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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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32 Responses

  1. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    I’ve been wanting to start inserting trigger phrases into my Xbox chatting to see who’s listening.

    The fact that it takes less evidence than ever to convict someone of “materially supporting” the government’s enemies, this is extremely troubling.Report

  2. Every so often, I will make joking reference in a text message or Facebook post or some such to planning an outlandish crime (usually a string of bank heists). I will always follow with a similarly-joking text or post saying “Attention FBI monitors: the previous was strictly a fanciful jest.”

    Except I’ve never been 100% joking with the latter, and now it seems I was maybe correct not to be.Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I should probably stop adding “Black tar heroin” the end of of random lists I put up on FaceBook…Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Boy, I remember the first time I read about ECHELON. Haha, I was so young back then!Report

  5. Avatar trizzlor says:

    I realize this is off the cuff, but I don’t really get the backlash. The article suggests that these words are used to scan public information, and presumably they’re just an initial filter to be used for further human analysis. Is it wrong for the government to scan public writings for threats? Is it wrong for them to prioritize analysis of those writings based on keywords? I’m sure there’s an NSA intern somewhere who just had his false-positive rate shoot into the stratosphere because of all the people who jokingly added these words to their signature, har har!Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to trizzlor says:

      I’m sure there’s an NSA intern somewhere who just had his false-positive rate shoot into the stratosphere because of all the people who jokingly added these words to their signature, har har!

      Good.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to trizzlor says:

      The fact that “drugs” and “national security pork” are on there are troublesome for me.

      Are there any keywords that would make you say “hey, maybe something uncool is going on here…”?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

        Cigars, Cigarettes, Beer, Bourbon.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

        “national security pork” isn’t strictly on the list; rather “pork” is on the list (along with “swine”) under the H1N1 sub-category. In any case, my concern would be with 1) how the list is constructed 2) how it’s hits are tracked and 3) the success rate. It’s one thing if powerful people can add any keyword or name to the list at whim; it’s another if the list is automatically aggregated from confiscated communication between known terrorists with the words chosen to be maximally discriminating from neutral social network traffic. It’s one thing if many “flagged” messages from a source are simply forwarded to an analyst to check on; it’s another if a SWAT team is sent to the person’s house. And of course, the whole thing is no good to anyone if it hasn’t yielded any true positives after a reasonable effort.

        The mere existence of a list doesn’t move me in one direction or another on any of these concerns, and trying to trip up the program simply because you can just comes of as juvenile.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

        Sorry for any confusion: both “national security” and “pork” are on there separately. So is “agriculture.” Some restaurateur is going to be in trouble.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to trizzlor says:

      It seems like any actual evil doers would use various code words for bad things. Sort of like drug dealers who usually refer to drugs as something other then drugs like asparagus. Its typically obvious in context they are talking about drugs and not terrible tasting veggies but that would never be caught by a comp scan like this.Report

  6. Avatar Scott says:

    I find it hard to believe that a Democrat admin would do such a thing, so much for hope and change.Report

  7. Avatar wardsmith says:

    “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him”Report

  8. That list was clearly put together based on some non-bad guy’s idea of how bad guys plan attacks, just like the ESTA guidelines and any of the other burdensome protocols from this pathetic episode in the history of human government.

    Does anyone actually believe terrorists plan their strikes on Facebook using words from 24 scripts?

    The reality is more like James Bond/Mission:Impossible: terrorists communicate in foreign languages (because they’re bad) and refer to weapons of mass destruction by cool code names, such as “Moonraker”, “Goldeneye”, and “Chimera”. Is “Chimera” or “Dark Matter” on that list?

    I think not.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      Except that, actually, they generally don’t. The kind of people who think that blowing up airplanes is going to change the world in the way they want are the kind of people who genuinely do think it’s okay to talk about it on an open line.Report

  9. Granted this sort of thing could conceivably be used for absolutely horrible, freedom destroying, totalitarian ends. Or, you know, it could save lives. And by reading what I’ve written in this pretty public forum are you “spying” on me right now, that is, the Daily Mail tends to make a habit of sensationalizing.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Creon Critic says:

      Granted this sort of thing could conceivably be used for absolutely horrible, freedom destroying, totalitarian ends.

      This suggests a bit of a weird dichotomy between “there are no foreseeable ill outcomes of this sweeping government surveillance program” and, “oh my god, totalitarianism!” There’s quite a lot of stuff in between.

      Or, you know, it could save lives.

      Note though that your example is a totally different program related to a totally different government agency monitoring something quite different. I’ll agree that the CDC does good work with Google monitoring and in general.

      And by reading what I’ve written in this pretty public forum are you “spying” on me right now?

      Are we assuming that web communications are simply monitored by Homeland Security and nothing else comes of it? Besides, there’s another false dichotomy between some hypothetical assumption of total privacy in public places and expecting to be monitored by the government while in public as a matter of course. Again, there’s a lot of stuff in between and it’s not unrealistic to say that the people should have a say in this.Report

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