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Contents contributed and discussions participated by Paul Merrell

Paul Merrell

Opinion: Berkeley Can Become a City of Refuge | Opinion | East Bay Express - 0 views

  • The Berkeley City Council is poised to vote March 13 on the Surveillance Technology Use and Community Safety Ordinance, which will significantly protect people's right to privacy and safeguard the civil liberties of Berkeley residents in this age of surveillance and Big Data.

    The ordinance is based on an ACLU model that was first enacted by Santa Clara County in 2016. The Los Angeles Times has editorialized that the ACLU's model ordinance approach "is so pragmatic that cities, counties, and law enforcement agencies throughout California would be foolish not to embrace it." Berkeley's Peace and Justice and Police Review commissions agreed and unanimously approved a draft that will be presented to the council on Tuesday.

    The ordinance requires public notice and public debate prior to seeking funding, acquiring equipment, or otherwise moving forward with surveillance technology proposals. In neighboring Oakland, we saw the negative outcome that can occur from lack of such a discussion, when the city's administration pursued funding for, and began building, the citywide surveillance network known as the Domain Awareness Center ("DAC") without community input. Ultimately, the community rejected the project, and the fallout led to the establishment of a Privacy Advisory Commission and subsequent consideration of a similar surveillance ordinance to ensure proper vetting occurs up front, not after the fact.

Paul Merrell

New Documents Reveal FBI's "Cozy" Relationship with Geek Squad - 0 views

  • Throughout the past ten years, the FBI has at varying points in time maintained a particularly close relationship with Best Buy officials and used the company’s Geek Squad employees as informants. But the FBI refuses to confirm or deny key information about how the agency may potentially circumvent computer owners’ Fourth Amendment rights.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) obtained a handful of documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in February of last year. EFF says they show the relationship between the FBI and Geek Squad employees is much “cozier” than they thought.

  • In court filings, the defense mentioned there were “eight FBI informants at Geek Squad City” from 2007 to 2012. Multiple employees received payments ranging from $500-1000 for work as informants.
  • There is no evidence that FBI obtained warrants before the Geek Squad informants searched computers they were repairing. It is believed Geek Squad employees routinely search unallocated space for any illegal content that may be on a device and then alert the FBI after conducting “fishing expeditions” for criminal activity, and this is what the FBI trains them to do.

    EFF sought “records about the extent to which [the FBI] directs and trains Best Buy employees to conduct warrantless searches of people’s devices.” As is clear, the government stonewalled EFF and only released documents that were already referred to by news media.

    The FBI neither confirmed nor denied whether the agency has “similar relationships with other computer repair facilities or businesses.” The FBI also would not produce any documents that detailed procedures or “training materials” for cultivating informants at computer repair facilities.

Paul Merrell

Senate and House Democrats Introduce Resolution to Reinstate Net Neutrality - U.S. Sena... - 0 views

  • On the Net Neutrality National Day of Action, Senate and House Democrats introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) partisan decision on net neutrality. At a press conference today, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Congressman Mike Doyle (PA-14), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) announced introduction of House and Senate resolutions to fully restore the 2015 Open Internet Order. The Senate CRA resolution of disapproval stands at 50 supporters, including Republican Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine.). Rep. Doyle’s resolution in the House of Representatives currently has 150 co-sponsors.

     

    The FCC’s Open Internet Order prohibited internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or discriminating against content online. Repealing these net neutrality rules could lead to higher prices for consumers, slower internet traffic, and even blocked websites. A recent poll showed that 83 percent of Americans do not approve of the FCC’s action to repeal net neutrality rules.

     

  • A copy of the CRA resolution can be found HERE.

     

    Last week, the FCC’s rule repealing net neutrality was published in the Federal Register, leaving 60 legislative days to seek a vote on the Senate floor on the CRA resolutions. In order to force a vote on the Senate resolution, Senator Markey will submit a discharge petition, which requires a minimum of 30 Senators’ signature. Once the discharge petition is filed, Senator Markey and Senate Democrats will demand a vote on the resolution.

Paul Merrell

USA, USA, USA: America's 4G Network Is Ranked 62nd 'Best' In The World (Behind Macedoni... - 0 views

  • The United States takes pride in being a technological leader in the world. Companies such as Apple, Alphabet, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have shaped our (digital) lives for many years and there is little indication of that changing anytime soon.

