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"I don't think in the last two or three hundred years we've faced such a concatenation
of  problems all at the same time.... If we are to solve the issues that are ahead of us,

we are going to need to think in completely different ways."

 Paddy Ashdown, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina 2002 -2006

BBC Radio 4, 'Start The Week', 30 April 2007
SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY NEWS
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Introduction
'Surveillance & The Corrosion Of Democracy'

"Fears that the United States, Britain and other English-speaking countries are using a cold-war eavesdropping network to gain a commercial edge roused passions across Europe today, even after Washington and London roundly denied the notion. The subject kept the European Parliament in Brussels entranced for hours and drew banner headlines across the continent. One political cartoon showed Britain in bed with the United States, despite Britain's membership in the European Union. The hubbub grew from a report prepared for the European Parliament that found that communications intercepted by a network called Echelon twice helped American companies gain an advantage over Europeans. "
An Electronic Spy Scare Is Alarming Europe
New York Times, 24 February 2000

"Everywhere in the world, every day, people's phone calls, emails and faxes are monitored by Echelon, a secret government surveillance network. No, it's not fiction straight out of George Orwell's 1984. It's reality, says former spy Mike Frost in an interview broadcast on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Feb. 27. 'It's not the world of fiction. That's the way it works. I've been there,' Frost tells CBS News 60 Minutes Correspondent Steve Kroft. 'I was trained by you guys,' says the former Canadian intelligence agent, referring to the United States' National Security Agency.  The NSA runs Echelon with Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand as a series of listening posts around the world that eavesdrop on terrorists, drug lords and hostile foreign governments.  But to find out what the bad guys are up to, all electronic communications, including those of the good guys, must be captured and analyzed for key words by super computers. That is a fact that makes Frost uncomfortable, even though he believes the world needs intelligence gathering capabilities like Echelon. 'My concern is no accountability and nothing, no safety net in place for the innocent people who fall through the cracks,' he tells Kroft... Democracies usually have laws against spying on citizens. But Frost says Echelon members could ask another member to spy for them in an end run around those laws.  For example, Frost tells Kroft that his Canadian intelligence boss spied on British government officials for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. '(Thatcher) had two ministers that she said, quote, 'they weren't on side,' unquote...So my boss...went to McDonald House in London and did intercept traffic from these two ministers,' claims Frost.  'The British Parliament now have total deniability. They didn't do anything. We did it for them.'   America politicians may also have been eavesdropped on, says Margaret Newsham, a woman who worked at Menwith Hill in England, the NSA's largest spy station. She says she was shocked to hear the voice of U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R.-S.C.) on a surveillance headset about 20 years ago. 'To my knowledge, all (the intercepted voices)...would be...Russian, Chinese... foreign,' she tells Kroft. The exposing of such possible abuses of Echelon will surely add to the growing firestorm in Europe over the system. On Feb. 23, the European Parliament issued a report accusing the U.S. of using Echelon for commercial spying on two separate occasions, to help American companies win lucrative contracts over European competitors. The U.S. State Department denies such spying took place and will not even acknowledge the existence of the top secret Echelon project. Rep. Porter Goss (R.-Fla), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which has oversight of the NSA, does acknowledge that the U.S. has the capability to pick up any phone call, and that even his own conversations could have been monitored."
Ex-Snoop Confirms Echelon Network
CBS News (60 Minutes), 24 February 2000

More About Echelon
  • Watch CBS documentary on Echelon.
  • The ACLU has an extensive site about Echelon. Click here for Echelonwatch.
  • The New York Times covered the hubbub at the European Parliament. Click here for the Feb. 24 2000 story.
  • The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has more about Echelon. Click here to see its report.


"There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement - where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion - and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever. These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power."
Snowden’s open letter to Brazil: Read the text
Washington Post, 17 December 2015

"The head of MI6 has said the information revolution represents both an "existential threat and a golden opportunity". In rare public comments Alex Younger, who took over as Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service in 2014, said it had fundamentally changed the operating environment for the intelligence community.... Intelligence officials also warned the "internet of things" would bring new threats. Chris Inglis, former deputy director of the US National Security Agency, said people should "just say no" to having household appliances hooked up to the internet."
MI6 chief says information revolution is 'existential threat and golden opportunity'
Telegraph, 20 September 2016

"The majority of the UK cabinet were never told the security services had been secretly harvesting data from the phone calls, texts and emails of a huge number of British citizens since 2005, Nick Clegg has disclosed. Clegg says he was informed of the practice by a senior Whitehall official soon after becoming David Cameron’s deputy in 2010, but that“only a tiny handful” of cabinet ministers were also told – likely to include the home secretary, the foreign secretary and chancellor. He said he was astonished to learn of the capability and asked for its necessity to be reviewed. The former deputy prime minister’s revelation in the Guardian again raises concerns about the extent to which the security services felt they were entitled to use broadly drawn legislative powers to carry out intrusive surveillance and keep this information from democratically elected politicians. The government finally admitted on Wednesday that the mass surveillance of British citizens began in 2001 after 9/11 and was stepped up in 2005, using powers under national security directions largely hidden in the 1984 Telecommunications Act. It is not known if government law officers sanctioned the use of the act in this way, but it appears the intelligence and security committee responsible for parliamentary oversight was not informed, adding to the impression of a so-called deep state operating outside the scrutiny of parliament."
Only 'tiny handful' of ministers knew of mass surveillance, Clegg reveals
Guardian, 5 November 2015

"British spooks intercepted emails from US and UK media organisations and rated ‘investigative journalists’ alongside terrorists and hackers as potential security threats, secret documents reveal. Internal advice circulated by intelligence chiefs at the Government spy centre GCHQ claims ‘journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security’. Intelligence documents leaked by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden also show that British security officers scooped up 70,000 emails in just 10 minutes during one interception exercise in 2008. "
British spooks tapped emails from UK and US media
Mail, 19 January 2015

"Given that spies can routinely break through just about any security software, virtually all Internet users are at risk of a data attack.... Intelligence agencies have adopted 'plausible deniability' as their guiding principle for Internet operations. To ensure their ability to do so, they seek to make it impossible to trace the author of the attack. It's a stunning approach with which the digital spies deliberately undermine the very foundations of the rule of law around the globe. This approach threatens to transform the Internet into a lawless zone in which superpowers and their secret services operate according to their own whims with very few ways to hold them accountable for their actions."
The Digital Arms Race: NSA Preps America for Future Battle
Der Speigel, 17 January 2015

"Even if you power off your cell phone, the U.S. government can turn it back on. That's what ex-spy Edward Snowden revealed in last week's interview with NBC's Brian Williams. "
How the NSA can 'turn on' your phone remotely
CNN, 6 June 2014

"The head of the FBI says he understands why people worry about the scope of the government's powers, and in fact, he agrees with them. 'I believe people should be suspicious of government power. I am,' Director James Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning. 'I think this country was founded by people who were worried about government power so they divided it among three branches,' he added. ...Comey assumed his top post shortly after the Snowden revelations came to light last summer. "
FBI chief: ‘Be suspicious’ of government power
The Hill, 21 May 2014

"When it comes to communication [former US President Jimmy] Carter is evidently a man of his generation, shunning electronic devices for snail mail. He told [satirist Stephen] Colbert that he had recently written a letter to Pope Francis.... and steers clear of e-mail for fear of being monitored by the National Security Agency. The suggestion caused something of a stir in America and prompted a swift denial from the intelligence agency's director. Carter is yet to be convinced, noting that regulations controlling the Government's scope to spy on private communications had been significantly relaxed since he passed them. 'They are not monitoring me now but they record every message that you transmit in America - and probably in Great Britain as well - and later if they want to monitor that message they can do so,' he says."
Did the other presidents call?
London Times, Times2 Section, 9 April 2014, Print Edition, P6

".... in reality NSA has been collecting word for word 'content' of the American citizens. So that is something the NSA is lying about. And they've lied about the abuses in the past. NSA has targeted congress, they've targeted the Supreme Court. They've targeted top level generals and admirals. They've targeted the press and the media. And a whole bunch of other folks: lawyers and law firms. This was between 2002 and 2005 which I was witness to when I held that sort of information in my hand. NSA is not talking about that either.... The meat of the issue is the network to do this is still intact. So the capability exists. Even if you believe this President is the most benevolent in the world, what about the next President, and the one after that and the one after that, and the potential for abuse with future Presidents? When this system, this monster that we've set up, still exists, anyone down the line can use that monster to basically turn our country into a totalitarian police state. I mean 'all the way' police state. So in my opinion we have to kill this baby in the cradle right now. That means unplug all these nodes around the country and say we will not go after domestic communications, except when we have a warrant ... [against an] individual because we have 'probable cause' they've committed a crime.... Like Ben Franklin [one of the 'founding fathers' of the United States] said, if you're going to give up your freedom and liberty for security you deserve neither .... When I made my oath [of office] it was to make sure I protected the constitution of the United States 'against enemies both foreign and domestic'.... The agency I worked for [the NSA] is now an domestic enemy of our constitution. And it's just a horrific thing that's happened. It has to stop."
Russ Tice, former NSA official and whistleblower
(Interview following speech by President Barack Obama's on NSA 'reform')
NSA whistleblower: Obama reforms won't cage 'this monster'
Reuters, 17 January 2014

"A US official has acknowledged that the NSA likely scoops up data on congressional telephone communications but stopped short of saying whether such action extended to calls made by President Barack Obama. The tense exchange occurred on Tuesday during a hearing on the status of the administration's reforms of the bulk data collection programme exposed last year by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. "
NSA 'probably' collects US Congress telephone call data, official admits
Agence France Presse, 6 February 2014

"MacAskill asked Snowden, almost as an afterthought, whether there was a UK role in this mass data collection. It didn't seem likely to him. MacAskill knew that GCHQ had a longstanding intelligence-sharing relationship with the US, but he was taken aback by Snowden's vehement response. 'GCHQ is worse than the NSA,' Snowden said. 'It's even more intrusive.'.'"
How Edward Snowden went from loyal NSA contractor to whistleblower
Guardian, 1 February 2014

"The power to secretly create government propaganda is among the many hacking tools revealed in the latest batch of Edward Snowden documents. British spies can manipulate online polls -- or trick the world into thinking a video or web page is going viral.  A collection of hacking tools -- some of which are specifically suited to spreading disinformation -- were exposed in a leaked 2012 document provided by Snowden to The Intercept. "
Secret propaganda: British spies can manipulate polls
CNN, 15 July 2014

"GCHQ, Britain’s electronic spying agency, intercepted and stored images of 1.8m Yahoo users taken from their personal webcams even though most of them were not suspected of wrongdoing, documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden show. A secret programme called 'Optic Nerve', run in conjunction with the US National Security Agency, recorded millions of webcam images from ordinary internet users as many as one in 10 of them sexually explicit 'in bulk', the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday. 'Optic Nerve' tapped into Yahoo users’ accounts and took still images from their computer webcams every five minutes. Yahoo reacted angrily to the revelations, denying all knowledge. A spokesperson for the company said the covert surveillance programme represented 'a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy'. "
Leaks show GCHQ captured ordinary internet users’ webcam images
Financial Times, 27 February 2014

'The Death Pangs Of Democracy'

"Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter is so concerned about the NSA spying scandal that he thinks it has essentially resulted in a suspension of American democracy. 'America does not at the moment have a functioning democracy,' he said at an event in Atlanta on Tuesday sponsored by the Atlantik Bruecke, a private nonprofit association working to further the German-U.S. relationship. The association's name is German for 'Atlantic bridge.' Carter’s remarks didn't appear in the American mainstream press but were reported from Atlanta by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, whose Washington correspondent Gregor Peter Schmitz said on Twitter he was present at the event. The story doesn't appear in the English-language section of the Spiegel website and is only available in German."
NSA Controversy: Jimmy Carter Says U.S. 'Has No Functioning Democracy'
International Business Times, 18 July 2013

"Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, has launched a blistering attack on US espionage at the UN general assembly.....She was imprisoned and tortured for her role in a guerilla movement opposed to Brazil's military dictatorship in the 1970s. 'In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy. In the absence of the respect for sovereignty, there is no basis for the relationship among nations.'"
Brazilian president: US surveillance a 'breach of international law'
Guardian, 24 September 2013

In The Pre-Digital Age

"MI5 used hidden electronic surveillance equipment to secretly monitor 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet and at least five Prime Ministers... The extraordinary disclosure comes despite a succession of parliamentary statements that no such bugging ever took place. And it follows a behind-the-scenes row in which senior Whitehall civil servants – backed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown – attempted to suppress the revelation..... top-secret files held by the Security Service show it installed electronic listening devices in three highly sensitive areas of No10 – the Cabinet Room, the Waiting Room and the Prime Minister’s study. It means that for nearly 15 years, all Cabinet meetings, the offices of senior officials and all visitors to the Prime Minister – including foreign leaders – were being bugged. The disclosure is highly shocking in its own right but it will also bring genuine concerns as to why the Cabinet Office still wants to suppress it. Comments from MI5 chief Jonathan Evans suggest that the attempted block was not done on grounds of national security but for wider public interest reasons.This must raise the possibility that the bugging was carried out for political purposes and officials do not want to admit it went on in the past because similar operations are continuing today.... the eavesdropping devices that were first installed in Downing Street in July 1963 at the request of the then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. It is unclear why Macmillan made the extraordinary request...  In all, the equipment monitored the most sensitive areas of Downing Street for around 15 years. It was finally removed on the orders of James Callaghan in about 1977, the year after he took office. The files do not make it clear whether Prime Ministers Heath and Wilson knew there were surveillance devices in No10.... After Wilson stepped down, he co-operated with a book suggesting there had been a plot by Right-wing intelligence officers to undermine him. The claim was later supported by former senior MI5 officer Peter Wright in his banned Spycatcher memoir. It also prompted Callaghan, Wilson’s successor, to launch an investigation into the allegations. The MI5 files indicate that it was Callaghan who finally ordered the surveillance devices to be removed from Downing Street. Despite this, Callaghan made a statement to the House of Commons denying that No10 had ever been bugged."
How MI5 bugged 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet and at least five Prime Ministers for 15 YEARS
Mail On Sunday, 18 April 2010

