Wednesday, March 16, 2011

MY TWITTER CASE AND “THOUGHTCRIME”

All of who care for freedom of information, speech and expression should be thankful for the recent ruling in my Twitter case. Thankful because it exposes the reality in which we live, at least according to the U.S. Department of Justice and one U.S. judge. The judge’s ruling exposed the blatant truth: that as the U.S. DOJ sees it, and at least according to this first judge, users of the Internet and social media sites hosted in the USA do NOT have any rights as individuals to defend themselves against the tyranny of authorities wanting to use the often sensitive information about us collected by services like Twitter. This includes critical information about the location, timing and recipients of our emails, conversations, messaging and social networking that are now fair game for the “thought police.” It is good that we know that this is how the prosecutors and one judge in the court system in the land of the free views our rights, because now we can do something about regaining those rights!

We are at critical point when it comes to freedom of information and speech. If we don’t act now it might be too late in a years’ time. Everything happens so fast in the realm of the Internet -- our rights are eroding every day at an alarming speed. I urgently suggest and call upon everyone who cares for their rights to their lives online to join me in fighting for these rights.

I am calling for a joint action to demand that all social media sites that host our information in the USA publicly promise to notify their users when they receive government demands for information – and if necessary fight for their ability to do so as Twitter did here in the face of a gag order. They should include that promise in their Terms of Use so that it can be relied on by their users. If they can’t make that pledge, enforced by user terms like Twitter’s, we will leave them and we will demand that authorities recognize our rights to defend ourselves directly. I also challenge Facebook, Google and Twitter to battle for every one of us against unwarranted and sometimes secret demands to our information from the U.S. government.

Here are a few examples that I find unsettling:
Google hosts our entire history of searching and they create a profile of every one of us as consumers so that they can make us targeted costumers for individually directed ads. This is why Google can maintain their services for free.

If authorities get access to some or all of this profiling as the DOJ maintains that they can – do you feel comfortable that they do? Consider this scenario: You are doing research on terrorists or the drug culture for an article or essay – all of your searching is now part of your profile. It is easy to build a very damning and erroneous profile of you simply based on your innocent research. The government maintains that most, if not all of this information is “non-content” and so reachable by them in the same way that my Twitter information was.

Many users do not understand that they are giving away all control of their web usage statistics. Personal data can be used against you in secret! This is very dangerous to those, like me, who are activists, journalists and researchers. It equally endangers the merely curious.

In George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, a “thoughtcrime” was an illegal type of thought. Are we approaching the sad state of affairs where our public written communications, indeed our very thoughts are seen by an increasingly surveillance-obsessed totalitarian state as “thoughtcrimes”? Is this the kind of world we would wish for our children?

In the next few weeks I will work to gather as many as supporters as possible to be part of this joint action for our rights as users of social media. It will be an effort to our privacy rights and the right to defend our personal information online. Drop me an email if you have ideas on how to take this further so we may make a shockwave of change.

6 comments:

Eva Lind said...

Er svo algjörlega sammála þér Birgitta, hef haft áhyggjur af þessum svokölluðu 'thought crime' um nokkurt skeið, ég hef allavega hugsað mig vel um áður en ég læt nokkuð frá mér í tölvupósti.. Ég held að flestir geri sér ekki grein fyrir hversu alvarlegt þetta allt saman er...

christine said...

If I would heard this question only one year before, I would have answered in the same way my friends do today: There is nothing that I must hide! But during my upcoming interest in the wikileaks case and the reaktions of it change my mind. There is a great need for a revolution of the internet. In the last few months I visit a lot of pages that could give a false impression of me. I can live with it. But i am really afraid that my interest in free speech in the internet will hit the future of my son. He want´s to go to university next summer to be a programmer. Would his prospective chief read a memorandum about the activities from our IP-Adress? What could happen in this case? These are fears that might have people in a banana-republic but not in good old germany. But I learnd in the past months, that the www. is a banana-world! I don´t know what to do. On the other hand it is a praktical need vor governments and for police to spy some things and stop terrorists or provider of children-pornography! I really don´t know how to handle this problem. But in my opinion the biggest problem is the lack of interest of most of the internet user. A world wide discussion is necessary but I don´t know how to initiate!

Anonymous said...

First and foremost - thank you for all of your work on behalf of all of us ( including those of us in the US ). While being shamed by our government's prosecution of those who would cast light on nefarious acts, many of us do support an open and transparent government.

While tracking of internet usage is always possible at the ISP level ( unless one uses a VPN connection ), the average user can cut down on the search tracking by using an ad-free Google search proxy which prevents the searcher's data being stored by Google ( scroogle.org ).

Another search service ( ixquick.com ) was awarded the first European Privacy Seal and is the only major search service that does not store your IP address.

Finally, not to disparage, I note that your blog uses Google for identity and as a search function. Perhaps other options are available??

Thank you again for your efforts.

Anonymous said...

Komm du syl, Birgitta, og blessadur.

That's about my limit of Islensk these days ;-)

You state:-
"Google hosts our entire history of searching and they create a profile of every one of us as consumers so that they can make us targeted costumers for individually directed ads. This is why Google can maintain their services for free."

Solution? Get out from under g00gl/Twitter/FarceBook/MySpace/Blogger and all the other 'social networking' sites controlled from Tel Aviv and Langley.

Use startpage.com for IP free searches; Wordpress for blogging

Oh and ditch windows as Ubuntu Linux can do everything better these days without the big brother aspects of MicroShaft[tm] intruding.
www.ubuntu.com - the latest versions have been installed and used successfully by 6 year olds, so it's now become a no-brainer for adults - no virii, no stress and all code publicly open for inspection at any time ;-)

Good luck today with your 'No' vote - for those still confused - point them at John Perkin's "Economic Hitmen" cartoon on Youtube (another potential disaster area!)

Bless,
Aegir Lokisson

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