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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for the ‘Privacy’ Category


So…what will Congress next decide to tax you for not buying?

Friday, June 29th, 2012

By now you’ve heard or read that the Supreme Court essentially upheld Obamacare. They did it by first telling Congress they can’t force you to buy health insurance or anything else. But they can tax you for not buying health insurance.

See the difference?

No. I don’t either.

By converting the mandate to buy insurance into a tax for not buying it, the Court told Congress they can tax you for not doing something Congress wants you to do.

Apparently, five of Justices thought this was a perfectly reasonable interpretation of what the Founders intended when they penned the Constitution.

What’s the next thing we’ll be taxed for not buying?

Let’s look at some hypothetical future taxes Congress could well decide to impose:

$$$ Any adult citizen who does not own a late-model, General Motors automobile or truck will have to pay an annual tax of $500. Late model is defined as less than six years old.

$$$ Anyone who does not buy a pair of Nike sneakers each year will be taxed $130.

$$$ All adults who don’t own a smartphone will incur an annual tax of $690

$$$ All taxpayers who do not purchase at least one round-trip airline ticket annually must pay a “non-support of the airline industry” tax of $999.

$$$ All families that cannot provide per-person proof of purchase of 1460 servings of fruit and 1460 servings of vegetables will incur a healthcare offset tax of $1500 per family member.

I could go on and on and on, but you see the point.

The Supreme Court essentially declared freedom of choice dead in America. Or maybe not dead, but taxable.

Can’t you just see all the heads in Washington spinning with visions of all the taxes they can impose, now that you can be taxed for not buying something…or anything?

The conversion of America to socialism, which FDR began in the 1930s, is nearly complete, now.

Comments? Or not.

Does it really matter anymore what any of us “little people’ think?


Google warns Gmail users about “state-sponsored” attacks on their email accounts

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

I do not use Google’s Gmail service but millions of people do, worldwide. Tuesday, Google took the unusual step of letting some users know their accounts may be the targets of “state-sponsored” attacks. Note that in this context, “state” means country, like China or the United States, and not California or Massachusetts.

Here is the post copied from their Security blog:


Security warnings for suspected state-sponsored attacks
Tuesday, June 5, 2012 12:04 PM
Posted by Eric Grosse, VP Security Engineering

We are constantly on the lookout for malicious activity on our systems, in particular attempts by third parties to log into users’ accounts unauthorized. When we have specific intelligence—either directly from users or from our own monitoring efforts—we show clear warning signs and put in place extra roadblocks to thwart these bad actors.

Today, we’re taking that a step further for a subset of our users, who we believe may be the target of state-sponsored attacks. You can see what this new warning looks like here:

If you see this warning it does not necessarily mean that your account has been hijacked. It just means that we believe you may be a target, of phishing or malware for example, and that you should take immediate steps to secure your account. Here are some things you should do immediately: create a unique password that has a good mix of capital and lowercase letters, as well punctuation marks and numbers; enable 2-step verification as additional security; and update your browser, operating system, plugins, and document editors. Attackers often send links to fake sign-in pages to try to steal your password, so be careful about where you sign in to Google and look for in your browser bar. These warnings are not being shown because Google’s internal systems have been compromised or because of a particular attack.

You might ask how we know this activity is state-sponsored. We can’t go into the details without giving away information that would be helpful to these bad actors, but our detailed analysis—as well as victim reports—strongly suggest the involvement of states or groups that are state-sponsored.

We believe it is our duty to be proactive in notifying users about attacks or potential attacks so that they can take action to protect their information. And we will continue to update these notifications based on the latest information.


The single most important thing you can do to protect your email account, or any online account, is to have secure password.

Google “most common passwords” and check out some of the lists. Seriously, folks, “12345” or “password” as a password? No wonder so many people get hacked.

If you are one of the folks with an easy-to-remember password, please change it immediately to something long and random. Make it up or use the site I made for my relatives to use to generate secure passwords.

Either way, make it twelve to sixteen characters long, like this one  — Q~P8]b6L!h<!@1`n — which you should NOT use now that it’s been published.

You may think nobody could possibly be interested in hacking your email account but the reality is, the bad guys will use anyone’s account to distribute their spam and they are constantly testing accounts for vulnerabilities. How do you think all your friends and relatives and work contacts are going to feel when they get that first piece of spam sent from your account and realize that the spammers now have their email address to use and sell to other spammers?

Another thing your can do to help thwart spammers is to NOT forward jokes and other things to your mailing list by putting all the addresses in the TO: field where everyone can see them. If you must forward something to more than one person, put your email address in the TO: field and put all the others in the BCC: field. (Blind Carbon Copy) That way, all the recipients only see your email address.

Having your email or blog or website hacked is a royal pain in the posterior. I know, having experienced it many years ago. Now, my passwords look like the one above.

Yours should, too.


News from the Nanny State: Police will now lock your car for you.

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner – Dan.


Frankly, I’m surprised this story isn’t being reported from here in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts. I guess it just goes to show that Nanny Staters are everywhere.

New Troy Police initiative aims to reduce theft from parked vehicles

TROY – With a recent spike in thefts from parked cars, the Troy Police Department is looking to roll out some preventive measures it thinks will not only reduce the amount of thefts but also make some residents more aware of what they’re leaving in their cars.

In this effort, if a police officer does notice a valuable item laying out in plain view in a parked car, the officer will then check its plate numbers, and if the address comes back locally, the officer will go to the registered owner’s place of residence and leave a blue card in the entrance way of the building. If the car does not belong to a local address, the officer will then leave the card on its windshield.

If a car is found to be unlocked, according to Police Chief John Tedesco, the officer will lock the vehicle.

Tedesco said the plan was developed over the last several months and has been approved by Mayor Lou Rosamilia.

Troy PBA President Bob Fitzgerald said these measures raise several concerns for not only officers but also the city as a whole. He agreed there has been an increased problem with larcenies from vehicles in the city, but while saying there needs to be a proactive approach taken, he said this particular plan could land some officers in trouble.

First, he said putting the card on the vehicle is merely signaling to a criminal there are valuable items in the vehicle. Tedesco said they have modeled Troy’s program based on similar initiatives used in both the Syracuse Police Department and the City of Yonkers Police Department and said there had been no such incidents created by the cards.

Fitzgerald also criticized the plan as he said officers have no business being in someone’s car as it is their private property. He also said if residents have knowledge police officers are going into cars to lock them but come back to find property missing, they could place blame on the police.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Isn’t it great the Troy police have so much spare time they can drive or walk around looking in people’s cars to make sure they’ve not left anything valuable where others can see it? It seems to me that if crime is low enough in Troy that officers can spend their time locking car doors for folks, Troy could probably get by with fewer officers and lower the tax rate  a bit.

What’s next? Will citizens be able to call the police for rides when they’ve had a bit too much beer at a local watering hole? Will they start checking front doors around town in case someone left theirs unlocked in their haste to get to work? And why stop there? They might as well check all the doors and the windows, too. And the garage. And shed.

What’s going to happen if you normally leave your keys under the seat with the door unlocked and a helpful gendarme locks he door, locking you out? Who pays for the locksmith to come and open the door?

I appreciate that Chief Tedesco and Mayor Rosamilia may well have had the best interests of the townfolk at heart when they cooked up and approved this scheme, but the PBA president had it right when he said the whole thing is problematical on several levels.

Locking one’s car in a city is something most folks understand is good practice. If others disagree, or believe themselves to be immune to bad things happening, then I believe it is not the business of the police or anyone else to correct them

Most people learn from their mistakes. The first time someone loses a camera or computer or watch or some other valuable, they’ll learn the lock their doors.

Experience is a great teacher. I say we should let it instruct those who most need the lesson.

And the police should keep their noses out of and hands off of private property.

