Privacy News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on privacy
Over the last two months, Chinese citizens have had to adjust to a new level of government intrusion. Getting into one’s apartment compound or workplace requires scanning a QR code, writing down one’s name and ID number, temperature and recent travel history. Telecom operators track people’s movements while social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo have hotlines for people to report others who may be sick. Some cities are offering people rewards for informing on sick neighbours. Chinese companies are meanwhile rolling out facial recognition technology that can detect elevated temperatures in a crowd or flag citizens not wearing a face mask. A range of apps use the personal health information of citizens to alert others of their proximity to infected patients. Experts say the virus ... has given authorities a pretext for accelerating the mass collection of personal data to track citizens. “It’s mission creep,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch. According to Wang, the virus is likely to be a catalyst for a further expansion of the surveillance regime. Citizens are particularly critical of a system called Health Code, which users can sign up for through Alipay or WeChat, that assigns individuals one of three colour codes based on their travel history, time spent in outbreak hotspots and exposure to potential carriers of the virus. The software, used in more than 100 cities, will soon allow people to check the colours of other residents when their ID numbers are entered.
Note: Learn in this New York Times article how everyone in China is given a red, yellow, or green code which determines how free they are to move about and even enter businesses. This article shows how foreigners are being stopped instantly from making live podcasts from China using facial recognition technology. 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.
A whistleblower who works in Project Nightingale, the secret transfer of the personal medical data of up to 50 million Americans from one of the largest healthcare providers in the US to Google, has expressed anger to the Guardian that patients are being kept in the dark about the massive deal. The anonymous whistleblower has posted a video on the social media platform Daily Motion that contains a document dump of hundreds of images of confidential files relating to Project Nightingale. The secret scheme ... involves the transfer to Google of healthcare data held by Ascension, the second-largest healthcare provider in the US. The data is being transferred with full personal details including name and medical history and can be accessed by Google staff. Unlike other similar efforts it has not been made anonymous through a process of ... de-identification. The disclosed documents include highly confidential outlines of Project Nightingale, laying out the four stages or “pillars” of the secret project. By the time the transfer is completed next March, it will have passed the personal data of 50 million or more patients in 21 states to Google, with 10 million or so files already having moved across – with no warning having been given to patients or doctors. Google has entered into similar partnerships on a much smaller scale with clients such as the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine. But in that case all the data handed over to the search giant was encrypted, with keys being held only on the medical side.
Over time, the CIA upper echelon has secretly developed all kinds of policy statements and legal rationales to justify routine, widespread surveillance on U.S. soil of citizens who aren’t suspected of terrorism or being a spy. Newly declassified documents from 2014 ... reveal the CIA not only intercepted emails of U.S. citizens but they were emails of the most sensitive kind — written to Congress and involving whistleblowers reporting alleged wrongdoing within the Intelligence Community. The disclosures, kept secret until now, are two letters of “congressional notification” from the Intelligence Community inspector general at the time, Charles McCullough. He stated that during “routine counterintelligence monitoring of government computer systems,” the CIA collected emails between congressional staff and the CIA’s head of whistleblowing and source protection. McCullough added that he was concerned about the CIA’s “potential compromise to whistleblower confidentiality and the consequent ‘chilling effect’.” The March 2014 intercepts ... happened amid what’s widely referred to as the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers and mass surveillance scandals. The evidence points to bad actors targeting candidate Donald Trump and his associates in part to keep them - and us - from learning about and digging into an even bigger scandal: our Intelligence Community increasingly spying on its own citizens, journalists, members of Congress and political enemies for the better part of two decades.
Note: The above article was written by Emmy award winning investigative journalist and former news anchor for CBS and CNN Sharyl Attkisson. She has been attacked numerous times for questioning the safety of vaccines and investigating too deeply into the lives of certain politicians. Her top-selling book Stonewalled describes her fight for truth against powerful political forces. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
It's no secret that computers are insecure. The risks are about to get worse, because computers are being embedded into physical devices and will affect lives, not just our data. Many of today’s new computers are not just screens that we stare at, but objects in our world with which we interact. A refrigerator is now a computer that keeps things cold; a car is now a computer with four wheels and an engine. These computers sense us and our environment, and they affect us and our environment. They talk to each other over networks ... and they have physical agency. They drive our cars, pilot our planes, and run our power plants. They control traffic, administer drugs ... and dispatch emergency services. These connected computers and the network that connects them - collectively known as “the internet of things” - affect the world in a direct physical manner. Computers fail differently than most other machines: It's not just that they can be attacked remotely - they can be attacked all at once. It’s impossible to take an old refrigerator and infect it with a virus or recruit it into a denial-of-service botnet, and a car without an internet connection simply can’t be hacked remotely. But that computer with four wheels and an engine? It - along with all other cars of the same make and model - can be made to run off the road, all at the same time. Do we want to allow vulnerable automobiles on the streets and highways during the weeks before a new security patch is written, tested, and distributed?
