Toronto business and government signal full support for Sidewalk Labs' dominance of the city and beyond

Dan Doctoroff and Stephen Diamond could hardly suppress their affection for each other at their January 13 joint luncheon address hosted by the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Read the rest

Boris the Babybot: a picture book about resisting surveillance

Privacy activst Murray Hunter's picture book Boris the Babybot tells the story of Boris, a robot whose job it is track all the babies and send their likenesses and preferences back to the factory so that its owners can make money by deciding who's a good baby and who's a bad baby. Read the rest

A company that makes spy-tech for cops threatened to sue Vice for publishing its sales literature (because Iran!)

Special Services Group makes surveillance crapgadgets for cops and spies: cameras and mics hidden in tombstones, vacuum cleaners, children's car-seats, and other everyday items. Muckrock's Beryl Lipton used a Freedom of Information Act request to get a copy of "Black Book," SSG's massive sales brochure out of the Irvine police department, with minimal redactions. Read the rest

Multiple Amazon employees have been fired for spying on Ring owners' cameras

Ring's response to a group of US senators who questioned the company about its privacy practices reveals that the Amazon subsidiary has had to fire multiple employees who were caught spying on customers' surveillance doorbell cameras and other Ring surveillance footage. Read the rest

After random surveillance images started to show up on users' devices, Google blocked Xiaomi from running Assistant or Google Home

Last week, a redditor posted that "When I load the Xiaomi camera in my Google home hub I get stills from other people's homes!!" The post included video of the user's tablet showing stills of strangers in their homes, including some of strangers asleep in their bedrooms. Read the rest

Rhasspy: a free/open voice assistant toolkit that's fully offline

US Air Force research scientist Michael Hansen created Rhasspy as a privacy-oriented alternative to surveilling "voice assistant" products like Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri; the free/open project supports dozens of languages from German, French and English to Mandarin, Vietnamese and Russian, and is designed to run on Raspberry Pi-based devices. Read the rest

U-Haul decides to stop hiring nicotine users

I live in the rural Southwest, and the recent news that trucking company U-Haul has decided to stop hiring people who smoke cigarettes is a big deal around here. People with few financial options tend to be the ones who take jobs as truckers and the like; those tend to be the same populations who smoke. Read the rest

Google 'disabling Xiaomi integrations on our devices' after Nest Hub user picked up random pics from strangers' feeds

“Among the eight or so examples initially provided to Reddit are a handful of disturbingly clear images showing a sleeping baby, a security camera's view of an enclosed porch, and a man seemingly asleep in a chair.” Read the rest

ToTok is a UAE spying tool, say US officials. Delete it now.

Google and Apple remove app

New York Times analyzes a leaked set of location data from a private broker, sounds the alarm

In 2017, a string of reports revealed that data-brokers were acquiring and linking titanic sets of location data from apps and mobile carriers and mining that data (and sometimes selling it outright). The carriers promised they'd end the practice, but they were lying. A year later, fresh reports surfaced of both app- and carrier-derived location data being sold, often by companies whose lack of elementary security meant that the data was effectively available to anyone. Then we learned that carriers were supplying fine-grained, realtime location data that was ending up in the hands of bounty hunters, skip tracers, and crooks and stalkers (naturally Ajit Pai's FCC had helped them get away with it0. Read the rest

Amazon used "security" to sell Ring doorbells, then blamed customers when hackers broke into them

[Amazon's surveillance doorbell company Ring sells "security" -- the sense that surveilling your porch or your driveway or your home can make you safe. But when the company experienced a grotesque and completely predictable breach that saw hackers breaking into Ring cameras and spying on and tormenting their owners, Amazon blamed their customers for recycling passwords. In this outstanding Deeplinks post, my EFF colleagues, Cooper Quintin and Bill Budington explain just how odious this victim-blaming really is. -Cory]

Just a week after hackers broke into a Ring camera in a childs’ bedroom taunting the child and sparking serious concerns about the company’s security practices, Buzzfeed News is reporting that over 3,600 Ring owners’ email addresses, passwords, camera locations, and camera names were dumped online. This Includes cameras recording private spaces inside homes. Read the rest

'Cars now run on the new oil — your data.'

What data does your car gather about you? Where does it go? Who has access to it? Read the rest

TikTok owner ByteDance launches new deal with Chinese government

The increasingly popular social media application TikTok has a concerning relationship with the Chinese state. That link became ever the more concerning today, when reports began circulating of a brand new partnership between the company that owns TikTok, ByteDance, and the government of China. Read the rest

Family puts Ring camera in children's room, discovers that hacker is watching their kids 24/7, taunting them through the speaker

A family in DeSoto County, Mississippi, bought a Ring security camera so they could keep an eye on their three young girls in their bedroom. Four days later, they learned that a hacker had broken into the camera and subjected their children to continuous bedroom surveillance, taunting the children through the camera's built-in speaker. Read the rest

Cheap phone rocker for boosting your daily step count

Aliexpress has lots of these little gadgets that rock a phone back-and-forth to fool the pedometer into thinking you are walking on a treadmill. They cost about $2.

Why? "Some insurance companies in China allow people who consistently reach a certain daily step count to get discounted health insurance premiums," writes Matthew Brennan.

[via 52 Things I Learned in 2019] Read the rest

Genetic genealogy company Gedmatch acquired by company with ties to FBI & law enforcement—why you should be worried

[If you thought your relatives' gift of a "smart speaker" was the worst way that a family member could compromise your privacy, think again: home genetic tests can opt your whole bloodline into mass-scale state genetic surveillance, and while there has been some progress into bringing the rule of law into the stuff of life, it's been halting -- and that's bad news, especially as companies that do genetics for spies and cops merge with consumer genomics companies, something that's just happened, as my EFF colleague Jennifer Lynch discusses below, in this crosspost from EFF's Deeplinks blog -Cory]

This week, GEDmatch, a genetic genealogy company that gained notoriety for giving law enforcement access to its customers’ DNA data, quietly informed its users it is now operated by Verogen, Inc., a company expressly formed two years ago to market “next-generation [DNA] sequencing” technology to crime labs.   Read the rest

Chinese law professor's social media denunciation of facial recognition in the Beijing subway system

Lao Dongyan is a professor specializing in Criminal Law at Tsinghua University; on Oct 31, she posted a long, thoughtful piece to their public Wechat account about the announcement that Beijing's metro system will soon deploy facial recognition to "improve efficiency of passenger traffic." Prof Lao makes a smart, thorough argument against this, drawing on both China's rule of law, international privacy norms, and lack of meaningful consent. Read the rest

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