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C|Net Reporter Declan McCullagh Talks About Privacy (Video)

Roblimo posted about a year ago | from the quit-looking-under-my-skirts-said-lady-liberty dept.

Government 51

Declan Mccullagh, C|net's Chief political correspondent, has covered politics since the late 1990s for a variety of publications. He is a strong libertarian, privacy advocate, and long time Slashdot reader who is not happy about how the NSA and other government bodies are sticking their noses into our personal business. He and I originally talked about doing an interview based on a story he wrote for C|net on July 12 titled How the U.S. forces Net firms to cooperate on surveillance. Scheduling problems put the interview off for a bit, but here we are. Note that Declan has written millions of pixels worth of material about privacy, NSA spying, and related matters. With new revelations about unsavory government activities coming to light seemingly every day the interview delay is no big deal. And this question still remains: Can we repeal the Patriot Act? New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt wants to. What about your representatives? Are they willing to join Rep. Holt? Do you think they might if a bunch of people -- perhaps starting with you -- asked them to?

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funnyhowitworks (2)

Korruptionen (2647747) | about a year ago | (#44321043)

Any attempts to repeal the Patriot Act will be caught by the government with snooping and snubbed.

Re:funnyhowitworks (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about a year ago | (#44321629)

Repealing the Patriot Act would be unPatriotic! How could anybody be against Patriotism?!?!

Re:funnyhowitworks (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#44324257)

The Patriot Act has made no real difference w.r.t. what the NSA does. If anything, it just made them do some paperwork filing documents with the FISA court.

There have been repeated disclosures of blatant violations of the law by the NSA since WWII, with no penalties or sanctions applied to the people running those programs. There is nobody with the power to hold their feet to the fire that is also willing to do so. So why would they stop?

C|Net (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321063)

Are we really going to be calling it that after the logo?

Re:C|Net (4, Interesting)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#44321343)

Is that the same CNET that has recently become notorious for installing a bunch of adware with the software downloaded from their Download.com site? Yeah, I want a privacy lecture from some guy working for a company that keeps trying to install about a dozen adbars and popups to my browser every time I try to download anything from them.

Re:C|Net (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#44321385)

Here's a link [eff.org] in case anyone has no idea what I'm talking about.

Re:C|Net (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about a year ago | (#44323837)

You mean like Source Forge? Just happened to me today while downloading Filezilla.

Nothing to see here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44324753)

He reports journalism; he doesn't decide corporate policy. You'll find this the same for other journalists. Everywhere.

Note that Declan has written millions of pixels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321101)

And he suddenly writes millions more as soon as I change the font size. That's talent!!

Re:Note that Declan has written millions of pixels (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#44321309)

Note that a 1920x1080 monitor has 2073600 pixels, so at a legible font size it's perhaps not a very noteworthy achievement to begin with.

Re:Note that Declan has written millions of pixels (0)

Roblimo (357) | about a year ago | (#44322467)

Please activate sense of humor. I started with "reams," realized that Declan write on the Internet, not paper. Therefore, pixels. Almost typed billion. Silly description of of "a whole bunch" either way.

Millions of pixels (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about a year ago | (#44321141)

Yeah, but he used a big font.

Not a nerd? (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a year ago | (#44321373)

>> written millions of pixels worth of material

If we're using true-color pixels (24-bits), that's at least an embarrassingly bad 48M bits of information.

Quick, someone tell this guy about compression, or at least 7-bit ASCII character sets please!

Re:Millions of pixels (1)

superpie (1647991) | about a year ago | (#44321423)

How many libraries of congress is that?

Repeal the patriot act?? (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44321143)

Not until you vote the D/R party out. However if it was to lose 20 or 30 percentage points, that might scare them into rethinking their platform, but right now there is no incentive to do so. It's easy for guys like these to stand up and make noise knowing full well nothing will come of it, but it will look great to the rubes back home who otherwise might start thinking of voting for someone else.

Re:Repeal the patriot act?? (2)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about a year ago | (#44321297)

You forget that the PATRIOT Act has lots of support with common Americans. Most of them are scared and ignorant, and they want government protection.

Re:Repeal the patriot act?? (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | about a year ago | (#44321515)

Too bad they need protection from the governemnt itself than from the terists.

Meanwhile in a three letter department:
Guy#1: When is that false flag operation going to start? We need to justify the need for the PATRIOT Act.
Guy#2: Soon!

