We will not be silent

I think we all know that the world is going into a tailspin of insanity, but when I read this article in the Chronicle, I had my suspicions confirmed. Raed Jarrar was an innocent commuter en route from JFK to Oakland and found himself subject to harassment due to his dress and ethnic origin. Be warned, kids: make sure you have no materials in Arabic anywhere on your person while travelling.

This has gone beyond making sacrifices in the name of security and into the realm of the unreal. I think it’s been established that profiling is not terribly effective at this point–why are airport officials still engaging in it?

Apparently, wearing a shirt with Arabic writing on it is grounds for removal from a flight: “Going to an airport with a T-shirt in Arabic script is like going to a bank and wearing a T-shirt that says, `I’m a robber’,” is what the gentleman was told when he was stopped by four unnamed officials. Presumably he was also stopped for “being while Middle Eastern,” which we all know is about the become a criminal offense in this country.

I’m sorry, but I fail to see why wearing a t-shirt should be grounds for harassment or refusal of service. The fact of the matter is that a large portion of the population speaks and writes in Arabic, and it’s not unreasonable that people be seen wearing shirts from their country of origin, or in this case from a political action group speaking out about the war in Iraq. At very least, I thought we were fighting this whole war to protect freedoms and civil rights, not to undermine them.

Given the choice of turning his shirt inside out or wearing another garment over it, he consented to wearing another garment because he couldn’t afford to miss his flight. But I wonder what would happen if there was a mass protest by thousands of people wearing shirts in Arabic all over the country?

After getting my steam on over that article, I read about a new program known as IntelliOne, which intends to use the cell data system to track traffic patterns. It seems like a neat idea, right? To be able to map out congestion, find the shortest distance between two routes, and so forth. Real time traffic updates using on the road data.

But wait…what about that cell data system? I hope my cell phone using readers are aware that as long as your phone is on, it’s in almost constant communication with various cell towers. That’s what gives you that great service you carry on about. As your location changes, your phone works with the cell network to determine the strongest source of signal, delivering a better signal to you when you go to use your phone. In hippie infested areas like Mendocino, after awhile your phone gives up and goes into standby mode, but the rest of the time, it’s questing for service. Your phone is creating a data stream which also includes details on your location, and in theory this data is anonymous and not logged…right? If you’re concerned about privacy issues, you should probably leave your phone off most of the time.

Most new phones also include GPS location–I have my phone set to Emergency/911 only, personally, and I would recommend this setting to other users. Goodness knows how long we’ll be allowed to opt out of turning it off, given the wide range of movement tracking legislation proposals all over the country. (Such as embedding tags in license plates which are intended to track how much you drive, and where, and when.)

What IntelliOne wants to do is tap into this data, look at where phones are and how fast they are moving, and translate this into traffic patterns. It’s claimed that there are no privacy issues–but a case of a third party using my electronic data makes me nervous, especially since I don’t see a way for cell customers to opt out of the program, which is going into widespread use in the Southern States very soon. While I appreciate the idea and the cause, I have to say I’m not all for it. My location is my own affair.

Maybe it’s not me, you know. Maybe it’s the rest of the herd that’s gone insane.

[Arabic shirt]
[cell tracking]

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