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.
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.
The Newborn Genetic Screening test is required in all 50 states. Nearly every baby born in the United States gets a heel prick shortly after birth. Their newborn blood fills six spots on a special filter paper card. It is used to test baby for dozens of congenital disorders. Some states destroy the blood spots after a year, 12 states store them for at least 21 years. California, however, is one of a handful of states that stores the remaining blood spots for research indefinitely in a state-run biobank. The child's leftover blood spots become property of the state and may be sold to outside researchers without the parent's knowledge or consent. "I just didn't realize there was a repository of every baby born in the state. It's like fingerprints," new mom Soniya Sapre responded. In California ... you do have the right to ask the biobank to destroy the leftovers after the fact, though the agency's website states it "may not be able to comply with your request." You also have the right to find out if your child's blood spots have been used for research, but you would have to know they were being used in the first place and we've discovered that most parents don't. But researchers with the California Genetic Disease Screening Program aren't the only ones with access to samples stored in the biobank. Blood spots are given to outside researchers for $20 to $40 per spot. According to biobank records, the program sold about 16,000 blood spots over the past five years, totaling a little more than $700,000.
As Facebook sought to become the world’s dominant social media service, it struck agreements allowing phone and other device makers access to vast amounts of its users’ personal information. Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers - including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung. The partnerships ... raise concerns about the company’s privacy protections and compliance with a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing. In interviews, several former Facebook software engineers and security experts said they were surprised at the ability to override sharing restrictions. “It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” said Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant who formerly served as the F.T.C.’s chief technologist.
Edward Snowden has no regrets five years on from leaking the biggest cache of top-secret documents in history. He is wanted by the US. He is in exile in Russia. But he is satisfied with the way his revelations of mass surveillance have rocked governments, intelligence agencies and major internet companies. What has happened in the five years since? The most important change, he said, was public awareness. “The government and corporate sector preyed on our ignorance. But now we know. People are aware now. People are still powerless to stop it but we are trying. The revelations made the fight more even.” He said he had no regrets. His own life is uncertain, perhaps now more than ever, he said. His sanctuary in Russia depends on the whims of the Putin government, and the US and UK intelligence agencies have not forgiven him. For them, the issue is as raw as ever. One of the disclosures to have most impact was around the extent of collaboration between the intelligence agencies and internet companies. In 2013, the US companies were outsmarting the EU in negotiations over data protection. Snowden landed like a bomb in the middle of the negotiations and the data protection law that took effect last month is a consequence. But he will not be marking the anniversary with a “victory lap”. There is still much to be done. “The fightback is just beginning,” said Snowden. “The governments and the corporates have been in this game a long time and we are just getting started.”
Last year an American company microchipped dozens of its workers. Of the 90 people who work at [Three Square Market] headquarters, 72 are now chipped. Two months ago, the company ... started chipping people with dementia. If someone wanders off and gets lost, police can scan the chip “and they will know all their medical information, what drugs they can and can’t have, they’ll know their identity.” So far, Three Square Market has chipped 100 people, but plans to do 10,000. The company has just launched a mobile phone app that pairs the chip with the phone’s GPS, enabling the implantee’s location to be tracked. Last week, it started using it with people released from prison on probation. Some Chinese companies are using sensors in helmets and hats to scan workers’ brainwaves. There are tech companies selling products that can ... monitor keystrokes and web usage, and even photograph [employees] using their computers’ webcams. All this can be done remotely. Monitoring is built into many of the jobs that form the so-called “gig economy”. It’s not easy to object to the constant surveillance when you’re desperate for work. What has surprised [Cass Business School professor André Spicer] is how willingly people in better-paid jobs have taken to it. Spicer has watched the shift away from “monitoring something like emails to monitoring people’s bodies – the rise of bio-tracking basically. The monitoring of your vital signs, emotions, moods.”
Note: Author James Bloodworth describes the high tech monitoring of workers at Amazon warehouses in his new book, "Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on microchip implants and the disappearance of privacy.
Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online - simply with music playing over the radio. A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website. This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list. There is no American law against broadcasting subliminal messages to humans, let alone machines. The Federal Communications Commission discourages the practice as “counter to the public interest,” and the Television Code of the National Association of Broadcasters bans “transmitting messages below the threshold of normal awareness.”
