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Helping the FBI Track You

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the here-is-a-list-of-my-favorite-socks dept.

Privacy 193

Hasan M. Elahi writes in the NY Times about his run-in with the FBI several months after September 11th, 2001. They'd received an erroneous report that he had explosives and had fled the country, so they were surprised when he showed up at an airport and was flagged by watch-list software. Elahi chose not to fight the investigation, and provided the FBI with enough detail about his life to convince them that he was a lawful citizen. But then, he kept going, providing more and more information about his life, documenting his every move and making it available online. His experience has been that providing too much information affords almost the same privacy blanket as too little. Quoting: "On my Web site, I compiled various databases that show the airports I’ve been in, food I’ve eaten at home, food I’ve eaten on the road, random hotel beds I’ve slept in, various parking lots off Interstate 80 that I parked in, empty train stations I saw, as well as very specific information like photos of the tacos I ate in Mexico City between July 5 and 7, and the toilets I used. ... A lot of work is required to thread together the thousands of available points of information. By putting everything about me out there, I am simultaneously telling everything and nothing about my life. Despite the barrage of information about me that is publicly available, I live a surprisingly private and anonymous life."

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Is it just me... (4, Insightful)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885476)

But if a suspect fellow is giving them access to everything he's supposedly doing I'd be trying real hard to find what he was trying to hide?

Re:Is it just me... (5, Funny)

walkerp1 (523460) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885612)

You, sir, might have a very promising career in the FBI! Please report to your nearest field office for the deep probe.

Re:Is it just me... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885752)

But if a suspect fellow is giving them access to everything he's supposedly doing I'd be trying real hard to find what he was trying to hide?

It's just you.

That said Mr.Elahi should not confuse lack of interest with privacy. It is a fallacy to believe that flooding information about yourself into the system makes it impossible to analyze in a timely fashion or to identify the things you don't willingly share. I'm not a huge privacy freak and in general don't care what you know about me as long as basic civil rights are still enforced by law (something that is starting to fail) but I'm also not stupid enough to believe that you can't figure out what I'm doing if you have almost everything. I just don't care that you know what I'm doing under the current system with my current lack of nefarious activity (this lack of interest will undoubtedly hurt me someday in some way though it will likely be minor and related to employment or income rather than incarceration).

Mr. Elahi seems to confuse the fact that the FBI may no longer care about his daily whereabouts with the fact that they can't sort through the data should every one do what he's doing. Will it be more difficult? yes, but it's not impossible. Google searches the web in near real-time using sophisticated indexing strategies and there is no reason to believe that the FBI couldn't do the same with people and publicly available information to obtain statistically meaningful deviations from normal behavior on your part which could then be referred for human followup. Defeating that type of strategy will take more than sharing almost everthing and hiding the little you you want. It will require a sophisticated disinformation algorithm to produce a statistically nominal profile with original media content while you perform nefarious activities in secret (or just have a beer, smoke, and watch porn in private after they've finished outlawing the last of our vices).

Re:Is it just me... (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885942)

...as long as basic civil rights are still enforced by law (something that is starting to fail)...

*cough*

Re:Is it just me... (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885944)

And with all this information, he's now a perfect target as someone to frame if a criminal happens to want to commit a high profile crime near one of his regular stops. Quintuply so now that he's publicized it.

Re:Is it just me... (2)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886590)

This is genius! He now has the perfect defense! "You see, mr judge, I have my whole life on-line, anyone could have used it to frame me. I call reasonable doubt!" (:

Re:Is it just me... (2)

websoongi (2484310) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886488)

Years ago I attended a few hacker meetings, like 2600. I always gave my real name; Though, it would have been safer if I gave someone else's real name. They always gave their handle. You know what those kids did right after getting your handle? They googled you on their wireless! And, if you had a unique handle, it was really easy to pull up information that was definitely yours. But what are you going to find when I tell you my name is George? Specifics aside, the author of the article is talking about security through obscurity. It's just that his method is to go so far left that you come back around on the right. --- On an unrelated note, but I feel I have to vent, don't click the Options button below a post you've just entered and then click save in the dialog box that pops up. I lost my post the first time 'round. I know, many of you probably know this, but I'm relatively new here and this tidbit may save someone else the misfortune. *Grrr!*

Re:Is it just me... (2)

Capt. Skinny (969540) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886696)

I'm not old enough to scream "get off my damn lawn," yet I find the phrase years ago disturbingly incongruous with the practice of Googling a name using a wireless network.