What do you say?


Your smartphone might soon see through walls…and clothes

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

When I first came across this story, I thought it was a joke. But a little googling convinced me it’s not.

Chip lets smartphones see through walls, clothes

Researchers at a Texas university have designed a chip that could give smartphones the long-envied ability of comic book hero Superman to see through walls, clothes or other objects.

A team at University of Texas at Dallas tuned a small, inexpensive microchip to discern a “terahertz” band of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The design works with chips made using Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor technology behind processors commonly found in personal computers, smartphones, televisions and videogame consoles.

“CMOS is affordable and can be used to make lots of chips,” electrical engineering professor Kenneth O said in a statement on Friday.

“The combination of CMOS and terahertz means you could put this chip and a transmitter on the back of a cell phone, turning it into a device carried in your pocket that can see through objects.”

To assuage privacy worries, the professor and his team at the Texas Analogue Center of Excellence are limiting their study to what the chips can make visible at distances of four inches (10 centimetres) or less, according to the university.

The terahertz band has wavelengths that fall between microwaves used for mobile phone signals and infrared that is employed for night vision goggles.

The chip designed by Mr O’s team detects terahertz waves and shows the resulting imagery, perhaps on a smartphone screen.

Mr O’s team highlighted potential medical uses such as enabling doctors to peer easily into patients’ bodies and practical applications along the lines of finding studs in walls.

“We’ve created approaches that open a previously untapped portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for consumer use,” Mr O said.

“There are all kinds of things you could be able to do that we just haven’t yet thought about.”

Well, I feel a lot better knowing the researchers will be “limiting their study to what the chips can make visible at distances of four inches or less.” Lord knows we wouldn’t want anyone wandering the streets taking a peek at everyone through their clothes.

Of course, once they develop the technology, I suspect there will be lots and lots of people, most of whom will be drawing government paychecks and and carrying badges, who’ll have no compunction at all about using the technology to spy on everyone on the street and in their homes. Store detectives will be using the technology to look for shoplifters…and really enjoying the work!

What? Fourth Amendment, you say? It won’t apply. “We’re not searching you,” they’ll say. “We’re just looking around. You know these goggles we wear can see through things so it’s up to you to stay out of our line of sight if you don’t want us to see you naked.”

On the plus side, girlie magazines will quickly be out of business. For that matter, so will porn sites. Why pay to look at pictures in a magazine or on your monitor when you can don your goggles and watch your neighbors getting busy.

Once this technology becomes commonplace, I think we’ll see lots of manufacturers weaving enough metal threads into their clothing lines to block the snooping. Aluminum siding will make a comeback. Other siding and roofing will begin incorporating metal particles.

You know, this new technology might well be a boon to the economy. Think of all the new jobs it will create as people clamor for new smartphones and other devices that will let them see what folks at the gym or the club or at the park really look like. Think of all the manufacturing and construction jobs it will create as the demand for the aforementioned siding and shingles skyrockets.

Professor Kenneth O and his team might well accomplish with their new technology what Our Dear Leader and his cabal have failed to do for three-plus years. And it won’t cost the taxpayers trillions of dollars.

The real question now is, do I invest in the spy goggles manufacturers or those who make the siding and roofing?

Maybe both?

What do you think?


Is privacy passé?

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Is privacy passé? It certainly seems so. People, young and old, put every detail of their lives on Facebook, post videos on YouTube without regard to how it makes them look, and offer a “who cares” shrug when told about stories like these two, which appeared on the same page of the paper Monday.

As drones spread, privacy issues grow [Excerpts]

… Thousands of hobbyists are taking part in what has become a global do-it-yourself drone subculture, a pastime that is thriving as the Federal Aviation Administration seeks to make the skies friendlier to unmanned aircraft of all sizes.