It Shouldn't Be Necessary (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44321335)

Technically speaking, unconstitutional "laws" do not need to be repealed, because they were never properly laws in the first place.

And yes, that means those who enforced them should go to jail.

See 18 USC 242. (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44321371)

This is a Federal law that makes it a felony to deprive you of your rights "under color of law". And it applies specifically to government officials. Up to, and including, the President.

Also, I should point out that because of the way it is worded, if you read it quickly, you might get the impression that it applies only to racial prejudice and other such errors. Not so. It has been tested in courts and it applies to ANY of your Constitutional rights.

Re:It Shouldn't Be Necessary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321539)

Actually, for a law to be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, someone must be "damaged" by application of said law. Then they need to push the case through the whole court process to get it to the Supreme Court in the first place, and the Supreme Court must agree to hear the case.

The Supreme Court, on its own, cannot just say, "Law X is unconstitutional".

Re:It Shouldn't Be Necessary (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44321899)

The Supreme Court, on its own, cannot just say, "Law X is unconstitutional".

There is a lot more to it than just that. However, I don't have time to get into a long discussion of the issue right now.

I will just say that despite what you may have been taught in school, our system was not designed to have the Supreme Court be the be-all and end-all arbiter of everything. States have a say in the matter too.

Re:Repeal the patriot act?? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#44321419)

Well, Congress as a whole can't lose 20 or 30 percentage points: Its current approval rating is at somewhere around 10%. According to the available polling data, Americans think this is the worst Congress in at least 40 years.

Another interesting trend from Gallup [gallup.com] on this: If you ask Americans whether their Congressman is doing a good job, 46% say yes (also lowest number since the 1970's). If you ask Americans who know the name of the Congressman if that Congressman is doing a good job, 62% say yes. Let's just say there's a civics education problem in America.

Re:Repeal the patriot act?? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44321859)

Gallop and other media polls are bullshit. Election results give congress and the executive a greater than 95% approval rating. Those are the only polls people should pay attention to. Media polls are designed to vent anger while accomplishing nothing else. During election season that same media is busy pimping the crooks that everybody 'hates', while telling us that resistance, by voting for someone else, is a futile waste or your vote.

Not goint to solve the problem (2)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year ago | (#44321179)

The Patriot Act authorizes the US government to obtain secret warrants to investigate suspected terrorists. But what they are actually doing, is obtaining warrants for the entire US population. Repealing the Patriot Act will not stop this, because the Patriot Act is not their legal authority to seize these records. The US Government has NO authority to seize these records.

The author of the Patriot Act agrees [cio.com.au]

Re:Not goint to solve the problem (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year ago | (#44321255)

The Patriot Act is their excuse for doing though, so yes, repealing the Patriot Act removes their justification as a valid point of argument.

It is a valid question though, how do you prove a secret program actually stops?

Re:Not goint to solve the problem (1)

dave562 (969951) | about a year ago | (#44321321)

...how do you prove a secret program actually stops?

You withdraw the funding for it in the appropriations bills.

Re:Not goint to solve the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44322245)

Exactly.

Re:Not goint to solve the problem (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#44321341)

It is a valid question though, how do you prove a secret program actually stops?

Sufficiently extreme measures could do that. For example, I believe the President has the authority to declassify entire programs with the stroke of a pen. Likewise, the President could order a criminal investigation of the program's managers. I'm not saying this will happen. I'm saying that if some hypothetical President wanted to clean house, he/she could come down on the NSA like a ton of bricks.

Unfortunately, the last two Presidents have felt the benefits of this secret program outweigh the violence it does to the fundamental principles of the Republic. How they came to that conclusion is a secret.

Re:Not goint to solve the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321439)

It is a valid question though, how do you prove a secret program actually stops?

Sufficiently extreme measures could do that. For example, I believe the President has the authority to declassify entire programs with the stroke of a pen. Likewise, the President could order a criminal investigation of the program's managers. I'm not saying this will happen. I'm saying that if some hypothetical President wanted to clean house, he/she could come down on the NSA like a ton of bricks.

Unfortunately, the last two Presidents have felt the benefits of this secret program outweigh the violence it does to the fundamental principles of the Republic. How they came to that conclusion is a secret.

