Privacy News StoriesExcerpts of Key Privacy News Stories in Major Media
Note: 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.
Last March, Tony Schmidt discovered something unsettling about the machine that helps him breathe at night. Without his knowledge, it was spying on him. From his bedside, the device was tracking when he was using it and sending the information not just to his doctor, but to the maker of the machine, to the medical supply company that provided it and to his health insurer. Schmidt, an information technology specialist ... was shocked. "I had no idea they were sending my information across the wire." Like millions of people, he relies on a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine that streams warm air into his nose while he sleeps. Without it, Schmidt would wake up hundreds of times a night. As many CPAP users discover, the life-altering device comes with caveats: Health insurance companies are often tracking whether patients use them. If they aren't, the insurers might not cover the machines or the supplies that go with them. And, faced with the popularity of CPAPs ... and their need for replacement filters, face masks and hoses, health insurers have deployed a host of tactics that can make the therapy more expensive or even price it out of reach. A host of devices now gather data about patients, including insertable heart monitors and blood glucose meters. Privacy laws have lagged behind this new technology, and patients may be surprised to learn how little control they have over how the data is used or with whom it is shared.
It's no secret that computers are insecure. The risks are about to get worse, because computers are being embedded into physical devices and will affect lives, not just our data. Many of today’s new computers are not just screens that we stare at, but objects in our world with which we interact. A refrigerator is now a computer that keeps things cold; a car is now a computer with four wheels and an engine. These computers sense us and our environment, and they affect us and our environment. They talk to each other over networks ... and they have physical agency. They drive our cars, pilot our planes, and run our power plants. They control traffic, administer drugs ... and dispatch emergency services. These connected computers and the network that connects them - collectively known as “the internet of things” - affect the world in a direct physical manner. Computers fail differently than most other machines: It's not just that they can be attacked remotely - they can be attacked all at once. It’s impossible to take an old refrigerator and infect it with a virus or recruit it into a denial-of-service botnet, and a car without an internet connection simply can’t be hacked remotely. But that computer with four wheels and an engine? It - along with all other cars of the same make and model - can be made to run off the road, all at the same time. Do we want to allow vulnerable automobiles on the streets and highways during the weeks before a new security patch is written, tested, and distributed?
Note: A 2015 New York Times article called the Internet of Things a "train wreck in privacy and security". Read how a hacked vehicle may have resulted in journalist Michael Hastings' death in 2013. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy and the risks of wireless technologies.
The Department of Homeland Security is gathering intelligence from paid undercover informants inside the migrant caravan that is now reaching the California-Mexico border as well as monitoring the text messages of migrants, according to two DHS officials. The 4,000 migrants, mainly from Honduras, have used WhatsApp text message groups as a way to organize and communicate along their journey to the California border, and DHS personnel have joined those groups to gather that information. The intelligence gathering techniques are combined with reports from DHS personnel working in Mexico. Paying informants, placing officers in the region or monitoring the communications of non-U.S. citizens is not illegal, said John Cohen, former acting undersecretary of intelligence for DHS, but it does raise some concerns about the allocation of resources. "Those resources have to come from some place. They are not being devoted to thwarting terrorist threats, mass shootings, mailed fentanyl coming into the country or cyberattacks," said Cohen. Cohen said the caravan presents a logistical and humanitarian issue, but because the vast majority of its members want to present themselves legally to claim asylum, it is not wise to devote a significant amount of intelligence resources to it. "I find it hard to believe that the highest risk facing this nation comes from this caravan," Cohen said.
The case of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the government adviser, and James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, bears striking similarities to a sweeping leaks investigation disclosed last week in which federal investigators obtained records over two months of more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the Associated Press. At a time when President Obama’s administration is under renewed scrutiny for an unprecedented number of leak investigations, the Kim case provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one such probe. Court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist - and raise the question of how often journalists have been investigated as closely as Rosen was in 2010. The case also raises new concerns among critics of government secrecy about the possible stifling effect of these investigations on a critical element of press freedom: the exchange of information between reporters and their sources. “The latest events show an expansion of this law enforcement technique,” said attorney Abbe Lowell, who is defending Kim on federal charges filed in 2010 that he disclosed national defense information. “Individual reporters or small time periods have turned into 20 [telephone] lines and months of records with no obvious attempt to be targeted or narrow.” The Obama administration has pursued more such cases than all previous administrations combined.
