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Big Brother is here! Internet use surveillance.

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by gunissan, Aug 6, 2013.

  1. From here:

    BE CAREFUL what you Google. This is the clear message after an incident this week when a New York couple had an unwelcome visit from counter-terrorism authorities.
    Blogger and journalist Michele Catalano was Googling pressure cookers. She wanted a pressure cooker to cook quinoa, which is that South American grainy stuff you can buy in the health food section of the supermarket. It was a harmless Google search.
    We interrupt this story to bring you a picture of tasteless Peruvian stuff.
    Meanwhile, her husband had been using the same computer to search for backpacks. He needed a backpack. Who doesn't need a new backpack from time to time? He, too, was doing a harmless Google search.
    The couple's 20-year-old son was all over the computer too. After reading about the Boston bombings, he was clicking links about home-made bombs. It was harmless stuff, done purely out of curiosity.
    But nothing is harmless is these days of terrorism and counter-terrorism. Not when it leads authorities to believe someone might be manufacturing a home-made bomb.
    "My son's reading habits combined with my search for a pressure cooker and my husband's search for a backpack set off an alarm of sorts at the joint terrorism task force headquarters," Ms Catalano wrote.
    "That's how I imagine it played out, anyhow. Lots of bells and whistles and a crowd of task force workers huddled around a computer screen looking at our Google history."
    What happened next was, authorities swooped. They visited the couple's home at about 9 in the morning. It was real black ops stuff. Six dudes in three black SUVs pulled up and surrounded the house.
    They knocked. The husband let them in. They searched. And after not too long, they left, convinced the couple's home was one of the 99 per cent of such cases where there was no threat.
    And that was that. Except that isn't entirely that, because as many are asking today: how on earth does the government know what people are Googling?
    That question has particular relevance today, given National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has just been granted temporary asylum in Russia. Mr Snowden revealed details of a US intelligence program which monitors internet activity.
    Ms Catalano has since updated her blog saying: "We found out through the Suffolk Police Department that the searches involved also things my husband looked up at his old job. We were not made aware of this at the time of questioning and were led to believe it was solely from searches from within our house."
    Meanwhile, US website The Atlantic Wire picked up Ms Catalano's story and tried to ascertain exactly which members of the "joint terrorism task force" (JTTF) visited the Catalano home. The FBI and local police authorities both told the site it wasn't them.
    An FBI spokesperson also said "officers, agents, or other representatives of the JTTF did not visit that location".
    Whichever secretive agency made the visit, it's safe to say they weren't foodies. When Ms Catalano's husband explained she was Googling pressure cookers in order to cook quinoa, they asked: "What the hell is quinoa?".

    Derived from here:

    pressure cookers, backpacks and quinoa, oh my!

    It was a confluence of magnificent proportions that led six agents from the joint terrorism task force to knock on my door Wednesday morning. Little did we know our seemingly innocent, if curious to a fault, Googling of certain things was creating a perfect storm of terrorism profiling. Because somewhere out there, someone was watching. Someone whose job it is to piece together the things people do on the internet raised the red flag when they saw our search history.
    Most of it was innocent enough. I had researched pressure cookers. My husband was looking for a backpack. And maybe in another time those two things together would have seemed innocuous, but we are in “these times” now. And in these times, when things like the Boston bombing happen, you spend a lot of time on the internet reading about it and, if you are my exceedingly curious news junkie of a twenty-year-old son, you click a lot of links when you read the myriad of stories. You might just read a CNN piece about how bomb making instructions are readily available on the internet and you will in all probability, if you are that kid, click the link provided.
    Which might not raise any red flags. Because who wasn’t reading those stories? Who wasn’t clicking those links? But my son’s reading habits combined with my search for a pressure cooker and my husband’s search for a backpack set off an alarm of sorts at the joint terrorism task force headquarters.
    That’s how I imagine it played out, anyhow. Lots of bells and whistles and a crowd of task force workers huddled around a computer screen looking at our Google history.
    This was weeks ago. I don’t know what took them so long to get here. Maybe they were waiting for some other devious Google search to show up but “what the hell do I do with quinoa” and “Is A-Rod suspended yet” didn’t fit into the equation so they just moved in based on those older searches.
    I was at work when it happened. My husband called me as soon as it was over, almost laughing about it but I wasn’t joining in the laughter. His call left me shaken and anxious.
    What happened was this: At about 9:00 am, my husband, who happened to be home yesterday, was sitting in the living room with our two dogs when he heard a couple of cars pull up outside. He looked out the window and saw three black SUVs in front of our house; two at the curb in front and one pulled up behind my husband’s Jeep in the driveway, as if to block him from leaving.
    Six gentleman in casual clothes emerged from the vehicles and spread out as they walked toward the house, two toward the backyard on one side, two on the other side, two toward the front door.
    A million things went through my husband’s head. None of which were right. He walked outside and the men greeted him by flashing badges. He could see they all had guns holstered in their waistbands.
    “Are you [name redacted]?” one asked while glancing at a clipboard. He affirmed that was indeed him, and was asked if they could come in. Sure, he said.
    They asked if they could search the house, though it turned out to be just a cursory search. They walked around the living room, studied the books on the shelf (nope, no bomb making books, no Anarchist Cookbook), looked at all our pictures, glanced into our bedroom, pet our dogs. They asked if they could go in my son’s bedroom but when my husband said my son was sleeping in there, they let it be.
    Meanwhile, they were peppering my husband with questions. Where is he from? Where are his parents from? They asked about me, where was I, where do I work, where do my parents live. Do you have any bombs, they asked. Do you own a pressure cooker? My husband said no, but we have a rice cooker. Can you make a bomb with that? My husband said no, my wife uses it to make quinoa. What the hell is quinoa, they asked.
    They searched the backyard. They walked around the garage, as much as one could walk around a garage strewn with yardworking equipment and various junk. They went back in the house and asked more questions.
    Have you ever looked up how to make a pressure cooker bomb? My husband, ever the oppositional kind, asked them if they themselves weren’t curious as to how a pressure cooker bomb works, if they ever looked it up. Two of them admitted they did.
    By this point they had realized they were not dealing with terrorists. They asked my husband about his work, his visits to South Korea and China. The tone was conversational.
    They never asked to see the computers on which the searches were done. They never opened a drawer or a cabinet. They left two rooms unsearched. I guess we didn’t fit the exact profile they were looking for so they were just going through the motions.
    They mentioned that they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing. I don’t know what happens on the other 1% of visits and I’m not sure I want to know what my neighbors are up to.
    45 minutes later, they shook my husband’s hand and left. That’s when he called me and relayed the story. That’s when I felt a sense of creeping dread take over. What else had I looked up? What kind of searches did I do that alone seemed innocent enough but put together could make someone suspicious? Were they judging me because my house was a mess (Oh my god, the joint terrorism task force was in my house and there were dirty dishes in my sink!). Mostly I felt a great sense of anxiety. This is where we are at. Where you have no expectation of privacy. Where trying to learn how to cook some lentils could possibly land you on a watch list. Where you have to watch every little thing you do because someone else is watching every little thing you do.
    All I know is if I’m going to buy a pressure cooker in the near future, I’m not doing it online.
    I’m scared. And not of the right things.
    We found out through the Suffolk Police Department that the searches involved also things my husband looked up at his old job. We were not made aware of this at the time of questioning and were led to believe it was solely from searches from within our house.
    I did not lie or make it up. I wrote the piece with the information that was given. What was withheld from us obviously could not be a part of a story I wrote based on what happened yesterday.
    The piece I wrote was the story as we knew it with the information we were told. None of it was fabricated. If you know me, you know I would never do that.
    If it was misleading, just know that my intention was the truth. And that was what I knew as the truth until about ten minutes ago. That there were other circumstances involved was something we all were unaware of.
    Thank you.

