Privacy Invading Techniques

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Surveillance is one way in which privacy is systemically stripped away from the world’s inhabitants. Privacy Invading Techniques can be countered by Privacy Preserving Techniques.

Types of Privacy Invading Techniques

Targeted Surveillance

Targeted surveillance requires the use of different privacy invading techniques in order to carry out more dedicated attacks. Targeted surveillance and invasion of privacy is usually done with a specific malicious purpose, such as blackmail, in mind. Targeted surveillance is often carried out by government agencies after receiving appropriate authorization. The techniques used to surveil a target vary depending on the resources available.

Wiretapping

The very first form of electronic surveillance came soon after the invention of the first electronic media: The Telegraph. During the Civil War, before the CIA, FBI, or NSA even existed, United States President Abraham Lincoln authorized the wiretapping on an individual and national scale under the pretense of national security. Since then, the targeted surveillance technique has followed the technology as it spread across the world.

In the 21st century, wiretapping also describes the tendency of the most Orwellian governments to tap into the underwater cables that transport Internet data. These activities have been carried out by the United Kingdom’s GCHQ and the United States of America’s NSA, among others.

Mass Surveillance

Mass Surveillance is conducted by both governments and corporations. Mass surveillance, or the indiscriminate collection of data. Often times, users agree to give up private information in exchange for small economic concessions, such as a discount. Other times, the government coerces the population into giving up private information as part of the social contract.

Physical

Fingerprinting

The use of fingerprints in criminal cases has become a standard since its beginning in 1892. Since then, databases of criminals fingerprints have been maintained by governments across the world. Recently it was revealed that the FBI had combined its database of fingerprints, obtained through non-criminal proceedings such as job applications, with the criminal database of fingerprints to make a new bigger database.

Digital

Device Fingerprinting

Passive device fingerprinting occurs when third parties store unique configuration settings to track those connecting from a remote computer. Device fingerprinting can uniquely identify users even if Cookies are turned off. Active device fingerprinting, which usually involves code running directly on the target computer, could even reveal a user’s MAC Address

MAC Address

It is possible to change your MAC address to reset at a regular interval and thus somewhat obfuscate your IP address. However, researchers at the University of Lyon have shown that a device can still be fingerprinted if this method is used.

Third Party Cookies

Many third party cookies are tracked by government agencies. Studies from security experts have shown that a passive network listener can use cookies to differentiate between different network participants. The most widespread third party cookies, e.g. Google, are also companies that are compliant with government mass surveillance. EFF on NSA use of Cookies


Biometrics

Over the last few decades, the presence of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras have increased the likelihood that your face has been captured on security footage when you are in public space or in a private building. More recently, the advent of facial recognition software has made it possible to use any available video or image stream to track the movement of people.

The FBI’s Facial Analysis, Comparison, and Evaluation (FACE) database has been revealed to be much bigger than previously thought. - EFF on FBI FACE database

There are also third party and government biometric databases containing other identifying information - DNA, blood, fingerprints, etc.


Metadata Collection

Metadata, because of its volume, is often handled and processed by deep learning machine algorithms which are constantly being improved. It is a statistical inevitability that false positives will be reported from any metadata analysis, and this is why transparent, human oversight must be present. These institutional breaches of privacy can result in an incorrect addition to the United States no-fly list, or even a bunker busting missile.

“We kill people based on metadata” - Former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden

Types of Metadata

  • License Plates
  • Affiliations
  • Associations