Category Archives: Privacy

Digital Dictatorship: China Exerts Control Over Population Through “Social Credit” System, by Tyler Durden

China’s social credit system gets creepier and creepier. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

China is developing a digital dictatorship to exert control over its 1.4 billion citizens. For some, “social credit” will bring great opportunities — for others, punishment. The Communist Party’s plan is to monitor its citizens 24/7 and rank them on their behavior, as the dystopian social ranking system will be fully operational by 2020.

According to Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), an active pilot program has already assigned a score out of 800 to millions of people across the country. More than 200 million surveillance cameras are currently using artificial intelligence and facial recognition software that adds or subtracts social points based on physical and digital behavior.

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Freedom Where Did You Go? by Paul Craig Roberts

Your freedom is gone to government surveillance, social media data gathering, and the rule of men and women replacing the rule of law. From Paul Craig Roberts at paulcraigroberts.org:

My Generation is the last one to have known privacy and to have lived out most of our lives in freedom.

I remember when driving licenses did not have photos and most certainly not fingerprints. A driving license was issued on proof of birth date alone.

Prior to the appearance of automobiles IDs did not exist in democratic nations. You were who you said you were.

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Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans to Closely Track Search Users in China, by Ryan Gallagher and Lee Fang

It’s hard to believe that Google’s motto once was “Do No Evil.” From Ryan Gallagher and Lee Fang at theintercept.com:

GOOGLE BOSSES HAVE forced employees to delete a confidential memo circulating inside the company that revealed explosive details about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, The Intercept has learned.

The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, codenamed Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location — and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have “unilateral access” to the data.

The memo was shared earlier this month among a group of Google employees who have been organizing internal protests over the censored search system, which has been designed to remove content that China’s authoritarian Communist Party regime views as sensitive, such as information about democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

According to three sources familiar with the incident, Google leadership discovered the memo and were furious that secret details about the China censorship were being passed between employees who were not supposed to have any knowledge about it. Subsequently, Google human resources personnel emailed employees who were believed to have accessed or saved copies of the memo and ordered them to immediately delete it from their computers. Emails demanding deletion of the memo contained “pixel trackers” that notified human resource managers when their messages had been read, recipients determined.

The Dragonfly memo reveals that a prototype of the censored search engine was being developed as an app for both Android and iOS devices, and would force users to sign in so they could use the service. The memo confirms, as The Intercept first reported last week, that users’ searches would be associated with their personal phone number. The memo adds that Chinese users’ movements would also be stored, along with the IP address of their device and links they clicked on. It accuses developers working on the project of creating “spying tools” for the Chinese government to monitor its citizens.

People’s search histories, location information, and other private data would be sent out of China to a database in Taiwan, the memo states. But the data would also be provided to employees of a Chinese company who would be granted “unilateral access” to the system.

To launch the censored search engine, Google set up a “joint venture” partnership with an unnamed Chinese company. The search engine will “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to documents seen by The Intercept. Blacklisted search terms on a prototype of the search engine include “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize” in Mandarin, said sources familiar with the project.

According to the memo, aside from being able to access users’ search data, the Chinese partner company could add to the censorship blacklists: It would be able to “selectively edit search result pages … unilaterally, and with few controls seemingly in place.”

That a Chinese company would maintain a copy of users’ search data means that, by extension, the data would be accessible to Chinese authorities, who have broad powers to obtain information that is held or processed on the country’s mainland. A central concern human rights groups have expressed about Dragonfly is that it could place users at risk of Chinese government surveillance — and any person in China searching for blacklisted words or phrases could find themselves interrogated or detained. Chinese authorities are well-known for routinely targeting critics, activists, and journalists.

“It’s alarming to hear that such information will be stored and, potentially, easily shared with the Chinese authorities,” said Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with the human rights group Amnesty International. “It will completely put users’ privacy and safety at risk. Google needs to immediately explain if the app will involve such arrangements. It’s time to give the public full transparency of the project.”

