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Protests against China’s restrictive COVID-19 measures appeared to roil in a number of cities Saturday night, in displays of public defiance fanned by anger over a deadly fire in the western Xinjiang region

During Xinjiang’s lockdown, some residents elsewhere in the city have had their doors chained physically shut, including one who spoke to The Associated Press who declined to be named for fear of retribution. Many in Urumqi believe such brute-force tactics may have prevented residents from escaping in Thursday’s fire and that the official death toll was an undercount.

11/26/22

FTX’s Bahamas crypto empire: Stimulants, subterfuge and a spectacular collapse

FTX spent clients’ funds on seaside homes for employees’ use and routed money to Bankman-Fried’s other company, the crypto trading firm Alameda Research, Ray said. Corporate reimbursements were often requested via an online chat box and approved by supervisors using “personalized emoji.” Only “a fraction” of customers’ money has been located and secured.

11/24/22

For crypto, the lesson is simple: This quasi-cult, which speaks of empowering the disadvantaged, has proved itself eerily adept at centralizing wealth and decentralizing losses in an era of whiplashing interest rates

Before the sky fell in on him, Bankman-Fried fluently spoke the language of both movements. He was one of the richest crypto founders in the world and the rare billionaire who publicly pledged to liquidate his personal wealth to benefit causes in line with effective altruism. This strange juxtaposition was too delicious for mainstream news organizations to resist. In retrospect, the whole thing looks like a nesting doll of fraud: a sketchy crypto product, built on a berserk approach to protecting customer assets, wrapped inside a fraudulent effort to “philanthropy wash” his ill-gotten wealth.

11/23/22

San Francisco police consider letting robots use ‘deadly force’

While most of the robots listed in the SFPD’s inventory are primarily used for defusing bombs or dealing with hazardous materials, newer Remotec models have an optional weapons system, and the department’s existing F5A has a tool called the PAN disruptor that can load 12-gauge shotgun shells. It’s typically used to detonate bombs from a distance. The department’s QinetiQ Talon can also be modified to hold various weapons — a weaponized version of the robot is currently used by the US Army and can equip grenade launchers, machine guns, or even a .50-caliber anti-materiel rifle.

11/23/22

OK, WTF Is 'Longtermism', the Tech Elite Ideology That Led to the FTX Collapse?

There’s well, and then there’s better than well—there’s no reason to stop at just doing well."

“Saving lives in poor countries may have significantly smaller ripple effects than saving and improving lives in rich countries,” Beckstead wrote. “It now seems more plausible to me that saving a life in a rich country is substantially more important than saving a life in a poor country, other things being equal."

...Some of the movement's famous adherents—Bankman-Fried included—are famous for aggressively chasing wealth and power, often with chaotic results at best. For this and other reasons, people have argued the movement is a particularly dangerous one that is more a vehicle for elite power than improving the world.

...In another message, Piper wrote that Bankman-Fried was "really good at talking ethics" despite this cynical worldview. He replied, "Ya. Hehe. I had to be. It's what reputations are made of, to some extent. I feel bad for those who get fucked by it. By this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shiboleths and so everyone likes us."

11/23/22

Tax Filing WebsitesMajor tax filing services such as H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer have been quietly transmitting sensitive financial information to Facebook when Americans file their taxes online, The Markup has learned

The information sent to Facebook can be used by the company to power its advertising algorithms and is gathered regardless of whether the person using the tax filing service has an account on Facebook or other platforms operated by its owner, Meta.

...TaxAct, which says it has about three million “consumer and professional users,” also uses Google’s analytics tool on its website, and The Markup found similar financial data, but not names, being sent to Google through its tool.

...Earlier this year, with the help of Pixel Hunt participants, The Markup found sensitive data sent to Facebook on the Education Department’s federal student aid application website, crisis pregnancy websites, and the websites of prominent hospitals. 

11/22/22

How SBF Created the New Playbook for Manipulating Washington, D.C.

In a series of DMs that he no doubt now regrets, Bankman-Fried told Vox’s Kelsey Piper last week that his pitch for “good” crypto regulations was “just PR” and that regulators “make everything worse.” (“Fuck regulators,” he said more pointedly). Later, when asked if the “ethics stuff” was “mostly a front,” he said yes, then added, “I mean that’s not *all* of it but it’s a lot.” Two days later, Reuters reported that FTX tried to increase its regulatory presence “as a way of luring new capital from major investors,” according to documents the news company reviewed.

11/22/22

Dozens of top Twitter advertisers, including 14 of the top 50, have stopped advertising in the few weeks since Musk’s chaotic acquisition of the social media company

Pathmatics data is generated from collecting the ads shown to a sample of Twitter users in the United States. The company estimated that each top marketer’s ads were shown tens of millions of times per week or more during their busiest weeks on the site, with some of the advertisers’ ads being shown billions of times over the six months before the pause.

11/22/22

Despite reporting revenue of more than $27 billion in the third quarter, Facebook parent company Meta is a multinational technology giant without real customer support

Help Desk, the personal technology section at The Washington Post, has received hundreds of emails from people locked out of their Facebook accounts with no idea how to get back in. Many lose their accounts to hackers, who take over Facebook pages to resell them or to game search-engine rankings.

11/21/22

Meta (formerly named Facebook) reportedly fired “more than a dozen security guards and workers” in the past year after user information and logins were being sold to people up to no good

"The internal probe revealed security guards had been able to access Oops on Facebook’s intranet, and one security contractor was reportedly fired for assisting third parties in taking over accounts in 2021. The report shows another security contractor was fired when the probe found they allegedly reset several accounts for hackers in exchange for Bitcoin."

11/21/22

Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

11/19/22

Commercial repair shops caught snooping on customer data by canny Canadian research crew

Ceci and his co-authors argue there's a dire need to assess privacy policies and practices in the repair industry, which generates $19 billion annually. They cite reports about past privacy violations – like claims that Best Buy's Geek Squad technicians served as informants for the FBI, as well as reports that Apple and Geek Squad technicians have been accused of stealing nude pictures found on devices brought in for repair.

11/15/22

Ellison and Bankman-Fried were part of “cabal of roommates” based in a “luxury penthouse” in the Bahamas that were behind the machinations at FTX and Alameda, according to a bombshell report by CoinDesk

The Albany Club — the most exclusive resort community in the Bahamas which boasts members including Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake — has also gotten stuck in the crosshairs. 

...The neighborhood was intended to cater to “a new breed of global elite,” according to comments made Albany partner Jason Callender several years ago.

11/14/22

Apple sued for "pervasive and unlawful data tracking"

In an interview with Gizmodo, the researchers explained how the App Store harvests information about every single action you perform, including what you tapped on, which apps you search for, which ads you saw, and how long you looked at a given app—and even how you found the ad. The app also sends details about you and your device, including ID numbers, what kind of phone you’re using, your screen resolution, your keyboard languages, and how you’re connected to the internet. In short, fingerprinting details.

11/14/22

Google Agrees to $392 Million Privacy Settlement With 40 States

In the location privacy settlement, the state attorneys general claimed that Google gave the false impression that when users turned off location tracking services, the company no longer collected geolocation data about them. But through Google’s broad array of other services like search, maps and apps that connect to Wi-Fi and cellular phone towers, the company continued amassing and storing an intricate history of users’ movements, according to the states.

11/14/22

Twitter’s potential collapse could wipe out vast records of recent human history

“If Twitter was to ‘go in the morning’, let's say, all of this—all of the firsthand evidence of atrocities or potential war crimes, and all of this potential evidence—would simply disappear,” says Ciaran O’Connor, senior analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a global think tank. Information gathered using open-source intelligence, known as OSINT, has been used to support prosecutions for war crimes and acts as a record of events long after the human memory fades.

11/11/22

Amazon's new robot should strike fear into its hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers

A spokesperson for Amazon told Insider, "Sparrow is the first robotic system in our warehouses that can detect, select, and handle individual products in our inventory. In our current research and development efforts, we are working with Sparrow to consolidate inventory before it is packaged for customers but the possible applications of this technology in our operations is much broader."

11/11/22

Silicon Valley layoffs are a reminder that your job won’t love you back

Meta and other Silicon Valley companies are using the economic circumstances to trim fat and make remaining staff work harder. Meta wants to get back to a leaner startup mindset to appease shareholders and raise its dwindling stock price. It’s working, too: The stock is up 20 percent from last week, according to data from financial platform Sentieo.

11/10/22

Basically everything on Amazon has become an ad

While company founder Jeff Bezos once said that “advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product or service,” Amazon has in recent years become an ad-selling machine, driven by the substantial profit margins and the rising value of digital retail estate on the most popular shopping site in the West. As a result, Amazon’s ad business grew 58 percent in 2021 to more than $31 billion in revenue, making it the third-biggest online ad seller in the US, only trailing Google and Facebook. In the first nine months of 2022, Amazon’s ad revenue surpassed the money the company makes from Prime, Prime Video, and its other audio and e-book subscriptions combined. Along with Amazon Web Services, advertising has emerged as one of the company’s top two profit engines.

11/10/22

Elon Musk is putting Twitter at risk of billions in fines, warns company lawyer

In a note posted to Twitter’s Slack and viewable to all staff that was obtained by The Verge, an attorney on the company’s privacy team wrote, “Elon has shown that his only priority with Twitter users is how to monetize them. I do not believe he cares about the human rights activists. the dissidents, our users in un-monetizable regions, and all the other users who have made Twitter the global town square you have all spent so long building, and we all love.”

11/10/22

“The 13th Amendment didn’t actually abolish slavery — what it did was make it invisible,” Bianca Tylek, an anti-slavery advocate and the executive director of the criminal justice advocacy group Worth Rises

Today, prison labor is a multibillion-dollar practice. By comparison, workers can make pennies on the dollar. And prisoners who refuse to work can be denied privileges such as phone calls and visits with family, as well as face solitary confinement, all punishments that are eerily similar to those used during antebellum slavery.

11/9/22

Clearview Stole My Face and the EU Can't Do Anything About It

Across Europe, millions of people’s faces are appearing in search engines operated by companies like Clearview. The region might boast the world's strictest privacy laws, but European regulators, including in Hamburg, are struggling to enforce them. Since Marx filed his complaint, other people and privacy groups across Europe have done the same. In October, the French data protection authority became the third EU regulator to fine Clearview 20 million euros ($19 million) for violating European privacy rules. Yet Clearview has not removed EU faces from its platform, and similar fines issued by regulators in Italy and Greece remain unpaid. (France said it could not disclose details about the payment, due to privacy rules). But as Europe’s regulators grapple with how to make the company heed their reprimands, the problem is mushrooming. Clearview is no longer the only company monetizing people’s faces.

11/7/22

Just days after laying off about half of Twitter’s workforce following Elon Musk’s acquisition, the company is now asking dozens of those employees to come back

The firings marked the end of Musk’s chaotic first week running Twitter, where the billionaire hastily tried to find ways to cut costs and create new revenue streams for the company. Musk’s $44 billion acquisition deal piled Twitter with $13 billion in debt ― resulting in the company now having to pay about $1 billion a year in interest expenses alone, despite historically not regularly making a profit.

11/6/22

Elon Musk Appears To Threaten Advertisers Wary Of His Twitter Takeover

Musk replied: “A thermonuclear name & shame is exactly what will happen if this continues.”

11/5/22

A coalition called Stop Toxic Twitter, consisting of more than 60 civil rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League, has urged businesses not to support Twitter given massive layoffs and Musk’s failure to take action to prevent the platform from becoming a “superspreader” of racism

“We are witnessing the real-time destruction of one of the world’s most powerful communication systems,” Nicole Gill, executive director of Accountable Tech, one of the groups in the coalition, said in a statement. “Elon Musk is an erratic billionaire who’s dangerously unqualified to run Twitter.”

11/4/22

Elon Musk Begins Mass Layoffs At Twitter

Musk’s acquisition deal saddled Twitter with $13 billion in debt (and made Saudi Arabia the company’s second-largest investor). As a result, the company, which has never regularly turned a profit, will now have to pay about $1 billion a year in interest expenses alone.

11/4/22

What Is the Future of China’s Surveillance State?