"When Harold Macmillan called in MI5 in 1963 and asked it to bug his office, he thought the whole world was coming apart.... Macmillan felt he could not trust anybody – but turned for counsel to Dick White, director-general of foreign intelligence service MI6. It is possible that White suggested installing the listening devices in No10 as some kind of insurance policy..... The level of official paranoia at the time cannot be underestimated. But it is the revelation that the bugs were still in place in Downing Street during Harold Wilson’s two administrations, between 1964 and 1970 and 1974 to 1976, which is the most startling. Wilson believed that elements of the Establishment and members of MI5 and MI6 were plotting against him.... Now, despite countless official denials, it appears that Wilson – whose claims that he was under surveillance are often dismissed as the ramblings of an ill and paranoid man – was right."
Stephen Dorril, author of 'MI6 – Fifty Years of Special Operations'
So was Wilson right to be ‘paranoid’ about being spied on?
Mail On Sunday, 18 April 2010

"Paul Scott, the late syndicated columnist, was so paranoid about the CIA wiretapping his Prince George’s County home in the 1960s that he’d make important calls from his neighbor’s house. His teenage son Jim Scott figured his dad was either a shrewd reporter or totally nuts. Not until nearly 45 years later did the son learn that his father’s worries were justified. The insight came in 2007 when the CIA declassified a trove of documents popularly called 'the family jewels.' The papers detailed the agency’s unlawful activities from long ago, including wiretapping the Scott home in District Heights. The operation even had a code name: 'Project Mockingbird.' Jim was floored: The CIA really did eavesdrop on Dad. Now Jim, 64, a retired Navy public relations officer who lives in Anne Arundel County, is waging an operation of his own against the agency. For the past five years, he has sought to declassify and make public any documents Langley might still have on his father and why he was wiretapped..... Between March 12, 1963, and June 15, 1963, phone bugs were installed at the Allen and Scott homes and their Capitol Hill office. But this was no rogue operation: CIA Director John McCone approved the operation 'under pressure,' the documents said, from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. And Kennedy planned it with Robert McNamara, the defense secretary and Vietnam War architect. The wiretap identified many of the reporting team’s sources: a dozen senators; six congressmen; 11 congressional staffers; 16 'government employees,' including a staff member at the White House and some at the vice president’s office; and 'other well-placed individuals,' the documents said. "
Long-ago wiretap inspires a battle with the CIA for more information
Washington Post, 3 March 2013

So What's It Like Now?

"The House of Commons office of Damian Green, the Tories' immigration spokesman, is routinely swept for electronic bugging devices, along with other offices belonging to senior Conservatives, amid fears of covert monitoring, The Independent on Sunday has discovered. Anger surrounding the shadow immigration minister's arrest last week escalated dramatically last night over suspicions of a major bugging scandal inside the Palace of Westminster. The IoS understands that even before his surprise arrest on Thursday Mr Green was aware that his Commons office, phone calls and emails could be under surveillance because of the sensitive nature of his job. The fresh revelations rocked the Commons just days before the high point of the parliamentary calendar, the Queen's Speech, which takes place on Wednesday. Tory leader David Cameron last night said the Prime Minister must denounce the arrest of Mr Green or risk charges of hypocrisy because he 'made his career' from Whitehall leaks. Writing in the News of the World, Mr Cameron added: 'If this approach had been in place in the 1990s, then Gordon Brown would have spent most of his time under arrest.' Several offices within the Commons and Portcullis House belonging to senior Tory MPs and officials are checked regularly by security experts for listening devices and other surveillance equipment. The IoS has learnt that there are 'major concerns' at the highest levels of the Tory party over suspected monitoring by the authorities. Any such monitoring may not be illegal but would be hugely controversial. Last night, a Conservative MP wrote to Gordon Brown demanding an urgent review of the Wilson doctrine, the convention that protects MPs from phonetapping but does not cover other surveillance techniques. It is not known whether a covert device has ever been found during searches. But if the suspicions are proved right, it would have major implications for the protection of parliamentary privilege. Ben Wallace, the Conservative MP for Lancaster & Wyre, said the Wilson doctrine, which dates back to 1966, needed to be changed to cover all forms of surveillance, not just intercepting of calls. He said: 'It is disturbing that the authorities may have exploited the difference between surveillance and intercept in order to pursue Members of Parliament over the past 10 years.'"
Bugging scandal inside the Commons
Independent On Sunday, 30 November 2008

The Arrival Of 'Turnkey Totalitarianism'

"People think, well, yeah, I use Facebook, and maybe the FBI if they made a request, could come and get it, and everyone is much more aware of that because of [former CIA Director] Petraeus. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that all the time nearly everything people do on the internet is permanently recorded, every web search. Do you know what you were thinking one year, two days, three months ago? No, you don’t know, but Google knows, it remembers.... You know, the Stasi had a 10 per cent penetration of East German society, with up to 1 in 10 people being informants at some time in their life. Now in countries that have the highest internet penetration, like Iceland, more than 80 per cent of people are on Facebook, informing about their friends. That information doesn’t [simply] go nowhere. It’s not kept in Iceland, it’s sent back into the US where it IS accessed by US intelligence and where it is given out to any friends or cronies of US intelligence – hundreds of national security letters every day publicly declared and being issued by the US government.... We have this position where as we know knowledge is power, and there’s a mass transfer as a result of literally billions of interceptions per day going from everyone, the average person, into the data vaults of state spying agencies for the big countries, and their cronies – the corporations that help build them that infrastructure. Those groups are already powerful, that’s why they are able to build this infrastructure to intercept on everyone. So they are growing more powerful, concentrating the power in the hands of smaller and smaller groups of people at once, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s extremely dangerous once there is any sort of corruption occurring in the power. Because absolute power corrupts, and when it becomes corrupt, it can affect a lot of people very quickly. Bill Binney, National Security Agency whistleblower, who was the research head of the National Security Agency’s Signals Intelligence Division, describes this as a ‘turnkey totalitarianism’, that all the infrastructure has been built for absolute totalitarianism. It’s just the matter of turning the key..... in general I think the prognosis is very grim. .... What's necessary is that the critical accountability components of society that stop it from going down the tubes entirely, that those people are protected. Those include corruption investigators, journalists, activists, and political parties. These have got to be protected. If they are not protected, then it's all lost.... if we are not able to protect a significant number of people from mass state spying, then the basic democratic and civilian institutions that we are used to – not in the West, I am no glorifier of the West, but in all societies – are going to crumble away. They will crumble away, and they will do so all at once. And that's an extremely dangerous phenomenon. "
Julian Assange
Assange to RT: Entire nations intercepted online, key turned to totalitarian rule
RT, 30 November 2012

"James Bamford has a way of digging up the facts that lend credence to America’s worst privacy fears about its own government. Now the author and investigative reporter who wrote the definitive portraits of the National Security Agency in his books The Puzzle Palace, Body of Secrets and The Shadow Factory has drawn a picture of ubiquitous surveillance that seems mind-boggling even by NSA standards. In his just-published cover story for Wired, Bamford lays out the NSA’s plans for a vast new facility in Bluffdale, Utah that aims to become a storage and analysis hub for the record-breakingly massive collections of Internet traffic data that the NSA hopes to gather in coming years not from just foreign networks, but domestic ones as well. The story adds confirmation to what the New York Times revealed in 2005: that the NSA has engaged in widespread wiretapping of Americans with the consent of firms like AT&T and Verizon. But more interestingly–and more troubling in the eyes of many who value their privacy–it details the Agency’s plans to crack AES encryption, the cryptographic standard certified by the NSA itself in 2009 for military and government use and until now considered uncrackable in any amount of time relevant to mortals. ..... The NSA project now aims to break the 'exaflop barrier' by building a supercomputer a hundred times faster than the fastest existing today, the Japanese 'K Computer.' That code-breaking system is projected to use 200 megawatts of power, about as much as would power 200,000 homes."
NSA's New Data Center And Supercomputer Aim To Crack World's Strongest Encryption
Forbes, 16 March 2012


Each Year It Gets Worse


2017

"Mobile phone data could be used in place of census questions in the future, a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests. The information would allow the ONS to track where people live and work. The ONS tested the idea as part of a government-backed project looking at other data sources for the census. The report said it used commuter flow data from Vodafone users, collected over four weeks in March and April 2016, in three London boroughs.... Commuter flows starting or ending in the south London boroughs of Southwark, Croydon and Lambeth were analysed and compared to data from the last census in 2011. An individual's home location was based on where the phone was located during the night or when switched on in the morning, while a work location was set to where a phone was found between standard working hours, Monday to Friday."
Census 'could use mobile phone data instead of questions'
BBC, 7 November 2017

2016

"Most of the world’s international phone calls, internet traffic, emails, and other communications are sent over a network of undersea cables that connect countries like giant arteries. At spy outposts across the world, the NSA and its partners tap into these cables to monitor the data flowing through them. But Menwith Hill is focused on a different kind of surveillance: eavesdropping on communications as they are being transmitted through the air. According to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Menwith Hill has two main spying capabilities. The first is called FORNSAT, which uses powerful antennae contained within the golf ball-like domes to eavesdrop on communications as they are being beamed between foreign satellites. The second is called OVERHEAD, which uses U.S. government satellites orbiting above targeted countries to locate and monitor wireless communications on the ground below — such as cellphone calls and even WiFi traffic.... As of 2009, Menwith Hill’s foreign satellite surveillance mission, code-named MOONPENNY, was monitoring 163 different satellite data links. The intercepted communications were funneled into a variety of different repositories storing phone calls, text messages, emails, internet browsing histories, and other data. It is not clear precisely how many communications Menwith Hill is capable of tapping into at any one time, but the NSA’s documents indicate the number is extremely large. In a single 12-hour period in May 2011, for instance, its surveillance systems logged more than 335 million metadata records, which reveal information such as the sender and recipient of an email, or the phone numbers someone called and at what time. To keep information about Menwith Hill’s surveillance role secret, the U.S. and U.K. governments have actively misled the public for years through a “cover story” portraying the base as a facility used to provide “rapid radio relay and conduct communications research.” A classified U.S. document, dated from 2005, cautioned spy agency employees against revealing the truth. “It is important to know the established cover story for MHS [Menwith Hill Station] and to protect the fact that MHS is an intelligence collection facility,” the document stated. “Any reference to satellites being operated or any connection to intelligence gathering is strictly prohibited.”... roughly 600 of the personnel at the facility are from U.K. agencies, including employees of the NSA’s British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ....  a new “collection posture” was introduced at the base, the aim being to “collect it all, process it all, exploit it all.” In other words, it would vacuum up as many communications within its reach as technologically possible.... Fabian Hamilton, a member of Parliament based in the nearby city of Leeds.......told The Intercept that he found the secrecy shrouding Menwith Hill to be “offensive.” The revelations about the role it has played in U.S. killing and capture operations, he said, showed there needed to be a full review of its operations. “Any nation-state that uses military means to attack any target, whether it is a terrorist, whether it is legitimate or not, has to be accountable to its electorate for what it does,” Hamilton said. “That’s the basis of our Parliament, it’s the basis of our whole democratic system. How can we say that Menwith can carry out operations of which there is absolutely no accountability to the public? I don’t buy this idea that you say the word ‘security’ and nobody can know anything. We need to know what is being done in our name.”"
Inside Menwith Hill
The Intercept, 6 September 2016

"A secretive police unit tasked with spying on alleged extremists intent on committing serious crimes has been monitoring leading members of the Green party, the Guardian has learned. Newly released documents show that the intelligence unit has been tracking the political activities of the MP Caroline Lucas and Sian Berry, the party’s candidate for London mayor. Some of the monitoring took place as recently as last year and seemed to contradict a pledge from Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police commissioner, that the unit would only target serious criminals rather than peaceful protesters. Extracts from the files show that the police have chronicled how the Green politicians had been speaking out about issues such as government cuts, the far right, police violence, and the visit of the pope. The police’s actions have been described as “chilling” and come weeks after it was accused of abusing its powers by pursuing prominent people over sex abuse claims. The disclosures bring to four the number of elected Green party politicians whose political movements are known to have been recorded in the files of the unit. The files give no indication that they were involved in serious criminal activity. The file on Lucas, which stretches over eight years, records how she gave a speech at an anti-austerity demonstration last June in London. Lucas accused the government of conducting an “ideological war on welfare” at the rally, attended by thousands. Another entry records how she attended a demonstration in February 2014 against disability cuts in Brighton where she has been an MP since 2010. Police noted she “spoke with some of the assembled” journalists. ..... Peter Francis, a whistleblower who worked undercover for the Met, has alleged that the police kept secret files in the 1990s on 10 Labour MPs, including the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, after they had been elected to parliament."
Police anti-extremism unit monitoring senior Green party figures
Guardian, 28 April 2016