    But, as Statista's Felix Richter notes, when it comes to IT infrastructure however, the U.S. is lagging behind the world’s best (and many of its not-so-best), be it in terms of home broadband or wireless broadband speeds. According to OpenSignal's latest State of LTE report, the average 4G download speed in the United States was 16.31 Mbps in Q4 2017.

  • The United States takes pride in being a technological leader in the world. Companies such as Apple, Alphabet, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have shaped our (digital) lives for many years and there is little indication of that changing anytime soon.

    But, as Statista's Felix Richter notes, when it comes to IT infrastructure however, the U.S. is lagging behind the world’s best (and many of its not-so-best), be it in terms of home broadband or wireless broadband speeds. According to OpenSignal's latest State of LTE report, the average 4G download speed in the United States was 16.31 Mbps in Q4 2017.

  • The United States takes pride in being a technological leader in the world. Companies such as Apple, Alphabet, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have shaped our (digital) lives for many years and there is little indication of that changing anytime soon.

    But, as Statista's Felix Richter notes, when it comes to IT infrastructure however, the U.S. is lagging behind the world’s best (and many of its not-so-best), be it in terms of home broadband or wireless broadband speeds. According to OpenSignal's latest State of LTE report, the average 4G download speed in the United States was 16.31 Mbps in Q4 2017.

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  • That’s little more than a third of the speed that mobile device users in Singapore enjoy and ranks the U.S. at a disappointing 62nd place in the global ranking.
  • While U.S. mobile networks appear to lack in speed, they are on par with the best in terms of 4G availability. According to OpenSignal's findings, LTE was available to U.S. smartphone users 90 percent of the time, putting the United States in fifth place.
Paul Merrell

With rules repealed, what's next for net neutrality? | TheHill - 0 views

  • The battle over the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality rules is entering a new phase, with opponents of the move launching efforts to preserve the Obama-era consumer protections.

    The net neutrality rules had required internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. Republicans on the commission decried the regulatory structure as a gross overreach, and quickly moved to reverse them once the Trump administration came to power. 

    The reversal of the rules was published in the Federal Register Thursday, and even though the order is months away from implementation, net neutrality supporters are now free to mount legal challenges to the action. 

    A coalition of Democratic state attorneys general, public interest groups and internet companies have vowed to fight in the courts. Twenty-three states, led by New York and its attorney general, Eric Schneiderman (D), have already filed a lawsuit. 

  • The emerging court battle over net neutrality could keep the issue in limbo for years.

    Meanwhile, a separate battle over the rules is brewing in Congress.

    Senate Democrats have secured enough support to force a vote on a bill that would undo the FCC’s December vote and leave the net neutrality rules in place. 

    The bill, which is being pushed by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), would use a legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. 

    The entry of the FCC’s repeal order in the Federal Register Thursday means that the Senate has 60 legislative days to move on the CRA bill. Democrats have secured support from one Republican, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday MORE (Maine), and need just one more to cross the aisle for the bill to pass the chamber. 

  • Even if Democrats do manage to find the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, the bill is almost certain to die in the House. But Democrats see a roll call vote as an opportunity to make GOP members stake out a position on an issue that they think could resonate in the midterm elections. 

    On yet another front, Democratic states around the country have already launched their own attack on the FCC’s rules. Five governors (from Montana, Hawaii, New Jersey, Vermont and New York) have in recent weeks signed executive orders forbidding their states from doing business with internet service providers who violate net neutrality principles. 

    And, according to the pro-net neutrality group Free Press, legislatures in 26 states are weighing bills that would codify their own open internet protections. 

    The local efforts could ignite a separate legal battle over whether states have the authority to counteract the FCC’s order, which included a provision preempting them from replacing the rules.

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  • For their part, Republicans who applauded the FCC repeal are calling for a legislation that would codify some net neutrality principles. They say doing so would allow for less heavy-handed protections that provide certainty to businesses.

    But most net neutrality supporters reject that course, at least while the repeal is tied up in court and Republicans control majorities in both the House and Senate. They argue that such a bill would amount to little more than watered-down protections that would be unable to keep internet service providers in check. 

