Privacy News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on privacy
The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications a request the company believed was unconstitutional according to court documents unsealed [on September 11] that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the National Security Agencys controversial PRISM program. The documents ... outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the governments demands. The companys loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the NSA extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms. The ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review became a key moment in the development of PRISM, helping government officials to convince other Silicon Valley companies that unprecedented data demands had been tested in the courts and found constitutionally sound. Eventually, most major U.S. tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and AOL, complied. Microsoft had joined earlier, before the ruling, NSA documents have shown. PRISM was first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year. Documents made it clear that the program allowed the NSA to order U.S.-based tech companies to turn over e-mails and other communications to or from foreign targets without search warrants for each of those targets. Other NSA programs gave even more wide-ranging access to personal information of people worldwide, by collecting data directly from fiber-optic connections.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
The US governments web of surveillance is vast and interconnected. You can be pulled into the National Security Agencys database quietly and quickly. Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information. It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors. The watchlist [is] based on [low] standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the US governments guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information including a Facebook or Twitter post to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist. Of the 680,000 individuals on that FBI master list, roughly 40% have no recognized terrorist group affiliation, according to the Intercept. These individuals dont even have a connection as the government loosely defines it to a designated terrorist group, but they are still branded as suspected terrorists. The US [government uses] a loose standard so-called reasonable suspicion in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted. ["Reasonable suspicion"] requires neither concrete evidence nor irrefutable evidence. Instead, an official is permitted to consider reasonable inferences and to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing terrorism news articles from reliable major media sources.
The former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden said in a wide-ranging interview ... that the oversight of surveillance programs was so weak that members of the United States military working at the spy agency sometimes shared sexually explicit photos they intercepted. He also said the British government often pioneered the most invasive surveillance programs because its intelligence services operate with fewer restrictions intended to protect individual privacy than its counterparts in the United States and other allies. In the course of their daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work, for example an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation but theyre extremely attractive, he said. So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker. And their co-worker says: Oh, hey, thats great. Send that to Bill down the way. Mr. Snowden said that type of sharing ... was seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions. He said that this was never reported and that the system for auditing surveillance programs was incredibly weak. Mr. Snowden had particularly stark criticism for the British governments surveillance programs, because in Britain the respect for individual privacy, he said, is not strongly encoded in law or policy. Because it has fewer restrictions, British intelligence platforms are used as a testing ground for programs of all five intelligence partners, a group referred to as Five Eyes, which includes Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing privacy news articles from reliable major media sources.
British spies have developed "dirty tricks" ... that include releasing computer viruses, spying on journalists and diplomats, jamming phones and computers, and using sex to lure targets into "honey traps." Documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden ... describe techniques developed by a secret British spy unit called the Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group (JTRIG). According to the documents ... the agency's goal was to "destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt" enemies by "discrediting" them, planting misinformation and shutting down their communications. The propaganda campaigns use deception, mass messaging and "pushing stories" via Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube. JTRIG also uses "false flag" operations, in which British agents carry out online actions that are designed to look like they were performed by one of Britain's adversaries. Other documents ... show that JTRIG ... used a DDOS attack to shut down Internet chat rooms used by members of the hacktivist group known as Anonymous. A computer virus called Ambassadors Reception was "used in a variety of different areas" and was "very effective." When sent to adversaries ... the virus will "encrypt itself, delete all emails ... and block the computer user from logging on. Spies have long used sexual "honey traps" to snare, blackmail and influence targets. Most often, a male target is led to believe he has an opportunity for a romantic relationship or a sexual liaison with a woman, only to find that the woman is actually an intelligence operative.
Note: You can read the documents released by Snowden at this link and this one. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption from reliable major media sources.
The British government can tap into the cables carrying the worlds web traffic at will and spy on what people are doing on some of the worlds most popular social media sites ... without the knowledge or consent of the companies. Documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News detail how British cyber spies demonstrated a pilot program to their U.S. partners in 2012 in which they were able to monitor YouTube in real time and collect addresses from the billions of videos watched daily, as well as some user information, for analysis. At the time the documents were printed, they were also able to spy on Facebook and Twitter. Called Psychology A New Kind of SIGDEV" (Signals Development), the presentation includes a section that spells out Broad real-time monitoring of online activity of YouTube videos, URLs liked on Facebook, and Blogspot/Blogger visits. The monitoring program is called Squeaky Dolphin. Experts told NBC News the documents show the British had to have been either physically able to tap the cables carrying the worlds web traffic or able to use a third party to gain physical access to the massive stream of data. Representatives of Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, said they ... were unaware the collection had occurred. The NSA does analysis of social media similar to that in the GCHQ demonstration. In 2010 ... GCHQ exploited unencrypted data from Twitter to identify specific users around the world and target them with propaganda.