Most likely the NSA blackmailed them by threating to reveal all their skeletons if they didn't play ball. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Re:Not goint to solve the problem (1)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year ago | (#44321505)

"How they came to that conclusion is a secret."

It does seem to run contrary to how they behaved before they had much power [eff.org] .

The NSA has every conversation they have made since ~2000 recorded and analyzed. You can see from this article [consortiumnews.com] that the NSA has been interested in controlling politics with blackmail for some time.

Re:Not goint to solve the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321555)

You know those projects that hack cockroach brains?

Re:Not goint to solve the problem (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year ago | (#44321401)

I can say that XYZ is an excuse for doing something, but that doesn't mean that XYZ is actually a legally justified reason.

For instance, I can sit around and claim that the 2nd Amendment gives me the right to "bear arms" and go to Alaska and shoot every Polar Bear that I can find. Then bring those Polar Bear arms back to my house and mount them on the wall. Just because I claim the 2nd Amendment gives me the right to have those "bear arms" does not mean that the 2nd Amendment actually gives me the right to shoot Polar Bears.

Re:Not goint to solve the problem (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year ago | (#44321649)

When XYZ *is* a legally passed law, then yes it is a legally justified reason.

Doesn't mean it's right or even constitutional, but it IS legal. Until ruled unconstitutional :)

Re:Not goint to solve the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321311)

The Patriot Act authorizes the US government to obtain secret warrants to investigate suspected terrorists. But what they are actually doing, is obtaining warrants for the entire US population. Repealing the Patriot Act will not stop this, because the Patriot Act is not their legal authority to seize these records. The US Government has NO authority to seize these records.

You've confused issues. They don't need a warrant for pen data [wikipedia.org] since 1979. So you are technically right. Repealing the PATRIOT act with have no impact on this dragnet.

Udall and Polis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321365)

Colorado stands with you.

Dystopia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321409)

Somehow or other, I think that the dystopias in Stross's Merchant Princes series and John Twelve Hawks universes are already here...

Re:Dystopia (1)

babblefrog (1013127) | about a year ago | (#44323289)

Read Stross's Glasshouse for a particularly nasty version.

wait a minute (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#44321455)

"He is a strong libertarian, privacy advocate"
Then why did he give his name for the interview?

A simpler, cheaper alternative (2)

MikeRT (947531) | about a year ago | (#44321501)

1. Repeal the USA PATRIOT Act and Homeland Security Act
2. Triple the budget of the reestablished US Border Patrol and direct it to hire at least 40k new agents for the southern border and at least 10k new agents for the northern border.
3. Double the size of the US Coast Guard.
4. Spend the remainder of Homeland Security's former annual budget on hardening the electrical grid against an EMP attack.
5. Suspend all travel visas from countries that have a serious problem with their citizens being recruited by radical Islamic countries.

See? No war, no torture, no idenfinite detention, no one's junk getting man-handled at the airport. Homeland security is 95% "keep the borders secure, keep the known problem populations away from our territory."

Of course, it'll never happen because even if the MIC and DHS could be overpowered politically, you'd have half the country saying "no sir, I'd rather maintain the status quo than be perceived to be discriminating against people from different countries."

Re:A simpler, cheaper alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321853)

>Homeland security is 95% "keep the borders secure, keep the known problem populations away from our territory."

Hate to go Godwin's on you, but the last big isolationist movement in the U.S. didn't produce wholly optimal results.

I'm not justifying foreign policy of the past 50 years (and particularly the last 10), just pointing out that doing the opposite of something that didn't work doesn't necessarily mean success.

Re:A simpler, cheaper alternative (1)

emho24 (2531820) | about a year ago | (#44321891)

All five of your comments would be decried as "racist!". It doesn't even matter anymore if that is a logical retort, it is the default accusation.

Re:A simpler, cheaper alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321913)

This plan doesn't do anything against American born threats.
Not saying that DHS does anything it either.

Selective outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321557)

Patriot Act, Patriot Act, Patriot Act.

In the years that you people have been bitching and moaning about the Patriot Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been created and is presently subcontracting [dailycaller.com] the analysis of all credit card activity.

The only mention of the CFPB here on Malcontent Dot is where they 'embraced' FOSS and created an online complaint system. No concern whatsoever about the incredible power these people have to sift through whatever electronic transactions they care to. Not the slightest whiff of outrage.