The use of drones in the United States by law enforcement and other government agencies has privacy advocates on edge. …

… Whether with a border patrol drone the size of a single-engine passenger plane or a four-rotor police “quadcopter’’ equipped with gear to intercept cellphone signals, the increasing ease of aerial surveillance seems destined to be put to a constitutional test on privacy.

“Our concern is with all of the drones,’’ said Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Small aircraft are hard to see, and large drones can fly high enough to stay out of sight, she said. “I think they all pose different levels of privacy risk.’’…

Click Here to read the whole story.

UK said to be seeking Internet surveillance plan

Every e-mail to your child. Every status update for your friends. Every message to your mistress.

The government of the United Kingdom is preparing proposals for a nationwide electronic surveillance network that could potentially keep track of every message sent by any Brit to anyone at any time, an industry official briefed on the government’s moves said Sunday.

Plans for a massive government database of the country’s phone and e-mail traffic were abandoned in 2008 following a public outcry. But James Blessing of the Internet Service Providers’ Association said the government appears to be “reintroducing it on a slightly different format.’’

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I loved this bit of the second story:

A Home Office spokesman insisted that any new surveillance program would not involve prying into the content of e-mails or voice conversations.

“It’s not about the content,’’ the official said, speaking anonymously in line with office policy. “It’s about the who, what, where, and when.’’

Of course it’s about the content. What good is knowing that Joe called Abdulla or Ravi emailed Susie if you don’t know what was said?

There are some who say that  in the United States, the NSA already filters all email or phone calls or both, looking for certain keywords and phrases. Maybe they do or maybe they don’t but the fact that they are building a huge new complex in Utah is making a lot of people a lot more nervous.

I’m old enough to remember when privacy was something most people expected. But too many of us for too long kept joining the ranks of the shoulder shruggers and allowed the very idea of privacy to become an anachronism.

I’m still one of the old guard who protects my privacy as best I can. But it gets more difficult every day. My grown children seem to have acclimated themselves to lives with minimal privacy and I fully expect when my grandson is born in July, he will one day live in a world where, if privacy is paid any lip service at all, it will apply only to the bedroom and bathroom. And maybe not even there.

How do you feel about privacy?

Are you comfortable with all your life being “out there” for public consumption?

Are you prepared to trust businesses and government with all the details of your life?

And if you’re like me, what measures do you take to protect your privacy?


How bad is Obamacare for seniors? Here are five tax-related ways seniors will get soaked.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Next week, the Supreme Court will be asked to decide if the Federal Government can compel private citizens to buy stuff.

The court will hear arguments for and against Obamacare, and freedom-loving Americans from coast-to-coast and around the globe are hoping the answer will be a rousing and decisive “NO.”

Among the many, many reasons why all Americans should vigorously oppose Obamacare is that it will financially devastate many seniors, thanks to some taxes that traitors-to-freedom Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid made sure were in the bloated bill nobody could read until they voted for it.

Grover Norquist, the President of  Americans for Tax Reform wrote a short Op/Ed that outlines the five most serious tax consequences for America’s seniors if Obamacare is not overturned.

The five tax hikes in Obamacare that most hurt seniors

The jobs-killing Obamacare law contains 20 new or higher taxes on American families and employers. Many of these tax increases fall on families making less than $250,000 — a direct violation of candidate Obama’s promise not to raise “any form” of taxes on these families. In less than a week, the third anniversary of Obamacare being signed into law will take place. The Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments about the constitutionality of Obamacare next week.

Out of the 20 new or higher taxes in Obamacare, there are five that fall most directly on seniors.

The first is the excise tax penalty for failure to comply with Obamacare’s individual mandate. Many seniors face a coverage gap between retirement and Medicare eligibility. Obamacare raises taxes on these younger seniors by punishing them if they don’t purchase “qualifying health insurance.” Set to go into effect in 2014, the excise tax penalty for mandate non-compliance will in 2016 rise to 2.5% of adjusted gross income for a senior couple (or $1,390 for those making less than $55,600).

Obamacare will leave many seniors counting pennies...if they're lucky.