    For now, Democrats seem content to let the battles in the courts and Congress play out.

Paul Merrell

Deep Fakes: A Looming Crisis for National Security, Democracy and Privacy? - Lawfare - 0 views

  • “We are truly fucked.” That was Motherboard’s spot-on to deep fake sex videos (realistic-looking videos that swap a person’s face into sex scenes actually involving other people). And that sleazy application is just the tip of the iceberg. As Julian Sanchez , “The prospect of any Internet rando being able to swap anyone’s face into porn is incredibly creepy. But my first thought is that we have not even scratched the surface of how bad ‘fake news’ is going to get.” Indeed.

    Recent events amply demonstrate that false claims—even preposterous ones—can be peddled with unprecedented success today thanks to a combination of social media ubiquity and virality, cognitive biases, filter bubbles, and group polarization. The resulting harms are significant for , , and . Belated recognition of the problem has spurred a variety of efforts to address this most recent illustration of truth decay, and at first blush there seems to be reason for optimism. Alas, the problem may soon take a significant turn for the worse thanks to deep fakes.

    Get used to hearing that phrase. It refers to digital manipulation of sound, images, or video to impersonate someone or make it appear that a person did something—and to do so in a manner that is increasingly realistic, to the point that the unaided observer cannot detect the fake. Think of it as a destructive variation of the Turing test: imitation designed to mislead and deceive rather than to emulate and iterate.

  • Fueled by artificial intelligence, digital impersonation is on the rise. Machine-learning algorithms (often neural networks) combined with facial-mapping software enable the cheap and easy fabrication of content that hijacks one’s identity—voice, face, body. Deep fake technology individuals’ faces into videos without their permission. The result is “believable videos of people doing and saying things they never did.”

    Not surprisingly, this concept has been quickly leveraged to sleazy ends. The latest craze is fake sex videos featuring like Gal Gadot and Emma Watson. Although the sex scenes look realistic, they are not consensual cyber porn. Conscripting individuals (more often women) into fake porn undermines their agency, reduces them to sexual objects, engenders feeling of embarrassment and shame, and inflicts reputational harm that can devastate careers (especially for everyday people). Regrettably, are sure to use fake sex videos to torment victims.

    What comes next? We can expect to see deep fakes used in other abusive, individually-targeted ways, such as undermining a rival’s relationship with fake evidence of an affair or an enemy’s career with fake evidence of a racist comment.

Paul Merrell

China's Hauwei: Top US intelligence chiefs caution Americans away - 0 views

    • The directors of the CIA, FBI, NSA and several other intelligence agencies express their distrust of Apple-rival Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE.
    • During a hearing, the intelligence chiefs commended American telecom companies for their measured resistance to the Chinese companies.
    • Huawei has been trying to enter the U.S. market, first through a partnership with AT&T that was ultimately called off.
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    Who says nationalist "intelligence" smears are only good for politics? Now they're a protectionist measure.
Paul Merrell

Belgian court finds Facebook guilty of breaching privacy laws - nsnbc international | n... - 0 views

  • A court in the Belgian capital Brussels, on Friday, found the social media company Facebook guilty of breaching Belgian privacy laws. Belgium’s Privacy Commission had taken Facebook to court and the judge agreed with the Commission’s view that Facebook had flouted the country’s privacy legislation. The company has been ordered to correct its practice right away of face fines. Facebook has lodged an appeal.
  • Facebook follows its users activities by means of so-called social plug-ins, cookies, and pixels. These digital technologies enable Facebook to follow users’ behavior when online. Cookies, for example, are small files that are attached to your internet browser when you go online and visit a particular site. They are used to collect information about the kind of things you like to read or look at while surfing the web.

    Facebook uses the data both for its own ends, but also to help advertisers send tailor made advertising. In so doing Facebook also uses certain cookies to follow people that don’t even have a Facebook profile.

    The court ruled that it is “unclear what information Facebook is collecting about us” and “what it uses the information for”. Moreover, Facebook has not been given permission to keep tabs on internet-users by a court of law.

