Friday, November 30, 2007

Facebook and its Lack of Privacy

In the world of high technology and convenience, we sometimes need to be reminded that there is a cost associated with having both. And companies need to be reminded to do their homework before putting things out into the public spectrum. The users and managers of Facebook are facing such difficulties.

Facebook is a free site that receives the majority of its funding through advertisers and contributions; most people would likely consider that this would extend to banner ads, side page ads, and the occasional pop-ups. However, internet advertising agencies are going beyond these reasonable efforts; and this is what is especially troubling. The program is called “Beacon” and the sole purpose is to memorize your purchases. While this may be considered an appropriate tool for internet stores to employ in order to track purchases and make suggestions to you based on your purchase upon checkout, it would seem highly problematic when employed in an endeavor such as Facebook. The version installed on Facebook essentially does the same thing, except this time, everyone one of your “friends” will also be allowed to view your purchase history.

Originally, the tracking part of the program would be able to be turned off by its users. The problem is that once implemented on Facebook, “Beacon” has no way of turning off - - and no option for users to have the ability to turn it off, with or without permission.

This might not seem like a big deal in hind sight, but it is a slippery slope, and may very well – if continued – raise serious privacy concerns; even perhaps involving Fourth Amendment issues. For Facebook and its creator, Matt Zuckerberg, this is not the first time they have been in the hot seat this year when it comes to privacy rights.

This brings us back to the Big Brother issue our country is facing today. How much imposition is too much imposition? What kind of rights are we going to have left if we allow the government, businesses, and other entities to continue to chip away at our privacy – something Ayn Rand correctly identified as the very foundation of civilization? It is important that we, as citizens, educate ourselves about the privacy underpinings in the Bill of Rights, and ensure that we promote and vote for leaders of this country who will also keep our rights in the highest regard – and support only those businesses that commit themselves to doing likewise.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cry Me a River.

Last Sunday, in an interview with Chris Wallace, Senator and presidential candidate Fred Thompson complained that Fox News was portraying him in a negative light and thereby hurting his campaign. Welcome to the real world, Senator!

Probably the best thing Senator Thompson could do would be to quit whining, start showing some fire in the belly, and put forward specific and comprehensive ideas for the presidency he covets. (Of course, any campaign that has to spend its time telling people “I’m not lazy,” is in trouble anyway.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Illegal Search & Seizure

The Bush Administration considers the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement a suggestion rather than a directive when it comes to electronically eavesdropping on citizens' phone calls or reading our e-mails. Now, the Boston Police Department is launching a program to rifle through citizens' homes in high-crime neighborhoods looking for firearms in kids' rooms, without first securing warrants.

The police, who will be operating in groups of three or four, promise to first ask the permission of adults before conducting their searches. They also promise not to charge anyone with offenses for anything they find (except "large" quantities of illegal drugs) unless they later link the firearm(s) to crimes.

People who consent to such searches, which will be carried out without any suspicion there are illegal firearms or anything else illegal in the houses, are either dangerously naïve or crazy. If people aren't wise enough to realize the police will - at a bare minimum - keep a record or write a report of what they find, then citizens have become even more gullible post-911 than I thought.

If parents are so intimidated by their kids that they cannot themselves know or find out if their kids have guns in the house, and have to permit a warrantless police search of their homes, then their fitness as parents is seriously in question.

Such actions as these in Boston further the false notion that the right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed in the 2d Amendment are so unimportant that its protections is not worthy of Fourth Amendment consideraton.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Government as Gangsters...

In Hollywood gangster movies, the mob boss would pressure victims to do their bidding by letting them know 'there's an easy way and a hard way to do this, but either way you're going to do what we want.' In the real world of modern America, this is more often than not the preferred method employed not by gangsters but by the government. Rarely, however are government officials as blatant about it as State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey at a news conference yesterday in Upper Marlboro, MD: ‘We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but it’s got to get done. I’m willing to move forward with legal action.’

The state is demanding that each student in Prince George, BC has the state-required Chicken Pox and Hepatitis B vaccinations by the September 20th deadline. More than 2,300 students that have not been immunized have been banned from attending school, and parents of the students could face fine of up to $50 a day and up to 10 days in jail.

Some parents would like their children treated homeopathically and others do not believe in giving immunizations of any kind. While this might not be considered the “norm,” what happened to a parent’s right to choose?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Government's Version of Privacy

The government has now completely abandoned any pretense that we -- the citizens -- are entitled to even a semblance of privacy from the government. Just this past weekend, for example, the number two person at the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) wrote that privacy no longer means to be protected from government snooping. In the new, Alice-in-Wonderland post-911 world, according to the Principal Deputy of DNI, Donald Kerr, the “right to privacy” means nothing more than government and businesses safeguard our personal information. Of course, to “safeguard” it, they have to have access to it! So much for “privacy” in any meaningful, reasonable sense.

Welcome to the Bizzaro world of 2007, where “up” is “down,” “black” is “white,” and “privacy” is “government.”

All is not lost; at least not yet. Contact your Member of Congress and your Senators to demand they do something -- anything -- to reverse this trend toward total government control of all our most private information. And, support only candidates for top offices, like Representative Ron Paul, who actually understand what “privacy” is and who will fight to preserve it.

For more information:

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ballot Access Issues for the LP Party

I recently traveled to Oklahoma City, to speak at a fundraiser and to participate in other activities in behalf of the Libertarian Party and a coalition supporting reform of the extremely restrictive ballot access process and laws in that state. While Oklahoma is the state most hostile to allowing or granting access to the ballot for third parties, third party candidates, and write-in candidates, the fact is that many states over the years have adopted measures clearly designed to make it as difficult as possible for third parties to gain access to the ballot. This is the result of the virtual monopoly enjoyed by the two traditional, status quo political parties – the Republican and Democratic parties – in our country.

While both major parties talk a good game of “openness” and “choice” in elections, the fact is that neither the Republican nor the Democrat Party practices this in fact. These parties define the terms of ballot access – who and which parties can field candidates to appear on the ballot and give voters true choice – and they control the legal mechanisms whereby the process can be changed to allow greater access. What this means in reality is that any third party seeking to obtain ballot access in many states has to spend a great deal of time and money just working to try and get its name and its candidates on the ballot each election cycle. In Oklahoma, the process is so closed and so restrictive that it is nearly impossible for third parties to succeed. Thus, for example, in the last presidential election in 2004, voters in Oklahoma had two and only two choices for president – George W. Bush or John Kerry. They could not even write in another candidate. This closed system is the antithesis of openness and freedom which should be the hallmark of American elections.

Oklahoma goes so far in its zeal to limit ballot access that those working to ease ballot access fear criminal prosecution for their efforts to simply open up the process. This fear is based on the myriad of rules and requirements petitioners have to comply with simply to reach voters and ask them to support opening up the process.

To find out more about such outrageous, anti-freedom efforts by states to deny voters choices in elections, click here to access the Libertarian Party’s list of states to see if the Libertarian Party has ballot access in your state, To learn more about the effort in Oklahoma, check out this website: