Privacy Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Privacy Media Articles in Major Media
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The FBI and the Defense Department were actively involved in research and development of facial recognition software that they hoped could be used to identify people from video footage captured by street cameras and flying drones, according to thousands of pages of internal documents that provide new details about the government's ambitions to build out a powerful tool for advanced surveillance. The documents, revealed in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the FBI, show how closely FBI and Defense officials worked with academic researchers to refine artificial-intelligence techniques that could help in the identification or tracking of Americans without their awareness or consent. Many of the records relate to the Janus program, a project funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or IARPA. The improved facial recognition system was ultimately folded into a search tool, called Horus, and made available to the Pentagon's Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, which helps provide military technologies to civilian police forces. No federal laws regulate how facial recognition systems can be used. The tool's use in domestic mass surveillance would be a "nightmare scenario," said Nathan Wessler, a deputy director at the ACLU. "It could give the government the ability to pervasively track as many people as they want for as long as they want. There's no good outcome for that in a democratic society."
Caleb Kenyon, a defense attorney in Florida, saw a geofence warrant was when a new client received an alarming email from Google in January 2020. Police were requesting personal data from the client, Zachary McCoy, and Kenyon had just seven days to stop Google from turning it over, the email said. The geofence warrant included a map and GPS coordinates, and instructed Google to provide identifying information for every user whose device was found within the radius of that location at a certain date and time. "It was so bizarre that I just didn't even have a concept for what I was dealing with," he said. Kenyon is not alone. As tech firms build ever more sophisticated means of surveilling people and their devices – technology that law enforcement is eager to take advantage of – the legal community is scrambling to keep up. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) ... recently created the Fourth Amendment Center, named for the constitutional right against unreasonable searches. The center is one of the few resources available for helping attorneys better understand how new technology is being used against their clients. It can be years before the defense community catches wind of the newest surveillance tools. Unlike other search warrants, geofence warrants don't require probable cause or a specific suspect in mind; they gather information on anyone within the vicinity of an alleged crime. Advocates argue this violates the fourth amendment.
The recent launch of a new mobile phone service introduced significant new privacy protections into the mobile phone system. This exciting new approach highlights the failure of the existing mobile phone infrastructure to protect privacy, and points the way forward for a wide variety of technologies. Today's cellphones are generally a privacy disaster. Partly that's the result of the two companies that control the operating system software on the vast majority of the world's pocket computers. In order for your carrier to route calls and data to your phone, the network needs to constantly know which cell tower your phone is near. And when you make a call or use data, the provider can see where that traffic is going. Cell carriers track and store this accidental byproduct of the technology in order to record people's location history and network activity for marketing purposes and, in certain circumstances, for sharing with law enforcement. The new phone service, called Pretty Good Phone Privacy (PGPP), uses encryption techniques to deliberately blind itself so that it can't know that the user of a mobile device is you, or what data you are sending from that phone. You connect to the PGPP service for payment, and that's all. With PGPP's approach, the carrier simply does not have the data to turn over to anyone. It cannot be sold, leaked, or hacked, let alone offered to overreaching law enforcement agencies. Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and their smaller competitors could be offering such a privacy-protecting service, but don't want to.
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The fingerprints of unvaccinated New York City teachers were reportedly sent to the FBI with "problem code" flags, prompting outrage from former educators who lost their jobs over the mandate. Earlier this month, John Bursch, who is representing teachers who are suing the city over the mandate, said teachers who refused the shot now have a "flag in their file," which will impact their ability to get another job. "When the city puts these problem codes on employees who have been terminated because of their unconstitutional policies, not only do they have this flag in their files, but their fingerprints are sent with that flag to the FBI and the New York Criminal Justice Services, so it impacts their ongoing ability to get employment at other places," Bursch said Feb. 8. Investigative journalist Betsy Combier wrote an affidavit uncovering how the Education Department was allegedly able to "flag" certain teachers without sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. "I found out that the DOE has right now an agency called the Office of Personnel Investigation, and what they do is they have employees of the DOE who, forgive me, call themselves investigators, but they're not," Combier said. "So they work for OPI, and when they get an accusation from anybody, it doesn't matter who, well, the principals send it to them, but the original complaint against somebody could be made by anybody that this employee, that employee did something wrong."
