Big Tech Is Watching You

The Western Journal posted an article today about privacy in America.

The article reports:

Those who are wary of smartphones, smart devices and virtual assistants generally cite concerns over their information being recorded and shared without their knowledge.

Only fueling those concerns, one woman recently shared that she had found over 3,000 recordings of herself taken by her various Amazon devices.

The woman, who goes by the username “my.data.not.yours” on TikTok, posts lots of videos on the topics of privacy, reviews privacy policies and gives people tips on how to limit (or at least be aware of) their digital footprint.

She started by informing viewers that she owns two Amazon Dots and an Echo device, and her house uses some smart bulbs.

“I requested all the data Amazon has on me and here’s what I found,” she said. “So when I downloaded the ZIP file these are all the folders it came with.”

In the video, she clicks on the “audio” file and says that it contains 3,534 short clips that her devices recorded, which she tells viewers is “so scary.”

She explained that one recording was of her asking Alexa to turn the lights on — nothing too surprising there. What she was more concerned about was that there was a file on her contacts, too.

“It turns out they have a full list of my contacts from my phone and I never remember syncing that,” she said.

That wasn’t the end of it.

“The very last thing that I didn’t know that they had — I could have assumed that they have but I don’t love that they have — is my location,” she continued, admitting that she’s “not totally comfortable with everything they have.”

The article also explains how you can delete things from Alexa:

In February, an article by CNBC stated that the Amazon Echo “saves a copy of everything you ask Alexa,” which makes sense. You can also delete these recordings — ironically — by asking Alexa to delete them.

You can also change the settings so that recordings are automatically deleted after a set amount of time.

According to the New York Post, an Amazon spokesperson acknowledged the voice recording feature and said that the recordings can be deleted at any time or you can change the settings so they aren’t saved in the first place.

“We give customers transparency and control over their Alexa experience,” the spokesperson said. “Customers can easily review and delete their voice recordings, or choose not to have them saved at all, at any time.

“Customers can import their mobile phone contacts to the Alexa app so they can use features like hands-free calling and messaging; this optional feature, which customers need to set up, can be disabled at any time.

“Finally, you can grant permissions for the Alexa app to use certain data, such as your mobile device’s geolocation, to provide relevant results (e.g., weather, traffic, restaurant recommendations), and you can manage these permissions in the app.”

Did you know about these features?

Wow.

How Much Privacy Is A President Entitled To?

Hot Air posted an article today about the ongoing court battle regarding the Congressional subpoena of former White House Counsel Don McGahn. Counsel McGahn was summoned by the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the time he worked for President Trump.

The article reports:

Whether or not he would appear was a bone of contention for a while until a federal judge issued a dramatic proclamation on Monday, stating that “Presidents are not kings” and ordering McGahn to appear.

Well, that lasted for all of three days. By Wednesday evening, that same judge had backed down, allowing a request from the Justice Department to delay the implementation of the ruling until the appeals process has played out. Of course, this doesn’t mean McGahn (and the President) are totally off the hook, but they’ve at least bought a bit of breathing room. (Daily Mail)

The article concludes:

That doesn’t mean that the final decision on McGahn won’t cast a long shadow, however. How this plays out will have consequences for the ongoing impeachment circus. At issue here is the question of whether or not aides to the President are shielded from revealing details of private conversations they’ve had with the boss or the counsel they offered. Also, whether or not that shielding lasts indefinitely even after they’ve left their positions with the White House.

That sort of privacy has long been assumed to be part of the President’s executive privilege. But does that extend to investigations of potential criminal conduct? That’s the question that will be answered when the dust settles on McGahn’s subpoena. If he’s ordered to show up and testify, that could open the gate for numerous other Trump aides to be called in to talk about all of the Ukraine events. And that’s likely not something President Trump will want to see after we’re in the thick of the final push to next year’s election.

I guess my question is whether or not the President has the same civil rights as ordinary citizens, If you are an ordinary citizen, your conversations with your lawyer are protected by law. We saw this Constitutional principle violated when Michael Cohen’s offices were raided. Now the question is whether or not we are going to continue to violate President Trump’s Constitutional rights. All of us need to remember–if the President does not have Constitutional rights, then none of us have Constitutional rights.

Don’t Hold Your Breath Waiting For Consequences

On October 9, One America News reported the following:

The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has ruled that the FBI previously violated Americans’ privacy rights by conducting unreasonable searches. The FISA Court opinion disclosed Tuesday revealed that the FBI violated constitutional rights and federal law through their warrant-less internet surveillance program.

A 2018 review revealed the bureau used their raw intelligence database in 2017 and 2018 to administer tens of thousands of searches on private U.S. citizens. The searches were conducted on some occasions to screen FBI personnel and sources, involving emails and phone numbers. In one instance, the court stated that an FBI contractor searched his family, staff members and himself on the database.

Federal law requires the database only be used to gather evidence of a crime or foreign intelligence information. According to the ruling, the FBI violated the law authorizing the program as well as the Fourth Amendment, which bars the government from conducting unreasonable searches.

Following the court’s decision, the FBI said it would apply new procedures as to how the database is used in order to better protect personal privacy.

The Foreign Intelligence Service Act has been under scrutiny for some time. Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page has argued the Obama-era FBI may have used its FISA authority unlawfully against him.