Re:Is it just me... (1)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886748)

I viewed it more of along the lines of making a purchase with pennies. Its a way of overwhelming them with worthless data to prove a point.

Criminals (5, Insightful)

mfh (56) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885486)

The problem is if you're a criminal and you want to pin something on a sucker, if you have a dude with his life posted online then you can set the poor guy up. I wouldn't ever recommend posting every move you make to the internet because at some point someone will use it against you. This world is predatory in nature.

Re:Criminals (5, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885960)

Especially because the FBI makes extensive use of well-paid criminal snitches to gather intelligence. If the snitches have no real leads, then they can manufacture them by saying that ol' Abu down the street is up to no good. The FBI then stalk and browbeat Abu until he admits that he is up to activity that may be considered support of terrorism in the loosest sense.

The FBI then busts Abu and all the mainstream media hail the "operation" as thwarting another terrorist attack. Another "terrorist" is jailed, the snitch is paid anywhere from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year(I'm not joking, Google it), all while your family is eating ramen noodles for dinner.

Also keep in mind that all of these "terror plots" are manufactured in their entirety by the FBI. All they do is find a moron who is dumb enough to attempt to enact them, then they goad end entrap the poor fool.

Re:Criminals (2, Insightful)

MikeB0Lton (962403) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886780)

You, sir, need a new foil hat.

Re:Criminals (4, Insightful)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886554)

Facebook is probably more of an issue that what this guy is doing, because he's aware of how much info he has put out there.
90% of the people who do the same VIA Facebook don't realise how much aggregated info there is about them out there for sale.

Facebook (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886664)

The most valuable information on Facebook to anyone who wants to screw with you is your social network. Back in the 1950s you could be blacklisted out of your career if you were observed associating with a politically suspect person, but the FBI would have to do a fair amount of work to establish that. Now, it's as easy as a click of the mouse. You might be turned down for a job or promotion because of someone on your friends list, but you'll never know what the real reason was.

Re:Facebook (1)

welshmnt (787086) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886964)

Excellent! Then they`ll get a lesser employee `caus I have a friend they don`t like. Save me working for a bunch of jerks. (P.S. not a FB user anyway)

Idiot. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885490)

A lot of work is required to thread together the thousands of available points of information.

No, it is not. Data-mining is real and getting better every day. Huge amounts of data are no hindrance. It is certainly not harder to find a specific piece of information about you just because you put much more online.

Re:Idiot. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885502)

No kidding. It tool all of 15 seconds to find out that you are a cocksucker and that you take it in the ass for expired halloween candy.

Re:Idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885586)

ur just mad cuz u ran out of candy

Re:Idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885594)

How far expired are we talking here?

Re:Idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885790)

Think all the way through the gastrointestinal system.

Re:Idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885680)

Data mining is based on a single assumption, which if being false, collapses the whole utility of data mining.

Data mining expects to get good input data.

Observe: "Today I ate at McDonald's and paid cash" although you were home and had Chinese take-away which you paid with a card.

You can't fake certain events like paying with a card (since it leaves a record) but you can work around it: swap the cards with someone, have a card pool with trusted friends, etc.

Another example: leave your mobile phone at home, and go somewhere. Tracking your phone will not reveal your location. Data mining thinks you were at home, when you really weren't.

In the absence of noisy and bad data, what does data mining then tell you? Nothing. It's garbage in, garbage out.

Besides, who says you have to be truthful online?

Wrong. (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885770)

What you are saying is based on outdated assumptions. Today's analytical models can very easily tune out noise data and get to exactly the data you want.

Re:Idiot. (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885904)

Data mining is based on a single assumption, which if being false, collapses the whole utility of data mining. Data mining expects to get good input data.

That would depend entirely on the model and such a system of course wouldn't assume that. But it's much easier to positively confirm information than to find it.

Observe: "Today I ate at McDonald's and paid cash" although you were home and had Chinese take-away which you paid with a card.

