Privacy News StoriesExcerpts of Key Privacy News Stories in Major Media
This comprehensive list of privacy news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
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.
New details about the FBI’s failures to comply with restrictions on the use of foreign intelligence for domestic crimes have emerged. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) ... grants the government the ability to intercept the electronic communications of overseas targets who are unprotected by the Fourth Amendment. That authority is set to expire at the end of the year. But errors in the FBI’s secondary use of the data—the investigation of crimes on US soil—are likely to inflame an already fierce debate over whether law enforcement agents can be trusted with such an invasive tool. Central to this tension has been a routine audit by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) national security division and the office of the director of national intelligence (ODNI) ... which unearthed new examples of the FBI failing to comply with rules limiting access to intelligence ostensibly gathered to protect US national security. Such “errors,” they said, have occurred on a “large number” of occasions. A report on the audit, only recently declassified, found that in the first half of 2020, FBI personnel unlawfully searched raw FISA data on numerous occasions. In one incident, agents reportedly sought evidence of foreign influence linked to a US lawmaker. In another, an inappropriate search pertained to a local political party. In what privacy and civil liberties lawyers have termed a “backdoor search,” the FBI regularly searches through unminimized data during investigations, and routinely prior to launching them.
The future of wearable technology, beyond now-standard accessories like smartwatches and fitness tracking rings, is ePANTS, according to the intelligence community. The federal government has shelled out at least $22 million in an effort to develop “smart” clothing that spies on the wearer and its surroundings. Similar to previous moonshot projects funded by military and intelligence agencies, the inspiration may have come from science fiction and superpowers, but the basic applications are on brand for the government: surveillance and data collection. Billed as the “largest single investment to develop Active Smart Textiles,” the SMART ePANTS — Smart Electrically Powered and Networked Textile Systems — program aims to develop clothing capable of recording audio, video, and geolocation data, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced in an August 22 press release. Garments slated for production include shirts, pants, socks, and underwear, all of which are intended to be washable. There is already evidence that private industry outside of the national security community are interested in smart clothing. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is looking to hire a researcher “with broad knowledge in smart textiles and garment construction, integration of electronics into soft and flexible systems, and who can work with a team of researchers working in haptics, sensing, tracking, and materials science.”
Note: Smart objects have been called a "train wreck in privacy and security." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Superpower. Catastrophic. Revolutionary. Irresponsible. Efficiency-creating. Dangerous. These terms have been used to describe artificial intelligence over the past several months. The release of ChatGPT to the general public thrusts AI into the limelight, and many are left wondering: what will happen when the way we do business and live our lives changes entirely? Generative AI may impress us with its ability to produce headshots, plan vacation agendas, create work presentations, and even write new code, but that does not mean it can solve every problem. Despite the technological hype, those deciding how to use AI should first ask community members: “What are your needs?” and “What are your dreams?”. The answers to these questions should drive constraints for developers to implement, and should drive the decision about whether and how to use AI. Whose role is it to balance the design of AI tools with the decision about when to use AI systems, and the need to mitigate harms that AI can inflict? Everyone has a role to play. Technologists and organisational leaders have clear responsibilities in the design and deployment of AI systems. Policymakers have the ability to set guidelines for the development and use of AI ... to direct it in ways that minimise harm to individuals. Funders and investors can support AI systems that centre humans and encourage timelines that allow for community input and community analysis. All these roles must work together.
Note: Another recent Guardian article titled "Fantasy fears about AI are obscuring how we already abuse machine intelligence" questions the ethics behind our use of this new technology. More specifically, how the fears of AI bury conversations about the governments and corporations that run and deploy the for political ends.