  • he court has ordered Facebook to stop the practice straight away and to delete any data that it has obtained by means contrary to Belgian privacy legislation. If Facebook fails to comply it will face a penalty payment of 250,000 euro/day.
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  • Facebook, for its part, has said that it is to appeal against the verdict.
Paul Merrell

NAS Report: A New Light in the Debate over Government Access to Encrypted Content - Law... - 0 views

  • The encryption debate dates back to Clinton administration proposals for the “clipper chip” and mandatory deposit of decryption keys. But that debate reached new prominence in connection with the FBI’s efforts to compel Apple to decrypt the phone of a dead terrorist in the San Bernardino case.

    by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine tries to shed some light, and turn down the heat, in the debate over whether government agencies should be provided access to plaintext versions of encrypted communications and other data.

    FBI and other law enforcement officials, and some intelligence officials, have argued that in the face of widespread encryption provided by smart phones, messaging apps, and other devices and software, the internet is “going dark.” These officials warn that encryption is restricting their access to information needed for criminal and national security investigations, arguing that they need a reliable, timely and scalable way to access it.

    Critics have raised legal and practical objections that regulations to ensure government access would pose unacceptable risks to privacy and civil liberties and undermine computer security in the face of rising cyber threats, and may be less necessary given the wider availability of data and alternative means of obtaining access to encrypted data.

    As the encryption debate has become increasingly polarized with participants on all sides making sweeping, sometimes absolutist, assertions, the new National Academies’ report doesn’t purport to tell anyone what to do, but rather provides a primer on the relevant issues.

Paul Merrell

The punk rock internet - how DIY ​​rebels ​are working to ​replace the tech g... - 0 views

  • What they are doing could be seen as the online world’s equivalent of punk rock: a scattered revolt against an industry that many now think has grown greedy, intrusive and arrogant – as well as governments whose surveillance programmes have fuelled the same anxieties. As concerns grow about an online realm dominated by a few huge corporations, everyone involved shares one common goal: a comprehensively decentralised internet.
  • In the last few months, they have started working with people in the Belgian city of Ghent – or, in Flemish, Gent – where the authorities own their own internet domain, complete with .gent web addresses. Using the blueprint of Heartbeat, they want to create a new kind of internet they call the indienet – in which people control their data, are not tracked and each own an equal space online. This would be a radical alternative to what we have now: giant “supernodes” that have made a few men in northern California unimaginable amounts of money thanks to the ocean of lucrative personal information billions of people hand over in exchange for their services.
  • His alternative is what he calls the Safe network: the acronym stands for “Safe Access for Everyone”. In this model, rather than being stored on distant servers, people’s data – files, documents, social-media interactions – will be broken into fragments, encrypted and scattered around other people’s computers and smartphones, meaning that hacking and data theft will become impossible. Thanks to a system of self-authentication in which a Safe user’s encrypted information would only be put back together and unlocked on their own devices, there will be no centrally held passwords.

    No one will leave data trails, so there will be nothing for big online companies to harvest. The financial lubricant, Irvine says, will be a cryptocurrency called Safecoin: users will pay to store data on the network, and also be rewarded for storing other people’s (encrypted) information on their devices. Software developers, meanwhile, will be rewarded with Safecoin according to the popularity of their apps. There is a community of around 7,000 interested people already working on services that will work on the Safe network, including alternatives to platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

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  • Once MaidSafe is up and running, there will be very little any government or authority can do about it: “We can’t stop the network if we start it. If anyone turned round and said: ‘You need to stop that,’ we couldn’t. We’d have to go round to people’s houses and switch off their computers. That’s part of the whole thing. The network is like a cyber-brain; almost a lifeform in itself. And once you start it, that’s it.”

    Before my trip to Scotland, I tell him, I spent whole futile days signing up to some of the decentralised social networks that already exist – Steemit, Diaspora, Mastadon – and trying to approximate the kind of experience I can easily get on, say, Twitter or Facebook.

  • And herein lie two potential breakthroughs.

    One, according to some cryptocurrency enthusiasts, is a means of securing and protecting people’s identities that doesn’t rely on remotely stored passwords. The other is a hope that we can leave behind intermediaries such as Uber and eBay, and allow buyers and sellers to deal directly with each other.