Note: A 2015 New York Times article called the Internet of Things a "train wreck in privacy and security". Read how a hacked vehicle may have resulted in journalist Michael Hastings' death in 2013. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy and the risks of wireless technologies.
At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services. Several of those businesses claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States — about half those in use last year. The database reviewed by The Times ... reveals people’s travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day. These companies sell, use or analyze the data to cater to advertisers, retail outlets and even hedge funds. It’s a hot market, with sales of location-targeted advertising reaching an estimated $21 billion this year. Businesses say their interest is in the patterns, not the identities, that the data reveals. They note that the information apps collect is tied not to someone’s name or phone number but to a unique ID. But those with access to the raw data — including employees or clients — could still identify a person without consent. They could follow someone they knew, by pinpointing a phone that regularly spent time at that person’s home address. More than 1,000 popular apps contain location-sharing code from such companies. Google’s Android system was found to have about 1,200 apps with such code, compared with about 200 on Apple’s iOS.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing privacy news articles from reliable major media sources.
By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did. He leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people. The key to Snowden’s effectiveness, according to Thomas Devine, the legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), was that he practised “civil disobedience” rather than “lawful” whistleblowing. “None of the lawful whistleblowers who tried to expose the government’s warrantless surveillance ... had any success,” Devine told me. “They came forward ... but the government just said, ‘They’re lying. We’re not doing those things.’ And the whistleblowers couldn’t prove their case because the government had classified all the evidence.” The NSA whistleblowers were not leftwing peace nuts. They had spent their professional lives inside the US intelligence apparatus – devoted, they thought, to the protection of the homeland and defense of the constitution. They were political conservatives, highly educated, respectful of evidence, careful with words. And they were saying, on the basis of personal experience, that the US government was being run by people who were willing to break the law and bend the state’s awesome powers to their own ends. They were saying that laws and technologies had secretly been put in place that threatened to overturn the democratic governance Americans took for granted and shrink their liberties to a vanishing point.
Note: The article above was is adapted from Mark Hertsgaard’s book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has been anathema for most of China’s economy but the novel coronavirus was a shot in the arm for the state’s surveillance apparatus, which has expanded rapidly in pursuit of the epidemic’s spread. Facial recognition cameras, phone tracking technology and voluntary registrations have all been deployed to monitor the flow of people and the possible transmission of disease. “The Chinese surveillance systems currently ... has two purposes: the first is to monitor public health and the second is to maintain political control,” says Francis Lee, a professor ... at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Once the outbreak is controlled, however, it’s unclear whether the government will retract its new powers. While facial recognition provides a way to monitor crowds from a distance, governments have deployed close-range means of tracking individuals too. The municipal government of Hangzhou worked with ecommerce giant Alibaba to launch a feature through the company’s mobile wallet app, AliPay, that assesses the user’s risk of infection. The app generates a QR code. Guards at checkpoints in residential buildings and elsewhere can then scan that code to gain details about the user. John Bacon-Shone ... at Hong Kong University thinks that the ongoing threat of outbreaks will provide a constant justification for the new systems. “I am rather pessimistic that there will be full rollback of data collection once it has been implemented,” Bacon-Shone says.
Note: Remember all of the privacy and freedoms given up after 9/11? How many of those have been given back? Learn more about the serious risk of the Coronavirus increasing the surveillance state in this excellent article. 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.