Why does Obamacare raise taxes on seniors just as they are entering retirement? Many of these seniors will face this “stick” but find themselves with too much income to qualify for the “carrot” of tax credits to purchase Obamacare health insurance plans in an exchange. Many will be forced to keep working just to avoid paying this tax.

The second tax hike on seniors is the so-called “Cadillac Plan” excise tax. Starting in 2018, Obamacare imposes a whopping 40% excise tax on high-cost (“Cadillac plan”) health insurance plans. This is defined for seniors as a plan whose premiums exceed $29,450 for a family plan, or $11,500 for a single senior. Seniors often face higher costs in health insurance premiums due to chronic health conditions and other risk factors. This tax will fall almost exclusively on the seniors with the greatest health insurance needs.

Third is Obamacare’s dividends tax hike. Starting in 2013, the top tax rate on dividends is scheduled to rise from 15% today to 39.6%. In addition, Obamacare imposes a dividend “surtax” of 3.8% on families making more than $250,000 per year. That would create a top dividend tax rate of 43.4%, nearly triple today’s rate. This will fall very hard on seniors. According to the Tax Foundation’s analysis of IRS data, 70% of households over age 55 receive dividend income. Seventy-one percent of all dividends paid flow to these households. To raise taxes on dividends is to raise taxes on seniors.

Then there’s the medical device excise tax. Obamacare imposes a new excise tax on medical device manufacturers in 2013. These companies will surely build the cost of this new tax into the price of what they sell. Who buys medical devices? Who buys pacemakers, wheelchairs and other costly medical devices? Seniors do.

Finally, Obamacare reduces allowable medical itemized deductions. Under current law, medical itemized deductions can be claimed on tax returns, but they must be reduced by 7.5% of adjusted gross income. Obamacare increases this “haircut” to 10% of AGI in 2013. This will mean that millions of Americans claiming medical itemized deductions will no longer be able to. The same IRS data as above tells us that 60% of all tax filers claiming this deduction are over age 55.

All of the tax increases in Obamacare will hurt seniors, but these five fall on them directly and hardest.

Did Obama and his henchmen set out to deliberately penalize seniors for getting old? Or were they just too stupid or blinded by ideology to recognize the consequences of what they foisted upon America? Did it occur to them that not all seniors with dividend income are wealthy, that some simply live comfortably in retirement and others just scrape by even with their dividends and that confiscating forty percent of it might make the difference between eating three meals a day and two…or one?

It took 232 years for the nation to elect a president arrogant enough to presume he is not just another inexperienced, megalomaniacal politician, but some kind of royalty who doesn’t lead the nation but rules it.

Whether the Supreme Court decides according to the Constitution, as the Founders intended, or further twists and rips it to squeeze out another fantastical, never-before-noticed government power, we still have one more chance to save the nation come November. Sadly, it does not look like it will be in the presidential election, where Republicans appear determined to nominate the weakest possible candidate to face Our Dear Leader.

The only real hope is that the Tea Movement — notice we don’t hear much about them in the national media anymore — can help elect enough new members of Congress and the Senate to overthrow Obamacare and set the nation back on the road to prosperity.

I know some folks will say I’m dreaming, but for many Americans, the dream is all they have left.

What’s your take on this?

Am I overreacting? Or on the money?


Who owns your Facebook account when you die?

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Until I read the following this morning, it never occurred to me that my Facebook page, which I’ve not visited since early last year, might be something my family or friends, or anyone else, would even care about after I die. Of course, you can tell I have little use for my personal Facebook account, primarily because I have little time to spend on such things and what little free time I do have I prefer to spend elsewhere than online. But I’m different than most, as you’ve probably figured out if you’ve read this blog for any length of time.

But, as it turns out, some folks do want access to their loved one’s social media accounts.

Is Facebook part of your estate? States weigh laws to govern social media accounts after death

LINCOLN, Neb. — When Karen Williams’ son died in a motorcycle crash, the Oregon woman turned to his Facebook account in hopes of learning more about the young man she had lost.