    Blockstack, a startup based in New York, aims to bring blockchain technology to the masses. Like MaidSafe, its creators aim to build a new internet, and a 13,000-strong crowd of developers are already working on apps that either run on the platform Blockstack has created, or use its features. OpenBazaar is an eBay-esque service, up and running since November last year, which promises “the world’s most private, secure, and liberating online marketplace”. Casa aims to be an decentralised alternative to Airbnb; Guild is a would-be blogging service that bigs up its libertarian ethos and boasts that its founders will have “no power to remove blogs they don’t approve of or agree with”.

  • An initial version of Blockstack is already up and running. Even if data is stored on conventional drives, servers and clouds, thanks to its blockchain-based “private key” system each Blockstack user controls the kind of personal information we currently blithely hand over to Big Tech, and has the unique power to unlock it. “That’s something that’s extremely powerful – and not just because you know your data is more secure because you’re not giving it to a company,” he says. “A hacker would have to hack a million people if they wanted access to their data.”
Paul Merrell

Scoop: Trump team considers nationalizing 5G network - Axios - 0 views

  • Trump national security officials are considering an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation’s mobile network to guard against China, according to sensitive documents obtained by Axios.

    Why it matters: We’ve got our hands on a PowerPoint deck and a memo — both produced by a senior National Security Council official — which were presented recently to senior officials at other agencies in the Trump administration.

Paul Merrell

Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments - 0 views

  • In September of last year, we noted that Facebook representatives were meeting with the Israeli government to determine which Facebook accounts of Palestinians should be deleted on the ground that they constituted “incitement.” The meetings — called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.

    The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders

  • Facebook now seems to be explicitly admitting that it also intends to follow the censorship orders of the U.S. government.
  • What this means is obvious: that the U.S. government — meaning, at the moment, the Trump administration — has the unilateral and unchecked power to force the removal of anyone it wants from Facebook and Instagram by simply including them on a sanctions list. Does anyone think this is a good outcome? Does anyone trust the Trump administration — or any other government — to compel social media platforms to delete and block anyone it wants to be silenced? As the ACLU’s Jennifer Granick told the Times:

    It’s not a law that appears to be written or designed to deal with the special situations where it’s lawful or appropriate to repress speech. … This sanctions law is being used to suppress speech with little consideration of the free expression values and the special risks of blocking speech, as opposed to blocking commerce or funds as the sanctions was designed to do. That’s really problematic.

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  • As is always true of censorship, there is one, and only one, principle driving all of this: power. Facebook will submit to and obey the censorship demands of governments and officials who actually wield power over it, while ignoring those who do not. That’s why declared enemies of the U.S. and Israeli governments are vulnerable to censorship measures by Facebook, whereas U.S and Israeli officials (and their most tyrannical and repressive allies) are not
  • All of this illustrates that the same severe dangers from state censorship are raised at least as much by the pleas for Silicon Valley giants to more actively censor “bad speech.” Calls for state censorship may often be well-intentioned — a desire to protect marginalized groups from damaging “hate speech” — yet, predictably, they are far more often used against marginalized groups: to censor them rather than protect them. One need merely look at how hate speech laws are used in Europe, or on U.S. college campuses, to see that the censorship victims are often critics of European wars, or activists against Israeli occupation, or advocates for minority rights.

  • It’s hard to believe that anyone’s ideal view of the internet entails vesting power in the U.S. government, the Israeli government, and other world powers to decide who may be heard on it and who must be suppressed. But increasingly, in the name of pleading with internet companies to protect us, that’s exactly what is happening.

Paul Merrell

Net neutrality comment fraud will be investigated by government | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) will investigate the use of impersonation in public comments on the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality repeal.

    Congressional Democrats requested the investigation last month, and the GAO has granted the request.

    While the investigation request was spurred by widespread fraud in the FCC's net neutrality repeal docket, Democrats asked the GAO to also "examine whether this shady practice extends to other agency rulemaking processes." The GAO will do just that, having told Democrats in a letter that it will "review the extent and pervasiveness of fraud and the misuse of American identities during federal rulemaking processes."

  • The GAO provides independent, nonpartisan audits and investigations for Congress.