Note: Read how a hacked vehicle may have resulted in journalist Michael Hastings' death in 2013. A 2015 New York Times article titled "Why ‘Smart’ Objects May Be a Dumb Idea" describes other major risks in creating an "Internet of Things". Vulnerabilities like those described in the article above make it possible for anyone to spy on you with these objects, accelerating the disappearance of privacy.
Chinese companies are picking their employees’ brains - literally - with mind-reading devices designed to improve efficiency and performance. Workers are being outfitted with safety helmet-like caps that monitor brain waves and send the information to computers that use artificial intelligence algorithms to detect emotional spikes, like depression, anxiety and rage. The Orwellian technology has been used on factory employees, train conductors and workers at State Grid Zhejian Electric Power. State Grid, which has 40,000 employees ... said the company’s profits have increased by about $315 million since it implemented the surveillance caps in 2014. The government-funded brain-monitoring project, called Neuro Cap, has been implemented in more than a dozen factories and businesses. Jin Jia, an associate professor of brain science and cognitive psychology at Ningbo University, which is hosting the project, said the brain caps allow workers to be better managed. Qiao Zhian, professor of management psychology at Beijing Normal University, said the devices could give companies a competitive boost - but warned they could also violate privacy in the worst way. “There is no law or regulation to limit the use of this kind of equipment in China. The employer may have a strong incentive to use the technology for higher profit, and the employees are usually in too weak a position to say no,” he said. “The selling of Facebook data is bad enough. Brain surveillance can take privacy abuse to a whole new level.”
A former U.S. Secret Service agent named Peter Cavicchia III ran special ops for JPMorgan Chase & Co. His insider threat group ... used computer algorithms to monitor the bank’s employees. Aided by as many as 120 “forward-deployed engineers” from the data mining company Palantir Technologies Inc., which JPMorgan engaged in 2009, Cavicchia’s group vacuumed up emails and browser histories, GPS locations ... and transcripts of digitally recorded phone conversations. It all ended when the bank’s senior executives learned that they, too, were being watched. [The] spying scandal ... which has never been reported, also marked an ominous turn for Palantir. An intelligence platform designed for the global War on Terror was weaponized against ordinary Americans at home. Founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel and some fellow PayPal alumni, Palantir cut its teeth working for the Pentagon and the CIA. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services uses Palantir. The FBI uses it. The Department of Homeland Security deploys it. Police and sheriff’s departments in New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Los Angeles have also used it, frequently ensnaring in the digital dragnet people who aren’t suspected of committing any crime. JPMorgan’s experience remains instructive. “The world changed when it became clear everyone could be targeted using Palantir,” says a former JPMorgan cyber expert who worked with Cavicchia at one point on the insider threat team. “Everyone’s a suspect, so we monitored everything.”
Note: Palantir was one of the private intelligence firms that reportedly conspired to discredit activists and journalist Glenn Greenwald, in part by submitting fake documents to WikiLeaks. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Bloomberg Government reports on a FedBizOpps.gov posting by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the relatively benign-sounding subject “Media Monitoring Services.” The details of the attached Statement of Work, however, outline a plan to gather and monitor the public activities of media professionals and influencers and are enough to cause nightmares of constitutional proportions, particularly as the freedom of the press is under attack worldwide. As part of its "media monitoring," the DHS seeks to track more than 290,000 global news sources as well as social media. The successful contracting company will have "24/7 access to a password protected, media influencer database" ... in order to "identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event." The database will be browsable by "location, beat and type of influencer," and for each influencer, the chosen contractor should "present contact details and ... an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer." Increasing government encroachment on the freedom of the press is the sinister backdrop to all of this. Freedom House ... recently concluded that global media freedom has reached its lowest level in the past 13 years. The independent watchdog organization blames "new threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies" as well as "further crackdowns on independent media in authoritarian countries like Russia and China."