Williams found his password and emailed the company, asking administrators to maintain 22-year-old Loren Williams’ account so she could pore through his posts and comments by his friends. But within two hours, she said, Facebook changed the password, blocking her efforts.

Who should have access to your accounts, and how much access should they have, after you're gone?

“I wanted full and unobstructed access, and they balked at that,” said Williams, recalling her son’s death in 2005. “It was heartbreaking. I was a parent grasping at straws to get anything I could get.”

Now lawmakers and attorneys in at least two states are considering proposals that would require Facebook and other social networks to grant access to loved ones when a family member dies, essentially making the site contents part of a person’s digital estate. The issue is growing increasingly important as people record more thoughts and experiences online and more disputes break out over that material.

Williams, a second-grade teacher from the Portland suburbs, ultimately got back into her son’s account, but it took a lawsuit and a two-year legal battle that ended with Facebook granting her 10 months of access before her son’s page was removed.

Nebraska is reviewing legislation modeled after a law in Oklahoma, which last year became the first state to take action.

“Mementos, shoeboxes with photos. That, we knew how to distribute once someone passed away,” said Ryan Kiesel, a former legislator who wrote the Oklahoma law. “We wanted to get state law and attorneys to begin thinking about the digital estate.”

Under Facebook’s current policy, deaths can be reported in an online form. When the site learns of a death, it puts that person’s account in a memorialized state. Certain information is removed, and privacy is restricted to friends only. The profile and wall are left up so friends and loved ones can make posts in remembrance.

Facebook will provide the estate of the deceased with a download of the account data “if prior consent is obtained from or decreed by the deceased or mandated by law.”

If a close relative asks that a profile be removed, Facebook will honor that request, too.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I can see why parents or siblings or children might want access. Like William Lindsay, mentioned in the story, they may want access so they can notify the deceased’s friends of his or her passing.

But I can see problems, too.

Does a parent really want to know what may be, to them, truly sordid details of their child’s life? If their child hid those details from them while alive, should not the child’s decision be respected after they are dead?

Facebook has in place a rudimentary system for dealing with this issue, but I think they, and other social media platforms, need to take it a step further and provide a way, in each account, for members to determine what access to what parts of the account should be granted after their death and to whom, be they members or not.

Of course, it’s not just Facebook one has to think about. What about Twitter and private tweets? Or YouTube and videos you uploaded but kept private or restricted? And don’t forget your email accounts. You really might not want your kids to have access to those!

There was a time when you only had to worry about letters you wrote and received. The digital revolution has opened up many more options for communication, and given us many more things to consider when planning for the future.

What do you think?

Would you want your parents or your children or anyone else to have total access to everything in your social media accounts after you die, including private messages and email?

Should you be able to tell Facebook and others to deny access and delete your entire account when they are notified of your death, regardless of what anyone else wants?

And what instructions would you leave for various social media providers if you had the ability to do so?


Nursing mom “humiliated” by TSA. Forced to pump in public bathroom.

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Why anyone boards an airplane in America anymore is beyond me.

First we have TSA goons sexually assaulting adults who don’t want to be irradiated in the “see me naked” machine. Then they grope the genitals of babies in diapers. Then they force a 95-year-old woman in a wheelchair to remove her adult diaper.  So is it any wonder that we hear about a woman being forced to prove her breast pump is real?

Mom With Breast Pump ‘Humiliated’ by TSA

A mother in Hawaii was “humiliated” when she felt she needed to pump breast milk in the open area of an airport bathroom in order for a TSA agent to permit her to get through security with her breast pumping equipment.

“I’m in a dress, in heels and I find myself in front of a sink and mirrors with travelers coming in and out of the bathroom,” Amy Strand told “I’m standing at the sink with my breast hanging out, pumping. I wanted to cry. I was humiliated.”

Strand, 38, is a mother of four and principal at a public school in Maui. She frequently travels between islands for business and had never had a problem with the equipment before.

