Chicago alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) has introduced two city ordinances to prevent or limit the potential use of drones by local law enforcement. The Chicago Sun-Times reported yesterday on the measures, the first of which would impose a moratorium on the use of drones through 2018. The second would limit the use of drones to emergency situations only, and prevent them being used to collect personal information, from being weaponized or used for crowd control, or to establish probable cause for further search or seizure.
I’m surprised – maybe I shouldn’t be – that I’ve not seen or heard much about potential privacy concerns surrounding the rollout of Chicago’s new public transit payment system, Ventra. There is still a dwindling band of last-adapters, those of who cling to our old-school all-you-can-ride passes paid for and used the good old fashioned-way: with cash at the counter, and a quick in-out at the turnstile. But much of the city now uses Ventra, the fancy new touchless swipe system, and soon all of us will be swiping our cards at the baby blue readers whether we like it or not.
I’m all for progress, and it seems touchless is a good way to go. Fast, modern, clean, etc. Or at least in theory – in practice it’s a little different when you’re waiting to load the bus behind riders who cannot successfully swipe their cards without several attempts. Most of that can probably be chalked up to new user unfamiliarity with the system. There are other supposed advantages to the system as well.
What concerns me though, are the privacy issues surrounding Ventra. For instance, to get a card, you must provide a set of personal information. To order on VentraChicago.com, shipping information is required along with an email address and primary phone number. Why email and phone are required is unclear. You are then required to create an account, which includes a mandatory field for a purchaser’s birthdate. So at this point, to ride the subway you need to submit your address, email, phone and birthday to CTA and by extension, its third party vendors. Seems a little strange. Then, of course, you need to pay for the card, so you provide your credit card information.
You also must agree to the terms and conditions of the card, which includes gems like this:
- “Users must present their Ventra Card for inspection by authorized representatives of participating transit agencies’ security, or law enforcement personnel upon request.”
So presumably a CTA agent can ask you for your card, anytime. I’m not assuming this would occur in abusive ways, but the fact is that that authority is written into the program and users are required to agree if they want to participate. Reminds me of the South Park episode “The Human Centipad,” which is a great riff on EULAs (End User License Agreements) in our modern age.
I’m looking into other ways of signing up for the card (you can buy online but also in the stations, I believe, and at places like The Currency Exchange). They may require less information, and if so, I think that’s a good thing.
Another nuisance: Customers are charged a $5 fee to purchase a Ventra card. The only way this is rebated as ridership credit is if you agree to proceed and register your card (by providing certain pieces of personal information).
The biggest potential threat to privacy is this: Can users’ cards be tracked? Does the system have the ability to see that John Doe scanned his Ventra card at 7:42 a.m. on 11/14/13 at the Chicago & Grand Red Line Station, then again at 12:03 p.m. the same day as he boarded the 151 Bus? Is that kind of capability built into the network of card readers and central servers? We don’t know. It’s very possible that there’s no such capability. Maybe that’s obvious to people familiar with the technology. But it’s something Chicagoans should know for sure, and so far I haven’t seen anybody talking about it.
More on this in the coming days…
In the deadly terrorist attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, one of those implicated for responsibility apparently hails from Kansas City, Missouri. As a KC native, I’d like to learn what initially brought this 27 year old man (or his family) to town, when and how he became radicalized, and what spots he habited around the metro area. Here’s a report from Gateway Pundit.
Writing about the difficulties of urban retail development projects, the Wall Street Journal profiles the Citadel Plaza project on Kansas City’s east side as an example. Ten years after it was started, legal complications and the challenge of attracting tenants in an urban area with a falling population has prevented the project from even getting off the ground. The lot remains empty, a symbol of urban blight.
Paula Dean, the TV chef and author of more than a dozen cookbooks, is taking a major career hit over allegations of racism. In a lawsuit filed by a former employee of a restaurant she co-owns with her brother, Dean acknowledged in a deposition to having used the “ni—-” term at some point in her past. Now, the Food Network has opted not to renew her contract, and Smithfield (the largest US pork producer, in the news recently for possibly being bought by a Chinese company) has dropped her as a spokesperson.
I’m not familiar with the details of the case, and have only skimmed a few lines of the deposition. (Available at Scribd.com, btw). But one thing that’s interesting here is what we, as a society, tolerate and promote, and what we condemn and will have no part of.
A CNN article called Paula Deen the “star of Southern cooking,” but I think she’s more like the Saddam Hussein of food.
Without fail, anytime I’ve stopped to watch her show while flipping through the channels, she’s adding two sticks of butter to the frying pan, or measuring three cups of brown sugar. I’m sure many of her creations are quite delectable, but I just don’t know how anybody (Paula, her fans, etc) could aspire to make a lifestyle out of it. It all looks so heavy.
The moral of the story seems to go something like this: if you have three tv shows, write a bunch of cookbooks, rep the pork people and run a bunch of restaurants, all with the almost express purpose to clog arteries and cause heart attacks, that’s okay, just don’t ever – even on rare occasion in a long ago life – say something malicious when it comes to race.
No, it’s not okay to use the kind of language Deen apparently did. Hopefully her heart is true when she apologized, and she is not the discriminatory figure this lawsuit alleges. But it’s interesting to note the contrast in how the media and corporations involved regard these matters.
The IRS flagged “tea party” and “patriot” groups for extra scrutiny in 2012, the Associated Press and others are reporting. The agency acknowledged and apologized today for the practice, which amounted to political profiling of conservative groups during the last presidential campaign. It points to local office staff in Cincinnati as being responsible.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is calling on the White House to investigate, and tea party groups are claiming vindication for their earlier assertions of political favoritism at the IRS.
Two things here:
1) Although none of the 75 or so targeted groups had its tax-exempt status revoked, some did withdraw their application for 501c4 designation. If they did so in response to this admittedly undue level of IRS attention, then the damage is still done.
2) It’s quite possible – as its Bush-appointed chief asserts – that the IRS proper did nothing wrong, at least in an immediate sense. If culpability or complicity does reach into higher levels of the department, it may be more likely that officials ignored or avoided something that should have been investigated earlier.
In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, speculation was rife as to the motives and identities of those responsible for the carnage. The modern media landscape, defined by non-stop coverage and a mass array of instant-ready outlets, became the backdrop for for a variety of commentary and conjecture.
Jonah Goldberg writes in National Review Online that some of those public voices were all too eager to (perhaps implicitly) ascribe blame to the political Right for the attacks. NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston reported early on that “the thinking” among (unnamed) officials was focused on anti-government or right-wing individuals, for example.
I haven’t listened to the full edition of “All Things Considered” for the morning of April 18, only an excerpt containing the material Goldberg quoted. It’s possible Ralston was merely reporting accurately what she was gleaning from sources connected to the investigation. Yet her choice to offer listeners this generic and unattributed type of information, and her delivery style in doing so, do seem to contrast with the circumspect, lamenting approach of NPR et al in handling information connecting Islam to terrorism.
Goldberg puts this readiness to point the finger in historical context, from Franklin Roosevelt labeling the Republican-led 1920s a time of fascism to Michael Bloomberg hypothesizing that the unsuccessful Times Square bombing attempt might’ve been upset about President Obama‘s new health care law.