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on coronavirus vaccines from reliable major media sources.
A study published Monday ... outlines how expansive the market for people's health data has become. After contacting data brokers to ask what kinds of mental health information she could buy, researcher Joanne Kim reported that she ultimately found 11 companies willing to sell bundles of data that included information on what antidepressants people were taking, whether they struggled with insomnia or attention issues, and details on other medical ailments, including Alzheimer's disease or bladder-control difficulties. Some of the data was offered in an aggregate form that would have allowed a buyer to know, for instance, a rough estimate of how many people in an individual Zip code might be depressed. But other brokers offered personally identifiable data featuring names, addresses and incomes, with one data-broker sales representative pointing to lists named "Anxiety Sufferers" and "Consumers With Clinical Depression in the United States." Some even offered a sample spreadsheet. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, restricts how hospitals, doctors' offices and other "covered health entities" share Americans' health data. But the law doesn't protect the same information when it's sent anywhere else, allowing app makers and other companies to legally share or sell the data. Some of the data brokers offered ... opt-out forms. But ... many people probably didn't realize the brokers had collected their information in the first place. Privacy advocates have for years warned about the unregulated data trade, saying the information could be exploited by advertisers or misused for predatory means. The health-data issue has in some ways gotten worse, in large part because of the increasing sophistication with which companies can collect and share people's personal information – including not just in defined lists, but through regularly updated search tools and machine-learning analyses.
New details about the FBI's failures to comply with restrictions on the use of foreign intelligence for domestic crimes have emerged. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) ... grants the government the ability to intercept the electronic communications of overseas targets who are unprotected by the Fourth Amendment. That authority is set to expire at the end of the year. But errors in the FBI's secondary use of the data–the investigation of crimes on US soil–are likely to inflame an already fierce debate over whether law enforcement agents can be trusted with such an invasive tool. Central to this tension has been a routine audit by the Department of Justice's (DOJ) national security division and the office of the director of national intelligence (ODNI) ... which unearthed new examples of the FBI failing to comply with rules limiting access to intelligence ostensibly gathered to protect US national security. Such "errors," they said, have occurred on a "large number" of occasions. A report on the audit, only recently declassified, found that in the first half of 2020, FBI personnel unlawfully searched raw FISA data on numerous occasions. In one incident, agents reportedly sought evidence of foreign influence linked to a US lawmaker. In another, an inappropriate search pertained to a local political party. In what privacy and civil liberties lawyers have termed a "backdoor search," the FBI regularly searches through unminimized data during investigations, and routinely prior to launching them.
The reptilian annual World Economic Forum at Davos, where the masters of the universe meet to congratulate themselves on their benevolent dictatorship, is home to many sinister ideas. This year, one of the creepiest discussions of all was delivered under the guise of progress and productivity. Nita Farahany, a Duke University professor and futurist, gave a presentation at Davos about neurotechnology that is creating "brain transparency." The new technologies, which Farahany says are being deployed in workplaces around the world ... include a variety of wearable sensors that read the brain's electrical impulses and can show how fatigued you are, whether you're focused on the task at hand or if your attention is wandering. According to Farahany, thousands of companies have hooked workers ranging from train drivers to miners up to these devices already, in the name of workplace safety. But what we are really discussing is workplace surveillance. Farahany paints a picture of a near future in which every office worker could be fitted with a small wearable that would constantly record brain activity, creating an omnipotent record of your thoughts, attention and energy that the boss could study at leisure. Farahany acknowledges that there could be drawbacks here: "Done poorly, it could become the most oppressive technology we've ever introduced on a wide scale." All of this raises the question: what exactly is your employer buying when they give you a paycheck? For bosses, the answer is simple: "Everything."