Note: Read more about Samsung's privacy issues in this 2013 Houston Chronicle article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
“When the government tracks the location of a cellphone it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user,” wrote John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, in a 2018 ruling that prevented the government from obtaining location data from cellphone towers without a warrant. “We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the decision, Carpenter v. United States. With that judicial intent in mind, it is alarming to read a new report in The Wall Street Journal that found the Trump administration “has bought access to a commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones in America and is using it for immigration and border enforcement.” The data used by the government comes not from the phone companies but from a location data company, one of many that are quietly and relentlessly collecting the precise movements of all smartphone-owning Americans through their phone apps. Many apps — weather apps or coupon apps, for instance — gather and record location data without users’ understanding what the code is up to. That data can then be sold to third party buyers including, apparently, the government. The courts are [an] imperfect venue for protecting Fourth Amendment rights. The Carpenter ruling applies only to location data captured by cellphone towers and not to location data streamed from smartphone apps.
A review of hundreds of Facebook’s patent applications reveals that the company has considered tracking almost every aspect of its users’ lives: where you are, who you spend time with, whether you’re in a romantic relationship, which brands and politicians you’re talking about. The company has even attempted to patent a method for predicting when your friends will die. Taken together, Facebook’s patents show a commitment to collecting personal information, despite widespread public criticism of the company’s privacy policies and a promise from its chief executive to “do better.” “A patent portfolio is a map of how a company thinks about where its technology is going,” said Jason M. Schultz, a law professor at New York University. One patent application discusses predicting whether you’re in a romantic relationship using information such as how many times you visit another user’s page [and] the number of people in your profile picture. Another proposes using your posts and messages to infer personality traits ... then using those characteristics to select which news stories or ads to display. Another patent application discusses tracking your weekly routine and sending notifications to other users of deviations from the routine. In addition, it describes using your phone’s location in the middle of the night to establish where you live. As long as Facebook keeps collecting personal information, we should be wary.
Last year an American company microchipped dozens of its workers. Of the 90 people who work at [Three Square Market] headquarters, 72 are now chipped. Two months ago, the company ... started chipping people with dementia. If someone wanders off and gets lost, police can scan the chip “and they will know all their medical information, what drugs they can and can’t have, they’ll know their identity.” So far, Three Square Market has chipped 100 people, but plans to do 10,000. The company has just launched a mobile phone app that pairs the chip with the phone’s GPS, enabling the implantee’s location to be tracked. Last week, it started using it with people released from prison on probation. Some Chinese companies are using sensors in helmets and hats to scan workers’ brainwaves. There are tech companies selling products that can ... monitor keystrokes and web usage, and even photograph [employees] using their computers’ webcams. All this can be done remotely. Monitoring is built into many of the jobs that form the so-called “gig economy”. It’s not easy to object to the constant surveillance when you’re desperate for work. What has surprised [Cass Business School professor André Spicer] is how willingly people in better-paid jobs have taken to it. Spicer has watched the shift away from “monitoring something like emails to monitoring people’s bodies – the rise of bio-tracking basically. The monitoring of your vital signs, emotions, moods.”
Note: Author James Bloodworth describes the high tech monitoring of workers at Amazon warehouses in his new book, "Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on microchip implants and the disappearance of privacy.
Chinese companies are picking their employees’ brains - literally - with mind-reading devices designed to improve efficiency and performance. Workers are being outfitted with safety helmet-like caps that monitor brain waves and send the information to computers that use artificial intelligence algorithms to detect emotional spikes, like depression, anxiety and rage. The Orwellian technology has been used on factory employees, train conductors and workers at State Grid Zhejian Electric Power. State Grid, which has 40,000 employees ... said the company’s profits have increased by about $315 million since it implemented the surveillance caps in 2014. The government-funded brain-monitoring project, called Neuro Cap, has been implemented in more than a dozen factories and businesses. Jin Jia, an associate professor of brain science and cognitive psychology at Ningbo University, which is hosting the project, said the brain caps allow workers to be better managed. Qiao Zhian, professor of management psychology at Beijing Normal University, said the devices could give companies a competitive boost - but warned they could also violate privacy in the worst way. “There is no law or regulation to limit the use of this kind of equipment in China. The employer may have a strong incentive to use the technology for higher profit, and the employees are usually in too weak a position to say no,” he said. “The selling of Facebook data is bad enough. Brain surveillance can take privacy abuse to a whole new level.”
At 24, [Christopher Wylie] came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that went on to claim a major role in the Leave campaign for Britain’s EU membership referendum, and later became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trump’s election campaign. In 2014, Steve Bannon ... was Wylie’s boss. And Robert Mercer, the secretive US hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analytica’s investor. The idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology – “information operations” – then turn it on the US electorate. By , Steve Bannon had become Trump’s chief strategist. Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL, had won contracts with the US State Department and was pitching to the Pentagon, and Wylie was genuinely freaked out. “It’s insane,” he told me one night. “The company has created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans. And now they want to work with the Pentagon? It’s like Nixon on steroids.” He ended up showing me a tranche of documents that laid out the secret workings behind Cambridge Analytica. Wylie ... came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.