Note: Read an article diving deeper and showing how online reputations are ruthlessly destroyed by powerful groups. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about questionable intelligence agency practices and the erosion of privacy.
The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents. The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show. Many users assume or have been assured by Internet companies that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the N.S.A. invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own back door in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth. The agency ... deployed custom-built, superfast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products [called "backdoors"].
[The] fact that a car is not a simple machine of glass and steel but a hackable network of computers, is what [Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek] have spent the last year trying to demonstrate. Miller, a 40-year-old security engineer at Twitter, and Valasek, the 31-year-old director of security intelligence at the Seattle consultancy IOActive, received an $80,000-plus grant last fall from [the] Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to root out security vulnerabilities in automobiles. The need for scrutiny is growing as cars are increasingly automated and connected to the Internet. Practically every American carmaker now offers a cellular service or Wi-Fi network like General Motors OnStar, Toyotas Safety Connect and Fords SYNC. Without better security its all potentially vulnerable, and automakers are remaining mum or downplaying the issue. As I drove their vehicles for more than an hour, Miller and Valasek showed that theyve reverse-engineered enough of the software of the [Ford] Escape and the Toyota Prius (both the 2010 model) to demonstrate a range of nasty surprises: everything from annoyances like uncontrollably blasting the horn to serious hazards like slamming on the Prius brakes at high speeds. They sent commands from their laptops that killed power steering, spoofed the GPS and made pathological liars out of speedometers and odometers. Finally they directed me out to a country road, where Valasek showed that he could violently jerk the Prius steering at any speed, threatening to send us into a cornfield or a head-on collision.
Note: Don't miss the unbelievable video at the above link which shows how a good hacker can take control of your car's steering, brakes, and much more. For more on the OnStar system in most GM cars now and how it allows spying on you, read the CNN article titled "OnStar's 'brazen' data tracking comes under fire" at this link. For more on government and corporate digital security invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent. It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall so mystifying at the time was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves was coordinated with the big banks themselves. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document reproduced here in an easily searchable format shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.
Note: For analysis of these amazing documents revealing the use of joint government and corporate counterterrorism structures against peaceful protestors of financial corruption, click here and here. For a Democracy Now! video segment on this, click here.
Undercover police officers routinely adopted a tactic of "promiscuity" with the blessing of senior commanders, according to a former agent who worked in a secretive unit of the Metropolitan police for four years. The former undercover policeman claims that sexual relationships with activists were sanctioned for both men and women officers infiltrating anarchist, leftwing and environmental groups. Sex was a tool to help officers blend in, the officer claimed, and was widely used as a technique to glean intelligence. He said undercover officers, particularly those infiltrating environmental and leftwing groups, viewed having sex with a large number of partners "as part of the job". His comments contradict claims last week from the Association of Chief Police Officers that operatives were absolutely forbidden to sleep with activists. The claims follow the unmasking of undercover PC Mark Kennedy, who had sexual relationships with several women during the seven years he spent infiltrating a ring of environmental activists. Another two covert officers have been named in the past fortnight who also had sex with the protesters they were sent to spy on, fuelling allegations that senior officers had authorised sleeping around as a legitimate means of gathering intelligence.
Note: For a comprehensive overview of the still-ongoing revelations about police provocateur Mark Kennedy and his cohorts in the UK police infiltration of environmental and related activist groups, click here.
Law enforcement is tracking Americans' cell phones in real timewithout the benefit of a warrant. Amid all the furor over the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program a few years ago, a mini-revolt was brewing over another type of federal snooping that was getting no public attention at all. Federal prosecutors were seeking what seemed to be unusually sensitive records: internal data from telecommunications companies that showed the locations of their customers' cell phonessometimes in real time, sometimes after the fact. Prosecutors "were using the cell phone as a surreptitious tracking device," said Stephen W. Smith, a federal magistrate in Houston. "And I started asking the U.S. Attorney's Office, 'What is the legal authority for this? What is the legal standard for getting this information?'" Those questions are now at the core of a constitutional clash between President Obama's Justice Department and civil libertarians alarmed by what they see as the government's relentless intrusion into the private lives of citizens. There are numerous other fronts in the privacy warsabout the content of e-mails, for instance, and access to bank records and credit-card transactions. The Feds now can quietly get all that information. But cell-phone tracking is among the more unsettling forms of government surveillance, conjuring up Orwellian images of Big Brother secretly following your movements through the small device in your pocket.
Note: For many key reports from major media sources on the disturbing trend toward increasing government and corporate surveillance, click here.
