Archive for the “Commentary” Category

Commentary and Opinion of news, trends, and even politics related to Winston-Salem. The items here are solely the responsibility of the author and BITS takes no responsibility for them however BITS may at its own discretion remove any item or post BITS deems not worthy of publication.

Well another Appeals Court has ruled that once you place your data into a third party’s possession you no longer have any expectation of privacy thus you have no 4th amendment protections if the government wants access to that data. While this case was about cell phone tracking information the ruling goes into detail of what they consider protected or not protected information.

From this ruling it is clear the courts feel any information gleamed from the user account in the course of offering their service is not protected information, user has no expectation of privacy, no 4th amendment protections. They specifically state the email addresses a user sends/receives email from is not protected. With most Cloud services providing at least basic SPAM and AV scanning my take is that the email in general would no longer fall under protected data either using their same argument, the user knows the third party has to have access to the email in order to scan that email.

“ United States v. Forrester, 512 F.3d 500, 510 (9th Cir. 2008). The Forrester court also held that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in either the to/from addresses of a user’s emails or the “total amount of data transmitted to or from [a user’s] account.” Id. at 510-11.”

Using that same logic and the courts statements in the ruling it seems to me the use of any Cloud provider for files and data also falls under these same guidelines. Clearly a third party file sharing service has to have access to the names of the files being uploaded thus at the very least the names of those files is not protected by the 4th. While the data in those files may be protected it is very common for users to use file names which are very descriptive of what the file actually contains. That being the case if the Government asked for the listing of all files held by a user the Cloud provider would have to provide that list without a warrant. Now with that list if there was a file called “my tax return cheats.doc” it’s again clear to me the Government could now use that info as probable cause to get a warrant for the data itself.

The ruling goes on to cite the SCA which is of critical importance to those that provide some sort of Cloud data storage. The court reminds us that “communications” have a specified time limit in which a warrant is or is not required to access stored communications. What will be interesting is to see if the Government or the courts start to expand what is considered “communications”. Is a file placed on a Cloud file sharing service which is opened by another person considered “communications”? Again, clearly information was communicated from one person to another so is that enough to meet the definition of communications? If so then all those files stored on Cloud services that have a date older than 180 days are free to Governmental snooping with nothing more than a subpoena presented to the Cloud provider, not the user/owner of that data.

“At the heart of the SCA lies § 2703. That provision establishes a calibrated set of procedural safeguards based on the type and amount of information sought and the length of time the records are stored. For instance, “only pursuant to a warrant,” 18 U.S.C. § 2703(a), can the government obtain the contents of a communication that is in electronic storage with a service provider for 180 days or less. Alternatively, the government has a number of options for compelling the disclosure of non-content customer records, or the contents of communications in electronic storage for more than 180 days: Appeal: 12-4659 Doc: 227 Filed: 05/31/2016 Pg: 39 of 66 40 “obtain[] a warrant,” id. §§ 2703(b)(1)(A), (c)(1)(A), “use[] an administrative subpoena . . . or trial subpoena,” id. § 2703(b)(1)(B)(i), or “obtain[] a court order.””

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Starting January 1st anyone buying gas in North Carolina will pay 37.5 cents per gallon in North Carolina Fuel Tax. This makes North Caroline the 8th highest gas tax state in the US and the highest in the southern US by far. Our southern cousin South Carolina comes in at half our tax rate while even Virginia is just over half our rate. Think about it folks. That means when we are paying $2.50 a gallon which we think is really cheap compared to the three something we were paying not long ago our neighbors in South Carolina will be paying under $2.30. On the average tank that’s going to be about $4 a tankful each of us pays that South Carolinians don’t!

So when your filling up that next tank of gas then driving down roads full of pot holes maybe you just might think about calling your Representatives in Raleigh and asking where all that money goes. Then again they know exactly where it goes. Just drive around Raleigh on their eight lane super highways with exit ramps that start a mile before the exist and you will too.


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It’s HERO Appreciation Day at Krispy Kreme on April 28th so with the purchase of a dozen doughnuts you get a FREE Dozen Glazed.


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Day of the dozen is what they call it. Today only with this coupon you can buy any dozen Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and get a FREE dozen of glazed.


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Due to the high level of attempted SPAM messages, bogus account creations as well as direct hacking against the site I have had to change the comment and new user access pages. If you have trouble adding a comment or are trying to create a new login and get redirected to the FBI then sorry but your actions looked suspicious to the server.

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U.S. Counterterrorism Agency Can See All Your Files | Dec 14th 2012 1:15 AM

At a secret White House meeting last March, the Department of Homeland Security argued against a sweeping change in rules covering the way the government collects information on American citizens. The DHS lost.

That’s the gist of a cracker of a story from the Wall Street Journal‘s Julia Angwin today.

Angwin pieced together heavily redacted documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, plus information gleaned from unnamed sources, to establish that the National Counterterrorism Center now has clearance to examine any federal government file on any U.S. resident or citizen and to retain that information for up to five years.

The NCTC will also allow foreign governments to look at the information it collects on U.S. citizens.