Perhaps the simplest check would be to check your cell phone data, unless you sent a friend to McDonalds with it. Or if you were a person of interest we could pull up security cameras. We could question the employees. We can check the card company that you did in fact pay for Chinese take-away. It's just as much about finding who and when someone would be lying about that sort of thing. Because most like it's because you're having some sort of clandestine meeting, not to hide you eat Chinese.

You can't fake certain events like paying with a card (since it leaves a record) but you can work around it: swap the cards with someone, have a card pool with trusted friends, etc.

Yes, but how many people actually do that? How many people would you trust with your bank account and more importantly, if someone asked you to use their account instead then 99.9% would wonder WTF, what are you doing to drag me into now that is so naughty you can't use your own card? Plus you're both breaking the card holder's agreement, so no fraud protection if your buddy takes all the money and runs.

Another example: leave your mobile phone at home, and go somewhere. Tracking your phone will not reveal your location. Data mining thinks you were at home, when you really weren't.

Yes, but data mining would track everyone else. That's the primary use of for example cell phone data, finding all the witnesses and then you can fairly quickly see if there's persons that don't match a cell phone.

In the absence of noisy and bad data, what does data mining then tell you? Nothing. It's garbage in, garbage out.

Except the fact that it's garbage is valuable in itself. If one of your "trusted friends" is using your card while you're provably somewhere else, then you have a big red flag saying this person is faking his actions and whereabouts.

Of course it's not perfect, but it's a lot harder to create a plausible pattern of false information and not set off any flags that it is. But if almost everyone else is leaving a ton of electronic traces, then the people who don't also start to stand out from the crowd. Which is sort of the real, underlying problem here - if almost everyone else is getting tracked then remainder can be given so much attention that almost all covers become apparent.

Re:Idiot. (5, Interesting)

unrtst (777550) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886580)

I wanted to mod this up, cause I agree, but there's one point I haven't seen mentioned here or in most of the posts below (that I've read so far)...

If you do provide false information, and they (FBI) ask if it this little log of yours is true and you say "yes", then you can be held for lying to a federal officer (and/or obstruction of justice, etc). All they have to do is find one little line that isn't accurate... and that would probably be trivial. Then, even if your alibi is honest and someone is setting you up, you've just discounted your entire source of "facts" as inadmissible. They don't even need to find a lie to hint at the consequences - "You know... lying to a federal officer is a crime."

True story, I was questioned in relation to an FBI investigation many years ago (I worked at an ISP that had been "hacked" and claimed enormous damages and got the FBI involved). The night of the incident, I was drunk (along with most of my coworkers to boot). I was cooperating, but they found one of the things I said to be in conflict with something someone else said. They called us both in and had the company legal people there too, and he laid out the statements and then said that lying to a federal officer can get you N years in jail, etc etc.

I had told the truth, but with threats like that, I didn't want to talk to them at all anymore. We both fell back on "hey, I already told you I was very very drunk, and this is how I remember it." Nothing happened to us (except that we were soon fired without cause by an overly paranoid always-have-4-sources-of-white-noise-in-his-office owner), but a few people I knew had all their computers confiscated (included blank media, tv's, monitors, keyboards, etc), and they were completely innocent.

They even brought up the drunk thing, I assume trying to make me slip up... I had told them I drove back to the office as soon as I heard about the incident (as did everyone else). He's like, "So if you were supposedly very drunk, how did you drive back to the office?". I just shrugged and told "yep, both those things happened". He was nice enough not to use that as an admission of guilt and hand it over to the local policy to charge me with drunk driving, but he allowed the threat of that to hang in the air, so to speak.

Anyway, point being, whatever info you provide will likely be used against you, even if it's just as a threat to try to get more out of you. And you don't have to be guilty of what they're looking for to end up with some significant negative consequences.

FWIW, I wouldn't change a single thing I did. Getting fired from there was one of the best things that ever could have happened to me in the long run.

Re:Idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886730)

Except the fact that it's garbage is valuable in itself. If one of your "trusted friends" is using your card while you're provably somewhere else, then you have a big red flag saying this person is faking his actions and whereabouts.

Which is why, when push comes to shove, someone will develop a means by which everyone's tracking data can be interchanged. With or without their knowledge. When there are thousands of people whose profiles don't match up with their tracking data, the system chokes to death on its own bureaucracy.