ON AUGUST 16, two weeks after The Intercept revealed the Dragonfly plan, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the company’s employees that the China plan was in its “early stages” and “exploratory.” However, employees working on the censored search engine were instructed in late July, days before the project was publicly exposed, that they should prepare to get it into a “launch-ready state” to roll out within weeks, pending approval from officials in Beijing.

The memo raises new questions about Pichai’s claim that the project was not well-developed. Information stored on the company’s internal networks about Dragonfly “paints a very different picture,” it says. “The statement from our high-level leadership that Dragonfly is just an experiment seems wrong.”

The memo identifies at least 215 employees who appear to have been tasked with working full-time on Dragonfly, a number it says is “larger than many Google projects.” It says that source code associated with the project dates back to May 2017, and “many infrastructure parts predate” that. Moreover, screenshots of the app “show a project in a pretty advanced state,” the memo declares.

Most of the details about the project “have been secret from the start,” the memo says, adding that “after the existence of Dragonfly leaked, engineers working on the project were also quick to hide all of their code.”

The author of the memo said in the document that they were opposed to the China censorship. However, they added, “more than the project itself, I hate the culture of secrecy that has been built around it.”

The memo was first posted September 5 on an internal messaging list set up for Google employees to raise ethical concerns. But the memo was soon scrubbed from the list and individuals who had opened or saved the document were contacted by Google’s human resources department to discuss the matter. The employees were instructed not to share the memo.

Google reportedly maintains an aggressive security and investigation team known as “stopleaks,” which is dedicated to preventing unauthorized disclosures. The team is also said to monitor internal discussions.

Internal security efforts at Google have ramped up this year as employees have raised ethical concerns around a range of new company projects. Following the revelation by Gizmodo and The Intercept that Google had quietly begun work on a contract with the military last year, known as Project Maven, to develop automated image recognition systems for drone warfare, the communications team moved swiftly to monitor employee activity.

The “stopleaks” team, which coordinates with the internal Google communications department, even began monitoring an internal image board used to post messages based on internet memes, according to one former Google employee, for signs of employee sentiment around the Project Maven contract.

Google’s internal security team consists of a number of former military and law enforcement officials. For example, LinkedIn lists as Google’s head of global investigations Joseph Vincent, whose resume includes work as a high-ranking agent at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s Homeland Security Investigations unit. The head of security at Google is Chris Rackow, who has described himself as a former member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s hostage rescue team and as a former U.S. Navy SEAL.

For some Google employees, the culture of secrecy at the company clashes directly with its public image around fostering transparency, creating an intolerable work environment.

“Leadership misled engineers working on [Dragonfly] about the nature of their work, depriving them of moral agency,” said a Google employee who read the memo.

Google did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

 

The Ritual Burial of the US Constitution, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Many of Trump’s many enemies are enemies of the Constitution and American freedom. From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

In the wake of a number of the Lehman and 9/11 commemorations in America, and as a monster storm is once again threatening to cause outsize damage, we find ourselves at a pivotal point in time, which will decide how the country interacts with its own laws, its legal system, its Constitution, its freedom of speech, and indeed if it has sufficient willpower left to adhere to the Constitution as its no. 1 guiding principle.

The main problem is that it all seems to slip slide straight by the people, who are -kept- busy with completely different issues. That is convenient for those who would like less focus on the Constitution, but it’s also very dangerous for everyone else. Americans should today stand up for freedom of speech, or it will be gone, likely forever. Continue reading

China’s ‘Digital’ Totalitarian Experiment, by Gordon G. Chang

As the US walks down the road to totalitarianism, China’s leading the way. From Gordon G. Chang at gatestoneinstitute.org:

