Interested in electronics, privacy? FBI says you're a terrorist

Time to start looking over your shoulder a little bit more often, since the FBI has released a flyer warning employees of coffee shops and Internet cafes to be on the lookout for "suspicious" activities, including not showing random people your computer screen, surfing DIY websites and paying for things with money.

According to this flyer, which the FBI and the Department of Justice are distributing to various businesses, people in coffee shops or Internet Cafes should be considered "suspicious" if they exhibit some of the following "potential indicators of terrorist activities:"

  • Are overly concerned about privacy, attempts to shield the screen from view of others
  • Always pay cash
  • Evidence of a residential based internet provider (signs on to Comcast, AOL, etc.)
  • Use of anonymizers, portals, or other means to shield IP address
  • Communicating through a PC game
  • Obtain maps or diagrams of transportation
  • Download or transfer files with "how-to" content such as information about electronics

The overall philosophy here seems to be that if someone has something to hide, or even if they have nothing to hide but prefer some privacy, it's suspicious. Looking up maps in public? Suspicious. Social gaming? Super suspicious. Paying for things with money? That's a big pile o' suspicious. Like to check out DIY websites? Very suspicious. People who use AOL? Well, to be fair, they really are all terrorists.


The FBI helpfully points out that "some of the activities, taken individually, could be innocent." Well, that's just super, so I can check out MAKE or DIY Drones next time I'm at a Starbucks but if I also pay in cash and then get directions to the nearest train station I guess I've just checked off three of your stupid little suspicion bullet points, huh? And for coffee shop employees who take this poster seriously, the FBI expects them to call a hotline and mention the code word "Tripwire." I kid you not, they have a hotline and a code word.

In very tiny print way down at the bottom of the poster is the following:

"Each indictor listed above, is by itself, lawful conduct or behavior and may also constitute the exercise of rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. In addition, there may be a wholly innocent explanation for conduct or behavior that appears suspicious in nature."

It's nice of them to mention that doing any or all of these things is 100% legal and constitutionally protected. It's also nice of them to mention that there "may be a wholly innocent explanation" if you like to pay for stuff in cash (?) and protect your privacy from people like the government. And if the government is wondering why more and more people are feeling like they need to be concerned about things like privacy, well, it might just be because the government now seems to feel that being concerned about privacy is a potential indicator that you're a terrorist. Go figure.

Public Intelligence, via Slashdot

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