On December 1st, 1913, the world’s first moving assembly line debuted.

On December 1st, 1913, the world’s first moving assembly line debuted, used in manufacturing Model Ts at a Ford factory in Highland Park, Michigan; the innovation was the idea of owner Henry Ford, and it revolutionized the auto industry.

Today is the birthday of gun designer Charles Cashman Kelsey, Jr., of DEVEL firearms fame. He was born December 1,1935.  He was murdered in Texas under mysterious circumstances in April, 2003.

This is also the birthday of novelist Rex Stout (1886–1975). Rex Stout was the brother of Ruth Stout, the gardener who wrote about no-till, year-round mulching, organic gardening in her book Gardening Without Work: For the Aging, the Busy, and the Indolent.

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

Today we present another entry for Round 110 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. The photovoltaic power specialists at Quantum Harvest LLC  are providing a store-wide 10% off coupon. Depending on the model chosen, this could be worth more than $2000.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any of their one, two, or three-day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  4. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
  5. Two sets of The Civil Defense Manual, (in two volumes) — a $193 value — kindly donated by the author, Jack Lawson.

Second Prize:

  1. A SIRT STIC AR-15/M4 Laser Training Package, courtesy of Next Level Training, that has a combined retail value of $679
  2. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
  3. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC.
  4. Montana Survival Seed is providing a $225 gift code for any items on its website, including organic non-GMO seeds, fossils, 1812-1964 US silver, jewelry, botany books, and Montana beeswax.
  5. A transferable $150 FRN purchase credit from Elk Creek Company, toward the purchase of any pre-1899 antique gun. There is no paperwork required for delivery of pre-1899 guns into most states, making them the last bastion of firearms purchasing privacy!

Third Prize:

  1. A $300 gift certificate from Good2Goco.com, good for any of their products: Home freeze dryers, pressure canners, Country Living grain mills, Emergency Essentials foods, and much more.
  2. Three sets each of made-in-USA regular and wide-mouth reusable canning lids. (This is a total of 300 lids and 600 gaskets.) This prize is courtesy of Harvest Guard (a $270 value)
  3. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  4. A transferable $150 FRN purchase credit from Elk Creek Company, toward the purchase of any pre-1899 antique gun.

EPIC Statement on the Introduction of the Traveler Privacy Protection Act

Today, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced the Traveler Privacy Protection Act, which would prohibit the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from using facial recognition. The TSA has been testing the use of facial recognition at various airports over the past few years and despite warnings of the dangers of implementing facial recognition technology, TSA plans to push the technology out to hundreds of airports. EPIC Senior Counsel, Jeramie Scott, has explained why TSA’s plans to implement facial recognition in airports across the country is so dangerous.

EPIC has previously urged on Congress to suspend TSA’s use of facial recognition and in comments to the TSA, insisted the agency halt the deployment of facial recognition programs. Earlier this year, EPIC supported Senators’ call for TSA to stop the use of facial recognition.

Jeramie Scott, EPIC Senior Counsel & Director of the Project on Surveillance Oversight, released the following statement on the Traveler Privacy Protection Act:

“The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) applauds the introduction of the Traveler Privacy Protection Act and its prohibition on TSA’s use of facial recognition technology. The privacy risks and discriminatory impact of facial recognition are real, and the government’s use of our faces as IDs poses a serious threat to our democracy. The TSA should not be allowed to unilaterally subject millions of travelers to this dangerous technology,” said Jeramie Scott, Senior Counsel and Director of EPIC’s Project on Surveillance Oversight.

Media Post: California Privacy Regulator Floats New Restrictions On Ad Profiling 

But privacy advocate John Davisson, director of litigation at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, notes that California’s privacy law specifically directs the state privacy agency to issue regulations regarding automated decision-making. 

He adds that a rule requiring companies to allow opt-outs would still allow publishers to serve targeted ads to consumers. 

“The industry talks about how consumers want targeted advertising,” he says, adding that an opt-out requirement “calls them on their bluff.” 

Read more here.

How Fossil Fuel Revolutionized Our Kitchens and Our Food

[The Domestic Revolution: How the Introduction of Coal into Victorian Homes Changed Everything, by Ruth Goodman, Liveright Publishing Corporation; 2020. xxi + 330 pp.]

The subtitle of Ruth Goodman’s book The Domestic Revolution doesn’t come close to describing what this book is really about. Yes, this book tells us a lot about coal and how it affected Victorian domestic life. But this book is really about how what we eat and how we prepare food has been closely tied to economic, industrial, and technological changes over 400 years of history. 

Moreover, this book will provide some valuable perspective for anyone who thinks he or she spends a lot of time “slaving” over a hot stove. Whatever time we spend cooking and cleaning in the twenty-first century is nothing compared to the time, effort, expense, and planning that was needed to prepare meals for one’s family in centuries past. Coal made it all easier, even if meal prep remained generally arduous throughout the nineteenth century. 

