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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
John Oliver tackled tech monopolies and the damage they can create on “Last Week Tonight” Sunday.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”)
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Billionaire Wealth Has Soared As Millions Fell Into Poverty During Pandemic: Oxfam
'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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
"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,"
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.
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.”
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,”
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.
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.
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.
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.
U.S. Special Operations Command Paid $500,000 to Secretive Location Data Firm
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,"
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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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.
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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 ( )
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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).
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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?”
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.”
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…Read More