Chapter 8this novel [craphound.com] might be of interest.

Re:Idiot. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886582)

In the absence of noisy and bad data, what does data mining then tell you? Nothing. It's garbage in, garbage out.

Even deceptive data is good data. Noise is the only bad data.

Re:Idiot. (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37887014)

Indeed.

The fact is not that he ate McD's and paid cash.. the fact is that he announced that he ate at McD's and paid cash. The group that announces that very thing can be statistically modeled regardless of the veracity rate of the announcement.

When millions of people are making announcements, the models become extremely good. You and a hundred thousand other people have made that announcement and it turns out that there will be a strong correlation between that announcement and other facts about the group, facts that you individually may have intended to keep private, but none-the-less with a high degree of certainty are revealed.

Re:Idiot. (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886622)

Observe: "Today I ate at McDonald's and paid cash" although you were home and had Chinese take-away which you paid with a card.

Giving fake data is not what this idiot is proposing though.

So your suggestion doesn't make the idiot any less of an idiot.

Re:Idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885764)

the reason why this ass is getting so many hits is probably because they are using his website to demonstrate what they could do if they had the information....

Re:Idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886034)

That's why I'm a big fan of providing lots of bogus information, so that any mining operation would have to mine through a lot of waste rock to get any gold, and even then they couldn't be sure whether it was fool's gold or the real thing.

Re:Idiot. (2)

jittles (1613415) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886046)

Not to mention that if I were a crook and wanted to rob the guy, he's posting exactly just enough useful information for me to know when to rob his house!

Re:Idiot. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886194)

And it's so much easier when you're coming at it from the other direction, and already have some critical fact that you're looking to expand outward from, or merely to confirm. If your target is this guy, you already have everything you need to accomplish either or both.

Re:Idiot. (2)

ironjaw33 (1645357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886430)

A lot of work is required to thread together the thousands of available points of information.

No, it is not. Data-mining is real and getting better every day. Huge amounts of data are no hindrance. It is certainly not harder to find a specific piece of information about you just because you put much more online.

It's a hot research area right now. As I'm on the job market myself, I've found gobs of academic and industry positions that are searching for candidates with a focus in "big data" and data mining. If information saturation is a problem today, you can be sure that tons of people are working hard to make sure that tomorrow it isn't.

truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885500)

This just in! Privacy died a few years ago. All you have now is the illusion of privacy. The real truth is that, unless someone specifically notices you, (regardless of it is for a reason your own fault, or totally coincidence,) no body cares. No one cares what hotel a random person slept in. No one cares what his taco looked like.

Re:truth (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886210)

What happened a few years ago that changed anything? This privacy discussion reminds me of the Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft [wikipedia.org] concepts in sociology.

Re:truth (2)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886556)

We finally started linking all the databases together, and we started carrying tracking devices that make phone calls.

Doesn't seem to work (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885512)

If any real information is provided it can be get by a simple search. Policemen won't go through all the data, they will just query things like what did you do at a given time.

Re:Doesn't seem to work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885794)

Policemen won't go through all the data, they will just query things like what did you do at a given time.

In the 90's perhaps.

Policemen will assume that you are guilty and that they just haven't found anything on you yet. They will then ask you to come with them to the police station and if you ask why they will say that you "resisted arrest". Possibly they might "find" some drugs on you too.

Re:Doesn't seem to work (2)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886138)

In the 90's perhaps. ... Possibly they might "find" some drugs on you too.

This has been probably been going on since drugs were first made illegal, and has definitely been happening all over the country since the 70's when funding became tied to drug arrests.

Not a good idea (1)

jouassou (1854178) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885522)

Interesting thought, but I don't think it's a good idea. Volunteering everything might work as long as there are very few people doing it -- but if everyone starts doing it, it then (i) the feds will focus on improving software that automatically filters out suspicious traits from the online data, and (ii) not sharing everything will be deemed suspicious.

Re:Not a good idea (3, Insightful)

Lev13than (581686) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885538)

Interesting thought, but I don't think it's a good idea. Volunteering everything might work as long as there are very few people doing it -- but if everyone starts doing it, it then (i) the feds will focus on improving software that automatically filters out suspicious traits from the online data, and (ii) not sharing everything will be deemed suspicious.

