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Fazimoon Samad

Russian ll-20 Downed By Syrian Missile After Israeli F-16 Used It As Cover - 1 views

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    Russian ll-20 Downed By Syrian Missile After Israeli F-16 Used It As Cover
Paul Merrell

Will Trump Sanction China's Use of Facial Recognition Software? - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Chinese human rights practices are in the news again. The White House is reportedly weighing sanctions against Chinese officials and companies that are engaged in or facilitating the mass surveillance and detention of Uighurs in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR).  Over the past several months, it has become increasingly clear that the Chinese government is conducting widespread efforts to “re-educate” its largely-Muslim Uighur population in XUAR and impose strict controls over that population’s movements and actions, including through the extensive use of facial recognition software (FRS). And now the Trump Administration, which to date has not focused on other states’ human rights practices, seems to have concluded that China’s actions are worthy of condemnation. Though the administration should not be overly sanguine about the effectiveness of making it harder for a few companies to provide FRS to the Chinese government, there is value in putting down a marker that using FRS this way is not acceptable.
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    But it's somehow okay for the U.S. to do the same with its own population?
Paul Merrell

Google Is Constantly Tracking, Even If You Turn Off Device 'Location History' | Zero Hedge - 1 views

  • In but the latest in a continuing saga of big tech tracking and surveillance stories which should serve to convince us all we are living in the beginning phases of a Minority Report style tracking and pansophical "pre-crime" system, it's now confirmed that the world's most powerful tech company and search tool will always find a way to keep your location data.

    The Associated Press sought the help of Princeton researchers to prove that while Google is clear and upfront about giving App users the ability to turn off or "pause" Location History on their devices, there are other hidden means through which it retains the data.

  • According to the AP report:

    Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you’ve been. Google’s support page on the subject states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

    That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.

    For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like “chocolate chip cookies,” or “kids science kits,” pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude — accurate to the square foot — and save it to your Google account.

    The issue directly affects around two billion people using Google's Android operating software and iPhone users relying on Google maps or a simple search.

    Among the computer science researchers at Princeton conducting the tests is Jonathan Mayer, who told the AP, “If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off,” and added, “That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”

Paul Merrell

Amazon's Face Recognition Falsely Matched 28 Members of Congress With Mugshots | Americ... - 0 views

  • Amazon’s face surveillance technology is the target of growing opposition nationwide, and today, there are 28 more causes for concern. In a test the ACLU recently conducted of the facial recognition tool, called “Rekognition,” the software incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress, identifying them as other people who have been arrested for a crime. 

    The members of Congress who were falsely matched with the mugshot database we used in the test include Republicans and Democrats, men and women, and legislators of all ages, from all across the country.

  • The false matches were disproportionately of people of color, including six members of the Congressional Black Caucus, among them civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). These results demonstrate why Congress should join the ACLU in calling for a moratorium on law enforcement use of face surveillance.

Paul Merrell

The Wifi Alliance, Coming Soon to Your Neighborhood: 5G Wireless | Global Research - Ce... - 0 views

  • Just as any new technology claims to offer the most advanced development; that their definition of progress will cure society’s ills or make life easier by eliminating the drudgery of antiquated appliances, the Wifi Alliance  was organized as a worldwide wireless network to connect ‘everyone and everything, everywhere” as it promised “improvements to nearly every aspect of daily life.”   

    The Alliance, which makes no pretense of potential health or environmental concerns, further proclaimed (and they may be correct) that there are “more wifi devices than people on earth”.   It is that inescapable exposure to ubiquitous wireless technologies wherein lies the problem.   