"The UK's security services, including GCHQ, MI5 and MI6, have been unlawfully collecting and using mass datasets of personal information for more than 10 years. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has ruled in a judgement published online that the bodies had been collecting data without safeguards or supervision. The setups of 'Bulk Communications Data' (BCD) and 'Bulk Personal Datasets' by the agencies did not comply with the right to privacy (Article 8) in the European Convention on Human Rights..... Both types of datasets have been used as part of criminal investigations, but have been criticised by privacy advocates for being overly intrusive.  The tribunal added that the massive datasets (BPD) "include considerable volumes of data about biographical details, commercial and financial activities, communications and travel"........ The court's ruling comes as the government's Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) is in the final stages of becoming law – it is currently passed through the House of Commons and is being debated by the House of Lords. The Bill has been heavily criticised by numerous committees and officials. Powers included in the IP Bill include bulk collection of data, the ability to remotely hack mobile phones and computers, and the storing of website history. The law is the first time these powers have been specifically written into law."
MI6, MI5 and GCHQ 'unlawfully collected private data for 10 years'
Wired, 17 October 2016

2015

"The British government quietly changed anti-hacking laws to exempt GCHQ and other law enforcement agencies from criminal prosecution, it has been claimed. Details of the change were revealed at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal which is hearing a challenge to the legality of computer hacking by UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The Government amended the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) two months ago."
UK government rewrites surveillance law to get away with hacking and allow cyber attacks, campaigners claim
Independent, 15 May 2015

2014

"Britain's signals intelligence division is stealing screenshots from hundreds of thousands of innocent Yahoo users' webcam videos, according to the Guardian newspaper, which also reported that the years-long operation has swept up a huge haul of intimate photographs. The newspaper said GCHQ has been scooping up the sensitive images by intercepting video chats such as the kind offered by Yahoo Messenger, an effort codenamed OPTIC NERVE. ........The Guardian said that OPTIC NERVE was intended at least in part to identify targets using automatic facial recognition software as they stared into their computer's webcams. But the stockpiling of sexually explicit images of ordinary people had uncomfortable echoes of George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four,' where the authorities — operating under the aegis of 'Big Brother' — fit homes with cameras to monitor the intimate details of people's personal lives. 'At least Big Brother had the decency to install his own cameras,' British media lawyer David Banksy said in a message posted to Twitter after the revelations broke. 'We've had to buy them ourselves.' The collection of nude photographs also raises questions about potential for blackmail. America's National Security Agency has already acknowledged that some analysts have been caught trawling databases for inappropriate material on partners or love interests. Other leaked documents have revealed how U.S. and British intelligence discussed leaking embarrassing material online to blacken the reputations of their targets. GCHQ refused to answer a series of questions about OTPIC NERVE, instead returning the same boilerplate answer it has given to reporters for months."
Report: UK spies collect massive store of nude photos after intercepting Yahoo webcam service
Associated Press, 27 February 2014

2013

“There are a lot more stories to come, a lot more documents that will be covered. It’s important that we understand what it is we’re publishing, so what we say about them is accurate.... It is literally true, without hyperbole, that the goal of the NSA and its partners in the English-speaking world is to eliminate privacy globally. They want to make sure there is no communication that evades their net.”
Glen Grenwald, the journalist who broke the Snowden NSA revelations
‘A Lot’ More NSA Documents to Come
Wired, 27 December 2013

"Edward Snowden is to deliver this year’s Channel 4 Alternative Christmas Message, the broadcaster has confirmed. The whistleblower, who revealed the mass surveillance programmes organised by the US and other governments, will broadcast his message at 4.15pm on Christmas Day. In his first TV interview since [fleeing] to Russia in May, Snowden lays out his vision for why privacy matters and why he believes mass indiscriminate surveillance by governments of their people is wrong....  During his address, Snowden says: 'Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person. A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalysed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.'...The Alternative Christmas Message will broadcast on Channel 4 at 4.15pm on Christmas Day. It will be available to view on 4oD later today."
Edward Snowden will deliver Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message
Independent, 24 December 2013

"James Goodale has a message for journalists: Wake up. In his new book, Fighting for the Press (CUNY Journalism Press, 2013), Goodale, chief counsel to The New York Times when its editors published the Pentagon Papers in 1971, argues that President Obama is worse for press freedom than former President Richard Nixon was. The Obama administration has prosecuted more alleged leakers of national security information under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined, a course critics say is overly aggressive. Former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller wrote in a March op-ed that the administration 'has a particular, chilling intolerance' for those who leak. If the Obama administration indicts WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act, Goodale argues, the president will have succeeded where Nixon failed by using the act to 'end-run' the First Amendment.'"
James Goodale: It’s a bad time for press freedoms
Columbia Journalism Review, 19 March 2013

"Europeans, take note: The U.S. government has granted itself authority to secretly snoop on you. That’s according to a new report produced for the European Parliament, which has warned that a U.S. spy law renewed late last year authorizes 'purely political surveillance on foreigners' data' if it is stored using U.S. cloud services like those provided by Google, Microsoft and Facebook.... According to [Caspar] Bowden, the 2008 FISA amendment created a power of 'mass surveillance' specifically targeted at the data of non-U.S. persons located outside America, which applies to cloud computing. This means that U.S. companies with a presence in the EU can be compelled under a secret surveillance order, issued by a secret court, to hand over data on Europeans. Because non-American citizens outside the United States have been deemed by the court not to fall under the search and seizure protections of the Fourth Amendment, it opens the door to an unprecedented kind of snooping. 'It's like putting a mind control drug in the water supply, which only affects non-Americans,' says Bowden... Most countries’ spy agencies routinely monitor real-time communications like emails and phone calls of groups under suspicion on national security grounds. However, what makes FISA different is that it explicitly authorizes the targeting of real-time communications and dormant cloud data linked to 'foreign-based political organizations'—not just suspected terrorists or foreign government agents. Bowden says FISA is effectively 'a carte blanche for anything that furthers U.S. foreign policy interests' and legalizes the monitoring of European journalists, activists, and politicians who are engaged in any issue in which the United States has a stake. FISA, according to Bowden, expressly makes it lawful for the United States to do 'continuous mass-surveillance of ordinary lawful democratic political activities,' and could even go as far as to force U.S. cloud providers like Google to provide a live 'wiretap' of European users’ data."
FISA renewal: Report suggests spy law allows mass surveillance of European citizens
Slate (Blog), 8 January 2013

2012

"[British] Home Secretary Theresa May said the proposed surveillance law would 'save lives' .... But the committee's MPs and peers are likely to encourage the police and law enforcement agencies to work out a much simpler scheme that the public can trust. The message is likely to be 'go back to the drawing board and come and talk to us when you have something fresh'. As regular Register readers will know, the surveillance plans now being re-examined have been touted to successive governments by the intelligence services for years with little change to any details other than the name. The MPs are likely to offer fierce opposition to the proposals, which would allow the Home Office to wire network traffic probes into the public internet anywhere it chose, for this or any successor government to use for any purpose it chose....The report will be another setback for the Home Secretary: in 2010 the former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Macdonald was asked to review her plan to monitor citizens online. He previously called the project to mine the UK internet: A paranoid fantasy which would destroy everything that makes living worthwhile. This database would be an unimaginable hellhouse of personal private information. It would be a complete readout of every citizen's life in the most intimate and demeaning detail.... The two panels' highly critical reports will be an expected disappointment for the Home Office. They are the latest in a series of spectacular disasters for career spy Charles Farr, who three years ago had hoped to land the top job at the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and become 'C'."
Parliament to unleash barrage of criticism on Snoopers' Charter
The Register, 10 December 2012

"The cable boxes of the future could be able to detect when viewers are cuddling on the sofa and automatically serve adverts for contraceptives. U.S. cable provider Verizon has applied to patent a set-top box technology that can observe what's going on in the room and show viewers adverts based on what it detects. In U.S. Patent Application 20120304206 the company suggests it could detect when people are 'cuddling' then show 'a commercial for a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers [...] etc.'. The technology would integrate a range of sensors into their products, including thermal imaging cameras, microphones and motion sensors, to detect the mood their audience and tailor media content to suit. Privacy campaigners called the new technology a 'privacy nightmare waiting around the corner' and called for it to be reined in 'before consumers lose control for good'. It has disturbing echoes of George Orwell's dystopia 1984, where the population were constantly watched by authorities through cameras integrated in their television screens....  This needs to be reined in before consumers lose control for good.'"
The TV box that can detect when you're cuddling on the sofa and show you an advert for condoms
Mail, 6 December 2012

"Everything we do on the Internet leaves a trail back to us. Search engine entries, shopping lists, e-mail addresses and so much more which is ripe for the taking. Now governments and their intelligence agencies want a piece of that action and they have new tools to ascertain our intentions and possible future actions.... There have been a series of related and interesting developments in the field of global intelligence gathering. The NSA is building a brand new data center in Utah in order to connect with some new intelligence sharing systems such as the Defense Intelligence Enterprise and the Global Information Grid.... most people would not appreciate their private conversations end up on foreign military or intelligence networks.... It goes on all the time, you could look at Project Echelon, Project Groundbreaker, Project Trailblazer and many others. Why do you think that the head of the CIA is gloating about being about to glean intelligence through your devices and net-centric applications. It is a gold mine for them and they have reaped a bonanza from it. CIA director David Petraeus put his cards on the table because he hinted about the next target, it will be all of data from the smart meters that have been put in place in the past few years. It wouldn’t be hard to tell how many people are living in a certain home from electricity records or which appliances are used the most. Will we be deemed terrorists from some poorly programmed profiling software based on our paper and data trail? Mistakes happen all the time, from faulty no-fly lists to swat team wrong door raids."
Trapped In The Grid: How Net-Centric Devices And Appliances Provide Voluminous Information To Intelligence Agencies And Their Business Partners
StratRisks, 22 March 2012

"When people download a film from Netflix to a flatscreen, or turn on web radio, they could be alerting unwanted watchers to exactly what they are doing and where they are. Spies will no longer have to plant bugs in your home - the rise of 'connected' gadgets controlled by apps will mean that people 'bug' their own homes, says CIA director David Petraeus. The CIA claims it will be able to 'read' these devices via the internet - and perhaps even via radio waves from outside the home. Everything from remote controls to clock radios can now be controlled via apps - and chip company ARM recently unveiled low-powered, cheaper chips which will be used in everything from fridges and ovens to doorbells. The resultant chorus of 'connected' gadgets will be able to be read like a book - and even remote-controlled, according to CIA Director David Petraeus, according to a recent report by Wired's 'Danger Room' blog. Petraeus says that web-connected gadgets will 'transform' the art of spying - allowing spies to monitor people automatically without planting bugs, breaking and entering or even donning a tuxedo to infiltrate a dinner party.  ' 'Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,' said Petraeus. 'Particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft. Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters - all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing.' Petraeus was speaking to a venture capital firm about new technologies which aim to add processors and web connections to previously 'dumb' home appliances such as fridges, ovens and lighting systems. This week, one of the world's biggest chip companies, ARM, has unveiled a new processor built to work inside 'connected' white goods."
The CIA wants to spy on you through your TV
Mail, 16 March 2012

2011

"Sir Richard Dearlove, Britain’s former chief spymaster has said the country should start spying on its Eurozone neighbours to protect the economy as the common currency is wracked by national defaults. Sir Richard Dearlove, who served as head of MI6 until 2004, said that Britain must not be 'squeamish' about using the intelligence services to defend its economic interests. The former C said central banks like the Bank of England maintained extensive networks of contacts to secure information on future developments. But specialist intelligence agencies should also undertake the task of financial security. 'I am addressing the future of the euro and how defaults affect us economically,' he told the Global Strategy Forum. 'Efficient central bankers should be able to handle themselves but I am indicating they could and might need help from time to time on the currency issue.' Sir Richard added that 2008 financial crisis had changed his views on the role of intelligence agencies in protecting the economy. Britain needed to be 'forewarned and forearmed’ in anticipation of a future crisis. He said: 'I don’t think we should be squeamish about using all means to protect ourselves financially.'.... As one of the highest regarded global spy agencies, the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, has deep ties with its intelligence counterparts across Europe. Sir Richard acknowledged that MI6 was a leader in efforts to integrate Europe’s intelligence agencies. By ordering the foreign intelligence agency to actively spy on its partners, the government would risk a backlash from the country’s closest neighbours and allies. Countries vulnerable to quitting the euro would be sure to view the move as an act of selfishness at a time of national weakness.... Sir Richard noted that the Bank of England had effectively intelligence capabilities – though it did not classify these activities as spying. As such MI6 would play a subordinate role to the Bank. Sir Richard was appointed head of MI6 in 1999 and was head of the organisation during the September 11 attacks on the US by al Qaeda. When he retired in 2004, the final year of his career had been overshadowed by controversy over the dossier used by the government to accuse Iraq of pursuing a secret Weapons of Mass Destruction programme.'
Britain should start spying on Eurozone neighbours, former MI6 chief says
Telegraph, 5 July 2011

2010

"The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.... In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space."
A hidden world, growing beyond control
Washington Post, 19 July 2010

