied to a bank account, the money paid for them in advance could be anywhere, currently outside the reach of monitoring by the government. Which is precisely the point. An assessment of financial security threats in 2005 by the Treasury Department noted that the 9/11 hijackers opened bank accounts, signed signature cards and received wire transfers, which left a financial trail.

No one was home when the FBI began visiting the Mayfield residence in Aloha, Oregon, a suburb of Portland, early in the spring of 2004. The agents did, however, see plenty of Brandon Mayfield, a Portland lawyer, his Egyptian-born wife, Mona, and their three children. According to court records, the agents had been following the Muslim family to and from their mosque, at the children’s schools, and at various family activities. They obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court what is commonly called a “sneak and peek” warrant that permits the search of property without notifying the suspect party until six months later. Investigators planted electronic listening devices in the “shared and intimate” rooms of the Mayfield home and in Mayfield’s law offices. They photographed files and downloaded hard drives. They placed wiretaps on both home and office phones. The application for the FISC order was personally approved by John Ashcroft, then the Attorney General of the United States. Why was our government so interested Mayfield’s files, activities, and conversations? A U.S. citizen born in Kansas, Mayfield is a convert to the Muslim faith. He was aware that the FBI had been investigating Muslims in the Portland area, particularly a group that became known as “The Portland Six,” whose members were convicted on money-laundering and weapons charges related to their efforts in support of the Taliban fighting U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. One of them, Jeffrey Battles, had retained Mayfield as his lawyer in a child custody case.

In the wake of criticism over privacy issues on Facebook, the social network has responded by indicating it will make significant changes to its site in order to protect individual privacy. In fact, Facebook officials went so far as to pay hackers — whom they call “independent researchers” — $40,000 to find holes in the site’s security system to assure that they have addressed all issues.

According to Facebook’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, the social network has launched a “Bounty Bug Program” in order to discover any flaws in the system’s software due to “software complexity, programming errors, changes in requirements, errors in bug tracking, limited documentation or bugs in software development tools.”

Facebook posted the following explanation of the program:

The purpose of H.R. 2438 is “To ensure that certain Federal employees cannot hide behind immunity.”

I don’t know Peter Gadiel, and he apparently knows absolutely nothing about me. But that hasn’t stopped him from attacking me in a recent article (Influential Conservative is Dangerously Wrong on E-Verify). His article makes some outrageous statements about me, even to presume he can tell you what motives are in my head when I take a position.

Recently, I released an article entitled “E-Verify and the Emerging Surveillance State.” My opposition to E-Verify is that it is a major tool in the creation of a surveillance society; will give the government the power to decide who works and who doesn’t in America; will be a great burden on both worker and business; and will do absolutely nothing to protect us from illegal immigration or terrorism. In short, E-Verify represents another false promise of security and a greater threat to our freedom.

Drive your car through the small town of Royston, England, and your license plate will be photographed by a hidden camera and checked against a national police database, regardless of whether there is probable cause to suspect you have committed a crime. Simply passing through the city limits is apparently cause enough.

Royston, writes the Daily Mail, “has become the first [town] in Britain to have every car passing through it tracked by police cameras,” with “a set of police cameras installed on every road leading in and out of it, recording the number plate of every vehicle that passes them.”

The devices are known as Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.

In an effort to draw national attention to the federal government's intrusion into the everyday lives of its citizens, Oklahoman Kaye Beach has elected to take on the system. She refused to renew her driver’s license in protest of not only forced biometric enrollment — having her information shared with corporations and government agencies — but also the influence of international organizations on U.S. policies and laws. Her actions have initiated a full-fledged legal battle.

According to the Constitutional Alliance, an organization supporting Beach’s case, she was recently cited for driving with an expired license in Norman, Oklahoma, reportedly because she felt that being forced to renew her driver’s license with biometric information was a violation of her constitutional rights.

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