Over time, the CIA upper echelon has secretly developed all kinds of policy statements and legal rationales to justify routine, widespread surveillance on U.S. soil of citizens who aren’t suspected of terrorism or being a spy. Newly declassified documents from 2014 ... reveal the CIA not only intercepted emails of U.S. citizens but they were emails of the most sensitive kind — written to Congress and involving whistleblowers reporting alleged wrongdoing within the Intelligence Community. The disclosures, kept secret until now, are two letters of “congressional notification” from the Intelligence Community inspector general at the time, Charles McCullough. He stated that during “routine counterintelligence monitoring of government computer systems,” the CIA collected emails between congressional staff and the CIA’s head of whistleblowing and source protection. McCullough added that he was concerned about the CIA’s “potential compromise to whistleblower confidentiality and the consequent ‘chilling effect’.” The March 2014 intercepts ... happened amid what’s widely referred to as the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers and mass surveillance scandals. The evidence points to bad actors targeting candidate Donald Trump and his associates in part to keep them - and us - from learning about and digging into an even bigger scandal: our Intelligence Community increasingly spying on its own citizens, journalists, members of Congress and political enemies for the better part of two decades.
Note: The above article was written by Emmy award winning investigative journalist and former news anchor for CBS and CNN Sharyl Attkisson. She has been attacked numerous times for questioning the safety of vaccines and investigating too deeply into the lives of certain politicians. Her top-selling book Stonewalled describes her fight for truth against powerful political forces. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did. He leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people. The key to Snowden’s effectiveness, according to Thomas Devine, the legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), was that he practised “civil disobedience” rather than “lawful” whistleblowing. “None of the lawful whistleblowers who tried to expose the government’s warrantless surveillance ... had any success,” Devine told me. “They came forward ... but the government just said, ‘They’re lying. We’re not doing those things.’ And the whistleblowers couldn’t prove their case because the government had classified all the evidence.” The NSA whistleblowers were not leftwing peace nuts. They had spent their professional lives inside the US intelligence apparatus – devoted, they thought, to the protection of the homeland and defense of the constitution. They were political conservatives, highly educated, respectful of evidence, careful with words. And they were saying, on the basis of personal experience, that the US government was being run by people who were willing to break the law and bend the state’s awesome powers to their own ends. They were saying that laws and technologies had secretly been put in place that threatened to overturn the democratic governance Americans took for granted and shrink their liberties to a vanishing point.
Note: The article above was is adapted from Mark Hertsgaard’s book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
China is reversing the commonly held vision of technology as a great democratizer, bringing people more freedom and connecting them to the world. In China, it has brought control. Cameras scan train stations for China’s most wanted. Billboard-size displays ... list the names of people who don’t pay their debts. Facial recognition scanners guard the entrances to housing complexes. Already, China has an estimated 200 million surveillance cameras. Such efforts supplement other systems that track internet use and communications, hotel stays, train and plane trips and even car travel. Invasive mass-surveillance software has been set up in the west to track members of the Uighur Muslim minority and map their relations with friends and family. [At] the intersection south of Changhong Bridge in the city of Xiangyang ... police put up cameras linked to facial recognition technology and a big, outdoor screen. Photos of lawbreakers were displayed alongside their names and government I.D. numbers. China’s surveillance companies are also looking to test the appetite for high-tech surveillance abroad. At home, China is preparing its people for next-level surveillance technology. A recent state-media propaganda film called “Amazing China” showed off a ... virtual map that provided police with records of utility use. “If there are anomalies, the system sends an alert,” a narrator says, as Chinese police officers pay a visit to an apartment with a record of erratic utility use.