  • Even prior to the 1997 introduction of commercially available wifi devices which has saturated every industrialized country, EMF wifi hot spots were everywhere.  Today with the addition of cell and cordless phones and towers, broadcast antennas, smart meters and the pervasive computer wifi, both adults and especially vulnerable children are surrounded 24-7 by an inescapable presence with little recognition that all radiation exposure is cumulative.    
  • The National Toxicology Program (NTP), a branch of the US National Institute for Health (NIH), conducted the world’s largest study on radiofrequency radiation used by the US telecommunications industry and found a ‘significantly statistical increase in brain and heart cancers” in animals exposed to EMF (electromagnetic fields).  The NTP study confirmed the connection between mobile and wireless phone use and human brain cancer risks and its conclusions were supported by other epidemiological peer-reviewed studies.  Of special note is that studies citing the biological risk to human health were below accepted international exposure standards.    
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    ""…what this means is that the current safety standards as off by a factor of about 7 million.' Pointing out that a recent FCC Chair was a former lobbyist for the telecom industry, "I know how they've attacked various people.  In the U.S. … the funding for the EMF research [by the Environmental Protection Agency] was cut off starting in 1986 … The U.S. Office of Naval Research had been funding a fair amount of research in this area [in the '70s]. They [also] … stopped funding new grants in 1986 …  And then the NIH a few years later followed the same path …"

    As if all was not reason enough for concern or even downright panic,  the next generation of wireless technology known as 5G (fifth generation), representing the innocuous sounding Internet of Things, promises a quantum leap in power and exceedingly more damaging health impacts with mandatory exposures.    

     The immense expansion of radiation emissions from the current wireless EMF frequency band and 5G about to be perpetrated on an unsuspecting American public should be criminal.  Developed by the US military as non lethal perimeter and crowd control, the Active Denial System emits a high density, high frequency wireless radiation comparable to 5G and emits radiation in the neighborhood of 90 GHz.   

    The current Pre 5G, frequency band emissions used in today's commercial wireless range is from 300 Mhz to 3 GHZ as 5G will become the first wireless system to utilize millimeter waves with frequencies ranging from 30 to 300 GHz. One example of the differential is that a current LANS (local area network system) uses 2.4 GHz. 

    Hidden behind these numbers is an utterly devastating increase in health effects of immeasurable impacts so stunning as to numb the senses.

    In 2017, the international Environmental Health Trust recommended an EU moratorium "on the roll-out of the fifth generation, 5G, for telecommunication until potential hazards for human health and the environment hav
Paul Merrell

California Passes Sweeping Law to Protect Online Privacy - The New York Times - 0 views

  • California has passed a digital privacy law granting consumers more control over and insight into the spread of their personal information online, creating one of the most significant regulations overseeing the data-collection practices of technology companies in the United States.

    The bill raced through the State Legislature without opposition on Thursday and was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, just hours before a deadline to pull from the November ballot an initiative seeking even tougher oversight over technology companies.

    The new law grants consumers the right to know what information companies are collecting about them, why they are collecting that data and with whom they are sharing it. It gives consumers the right to tell companies to delete their information as well as to not sell or share their data. Businesses must still give consumers who opt out the same quality of service.

    It also makes it more difficult to share or sell data on children younger than 16.

    The legislation, which goes into effect in January 2020, makes it easier for consumers to sue companies after a data breach. And it gives the state’s attorney general more authority to fine companies that don’t adhere to the new regulations.

  • The California law is not as expansive as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, or G.D.P.R., a new set of laws restricting how tech companies collect, store and use personal data.

    But Aleecia M. McDonald, an incoming assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University who specializes in privacy policy, said California’s privacy measure was one of the most comprehensive in the United States, since most existing laws — and there are not many — do little to limit what companies can do with consumer information.

Paul Merrell

Announcing STARTTLS Everywhere: Securing Hop-to-Hop Email Delivery | Electronic Frontie... - 0 views

  • Today we’re announcing the launch of STARTTLS Everywhere, EFF’s initiative to improve the security of the email ecosystem.

    Thanks to previous EFF efforts like Let's Encrypt, and Certbot, as well as help from the major web browsers, we've seen significant wins in encrypting the web. Now we want to do for email what we’ve done for web browsing: make it simple and easy for everyone to help ensure their communications aren’t vulnerable to mass surveillance.

  • t’s important to note that STARTTLS Everywhere is designed to be run by mailserver admins, not regular users. No matter your role, you can join in the STARTTLS fun and find out how secure your current email provider is at:

    https://www.starttls-everywhere.org/

    Enter your email domain (the part of your email address after the “@” symbol), and we’ll check if your email provider has configured their server to use STARTTLS, whether or not they use a valid certificate, and whether or not they’re on the STARTTLS Preload List—all different indications of how secure (or vulnerable) your email provider is to mass surveillance.