Note: Billionaire Robert Mercer used this new new technology to build a corporate empire capable of swinging elections by using military propaganda strategies on civilian populations. The above article further details how mass media is being combined with Big Data to produce powerful new forms of mind control. Watch an astounding video revealing how Cambridge Analytica has successfully manipulated national elections around the world.
New smart energy meters that the Government wants to be installed in millions of homes will leave householders vulnerable to cyber attacks. The intelligence agency GCHQ ... raised concerns over the security of the meters, which could enable hackers to steal personal details and defraud consumers by tampering with their bills. The Government wants every home in the country to have a smart meter, but only 8 million out of 27 million households have so far signed up to the Ł11 billion scheme. Cyber security experts say that making the meters universal will make them more attractive to hackers because the potential returns are so much greater if they can hack every meter using the same software. In some foreign countries hackers have already attacked smart meter networks to defraud customers. Criminals are able to artificially inflate meter readings, making bills higher. They then try to intercept payments, and if they simply skim off the difference between the real reading and the false reading, energy companies will think the bill has been paid normally. Another potential problem is the meters being used as a “Trojan horse” to access other computers and gadgets around the home if the meters are able to “talk” to the other devices. That would potentially give hackers the ability to steal personal information that could be sold on to other criminals.
Note: This 2015 New York Times article calls 'smart' devices like these meters, "a train wreck in privacy and security." The networked computerization of everyday objects often means that these objects can spy on you, accelerating the disappearance of privacy in the name of convenience. Watch an excellent documentary uncovering the serious dangers of smart meters.
The National Security Agency has apparently been way ahead of Apple or Amazon. The agency has at its disposal voice recognition technology that it employs to identify terrorists, government spies, or anyone they choose — with just a phone call, according to a report by The Intercept. By using recorded audio, the NSA is able to create a "voiceprint," or a map of qualities that mark a voice as singular, and identify the person speaking. According to a classified memo ... the agency has employed this technology since at least 2006, with the document referencing technology "that identifies people by the sound of their voices." In fact, the NSA used such technology during Operation Iraqi Freedom, when analysts were able to verify audio thought to be of Saddam Hussein speaking. It suggests that national security operatives had access to high-level voice technology long before Amazon, Apple and Google's solutions became cultural touchstones. A "voiceprint" is "a dynamic computer model of the individual's vocal characteristics," the publication explained, created by an algorithm analyzing features like pitch and mouth shape. Then, using the NSA's formidable bank of recorded audio files, the agency is able to match the speaker to an identity. Identifying people through their voiceprints is a skill at which the "NSA reigns supreme," according to a leaked document from 2008. And, they're only getting better.
Note: As this BBC article from 1999 shows, mass surveillance systems with voice recognition capability have been in use for many years. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Two New York Times reporters learned in 2004 that the George W. Bush administration was secretly wiretapping Americans, and collecting their phone and email records. The reporters’ attempt to publish their findings were thwarted by the administration’s intense and successful lobbying of their editors. That effort ... had an unlikely ally: Rep. Jane Harman of Los Angeles, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Details of the far-reaching, legally unauthorized surveillance program remained secret until the Times published the article in late 2005. The newspaper’s interactions with administration officials, and Harman’s role, were described by former Times reporter James Risen this month in the Intercept, the investigative publication where he now works. The story on the program known as Stellar Wind was ready for publication before the November 2004 election, when Bush was on the ballot, but NSA Director Michael Hayden and other administration officials told Times editors, in phone calls and face-to-face meetings, that publication would damage national security and endanger lives, Risen said. He said the officials were joined in that effort by Harman, one of a handful of congressional leaders who had been briefed on the program and were enlisted by the White House to contact the Times. Members of Congress learned later that the NSA had not been seeking warrants from a secret court, as required by law, before wiretapping calls.
Note: James Risen is a courageous hero who shared two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting around 9/11 and massive government surveillance. His recent article in The Intercept describes how a "marketplace of secrets in Washington" supports the US national security apparatus, and is used by corrupt government officials to manipulate the news.