On Wednesday, as she was making her way through airport security at Lihue Airport in Kauai, she was stopped in security and an agent asked if he could look at the equipment. She obliged, and the agent opened her kit to find her pump, a cooler pack and empty milk bottles.

Strand said she had done “what no nursing mother wants to do” 20 minutes earlier and dumped out the milk in the bottles in order to avoid any hassle going through security. She never imagined that empty bottles would be the problem.

The agent told her the ice pack would not be allowed through security without milk in the bottles. Strand said the ice pack is specially made for the milk’s cooler and would not be easy to replace.

“It really confuses me as to how an empty breast pump and cooler pack are a threat to national security and 20 minutes later, with milk, they no longer pose a threat to national security,” Strand said incredulously.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Do Amy Strand or her baby daughter, who was traveling with her, look like terrorists? When was the last time a young American woman with a baby tried to blow up an airplane? Did I miss that incident?

At least this time, the TSA apologized and admitted the agent was wrong. But why does this kind of thing happen in the first place?

It happens because nobody in the Federal Government has the testicular fortitude to put aside political correctness and admit that profiling everyone is not the best solution to the problem. It’s just a way to pretend one, certain political/religious group is not responsible for virtually all the acts of terrorism around the world.

So babies and grannies get groped as we teach our sons and daughters that nobody should ever touch them “down there” except mom and dad, the doctor, and the government. And moms get humiliated for daring to want to travel while breast feeding.

But hey, at least we’re not profiling Muslims.

Comments anyone?


Social media and smartphones make it easier for bad guys to steal your identity

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

I suppose one would have to be a hermit not to know how much damage identity thieves do to folks worldwide. Yet, surprisingly, many of us go out of our way to make it easy for them, both online via Facebook and other social media and with our smartphones.

Following is a short piece on the subject from today’s Boston Globe business section that I found here:

Sharing too much online and on smartphones leaves you vulnerable to ID theft

We’ve become a society that shares too much personal information – and that makes us vulnerable.

Javelin Strategy & Research, in its latest report about identity theft, says about 36 million people were notified of a data breach in 2011. Having your information lost or stolen doesn’t automatically mean you will be a victim of identity theft, but it increases the odds.

Last year, identity fraud increased 13 percent. Using stolen Social Security numbers or credit cards and other financial information, identity thieves buy cars, get cellphones, and open new credit card accounts.

This is the ninth year of Javelin’s study and for the first time the firm looked at social media and mobile phone behavior. Javelin found that people are making it easier for identity thieves to piece together the information needed to steal their credit name.

People using LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, and Facebook had the highest incidence of fraud. Javelin found that 68 percent of people with public social-media profiles shared their birthday (with 45 percent revealing the month, day, and year); 63 percent shared the name of their high school; 18 percent shared their phone number; and 12 percent shared the their pet’s name.

Crooks know people don’t want to remember several passwords. They know you choose a password you hope you won’t forget.

Think about the details of your personal life you’re posting. You may think they are insignificant, but they can be opportunities for people skilled at mining such information to guess your passwords.

Then there’s your smartphone. The survey found that 7 percent of smartphone users were victims of identity fraud, compared with the 4.9 percent among the general population.

Javelin said part of the increase in smartphone users being victims could be attributable to the fact that many users don’t update to a new operating system when it becomes available. Many people don’t use a password on their phones, so if it’s lost anyone can access the information stored on the device. Do you have passwords and log-in information stored on your smartphone?

By the way, of those consumers aware that their identities had been stolen, 9 percent of the subsequent crimes were committed by someone the victim knew.

Javelin has a quiz you should take to see how well you are protecting your personal information. I took the quiz and there were several areas where I should have done better. For instance, I didn’t know how to wipe my smartphone clean in the event it’s stolen. Javelin recommends checking to see if your phone has a remote wipe switch or downloading an application that will erase the data.

