Loss of Privacy

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

Browsing Posts tagged internet

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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The internet, perhaps the most incredible communications medium ever created, is fast becoming the nervous system of the 21st century. But right now its primary business function is to gather data about us, to categorise and sort us, to machine learn our most intimate secrets, all so that marketers can craft advertisements designed to extract as much money out of us as possible.

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