Morning Security Brief: Lawmaker Calls Cartels Terrorists, Online Consumer Data, Prepaid Debit Cards, and More

By Carlton Purvis


►Some lawmakers are calling for Mexican drug cartels to be labeled terrorist organizations. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) at a House Foreign Affairs hearing urged officials to consider drug trafficking networks to be Foreign Terrorist Organizations saying that the U.S. “must stop looking at the drug cartels today solely from a law- enforcement perspective.” Many experts were skeptical of the idea, but while testifying William Brownfield, assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the State Department, “acknowledged 'that many of the facts on the ground, the things that are being done by those organizations are consistent with what we would call either terrorism or insurgency in other countries,’” the Washington Times reported.

►When you view an ad on a Home Depot Web site, your first name and email address are sent to 13 different companies. Okcupid, the online dating site packages your information by gender, zip code, and date of birth to send to advertisers. Stanford University computer scientist Jonathan Mayer released a study this week showing that websites are commonly collecting the data of users and noting that personal information online is almost completely unregulated. “Advertisers also sell this information to third parties, called data aggregators, who in turn sell it to other marketers, employers, and, perhaps most chillingly, the government,” writes the ACLU.

►A rule proposed by the Treasury Department on Wednesday would require travelers to declare items like prepaid debit cards and prepaid phones when traveling internationally. Current rules already mandate declaration of cash or travelers cheques of more than $10,000. The rule is intended to address devices that can be used as a substitute for currency although the government has no estimates on how often prepaid devices are actually used for money smuggling. “It is unclear how U.S. Customs and Border Protection would enforce the new reporting requirement since technology capable of ‘reading’ all prepaid access devices to determine how much money is on them does not yet exist," Reuters reported. Some say the rule isn’t necessary because there are already industry limits on how much money can be loaded onto prepaid devices.

►In other news, a recent GAO report says DHS isn’t doing a good job protecting all of the private data they’ve been collecting. →The Social Security Administration never informed 32,000 people that it accidentally released their names, dates of birth, and social security numbers when publishing the Death Master File, a database of deceased Americans.→ And Wired magazine asks readers to vote on what they think Iran’s next plot against the U.S. will be.


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