We already have this - it's called Facebook.

Re:Not a good idea (1)

32771 (906153) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885576)

>not sharing everything will be deemed suspicious.

Bah, I'm highly conservative about my computer use, like all older people.

Re:Not a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885724)

>Bah, I'm highly conservative about my computer use, like all older people.

I'm 17 and even I don't have a facebook account, don't stereotype younger generations, please, we are not all sheep, even if most of us are.

You don't have it yet... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885784)

Funny, I thought just like you when I was in that age (which would be 5 years ago). Perhaps I didn't think of the "most of us are sheep" part because I find this [xkcd.com] to be rather childish... But I thought that I didn't want to join, I didn't want to support Microsoft - which had recently bought something like 2% of FB - and I just didn't think that it'd be very useful to me.

Then, college happened. Constant stream of new social relations (the type that you wouldn't quite call "friend" but whose name you should remember from having seen them around a lot), constant stream of new social events (different types of parties at different locations every other week or so), etc... and I realized that FB is actually rather useful tool for staying up to date about all that.

I understand that people who haven't gotten to that phase in life yet or who are already way beyond it don't have much benefit from FB. However... "Right tool for the right job". Just because it isn't useful to you yet doesn't mean that it isn't useful for a lot of people. And if a lot of people use an useful tool, they aren't sheep just because there is a lot of them.

Re:You don't have it yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885972)

Just my opinion, but if you need a web app to be informed about parties, then you don't have enough interaction with people in RL.

But then again that's the impersonal way all of this is handled nowadays, so why am I even surprised.

Re:You don't have it yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886452)

Just my opinion, but if you need a web app to be informed about parties, then you don't have enough interaction with people in RL.

Uh, you're posting on slashdot. If any of us got enough RL interaction we'd be out getting laid, not trolling this place. It stopped being a useful primary location for news and stuff that matters a long time ago.

Re:You don't have it yet... (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886742)

If any of us got enough RL interaction we'd be out getting laid, not trolling this place. It stopped being a useful primary location for news and stuff that matters a long time ago.

I beg to differ. I often see stories posted on other sites pointing to a story hosted on /. Very often (though, of course, not always) the first time I hear about something it's thanks to a story on /.

Besides that, there is some value in that touchy-feely concept "community." People here know and care about stuff that many of my knowledgeable RL friends are oblivious to. Many of the latter have never heard of, nor would care about things like dmr, Righthaven, DMCA, Region Encoding, & etc.

Aside, I grew tired long ago of that way overused, "It stopped being a $blah a long time ago" crap. All it does is make its author look like a jaded child, and doubly so when used by an AC.

Re:You don't have it yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886060)

And if you are extremely introverted, Facebook still won't matter.

Re:You don't have it yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886130)

I'm at that phase in life. I don't use Facebook. Word of mouth works fine for knowing about new social events.

dupe (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885532)

This is like the 4th time this story has been on slashdot.

Re:dupe (5, Funny)

smallfries (601545) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885572)

But by posting this story constantly on slashdot it is as if they have never posted it at all. The paradox ensures that it is fresh and newsworthy every time.

Re:dupe (1)

vinayg18 (1641855) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885608)

Doublethink!

Re:dupe (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885620)

Quadthink even!

pretty dumb idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885536)

does he really think the police don't have enough resources to analyze all that?

Reaction to stress of interrogations (2)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885550)

X% smart-ass, Y% PTSD?

Go ahead, take advice from a guy (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885564)

Who thinks it's better to answer all their questions and take a poligraph rather than saying "I'll speak to you when I have a lawyer present".

Re:Go ahead, take advice from a guy (1)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885776)

Yeah - agreed. This is the argument the police use to justify warrantless searches: "If you are not doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?" The point is not what I have to hide...the point is that I own myself, that I have an actual constitutional right to not be searched and tracked without a warrant, and just because your douche-bag policy attitude gets offended when I exercise these rights, it doesn't make them less real.

Re:Go ahead, take advice from a guy (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886082)

Actually, the top statement is true. The real problem is that what with the ton of idiotic laws we have, almost every person is surely doing *something* illegal, often enough not even knowing about it.