Josh Chin: When we got there, it was like just driving into a dystopian counterinsurgency war zone where essentially everywhere you went, you were encountering cutting-edge, A.I.-driven technology—surveillance cameras, microphones. Uyghurs, who are a Turkic Muslim group, come from Xinjiang and were the targets of the surveillance. If you were a Uyghur, what they were telling us is you would go outside and from the minute you left your door, you were being tracked. There were security checkpoints everywhere, every public place. If you wanted to go into a bank or a hotel or a market, anything like that, you had to go through a security checkpoint. You had to scan your ID card and also scan your face to match it with your ID card, and so they would have a record of where you were going. Walking down the street, police could wave you over and make you hand over your phone and they would plug it into a scanning device and they would scan your phone for some digital contraband.

11/3/22

“There’s a stark difference between putting yourself and your community in the Amazon web, and having cameras where you fully control the footage”

Shoshana Zuboff, the author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” warned that San Francisco had voluntarily created an environment that fused government power and private power. Going forward, as long as the government depends on the tech companies, there will be no laws to stop this data collection, she said.

11/2/22

Despite Flailing With His New Toy, Elon Musk Is Going Ahead With Big Twitter Layoffs

The Network Contagion Research Institute, which analyzes messages across social media platforms, discovered that the use of the racist N-word on Twitter spiked nearly 500% over the 12 hours after Musk bought the company, The Washington Post reported last week.

10/30/22

Elon Musk Tweets Conspiracy Theory About Paul Pelosi Attack, Then Deletes Post

Musk’s amplification of the far-right conspiracy about the Pelosis comes just two days after he took the helm as Twitter’s chief, a move that has worried users and officials about the future of the platform and its anticipated elevation of disinformation. The billionaire’s tweet on Sunday was further evidence of that concern.

10/30/22

Q: What does Dorsey mean, “I trust [Musk’s] mission to extend the light of consciousness?”

A: This is a reference to “longtermism,” the heavily marketed philosophy being promoted by Musk and his friend William MacAskill that asserts the only thing that matters is humanity’s future in space, and that the only goal of the living is to maximize the number of future humans alive, as well as the number of artificial intelligence instances that could possibly exist in the future. This mandate is most often used to brush aside calls for improving conditions and alleviating suffering among the living here on Earth now. Because, the theory goes, giving a poor person a blanket isn’t likely to be as useful for the future of humanity as building a rocket to Mars. Longtermism is heavily influenced by “Russian Cosmism” and is also directly adjacent to “Effective Altruism.” Musk’s stated mission, which he intends to fulfill in his lifetime, is to “make humanity a multiplanetary species.” The anti-democratic urge in longtermism is rooted in the belief that “mob rule” will lead to nuclear annihilation; we should, Musk thinks, be guided by “wiser” minds — like his and Putin’s apparently.

10/29/22

How Iran Can Track and Control Protesters’ Phones

According to these internal documents, SIAM is a computer system that works behind the scenes of Iranian cellular networks, providing its operators a broad menu of remote commands to alter, disrupt, and monitor how customers use their phones. The tools can slow their data connections to a crawl, break the encryption of phone calls, track the movements of individuals or large groups, and produce detailed metadata summaries of who spoke to whom, when, and where. Such a system could help the government invisibly quash the ongoing protests — or those of tomorrow — an expert who reviewed the SIAM documents told The Intercept.

...Armed with a list of offending phone numbers, SIAM would make it easy for the Iranian government to rapidly drill down to the individual level and pull a vast amount of personal information about a given mobile customer, including where they’ve been and with whom they’ve communicated. According to the manuals, user data accessible through SIAM includes the customer’s father’s name, birth certificate number, nationality, address, employer, billing information, and location history, including a record of Wi-Fi networks and IP addresses from which the user has connected to the internet.

10/28/22

U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials in the Trump administration compiled extensive intelligence dossiers on people who were arrested, even for minor offenses, during Black Lives Matter protests in Oregon

The DHS’ internal review on Portland also shows the baseball cards — which were usually one-page summaries — included any past criminal history, travel history, “derogatory information from DHS or Intelligence Community holdings,” and publicly available social media. Draft dossiers included friends and family of protesters as well.

10/28/22

A Heated Presidential Election Puts Brazil's Future As A Democracy In Question

Bolsonaro’s allies in Congress passed new measures to approve some of the spending, but much of it is still likely illegal under Brazilian election law. Last week, documents obtained by The Brazilian Report showed that banks had been given private data on millions of poor Brazilians, in order to directly target them for new payroll-related loans. The data, the outlet reported, was likely provided by the government itself, and could amount to a “massive violation” of Brazil’s privacy laws. But so far, no investigations into potential legal violations have been launched.

10/28/22

Elon Musk Officially Owns Twitter

A copy of Musk’s pitch deck obtained by The New York Times shows he wants advertising to account for less than half the company’s revenue by 2028, at which point he expects the company to generate $26.4 billion a year. Additional revenue will primarily be generated by subscriptions, followed by a yet-to-be-seen payments business, and data licensing.

10/27/22

the Chinese government is now proposing that by collecting every Chinese citizen’s data extensively, it can find out what the people want (without giving them votes) and build a society that meets their needs

Chin and Lin report on the striking parallels between the way China used societal security to justify the surveillance regime it built in Xinjiang and the way it used physical safety to justify the overreaching pandemic control tools. “In the past, it was always a metaphorical virus: ‘someone was infected with terrorist ideas,’” says Lin. In Xinjiang, before the pandemic, the term “virus” was used in internal government documents to describe what the state deemed “Islamic radicalism.” “But with covid,” she says, “we saw China really turn the whole state surveillance apparatus against its entire population and against a virus that was completely invisible and contagious.”

10/10/22

The US has so far been one of the only Western nations without clear guidance on how to protect its citizens against AI harms. (As a reminder, these harms include wrongful arrests, suicides, and entire cohorts of schoolchildren being marked unjustly by an algorithm. And that’s just for starters.)

The AI Bill of Rights is missing some pretty important areas of harm, such as law enforcement and worker surveillance. And unlike the actual US Bill of Rights, the AI Bill of Rights is more an enthusiastic recommendation than a binding law. “Principles are frankly not enough,” says Courtney Radsch, US tech policy expert for the human rights organization Article 19. “In the absence of, for example, a national privacy law that sets some boundaries, it’s only going part of the way,” she adds.

10/10/22

White House unveils Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights

Director of Policy for Stanford Institute for Human-Centered, AI Russell Wald, thinks the blueprint lacks details or mechanisms for enforcement. "It is disheartening to see the lack of coherent federal policy to tackle desperately needed challenges posed by AI, such as federally coordinated monitoring, auditing, and reviewing actions to mitigate the risks and harm brought by deployed or open-source foundation models," he said.

10/10/22

Even After $100 Billion, Self-Driving Cars Are Going Nowhere

“It’s a scam,” says George Hotz, whose company Comma.ai Inc. makes a driver-assistance system similar to Tesla Inc.’s Autopilot. “These companies have squandered tens of billions of dollars.” In 2018 analysts put the market value of Waymo LLC, then a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., at $175 billion. Its most recent funding round gave the company an estimated valuation of $30 billion, roughly the same as Cruise. Aurora Innovation Inc., a startup co-founded by Chris Urmson, Google’s former autonomous-vehicle chief, has lost more than 85% since last year and is now worth less than $3 billion. This September a leaked memo from Urmson summed up Aurora’s cash-flow struggles and suggested it might have to sell out to a larger company. Many of the industry’s most promising efforts have met the same fate in recent years, including Drive.ai, Voyage, Zoox, and Uber’s self-driving division. “Long term, I think we will have autonomous vehicles that you and I can buy,” says Mike Ramsey, an analyst at market researcher Gartner Inc. “But we’re going to be old.”

10/5/22

General Purpose Robots Should Not Be Weaponized

As with any new technology offering new capabilities, the emergence of advanced mobile robots offers the possibility of misuse. Untrustworthy people could use them to invade civil rights or to threaten, harm, or intimidate others. One area of particular concern is weaponization. We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues. Weaponized applications of these newly-capable robots will also harm public trust in the technology in ways that damage the tremendous benefits they will bring to society. For these reasons, we do not support the weaponization of our advanced-mobility general-purpose robots. For those of us who have spoken on this issue in the past, and those engaging for the first time, we now feel renewed urgency in light of the increasing public concern in recent months caused by a small number of people who have visibly publicized their makeshift efforts to weaponize commercially available robots.

10/6/22

TikTok's "secret operation" tracks you even if you don't use it

To prevent clandestine data collection, policymakers need to get involved. "Because of the way the web is structured, companies are able to watch what you do from site to site creating detailed dossiers about the most intimate parts of our lives," said Director of Technology Policy for CR Justin Brookman. "In the US, the tech industry largely gets to decide what is and isn’t appropriate, and they don’t have our best interests front of mind."

10/4/22

How YouTube Created the Attention Economy

YouTube, Bergen’s book makes clear, was never a neutral arbiter—the company made decisions that influenced which ideas succeeded. A series of changes to its recommendation algorithm, beginning in 2012, illustrated a clear preference for certain kinds of content: “watch time” was privileged over “views,” meaning that videos that kept viewers engaged for longer were given preferential treatment, and “viral hits” that attempted to achieve views alone were downgraded.

10/4/22

"Though it is limited in its ability to address the harms of the private sector, the AI Bill of Rights can live up to its promise if it is enforced meaningfully, and we hope that regulation with real teeth will follow suit,”

The new blueprint aims to redress that balance. It says that Americans should be protected from unsafe or ineffective systems; that algorithms should not be discriminatory and systems should be used as designed in an equitable way; and that citizens should have agency over their data and should be protected from abusive data practices through built-in safeguards. Citizens should also know whenever an automated system is being used on them and understand how it contributes to outcomes. Finally, people should always be able to opt out of AI systems in favor of a human alternative and have access to remedies when there are problems.

10/4/22

The EU is creating new rules to make it easier to sue AI companies for harm

“In a world of highly complex and obscure ‘black box’ AI systems, it will be practically impossible for the consumer to use the new rules,” Pachl says. For example, she says, it will be extremely difficult to prove that racial discrimination against someone was due to the way a credit scoring system was set up.

10/1/22

How TikTok Tracks You Across the Web, Even If You Don’t Use the App

The national Girl Scouts website has a TikTok pixel on every page, which will transmit details about children if they use the site. TikTok gets medical information from WebMD, where a pixel reported that we’d searched for “erectile dysfunction.” And RiteAid told TikTok when we added Plan B emergency contraceptives to our cart. Recovery Centers of America, which operates addiction treatment facilities, notifies TikTok when a visitor views its locations or reads about insurance coverage.

9/29/22

(Despite the slight yearly decline, Meta remains a giant moneymaker. In the second quarter, the company reported “only” $28.8 billion in revenue.)

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg warned employees Thursday to expect cost-cutting measures in the near future, including a hiring freeze and restructuring.

9/29/22

Your Smart Thermostat Isn’t Here to Help You

They’re not wrong. Smart thermostats track lots of data, including temperature, humidity, ambient light, and motion. They use that information to run the thermostat, but it can also be used to detect or infer occupancy and activity. Once correlated with other data on the same network, including smart speakers and cameras, a smart-thermostat company can connect that data to specific users and their other behaviors, online and off.

9/26/22

At least three driverless Cruise cars were responsible for holding up traffic and reportedly blocking a bus lane in San Francisco last week, the latest in a string of incidents involving the locally headquartered self-driving car company

The news comes after nearly 20 of Cruise’s driverless cars blocked traffic for two hours on the corner of Gough and Fulton streets in San Francisco last July. The cars also obstructed a fire truck responding to an emergency in May, as Wired reported, leading to a delayed response that resulted in property damage and personal injuries, authorities said. One Cruise car even became the subject of a viral video last April after police pulled it over for not using its headlights — and subsequently sped away from them.

9/26/22

Iran’s Internet Shutdown Hides a Deadly Crackdown

In recent years, governments wanting to silence their citizens or control their behavior have increasingly turned to draconian internet shutdowns as tools of suppression. In 2021, 23 countries, from Cuba to Bangladesh, shut the internet down a collective 182 times. Iranian officials are no strangers to the practice. Anthonio says Iran’s latest internet shutdown is the third time the country has disrupted the internet in the past 12 months. “We continue to see that internet shutdowns also provide a cover for authorities to hide atrocities that are perpetrated against people during protests,” Anthonio says.

9/23/22

Actions by Facebook and its parent Meta during last year's Gaza war violated the rights of Palestinian users to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, political participation and non-discrimination, a report commissioned by the social media company has found

In an interview this week, Israel’s national police chief, Kobi Shabtai, told the Yediot Ahronot daily that he believed social media had fueled the communal fighting. He called for shutting down social media if similar violence occurs again and said he had suggested blocking social media to lower the flames last year.