So I'm going chalk this up to chronic Bush derangement syndrome and ignore it. There is no legitimacy to a discussion of privacy that exempts the CFPB or any other entity because the right party signed it into law. You want me living under the snoops created by your side then you can go to your grave under the snoops created by mine.

It hinges on the car. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44321645)

Most of the people you're ever likely to meet are in totally favor of Big Brother shit. They are cowards, afraid of their own shadow, terrified by every rustling leaf. Big Brother will protect them, and keep them safe from the Bad people and the Different.

The ONLY thing that will change their mind is if Big Brother tries to fuck with their cars. It's the one nerve they have left.

Ask them about speed cameras, or red light cameras, or any of that stuff: It'll have them foaming at the mouth in no time, shrieking about "revenue gathering" and other shit.

Tell them Big Brother plans to track their vehicle usage and they'll merely gripe. But tell them Big Brother will use the data to send automated speeding tickets and there'll be blood in the streets.

Government = Corporations (2)

Princeofcups (150855) | about a year ago | (#44321983)

"He is a strong libertarian, privacy advocate, and long time Slashdot reader who is not happy about how the NSA and other government bodies are sticking their noses into our personal business. "

That's hilarious. Does he completely ignore that the US government is completely controlled by corporations, i.e. the richest of the rich? You know, the exact people that the Libertarians worship and wish to emulate? PRISM was not designed to keep the government in power. It was designed to keep the rich people rich, and the poor people poor. You know, the logical consequences of unrestricted corporate freedom. And if that's not the Libertarian ideal, then what is?

Re:Government = Corporations (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323041)

And if that's not the Libertarian ideal, then what is?

We Libertarians are a diverse bunch, and not all of us are in favor of allowing corporations free reign to abuse the public.

What Libertarians have most in common is that we want individuals to be left alone as much as practicable.

But when it comes to large groups of people (i.e corporations), Libertarians don't always think alike.

But there's a bunch of us Libertarians who understand that Capitalism is sometimes the enemy the free market.

This -- in fact -- is the big Libertarian dilemma: The "free market" is a wonderful but incredibly fragile thing. Protecting it makes the world a better place, but the only way to protect it is to restrict corporations and lawmakers from abusing it. Where do you draw the line on restrictions that "protect the free market" versus restrictions that "impede company's freedoms"? It's a tough call, and Libertarians have been arguing amongst themselves for decades about it.

So, no, not all Libertarians rejoice when corporate/government abuses take away our freedoms. Some of us champion the individual more so than the rich. Some of us value the Free Market more than we do Unrestrained Capitalism, and some of us keenly understand how the term "Free Market Capitalism" can be a bitter oxymoron.

Despite what you might think, the Libertarian view is not a simplistic view. It's complex and richly nuanced, because each individual Libertarian comes to different conclusions about what restrictions are warranted to protect liberty. Your characterization of Libertarianism is laughably cartoonish. It's time for you to learn more about Libertarianism.

Re:Government = Corporations (1)

TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) | about a year ago | (#44323129)

I wonder if it would've been mentioned if he was from another party, or if the assumption is that Slashdotters (or geeks) virtually all view libertarianism in a positive light.

It was designed to keep the rich people rich, and the poor people poor. You know, the logical consequences of unrestricted corporate freedom. And if that's not the Libertarian ideal, then what is?

From what I've seen, most geek libertarians figure either that they're only non-rich because the big bad government is in the way (while everyone else is non-rich due to their own faults/choices) -- or, alternately, that everyone hard-working and smart would quickly become affluent without a government to 'interfere.'

Re:Government = Corporations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323879)

I know there's at least a few that think they will simply be somewhat better off, not necessarily affluent, if the government was out of the way. A reasonably successful working career, followed by a quiet place to retire in without expecting that the current batch of politicians will find some way to impoverish them.

Whether they're justified in that belief is another story.

Declan is also kind of a tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44322509)

He writes about tech and infosec issues but does not have a very deep understanding of them. He sets out writing his piece with his mind already made up. He survives merely because the people who read his column ( politicians and DC area shills ) don't know any better.

Re:Declan is also kind of a tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44325215)

He's not just "kind of" a tool. He's a genuine asshole who pled guilty to summary harassment for pushing his girlfriend (Donna Riley) at the time down the stairs after choking her, in exchange for more severe charges being dropped. There's a whole sordid story about his cynical and manipulative campaign for student body president online if you want to google it, too, though it's been a little twisted by some equally asshole opponents of his.