Goodman’s overall purpose in writing this book, she tells us, is to correct an error historians and social critics have made. The problem, she writes, is that “the influence of fuel on food has been overlooked.” That is, the food we eat and the way we prepare it is not a product of mere tastes in fashion. Rather, our dining customs and cuisine are also largely a product of “economic and technical pressures” that have been tied to transitions from wood-burning kitchens to coal-burning ones. She writes: “A new fuel [i.e., coal] had driven the development of a whole new way of cooking and a radically different diet. A menu based upon boiling and baking, with a side order of toast, was the cuisine that accompanied industrialization; cause and effect were intricately linked in a fossil fuel-burning age.”

Coal didn’t just heat the food, either. Coal—and the industrialization it fueled—also gave rise to new methods of preparation. As industrialization drove up real incomes and drove down the cost of manufacturing, iron implements became more affordable and far more common. Even working-class households increasingly could afford once-scarce items like iron grates for cooking. By the nineteenth century, ordinary people could even afford cast-iron ranges. Such luxuries were exceedingly rare before the age of coal, as was the convenience that came with coal-cooking and iron implements. 

Goodman explains how prior to the age of coal, food preparation relied primarily on the burning of wood. This had many implications for both domestic life and the economy overall. In terms of life at home, preparing food with wood was more labor intensive than preparing food with coal. Wood fires are less consistent (in terms of temperature) and require more fuel more often than coal fires. Women who did the cooking—it was mostly women, of course—had to also be skilled in how different species of wood burned differently, and which types of fuel were most economical. 

The implications for the larger economy were significant as well. Goodman observes that wood production…

EDWEEK: Ed-Tech Industry Group Calls for Equity, Data Privacy Safeguards in AI 

The AI literacy piece in schools is crucial, said Suzanne Bernstein, law fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit research center that advocates for stronger privacy standards.  

Students and teachers need to understand what to look for in AI products, to a degree that allows them to ask more questions and do more research if AI-produced materials don’t seem accurate, she said.   

While there still needs to be more regulatory action from the government in the AI space, having industry guidelines is a good first step, she said.  

“There should be a responsibility on companies to protect the safety and security of students online…especially when it comes to AI and the collection, retention, and use of data,” she said.   

“But these tools, when used responsibly, can be a tremendous help for all kinds of learners at different levels.”  

Read more here.

EPIC, Coalition Call on Key Lawmakers to Not Allow Section 702 Reauthorization to Slip into NDAA

EPIC and a coalition of privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights groups urged key lawmakers including the Majority and Minority Leaders of both the House and Senate, to not allow any reauthorization of FISA Section 702 to be slipped into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in conference. In the letter, the coalition of more than thirty groups emphasized that bypassing the judiciary committees’ process of reforming FISA “by slipping an extension of the law into the defense authorization bill during conference would demonstrate a blatant disregard for the civil liberties and civil rights of the American people.”

EPIC and a bipartisan coalition of privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights groups have launched a campaign to significantly reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and related surveillance authorities. Members of this coalition recently urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to refrain from including any short-term reauthorization of FISA Section 702 in the continuing resolution or any other “must-pass” legislation.

Law360: Departing Irish Privacy Regulator Leaves ‘Big Shoes To Fill’ 

Calli Schroeder, senior counsel and global privacy counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information also said the leadership change should “give us a really interesting picture of how much the Irish data protection commission’s actions to date have been based on the commissioner and how much they’ve been based on the structure of the agency and how enforcement works in the EU.” 

Schroeder said that while EPIC and other consumer groups have raised concerns over the pace and strength of Dixon’s office’s work during her tenure, “we really need to recognize the difficulty of the position she stepped into,” especially with the GDPR coming into effect after she was installed as commissioner.

Read more here.

EPIC Statement on the Mass Surveillance Program Known as Data Analytical Services

EPIC released the following statements following Wired’s story revealing new details about the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Hemisphere program, now known as Data Analytical Services (DAS):

“The Data Analytical Services, or Hemisphere, program is just the latest example of the U.S. government’s warrantless surveillance of Americans. Congress needs to end this outrageous violation of Americans’ civil liberties.” – Alan Butler, Executive Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

“The Data Analytical Services (DAS) and its predecessor, Hemisphere, are yet another piece of the warrantless government surveillance ecosystem, which has enabled the government to acquire staggering amounts of Americans’ most sensitive information. Congress must conduct a hearing on DAS immediately and rein in this outrageous practice before reauthorizing any other parts of this surveillance ecosystem such as FISA Section 702.” – Jeramie Scott, Senior Counsel and Director of EPIC’s Project on Surveillance Oversight

Key facts about the DAS program:

  • No Judicial Oversight
  • Trillions of Phone Records Collected
  • Location Data Tracked
  • Sweeping Use by Law Enforcement
  • No Privacy Impact Assessment
  • Purposely Kept Secret

The DAS program is another example of the need for government surveillance reform. DAS allows the government to access more than a trillion phone records without judicial oversight through legally questionable means. The records can contain location information and go back as far as 1987. The government has previously tried to conceal the existence of DAS’s predecessor, Hemisphere, instructing law enforcement not to mention Hemisphere on official documents. The privacy implications of Hemisphere were vast, yet EPIC FOIA lawsuits related to Hemisphere and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Privacy Impact Assessments yielded no privacy assessments for Hemisphere. DEA either hid its analysis of the privacy issues or has never conducted a privacy impact assessment as required by law. Now the government has moved Hemisphere under the control of the White House and renamed it Data Analytical Services to further avoid scrutiny. Congress needs to end the DAS program and must immediately hold an oversight hearing to bring transparency to this secret government surveillance program. 

