Privacy News Articles
Below are key excerpts of revealing news articles on privacy and mass surveillance issues from reliable news media sources. If any link fails to function, a paywall blocks full access, or the article is no longer available, try these digital tools.
Apple has said it now requires a judge’s order to hand over information about its customers’ push notification to law enforcement, putting the iPhone maker’s policy in line with rival Google and raising the hurdle officials must clear to get app data about users. It follows the revelation from Oregon Senator Ron Wyden that officials were requesting such data from Apple as well as from Google. Apps of all kinds rely on push notifications to alert smartphone users to incoming messages, breaking news, and other updates. These are the audible “dings” or visual indicators users get when they receive an email or their sports team wins a game. What users often do not realize is that almost all such notifications travel over Google and Apple’s servers. In a letter first disclosed by Reuters last week, Wyden said the practice gave the two companies unique insight into traffic flowing from those apps to users, putting them “in a unique position to facilitate government surveillance of how users are using particular apps.” Apple and Google both acknowledged receiving such requests. Apple added a passage to its guidelines saying such data was available “with a subpoena or greater legal process.” The passage has now been updated to refer to more stringent warrant requirements. Wyden said in a statement that Apple was “doing the right thing by matching Google and requiring a court order to hand over push notification related data.”
Note: Read more about the controversial geofence warrants that use Big Tech data. As an older article about the Apple court order articulates, law enforcement can "intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
In the 1970s, congressional investigators revealed that the FBI, NSA, and CIA had spent decades illegally surveilling and harassing the civil rights and anti-war movements. These abuses shocked the American public and led Congress to implement a series of intelligence reforms, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which set strict limitations on when and how intelligence agencies could perform domestic spying. In the decades since the 9/11 attacks, changing laws and aggressive executive branch lawyering have significantly relaxed the rules that govern surveillance of Americans. We are once again seeing abuses of these powers, including instances of intelligence agents seeking access to the communications of politicians, protesters, and journalists. Today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers ... introduced the Government Surveillance Reform Act of 2023 (GSRA) to reverse this erosion of privacy rights. The GSRA begins by tackling Section 702, a controversial surveillance law that expires at the end of this year. Section 702 allows the government to collect the communications of non-Americans located abroad without a warrant. But Americans’ private phone calls, emails, and text messages are inevitably captured, too — and intelligence officials frequently perform warrantless searches for them. Intelligence officials conducted more than 200,000 of these “backdoor searches” for Americans’ communications last year alone.
New Yorkers may have noticed an unwelcome guest hovering round their parties. In the lead-up to Labour Day weekend the New York Police Department (NYPD) said that it would use drones to look into complaints about festivities, including back-yard gatherings. Snooping police drones are an increasingly common sight in America. According to a recent survey by researchers at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, about a quarter of police forces now use them. Among the NYPD’s suppliers is Skydio, a Silicon Valley firm that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to make drones easy to fly. The NYPD is also buying from BRINC, another startup, which makes flying machines equipped with night-vision cameras that can smash through windows. Facial-recognition software is now used more widely across America, too, with around a tenth of police forces having access to the technology. A report released in September by America’s Government Accountability Office found that six federal law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Secret Service, were together executing an average of 69 facial-recognition searches every day. Among the top vendors listed was Clearview AI. Surveillance capabilities may soon be further fortified by generative AI, of the type that powers ChatGPT, thanks to its ability to work with “unstructured” data such as images and video footage. The technology will let users “search the Earth for objects”, much as Google lets users search the internet.
The FBI has amassed 21.7 million DNA profiles — equivalent to about 7 percent of the U.S. population — according to Bureau data reviewed by The Intercept. The FBI aims to nearly double its current $56.7 million budget for dealing with its DNA catalog with an additional $53.1 million, according to its budget request for fiscal year 2024. “The requested resources will allow the FBI to process the rapidly increasing number of DNA samples collected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” the appeal for an increase says. “When we’re talking about rapid expansion like this, it’s getting us ever closer to a universal DNA database,” Vera Eidelman, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, [said]. “I think the civil liberties implications here are significant.” The rapid growth of the FBI’s sample load is in large part thanks to a Trump-era rule change that mandated the collection of DNA from migrants who were arrested or detained by immigration authorities. Until recently, the U.S. DNA database surpassed even that of authoritarian China, which launched an ambitious DNA collection program in 2017. That year, the BBC reported, the U.S. had about 4 percent of its population’s DNA, while China had about 3 percent. While DNA has played an important role in prosecuting crimes, less than 3 percent of the profiles have assisted in cases, the Bureau’s data reveals. By comparison, fingerprints collected by the FBI from current and former federal employees linked them to crimes at a rate of 12 percent each year.
