Oct 23 2006

China to forbid anonymous blogging

Press reports say that China will no longer allow people to post to the Internet under pseudonyms without registering their “real name” with the government.

But that could never happen here. We all know that there is no requirement to register your real name or address with the government before being allowed to exercise any of the rights in the Constitution. At least those in the first two amendments. Right? Wrong.

Oct 20 2006

Europeans: Time to ask for your travel records

If you are a citizen or resident of the European Union, and have travelled to the United States, now is the time to ask for copies of your travel records.

Unlike Americans, Europeans have the right to know who is keeping records about you, what information is in your records, and to whom it has been given.

Airlines that fly from Europe to the U.S. have been illegally turning over passenger name records (PNR’s) to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Those records include where, when, and with whom you travelleled, your credit card information, and much more.

And the DHS is still not satisfied. They want more data, they want to keep it longer, and they want fewer rules about how they can use it or who they can give it to:

The chief U.S. negotiator … said Washington would push for the right to hold data on passengers for longer than the current arrangement of 3-1/2 years. “Our usual rule for law enforcement data is that it is kept for about 40 years, but the real question is how long is it likely to be relevant,” said Stewart Baker, assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Baker described restrictions included in the current accord as “almost a code of conduct for the United States” but said he was confident that negotiations due to start with Europe would lead to some of them being relaxed in any future pact.

The only way to find out what’s in your travel records, and what is being done with them, is to request them under your country’s data protection laws. Then, if the data protection law has been broken, you can complain to the authorities, or bring a lawsuit.

First, request your travel records from the travel agency or tour operator that booked your flights to the U.S., and the airline you flew on. When they respond, they should tell you which computerized reservation system (CRS) they use. Then you can request your records from the CRS as well. There might be records in two different CRS’s, with different data, if the travel agent uses one CRS to make the booking and send it to the airline, and the airline hosts its database in another CRS.

Here are sample letter for U.K. citizens and residents to request your travel records from travel agencies, tour operators, airlines, and CRS’s. If you are in another country, you can modify these to refer to your national data protection law:

Oct 14 2006

US Govt demands ID of all farm animals

The National Animal Identification System is a system by the US Department of Agriculture in which every farm is “registered” with the federal government and that every animal on every farm is tagged by some method, and has its movements tracked for life in a federal database. “These methods could include radio frequency identification tags, retinal scans, DNA, or others.” NoNAIS.org is a good source of information opposing the plan.

Just like TSA’s tracking program for humans, Registered Traveler, and the State Department’s chipping program for humans, RFID Passports, NAIS is “voluntary” now but planned to become mandatory. Various states, such as Texas, have already passed laws requiring farms to register for it. USDA is honest enough to admit its plan:

  • NAIS is currently a voluntary program. To ensure the participation requirements of NAIS not only provide the results necessary to maintain the health of the national herd but also is a program that is practical for producers and all others involved in production, USDA has adopted a phased-in approach to implementation. Although the draft strategic plan references mandatory requirements in 2008 and beyond, to date no actions have been initiated by USDA to develop regulations to require participation in NAIS.

No mandatory regulations have been “initiated”, but lots of other actions have been. Many small farmers have been threatened by state agriculture agents with big fines or the slaughter of their animals if they refuse to play along. And you can be sure that all the lessons learned about how to tag and track every animal will be re-applied to tagging and tracking every human.

Oct 12 2006

“Mother, may I?”

Should you have to ask for permission from the government before you are allowed to get on a plane or cruise ship?

The Department of Homeland Security has proposed that airlines and cruise ships be required to get individual permission (“clearance”) from the DHS for each individual passenger on all flights to, from, or via the U.S. Unless the answer is “Yes” — if the answer is “no” or “maybe”, or if the DHS doesn’t answer at all — the airline wouldn’t be allowed to give you a boarding pass, or let you or your luggage on the plane or ship.

The Identity Project, along with the World Privacy Forum and John Gilmore, has filed comments with the DHS objecting to this proposal as a violation of international human rights, First Amendment rights, and privacy and government accountability laws.

This is the third of three identification-related “rulemakings” in the last month and a half in which the DHS has proposed to restrict the right to travel. IDP has filed formal objections to each of these proposals: