Polls show a solid majority of Americans continue to support the ritual sacrifice of their personal call data on the altar of our never-ending war with Oceania—er, excuse me, terrorism—even after sordid revelations brought to light by whistleblower Edward J. Snowden.
InTheseTimes asserts “There’s something fatalistic about this bedrock support for the new police state” as stated in a story excerpted briefly below.
“Could it be less a show of stubborn loyalty to federal spookery than a sort of learned helplessness, bred in the fingertips of an American public long used to marketers hovering over their Facebook and Google accounts, tracking—and then desperately seeking to monetize—every keystroke they make?
“Summer moviegoers had a proof-text for this hunch. In The Internship, a Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson buddy comedy, the Wedding Crashers duo play laid-off, middle-aged salesmen driven into a tour of duty as aspiring geeks at the grand, rainbow-hued Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. Hijinks ensue, as they try to adapt their old-dude people skills to the cool and clean rigors of profitable data transmission. Their younger colleagues are won over by their seedy charm, and our heroes see their pluck rewarded with jobs at the world’s coolest company.
“But what’s of real interest is the social background of the film. The Internship is an unrelieved study in the psychology of mass digital conformity—rendered far more insidious, of course, in the Google workplace’s absolute conviction that it detests all manner of conformity. Continue reading “Security, privacy, and everyone”
America’s’s concerns about government intrusion are older than the country itself, says Neil Richards, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
“If you want to talk about privacy, what would be less private than having a platoon of Redcoats living in your house, eating your food, listening to your conversations?” Richards asks. “… In the Constitution itself — the quartering of soldiers, the execution of general warrants — all have to do with the privacy of the home, the privacy of papers. NPR says:
“And though the Constitution doesn’t use the word ‘privacy,’ the separation of individuals and their information and their homes and their persons from the state is a theme that runs throughout the Bill of Rights.”
“Concerns about privacy ballooned again in the camera age. “Privacy as a theme in American law, and really in American public discussion, arose in 1890,” Richards says. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis — just a young lawyer at the time — wrote an article for The Harvard Law Review about the personal intrusions of the new “snap cameras.”
“The history of privacy in the U.S. is closely tied with the history of the press, and by the 1960s, that had become an embattled relationship. The ’60s, Richards says, were a major moment for American privacy, in part because of the growth of “pre-modern computers.” Back then, databases were called “data banks,” and they made people nervous. Continue reading “The History of privacy”
Today marks an important victory for the transgender community, even though it may appear to be a small paperwork technicality, reports ThinkProgress.org. “The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that it is now much easier for trans people to change their gender identity on their Social Security records. All that will now be required, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, is for individuals to submit government-issued documentation reflecting a gender change, or a certification from a physician confirming they have undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.
“This is a significant departure from the previous policy, which required documentation of complete sex reassignment surgery. Many trans people never undergo such procedures, either because they are too expensive, because they do not want to lose their procreative ability, or because it simply isn’t an important change for them to make to find authenticity in their identities. The SSA change eliminates this high standard for trans people to obtain the appropriate documentation for the gender that reflects how they live their daily lives.
“Though Social Security cards do not display gender, the SSA does maintain that information as data, and it can impact other governmental programs. For example, individuals seeking coverage under Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income, or other public benefits could face complications if their gender markers do not match from form to form and identification to identification. In addition to an invasion of their privacy, the discordance could even lead to a denial of benefits. The new change will eliminate the obstacles trans people can face to access protections they often need because of other forms of discrimination they otherwise experience in society.”
More at: http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/06/14/2161991/transgender-social-security/?mobile=nc
Social Security’s disability program is overwhelmed by so many claims that judges sometimes award benefits they might otherwise deny just to keep up with the flow of cases, according to a lawsuit filed by the judges themselves.
The Social Security Administration says the agency’s administrative law judges should decide 500 to 700 disability cases a year. The agency calls the standard a productivity goal, but the lawsuit claims it is an illegal quota that requires judges to decide an average of more than two cases per workday.
“When the goals are too high, the easy way out is to pay the case,” said Randall Frye, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges and a judge in Charlotte, N.C. “Paying the case is a decision that might be three pages long. When you deny benefits, it’s usually a 15- or 20-page denial that takes a lot more time and effort.”
The lawsuit raises serious questions about the integrity of the disability hearing process by the very people in charge of running it. It comes as the disability program faces serious financial problems.
The disability program’s trust fund will run out of money in 2016, according to projections by Social Security’s trustees. At that point, the system will collect only enough money in payroll taxes to pay 79 percent of benefits. That would trigger an automatic 21 percent cut in benefits.
Congress could redirect money from Social Security’s much bigger retirement program to shore up the disability program, as it did in 1994. But that would worsen the finances of the retirement program, which is facing its own long-term financial problems.
The lawsuit was filed by the judges’ union and three judges on Thursday in federal court in Chicago. It names the agency and Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin as defendants. Colvin took over in February after Commissioner Michael Astrue’s six-year term expired.
The union announced the lawsuit at a press conference Friday in Washington. A Social Security spokesman declined to comment. In an interview, Astrue disputed the union’s claims. Continue reading “U.S. disability system in crisis”
Facebook Inc has said that it been the target of a series of attacks by an unidentified hacker group, but it had found no evidence that user data was compromised, reports today’s Al Jazeera.
“’Last month, Facebook security discovered that our systems had been targeted in a sophisticated attack,’ the company said in a blog post posted on Friday afternoon, just before the three-day Presidents Day weekend. ‘The attack occurred when a handful of employees visited a mobile developer website that was compromised.’
“The social network, which says it has more than one billion active users worldwide, also said: ‘Facebook was not alone in this attack. It is clear that others were attacked and infiltrated recently as well.’ Continue reading “Facebook hacked again”