If you call 911 to report an emergency, the odds are increasing that a drone will be the first unit sent to respond. More than 1,500 departments across the country now use them, “mostly for search and rescue as well as to document crime scenes and chase suspects,” according to ... MIT Technology Review. Generally, police drones don’t carry weapons and are used primarily for video surveillance. It is possible for small drones to deliver chemical irritants like tear gas, however, a technology that police in Israel have used against Palestinians. In a report published on Thursday, American Civil Liberties Union Senior Policy Analyst Jay Stanley worries that these kinds of drone programs may normalize usage and “usher in an era of pervasive, suspicionless, mass aerial surveillance.” He notes far more invasive turns that police drone usage could take, including warrantless surveillance of specific people, crime “hotspots” or even whole neighborhoods or cities. Stanley wonders if drone usage won’t just ... “amplify the problems with the deeply broken U.S. criminal legal system.” Many of the cities using drones in policing are doing so from so-called “real-time crime centers.” These units function as centralized hubs to connect the various bits of surveillance and data that police collect from things like stationary cameras, drones, license plate readers and technology that listens for possible gunshots. Some centers can even integrate police body cameras and video from Ring doorbells.
Note: Police have been using military predator drones for domestic law enforcement since 2011. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
An AI-based decoder that can translate brain activity into a continuous stream of text has been developed, in a breakthrough that allows a person’s thoughts to be read non-invasively for the first time. The decoder could reconstruct speech with uncanny accuracy while people listened to a story – or even silently imagined one – using only fMRI scan data. Previous language decoding systems have required surgical implants. Large language models – the kind of AI underpinning OpenAI’s ChatGPT ... are able to represent, in numbers, the semantic meaning of speech, allowing the scientists to look at which patterns of neuronal activity corresponded to strings of words with a particular meaning rather than attempting to read out activity word by word. The decoder was personalised and when the model was tested on another person the readout was unintelligible. It was also possible for participants on whom the decoder had been trained to thwart the system, for example by thinking of animals or quietly imagining another story. Jerry Tang, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin and a co-author, said: “We take very seriously the concerns that it could be used for bad purposes and have worked to avoid that. We want to make sure people only use these types of technologies when they want to and that it helps them.” Prof Tim Behrens, a computational neuroscientist ... said it opened up a host of experimental possibilities, including reading thoughts from someone dreaming.
Note: This technology has advanced considerably since Jose Delgado first stopped a charging bull using radio waves in 1965. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on mind control and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Private thoughts may not be private for much longer, heralding a nightmarish world where political views, thoughts, stray obsessions and feelings could be interrogated and punished all thanks to advances in neurotechnology. In a new book, The Battle for Your Brain, Duke University bioscience professor Nita Farahany argues that such intrusions into the human mind by technology are so close that a public discussion is long overdue and lawmakers should immediately establish brain protections as it would for any other area of personal liberty. Farahany, who served on Barack Obama’s commission for the study of bioethical issues, believes that advances in neurotechnology mean that intrusions through the door of brain privacy, whether by way of military programs or by way of well-funded research labs at big tech companies, are at hand via brain-to-computer innovations like wearable tech. “All of the major tech companies have massive investments in multifunctional devices that have brain sensors in them,” Farahany said. “Neural sensors will become part of our everyday technology and a part of how we interact with that technology.” François du Cluzel, a project manager at Nato Act Innovation Hub, issued a report in November 2020 entitled Cognitive Warfare that, it said, “is not limited to the military or institutional world. Since the early 1990s, this capability has tended to be applied to the political, economic, cultural and societal fields.”