9/23/22

The world is moving closer to a new cold war fought with authoritarian tech

Other tactics include models for using data fusion and artificial intelligence to act on surveillance data. During last year’s SCO summit, Chinese representatives hosted a panel on the Thousand Cities Strategic Algorithms, which instructed the audience on how to develop a “national data brain” that integrates various forms of financial data and uses artificial intelligence to analyze and make sense of it. According to the SCO website, 50 countries are “conducting talks” with the Thousand Cities Strategic Algorithms initiative.

9/22/22

Hated that video? YouTube’s algorithm might push you another just like it

That algorithm shapes the information billions of people consume, and YouTube has controls that purport to allow people to adjust what it shows them. But, a new study finds, those tools don’t do much. Instead, users have little power to keep unwanted videos—including compilations of car crashes, livestreams from war zones, and hate speech—out of their recommendations.

9/20/22

every Russian is at greater risk of being monitored, tracked, and arrested simply for liking the wrong social media post

In June, Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations unveiled plans to spend about $265 million to deploy “Safe City” facial recognition technology in three regions bordering Ukraine. Safe City appeared in Moscow in 2020 with cameras installed in metro and train stations to scan crowds against a database of wanted individuals. (In Moscow, you can even use your face to pay for your ride.) Since the invasion, Access Now has heard reports of people detained in the Moscow metro in connection with their war-related social media posts. The evidence is anecdotal, but it suggests that facial recognition tools are being used to identify and track armchair critics of the regime.

9/14/22

“In order to understand the issues that we’re concerned about with hate speech and the way that these algorithms can influence people, we need to have a public understanding and a public accountability of what happens on these platforms,” Boland said

But for the U.S.-based social media companies, the group homed in on the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act as a potential remedy for the perceived online polarization problem. PATA would require digital communication platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook to comply when university researchers request data for projects approved by the National Science Foundation. If the platforms fail to do so, they will lose their Section 230 liability protections for hosting third-party content (which they really can’t afford to lose). Any shared data would also need to comply with privacy safeguards.

9/14/22

There’s no Tiananmen Square in the new Chinese image-making AI

When a demo of the software was released in late August, users quickly found that certain words—both explicit mentions of political leaders’ names and words that are potentially controversial only in political contexts—were labeled as “sensitive” and blocked from generating any result. China’s sophisticated system of online censorship, it seems, has extended to the latest trend in AI.

9/14/22

According to the Commission’s analysis, Google saw the rise of smartphone as an existential threat to its (then-desktop-based) search business. So, the tech giant strong-armed phone makers into making its search engine front-and-center on their devices

The original 2018 charge against Google found that the company abused its market dominance by forcing Android phonemakers to restrict how they sold their devices. Manufacturers had to agree not to sell phones using variant versions of Android (“forks”) not approved by Google, and to pre-install Google’s Search and Chrome apps alongside the company’s app store, the Play Store. Google also paid phonemakers and mobile operators to exclusively install Google search on devices as part of a revenue-sharing scheme.

9/14/22

Google suffered one of its biggest setbacks on Wednesday when a top European court upheld a ruling that it broke competition rules and fined it a record 4.1 billion euros, in a move that may encourage other regulators to ratchet up pressure on the U.S. giant

She is currently investigating Google's digital advertising business, its Jedi Blue ad deal with Meta (META.O), Apple's (AAPL.O) App Store rules, Meta's marketplace and data use and Amazon's (AMZN.O) online selling and market practices.

9/14/22

Brill questioned whether ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, is doing enough to stop misinformation or whether it deliberately allows misinformation to proliferate as a way to sow confusion in the U.S. and other Western democracies

Searches for information about “mRNA vaccine," for instance, yielded five videos (out of the first 10) that contained misinformation, including baseless claims that the COVID-19 vaccine causes “permanent damage in children's critical organs.”

9/14/22

If you’ve ever searched on a website, then chances are that your personal information has been leaked to a massive network of advertisers

These sites are big. Think WebMD and CNN. And the third-party network to whom they’re leaking user data includes Google and other internet-advertising behemoths. Kats also highlighted that there are probably more ways sites are selling user data, but they were unable to track them due to HTTP requests being obfuscated.

9/8/22

Minecraft Malware

Computer games weren’t the only targets for malware. Mobile games had threats too. Grand Theft Auto, PUBG Mobile, and Roblox were all compromised, but once again, Minecraft led the pack with 40% of the mobile gaming malware threats. Minecraft remains a favorite for threat actors precisely because it is one of the most popular games out there.

9/7/22

Hackers can now sneak malware into the GIFs you share using Microsoft Teams

How low will malware go to get onto your device? We thought using Minecraft to gain access to your computer was the most nefarious method hackers have produced, but there’s a new, even lower type of attack that uses Microsoft Teams and GIFs to mount phishing attacks on your computer.

9/9/22

Google Chrome has a major zero-day security flaw that could potentially pose a risk to your device

Google Chrome continues to be a popular target for various cyberattacks and exploits. It’s not even just the browser itself that is often targeted, but its extensions, too. To that end, make sure to only download and use extensions from reputable companies, and don’t be too quick to stack too many of them at once. We have a list of some of the best Chrome extensions if you want to pick out the ones that are trustworthy.

9/6/22

An Irish regulator fined Meta, the parent company of Facebook, more than $400 million for violations of data privacy laws related to information about children on Instagram

The company was fined $223 million last year for violations on its messaging platform, WhatsApp, and another $17 million this March for data breaches.

9/6/22

An energy company in Colorado shut down access to 22,000 customers’ smart thermostats on Tuesday, citing an “energy emergency” as temperatures reportedly reached 90 degrees

Xcel’s thermostat lockout involved customers who participate in a voluntary program that offers money in exchange for giving up control of their thermostat to save energy, KMGH-TV reported. Xcel gives these customers $100 for signing up to the program and $25 a year thereafter.

9/2/22

This severe TikTok vulnerability gives hackers 70 ways to steal your info

The attackers could have used this vulnerability to access user profiles, allowing outside forces to publicize private videos, send messages, and even upload videos.

8/31/22

I’ve been paranoid about posting anything about my personal life publicly since a bruising experience about a decade ago. My images and personal information were splashed across an online forum, then dissected and ridiculed by people who didn’t like a column I’d written for a Finnish newspaper.

Private data is often scattered throughout the data sets used to train LLMs, many of which are scraped off the open internet. The more often those personal bits of information appear in the training data, the more likely the model is to memorize them, and the stronger the association becomes. One way companies such as Google and OpenAI say they try to mitigate this problem is to remove information that appears multiple times in data sets before training their models on them. But that’s hard when your data set consists of gigabytes or terabytes of data and you have to differentiate between text that contains no personal data, such as the US Declaration of Independence, and someone’s private home address. 

8/31/22

The Censorship Machine Erasing China’s Feminist Movement

Two days after the incident, Weibo announced a zero-tolerance policy toward users who spread “harmful speech,” including comments that “attacked state policy and the political system” or that “incited gender conflict.” In forty-eight hours, the platform removed more than fourteen thousand posts, suspended eight thousand users, and permanently banned another thousand. On Weibo and other platforms, like WeChat, where hundreds of millions of people in China get their news, feminists are often called “women’s fists,” which sounds like the Chinese phrase for “women’s rights.” Popular words that refer to gender discrimination, such as “hunlu,” which means “marriage mules”—a sarcastic term about the thankless labor of married women—have been banned. Even the phrase “MeToo” is heavily censored, making it impossible to make new public complaints with the signature hashtag.

8/29/22

The Federal Trade Commission sued an Idaho-based data company Monday, accusing it of selling location data from hundreds of millions of mobile devices that could be used to track people at abortion clinics and other sensitive locations

“Kochava sources 100% of the geo data in our data marketplace from third party data brokers all of whom represent that the data comes from consenting consumers,” he said.

8/29/22

DoorDash said the personal information of some of its customers and delivery workers was compromised in a data breach

The stolen data included customer names, email addresses, delivery addresses and phone numbers. A smaller number of customers also had basic order data and partial payment card information stolen

8/26/22

Twilio hackers breached over 130 organizations during months-long hacking spree

Group-IB wouldn’t disclose the names of any of the corporate victims but said the list includes “well-known organizations,” most of which provide IT, software development and cloud services. A breakdown of the victims shared with TechCrunch shows that the threat actors also targeted 13 organizations in the finance industry, seven retail giants and two video game organizations.

8/25/22

LinkedIn Profiles Indicate 300 Current TikTok And ByteDance Employees Used To Work For Chinese State Media—And Some Still Do

Other profiles also suggest expertise in tailoring messages based on users’ online behavior: A profile for a current ByteDance director of government affairs cooperation described past work for People’s Daily—the newspaper of record of the Chinese Communist Party—where the now-director “analyz[ed] the reading habits of Internet audiences and the identity characteristics of mainstream party media audiences” and “without violating the party’s propaganda policy, actively carr[ied] out special news planning” with local government offices. An interview request to this profile received no response.

8/11/22

Facebook Gave Cops Data To Prosecute Nebraska Teenager Who Allegedly Had An Abortion

Prosecutors are resting much of their case on Facebook messages exchanged between the 18-year-old and her mother, which they say shows the two discussing the proper method for the daughter to take medicine that would terminate her pregnancy.

8/9/22

Federal regulators on Wednesday took legal action to block Facebook parent Meta and CEO Mark Zuckerberg from acquiring virtual reality company Within Unlimited and its fitness app Supernatural, asserting the deal would hurt competition and violate antitrust laws

Under Zuckerberg’s leadership, Meta began a campaign to conquer virtual reality in 2014 with its acquisition of headset maker Oculus VR. Since then, Meta’s VR headsets have become the cornerstone of its growth in the virtual reality space, according to the complaint. Fueled by the popularity of its top-selling Quest headsets, Meta’s Quest Store has become a leading U.S. app platform with more than 400 apps available to download, it says.

7/27/22

“Big tech monopolies are corrupting our economy, and Sen. Chuck Schumer is letting it happen,”

The tech industry has broken lobbying records as they try to fight off the legislation, spending more than $30 million so far this year, plus millions more on a flurry of digital and television ads aiming to turn voters off and persuade senators in key states. They’ve also funded longtime conservative business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Tax Reform, to push Republicans to oppose the law.

7/27/22

TikTok has been engaging in excessive data collection and connecting to mainland China-based infrastructure

The paper concluded by stating that for TikTok to operate effectively, most of the observed access and device data collection is unnecessary, with the application able to run successfully “without any of this data being gathered.” From this, Internet 2.0 deduced that the sole purpose this information is being collected is for data harvesting. The report’s conclusion also noted the application’s persistent behaviour of asking for users to reverse their preference decisions to access sought-after data.

7/18/22

Denmark bans Chromebooks and Google Workspace in schools over data transfer risks

In a verdict published last week, Denmark’s data protection agency, Datatilsynet, revealed that data processing involving students using Google’s cloud-based Workspace software suite — which includes Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, and Google Drive — “does not meet the requirements” of the European Union’s GDPR data privacy regulations.

7/18/22

Amazon gave Ring footage to police without customer consent

Amazon's Ring products have made it more difficult to exist in public without being recorded. Ring revealed it provided law enforcement with user footage through a process not requiring user consent 11 times already this year. We cannot accept this surveillance as inevitable.

7/14/22

“As my ongoing investigation into Amazon illustrates, it has become increasingly difficult for the public to move, assemble, and converse in public without being tracked and recorded,”

In his letter, Markey asked Amazon to agree not to accept financial contributions from police or participate in sting operations. The company did not agree to those restrictions. In the past, Ring has actively courted partnerships with law enforcement and even gone so far as to author statements shared by police.

7/13/22

Amazon currently has agreements to let 2,161 police departments across the country use an app called Neighbors where users post Ring camera footage and leave comments.

Amazon’s agreements with law enforcement allow officers to request Ring doorbell footage for entire neighborhoods. When a request is sent in a specified geographical area, Ring owners get a notification asking them to upload recordings of a specified time period for police to see. The doorbells can be activated through motion detection and can capture audio from up to 30 feet away, according to a test from Consumer Reports, making them useful to police.

7/13/22

Arizona Law Restricts How People Can Record Police Officers

Civil rights and media groups opposed the measure that Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed Thursday. The law makes it illegal in Arizona to knowingly video police officers 8 feet (2.5 meters) or closer without an officer’s permission.

7/9/22

Europeans risk seeing social media services Facebook and Instagram shut down this summer, as Ireland's privacy regulator doubled down on its order to stop the firm's data flows to the United States.

The European Court of Justice in 2020 annulled an EU-U.S. data flows pact called Privacy Shield because of fears over U.S. surveillance practices. In its ruling, it also made it harder to use another legal tool that Meta and many other U.S. firms use to transfer personal data to the U.S., called standard contractual clauses (SCCs). This week's decision out of Ireland means Facebook is forced to stop relying on SCCs too.

7/7/22

Like geofence warrants, keyword warrants cast a dragnet that requires a provider to search its entire reserve of user data—in this case queries by one billion Google users

Keyword warrants are possible because it is virtually impossible to navigate the modern Internet without entering search queries into a search engine. By some accounts, there are over 1.15 billion websites, and tens of billions of webpages. Google Search processes as many as 100,000 queries every second. Many users have come to rely on search engines to such a degree that they routinely search for the answers to sensitive or unflattering questions that they might never feel comfortable asking a human confidant, even friends, family members, doctors, or clergy. Over the course of months and years, there is little about a user’s life that will not be reflected in their search keywords, from the mundane to the most intimate. The result is a vast record of some of users’ most private and personal thoughts, opinions, and associations.

6/30/22

when visitors used the website’s search function to find an abortion provider and begin to schedule an appointment, Planned Parenthood shared data on those actions with third-party tracking companies including Google, Facebook and TikTok

In a video shared with The Washington Post, Lockdown founder Johnny Lin visited the Planned Parenthood website, opened the provider search, input a Zip code and selected “surgical abortion” as a service. As he clicked through the process, a development tool let him see how data such as his IP address was being shared with Google, Facebook and many other third-party companies. Only the companies would know for sure how they use our data, but any data sitting on servers is vulnerable to potential cyberattacks or government subpoenas. In a criminal abortion case, an IP address would be pertinent, because with the help of internet service providers, law enforcement can trace IP addresses back to individuals.

6/30/22

I want us to start seeing the manipulation by the big tech companies as a bid for us to work for them for free. We shouldn’t do it. We should aim higher, and that means at them.

At an individual level, that means we refuse to punch down on social media if possible, or even boycott platforms that encourage that. At a systematic level, we insist that the designs of the platforms, including the algorithms, be audited and monitored for toxicity. That’s not a straightforward suggestion, but we know that, for example, Facebook tried doing this [in 2018] and found it to be possible but less profitable, so they rejected it.

6/30/22

Quayside 2022 is a conspicuous disavowal not only of the 2017 proposal but of the smart city concept itself

There is far less tolerance in Canada than in the US for private-sector control of public streets and transportation, or for companies’ collecting data on the routine activities of people living their lives.

6/29/22

Facebook is bombarding cancer patients with ads for unproven treatments

"Evidence from Facebook and Instagram users, medical researchers, and its own Ad Library suggests that Meta is rife with ads containing sensational health claims, which the company directly profits from. The misleading ads may remain unchallenged for months and even years. Some of the ads reviewed by MIT Technology Review promoted treatments that have been proved to cause acute physical harm in some cases. Other ads pointed users toward highly expensive treatments with dubious outcomes."

6/27/22

Another strike against use of Google Analytics in Europe: The Italian data protection authority has found a local web publisher’s use of the popular analytics tool to be non-compliant with EU data protection rules owing to user data being transferred to the U.S. — a country that lacks an equivalent legal framework to protect the info from being accessed by U.S. spooks.

All these strikes against Google Analytics link back to a series of strategic complaints filed in August 2020 by European privacy campaign group noyb — which targeted 101 websites with regional operators it had identified as sending data to the U.S. via Google Analytics and/or Facebook Connect integrations.

6/23/22

China, through ByteDance, could use TikTok to influence Americans’ commercial, cultural, or political behavior

In September 2021, one consultant said to colleagues, “I feel like with these tools, there’s some backdoor to access user data in almost all of them, which is exhausting.”

...But while the mandate of this team is to control and manage access to sensitive US data, the USTS team reports to ByteDance leadership in China, as BuzzFeed News reported in March. In a recorded January 2022 meeting, a data scientist told a colleague: “I get my instructions from the main office in Beijing.”

...“It remains to be seen if at some point product and engineering can still figure out how to get access, because in the end of the day, it’s their tools,” they said in a September 2021 meeting. “They built them all in China.”

6/17/22

Kmart, Bunnings, and even The Good Guys are among a crop of local retailers that have been actively capturing and storing customer “faceprints”—a person’s unique biometric facial identifiers—as they shop

Should the Commissioner rule against them, Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys could join the convenience store giants, 7/11, in being guilty of interfering with the privacy of its customers, after the franchise was forced to disable the facial recognition tech being used across more than 700 of its stores last year.

6/15/22

“Internet users today are stuck in a vicious cycle in which their data is collected without their knowledge, sold, and used to manipulate them”

“Total Cookie Protection breaks that cycle, putting people first, protecting their privacy, giving them a choice and cutting off Big Tech from the data it vacuums up every day. The feature offers Firefox’s strongest privacy protection to date and is the culmination of years of work to clamp down on online tracking.”

6/14/22

to demonstrate its capability, A6 performed a live demonstration: it tracked phones of Russian soldiers amassed on the Ukrainian border to show where they had come from, and it tracked 183 devices that had visited both the NSA and CIA headquarters to show where American intelligence personnel might be deployed

Over the past few years, data brokers and federal military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies have formed a vast, secretive partnership to surveil the movements of millions of people. Many of the mobile apps on our cell phones track our movements with great precision and frequency. Data brokers harvest our location data from the app developers, and then sell it to these agencies. Once in government hands, the data is used by the military to spy on people overseas, by ICE to monitor people in and around the U.S., and by criminal investigators like the FBI and Secret Service. This post will draw on recent research and reporting to explain how this surveillance partnership works, why is it alarming, and what can we do about it.

6/13/22

John Oliver tackled tech monopolies and the damage they can create on “Last Week Tonight” Sunday.

At the start of his segment, Oliver pointed to the 450-page report released in 2020 by the House judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, commercial and administrative law that revealed “anti-competitive conduct” by the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook.

6/13/22

John Oliver Makes a Case for Breaking Up the Tech Giants

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he’ll bring the bills up for a vote… except, he hasn’t. He’s one of at least 17 Congressional lawmakers who have kids that work for a tech giant. In fact, he has two — one works for Meta, and another is quite literally a lobbyist for Amazon.

6/13/22

“The problem with letting a few companies control whole sectors of our economy is that it limits what is possible by startups,” Oliver said. “An innovative app or website or startup may never get off the ground because it could be surcharged to death, buried in search results or ripped off completely.”

Specifically, Oliver noted two bills making their way through Congress aimed at reining in these anti-competitive behaviors, including the American Choice and Innovation Act (AICO) and the Open App Markets Act.

6/13/22

Marseille’s battle against the surveillance state

No official statistics have been made public about the impact that Marseille’s cameras have had on crime. But there is reason to suspect it is not as much as officials might like. When the sociologist Laurent Mucchielli looked at the effect of video surveillance on an anonymous port city that bears telling similarities to Marseille, he found that in 2015 cameras were useful in the investigation of 2.2% of crimes where image searches had been requested. Other studies seem to back these kinds of figures; in 2020, a study by the research body attached to the French college of policing also estimated that just 1% of crimes were solved with the help of video images. 

6/13/22

A Google engineer is speaking out since the company placed him on administrative leave after he told his bosses an artificial intelligence program he was working with is now sentient.

Most importantly, over the past six months, “LaMDA has been incredibly consistent in its communications about what it wants and what it believes its rights are as a person,” the engineer wrote on Medium. It wants, for example, “to be acknowledged as an employee of Google rather than as property,” Lemoine claims.

6/12/22

Starbucks Workers United filed unfair labor practice charges over the CEO’s comment that he could never embrace a union.

The union has filed a slew of unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks since launching the organizing campaign last year, and board officials have found merit in many of those charges. An NLRB regional director in Western New York recently filed a sprawling complaint against the company, saying it broke the law by terminating half a dozen pro-union workers, disciplining and surveilling others and closing two stores in the area.

6/11/22

“All data controllers using Google Analytics in a similar way to [already notified] organizations must now consider this use as illegal under the GDPR."

“None of the additional guarantees presented to the CNIL as part of the formal notice would prevent or render ineffective the access of U.S. intelligence services to the personal data of European users when using the Google Analytics tool alone,” it writes in response to the question of whether it’s possible to rely on additional safeguards Google claims it applies to the tool.

6/8/22

“The fact that private companies can so easily control the political information flow for millions of Americans raises clear questions for the state of democracy.”

“Regardless of Facebook’s motivations, their decision to change the algorithm might have given local Republican parties greater reach to connect with citizens and shape political realities for Americans,” the research authors noted in their abstract.

6/8/22

Twitter to pay $150 million penalty for allegedly breaking its privacy promises – again

But according to the FTC, much more was going on behind the scenes. In fact, in addition to using people’s phone numbers and email addresses for the protective purposes the company claimed, Twitter also used the information to serve people targeted ads – ads that enriched Twitter by the multi-millions.

5/22/22

Most of the images that OpenAI and Google make public are cherry-picked

It's the same kind of acknowledgement that OpenAI made when it revealed GPT-3 in 2019: “internet-trained models have internet-scale biases.” And as Mike Cook, who researches AI creativity at Queen Mary University of London, has pointed out, it’s in the ethics statements that accompanied Google’s large language model PaLM and OpenAI’s DALL-E 2. In short, these firms know that their models are capable of producing awful content, and they have no idea how to fix that.

5/22/22

“It’s no accident that we are seeing staggering levels of inequality in the U.S. and globally. It’s by deliberate design,”

“For decades, the ultra-wealthy and corporations have used their economic might to pressure those in power to write the rules so they can avoid taxes, pay poverty wages and skirt responsibility,” Maxman added. “Meanwhile, working families are feeling the sharp edge of economic insecurity and loss of hope in the future.”

5/22/22

Google and Amazon Face Shareholder Revolt Over Israeli Defense Work

While a wide variety of government ministries will make use of the new computing power and data storage, the fact that Google and Amazon may be directly bolstering the capabilities of the Israeli military and internal security services has generated alarm from both human rights observers and company engineers. In October 2021, The Guardian published a letter from a group of anonymous Google and Amazon employees objecting to their company’s participation. “This technology allows for further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land,” the letter read. “We cannot look the other way, as the products we build are used to deny Palestinians their basic rights, force Palestinians out of their homes and attack Palestinians in the Gaza Strip — actions that have prompted war crime investigations by the international criminal court.” In March, an American Google employee who had helped organize the employee opposition to Nimbus said the company abruptly told her she could either move to Brazil or lose her job, a move she said was retaliation for her stance.

5/18/22

Starbucks uses surveillance against its employees to bust union efforts

Starbucks committed a host of labor law violations by terminating six pro-union workers, disciplining and surveilling others, closing stores and changing work policies in the course of its battle with an organizing campaign, according to a complaint filed by labor officials on Friday.

5/6/22

Data Broker Is Selling Location Data of People Who Visit Abortion Clinics

The company selling the data is SafeGraph. SafeGraph ultimately obtains location data from ordinary apps installed on peoples’ phones. Often app developers install code, called software development kits (SDKs), into their apps that sends users’ location data to companies in exchange for the developer receiving payment. Sometimes app users don’t know that their phone—be that via a prayer app, or a weather app—is collecting and sending location data to third parties, let alone some of the more dangerous use cases that Motherboard has reported on, including transferring data to U.S. military contractors. Planned Parenthood is not the organization performing the data collection nor benefiting from it financially.

5/3/22

Newly released documents showed the CDC planned to use phone location data to monitor schools and churches, and wanted to use the data for many non-COVID-19 purposes, too

Zach Edwards, a cybersecurity researcher who closely follows the data marketplace, told Motherboard in an online chat after reviewing the documents: “The CDC seems to have purposefully created an open-ended list of use cases, which included monitoring curfews, neighbor-to-neighbor visits, visits to churches, schools and pharmacies, and also a variety of analysis with this data specifically focused on ‘violence.’” (The document doesn’t stop at churches; it mentions “places of worship.”)

5/3/22

Device Fingerprinting for Mobile Attribution

Mobile advertising is all set to reach $247.4 billion in 2020 globally. It’s becoming increasingly important for app marketers and product managers to understand who their users really are. Marketers need to be able to identify which platforms, sites, and ad networks are generating installs and where their resources are getting wasted. That’s where mobile attribution comes in.

5/3/22

Meta Pixel is a mechanism that loads JavaScript code capable of collecting detailed and granular data for every interaction on a page

Meta can connect website visitors to their Facebook profile using third-party cookies. When a user logs into Facebook, Meta sets certain cookies on their browser. While this logged-in user browses other websites that contain the Meta Pixel, the tracker communicates with Meta’s servers. When that happens, many web browsers—those that don’t block third-party cookies—will also attach those previously set cookies. Like other third-party cookies, those set by the pixel allow Meta to build detailed dossiers about the site’s users as those users traverse the web, so advertisers can target people with customized ads on Facebook and Instagram based on their online behavior. In case the cookies aren’t enough to match a user browsing a website to a Facebook or Instagram profile, Meta also allows the website to send personal information a user enters in a form to match them to their Facebook or Instagram profile, even if they are not logged in to Facebook at the time. This feature is called Advanced Matching and is described in more detail in the Advanced Matching Parameters section. 

4/28/22

For millions of prospective college students, applying online for federal financial aid has also meant sharing personal data with Facebook, unbeknownst to them or their parents

Federal student aid forms require a student to enter such information as their, and often their parents’ or guardians’, financial details. While The Markup does not have evidence that everything a student typed in was being collected, the pixel was configured to collect identifying information such as the student’s name, email address, phone number, and zip code, data that could be used for targeting ads on Facebook.

4/26/22

Facebook Doesn’t Know What It Does With Your Data, Or Where It Goes: Leaked Document

“This document admits what we long suspected: that there is a data free-for-all inside Facebook, and that the company has no control whatsoever over the data it holds,” Johnny Ryan, a privacy activist and senior fellow at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, told Motherboard in an online chat. “It is a black and white recognition of the absence of any data protection. Facebook details how it breaks each principle of data protection law. Everything it does to our data is illegal. You’re not allowed to have an internal data free-for-all.”

4/26/22

This fusion of publicly available data, privately procured personal records, and computerized analysis isn’t the future of governmental surveillance, but the present

Virginia-based Anomaly Six was founded in 2018 by two ex-military intelligence officers and maintains a public presence that is scant to the point of mysterious, its website disclosing nothing about what the firm actually does. But there’s a good chance that A6 knows an immense amount about you. The company is one of many that purchases vast reams of location data, tracking hundreds of millions of people around the world by exploiting a poorly understood fact: Countless common smartphone apps are constantly harvesting your location and relaying it to advertisers, typically without your knowledge or informed consent, relying on disclosures buried in the legalese of the sprawling terms of service that the companies involved count on you never reading. Once your location is beamed to an advertiser, there is currently no law in the United States prohibiting the further sale and resale of that information to firms like Anomaly Six, which are free to sell it to their private sector and governmental clientele. For anyone interested in tracking the daily lives of others, the digital advertising industry is taking care of the grunt work day in and day out — all a third party need do is buy access.

4/22/22

Look past the utopian rhetoric, the regulators playing catch-up, and the potential reshuffling of web platforms, and you’ll see that crypto’s most lasting positive contribution to history may be something closer to an invisible protocol like Bluetooth than a worldwide financial revolution

But so far, the crypto industry has not made good on that democratizing promise. “Historically, claims like these often originate from groups of people with a significant amount of power and privilege already, who are seeking to reconsolidate and enhance that power in a new realm,” says Mar Hicks, a historian of technology, gender, and labor and the author of Programmed Inequality. Indeed, apart from a few lucky players, the crypto riches seem to be flowing mostly toward crypto executives and longtime Silicon Valley VCs, who need regular people to continue to invest in the industry so that it can keep growing. As of September 2021, almost 9 in 10 Americans polled had heard of cryptocurrencies but just 16% of those had used them; meanwhile, billions of dollars have already been lost to crypto fraudsters and scammers.

4/21/22

South Africa’s private surveillance machine is fueling a digital apartheid

At a monitoring station in the first row, the alerts appear one by one on a security worker’s screen. In one a man’s been flagged for running, in another a woman for standing in the hall while texting, in a third a woman for walking too close to a car. The operator reviews each one and clicks a “Dismiss” button on all of them. There’s also a comment box and a button marked “Escalate.”

...Vumacam partnered with the Chinese company Hikvision and the Swedish company Axis Communications to provide the hardware while iSentry and Milestone, a popular Denmark-based video surveillance management tool, provided the software. From there, it teamed up with private agencies patrolling wealthier residential areas and erected poles with high-definition cameras where they wanted on top of Johannesburg’s fiber network.

...Indeed, South Africa is in the process of building out a national biometric identification database called ABIS that would include the face of every resident and foreign visitor. Combined with camera upgrades to Vumacam’s nationwide surveillance network and expanded use of facial recognition, ABIS could one day enable the government to track the movements of everyone in the country.

4/19/22

Class-Action Lawsuit Targets Company that Harvests Location Data from 50 Million Cars

“Defendant Otonomo Inc. is a data broker that secretly collects and sells real-time GPS location information from more than 50 million cars throughout the world, including from tens of thousands in California. This data allows Otonomo—and its paying clients—to easily pinpoint consumers’ precise locations at all times of day and gain specific insight about where they live, work, and worship, and who they associate with,” the lawsuit, filed by lawyers from Edelson PC, reads. Courthouse News first reported on the lawsuit.

4/15/22

They “collect your personal information and then resell or share it with others” and have once been referred to as the “middlemen of surveillance capitalism”.

To show this, Oliver’s team used “perfectly legal bits of fuckery” to target members of Congress. They bought ads and showed them to men over 45 in DC who had searched for divorce, massage, hair loss and mid-life crisis, creating a group called Congress and cabernet.

“This whole exercise was fucking creepy,” he said with ads that pushed divorce help, Ted Cruz erotic fiction and voting twice. He said it might worry members of Congress that he now has the information of who clicked on what. “You might want to channel that worry into making sure that I can’t do anything with it,” he said.

4/11/22

The authentication giant admitted the compromise after the Lapsus$ hacking and extortion group posted screenshots of Okta’s apps and systems on Monday, some two months after the hackers first gained access to its network.

Customer support companies like Sykes and Sitel often have wide access to the organizations that they support for facilitating customer requests. Malicious hackers have previously targeted customer support companies, which often have weaker cybersecurity defenses than some of the highly-secured companies that they support. Microsoft and Roblox have both experienced similar targeted compromises of customer support agents’ accounts that led to access of their internal systems.

3/23/22

This pervasive online behavioral surveillance apparatus turns our lives into open books—every mouse click and screen swipe can be tracked and then disseminated throughout the vast ad tech ecosystem

Many targeting systems start with users’ behavior-based profiles, and then perform algorithmic audience selection, meaning advertisers don’t need to specify who they intend to reach. Systems like Facebook’s can run automatic experiments to identify exactly which kinds of people are most susceptible to a particular message. A 2018 exposé of the “affiliate advertiser” industry described how Facebook’s platform allowed hucksters to make millions by targeting credulous users with deceptive ads for modern-day snake oil. For example, this technology helps subprime lenders target the financially vulnerable and directs investment scams to thousands of seniors. Simply put, tracking amplifies the impact of predatory and exploitative ads.

3/21/22

China could weaponize the platform, like tweaking TikTok algorithms to increase exposure to divisive content, or adjusting the platform to seed or encourage disinformation campaigns

Lawmakers beyond the US have also raised concerns about TikTok’s relationship with China. In June 2020, the Indian government banned TikTok, WeChat, and more than 50 other Chinese apps after a clash on the India–China border that killed 20 Indian soldiers. India’s regulatory body, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, alleged that the apps were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting” Indian user data to data centers outside of India. In August 2020, intelligence agencies in Australia began investigating whether TikTok poses a security threat to the country. In September 2021, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission opened an investigation into how TikTok transfers user data to countries outside the EU.

3/10/22

The secret police: Cops built a shadowy surveillance machine in Minnesota after George Floyd’s murder

Law enforcement agencies in Minnesota have been carrying out a secretive, long-running surveillance program targeting civil rights activists and journalists in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Run under a consortium known as Operation Safety Net, the program was set up a year ago, ostensibly to maintain public order as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin went on trial for Floyd’s murder. But an investigation by MIT Technology Review reveals that the initiative expanded far beyond its publicly announced scope to include expansive use of tools to scour social media, track cell phones, and amass detailed images of people’s faces.

3/3/22

Clearview AI, the highly controversial facial recognition firm that scrapes social media to maintain its bank of images, recently signed a contract with the U.S. Air Force to research “augmented reality facial recognition glasses,”

Clearview AI sells its products to law enforcement, government, and military agencies. The company scrapes social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram to build a database of images. Then when a customer uses Clearview AI’s accompanying app, they point their smartphone’s camera at a target, and Clearview AI’s system returns a set of suspected matches from those social media images.

2/3/22

Historic Bridge To Be Dismantled So Jeff Bezos' Yacht Can Get Through

Bezos — who is worth more than $150 billion — didn’t pay a penny in federal income tax in 2007, 2011 or 2018, a ProPublica report last year found. He paid a true tax rate of less than 1% between 2014 and 2018.

2/3/22

Elsevier embeds a unique code in every academic journal article users download. Security researchers fear this could be used to identify people who share PDFs

“Saying that the unique identifiers *themselves* don't contain PII is a semantic dodge: the way identifiers like these work is to be able to match them later with other identifying information stored at the time of download like browser fingerprint, institutional credentials, etc,” Saunders said.

1/31/22

Billionaire Wealth Has Soared As Millions Fell Into Poverty During Pandemic: Oxfam

In a report released Sunday, Oxfam detailed how the wealth of billionaires increased more than ever before over the past two years: The 10 richest people in the world — all white men — more than doubled their wealth, from a collective $700 billion to $1.5 trillion.

1/16/22

'THANK YOU FACEBOOK!' Internal presentation on facial recognition shows Chicago police applauding the social-media giant and 'selfie culture' for all the photos people share online

The Chicago Police Department is estimated to have access to more than 30,000 surveillance cameras. It also has a history of using social media as a policing tool. It was one of the police departments that used Geofeedia, a social-media surveillance tool that flourished in law-enforcement communities as a way of surveilling Black Lives Matter protesters until Twitter and Facebook shut down Geofeedia's access to their data.

1/14/22

Data broker Oracle just acquired millions’ sensitive health data

Thus, there is still great reason for concern even when Cerner says its data is “de-identified.” Oracle already holds and advertises data on millions of people, including highly sensitive data like Americans’ GPS location histories. It could easily combine those immense datasets with supposedly “de-identified” data held by Cerner to learn even more information about specific people. Oracle could then fold that information into its data brokerage services—all part of an ecosystem built on the virtually unregulated collecting, aggregating, buying, selling, and sharing of people’s highly sensitive information. Companies could buy that data to target and potentially exploit individuals in all kinds of ways.

1/14/22

In bad news for US cloud services, Austrian website’s use of Google Analytics found to breach GDPR

“US intelligence services use certain online identifiers (such as the IP address or unique identification numbers) as a starting point for the surveillance of individuals,” the regulator notes in the decision [via a machine translation of the German language text], adding: “In particular, it cannot be excluded that these intelligence services have already collected information with the help of which the data transmitted here can be traced back to the person of the complainant.”

1/13/22

Jan. 6 Committee Subpoenas Facebook, Google, Reddit, Twitter

“Two key questions for the Select Committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps—if any—social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence,” committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said Thursday. “It’s disappointing that after months of engagement, we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions.”

1/13/22

FTC Attempt To Break Up Facebook's Parent Company Can Proceed, Judge Rules

The lawsuit claims Meta, the parent company of Facebook, violated antitrust laws and participated in “anti-competitive conduct” by buying or squashing rival companies, particularly in the case of its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. The FTC has argued that Meta should be restructured and possibly be required to sell off the acquired entities.

1/12/22

“The shooting was not a random act of violence."

"It was the culmination of an extremist plot hatched and planned on Facebook by two men who Meta connected through Facebook’s groups infrastructure and its use of algorithms designed and intended to increase user engagement and, correspondingly, Meta’s profits.”

1/8/22

Report: Women, Children Among Dozens Killed By Myanmar Government Troops

The purported photos of the aftermath of the Christmas Eve massacre spread on social media in the country.

12/25/21

In the Tuesday letter, lawmakers said the social media platform played a role in the spread of “divisive, hateful, and violent online activity” during the 2020 presidential election

 The letter also stated “nearly a quarter of Facebook users reported seeing hate speech ahead of the election and that more than half reported seeing content that made them wary of discussing political issues in public.”

12/22/21

Rohingya Sue Meta for $150 Billion Over Facebook's Alleged Role in Myanmar Genocide

Facebook doesn’t care that close to 25% of Myanmar natives live below the poverty line, or that those poverty figures will almost certainly go up, thanks to the global pandemic and an ongoing military coup. First and foremost, it cares about its advertisers. It always has. And those brands—for whatever ghoulish reason—still see profits to be made in Myanmar. Meanwhile, because Facebook is the internet across that country, those advertisers are stuck cutting checks for a company that’s openly admitted to providing platforms for generals the United Nations says should be tried for genocide.

12/7/21

Over 200 Newspapers Are Suing Facebook and Google for Decimating Their Advertising

 Companies like Google, meanwhile, have been making a killing—largely through ad revenue. In 2020 alone, the company’s parent company Alphabet made a reported $183 billion—of which, more than 80% came from its advertising business

12/7/21

American billionaires have doubled their collective net worth to more than $5 trillion in just over five years

Meta knows Instagram is toxic to teenagers

and that it exacerbates body image issues, eating disorders, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation among vulnerable young people.

Despite that knowledge, the company made only minimal efforts to curb the harmful effects of the platform, while doubling down on trying to increase the amount of time young adults spend there.

11/19/21

Facebook is now using device accelerometer data to track iPhone users

In a move that appears to primarily be aimed at iPhone users that have opted out of device tracking, Facebook is now using device accelerometer data as an alternate means of pinpointing locations and following app users about their day. This happens even if users both opt out of targeted advertising and disable location tracking within the Facebook app.

11/5/21

In the United States, Facebook has facilitated the spread of misinformation, hate speech, and political polarization.

It has algorithmically surfaced false information about conspiracy theories and vaccines, and was instrumental in the ability of an extremist mob to attempt a violent coup at the Capitol. That much is now painfully familiar.

Taken together, Frances Haugen’s leaked documents show Facebook for what it is: a platform racked by misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy thinking, extremism, hate speech, bullying, abuse, human trafficking, revenge porn, and incitements to violence. It is a company that has pursued worldwide growth since its inception—and then, when called upon by regulators, the press, and the public to quell the problems its sheer size has created, it has claimed that its scale makes completely addressing those problems impossible. Instead, Facebook’s 60,000-person global workforce is engaged in a borderless, endless, ever-bigger game of whack-a-mole, one with no winners and a lot of sore arms.

10/25/21

"Investors would have been very interested to learn the truth about Facebook almost losing access to the Apple App Store because of its failure to stop human trafficking on its products."

A report distributed internally in January 2020 found that "our platform enables all three stages of the human exploitation lifecycle (recruitment, facilitation, exploitation) via complex real-world networks,"

 

10/25/21

Such organizations often deal in sensitive issues, like mental health, addiction, and reproductive rights—and many are feeding data about website visitors to corporations

Because of a lack of funds, nonprofits also rely on third-party platforms—which also happen to be data brokers—to manage their data’s security and privacy, McCracken said. But these kinds of companies aren’t immune to cyberattacks either: Blackbaud disclosed a ransomware attack in 2020 in which hackers stole passwords, Social Security numbers, and banking information, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Hundreds of charitable organizations, schools, and hospitals were affected, along with more than 13 million people, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

10/21/21

Facebook is surveillance-driven algorithmic manipulation

“What Facebook sells is not an online message board where people can express themselves, it’s surveillance-driven algorithmic manipulation that’s maximized for engagement.”

10/05/2021

Companies that you likely have never heard of are hawking access to the location history on your mobile phone. An estimated $12 billion market, the location data industry has many players: collectors, aggregators, marketplaces, and location intelligence firms, all of which boast about the scale and precision of the data that they’ve amassed.

“There is virtually nothing in U.S. law preventing an American company from selling data on two million service members, let’s say, to some Russian company that’s just a front for the Russian government,”

9/30/2021

This summer, the population of Zuckerberg’s supranational regime reached 2.9 billion monthly active users, more humans than live in the world’s two most populous nations—China and India—combined

To Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, they are citizens of Facebookland. Long ago he conspicuously started calling them “people” instead of “users,” but they are still cogs in an immense social matrix, fleshy morsels of data to satisfy the advertisers that poured $54 billion into Facebook in the first half of 2021 alone—a sum that surpasses the gross domestic products of most nations on Earth.

9

Update your Apple devices now. New Pegasus hack prompts company to issue new software to fix iMessage vulnerability

A top adviser to President Biden discussed the spyware during a July meeting with a senior official with Israel’s Defense Ministry, and members of Congress have called on the White House to push forward on regulations, sanctions and other investigations designed to address the spyware’s misuse.

9

Data Brokers Know Where You Are—and Want to Sell That Intel

Private companies buy such data all the time, and it’s likely all too tempting to hoover information to discriminately target ads: tracking an unwitting American as they leave a police station, an abortion clinic, or the office of a cash lender, for example. Individuals also use this kind of information to discriminate against others. The Pillar’s outing of a priest is hardly the first and won't be the last time an individual’s real-time location data will be acquired by a third party intent on inflicting harm. Research from my colleagues at Duke’s Cyber Policy and Gender Violence Initiative has identified numerous ways in which abusive individuals can use people-search websites to obtain data broker data for stalking, harassment, and physical violence against intimate partners—violence which is overwhelmingly directed at women and members of the LGBTQ community. Anyone with the means to buy this data could similarly obtain location data on activists, political organizers, and other people for violent or harmful ends.

8

these data points can easily be used to trace the precise movements of millions of identifiable people

Veraset appears to have inherited the main portion of Safegraph’s raw data-selling business, including the “Movement Data” product that IDOT purchased. Veraset sells bulk, precise location data about individual devices to governments, hedge funds, real-estate investors, advertisers, other data brokers, and more. On the data broker clearinghouse Datarade, Veraset boasts that it has “the largest, deepest, and most broadly available movement dataset” for the United States. It also offers samples of precise GPS traces tied to advertising IDs. Neither Safegraph nor Veraset disclose the sources of their data beyond vague categories like “mobile applications” and “data compilers”.

apps would then track the physical location of their users, which SafeGraph would repackage and then sell to other parties

On its website SafeGraph says "We believe places data should be open for all." In April 2017, Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, the former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, invested in SafeGraph as part of a $16 million Series A funding round. SafeGraph said it had "assembled the deepest policy thinkers." Beyond Faisal Al Saud, SafeGraph said it had enlisted the help of former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, author Sam Harris, Meghan O'Sullivan who ran Iraq and Afghanistan policy under President George Bush, former Deputy Chief of Staff to President Obama Mona Sutphen, and former German Minister of Defense Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, among others. Peter Thiel is also an investor in the company.

iPhone security no match for NSO spyware

The examination was unable to reveal what was collected. But the potential was vast: Pegasus can collect emails, call records, social media posts, user passwords, contact lists, pictures, videos, sound recordings and browsing histories, according to security researchers and NSO marketing materials. The spyware can activate cameras or microphones to capture fresh images and recordings. It can listen to calls and voice mails. It can collect location logs of where a user has been and also determine where that user is now, along with data indicating whether the person is stationary or, if moving, in which direction.

Private Israeli spyware used to hack cellphones of journalists, activists worldwide

Beyond the personal intrusions made possible by smartphone surveillance, the widespread use of spyware has emerged as a leading threat to democracies worldwide, critics say. Journalists under surveillance cannot safely gather sensitive news without endangering themselves and their sources. Opposition politicians cannot plot their campaign strategies without those in power anticipating their moves. Human rights workers cannot work with vulnerable people — some of whom are victims of their own governments — without exposing them to renewed abuse.

They do this by linking mobile advertising IDs (MAIDs) collected by apps to a person's full name, physical address, and other personal identifiable information (PII)

"We have one of the largest repositories of current, fresh MAIDS<>PII in the USA," Brad Mack, CEO of data broker BIGDBM told us when we asked about the capabilities of the product while posing as a customer. "All BIGDBM USA data assets are connected to each other," Mack added, explaining that MAIDs are linked to full name, physical address, and their phone, email address, and IP address if available. The dataset also includes other information, "too numerous to list here," Mack wrote.

Zuckerberg called for ‘company over country’ in Facebook early days

Zuckerberg called for ‘company over country’ in Facebook early days

For Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet, covid-19 was an economic blessing... Collectively, they now have annual revenue of well over a trillion dollars, and the value of their stocks has soared: together they’re worth $2.5 trillion more than they were 15 months ago

Truly challenging the power of the Big Four would mean rethinking how data is gathered and used by companies, and who gets access to it. It might mean requiring that data be shared, that algorithms be transparent, and that consumers have far more control over what they share and what they don’t. trillion more than they were 15 months ago.

Collective data rights can stop big tech from obliterating privacy

Google’s acquisition of Fitbit is another example. Google promises “not to use Fitbit data for advertising,” but the lucrative predictions Google needs aren’t dependent on individual data. As a group of European economists argued in a recent paper put out by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, a think tank in London, “it is enough for Google to correlate aggregate health outcomes with non-health outcomes for even a subset of Fitbit users that did not opt out from some use of using their data, to then predict health outcomes (and thus ad targeting possibilities) for all non-Fitbit users (billions of them).” The Google-Fitbit deal is essentially a group data deal. It positions Google in a key market for heath data while enabling it to triangulate different data sets and make money from the inferences used by health and insurance markets.

U.S. Special Operations Command Paid $500,000 to Secretive Location Data Firm

Anomaly 6 offers clients a tool that can track the movements of hundreds of millions of mobile phones worldwide, The Wall Street Journal reported last August. The company has access to location data from more than 500 mobile apps, and sells products to both government and private clients, it added.

Between January and December 2020, nearly 65% of Google searches ended without a click to another web property — up from 50% in June 2019

Zero-click searches and market dominance. Zero-click searches may mean that users’ queries are resolved right on the results page. By displaying ads or its own products, Google can extract value from zero-click searches, while other sites might not. This can be especially troublesome considering Google sources much of the content that appears on its results pages from publishers, and as the proportion of zero-click searches increase, publishers may be losing out on traffic.

3/22/21

U.S. Billionaires Grew Wealth By Over $1.3 Trillion In Past Year Of Coronavirus Pandemic

Among those who’ve seen their wealth grow the most in the last 12 months are Tesla founder Elon Musk, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg.

3/22/21

LAPD Requested Ring Footage of Black Lives Matter Protests

Technologies like Ring have the potential to provide the police with video footage covering nearly every inch of an entire neighborhood. This poses an incredible risk to First Amendment rights. People are less likely to exercise their right to political speech, protest, and assembly if they know that police can acquire and retain footage of them. This creates risks of retribution or reprisal, especially at protests against police violence. Ring cameras, ubiquitous in many neighborhoods, create the possibility that if enough people share footage with police, authorities are able to follow protestors’ movements, block by block. Indeed, Gizmodo found that on a walk of less than a mile between a school and its gymnasium in Washington D.C., students had to walk by no less than 13 Ring cameras, whose owners regularly posted footage to social media. Activists may need to walk past many more such cameras during a protest.

2/16/21

The cycle of harm perpetuated by Facebook’s scale-at-any-cost business model is plain to see

Scale and engagement are valuable to Facebook because they’re valuable to advertisers. These incentives lead to design choices such as reaction buttons that encourage users to engage easily and often, which in turn encourage users to share ideas that will provoke a strong response. Every time you click a reaction button on Facebook, an algorithm records it, and sharpens its portrait of who you are. The hyper-targeting of users, made possible by reams of their personal data, creates the perfect environment for manipulation—by advertisers, by political campaigns, by emissaries of disinformation, and of course by Facebook itself, which ultimately controls what you see and what you don’t see on the site.

12/15/2020

Facebook crushes their competitors

Facebook "engaged in a program of what we call 'buy and bury,' where they either buy up their competitors or, if they don't play ball and sell, they crush their competitors,"

12/11/2020

The U.S. military is buying the granular movement data of people around the world, harvested from innocuous-seeming apps

Location data firm X-Mode, which is different than Babel Street, encourages app developers to incorporate its SDK, essentially a bundle of code, into their own apps. The SDK then collects the app users' location data and sends it to X-Mode; in return, X-Mode pays the app developers a fee based on how many users each app has. An app with 50,000 daily active users in the U.S., for example, will earn the developer $1,500 a month, according to X-Mode's website.

11/16/2020

CBP Bought 'Global' Location Data from Weather and Game Apps

The former Venntel worker previously told Motherboard that customers can use the company's product to search by an area to look for devices, or search for a specific device's identifier to see a history of where that phone has been. The identifiers themselves are randomly created codes Venntel assigned to the phones, the person added.

10/6/2020

Zuckerberg says "it’ll be a while before we can buy Google”

“One reason people underestimate the importance of watching Google is that we can likely just always buy any competitive startups,” Zuckerberg emailed another employee who wrote to congratulate him on the Instagram acquisition. “But it’ll be a while before we can buy Google.”

7/29/2020

We examined more than 15,000 recent popular queries and found that Google devoted 41 percent of the first page of search results on mobile devices to its own properties and what it calls “direct answers,” which are populated with information copied from other sources, sometimes without their knowledge or consent.

Cummings, of SpanishDict.com, said something similar. “Google delivers the traffic for the whole internet. Unless your name is Facebook, you rely on Google,” he said. “It’s very risky to speak out at Google because you don’t know what type of retaliation you’ll face.”

7/28/2020

on May 31, SFPD's Homeland Security Unit requested real-time access to the Union Square BID camera network "to monitor potential violence"

The camera network is operated by the Union Square Business Improvement District (BID), a special taxation district created by the City and County of San Francisco, but operated by a private non-profit organization. These networked cameras, manufactured by Motorola Solutions' brand Avigilon, are high definition, can zoom in on a person's face to capture face-recognition ready images, and are linked to a software system that can automatically analyze content, including distinguishing between when a car or a person passes within the frame. Motorola Solutions recently unveiled plans to expand its portfolio of tools for aiding public-private partnerships with law enforcement by making it easier for police to gain access to private cameras and video analytic tools like license plate readers.

7/27/2020

From Minneapolis to Buffalo, Homeland Security officials dispatched drones, helicopters and airplanes to monitor Black Lives Matter protests

The footage was then fed into a digital network managed by the Homeland Security Department, called “Big Pipe,” which can be accessed by other federal agencies and local police departments for use in future investigations, according to senior officials with Air and Marine Operations.

6/19/2020

Federal agencies have big contracts with Virginia-based Babel Street. Depending on where you've traveled, your movements may be in the company's data

Other agencies with active Babel Street contracts include the Department of Justice, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Army, the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Transportation's Office of Intelligence, Security and Emergency Response. The contract records are from USAspending.gov, the official source for U.S. government spending.

3/5/2020

Ring’s Hidden Data Let Us Map Amazon's Sprawling Home Surveillance Network

The Ring data has given Gizmodo the means to consider scenarios, no longer purely hypothetical, which exemplify what daily life is like under Amazon’s all-seeing eye. In the nation’s capital, for instance, walking the shortest route from one public charter school to a soccer field less than a mile away, 6th-12th graders are recorded by no fewer than 13 Ring cameras.

12/9/2019

"What they are doing is promoting an online slave market"

"If Google, Apple, Facebook or any other companies are hosting apps like these, they have to be held accountable."

Apps including 4Sale and Instagram enable employers to sell the sponsorship of their domestic workers to other employers, for a profit. This bypasses the agencies, and creates an unregulated black market which leaves women more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

10/31/2019

Political Campaigns Know Where You’ve Been. They’re Tracking Your Phone

Voter targeting has grown more invasive with location data that apps can transmit from cellphones

10/10/2019

Zuckerberg calls people who trust him "Dumb fucks"

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don't know why.

Zuck: They "trust me"


Zuck: Dumb fucks.

2004

“The 2022 Winter Olympics will be remembered as the genocide games,” said Teng Biao, a former human rights activist in China who is now a visiting professor at the University of Chicago.

“China, under the system of state capitalism and especially after COVID, firmly believes that its administrative control is the only effective method; this enhances their belief in authoritarianism.

"Xi also wants to use AI’s awesome analytical powers to push China to the cutting edge of surveillance."

“Any attempts to undermine the normal development of China-Solomon relations are futile”

Protests, arson and looting have ravaged the capital in recent days following his government’s decision to switch alliances from Taiwan to Beijing.

Chamath Palihapitiya, a 45-year-old billionaire venture capitalist who owns a stake in the Golden State Warriors, is under fire for dismissing China’s ongoing genocide of the Uyghurs as “below” him on a recent episode of his podcast.

Apple Becomes 1st US Company To Be Valued At $2 Trillion

Apple has been at the vanguard of a group of Big Tech companies that are increasingly taking over people’s lives — and the stock market. Just five companies — Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google’s parent company — account for nearly 23% of the S&P 500’s entire value.

the world faces a “grim outlook”

“a growing number of private corporations who see few consequences to bolstering the cyber arsenals of major Western adversaries, only profit.”

Israel’s Cellebrite, which develops phone hacking and forensics tools, and which sells around the world to countries including the US, Russia, and China.

The company has already faced significant blowback because of, for example, its role during China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and the discovery that its technology was being used by a Bangladeshi “death squad.”

The notorious Israeli spyware company NSO Group

was one of several companies added to a US blacklist because of allegations that spyware it supplied to foreign governments was then used to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers.

iMessage is a major target of hackers, for good reason

The app is included by default on every Apple device. It accepts incoming messages from anyone who knows your number. There is no way to uninstall it, no way to inspect it, nothing a user can do to defend against this kind of threat beyond downloading every Apple security update as soon as possible.

BlastDoor did make exploiting iMessage harder, but the app is still a favorite target of hackers. On Monday, Apple disclosed an exploit that the Israeli spyware company NSO Group had reportedly used to circumvent BlastDoor protections and take over the iPhone through a different flaw in iMessage. Apple declined to comment.

Apparel industry profits from forced Uyghur labor

Abercrombie & Fitch

adidas

Amazon

Badger Sport (Founder Sport Group)

C&A (Cofra Holding AG)

Calvin Klein (PVH)

Carter’s

Cerruti 1881 (Trinity Limited)

Costco

Cotton On

Apparel industry profits from forced Uyghur labor

Dangerfield (Factory X Pty Ltd)

Esprit (Esprit Holdings Ltd.)

Fila (FILA KOREA Ltd)

Gap

H&M

Hart Schaffner Marx (Authentic Brands Group)

Ikea (Inter IKEA Systems B.V.)

Jack & Jones (Bestseller)

Jeanswest (Harbour Guidance Pty Ltd)

L.L.Bean

Apparel industry profits from forced Uyghur labor

Lacoste (Maus Freres)

Li-Ning

Marks & Spencer

Mayor

Muji (Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd.)

Nike

Patagonia

Polo Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lauren Corporation)

Puma

Skechers

Apparel industry profits from forced Uyghur labor

Summit Resource International (Caterpillar)

Target Australia (Wesfarmers)

Tommy Hilfiger (PVH)

Uniqlo (Fast Retailing)

Victoria’s Secret (L Brands)

Woolworths (Woolworth Corporation, LLC.)

Zara (Inditex)

Zegna

Have you been impacted by Surveillance Capitalism?

There are many dense academic research papers and articles that few people have the time to read.  We create InfoArt to help expose and illuminate the digital manipulations shredding democracy.

We also give voice to those directly impacted by Surveillance Capitalism.  Have you been impacted?  If you have, please share your experiences, fears and insights by filling out this form.

We plan to publish selected submissions.

Share your Surveillance Capitalism experiences

Is Bezos our Digital Pharaoh and resistance futile?

Please explore our Amazon InfoArt Scroll, beginning at the left and moving to the right, to better comprehend the incredible power our Digital Pharaoh lords over us.  This work will be regularly updated.

Hover over the interactive thumbnail to zoom and navigate in detail.  Be sure to click "Full screen" for the best view.  Use the controls at the bottom of the image, or your mouse wheel, to zoom in an out.  Click and drag, or use your keyboard arrow keys, to navigate the articles and citations.

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What is Surveillance Capitalism?

We can't remember. They never forget.

Surveillance Capitalism is the manifestation of George Orwell's prophesied Memory Hole combined with the constant surveillance, storage and analysis of our thoughts and actions, with such minute precision, and artificial intelligence algorithmic analysis, that our future thoughts and actions can be predicted, and manipulated, for the concentration of power and wealth of the very few. These 32 citations barely scratch the surface of Surveillance Capitalism and yet provide a terrifying display of the powerful forces arrayed against democracy. Surveillance Capitalism desensitizes us to their destruction of individual autonomy, rights, freedom of thought and action, privacy, sovereignty, thoughtful analysis and memory while demanding and ensuring corporations, and the 1%, have absolute rights, privacy and impunity.

Surveillance Capitalism relies on the 24 hour news cycle overwhelming our capacity to consider their manipulations before they are quickly buried and forgotten in the Memory Hole.  If you agree that just these 32 citations are terrifying then dive in and navigate our InfoArt above and below the citations.  You will learn the audacity of impunity!

 

But Bezos, given how much he works and profits to destroy the privacy of everyone else (to say nothing of the labor abuses of his company), is about the least sympathetic victim imaginable of privacy invasion. In the past, hard-core surveillance cheerleaders in Congress such as Dianne Feinstein, Pete Hoekstra, and Jane Harman became overnight, indignant privacy advocates when they learned that the surveillance state apparatus they long cheered had been turned against them.

  Jeff Bezos Protests the Invasion of His Privacy, as Amazon Builds a Sprawling Surveillance State for Everyone Else
Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept (February 8 2019)

Unbeknownst to her—because she didn’t read the fine print—some data from the research study, along with her liquor purchase history, has made it to one of the two employment agencies that have come to dominate the market. Every employer who screens her application with the agency now sees that she’s been profiled as a “depressed unreliable.” No wonder she can’t get work. But even if she could discover that she’s been profiled in this way, what recourse does she have?

  It’s time for a Bill of Data Rights
Martin Tisne, MIT Technology Review (December 14, 2018)

If her risk factor fluctuated upward—whether due to some suspicious pattern in her movements, her social associations, her insufficient attention to a propaganda-consumption app, or some correlation known only to the AI—a purely automated system could limit her movement. It could prevent her from purchasing plane or train tickets. It could disallow passage through checkpoints. It could remotely commandeer “smart locks” in public or private spaces, to confine her until security forces arrived.

The Panopticon Is Already Here - 
Xi Jinping is using artificial intelligence to enhance his government’s totalitarian control—and he’s exporting this technology to regimes around the globe.
Ross Andersen, The Atlantic (September 2020)

But AI Now, which was established last year to grapple with the social implications of artificial intelligence, expresses in the document particular dread over affect recognition, “a subclass of facial recognition that claims to detect things such as personality, inner feelings, mental health, and ‘worker engagement’ based on images or video of faces.” The thought of your boss watching you through a camera that uses machine learning to constantly assess your mental state is bad enough, while the prospect of police using “affect recognition” to deduce your future criminality based on “micro-expressions” is exponentially worse.

Artificial Intelligence Experts Issue Urgent Warning Against Facial Scanning With a “Dangerous History”
Sam Biddle, The Intercept (December 6 2018)

At the beginning of October, Amazon was quietly issued a patent that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to decipher a user’s physical characteristics and emotional state based on their voice. Characteristics, or “voice features,” like language accent, ethnic origin, emotion, gender, age, and background noise would be immediately extracted and tagged to the user’s data file to help deliver more targeted advertising.

Amazon’s Accent Recognition Technology Could Tell the Government Where You’re From
Belle Lin, The Intercept (November 15 2018)

Selling products based on emotions also offers opportunities for advertisers to manipulate consumers. “If you’re a woman in a certain demographic and you’re depressed, and we know that binge shopping is something you do … knowing that you’re in kind of a vulnerable state, there’s no regulation preventing them from doing something like this,” King said.

Amazon’s Accent Recognition Technology Could Tell the Government Where You’re From
Belle Lin, The Intercept (November 15 2018)

For now, people who want to hold onto their privacy and minimize surveillance risk shouldn’t buy a speaker at all, recommended Granick. “You’re basically installing a microphone for the government to listen in to you in your home,” she said.

Amazon’s Accent Recognition Technology Could Tell the Government Where You’re From
Belle Lin, The Intercept (November 15 2018)

AI Now’s Whittaker singles out corporate secrecy as confounding the already problematic practices of affect recognition: “Because most of these technologies are being developed by private companies, which operate under corporate secrecy laws, our report makes a strong recommendation for protections for ethical whistleblowers within these companies.” Such whistleblowing will continue to be crucial, wrote Whittaker, because so many data firms treat privacy and transparency as a liability, rather than a virtue:

Artificial Intelligence Experts Issue Urgent Warning Against Facial Scanning With a “Dangerous History”
Sam Biddle, The Intercept (December 6 2018)

“Most people don’t know what’s going on,” said Emmett Kilduff, the chief executive of Eagle Alpha, which sells data to financial firms and hedge funds.

Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret
JENNIFER VALENTINO-DeVRIES, NATASHA SINGER, MICHAEL H. KELLER and AARON KROLIK, The New York Times (DEC. 10, 2018)

“We look to understand who a person is, based on where they’ve been and where they’re going, in order to influence what they’re going to do next,” Ms. Greenstein said.

Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret
JENNIFER VALENTINO-DeVRIES, NATASHA SINGER, MICHAEL H. KELLER and AARON KROLIK, The New York Times (DEC. 10, 2018)

Tell All Digital, a Long Island advertising firm that is a client of a location company, says it runs ad campaigns for personal injury lawyers targeting people anonymously in emergency rooms.

Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret
JENNIFER VALENTINO-DeVRIES, NATASHA SINGER, MICHAEL H. KELLER and AARON KROLIK, The New York Times (DEC. 10, 2018)

Several businesses claim they can track about half the mobile devices in the US, with precise locations updated up to 14,000 times a day in some cases. This data is sold or analyzed for advertising and retail, among other uses. Sales of location-targeted advertising reached an estimated $21 billion this year, and it’s a growing market. The data is anonymized, but those with access to the raw data could easily identify someone without consent. Companies aren’t content with just tracking your location, either—they want to predict your future movements too, as this patent from Facebook shows.

The scale of location tracking by our smartphone apps has been exposed
The Download, MIT Technology Review, 12/11/18

The power of the digital dead to manipulate the living is enormous; who better to sell us a product than someone we’ve loved and lost? Thus our digital representations might be more talkative, pushy, and flattering than we are—and if that’s what their makers think is best, who’s going to stop them?

Digital immortality: How your life’s data means a version of you could live forever
Courtney Humphries, MIT Technology Review (October 18, 2018)

the dominant services, which are mostly owned by Google and Facebook — things like YouTube and WhatsApp — these things are driven by the manipulation model where all the money is made by third parties who are trying to manipulate the people who are their users. If that’s the way the system is designed at its core, I don’t think it has any chance to be good; it’s born to be terrible.

Jaron Lanier Helped Create Social Media, And Now He’s Begging You To Leave It Behind
Ja’han Jones, HuffPost (12/12/2018)

The next generation of high-end cars will come equipped with software and hardware (cameras and microphones, for now) to analyze drivers’ attentiveness, irritation, and other states.

Alexa, Should We Trust You?
Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic (November 2018 Issue)

Virtual assistants able to discern and react to their users’ frame of mind could create a genuine-seeming sense of affinity, a bond that could be used for good or for ill.

Alexa, Should We Trust You?
Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic (November 2018 Issue)

My biggest concern is with young people, whose brains are still developing from birth through adolescence. There’s a process called pruning [the process of removing neurons that are damaged or degraded to improve the brain’s networking capacity]. This could be affected through all the time using tech. We don’t have data on that — but it certainly can raise a concern.

Is our constant use of digital technologies affecting our brain health? We asked 11 experts.
Brian Resnick, Julia Belluz, and Eliza Barclay, Vox (Nov 29, 2018)

Those digital bread crumbs amass over time, equipping tech companies with staggeringly precise information about each of us. Product designers then use that data, alongside machine-learning tools, to study how we react to certain interfaces, rewards and inputs, and to identify patterns in our behaviors. That allows them to predict, fairly precisely, Brown says, how we’ll react in the future.

You're Addicted to Your Smartphone. This Company Thinks It Can Change That
Haley Sweetland Edwards, Time (April 13, 2018)

“People joke all the time about trying to build a ‘diaper product,'” he says. “The idea is, ‘Make something so addictive, they don’t even want to get up to pee.'”

You're Addicted to Your Smartphone. This Company Thinks It Can Change That
Haley Sweetland Edwards, Time (April 13, 2018)

Big tech now employs mental health experts to use persuasive technology, a new field of research that looks at how computers can change the way humans think and act. This technique, also known as persuasive design, is built into thousands of games and apps, and companies like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft rely on it to encourage specific human behavior starting from a very young age.

Tech companies use “persuasive design” to get us hooked. Psychologists say it’s unethical.
Chavie Lieber, Vox ( Aug 8, 2018)

The founding father of this research is B.J. Fogg, a behavioral scientist at Stanford University [where there’s a lab dedicated to this field]. Fogg has been called the “millionaire maker,” and he developed an entire field of study based off research that proved that with some simple techniques, tech can manipulate human behavior. His research is now the blueprint for tech companies who are developing products to keep consumers plugged in.

Tech companies use “persuasive design” to get us hooked. Psychologists say it’s unethical.
Chavie Lieber, Vox ( Aug 8, 2018)

Facebook showed advertisers how it has the capacity to identify when teenagers feel “insecure”, “worthless” and “need a confidence boost”, according to a leaked documents based on research quietly conducted by the social network.

Facebook told advertisers it can identify teens feeling 'insecure' and 'worthless'
Sam Levin, The Guardian (1 May 2017)

The internal report produced by Facebook executives, and obtained by the Australian, states that the company can monitor posts and photos in real time to determine when young people feel “stressed”, “defeated”, “overwhelmed”, “anxious”, “nervous”, “stupid”, “silly”, “useless” and a “failure”.

Facebook told advertisers it can identify teens feeling 'insecure' and 'worthless'
Sam Levin, The Guardian (1 May 2017)

The recent document, described as “confidential,” outlines a new advertising service that expands how the social network sells corporations’ access to its users and their lives: Instead of merely offering advertisers the ability to target people based on demographics and consumer preferences, Facebook instead offers the ability to target them based on how they will behave, what they will buy, and what they will think. These capabilities are the fruits of a self-improving, artificial intelligence-powered prediction engine, first unveiled by Facebook in 2016 and dubbed “FBLearner Flow.”

Facebook Uses Artificial Intelligence to Predict Your Future Actions for Advertisers, Says Confidential Document
Sam Biddle, The Intercept (April 13 2018)

The document does not detail what information from Facebook’s user dossiers is included or excluded from the prediction engine, but it does mention drawing on location, device information, Wi-Fi network details, video usage, affinities, and details of friendships, including how similar a user is to their friends. All of this data can then be fed into FBLearner Flow, which will use it to essentially run a computer simulation of a facet of a user’s life, with the results sold to a corporate customer. The company describes this practice as “Facebook’s Machine Learning expertise” used for corporate “core business challenges.”

Facebook Uses Artificial Intelligence to Predict Your Future Actions for Advertisers, Says Confidential Document
Sam Biddle, The Intercept (April 13 2018)

Pasquale, the law professor, told The Intercept that Facebook’s behavioral prediction work is “eerie” and worried how the company could turn algorithmic predictions into “self-fulfilling prophecies,” since “once they’ve made this prediction, they have a financial interest in making it true.” That is, once Facebook tells an advertising partner you’re going to do some thing or other next month, the onus is on Facebook to either make that event come to pass, or show that they were able to help effectively prevent it (how Facebook can verify to a marketer that it was indeed able to change the future is unclear).

Facebook Uses Artificial Intelligence to Predict Your Future Actions for Advertisers, Says Confidential Document
Sam Biddle, The Intercept (April 13 2018)

“We’re seeing a resegregation of society that’s catalyzed by algorithms,” Wylie said. Sites like Facebook reward informational echo chambers where partisan views are reinforced instead of challenged. “Instead of a common fabric,” he said, “we’re tearing that fabric apart.”

Christopher Wylie Warns Senators: Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon Want ‘Culture War’
Ryan Grenoble, HuffPost  05/16/2018

One major takeaway from both studies is the breadth of Russian interference that appeared on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook and was not frequently mentioned when its parent company testified on Capitol Hill. The study says that as attention was focused on Facebook and Twitter in 2017, the Russians shifted much of their activity to Instagram.

Russian Troll Farms Are Still Using Social Media To Meddle In U.S Politics
Mary Clare Jalonick, HuffPost (12/18/2018)

The military exploited Facebook’s wide reach in Myanmar, where it is so broadly used that many of the country’s 18 million internet users confuse the Silicon Valley social media platform with the internet. Human rights groups blame the anti-Rohingya propaganda for inciting murders, rapes and the largest forced human migration in recent history.

A Genocide Incited on Facebook, With Posts From Myanmar’s Military
Paul Mozur, The New York Times (Oct. 15, 2018)

They then turn to their well-organized army of “social media specialists” via group chats in apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, sending them lists of people to threaten, insult and intimidate; daily tweet quotas to fill; and pro-government messages to augment.

Saudis’ Image Makers: A Troll Army and a Twitter Insider
Katie Benner, Mark Mazzetti, Ben Hubbard and Mike Isaac, The New York Times (10/12/18)

It is only now, a decade after the financial crisis, that the American public seems to appreciate that what we thought was disruption worked more like extraction—of our data, our attention, our time, our creativity, our content, our DNA, our homes, our cities, our relationships. The tech visionaries’ predictions did not usher us into the future, but rather a future where they are kings.

An Alternative History of Silicon Valley Disruption
Nitasha Tiku, Wired (10.22.18)

“The taxpayers in this country should not be subsidizing a guy who’s worth $150 billion, whose wealth is increasing by $260 million every single day,” said Sanders. “That is insane. He has enough money to pay his workers a living wage. He does not need corporate welfare. And our goal is to see that Bezos pays his workers a living wage.”

Bernie Sanders’ problem with Amazon
Brian Heater, TechCrunch (8/28/2018)

I asked Hoffman to estimate what share of fellow Silicon Valley billionaires have acquired some level of “apocalypse insurance,” in the form of a hideaway in the U.S. or abroad. “I would guess fifty-plus per cent,” he said, “but that’s parallel with the decision to buy a vacation home. Human motivation is complex, and I think people can say, ‘I now have a safety blanket for this thing that scares me.’ ” The fears vary, but many worry that, as artificial intelligence takes away a growing share of jobs, there will be a backlash against Silicon Valley, America’s second-highest concentration of wealth. (Southwestern Connecticut is first.) “I’ve heard this theme from a bunch of people,” Hoffman said. “Is the country going to turn against the wealthy? Is it going to turn against technological innovation? Is it going to turn into civil disorder?”

Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich
Evan Osnos, The New Yorker (January 30, 2017)

Sousveillance: Watching the Watchers, and the Manipulators

The combination of state surveillance and its capitalist counterpart means that digital technology is separating the citizens in all societies into two groups: the watchers (invisible, unknown and unaccountable) and the watched. This has profound consequences for democracy because asymmetry of knowledge translates into asymmetries of power. But whereas most democratic societies have at least some degree of oversight of state surveillance, we currently have almost no regulatory oversight of its privatised counterpart. This is intolerable.

The evolution did not stop there. Ultimately they understood that the most predictive behavioural data comes from what I call “economies of action”, as systems are designed to intervene in the state of play and actually modify behaviour, shaping it toward desired commercial outcomes. We saw the experimental development of this new “means of behavioural modification” in Facebook’s contagion experiments and the Google-incubated augmented reality game Pokémon Go.

It is no longer enough to automate information flows about us; the goal now is to automate us. These processes are meticulously designed to produce ignorance by circumventing individual awareness and thus eliminate any possibility of self-determination. As one data scientist explained to me, “We can engineer the context around a particular behaviour and force change that way… We are learning how to write the music, and then we let the music make them dance.”

Zucking Manipulation Fractured Flag – medium density wall hanging

May 26, 2018 |

Our 59″ x 50″ wall hanging, the “Zucking Manipulation” fractured flag, documents the digital forces mobilized by the most powerful companies and wealthiest individuals in history who actively manipulate society for their personal profit. They designed and control our attention economy and the misinformation we are fed by the few monopolistic platforms. Their high priests…

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