I downloaded a copy of my Facebook data last week. I didn’t expect to see much. But when I opened my file, it was like opening Pandora’s box. I learned that about 500 advertisers - many that I had never heard of, like Bad Dad, a motorcycle parts store, and Space Jesus, an electronica band - had my contact information, which could include my email address, phone number and full name. Facebook also had my entire phone book, including the number to ring my apartment buzzer. The social network had even kept a permanent record of the roughly 100 people I had deleted from my friends list over the last 14 years. Facebook said unfamiliar advertisers might appear [in the file] because they might have obtained my contact information from elsewhere, compiled it into a list of people they wanted to target and uploaded that list into Facebook. Brands can obtain your information [by] buying ... from a data provider like Acxiom, which has amassed one of the world’s largest commercial databases on consumers. Let’s be clear: Facebook is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what information tech companies have collected on me. Knowing this, I also downloaded copies of my Google data with a tool called Google Takeout. The data sets were exponentially larger than my Facebook data. Here was the biggest surprise: In a folder labeled Ads, Google kept a history of many news articles I had read. Be warned: Once you see the vast amount of data that has been collected about you, you won’t be able to unsee it.
Note: Those who want to download their own Facebook data can use this link. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
[Here's] how much of your information ... Facebook and Google store about you. Google stores your location ... every time you turn on your phone. You can see a timeline of where you’ve been from the very first day you started using Google on your phone. Google stores search history across all your devices. Even if you delete your search history and phone history on one device, it may still have data saved from other devices. Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight ... and income. Google offers an option to download all of the data it stores about you. I’ve requested to download it and the file is 5.5GB big, which is roughly 3m Word documents. Facebook offers a similar option to download all your information. Mine was roughly 600MB, which is roughly 400,000 Word documents. Facebook also stores what it thinks you might be interested in based off the things you’ve liked and what you and your friends talk about. The data they collect includes tracking where you are, what applications you have installed, when you use them, what you use them for, access to your webcam and microphone at any time, your contacts, your emails, your calendar, your call history, the messages you send and receive, the files you download, the games you play, your photos and videos, your music, your search history, your browsing history, even what radio stations you listen to.
Sitting in a hotel bar, Alexander Nix, who runs the political data firm Cambridge Analytica, had a few ideas for a prospective client looking for help in a foreign election. The firm could send an attractive woman to seduce a rival candidate and secretly videotape the encounter, Mr. Nix said, or send someone posing as a wealthy land developer to pass a bribe. “We have a long history of working behind the scenes,” Mr. Nix said. The prospective client, though, was actually a reporter. The encounter was secretly filmed as part of a monthslong investigation into Cambridge Analytica, the data firm with ties to President Trump’s 2016 campaign. The results of Channel 4’s work were broadcast ... days after reports ... that the firm had harvested the data from more than 50 million Facebook profiles in its bid to develop techniques for predicting the behavior of individual American voters. Less noticed has been the work that Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, the SCL Group, have done outside the United States. “Many of our clients don’t want to be seen to be working with a foreign company,” he told the Channel 4 reporter. “We can set up fake IDs and websites.” Mr. Nix ... boasted that Cambridge Analytica employs front companies and former spies on behalf of political clients. The information that is uncovered ... is then put “into the bloodstream to the internet,” said Mark Turnbull, another Cambridge executive. “Then watch it grow,” he added. “It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘That’s propaganda.’”
Note: Watch an astounding video revealing how Cambridge Analytica has successfully manipulated national elections around the world using sleazy tactics like pretty women to entrap candidates and offering major bribes while recording the exchange. And here is a video featuring the whistleblower who exposed this.
At 24, [Christopher Wylie] came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that went on to claim a major role in the Leave campaign for Britain’s EU membership referendum, and later became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trump’s election campaign. In 2014, Steve Bannon ... was Wylie’s boss. And Robert Mercer, the secretive US hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analytica’s investor. The idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology – “information operations” – then turn it on the US electorate. By , Steve Bannon had become Trump’s chief strategist. Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL, had won contracts with the US State Department and was pitching to the Pentagon, and Wylie was genuinely freaked out. “It’s insane,” he told me one night. “The company has created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans. And now they want to work with the Pentagon? It’s like Nixon on steroids.” He ended up showing me a tranche of documents that laid out the secret workings behind Cambridge Analytica. Wylie ... came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.