Note: Read more about these troubling developments. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has acknowledged for the first time that it purchased US location data rather than obtaining a warrant. The disclosure came today during a US Senate hearing. Senator Ron Wyden ... put the question of the bureau’s use of commercial data to its director, Christopher Wray: “Does the FBI purchase US phone-geolocation information?” Wray said his agency was not currently doing so. “To my knowledge, we do not currently purchase commercial database information that includes location data derived from internet advertising,” Wray said. “I understand that we previously—as in the past—purchased some such information for a specific national security pilot project. But that’s not been active for some time.” In its landmark Carpenter v. United States decision, the Supreme Court held that government agencies accessing historical location data without a warrant were violating the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches. The decision left open a glaring loophole that allows the government to simply purchase whatever it cannot otherwise legally obtain. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Defense Intelligence Agency are among the list of federal agencies known to have taken advantage of this loophole. The Department of Homeland Security ... purchased the geolocations of millions of Americans from private marketing firms. The data were derived from ... benign sources, such as mobile games and weather apps.
A study published Monday ... outlines how expansive the market for people’s health data has become. After contacting data brokers to ask what kinds of mental health information she could buy, researcher Joanne Kim reported that she ultimately found 11 companies willing to sell bundles of data that included information on what antidepressants people were taking, whether they struggled with insomnia or attention issues, and details on other medical ailments, including Alzheimer’s disease or bladder-control difficulties. Some of the data was offered in an aggregate form that would have allowed a buyer to know, for instance, a rough estimate of how many people in an individual Zip code might be depressed. But other brokers offered personally identifiable data featuring names, addresses and incomes, with one data-broker sales representative pointing to lists named “Anxiety Sufferers” and “Consumers With Clinical Depression in the United States.” Some even offered a sample spreadsheet. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, restricts how hospitals, doctors’ offices and other “covered health entities” share Americans’ health data. But the law doesn’t protect the same information when it’s sent anywhere else, allowing app makers and other companies to legally share or sell the data. Some of the data brokers offered ... opt-out forms. But ... many people probably didn’t realize the brokers had collected their information in the first place. Privacy advocates have for years warned about the unregulated data trade, saying the information could be exploited by advertisers or misused for predatory means. The health-data issue has in some ways gotten worse, in large part because of the increasing sophistication with which companies can collect and share people’s personal information — including not just in defined lists, but through regularly updated search tools and machine-learning analyses.
The House committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021, is nearly finished. Nearly 900 ... criminal prosecutions of alleged rioters remain underway, and one case has shed troubling new light on how the FBI investigated these defendants. The suspect's name is David Rhine. His lawyer is the first to present a potentially successful challenge to the geofencing warrant the FBI used to place some defendants inside the Capitol building during the attack. A previous Wired report last year found 45 federal criminal cases citing the warrant, which required Google to provide the FBI with data on devices using its location services inside a set geographic area. Rhine's case has revealed just how expansive the FBI's request to Google really was. Google initially listed 5,723 devices in response to the warrant, then whittled the tally to exclude likely Capitol staff and police as well as anyone who wasn't "entirely within the geofence, to about a 70 percent probability." The final list of identifying details handed over to the FBI had 1,535 names. It included people whose phones had been turned off or put in airplane mode, and "people who attempted to delete their location data following the attacks were singled out by the FBI for greater scrutiny." It's ... easy to envision geofencing warrants undergoing the usual surveillance mission creep. Left unchecked, law enforcement could decide geofence data would come in handy while looking for a journalist's whistleblowing source, or perhaps at political protests.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has been anathema for most of Chinas economy but the novel coronavirus was a shot in the arm for the states surveillance apparatus, which has expanded rapidly in pursuit of the epidemics spread. Facial recognition cameras, phone tracking technology and voluntary registrations have all been deployed to monitor the flow of people and the possible transmission of disease. The Chinese surveillance systems currently ... has two purposes: the first is to monitor public health and the second is to maintain political control, says Francis Lee, a professor ... at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Once the outbreak is controlled, however, its unclear whether the government will retract its new powers. While facial recognition provides a way to monitor crowds from a distance, governments have deployed close-range means of tracking individuals too. The municipal government of Hangzhou worked with ecommerce giant Alibaba to launch a feature through the companys mobile wallet app, AliPay, that assesses the users risk of infection. The app generates a QR code. Guards at checkpoints in residential buildings and elsewhere can then scan that code to gain details about the user. John Bacon-Shone ... at Hong Kong University thinks that the ongoing threat of outbreaks will provide a constant justification for the new systems. I am rather pessimistic that there will be full rollback of data collection once it has been implemented, Bacon-Shone says.