Note: Tune into a fascinating, 17 min. conversation about this issue that raises important questions about the overreliance on technology as a tool of control, under the guise of workplace safety. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption from reliable major media sources.
The US government's new mobile app for migrants to apply for asylum at the US-Mexico border is blocking many Black people from being able to file their claims because of facial recognition bias in the tech, immigration advocates say. The app, CBP One, is failing to register many people with darker skin tones, effectively barring them from their right to request entry into the US. People who have made their way to the south-west border from Haiti and African countries, in particular, are falling victim to apparent algorithm bias in the technology that the app relies on. The government announced in early January that the new CBP One mobile app would be the only way migrants arriving at the border can apply for asylum and exemption from Title 42 restrictions. Racial bias in face recognition technology has long been a problem. Increasingly used by law enforcement and government agencies to fill databases with biometric information including fingerprints and iris scans, a 2020 report by Harvard University called it the "least accurate" identifier, especially among darker-skinned women with whom the error rate is higher than 30%. Emmanuella Camille, a staff attorney with the Haitian Bridge Alliance ... said the CBP One app has helped "lighter-skin toned people from other nations" obtain their asylum appointments "but not Haitians" and other Black applicants. Besides the face recognition technology not registering them ... many asylum seekers have outdated cellphones – if they have cellphones at all – that don't support the CBP One app.
In the pandemic's bewildering early days, millions worldwide believed government officials who said they needed confidential data for new tech tools that could help stop coronavirus' spread. In return, governments got a firehose of individuals' private health details, photographs that captured their facial measurements and their home addresses. Now, from Beijing to Jerusalem to Hyderabad, India, and Perth, Australia, The Associated Press has found that authorities used these technologies and data to halt travel for activists and ordinary people, harass marginalized communities and link people's health information to other surveillance and law enforcement tools. In some cases, data was shared with spy agencies. China's ultra-strict zero-COVID policies recently ignited the sharpest public rebuke of the country's authoritarian leadership since ... 1989. Just as the balance between privacy and national security shifted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, COVID-19 has given officials justification to embed tracking tools in society that have lasted long after lockdowns. What use will ultimately be made of the data collected and tools developed during the height of the pandemic remains an open question. Australia's intelligence agencies were caught "incidentally" collecting data from the national COVIDSafe app. In the U.S. ... the federal government took the opportunity to build out its surveillance toolkit, including two contracts in 2020 worth $24.9 million to the data mining and surveillance company Palantir Technologies Inc.
Note: Read an essay by constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead on COVID and the surveillance state. Detroit police recently sought COVID relief funds to install ShotSpotter microphones throughout the city. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the coronavirus and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The internet has come a long way since Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web in 1989. Now, in an era of growing concern over privacy, he believes it's time for us to reclaim our personal data. Through their startup Inrupt, Berners-Lee and CEO John Bruce have created the "Solid Pod" – or Personal Online Data Store. It allows people to keep their data in one central place and control which people and applications can access it, rather than having it stored by apps or sites all over the web. Users can get a Pod from a handful of providers. Not only is user data safe from corporations, and governments, it's also less likely to be stolen by hackers, Bruce says. Launched in 2017, Inrupt reportedly raised $30 million in December 2021 and Berners-Lee says it will help deliver the next iteration of the web – "Web 3." Paul Brody, a blockchain expert for analysts Ernst and Young, believes Web 3 could change the way we use the internet. "You'll hear people talk about Web 3 and decentralization as being very similar in ideas and goals," he says. "Owning your own data and really controlling your own commerce infrastructure is something that Web 3 will enable. It will be ultimately really transformational for users." Berners-Lee hopes his platform will give control back to internet users. "I think the public has been concerned about privacy – the fact that these platforms have a huge amount of data, and they abuse it," he says. "You need to get back to a situation where you have autonomy, you have control of all your data."