Re:Go ahead, take advice from a guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886750)

The problem is that if you've done nothing wrong then it seems stupid to waste thousands of dollars on a lawyer. Not to mention the fact that lawyering up could escalate a fairly shallow investigation into a much deeper one. Remember, they can indict a ham sandwich. Any trivial fact about you that sounds the slightest bit suspicious can be used against you to get an indictment or just a search warrant. Who knows what will happen if they're willing to lie to get you to talk.

Of course, there are also plenty of times where somebody answering seemingly-innocent questions has caused casual interest into a full-blown investigation. Having a lawyer will help, but it's not guaranteed to keep you out of trouble. Martha Stewart had a lawyer (presumably a fairly good, expensive one) and it didn't keep her out of prison.

dom

Re:Go ahead, take advice from a guy (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886168)

Yeah, this strikes me as a rather dumb thing to do. It probably works well as long as you're dealing with ethical agents who are interested in finding truth and just as happy to clear an innocent citizen, but that doesn't describe all of them. There's also this notion of circumstantial evidence that has an unfortunately high value in court (as in not zero like it should). If this guys travels happened to mirror some terrorist, odds are he wouldn't be out in the fresh air writing about this experience.

Re:Go ahead, take advice from a guy (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886540)

Who thinks it's better to answer all their questions and take a poligraph rather than saying "I'll speak to you when I have a lawyer present".

He shoulda watched this. [youtube.com]

So in other words... (5, Insightful)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885582)

...he's doing exactly the same thing as every Facebook user. and twitter user. and foursquare user. etc.

Datamining and Machine Learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885600)

I didn't read TFA but when I read summaries like this I get the feeling many people still grossly underestimate the power of data mining and machine learning.

It's not like there is an FBI agent looking through Elahi's data trying to make sense of it, so I'm not convinced flooding them with information is an effective way of hiding relevant (in the sense of that they care about it and/or you might rather keep private) information.

Re:Datamining and Machine Learning (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885626)

The key to success here is to provide as much real as false data to make ALL data irrelevant. Data is worthless if you cannot tell wheat from chaff.

Re:Datamining and Machine Learning (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885692)

Except he's not supplying any false data, just useless, easily filtered out, data.

Re:Datamining and Machine Learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885870)

That's what he wants you to think. In reality, he is the terrorist the FBI thought he was. But now they think he was in Mexico City on certain days simply because he sent his phone there and blogged about some tacos and some toilets. He was really buying fertilizer to make a bomb with somewhere else. Or was he? You don't know...

Re:Datamining and Machine Learning (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885932)

And this makes it harder to find him out than not supplying any info at all... how?
If the info is false, you might find conflicting facts in it. Data that might be true is certainly better than no data at all, when trying to figure something out.

Re:Datamining and Machine Learning (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886238)

They just don't have enough data. Eventually, they'll cross-reference the fake data with other people's streams and identify the fake.

Difference from facebook etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885652)

Is that his website does not provide the same context, the same meta-data as social networking. The whole place-time-people check-in on Facebook is surprisingly well-thought-out from a data mining perspective, because it formats the information in a way that is extremely easy to extract on a large scale: it standardizes it.

What this guy is doing demonstrates simply that most PEOPLE don't care what you're up to on a day-to-day basis, and most organizations would prefer to get their information elsewhere.

God says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885668)

God says...
Shine snare revelations Way 'that request momentous blush
between dryness discussed garb abundant dissentings petty
subdued chewing lived anxious Midnight unkindled pressed
racked forethink descend Amidst citizen back incumbrances

Re:God says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886224)

I never got that one on my speak n' say.

Nothing new (1)

Mathness (145187) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885672)

... But then, he kept going, providing more and more information about his life ...

So he just became a normal user as seen on Facebook, Twitter e.t.c.

This is a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885674)

While it is true, that physically following 300 million people requires at least 600 million people, most of the spying today is done automagically using bots.

So giving up your privacy won't work. They will just better computers.

Disinformation (1)

hessian (467078) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885676)

If you generate a constant stream of bad data, the cost of separating good data from bad will rise. This in turn will encourage law enforcement, who get rewarded for convictions in the least amount of time and have other cases they can pursue, to move on to the next case.

