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Minority Report

Minority Report
(See online!)

Summary

In the not-too-distant future, technology has progressed to the point that we can predict murders and convict people before the crime is committed. When the name of the officer running the program comes up as a murderer one day, he has to find a way to prove his innocence… assuming he doesn't actually do the crime.

Spoilers ahead!

You can see that people have a lot of trust in the police. They accept the incarceration of people who the police say would have committed murder even though the crime never happened. At one point, a horde of spider-like machines is released into a building to scan people's retinas to prove their identity. A couple in the middle of arguing heavily stop to allow the machines to crawl onto their face, point light into their eyes, and then resume the argument immediately after. Every time they walk into a store, the automated displays greet them by name and ask them about prior purchase before making customized recommendations on something else they might like.

One that most people miss is the scene where Tom Cruise's character is eating a bowl of cereal and because he put the box down on the counter next to his TV, a quiet advertisement for the cereal begins to play. Cruise, annoyed, throws the box across the room.

There are some great lessons about government trust and accountability plus it's a great action flick. I definitely recommend it! To learn more, click the movie thumbnail above.

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Nothing to Hide

Being innocent isn't enough
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

It's a proven fact that there are more strangers than people you know. While there may be some percentage of complete strangers who will treat your private life with the same care and diligence as a close friend or family member would, odds are that most won't. Though most people aren't dangerous, some are and they don't come with forehead labels so you can tell the difference.

Why should I care? I've done nothing wrong

According to who? Some would say that because you have a house and a TV and maybe a nice phone, your privilege grants them the right to target you for burglary. When I was a government worker, that fact alone justified harm in some people's minds (stick it to "the man"!) while elsewhere in the world, simply being a US citizen means you're guilty and deserving of death. What if you simply look similar to a known terrorist? Did you leave a big enough tip at the restaurant?

("from): mom's ex boyfriend. He was a waiter at a very elite restaurant and had normally expected very nice tips. Some guy left him a $5 tip for an over $100 bill and he got pissed and posted the customer's information on Facebook.

The world is made up mostly of people who don't know or care about you, but might depending on what information they find about you. Whether you post it yourself or its exposed accidentally, all it takes is one errant tweet or photo taken out of context to get you fired, harassed, or sent death threats.

Once someone decides to target you, the ways they can harm you is limited only by what information they have about you and their imagination.

Outrage doesn't stop to consider or wait for an explanation. Evil doesn't feel remorse or mercy. Once someone decides they don't like you, the ways they can harm you is limited only by what information they have about you and their imagination.

Did you know that thieves are watching social posts to find out which houses are unguarded while the family is on vacation (and if your insurance finds out, they may not pay)? What if someone doesn't like how you treated them and can find out where you work? It's not especially difficult to contact someone's boss and make a case for why you shouldn't have a job anymore… and depending on what I know about you and share with the boss, it might not be that hard of a pitch.

It's worse than you think

Why you should never talk to the police
(See online!)

Snooping and judging is the new norm. Do you imagine I won't dig up everything I can find on someone who wants to date my daughters? Do you still think you can get a job and not have your own social posts brought up in the interview?

Our courtrooms live and breath on the evidence that comes from your online activity. Lawyers, co-workers, or ex-lovers may all be motivated to paint you as someone you're not. Could they use your emails and comments to make you look biased, predisposed, violent, or whatever else they need to win? Sometimes police and politicians are under so much pressure to make someone pay that they're not very careful about who actually goes to jail. It's in your best interests not to hand them the knife they stab you with

Small bits of data can add up to a clear picture... and it might not be one you want people to see

And then there's the everyday data gathering businesses and online sites do every day to profile you and exploit your weaknesses for money. Even when it's as simple as giving private information to the dentist or rental car company, information they hold has a habit of leaking away to even more people you don't know. When you give information to organizations like these, you have no idea how many people or what kind of people will end up in possession of it leading to ID Theft or worse.

Summary

Privacy is simple risk management: there are far more people in the world that you don't know and trust compared to people you do. Giving information to people who's motivations and capabilities are unclear is not smart and not safe. Stop saying "I have nothing to hide" and start saying "why do you want to know?"

Until and unless you can determine a specific and valid reason to give up private information, you shouldn't give it. Learn more about protecting your data and identity in my Goodbye Identity Theft course.
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Gattaca

Gattaca
(See online!)

In the near future, your job and dating prospects are all a factor of your DNA and the quality of your genetics. Much like the risk of people hunting you down online that we have today, this shows how the essence of who you are could be used against you. Some examples:

Spoilers ahead!
  • A girl takes a stray hair to the corner DNA lab to check out a guy she's interested in.
  • Our protagonist, who's parents decided to let grow naturally in the womb instead of letting the fetus be genetically perfected, has inferior DNA. This prevents him from getting any kind of job better than cleaning toilets.
  • Even though people are legally protected from DNA collection, potential applicants who don't "volunteer" a sample are considered unhirable. Though illegal, the discrimination is impossible to prove..
  • Desperate people use the DNA of others to borrow identities so they can get things they otherwise couldn't.
  • All police searches, checks, investigations, etc. involve checking DNA.

Basically, it's a cautionary tale of what we could become if we let our genetic data become the standard by which we're treated in society.

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RFID – Radio Frequency IDentification

An RFID tag hidden under a label

An RFID tag is nothing more than a little chip attached to a paper-thin antenna. The chip's basic function is to store and transmit a small amount of information, usually just a unique identifier. What good is that? Well:

Pros

Though there hundreds of visionary and useful things you can do RFID, because they typically lack strong security controls there are serious risks that come with them too!

Cons

Don't underestimate how easy it would be to track and monitor people by the poorly-secured RFID tags they carry
(See online!)

Making RFID Safe

On the plus side again, RFID can help prevent infant abduction or hospital mixups.

RFID, like most technology, isn't something that can (or necessarily should) be stopped. Intstead, we need to harness and direct the technology to reduce the threat. To do this, we need to look at three risk aspects of RFID:

1. Poor authentication

One of the primary issues with RFID and the main thing that makes all the nightmare scenarios possible is that unsecured RFID broadcasts to anyone and everyone. For any implementation of RFID to be acceptable, the chips must be programmed only to speak to proper readers who authenticated themselves first.

For example, say you have a refrigerator that scans the food inside. When you put food inside, the fridge should program the food with a one-time code that makes it impossible for the chips in the packaging to respond to any other reader.

Think no one cares what the contents of your fridge are? Think again.

2. Poor (or no) encryption

Even after a chip authenticates a reader, if it sends the data out in the open, anyone else nearby (or not so nearby) can read it too. All communications between a chip and authenticated reader must be encrypted to prevent eavesdropping by others.

3. Use of Long-term RFID

Implantation is permanent. Passports are good for 10 years. Companies plan to replace UPC barcodes with RFID that will transmit ID codes for the life of the product (from creation to landfill and beyond).

Every RFID implementations will eventually be hacked by someone. All it takes is one person in the world to find a way to break the system and the security is no good anymore (like the millions and millions of pounds wasted with the UK passports). Secure implementations can slow it down or help, but the best defense is NO RFID.

I can't see implants ever making sense and you definitely want to be sure the products you wear and carry around can't be used to wirelessly communicate with the world around them.

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Privacy Bill Introduced in Senate?

Better late than never...
(Image is in the Public Domain)

Not a bad start at all. Granted, I think we should be able to block data brokers from having our information, but we have to begin somewhere.

(article found at Slashdot.)

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