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the erosion of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The Biden administration took a public stand last year against the abuse of spyware to target human rights activists, dissidents and journalists: It blacklisted the most notorious maker of the hacking tools, the Israeli firm NSO Group. But the global industry for commercial spyware – which allows governments to invade mobile phones and vacuum up data – continues to boom. Even the U.S. government is using it. The Drug Enforcement Administration is secretly deploying spyware from a different Israeli firm, according to five people familiar with the agency's operations, in the first confirmed use of commercial spyware by the federal government. The most sophisticated spyware tools – like NSO's Pegasus – have "zero-click" technology, meaning they can stealthily and remotely extract everything from a target's mobile phone, without the user having to click on a malicious link to give Pegasus remote access. They can also turn the mobile phone into a tracking and secret recording device, allowing the phone to spy on its owner. But hacking tools without zero-click capability, which are considerably cheaper, also have a significant market. Commercial spyware has been used by intelligence services and police forces to hack phones used by drug networks and terrorist groups. But it has also been abused by numerous authoritarian regimes and democracies to spy on political opponents and journalists. This has led governments to a sometimes tortured rationale for their use.
Note: Read about how NSO Group spyware was used against journalists and activists by the Mexican government. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The House committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021, is nearly finished. Nearly 900 ... criminal prosecutions of alleged rioters remain underway, and one case has shed troubling new light on how the FBI investigated these defendants. The suspect's name is David Rhine. His lawyer is the first to present a potentially successful challenge to the geofencing warrant the FBI used to place some defendants inside the Capitol building during the attack. A previous Wired report last year found 45 federal criminal cases citing the warrant, which required Google to provide the FBI with data on devices using its location services inside a set geographic area. Rhine's case has revealed just how expansive the FBI's request to Google really was. Google initially listed 5,723 devices in response to the warrant, then whittled the tally to exclude likely Capitol staff and police as well as anyone who wasn't "entirely within the geofence, to about a 70 percent probability." The final list of identifying details handed over to the FBI had 1,535 names. It included people whose phones had been turned off or put in airplane mode, and "people who attempted to delete their location data following the attacks were singled out by the FBI for greater scrutiny." It's ... easy to envision geofencing warrants undergoing the usual surveillance mission creep. Left unchecked, law enforcement could decide geofence data would come in handy while looking for a journalist's whistleblowing source, or perhaps at political protests.
An offshore company that is trusted by the major web browsers and other tech companies to vouch for the legitimacy of websites has connections to contractors for U.S. intelligence agencies and law enforcement, according to security researchers, documents and interviews. Google's Chrome, Apple's Safari, nonprofit Firefox and others allow the company, TrustCor Systems, to act as what's known as a root certificate authority, a powerful spot in the internet's infrastructure that guarantees websites are not fake, guiding users to them seamlessly. The company's Panamanian registration records show that it has the identical slate of officers, agents and partners as a spyware maker identified this year as an affiliate of Arizona-based Packet Forensics, which ... has sold communication interception services to U.S. government agencies for more than a decade. TrustCor's products include an email service that claims to be end-to-end encrypted, though experts consulted by The Washington Post said they found evidence to undermine that claim. A test version of the email service also included spyware developed by a Panamanian company related to Packet Forensics. A person familiar with Packet Forensics' work confirmed that it had used TrustCor's certificate process and its email service, MsgSafe, to intercept communications and help the U.S. government catch suspected terrorists. The physical address in Toronto given in [TrustCor's] auditor's report, 371 Front St. West, houses a UPS Store mail drop.