    The GAO previously agreed to investigate DDoS attacks that allegedly targeted the FCC comment system, also in response to a request by Democratic lawmakers. The Democrats charged that Chairman Ajit Pai's FCC did not provide enough evidence that the attacks actually happened, and they asked the GAO to find out what evidence the FCC used to make its determination. Democrats also asked the GAO to examine whether the FCC is prepared to prevent future attacks.

    The DDoS investigation should happen sooner than the new one on comment fraud because the GAO accepted that request in October.

  • The FCC's net neutrality repeal received more than 22 million comments, but millions were apparently submitted by bots and falsely attributed to real Americans (including some dead ones) who didn't actually submit comments. Various analyses confirmed the widespread spam and fraud; one analysis found that 98.5 percent of unique comments opposed the repeal plan.
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  • The FCC's comment system makes no attempt to verify submitters' identities, and allows bulk uploads so that groups collecting signatures for letters and petitions can get them on the docket easily. It was like that even before Pai took over as chair, but the fraud became far more pervasive in the proceeding that led to the repeal of net neutrality rules. Pai's FCC did not remove any fraudulent comments from the record.

    Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called for a delay in the net neutrality repeal vote because of the fraud, but the Republican majority pushed the vote through as scheduled last month.

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating the comment fraud and says the FCC has stonewalled the investigation by refusing to provide evidence. Schneiderman is also leading a lawsuit to reverse the FCC's net neutrality repeal, and the comment fraud could play a role in the case.

    "We understand that the FCC's rulemaking process requires it to address all comments it receives, regardless of who submits them," Congressional Democrats said in their letter requesting a GAO investigation. "However, we do not believe any outside parties should be permitted to generate any comments to any federal governmental entity using information it knows to be false, such as the identities of those submitting the comments."

Paul Merrell

2 million people-and some dead ones-were impersonated in net neutrality comments | Ars ... - 0 views

  • An analysis of public comments on the FCC's plan to repeal net neutrality rules found that 2 million of them were filed using stolen identities. That's according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

    "Millions of fake comments have corrupted the FCC public process—including two million that stole the identities of real people, a crime under New York law," Schneiderman said in an announcement today. "Yet the FCC is moving full steam ahead with a vote based on this corrupted process, while refusing to cooperate with an investigation."

  • Some comments were submitted under the names of dead people.

    "My LATE husband's name was fraudulently used after a valiant battle with cancer," one person told the AG's office. "This unlawful act adds to my pain that someone would violate his good name."

    Schneiderman set up a website where people can search the FCC comments for their names to determine if they've been impersonated. So far, "over 5,000 people have filed reports with the Attorney General's office regarding identities used to submit fake comments," the AG's announcement said.

  • While the 5,000 reports provide anecdotal evidence, the AG's office performed an analysis of the 23 million public comments in order to figure out how many were submitted under falsely assumed identities.

    Many comments for and against net neutrality rules are identical because advocacy groups urged people to sign form letters, so the text of a comment alone isn't enough to determine if it was submitted by a real person.

    The AG's office thus examined comment text along with other factors, such as whether names matched lists of stolen identities from known data breaches. Schneiderman's office also told Ars that it looked into whether or not the submission of comments was in alphabetical order, one after another, in short time periods. In general, analysis of formatting and metadata played a role in the analysis.

    The number of comments believed to be fake has grown as the A.G.'s investigation continues, and it isn't done yet. Schneiderman's office is still analyzing the public comments. We asked Schneiderman's office how many of the fake comments supported net neutrality rules, and how many opposed them, but were told that the information was not available.

    While fake comments used names and addresses of people from across the nation, more than "100,000 comments per state" came "from New York, Florida, Texas, and California," Schneiderman's announcement said.

Paul Merrell

European Commission publishes guidance on new data protection rules - nsnbc internation... - 0 views

  • The European Commission, on January 24, published its guidance aimed to facilitate a direct and smooth application of the European Union’s new data protection rules across the EU as of 25 May. The Commission also launches a new online tool dedicated to SMEs.
  • With just over 100 days left before the application of the new law, the guidance outlines what the European Commission, national data protection authorities and national administrations, according to the Commission, should still do to bring the preparation to a successful completion.

