Tracking entire populations now with electronic surveillance, facial recognition, and biosecurity sensors to combat the coronavirus pandemic will inevitably mean even more invasive forms of government spying later, privacy advocates warn. Read the rest
“Before Clearview Became a Police Tool, It Was a Secret Plaything of the Rich.” That's the title of the New York Times piece, and that's the horrifying reality of how artificial intelligence and facial recognition are already being used in ways that violate your expectations of privacy in the world. Read the rest
BuzzFeed News reporters have seen leaked Clearview AI documents that show the company is “working with more than 2,200 law enforcement agencies, companies, and individuals around the world,” including Best Buy, Walmart, Macy's, ICE, DOJ, and the FBI, plus “a sovereign wealth fund in the United Arab Emirates.” Read the rest
Clearview, the shady facial-recognition firm with links to law-enforcement and alt-right internet trolls, reports that its entire client list has been stolen.
In the notification, which The Daily Beast reviewed, the startup Clearview AI disclosed to its customers that an intruder “gained unauthorized access” to its list of customers, to the number of user accounts those customers had set up, and to the number of searches its customers have conducted. The notification said the company’s servers were not breached and that there was “no compromise of Clearview’s systems or network.” The company also said it fixed the vulnerability and that the intruder did not obtain any law-enforcement agencies’ search histories.
Not a good look for any security company--especially one that prides itself on scraping private information from Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the web, irrespective of whether they're permitted to, and repackaging it for government and the police to identify and track individuals through surveillance. Read the rest
One of the strangest contradictory sensations of the Trump era is the man's relationship towards and with the various U.S. intelligence agencies. In many cases, Trump's broad criticisms about the unaccountable and seemingly limitless scope of intelligence gathering are valid. Or would be, anyway, if the man actually cared about those issues for any reason beyond his larger tantrum over the way those agencies have undermined his ego. Or if he wasn't simultaneously trying to use that same wide jurisdiction to target his own political enemies.
In other words, Trump's not necessarily wrong about the potential abuses of secret and/or warrantless surveillance (or "wiretapping" as he puts it). But he's only mad about those things because they can be used to threaten him and his friends, instead of reinforcing his hunches. Otherwise, illegal spying and invasions of privacy are totally fine with him—as long as they target the right people.
There are moments, then, where it becomes a case of "My enemy's enemy is my friend" — except that "friend" is also an enemy of sorts, which further complicates the whole mess. Case in point: this recent Just Security post by Douglas London, a former CIA operative. In it, London talks about the way that the CIA's priorities have been forced to shift from general intelligence gathering to just kind of soothing Trump's ego, and retroactively justifying all of the man's random baseless instincts:
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The revealing and most disconcerting aspect of this episode was not that Pompeo presumed the worst from his workforce before getting the full story, nor his vicious dressing down of a dedicated senior official and decorated officer.
“Russia has sent intelligence agents to Ireland to map the precise location of the fibre-optic, ocean-bed cables that connect Europe to America,” Ireland's security agency suspects, according to this report in The Times of London.
“This has raised concerns that Russian agents are checking the cables for weak points, with a view to tapping or even damaging them in the future.”
Irish security officials believe Russia may be targeting Ireland as a regional base for military intelligence operations because the country's counterintelligence abilities are limited, and Moscow presumably views Ireland as a vulnerable spot.
Additionally, various tech giants that have placed their offices in Dublin to evade U.S. taxes might be juicy targets for Vladimir Putin's corporate espionage programs.
Ireland is the landing point for undersea cables which carry internet traffic between America, Britain and Europe. The cables enable millions of people to communicate and allow financial transactions to take place seamlessly.
Garda and military sources believe the agents were sent by the GRU, the military intelligence branch of the Russian armed forces which was blamed for the nerve agent attack in Britain on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer.
[thetimes.co.uk] Read the rest
The so-called Wuhan Coronavirus has killed more than 700 people, mostly in Mainland China, and the outbreak continues to spread with new cases on new continents. In China, Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV is also exposing the surveillance state -- apps show locations of the infected, heat-sensing cameras spot feverish disease suspects, and identify them even with ubiquitous paper face masks on. Read the rest
A commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones is being used by immigration and border authorities to round up undesirable immigrants for detention and deportation. Read the rest
[My EFF colleague Bill Budington has a fantastic report on all the ways that Ring surveils its own customers. Caveat emptor, indeed. -Cory]
Ring isn't just a product that allows users to surveil their neighbors. The company also uses it to surveil its customers. Read the rest
The friendly surface-level rationale behind any mass data collection via surveillance is improved efficiency through metrics. With the right amount of the data, and the right analysts working through it, you can optimize pretty much any process. From a business perspective, this could potentially present new ways to work smarter, instead of working harder — increasing profits and productivity through better decision-making, which ultimately makes everyone happier.
In that context, it makes sense why a chain restaurant like Outback Steakhouse might be interested in implementing its own mini surveillance state. So far it's only limited to a single franchise in Portland, Oregon which is operated by Evergreen Restaurant Group. But Evergreen also owns some 40-other Outback Steakhouses throughout the country, which means this small pilot program could seen be expanded, if the suits think the metrics work out in their favor.
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According to Presto CEO Rajat Suri, Presto Vision takes advantage of preexisting surveillance cameras that many restaurants already have installed. The system uses machine learning to analyze footage of restaurant staff at work and interacting with guests. It aims to track metrics like how often a server tends to their tables or how long it takes for food to come out. At the end of a shift, managers receive an email of the compiled statistics, which they can then use to identify problems and infer whether servers, hostesses, and kitchen staff are adequately doing their jobs.
Bruce Schneier writes in the New York Times that banning facial recognition (as cities like San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Brookline and Somerville have done) is not enough: there are plenty of other ways to automatically recognize people (gait detection, high-resolution photos of hands that reveal fingerprints, voiceprints, etc), and these will all be used for the same purpose that makes facial recognition bad for our world: to sort us into different categories and treat us different based on those categories. Read the rest
An unsecured facial recognition database that contained info on thousands of children from 20 schools in China, half of which are located in historically ethnic Tibetan areas, has been found online. Read the rest
In Israel on Thursday, a court ordered closed-door hearings in the legal bid by Amnesty International to stop the global export of NSO Group surveillance software, which Amnesty and other human rights groups say is sold to autocratic regimes around the world to spy on journalists and dissidents, and target them more efficiently for imprisonment and assassination.