Wicked Weasel Globemaster
My good Flickr friend www.AntifluffSuperstar.blogspot.com
brought this Article to my attention*
there's also a story today about Canadian Software that can Help people in countries with Internet Censorship*
obviously China & Iran come to mind but also right here in CANADA & the UNITED STATES of AMERICA*
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN, Associated Press Writer
Sat Dec 2, 6:16 AM ET
WASHINGTON - A leader of the new Democratic Congress, business travelers and privacy advocates expressed outrage Friday over the unannounced assignment of terrorism risk assessments to American international travelers by a computerized system managed from an unmarked, two-story brick building in Northern Virginia.
Incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record) of Vermont pledged greater scrutiny of such government database-mining projects after reading that during the past four years millions of Americans have been evaluated without their knowledge to assess the risks that they are terrorists or criminals.
"Data banks like this are overdue for oversight," said Leahy, who will take over Judiciary in January. "That is going to change in the new Congress."
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Americans and foreigners crossing U.S. borders since 2002 have been assessed by the
Homeland Security Department's computerized Automated Targeting System, or ATS. The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years. Some or all data in the system can be shared with state, local and foreign governments for use in hiring, contracting and licensing decisions. Courts and even some private contractors can obtain some of the data under certain circumstances.
"It is simply incredible that the Bush administration is willing to share this sensitive information with foreign governments and even private employers, while refusing to allow U.S. citizens to see or challenge their own terror scores," Leahy said. This system "highlights the danger of government use of technology to conduct widespread surveillance of our daily lives without proper safeguards for privacy."
Canadian software touted as answer to Internet censorship abroad
By COLIN PERKEL
TORONTO (CP) - Citizens of countries such as China and Iran are about to be handed a powerful Canadian-made tool designed to undermine authoritarian efforts at stifling the free flow of information.
Called Psiphon, it's a small computer program that allows people in non-democratic places to beat the local thought police and access forbidden websites at minimal personal risk.
The software is being formally launched on Friday.
"All we're doing is allowing people to access the Internet at a standard that's provided in uncensored locations like Canada," said Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab Project at the University of Toronto.
"We wanted to make it something that authorities would have a difficult time discovering."
The concept is simple.
People in uncensored locations such as Canada install Psiphon on their home computers. The program is free, easy to set up, and small at about 1.5 megabytes.
They then send connection information by e-mail or phone, along with a user name and password, to people they trust in the countries subject to censorship.
The person in the foreign country connects through a secure, encrypted connection to the uncensored computer and surfs the web without hindrance.
Security depends on trusting the people involved in setting up the connection.
"You really have to break the social networks to discover Psiphon, (because) it's very difficult for authorities to technically discover Psiphon traffic, if not impossible," Deibert said.
More than 40 countries are now engaged in Internet censorship, where only a few did just a few years ago.
China, for example, rigorously blocks access to information on the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, as well as to other politically sensitive sites, with what's been dubbed the Great Firewall.
Countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Sudan also routinely block Internet content.
That makes it difficult for western journalists, non-governmental agencies and businesses working in those countries to gain access to uncensored information.
Until now, so-called censorship busters such as the Voice of America have resorted to broadcasting information on how to access uncensored computers. Authorities are usually quick to block those.
"It's a cat and mouse game," Deibert said.
In addition, people often don't trust the sites because they can be set up by their own government as a sting.
Human rights advocates welcomed the program.
"(Psiphon) is a welcome addition to allow people freely to get information where their governments are trying to prevent them from getting it," Amnesty International spokesman John Tackaberry said from Ottawa.
Sharon Hom, executive director of New York-based Human Rights In China, said in a statement that Psiphon has "great potential" but isn't a "magic bullet."
"The Chinese government has deployed vast resources to maintain information control and censorship," Lom said.
The program was the brainchild of Nart Villeneuve and Michelle Levesque at the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies.
They developed a prototype three years ago, but it essentially languished until January, when funding from the Open Source Institute allowed its development. Eight people worked on the project full-time since then.
Currently, the program works on Windows and Linux operating systems, with a Mac version in the works.
It can be downloaded at psiphon.civisec.org.