Apple has managed to prevent the hottest iPhone hacking company in the world from doing its thing. In March, Atlanta-based Grayshift promised governments its GrayKey tech could crack the passcodes of the latest iOS models, right up to the iPhone X. From then on, Apple continued to invest in security in earnest, continually putting up barriers for Grayshift to jump over. Grayshift continued to grow, however, securing contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service. Now, though, Apple has put up what may be an insurmountable wall. Multiple sources familiar with the GrayKey tech tell Forbes the device can no longer break the passcodes of any iPhone running iOS 12 or above. On those devices, GrayKey can only do what’s called a “partial extraction,” sources from the forensic community said. That means police using the tool can only draw out unencrypted files and some metadata, such as file sizes and folder structures. Previously, GrayKey used “brute forcing” techniques to guess passcodes and had found a way to get around Apple’s protections preventing such repeat guesses. But no more. Though it’s clear Apple has locked GrayShift out, no one actually knows just how the iPhone maker has done it. Vladimir Katalov, chief of forensic tech provider Elcomsoft, has repeatedly uncovered weaknesses in Apple technology. But he was stumped too.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing privacy news articles from reliable major media sources.
In the summer of 2015, as Memphis exploded with protests over the police killing of a 19-year-old man, activists began hearing on Facebook from someone called Bob Smith. His profile picture [was] a Guy Fawkes mask, the symbol of anti-government dissent. Smith acted as if he supported the protesters. Over the next three years, dozens of them accepted his friend requests, allowing him to observe private discussions. He described himself as a far-left Democrat, a “fellow protester” and a “man of color.” But Smith was not real. He was the creation of a white detective in the Memphis Police Department’s Office of Homeland Security whose job was to keep tabs on local activists. The detective, Tim Reynolds, outed himself in August under questioning by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which sued the police department for allegedly violating a 1978 agreement that prohibited police from conducting surveillance of lawful protests. The revelation validated many activists’ distrust of local authorities. It also provided a rare look into the ways American law enforcement operates online. Social media monitoring - including the use of software to crunch data about people’s online activity - illustrates a policing “revolution” that has allowed authorities to not only track people but also map out their networks, said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel at [the] Brennan Center for Justice. But there are few laws governing this kind of monitoring.
Note: Memphis police were recently reported to have systematically spied on community activists. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
A major U.S. telecommunications company discovered manipulated hardware from Super Micro Computer Inc. in its network and removed it in August, fresh evidence of tampering in China of critical technology components bound for the U.S., according to a security expert working for the telecom company. The security expert, Yossi Appleboum, provided ... evidence of the discovery following the publication of an investigative report in Bloomberg Businessweek that detailed how China’s intelligence services had ordered subcontractors to plant malicious chips in Supermicro server motherboards over a two-year period ending in 2015. [Appleboum’s company] was hired to scan several large data centers belonging to the telecommunications company. Unusual communications from a Supermicro server and a subsequent physical inspection revealed an implant built into the server’s Ethernet connector. The executive said he has seen similar manipulations of different vendors' computer hardware made by contractors in China, not just products from Supermicro. “Supermicro is a victim - so is everyone else,” he said. There are countless points in the supply chain in China where manipulations can be introduced, and deducing them can in many cases be impossible. The manipulation of the Ethernet connector appeared to be similar to a method also used by the U.S. National Security Agency, details of which were leaked in 2013.
The U.S. government can monitor journalists under a foreign intelligence law that allows invasive spying and operates outside the traditional court system, according to newly released documents. Targeting members of the press under the law, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, requires approval from the Justice Department’s highest-ranking officials. Prior to the release of these documents, little was known about the use of FISA court orders against journalists. Previous attention had been focused on the use of National Security Letters against members of the press; the letters are administrative orders with which the FBI can obtain certain ... records without a judge’s oversight. FISA court orders can authorize much more invasive searches and collection, including the content of communications, and do so through hearings conducted in secret and outside the sort of ... judicial process that allows journalists and other targets of regular criminal warrants to eventually challenge their validity. The rules apply to media entities or journalists who are thought to be agents of a foreign government, or ... possess foreign intelligence information. “There’s a lack of clarity on the circumstances when the government might consider a journalist an agent of a foreign power,” said [Knight Institute staff attorney Ramya] Krishnan. “Think about WikiLeaks; the government has said they are an intelligence operation.”