And him pretending to be a privacy advocate is rich, considering that during the anti-globalization protests (during the Seattle WTO meeting) on at least a couple of occasions he followed people who were wearing masks or disguises off site and tried to get "unmasked" photos to print in whichever magazine he was freelancing for at the time.

He did, however, actually stand up (along with Mike Godwin) and file suit when DeCSS came out and the DVD consortium was trying to have it taken down on trade secret grounds, which was nice. And he was one of the earlier people to argue against early pseudo-clickwrap contracts (unilateral login usage policies instituted at CMU in the mid-1990s), albeit unsuccessfully.

CNET is as bent as they come (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44323247)

Sites like CNET employ no-one who cares about the rights of the sheeple. No, the purpose of CNET is to ensure as many people get their opinion from a mainstream source, so that sheeple NEVER develop the 'dangerous' habit of looking beyond the mainstream.

It is the job of scum like Declan Mccullagh to say "Honest Injun, I'm on you side". Propagandists have to come in ALL varieties. If CNET's goon said "good, I'm glad the NSA spies on you sheeple", readers would immediately give up on CNET in disgust.

Goebbels used to pull his hair out, when he read and heard the terrible output from official Nazi propaganda departments. We know his name today, because HE was the smart, intelligent subtle one who knew that sheeple MUST be controlled with clever psychological manipulation. You MUST appear as their friend. You MUST gain their trust before you attempt to lead them down the dark allies of your desire.

So of course Declan says "I'm on your side, mates, and I don't like this NSA stuff any more than you do." And that ALL it takes for the mainstream propagandists to take control of 95%+ of the sheeple. Sometimes, journalists like Declan Mccullagh are referred to as the 'dingleberries'. This means they are the mock-alternative voice in a publication notorious for promoting the opposite POV. A right-ring rag may employ a famous liberal blowhard columnist as their 'dingleberry' or vice-versa.

The truth about NSA spying is that it is 99.99%+ focused on surveilling the general population. Your masters gain their power from the (passive) support of the sheeple. Your masters have ZERO power of their own. Therefore the sheeple must be kept under absolute control, and any future problem with the sheeple per-empted.

In the USA, at all levels that matter, the sheeple can choose to vote for exactly ONE thing, reducing their choice to no choice at all. The two dominant political parties are the SAME party, with apparent differences being either trivial, or an illusion sold to idiots by mainstream media propaganda. What would happen if the sheeple noticed that Jack Johnson (choice 1) and John Jackson (choice 2) are two faces of the same thing? Yet, at no time in American history has this truth been more obvious. Obama's war mongering, far in excess of Bush, has rather given the game away.

So, the NSA will give feedback on the mindset of the US sheeple in real-time, allowing the propaganda control messages spewed by the TV stations and newspapers to be rapidly improved or re-directed for maximum effect. The NSA will identify emerging grass-roots movements and leaders for 'extermination' or co-opting.

Meanwhile, the NSA gathers blackmail material on people in positions of influence to ensure everyone 'powerful' is seen by the sheeple to pull in the same direction. It's an old old game, simply played with new new technology. But the efficiency that computerised surveillance brings to the game changes everything.

Prior to our age, random happenstance tended to destroy the fortunes of the overly ambitious. Now we cannot rely on this. The monsters behind Obama have the planet in a death-grip, and it will take a miracle to shake them loose.

All we can do as individuals is withdraw our support in a thousand small ways. Stop getting propaganda from mainstream media sources. If you can't be bothered to dig deeper, just give up on the idea of 'news' altogether- you won't miss it. Fight for your kid's rights at school, and yours at work. Make 'bad' changes difficult for those trying to impose them on your life and that of your family. Give some support to those braver than yourself in fighting the system. "You are alone" is the wickedest message your masters ever use to control you.

Bad mouth Bill Gates' NSA spy initiatives, the Xbox One and his universal children database. Demand that your kid's school doesn't beat the kids, use biometric monitoring, RFID chips, or force GM food in the cafeteria. Ensure they are not collecting information on your children for Bill Gates.

Push back wherever you can, and encourage others to do the same. Envisage life as an equilibrium, where the balance comes from your masters and you pushing against each other, reminding you that if you forget to 'push', you will be forever walking backwards into ever darker and more foreboding territory.

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