"Fraudulent bankers are more of a danger to society than terrorists and the failure to reassure people that their money is safe is an 'absolute failure of public policy', a former Director of Public Prosecutions says today. Writing in The Times, Sir Ken Macdonald says that the systems for regulating markets and for prosecuting market crime have completely broken down...In his article, Sir Ken lambasts the 'liberty-sapping addictions' of the Home Office and the 'paranoiac paraphernalia of national databases and ID cards'. He also attacks the rush to 'bring in lots of terror law, the tougher the better'. Rather than ensuring that people's money and financial security 'will not be stolen from them', legislators wanted 'criminal justice to be an auction of fake toughness', he says. Sir Ken has previously criticised government plans to extend the time that terrorism suspects could be held without charge beyond 28 days; and, recently, plans for increased surveillance and data retention."
Sir Ken Macdonald rounds on Britain's banking robbers
London Times, 23 February 2009

2009

"A former head of MI5 has accused the government of exploiting the fear of terrorism and trying to bring in laws that restrict civil liberties. In an interview in a Spanish newspaper, published in the Daily Telegraph, Dame Stella Rimington, 73, also accuses the US of 'tortures'....Dame Stella, who stood down as the director general of the security service in 1996, has previously been critical of the government's policies, including its attempts to extend pre-charge detention for terror suspects to 42 days and the controversial plan to introduce ID cards. 'It would be better that the government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism - that we live in fear and under a police state,' she told the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia...."
Ministers 'using fear of terror'
BBC Online, 17 February 2009

"With Google’s Latitude, parents will be able to swoop down like helicopters on their children, whirr around their heads and chase them away from the games arcade and back to do their French verbs....However Orwellian it sounds, don’t worry. The police and security services can already track you down from your phone without any help from Google..."
Sloping off could soon be a thing of the past
London Times, 5 February 2009

"Over the past few days, at trade fairs from Las Vegas to Seoul, a constant theme has been the unstoppable advance of 'FRT', the benign abbreviation favoured by industry insiders. We learnt that Apple's iPhoto update will automatically scan your photos to detect people's faces and group them accordingly, and that Lenovo's new PC will log on users by monitoring their facial patterns....So let's understand this: governments and police are planning to implement increasingly accurate surveillance technologies that are unnoticeable, cheap, pervasive, ubiquitous, and searchable in real time. And private businesses, from bars to workplaces, will also operate such systems, whose data trail may well be sold on or leaked to third parties - let's say, insurance companies that have an interest in knowing about your unhealthy lifestyle, or your ex-spouse who wants evidence that you can afford higher maintenance payments. Rather than jump up and down with rage - you never know who is watching through the window - you have a duty now, as a citizen, to question this stealthy rush towards permanent individual surveillance. A Government already obsessed with pursuing an unworkable and unnecessary identity-card database must be held to account."
Let's face it, soon Big Brother will have no trouble recognising you
London Times, 13 January 2009

2008

"Our privacy is being invaded by the world's security services in every second of every day, as a routine matter. Vast quantities of information are collected by commercial enterprises such as Google or Tesco. Against these invasions of our privacy we have little or no protection."
Lord Rees-Mogg
London Times, 25 July 2008

'Stalin's Delight'
Smart Phones For Not So Smart People

"The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations. ......Kaplan's opinion said that the eavesdropping technique 'functioned whether the phone was powered on or off.' Some handsets can't be fully powered down without removing the battery.....Security-conscious corporate executives routinely remove the batteries from their cell phones, he added....A BBC article from 2004 reported that intelligence agencies routinely employ the remote-activiation method. 'A mobile sitting on the desk of a politician or businessman can act as a powerful, undetectable bug,' the article said, 'enabling them to be activated at a later date to pick up sounds even when the receiver is down.'........ A 2003 lawsuit revealed that the FBI was able to surreptitiously turn on the built-in microphones in automotive systems like General Motors' OnStar to snoop on passengers' conversations. When FBI agents remotely activated the system and were listening in, passengers in the vehicle could not tell that their conversations were being monitored. Malicious hackers have followed suit. A report last year said Spanish authorities had detained a man who write a Trojan horse that secretly activated a computer's video camera and forwarded him the recordings."
FBI taps cell phone mic as eavesdropping tool
ZDNetNews, 1 December 2006

"Cellphone users say they want more privacy, and app makers are listening. No, they're not listening to user requests. They're literally listening to the sounds in your office, kitchen, living room and bedroom. A new class of smartphone app has emerged that uses the microphone built into your phone as a covert listening device -- a 'bug,' in common parlance. But according to app makers, it's not a bug. It's a feature! The apps use ambient sounds to figure out what you're paying attention to. It's the next best thing to reading your mind. The issue was brought to the world's attention recently on a podcast called This Week in Tech. Host Leo Laporte and his panel shocked listeners by unmasking three popular apps that activate your phone's microphone to collect sound patterns from inside your home, meeting, office or wherever you are. The apps are Color, Shopkick and IntoNow, all of which activate the microphones in users' iPhone or Android devices in order to gather contextual information that provides some benefit to the user.   Color uses your iPhone's or Android phone's microphone to detect when people are in the same room. The data on ambient noise is combined with color and lighting information from the camera to figure out who's inside, who's outside, who's in one room, and who's in another, so the app can auto-generate spontaneous temporary social networks of people who are sharing the same experience. ... So, what's possible with current technology? By listening in on your phone, capturing 'patterns,' then sending that data back to servers, marketers can determine the following: * Your gender, and the gender of people you talk to. * Your approximate age, and the ages of the people you talk to. * What time you go to bed, and what time you wake up. * What you watch on TV and listen to on the radio. * How much of your time you spend alone, and how much with others. * Whether you live in a big city or a small town. *What form of transportation you use to get to work."
Snooping: It's not a crime, it's a feature
Computerworld, 16 April 2011

"Security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner's computer when the two are synchronised. The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone's recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner's movements using a simple program. For some phones, there could be almost a year's worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple's iOS 4 update to the phone's operating system, released in June 2010. 'Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you've been,' said Pete Warden, one of the researchers. Only the iPhone records the user's location in this way, say Warden and Alasdair Allan, the data scientists who discovered the file and are presenting their findings at the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. 'Alasdair has looked for similar tracking code in [Google's] Android phones and couldn't find any,' said Warden."
iPhone keeps record of everywhere you go
Guardian, 20 April 2011



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2018

"The system that allowed spy agency GCHQ access to vast amounts of personal data from telecoms companies was unlawful for more than a decade, a surveillance watchdog has ruled. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal said that successive foreign secretaries had delegated powers without oversight. But it added there was no evidence GCHQ had misused the system. Privacy International criticised the "cavalier manner" in which personal data was shared. The group brought the legal challenge and solicitor Millie Graham Wood said it was "proof positive" that the system set up to protect personal data was flawed. "The foreign secretary was supposed to protect access to our data by personally authorising what is necessary and proportionate for telecommunications companies to provide to the agencies. "The way that these directions were drafted risked nullifying that safeguard by delegating that power to GCHQ - a violation that went undetected by the system of commissioners for years and was seemingly consented to by all of the telecommunications companies affected." Under security rules introduced after the attacks on 11 September 2001, the UK's foreign secretary had the power to direct GCHQ to obtain data from telecoms companies, with little oversight of what they were subsequently asking for."
UK snooping 'unlawful for more than decade'
BBC, 24 July 2018

"Earlier this month it came out that among Facebook’s myriad algorithmically induced advertising categories was an entry for users whom the platform’s data mining systems believed might be interested in treason against their government. The label had been applied to more than 65,000 Russian citizens, placing them at grave risk should their government discover the label. Similarly, the platform’s algorithms silently observe its two billion users’ actions and words, estimating which users it believes may be homosexual and quietly placing a label on their account recording that estimate. What happens when governments begin using these labels to surveil, harass, detain and even execute their citizens based on the labels produced by an American company’s black box algorithms? One of the challenges with the vast automated machine that is Facebook’s advertising engine is that its sheer scale and scope means it could never possibly be completely subject to human oversight. Instead, it hums along in silence, quietly watching the platform’s two billion users as Big Brother, silently assigning labels to them indicating its estimates of everything from their routine commercial interests to the most sensitive and intimate elements of their personality, beliefs and medical conditions that could be used by their governments to manipulate, arrest or execute them. Such concerns are unfortunately far from hypothetical. .... many governments across the world that very much aware of the potential of Facebook’s advertising tools for surveillance and indeed use them actively to track specific demographics and interests, using the company’s built-in reporting tools to identify geographic areas and demographics to target for further surveillance.... The public availability of Facebook’s targeting tools means intelligence agencies need no court orders to leverage them, foreign intelligence services can use them to track and surveil on foreign soil and even local law enforcement agencies can use them with few restrictions.... Facebook is increasingly playing as a tool for law enforcement, intelligence agencies and repressive regimes to crack down on legitimate dissent or internationally recognized human rights. It also raises important questions about the company’s legal exposure if it knowingly assists a repressive regime track down and execute citizens based on internationally protected statuses.... its international reach, massive centralized data warehouse and algorithms that can divine the most sensitive and intimate elements of our lives are likely to increasingly become a go-to one-stop shop for the world’s intelligence agencies to spy on and influence the world while governments themselves increasingly leverage their legal powers to force Facebook to help them hunt down dissent and those different from themselves. Welcome to a world even Orwell could not have imagined."
Facebook As The Ultimate Government Surveillance Tool?
Forbes, 20 July 2018


"With millions of cameras and billions of lines of code, China is building a high-tech authoritarian future. Beijing is embracing technologies like facial recognition and artificial intelligence to identify and track 1.4 billion people. It wants to assemble a vast and unprecedented national surveillance system, with crucial help from its thriving technology industry.....China is reversing the commonly held vision of technology as a great democratizer, bringing people more freedom and connecting them to the world. In China, it has brought control..... Billboard-size displays show the faces of jaywalkers and list the names of people who don’t pay their debts. Facial recognition scanners guard the entrances to housing complexes. Already, China has an estimated 200 million surveillance cameras — four times as many as the United States. Such efforts supplement other systems that track internet use and communications, hotel stays, train and plane trips and even car travel in some places.... In China, even the perception of surveillance can keep the public in line. Some places are further along than others. Invasive mass-surveillance software has been set up in the west to track members of the Uighur Muslim minority and map their relations with friends and family, according to software viewed by The New York Times. “This is potentially a totally new way for the government to manage the economy and society,” said Martin Chorzempa, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “The goal is algorithmic governance,” he added.... China has become the world’s biggest market for security and surveillance technology, with analysts estimating the country will have almost 300 million cameras installed by 2020. Chinese buyers will snap up more than three-quarters of all servers designed to scan video footage for faces, predicts IHS Markit, a research firm.... China’s surveillance companies are also looking to test the appetite for high-tech surveillance abroad. Yitu says it has been expanding overseas, with plans to increase business in regions like Southeast Asia and the Middle East.... “The whole point is that people don’t know if they’re being monitored, and that uncertainty makes people more obedient,” said Mr. Chorzempa, the Peterson Institute fellow.""
Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras
New York Times, 8 July 2018

"A group of researchers and students at MIT have developed an intelligent radar-like technology that makes it possible to see through walls to track people as they move around, a development that could prove useful for monitoring the elderly or sick as well as for other applications — but that also raises privacy concerns. Tests show that the technology, known as RF-Pose, can reveal whether someone is walking, sitting, standing or even waving — and can identify individuals from a known group with a success rate of 83 percent. Its developers say it could prove useful for law enforcement, search and rescue, and — perhaps most important — health care....Ginés Hidalgo, a research associate at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, told NBC News MACH in an email that it was of limited use at this point because the radio signals it uses are unable to pass through thick walls. "It could become a breakthrough" if that limitation can be addressed, said Hidalgo, who was not involved in the project. But Hidalgo said the technology also raises privacy concerns. "If a normal camera is recording me, it means I am able to see the camera, too," he said in the email. "If this camera can be hidden behind or even inside any object, I would never be able to know when I am being monitored.""
Smart technology sees through walls to track and identify people
NBC News, 8 July 2018

"It’s the smartphone conspiracy theory that just won’t go away: Many, many people are convinced that their phones are listening to their conversations to target them with ads. Vice recently fueled the paranoia with an article that declared “Your phone is listening and it’s not paranoia,” a conclusion the author reached based on a 5-day experiment where he talked about “going back to uni” and “needing cheap shirts” in front of his phone and then saw ads for shirts and university classes on Facebook....They found no evidence of an app unexpectedly activating the microphone or sending audio out when not prompted to do so. Like good scientists, they refuse to say that their study definitively proves that your phone isn’t secretly listening to you, but they didn’t find a single instance of it happening. Instead, they discovered a different disturbing practice: apps recording a phone’s screen and sending that information out to third parties.Of the 17,260 apps the researchers looked at, over 9,000 had permission to access the camera and microphone and thus the potential to overhear the phone’s owner talking about their need for cat litter or about how much they love a certain brand of gelato. Using 10 Android phones, the researchers used an automated program to interact with each of those apps and then analyzed the traffic generated.The strange practice they started to see was that screenshots and video recordings of what people were doing in apps were being sent to third party domains. For example, when one of the phones used an app from GoPuff, a delivery start-up for people who have sudden cravings for junk food, the interaction with the app was recorded and sent to a domain affiliated with Appsee, a mobile analytics company. The video included a screen where you could enter personal information—in this case, their zip code. This wasn’t a total surprise: Appsee proudly touts its ability to record what users are doing in an app on its website. What bothered the researchers was that it wasn’t evident to the user that their behavior was being recorded, something which wasn’t disclosed in GoPuff’s privacy policy. After the researchers contacted GoPuff, it added a disclosure to the policy acknowledging that “ApSee” might receive users PII. “As an added precaution, we also pulled Appsee SDK from the latest Android and iOS builds,” said the start-up’s spokesperson by email.... In other words, until smartphone makers notify you when your screen is being recorded or give you the power to turn that ability off, you have a new thing to be paranoid about. The researchers will be presenting their work at the Privacy Enhancing Technology Symposium Conference in Barcelona next month... The researchers weren’t comfortable saying for sure that your phone isn’t secretly listening to you in part because there are some scenarios not covered by their study."
These Academics Spent the Last Year Testing Whether Your Phone Is Secretly Listening to You
Gizmodo, 3 July 2018