Furthermore, Congress must act without delay to protect Americans’ privacy and civil liberties by passing the Government Surveillance Reform Act. 

The widely endorsed Government Surveillance Reform Act (GSRA; H.R. 6262) is crucial legislation that addresses the lawless warrantless surveillance of Americans by establishing comprehensive privacy protections for people in the United States. The GSRA would close the loopholes the government exploits to conduct warrantless mass surveillance, including bringing programs like DAS under judicial review. A resource hub for the GSRA is available here; a one-page summary herea section-by-section here; and EPIC’s Quick Guide on the GSRA is here. Organizational endorsements are available here. Current cosponsors include:

Senate: Sens. Wyden (D-OR), Lee (R-UT), Daines (R-MT), Hirono (D-HI), Lummis (R-WY), Heinrich (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Warren (D-MA), Tester (D-MT), Baldwin (D-WI).

House: Reps. Davidson (R-OH), Lofgren (D-CA), Biggs (R-AZ), Jacobs (D-CA), Massie (R-KY), Chu (D-CA), Armstrong (R-ND), Jayapal (D-WA), Carey (R-OH), Correa (D-CA), Mace (R-SC), Deluzio (D-PA), Doggett (D-TX), Hoyle (D-OR), Lee (D-CA), Lieu (D-CA),…

Communications Daily: Consumer Groups Stress Need for Smart Device Labeling Program 

Groups including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Consumer Reports (CR) supported robust rules as part of the FCC’s proposed cybersecurity labeling program for smart devices in reply comments posted Monday in docket 23-239. In a letter posted last week, CTA, CTIA and other industry groups laid down a marker, saying the program should be voluntary and based on existing National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidance (see 2311090033). 

As the popularity and development of IoT devices grows globally, examples of privacy and security breaches continue to proliferate,” EPIC said. “A number of high-profile instances involving the hacking of video- and audio-enabled devices have rightly raised concerns among consumers regarding the safety of IoT devices.” But the information available to consumers is too often hard to locate and can’t be read until a device is purchased, EPIC said. 

Once consumers have access to the information, “it’s largely too long and technical for the average buyer to use and make an informed decision,” the group said. Equipment makers also “often prematurely halt device support and inadequately communicate the length and scope of security support,” EPIC added. 

Read more here.


PRESS RELEASE: Leading Privacy Scholars and Advocates Join EPIC Advisory Board

WASHINGTON, DC – Today the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) announced the addition of eight members to its Advisory Board. Since its founding, EPIC has drawn on the expertise of leading scholars, experts, and advocates in the privacy, civil liberties, and cybersecurity space to inform its work. And today we are thrilled to see this group grow.

“It has never been more urgent to tackle the complex threats that emerging technologies pose to our collective right to privacy and to our democratic institutions. The work we do at EPIC builds on the expertise of scholars and thinkers in our field, and the addition of these eight inspiring leaders will bolster our advocacy and education efforts. We are thrilled that our newest group of members will bring deep expertise in AI, privacy, and surveillance issues at a time where we have real opportunities to advance policy at the state and federal level,” says EPIC Executive Director Alan Butler.

These new members will help inform EPIC’s research, advocacy, and litigation work at a time when concerns over the harms that AI and other automated tools are causing to kids, families, workers, and our economy are front and center. President Biden’s recent Executive Order on “Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence” is an important next step that builds on the principles established last year in the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights. We need strong, clear guardrails around the development and use of AI and that establish comprehensive privacy protections for all Americans. The use of AI driven systems across the fields of law enforcement, criminal justice, public benefits administration, education, and employment pose the most significant threats to digital civil rights in a generation. EPIC’s new members bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in educating the public and working to protect privacy and civil liberties against the various threats that exist today.

The new members are:

  • John Abowd – Edmund Ezra Day Professor Emeritus of Economics, Statistics and Data Science at Cornell University. From 2016 – 2022, he served as Chief Scientist and Associate Director for Research and Methodology at the U.S Census Bureau, where he led a directorate of five research centers each devoted to domains of investigation important to the future of social and economic statistics.
  • Emily M. Bender – Professor in the Department of Linguistics and faculty director of the CLMS program and the director of the Computational Linguistics Laboratory at the University of Washington. She is an Adjunct Professor in both the School of Computer Science and Engineering and the Information School at UW, and a member of the Tech Policy Lab, Value Sensitive Design Lab, and RAISE. In September 2023 she was included in the TIME100 AI list highlighting 100 individuals advancing major conversations about how AI is reshaping the world.
  • Veena Dubal – Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Her work encompasses a range of topics, including the impact of…