Illinois almost passed a bill that banned devices that record you without your consent -- and then Big Tech stepped in

This week, Keep Internet Devices Safe Act was gutted by the Illinois senate: it would have allowed people sue manufacturers if they determined that a device had engaged in remote recording without notifying its owner. Read the rest

Amazon stores recordings of Alexa interactions and turns them over to internal staff and outside contractors for review

Bloomberg reporters learned that -- despite public pronouncements to the contrary -- Amazon has an "annotation team" of thousands of people all over the world, charged with reviewing recordings made by Alexa devices in the field, with both staffers and contractors listening to conversations that Alexa owners have had with and near their devices. Read the rest

What the rest of the world doesn't know about Chinese AI

ChinAI Jeff Ding's weekly newsletter reporting on the Chinese AI scene; on the occasion of the newsletter's first anniversary, Ding has posted a roundup of things about the Chinese AI scene that the rest of the world doesn't know about, or harbors incorrect beliefs about. Read the rest

Screening Surveillance: three short science fiction films about surveillance, with accompanying classroom materials

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada funded Screening Surveillance project: a trio of Creative Commons licensed short science fiction films about "everyday issues around big data and surveillance." The movies run about 10 minutes each, and come with classroom materials. Read the rest

Amazon shareholders to vote on proposal to stop selling racially biased facial surveillance software to governments

“BIG DEAL,” says the ACLU's Matt Cagle about this story. “Amazon shareholders will vote on whether the Board must reconsider company sales of face surveillance to governments. The SEC rejected Amazon's attempt to prevent this proposal from moving forward.” Read the rest

Airbnb guest uses network sniffer to find hidden webcam, Airbnb finds no wrongdoing

Airbnb has a hidden camera problem: Airbnb hosts keep getting caught using hidden webcams to spy on people staying in their unlicensed hotel-rooms, and while the company proclaims a zero tolerance policy for the practice, the reality is that the company tacitly tolerates Airbnb hosts who engage in this creepy, voyeuristic behavior. Read the rest

The New York Times's chilling multimedia package on China's use of "smart city" tech to create an open-air prison

One of my mottoes is that the important thing about tech isn't what it does, it's who it does it to, and who it does it for; this is especially important in discussions of "smart city" tech, which can easily be turned to systems of population-scale surveillance, control and oppression. Read the rest

For sale on Craigslist: 1978 undercover police surveillance van!

You could be the proud owner of this customized 1978 Tradesman 200 undercover police surveillance van! Currently for sale on the San Francisco Bay Area's Craigslist, the white, 8-cylinder automatic has just 78,000 original miles. Asking price is $4,000. And now for the good stuff:

It has been carpeted with a bench and workbench inside. It is chock full of surprises and cool modifications including; a CB radio setup (don't think it currently works), police band radio/scanner, black out windows/shades, custom AC unit designed to run off a few deep cycle-cell marine batteries (daisy-chained together), a door to separate the cab from the rear of the vehicle, and best of all.....a periscope that comes out of the vent. It does have some minor dents and dings as a 40 year-old truck will likely have, but no major defects/issues. Everything seems to work on it, but I haven't done much driving in it since it is not currently registered or insured. Seats are going to need to be recovered or replaced. This van would make an awesome undercover PI van, party van, camper van, hippy van, surfer van, boogie van, classic 70's van. I have another one already, and with two jobs, and school, I don't have a lot of free time to convert a second van. I may consider a trade for a 4x4 van, or similar, Suburban, Bronco, Scout, Jeep etc.

"1978 Dodge Tradesman 200 undercover police van - $4000 (san mateo)" (Craigslist)

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Researchers find mountains of sensitive data on totalled Teslas in junkyards

Teslas are incredibly data-hungry, storing massive troves of data about their owners, including videos of crashes, location history, contacts and calendar entries from paired phones, photos of the driver and passengers taken with interior cameras, and other data; this data is stored without encryption, and it is not always clear when Teslas are gathering data, and the only way to comprehensively switch off data-gathering also de-activates over-the-air software updates for the cars, which have historically shipped with limited or buggy features that needed the over-the-air updates to fix them. Read the rest

NSA domestic surveillance debate returns to Congress with 'Ending Mass Collection of Americans’ Phone Records Act'

“It’s time, finally, to put a stake in the heart of this unnecessary government surveillance program and start to restore some of Americans’ liberties,” Wyden said in a statement.

Edward Snowden to keynote London's ORGCON!

ORGCON19 is the annual conference put on by the UK Open Rights Group (disclosure: I co-founded ORG and volunteer on its advisory board); it is "the UK’s largest human and digital rights conference," and this year's conference -- held on July 13 in central London -- is centred on "Data and Democracy, Digital Privacy, Online Censorship & the Role of Algorithms," so it only follows that the whistleblower Edward Snowden as its keynote speaker! Read the rest

China is rushing facial and voice recognition tech for pigs. Here's why.

In China, technology firms are working with the government to push voice and facial recognition to help pigs, many of which have been dying from a swine disease that's sweeping the country. Read the rest

China uses DNA tech to spy on people. Yale geneticist and a U.S. biotech helped.

“The Chinese authorities turned to a Massachusetts company and a prominent Yale researcher as they built an enormous system of surveillance and control.”

This is a heck of a story about how genetic surveillance, powered by American know-how, is being used to oppress the Muslim minority Uighur population and others in China, from the New York Times. Read the rest

Huawei president Ren Zhengfei: We won't spy on US even if Chinese law requires us to, what backdoors?

In his first U.S. TV interview, Ren Zhengfei describes Huawei as “a tomato” crushed between two superpowers.

Facebook's internal security goons track ex-employees and critics using Facebook's apps

If you're a disgruntled ex-Facebooker or someone who "made threatening statements" against the company, there's a chance its internal security force is tracking your location and activities, using Facebook's apps and other tracking tools. Read the rest

Israeli spyware firm NSO Group 're-acquired' by founders

The NSO Group is an Israeli firm that has long marketed itself as a "cyber warfare" company, selling mobile surveillance technology to governments that include notoriously corrupt human rights abusers. One of these is Mexico, where NSO spyware played a key role in targeting teachers and journalists, and missing students.

On Thursday, NSO Group announced it has been “re-acquired” by its founders. Read the rest

Ios and Android app stores both host Saudi government app that lets men track their spouses' movements

Senator Ron Wyden has publicly denounced both Apple and Google for hosting mobile apps that connect to Absher, a Saudi government service designed to allow Saudi men to track their spouses and employees' whereabouts at all times. Read the rest

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