"Officials with Customs and Border Protection’s Entry/Exit have a way to shorten the long lines at airline gates while improving security and meeting an almost 15-year-old mandate from Congress. Officials announced June 21 that Orlando International would be the first airport in the country to screen every international passenger using facial recognition technology. CBP has been running biometric pilots—including facial recognition—at 13 airports across the country but Orlando will be the first to use the system on all travelers. In 2004, Congress charged the CBP with finding a way to apply biometric screening at all border crossings—including land, air and sea. The agency has struggled to comply, citing difficulties in finding the right technology to improve security without adding significant travel delays. “We are at a critical turning point in the implementation of a biometric entry-exit system, and we’ve found a path forward that transforms travel for all travelers,” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said at a June 21 press conference. “The valuable collaboration with stakeholder partners like [the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority] has resulted in real momentum and it has brought us to where we are today, the first fully biometric entry-exit deployment at an airport.”"
Florida Airport Will Be the First to Scan Every International Traveler’s Face
Defense One, 26 June 2018

"The secrets are hidden behind fortified walls in cities across the United States, inside towering, windowless skyscrapers and fortress-like concrete structures that were built to withstand earthquakes and even nuclear attack. Thousands of people pass by the buildings each day and rarely give them a second glance, because their function is not publicly known. They are an integral part of one of the world’s largest telecommunications networks – and they are also linked to a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program. Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In each of these cities, The Intercept has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world. A body of evidence – including classified NSA documents, public records, and interviews with several former AT&T employees – indicates that the buildings are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory.... According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it “has access to information that transits the nation,” but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies. Much has previously been reported about the NSA’s surveillance programs. But few details have been disclosed about the physical infrastructure that enables the spying. Last year, The Intercept highlighted a likely NSA facility in New York City’s Lower Manhattan. Now, we are revealing for the first time a series of other buildings across the U.S. that appear to serve a similar function, as critical parts of one of the world’s most powerful electronic eavesdropping systems, hidden in plain sight."
The Wiretap Rooms
Intercept, 25 June 2018

"Campaign group Big Brother Watch has accused HMRC of creating ID cards by stealth after it was revealed the UK taxman has amassed a database of 5.1 million people's voiceprints.The department introduced its Voice ID system in January 2017. This requires taxpayers calling HMRC to record a key phrase, which is used to create a digital signature that the system uses to unlock the right account when they phone back. According to a Freedom of Information request, submitted by Big Brother Watch and published today, the department now has more than 5.1 million people's voiceprints on record. However, the group argued that users haven't been given enough information on the scheme, how to opt in or out, or details on how their data would be deleted. The FoI revealed that no customers have opted out in the 30 days to 13 March, but the department refused to respond to set out exactly how the erasure process would work. Director Silkie Carlo said that taxpayers have been "railroaded into a mass ID scheme" and that the government was "imposing biometric ID cards on the public by the back door". The FoI response also raises questions about the lawfulness of the collection and storage of the data, and whether it is in line with the General Data Protection Regulation that came into force on 25 May. Under the GDPR, a system that allows people to be identified by their voice would likely meet the definition of processing of biometric data. This places certain demands on the organisation beyond those made for other forms of personal data. "Where [biometric processing] takes place, GDPR says that the person must give 'explicit consent'. 'Consent' also means a 'freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous' indication of the person's wishes, and it must be a 'clear, affirmative action'," said Jon Baines, a data protection advisor at law firm Mischon de Reya.... HMRC also refused to divulge information on who else has access to Voice ID in its FoI response (PDF), saying it risked prejudicing the prevention or detection of crime. Big Brother Watch also slammed Whitehall's decision to create another database of sensitive biometric material, describing it as another step towards the "database state". The FoI response from HMRC also shows that the department did not consult the biometrics commissioner on its Voice ID plans. The government is already under pressure over its custody image database – which contains around 21 million shots of faces and identifying features – because the pictures are stored even if the subject is not charged. This is despite a 2012 High Court judgment that said keeping images of presumed innocent people on file was unlawful. The Home Office has blamed outdated and clunky IT systems for the prolonged retention but hasn't committed to specifically address this issue."
UK taxman has amassed voice profiles of 5.1 million taxpayers
The Register, 25 June 2018

"Facebook is working on controversial software which lets it secretly order users’ smartphones to start recording audio whenever they hear inaudible messages hidden in television adverts.The social network has always denied rumours that it listens into people’s private conversations and analyses what they talk about so it can show advertising that interests them. But in a patent application published on June 14 this year, Big Zucker’s research division revealed a system which lets it quietly tell people’s mobile phones to capture ‘ambient audio’. It allows Facebook to conceal ‘a non-human hearable digital sound’ in the audio of a TV ad or other content. Although people won’t be able to hear this sound, it contains a ‘machine recognizable’ set of Morse code-style sounds which let it tap out a message to your smartphone and order it to begin recording. The secret sound could be a very high-pitched voice, Facebook wrote, pitched just above the limit of human hearing. When it hears this signal, a phone will then start capturing ambient audio, which Facebook describes as the ‘distinct and subtle sounds of a particular location created by the environment of the location, such as machinery noise, the sound of distant human movement and speech, creaks from thermal contraction, and air conditioning and plumbing noises in a household’. Now, you might think this sounds like an Orwellian nightmare technology which will let Big Zucker intrude upon our lives in unprecedentedly terrifying ways. But Facebook designed it with a specific purpose in mind. The tech is built to monitor what people watch on their ‘broadcasting device’ so that the adverts they are shown on Facebook are likely to appeal to them."
Facebook wants to hide secret inaudible messages in TV ads that can force your phone to record audio
Metro, 22 June 2018

"The Supreme Court on Friday said the government generally needs a warrant if it wants to track an individual's location through cell phone records over an extended period of time. In a highly anticipated decision released Friday, the US Supreme Court updated Fourth Amendment protections for the digital era. In a 5-4 ruling, the court decided in Carpenter v. United States that the government generally needs a warrant in order to access cell site location information, which is automatically generated whenever a mobile phone connects to a cell tower and is stored by wireless carriers for years. The ruling does leave the door open for law enforcement to obtain such information without a warrant in some instances. Still, the court recognizes that cell phones are not voluntary but necessary for modern life, and that their technology poses some unique circumstances for the law. “We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “In light of the deeply revealing nature of CSLI, its depth, breadth, and comprehensive reach, and the inescapable and automatic nature of its collection, the fact that such information is gathered by a third party does not make it any less deserving of Fourth Amendment protection.” Roberts was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissented. The court’s ruling represents a win for digital privacy advocates, and, while narrow, it may have implications for all sorts of information held by third parties, including browsing data, text messages, emails, and bank records. Three years later, in 1979, the court ruled in Smith v. Maryland that the third-party doctrine also extends to call records collected by phone companies. But on Friday, the Supreme Court said that cell site location information is a “qualitatively different category” of information. CSLI allows law enforcement to paint a nearly complete picture of Americans' movements. Last year, AT&T and Verizon jointly received nearly 125,000 requests from law enforcement for CSLI data, according to their transparency reports. Law enforcement officials will now only be able to make such requests after obtaining a warrant, which will require them to demonstrate probable cause. The court has expressed uneasiness about the collection of vast amounts of digital data before. In the 2014 case Riley v. California, it ruled that police generally need a warrant to search the cell phone of a person under arrest. And in 2012, in United States v. Jones, the court said that it does violate a person's Fourth Amendment rights for the government to place a GPS tracker on their car without a warrant.In Carpenter, Roberts left the door open for courts to obtain location information without a warrant in two circumstances. The court declined to decide on whether law enforcement seeking a smaller window of records—fewer than seven days, which is what the government requested from Sprint in the case—constitutes a Fourth Amendment search. The opinion also allows for exceptions for emergencies, like “bomb threats, active shootings, and child abductions....  Fourteen of the largest US tech companies—including Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft—filed a brief in support of updating the Fourth Amendment for the digital era. It was technically not filed in support of either party, but largely backed Carpenter's position. The cohort even included Verizon, which cooperated with the National Security Agency as part of its broad bulk surveillance programs for years. Verizon's stance is particularly notable because the company holds the specific kind of location records that were at issue in the case. Cyrus Farivar, a reporter at Ars Technica and the author of Habeas Data, a new book about privacy laws and the rise of surveillance technology, says the ruling shows that the court views cell phones differently. “They’re an entirely separate class of devices that provide a very intimate look into the most detailed elements of our life, not only where we go generally, but where we go extremely specifically,” he says. He also notes that the court was split and that it took a long time for it to come to its decision, which was unusually released on a Friday. “That suggests that this is an issue that the court came to with a great deal of thought, discussion, and deliberation. This is not an easy decision to reach.” We don’t yet know how the ruling might impact other forms of government surveillance. Justice Roberts was careful to note that the ruling is intended to be narrow in its scope, writing that the court does not “call into question conventional surveillance techniques and tools, such as security cameras. Nor do we address other business records that might incidentally reveal location information. Further, our opinion does not consider other collection techniques involving foreign affairs or national security.” “The government can no longer claim that the mere act of using technology eliminates the Fourth Amendment’s protections. Today’s decision rightly recognizes the need to protect the highly sensitive location data from our cell phones, but it also provides a path forward for safeguarding other sensitive digital information in future cases—from our emails, smart-home appliances, and technology that is yet to be invented,” ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, who argued the case before the court, said in a statement. At issue was an antiquated legal principle called the third-party doctrine, which holds that information customers voluntarily provide to a third party—such as a telecom company or a bank—is outside the bounds of Fourth Amendment protections. The doctrine comes from United States v. Miller, a 1976 case in which the court ruled that law enforcement doesn't need a warrant in order to access bank records because "the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the obtaining of information revealed to a third party.”"
The Supreme Court Just Greatly Strengthened Digital Privacy
Wired, 22 June 2018

"The government is obsessed with your face. Do not be flattered. This is more of a creepy stalker fixation. From the federal Department of Homeland Security down to local police departments, governmental use of biometric facial recognition software has gained a startling amount of traction in recent years. And these agencies are getting help from big business, to boot.For example, DHS is reportedly developing a massive new biometric and biographic database with extensive data on citizens and foreigners alike. The Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) database will reportedly include at least seven biometric identifiers, including face and voice data, tattoos, DNA, scars, and other "physical descriptors" on as many as 500 million people. The agency has been remarkably hush-hush on how HART will be utilized — but the possibilities are frightening.DHS expects to launch the new database next fiscal year, according to internal documents. By the following year, they anticipate having iris and facial matching capabilities, and by fiscal year 2021, the database is expected to be functioning in its full capacity. This massive and intrusive initiative will grant a whole host of federal, state, and local agencies access to intimate details about hundreds of millions of Americans and foreigners....While HART will be the most expansive biometric database to date, DHS isn't the first federal entity to take an interest in using facial identification. As of 2015, the FBI's Next Generation Identification (NGI) database held records on nearly one-third of the American population, including 52 million mugshots. Half of the states in the country are either actively using NGI or have expressed interest in using it, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.The fetishizing of facial recognition as a must-have for law enforcement doesn't stop at the federal level. Last month, Amazon announced it is selling its facial recognition software, known as Rekognition, to local police departments all over the country. This would allow law enforcement to cross reference surveillance camera footage from a crime scene with Amazon's collection of "tens of millions" of faces.... This all amounts to a gross violation of Americans' privacy and civil liberties.....This sort of biometric intrusion goes far beyond the legitimate purview of our government. Our faces are our own."
The government's creepy obsession with your face
The Week, 18 June 2018

"China is establishing an electronic identification system to track cars nationwide, according to records and people briefed on the matter, adding to a growing array of surveillance tools the government uses to monitor its citizens. Under the plan being rolled out July 1, a radio-frequency identification chip for vehicle tracking will be installed on cars when they are registered. Compliance will be voluntary this year but will be made mandatory for new vehicles at the start of 2019, the people said.Authorities have described the plan as a means to improve public security and to help ease worsening traffic congestion, documents show, a major concern in many Chinese cities partly because clogged roads contribute to air pollution. But such a system, implemented in the world’s biggest automotive market, with sales of nearly 30 million vehicles a year, will also vastly expand China’s surveillance network, experts say. That network already includes widespread use of security cameras, facial recognition technology and internet monitoring."
A Chip in the Windshield: China’s Surveillance State Will Soon Track Cars
Wall St Journal, 13 June 2018

