Amnesty International: Google and Facebook spell trouble for human rights

Amnesty International has had just about all that it cares to take of Google and Facebook's profiting off of our personal information. In a recent report, the international human rights charity stated that they were deeply concerned that the two companies mass surveillance ventures were making large scale human rights violations an easy go for anyone with access to the information and ill-intent.

From TechCrunch:

“[D]espite the real value of the services they provide, Google and Facebook’s platforms come at a systemic cost,” Amnesty warns. “The companies’ surveillance-based business model forces people to make a Faustian bargain, whereby they are only able to enjoy their human rights online by submitting to a system predicated on human rights abuse. Firstly, an assault on the right to privacy on an unprecedented scale, and then a series of knock-on effects that pose a serious risk to a range of other rights, from freedom of expression and opinion, to freedom of thought and the right to non-discrimination.”

If this argument sounds vaguely familiar to you, then you've been paying attention to this nonsense. As TechCrunch points out, the points that Amnesty International makes have been brought before by the United Nations, Zeynep Tufekci and Shoshana Zuboff—an organization and pair of noted scholars anyone would do well to listen to.

This feels like a topic better left to Cory Doctorow to explain than a chump like me, but let's have a go at it anyway.

By agreeing to Facebook or Google's terms of service, you're agreeing to allowing them to use and abuse your private information. Read the rest

Youtube told them to use this "royalty-free" music; now rightsholders are forcing ads on their videos and claiming most of the revenue

'Dreams' by Joakim Karud is a popular track in Youtube's library of safe, royalty-free music, which it supplies to video creators who want to stay on the right side of copyright, but Sonyatv and Warner Chappell claim that the Creative Commons-licensed song contains an uncleared sample from the Kenny Burrell Quartet's 'Weaver of Dreams,' which has allowed the giant rightsholder corporations to claim ownership over any video that incorporates the track and demand the lion's share of the revenue generated by the tens of millions of views associated with them. Read the rest

Bill Gates just accidentally proved that even "unsuccessful" antitrust enforcement works

In 1992, the Federal Trade Commission opened an antitrust investigation against Microsoft; in 2001, the company settled the claims, making a slate of pro-competitive promises that were widely derided as too little, too late. Read the rest

In Kuwait, domestic laborers are bought and sold on Instagram

“You can wake her up at 5AM, she won't complain.”

Toronto approves Google's surveillance city, despite leaks revealing Orwellian plans

Yesterday, Waterfront Toronto unanimously approved the continuation of Sidewalk Labs's plans for "Quayside," a privatised, surveillance-oriented "smart city" that has been mired in controversy since its earliest days, including secret bullying campaigns, mass resignations of privacy advisors, lies that drastically understated the scope of the project, civil liberties lawsuits, and denunciations by the indigenous elders who were consulted on the project. Read the rest

Despite denials, it's clear that Google's new top national security hire was instrumental to Trump's #KidsInCages policy

After news broke last week that Google's latest head of national security policy engagement was Miles Taylor, former chief of staff to DHS undersecretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Google tried to calm its outraged staff by insisting that Taylor had nothing to do with Trump's Kids in Cages policy that shattered families forever and murdered innocent children, nor with Trump's racist ethnic cleansing Muslim Ban. Read the rest

Indigenous elder on Sidewalk Labs's Toronto consultation: "like being given blankets and gun powder and whisky to trade for our participation"

Sidewalk Labs (previously) is a "smart city" company that was spun out of Google, though it remains owned by Alphabet, Google's parent company; Sidewalk Labs's first major outing is a planned "experimental city" on Toronto's lakeshore, and it's been a disaster, from the bullying it used to get the project's initial approval to being outed for sneaking a massive expansion into the agreement and then lying about it, to mass resignations by its privacy advisors, who denounced the project as a corporate surveillance city whose "privacy protections" were mere figleafs for unfettered, nonconsensual collection and exploitation of residents' data. Read the rest

The Youtubers' union just wants Google to give them the rulebook

Google has blinked in the ongoing attempt to organize Youtube creators in a new organization called Fairtube, under the umbrella of the powerful German trade union IG Metall. Read the rest

Google could use internal surveillance tool to monitor worker dissent and labor organizing, employees warn

Workers at Google say the company is developing an internal surveillance system that could be used to monitor the behavior of employees, and thwart dissent and labor organizing.

The company says they're only trying to make it easier for workers to manage their internal Google calendars and manage meeting spam. Read the rest

Senior DHS staffer who oversaw #KidsInCages and promoted the #MuslimBan is now a top Google employee

Miles Taylor was chief of staff to DHS undersecretary Kirstjen Nielsen, publicly defending his boss's implementation of the #MuslimBan ethnic cleansing policy and helping to implement the family separation #KidsInCages policy. Read the rest

Griefer terrorizes baby by taking over their Nest babycam...again

Nest is a home automation company that Google bought in 2014, turned into an independent unit of Alphabet, then re-merged with Google again in 2018 (demonstrating that the "whole independent companies under Alphabet" thing was just a flag of convenience for tax purposes); the company has always focused on "ease of use" over security and internecine warfare between different dukes and lords of Google meant that it was never properly integrated with Google's security team, which is why, over and over again, people who own Nest cameras discover strangers staring at them from their unblinking camera eyes, sometimes shouting obscenities. Read the rest

It's dismayingly easy to make an app that turns a smart-speaker into a password-stealing listening device and sneak it past the manufacturer's security checks

German security researchers from Security Research Lab created a suite of apps for Google and Amazon smart speakers that did trivial things for their users, appeared to finish and go dormant, but which actually stayed in listening mode, then phished the user for passwords spoken aloud to exfiltrate to a malicious actor; all their apps were successfully smuggled past the companies app store security checks. Read the rest

Not only is Google's auto-delete good for privacy, it's also good news for competition

Earlier this month, Google announced a new collection of auto-delete settings for your personal information that allows you balance some of the conveniences of data-collection (for example, remembering recent locations in Maps so that they can be intelligently autocompleted when you type on a tiny, crappy mobile device keyboard) with the risks of long-term retention, like a future revelation that you visited an HIV clinic, or a political meeting, or were present at the same time and place as someone the police have decided to investigate by means of a sweeping "reverse warrant." Read the rest

The far right is dominating the information wars through "keyword signaling"

It's an old story: someone searches Google for a common keyword -- "jews," "women," "black people" -- and gets back a bunch of far-right conspiracist/genocidal garbage; Google gets embarrassed, twiddles some search-weighting knobs, and the results change. Read the rest

China's new cybersecurity rules ban foreign companies from using VPNs to phone home

For decades, it was a commonplace in western business that no one could afford to ignore China: whatever problems a CEO might have with China's human rights record could never outweigh the profits to be had by targeting the growing Chinese middle-class. Read the rest

Google continues to funnel vast sums to notorious climate deniers

Google and the other big tech companies are some of the most lavish funders of climate denial "think tanks" and lobbying groups, something they've been at continuously for more than six years, without interruption. Read the rest

America's rotten ISPs object to encrypted DNS, argue that losing the ability to spy on your traffic puts them at a competitive disadvantage

I'm 100% in favor of pro-competitive regulation of Big Tech, and that is because I'm 100% in favor of pro-competitive regulation of all our hyper-concentrated, monopolistic industries. Read the rest

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