Note: In its latest instruction manual for federal prosecutors, the US Justice Department removed a subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial”. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on judicial system corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Angeline Cheek is preparing for disaster. The indigenous organizer from the Fort Peck reservation in Montana fears that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could break and spill. But environmental catastrophe is not the most immediate threat. The government has characterized pipeline opponents like her as “extremists” and violent criminals and warned of potential “terrorism”. Recently released records [suggest] that police were organizing to launch an aggressive response to possible Keystone protests, echoing the actions against the Standing Rock movement in North Dakota. There, officers engaged in intense surveillance and faced widespread accusations of excessive force. Documents obtained by the ACLU ... have renewed concerns from civil rights advocates about the government’s treatment of indigenous activists known as water protectors. Notably, one record revealed that authorities hosted a recent “anti-terrorism” training session in Montana. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency also organized a “field force operations” training to teach “mass-arrest procedures”, “riot-control formations” and other “crowd-control methods”.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Research unveiled today shows how vulnerabilities in “smart city” technology could be compromised by hackers. Bugs were found in major cities in the U.S. and Europe, with teams from IBM and Threatcare disclosing a series of “disturbing” scenarios that could soon play out for real. These included the abuse of flood warnings, radiation alarms and, yes, traffic networks. “If someone ... were to abuse vulnerabilities like the ones we documented in smart city systems, the effects could range from inconvenient to catastrophic,” a report said. The experts were inspired by the recent incident in Hawaii in which an alert warned citizens that a ballistic missile was inbound. The blaring island alarms, made in error, caused mass panic. Research found 17 major flaws in four smart city systems, eight of which were labeled “critical.” They spotted basic errors, including weak passwords and basic authentication flaws. “Security around these sensors and controls must be a lot more stringent,” wrote IBM’s Daniel Crowley. “Attackers could manipulate water level sensor responses to report flooding in an area where there is none - creating panic, evacuations and destabilization,” Crowley wrote. In another example, he said: “Controlling additional systems could enable an attacker to set off a string of building alarms or trigger gunshot sounds on audio sensors across town, further fueling panic.”
Note: This 2015 New York Times article calls 'smart' devices, "a train wreck in privacy and security." Watch an excellent documentary uncovering the serious dangers of smart meters. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and the disappearance of privacy.
New smart energy meters that the Government wants to be installed in millions of homes will leave householders vulnerable to cyber attacks. The intelligence agency GCHQ ... raised concerns over the security of the meters, which could enable hackers to steal personal details and defraud consumers by tampering with their bills. The Government wants every home in the country to have a smart meter, but only 8 million out of 27 million households have so far signed up to the Ł11 billion scheme. Cyber security experts say that making the meters universal will make them more attractive to hackers because the potential returns are so much greater if they can hack every meter using the same software. In some foreign countries hackers have already attacked smart meter networks to defraud customers. Criminals are able to artificially inflate meter readings, making bills higher. They then try to intercept payments, and if they simply skim off the difference between the real reading and the false reading, energy companies will think the bill has been paid normally. Another potential problem is the meters being used as a “Trojan horse” to access other computers and gadgets around the home if the meters are able to “talk” to the other devices. That would potentially give hackers the ability to steal personal information that could be sold on to other criminals.
Note: This 2015 New York Times article calls 'smart' devices like these meters, "a train wreck in privacy and security." The networked computerization of everyday objects often means that these objects can spy on you, accelerating the disappearance of privacy in the name of convenience. Watch an excellent documentary uncovering the serious dangers of smart meters.
The National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George Orwell's Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are thinking. The device will be able to respond almost instantaneously to complex questions posed by intelligence analysts. As more and more data is collected—through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records - it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what they are doing, but what and how they think. The system is so potentially intrusive that at least one researcher has quit, citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability. Known as Aquaint, which stands for "Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence," the project was run for many years by John Prange, an NSA scientist at the Advanced Research and Development Activity. A supersmart search engine, capable of answering complex questions ... would be very useful for the public. But that same capability in the hands of an agency like the NSA - absolutely secret, often above the law, resistant to oversight, and with access to petabytes of private information about Americans - could be a privacy and civil liberties nightmare. "We must not forget that the ultimate goal is to transfer research results into operational use," said ... Prange.