"The creepy ways Facebook spies on its users have been detailed in a bumper document presented to Congress. They include tracking mouse movements, logging battery levels and monitoring devices close to a user that are on the same network. The 454-page report was created in response to questions Mark Zuckerberg was asked during his appearance before Congress in April. Lawmakers gave Zuckerberg a public grilling over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but he failed to answer many of their queries.  The new report is Facebook's attempt to address their questions, although it sheds little new light on the Cambridge Analytica scandal. However, it does contain multiple disclosures about the way Facebook collects data....Facebook tracks what device you are using to access the network. To do this, it will log the hardware manufacturer of your smartphone, connected television, tablet, computer, or other internet-connected devices. Facebook also tracks the operating system, software versions and web browser.  If you're using a smartphone, it will keep a record of the mobile carrier, while internet service providers (ISPs) will be stored for users using a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection to access Facebook. In some cases, it will monitor devices that are using the same network as you. 'Facebook’s services inherently operate on a cross-device basis: understanding when people use our services across multiple devices helps us provide the same personalized experience wherever people use Facebook,' the firm wrote in the lengthy document. According to Facebook, this is done, for example, 'to ensure that a person’s News Feed or profile contains the same content whether they access our services on their mobile phone or in a desktop computer’s web browser.' Facebook also says this information is used to curate more personalized ads."
The 18 things you may not realise Facebook knows about you: Firm reveals the extent of its spying in a 454-page document to Congress
Mail, 12 June 2018

"Google will not allow its artificial intelligence software to be used in weapons or 'unreasonable surveillance' efforts. Following a major backlash from employees, the Alphabet unit has laid out new rules for its AI software.  The new restrictions could help Google management defuse months of protest by thousands of employees against the company's work with the U.S. military to identify objects in drone video. Google will pursue other government contracts including around cybersecurity, military recruitment and search and rescue, Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said in a blog post Thursday. 'We recognize that such powerful technology raises equally powerful questions about its use.  'How AI is developed and used will have a significant impact on society for many years to come. ... Google and its big technology rivals have become leading sellers of AI tools, which enable computers to review large datasets to make predictions and identify patterns and anomalies faster than humans could. But the potential of AI systems to pinpoint drone strikes better than military specialists or identify dissidents through mass collection of online communications has sparked concerns among academic ethicists and Google employees....The U.S. military has been looking to incorporate elements of artificial intelligence and machine learning into its drone program....The Pentagon is trying to develop algorithms that would sort through the material and alert analysts to important finds, according to Air Force Lieutenant General John N.T. 'Jack' Shanahan, director for defense intelligence for warfighting support.... Shanahan said his team is currently trying to teach the system to recognize objects such as trucks and buildings, identify people and, eventually, detect changes in patterns of daily life that could signal significant developments... Similar image recognition technology is being developed commercially by firms in Silicon Valley, which could be adapted by adversaries for military reasons."
Google bans the uses of its AI tech in weapons and 'unreasonable surveillance systems' - but says it will continue to work with the military on other projects
Reuters, 7 June 2018

"A federal study found signs that surveillance devices for intercepting cellphone calls and texts were operating near the White House and other sensitive locations in the Washington area last year. A Department of Homeland Security program discovered evidence of the surveillance devices, called IMSI catchers, as part of federal testing last year, according to a letter from DHS to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on May 22. The letter didn't specify what entity operated the devices and left open the possibility that there could be alternative explanations for the suspicious cellular signals collected by the federal testing program last year. The discovery bolsters years of independent research suggesting that foreign intelligence agencies use sophisticated interception technology to spy on officials working within the hub of federal power in the nation’s capital. Experts in surveillance technology say that IMSI catchers — sometimes known by one popular brand name, StingRay — are a standard part of the tool kit for many foreign intelligence services, including for such geopolitical rivals as Russia and China....The devices work by simulating cell towers to trick nearby phones into connecting, allowing the IMSI catchers to collect calls, texts and data streams. Unlike some other forms of cellphone interception, IMSI catchers must be near targeted devices to work.When they are in range, IMSI catchers also can deliver malicious software to targeted devices for the purpose of stealing information stored on them or conducting longer-term monitoring of communications. The same May 22 letter revealed that DHS was aware of reports that a global cellular network messaging system, called SS7, was being used to spy on Americans through their cellphones. Such surveillance, which can intercept calls and locate cellphones from anywhere in the world, is sometimes used in conjunction with IMSI catchers.... Civil liberties groups have long warned that IMSI catchers are used with few limits by U.S. authorities, who collect calls, texts and other data from innocent bystanders as they conduct surveillance on criminal suspects or other legitimate targets. Increasingly, though, critics have sought to portray the technology as posing threats to national security because foreign intelligence services use them on Americans, both while in the United States and abroad.... The surveillance devices are hard to counteract, although encrypted calling and messaging apps — such as Signal, WhatsApp or Apple's FaceTime — provide protection against IMSI catchers. Some experts advocate wider deployment of such encrypted communication tools within the U.S. government, along with a move away from traditional cellular calling and texting."
Signs of sophisticated cellphone spying found near White House, U.S. officials say
Washington Post, 1 June 2018

"... a couple’s private conversation was recorded by Alexa and then sent to a random number in their address book. The conversation was about hardwood floors, apparently, which is not a topic with the potential to make one blush with shame when recollecting it; but that’s not really the point. The point is that the private was made public, because a machine – according to Amazon – malfunctioned. This kind of thing is going to start happening more, and not because the machine is malfunctioning; it’s going to happen because the machine is doing its job properly: its job being to snoop. The mystery is that people are assenting to this, or considering it as progress.... Never mind, though, about the possibility of being hacked and/or spied on. Actually, we should mind very much about that, and it’s a probability more than a possibility, but there are other problems that perhaps aren’t being considered often or openly enough. These revolve around the very purpose of the huge companies who are now running our lives: simply, to make money out of us, to turn us into nothing more than the aggregate of our material desires, and to crunch those desires into data, which can then be sold to whoever wants it; and we now know that some of these buyers have very sinister agendas indeed. Until technology like Alexa came along, though, we did at least have to go to the trouble of actively keying in information. Now, though, anything we say could be picked up and used in ways we can hardly imagine. We like to think we are in control of our technology, and this has more or less always been the case; but very soon, our technology is going to be in control of us, if it isn’t already."
Alexa, what does the future hold? A dystopia where gadgets spy on us
Guardian, 28 May 2018

"A couple in Portland, Oregon joked that their Amazon Alexa might be listening in to their private conversations. The joke came to an abrupt end when they discovered a conversation was indeed recorded by Alexa - and then sent to an apparently random person in their contact list. "Unplug your Alexa devices right now!" warned the puzzled recipient, according to ABC affiliate station KIRO7, which first reported the story.""
Amazon Alexa 'heard and sent private chat'
BBC, 24 May 2018

"In late 2016, Amazon introduced a new online service that could help identify faces and other objects in images, offering it to anyone at a low cost through its giant cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services. Not long after, it began pitching the technology to law enforcement agencies, saying the program could aid criminal investigations by recognizing suspects in photos and videos. It used a couple of early customers, like the Orlando Police Department in Florida and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, to encourage other officials to sign up. But now that aggressive push is putting the giant tech company at the center of an increasingly heated debate around the role of facial recognition in law enforcement. Fans of the technology see a powerful new tool for catching criminals, but detractors see an instrument of mass surveillance. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union led a group of more than two dozen civil rights organizations that asked Amazon to stop selling its image recognition system, called Rekognition, to law enforcement. The group says that the police could use it to track protesters or others whom authorities deem suspicious, rather than limiting it to people committing crimes."
Amazon Pushes Facial Recognition to Police. Critics See Surveillance Risk
New York Times, 22 May 2018

"The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy activists are asking Amazon to stop marketing a powerful facial recognition tool to police, saying law enforcement agencies could use the technology to "easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone."...privacy advocates have been concerned about expanding the use of facial recognition to body cameras worn by officers or safety and traffic cameras that monitor public areas, allowing police to identify and track people in real time.The tech giant's entry into the market could vastly accelerate such developments, the privacy advocates fear, with potentially dire consequences for minorities who are already arrested at disproportionate rates, immigrants who may be in the country illegally or political protesters."People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government," the groups wrote in a letter to Amazon on Tuesday. "Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom."..... Clare Garvie, an associate at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University Law Center, said part of the problem with real-time face recognition is its potential impact on free-speech rights.While police might be able to videotape public demonstrations, face recognition is not merely an extension of photography, but also a biometric measurement — more akin to police walking through a demonstration and demanding identification from everyone there."
ACLU asks Amazon to stop marketing face-recognition technology to police
Associated Press, 22 May 2018

"Large public places, such as airports or shopping malls, have already been turned into surveillance free-for-alls, where people’s every move is catalogued for the sake of profit. Now, one prominent company is ready to help governments spread that same surveillance technology over entire cities. Israeli company Jenovice Cyber Labs is poised to launch new products that monitor everything from prisons to heavily populated areas, depending on what exactly customers want, CyberScoop has learned. It’s a particularly provocative product coming in the wake of DHS detecting Stingray cellphone spying devices across Washington, D.C., but all too easy to fathom based on the way companies make millions off the collection of location-based data. Jenovice’s Metropolink, which is only available for law enforcement and intelligence agencies, is sold as an “autonomous” surveillance system meant to monitor entire metropolitan areas. The capabilities list reads like hacker tech from a Jason Bourne movie: It’s advertised as being able to locate, list, map, track, analyze and visualize all Wi-Fi networks and identities across whatever environment a customer chooses.  The product works thanks to a network of sensors placed around a large populated area that track devices by identifiers including, but not limited to, MAC address and geolocation. Targets are usually phones that are broadcasting and collecting Wi-Fi information by default. Product advertising lists the technology as “passive,” an important distinction that’s subject to less regulatory oversight than active attacks and exploits found in other products. Similarly, in many countries, Metropolink doesn’t require a warrant, the company says. Metropolink sensors possess a default collection range of about 500 meters, which can be enhanced depending on the hardware. The sensors then pass the data to a command center where its visualized for easy consumption. The company also promises that the devices can detect and track targets moving at high speeds in cars or motorcycles. Another product Jenovice will launch is Prisonlink, a surveillance kit designed for the smaller and more specialized environment of prisons. The product materialized after correctional officers in multiple countries told Jenovice that prisoners use Wi-Fi connectivity to communicate with the outside world, which is often against prison rules. In addition to tracking unauthorized phones and Wi-Fi networks, Prisonlink can gather information on devices and disconnect a target device from their Wi-Fi access point. The last entry in Jenovice’s new product line is perhaps the most opaque. Achilles Cloud Interception boasts the ability to “use and connect keys to extract cloud account information” from iCloud and Google accounts remotely “in a fully automated and silent process.” The company says the product steals authentication tokens, granting full access to a targeted account. Credential extraction requires physical proximity to a system like Metropolink. When asked, Jenovice declined to further explain how the product works. Token-based authentication is ubiquitous on the modern web; it’s how you stay signed in to virtually everything. If Achilles works as advertised, it’d be a major weapon in a customer’s arsenal. CyberScoop hasn’t seen or heard of Achilles being successfully demonstrated in a meaningful way. The new product announcements will be made at the upcoming June 2018 ISS World conference in Prague, a global conference for the surveillance and hacking industries. On the second day of the conference, Jenovice’s vice president for research and development Tal cis giving a talk on “tactical Wi-Fi interception” focusing on “identifying targets, acquiring them and manipulating Wi-Fi enabled devices to extract intelligence.” Gleichger said the company hasn’t received any outside funding and is already selling its products “all over the world.” Much of Metropolink echoes the tech from Snoopy, a 2012 research project from Glenn Wilkinson and Daniel Cuthbert focused on stealing data from mobile devices by imitating Wi-Fi networks and intercepting data traffic. That research proved the idea was possible by snooping on traffic in subway stations across London. A similar surveillance research project is CreepyDOL by Brendan O’Connor. CreepyDOL tracks Wi-Fi signals as a way to follow smartphones across a targeted area. Snoopy surveils and identifies targets by tracking the radio signals — not just Wi-Fi — that virtually all devices emit."
Meet the Israeli company ready to sell citywide surveillance
Cyberscoop, 21 May 2018

"Many people have grown accustomed to talking to their smart devices, asking them to read a text, play a song or set an alarm. But someone else might be secretly talking to them, too.Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio. A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website. This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list."
Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t.
New York Times, 10 May 2018

"Thousands of jails and prisons across the United States use a company called Securus Technologies to provide and monitor calls to inmates. But the former sheriff of Mississippi County, Mo., used a lesser-known Securus service to track people’s cellphones, including those of other officers, without court orders, according to charges filed against him in state and federal court. The service can find the whereabouts of almost any cellphone in the country within seconds. It does this by going through a system typically used by marketers and other companies to get location data from major cellphone carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, documents show. Between 2014 and 2017, the sheriff, Cory Hutcheson, used the service at least 11 times, prosecutors said. His alleged targets included a judge and members of the State Highway Patrol. Mr. Hutcheson, who was dismissed last year in an unrelated matter, has pleaded not guilty in the surveillance cases. As location tracking has become more accurate, and as more people carry their phones at every waking moment, the ability of law enforcement officers and companies like Securus to get that data has become an ever greater privacy concern."
Service Meant to Monitor Inmates’ Calls Could Track You, Too
New York Times, 10 May 2018

