Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts tagged internet

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a glut of companies are lurking in the shadows of the Internet, gathering your data to sell it to anyone who’s willing to pay the price. These so-called “data brokers” can easily follow your digital trail by using your browser cookies and other ingenious tracking methods.

And it’s not just general statistics, demographics, or overall trends that they’re selling. Many data brokers sell dossiers on individuals, complete profiles that include your name and personal information, without your knowledge or consent. These dossiers can include sensitive information such as medical history, political and religious affiliations, and sexual orientation.

There are no regulations for companies such as these. If you want to keep your personal data private and not let anonymous companies bid over it, you have to take matters into your own hands to block their efforts.

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President Obama just unveiled a number of proposals to crack down on hackers. It’s great that the government is working on this but we need to do a better job of protecting ourselves. So we sent a camera out onto Hollywood Boulevard to help people by asking them to tell us their password.

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Whether we are reading the Guardian, the New York Times, the Hindu or any other news website, third party trackers are collecting data about our online behaviour.

When we access websites, third parties are able to track our online behaviour, aggregate our data, link it to other data collected about us and subsequently create profiles. These profiles tell a story about us – which may or may not be true – and can include our political beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, habits, interests, affiliations and much more.

And while this might all appear to be harmless, we largely have very little control over how and when our data is collected, how our profiles are created, whether they are accurate, who they are subsequently shared with, who has access to them, what they are used for, where they are stored and for how long.

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There is one law (FISA 702) and one policy (EO12333) which authorizes the US government to conduct mass surveillance on “foreigners in foreign lands”. These are drafted in terms which discriminate the privacy rights you have by the passport you hold – in fact there are no rights at all for non-Americans outside the US.

It is obvious that this is a reasonably important dimension of the whole Snowden affair, because it starkly conflicts with ECHR norms that rights are universal and equal.

The only possible resolution compatible with universal rights is data localization, or construction of a virtual zone in which countries have agreed mutual verifiable inspections that mass-surveillance is not occurring (and at present this seems unlikely). There is a widespread misconception that somehow the new GDPR privacy regulation will curb foreign spying, when in fact it is designed to widen loopholes into floodgates.

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Cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies are increasingly part of a modern journalist’s spycraft. But what does it look like when a reporter actually tries to protect herself and her sources with the best tools that the hacker/academic/activist/cipherpunk/technologist communities have produced? Disaster, chaos, crashes, and UI-sponsored opsec fails.

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