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 advisory board to President Biden has recommended limiting the F.B.I.'s ability to use a controversial warrantless surveillance program to hunt for information about Americans, even as it urged lawmakers to renew the law that authorizes it. The panel, known as the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, suggested barring the bureau from searching a database of intercepted information when looking for evidence about Americans in criminal investigations that do not involve foreign intelligence. The board ... delivered the recommendation in a declassified 39-page report. It came as Congress was debating whether to extend the law authorizing the program, known as Section 702. Under Section 702, the government can collect – from American companies like Google and AT&T and without a warrant – the communications of targeted foreigners abroad, even when they are talking to or about Americans. The notion that Section 702 creates a backdoor to the Fourth Amendment by allowing the F.B.I. to read private communications to or from an American without a warrant in ordinary criminal contexts has raised particular alarm. But the board rejected as unjustified the more sweeping reform proposal: to require the government to obtain a court warrant before using Americans' identifiers to search the repository. Requiring a court order before doing so, the board said, would prevent intelligence agencies from discovering threats to the country in a timely manner.
An effort by United States lawmakers to prevent government agencies from domestically tracking citizens without a search warrant is facing opposition internally from one of its largest intelligence services. Officials at the National Security Agency (NSA) have approached lawmakers charged with its oversight about opposing an amendment that would prevent it from paying companies for location data instead of obtaining a warrant in court. Introduced by US representatives Warren Davidson and Sara Jacobs, the amendment ... would prohibit US military agencies from "purchasing data that would otherwise require a warrant, court order, or subpoena" to obtain. The ban would cover more than half of the US intelligence community, including the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the newly formed National Space Intelligence Center, among others. A government report declassified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last month revealed that US intelligence agencies were avoiding judicial review by purchasing a "large amount" of "sensitive and intimate information" about Americans, including data that can be used to trace people's whereabouts over extended periods of time. The sensitivity of the data is such that "in the wrong hands," the report says, it could be used to "facilitate blackmail," among other undesirable outcomes. The report also acknowledges that some of the data being procured is protected under the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment.
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 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.
A young African American man, Randal Quran Reid, was pulled over by the state police in Georgia. He was arrested under warrants issued by Louisiana police for two cases of theft in New Orleans. The arrest warrants had been based solely on a facial recognition match, though that was never mentioned in any police document; the warrants claimed "a credible source" had identified Reid as the culprit. The facial recognition match was incorrect and Reid was released. Reid ... is not the only victim of a false facial recognition match. So far all those arrested in the US after a false match have been black. From surveillance to disinformation, we live in a world shaped by AI. The reason that Reid was wrongly incarcerated had less to do with artificial intelligence than with ... the humans that created the software and trained it. Too often when we talk of the "problem" of AI, we remove the human from the picture. We worry AI will "eliminate jobs" and make millions redundant, rather than recognise that the real decisions are made by governments and corporations and the humans that run them. We have come to view the machine as the agent and humans as victims of machine agency. Rather than seeing regulation as a means by which we can collectively shape our relationship to AI, it becomes something that is imposed from the top as a means of protecting humans from machines. It is not AI but our blindness to the way human societies are already deploying machine intelligence for political ends that should most worry us.
On the morning of 10 June 2013 ... the journalist Glenn Greenwald and film-maker Laura Poitras published on the Guardian site a video revealing the identity of the NSA whistleblower behind one of the most damning leaks in modern history. It began: "My name is Ed Snowden." William Fitzgerald, then a 27-year-old policy employee at Google, knew he wanted to help. Fitzgerald found himself waiting in the lobby of the Hong Kong W Hotel to meet Greenwald and introduce him to Robert Tibbo and Jonathan Man – the men who became Snowden's legal representatives and hid him in the homes of Tibbo's refugee clients. The Snowden files told a ... sinister story, revealing mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA files suggested that some tech firms, including Google, Facebook and Apple, were aware. Google and other tech firms worked to distance themselves from the NSA's efforts. But over time [Google's] culture appeared to shift, reflecting the changing needs of various governments. Google stopped promoting its transparency report to the media, free expression advocates were replaced by more traditional business-focused executives, and then there was Project Maven – the controversial Department of Defense drone project that Google signed on to build artificial intelligence for. Google isn't alone in vying for government contracts – Microsoft, Amazon, IBM have all since made a play for or struck multimillion-dollar deals to build tools of surveillance for various entities including the Pentagon.