"South Wales Police has been testing an automated facial recognition system since June 2017 and has used it in the real-world at more than ten events. In the majority of cases, the system has made more incorrect matches than the times it has been able to correctly identify a potential suspect or offender. ..... Automatic systems that scan people's faces in public and try to make matches are at an early stage in the UK. In China, systems are more advanced with a BBC News reporter being located, during a stunt, within just seven minutes...... South Wales Police, in its privacy assessment of the technology, says it is a "significant advantage" that no "co-operation" is required from a person. Its system is comprised of two CCTV cameras that are connected to a laptop or server. The CCTV feed is recorded and faces are pulled from the footage, which is compared automatically against a watch list. This list, formed of a database, can be comprised of thousands of facial images... In the future, the police force says, it may be possible to integrate the facial recognition technology with databases from other sources. It says the Police National Database (which has more than 19 million images), the Automatic Number Plate Recognition database, passport or driving licence could be added to its system..... But the use of the system raises privacy considerations. "It is accepted that civil rights [sic] may start to voice concerns over the invasion of privacy by this technology," the Welsh police force's privacy assessment of its own system says.... South Wales Police isn't the only UK constabulary that has been testing facial recognition systems in public places.... The automated facial recognition systems being used at public events are separate to police uses of face matching technology that uses other images: such as social media photos, or pre-recorded CCTV footage. In 2012, the High Court ruled it was unlawful for millions of photos of innocent people to be kept on police databases. At present, these can only be removed if a person makes a complaint to police."
Facial recognition tech used by UK police is making a ton of mistakes
Wired, 4 May 2018

"For several months, [Orlando International] airport has worked with British Airways to test facial-recognition, or biometric screening. Recently, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority moved to equip the airport as the first in the nation to use the technology for all international flights inbound and outbound. The experience of the novel technology in an otherwise timeworn routine was remarked upon by an elderly British Airways passenger, who clutched a burgundy passport splayed at its photo page, where a boarding pass was tucked, both ready for the customary presentation.... John Newsome, the airport’s chief information officer, said all of the airport’s 25 carriers with foreign flights and the two border checkpoints will be equipped for biometric screening through this summer. The decision means spending $4 million on gates and high-definition cameras for departing and arriving international flights.... In an era of online breaches of privacy, theft of financial information and fears of government surveillance, Orlando International and Customs and Border Protection are readily equipped with talking points about what happens with those high-definition snapshots taken for biometric screening....Customs and Border Protection has a suggestion for passengers with concerns about biometric screening: Request a manual check. Within the past year, biometric screening also has been piloted by Delta at JFK and Atlanta international airports, Lufthansa at Los Angeles International, and by JetBlue in Boston. Addressing the accuracy of its facial-recognition technology, the agency has reported that the “percent of successful matches is in the high 90s.”
Orlando airport to be nation's first to facial ID all international fliers
Orlando Sentinel, 27 April 2018

"The UK government's surveillance regime has been dealt another blow as the High Court in England today ruled the Snooper's Charter unlawful – and gave the government six months to fix it. Handing down the judgment, Lord Justice Rabinder Singh said that Part 4 of the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), which relates to retention of communications data, was incompatible with EU law, and gave the government until 1 November 2018 to remedy it. The ruling is the latest instalment in a long-running and complex legal battle between the government and various privacy campaign groups over the state's extensive surveillance laws. In this case, brought by civil rights group Liberty, the court considered the powers granted to the government to force internet firms and telcos to store data on communications – like location info and records of when and to whom calls or messages were made – for up to a year. These powers came into force on 30 December 2016. Lord Justice Singh and Justice David Holgate ruled that Part 4 was incompatible with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights for two reasons: ministers can issue data retention orders without independent review, and this can be done for reasons other than serious crime.... The government has refused to see the ruling as a defeat on the grounds that it has already conceded the Act doesn't comply with European laws. Back in November, it proposed a set of changes it thinks will bring the Act in line, for instance by creating a new body, the Office for Communications Data Authorisation, to review and approve notices. But it did lose its request, made during the February hearing, that it be given until April 2019 to enact the changes. The judges today ruled that they "see no reason why the legal framework cannot be amended before April 2019", even if some practical arrangements take longer.... Liberty, meanwhile, is already working up the next phase of its challenges to the IPA – which refers to parts 5, 6 and 7, government hacking, bulk warrants and bulk personal data set warrants – and has today launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the battle."
High Court gives UK.gov six months to make the Snooper's Charter lawful
The Register, 27 April 2018

"Across China, facial-recognition technology that can scan the country’s entire population is being put to use. In some cases, the technology can perform the task in just one second. Sixteen cities, municipalities, and provinces are using a frighteningly fast surveillance system that has an accuracy rate of 99.8%, Global Times reported over the weekend. “The system is fast enough to scan China’s population in just one second, and it takes two seconds to scan the world’s population,” the Times reported, citing local Chinese newspaper Worker’s Daily. The system is part of Skynet, a nationwide monitoring program launched in 2005 to increase the use and capabilities of surveillance cameras. According to developers, this particular system works regardless of angle or lighting condition and over the last two years has led to the arrest of more than 2,000 people. The use of facial-recognition technology is soaring in China where it is being used to increase efficiencies and improve policing. Cameras are used to catch jaywalkers, find fugitives, track people’s regular hangouts, and even predict crime before it happens. Currently, there are 170 million surveillance cameras in China and, by 2020, the country hopes to have 570 million – that’s nearly one camera for every two citizens. Facial recognition technology is just a small part of the artificial intelligence industry that China wants to pioneer. According to a report by CB Insights, five times as many AI patents were applied for in China than the US in 2017."
16 parts of China are now using Skynet, the facial recognition tech that can scan the country's entire population in a second
Business Insider, 27 March 2018

"A couple of years after it happened, Australian citizens are finally being (indirectly) informed their government harvested cell site location info to track their daily activities. This isn't the work of an intelligence agency or a secretive law enforcement effort. Instead, it's an (unannounced) partnership between the Australian Bureau of Statistics (which handles the Australian Census) and a cellphone service provider. The provider apparently willingly turned over cell site info without a court demand, government mandate, or consultation with its customers....Supposedly, the information has been anonymized. It obviously hasn't been completely stripped of personal information. The slide deck [PDF] detailing the effort notes the data can be broken down by age and sex. The anonymization claim is made without any support from the ABS, which still has yet to provide any further info -- much less a privacy impact assessment -- via its website."
Australian Gov't Scooped Up Tons Of Cell Site Location Data To Track Citizens' Movements
TechDirt, 25 April 2018

"While the Cambridge Analytica scandal rumbles on, Facebook is quietly asking users in the EU and Canada to let it use its facial recognition to scan their faces and suggest tags in photos. It isn't the first time Mark Zuckerberg's firm has tried to get access to millions of Europeans' facial data. Facebook tried to bring facial recognition to people in the EU back in 2011, but it stopped doing so a year later after privacy campaigners raised concerns that the feature was not compatible with data protection laws. Now Facebook is hoping it can bring facial recognition back to the EU, as long as it secures explicit consent beforehand....But some have criticised Facebook for making it too easy for users to accept the new requests without really understanding how their data is being used – which sounds very similar to how much of Cambridge Analytica scandal started.... Facebook users in the US have had their facial data tracked since 2011 and if users want to opt out, they have to click ‘manage settings’ and go through another page before changing their privacy settings. But also in the US, Facebook is being met with resistance over the use of facial recognition technology. The company is facing a class action lawsuit alleging that it gathered biometric information without users explicit consent. On April 16, 2018, District Judge James Donato in California ruled that Facebook users in Illinois are allowed to bring forward a case arguing that Facebook’s collection of face data violates Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. If it is found to be violating the act, Facebook could be faced with a fine of billions of dollars. Facebook’s facial recognition technology works by analysing images and videos in which a particular person has been tagged, and then generating a unique number called a ‘template’. This template is then compared with other photos and videos on Facebook, and if the algorithm finds a match then that user’s name may appear as a tag suggestion..... Despite the backlash against its widespread data collection, Facebook is also exploring other ways of other ways of using facial recognition technology. In a patent published in November 2017, the company described using facial recognition as way of verifying payments in shops. Last year it also tested using facial recognition to allow people to recover their account details just by using their face to verify their identity."
Live in the EU? Facebook is after your face data (again)
Wired, 18 April 2018

".... over the last five years a secretive surveillance company founded by a former Israeli intelligence officer has been quietly building a massive facial recognition database consisting of faces acquired from the giant social network, YouTube and countless other websites. Privacy activists are suitably alarmed.  That database forms the core of a facial recognition service called Face-Int, now owned by Israeli vendor Verint after it snapped up the product's creator, little-known surveillance company Terrogence, in 2017. Both Verint and Terrogence have long been vendors for the U.S. government, providing bleeding-edge spy tech to the NSA, the U.S. Navy and countless other intelligence and security agencies....Though Terrogence is primarily focused on helping intelligence agencies and law enforcement fight terrorism online, LinkedIn profiles of current and former employees indicate it's also involved in other, more political endeavours. One ex-staffer, in describing her role as a Terrogence analyst, said she'd "conducted public perception management operations on behalf of foreign and domestic governmental clients," and used "open source intelligence practices and social media engineering methods to investigate political and social groups." She was not reachable at the time of publication. And now concerns have been raised over just how Terrogence has grabbed all those faces from Facebook and other online sources. What's apparent, though, is that Terrogence is yet another company that's been able to clandestinely take advantage of Facebook's openness, on top of Cambridge Analytica, which acquired information on as many as 87 million users in 2014 from U.K.-based researcher Aleksandr Kogan to help target individuals during its work for the Donald Trump and Ted Cruz presidential campaigns.  "It raises the stakes of face recognition - it intensifies the potential negative consequences," warned Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "When you contemplate face recognition that's everywhere, we have to think about what that’s going to mean for us. If private companies are scraping photos and combining them with personal info in order to make judgements about people - are you a terrorist, or how If Terrogence isn't solely focused on terrorism, but has a political side to its business too, its facial recognition work could sweep up a vast number of people. That brings up another particularly worrying aspect of the business in which Terrogence operates: the dawn of "the privatisation of blacklisting," warned Stanley. "We've been fighting with the government for years over due process on those lists... people being put on them without being told why and not being sure how those lists are being used," he told Forbes.likely are you to be a shoplifter or anything in between - then it exposes everyone to the risk of being misidentified, or correctly identified and being misjudged.""
These Ex-Spies Are Harvesting Facebook Photos For A Massive Facial Recognition Database
Forbes, 16 April 2018

"Seeking to build an identification system of unprecedented scope, India is scanning the fingerprints, eyes and faces of its 1.3 billion residents and connecting the data to everything from welfare benefits to mobile phones. Civil libertarians are horrified, viewing the program, called Aadhaar, as Orwell’s Big Brother brought to life. To the government, it’s more like “big brother,” a term of endearment used by many Indians to address a stranger when asking for help. For other countries, the technology could provide a model for how to track their residents. And for India’s top court, the ID system presents unique legal issues that will define what the constitutional right to privacy means in the digital age. To Adita Jha, Aadhaar was simply a hassle. The 30-year-old environmental consultant in Delhi waited in line three times to sit in front of a computer that photographed her face, captured her fingerprints and snapped images of her irises. Three times, the data failed to upload. The fourth attempt finally worked, and she has now been added to the 1.1 billion Indians already included in the program. Ms. Jha had little choice but to keep at it. The government has made registration mandatory for hundreds of public services and many private ones, from taking school exams to opening bank accounts. “You almost feel like life is going to stop without an Aadhaar,” Ms. Jha said. Technology has given governments around the world new tools to monitor their citizens. In China, the government is rolling out ways to use facial recognition and big data to track people, aiming to inject itself further into everyday life. Many countries, including Britain, deploy closed-circuit cameras to monitor their populations....The potential uses — from surveillance to managing government benefit programs — have drawn interest elsewhere. Sri Lanka is planning a similar system, and Britain, Russia and the Philippines are studying it, according to the Indian government.... Opponents have filed at least 30 cases against the program in India’s Supreme Court. They argue that Aadhaar violates India’s Constitution — and, in particular, a unanimous court decision last year that declared for the first time that Indians had a fundamental right to privacy. Rahul Narayan, one of the lawyers challenging the system, said the government was essentially building one giant database on its citizens. “There has been a sort of mission creep to it all along,” he said."
‘Big Brother’ in India Requires Fingerprint Scans for Food, Phones and Finances
New York Times, 7 April 2018

"The Department of Homeland Security announced a public bid for third party companies to build a “media influence database” capable of tracking more than 290,000 news sources across the globe. First spotted by Bloomberg Law, the public bid would also track journalists and bloggers, compiling their personal information and the publications for which they write. Posted on April 3rd as a call for “Media Monitoring Services,” the database has a dual purpose: monitoring hundreds of thousands of news sources simultaneously worldwide as well as tracking and categorizing journalists and bloggers. The “Media Intelligence and Benchmarking Platform,” as the proposed database is called, would monitor more than 290,000 “online, print, broadcast, cable, radio, trade and industry” news sources worldwide. DHS wants the database to rank and categorize news sources according to a variety of factors, including content and topics covered, reach, circulation and location, and sentiment. Perhaps even more chilling given the current media climate, the platform would also feature a database filled with the personal and social media data of “journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, [and] bloggers,” searchable by location, beat, publication, and ad-hoc keywords.It’s not at all unheard of for the PR wings of big companies to keep lists of journalists, both friendly and unfriendly, on hand—but not at this scale. Of course, the FBI has a long history of tracking journalists, but many questions remain: Will the journalists on the list be notified they’ve been added? Do they have any control over what data is added about them?"
Homeland Security Wants to Build an Online 'Media Influence Database' to Track Journalists
Gizmodo, 6 April 2018