Re:Disinformation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885722)

Exactly. To quote Winston Churchill: "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

Unfortunately, these days the privacy of the citizen and consumer is under constant attack from the surveillance state and corporate marketers. One can reasonably describe this as a state of war.

Re:Disinformation (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885954)

This is only true if you supply that stream of bad data into all the channels, the other side has to get data about you.
In this case, they know that everything on his site might be fake. So they might have to use other channels to cross-check it. But he can only influence the data on his website, not the other means the FBI has to get data about him.
So in the end, at worst the FBI is exactly as good off, as if he had not supplied data at all. But it is more likely, that the combined data from all channels will filter out the false facts from his website and reenforces the truth.

Re:Disinformation (1)

Ptolom (2191478) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886006)

Unless they're really gullible. And though the FBI may be many undesirable things, gullible isn't one of them.

How Does He Know. (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885712)

What I want to know is how he knows that he lives a private life?
And why he thinks it is so hard for anyone to find out anything about him simply because they is more then average out there.
Even if all the data is in untaged pictures there more then a few ways to process it.

Re:How Does He Know. (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886190)

Yup, there is a whole wing in the FBI HQ dedicated to tracking his every move. One of these days they will grab him again and then he'll have to explain why he changed his routine from Taco Bell to McDonalds on 23 October 2011...

Re:How Does He Know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886542)

Yup, there is a whole wing in the FBI HQ dedicated to tracking his every move. One of these days they will grab him again and then he'll have to explain why he changed his routine from Taco Bell to McDonalds on 23 October 2011...

We have these things called computers which will do that for you. Already there is software designed to do exactly that, and no it does not take a wing of the FBI HQ to process one guy's info.
That wing can process info on several million people at the same time.

Welcome to the digital age (1)

Manfre (631065) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885720)

This guy is pretty ignorant about what is possible with computers. If everyone made every detail of their lives available in a digital format, the FBI would be thrilled and could probably cut jobs instead of needing to hire more employees.

The only way this would be an idea even worth entertaining would be if you treat it like you're writing a book based upon your life. Include the least amount of verifiable information as possible to make it seem accurate and then fill the rest with the most outlandish things you thing some one would believe.

Re:Welcome to the digital age (2)

ImprovOmega (744717) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886322)

Yup. You would have to make it have a bad signal to noise ratio. Tell the truth about the things that are obviously verifiable, tell lies about everything in between in such a way that it's still plausible, and keep in straight in your head so they don't catch you in the lie when they question you about it later. And even then, your algorithm for generating the lies better be practically flawless or they'll find something like "you can't get across town in an hour" or something and the whole system comes crashing down.

Re:Welcome to the digital age (1)

ironjaw33 (1645357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886472)

Yup. You would have to make it have a bad signal to noise ratio. Tell the truth about the things that are obviously verifiable, tell lies about everything in between in such a way that it's still plausible, and keep in straight in your head so they don't catch you in the lie when they question you about it later. And even then, your algorithm for generating the lies better be practically flawless or they'll find something like "you can't get across town in an hour" or something and the whole system comes crashing down.

I've read a few research papers that propose this to provide privacy in a social networking type scenario. Basically, the "lies" are drawn from the population trends and applied to each individual. That way, individual data is obfuscated while still preserving whatever trend the data is used to represent. They even create fake users based on these general trends so that nobody who is looking through the data can tell if an individual is a real person or a fake one.

slashdot cracked (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885750)

Slashdot effect? (1)

Servaas (1050156) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885778)

So basically this guy is trying to slashdot the FBI's resources through overloading them with his diary. Huh.

Who is this guy? (2)

topology (2488230) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885788)

It is easy to be anonymous when nobody cares who you are. If he were a celebrity with public interest, a very different result would occur.

Coping mechansims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37885912)

Um, no. He simply chooses to believe that dumping all that information allows him to lead a relatively private and anonymous life. Just because you want something to be so, doesn't mean that it actually is. But self-delusion is a coping mechanism, and sometimes a surprisingly effective one.

Google Street View Moves Indoors (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885924)

I was confused, I just left a comment in a topic that is so similar to this one [slashdot.org] , for a moment I thought /. is repeating the same story on the front page again within minutes from each other.

Then I realized it wasn't the same story.

Then I realized it was.