In 2010, the Washington Post reported that "every day, collection systems at the [NSA] intercept and store 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other type of communications." In 2011, NSA expanded a program to provide real-time location information of every American with a cell phone, acquiring more than a billion cell phone records each day from AT&T. Later, newspapers around the world began publishing confidential documents leaked by [Edward] Snowden. Americans learned that the NSA can tap almost any cell phone in the world, exploit computer games like Angry Birds to poach personal data, access anyone's email and web browsing history [and] remotely penetrate almost all computers. The NSA used Facebook and Google apps to send malware to targeted individuals. NSA filched almost 200,000,000 records a month from private computer cloud accounts. Obama perpetuated perverse Bush-era legal doctrines to totally shield federal surveillance from judicial scrutiny. Obama's Justice Department secretly decreed that all phone records of all Americans were "relevant" to terrorism investigations and that the NSA could therefore justifiably seize everyone's personal data. Snowden revealed how the NSA had covertly carried out "the most significant change in the history of American espionage from the targeted surveillance of individuals to the mass surveillance of entire populations."
These blank-looking warehouses are home to an artificial intelligence (AI) company used by the Government to monitor people’s posts on social media. Logically has been paid more than £1.2 million of taxpayers’ money to analyse what the Government terms “disinformation” – false information deliberately seeded online – and “misinformation”, which is false information that has been spread inadvertently. It does this by “ingesting” material from more than hundreds of thousands of media sources and “all public posts on major social media platforms”, using AI to identify those that are potentially problematic. It has a £1.2 million deal with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), as well as another worth up to £1.4 million with the Department of Health and Social Care to monitor threats to high-profile individuals within the vaccine service. Other blue-chip clients include US federal agencies, the Indian electoral commission, and TikTok. It also has a “partnership” with Facebook, which appears to grant Logically’s fact-checkers huge influence over the content other people see. A joint press release issued in July 2021 suggests that Facebook will limit the reach of certain posts if Logically says they are untrue. “When Logically rates a piece of content as false, Facebook will significantly reduce its distribution so that fewer people see it, apply a warning label to let people know that the content has been rated false, and notify people who try to share it,” states the press release.
When Edward Snowden blew the whistle on mass surveillance by the US government, he traded a comfortable existence in Hawaii, the paradise of the Pacific, for indefinite exile in Russia, now a pariah in much of the world. But 10 years after Snowden was identified as the source of the biggest National Security Agency (NSA) leak in history, it is less clear whether America underwent a similarly profound transformation in its attitude to safeguarding individual privacy. Was his act of self-sacrifice worth it – did he make a difference? On 6 June 2013, the Guardian published the first story based on Snowden's disclosures, revealing that a secret court order was allowing the US government to get Verizon to share the phone records of millions of Americans. The impact was dramatic. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, who earlier that year had testified to Congress that the NSA did not collect data on millions of Americans, was forced to apologise and admit that his statement had been "clearly erroneous". The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a constitutional lawsuit in federal court. It eventually led to a ruling that held the NSA telephone collection program was and always had been illegal, a significant breakthrough given that national security surveillance programs had typically been insulated from judicial review. You will not find any coherent statement by any US security official that says clearly what harm was done by these disclosures.
Frank Forrester Church sat in the US Senate for 24 years. He battled for civil rights and came to oppose the Vietnam war. He believed Americans were citizens, not subjects. Chairing the intelligence select committee was his most enduring accomplishment. James Risen, a Pulitzer-winning reporter now with the Intercept, sees him as a hero. The Last Honest Man is both paean and lament. “For decades ... the CIA’s operations faced only glancing scrutiny from the White House, and virtually none from Congress,” Risen writes. “True oversight would have to wait until 1975, and the arrival on the national stage of a senator from Idaho, Frank Church.” For 16 months, Church and his committee scrutinized the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency and their many abuses. Political assassinations, covert operations and domestic surveillance finally received scrutiny and oversight. A plot to kill Fidel Castro, with an assist from organized crime, made headlines. So did the personal ties that bound John F Kennedy, mob boss Sam Giancana and their shared mistress, Judith Campbell Exner. Giancana was murdered before he testified. Before John Rosselli, another mobster, could make a third appearance, his decomposed body turned up in a steel fuel drum near Miami. Against this grizzly but intriguing backdrop, Risen’s book is aptly subtitled: The CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, and the Kennedys – And One Senator’s Fight to Save Democracy.