Years ago I took a critical thinking course taught by a former NSA employee. At the beginning of the course, he assured us that guidelines that protected Americans from illegal surveillance were being followed. He stated that in his experience anyone who violated those guidelines was escorted out immediately. About a year later, I talked to him and he apologized for misleading the class. He commented that upon further research he found violations tolerated and sometimes encouraged. Unfortunately there were a lot of things that went on during the Obama administration regarding the politicization of government agencies that we are just now beginning to uncover. It is my hope that the people who chose to violate the civil rights of American citizens will be held accountable. If they are not, the abuses of power will continue.

About That Privacy Thing

Breitbart is reporting today that Google failed to tell consumers about a secret microphone in its home security product, Nest Secure. So your security system may be eavesdropping on you. Great.

The article reports:

According to Business Insider, Google announced this month “users would now be able to use Google Assistant” on Nest Secure devices.

However, “users didn’t know a microphone even existed on their Nest Secure devices to begin with.

Google apologized for failing to disclose the “secret” microphone on Tuesday, claiming it was due to an “error.”

“The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part,” declared a Google spokesman. “The microphone has never been on, and is only activated when users specifically enable the option.”

“Security systems often use microphones to provide features that rely on sound sensing,” the spokesman explained. “We included the mic on the device so that we can potentially offer additional features to our users in the future, such as the ability to detect broken glass.”

There is a saying that you should never put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want your mother to see as a headline in The New York Times. I think we need to change that saying to never say anything within range of your security system, your cell phone, or Alexa that you wouldn’t want to see as a headline in The New York Times.

Speaker Pelosi Has Jumped The Shark

CNS News posted an article today about a bill proposed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In an effort to continue to harass the President, Speaker Pelosi has introduced legislation that would require all candidates for president and vice-president to release their tax returns. There would be no requirement for candidates for Congress to release their tax returns.

The article reports:

The provision is part of H.R. 1—the “For the People Act”—which Pelosi introduced Friday.

A summary of the bill says that it includes a section titled “Presidential Tax Transparency.” This section, says the summary: “Requires sitting presidents and vice presidents, as well as candidates for the presidency and vice presidency, to release their tax returns.”

In 2017, when members of Congress were calling on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns, Roll Call asked all 535 members of the House and Senate to release theirs. As Roll Call reported at the time, 6 members did release their tax returns as requested by the publication. Another 6 had already released theirs elsewhere. Another 45 members, Roll Call reported, had previously and partially released their tax returns. But 473 members had not released their tax returns and did not respond to Roll Call’s request that they do so.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi was one of the members, Roll Call reported, who had not released her tax returns.

At an April 2017 press briefing promoting similar legislation that would have required the president—but not members of Congress—to release their tax returns, Pelosi said that president’s do not have a “right to privacy” when it comes to their tax returns.

I don’t mean to be picky here, but if Congress is willing to pass a law that states that candidates for president and vice-president have to release their tax returns, then Congress should have to release theirs.

I have a feeling that for the next two years the House of Representatives is going to spend more time working on laws to make life difficult for President Trump than it is making laws that will be helpful to Americans. That is truly sad.

Laws Have Consequences

CNS News reported yesterday that a 5-year-old girl was allegedly assaulted in the girls’ bathroom by a boy who identifies as gender-fluid. Is anyone comfortable with that?

The article reports:

According to a legal complaint by Roger G. Brooks of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Vernadette R. Broyles of Georgia Adoption & Family Law Practice, the boy, who was also five years old, reportedly assaulted the girl as she was leaving a bathroom stall at Oakhurst Elementary School in November 2017.

“As [Victim] was emerging from a stall, the Assailant pushed her against a wall, pushed his hand between her legs, and repeatedly felt and poked at her genitals … while she struggled and called out for him to stop,” reads the legal complaint, dated May 22, 2018. “No one came to help.”

The boy had permission to enter the girls’ bathroom under a policy that “required” schools to “admit boys who identify as female into girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, and shower areas on school premises,” according to the legal complaint.

Prior to the 2016-2017 school year, boys were not permitted to enter restrooms for girls. However, in a July 26, 2016 email, the Superintendent of the City Schools of Decatur, David Dude, told school staff members that students should be permitted to use the restrooms that matched their gender identities.

The lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Vernadette R. Broyles of Georgia Adoption & Family Law Practice have gotten involved in the case.

The article reports:

In the complaint, the lawyers argued that the violation of girls’ privacy was a deliberate aspect of Oakhurst Elementary’s bathroom policy, not just a side effect.

“The Decatur Schools wish to ‘affirm’ boys who in some sense identify as girls by authorizing them to mingle with girls in areas that are reserved to single-sex use precisely because these areas involve some degree of undress, personal hygiene, and proximity that is considered to be inappropriate, intrusive, or potentially embarrassing between individuals of the opposite sex,” Brooks and Broyles wrote in the complaint.

“In other words, the violation of privacy of girls is not an unfortunate side effect of the policy – it is an essential goal of the policy,” the lawyers added.

The lawyers also noted that officials of the Decatur school system did not “make any inquiry” into possible “physical risks to girls” or “psychological stress” for girls, including those who may have been previously abused or assaulted.

How many little girls have to be assaulted before schools recognize the insanity of the idea of letting boys into girls private spaces? Are we ready to allow the high school football team to invade the girls’ locker room? Anyone who has raised a teenager can see the folly in this.

This Is Where We Are

As a parent, are you comfortable with this?

 

I don’t want to see transgendered students bullied, but I don’t want to put high school girls in danger of being molested or leered at by students claiming to be transgender who are not. Separate facilities are needed. We also need to help all students learn to stand up to any bullying that happens. Fighting back is not a bad thing. I would also like to note that no matter how you may feel, your DNA has not changed. Maybe we should go back to the days of little kids playing doctor and let them sort this out.