Not all that useful (1)

bbartlog (1853116) | more than 2 years ago | (#37885938)

If the idea is to post a bunch of useless information about yourself, then I suppose it has some effect (bores anyone who is just poking around in your info for no reason). But obviously, anyone who really wants to know stuff about you can either wade through the cruft or else employ datamining tools (as already mentioned) to get what they're after. Now, *maybe* the idea is to create the illusion of transparency while actually carefully omitting some stuff that you really don't want online. In that case, fine... but for most, doing it this way seems harder than just not posting much stuff online in the first place. I guess if the government is already after you, like they were after this guy, then it makes sense.

This guy is an attention whore. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886088)

As someone who knows Mr. Hasan M. Elahi personally, let me say this: he is a HUGE attention whore, and he lives for this shit. Is he a terrorist? Absolutely not. But goddamn if he isn't annoying as fuck.

Data =! Information (2)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886148)

Also known as Garbage In, Garbage Out.

he's an idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886204)

You think they gave up investigating you because there was "too much information"? Hardly, they just investigate longer if they had found anything suspicious. More likely, they just made an error in the flag and quietly gave up the case. Data mining alot of information is actually really easy. Sure a human may not know all your information but giving so much in recorded form also means it's just that easy to look up anything they want. Thinking you have the same level of privacy as you would if you didn't give out any info is just stupid. Most issues of privacy does not revolve around knowing a person's life but specific points of interest (in which case excess data only increases the chances that they will find that point of interest). Employee wants to know what party you support. Stalker wants to know your daily work schedule. Advertiser wants to know if you ever bought a car. All these can be EASILY found through data mining that looks for specifics.

I'm suprised... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886346)

...that he hasn't been nicked for taking the piss. The police I've met have a low tolerance threshold for sarcasm.

Wrong. (4, Insightful)

Dogun (7502) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886478)

His assumptions about the nature of information sharing and privacy are dangerously wrong.

The problem of information sharing is inequity; if it turns out that he documents his presence at a laundromat on some random dull October day, and later it turns out that some terrorists used to meet up there, his documentation of that random laundromat appearance will put him under scrutiny all over again - without any concrete reason. Meanwhile, some other fellow who rode his bike and paid with cash and didn't document his life on the web will probably never be scrutinized.

There is a fundamental issue with all mass intelligence/data collection: Humans don't understand conditional probabilities.

When we start to use large databases of essentially random data to inform investigations, we greatly increase the likelihood that investigations impact random people.

He should have politely requested a lawyer (4, Informative)

sco08y (615665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886608)

FTFA:
"I COULD have contested the legality of the investigation and gotten a lawyer. But I thought that would make things messier. It was clear who had the power in this situation."

No, American police, whether FBI or state or local, have no power unless you let them interrogate you without a lawyer. This isn't Europe where police investigations start with a beating: you just have to ask, politely, for a lawyer, and you hold all the cards.

He gave them all the power. Was he justifiably scared? Sure, I can completely understand that. He probably wasn't prepared to be grilled.

But this is all the preparation anyone needs: just remember to say, "I'd be happy to help you, officer, but to answer any questions I'll need a lawyer."

Blog = alibi? (3, Insightful)

DeadboltX (751907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886612)

Why would any information on a blog be taken as 100% truth? Since you can edit photo meta-data there is no way to prove when a photo was taken, where it was taken, by whom it was taken, or what camera it was taken with; all of this data can be spoofed. Combine falsified photos with an elaborate story about your whereabouts and make a post on your blog through a vpn from your phone so it looks like you were at home when you posted it. If you're doing this on a regular basis then it wouldn't be hard to create a semi-automatic system to do most of this work for you.

Are we to believe that an investigative authority such as the FBI is going to simply take someones electronic word for it?

Re:Blog = alibi? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886906)

They are using facebook now so maybe that's a yes.

Hadoop Upgrade (1)

Crouty (912387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37886648)

Only because three letter agencies do not have optimized there Hadoop instances yet does not mean your data will not get analyzed soon. There is only on reliant way of protecting your privacy and that is to not leave too many trails. Period.

Huge waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37886852)

And just how much of his day does he waste compiling and posting all of this information? Doesn't he have anything useful to do instead?

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