Previously, the NCTC could retain information only about people it could prove were connected to a terrorism investigation.

It wasn’t an easy battle. The NCTC faced strong opposition to the rule change, partly from the Department of Justice, but mostly from DHS, which, according to Angwin’s story, has 100 people devoted to civil-rights and civil-liberties issues.

Despite the objections to the new rules, which one DHS officer called “a sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public,” the DOJ overruled the DHS’ objections and approved the changes.

The DOJ and DHS staffers who opposed the rule change have since left government service.

Now, the NCTC can request information from any other federal agency — be it Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services or the Internal Revenue Service — on any “U.S. person,” which in this context means a citizen, permanent resident, corporation or association.

That means, for example, that the National Counterterrorism Center right now could be looking over your mortgage information, health records, tax returns, grant applications or any other document produced when you interacted with the federal government in any way.

Because every federal agency has its own rules for handling sensitive personal data, each one will negotiate, or already has negotiated, a separate agreement with the NCTC about how its information will be handled and retained.

Information collected by state and local governments does not appear to be subject to the new rules.

This article originally published at TechNewsDaily here

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If anyone would like to explain this one to me I am all ears.

Consumer Confidence In U.S. Fell In May To Four-Month Low

May 29, 2012 4:13 PM ET

The Conference Board’s index decreased to 64.9 this month from a revised 68.7 in April, figures from the New York-based private research group showed today. The decline in the Conference Board’s measure is in line with readings from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index. The share of Americans expecting fewer job opportunities in the next six months climbed to the highest level since November, raising the risk that consumers will limit spending. A 30-cent decline in gasoline prices since early April failed to brighten spirits, showing that more progress is needed in the job market. Homebuilders are reporting their most-improved spring selling season in seven years, propelled in part by record-low mortgage rates. At the same time, the market faces challenges as mortgage credit is difficult to obtain and slow wage growth is keeping some would-be buyers on the sidelines.

But wait didn’t I just read the week before the opposite was true?

Consumer Sentiment In U.S. Climbs To Highest Since 2007

May 25, 2012 4:59 PM ET

Consumer confidence rose in May to the highest level since October 2007 as Americans became more upbeat about the prospects for employment.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of sentiment climbed to 79.3, the ninth straight increase, from 76.4 the prior month. The gauge was projected to hold at the preliminary reading of 77.8, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. A record number of households said they’d heard better news on the jobs outlook, which combined with cheaper gasoline and an improving housing market may help sustain consumer spending and shield the economy from Europe’s debt crisis.

Comments No Comments » out of Boca Raton, Florida but with an distribution warehouse here in Lexington, North Carolina seems to not have a very accurate sales tax calculator. In fact it appears that it is so bad that they are routinely charging upwards of 10.9% Sales Tax for items shipped to Charlotte and over 10% for other various North Carolina zip codes.

Background: is a vitamin and nutrition supplement online retailer out of Boca Raton, Florida. Vitacost sells national label items as well as items made for their own label using a distribution warehouse built in Lexington back in 2007 with expansion made possible in part by both local incentives as well as $450,000 from One North Carolina Fund in 2010. Listed as VITC on NASDAQ the stock is thinly traded and has remained in the $4.50 to $5 range since it was halted back in December of 2010 after disclosure by the company that it’s financial statements dating back to 1994 were unreliable. Legal action was taken by a group of share holders in 2010 claiming that certain Company officers and directors had “breached their fiduciary duties and unjustly enriched themselves.”

In reviewing a purchase I made with Vitacost I noticed the sales tax rate did not seem to add up and in doing the math I came up with a charge of just over 9%. I then pulled up older orders and found the sales tax rate charged had been incorrect on orders dating back for a year. I emailed the company about the errors and was told that yes they agreed the wrong rate had been charged and if I would provide background information on the orders they would take care of it. I did exactly that but I also stated I was not satisfied with the answer as it appeared this was not a single occurrence and that it looked like the company was charging the incorrect sales tax rates for all North Carolina residents. Needless to say I got no response and didn’t pursue the matter as we were talking about $3-4 so it really wasn’t worth my time. With several months of no response I decided to check their website again and not only were the sales tax rates incorrect but they had gone up to 10.2%! I again emailed the company stating I had pulled the computed sales tax rates for multiple counties in North Carolina and had found not only have they not refunded any money to me but continue to charge an incorrect sales tax rate, of course again I got no response.

So this time I decided to waste a little time and pull some information together for future reference and since I had that info I might as well post it here as well. Using zip codes pulled from and Sales Tax Rates from I attempted to checkout using an address based in each of the following zip codes and found the corresponding tax rates being charged by on a $10 item.

City/Zip Code Sales Tax Rate Vitacost Computed Rate
Charlotte, NC 28209 7.25% 10.9%
Winston-Salem, NC 28607 6.75% 10.2%
Raleigh, NC 27601 6.75% 10.2%
Wilmington, NC 28401 7% 10.5%

To show I am not just making this up below you will find the checkout form for each of the above zip codes. Does this look like a “math” error to you?



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