One of the best reasons to buy a piece of Apple hardware, in my opinion, is the company’s history of protecting the privacy of its customers.
Provided you're not a customer living in China.
You may recall that, a while back, iOS users in China lost the ability to download most VPN clients to their phones and tablets from the iTunes App Store—the Chinese government doesn’t like their citizens to be able to anonymously access the Internet or view the world through the lens of unapproved news sources. So, Virtual Private Networks were kicked to the curb. According to 9to5mac, Apple is once again showing the Chinese government their soft underbelly, in the name of being able to continue to sell their hardware in the country.
According to 9to5mac, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has decided that they’d like Callkit—a developer framework that lets devs bake VoIP capabilities into their apps for iOS—to not be a thing for applications available to its citizens. You likely use Callkit-backed apps on a regular basis, without even knowing it. When your iPhone displays you the name or number of who’s calling you on Skype? That’s Callkit, doing it’s thing. The Chinese government doesn’t dig on Callkit because of the fact that it’s difficult, if not impossible to intercept and monitor calls made using it. Last summer, Skype was removed from the Apple’s Chinese App Store portal, likely for this very reason.
Look. Before anyone swoops in to say that I’m anti-Apple I wrote this post on a MacBook. Read the rest
A leaked White House Powerpoint deck published by Axios reveals that some elements in the Trump administration are trying to sell a plan for the US government to build the nation's "5g" wireless infrastructure, hardened against Chinese surveillance and attacks, and then lease access to the private telcoms sector; the network architecture could then be reproduced and given to US allies to help them defend themselves against Chinese attacks.
Read the rest
Remember when Internet Person JWZ began to append sarcastic messages to the "This building monitored by CCTV" sign that appeared without warning in his lobby ("FEAR THE UNKNOWN - MONSTERS ARE REAL" "DON'T SUSPECT YOUR NEIGHBOR: REPORT HIM!" "DRONE STRIKES AUTHORIZED 7PM - 5AM")? Eventually he got bored of it, but he's brought it back this Xmas, in Christmas Bauble form. Read the rest
The default behavior of hotword, a new, black-box module in Chrome (and its free/open cousin, Chromium) causes it to silently switch on your computer's microphone and send whatever it hears to Google. Read the rest
If you own a Vizio TV that's updated recently, beware: its firmware adds "Smart Interactivity," a cute name for spyware that records your viewing choices and inserts additional "bonus features" (ads) into your viewing. Read the rest
Lenovo's disgraceful use of Superfish to compromise its users' security is just the tip of the iceberg: everywhere we look, companies have decided that it's a good idea to sneakily subvert their users' encryption. Read the rest
Madeline Ashby writes, "I wrote this column about Canada's Bill C-51, which would allow Canada's spy agency CSIS to detain people for simply 'promoting' terrorism, promises it can wipe terrorist content from the Internet, expands no-fly lists, and is basically a piece of Patriot Act fanfic. I thought you guys might like to know that years after Bush left office, his fans are trying to keep the tradition alive." Read the rest
The Bureau is seeking a rule-change from the Administrative Office of the US Courts that would give it the power to distribute malware, hack, and trick any computer, anywhere in the world, in the course of investigations; it's the biggest expansion of FBI spying power in its history and they're hoping to grab it without an act of Congress or any public scrutiny or debate. Read the rest
Surveillance requests for "postal metadata" climbed 600% in recent years, often undertaken with badly formed or expired warrants. Read the rest
I reviewed it when it was released in August 2013, calling it "brisk, eminently readable, and important history of the relationship between law, law enforcement, and the net, and as you'd expect, it's excellent" ($13 for the paperback) Read the rest
Apple has announced that it will spoof the MAC addresses emitted by its wireless devices as an anti-tracking measure, a change that, while welcome, is "an umbrella in a hurricane" according to a good technical explainer by the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Jeremy Gillula and Seth Schoen. Read the rest
Last week, I wrote about danah boyd's analysis of the White House's Big Data report [PDF]. Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has added its analysis to the discussion. EFF finds much to like about the report, but raises two very important points:
* The report assumes that you won't be able to opt out of leaving behind personal information and implicitly dismisses the value of privacy tools like ad blockers, Do Not Track, Tor, etc
* The report is strangely silent on the relationship between Big Data and mass surveillance, except to the extent that it equates whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden with the Fort Hood shooter, lumping them all in as "internal threats" Read the rest
Recently I saw a movie on the life and death of Aaron Swartz, who is nowadays often called a martyr for the freedom of the Internet.
