ACLU starts 'Clock' in personal privacy effort

WASHINGTON: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has launched a long-term campaign to promote what it says is a serious loss of personal privacy in the US, symbolized by a new "Surveillance Clock" created by the group.

WASHINGTON: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has launched a long-term campaign to promote what it says is a serious loss of personal privacy in the US, symbolized by a new "Surveillance Clock" created by the group.

The ACLU's digital Surveillance Clock is modeled on the "Doomsday Clock" created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to show how close scientists then believed the world was to nuclear apocalypse.

The ACLU's version shows that the US is six minutes away from a midnight of total surveillance by the government as a result of various legislation and data-collection practices.

The clock is available for download as a widget that can be posted free on other Web sites and updated as events warrant.

Other ACLU communications efforts seeking to alert citizens about privacy in the US include a spoken-word video called "Monster Among Us" by artists Steve Connell and Sekou. The video has been posted on YouTube and will be performed publicly at events yet to be determined, said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU technology and liberty program on data mining.

Steinhardt added that outreach was being handled in-house. It is focusing not only on traditional media, but also on numerous blogs that follow privacy issues and on other online media outlets, including The Huffington Post.

"We reached out to all the blogs that are interested in this kind of information and are in the process of sending the material to dozens of other people," Steinhardt said. "This is not something we're treating as a story of the day, but rather a larger point we want to make."

Along with multimedia efforts, the ACLU also announced the release of a report on its Web site called "Even Bigger, Even Weaker: The Emerging Surveillance Society: Where Are We Now?" that updates a previous report on the same topic.

Steinhardt said the setting of the clock at "11:54" was somewhat arbitrary, but based on recent US legislation and law-enforcement practices, including the Patriot Act and the National Security Agency data collection that was reportedly passed along to the FBI.

"The overall message is just how close we are to the clock striking midnight, in which our every thought, our every action, is monitored," he explained. "We're not there yet; we can do something to... enact strong laws that take into account new technology and our privacy."

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