Big Brother has been privatized

Wired Magazines lists an article 'AT&T Invents Programming Language for Mass Surveillance' - mentioning quite lightly that it is being used to violate people's privacy simply because they've been called by suspected 'terrorists'. The article instead chooses to revel over its implications for developing software:

"With Hancock, "analysts could store sufficiently precise information to enable new applications previously thought to be infeasible," the program authors wrote. AT&T uses Hancock code to sift 9 GB of telephone traffic data a night, according to the paper. The good news for budding data miners is that Hancock's source code and binaries (now up to version 2.0) are available free to noncommercial users from an AT&T Research website."

Tracing the route of the article back, 'once removed', and here there is also a similar discussions in civil-rights-violation territory, and whether the loss of freedoms is worth the (hoped, theorized) gain in security.
And in the NY-Times article:
"The concept has strong government proponents who see it as a vital tool in predicting and preventing attacks, and it is also thought to have helped the National Security Agency identify targets for its domestic eavesdropping program. But privacy advocates, civil rights leaders and even some counterterrorism officials warn that link analysis can be misused to establish tenuous links to people who have no real connection to terrorism but may be drawn into an investigation nonetheless.
“This whole concept of tracking someone’s community of interest is not part of any established F.B.I. authority,” said Marcia Hofmann, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which provided the records from its lawsuit to The New York Times. “It’s being defined by the F.B.I. And when it’s left up to the F.B.I. to decide what information is relevant to their investigations, they can vacuum up almost anything they want.” -- NY Times
But what's most frightening about this is that the corporate sector had already developed all the technology, and utilized that technology, on their own initiative (though admittedly this was initially undertaken to track down people freeloading on their phone network):

"Matt Blaze, a professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania and a former researcher for AT&T, said the telecommunications companies could have easily provided the F.B.I. with the type of network analysis data it was seeking because they themselves had developed it over many years, often using sophisticated software like a program called Analyst’s Notebook." -- NY Times
As one user comments:
"For all intensive purposes ...
"In an unusual ceremony today on the west lawn of the White House, President Bush officially named the telecommunication corporation AT&T the Federal Department of Private Communication Signals.
This new department, tasked with both providing communication technology to American citizens AND monitoring the communications of those same American citizens without their knowledge or consent, was given a broad cloak of immunity from angry customers when President Bush declared that all of it's activities were protected by National Security and Executive Priveledge.
In brief comments to reporters afterword, AT&T's chairman and CEO said, "It's great to be in such a unique position. We're not sure if were a corporate entity, or part of the government. We're still discussing what name should appear on our billing statements." ...
if AT&T is using this software to help the u.s. government spy on us, than this is what corporatism looks like. there couldn't be a clearer example on planet earth."" -- Wired

"The draft Senate bill “will include full immunity for those companies that can demonstrate to a court that they acted pursuant to a legal directive in helping the government with surveillance in the United States. ... Such a demonstration, which the bill says could be made in secret, would wipe out a series of pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants ...

In the absence of judicial oversight, there is no way of knowing what the system’s predefined definitions are.
Therefore, it is not possible to discern who else the government may be targeting with neither warrant nor probable cause—perhaps lawbreakers such as drug traffickers, Internet predators and money launderers; but targets might just as well include investigative journalists, political opponents and other persons deemed hostile to the Bush administration." --

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