Note: Billionaire Robert Mercer used this new new technology to build a corporate empire capable of swinging elections by using military propaganda strategies on civilian populations. The above article further details how mass media is being combined with Big Data to produce powerful new forms of mind control. Watch an astounding video revealing how Cambridge Analytica has successfully manipulated national elections around the world.
A US court will today hear a request from Monsanto for access to a huge batch of internal communications by Avaaz, in a move that the campaign group says could have grave repercussions for online activism and data privacy. Monsanto is seeking the release of all lobby documents ... where the firm or its herbicide ingredient glyphosate have been mentioned. Avaaz says this would include personal information about its employees, as well as the email addresses of more than four million signatories to petitions against Monsanto’s GM and glyphosate policies. A victory for Monsanto in today’s hearing would cost the online advocacy group thousands of person-hours of work time, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Avaaz’s lawyers. It could even raise the prospect of a migration out of online activism by campaigners concerned about corporate surveillance. Monsanto’s [request] demands all documents Avaaz employees have created, maintained, received, sent or copied, where these involve discussion about glyphosate, Monsanto, or the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which found glyphosate to probably be carcinogenic. Monsanto filed its request shortly after a bitter EU regulatory battle ended with its license for glyphosate – the core ingredient in Roundup – being extended by just five years, rather than the 15 years originally sought.
Note: Read more on Avaaz and the power of online activism. Major lawsuits are beginning to unfold over Monsanto's lies to regulators and the public on the dangers of its products, most notably Roundup. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and health.
Last week, the existence of a draft Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report came to light, which calls for long-term surveillance of Sunni Muslim immigrants. Internal documents obtained from the FBI and DHS last year also showed how the agencies are surveilling the Movement for Black Lives, bringing into mind tactics of Cointelpro, an FBI program which secretly and illegally conducted surveillance on the civil rights movement in order to disrupt Americans’ ability to organize politically. But these are not the only types of surveillance this administration is engaged in. On 18 October, DHS implemented a new rule to track the internet activity of all visa applicants, visa holders and legal permanent residents. The rule would also apply to naturalized US citizens. The new rule would track and store social media account information and other highly sensitive data as part of individuals’ immigration files. The policy would allow DHS to collect and track immigrants’ social media accounts handles as well as aliases, and search results from both public search engines as well as commercial databases. The rule ... seems like it was designed with the specific purpose of hampering our freedom of speech, in line with the Trump administration’s other chilling tactics of attacks on the press and crackdowns on protesters who do not fall in line with the policies of this administration. This covert surveillance, now culminating in overt spying on immigrants, is designed as a tactic to control and fracture dissent.
Note: Read more about the FBI's infamous Cointelpro program. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The National Security Agency maintains a page on its website that outlines its mission statement. Since at least May 2016, the surveillance agency had featured honesty as the first of four “core values” listed on NSA.gov, alongside “respect for the law,” “integrity,” and “transparency.” On January 12, however, the NSA removed the mission statement page – which can still be viewed through the Internet Archive – and replaced it with a new version. Now, the parts about honesty and the pledge to be truthful have been deleted. The agency’s new top value is “commitment to service,” which it says means “excellence in the pursuit of our critical mission.” Those are not the only striking alterations. All references to “trust,” “honor,” and “openness” have disappeared. The agency previously stated on its website that it embraced transparency and claimed that all of its activities were aimed at “ensuring the safety, security, and liberty of our fellow citizens.” That has also been discarded. The new list of values includes the additions “respect for people” and “accountability.” But the section on respecting people is a reference to diversity within the NSA workforce, not a general commitment to members of the public. Accountability is defined as taking “responsibility for our decisions.” The one core value that remains essentially unchanged is “respect for the law,” which the agency says means it is “grounded in our adherence to the U.S. Constitution and compliance with the U.S. laws, regulations and policies that govern our activities.”