Note: Remember all of the privacy and freedoms given up after 9/11? How many of those have been given back? Learn more about the serious risk of the Coronavirus increasing the surveillance state in this excellent article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
As war in Ukraine continues, controversial defense contractors and adjacent companies like Palantir, Anduril, and Clearview AI are taking advantage to develop and level-up controversial AI-driven weapons systems and surveillance technologies. These organizations’ common link? The support of the controversial, yet ever-more powerful Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. Thiel-backed groups’ involvement in war serves to develop not only problematic and unpredictable weapons technologies and systems, but also apparently to advance and further interconnect a larger surveillance apparatus formed by Thiel and his elite allies’ collective efforts across the public and private sectors, which arguably amount to the entrenchment of a growing technocratic panopticon aimed at capturing public and private life. What’s more, Thiel’s funding efforts signal interest in developing expansive surveillance technologies, especially in the name of combatting “pre-crime” through “predictive policing” style surveillance. As an example, Thiel’s provided significant funds to Israeli intelligence-linked startup Carbyne911 (as did Jeffrey Epstein), which develops call-handling and call-identification capacities for emergency services, and has ... a predictive-policing component. Thiel also assisted in the development and subsequent privatized spinoffs of the US Government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Total Information Awareness project.
Note: Peter Thiel was also recently reported to be an FBI informant. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The U.S. Army Cyber Command told defense contractors it planned to surveil global social media use to defend the "NATO brand," according to a 2022 webinar recording reviewed by The Intercept. "NATO is one of our key brands that we are pushing, as far as our national security alliance," [Lt. Col. David Beskow] explained. The mass social media surveillance appears to be just one component of a broader initiative to use private-sector data mining to advance the Army's information warfare efforts. Beskow expressed an interest in purchasing access to nonpublic commercial web data, corporate ownership records, supply chain data, and more. While the U.S. national security establishment frequently warns against other countries' "weaponization" of social media and the broader internet, recent reporting has shown the Pentagon engages in some of the very same conduct. Researchers from Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory uncovered a network of pro-U.S. Twitter and Facebook accounts covertly operated by U.S. Central Command, an embarrassing revelation that led to a “sweeping audit of how it conducts clandestine information warfare." Despite years of alarm in Washington over the threat posed by deepfake video fabrications to democratic societies, The Intercept reported last month that U.S. Special Operations Command is seeking vendors to help them make their own deepfakes to deceive foreign internet users.
The precise locations of the U.S. government’s high-tech surveillance towers along the U.S-Mexico border are being made public for the first time as part of a mapping project by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. While the Department of Homeland Security’s investment of more than a billion dollars into a so-called virtual wall between the U.S. and Mexico is a matter of public record, the government does not disclose where these towers are located, despite privacy concerns of residents of both countries — and the fact that individual towers are plainly visible to observers. The surveillance tower map is the result of a year’s work steered by EFF Director of Investigations Dave Maass. As border surveillance towers have multiplied across the southern border, so too have they become increasingly sophisticated, packing a panoply of powerful cameras, microphones, lasers, radar antennae, and other sensors. Companies like Anduril and Google have reaped major government paydays by promising to automate the border-watching process with migrant-detecting artificial intelligence. Opponents of these modern towers, bristling with always-watching sensors, argue the increasing computerization of border security will lead inevitably to the dehumanization of an already thoroughly dehumanizing undertaking. Nobody can say for certain how many people have died attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in the recent age of militarization and surveillance. Researchers estimate that the minimum is at least 10,000 dead.
Note: As the article states, the Department of Homeland Security was "the largest reorganization of the federal government since the creation of the CIA and the Defense Department," and has resulted in U.S. taxpayers funding corrupt agendas that have led to massive human rights abuses. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The FBI and the Defense Department were actively involved in research and development of facial recognition software that they hoped could be used to identify people from video footage captured by street cameras and flying drones, according to thousands of pages of internal documents that provide new details about the government's ambitions to build out a powerful tool for advanced surveillance. The documents, revealed in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the FBI, show how closely FBI and Defense officials worked with academic researchers to refine artificial-intelligence techniques that could help in the identification or tracking of Americans without their awareness or consent. Many of the records relate to the Janus program, a project funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or IARPA. The improved facial recognition system was ultimately folded into a search tool, called Horus, and made available to the Pentagon's Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, which helps provide military technologies to civilian police forces. No federal laws regulate how facial recognition systems can be used. The tool's use in domestic mass surveillance would be a "nightmare scenario," said Nathan Wessler, a deputy director at the ACLU. "It could give the government the ability to pervasively track as many people as they want for as long as they want. There's no good outcome for that in a democratic society."