Note: Watch a highly revealing PBS Nova documentary providing virtual proof that the NSA could have stopped 9/11 but chose not to. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to. An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you've used privacy settings that say they will prevent it from doing so. Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP's request. Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks. So the company will let you "pause" a setting called Location History. Google's support page on the subject states: "You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored." That isn't true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like "chocolate chip cookies," or "kids science kits," pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude - accurate to the square foot - and save it to your Google account. Since 2014, Google has let advertisers track the effectiveness of online ads at driving foot traffic, a feature that Google has said relies on user location histories. The company is pushing further into such location-aware tracking to drive ad revenue, which rose 20 percent last year to $95.4 billion.
Note: This article instructs you how to effectively delete Google's tracking of your movements. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
A trove of documents released by the city of Memphis late last week appear to show that its police department has been systematically using fake social media profiles to surveil local Black Lives Matter activists, and that it kept dossiers and detailed power point presentations on dozens of Memphis-area activists. The surveillance project was operated through the Memphis police department’s office of homeland security. In a deposition for a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union over the information gathering, officials said it ... began to focus on “local individuals or groups that were staging protests” [around 2016]. This included the publication of daily joint information briefings on potential protests and known protesters. The briefings regularly included information about meetings on private property, panel discussions, town halls, and even innocuous events like “Black Owned Food Truck Sunday”. A good deal of that information appears to have been obtained by a fake MPD Facebook profile for a “Bob Smith”, which the ACLU said was used “to view private posts, join private groups, and otherwise pose as a member of the activist community”. The briefings, which contained ... photographs, dates of birth, addresses, and mental health histories were distributed beyond the department according to the ACLU lawsuit, to a number of local businesses including the region’s largest employer FedEx and the county school district.
Thousands of people pass by the buildings each day and rarely give them a second glance, because their function is not publicly known. They are an integral part of one of the world’s largest telecommunications networks – and they are also linked to a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program. Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.. In each of these cities, The Intercept has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world. A body of evidence – including classified NSA documents, public records, and interviews with several former AT&T employees – indicates that the buildings are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory. The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers. According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it “has access to information that transits the nation,” but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.
Note: The NSA was authorized in 2016 to share communications data it collected without warrants on Americans with 16 intelligence and law enforcement agencies. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
A review of hundreds of Facebook’s patent applications reveals that the company has considered tracking almost every aspect of its users’ lives: where you are, who you spend time with, whether you’re in a romantic relationship, which brands and politicians you’re talking about. The company has even attempted to patent a method for predicting when your friends will die. Taken together, Facebook’s patents show a commitment to collecting personal information, despite widespread public criticism of the company’s privacy policies and a promise from its chief executive to “do better.” “A patent portfolio is a map of how a company thinks about where its technology is going,” said Jason M. Schultz, a law professor at New York University. One patent application discusses predicting whether you’re in a romantic relationship using information such as how many times you visit another user’s page [and] the number of people in your profile picture. Another proposes using your posts and messages to infer personality traits ... then using those characteristics to select which news stories or ads to display. Another patent application discusses tracking your weekly routine and sending notifications to other users of deviations from the routine. In addition, it describes using your phone’s location in the middle of the night to establish where you live. As long as Facebook keeps collecting personal information, we should be wary.
The Supreme Court ruled that police generally need a search warrant to review cell phone records that include data like a user's location, which will impose a higher bar for law enforcement to access data collected on the millions of people who use smartphones on a daily basis. The plaintiff in the case, Timothy Carpenter, was convicted of multiple robbery and gun offenses in 2010 but challenged the conviction saying that officers investigating the case didn't get a warrant for his cell phone records. The government argued that law enforcement doesn't need a warrant to get cell phone records from the service provider since it's a third party. The Court ruled that the government's search, in this case, did not meet the bar for probable cause for a warrant. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority decision that the government is obligated to get a warrant before compelling a wireless provider to provide cell phone records in an investigation. "We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier's database of physical location information," Roberts said.
Note: While this ruling limits police powers, the NSA was authorized in 2016 to freely share communications data it collected without warrants on Americans with 16 intelligence and law enforcement agencies. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
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.