  • China’s “social credit” system, which will assign every person a constantly updated score based on observed behaviors, is designed to control conduct by giving the ruling Communist Party the ability to administer punishments and hand out rewards. The former deputy director of the State Council’s development research center says the system should be administered so that “discredited people become bankrupt”.
  • Officials prevented Liu Hu, a journalist, from taking a flight because he had a low score. According to the Communist Party-controlled Global Times, as of the end of April 2018, authorities had blocked individuals from taking 11.14 million flights and 4.25 million high-speed rail trips.
  • Chinese officials are using the lists for determining more than just access to planes and trains. “I can’t buy property. My child can’t go to a private school,” Liu said. “You feel you’re being controlled by the list all the time.”
  • Chinese leaders have long been obsessed with what Jiang Zemin in 1995 called “informatization, automation, and intelligentization,” and they are only getting started Given the capabilities they are amassing, they could, the argument goes, make defiance virtually impossible. The question now is whether the increasingly defiant Chinese people will accept President Xi’s all-encompassing vision.
China’s President Xi Jinping is not merely an authoritarian leader. He evidently believes the Party must have absolute control over society and he must have absolute control over the Party. He is taking China back to totalitarianism as he seeks Mao-like control over all aspects of society. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

By 2020, Chinese officials plan to have about 626 million surveillance camerasoperating throughout the country. Those cameras will, among other things, feed information into a national “social credit system.”

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An Online Vigil in Defense of Julian Assange With Daniel Ellsberg, Craig Murray, Bill Binney and Ray McGovern

One of the more important issues hanging over the world right now is the fate of Julian Assange. From consortiumnews.com:

Joe Lauria, editor-in-chief of Consortium News, on Saturday helped moderate a daylong chain of interviews in defense of WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange, including a discussion with Daniel Ellsberg. 

#Unity4J online vigil was held on Saturday to defend the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, whose sanctuary at the Ecuadorian embassy in London has turned into torturous solitary confinement.

Among the participants on Saturday were Craig Murray, a former U.K. ambassador; Nat Parry, son of Consortium New’s founder and first editor, Robert Parry; Bill Binney, former technical director at the National Security Agency, and Ray McGovern, a former CIA officer. Joe Lauria interviewed Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower and author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. 

The entire 11 hour and 45 minute event can be viewed here:

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Unity for Assange’s Plight Is Necessary To Build a Movement for Democracy, by Nozomi Hayase

There have been some fissures in Wikileaks. From Nozomi Hayase at antiwar.com:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains in solitary confinement inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was granted asylum in 2012 against the threat of extradition to the United States for his publishing activities. In recent months, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno, under pressure from the U.S. began threatening to evict this political refugee.

In response to this dire situation, people across the political spectrum began to form solidarity through #Unify4J, an online platform to organize a social media movement in support of Assange. Among those include prominent Trump’s supporters. In the midst of Trump administration’s draconian measures on immigrants and empowerment of white supremacist groups, the idea of working with Trump’s key allies triggered reaction among the left. Recently, Classconscious.org, an outlet spearheading global civic action for Assange’s freedom, scrutinized the idea of uniting with ultra-right forces that back Trump and urged the movement to draw a line.

Strife around the same issue arose from the former associate and early proponents of WikiLeaks. Barrett Brown, an award-winning journalist, previously imprisoned for charges relating to a Stratfor hack, has been one of the strong voices in support of the whistleblowing site. He described how he has long stood up for the organization’s mission of transparency at great risk to himself, yet in recent months he became upset about what he perceived to be Assange’s alliance with fascists and radical right supremacist groups.

Brown, who recently launched the project Pursuance, an open source software that allows individuals to share information and organize, has ramped up criticism toward Assange in his most vulnerable time. This created the conflict with the Courage Foundation, an organization that provides assistance for whistleblowers. Courage was co-founded by Assange and it has both WikiLeaks and Brown as beneficiaries. According to the article on the Daily Beast, three of Courage’s trustees reportedly instructed Courage’s respected director Naomi Colvin to cut off Brown as some kind of retaliation against his hostile remarks toward Assange. This led to the unfortunate resignation of Colvin, who was forced to walk out from the organization as a matter of principle for her opposition to exclude anyone based on political speech.

To continue reading: Unity for Assange’s Plight Is Necessary To Build a Movement for Democracy