    The Commission notes that while the new regulation provides for a single set of rules directly applicable in all Member States, it will still require significant adjustments in certain aspects, like amending existing laws by EU governments or setting up the European Data Protection Board by data protection authorities. The Commission states that the guidance recalls the main innovations, opportunities opened up by the new rules, takes stock of the preparatory work already undertaken and outlines the work still ahead of the European Commission, national data protection authorities and national administrations.

    Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: Our digital future can only be built on trust. Everyone’s privacy has to be protected. Strengthened EU data protection rules will become a reality on 25 May. It is a major step forward and we are committed to making it a success for everyone.”

    Vĕra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, added:” In today’s world, the way we handle data will determine to a large extent our economic future and personal safety. We need modern rules to respond to new risks, so we call on EU governments, authorities and businesses to use the remaining time efficiently and fulfil their roles in the preparations for the big day.”

    • The guidance recalls the main elements of the new data protection rules:

      • One set of rules across the continent, guaranteeing legal certainty for businesses and the same data protection level across the EU for citizens.
      • Same rules apply to all companies offering services in the EU, even if these companies are based outside the EU.
      • Stronger and new rights for citizens: the right to information, access and the right to be forgotten are strengthened. A new right to data portability allows citizens to move their data from one company to the other. This will give companies new business opportunities.
      • Stronger protection against data breaches: a company experiencing a data breach, which put individuals at risk, has to notify the data protection authority within 72 hours.
      • Rules with teeth and deterrent fines: all data protection authorities will have the power to impose fines for up to EUR 20 million or, in the case of a company, 4% of the worldwide annual turnover.
Paul Merrell

Forget About Siri and Alexa - When It Comes to Voice Identification, the "NSA Reigns Su... - 0 views

  • These and other classified documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA has developed technology not just to record and transcribe private conversations but to automatically identify the speakers.

    Americans most regularly encounter this technology, known as speaker recognition, or speaker identification, when they wake up Amazon’s Alexa or call their bank. But a decade before voice commands like “Hello Siri” and “OK Google” became common household phrases, the NSA was using speaker recognition to monitor terrorists, politicians, drug lords, spies, and even agency employees.

    The technology works by analyzing the physical and behavioral features that make each person’s voice distinctive, such as the pitch, shape of the mouth, and length of the larynx. An algorithm then creates a dynamic computer model of the individual’s vocal characteristics. This is what’s popularly referred to as a “voiceprint.” The entire process — capturing a few spoken words, turning those words into a voiceprint, and comparing that representation to other “voiceprints” already stored in the database — can happen almost instantaneously. Although the NSA is known to rely on finger and face prints to identify targets, voiceprints, according to a 2008 agency document, are “where NSA reigns supreme.”

    It’s not difficult to see why. By intercepting and recording millions of overseas telephone conversations, video teleconferences, and internet calls — in addition to capturing, with or without warrants, the domestic conversations of Americans — the NSA has built an unrivaled collection of distinct voices. Documents from the Snowden archive reveal that analysts fed some of these recordings to speaker recognition algorithms that could connect individuals to their past utterances, even when they had used unknown phone numbers, secret code words, or multiple languages.

  • The classified documents, dating from 2004 to 2012, show the NSA refining increasingly sophisticated iterations of its speaker recognition technology. They confirm the uses of speaker recognition in counterterrorism operations and overseas drug busts. And they suggest that the agency planned to deploy the technology not just to retroactively identify spies like Pelton but to prevent whistleblowers like Snowden.
Paul Merrell

Facebook is done with quality journalism. Deal with it. - 0 views

  • For Facebook, journalism has been a pain in the neck from day one. Now, bogged down with the insoluble problems of fake news and bad PR, it’s clear that Facebook will gradually pull the plug on news. Publishers should stop whining and move on.

    Let’s admit that publishers have been screwed by Facebook. Not because Mark Zuckerberg is evil, but because he’s a pragmatist. His latest move should not come as a surprise. On Thursday, for the second time in six months, Facebook stated publicly that news (i.e., journalism) will appear further down in everyone’s newsfeed, in order to favor posts from friends, family and “groups.” Here is how Zuck defended the move:

    “The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good. Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions”.

    Consider us notified. Facebook is done with journalism. It will happen, slowly, gradually, but the trend is here. In this context, the email sent yesterday by Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, who states “news remains a top priority for us,” rings hollow.