Paul Merrell

The Supreme Court's Groundbreaking Privacy Victory for the Digital Age | American Civil... - 0 views

  • The Supreme Court on Friday handed down what is arguably the most consequential privacy decision of the digital age, ruling that police need a warrant before they can seize people’s sensitive location information stored by cellphone companies.

    The case specifically concerns the privacy of cellphone location data, but the ruling has broad implications for government access to all manner of information collected about people and stored by the purveyors of popular technologies. In its decision, the court rejects the government’s expansive argument that people lose their privacy rights merely by using those technologies.

    Carpenter v. U.S., which was argued by the ACLU, involves Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted in 2013 of a string of burglaries in Detroit. To tie Carpenter to the burglaries, FBI agents obtained — without seeking a warrant — months’ worth of his location information from Carpenter’s cellphone company. They got almost 13,000 data points tracking Carpenter’s whereabouts during that period, revealing where he slept, when he attended church, and much more. Indeed, as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in Friday’s decision, “when the Government tracks the location of a cell phone it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user.”.

  • The ACLU argued the agents had violated Carpenter’s Fourth Amendment rights when they obtained such detailed records without a warrant based on probable cause. In a decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court agreed, recognizing that the Fourth Amendment must apply to records of such unprecedented breadth and sensitivity:

    Mapping a cell phone’s location over the course of 127 days provides an all-encompassing record of the holder’s whereabouts. As with GPS information, the timestamped data provides an intimate window into a person’s life, revealing not only his particular movements, but through them his ‘familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations.’

  • The government’s argument that it needed no warrant for these records extends far beyond cellphone location information, to any data generated by modern technologies and held by private companies rather than in our own homes or pockets. To make their case, government lawyers relied on an outdated, 1970s-era legal doctrine that says that once someone shares information with a “third party” — in Carpenter’s case, a cellphone company — that data is no longer protected by the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court made abundantly clear that this doctrine has its limits and cannot serve as a carte blanche for the government seizure of any data of its choosing without judicial oversight.

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  • While the decision extends in the immediate term only to historical cellphone location data, the Supreme Court’s reasoning opens the door to the protection of the many other kinds of data generated by popular technologies.

    Today’s decision provides a groundbreaking update to privacy rights that the digital age has rendered vulnerable to abuse by the government’s appetite for surveillance. It recognizes that “cell phones and the services they provide are ‘such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life’ that carrying one is indispensable to participation in modern society.” And it helps ensure that we don’t have to give up those rights if we want to participate in modern life. 

Paul Merrell

Social Media Giants Choking Independent News Site Traffic to a Trickle - 0 views

  • Several prominent figures, including Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, warned the EU Parliament that its proposed censorship measure would begin transforming the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.
  • For much of the year, independent media has felt the sting of increased social media censorship, as the “revolving door” between U.S. intelligence agencies and social-media companies has manifested in a crackdown on news that challenges official government narratives. With many notable independent news websites having shut down since then as a result, those that remain afloat are being censored like never before, with social media traffic from Facebook and Twitter completely cut off in some cases. Among such websites, social media censorship by the most popular social networks is now widely regarded to be the worst it has ever been – a chilling reality for any who seek fact-based perspectives on major world events that differ from those to be found on well-known corporate-media outlets that consistently toe the government line.

    Last August, MintPress reported that a new Google algorithm targeting “fake news” had quashed traffic to many independent news and advocacy sites, with sites such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Democracy Now, and WikiLeaks, seeing their returns from Google searches experience massive drops. The World Socialist Website, one of the affected pages, reported a 67 percent decrease in Google returns while MintPress experienced an even larger decrease of 76 percent in Google search returns. The new algorithm targeted online publications on

Paul Merrell

Superiority in Cyberspace Will Remain Elusive - Federation Of American Scientists - 0 views

  • Military planners should not anticipate that the United States will ever dominate cyberspace, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a new doctrinal publication. The kind of supremacy that might be achievable in other domains is not a realistic option in cyber operations.