Note: Read more about James Risen's courageous reporting on the intelligence community. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption from reliable major media sources.
The Pentagon’s intelligence branch is developing new tech to help it track the mass movement of people around the globe and flag “anomalies.” The project is called the Hidden Activity Signal and Trajectory Anomaly Characterization (HAYSTAC) program and it “aims to establish ‘normal’ movement models across times, locations, and populations and determine what makes an activity atypical,” according to a press release from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). HAYSTAC will be run by the DNI’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). It’s kind of like DARPA, the Pentagon’s blue-sky research department, but with a focus on intelligence projects. According to the agency, the project will analyze data from internet-connected devices and “smart city” sensors using AI. “An ever-increasing amount of geospatial data is created every day,” Jack Cooper, HAYSTAC’s program manager, said. Cooper also mentioned privacy, or rather a lack of it. “Today you might think that privacy means going to live off the grid in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “That’s just not realistic in today’s environment. Sensors are cheap. Everybodys got one. There’s no such thing as living off the grid.” In one project, [contractor] AIS simulated a cyber attack. “Devices included traditional desktop systems, laptops, tablets, and mobile platforms,” the firm said. “The technology tracks users through biometric features, including keystroke biometrics, mouse movement behavior, and gait detection.”
FBI officials repeatedly violated their own standards when they searched a vast repository of foreign intelligence for information related to the January 6 insurrection and racial justice protests in 2020, according court order released Friday. The violations were detailed in a secret court order issued last year by the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court, which has legal oversight of the US government’s spy powers. At issue are improper queries of foreign intelligence information collected under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which enables the government to gather the communications of targeted foreigners outside the US. That program, which is set to expire at the end of the year, creates a database of intelligence that US agencies can search. FBI searches must have a foreign intelligence purpose or be aimed at finding evidence of a crime. But congressional critics of the program have long raised alarm about what they say are unjustified searches of the database for information about Americans, along with more general concerns about surveillance abuses. In repeated episodes disclosed on Friday, the FBI’s own standards were not followed. The April 2022 order, for instances, details how the FBI queried the section 702 repository using the name of someone who was believed to have been at the Capitol during the January 6 riot. Officials obtained the information despite it not having any “analytical, investigative or evidentiary purpose”, the order said.
Footprints left on a beach. Air breathed in a busy room. Ocean water. Scientists have been able to collect and analyze detailed genetic data from human DNA from all these places, raising thorny ethical questions about consent, privacy and security when it comes to our biological information. The researchers from the University of Florida, who were using environmental DNA found in sand to study endangered sea turtles, said the DNA was of such high quality that the scientists could ... determine the genetic ancestry of populations living nearby. They could also match genetic information to individual participants who had volunteered to have their DNA recovered. Human DNA that has seeped into the environment through our spit, skin, sweat and blood could be used to help find missing persons, aid in forensic investigations to solve crimes, locate sites of archaeological importance, and for health monitoring. However, the ability to capture human DNA from the environment could have a range of unintended consequences — both inadvertent and malicious. These included privacy breaches, location tracking, data harvesting, and genetic surveillance of individuals or groups. [Researchers] retrieved DNA from footprints made in sand by four volunteers. They were able to sequence part of the participants’ genomes. Next, the researchers took samples of air from a ... room in an animal clinic. The team recovered DNA that matched the staff volunteers [and] animal patients.
Note: This research was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.