"This is a wake-up call for a generation. The revelation of Cambridge Analytica’s manipulation of Facebook data to target American voters on behalf of Donald Trump in 2016 shines a torch on the jungle where we have become prey for the online carnivores to which we reveal our secrets. The chairman of the Commons culture committee yesterday called on Facebook’s warlord, 33-year-old multi-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, to attend personally to give evidence about his company’s behaviour, though there seems more chance of an appearance by Vladimir Putin.....those of us who spurn social media are almost as vulnerable. Every day that we place things online, Amazon bombards us with come-ons that emphasise its omniscience about what we read, watch, spread on the garden, use in the house.... Cambridge Analytica’s gift to the Trump victory appears to have been to empower his campaign to target ‘persuadable voters’, sparing canvassers from wasting effort on irreconcilable Democrats. It has been said for centuries that knowledge is power, yet Hitler’s Gestapo and Stalin’s secret police knew far less about their fellow citizens than does Facebook, which doesn’t have to photograph them outside their home, tap their phones, or steal government files. Spies seem redundant in the net age. What matters for us now is to move beyond shock and disgust about the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook revelations, and consider what can be done to make such companies behave better. Investigating and, if appropriate, charging the bosses of Cambridge Analytica will be the easy part, because they are based in Britain..... Even if Cambridge Analytica, or Facebook, are damaged as much as they deserve to be by this scandal, there are countless other online data markets where they came from. If any of us wishes to conceal anything about ourselves, this can be achieved only by making sure that information does not appear on a computer. Yet every detail of our finances, health record, employment history is stored somewhere out there, and can never be totally secure."
The best way to fight back against greedy predators like Facebook? Stop laying bare our lives online
Mail, 20 March 2018

"Computer speakers and headphones make passable microphones and can be used to receive data via ultrasound and send signals back, making the practice of air gapping sensitivite computer systems less secure. In an academic paper published on Friday through preprint service ArXiv, researchers from Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev describe a novel data exfiltration technique that allows the transmission and reception of data – in the form of inaudible ultrasonic sound waves – between two computers in the same room without microphones. The paper, titled, "MOSQUITO: Covert Ultrasonic Transmissions between Two Air-Gapped Computers using Speaker-to-Speaker Communication," was written by Mordechai Guri, Yosef Solwicz, Andrey Daidakulov and Yuval Elovici, who have developed a number other notable side-channel attack techniques. These include: ODINI, a way to pass data between Faraday-caged computers using electrical fields; MAGNETO, a technique for passing data between air-gapped computers and smartphones via electrical fields; and FANSMITTER, a way to send acoustic data between air-gapped computers using fans. Secret data transmissions of this sort expand on prior work done by National Security Agency on TEMPEST attacks, which utilize electromagnetic, magnetic, acoustic, optical and thermal emanations from electronic devices to collect and transmit data. MOSQUITO, the researchers explain, demonstrates that speakers can covertly transmit data between unconnected machines at a distance of up to nine meters. What's more, the technique works between mic-less headphones – the researchers say their work is the first to explore headphone-to-headphone covert communication. Speakers, the paper explains, can be thought of as microphones working in reverse: Speakers turn electrical signals into acoustic signals while microphones turn acoustic signals into electrical ones. And each includes a diaphragm to assist with the conversion, which can help reverse the process. Modern audio chipsets, such as those from Realtek, include an option to alter the function of the audio port via software, the paper explains. This capability is referred to as "jack retasking." "The fact that loudspeakers, headphones, earphones, and earbuds are physically built like microphones, coupled with the fact that an audio port’s role in the PC can be altered programmatically, changing it from output to input, creates a vulnerability which can be abused by attackers," the paper explains. Malware, thus, may be able to reconfigure a speaker or headphone to act as a microphone, provided the device is passive and unpowered. That's a significant caveat since most modern PCs have active, powered speakers; headphones and earbuds generally have passive speakers, as do some older PCs. In an email to The Register, Mordechai Guri, one of the paper's authors, head of R&D at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Cyber-Security Research Center, and chief scientific officer at Morphisec, said, "The main problem involves headphones, earphones and earbuds since they are reversible and can become good pair of microphones (even when they don't have an integrated mic at all)." Using frequencies ranging from 18kHz to 24kHz, the researchers were able to achieve a data transmission rate of 166 bit/sec with a 1 per cent error rate when transmitting a 1Kb binary file over a distance of three meters. At distances ranging from 4 to 9 meters, that same error rate could only be achieved with a 10 bit/sec transmission rate, largely as a consequence of interference from environmental noise. The paper discusses several mitigation techniques, all of which have limitations, including designing headphones and speakers with on-board amplifiers (which prevents use as a mic), using an ultrasonic jammer, scanning for ultrasonic transmissions, preventing jack retasking via software, and completely disabling audio hardware via the UEFI/BIOS. Disconnecting speakers, headphones and the like represents the most practical solution, Guri said, "but this is not always feasible." Monitoring the ultrasonic band is a good theoretical and academic solution, he added, but has potential problems. "In practice, it will raise many false alarms," he said. Guri said ultrasonic malware does not appear to be very common. "A few years ago, a security researcher claimed that he found ultrasonic malware in the wild. It was dubbed BadBios. But in any case, it was claimed to be able to communicate between two laptops with both speakers and microphones." Inaudible audio is more likely to be used for marketing, and has prompted the development of defensive code called Silverdog. It's an ultrasonic firewall in the Google Chrome browser that's designed to block ultrasonic beacons (uBeacons), employed for cross-device tracking."
Air gapping PCs won't stop data sharing thanks to sneaky speakers
The Register, 12 March 2018

"A security researcher has ported three leaked NSA exploits to work on all Windows versions released in the past 18 years, starting with Windows 2000. The three exploits are EternalChampion, EternalRomance, and EternalSynergy; all three leaked last April by a hacking group known as The Shadow Brokers who claimed to have stolen the code from the NSA. Now, RiskSense security researcher Sean Dillon (@zerosum0x0) has modified the source code for some of these lesser-known exploits so they would be able to work and run SYSTEM-level code on a wide variety of Windows OS versions."
NSA Exploits Ported to Work on All Windows Versions Released Since Windows 2000
Bleeping Computer, 5 February 2018

"Secure end-to-end encrypted comms is a desirable technology that governments should stop trying to break, especially as there's other information to slurp up on crims, UK politicians were told this week. Blighty's former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson, told the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday that there are plenty of sources of intelligence for law enforcement to get their hands on, rather than banging the drum for backdoors in communications. In what has now become a frustratingly standard question from politicians about tech companies' role in the war on terror, Anderson was asked if he thought the state would ever get access to encrypted messages for security purposes. "No," he replied. "Because end-to-end encryption is not only a fact of life, it is, on balance, a desirable fact of life. Any of us who do our banking online, for example, are very grateful for end-to-end encryption." The debate, Anderson continued, was sometimes wrongly "portrayed in very black and white terms, as if the world is going dark and because of end-to-end encryption we're all doomed". He argued that although the loss of information the state can gather from the content of someone's communications is "very significant", it is tempered by the mass of other data it can slurp from elsewhere. "I mean who would have thought 30 years ago you could track somebody's movements all around London by Oyster card? And you don't even need the Oyster anymore, because you can get the location data from the phone company. It's almost as good as having someone on their tail the whole time." "He said that the most striking of these measures are those contained in the controversial Investigatory Powers Act, which allow public authorities to gain access to 12 months' worth of a person's internet connection records from their provider. "The more people spend their lives online, the more revealing that behaviour becomes," Anderson said."
Terror law expert to UK.gov: Why backdoors when there's so much other data to slurp?
Register, 31 January 2018

"Mobile malware strain Skygofree may be the most advanced Android-infecting nasties ever, antivirus-flinger Kaspersky Lab has warned. Active since 2014, Skygofree, named after one of the domains used in the campaign, is spread through web pages mimicking leading mobile network operators and geared towards cyber-surveillance. Skygofree includes a number of advanced features not seen in the wild before, including:
* Location-based sound recording through the microphone of an infected device – recording starts when the device enters a specified location
* Abuse of Accessibility Services to steal WhatsApp messages
* Ability to connect an infected device to Wi-Fi networks controlled by the attackers
*...Skygofree is a strain of multi-stage spyware that gives attackers full remote control of an infected device.....
"The implant carries multiple exploits for root access and is also capable of taking pictures and videos, seizing call records, SMS, geolocation, calendar events and business-related information stored in the device's memory," the firm added. The malware is even programmed to add itself to the list of "protected apps" so that it is not switched off automatically when the screen is off, circumventing a battery-saving feature that might otherwise limit its effectiveness. The attackers also appear to have an interest in Windows users. Researchers found a number of recently developed modules targeting Microsoft's OS."

Android snoopwar Skygofree can pilfer WhatsApp messages
The Register, 16 January 2018

"Daniel Dunn was about to sign a lease for a Honda Fit last year when a detail buried in the lengthy agreement caught his eye. Honda wanted to track the location of his vehicle, the contract stated, according to Dunn — a stipulation that struck the 69-year-old Temecula, Calif., retiree as a bit odd. But Dunn was eager to drive away in his new car and, despite initial hesitation, he signed the document, a decision with which he has since made peace. “I don’t care if they know where I go,” said Dunn, who makes regular trips to the grocery store and a local yoga studio in his vehicle. “They’re probably thinking, ‘What a boring life this guy’s got.’  Dunn may consider his everyday driving habits mundane, but auto and privacy experts suspect that big automakers like Honda see them as anything but. By monitoring his everyday movements, an automaker can vacuum up a massive amount of personal information about someone like Dunn, everything from how fast he drives and how hard he brakes to how much fuel his car uses and the entertainment he prefers. The company can determine where he shops, the weather on his street, how often he wears his seat belt, what he was doing moments before a wreck — even where he likes to eat and how much he weighs.Though drivers may not realize it, tens of millions of American cars are being monitored like Dunn’s, experts say, and the number increases with nearly every new vehicle that is leased or sold. The result is that carmakers have turned on a powerful spigot of precious personal data, often without owners’ knowledge, transforming the automobile from a machine that helps us travel to a sophisticated computer on wheels that offers even more access to our personal habits and behaviors than smartphones do."
Big Brother on wheels: Why your car company may know more about you than your spouse.
Washington Post, 15 January 2018

"The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to extend the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program for six years with minimal changes, rejecting a push by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to impose significant privacy limits when it sweeps up Americans’ emails and other personal communications. The vote, 256 to 164, centered on an expiring law that permits the government, without a warrant, to collect communications from United States companies like Google and AT&T of foreigners abroad — even when those targets are talking to Americans. Congress had enacted the law in 2008 to legalize a form of a once-secret warrantless surveillance program created after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001."
House Extends Surveillance Law, Rejecting New Privacy Safeguards
New York Times, 11 January 2018

"British homes are vulnerable to “a staggering level of corporate surveillance” through common internet-enabled devices, an investigation has found. Researchers found that a range of connected appliances – increasingly popular features of the so-called smart home – send data to their manufacturers and third-party companies, in some cases failing to keep the information secure. One Samsung smart TV connected to more than 700 distinct internet addresses in 15 minutes. The investigation, by Which? magazine, found televisions selling viewing data to advertisers, toothbrushes with access to smartphone microphones, and security cameras that could be hacked to let others watch and listen to people in their homes. The findings have alarmed privacy campaigners, who warn that consumers are unknowingly building a “terrifying” world of corporate surveillance. “Smart devices are increasingly being exposed as soft surveillance devices that owners have too little control of,” said Silkie Carlo, the director of Big Brother Watch. “People are now being subjected to invasive and unnecessary corporate snooping on an unprecedented scale. “The very notion of a smart home is one of ambient surveillance and constant recording, which will without doubt lead people to modify their behaviour over time. If this current direction is continued, we will become a society of watched consumers subjected to the most granular, pervasive and inescapable surveillance. It is a terrifying thought.” Which? bought more than £3,000 worth of smart home equipment and set it up in a lab to monitor how much data was being collected and transferred. As well as the manufacturers, more than 20 other companies were on the receiving end of data transfers including social networks, third-party monitoring services, advertising and marketing data brokers. Just one device – a Samsung smart TV – connected to more than 700 distinct internet addresses after being used for 15 minutes. If the viewer accepts Samsung’s privacy policy, the company gains the right to monitor what is being watched and when."
UK homes vulnerable to 'staggering' level of corporate surveillance
Guardian, 1 January 2018









".... if you look around and see what the world is now facing I don't think  in the last two or three hundred years we've faced such a concatenation of  problems all at the same time..... if we are to solve the issues that are ahead of us, we are going to need to think in completely different ways. "
Paddy Ashdown, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina 2002 -2006

BBC Radio 4, 'Start The Week', 30 April 2007

"Individual peace is the unit of world peace. By offering Consciousness-Based Education to the coming generation, we can promote a strong foundation for a healthy, harmonious, and peaceful world.... Consciousness-Based education is not a luxury. For our children who are growing up in a stressful, often frightening, crisis-ridden world, it is a necessity."
Academy Award Winning Film Producer David Lynch (Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, etc)
David Lynch Foundation





  

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