    “Permanent global cyberspace superiority is not possible due to the complexity of cyberspace,” the DoD publication said.

    In fact, “Even local superiority may be impractical due to the way IT [information technology] is implemented; the fact US and other national governments do not directly control large, privately owned portions of cyberspace; the broad array of state and non-state actors; the low cost of entry; and the rapid and unpredictable proliferation of technology.”

    Nevertheless, the military has to make do under all circumstances. “Commanders should be prepared to conduct operations under degraded conditions in cyberspace.”

    This sober assessment appeared in a new edition of Joint Publication 3-12, Cyberspace Operations, dated June 8, 2018. (The 100-page document updates and replaces a 70-page version from 2013.)

    The updated DoD doctrine presents a cyber concept of operations, describes the organization of cyber forces, outlines areas of responsibility, and defines limits on military action in cyberspace, including legal limits.

  • The new cyber doctrine reiterates the importance and the difficulty of properly attributing cyber attacks against the US to their source.

    “The ability to hide the sponsor and/or the threat behind a particular malicious effect in cyberspace makes it difficult to determine how, when, and where to respond,” the document said. “The design of the Internet lends itself to anonymity and, combined with applications intended to hide the identity of users, attribution will continue to be a challenge for the foreseeable future.”

Paul Merrell

Censorship in the Age of Large Cloud Providers - Lawfare - 1 views

  • Internet censors have a new strategy in their bid to block applications and websites: pressuring the large cloud providers that host them. These providers have concerns that are much broader than the targets of censorship efforts, so they have the choice of either standing up to the censors or capitulating in order to maximize their business. Today’s internet largely reflects the dominance of a handful of companies behind the cloud services, search engines and mobile platforms that underpin the technology landscape. This new centralization radically tips the balance between those who want to censor parts of the internet and those trying to evade censorship. When the profitable answer is for a software giant to acquiesce to censors' demands, how long can internet freedom last?

    The recent battle between the Russian government and the Telegram messaging app illustrates one way this might play out. Russia has been trying to block Telegram since April, when a Moscow court banned it after the company refused to give Russian authorities access to user messages. Telegram, which is widely used in Russia, works on both iPhone and Android, and there are Windows and Mac desktop versions available. The app offers optional end-to-end encryption, meaning that all messages are encrypted on the sender's phone and decrypted on the receiver's phone; no part of the network can eavesdrop on the messages.

    Since then, Telegram has been playing cat-and-mouse with the Russian telecom regulator Roskomnadzor by varying the IP address the app uses to communicate. Because Telegram isn't a fixed website, it doesn't need a fixed IP address. Telegram bought tens of thousands of IP addresses and has been quickly rotating through them, sta

Paul Merrell

Securus, that phone tracking company, has reportedly been hacked - CNET - 0 views

  • That didn't take long. Securus -- you know, that company that lets cops track phones in real time with what amounts to a "pinky promise," according to US Sen. Ron Wyden -- has reportedly been hacked.

    The hacker, according to Motherboard, was able to get away with, at a minimum, a spreadsheet containing 2,800 logins and poorly encrypted passwords, some of which had already been cracked. Motherboard says it tested a number of logins to corroborate the hacker's story.

    Securus on Friday confirmed in a statement that "a subset of certain non-consumer administrative user account information (e.g., usernames, email addresses, and phone numbers) had been unlawfully accessed" and said it's launched an investigation into the breach. 

    It's found no evidence that the breach is related to its location-based services, but it's disabled location-based data in the meantime "in an abundance of caution."

    Last Thursday, The New York Times revealed that Securus Technologies, which monitors calls to US prison inmates, has been used by a former Missouri sheriff to monitor people's phones and track their location. Wyden has called on federal authorities to investigate the company and its practices as they relate to people's privacy.

Paul Merrell

How a "location API" allows cops to figure out where we all are in real time | Ars Tech... - 0 views

  • The digital privacy world was rocked late Thursday evening when The New York Times reported on Securus, a prison telecom company that has a service enabling law enforcement officers to locate most American cell phones within seconds. The company does this via a basic Web interface leveraging a location API—creating a way to effectively access a massive real-time database of cell-site records.