The White House can now direct US intelligence agencies to spend money and take covert action without approval of congressional oversight committees under a provision slipped into the bill that ended the government shutdown, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee say. A provision in the bill - requested by the White House and Pentagon - gives intelligence agencies an exemption from the law that requires them to get authorization from the intelligence committees before they spend taxpayer money, said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and chairman of the Senate panel. Section 504 of the National Security Act gives the committees the power to withhold money from the intelligence agencies if they object to surveillance programs or other intelligence activities. Burr and [Sen. Mark] Warner said the provision to weaken their oversight power comes just after they promised civil liberties advocates in the Senate that they would ensure that the FBI and other intelligence agencies don't overstep their bounds in carrying out a controversial surveillance program recently renewed by Congress. That surveillance program, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ... sweeps up emails, text messages, photos and other communication from an unknown number of Americans, and allows federal agents to search that data without a warrant. Burr and Warner both supported a six-year renewal of the program earlier this month.
The National Security Agency has apparently been way ahead of Apple or Amazon. The agency has at its disposal voice recognition technology that it employs to identify terrorists, government spies, or anyone they choose — with just a phone call, according to a report by The Intercept. By using recorded audio, the NSA is able to create a "voiceprint," or a map of qualities that mark a voice as singular, and identify the person speaking. According to a classified memo ... the agency has employed this technology since at least 2006, with the document referencing technology "that identifies people by the sound of their voices." In fact, the NSA used such technology during Operation Iraqi Freedom, when analysts were able to verify audio thought to be of Saddam Hussein speaking. It suggests that national security operatives had access to high-level voice technology long before Amazon, Apple and Google's solutions became cultural touchstones. A "voiceprint" is "a dynamic computer model of the individual's vocal characteristics," the publication explained, created by an algorithm analyzing features like pitch and mouth shape. Then, using the NSA's formidable bank of recorded audio files, the agency is able to match the speaker to an identity. Identifying people through their voiceprints is a skill at which the "NSA reigns supreme," according to a leaked document from 2008. And, they're only getting better.
Note: As this BBC article from 1999 shows, mass surveillance systems with voice recognition capability have been in use for many years. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
A four-page memo circulating in Congress that reveals alleged United States government surveillance abuses is being described by lawmakers as “shocking.” The lawmakers said they could not yet discuss the contents of the memo they reviewed on Thursday after it was released to members by the House Intelligence Committee. But they say the memo should be immediately made public. “It is so alarming the American people have to see this,” Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan said. “It's troubling,” North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said. “Part of me wishes that I didn't read it because I don’t want to believe that those kinds of things could be happening in this country that I call home and love so much.” The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday approved a motion by New York Rep. Pete King to release the memo on abuses of FISA, or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to all House members. The memo details the Intelligence Committee’s oversight work for the FBI and Justice, including the controversy over unmasking and FISA surveillance. The process for releasing it to the public involves a committee vote. If approved, it could be released as long as there are no objections from the White House within five days. On Thursday, the Senate voted 65-34 to reauthorize a FISA provision that allows U.S. spy agencies to conduct surveillance on foreign targets abroad for six years.
The use of fake internet domain names to trick consumers into giving up personal information is more widespread than experts originally thought. This is largely because of the heightened use of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), which use homographs carefully crafted to look exactly like their English counterparts. Hackers create domain names that replace an English-language character with a look-alike character from another language - replacing the Latin letter ‘a’ with the Cyrillic letter ‘a,’ for instance - as a way of luring users to fake websites where they’re prompted to enter their personal information. [A new] report from ... Farsight Security identified 125 different websites, from social networking giants like Facebook and Twitter to luxury brands like Gucci and financial websites like Wells Fargo, being imitated by fake domain addresses. Between Oct. 17 and Jan. 10, the group observed more than 116,000 imitator domains of these sites in real time. Take a popular financial site like BankofAmerica.com. Cybercriminals take this domain and ... create a website that looks strikingly similar to the original Bank of America page. A user types in their login information and password on this fake Bank of America site, automatically giving cybercriminals their credentials to log in to the real thing. Most phishing attempts reach internet users through email, so you should be suspicious of any emails that include ... login links to different accounts combined with demands to update information.
Note: Read the complete Farsight Security report for more information on these common cyberattacks and how to protect yourself from them.
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.