Paul Merrell

Assange Keeps Warning Of AI Censorship, And It's Time We Started Listening - 0 views

  • Where power is not overtly totalitarian, wealthy elites have bought up all media, first in print, then radio, then television, and used it to advance narratives that are favorable to their interests. Not until humanity gained widespread access to the internet has our species had the ability to freely and easily share ideas and information on a large scale without regulation by the iron-fisted grip of power. This newfound ability arguably had a direct impact on the election for the most powerful elected office in the most powerful government in the world in 2016, as a leak publishing outlet combined with alternative and social media enabled ordinary Americans to tell one another their own stories about what they thought was going on in their country.

    This newly democratized narrative-generating power of the masses gave those in power an immense fright, and they’ve been working to restore the old order of power controlling information ever since. And the editor-in-chief of the aforementioned leak publishing outlet, WikiLeaks, has been repeatedly trying to warn us about this coming development.

  • In a statement that was recently read during the “Organising Resistance to Internet Censorship” webinar, sponsored by the World Socialist Web Site, Assange warned of how “digital super states” like Facebook and Google have been working to “re-establish discourse control”, giving authority over how ideas and information are shared back to those in power.

    Assange went on to say that the manipulative attempts of world power structures to regain control of discourse in the information age has been “operating at a scale, speed, and increasingly at a subtlety, that appears likely to eclipse human counter-measures.”

    What this means is that using increasingly more advanced forms of artificial intelligence, power structures are becoming more and more capable of controlling the ideas and information that people are able to access and share with one another, hide information which goes against the interests of those power structures and elevate narratives which support those interests, all of course while maintaining the illusion of freedom and lively debate.

  • To be clear, this is already happening. Due to a recent shift in Google’s “evaluation methods”, traffic to left-leaning and anti-establishment websites has plummeted, with sites like WikiLeaks, Alternet, Counterpunch, Global Research, Consortium News, Truthout, and WSWS losing up to 70 percent of the views they were getting prior to the changes. Powerful billionaire oligarchs Pierre Omidyar and George Soros are openly financing the development of “an automated fact-checking system” (AI) to hide “fake news” from the public.
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  • To make matters even worse, there’s no way to know the exact extent to which this is going on, because we know that we can absolutely count on the digital super states in question to lie about it. In the lead-up to the 2016 election, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was asked point-blank if Twitter was obstructing the #DNCLeaks from trending, a hashtag people were using to build awareness of the DNC emails which had just been published by WikiLeaks, and Dorsey flatly denied it. More than a year later, we learned from a prepared testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism by Twitter’s acting general counsel Sean J. Edgett that this was completely false and Twitter had indeed been doing exactly that to protect the interests of US political structures by sheltering the public from information allegedly gathered by Russian hackers.
  • Imagine going back to a world like the Middle Ages where you only knew the things your king wanted you to know, except you could still watch innocuous kitten videos on Youtube. That appears to be where we may be headed, and if that happens the possibility of any populist movement arising to hold power to account may be effectively locked out from the realm of possibility forever.

    To claim that these powerful new media corporations are just private companies practicing their freedom to determine what happens on their property is to bury your head in the sand and ignore the extent to which these digital super states are already inextricably interwoven with existing power structures. In a corporatist system of government, which America unquestionably has, corporate censorship is government censorship, of an even more pernicious strain than if Jeff Sessions were touring the country burning books. The more advanced artificial intelligence becomes, the more adept these power structures will become at manipulating us. Time to start paying very close attention to this.

Paul Merrell

10 Reasons Not To Trust Facebook - 0 views

  • With over 1.5 billion people using Facebook has become the superpower of the social media landscape. With with power comes responsibility and Facebook has unfortunately been responsibly for some pretty shady revelations!
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Paul Merrell

South Korea considers shutting down domestic cryptocurrency exchanges - 0 views

  • The request is one of the first responses from the U.S. Congress to the disclosure earlier this month by security researchers of the two major flaws, which may allow hackers to steal passwords or encryption keys on most types of computers, phones and cloud-based servers.

    McNerney, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked the companies to explain the scope of Spectre and Meltdown, their timeframe for understanding the vulnerabilities, how consumers are affected and whether the flaws have been exploited, among other questions.

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