  2. I call bullshite
  3. Last paragraph says it all.
  4. well if its true its a job well done
    google is american so they can gain server acess.
  5. It's far more complicated than that, they have servers and business entities in almost every country in the world.

    I'd be betting that google have developed a tool exclusively for intelligence agencies.

    This is why I don't like that google have integrated absolutely everything, my phone, tablet, work PC, home PC are all logged into my google account which includes email, calendar, contact list, photos, search history (including YouTube), my YouTube videos.. And now with this plus/circles Facebook replica (which I don't use) they're hoping to track everything else down to your feelings any given time.

    I've started trying to decouple some of my services, to not put my entire life in google's hands.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  6. it would have to be autobot type search a bit like netriders skynet version.
    maybe I should be worried .
  7. If the kid was looking up homemade bombs...I would hardly call that harmless!

    Lot o' freaks out there folks!! Wish we had security like that in Aus! But why would we need it...we're isolated from all the bad stuff in the world!
  8. Weigh it up against all the loonies out there who have been stopped either by their own loonie incompetence or citizens passing by at the right moment.

    The internet is the new printing press. It's a threat to existing power structures and they are doing their best to exert stronger control over it in order to control the flow of information.

    But part of the tech allowing this all to happen (PRISM etc) is also driven by companies who want to collect info on people in order to sell them the "correct" advertising and products.

    The interesting thing for me is, although "we all knew it was happening", the way the status quo has changed in recent times is slightly alarming. It's all becoming more overt. We are seemingly being told: "Yes, we are watching and collecting all this info on you all and no, we are not even going to deny it, because we are only doing it for your safety".

    It's all fine until you search the "wrong" thing, I guess.
  9. It comes as a surprise that the authorities may be monitoring peoples use of the internet? Really?
  10. This sort of attitude is part of the problem. Obama also gets a daily hit list of people he can choose to send drones after. Shit like this has always happened, but both the drones change things a little as well as the "yeah, well you knew I was doing it anyway and I do it to keep you safe so trust me" attitude. I call it status quo creep.
  11. What fcuking attitude? I didn't say I agreed with it did I. Where did I say that I thought it was a good thing?

    All I expressed was concern that people are surprised by it.
  12. Exactly.

    That's pretty much been the general response. Not concern at programs such as PRISM.
  13. Let me assure you I am concerned over the level of scrutiny our lives come under. But, realistically what are you going to do about it? Make it illegal?
  14. I don't know. I've tried to avoid saying anything that undermines those who are outraged at it either.
  15. #16 phil01, Aug 9, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2013

    jees drones you say , i missed that one , is everyone ok ?
    i thought they were just paid a visit to see if everyone ok because
    the house might have been home to a cell of weirdos wanting to murder innocent people
  16. People, especially Americans, are good at making up stories to get themselves on TV, make a few bucks and have 15 minutes of fame in their otherwise dull and boring lives. This story reeks of that to me.
  17. agree mcsenna ,
    it was just a visit , it may have happened it may not ,
    they might off stayed for a cup off tea and a biscuit too.
    who gives a flying frog about the day to day bowel movements
    of the police just doing there job.
  18. Seems like a couple of us are equally guilty of getting carried away. Both the people implying it never happened as well as me for bringing up PRISM and state surveillance.

    And: "The former employer, believing the searches to be suspicious, alerted police."

  19. How sad.