Since Buzzfeed reported in June that employees of TikTok's Chinese parent company ByteDance had access to US consumer data, TikTok has been the focus of rare bipartisan calls for regulation and inquiry. Those inquiries became more pressing when in July, the FBI director, Christopher Wray, called Chinese espionage the "greatest long-term threat to our nation's ... economic vitality". TikTok is a relatively new player in the arena of massive global social media platforms but it's already caught the eye of regulators in Europe. New laws around child safety and general internet safety in the UK and the EU have forced the company to become more transparent about the way it operates and the way content spreads on its platform. In the US, moves to rein in the video platform have gained momentum only relatively recently, although there's little debate that the round of regulatory pressure is warranted. With 1 billion users, the platform, which uses an algorithmic feed to push users short-form videos, has had its fair share of run-ins with misinformation, data privacy and concerns about child safety. Experts the Guardian spoke with did not question the cybersecurity threat China posed. However, some said they worried regulators' hyper-focus on TikTok's China connection could distract from other pressing concerns, including TikTok's algorithm and how much user data the company collects, stores and shares. There are currently no federal regulations that protect such information.
In a cheerfully animated promotional video, a woman narrates Cubic Transportation Systems' vision for the future. Travelers will pay fares using a ticket-free mobile account. Real-time data will be aggregated, linked, and shared. "The more information that is gathered, the more powerful the system becomes," the narrator tells us. "The piece of the puzzle missing ... is you." Over the past decade, Cubic has taken the first steps toward actualizing its vision by snapping up contracts for the development of mobile-based, contactless fare collection systems in eight of America's 10 largest public transit networks. Transit authorities have embraced tap-to-pay technology for its convenience and speed, but privacy advocates are worried that the new fare collection systems pose serious surveillance and security risks. In addition to its transit operation, Cubic is a vast military contractor doing hundreds of millions of dollars in business with the U.S. military and sales to foreign militaries. The company supplies surveillance technologies, training simulators, satellite communications equipment, computing and networking platforms, and other military hardware and software. As Cubic's quiet grip on fare collection takes hold in more cities, the company's ability to process rider data grows with it, creating a sprawling corporate apparatus that has the extraordinary potential to gather up reams of information on the very people it is supposed to serve.
Under a post-9/11 surveillance program known as "Upstream", the NSA is systematically searching Americans' internet communications as they enter and leave the United States. The agency sifts through these streams of data looking for "identifiers" associated with its many thousands of foreign targets – identifiers like email addresses and phone numbers. The NSA does all of this without warrants, without any individual judicial approval, and without showing that any of the people it is surveilling – including countless Americans – have done anything wrong. This surveillance raises serious constitutional concerns, but no court has ever considered a legal challenge to it because the government has claimed that allowing a suit against Upstream surveillance to go forward would implicate "state secrets". In 2007, for example, an appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Khaled El-Masri claiming that, in a case of mistaken identity, he had been kidnapped and tortured by the CIA. The court acknowledged the public evidence of El-Masri's mistreatment but held that state secrets were too central to the case to allow it to go forward. And in 2010, a different appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by five individuals who claimed that one of Boeing's subsidiary companies had flown the planes carrying them to the black sites where they were tortured by the CIA. This use of the state secrets privilege – to dismiss cases – departs from the supreme court's narrow framing of the privilege.
The US National Security Agency (NSA) tried to persuade its British counterpart to stop the Guardian publishing revelations about secret mass data collection from the NSA contractor, Edward Snowden. Sir Iain Lobban, the head of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) ... rebuffed the suggestion that his agency should act as a censor on behalf of its US partner in electronic spying. British refusal to shut down publication of the leaks ... caused rifts within the Five Eyes signals intelligence coalition [according to] a new book ... by Richard Kerbaj. Kerbaj reports that the US-UK intelligence relationship was further strained when the head of the NSA, Gen Keith Alexander, failed to inform Lobban that the Americans had identified Snowden ... leaving the British agency investigating its own ranks in the search for the leaker. The Five Eyes allies were outraged that a contractor like Snowden, working as a computer systems administrator, could get access to their secrets, and that because of US government outsourcing, there were 1.5 million Americans with top security clearance like Snowden. Allies were not prepared to challenge the Americans out of anxiety that they could be cut off from the flow of intelligence. British officials also decided to bite their tongues ... because of the value of the intelligence and funding provided by the NSA. Sir Kim Darroch, the former UK national security adviser, is quoted ... saying: "The US give us more than we give them so we just have to basically get on with it."
