|LIVING ON THE LEDGE 29 Aug. 2016||| Print ||
LIVING ON THE LEDGE
29 Aug. 2016
Dear Friends and Patriots,
This note may seem a bit dark. If so, it’s because I could find no light in the subject at hand. My apology to those who might read on and be a bit frightened. Then again, I’m frightened to some degree and believe a bit of fright is good once in a while. It’s what you do with the fright that may make a difference.
For over three years I’ve been trying to keep you informed about data privacy issues and how important the subject is. If you recall, I described how digital medical data records were mandated, how digital school records ( via the Student Longitudinal Database) are mandated, and how all new databases created with any part of federal monies are required to be kept in formats fully transportable to any federal data repository. I’ve described the Federal Data Hub project and the goal of linking all federal data through five data mega-centers, into one virtual whole, and how all that data will be (or already is) accessible by single individuals sitting at single terminals, controlled by access codes that are supposed to allow anything from single database access up to infinite, completely unrestricted access.
I’ve also described the U.S. Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, conceived and first headed by now Sen. Elizabeth Warren. I’m not sure I delved into that bureau quite enough; enough so you understand the CFPB has full access to the credit and banking records of every American who has a bank account, a bank loan, or uses a credit card. If I didn’t tell you that fact, I apologize. I’ve been remiss. Yes, the CFPB can see your entire financial history. They need to. How else can they “protect” you?
You should already know that most state-level databases are shared with the federal government. After all, most state agencies have been infiltrated by federal money, and federal money always comes with requirements. Sharing all data is but one of those requirements, but as time goes by an increasingly important one. It means all data the state keeps on you, such as your driving and traffic court records, local and state tax files, concealed carry permit, and almost any other bit of data kept at the state level is also known by the federal government. Or, at least it’s knowable. All they need to do is type in your name and Social Security number, then select the database to access. It’s all there for them.
We see and hear commercials all day long put out by companies that assure you they can guard your privacy and identity against intrusion. Do you believe it? Somehow, I don’t. Who am I really afraid of, anyway? Who are YOU afraid of?
Recently we’ve seen evidence of hacking at major banks, federal agencies, major department stores, and even fast food companies. Hacking is a very real threat to data security, our individual privacy, our identities, and our financial well-being. It doesn’t matter who or what organization does the hacking, the potential to devastate lives is the same.
When thinking on this subject I’m reminded of promises politicians give us regarding “transparency.” President Obama promised us the most transparent government in history. Instead, we’ve seen one among the most opaque. Laws have been written over the years to aid citizens in gaining transparency where none has been offered. We all know what a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request is, but what most people don’t realize is how easy it is for governmental agencies to step around the requirements of the act. What’s amazing is when an agency actually complies. Many times they are either incredibly slow to do so or they respond in the negative. Sometimes they wait for certain individuals to retire. Other times they are fully in the self-protect mode and deny any of the requested data exists. As with most things in society, for the FOIA to work requires people who are honest and who do their governmental tasks with integrity. Again, the amazing thing is there are more people like that than not. Otherwise, we would never see some of the incredible data releases we’ve had in just the past year. The point here is that it’s people at the ground level of our government who give us what little transparency exists. Those in the higher reaches of bureaucracies often seek to insulate themselves from responsibility for their bad decisions and misdeeds. It’s often their subordinates who carry the burden of shining the bright light of truth whenever truth is sought.
In past writings I’ve stated in unequivocal terms there is no true privacy in our society anymore. If our government wants to know something about you, it will find it out. There’s no longer any way to prevent it unless you know how to live completely “off the grid.” But, no one I know can do that. Privacy is gone, but what about data security? Even if we decide to trust our government not to misuse any data it accesses specific to one of us, what’s to say they aren’t making our data more and more vulnerable to hacking. What exists to assure us our identities won’t be stolen via the Federal Data Hub?
The federal government does run secure networks. To be secure all the data links (the fiber-optic and copper cables, the servers, the data hubs, etc.) have to be isolated and hardened from any possibility of outside intrusion. In other words, a truly secure network will have no way to access it from the outside at all. No links exist to allow it. But, if only one server in an entire national network structure allows an Internet link, or even a link to an outside node that has an Internet link, the entire network is vulnerable to penetration.
This is what you need to question – how secure is the Federal Data Hub? If you understand it, you know a huge portion of the digital data that exists on each of us is accessible via the Hub. Because the Hub has links in all states to all the various systems that feed data into it, what do you think is the likelihood your data is secure at all? What prevents a world-class hacker from tapping into the Hub and accessing selected data on specific individuals? What prevents that hacker from accessing whole categories of data on large groups of people? What prevents that hacker from building comprehensive profiles on persons of interest? Indeed, what prevents any cleared government employee from doing exactly the same thing and using it for any number of nefarious purposes?
Every time I hear of a major data breach I pause and wonder who the perpetrator could be. Recently there was a widely reported data breach blamed on the Russians. Do you think it was them, or could it have been a domestic operation? Was it the work of hackers or of a government operative? If it was someone within our own government, were they rogues or acting on orders? Don’t believe what you hear from the media. There are truths to these stories, but it’s dangerous to believe you know them. I’m quite certain I don’t.
If any one of you thinks any aspect of your life is free from compromise you may be living in denial. All information on you in digital form is free for the taking. If your information is taken you’ll probably never find out who did it or why. If it was a simple criminal hack to get at your finances, you might figure that out. Otherwise, all you may ever know is your information is now in the hands of some entity that has the capacity to threaten you. There is no protection. This genie is out of the bottle and will never be put back in again. All we can do now is hope we never pop up on the radar of any entity that wishes to harm us. We can no longer live with any assurance of freedom of any kind. We are in grave danger of becoming slaves. There is no protection. There is no escape.
Understand the message. If you understand and pay very close attention to national and world events you’ll at least know when those events have the potential to intrude into your life. Don’t maintain a false sense of security and think no one is looking at you so you needn’t worry. From now on, we all must worry. We are standing on a ledge on the face of a cliff. None of us intends to leap to our demise, but that doesn’t mean those in power can’t dynamite the ledge. If you understand that much and try to get all your friends to understand as well, perhaps we can keep the wrong people out of power. Perhaps the ledge can be secured. Even so, as long as all digital data on every citizen is transparent to the government, we will remain on that ledge, overlooking the abyss.
We were warned about this day many times over past decades, yet we continued on. Now we find ourselves in a world where only one predicted element hasn’t revealed itself. We don’t see the absolutely tyrannical government predicted in yesterday’s futuristic novels. But, what will prevent it?