People, nations and governments like martyrs. They love them, they need them. Martyrs are part of our bipolar, black and white society constructed from good and bad guys, who always do good and bad deeds. Martyrs are those who have escaped our human condition, of being judged by people as people. Martyrs are beyond judgement, they become the scapegoats for our biggest failures, for the banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt phrased it.
Read the rest
Australian Simon Gittany murdered his girlfriend, Lisa Harnum, after an abusive relationship that involved his surveillance of her electronic communications using off-the-shelf spyware marketed for purposes ranging from keeping your kids safe to spotting dishonest employees. As Rachel Olding writes in The Age, surveillance technology is increasingly a factor in domestic violence, offering abusive partners new, thoroughgoing ways of invading their spouses' privacy and controlling them.
The spyware industry relies upon computers -- laptops, mobile devices, and soon, cars and TVs and thermostats -- being insecure. In this, it has the same goals as the NSA and GCHQ, whose BULLRUN/EDGEHILL program sought to weaken the security of widely used operating systems, algorithms and programs. Every weakness created at taxpayer expense was a weakness that spyware vendors could exploit for their products.
Likewise, the entertainment industry wants devices that are capable of running code that users can't terminate or inspect, so that they can stop you from killing the programs that stop you from saving Netflix streams, running unapproved apps, or hooking unapproved devices to your cable box.
And Ratters, the creeps who hijack peoples' webcams in order to spy on them and blackmail them into sexual performances, also want computers that can run code that users can't stop. And so do identity thieves, who want to run keyloggers on your computer to get your banking passwords. And so do cops, who want new powers to insert malware into criminals' computers.
There are a lot of ways to slice the political spectrum -- left/right, authoritarian/anti-authoritarian, centralist/decentralist. Read the rest
In Censorship in the Wild: Analyzing Web Filtering in Syria [PDF], researchers from INRIA, NICTA and University College London parse through 600GB worth of leaked logfiles from seven Blue Coat SG-9000 proxies used by the Syrian government to censor and surveil its national Internet connections. They find that the Assad regime's censorship is more subtle and targeted than that of China and Iran, with heavy censorship of instant messaging, but lighter blocking of social media. They also report on Syrians' use of proxies, Tor, and Bittorrent to evade national censorship. It's the first comprehensive public look at the network censorship practiced in Syria.
Censorship in the Wild: Analyzing Web Filtering in Syria [PDF]
(Thanks, Gary!) Read the rest
This is huge news: the European Court of Human Rights has
agreed to hear a challenge to bulk Internet surveillance by the UK spy agency GCHQ. The case was brought by Big Brother Watch, the Open Rights Group and English PEN, and German Internet activist Constanze Kurz. This is a rare instance of "impact litigation" in the UK, where a bad law or practice can be ended swiftly and decisively by having a court hear a test-case about the law and rule on its constitutionality. This tactic has been incredibly effective in the US -- EFF's famous Bernstein victory, which legalized strong cryptography, is a good example -- but has been less available to UK activists. Read the rest
Earlier this week, EFF published a scorecard for rating Obama's NSA reforms. Now that the reforms have been announced, it's time to measure them up. They don't fare well, I'm afraid. Here's a roundup of commentary from privacy leaders around the world, expressing disappointment (if not surprise) at Obama's half-hearted reining in of the surveillance state. Read the rest