Note: Read more on how US and UK spy agencies undermine privacy and security in this news article reported by The Guardian. For a guide from The Guardian on how to remain secure against NSA surveillance, click here.
The web browser used within the TikTok app can track every keystroke made by its users, according to new research that is surfacing as the Chinese-owned video app grapples with U.S. lawmakers' concerns over its data practices. The research from Felix Krause, a privacy researcher and former Google engineer, did not show how TikTok used the capability, which is embedded within the in-app browser that pops up when someone clicks an outside link. But Mr. Krause said the development was concerning because it showed TikTok had built in functionality to track users' online habits if it chose to do so. Collecting information on what people type on their phones while visiting outside websites, which can reveal credit card numbers and passwords, is often a feature of malware and other hacking tools. Apps sometimes use in-app browsers to prevent people from visiting malicious sites or to make online browsing easier with the auto-filling of text. But while Facebook and Instagram can use in-app browsers to track data like what sites a person visited ... TikTok goes further by using code that can track each character entered by users. As with many apps, TikTok offers few chances for people to click away from its service. Instead of redirecting to mobile web browsers like Safari or Chrome, an in-app browser appears when users click on ads or links embedded within the profiles of other users. These are often the moments people enter key information like credit card details or passwords.
School librarians [will] have less freedom to choose books and schoolchildren [will have] less ability to read books they find intriguing, experts say. In the past two years, six states have passed laws that mandate parental involvement in reviewing books, making it easier for parents to remove books or restrict the texts available at school, according to a tally kept by nonprofit EveryLibrary. Policies are proliferating at the district level, too. A Texas system will divide its library into "juvenile," "young adult" and "adult" sections, with parents choosing the "level" their child can access. "This is a state-sponsored purging of ideas and identities that has no precedent in the United States of America," said John Chrastka, EveryLibrary's executive director. "We're witnessing the silencing of stories and the suppressing of information [that will make] the next generation less able to function in society." A flurry of parent-staffed websites reviewing books for inappropriate content have appeared – including "Between the Book Covers," whose website says "professional review sites cannot be entrusted," and BookLook.info, "a place for taking a closer look at the books in our children's hands." There are also Facebook groups like Utah's "LaVerna in the Library," which "collects naughty children's books." As states and districts adjust their reading rules, parents and students are working to change things, too. Teens in Texas, for example, have formed "banned book clubs" – while in Missouri, students are suing their district to restore eight pulled books.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of the disappearance of privacy in our society. Whether in our schools, on social media, or in our news, read about the increasing issue of censorship that undermines democracy in our Mass Media Information Center.
China's ambition to collect a staggering amount of personal data from everyday citizens is more expansive than previously known. Phone-tracking devices are now everywhere. The police are creating some of the largest DNA databases in the world. And the authorities are building upon facial recognition technology to collect voice prints from the general public. The Times' Visual Investigations team and reporters in Asia spent over a year analyzing more than a hundred thousand government bidding documents. The Chinese government's goal is clear: designing a system to maximize what the state can find out about a person's identity, activities and social connections. In a number of the bidding documents, the police said that they wanted to place cameras where people go to fulfill their common needs – like eating, traveling, shopping and entertainment. The police also wanted to install facial recognition cameras inside private spaces, like residential buildings, karaoke lounges and hotels. Authorities are using phone trackers to link people's digital lives to their physical movements. Devices known as WiFi sniffers and IMSI catchers can glean information from phones in their vicinity. DNA, iris scan samples and voice prints are being collected indiscriminately from people with no connection to crime. The government wants to connect all of these data points to build comprehensive profiles for citizens – which are accessible throughout the government.
Note: For more on this disturbing topic, see the New York Times article "How China is Policing the Future." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Important Note: Explore our full index to key excerpts of revealing major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.