The Transportation Security Administration ... has on its web site a mythbuster that tries to reassure the public. Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy. Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list. Meet Mikey Hicks, said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. Its not a myth. Hickss mother initially sensed trouble when he was a baby and she could not get a seat for him on their flight to Florida at an airport kiosk; airline officials explained that his name was on the list, she recalled. The first time he was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried. After years of long delays and waits for supervisors at every airport ticket counter, this years vacation to the Bahamas badly shook up the family. Mikey was frisked on the way there, then more aggressively on the way home. Up your arms, down your arms, up your crotch someone is patting your 8-year-old down like hes a criminal, Mrs. Hicks recounted. It is true that Mikey is not on the federal governments no-fly list, which includes about 2,500 people, less than 10 percent of them from the United States. But his name appears to be among some 13,500 on the larger selectee list, which sets off a high level of security screening.
Note: For many reports from major media sources on the extreme loss of liberties brought about by the highly touted "war on terrorism," click here.
Every phone call, text message, email and website visit made by private citizens is to be stored for a year and will be available for monitoring by government bodies. All telecoms companies and internet service providers will be required by law to keep a record of every customer’s personal communications, showing who they have contacted, when and where, as well as the websites they have visited. Despite widespread opposition to the increasing amount of surveillance in Britain, 653 public bodies will be given access to the information, including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the ambulance service, fire authorities and even prison governors. They will not require the permission of a judge or a magistrate to obtain the information, but simply the authorisation of a senior police officer or the equivalent of a deputy head of department at a local authority. The Government announced yesterday it was pressing ahead with privately held “Big Brother” databases that opposition leaders said amounted to “state-spying” and a form of “covert surveillance” on the public. It is doing so despite its own consultation showing that it has little public support. The new rules ... will not only force communications companies to keep their records for longer, but to expand the type of data they keep to include details of every website their customers visit.
Note: For many more reports from major media sources on the disturbing trend toward increasing government and corporate surveillance and loss of privacy, click here.
OLBERMANN: It has taken less than 24 hours after the Bush presidency ended for a former analyst at the National Security Agency to come forward to reveal new allegations about how this nation was spied on by its own government. Russell Tice [reveals] that under the collar of fighting terrorism, the Bush administration was also targeting specific groups of Americans for surveillance. TICE: The National Security Agency had access to all Americans communications, faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. They monitored all communications. What was done was a sort of an ability to look at the meta data, the signaling data for communications, and ferret that information to determine what communications would ultimately be collected. Basically, filtering out sort of like sweeping everything with that meta data, and then cutting down ultimately what you are going to look at and what is going to be collected, and in the long run have an analyst look at, you know, needles in a haystack for what might be of interest. OLBERMANN: I mention that you say specific groups were targeted. What group or groups can you tell us about? TICE: [Some of the groups they] collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists. The collection ... was 24/7, and you know, 365 days a year, and it made no sense.
Outside the convention hall, New York City police plan to control protesters using a device that directs sound for up to 1,500 feet in a spotlight-like beam. Meanwhile, a display of former Republican presidents inside the hall will feature campaign speeches that are funneled to listeners through highly focused audio beams. Both technologies feature unprecedented manipulation of sound, but for very different purposes. And while both technologies have unique, "gee-whiz" factors, some remain uneasy with the idea of using sound to control crowds. When in weapon mode, LRAD blasts a tightly controlled stream of caustic sound that can be turned up to high enough levels to trigger nausea or possibly fainting. LRAD ... has been used by the U.S. military in Iraq and at sea as a non-lethal force. In these settings, operators can use the device not only to convey orders, but also as a weapon. In tests, police have shown how they can convey orders in a normal voice to someone as far as four blocks away. The sound beam is even equipped with a viewfinder so the operator can precisely target the audio by finding a person in cross hairs. Rather than using pure volume to throw sound far, the LRAD reaches distant ears by focusing the audio beam. Wherever the beam makes contact with air, the air molecules interact in a way that isolates the original audible sound. So if you're standing in front of the ultrasonic sound wave, you can hear the sound. If you're a few inches away, you hear nothing. Already, some Coca-Cola machines in Japan are equipped with the technology so passers-by hear the enticing sound of soda being poured into a glass of ice.
Note: For more reliable information on these "non-lethal weapons," click here.
Whats more devilishly un-American than launching one of the most massive government surveillance programs of private citizens in U.S. history, all under the guise of protecting people from the coronavirus? Thats the COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act in all its $100 billion grant giveaway glory. According to H.R. 6666s text: The taxpayer funds will be used to trace and monitor the contacts of infected individuals, and to support the quarantine of such contacts, through mobile health units and, as necessary ... at [citizens] residences. That means government comes to your home, taps on your door and demands you take a COVID-19 test. And if you test positive, that means the government makes sure you stay at home. The top dogs at the Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are in control of disbursing the $100 billion to local governments to carry out the COVID-19 testing more specifically, to hire, train, compensate and pay the expenses of individuals to staff mobile health units and to knock on citizens doors and to enforce compliance with quarantining. This is nothing but a massive government surveillance program cloaked in a cure-the-coronavirus label. A petition at Change.org to stop the nonsense has generated about 28,000 signatures. HR 6666 violates inalienable rights to ones person, home and property, to ones life, freedoms, privacy and security, the petition states.
