Surveillance State: Tracking Your Every Move For Corporate America


By Molly Wood
Marketplace Tech (5/22/18)

Phone carriers collect a minute-by-minute record of everywhere you go. If you use GPS on your phone, that may be obvious. But carriers are also selling that information to companies that don’t do much to keep it secure. One of those companies, Securus Technologies, was hacked this month. Securus gets its information from a company called LocationSmart. On Friday, security researcher Brian Krebs reported a bug on LocationSmart’s website that would make it possible to track any phone on the four major carriers using only a phone number. Krebs spoke with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood about the dangers this kind of data can pose in the wrong hands.

Link to Story and 4+-Minute Audio

(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to )


Dem Sen. Ron Wyden: Let’s Fix “third-party doctrine” That Enables Govt. & Corporate Mass Snooping

By Cyris Faruvar
ARSTechnica (4/3/18)

SAN FRANCISCO—This past week hundreds of lawyers, technologists, journalists, activists, and others from around the globe descended upon a university conference center to try to figure out the state of digital rights in 2016. The conference, appropriately dubbed “RightsCon,” featured many notable speakers, including Edward Snowden via video-conference, but relatively few from those inside government.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), however, was an exception. On the first day of the conference, he gave an in-person speech, in which he argued for a “New Compact for Security and Liberty.”

The Oregon senator is likely familiar to Ars readers: he’s been one of the most consistently critical voices of the expansion of government surveillance in recent years. We last spoke with him in October 2014 when he made the case that expanded active spying hurts the American economy. In December 2014, Wyden introduced the “Secure Data Act” in the United States Senate, which aims to shut down government-ordered backdoors into digital systems. However, that bill hasn’t even made it to committee yet, over a year later.

On Thursday, the day after his address, Wyden sat down with Ars at a downtown Peet’s Coffee, where we chatted in a more detail about his proposal. What follows is the transcript of our conversation that has been lightly edited for clarity. … Link to Story and Transcript


‘User Manual For Authoritarian Surveillance’: ACLU Red Alert As Amazon Peddles Facial Recognition Tool to Police

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams (5/22/18)

After internal emails (pdf) published by the ACLU on Tuesday revealed that Amazon has been aggressively selling its facial recognition product to law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S., privacy advocates and civil libertarians raised grave concerns that the retailer is effectively handing out a “user manual for authoritarian surveillance” that could be deployed by governments to track protesters, spy on immigrants and minorities, and crush dissent.

“We know that putting this technology into the hands of already brutal and unaccountable law enforcement agencies places both democracy and dissidence at great risk,” Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice, said in a statement in response to the ACLU’s findings. “Amazon should never be in the business of aiding and abetting racial discrimination and xenophobia—but that’s exactly what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is doing.”

First unveiled in 2016, “Rekognition” was explicitly marketed by Amazon as a tool for “tracking people,” and it has already been put to use by law enforcement agencies in Florida and Oregon.

While Amazon suggests in its marketing materials that Rekognition can be used to track down “people of interest” in criminal cases, ACLU and dozens of pro-privacy groups argued in a letter (pdf) to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Tuesday that the product is “primed for abuse in the hands of governments” and poses a “grave threat” to marginalized groups and dissidents.

“Once a dangerous surveillance system like this is turned against the public, the harm can’t be undone.”

Highlighting “the possibility that those labeled suspicious by governments—such as undocumented immigrants or black activists—will be targeted for Rekognition surveillance,” the coalition of advocacy groups urged Amazon to “act swiftly to stand up for civil rights and civil liberties, including those of its own customers, and take Rekognition off the table for governments.”

“People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government,” the groups concluded. “Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom. In overpoliced communities of color, it could effectively eliminate it.”

The ACLU investigation found that Amazon has not been content to simply market and sell Rekognition to law enforcement agencies—it is also offering “company resources to help government agencies deploy” the tool.

As the ACLU’s Matt Cagle and Nicole Ozer write in a blog post on Tuesday,

“In emails between Amazon and Washington County employees, the company offers the expertise of the Rekognition product team, troubleshoots problems encountered by the county, and provides “best practices” advice on how to deploy the service. In what Orlando’s police chief praises as a “first-of-its-kind public-private partnership,” Amazon promised free consulting services to build a Rekognition “proof of concept” for the city. Rekognition face surveillance is now operating across Orlando in real-time, according to Amazon, allowing the company to search for “people of interest” as footage rolls in from “cameras all over the city.””

“Once a dangerous surveillance system like this is turned against the public, the harm can’t be undone,” Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director for the ACLU of California, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Particularly in the current political climate, we need to stop supercharged surveillance before it is used to track protesters, target immigrants, and spy on entire neighborhoods. We’re blowing the whistle before it’s too late.”


Let’s Talk: Should A Machine Have To Tell You If It’s A Machine?

By Molly Wood
Marketplace Tech (95/23/18)

This week Microsoft bought a company called Semantic Machines which works on something called “conversational AI” – that means computers that sound and respond like humans. Mostly it’s for digital assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Bixby on Samsung. Last month Google showed off its own smart assistant called Duplex, which can call a hair salon to make an appointment on your behalf, or a restaurant to make a reservation. But it’s clear from what Google showed off that the people on the other end of these calls don’t know they’re talking to a computer — leading some to ask what the rights of the human on the other end of line are. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood spoke with Jacob Metcalf of the Data & Society Research Institute about the business case for making computers sound so real.

Link to Story and 4+-Minute Audio


PETITION: Calling On Amazon To Get Out Of The Surveillance Business. Link HERE

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