Forget swiping a credit card or badge to buy food at work. One Wisconsin-based tech firm is offering to install rice-size microchips in its employees' hands. Three Square Market will be the first firm in the U.S. to use the device, which was approved by the FDA in 2004, CEO Todd Westby told CNBC on Monday. "We think it's the right thing to do for advancing innovation just like the driverless car basically did in recent months," he said. The company, which provides technology for break-room markets or mini-market kiosks, is anticipating over 50 employees to be voluntarily chipped. Westby said he and his family will be chipped, too. The chip, which costs $300 per implant, is inserted with a needle between the thumb and forefinger. Once an employee has the chip installed, he or she can purchase food in the break room, open doors and log into computers. And for those who may be concerned about Big Brother watching, Westby said there is no way for employees to be tracked. "Unlike your cell phone that is trackable and traceable pretty much no matter where you are, this device is only readable if you're within six inches of a proximity reader," he said. Three Square Market's partner, BioHax International in Sweden, has already started using the microchips in about 150 of its employees.
Note: A Swedish company's chief executive was recently "chipped" live on stage to promote this dubious technology. And do you really think they are not trackable? Read about the agenda to chip all people in this powerful essay and these news articles.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia are mounting a bipartisan rebellion against President Donald Trump’s commission on vote fraud by either declining to release any of the requested data or by providing only limited information to the panel. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity's request for extensive personal information about voters has ignited a firestorm in many states, including from both Republican and Democrat officials who oversee elections. The panel is seeking "dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information." Nineteen states - both red and blue - and D.C. are flat-out refusing to comply with the request, citing privacy concerns and some claiming the 15-member vote fraud panel is politically-motivated. Many officials have expressed disbelief and outrage at the commission's call to hand over a staggering amount of voter data, some of which they say is confidential or sensitive. It is unclear how the commission plans to move forward after the backlash. The panel is slated to meet later this month.
Note: After several lawsuits, the voting panel is now telling states to hold off on sending data. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing elections corruption news articles from reliable major media sources. And don't miss the critically important information provided in our Elections Information Center.
Sensitive personal details relating to almost 200 million US citizens have been accidentally exposed by a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee. The 1.1 terabytes of data includes birthdates, home addresses, telephone numbers and political views of nearly 62% of the entire US population. The data was available on a publicly accessible Amazon cloud server. Anyone could access the data. The information seems to have been collected from a wide range of sources - from posts on controversial banned threads on the social network Reddit, to committees that raised funds for the Republican Party. The information was stored in spreadsheets uploaded to a server owned by Deep Root Analytics. It had last been updated in January. Although it is known that political parties routinely gather data on voters, this is the largest breach of electoral data in the US to date and privacy experts are concerned about the sheer scale of the data gathered. "This is not just sensitive, it's intimate information, predictions about people's behaviour, opinions and beliefs that people have never decided to disclose to anyone," [said] Privacy International's policy officer Frederike Kaltheuner. However, the issue of data collection and using computer models to predict voter behaviour is not just limited to marketing firms - Privacy International says that the entire online advertising ecosystem operates in the same way.
Note: Elites like hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer have been backing a major effort to produce powerful new forms of mind control by combining mass media with Big Data. As the data collected for this purpose becomes increasingly accessible, privacy disappears.
The C.I.A. developed tools to spy on Mac computers by injecting software into the chips that control the computers’ fundamental operations, according to the latest cache of classified government documents published on Thursday by WikiLeaks. All of the surveillance tools that have been disclosed were designed to be installed on individual phones or computers. But the effects could be much wider. Cisco Systems, for example, warned customers this week that many of its popular routers, the backbone of computer networks, could be hacked using the C.I.A.’s techniques. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has offered to share the precise software code used by the C.I.A.’s cyberweapons with the affected companies. But major tech companies have been reluctant to directly engage with him for fear of violating American laws. The spy software described in the latest documents was designed to be injected into a Mac’s firmware, a type of software preloaded in the computer’s chips. It would then act as a “listening post,” broadcasting the user’s activities to the C.I.A. whenever the machine was connected to the internet. Tools that operate at the chip level can hide their existence and avoid being wiped out by routine software updates. Under an agreement struck during the Obama administration, intelligence agencies were supposed to share their knowledge of most security vulnerabilities with tech companies. The C.I.A. documents suggest that some key vulnerabilities were kept secret.
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