    Securus’ location ability relies on other data brokers and location aggregators that obtain that information directly from mobile providers, usually for the purposes of providing some commercial service like an opt-in product discount triggered by being near a certain location. ("You’re near a Carl’s Jr.! Stop in now for a free order of fries with purchase!")

    The Texas-based Securus reportedly gets its data from 3CInteractive, which in turn buys data from LocationSmart. Ars reached 3CInteractive's general counsel, Scott Elk, who referred us to a spokesperson. The spokesperson did not immediately respond to our query. But currently, anyone can get a sense of the power of a location API by trying out a demo from LocationSmart itself.

    Currently, the Supreme Court is set to rule on the case of Carpenter v. United States, which asks whether police can obtain more than 120 days' worth of cell-site location information of a criminal suspect without a warrant. In that case, as is common in many investigations, law enforcement presented a cell provider with a court order to obtain such historical data. But the ability to obtain real-time location data that Securus reportedly offers skips that entire process, and it's potentially far more invasive.

    Securus’ location service as used by law enforcement is also currently being scrutinized. The service is at the heart of an ongoing federal prosecution of a former Missouri sheriff’s deputy who allegedly used it at least 11 times against a judge and other law enforcement officers.

    On Friday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) publicly released his formal letters to AT&T and also to the Federal Communications Commission demanding detailed answers regarding these Securus revelations.

Paul Merrell

The De-Americanization of Internet Freedom - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Why did the internet freedom agenda fail? Goldsmith’s essay tees up, but does not fully explore, a range of explanatory hypotheses. The most straightforward have to do with unrealistic expectations and unintended consequences. The idea that a minimally regulated internet would usher in an era of global peace, prosperity, and mutual understanding, Goldsmith tells us, was always a fantasy. As a project of democracy and human rights promotion, the internet freedom agenda was premised on a wildly overoptimistic view about the capacity of information flows, on their own, to empower oppressed groups and effect social change. Embracing this market-utopian view led the United States to underinvest in cybersecurity, social media oversight, and any number of other regulatory tools. In suggesting this interpretation of where U.S. policymakers and their civil society partners went wrong, Goldsmith’s essay complements recent critiques of the neoliberal strains in the broader human rights and transparency movements.

    Perhaps, however, the internet freedom agenda has faltered not because it was so naïve and unrealistic, but because it was so effective at achieving its realist goals. The seeds of this alternative account can be found in Goldsmith’s concession that the commercial non-regulation principle helped companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon grab “huge market share globally.” The internet became an increasingly valuable cash cow for U.S. firms and an increasingly potent instrument of U.S. soft power over the past two decades; foreign governments, in due course, felt compelled to fight back. If the internet freedom agenda is understood as fundamentally a national economic project, rather than an international political or moral crusade, then we might say that its rem

Paul Merrell

HART: Homeland Security's Massive New Database Will Include Face Recognition, DNA, and ... - 0 views

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is quietly building what will likely become the largest database of biometric and biographic data on citizens and foreigners in the United States. The agency’s new Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) database will include multiple forms of biometrics—from face recognition to DNA, data from questionable sources, and highly personal data on innocent people. It will be shared with federal agencies outside of DHS as well as state and local law enforcement and foreign governments. And yet, we still know very little about it.

    The records DHS plans to include in HART will chill and deter people from exercising their First Amendment protected rights to speak, assemble, and associate. Data like face recognition makes it possible to identify and track people in real time, including at lawful political protests and other gatherings. Other data DHS is planning to collect—including information about people’s “relationship patterns” and from officer “encounters” with the public—can be used to identify political affiliations, religious activities, and familial and friendly relationships. These data points are also frequently colored by conjecture and bias.

