Wednesday, August 14, 2013

EVENT: Movie Night w/ Maryland Juice on Friday // PLUS SEE: "Terms & Conditions May Apply" Trailer & Filmmaker Interview

MOVIE NIGHT WITH MARYLAND JUICE: One of Maryland Juice blogger David Moon's ongoing work projects involves national advocacy for progressive issues and Internet freedom through a 1.5 million member group called Demand Progress. In that capacity, I am currently helping promote a startling new film about online privacy and government surveillance, titled "Terms and Conditions May Apply." The movie premieres in DC this Friday at the West End Cinema, and Maryland Juice thought some readers might want to join for the festivities, given the timeliness of the topic for Maryland politicos. The opening night screening (Friday at 7:00 pm) will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker and privacy experts, along with a wine reception. Not a bad deal for the cost of a movie ticket. Below you can watch the official film trailer, read an exclusive interview with filmmaker Cullen Hoback, and find out more about Terms and Conditions May Apply.
WHAT: Premiere of Terms and Conditions May Apply
WHEN: Friday, August 16th at 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: West End Cinema, 2301 M Street NW, Washington, D.C.
WHAT: Following the screening, Craig Aaron of Free Press will moderate a conversation with Terms and Conditions director Cullen Hoback, Open Technology Institute Senior Research Fellow Seeta Gangadharan and privacy expert Ashkan Soltani. Wine and snacks will be served at a reception.
ADMISSION: Tickets may be purchased here.

ABOUT THE FILM "TERMS AND CONDITIONS MAY APPLY" - The YouTube page for this movie describes it as, "a documentary about what you're really agreeing to when you click 'I accept.'" But the film goes much deeper than what rights you sign away through your online account agreements. Terms and Conditions May Apply takes viewers through a tour of surveillance and privacy infringement from companies like Facebook and from the government itself. The film was selected as a "New York Times Critics' Pick," and their movie review called it a "quietly blistering documentary" that "should rile even the most passive viewer" (excerpt below):
NEW YORK TIMES: Investigating our casual surrender of privacy rights every time we click the “Agree” button on those dense (and typically unread) online user contracts, the director Cullen Hoback outlines the real-life dangers of digital heedlessness. As the film illustrates, a random tweet or innocent Google search could summon a SWAT team to your door or transform you into a suspected terrorist.

Actual horror stories aside, this concise and lively summary of the many ways corporations, law enforcement and government agencies gather, share and use our information — assisted by digital giants like AT&T and Google — is creepily unnerving....
Audience members and critics alike agree with the New York Times, and as the film review site Rotten Tomatoes notes, Terms and Conditions May Apply has a strong 88% approval rating from critics and 83% from audience members. Below you can watch the official film trailer and read an exclusive interview with filmmaker Cullen Hoback:

First of all, why'd you decide this subject matter -- this was before the issue became nearly as prominent as it's been over the last several months? 

CULLEN HOBACK: I began the project nearly three years ago, asking the question "How is technology changing us?" It took me over a year of work to realize that the greatest change wasn't the technology itself at all, but what's behind that technology.  All those seemingly benign terms and conditions and privacy policies revealed the real cost of using digital services--the complete erosion of privacy.  It almost felt like I was being sucked into a conspiracy theory.  The pure scope of what the government seemed capable of was beyond science fiction.

Were there any really surprising things that you learned about the ways in which the law around privacy rights operates?

CULLEN HOBACK: The concept of the 3rd party doctrine is still baffling to me.  The notion that it's okay for a government to access information about you if you've given that information to a 3rd party, like a bank, or an email provider is totally mind-blowing.  It's like what we did in Iraq when we wanted to conduct operations that the military couldn't legally do itself.  We hired a private contractor: Blackwater.  That's essentially what major tech-companies have become; a sort of de-facto Blackwater that provides surveillance the government couldn't legally achieve by itself.  The main difference is that these tech companies aren't being paid for this.

Without giving too much away, can you speak to some of the more interesting, personal anecdotes that you cover in the film?

CULLEN HOBACK: I show multiple cases of perfectly innocent people having their lives upended dues to these spy systems.  A comedian is visited within hours after he makes a bad joke on Facebook.  A 7th grade boy is visited by our FBI, after posting a concerned message to Obama on Facebook--a warning to watch out for bombers after Osama Bin Laden was killed.  His mother wasn't notified when the FBI showed up at his school to interrogate him.  These systems are bad at context.  And that's a dicey game when you're in the business of trying to prevent crimes from happening.

What do you see as the relative importance of government surveillance and corporate surveillance?  Or are they one in the same?

CULLEN HOBACK: If a corporation can see everything you do, and use that information to target you with ads or profit from its sale, then the government essentially has access to it as well.  So yes, they're one in the same.  In some instances, we've seen companies like Twitter stand up for the rights of their users.  However, this doesn't mean that the NSA isn't able to collect information against the will of a company through other means.  We need greater encryption built into innovative and new online tools.  The kind of encryption that disables both the company and the government from seeing what you do on any given service.

What would you advise viewers who are inspired to fight for their rights to do?

CULLEN HOBACK: I'd recommend visiting and petitioning Congressmen to see Terms and Conditions May Apply, because I think the first step in fixing these systems is to educate lawmakers.  From there we need greater control over our information, and we need to put pressure on companies like Facebook to stop tracking us, changing the rules overnight, and lying to us about what they do with our data.  A mixture of regulation, innovation, and pressure are vital to seeing change.  This and more will happen at  Also, begin using tools like Ghostery, Wickr, duckduckgo, and Firefox and consider emerging social media services with privacy at the forefront like Sgrouples. 

The question everybody asks: Why should you worry about privacy rights if you're "not doing anything wrong"?

CULLEN HOBACK: If you feel that way, I'd recommend taking the blinds and curtains off of all of your windows.  And take your clothing off as well.  It's not about doing anything wrong, it's about it being no one else's business.  Beyond that, the use of these spy systems against free speech and a free press should be enough to make anyone shake in their totalitarian-fearing boots.

What do you hope will come of the Snowden situation?

CULLEN HOBACK: That I'll get to eat brunch with a free man, a man who's considered a hero, and that it will happen on US soil.  I'd also like to see Clapper investigated for lying under oath to the US Senate.

We hope you might join Maryland Juice for a movie night this Friday at 7:00 pm, but if you can't make it to the opening night screening and festivities, you can still catch the film during its run at the West End Cinema.

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