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Danger in the data mine
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By Rick Holmes
June 15, 2013 12:15 p.m.

Gail Collins puts a human face on the NSA data-mining program, reminding us of Brandon Mayfield, the Oregon man bugged, harassed, arrested and exonerated because a fingerprint showed up at the scene of the Madrid subway bombings that kinda, if-you-squinted looked a little like his.† Mayfield had never been to Spain, but on the plus side, he had married an Egyptian and converted to Islam.
So the secret FISA court issued a secret warrant allowing agents to secretly invade his home – rifling through his daughter’s computer along the way.† Eventually, saner heads – in Spain – prevailed, Mayfield got an apology and a $2 million settlement.
It’s just one case, as Collins says, and the program is slightly more legal than it was back then. But since the feds insist on everything being secret, we have no way of knowing either how many successes the NSA has had or how many innocent people have been hurt by it.
Meanwhile, I’m starting to wonder what it takes to shield my emails and web-browsing from the data miners at Google as well as the data-miners at the NSA.† Not that I have anything to hide – though as a journalist, the thought that using keywords or visiting a website on some secret watch list might flag me for special scrutiny does have a chilling effect – but I find the idea of being micro-targeted, whether by advertisers or the state, just creepy.
Anyone know of a secure web-browser or an email program that will keep all my keystrokes from going into Google’s massive database?

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