  • DHS currently collects a lot of data. Its legacy IDENT fingerprint database contains information on 220-million unique individuals and processes 350,000 fingerprint transactions every day. This is an exponential increase from 20 years ago when IDENT only contained information on 1.8-million people. Between IDENT and other DHS-managed databases, the agency manages over 10-billion biographic records and adds 10-15 million more each week.
  • DHS’s new HART database will allow the agency to vastly expand the types of records it can collect and store. HART will support at least seven types of biometric identifiers, including face and voice data, DNA, scars and tattoos, and a blanket category for “other modalities.” It will also include biographic information, like name, date of birth, physical descriptors, country of origin, and government ID numbers. And it will include data we know to by highly subjective, including information collected from officer “encounters” with the public and information about people’s “relationship patterns.”
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  • DHS’s face recognition roll-out is especially concerning. The agency uses mobile biometric devices that can identify faces and capture face data in the field, allowing its ICE (immigration) and CBP (customs) officers to scan everyone with whom they come into contact, whether or not those people are suspected of any criminal activity or an immigration violation. DHS is also partnering with airlines and other third parties to collect face images from travelers entering and leaving the U.S. When combined with data from other government agencies, these troubling collection practices will allow DHS to build a database large enough to identify and track all people in public places, without their knowledge—not just in places the agency oversees, like airports, but anywhere there are cameras.

    Police abuse of facial recognition technology is not a theoretical issue: it’s happening today. Law enforcement has already used face recognition on public streets and at political protests. During the protests surrounding the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, Baltimore Police ran social media photos against a face recognition database to identify protesters and arrest them. Recent Amazon promotional videos encourage police agencies to acquire that company’s face “Rekognition” capabilities and use them with body cameras and smart cameras to track people throughout cities. At least two U.S. cities are already using Rekognition.

    DHS compounds face recognition’s threat to anonymity and free speech by planning to include “records related to the analysis of relationship patterns among individuals.” We don’t know where DHS or its external partners will be getting these “relationship pattern” records, but they could come from social media profiles and posts, which the government plans to track by collecting social media user names from all foreign travelers entering the country.

Paul Merrell

Facebook plans to build huge Utah data center | Fox Business - 0 views

  • acebook plans to build a data center in Utah on a 490-acre site, the social media company and government officials announced on Wednesday.

    Continue Reading Below

    The Eagle Mountain, Utah, facility will be 970,000 square feet and located about 15 miles south of a National Security Agency data center in Bluffdale, Utah.

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    15 miles from the NSA's Bluffdale facility. An amazing coincidence or something more sinister?
Paul Merrell

Zuckerberg set up fraudulent scheme to 'weaponise' data, court case alleges | Technolog... - 1 views

  • Mark Zuckerberg faces allegations that he developed a “malicious and fraudulent scheme” to exploit vast amounts of private data to earn Facebook billions and force rivals out of business.

    A company suing Facebook in a California court claims the social network’s chief executive “weaponised” the ability to access data from any user’s network of friends – the feature at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

    A legal motion filed last week in the superior court of San Mateo draws upon extensive confidential emails and messages between Facebook senior executives including Mark Zuckerberg. He is named individually in the case and, it is claimed, had personal oversight of the scheme.

    Facebook rejects all claims, and has made a motion to have the case dismissed using a free speech defence.

  • It claims the first amendment protects its right to make “editorial decisions” as it sees fit. Zuckerberg and other senior executives have asserted that Facebook is a platform not a publisher, most recently in testimony to Congress.
  • Heather Whitney, a legal scholar who has written about social media companies for the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said, in her opinion, this exposed a potential tension for Facebook.

    “Facebook’s claims in court that it is an editor for first amendment purposes and thus free to censor and alter the content available on its site is in tension with their, especially recent, claims before the public and US Congress to be neutral platforms.”

    The company that has filed the case, a former startup called Six4Three, is now trying to stop Facebook from having the case thrown out and has submitted legal arguments that draw on thousands of emails, the details of which are currently redacted. Facebook has until next Tuesday to file a motion requesting that the evidence remains sealed, otherwise the documents will be made public.

Paul Merrell

Trump's Blocking of Twitter Users Is Unconstitutional, Judge Says - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Apart from the man himself, perhaps nothing has defined President Trump’s political persona more than Twitter.

    But on Wednesday, one of Mr. Trump’s Twitter habits — his practice of blocking critics on the service, preventing them from engaging with his account — was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in Manhattan.

    Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, addressing a novel issue about how the Constitution applies to social media platforms and public officials, found that the president’s Twitter feed is a public forum. As a result, she ruled that when Mr. Trump or an aide blocked seven plaintiffs from viewing and replying to his posts, he violated the First Amendment.

    If the principle undergirding Wednesday’s ruling in Federal District Court stands, it is likely to have implications far beyond Mr. Trump’s feed and its 52 million followers, said Jameel Jaffer, the Knight First Amendment Institute’s executive director and the counsel for the plaintiffs. Public officials throughout the country, from local politicians to governors and members of Congress, regularly use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to interact with the public about government business.

Paul Merrell

Nearly Everyone In The U.S. And Canada Just Had Their Private Cell Phone Location Data ... - 0 views

  • A company by the name of LocationSmart isn't having a particularly good month.

    The company recently received all the wrong kind of attention when it was caught up in a privacy scandal involving the nation's wireless carriers and our biggest prison phone monopoly. Like countless other companies and governments, LocationSmart buys your wireless location data from cell carriers. It then sells access to that data via a portal that can provide real-time access to a user's location via a tailored graphical interface using just the target's phone number.

  • Theoretically, this functionality is sold under the pretense that the tool can be used to track things like drug offenders who have skipped out of rehab. And ideally, all the companies involved were supposed to ensure that data lookup requests were accompanied by something vaguely resembling official documentation. But a recent deep dive by the New York Times noted how the system was open to routine abuse by law enforcement, after a Missouri Sherrif used the system to routinely spy on Judges and fellow law enforcement officers without much legitimate justification (or pesky warrants):

    "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."

    It was yet another example of the way nonexistent to lax consumer privacy laws in the States (especially for wireless carriers) routinely come back to bite us.

    But then things got worse.

  • Driven by curiousity in the wake of the Times report, a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University by the name of Robert Xiao discovered that the "try before you buy" system used by LocationSmart to advertise the cell location tracking system contained a bug, A bug so bad that it exposed the data of roughly 200 million wireless subscribers across the United States and Canada (read: nearly everybody). As we see all too often, the researcher highlighted how the security standards in place to safeguard this data were virtually nonexistent:

    "Due to a very elementary bug in the website, you can just skip that consent part and go straight to the location," said Robert Xiao, a PhD student at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, in a phone call. "The implication of this is that LocationSmart never required consent in the first place," he said. "There seems to be no security oversight here."

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  • Meanwhile, none of the four major wireless carriers have been willing to confirm any business relationship with LocationSmart, but all claim to be investigating the problem after the week of bad press. That this actually results in substantive changes to the nation's cavalier treatment of private user data is a wager few would be likely to make.
Paul Merrell

"Alarming": Facebook Teams Up With Think-Tank Funded by Saudi Arabia and Military Contr... - 0 views

  • n a new project Facebook insists is a completely objective and nonpartisan effort to root out what it deems "disinformation," the social media giant announced on Thursday that it is partnering with the Atlantic Council—a prominent Washington-based think-tank funded by Saudi Arabia, major oil companies, defense contractors, and Charles Koch—to prevent its platform from "being abused during elections."

    "This is alarming," independent journalist Rania Khalek concluded in a tweet on Thursday. "The Atlantic Council—which is funded by gulf monarchies, western governments, NATO, oil and weapons companies, etc.—will now assist Facebook in suppressing what they decide is disinformation."

    According to its statement announcing the initiative, Facebook will "use the Atlantic Council's Digital Research Unit Monitoring Missions during elections and other highly sensitive moments."

  • While Facebook's statement fawned over the Atlantic Council's "stellar reputation," critics argued that the organization's reliance on donations from foreign oil monarchies and American plutocrats puts the lie to the project's stated mission of shielding the democratic process from manipulation and abuse.

    "Monopoly social media corporations teaming up with [the] pro-U.S. NatSec blob to determine truth was always the logical end of 'fake news' panic," Adam Johnson, a contributor at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), argued on Twitter in response to Facebook's announcement.

  • According to a New York Times report from 2014, the Atlantic Council has received donations from at least 25 foreign nations since 2008, including the United Kingdom, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

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