Take the quiz yourself. Go to Once you take the quiz and get your results, you’ll also get tips on how to improve your identity safety.

I just took the test linked above. I scored 18 with zero being perfect and 100 being the worst. A couple of the questions related to smartphones did not apply since I don’t own one so I guessed at which was the best answer, which may have affected my score.

That said, a few of the questions made me realize some of my information was not quite as secure as I thought. For example, old tax returns are not in a secure location. If someone were to break into my home while we are away, and was willing to wade through the mess in the attic, they’d have access to our social security numbers. I’ll be taking care of that issue right after I post this.

Far too many of us have embraced sharing virtually every facet of our lives on Facebook and elsewhere without stopping to consider what can be done with all that information. It might feel nice to let everyone know your husband just gave you a gold and diamond bracelet or that your wife gave you a new gold Rolex,  but combine that with your name and hometown and other clues you’ve dropped in your Facebook postings and can you really be surprised when you come home one day and find your home ransacked and all the valuables, along with identity documents, gone?

Thomas Jefferson did not actually say it, it is exactly true that ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”  And the sentiment is applicable to to the subject at hand. As has become clear to more and more folks every day, some because they’ve been victimized and others because  they’ve been paying attention, the cost of protecting one’s identity and security in the 21st century is, truly, eternal vigilance.

If you took the test, what was your score?

What were your weak spots?

And if you have ever had your identity stolen, please share what happened along with what you had to do and how long it took to straighten out the mess.


4-year-old’s crayon drawing gets father arrested and strip-searched

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner — Derrek.


Thanks go to Derek B. for the tip on this one.

I’ve always thought our neighbors to the north were a little more level-headed than most of us here in America. I thought their police were still police and not the militarized law-enforcement robots you’ll find in most of of the home of the formerly free. But it appears I’ve been deluding myself. It appears the crazies are in power there, too.

What other conclusion can be drawn from the following story about a four-year-old girl’s crayon drawing of a gun that got her father arrested and strip-searched and her mother ordered to the police station while the police searched their home where they did find a gun — can you see it coming? — a toy gun. And all this without any warrant and without any probable cause of any crime. Read for yourself.

Possession of a dangerous crayon
Where’s the liberal media when a child’s hand drawing of a gun leads to strip searches?

When Jessie Sansone was picking up his kids from school last week in Kitchener, Ont., he was asked to go to the principal’s office.

There were three cops waiting there who arrested him, handcuffed him and took him down to the police station, where he was strip searched.

Then more cops went to his home where his wife, while caring for a 15-month-old baby, was told to go down to the police station, too. And then they searched his house. Without a warrant. Why? What did Sansone do?

Nothing. They didn’t find anything in the house when they searched it. They didn’t find anything on him when they searched him.

A warrantless arrest and strip search and search of his house. Why?

Because at school, his four-year-old daughter drew a picture of a gun and, when asked about it, told her teacher her daddy uses it to shoot bad guys and monsters. Seriously.

So her kindergarten teacher called Family and Children’s Services. Seriously.

And they called the cops. Seriously. And they arrested and searched him. Seriously.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

A kid draws a gun with a crayon and it becomes a “firearms-related incident” according to Waterloo Regional Police Inspector Kevin Thaler. I’d love to know if he said that with a straight face and if he did, how he managed to rise to the rank of Inspector. And since one would expect that the brightest bulbs in the pack would make Inspector, what does that say about the mental wattage of the cops who arrested the guy?

One wonders what they might have done had the child drawn a picture of a nuclear bomb and said her daddy uses it to blow up bad guys.

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before this kind of insanity becomes a regular occurrence here in America as well as in Canada, now that we’ve put the lunatics in charge of the asylum.

Still, it’s good to know our American judges will uphold the right of members of the Religion of Peace to assault and batter at will anyone who offends them. Unless their daughter likes to draw pictures of toy guns, of course.

What do you make of this story?

Have you heard of anything like this here in America?



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