Caleb Kenyon, a defense attorney in Florida, saw a geofence warrant was when a new client received an alarming email from Google in January 2020. Police were requesting personal data from the client, Zachary McCoy, and Kenyon had just seven days to stop Google from turning it over, the email said. The geofence warrant included a map and GPS coordinates, and instructed Google to provide identifying information for every user whose device was found within the radius of that location at a certain date and time. “It was so bizarre that I just didn’t even have a concept for what I was dealing with,” he said. Kenyon is not alone. As tech firms build ever more sophisticated means of surveilling people and their devices – technology that law enforcement is eager to take advantage of – the legal community is scrambling to keep up. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) ... recently created the Fourth Amendment Center, named for the constitutional right against unreasonable searches. The center is one of the few resources available for helping attorneys better understand how new technology is being used against their clients. It can be years before the defense community catches wind of the newest surveillance tools. Unlike other search warrants, geofence warrants don’t require probable cause or a specific suspect in mind; they gather information on anyone within the vicinity of an alleged crime. Advocates argue this violates the fourth amendment.
Under a post-9/11 surveillance program known as “Upstream”, the NSA is systematically searching Americans’ internet communications as they enter and leave the United States. The agency sifts through these streams of data looking for “identifiers” associated with its many thousands of foreign targets – identifiers like email addresses and phone numbers. The NSA does all of this without warrants, without any individual judicial approval, and without showing that any of the people it is surveilling – including countless Americans – have done anything wrong. This surveillance raises serious constitutional concerns, but no court has ever considered a legal challenge to it because the government has claimed that allowing a suit against Upstream surveillance to go forward would implicate “state secrets”. In 2007, for example, an appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Khaled El-Masri claiming that, in a case of mistaken identity, he had been kidnapped and tortured by the CIA. The court acknowledged the public evidence of El-Masri’s mistreatment but held that state secrets were too central to the case to allow it to go forward. And in 2010, a different appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by five individuals who claimed that one of Boeing’s subsidiary companies had flown the planes carrying them to the black sites where they were tortured by the CIA. This use of the state secrets privilege – to dismiss cases – departs from the supreme court’s narrow framing of the privilege.
The Central Intelligence Agency has for years been collecting in bulk, without a warrant, some kind of data that can affect Americans’ privacy. At the same time, [the C.I.A.] declared that a report about the same topic, which had prompted the letter, must remain fully classified. That report, called “Deep Dive II,” was part of a set of studies by a watchdog board scrutinizing intelligence community operations under Executive Order 12333. In March 2021, the Senate Intelligence Committee received a copy of the report. Two Democrats on the panel, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, urged Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, and William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, to declassify the activity. The senators suggested that its hidden existence cut against Americans’ understanding that various pieces of legislation enacted in recent years “limit and, in some cases, prohibit the warrantless collection of Americans’ records.” In 2015, Congress banned bulk collection of telecommunications metadata under the Patriot Act and limited other types of bulk collection by the F.B.I. under laws governing domestic activities like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. Yet “the C.I.A. has secretly conducted its own bulk program” under Executive Order 12333, the senators wrote. “It has done so entirely outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection, and without any of the judicial, congressional or even executive branch oversight.”
MIT researchers have now developed a novel way to record a patient’s vaccination history: storing the data in a pattern of dye, invisible to the naked eye, that is delivered under the skin at the same time as the vaccine. The researchers showed that their new dye, which consists of nanocrystals called quantum dots, can remain for at least five years under the skin, where it emits near-infrared light that can be detected by a specially equipped smartphone. The researchers designed their dye to be delivered by a microneedle patch rather than a traditional syringe and needle. Such patches are now being developed to deliver vaccines for measles, rubella, and other diseases. “It’s possible someday that this ‘invisible’ approach could create new possibilities for data storage, biosensing, and vaccine applications that could improve how medical care is provided, particularly in the developing world,” [study co-author Robert] Langer says. Tests using human cadaver skin showed that the quantum-dot patterns could be detected by smartphone cameras after up to five years of simulated sun exposure. The research was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Koch Institute Support (core) Grant from the National Cancer Institute.
Note: Could these quantum dots be used for tracking and monitoring people? This revealing article shows patents by Moderna suggesting their use in human vaccines. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on vaccines and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Note: Read more about Samsung's privacy issues in this 2013 Houston Chronicle article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
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