DHS All Up in Your Internet: Don’t Panic…Yet

5 days ago, Forbes published an article titled “Department of Homeland Security Compiling Database of Journalists and Media Influencers” (Michelle Fabio, Forbes online website, 4/6/18), in which they made a reference to a posting by Homeland Security asking companies to submit “capabilities statements” for doing “media monitoring”.

Aside #1: I find it odd that I haven’t seen this news blasted all over TV and the internet.  Too much going on with the White House, I guess, what with the FBI raiding the president’s lawyer’s office and all.

Homeland Security is already monitoring social media accounts of immigrants, as reported in September of last year (“DHS Wants to Monitor Immigrants’ Social Media. No One Knows What They Will Do With This Information”, Walter Ewing, Immigration Impact website, 9/29/17).  Oh, and that includes green card holders and naturalized US citizens – and the people with whom they interact, which of course includes US citizens who were born here.

When you add these 2 things to the revelation about Cambridge Analytica mining the data of not only 87+ million Facebook users but an untold number of people via online survey sites like E-Rewards (that subcontract out their surveys to different companies), it seems that no one’s information is safe anymore – not their likes and dislikes, their buying habits, their age/gender/location, and now their political views (“Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Data Mining: What You Need to Know”, Ian Sherr, CNET website, 4/9/18).

Aside #2: I got one of those notices from Facebook telling me my data had been compromised because of something called “My Digital Life” – a quiz that 200,000 or so people took that also hijacked their lists of friends so their data could be mined, too.  I didn’t take that quiz so they got me via some friend of mine who did.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist – clearly I don’t care who knows my political views or buying habits, as I blog about politics and take online consumer surveys – but the bigger issue is whether or not somebody should be able to get information about you without your permission. 

For example, I have never allowed an app or a survey to connect to my Facebook page, mostly because I don’t want them to get to my friends’ data that way.  They got you anyway, sorry.

It seems to me that unless you go completely offline, and do not have a social media account, do not comment on websites, or don’t even Google anything, someone somewhere has some data on you.

Even if all you do is order products online, someone still has some data on you.  And who knows – I don’t, certainly – what home assistants like Alexa know about you?

This latest news about DHS monitoring “media influencers” is troubling.  What does that even mean?  YouTube “stars”, bloggers who have a certain number of followers, people who follow and comment on the Idiot’s Twitter account, people who do podcasts, commenters on political sites such as Raw Story and Daily Kos?

How many millions of people would that be?

This would not be a daunting task, I suspect, because there are computer programs that can find people on a DHS “watch list” such as this.  Just think of how quickly and how much a search term in Google returns – when I Googled “how many returns per search term”, I got 125 million hits in 6 seconds.  How hard would that be to search the web for parameters set by DHS?

Basically, we’re all going to be on some watch list, somewhere. And under this administration, that can be particularly scary.

We do, of course, have this thing called the First Amendment.  It guarantees freedom of expression, speech, the press, and assembly.  It states that the government can neither establish a state religion, nor restrict religious practices.  It also guarantees the right to petition the government.

But we also have sedition laws, which hinge on whether or not the “seditious” speech or action is an “imminent threat”.  There have been very few prosecutions in this country for sedition, mostly because we do have the right to “agitate” – for lack of a better word – under the First Amendment.

It’s that pesky “imminent threat” definition that makes things a bit murky.

Considering we have a president who stated last night that the raid on his lawyer’s office and hotel room was “an attack on our country” (“Trump Denounces FBI Raid on His Lawyer’s Office as an Attack on Our Country”, Michael D. Shear, NY Times website, 4/9/2018), who knows what “imminent threat” will mean to a Republican-appointed DHS?

Add this to the fact that dangerous man John Bolton (the new national security advisor) just fired the head of DHS – no doubt for being not far enough to the right – and things start to look a bit alarming.

It’s all concerning right now, but we don’t need to panic.  At least not until we see new prisons and detention centers being built.

Hopefully, this administration will either be gone or severely restrained (think “midterm elections”) before that happens.

Weird news of the week: “Why is Orange Snow Falling Across Eastern Europe?”  Insert your own 45 joke here.

Recommendation for the week: I may have recommended her before, but it’s worth doing again.  If you want to know – really know – what’s going on in the White House and politics, you won’t do better than watching The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.  And if you don’t watch MSNBC, you can still hear her on her podcast.  She lays things out so clearly, and explains them so thoroughly, that you will learn quite a bit every time you tune in.

Be good.  Be kind.  Knowledge is capital, knowledge is power.

 

 

 

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