Unauthorized Access to IRS Records

This problem will likely get worse, particularly with the recently passed gift to data thieves – the national ID act (Both Wisconsin Senators, Kohl & Feingold supported the National ID Act!). Caroline Drees has more:

The Internal Revenue Service is investigating whether unauthorized people gained access to sensitive taxpayer and bank account information but has not yet exposed any privacy breaches, an official said on Friday.

The U.S. tax agency — whose databases include suspicious activity reports from banks about possible terrorist or criminal transactions — launched the probe after the Government Accountability Office said in April that the IRS “routinely permitted excessive access” to the computer files.

The GAO team was able to tap into the data without authorization, and gleaned information such as bank account holders’ names, social security numbers, transaction values, and any suspected terrorist activity. It said the data was at serious risk of disclosure, modification or destruction.

Feinstein’s Double Talk on the Broadcast Flag

California Senator Diane Feinstein responds to her constituents opposition to the broadcast flag, with a rather large amount of Orwellian talk. Cory Doctorow says that “Practically every sentence in this letter is a lie”:

Thank you for writing to me about the digital broadcast flag. I appreciate hearing from you.
I feel strongly that we must prevent the theft of copyrighted works, and that includes digital television (DTV) programming. As we move forward in the digital age, it is increasingly easy for unauthorized copies of copyrighted works to be made and illegally distributed. Over-the-air digital content is the easiest to pirate.
As we contemplate the use of new technologies to protect copyrighted works, we must pay careful attention to ensure that a balance is struck between competitive protections and individual consumer interests. It is important to allow for the continued fair use of copyrighted material, even while we seek to stop unauthorized reproductions from being illegally distributed outside the home and over the Internet.

I continue to find it amazing that our elected representatives spend so much time on this, given Hollywood’s outsize influence relative to their economic size (The tech & consumer electronic industry dwarf Hollywood).

Objections to the SBC AT&T Merger

Ryan Kim:

The proposed marriage of telecom titans SBC and AT&T would eliminate competition on the wholesale market and could lead to increased prices for business and residential customers, corporate rivals and consumer groups argued in briefs filed on Friday.
In written testimony presented to the California Public Utility Commission, critics of the planned merger spelled out why the deal would be bad for ratepayers and what conditions should be imposed to limit its negative impacts.

SBC dominates Wisconsin’s telco business.

McCain-Lautenberg Community Broadband Act

802.11b Networking News:

Two senators counter Rep. Sessions’s pro-incumbent bill with a pro-community networking bill: Pete Sessions, former SBC employee whose wife works at the company and who maintains direct ownership of large Bell stock and option holdings, introduced a brief and terribly broad bill that eliminates essentially all forms of municipal ownership and outsourcing of broadband. The bill he wrote is broad enough to shut down future airport Wi-Fi and other projects beloved by private forms.

Broadcast Flag Not in Federal Legislation

Dan Gillmor:

Good news for Silicon Valley and consumers: The infamous “Broadcast Flag” — digital restrictions on playback of broadcast video — is still dead, it seems, at least for the moment.
When it looked several days ago as though Hollywood would try to sneak the flag into a big appropriations bill, several alert organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge rallied citizens to the cause — to tell senators that they shouldn’t do this. Apparently, they didn’t slip this into the bill, and that’s cause for celebration.

Evidently, quite a few people contacted their Senators on this matter, which is wonderful. This is a great example of the last minute special interest schemes that go on all the time.

Phone Giants Lobby to Block Town’s Wireless Plans

Jesse Drucker and Li Yuan:

After years of waiting for a local phone company to roll out high-speed Internet access in this growing lakeside town of about 6,400 people, municipal information-technology director Tony Tull took matters into his own hands. The city last year invited a start-up telecom firm to hang wireless equipment from a water tower and connect the town.
The network now provides high-speed wireless Web access to most of Granbury, and the town is negotiating to buy some of the equipment. But Granbury’s foray into the wireless business has propelled it into a battle between cities and technology companies on one side and big telephone companies on the other.
SBC Communications Inc., the dominant phone company in Texas, and other big phone companies say that cities should not be allowed to subsidize high-speed Internet connections — even in areas where the companies don’t yet offer the service.

Subsidy Suckers: The Explosive Growth of Lobbyists in Washington, DC

Alex Tabarrok:

The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since 2000 to more than 34,750 while the amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent…The lobbying boom has been caused by three factors, experts say: rapid growth in government, Republican control of both the White House and Congress, and wide acceptance among corporations that they need to hire professional lobbyists to secure their share of federal benefits…

Lobbying firms can’t hire people fast enough. Starting salaries have risen to about $300,000 a year for the best-connected aides eager to “move downtown” from Capitol Hill or the Bush administration.

I wonder what the numbers look like in Madison?

Greasing the Wheels: Advertising Oshkosh Trucks

Wisconsin based Oshkosh truck build’s “Severe Duty” trucks. These include ambulances, fire trucks and military vehicles, among others. Driving around Washington, DC recently with the local NPR station (WETA 90.9/89.1FM) on the radio, I smiled as I heard that this portion of the program was sponsored by Oshkosh Truck Corporation. Someone, somewhere evidently felt that placing their name on the DC NPR station would generate good will and perhaps a few orders.

Frankston on Bank of America’s Security Practices

Bob Frankston:

Even more so because of a letter I received after sending an online Query to CallVantage using another unique address and I quickly got an unrelated letter from a third party site that seemed fraudulent. I reported it to the third party’s ISV and got a response saying they were shut down but know no more than that.
I view these as very serious breaches because they indicate attacks at the vital points in the system.

TSA Collects Airline Passenger Data Despite Pledge


A federal agency collected extensive personal information about airline passengers although Congress told it not to and it said it wouldn’t, according to documents obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
A Transportation Security Administration contractor used three data brokers to collect detailed information about U.S. citizens who flew on commercial airlines in June 2004 in order to test a terrorist screening program called Secure Flight, according to documents that will be published in the Federal Register this week.
The TSA had ordered the airlines to turn over data on those passengers, called passenger name records, in November.

The EFF’s Lee Tien has more.