Note: Why the huge price tag of $100 billion, which is more than the entire 2019 budget for the US Dept. of Health and Human Services? Explore this bill which greatly threatens privacy and civil rights on the website of the US Congress at this link. This excellent and well researched video leaves little doubt that some people will be taken from their homes and children taken from their mothers. For those concerned about being traced and quarantined, this article has good information on who is behind it all. Sign a petition opposing this bill on this webpage.
Did you know that the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand participate together in an electronic eavesdropping cooperative called "The Five Eyes Alliance"? Or that Britain "has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world's phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency"? One key innovation has been GCHQ's ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects. This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user's access to websites - all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets. Say you're the NSA. By law, there are certain sorts of spying you're not lawfully allowed to do on Americans. (And agency rules constraining you too.) But wait. Allied countries have different laws and surveillance rules. Put bluntly, intelligence agencies have an incentive to make themselves complicit in foreign governments spying on their own citizens.
As China encourages people to return to work despite the coronavirus outbreak, it has begun a bold mass experiment in using data to regulate citizens lives by requiring them to use software on their smartphones that dictates whether they should be quarantined or allowed into subways, malls and other public spaces. The system does more than decide in real time whether someone poses a contagion risk. It also appears to share information with the police, setting a template for new forms of automated social control that could persist long after the epidemic subsides. The Alipay Health Code, as Chinas official news media has called the system, was first introduced in the eastern city of Hangzhou ... with the help of Ant Financial, a sister company of the e-commerce giant Alibaba. People in China sign up through Ants popular wallet app, Alipay, and are assigned a color code green, yellow or red that indicates their health status. The system is already in use in 200 cities and is being rolled out nationwide, Ant says. As soon as a user grants the software access to personal data, a piece of the program labeled reportInfoAndLocationToPolice sends the persons location, city name and an identifying code number to a server. The software does not make clear to users its connection to the police. In the United States, it would be akin to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using apps from Amazon and Facebook to track the coronavirus, then quietly sharing user information with the local sheriffs office.
Note: Learn in this revealing article how China is blacklisting certain citizens using this system and "banning them from any number of activities, including accessing financial markets or travelling by air or train, as the use of the governments social credit system accelerates." 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.
Should the government have to get a warrant before using a drone to spy on your home and backyard? We think so, and in an amicus brief filed last Friday in Long Lake Township v. Maxon, we urged the Michigan Supreme Court to find that warrantless drone surveillance of a home violates the Fourth Amendment. In this case, Long Lake Township hired private operators to repeatedly fly drones over Todd and Heather Maxon’s home to take aerial photos and videos of their property in a zoning investigation. The Township did this without a warrant and then sought to use this documentation in a court case against them. In our brief, we argue that the township’s conduct was governed by and violated the Fourth Amendment and the equivalent section of the Michigan Constitution. Drone prevalence has soared in recent years, fueled by both private and governmental use. We have documented more than 1,471 law enforcement agencies across the United States that operate drones. In some cities, police have begun implementing “drone as first responder” programs, in which drones are constantly flying over communities in response to routine calls for service. Authorities have routinely used aerial surveillance technologies against individuals participating in racial justice movements. Under this backdrop, states like Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, and Virginia have enacted statutes requiring warrants for police use of drones.
The United States government has been secretly amassing a "large amount" of "sensitive and intimate information" on its own citizens, a group of senior advisers informed Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence. The government effort to accumulate data revealing the minute details of Americans' lives [is] described soberly and at length by the director's own panel of experts in a newly declassified report. The report states that the government believes it can "persistently" track the phones of "millions of Americans" without a warrant, so long as it pays for the information. It is often trivial "to deanonymize and identify individuals" from data that was packaged ... for commercial use. Such data may be useful, it says, to "identify every person who attended a protest or rally based on their smartphone location or ad-tracking records." Such civil liberties concerns are prime examples of how "large quantities of nominally 'public' information can result in sensitive aggregations." What's more, information collected for one purpose "may be reused for other purposes," which may "raise risks beyond those originally calculated," an effect called "mission creep." "In the wrong hands," [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] advisers warn, the same mountain of data the government is quietly accumulating could be turned against Americans to "facilitate blackmail, stalking, harassment, and public shaming." These are all offenses that have been committed by intelligence agencies and White House administrations in the past.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.